The Incarnation of Jesus


The Deposition - by RUBENS, Pieter Pauwel - from Galleria Borghese, Rome . . . . .
Rubens provides us with an extraordinary interpretation of the theme of the incarnation of
the divine and human nature of Christ,  suspended between death and potential future life.

 

The Latin incarnatio (in: caro, flesh) corresponds to John 1:14  "And the Word became flesh".

The Incarnation implies three facts:

(1) The Divine Person of Jesus Christ;
(2) The Human Nature of Jesus Christ;
(3) The Hypostatic Union of the Human with the Divine Nature in the Divine Person of Jesus Christ.

 

The Incarnation of Jesus

from various sources

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As Catholics "We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, born from the Father before all the ages, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, through Whom all things were made. For us men, and for our salvation, He came down from Heaven, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, He took on flesh from the Virgin Mary, and became man." (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed A.D. 325, 381).

Excerpt from the Council of Chalcedon, 451 AD :  "So, following the saintly fathers, we all with one voice teach the confession of one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father as regards His divinity, and the same consubstantial with us as regards His humanity; like us in all respects except for sin; begotten before the ages from the Father as regards His divinity, and in the last days begotten for us and for our salvation from Mary, the virgin God-bearer as regards His humanity; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation; at no point was the difference between the natures taken away through the union, but rather the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single subsistent being; He is not parted or divided into two persons, but is one and the same only-begotten Son, God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as the prophets taught from the beginning about Him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself instructed us, and as the Creed of the fathers handed it down to us."

 

Who is Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ is the Redeemer promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, the only Son of God, and by that very fact, Lord of all Creation. mary_ark_new_covenant.jpg (8723 bytes) He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, sent to the world by the Father to become man and save us from our sins. So Saint Peter said in Matthew 15:16: " You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God". The name Jesus means Savior, as we see from Matthew 1:2. The name " Christ," "Messiah" in Hebrew, means the Anointed One (Acts 10:38). Jesus is God "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" wrote Saint John (1:14). So, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity assumed human nature. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Divine Word of Whom John wrote, "In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). He became Man "In the fullness of time, God sent His Son, born of a woman" (Galatians 4:4). In order to become a member of the human race in the fullest sense, the Second Person of the Trinity became man by being born of a human woman, Mary. He was conceived by her without the help of a human father, but rather, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the God-man Jesus Christ had only God as His Father, and the Virgin Mary as His Mother.

 

Jesus as Teacher

We can easily see He was not the same as other great religious teachers. He not only worked miracles that could be authenticated, but worked them in contexts such that there was a tie established between the miracle and the claim, as we see in the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2. He foretold His own resurrection; He lived a life of such holiness that He could challenge people: "Which of you can convict me of sin?" (John 8:46). Hardly anyone else would dare to give such a challenge! His teaching rested not on human reasoning but on the divine authority which He claimed, e.g., when He said several times over: "You have heard it was said to them of old . . . but I say to you . . . " (Matthew 5:27-44). He inspired His followers to follow Him even to dreadful deaths.

 

Jesus as Redeemer

However, the chief reason that God became man was to redeem us from sin, that is, to pay the debt of our sins. We read in the Epistle to the Ephesians (2:4-5): "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive again together with Christ." 

 

Jesus as Founder

He founded a Church Whose doctrine can and does develop in the same line, that is, without reversing any previous teaching, over all centuries. He made clear that this was the divinely given means of getting peace in this life and eternal salvation in the world to come.

 

One Person, Two Natures

The Council of Chalcedon in 451 brought to the climax the long debates about the make-up of Jesus: He is one (1) Person, a Divine Person, having two (2) natures, divine and human, in such a way that these two (2) natures remain distinct after the union in the one (1) Person. We call this union hypostatic union from the Greek "hypostasis" which means person - two (2) natures joined in one (1) Person. His human nature is the same as ours, for He had a human body and a human soul. He was like us in all things except that He was without sin, even though He was tempted as we are (Hebrews 4:15). However, this does not mean that He had within Him disorderly passions. The Second Council of Constantinople in 553 defined this truth. His divine nature is the same as that of the Father. The Council of Nicea in 325 defined that He is "one in substance [homoousios] with the Father".

 

The Wonder of the Incarnation

Finally , Plato, the great Greek philosopher, in his Symposium 203, wrote: " No god associates with men". Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics 8.7 wrote that friendship of a god with a man is impossible; the distance is too great.

What would they have thought had they learned that God actually became man, and even, that He willed for our sake to submit to a horrible and shameful death? In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 21:23 says: "Cursed be everyone who hangs on the wood". No wonder Saint Paul told the Corinthians (1Corinthians 1:23) that the doctrine of the Cross is folly to the Greeks, and a scandal to the Jews!

 

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