My thoughts and reflections on my Catholic Faith, Fulton Sheen, the problem of suffering, and books

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Saint Athanasius' "On the Incarnation"

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Athanasius. When a friend pointed that out to me, I realized that I had indeed read some of Athanasius' writing, and I dug through the box that contains ALL the THEOLOGY. (It's a cardboard box that used to hold computer paper and now holds most of my notes from the seventeen theology classes I took in college.)

The Spring of my Junior Year, I took a class called De Verbo Incarnato (On the Incarnate Word), taught by now-Dr. Eric Jenislawski.

We spent the first several days of De Verbo reading a little book by Athanasius called On the Incarnation.


It's a short book, only about fifty pages long, but it's very profound in its presentation of Christology. [An important note is that Athanasius wrote this to his friend Macarius; this is not a work of apologetics (defending the Faith against false teaching), but one friend telling a fellow-believer about doctrine.]

Athanasius states that the prime purpose of the Incarnation was the salvation of mankind:
He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men. (2)
[I]t was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us. It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body. (4)
Athanasius addresses the question of why God did not just leave us in our fallen state:
It would, of course, have been unthinkable that God should go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die; but it was equally monstrous that beings which once had shared the nature of the Word should perish and turn back again into non-existence through corruption. (6)
The Word became man so that we might know God:
When God the Almighty was making mankind through His own Word, He perceived that they, owing to the limitation of their nature, could not of themselves have any knowledge of their Artificer, the Incorporeal and Uncreated. He took pity on them, therefore, and did not leave them destitute of the knowledge of Himself, lest their very existence should prove purposeless. For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker? How could men be reasonable beings if they had no knowledge of the Word and Reason of the Father, through Whom they had received their being? They would be no better than the beasts, had they no knowledge save of earthly things; and why should God have made them at all, if He had not intended them to know Him? But, in fact, the good God has given them a share in His own Image, that is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and has made even themselves after the same Image and Likeness. Why? Simply in order that through this gift of God-likeness in themselves they may be able to perceive the Image Absolute, that is the Word Himself, and through Him to apprehend the Father; which knowledge of their Maker is for men the only really happy and blessed life. (11)
Because we are body-soul composites--because we learn through our senses, and not only in a spiritual manner, God became Man like us so we could experience Him through our senses. Think of the Eucharist--the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the God-Man, made apparent to our senses of touch, taste, smell, and sight. Athanasius writes:
The Savior of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, half way. He became Himself an object for the senses, so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which He, the Word of God, did in the body. (15)
There are many, many more paragraphs and quotes that I could share with y'all here, but I think this is enough for today. Maybe I'll pull out my De Verbo paper and explain how that paper, and how several other events, led ultimately to the writing of my Senior Thesis on the topic of suffering.

God Love Y'All!

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