What Is the Word Made Flesh?

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What Is the Word Made Flesh?

Post  Guest on Mon 17 Dec 2007, 12:43 am

I loved this article so much I want to share it, with all at Christian talk. God bless each and everyone of you, as Christmas is near. Anastasia

by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.

As we approach Christmas, we must not overlook the
mystery that has been revealed to us: God became human while not ceasing to be
God. It’s enough to take our breath away since we could have never dreamt up
this event in a million years. Imagine Mary and Joseph—and perhaps the
shepherd—picking up the infant Jesus with one gentle hand. The God who created
the universe, who is without beginning and end, became human like us. He was
tiny, fragile and totally dependent on his parents, but he was still God. This
is what we call the Incarnation. John’s Gospel expresses it magnificently: “The
Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (1:14). As limited as we are in
understanding this mystery, God has given us the opportunity to explore it. Christmas
is the perfect time to do that.

How did Church teaching on the
Incarnation develop?

The Church’s teaching on the Incarnation was immersed
in major struggles and controversies before it was finally defined at the
Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. The conflicts surrounding the Incarnation are
understandable considering how great this mystery is.

Some said it was reasonable for God to take up
“residence” in Jesus, who would be a very holy man but not God himself. In
their logic, they also said that before Jesus died on the cross, God left him.
After all, how could God permit his creatures to crucify him? On the other
hand, some could not comprehend that God could become human, which they
considered a state beneath the dignity of God. Therefore, Jesus was not God but
the most holy man who ever lived, the perfect prophet and teacher (
Catechism of the Catholic Church #464ff).

The truth was that God did indeed become flesh (as
John said). And so it came down to two points: Jesus the man could not be God,
nor could the infinite God become the man Jesus. The Church had to steer a
course that addressed early heresies, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit
at the Council of Nicea and other councils, it did just that. The Church’s
teaching is clear in its doctrine about the “Word becoming flesh.” However, the
doctrine itself requires an act of faith on the part of every believer.

How was Jesus both God and man?

The key to our deepest understanding of this
doctrine is that Jesus has two natures: one human and one divine. However, they
exist in only one person, the Word of God. Jesus doesn’t have what we commonly
describe as a “human personality.” However, his human nature reflects
characteristics that make him unique and distinct from every other person. The
Gospels describe his compassion, love and many other emotions. He weeps in
sorrow and becomes angry at injustice toward the downtrodden.

Even with his human characteristics, Jesus is God.
However, Jesus’ two natures—human and divine—are not mixed. Jesus has a will
and intellect for each of his natures, which are separate and in perfect union.
Jesus’ divine will is the will of God; Jesus’ human will prays to the Father, seeks
the Father’s will (Mk 14:36ff) and is totally obedient to the will of the
Father (Phil 2:6ff)

When it comes to the intelligence of Jesus, again we
are in mystery. In his divine understanding, he knows all things. Yet, in his
human intellect, Jesus has to learn as any of us learn over time. His mother
and father teach him to pray as a child, and they teach him the history of the
Jewish people (Lk 2:52). We cannot comprehend how the human and divine
intellects and wills worked together in Jesus. We just know they did in a most
perfect way. We are so blessed to have the Gospels, which reveal God to us
through the life, speech and actions of the Word made flesh. We are indeed
overwhelmed with this mystery.

As we approach Christmas, this is a perfect opportunity
for parents or older siblings to take young children to crib scenes erected by
churches everywhere. Let them gaze into the crib, and tell them who the child
represents and how good God was to become a little baby for our sakes.

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