Friday, December 2, 2011

Exploring the Incarnation III - The Full Humanity of Christ

Dear Parish Faithful and Friends in Christ,

Today’s addition to our selection of key passages illuminating the Incarnation for our spiritual enlightenment is a continuation of yesterday’s passage from The Orthodox Way by Archbishop Kallistos Ware. If you recall, the section of his book from which these passages are taken is entitled “Salvation as Sharing.” The very possibility of God “sharing” His life with us, is already a profoundly moving concept. How much more overwhelming is the very reality of this sharing! For we firmly believe that this is precisely what God has done in Christ – given to us a share in His divine uncreated grace and glory through the Incarnation of the eternal Word become man as Jesus of Nazareth. In this passage, you will be impressed by how strongly Archbishop Kallistos stresses the point of the full humanity of Christ. Christ did not only seem to be human, He was and is, in fact, fully human, because the Word became flesh! The sharing and exchange in the Incarnation between God and humankind is thus fully reciprocal and total. Archbishop Kallistos writes the following:

This notion of salvation as sharing implies two things in particular about the Incarnation. First, it implies that Christ took not only a human body like ours but also a human spirit, mind and soul like ours. Sin, as we saw has its source not from below but from above; it is not physical in its origin but spiritual. The aspect of man, then, that requires to be redeemed is not primarily his body but his will and his centre of moral choice. If Christ did not have a human mind, then this would fatally undermine the second principle of salvation, that divine salvation must reach the point of human need.

The importance of this principle was re-emphasized during the second half of the fourth century, when Appolinarius advanced the theory – for which he was quickly condemned as a heretic – that at the Incarnation Christ took only a human body, but no human intellect or rational soul. To this St. Gregory the Theologian replied, “The unassumed is unhealed.” Christ, that is to say, saves us by becoming what we are; he heals us by taking our broken humanity into himself, by “assuming” it as his own, by entering into our human experience and by knowing it from the inside, as being himself one of us. But had his sharing of our humanity been in some way incomplete, then man’s salvation would be likewise incomplete. If we believe that Christ has brought us a total salvation, then it follows that he has assumed everything.

The Orthodox Way, p. 74-75

To be continued …

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