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The Word Was Made Flesh to Renew Our Fallen Nature

2nd January 2020

Hippolytus was a presbyter of the church in Rome at the beginning of the third century and one of the most important theologians of his generation. He wrote on a broad range of topics including Old Testament commentaries, homiletics, apologetics, ecclesiastical law and treatises against various Christian heresies.  Also attributed to him is the earliest known written Eucharistic liturgy, reflecting the practice of the mid-second century church at Rome.

We do not put our faith in empty phrases, we are not carried off by sudden impulses of the heart, we are not seduced by plausible and eloquent speech -- but we do not refuse belief for words spoken by the prophets.  These God committed to the Word.  The Word spoke, and by these words he turned man away from disobedience, not enslaving him by force or necessity, but inviting him to choose freedom of his own accord. In the last days the Father sent the Word.  In his plan the Word was no longer to speak through the prophets.  He was no longer to be a figure of conjecture, announced in an obscure way.  He was to be manifested visibly, so that the world could see him and be saved.

We know that the Word assumed a human body from a virgin and, through a new creation, put on our old nature.  We know that he was a man, formed from the same substance as we are.  If he were not of the same nature as ourselves, his command to imitate him as a master would be a futile one.  If he was of a different substance, why does he command me, naturally weak as I am, to do as he did? How can he be just and good?

To show that he was not different from us, he undertook hard work, he went hungry and thirsty, he took rest and sleep, he did not shirk suffering, he revealed the resurrection.  In all this he offered his own self, so that when you suffer, you might not lose heart, but rather would recognize that you are a man and would yourself expect to receive what he received from God.

When you have learned to know the true God, you will have a body immortal and incorruptible, like your soul.  You will gain the kingdom of heaven, you who lived on earth and knew the king of heaven. Freed from passion suffering and disease, you will be a companion of God and a co-heir of Christ, for you have a share in his divinity.

And so, brethren, do not be hostile to one another, do not hesitate to return to him who was made like you.  Christ who is God, supreme over all, has arranged to wash man clean of sin and make our old nature new. From the beginning he called this old nature his image, and in this way gave you a sign of his love for you.  If you obey his sacred commandments, if you become a good follower of him who is good, you will become like him, you will be honored by him.  God is not lacking in anything, and he made you also divine for his glory.

Hippolytus (c.170-235)

Hebrews 2:8-19
John 15:8-17


by your will your Son took upon himself
that human nature which you fashioned and redeemed.
Grant that the Word who took flesh
in the womb of the virgin Mary
and became human like us
may share with us his divinity;
through the same Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

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