The Awakening: "Kenosis"

Hi Everyone, I pray blessings upon you that you are experiencing the presence of God in every moment of your days. Now is a good time to be still and let God speak in your heart.

There is an historic description that the mystics use to outline the road to holiness that includes awareness, purification, illumination, and union. This is most often referred to as the journey of sanctification. There are many other road markers used as well, such as knowing God, loving God, serving God, glorifying God and enjoying God that have been offered over the years to help spiritual pilgrims to map their journey. Whatever way we may employ to the define or map the way to holiness everyone agrees that the goal to become Christ-like and the epitome of Christlikeness is achieved when we put on the mind of Christ Jesus by the grace of God, which is to put on the fullness of Love, evidenced by a self-emptying heart for God and for other people. In Greek this self-emptying is called kenosis.


Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

NRS Philippians 2:5-8

Christ’s self-emptying speaks to the entire descent (birth to death) and ascent (resurrection to ascension) of Christ Jesus for the salvation of the world. Cynthia Bourgeault writes;

“Self-emptying is what first brings him (Jesus Christ) into human form, and self- emptying is what leads him out, returning him to the realm of dominion and glory”

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, pg. 84

The gesture of kenosis is one of “letting go” of the infinite divine energy we have been graced with; giving it away. Divine energy is not stored up it is freely thrown out there to see what it might create. Jesus emptied himself, stored up nothing, clung to nothing, even to the point of the ultimate self- emptying act of death on a cross, which brings forth the New Creation.

Self-giving is the heart of God and what God’s people are called to be; to quote Bourgeault again;

“The pathway to freedom, to the realized unity of our beings, lies and in fact is coextensive with the sacramental act of giving it away, making ‘self- giving’ the core gesture through which all the meaning, purpose, and nobility of our human life is ultimately conveyed”

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, pg. 87

The incarnational tradition takes a sacramental perspective by stating, “We find God in the details of everyday life.” Ignatius of Loyola said; “God is everywhere.” This is due to a continuous self- emptying of divine, life giving, new creation producing infinite energy, which is being poured out upon all creation. It is sacramental because the energy cannot be seen except through the visible manifestation of God through God’s incarnation. The direction of Kenosis therefore is one of descent rather than ascent. The way to God is through self- emptying not self-ascension. How does this understanding of kenosis speak to your own personal spiritual formation?

If applicable, how does this understanding of kenosis speak to your own role as spiritual director, spiritual formation advisor, or soul care provider?

1 An important discussion on kenosis is included as part of The Awakening Institutes studies on Incarnational Theology and Christian Mysticism for Today’s World. For more information please email

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