Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, ... unable to bear that death should have the mastery"

Our Lady of Consolation

Why do we celebrate Christmas anyway?   Here is one answer, taken from "On the Incarnation of the Word" by St. Athanasius  (296 AD - 373 AD)

For in speaking of the appearance of the Saviour among us, we must needs speak also of the origin of men, that you may know that the reason of His coming down was because of us, and that our transgression called forth the loving-kindness of the Word, 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.

…. He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity . . . and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery. . . He takes unto Himself a body, and that of no different sort from ours. . . . He takes a body of our kind, and not merely so, but from a spotless and stainless virgin, knowing not a man, a body clean and in very truth pure from intercourse of men. For being Himself mighty, and Artificer of everything, He prepares the body in the Virgin as a temple unto Himself, and makes it His very own as an instrument, in it manifested, and in it dwelling.  And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father— doing this, moreover, of His loving-kindness, to the end that, firstly, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone (inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord's body, and had no longer holding-ground against men, his peers), and that, secondly, whereas men had turned toward corruption, He might turn them again toward incorruption, and quicken them from death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like straw from the fire.

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