Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Christmas Texts on Jesus Christ and the Divinization of Man

The Christology and Christian Anthropology of Some Early Fathers

From Saint Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170-c. 236): one of the most prolific writers of the early Church. Hippolytus was born during the second half of the 2nd century, probably in Rome. Photius describes him in his Bibliotheca (cod. 121) as a disciple of Irenaeus, who was said to be a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of St. John. In a word, we have below here a very early text:

“The Father of immortality sent his immortal Son and Word into the world; he came to us men to cleanse us with water and the Spirit. To give us a new birth that would make our bodies and souls immortal, he breathed into us the spirit of life and armed us with incorruptibility. Now if we become immortal, we shall also be divine; and if we become divine after rebirth in baptism through water and the Holy Spirit, we shall also be coheirs with Christ after the resurrection of the dead….

“Whoever goes down into these waters of rebirth with faith renounces the devil and pledges himself to Christ. He repudiates the enemy and confesses that Christ is God, throws off his servitude, and is raised to filial status. He comes up from baptism resplendent as the sun, radiant in his purity, but above all, he comes as a son of God and a coheir with Christ.”

Hippolytus again:

“When we have come to know the true God, both our bodies and our souls will be immortal and incorruptible. We shall enter the kingdom of heaven, because while we lived on earth we acknowledged heaven’s King. Friends of God and coheirs with Christ, we shall be subject to no evil desires or inclinations, or to any affliction of body or soul, for we shall have become divine. It was because of our human condition that God allowed us to endure these things, but when we have been deified and made immortal, God has promised us a share in his own attributes.

“The saying ‘Know yourself’ means therefore that we should recognize and acknowledge in ourselves the God who made us in his own image, for if we do this, we in turn will be recognized and acknowledged by our Maker… God is not beggarly, and for the sake of his own glory he has given us a share in his divinity.”

Like Mary, We Engender God Within Us: From St. Ambrose: Bishop of Milan from 374 to 397; born probably 340, at Trier, Arles, or Lyons; died 4 April, 397. He was one of the most illustrious Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and fitly chosen, together with St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Athanasius, to uphold the venerable Chair of the Prince of the Apostles in the tribune of St. Peter's at Rome.

“Elizabeth says: “Bless are you because you have believed.”
“You also are blessed because you have heard and believed. A soul that believes both conceives and brings froth the Word of God and acknowledges his works.
“Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith.”

St. Cyril of Alexandria: Saint Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376 - 444) was the Pope of Alexandria when the city was at its height of influence and power within the Roman Empire. Cyril wrote extensively and was a leading protagonist in the Christological controversies of the later 4th, and 5th centuries. He was a central figure in the First Council of Ephesus in 431 (affirming the oneness of divine Person with fullness of the two natures, divine and human), which led to the deposition of Nestorius as Archbishop of Constantinople. Cyril is counted among the Church Fathers and the Doctors of the Church, and his reputation within the Christian world has resulted in his titles Pillar of Faith and Seal of all the Fathers.

“The whole of our nature is present in Christ, in so far as he is man. So the Father can be said to give the Spirit again to the Son, though the Son possesses the Spirit as his own, in order that we may receive the Spirit in Christ. The Son therefore took to himself the seed of Abraham, as Scripture says, and became like his brothers in all things.”

Keep in mind that the monophysism of the 4th century was leading to the failure to affirm that Jesus Christ had a human soul, a human intellect and human will. Theodore of Mopsuestia was affirming this human fullness, but Nestorius following him affirmed that if there were a fully human nature, then there must have been two persons (since Greek philosophy could know nothing of the distinction of person and nature.). The large point here is that the divine Person of the Logos assimilated the full humanity of Jesus of Nazareth and lived a fully divine life in a fully human way. See Ratzinger’s “Behold the Pierced One,” Thesis 6, pp. 37-46. Keep in mind that “actiones sunt suppositorum” which means that only the divine Person is the Protagonist-Agent of all the actions of Jesus Christ. All Christ’s human actions are performed by a divine Person. Therefore, all those actions having been divinized, are divinizable by us. Therefore the most ordinary human act can be the occasion of becoming God.

The Human Body is Divinized: Gregory of Nazianzus (330 – January 25 389 or 390). With St. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa, he forms the “Cappadocians” of the 4th century.

“Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with him. The heavens like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open…. The Spirit descends in bodily form like the dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood and so gives honor to the body that is one with God.”

Ratzinger’s remarks: “the body is the self-expression and ‘image’ of the spirit. In the human being, what constitutes biological life also constitutes the person. The person actualizes itself in the body and the body is, therefore, its expression. In the body we may see what is invisible as spirit. Because the body is the person become visible, and the person is an image of God, the body, taken in its full network of relationships, is also the space where the diving becomes imaged, expressed, seen. This is why, from the very beginning, the Bible portrays the mystery of God in images of the body and of the world that is ordered to that body.”

Gregory Nazianzen again: “The Marvel of the Incarnation” “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 unites 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.”

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