2013/January 2014 - Vol. 71.
writings of Athanasius
He that was the very image of his Father, God the Word from everlasting,
took upon him the form of a servant, and in human shape submitted even
to death for our sakes, and as a sacrifice of propitiation to his
Father for us. And, likewise, it was for our sakes and for our advantage
that the same person was exalted and glorified; that as our human nature
died in his, so it may be raised, exalted and glorified in his [raising].
Orations 1.41, p. 55.
For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial
Word of God entered our world... He entered the world in a new way, stooping
to our level in his love and self-revealing to us. He saw the reasonable
race… wasting out of existence, and death reigning over all in corruption….
All this he saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation,
unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that his
creatures should perish… He took to himself a body, a human body even as
our own…. Thus taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were
liable to the corruption of death, he surrendered his body to death in
place of all, and offered it to the Father. This he did out of sheer love
for us, so that in his death all might die, and the law of death thereby
be abolished because, when he had fulfilled in his body that for which
it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for [humankind].
This he did that he might turn again to incorruption, and make them alive
through death by appropriation of his body and by the grace of his resurrection.
On the Incarnation 9, in CLF, 62-63
of Alexandria (298-373 A.D.) was a bishop of Alexandria (Egypt), in the
fourth century.Before reaching the age of 20, Athanasius wrote a treatise
entitled On the Incarnation, affirming and explaining that Jesus
was both God and Man. In about 319, when Athanasius was a deacon, a presbyter
named Arius began teaching that there was a time before God the Father
begat Jesus Christ when the latter did not exist. Athanasius responded
that the Father's begetting of the Son, or uttering of the Word, was an
eternal relationship between them, not an event that took place within
time. Thus began catholic Christianity's fight against the heresy of Arianism.
Athanasius fought consistently
against Arianism all his life. He accompanied bishop Alexander to the First
Council of Nicaea in 325, which council produced the Nicene Creed and anathematized
Arius and his followers. On May 9, 328, he succeeded Alexander as bishop
of Alexandria. As a result of rises and falls in Arianism's influence,
he was banished from Alexandria only to be later restored on at least five
separate occasions, perhaps as many as seven. This gave rise to the expression
"Athanasius contra mundum" or "Athanasius against the world". During some
of his exiles, he spent time with the Desert Fathers, monks and hermits
who lived in remote areas of Egypt. In his lifetime he earned the characteristic
title of "Father of Orthodoxy".
the writings of Gregory Nazianzen
The Son of God himself, who is before all ages,
the invisible, the incomprehensible, the bodiless,
the beginning from the beginning,
the light from the light,
source of life and immortality,
image of the archetype,
the Father's definition and Word,
he it is who came to his own image and took to himself flesh for the
sake of our flesh.
Then he united himself with an intelligent soul for my soul's sake,
purifying like by like. He took to himself all that is human, except sin.
He was conceived by the Virgin who was first purified in body and soul
by the Spirit. It was necessary both that childbearing be honored and that
virginity be honored still more highly.
He came forth as God with what he had taken to himself. Out of two contraries,
flesh and spirit, he made one. The Spirit conferred the godhead on the
flesh that received it.
He who enriches others becomes poor. He took to himself the poverty
of my flesh so that I might obtain the riches of his godhead. He who is
full empties himself. He emptied himself of his godhead for a brief time
so that I might share in his fulness.
What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that touches me?
I received the divine image and I did not keep it. He receives my flesh
to save the image and grant immortality to the flesh. This, his second
communion with us, is far more marvellous than the first.
It was necessary that holiness be conferred on man through the humanity
God took to himself. In this way, conquering the tyrant by force, he freed
us and led us back to himself through his Son, the mediator. The Son brought
this about to the honor of the Father to whom, in all things, he is seen
The good shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep, set out after
the strayed sheep, on the mountains and hills on which you used to sacrifice.
When he found the stray sheep he carried it on those same shoulders that
bore the wood of the cross, and brought it back with him to the life above.
The brightest of all lights follows the lamp that goes before him. The
Word follows the voice in the wilderness. The bridegroom follows the friend
of the bridegroom who is making ready for God a special people, cleansing
them with water in anticipation of the Spirit.
We needed an incarnate God who would die that we might live. We died
with him that we might be cleansed. We rose again with him because we died
with him. We were glorified with him because we rose again with him.
Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become
divine for his sake, since he for ours became [human]. He assumed the worst
that he might give us the better; he became poor that we through
his poverty might be rich; he took upon himself the form of a servant that
we might receive back our liberty; he came down that we might be exalted;
he was tempted that we might conquer; he was dishonored that he might
glorify us; he ascended that he might draw us to himself, who were
lying low in the fall of sin. Let us give all, offer all, to him who gave
himself a ransom and reconciliation for us.
- Gregory Nazianzen,
Orationes 1.5; quoted in Torrance, op. cit, 180-181
of Nazianzen (330-389), also know as Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory
the Theologian, was a 4th century bishop (330-389) who came from a family
of distinguished church leaders and teachers. While studying in Athens,
he became a close friend of Basil the Great, who was also studying there
at the time. They returned to their native Cappadocia (now Eastern Turkey)
to serve the Lord. Basil became a monk and Gregory, who preferred a life
of solitude, was forcibly persuaded by his father to be ordained a presbyter
so he could assist in the care of the local Christians in Cappadocia. Gregory
described his father’s decision as an “act of tyranny” because Gregory
wanted to live a solitary life as an ascetic monk. With Basil’s wise counsel,
Gregory nonetheless embraced the life of priestly service.
During the Arian controversy
when many teachers contested the full divinity of Christ, both Gregory
and Basil took up the pen in defense of the true doctrine of Christ’s divinity.
In 381 he presided over the First Ecumenical Council of Constantinople
which completed the creed that is commonly called today the Nicene Creed.
He taught with such clarity and depth that he became known simply as “the
theologian.” During his time as bishop of Constantinople, Gregory encountered
fierce opposition from the Arians, but his sermons on the Trinity and the
Incarnation won him increasing respect and renown, and even Jerome came
in from his desert to hear him. After a period of troubling work,
Gregory resigned and retired to the solitude of the desert, spending his
last years contentedly in study, writing, and ascetical practices.