December 22, 2017

Editorial

The greatest of all miracles

Here is a meditation on what we Christians celebrate on Christmas, as written by St. Gregory Nazianzen:

“The very Son of God, older than the ages, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the incorporeal, the beginning of beginning, the light of light, the fountain of life and immortality, the image of the archetype, the immovable seal, the perfect likeness, the definition and word of the Father: he it is who comes to his own image and takes our nature for the good of our nature, and united himself to an intelligent soul for the good of my soul, to purify like by like.

“He takes to himself all that is human, except for sin. He was conceived by the Virgin Mary, who had been first prepared in soul and body by the Spirit; his coming to birth had to be treated with honor, virginity had to receive new honor. He comes forth as God, in the human nature he has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit. Spirit gave divinity, flesh received it.”

We admit that that’s a lot to take in. You might have to read it over a time or two. It’s what St. Gregory wrote back in the fourth century, and it’s what Catholics, if not all Christians, still believe today.

But even St. Gregory lived several centuries after the earliest Christians. When St. Paul wrote his Letter to the Philippians in the 50s, he quoted an early Christian hymn: “Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of humans. He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled himself” (Phil 2:6-8).

The amazing thing is that Jesus was willing to humble himself to become a human being. Paul says that he “took the form of a slave” because he was subjecting himself to his Father’s will. Yet he did not abandon his divinity when he became human. Rather, he took on human nature while continuing to be God.

Of course, the well-known second chapter of the Gospel of Luke narrates the birth of the baby Jesus in the little town of Bethlehem. The text above gives us more to meditate about. It describes the mystery of the Incarnation.

Today, though, in this secular post‑Christian age we’re living in, miracles like the Incarnation are looked on with skepticism. If you are a Christian, though, you must believe in miracles, and on Christmas we celebrate one of the most amazing miracles of all time.

Los Angeles Bishop Robert E. Barron is arguably the best American evangelist since Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. This year, he and Catholic journalist John Allen Jr. wrote a book called To Light a Fire on the Earth. Here is what Allen wrote about Bishop Barron’s belief in the Incarnation:

“Barron stands with the great Christian writer C. S. Lewis, who noted that Christianity is premised on the most audacious miracle claim of all time—that God himself chose to take on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, in order to save the world.”

Lewis wrote in his book God in the Dock, “The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into his own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with him.”

Lewis continued, “If you take that away, there is nothing specifically Christian left. There may be many admirable things which Christianity shares with all other systems in the world, but there would be nothing specifically Christian.”

Bishop Barron agrees: “Miracles stand at the heart of Christianity the way they don’t with other religions. The Virgin Birth, the Immaculate Conception, the Resurrection, the Incarnation: we’re a faith based on miracles.”

This Christmas, let us celebrate the greatest of all miracles, the Incarnation.

—John F. Fink

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