WORD MADE FLESH, THOUGHT RENDERED VISIBLE
They dreamt not of a perishable home
Who thus could build. Be mine, in hours of fear
Or groveling thought, to seek a refuge here.
When the Magi, following the star, arrived at the “place where the young child was,” they found a poor and beautiful, helpless infant and, somehow, understood this same infant to be the King of all creation, the God who fashioned the heavens and the earth, who is from generation to generation and eternity to eternity, who was always, and shall be forever. It is the unique gift of the Christian faith that the uncircumscribed can be found in the circumscribed, and the transcendent in the particular, without the circumscribed or particular being superseded, lost, or forgotten.
Without design and without searching, I once found an unexpected treasure. One day in early autumn, while traveling in Queens County in New York City, in a district known as Jamaica, I came upon a large wooden sign, red with gold lettering, bearing the words “Church of the Incarnation — Roman Catholic.” I had seen the sign too late to see the church itself. But I saw, stretching from the corner on which the sign stood, two three-story buildings of red brick with sand-colored trim — a convent and a school. I resolved to take a better look at them and to see the church.
Business took me to the area of South Jamaica, and on the drive there and back I saw stores defaced by graffiti, streets with refuse clinging to curbs, lurid billboards and signs of unabashed hucksterism offering cheap commodities, including divorce services, and storefront “churches” with the suggestions they carry of simoniacal calculation, fanaticism, and, no doubt, on the part of some in the congregation, pathos and heartfelt religious sentiments with no other place their bearers know to bring them.
It was with great relief after completing my business meetings, and having hurriedly begun my retreat, that I again espied the clean, swept sidewalks and the small but well-cared-for school grounds at the Church of the Incarnation, which I had seen earlier and wished to see again, with its separate entrances for girls and boys, each designated by a word carved in stone above it.
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