The Orthodox Faith
For St Paul Orthodox Youth Society - Brisbane
By Fr. John Abdel-Karim
18 - THE DIVINE
The Holy Scriptures speak of the divine nature and divinity of Christ in many places, but we will refer to only a few. Let us begin with Thomas, who had doubted His divine nature. However, in John, 20:28, Thomas proclaims without any reservations or doubt, "My Lord and my God!" Christ is Lord and God. St. John characteristically states, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Son and Word of God is truly God. We will make only one more reference, to St. Paul, who states, "God was revealed in the flesh" (I Timothy, 3:16).
With absolute faith, the Church Fathers preached the divinity of Christ. St. Eirinaeos, emphasizing that his faith was received from the holy Apostles and their disciples, believes, "in one God, Father almighty, and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, incarnate for our salvation." And he confirms that the Son of God is truly God. And he continues, "If man had not been joined to God (i.e., united in Christ), he would not have been able to partake of incorruption."
We find the same teaching about the divinity of Christ--His divine nature--in Gregory of Nyssa, in Basil the Great, in John Chrysostom, in Cyril of Alexandria, in Athanasios the Great, and in many other Fathers of the Church. The Fathers explain that the Son is not the same Person as the Father, and that with His Incarnation, the Son did not suffer "change or alteration." He remains perfect God.
Let us now look a bit at the human nature of Christ. We must first emphasize that He is the Son and Word of God made man. St. John clearly tells us, "The Word was made flesh" (John, I:14). St. Paul tells us, that the Incarnate Word is in all things like us human beings, with a soul, body, rationality uncorrupted passion, hunger, thirst, fatigue, etc. "similar in all things to us" but "without sin" (Hebrews, 4:15). Christ Himself calls Himself "the Son of Man," in this way declaring that He is perfect man. He also acknowledges that He is descended from David.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews (2:10-15), St. Paul tells us, among other things, "since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death He might destroy him who had dominion over death, that is the Devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage." Since human beings are comprised of flesh and blood, so likewise the Son and Word of God assumed the same elements. St. Paul tells us further that Christ assumed flesh and blood so that by His death as man, He could defeat the Devil, who has the power of death; so that He could destroy death, "by death trampling down death."
The Church Fathers Gregory Nazianzen, John Chrysostom, John Damascene, and Athanasios the Great in their teachings agree that Christ "became man in nature and in truth and assumed human nature with all of its properties." "Not another kind of flesh, but the same with which we are all afflicted."
This scriptural teaching about the human nature of Christ and His condescending to humanity is summarized in the Third Article of the Nicene Creed, which states, "Who for us and our salvation descended from Heaven and became Incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man."
We must state here in very simple terms that although the Son and Word of God became Perfect Man, He became truly perfect, which means He became man without sin, just as Adam and Eve were originally created as sinless beings. Christ has no connection with sin, which entered man through the intervention of Satan.
Although the Son and Word of God became man and is God-man, His two natures remain distinct. One does not absorb the other. The two natures are distinct and separate, united in the same person, Christ. He is "dual in nature, but one person." Two natures, one person.
His human nature united with His divine nature becomes itself divinised, without, of course, passing beyond its limits or ceasing to be human. In this way, united with Christ we become divine in the moral sense and are saved. Our human nature becomes divine, without, of course, it being altered, or participating in the divine nature.
Keeping the above in mind, and in particular that the divine nature remains unchanged, we understand why the Virgin Mary is called Mother of God. She truly gave birth to God. How could this be? Only through a miracle. "Whenever God wills, He overthrows the order of nature."
LET US PRAY
O Jesus, You Who are God-man, Your mercies are unfathomable. Great is Your condescension to us. Unfathomable is Your Incarnation. We accept all of these asYour true children. Only our faith--and even this is Your gift to us--brings us to the beginning of the comprehension of this great Mystery. With faith and humility, we beseech You to receive us. Take us with You. Cleanse us of every stain and impurity. Restore us to our ancient glory, to be like Adam before his disobedience and fall. Make us godly. Make us Yours. Grant us eternal life in Your Kingdom.