Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Annunciation: Leo the Great

The Central Mystery of Christian Faith Occurs Today: The Incarnation
From a letter by Saint Leo the Great, pope

The mystery of man’s reconciliation with God
He who is true God was therefore born in the complete and perfect nature of a true man, whole in his own nature, whole in ours. By our nature we mean what the Creator had fashioned in us from the beginning, and took to himself in order to restore it.
He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself.
Thus the Son of God enters this lowly world. He comes down from the throne of heaven, yet does not separate himself from the Father’s glory. He is born in a new condition, by a new birth.
He was born in a new condition, for, invisible in his own nature, he became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time began, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the universe, he hid his infinite glory and took the nature of a servant. Incapable of suffering as God, he did not refuse to be a man, capable of suffering.[1] Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death.
He who is true God is also true man. There is no falsehood in this unity as long as the lowliness of man and the pre-eminence of God coexist in mutual relationship.
As God does not change by his condescension, so man is not swallowed up by being exalted. Each nature exercises its own activity, in communion with the other. The Word does what is proper to the Word, the flesh fulfils what is proper to the flesh.
One nature is resplendent with miracles, the other falls victim to injuries. As the Word does not lose equality with the Father’s glory, so the flesh does not leave behind the nature of our race. One and  the same person — this must be said over and over again — is truly the Son of
God and truly the son of man. He is God in virtue of the fact that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He is man in virtue of the fact that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

[1] See J. Ratzinger: Being Love, the divine Person suffers precisely as divine Person: “In the patristic period it was Origen who most profoundly grasped the theme of the suffering God, and who also most straightforwardly declared that this theme cannot be reduced to the suffering humanity of Jesus, but that it colors the Christian conception of God himself…. And it was also Origen… who formulated the normative hermeneutic on the theme of the suffering God: whenever you hear of God’s passions and sufferings, says Origen, you must always relate these to his love. God is a sufferer only because he is first a lover; the theme of the suffering God follows from the theme of the loving God and continually points to it. The decisive step that the Christian concept of God takes beyond that of the ancients is the realization that God is love;” “The Paschal Mystery As Core and Foundation of Devotion  to the Sacred Heart,” in Towards a Civilization of Love Ignatius (1985) 154.

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