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The Wonder of the Incarnation

31st December 2019

Athanasius, an African of Coptic background, attended the First Council of Nicea as a secretary and in 328 was made the Bishop of Alexandria at the age of thirty.  A brilliant theologian, the young Athanasius became the chief defender of Nicene orthodoxy against the Arians, who had risen to political prominence.  He was exiled five times by four Roman emperors, spending 17 of the 45 years he served as bishop of Alexandria in exile, where he wrote treatises on the Trinity and the Incarnation.  By 381 Arianism lost favor and its influence was ending.

The Word of the all-good Father did not abandon the human race when it was falling to its ruin.  By the offering of his own body he destroyed death which had attached itself to man, by his own teaching he corrected man's negligence, by his own power he restored all that belonged to the human condition.

We can find confirmation of this in the writings of the Saviour's own sacred authors: The love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him who for our sake died and was raised, our Lord Jesus Christ. And again: We see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. The writer goes on to indicate why it had to be God the Word, and no one else, who became man: It is fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. In these words he shows that it was for the Word alone to rescue men from the corruption into which they had fallen, for it was theWord who had made them in the beginning.

The Word himself assumed a body so that he could offer a sacrifice for bodies like his own, and scripture speaks of this in the words: Since the children share in flesh and blood, he himself partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. By the sacrifice of his own body he brought to an end the law directed against us and made a new beginning of life for us, giving us the hope of the resurrection.

It was through man that death gained power over men; so too it was through the incarnation of the Word that death was destroyed and life restored, as Paul, the bearer of Christ, says: As by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive, and so on.No longer do we die as men condemned, but as men who rise from the dead we wait for the general resurrection of all, which God, whose work and gift it is, will make manifest in his own good time.

Athanasius (296-373)

2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Romans 5:12-21

Prayer: 
We beseech you, O Lord, pour your grace into our hearts; that, as we have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, so by his passion and cross we may be brought to the glory of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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