HE CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN
by Melanie Bettinelli
First about the physical metaphor: “down”. This is the kind of thing that can tie me in knots when I’m feeling particularly literal minded. Of course heaven isn’t really up in the clouds. But nonetheless “down” conveys something important because it makes an abstract idea concrete. To show humility we say that something or someone is “lowly” to show pride we say that they are “stuck up” or “lofty”. So Jesus came down. He stepped down from the throne to become a mere man.
The preceding lines of the Creed have all been emphasizing Jesus’ divinity, his equality with the Father, his consubstantiality with the Father. And now comes the most amazing turn in the history of the universe. He came down. He who was God from God and Light from Light and true God from true God came down. He humbled himself to become one of us.
St Paul comes to mind:
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.*
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
(Philippians 2: 6-8)
I’m also put in mind the biography of St Francis I read recently
Now Francis meditates on how the Word of the Father, exalted above all creation, humbled himself to take flesh from the Virgin, an act which was “to choose poverty.” This is the only mention of poverty in Francis’s letters of 1220-21, and this “poverty” is not linked to giving up property, simplicity of life, or living only for the day. Francis identifies this poverty with the very physicality of the human condition taken on by the Word.
My other thought is that if heaven is not so much a physical place as the presence of God (see CCC 2794) then when God the Son comes down from heaven doesn’t that mean that heaven also comes down to us as well? Now heaven is no longer inaccessible and “up there” it is also “down here”. Christ as God with us, Emmanuel, makes heaven present to us as well. Where he is, heaven is, and if we unite ourselves to him then heaven is opened to us.
What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “He came down from heaven”?
Melanie Bettinelli is a very mother of five little ones who begs pardon if her words fail to make any sense at all.
Read all the entries in the Blog Series: Credo: Professing the Creed for the Year of Faith.
Yes, We took the month of February off. I hope to be back on track and not to miss too many more weeks. Also, you may note that I got things a bit out of order and this entry in the series should have been before the previous one. Oh well. Such is the life of a mommy with five small children and not very much brain.