Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Incarnation: Act of Love, Act of Salvation

*This was something I wrote exactly one year ago. Try as I might, I can't come up with anything better. Blessed Christmas.*

By Your Holy Incarnation, save us! Christ is born! Glorify Him!

From towers, hear the bells ringing! From city to city, hear the choirs singing! Let us ponder now that which we celebrate; that of which we sing.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

This simple statement, this simple fact, is pivotal in human history. With this birth, all of reality is changed. With this birth, the renewal of all things begins. With this birth, salvation has come!

By Your Holy Incarnation, save us! Christ is born! Glorify Him!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made…. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…”

The Lord God did create all that is- visible and invisible. Looking down, He approved that which He had crafted, calling it “good”. But with the creation of the human race, it was complete- “very good”. For within humanity was placed the imago Dei- the image of God. This allowed a relationship between God and man that no other creature possessed.

The angels are indeed spiritual, and dwell in the heavens. But they possess not the image of God. The birds of the air, the beasts of the earth, and the fish of the sea are wondrous in their flesh. But they possess not the image of God. The rocks and the trees and all of nature’s majesty is glorious in its physicality. But even they possess not the image of God. This gift was granted unto man alone- to be physical and spiritual; to dwell in a communion of love with God and with each other.

Into this innocence did mankind come. They walked in the Garden of Eden, surviving off the bounty of the land and walking with God. However, it was not to stay as such. For the great Deceiver lied to our parents, telling them that by doing that with was forbidden, they would partake of divinity. Deluded by such a lie, Adam and Eve were filled with pride. “Is it not good to be like God, knowing both good and evil?” Going forth with such thoughts Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, giving it then to her husband Adam.

With this singular act of disobedience, man was plunged into corruption, darkness, and death. Separated from Life and having transgressed the Command of God, they were banished from Paradise. But of what Paradise do we speak? It is true enough that Eden was paradise- in which there was no toil, no pain, and no death. The greater and true Paradise, however, was communion with God. We were created to dwell in such Paradise; to be priests and kings, offering up all Creation up to the Creator in thanksgiving. Alienated from our original purpose, we thus ceased to fully human; to live to our fullest potential.

By Your Holy Incarnation, save us! Christ is born! Glorify Him!

“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

From the time of Adam even to today, mankind has lived out lives of disobedience. Darkened by sin, fearful of death, and held in tyranny by Satan, humanity has consistently disregarded the Law of God and gone after their own ways. Concerning our constant rejection of God, its effects are clearly evident: theft, disease, war, and calamity. Again and again this cycle is effected, further lengthening an endless downward spiral, never to end. Or is it?

By Your Holy Incarnation, save us! Christ is born! Glorify him!

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The darkness trembles, for it has seen the Light enter into the world, and it flees. For is not darkness merely the absence of light? With the birth of Jesus, the foundations of Creation are shaken. For in the beginning, the Word made all that was. But now, the Word has become flesh. The God who formed all Creation has now united Himself to it in a most intimate way. This called the Incarnation. In Jesus Christ, God and man are united eternally.

By Your Holy Incarnation, save us! Christ is born! Glorify him!

What meaning has this? What purpose does God becoming man have? For this is not mere symbolism, nor the fancy of imagination. For Jesus is truly, really, substantially God-in-flesh; Immanuel, God-with-us. There is an old maxim, found in the writings of St. Gregory of Nazianus: “That which is not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved!” By assuming human nature Christ, Whom in Himself recapitulates all of humanity, restores it to God. If not for the Incarnation, there can be no Cross; and if no Cross, no Resurrection; if no Resurrection, no salvation. By doing what man could not do, Christ has opened again the gates of True Paradise. United to Him, through the Holy Spirit, men may again walk with God!

By Your Holy Incarnation, save us! Christ is born! Glorify him!

“I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The Incarnation did not cease, however. When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He did not discard the flesh which out of love He assumed. Rather, He still bears it, sitting at the right hand of the Father. In such an act, humanity has been exalted to the highest place! And again, His Incarnation upon this Earth has not ceased. He is still present- in the Eucharist, which is His Body and Blood for our salvation, and in the Church, which is His Mystical Body upon Earth. We who partake of the Eucharist are then united to His Mystical Body, and we therefore become an extension of the Incarnation; for are we not named Christian, “little Christ”? Jesus, who is our Head, continues His ministry of salvation through we who are members of His Body.

By Your Holy Incarnation, save us! Christ is born! Glorify him!

By this singular act of love our God has not only made possible salvation, He has wrapped us in Himself. Indeed, the union of God and man in Christ Jesus is salvific in and of itself. To our eyes the scene is that of a newborn baby, sweet and mild, in a lowly humble town. Draw back the curtain, and you shall see that it was an act of salvation; an invasion into enemy territory. The Word who created all things came to claim what was His, and take it back from wrongful hands. The Word came to restore that which had been broken, to purify that which had been made unclean. The Word came to bring us out of darkness, and into His marvelous light.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”