Saved from Drowning
by Noel E. Bordador
Although I cannot swim, I love dipping into a lake or river, or ocean or a pool. Well, you know I am a bit crazy and several years ago I celebrated the New Year by swimming in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean in Coney Island, New York. I and a few thousand crazy people (like myself) took a dip as part of a fundraising for a camp for kids with a life threatening illness.
When I was about fourteen, I went- one summer- with an aunt and uncle on a day trip to a lake in Connecticut. I decided to take a dip in the lake, and so I jumped into the lake where I thought it was shallow enough; but actually, it was deeper than I thought and though my feet could feel bottom of the lake, the water was over me. Because I couldn’t swim and save myself, I began to drown. My uncle saw me and he immediately descended to where I was so that he might pull me up and with him I ascended above the waters. He saved my life. I guess my mother gave me life at birth but my uncle gave me a second and a new life.
In speaking of the mystery of God becoming human in Christ, the Church Fathers were fond of saying that the Son of God descended into earth so that in him we might ascend to our heavenly life. The Fathers call it katabasis, the descent, the movement of God downward in his humility by becoming human so that when our humanity is joined to his divinity, we might ascend with him in glory. And this rising of humanity to its exalted life in Christ the Fathers called anabasis, from where we get the word anastasis, or resurrection. The reasons for God’s descent are at least twofold: God in his infinite love was not satisfied that humanity remains a brute beast. By nature, we are animals, we are beasts. But from the beginning, God planned to exalt our animal nature by giving us the gift of his divine life in Christ and the only way he could do this is to join our animal nature with his divine life.
The other reason why God came in human flesh is that he came for our redemption. Just as I couldn’t save myself from being drowned, and had to be pulled up from above, likewise, even with our best intentions, we cannot save ourselves from death or the evil we commit. Salvation comes only through the Son of God who came swimming down from heaven to earth in order to pull us up to save us.
Our redemption and exaltation began by Christ in his birth is chiefly accomplished in us by becoming one with Christ in baptism. Through the waters of baptism, the Adam in that is drowning in sin and evil is pulled up to a new life by God through Christ. We proclaim our baptismal faith, when we are sprinkled with baptismal water to remind us of the dignity of our nature- we are animals, yes, but we are animals who have been exalted by a call to share in the life of God. And our exaltation and redemption is being continued now every time we receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood by which Christ in the Sacrament joins us to his divine life. The blood that flows through the veins of the God made flesh in the babe of Bethlehem now flows through our veins, making us children of God by adoption through grace. Because the blood of the Son of God flows through your body now, the Father only sees his Son in you and therefore, has only love for you. Bet Lehem in Hebrew literally means the House of Bread. Christ comes to us in the form of Bread and Wine and by these he unites himself most intimately to our bodies and souls. Today, we are in Bethlehem. If you are experiencing yourself drowning in sadness, or depression, or some darkness in your soul that you would like to be redeemed from, come to this Bethlehem here, open your hands and hearts and make a manger for him to be born anew in you so that you might receive in your souls the presence of God and the gift of your redemption and divine life.
©2019 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a queer Episcopal priest in the Philippines. He runs Nazareth House, a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality for persons with HIV/AIDS in Manila.
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