|Miriam. Image credit.|
We have a God who fights for us. I immediately thought of Miriam's triumphant song in Exodus, "The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name." We have a God who--for us--fights. I've never thought of the warrior language in particularly positive ways before; at best, it's not my preferred image of God. But it's a true image. It's just that the fighting is not violent, not power-over. Our God fights for us like a physician saving a dying patient, a lover wooing to win his love's attention, a father seeking a child lost in the woods, a teacher using every trick to help the student learn the lesson. Like a God who is willing to take every measure, short of taking away our will, to lure us into healing relationship with him. Even becoming human and dying on a cross.
St. Therese de Lisieux, in her autobiography Story of a Soul, tries to explain why she was preserved from being a great sinner, since she feels it was through no merit of her own. I can't find the passage (feel free to tell me where it is!) but her thrust is that she felt she was in some way preserved from sin, received mercy before she could even commit the acts of sin. I see some unusual relevance here. What if the Lord fights for us, even before we sin? What would that look like?
Well, it would look like the Theology of the Body. Original humanity, before the fall, was given the gift of the sign of the ensouled body. Our bodies speak a primordial language that points to God, before a single word of revelation is handed down. That sign was created by God. That was God fighting for us, giving us direction, before we even stepped into the abyss. But the fighting is not violent. It is not brutish. It is gift.
After the fall, the hermeneutic of the gift remains: the ensouled body remains as primordial prophet, and the gift becomes most clearly revealed in the death of the Son of God, a gift of salvation. God never stops fighting for us. It is, as David Power wrote, a "Love Without Calculation."
And after the resurrection, the gifting continues, because that is how God fights for us. "I will send you an Advocate," says Jesus Christ, and the apostles receive the Holy Spirit, become temples of the Holy Spirit and agents of God. If we need to fight, he promises to fight with us: "do not plan what you are to say should they take you to court, the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say."
The law of the gift boils down to this: we have a God who fights for us. The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name. But like all of Christianity, it's not the fighting we expect. It's a sacrifice that costs everything--but also changes everything. We expect God to jig, and he jags. No matter: soon enough, we realize that God isn't the one writing with crooked lines; we are. He has fought for us from the beginning of time, in unexpected but entirely consistent ways. When we listen to Miriam's song this Easter Vigil, let's keep in mind the upside down sacrificial gift of a God who fights for us.
The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father's God, and I will extol Him. "The LORD is a warrior; The LORD is His name. (Exo 15:2-3)