The Incarnational Tradition

The incarnational tradition – the sacramental life

There has been for centuries the deep sense that Mystery pervades the ordinary. For much of Christian history there was the deep sense that all life was sacramental, i.e., revealed the divine. This tradition focusses on understanding how the Spirit works in and through everyday life. It focusses on making present and visible the realm of the invisible Spirit and finding God in the details and serving God through these details. Life itself is all about the pursuit of the Holy: holy living and holy dying. Our vocation is the supreme place for working out our spiritual convictions. Thus we bridge the world of devotion and the world of work.

The Incarnational tradition concerns itself with the relationship between Spirit and matter; they are complementary not oppositional. God loves matter. God creates “and it was good!” Liturgy is a way in which we use material symbols and gestures as a way to point to the invisible spiritual dimension of existence. The sacraments of the church are a way in which matter points to the Spirit; they are a way by which the reality of God becomes embedded in our body, our mind, and our spirit.

We live out of the Incarnational mode in our marriages where we live together in well-reasoned love for everyone around is. We live out of the Incarnational mode at work when we see our actions as bringing about the reign of God, the Cosmic Christ, when we see our work as an integral part of the Christ Project. We live out of the Incarnational mode in society when we work on the “cultural mandate” of our faith, ie., witnessing to the ultimate divine love through the way in which we interact with others and treat them.

The strengths of this tradition include: underscoring the fact that God is truly among us in the very fabric of our existence; rooting us in everyday life; it does not espouse a retreat from the “secular” world. In fact there is no distinction between religious and secular in this tradition.

The great names in this tradition include:

Origen ( c185-254) bio; biblio

John of Damascus ( c 675 – 749) bio; biblio

Alfred the Great (849-899) bio; biblio about him, or references to him

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) bio; biblio

Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543) bio; (Wikipedia article has references to some of his works)

John Milton (1608-1674) bio; (Wikipedia article contains a bibliography)

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) bio; (Wikipedia article contains a bibliography)

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) bio; (Wikipedia article contains a bibliography)

Pilgrim (19th cent) bio; (Wikipedia article contains a bibliography)

Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961) bio; A discussion of “Markings” available here

Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) bio; biblio