Tag Archives: Incarnation

Joy to the World!

25 Dec

“Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

“No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

“In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for Himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its Creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.

“And so at the birth of Our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to His people on earth as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvelous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?”

–Pope St. Leo the Great (d. 461)

The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas wishes everyone a most blessed Christmas filled with the immense joy that made the angels sing.

Getting Personal

12 Jan

Our Lord Jesus Christ calls each one of us to an intimate, personal relationship with Him. Unfortunately, some Catholics are uncomfortable with this “personal relationship” terminology.

Yet Christianity is not a mere moral code, ethnic club, or cultural phenomenon. Rather, at its very core is the acceptance of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as our personal Lord and Savior.

As we take positive steps to nurture this personal relationship, we must continually return to this fundamental point: It is God who initiates the relationship. God has first loved us, and our vocation is to respond to that love. And God does not merely initiate the relationship; He goes looking for us! That’s what the Incarnation–the Word becoming flesh–is all about.

This awesome truth helps us to see the Eucharist in a new light. Before we enter God’s world as His beloved children, He first enters ours. Since the pre-eminent way that God remains in our world is through the Holy Eucharist, then the Eucharist must give us important clues as to why Christ assumed human nature in the first place (see Catechism, nos. 456-60). The Eucharist points not so much to God’s “inaccessible transcendence” so much as it does to His “divine condescension.” The Eucharist is about God coming to us. Continue reading

The First Marian Dogma

29 Dec

The first and foremost revealed truth about our Blessed Mother, from which all her other roles and honors flow, is that she is the Mother of God. Quite fittingly, we celebrate this beautiful mystery of our faith during the Christmas season, on January 1st, which this year falls on a Sunday. (And you just thought it was New Year’s!)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 509) summarizes the teaching as follows: “Mary is truly ‘Mother of God’ since she is the mother of the eternal Son of God made man, who is God himself.” The title “Mother of God” points to the sublime truth of the Incarnation, that Jesus Christ is true God and true man.

The Church’s teaching concerning Mary’s divine maternity is deeply rooted in Scripture and Tradition, and was dogmatically defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

For many Catholics, Mary’s “divine maternity”–in other words, her status as the “Mother of God”–is almost second nature. One of our oldest and most recited prayers, the Hail Mary, explicitly invokes “Holy Mary, Mother of God.” We typically call Mary our “Blessed Mother,” which points to our participation in the divine life as adopted children of God (cf. Rom. 8:15-17; Gal. 4:4-7; Rev. 12:17). Yet we could not call her our Blessed Mother unless she was first and foremost His Blessed Mother.

Since the fifth century, Mary’s title as “Mother of God” has been firmly established, and is easily the least controversial of the Christian doctrines concerning Mary. This teaching is a good starting point for ecumenical discussion and, as will be shown below, preserves correct teaching concerning who Jesus Christ is.

Now that we celebrated Christ’s birth last Sunday, let’s take a closer look at His mother, from whom “the Word became flesh” (Jn. 1:14). Continue reading

Do We Really “Become God”?

21 Dec

Perhaps one of the most provocative statements in the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church is found in no. 460, which says that Jesus “became man so that we might become God.” Really? Do Catholics really believe that we can become God?

It’s a great question–especially in this season as we celebrate the mystery of the birth of the Son of God. Let’s begin by looking at the context of the Catechism’s bold statement. In nos. 456-60, the Catechism is providing answers to the question, “Why did the Word become flesh?” He came to save us, to show forth His love for us, and to be our model of holiness.

But there is one other motive. In 2 Peter 1:4, we learn that Christ came to enable us to “become partakers of the divine nature.” As He saves us, He incorporates us into His family, of which He is the firstborn (Romans 8:29). We truly have become God’s children (e.g., 1 John 3:1), and one can’t truly be a child if one doesn’t share the same nature as the parent.

That doesn’t mean that we become God by nature. We have merely a human nature. Christ is God’s only-begotten son (which is why, incidentally, “only-begotten” was put back into the Gloria and Creed at Mass). Rather, by grace, we partake of the divine nature. We participate in the very life of God through adoption into His mystical body (see Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:4-7).

Being God’s children “by adoption” doesn’t cheapen the wonderful, undeserved gift we received at Baptism. Nor is our status as God’s children merely a legal fiction.

Rather, the term “adoption” reflects the fact that through grace we are able to participate in the very life of God. If we were “gods” in our own right, we wouldn’t need to be adopted. If God were distant and uninvolved with us, we would not truly be His children. The truth is that through Christ God is calling all of us to Himself.

And by the way, the quote from the Catechism is a direct quote from St. Athanasius (see above icon), a heroic fourth-century bishop and Father of the Church, known as the champion of orthodoxy. The Catechism didn’t make it up!