Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Exploring the Incarnation IV - The Radicalness of the Incarnation

Dear Parish Faithful,

Today, December 6, we celebrate St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia, the Wonderworker. Considering the deluge that we endured yesterday, we had a larged-sized body of the faithful at the Vesperal Liturgy yesterday evening. It was a wonderful service, and it was good to witness the enduring veneration of the real St. Nicholas as it continues down the centuries, regardless of the geographical or cultural setting. Together with the many texts praising St. Nicholas in the service, were included those that continue to prepare us for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, and the mystery of the Incarnation.

To remain focused on the Incarnation, here is the third and final passage from Archbishop Ware’s book The Orthodox Way, under the section heading “Salvation as Sharing.” Archbishop Ware goes far in reflecting on the utter radicalness of the Incarnation: here we encounter the suffering God who entered into the fallen conditions of our world and voluntarily embraced them in order to save us from these very conditions that undermine our very humanity and our relationship with God:

Secondly, this notion of salvation as sharing implies – although many have been reluctant to say this openly – that Christ assumed not just unfallen but fallen human nature. As the Epistle to the Hebrews insists (and in the New Testament there is no Christological text more important than this): “We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but he was in all points tempted exactly as we are, yet without sinning” (4:15). Christ lives out his life on earth under the conditions of the fall. He is not himself a sinful person, but in his solidarity with fallen man he accepts to the full the consequences of Adam’s sin. He accepts to the full not only the physical consequences, such as weariness, bodily pain, and eventually the separation of body and soul in death. He accepts also the moral consequences, the loneliness, the alienation, the inward conflict. It may seem a bold thing to ascribe all this to the living God, but a consistent doctrine of the Incarnation requires nothing less. If Christ has merely assumed unfallen human nature, living out his earthly life in the situation of Adam in Paradise, then he would not have been touched with the feeling of our infirmities, nor would he have been tempted in everything exactly as we are. And in that case he would not be our Savior.

St. Paul goes so far as to write, “God has made him who knew no sin to be sin for our sake” (II COR. 5:21). We are not to think here solely in terms of some juridical transaction, whereby Christ, himself, guiltless, somehow has our guilt “imputed” to him in an exterior manner. Much more is involved than that. Christ saves us by experiencing from within, as one of us, all that we suffer inwardly through living in a sinful world.

The Orthodox Way, p. 75-76.

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