THE INCARNATION AND REDEMPTION
So far we have looked at The Trinity as God, and how so to speak God lives, which is a staggering proposition. We do it with all the vagueness of a Monet painting. It is all very beautiful, but there is far more to life than beautiful lilies. Perhaps a better analogy would be that of astronomers gazing at the Universe through their extraordinary new instruments. They cannot show us the entire universe, but they can, with their very limited knowledge tell us something about the Universe. So it is with God and the Trinity. We can give the basics about the Trinity, but then we are lost in mystery. And in fact if one begins to explore too deeply into this greatest of mysteries, heresy stalks one at every turn.
Scott Hahn, that very fine scripture scholar, says that within the Trinity all is love, which of course we do not need a theologian to tell us, but the moment the Incarnation takes place, then Jesus’ love is nothing but suffering. Why did The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity become Man? There are two views here as to why this happened. The first view, which was crystallized by Blessed John Duns Scotus, is that The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity would have become Man anyway as Lord of Creation, and that to say God became Man, because of sin is ludicrous. The Second view is that espoused by Thomas that God became Man, because of the Fall. Thomas makes more sense, because he really is in the tradition of both East and West. Admittedly the Orthodox East do seem rather hazy over original sin, as they can be over purgatory, but they two would be much more at one with Thomas, whose theology is mirrored in the Exultet; “O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed by the Death of Christ”, and expanded on in the Catechism:
412 But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St Leo the Great responds, ‘Christ’s inexpressible grave gave us blessing, better than those the demon’s envy had take away.’ And St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, ‘There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”; and the Exultet sings, “O happy fault,.....which gained for us so great a redeemer!” ’
Man, created in the image of God, fell because of disobedience, and the image of God was deformed. Original Sin then was like leprosy. Man, Male and Female were now dreadful distortions of the image of God. Man was to restore that image, and only God could do it, and so God became Man. In that sense the Incarnation and Redemption is like the supernatural equivalent of the final words of a fairy story “And they lived happily ever after”. The difference between Man’s sin and Satan’s sin, and by association all the other fallen angels’ sin is that an angel having perfect knowledge commits so to speak the perfect sin. The Angel knows exactly what the sin is, and its implications.
What then was the Angelic Sin? And here we really are in the world of hypotheses. Some say that Satan was told about the Incarnation, which of course then fits Duns Scotus’ theory perfectly, and others by extension say that Satan could just about accept the Incarnation, but would not pay homage to Our Lady. This of course is all speculation. All we do know is that some angels, possibly a third fell, because they like Satan would not serve. Christ comes to serve and to save. As St. Paul says in Philippians:
Though he was in the form of God,
Jesus did not count equality with a God a thing to be grasped.
He emptied himself,
taking a form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself and became obedient unto death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name
Which is above every name,
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth
And under the earth,
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2. 6-11)
St. Paul in this short passage gives us the whole reason for the Incarnation and Redemption, because Paul is also showing how the followers of Christ should behave.
Now one of the acute problems of most Christians and this would be as true of Catholics, and Orthodox, as it would be true of Protestant Christianity, and in fact very true of Evangelical Christians, is that Christ achieves the Redemption, and we sit back and do nothing, but the bare minimum. It is rather worrying when in Catholicism many of the laity feel that priests and religious should get on and do the holy things. The appalling disclosures of child abuse and cruelty in orphanages by priests and religious would hopefully disabuse one of such peculiar notions. If the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, then all of us must share in his birth by Baptism, and also his death. We become like him the more and more we receive him in the Eucharist, and in the sacrament of Confession. Christ through his Church makes us his adopted brothers and sisters, and we are to make him present to the World so that “very tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. The Church is in the mess it finds itself precisely because we have failed to realise that each Christian must reflect Christ in the mysteries of his life. If we were to rely on most priests and religious in our present day, in the West that is, we might well be courting disaster, as so much of the traditional teaching has been lost in a fog of academic theology, that is not guided by Faith, but by all too human analysis, and historical criticism.
Christ came to save us from the sophistry of Satan, which was first observed by Adam and Eve, and were seduced by it. The great problem in Christianity is the lure of power, both spiritual and temporal, and the effects too often are disastrous to the Faith. Christ tells us that we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless we become like little children, which means that we must trust in him in everything, and give our lives over totally to him. No greater guides can be found for this than those great French mystics and saints such as St. Francis de Sales, St. Vincent de Paul, Brother Lawrence, de Caussade, and St Thérèse, who are some of the greatest representatives of the French School of Spirituality. Unostentatious, profound, simple, and utterly demanding, they present to the intellectual, the poor, the rich, the sophisticated cosmopolitan, and the simple hearted a perfect path, which incorporates them in the Redemptive Work of Christ. His life becomes our life, and that is what the World needs today.