Dec 5, 2012
Some years ago, the award-winning comic strip by Johnny Hart featured a piece about the mystery of the Incarnation, though it did not mention the phrase.
The cartoon was a whimsical commentary on modern man and woman. It is relevant today because the public commemoration of Christmas is challenged everywhere. It is after all, a legal holiday. The country has no problem honoring American presidents or Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet, protesters complain that their sensibilities are offended by honoring Jesus Christ, if not as God, then certainly as the greatest of all anawim:
It seems to me that since the Fall–
without even thinking it odd
that man had no trouble at all believing that he can be God.
How he would do this I cannot conceive ...
tho, he certainly thinks he can–
and yet, he cannot bring himself to believe that God can become ... a Man.
Who were the anawim?
Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, Mahatma Gandhi
The anawim of the Old Testament were the poor of every sort: the vulnerable, the marginalized, and socio-economically oppressed, those of lowly status without earthly power. In fact, they depended totally on God for whatever they owned. The Hebrew word anawim (inwetan) means those who are bowed down.
Mahatma Gandhi understood inwetan as the way of bhakti, that is, loving devotion and surrender to God. In times of suffering, the anawim remained faithful and awaited the good things of the Lord to fill their emptiness, as the Lucan gospel tells us in (Lk 1:53). They delighted in the Lord because they were rooted in him.
Mary of Nazareth belonged to the anawim. Her life of fidelity had singled her out for a special role in God’s salvific plan. She was already betrothed to Joseph, and when God’s plan was put to her, quite naturally, she asked how it would happen. Mary’s free acceptance allowed the Spirit to work in her. In proclaiming her Magnificat, she acknowledged that the Almighty has done great things for her in her lowliness in contrast to God’s dealings with the proud (Lk 1:47).