In its poetic elaborations of history – and these began almost at once – Christian genius has not failed to emphasize the paradox of the Unlimited thus revealed within humblest limitations . . .
A carpenter’s baby. Thirty years of obscure village life. A young man, of whose secret growth nothing is revealed to us, coming with a crowd to be baptized by a religious revivalist. A refusal of all self-regarding or spectacular use of that immense spiritual power and effortless authority which the records so plainly reveal. Unlimited compassion especially extended to the most sinful, blundering, sickly, and unattractive among men. A self-oblivion so perfect that we do not even notice it. A balanced life of fellowship and lonely prayer. A genial love of, and yet a perfect detachment from, all human and natural things. Unflinching acceptance of a path that pointed to suffering, humiliation, failure and death. At last, a condemned fanatic agonizing between two thieves. These were the chief external incidents which marked the full expression of the Supernatural in terms of human personality. Yet within these sequence of transitory acts all sensitive spirits felt and still feel the external state, the interior life of Christ hidden in God, of which these “mysteries” are the sacramental expressions in space and time. Each scene in its own manner makes a sudden rift, and discloses a new tract of the supernatural world; and this with an ever greater and more humbling splendor, with each advance of the seeing soul.
And indeed it is above all when we see a human spirit, knowing its own power, choose the path of sacrifice instead of the path of ambition: when we see human courage and generosity blazing out on the heroic levels in the shadow of death; the human agony and utter self-surrender of Gethsemane, the accepted desolation of the Cross, that we recognize a love and holiness which point beyond the world. There we discern that mysterious identity of Revealer and Revealed, that complete appropriation of personality to the manifestation of God, which it is the special province of the Fourth Evangelist to emphasize.
- Man and the Supernatural