Reflections on the Incarnation

by Jayson M. Brunelle

As I mentioned in a previous post, the two most fundamental and foundational mysteries of Christianity are the dogmas of the Trinity and the Incarnation.  I have already reflected on the mystery of the Trinity, pointing out how the earthly family is truly a reflection of the divine family life of God.  Let us now turn our attention to the dogma of the Incarnation, a timely topic as we approach one of the holiest days of the year: Christmas day.

More than a few people are not aware that Christ existed from all eternity with the Father as the eternally begotten Son of God.  Prior to the Incarnation, Jesus Christ was the pre-Incarnate Christ, the Logos, the Eternal Word of the Father.  At the fullness of time, the Godhead determined that the Eternal Word would come down from heaven and assume a true human nature.  This process of the Son emptying Himself of His divinity and becoming true man is referred to as kenosis – or self-emptying.  This is not at all to say that when Christ assumed a human nature he ceased being God the Son, the Eternal Word.  The Church teaches that Jesus Christ, the man who lived 2,000 years ago and walked amongst us, was true God and true man.  We must be clear here:  Jesus was not 50% human and 50% divine.  Rather, Jesus was and is 100% human and, simultaneously, 100% divine.  This union of the human and divine natures in the one Divine Person of Jesus Christ is referred to as the hypostasis, or the hypostatic union.  From this, the Church has come to understand that Jesus actually possessed two intellects and two wills – a human intellect and a divine intellect, and a human will and a divine will.  This reality helps to clarify the meaning of certain otherwise obscure Scripture passages where Jesus, in praying to His heavenly Father, states, “not my will, but Thy will be done.”  Based on our understanding of the two wills in the one Divine Person of Christ, we can understand that in this passage, Jesus is specifically referring to His human will, as His divine will is always in perfect union with the Father’s will.

This great mystery manifests the tremendous dignity and vocation of the human person.  For, what must it mean for God to assume a human nature that would forever be grafted to His divine nature?  It means that human persons can, as a consequence of this reconciliation, become divinized, and further, as St. Paul teaches, become members of the Mystical Body of Christ.  Jesus Christ began the work of redemption at the moment of His conception, when He, in His very Person, reconciled humanity and divinity, and brought the work of redemption to its completion on the altar of the cross, where He offered Himself, as both priest and victim, in atonement for the sins of the world.

These are just some thoughts on the mystery of the Incarnation, which we will soon celebrate at Christmas.  If you, the reader, have any comments, or would like to add your voice to the discussion, I highly encourage you to do so.  May God bless you this Christmas with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the tremendous gift to humanity that is the Incarnation.

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