Tag Archives: The Incarnation

If he was not flesh — and God.

The Circumcision of Christ is commemorated on the eighth day after His Nativity.

If he was not flesh, why was Mary introduced at all? And if he was not God, whom was Gabriel calling Lord?

If he was not flesh, who was lying in the manger? And if he was not God, whom did the Angels come down and glorify?

If he was not flesh, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes? And if he was not God, whom did the shepherds worship?

If he was not flesh, whom did Joseph circumcise? And if he was not God, in whose honour did the star speed through the heavens?

If he was not flesh, whom did Mary suckle? And if he was not God, to whom did the Magi offer gifts?

-St. Ephraim the Syrian

The full quote is here.

Adoration of the Magi by Bassano the Younger

And the Word became flesh!

“And the Word became flesh!…in order to make us earthly beings into heavenly ones, in order to make sinners into saints; in order to raise us up from corruption into incorruption, from earth to heaven; from enslavement to sin and the devil – into the glorious freedom of children of God; from death – into immortality, in order to make us sons of God and to seat us together with Him upon the Throne as His royal children. O, boundless compassion of God! O, inexpressible wisdom of God! O, great wonder, astounding not only the human mind, but the angelic as well!”

+ St. John of Kronstadt, Sermon on the Nativity of Jesus Christ

Here is the crux of holiness.

“In Christ we see something which could be revealed by God but which could not even be dreamed of by man: the fullness of Divinity in human flesh. Here is the crux of holiness. It is accessible to us because of the fact of the Incarnation. This does not lessen the mystery of God: a purely transcendent God is easier to understand or imagine than the God of the Incarnation.

“And when we see the crèche of the Nativity in our imagination, or in plastic representations, and can take the Child-God in our hands, we are confronted with a greater mystery than that of the imperceptible God. How can we understand that the full depth of infinity and eternity lies here, hidden and at the same time revealed by a frail human body that is fragile and transparent to the presence of God?”

-Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, God and Man

This new balance remains fragile.

St. Gregory Palamas

To the brief passage below, taken from The Theology of Illness by Jean-Claude Larchet, the author attaches four footnotes, in which he references St. John Chrysostom, St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Gregory Palamas, Vladimir Lossky and the Book of Job. He is a patristics scholar for sure! And he manages to incorporate many quotes from church fathers and Scripture  in the main text as well, without making it hard to read. In fact, it is pure pleasure to follow Larchet’s explanations as he gathers from great minds of the church and reveals the unity of their thought and faith.

“God, who envisions the salvation of man and through man of the entire universe, does not allow the forces of evil to submerge and destroy His creation. Man and nature remain partially protected by His Providence, which imposes certain limits on the negative activity of the Devil and his demons. Thereby God stabilizes the cosmos in its slide toward nothingness, establishing a certain order in the very heart of disorder. Even if man has lost the ‘likeness’ of God which he began to acquire, he nevertheless remains bearer of the divine ‘image,’ even if that image is veiled, obscured, and deformed.

“Thus man is not totally deprived of grace. Even in his weakness he retains sufficient spiritual power to be able, if he wishes, to turn again toward God and to obey the commandments which he continues to receive from Him (Dt 30:11-19). And thereby he is able to maintain, according to God’s own promise, a certain mastery over nature (cf. Gen 9:1-2).

“Nonetheless, this new balance remains fragile. Man and nature have become a battleground where evil and good, death and life, wage a permanent, merciless combat against each other. This combat is made evident by sickness, infirmity and suffering; and until the Incarnation of Christ, its outcome was uncertain.”

-Jean-Claude Larchet, The Theology of Illness