Thursday, December 20, 2018

viral video theology

My new vocation is to write endlessly about this video.

As I watch this child moved beyond words, moved beyond comprehension for an infant, moved in a way that she cannot even comprehend, by the words: I love you, I feel like I am watching a piece of theology on the computer screen. The video is not moving because it's a universal statement, rather it's moving because it is this mother saying those words to her baby. It's so endlessly intimate and particular.

Watching that baby cry is so jarring: are infants capable of such wise, seemingly reflective, emotion? Perhaps not, but the child is moved nonetheless, the emotion is stirred that seems deeper than her cognitive abilities, it comes from someplace very, very deep indeed.

As I watch this video, I cry because we are all deaf infants, who cannot hear the voice of God constantly telling us that we are loved beyond all comprehension. This child's barely rational reaction to the love of her mother is what makes this video so moving. It reminds us that being loved is this compelling, it is this incomprehensible and miraculous. What could be more natural: for a mother to love her child? This doesn't seem like a striking miracle that should reduce this baby to weeping, and yet of course it is. To be loved like this is our deepest desire, and for that desire to be met surely reduces us to tears.

This infant is us, loved beyond measure by God.

I cry because this is such a succinct, striking image of vocation: this is who we can be to others—we can bring others to life through love. Yes, God is the author of life, but we bring others to life, we offer them true life, by bringing them into love. Love is the watermark in the parchment of our existence, writes Balthasar. We are made to exist in an economy of love, but it is something that demands others to awaken it: we can awaken it in others, we can open them up into love. Just as we are brought into being by love, we offer others the identity of the beloved.

It is so simple. It is simply one mother telling her one child that she is loved. But this is the world being recreated in front of our eyes. The infant's eyes widen, and we watch a child get made. This is who and what we are as human beings: human beings made for love, made for relationship, and here, in this moment—this is a child who didn't even know that these sounds, that this love, could exist and suddenly she this entire reality of love seems to open before this child's eyes.

And maybe she doesn't understand what she is hearing and doesn't grasp the magnitude of it. But we do.

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