On the Incarnation

Brothers and Sisters,

In preparation for a reading group I’ll facilitate this fall (there are still spots open if you’re interested), I’ve been rereading St. Athanasius’ classic, On the Incarnation. On his first page (p. 49 of my edition), he offers this little summary of the power of God manifest in the “weakness” of the God-man:

…the more he is mocked by unbelievers by so much he provides a greater witness of his divinity, because what human beings cannot understand as impossible, these he shows to be possible (cf. Matt 19.26), and what human beings mock as unseemly, these he renders fitting by his own goodness, and what human beings through sophistry laugh at as merely human, these by his power he shows to be divine, overturning the illusion of idols by his own apparent degradation through the cross, invisibly persuading those who mock and disbelieve to recognize his divinity and his power.

Tightening that up a bit, Jesus makes the impossible possible, the ugly beautiful, and the “merely” human evidently divine. He conquers idolatry by allowing Himself to be conquered. He rebukes the visible by way of the invisible. The more He is mocked, the more evident His grace and glory become to those with eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to believe.

This week, I challenge you all to set aside 10 minutes to sit quietly in a chair and ponder the paradoxical glory of the incarnation. Call it Christmas in August, if you like.

At a minimum, think about how…

  • the eternal Son of God put on temporal flesh for you.
  • the radiance of God’s glory was born in a manger for you.
  • the Covenant Lord came not to be served but to become a servant for you.
  • the Wisdom of God endured the folly of man for you.
  • the “weakness” of God put to shame worldly “strength” for you.

That’s all I have today. No deep insights or words of wisdom (or, as close to wisdom as I get). Just an encouragement to dwell upon the mystery at the very heart of our faith.

Until Sunday,