By Rev. Fr. B Joseph Francis –
Consequences of Incarnation
The Nicene Creed (325 AD) proclaims: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven … and became man”. Here we would like to reflect on some of the consequences of Incarnation.
At the outset we should give up some imaginations if we have carried them with us from our childhood fancies. Look at the expression of the Nicene Creed: “he came down from heaven”. Do not take this literally, thinking that heaven is somewhere up above the skies where the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are seated and God the Son says goodbye to the Father and Holy Spirit and comes down. Heaven is where God is and God is everywhere and so where is the question of coming down? Nor should I imagine that for the period of 33 years that Jesus spent here on earth the Trinity became only 2 persons. That would be heretical thinking. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit can never be separated from one another even for a moment!
Incarnation as Mission
In Incarnation God the Son takes up a task a Mission given by the Father to be the Person underneath the created human nature of Jesus (remember that his body is from Mary and his immortal human soul is created by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and attributed especially to the Holy Spirit)
Being the Person under the created human nature of Jesus does not mean that God the Son (also called the Word, Logos, the 2nd Person of the Blessed Trinity) was controlling the created human nature of Jesus. Look at the Nicene Creed which says: “and became man”. If he is truly human like us then he ought to have a limited human intelligence, free will, human consciousness like us.
The Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) says that: One should never mix up the human nature of Jesus Christ with his divinity. In the Incarnation his divine characteristics and human characteristics are preserved as they come together in the hypostatic (this Greek word literally only means what is standing underneath) union of one Person underneath i.e., the Divine Person with the two natures (Divine nature and the human nature) unmixed and also not separated into two persons (as Nestorians of the 5th century thought)
The human consciousness of Jesus
Human consciousness is often perceived to be of two poles: subject pole and object pole. The subject pole refers to deep down convictions that remain with us always and which become clearer as days go on and occasions arise that make this better understood. When this happens, we say that the conviction has move to the object pole and one could express in words or concepts this conviction. So there is a constant shift in our life from the subject pole of conviction to the object pole of objective knowledge. Before it has moved to the object pole it is difficult to put into words our deep felt conviction.
Such a division of poles of our consciousness leaves us with only moral certitude attached to the subject pole of consciousness and so our freedom is fully assured in faith situations. In his human consciousness which was progressive like all of us whose consciousness keep moving from the subject pole of convictions to the object pole of self-understanding, Jesus too perceived himself to be the Divine Son of the loving Father deep down in his human consciousness attached to the subject pole of his human consciousness as a conviction (only moral certitude) and which leaves him so free to experience the vagaries of our human life, its struggles and experiences.
This thought should move us profoundly to appreciate how much Jesus is in our human condition. To say that he was enjoying Beatific Vision while on earth would make him so unlike us; his Passion would be meaningless sham, pretence to say the least.
Jesus’ early life and life of prayer
We should also learn to admire his human life that he lived while on earth, subject to his parents: to Mary his mother and Joseph his foster father; we should admire his working along with Joseph and like all Jewish young men learning a useful trade; probably after Joseph’s death working to support his mother by his human labour.
We know from the Synoptic Gospel how he prayed to his Father early in the morning, or late in the evening, all by himself in that intimate prayer besides the usual public prayers of Jews of his time like the Shema (Deut 6.4-6 recited in the morning and evening), the Tephillah or 18 blessings recited thrice a day and the Synagogue worship on the Sabbath, the festivals at Jerusalem temple. One may wonder: is he not God? Then why should he pray
Questions like these show our ignorance of what Incarnation means and what “became man” that Nicene Creed proclaims. He needed to pray like anyone of us. We see in Mark how he is asking the disciples at the garden of Gethsemane to keep watch with him, in short to support him! We see him praying there to the Father asking him to let the chalice pass by.
Human emotions of Jesus and his character
Further note the compassion, gentleness, forgiveness, understanding sympathy, his healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, raising the dead to life and freeing people from devil possession all of which show his Father’s love care and concern visibly, tangibly. He was hungry, thirsty, tired, at times disappointed like any one of us. If we learn to read the Gospel of Mathew, Mark and Luke in between the lines we would perceive this humanity of Jesus very much.
While Mark presents Jesus and all his human weaknesses like a rough cut diamond, Luke presents him as a polite, polished gentleman. Speaking of his human weaknesses we could perhaps say that he too had his share of human weaknesses which could be termed as imperfections but never sins. Remember that when a man ran up to him and said: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mk 10.17-18).
Obviously Jesus is speaking from his humanity which is created and as such has normal human imperfections. This is why we see him angry at times, pronouncing woes on Corazon and Bethsaida, cursing the unproductive fig tree, calling Peter Satan or Herod a fox or dubbing the Pharisees as whitened sepulchres etc. all these go only to show his humanity and how much he was in our human condition. He was happy when people praised and felt sad when they rejected him; he wept over Jerusalem, at Lazarus’ grave and would say with so much compassion to the widow of Nain “Do not weep” (Lk 7.11).