Tag Archives: incarnation

How truth regarding Jesus’ birth affects us today

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” — John 3:16

During this wondrous season, while Christians around the world proclaim the most significant event in human history, that Jesus, the Word made flesh, was “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,” its real significance is often missed.

Have you ever stopped to think about the deeper meaning of the Incarnation and Nativity of Jesus? His birth was the birth of the most unique Person in history – the incarnation of God Himself, the mingling of God with humanity. As the greatest testimony of His love, the Father has His only Son become man to heal us from everything that separates us from Him – to save us from our sins. In this way, Jesus merits for us the dignity of becoming children of God, allowing us to cry out, Abba Father.

This great love story is retold every year and portrayed in the Christmas creche, which focuses our reflection, contemplation, and gratitude upon the wonder and beauty of our Savior’s birth. It is hard to imagine Christmas without this humble scene and its profound teaching of the heavenly Father’s love for His children.

The origin of the Christmas creche rests with St. Francis of Assisi. It is said that St. Francis lived daily with great joy the wonder and awe of the Incarnation of the Son of God and His blessed and humble birth. The meek saint would often shed tears of heartfelt gratitude, praising the divine Son who took upon Himself our human nature to reveal His Father and to reconcile all things and destroy the power of sin and death forever.

This event is the central moment in human history, which has changed forever our understanding of earthly realities. One reality is how we look upon the sanctity of human life. Jesus’ body was formed in the womb of Mary: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The eternal Son of God came into the world in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, thus blessing the womb of every woman and the precious life of every child. The ministry of Jesus didn’t begin at His birth but at His conception.

Despite this, life at every stage – from conception to natural death – is under siege. We cry and protest for the children who are impeded from being born, for the millions of children born and left to die from hunger and sickness, for the poor, the elderly, the sick, the disadvantaged, the marginalized, and the disabled. Yet, amid our weary struggle with these injustices, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of the wonder of the Incarnation, its significance, and its power to tranform:

“The action of God, in fact, is not limited to words, indeed we might say he is not content only to speak but is immersed in our history and takes on the fatigue and weight of human life.”

The unapproachable God became approachable and is fully expressed – a God of love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, compassion, and glory. If we lose perspective on the essential truths that are bound up in the Incarnation and Nativity of the Lord Jesus, we lose sight of the Gospel and its revealed truth about life, the human person, and our eternal destiny.

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International www.hli.org and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

The Son of God…born as gift to mankind

Isaiah prophesied, “A child is born to us, a son is given to us… They name him… God-Hero” (Is 9:5). Christians have long seen in these words a prophecy of Jesus’ birth and an affirmation of his divine identity. Though it took several centuries for the Church to develop her understanding of the relation between Jesus’ human and divine natures, nevertheless, from the beginning she has declared of Christ, as the apostle Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

The reality that God himself became a man for our salvation — what is called the Incarnation (literally, “becoming flesh”) — is at the heart of the Christian faith. Denial of this truth has been the hallmark of many heretical sects.

Jesus himself declared, “The Father [that is, God] and I are one” (Jn 10:30). When He did, some of those who heard Him picked up stones to kill Him for blasphemy, because they understood (correctly) the implication of what He was saying: He was claiming to be God (see Jn 10:30-33; also Jn 5:17-18).

In fact, virtually every attribute of the Father in heaven — the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who revealed Himself in the Old Testament — was claimed by Jesus for Himself. He spoke authoritatively as God (rather than merely for God). He accepted worship. He forgave sins. He said He was equal to the father. And He claimed that He had existed eternally.

New Testament authors verified His claim: “For in Him,” St. Paul wrote, “dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily (Col 2:9); “In the beginning,” the Gospel according to John announced, “was the Word,/… the Word was God. /… All things came to be through Him,/ and without Him nothing came to be. / And the Word became flesh (Jn 1:1, 3, 14).

EXCERPT FROM Insert M-1 “Why Does the Church Teach that Jesus Is God?”, from The New Catholic Answer Bible – New American Bible, Revised Edition (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011).

SCRIPTURE 101

“The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not. He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not. But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”
Gospel of John 1: 9-14

CATECHISM 101

The Church calls “Incarnation” the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God (1 John 4:2).”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #461, 463

Advent, the Incarnation and mercy

Saint Athanasius, the great fourth-century bishop and Doctor of the Church, wrote the following in his work entitled On the Incarnation of the Word: “After the Word of God was revealed in the body and made known to us his Father, then the deceit of the demons disappears and vanishes, while men, looking to the true divine Word of the Father, abandon idols and henceforth recognize the true God.”

Abbot Placid Solari, OSB

Abbot Placid Solari, OSB

These words can serve as a starting point for our consideration of the Advent season. In a certain way, Advent is the preparation for our celebration of God’s new creation. When the Word was revealed in the body, the mystery of God’s purpose begins to be made known as he restores his creation and endows it with a yet greater dignity.

Genesis tells us that “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” But we sinned, disfiguring the divine image and losing our likeness to God. But God now reveals the mystery of his purpose, which he had from the beginning to restore, not destroy, his creation. The Word, the image of the unseen God, and the image according to which we were created, takes to himself our human nature so that, in our same nature, he may restore what was fallen.

In absolute love he is obedient to his Father’s will, even to death. By absorbing into himself all the evils of sin and the final enemy, death, and by his wondrous resurrection and ascension in our same human nature, he brings to fulfillment God’s original plan of salvation. Even more, God reveals that he has already raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus!

When the Word of God came among us in our own humanity, he revealed to us our true human nature by his birth, by his life in a family, by sharing the experiences of daily life, by his death in our mortal nature, and by rising to new life. In our Advent and Christmas celebrations, Athanasius tells us that we need to look “to the true divine Word of the Father, abandon idols and henceforth recognize the true God.” The idols and demons of our age would have us turn away from the truth that the Son of God lived among us as a man. They would seduce us to believe that our body is a mere accident with no relation to who we are as a person, to believe that the creation of mankind in the divine image, male and female, is a quaint and outdated myth, and that gender is a malleable social construct.

“After the Word of God was revealed in the body and made known to us his Father,” Athanasius writes, “then the deceit of the demons disappears and vanishes.” Advent is a time for us to renew our confidence in the Father’s wondrous plan of creation and salvation. It’s a time for us to renew our faith and our witness to the truth that Jesus has revealed about the Father — and about our own human nature.

Advent is also a time to marvel at the mercy and kindness of God, who did not abandon us when we were weak and fallen. The book of Genesis — after telling the story of creation and the fall, and outlining the cancerous spread of sin — begins the great story of God’s plan to gather this fragmented community together again. God calls Abraham and promises him descendants more numerous than the stars in the heaven. From among these descendants, after countless centuries of waiting, arose the Son of God, the Savior, in his human nature.

Since such great mercy has been shown to us, our witness to the Truth against the idols and demons of our present age should be tempered as well by great mercy. As the long centuries of preparation for the Christ were often tempered by setbacks and failures, we also must be patient. As we prepare to celebrate the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ our Lord, let us have great confidence that God’s love made visible in us — through the work of the same Holy Spirit which once overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary — will finally cause the deceit of the demons of our day to disappear and the Kingdom of God to be made manifest.

ABBOT PLACID SOLARI, OSB, is Belmont Abbey College’s chancellor and chaplain of Legatus’ Charlotte Chapter.