Role of Space in the Incarnational Spirituality

Vincent Kundukulam

Incarnational approach necessitates taking seriously the dimensions of space in the way Church celebrates liturgy and lives in the world. Modernity had been repressing the goodness of the materiality of God’s creation. It enthused only conceptual relationship with the divine. The modern man stood before God as a ‘thinking animal.’ The prayers and services looked like talking to God with head. They were reflections on the Christian truths rather than efforts to experience the Transcendent. The drawback of this approach was an over-all disregard for what is fleshy, robust and social in human life, to which God had, in fact, invited mankind through creation.

In order that Church-life is creatively reformed in accordance with the demands of postmodern culture, we need to recover elements of ancient rites and practices that honored fleshiness in each particular cultural setting. This presupposes a holistic anthropological approach which is obtainable from Bible and Tradition. The creation narrative begins with the assertion that humans are material. Adam and Eve did not just inhabit flesh and blood; they were flesh and blood. Humans are embodied persons. We are affective as much as cognitive. The centre of man is not mind but heart. As Pascal said, ‘the heart has reasons which intellect does not know.’

The aspects of embodiment, materiality and affectivity gives us sacramental vision of world. The material world has a high amount of revelatory potential. Though Catholicism seems to be often other-worldly, a sincere examination of its doctrines shows that it encourages the participation of world in God. The cosmos functions as a window to God and as a means of grace from God. God has shown His liking for the materiality in the act of creation, and above all, in sending His Son into the world. God was happy to inhabit the goodness of flesh. Similarly, Catholic theology emphasizes the embodied nature of human personat the eschatological time. We hope that our bodies will be resurrected for the future kingdom in a unique way.

Though Catholicism had been criticized in the past for its repression of sexuality, at present, it promotes a rich affirmative theology of body. John Paul II has proposed that sexual love within the bond of faithful and fruitful marriage is nothing less than an icon of interior life of God Himself. Taking incarnation seriously means taking bodies seriously and the space they occupy as an arena of revelation and grace. Christian discipleship consists not merely in the transmission of ideas into our minds but in doing embodied practices and rituals. Liturgy is the adequate instance in which believers can effectively celebrate materiality by integrating the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell.

Taking seriously the role of space in Church life leads us to think about the presence of Church in the fast growing metropolitan cities. The middle class people are not satisfied with what is available in their place for a long time. They want to live in the spaces that dispose better comforts. This market driven pilgrimages make the suburbs flooded. Consequently, the poor are sidelined in the outer skirts of the cities. Church must embrace those people who are crushed by the modernity.

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