Skip to main content


When we think of the birth of Jesus Christ in terms of the fullness of the mystery of the Incarnation our understanding of Christmas changes.

'Christmas becomes more meaningful for us because in a very real sense Christ is being born in each one of us, the apex of creation. And he will continue to be born in us until his Incarnation attains absolute fullness, and we reach our full stature as God’s children.'

'Christmas becomes more meaningful for us because in a very real sense Christ is being born in each one of us, the apex of creation. And he will continue to be born in us until his Incarnation attains absolute fullness, and we reach our full stature as God’s children.'


KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) – The Incarnation was made visible at the first Christmas about two thousand years ago. However, it actually began nine months earlier, for Christ truly became present in the womb of Mary at the time of the Annunciation. Nevertheless, the birth of Christ is not the only manifestation of the Incarnation; it is merely the first and most obvious.

The Incarnation continues on our altars, in the reality of the Church as His Risen Body and in each one of us who have been Baptized into His death and Resurrection. Consequently, the Incarnation is not a one time event, but a continual unfolding of Christ’s presence in creation. We can see this for ourselves if we take a closer look at the three examples already mentioned.

“When the time of his Passion was near, Jesus told the apostles that he would return soon, and they would see him again” (Jn 16:16). So where is he? One place we clearly find Him is in the Eucharist, where He is made visible to us every day on our altars. During the Passover meal, Jesus said, “…this is my body” (Mat 26:26).

Earlier in his ministry, he said that he was living bread, and we must eat his flesh (Jn 6:51-58). Many left him as a result (Jn 6:66), but he let them go because he knew their hearts. Although we can only see him with the eyes of faith in this present age, the Eucharist is Jesus whole and entire--body, blood, soul, and divinity. This means that the Eucharist is a continuation of the Incarnation.

The Incarnation is also as visible as the Church itself. It is visible in two respects: as the Mystical Body of Christ and as the Bride of Christ. In the first respect, we can say that Christ is the head of the Mystical Body, and the members of the Church make up various parts of the Body. The Mystical Body is a spiritual reality whose head and members, like the parts of our own bodies, are so closely united to each other that they constitute one living body. Saint Thomas Aquinas put it this way, “Head and members form as it were one and the same mystical person” (qtd. in CCC 795).

The second respect in which the Incarnation is visible as the Church is as the Bride of Christ. Speaking on marriage and Christ‘s relationship to the Church, Saint Paul writes, "The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5:31-32). In a certain respect, the term “one flesh” indicates that we only realize the fullness of our humanity when we are in relationship with another. The most profound and visible sign of this truth being the one-flesh-marital union between a man and a woman (JPII, Original Unity,73-77).

The Church echoes Saint Paul when it says, “Christ and his Church thus together make up the ‘whole Christ,’ Christus totus” (cf. CCC 795). Imagine, just like the fullness of man and woman depends on their being one flesh, so too has God willed that the fullness of the Incarnation should depend on Christ becoming one flesh with the Church. This is astounding!

Perhaps this is even more astounding when we recall that we are the Church because we are members of His Body. So it follows that the Incarnation is also being formed in each one of us. We can visualize this formation if we return to the term “one flesh.” When viewed from another perspective, one flesh refers to the shared humanity between a man and woman. Adam said, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…” (Gn 2:23). But this term also refers to Adam and Eve’s offspring. When Eve says, “…I have produced a man” (Gn. 4:1), she is referring to the human nature of their child.

Similarly, when we are baptized, we acquire a new nature. Jesus says, “Flesh begets flesh. Spirit begets spirit” (Jn 3:6). Thus, beginning with our baptism and nurtured by the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, our human nature is being divinized, for “we are children of God” (Rom 8:14). And it is our hope that one day when Christ looks upon us, he will say, like Adam, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”

When we think of the birth of Jesus Christ in terms of the fullness of the mystery of the Incarnation our understanding of Christmas changes. It is no longer a remote event. It is near to us, drawing us in and making us a part of it. Consequently, Christmas becomes more meaningful for us because in a very real sense Christ is being born in each one of us, the apex of creation. And he will continue to be born in us until his Incarnation attains absolute fullness, and we reach our full stature as God’s children and become a “little less than the gods” (Ps 8:6).

References:
1. Pope John Paul II, Original Unity of Man and Woman, St Paul Editions, 1981
2. United States Catholic Conference, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Washington D.C. 1994

-----

Michael Terheyden is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. He is greatly blessed to share his Catholic faith with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.

Keywords:



NEWSLETTERS »

E-mail:       Zip Code: (ex. 90001)
Today's Headlines

Sign up for a roundup of the day's top stories. 5 days / week. See Sample

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

1 - 2 of 2 Comments

  1. Carmen Baltierra
    4 years ago

    I am an RCIA director in my parish in South Gate, CA. The topic for tonight's lesson is The Fullness of the Incarnation. I plan to use your article as the catalyst for tonight's presentation. Thank you for writing such a worthwhile article.

  2. Andy Holland
    4 years ago

    A wonderful article - most excellent - thank you! This article was very Orthodox St. Athanasius style incarnational Theology - love it!

    The generation that seek the Lord's face - the second coming is always just a Eucharist away - the declaration unto the next generation that He (the New Adam, Jesus Christ) has done this (from Psalm 22).

    When we pray the Rosary, we are praying an angelic incorporeal greeting and a corporeal human greeting, and then a petition. A three chord strand is not easily broken - the divine and human nature are articulated in a simple compound prayer - fused into the will of God.

    The Rosary is the Christmas star. Its five decades are of the fifth day and the Pentecost, the Leviathin the Lord made to sport in - symbolic of the womb of the virgin, "more spacious than the heavens."

    Gabriel appears as the Christmas star, with a cross in the center - a remonstrance and rosary in an Orthodox monastery every year in accordance with the Old Calendar. If only people would go see it for themselves!

    But we'd rather spend billions on rockets to nowhere, than take a coach class trip the middle east.

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

Great Christmas Gift Ideas