Tag Archives: Incarnation

Peering into the Mystery of the Incarnation


The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty Savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love. He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals. (Zeph. 3: 14-18a)

I find myself at this time of year, with this feast, what does it mean that God has entered into my very circumstance. At leach of the Masses I genuflected at the part where the Incarnation was professed and wondered how at this moment there is a keen recognition of what the difference Jesus makes in world, among friends and enemies, indeed, all of life. A friend of mine said that Christmas reminds the baptized Christian that the Incarnation provides us the opportunity to know that God looks like us (but doesn’t act like us); God know the very circumstance of living. I spent so much time at the Christmas Masses wondering quietly —and aloud— about the fact of God’s gaze upon us through the Birth of His Son, Jesus.  Asking myself, how is that God loves me so much that he peers into my existence in 2014? But, it is also how I peer into what God has so wonderfully done…

I think it is a true statement to say that Christmas is, more than any Christian celebration, a way to know that God is really in our midst. (Pascha has its own theological experience and data!) As my friend also said, “God’s involvement in our lives as the Word made Flesh, as Christ the Lord, as a real human being means that there is nothing in our lives that God cannot understand from personal experience.”

This sermon of the great Saint Augustine of Hippo helps me to consider anew what I profess to believe and to sharpen witness. Perhaps your meditation today and during the Octave will benefit from this sermon:

My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord…by whom all things were made and who was made [flesh] amid all the works of His hands; who is the Manifestor of His Father, the Creator of His Mother; Son of God born of the Father without a mother, Son of Man born of a mother without a father; the great Day of the angels, small in the day of men; the Word as God existing before all time, the Word as flesh existing only for an allotted time; the Creator of the sun created under the light of the sun; ordering all ages from the bosom of His Father, from the womb of His Mother consecrating this day; remaining there, yet proceeding hither; Maker of heaven and earth brought forth on this earth overshadowed by the heavens; unspeakably wise, wisely speechless; filling the whole world, lying in a manger; guiding the stars, a nursling at the breast; though insignificant in the form of man, so great in the form of God that His greatness was not lessened by His insignificance nor was His smallness crushed by His might. When He assumed human form He did not abandon His divine operations… When clothed in the weakness of our flesh He was received, not imprisoned, in the Virgin’s womb so that without the Food of Wisdom being withdrawn from the angels we might taste how sweet is the Lord.

Why do we marvel at these conflicting powers of the Word of God when the discourse which I utter is apprehended so freely by the senses that the hearer receives it, yet does not confine it? If it were not received, it would give no instruction; if it were confined, it would not reach others. In spite of the fact that this discourse is divided into words and syllables…you all hear the whole discourse and each individual takes in the whole. While speaking, I do not fear that one listener may, by hearing me, grasp the whole discourse so that his neighbor can get nothing of it…Nor is this hearing accomplished at successive periods of time so that, after the dis- course which is being delivered has come to you first, it leaves you so that it may go to another person. No, it comes to all at the same time and the whole discourse is apprehended by each individual…How much more readily, then, would the Word of God, through whom all things were made and who, remaining in Himself, renews all things, who is neither confined by places nor restrained by time, neither changed by long or short intervals of time, neither adorned by speech nor terminated by silence, be able to make fertile the womb of His Mother when He assumed human flesh, yet not leave the bosom of His Father; to make His way hither for human eyes to gaze upon Him, and still to enlighten angelic minds; to come down to this earth while rul- ing the heavens; to become Man here while creating men there?

Let no one believe, then, that the Son of God was changed into the Son of Man; rather, let us believe that, with the perfect preservation of His divine nature and the perfect assumption of human nature, He, remaining the Son of God, became also the Son of Man. For the fact that the Scriptures say ‘The Word was God’ and ‘The Word was made flesh’ (Jn 1.1,14) does not mean that the Word became flesh in such a way as to cease to be God since, because the Word was made flesh, in that same flesh Emmanuel ‘God with us’ was born. …the word which we form within us becomes an utterance when we bring it forth from our mouth: the word is not changed into the utterance, but the voice by which it comes forth is taken on while the inner word remains un-changed; what is thought remains within, what is heard sounds forth. Nevertheless, the same thing is expressed in sound which had previously been expressed in silence…when the word becomes an utterance, it is not changed into this utterance, but remains in the light of the mind; having taken on the voice of the flesh, it reaches the listener without leaving the thinker…Both that which is considered in the mind, however, and that which sounds forth in speech are variable and diverse; the thought will not remain when you have forgotten it, nor will the utterance remain when you are silent. But the Word of the Lord remains forever and remains unchanged.

From Sermon 187: The Feast of the Nativity

Jesus is united to the whole of humanity

A little significant theological reflection is needed. What actually is the point of the Incarnation of Jesus? What difference does it make? Why is what happened to Jesus in the Paschal Mystery important for my redemption and salvation? One of my favorite Orthodox theologians/historians of theology, Father Georges Florovsky points to the fact Christ is not for one person, but for all people, and that all people are to become divine. Make sense to you?

Christ Pantocrator, detail of the Deesis mosaic

The Word became man so that we could “become divine,” “in order to deify us in Himself.” Deification is adoption by God, and “humans sons have become the sons of God.” We are “received by the Word and are deified through His flesh” by virtue of the Incarnation. Born from the Virgin, the Word was not united with only one man, but with the whole of human nature. Therefore everything that was achieved in the human nature of Christ is immediately extended to all men because they have a body in common with Him. There is no coercion involved here. Men are more than similar to Christ; they are truly participants in the human nature of the Word. Christ is a vine and we are the branches, “united with Him by our humanity.” In the same way that the tendrils which grow from a grapevine are consubstantial with it, so are our bodies consubstantial with the body of the Lord, and we receive what He has accomplished. His body is the “root of our resurrection and salvation.” Everyone is renewed, anointed, healed, and exalted in Christ, for “He has taken everyone on Himself.” This is not merely similarity or substitution, but actual unity. Therefore all humanity is anointed by the Spirit in the Jordan, dies on the cross, and is resurrected to immortality in Christ because “He Himself bears our body.”

Father Georges Florovsky, discussing the theology of Saint Athanasius the Great, in chapter two of Florovsky’s patrology.

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Locked doors, open hearts -to Satan

Father George Rutler, pastor of the Church of Our Saviour (NYC) wrote the following in a recent newsletter that ought to be part of our ongoing reflection on what happened to the good people of the Sandy Hook Elementary School:

Locking school doors will not keep Satan out if our
hearts are open to him. Nor will banning weapons ban murder if God is banned
from the conscience. Cain slew Abel without a gun. An illogical world can be
saved from self-destruction only by loving the Logos who was in the Beginning,
who was with God and was God.

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Fr. Carrón gives tribute to Cardinal Martini, calls Communion and Liberation to live differently with the bishop

The President of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation,
Father Carrón’s, said the following in tribute to Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini in a September 4th editorial in Corriere della Sera

Giussani e Paolo VI.jpg

“And like Archbishop Montini, who initially confessed that he did not understand
Fr. Giussani’s method, though he did see its fruits, Cardinal Martini also
encouraged us to go forward. I am still moved by the words that he addressed to
Fr. Giussani in 1995, during a meeting of priests, when he thanked ‘the Lord,
who gave Msgr. Giussani this gift for continually re-expressing the core of
Christianity. ‘Every time that you talk, you always return to this core, which
is the Incarnation, and – in a thousand different ways – you propose it again.'”

The full text of the editorial: Julian Carron Letter on Carlo Martini’s death.pdf

This text is a brief, honest and yet key reflection not only on the life and influence of Cardinal Martini, perhaps an excellent synthesis of Christian life and how it is extroverted in a human being. There are some very tiresome reviews of who the Cardinal was, and what he meant to the Church too often in political language. To my mind those authors who evaluate a man such as Martini in this manner does not abide with the Gospel and faith.

The letter of Father Carrón acknowledges the fact that Communion and Liberation has significantly neglected the various opportunities of collaboration with Cardinal Martini that presented themselves over the years. This admission to members of CL should help all of us to reassess how we live and breathe in our given ecclesial context. This is a serious point that we can’t pass off to circumstance. That is to say, we who claim to be faithful members of CL need to work more diligently with the Diocesan Ordinary “in giving reasons for our hope” in concrete ways so that we are witnesses as the Servant of God Pope Paul VI said (cf. the letter).

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Pope Benedict’s homily for Christmas Eve Mass 2010

Christ draws us to Himself through beauty. Beauty in the sacred Liturgy, in music, words, human gesture, the human body, indeed, through His own birth. Here the Pope tells us again that the birth of the Savior, the Incarnation of the Word, i.e., God, really happened in history; it is a fact, not a legend or a pious myth. The birth of Jesus is not “a just nice” story and it is normative for all of humanity, all of history. The following is Pope Benedict XVI’s homily given tonight at Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City State, Rome.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

“You are my son, this
day I have begotten you” with this passage from Psalm 2 the Church begins
the liturgy of this holy night. She knows that this passage originally formed
part of the coronation rite of the kings of Israel.

The king, who in himself is
a man like others, becomes the “Son of God” through being called and
installed in his office. It is a kind of adoption by God, a decisive act by
which he grants a new existence to this man, drawing him into his own being.

reading from the prophet Isaiah that we have just heard presents the same
process even more clearly in a situation of hardship and danger for Israel:
“To us a child is born, to us a son is given. The government will be upon
his shoulder” (Is 9:6).

Installation in the office of king is like a
second birth. As one newly born through God’s personal choice, as a child born
of God, the king embodies hope. On his shoulders the future rests. He is the
bearer of the promise of peace.

Baby Jesus, St Peter's.jpg

On that night in Bethlehem this prophetic
saying came true in a way that would still have been unimaginable at the time
of Isaiah. Yes indeed, now it really is a child on whose shoulders government
is laid. In him the new kingship appears that God establishes in the world. This
child is truly born of God.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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