The People’s Seminary is delighted to announce that the English translation of Daniel Bourguet’s The Humble Divinity of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, Volume 2, Chapters 10-16. This excellent book is now available for purchase here.
Daniel Bourguet’s many writings inspire me in my reading of the Bible. I believe he will inspire you too! He models an approach that is deeply contemplative and faithful to the detail of the Biblical text, inspiring faith, action and more thoughtful and prayerful reading of Scripture. Following is an excerpt from the introduction, and an excerpt from his treatment of Jesus’ healing of the woman with the issue of blood.
“Today, the perfect humanity of Christ does not need emphasizing since so many books are devoted to the theme, and rightly so; by contrast, the divinity of Christ does seem to me less commonly treated, and this impels me to bring it to the fore, without of course in any way impugning his
If we have difficulty today perceiving the divinity of Jesus, it seems to me this is because he is humble, and in our eyes humility is incompatible with the glory of divinity. It’s certainly true that Jesus is humble, and I would say doubly so, humble in his humanity as well as in his divinity since God himself is humble. This is unacceptable to anyone who thinks that God cannot be both glorious and humble. What exactly though is glory? If the most glorious of kings is also proud, his pride tarnishes his glory and diminishes it. However, if he is humble, his humility embellishes and enhances his glory. Humility goes wonderfully with glory. To say that God is humble takes away nothing from his glory; on the contrary, it elevates and makes it still more magnificent. The perfect humility of Jesus beautifies his humanity and his divinity as well. On this basis, we mustn’t be given pause by Jesus’ humility but should rather welcome it as a quality which both hides and reveals his divinity.
Mark the contemplative
A striking feature of Mark’s gospel is its great sobriety; it’s certainly very succinct. To me, this shows that Mark had no wish to invent but wanted to hold humbly and strictly to what he had received from Peter, Paul and certain other witnesses of Christ he had met. His great sobriety also shows us that Mark had well understood that the divine-humanity of Christ is a real mystery which takes us deep into the inexpressible — in his divinity Jesus is beyond anything we could say of him. None of our human languages is able to speak of God or of the divinity of Jesus. To mitigate this deficit in our words, Mark is content to suggest, to evoke a mystery which is far beyond us but is offered to us for contemplation. The sobriety seems to me to belong to a contemplative; and it seems to me this is just Mark is, a contemplative open to the inexpressible, open and sensitive to the mystery of God. In passing on as he does the fruits of his contemplation, Mark conveys all he had been granted to perceive of the perfect divinity of Christ but without losing anything of his perfect humanity.
I find Mark interesting in that like us he had not met Jesus so, like us, depended on the witness of others and had to learn to trust them. He interests me particularly because he helps us to open ourselves to contemplate the mystery of the divine-humanity of Jesus.
How paradoxical, that Mark should contemplate Jesus though he had never seen him! It’s true though, and it’s the same for us, that to contemplate does not mean fixing our physical eyes on Christ, on his visible humanity, but our inner eyes on his invisible divinity as it is seen through his full humanity. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
What I am proposing, reader friend, is to pause over certain texts in Mark’s gospel, following Mark in his contemplation of the divinity of Jesus. To do so, we have particularly to accept that Mark, no more than anyone else, proves that Jesus is God. It is a fact to say that the divinity of Jesus is not demonstrable; it is not susceptible of proof by human reasoning. To believe in the divinity of Christ is a gift of the Spirit granted to faith. Our place is to receive this mystery in faith and to celebrate Christ in praises which exceed words. This was Mark’s experience, writing his gospel as an expression and even a celebration of his faith, to help us to live out our faith. He wrote to comfort a Roman community shaken in its faith. By the Holy Spirit, we in turn can be edified and strengthened in our faith thanks to this gospel” (D. Bourguet, Humble Divinity, Vol. 2, xx-xxii).
Purified by the Pure (Excerpt from “The Woman with the issue of blood,” Mark 25-34).
“Following on from what we have just said, a third detail becomes apparent with the following question: is it likely that the woman would have dared touch Jesus if he was God? Wouldn’t it have been a profanation of sorts, particularly when she was unclean? Right here, it seems to me, we can see the Holy Spirit inspired faith of this woman. Without, doubtless, being able to say so, the woman knew by the Holy Spirit that she would not soil Jesus by touching him, but, on the contrary, Jesus in his sanctity would cleanse her. This is just what happened. In biblical thinking, just as uncleanness or impurity is transmitted by contact (Lev 15:19), so too sanctity or holiness is transmitted, again by contact (Exod 29:37). Once more, only the Holy Spirit could have led this woman to act with such assurance.
If the woman was thinking of Jesus in terms of his divinity, the remainder of the passage takes on a new light. She mixed in with the crowd and drew near to Jesus, silently, “from behind” (5:27). This detail reveals the woman’s great respect for Jesus; respect, not that she was hiding in anyway or being hypocritical. She was acting as Moses had when he wished to see the face of God and was told that he could only look on him from behind (Exod 33:23). In the same way that Moses had seen God’s back, the woman’s behavior looks like she could only consider approaching Jesus from behind.
In the continuation, when she is challenged by Jesus, she again demonstrates her respect by prostrating herself; “she threw herself down before him,” Mark says (5:33). She acts just like the publican in the parable who, in his extreme humility, dared not lift his eyes to God (Lk 18:13). In approaching from behind and in prostrating herself, this woman was moved by the Holy Spirit not to look Jesus in the face, which is the correct attitude to adopt towards God.
All these details show us that the woman was led by the Holy Spirit below the level of consciousness, or rather “in the inaccessible depths of her soul,” as certain Fathers put it. The leading must have overcome her, but it worked not by constraint but in the gentleness of the Holy Spirit. It is truly magnificent to know that the Holy Spirit worked in this way, gently but sovereignly, in the woman’s sub-conscious mind, as, certainly, he does in ours” (D Bourguet, Humble Divinity, Vol 2, p. 39-41).
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