Thursday, December 21, 2006

As we prepare to observe the Incarnation of the Son of God

"The one person, Jesus Christ, both true God and true man, stooped into our littleness to draw us up to the greatness of life eternal, which is not this life infinitely extended but is the very life of God. From the beginning and through the millennia, human beings looked upward in search of the divine. Mary looked downward, at the baby in her arms. She looked into the very face of God. Finitum capax infiniti, the finite is capable of the infinite. This is the central wonder, the inexhaustible mystery, of Christmas." So writes Fr. Neuhaus in a wonderful piece on First Things' On the Square: Observations and Contentions blog. Late in this Advent season Fr. Neuhaus reminds us that Christmas is a celebration, an observance of the Incarnation of the eternally begotten Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity and not a vacuous celebration of Jesus' birthday.

The mystery of the Incarnation, along with the mystery of the Trinity, sits atop the hierarchy of truth. The idea that "in Catholic doctrine there exists a 'hierarchy' of truth" is explicitly articulated in number 11 of the the Second Vatican Council's decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio. Writing to theologians engaged in ecumenism, the Council fathers write that the truths in the hierarchy of Catholic doctrine "vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith". Hence, it is a deep mystery that we celebrate when we observe the nativity of a child who "For us men and for our salvation came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit was born of the Virgin Mary and became man" and who "For our sake . . was crucified under Pontius Pilate . . . suffered death and was buried."

Of course, that he was resurrected from the dead is the cornerstone of our faith. We must never lose sight of the reciprocity between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, both of which, according to theo-logic, are only made possible by God becoming man in the historical personage of Jesus of Nazareth. To make this point, with Fr.Neuhaus, we look to Pope St. Leo the Great, who in a Letter to Flavianum, wrote:

"Lowliness is assured by majesty, weakness by power, mortality by eternity. To pay the debt of our sinful state, a nature that is incapable of suffering, was joined to one that could suffer. Thus, in keeping with the healing that we needed, one and the same mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, was able to die in one nature, and unable to die in the other."

No comments:

Post a Comment