The Word Made Flesh

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

John 1:14

The Word (“el Verbo Divino” in Spanish) is a fairly clumsy translation of the original Greek word, Logos. For the Stoics the Logos was the principle of divine reason and creative order pervading and animating the universe. It was the kind of “logic” (from logos) that held everything together.

If we think of the Logos as a kind of spirit, then John’s statement that the Word was made flesh means that this spirit became fully embodied, fully incarnated (“carne” means flesh). It is a statement of radical nonduality: spirit and flesh are one. How this happened is a mystery, but the Christian faith rests on the belief that somehow Jesus was this nondual spirit-body or God-man, full of grace and truth.

Now “grace” and “truth” are clearly two aspects of the broader concept of the Logos. But they are also words. You could say that the words themselves, like everything else in the universe, are animated by the Logos. There is a kind of spiritual power in these two words. If you meditate on the word “grace”, for example, repeating it quietly to yourself over and over, you will eventually feel this power, which is not just a form of energy, but is pregnant with meaning.

Perhaps there is value in translating Logos as Word after all. If you meditate on the word “grace” for an extended period of time every day, it will become your mantra. At a certain point, you will have internalised it to such an extent that it will make perfect sense to say that this word has been made flesh. It is now a part of your very being.

You are what you eat. The food you put in your mouth is digested and metabolised and transformed into energy. The same is true of the words you put in your heart. However, we are not normally aware of this fact, since we usually read and hear all sorts of words in a fairly random, chaotic way, so that each individual word barely registers.

For a word to be “made flesh”, it has to be treated with special reverence and given special attention. It has to be a mantra. Liturgical prayers are mantras. They are repeated over and over again until they sink deep into the subconscious, deep into the body. Sacred scriptures are potentially mantras. Read in the right spirit of reverence and attention, they permeate your very flesh. It turns out that the flesh is in fact, in some mysterious panpsychist way, conscious.

The word is made flesh because mind and body are not-two. Therefore we become what we think and say, hear and read. If you truly believe in the Incarnation, you will become the Incarnation. The Word will become your flesh too. But it requires conscious intention, active attention, lively faith and dedicated practice. As Zen Master Dogen was fond of saying, “practice and enlightenment are one and the same”.