On the Incarnation of the Word 4 – Intimately Connected With Our Creation

In this next section of Athanasius’ treatise, we begin to encounter an idea that seems to have largely been lost in modern, Western Christianity. Namely, it is the central idea that it is entirely within God that we live and move and have our being. God is. Evil is not.

For transgression of the commandment was turning them back to their natural state, so that just as they have had their being out of nothing, so also, as might be expected, they might look for corruption into nothing in the course of time. For if, out of a former normal state of non-existence, they were called into being by the Presence and loving-kindness of the Word, it followed naturally that when men were bereft of the knowledge of God and were turned back to what was not (for what is evil is not, but what is good is), they should, since they derive their being from God who IS, be everlastingly bereft even of being; in other words, that they should be disintegrated and abide in death and corruption. For man is by nature mortal, inasmuch as he is made out of what is not; but by reason of his likeness to Him that is (and if he still preserved this likeness by keeping Him in his knowledge) he would stay his natural corruption, and remain incorrupt; as Wisdom says: “The taking heed to His laws is the assurance of immortality;” but being incorrupt, he would live henceforth as God, to which I suppose the divine Scripture refers, when it says: “I have said ye are gods, and ye are all sons of the most Highest; but ye die like men, and fall as one of the princes.”

By turning from God, who is our life, we face non-existence and become slaves to death. We do not turn from one god to a different god. There is no other source. When we turn from our life, we actively seek the non-existence of death. The only reason we do not immediately dissipate is because, as we have already seen, God does not begrudge existence to any of his creation. Indeed, he loves it with a love that passes all understanding.

The Incarnation, then, is not about making us good.The Incarnation  unites humanity with God, which is to say that it unites us with life itself. The Word must free us from the mastery of death and all the other powers to which we have subjected ourselves. God’s response to fallen man?

…that the Lord should both make haste to help us and appear among men. For of His becoming Incarnate we were the object, and for our salvation He dealt so lovingly as to appear and be born even in a human body.

The Lord makes haste. God rushes to help us. The Word pours himself into humanity. If you’ve not heard the Christian God proclaimed in those terms, I daresay you’ve not heard the Christian God proclaimed at all. It’s overwhelming and humbling when you begin to not just have eyes, but to see.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted August 27, 2009 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    I popped over here from Adventures In Mercy in search of more good writing (I’m new to blogging and looking for good examples), but I think I found more than that. This is beyond moving; this makes my heart hurt. I will read this over and over again. Thank you.

    (btw I hope you don’t mind if I link to this on my own blog)

  2. Posted August 28, 2009 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    No, I don’t mind at all. I think St. Athanasius gets most of the credit for anything which moves you in this series, though. I know I keep returning to his words.

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