In 1595, the English Jesuit Robert Southwell wrote “The Burning Babe,” a startling, unsettling poem about the incarnation—which means, given Southwell’s rich theological imagination and deep Catholic piety, that it is also a poem about suffering and salvation. And about the human predilection to resist divine love.
Three hundred seventy-one years later, Denise Levertov penned “Advent 1966.″
I returned to seminary a few years back to hear a professor teach John’s gospel as a remake of the Genesis narrative. The parallel between Genesis 1 and John 1 is obvious, but if you press forward, the connections run throughout.
As the sun rose, I drove twenty-seven miles to my office at the little church in the Cajun swamps. Even though visitors to the office were rare, I showed up on time each day. Determined on my journey, I felt that familiar wave as I crossed the bayou. I eased my car to the gravelly side of the road. I stood, stretched. Breathed deeply.
Tis the season of Jesus, Santa and Pope Francis. It’s too early to place Francis in the pantheon of church reformers alongside Gregory VII or Adrian VI—or even next to John XXIII, who memorably announced the Second Vatican Council by saying that it was time to “open the windows and let some fresh air in.” But the early returns on the first Latin American pontiff suggest that his will be anything but a caretaker papacy.