Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mystery and Reason for Incarnation

Thoughts on Incarnation from "My Way of Life - The Summa Simplified"

The vision of God is the goal of human life. It is divine grace and the supernatural infused virtues which come to man with it that enable him to attain the vision of God. But by sin, Adam lost grace and the infused virtues for himself and for the whole human race. How then, can man ever reach his true destiny? Must we say that real happiness is forever impossible to him? By sin he has cut himself off from God. Like a petulant child, he has run away from the home of God's love. But the love of God for man is strong and deep and wise; it has reached down from heaven to earth and rescued him from sin and death, and the manner of its coming is beyond the understanding of man. "By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us, because God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by Him. In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first loved us, and sent his Son to be a
propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).

This is the central mystery of Christianity - the mystery if Incarnation of the Son of God. To save men from their sins, God sent His own Son into the world as a man. The Word of God, the Second Person of the Most Blessed trinity, became man and dwelt among amongst us for our salvation. the SOn of God is both God and man. He is one divine Person existing in two natures, one divine and the other human. Try as we may, we shall never understand in this present life how the SOn of God could become man and still remain God. But this is the mystery of God's love for us which He has revealed to us. Christ Himself, the Son of God in human flesh, proclaimed this stupendous truth. His miracles proved His claim. He was put to death by the Sanhedrin for making this claim. Christ died on the Cross rather than retract it; and he rose from the grave to prove that He, Who was really man, was also really God.

Though we cannot understand this great mystery, still, as St Thomas and the Fathers of the Church point out to us, by it the goodness, wisdom, justice and power of God are made known to us. In the Incarnation God, Who is almighty and all-perfect has condescended to unite to Himself a human nature which is created and limited in power. Surely this is a sign of God's goodness to man. Since Jesus Christ is both God and man, He can offer to God an infinite satisfaction for man's sins against God, and in this wisdom of God is manifested to us. Because Jesus Christ is man, it is man who satisfied God for sin, and in this we see the justice of God. Lastly, to unite a human nature to the Son of God as His very own human nature - this is a work that demands divine power.

The love of God for man shines out more clearly in the mystery of the Incarnation when we realize that God did not have to become man in order to save man from his sins. God could simply have forgiven man his sins and restore grace to him; or He could have been content with any satisfaction for sin that man himself might make. But the love of God for man was not content with half-measure or with what was simply necessary. God chose the best possible means of saving man, the best possible means of leading man to good and withdrawing him from evil.

Through Incarnation God leads man to good. The Incarnation is the firm foundation of the virtues of faith, hope and charity. It is the foundation of hope because it is manifestation of the strength of God's love for us. It is the foundation of Himself. It is the foundation of hope because it is a manifestation of the strength of God's love for us. It is the foundation of charity because God's great love for us cannot but enkindle our love for Him. Moreover, in the Incarnation men find the example they must follow to reach the vision of God, for in the life and actions of Christ we see the work of the Christian virtues in their full perfection. Lastly, through the Incarnation the divine life of grace is restored to man, and it becomes possible for him to live divinely here on earth so that he may inherit the vision of God in heaven.

The Incarnation withdraws man from evil. First of all, it shows him that he must prefer God and himself to the devil, who brought about the ruin of human nature. Secondly, it shows man his own great dignity. God has united to Himself no other nature but the nature of man. Surely,, then, man is something wonderful in God's eyes and in the universe. But the Incarnation also preserves man from presumption, for grace is restored to him through Jesus Christ and not because of his own merits. Then, too, in the Incarnation the love of God dissolves the hard ice of human pride. If God is humble enough to become man, can man be too proud to become godlike through divine grace? Most importantly, Jesus Christ, the God-Man, satisfied God for man's sins and so mertied for him the forgiveness of his sins.

The Son of God became man to save man from sin. Some theologians have held that God would have become man even if man had not fallen into sin. But St Thomas remarks that God has not told us what he would have done if man had not sinned. it is better therefore, to say no more than God Himself has said, that the Son of God became man to
redeem man from sin. He came into the world to take away all sin, both actual and original sin. Since original sin infects the whole human race, it can be said that, though Christ came to take away all sin, nevertheless He came principally to rescue mand from original sin.