Essay on Incarnation
“In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God.”
The Word of God took flesh from the Theotokos. He took on all of our flesh, every aspect of it, including our human nature. And by taking on our human nature He renewed it. “Jesus” is the Name of the Word. Jesus IS the Word, and the Only manifestation in the flesh of that Word.
Having said that, we should not limit our understanding of how that Word is active to the historical limits of Jesus’ life.Jesus is the same Word that was active in Creation, Who spoke through the prophets by the power of the Spirit. When there were other “manifestations of the Word”, it was this same Word that manifested Himself as Jesus.
This is unique to christian literature. How St. John (and the Church) used that term is far less philosophical than Philo used it.For them it was something very personal. But its personal-ness did not suddenly start when the Word became flesh. The Word is the second Person of the Holy Trinity.
St. Paul says that He is the image of the Father (rather than IN the image) by Him all things were created & through Him all things hold together.Yes, He does permeate all things.
“He was in the beginning with God; All things are created through Him; and without Him was nothing made that was made.”
“For the Word of God is living, active, sharper than any two-edged sword…piercing the division of joint…of bone & marrow. Nothing is hidden from HIM; but all is laid naked before the eyes of HIM with Whom we have to do, the Word”
The Word is a “Him”. The Word discerns. Rather than read this Word, we must have a relationship with this Word, Who was in the beginning with God, and through Whom all things were created. The Word of God wields ultimate power in the universe. The Word of God is King of all.
Yet we cannot dismiss the paradox of the Eternal God taking flesh and becoming part of His creation. The Church, instead, launches headlong into the paradox, even glorifying it. The perfect and impassible God became flesh and took on our humanity. Eternal Love became a baby. He Who created the heavens and earth deigns to be held by His creatures. The Uncontainable becomes contained in the womb of the virgin. He Who grants breath to all creation, takes breath. He Who IS before all ages, condescends to be constrained with in space and time…. etc.
The Word of God IS that paradox that both exists beyond all ages, and yet has become flesh and dwelt among us (in time, in a human culture and context). Holy Scripture points to Jesus as the Word. This puts us face to face with that paradox. In time we encounter the Word of God as a little child, as a young boy, as a Man who teaches, as one Who both is offered and offers Himself. Yet this Word is the Word that was before all ages and by Whom all things were created and in Whom all things hold together.
Having become flesh, undergone birth and death, the risen Christ ascends to His Father, offering to Him His humanity – and our humanity. Since The Word is one of the Holy Trinity, He is complete.
Rather than sending instructions, He sends Himself. We have a person to encounter, rather than an account about others’ encounter. Knowing about others’ encounter is helpful, but does not exempt us from having to encounter Him ourselves.
We encounter Him both in His timelessness and in time. It is an encounter that is too near to us (and at the same time too far beyond us) to adequately put in human words.
Yet we struggle to express that dynamic relationship in words. And that relationship changes as we grow. But it is not God who has grown. Rather, it is us, and our relationship with God, that grows (if we let it).
Jesus did not only die and is risen for our sake and for our salvation, Jesus was also born, was circumcised, baptized by John in the Jordan, ministered, healed, performed miracles, taught, all for our sake, our health and salvation. God did not only die and rise again, He became one with us; He took on our flesh, our humanity; He grew up in a dysfunctional family; He was tempted; He ate, slept, loved, cried, got angry, all for our sake. Without this a death and resurrection is diminished to a petty substitution and magic act. God Who cannot be contained deigned to be conceived in a womb, wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger, wrapped in winding sheets (epitaphion/plashchenitsa) in a tomb, came into time and space… for our salvation!
Jesus’ blood does save us, but not just His blood. Jesus’ LIFE saves us.
Everything He did in taking on Himself our disease saves us – from conception to His death and resurrection. And through it all, His Love saves us, for He gave of Himself out of Love. By Love He reversed the typical ways that we relate to each other. By Love He exalted those of low degree. By Love He heals our infirmities.
By proclaiming the Incarnation of God in history, we are not being elitist, nor exclusionary. God’s love is not “confined” by the second person of the trinity — rather it is made manifest, not just in the age of His Incarnation in the flesh, but in all times both before & after, and unto the ages of ages.
Behold the King cometh. He has taken our flesh to be one in essence with our humanity. Now He offers Himself for that humanity. Behold the extreme humility of the King of the Universe. He hath not clothed Himself in finery as befits a King.
“He was despised, rejected, a Man of sorrows & acquainted with grief. He had no beauty that we should desire Him; no comeliness that we should delight in Him (a euphemism for ‘dead’).
Surely He hath borne our griefs & carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him not & regarded Him as one smitten by God.
And with His stripes we are healed; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
(Indeed, the Servant poems are about the Kingdom of God — as we saw Jesus Himself teach at the Capernaum synagogue.)
Jesus suffered in the flesh, underwent His voluntary death in His flesh. This does has supra-historical import. The order of the universe is altered as it beholds the Creator dead at the hands of His creature. The earth quakes; the skies darken. He Who IS God dies in the flesh! Yet is not separated from the Father.
His Resurrection also has supra-historical import for all mankind. No longer does the flaming sword bar mankind from paradise, for He has opened it again, even unto the thief who repents.
Hell has been embittered, for the presence of Life has gone to where death is. Christ is risen from the dead! trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”
Where others can plead ignorance, those that ‘do it the right way’ have no such plea. God will not listen to it. “You had the Law and the Prophets.” “You had even the revelation of Me in My Son.”
That is why many of those that turn away from God are those that have called
“Lord, Lord; we hid your gospel from the homeless; we turned aside from those who are afflicted, for they were not worthy.”
God will have mercy upon the homeless and afflicted. But to those of us who disdained His Image in them, Jesus will say: “Away from Me ye workers of iniquity.”
The Word of God has been complete since before the ages – before time.
It is our understanding of God’s Word that remains incomplete. We are the darkness that ‘comprehended it not.’ There is nothing we can do to complete God. We best, then, work with God on completing ourselves.
The Word was not just a form of human example, He is Human. Not only did He bring the divine to humanity, but He also brings humanity up to divinity. He has made it possible for us lowly humans to have a share and communion with divinity.Through His incarnation, we have been enabled to become “sons of God”
As we put on Christ, we become an “anointed one” (a christ) by grace. Thus we participate in the ongoing incarnation of the Word.Our problem is that we don’t want to live so much in the continuing presence of God.“The True Light, which enlightens all was coming into the world.”But we prefer darkness.We want God to be a ‘good god’ and stay in heaven and don’t bother us.We don’t want to stand in the presence of God and let ourselves be transformed by Him. We prefer the comfort of our self-destructive ways, and don’t want Him monkeying around with our concept of who we are.
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, but the world knew Him not. He came to His own people, and His own people received Him not. But to all who received Him, He gave power to become sons of God.”
Christianity was born of God coming into the world. One of the problems God coming into the world had with the Judaism of His day was the Lawyers. Now the lawyers have done unto christianity the same thing. Law looks not at following God, but at ‘What is required?’, in other words, ‘What is the minimum I have to do to get by?’ This is different from following God. Following God requires faith. Doing what you need to do to get by removes yourself from a relationship with God and puts you at a level of APPEASING God. A lot of people have that approach to God and have an elaborate system of thought to justify why you should have the same approach.
But when we move away from minimalism to a relationship with God, we see that the beginning of that relationship is just the beginning. There is no magic that suddenly transforms us warped humans into the likeness of God. We have to cooperate with God for that transformation to take place. God is with us. And through His presence (if we choose to come into that presence) He can un-warp us. Salvation is a process, not a magical cure. St. Paul was converted unto Christ in a dramatic manner, but he was still an angry raging person. It took most of his life to un-warp that in him. It took years of effort and prayer to heal that. It took humility and allowing God to be with him in his frailty. But this is available to all of us. For indeed through the incarnation, God is with us.
Let us look at that “God is with us” phrase.
Isaiah said it like this: “God is with us, understand all ye nations and submit yourselves, for God is with us.”
I hear a lot of people quote that as if it means that ‘God is on our side.’ We rarely look at it as “God is here with us, and we (not they) must submit ourselves to God’s rule (not our interpretation of how we want God to rule)”
God is on our side; but often we are not on our own side. For to be on our own side, we must be on God’s side.
Yes God has given us freedom to say ‘No’ to Him. I think it is a mistake sometimes, but God keeps going with it. He seems to think that eventually we’ll get it right after we have suffered enough from doing it our way. As our planet gets smaller we come up against a larger variety of ‘doing it our way’. As our technology has progressed, so has our ability to do both good and evil.
It is difficult, often, to see God as working all this towards an ultimate good. It is hard to see this in light of great evil that surrounds us.
Hope looks at the evil and says defiantly “God is victorious.”
Hope looks at our warpedness and says “God can heal this.”
“Let us, the faithful, praise and worship the Word, co-eternal with the Father, born for our salvation from the virgin. For He will to be lifted up on the cross for our sake, and to suffer death, and to raise the dead by His glorious resurrection.” (Resurrection tropar, tone 5)
“O Lord Jesus Christ, Who for our sakes didst become incarnate, have mercy on us, who prefer our sin to Thy grace.”