Abellanosa: Is He the reason of the season?

Fringes and frontiers

BECAUSE we are still within Christmas season, we might as well ask and reflect on what it means to say "He is the reason of the season." It would not do us any harm if we explore deeper the underpinnings of our persuasions.

The notion of “The Word” (logos, as in the Word made flesh) is not originally Christian. It is a development from Greek philosophy that conceives the “apparent” world as changing, unfixed, specific, and therefore finite. At the risk of oversimplification, such a philosophical assertion means: this world is not “the real” world. Precisely because it is not real, we must remember (reminisce) who we really are, i.e. where we came from. Our body is material and it is a grave or worse a virus of the soul.

Early Christian writers like Augustine would Christianize such a pagan philosophy. Instead of a total rejection of the material world, they would nuance their view of the human person. The body is, still, of lesser importance but it is not without purpose. It is also a created reality but it is not the essence of life. The body however is also subject to redemption. It is, therefore, not (for Christians) an illusion. On this basis, the Christian view of the resurrection means the resurrection of the entire person including the body and not just the soul.

But why is the body corruptible and why do we need redemption? Appropriating Greek especially Plato’s philosophy to the Jewish history of salvation, Augustine would argue that the “original” sin of humanity was basically responsible for all the mess. It is thus the “sin” of the world and not just the specific “sins” of men that necessitates a savior. A world that has been fallen and broken cannot save itself.

Contemporary Social Science may find this view archaic. What was for the Church Fathers the world’s “sinfulness” is for social scientists today the absence of strategy or lack of planning in governance. However, arguing from Plato, one would not have difficulty agreeing that we have tried so much of human strategies but the world falls into the same social problems. There have been innovations and improvements but just the same social scientists have been talking about the same things “essentially” so to speak: injustice, poverty, suffering, and mortality. Experts in poverty are getting richer but poverty is not decreasing.

This is a world that has forgotten its limitations. Sadly it is this forgetfulness that makes humanity more oppressive. By arrogating unto itself a power that does not properly belong to it, human regimes have been offering false promises of progress. Progress is not bad if it is contemplated within its limitations. It is the absolutization of what is plainly human that leads to the formation of tyrannies and dictatorships. We have seen how the rejection of the spiritual in favor of what is “material” – lead to the formation of the most inhuman systems.

We have over-emphasized the phrase “He (Jesus) is the reason of the season.” The proposition however is incomplete. It does not capture the reason for his birth. In other words it only focuses on the “incarnation” and not the very reason behind it. A world that is not fallen does not need a savior. And there is something wrong with a people who keep on talking about a savior but are not cognizant of their sins.

Christmas in this age is getting bland. Our greetings and messages, even homilies are banal. Christmas is meaningless without the Cross - without our admission that we are broken, that we need redemption. Unromantic it may sound but dare we must to change the phrase.

No, He is not the reason of the season... we are.


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