The fourth gospel (The Gospel of John) is considered by most scripture scholars to be the most theologically profound Gospel in the New Testament begins, the one written by the “beloved disciple” named John. The Gospel of John begins with these words:
Probably the last gospel to be written, this Gospel contains the inspired mature reflection of the early Church. In my own tradition, this first chapter was recited at the conclusion of every liturgy for centuries. It was called the “Last Gospel”. Within these pregnant words we plumb the depths of the meaning and mystery of the Incarnation.
These words, rendered in English "dwelt among us" in the biblical text, are literally rendered "He pitched His tent among us." Think about it. The God of the whole universe, who dwelt in inaccessible light, whom no man had ever seen and lived, became a real man and pitched His home among us!
God lived (lives) among us. He became one of us. He felt as we felt. He laughed, wept, belonged to a family, feared, felt abandoned and was tempted, in it all to “sin”, to make the wrong choice. He did not do so.
Because He was fully divine, He was able to overcome the consequences of our own sin and restore us to a new relationship with God. Because He was fully human He showed us the way and has given us all we need to follow that same path. How? First, He not only “paid the penalty” for our wrong choices and satisfied the debt of justice caused by our sin, but He has, through His life, death and Resurrection, enabled us now to live in a new way, to have a new relationship with God!
The author of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament speaks of Jesus Christ, the High priest and tells us: “… we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15
This humanity of Jesus was and is no threat to His divinity. There is an “asymmetry” to this profound truth. It is not “either/or” but “both/and.” Jesus “gets it.” In Him, God became fully human without losing His divinity. He was both fully human and fully divine.
This Incarnation of Jesus Christ reveals the very essence of Christianity and contains within it the destiny of every member of the human race who will choose Him. This claim has been challenged throughout the two thousand year history of Christianity. It has withstood the threat of heretics and helped to overcome the fears of broken and wounded men and women in every age.
The Incarnation tells us that each one of us is invited into eternity. We are called into a process of conversion, transformation, transfiguration; all leading to what the early church had the audacity to call being “deified” or “divinized”. Though these are still terms that are used in Eastern Christianity, they have fallen out of use as theological terms in the West.
The word “theotokos” emphasizes the true humanity of Jesus as well as His divinity. He was born of a real, human mother. The word became flesh within her. That Word en-fleshed was literally born through her. It also emphasizes the humanity of Mary. She had that baby as every woman bears a son.
It is not only a sad fact of our history as Christians that this title has become a source of our divisions, it is also sad that we sometimes think that Mary’s pregnancy and delivery was any different than every woman. She was every woman, only given fully over to God!
Fortunately, the language of “anathema” is being replaced these days with authentic efforts geared toward reconciliation between Christians. It is so unfortunate that this very expression “God-bearer” has become such a point of division in the family of the Christian Church.
I am convinced that the one person who is probably most upset about it all is Mary. This humble Virgin of Nazareth called no attention to herself. She always pointed to her Son. She still does! However, the truth protected by this early Church Council is important for all who still desire to understand the Christian faith and live the spiritual life. When we translate the Greek term “theotokos” as “bearer of God”, (a perfectly legitimate and semantically accurate rendering of the term) we discover something that is a great treasure. It reveals the deeper meaning of Mary.
The prayer of Mary is the fruit of a way of life. It is a way of living, loving, responding, giving and bearing God for others. All of us are called to “bear” God. We make his love present in our lives by our “fiat”. The process of “bearing” Christ is to be symbolically repeated in and through each one of us. When we pray the “Prayer of Mary” we open ourselves up to becoming a place where the Word continually becomes ...
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