St. Paul makes the remarkable statement in Colossians: “For all things were created through Him and for Him.” This remarkable statement gives rise to a later even more remarkable statement by St. Maximus the Confessor: “The incarnation is the cause of everything.”
This statement takes the “all things were created for Him and sees it applying to the incarnation itself, rather than to Christ as some eschatological point. In truth, the incarnation itself is eschatological. It certainly occurred in History, but because of Who Christ is, everything He does is done by the Alpha and the Omega. Christ Himself is the eschaton regardless of the setting. Indeed, His presence in any setting changes that setting into an eschatological confrontation.
Christ doesn’t just appear at a wedding in Cana and the wedding not take on overtones of the Messianic Banquet, the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. And though He was not choosing that moment to reveal the eschatological nature of Himself, He nevertheless did so at the urging of His Mother.
This, of course, brings us to the other conclusion of the statement, “The incarnation is the cause of all things.” The incarnation, of course, is not simply God putting on humanity, as if there were a spare human suit laying around that He could slip on and zip up (I mean no disrespect). But the incarnation always implies the only other one who is directly involved, i.e., His mother.
Thus it is that in some Eastern Church hymns we hear wild statements and epithets such as, “Co-cause,” attributed to Mary. This is not attributed to her because of some uniqueness of her identity alone, but because she stood at a moment in time, utterly united, bone to bone, flesh to flesh, with the One who is the Cause of all things.
Such thoughts are lofty, I readily admit, and I take no credit for them. These are the thoughts and teachings of the Fathers and among the most mystical of them all.
And yet as we take on this labor of Lent, we must look at the Biblical model (the incarnation is a Biblical model par excellence). Mary is there at the incarnation of the Word, and herself becomes a part of that incarnation: “incarnate of the Virgin Mary and Holy Spirit….”
So, too, must we walk in such a union as we struggle through Lent, because there is nothing within us that by itself would please God. Just as when we say “Son of God” we imply another (“the Father”), so, too, when we say “created in His image,” our existence has no meaning apart from the One in whose image we were created, and predestined to be conformed to. There therefore can be no laboring towards Christ that is not Christ’s labor as well.
So what labor do we perform?
We fast – He fasted.
We repent – He submitted to Baptism
We pray – He prayed.
We give alms – He showed mercy to all.
And more than this, we do all these things not merely of ourselves, but by Christ, through Christ and in Christ. So that He can say to us, “Inasmuch as you did it unto the least of these my brethren you did it unto Me.”
In His Church, Christ carries us back on the journey to Golgotha, for it is there that all things will be accomplished. It is only by sharing in His death (as in Baptism) that we find a means of sharing in His life. Thus Lent becomes an extended Baptism of sorts. Indeed, the Fathers referred to repentance itself as a “second Baptism.”
We journey to the only place where we can have the mind of Christ:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).
With every day’s step, let that mind become ours! ‘Til at last we reach the One who is the Cause of all things.