December 2009 - Vol. 35

Readings from Early Church Fathers on the Incarnation

The Nativity, Rembrandt, etching 1654

The Word made flesh deifies us

From the treatise of Hippolytus, 130-200 A.D.

We do not put our faith in empty phrases, we are not carried off by sudden impulses of the heart, we are not seduced by plausible and eloquent speech, but we do not refuse belief to words spoken by divine power.

These God committed to the Word. The Word spoke, and by these words he turned man away from disobedience, not enslaving him by force or necessity, but inviting him to choose freedom of his own accord.

In the last days the Father sent the Word. In his plan the Word was no longer to speak through the prophets. He was no longer to be a figure of  conjecture, announced in an obscure way.  He was to be manifested visibly, so that the world could see him and be saved.

We know that the Word assumed a body from a virgin and, through a new creation, put on our old nature. We know that he was a man, formed from the same substance as we are. If he were not of the same nature as ourselves, his command to imitate him as a master would be a futile one. If he was of a different substance, why does he command me, naturally weak as I am, to do as he did? How can he be good and just?

To show that he was no different from us, he undertook hard work, he went hungry and thirsty, he took rest and sleep, he did not shirk suffering, he revealed the resurrection. In all this he offered his own self, so that when you suffered you would not lose heart, but rather would recognize that you are a man, and would yourself expect to receive what he received from God.

When you have learned to know the true God, you will have a body immortal and incorruptible, like your soul; you will gain the kingdom of heaven, you who lived on earth and knew the king of heaven; freed from passion, suffering and disease, you will be a companion of God and a co- heir with Christ, for you have become a god.

All that you had to suffer as a man, God gave you, because you were a man.  All that belongs to God, he has promised to give you, because you have been deified and have become immortal.  This is what it means to know yourself, to recognize the God who made you; to know and to be known is the lot of the man called by God.

And so, men, do not be hostile to one another, do not hesitate to return. Christ who is God, supreme over all, has arranged to wash man clean of sin and to make our old nature new. From the beginning he called this old nature his image, and in this way gave you a sign of his love for you. If you obey his sacred commandments, if you become a good follower of him who is good, you will become like him, you will be honoured by him. God is not lacking in anything, and he made you also a god for his glory.

Quotes from early church fathers on the Incarnation

» If Christ had not been born of woman, by Proclus of Constantinople 
» When Christ comes, God will be seen by men, by Irenaeus
» The Word made flesh deifies us, by Hippolytus
» Life itself appeared in human form, by Augustine of Hippo

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