23 November 2008

Advent 2: The Annunciation of our Lord to Mary

Today is the second of six Advent Sundays in the calendar of the Church year of many Syriac Churches, and in our own local calendar. Our readings retell the marvelous day of the Incarnation, when Christ Jesus was made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

Instead of giving you my own words today, I would like to share words that are far wiser and more ancient than anything I could come up with on my own. These words are taken from today's Office of Readings, and come from a letter penned by Leo of Rome (i.e., Leo the Great) to Flavian.


Majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality; and for the paying off of the debt belonging to our condition a nature that is incapable of suffering was joined to one that could. Thus, in keeping with the needs of our case , one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, was able to die in one nature, and unable to die in the other.

Thus in the whole and perfect nature of true man was true God born, complete in what was his own, complete in what was ours. And by ours we mean what the Creator formed in us from the beginning and what he undertook to repair. For what the Deceiver brought in and man, being misled, committed, had no trace in the Savior. Though he partook of man’s weaknesses, he did not share our faults.

He took the form of a slave without stain of sin, increasing the human and not diminishing the divine. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to share our mortality. This was the condescension of pity, not the loss of omnipotence. Accordingly he who while remaining in the form of God made man, was also made man in the form of a slave. Both natures retain their own proper character without loss: and as the form of God did not do away with the form of a slave, so the form of a slave did not impair the form of God. Thus the Son of God enters into our lowly world, descending from his heavenly home and yet not relinquishing his Father's glory. He is born in a new condition, by a new birth.

He was born in a new condition, for, invisible in his own nature, he became visible in ours. He whom nothing could contain was content to be contained. Existing before all time, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the cosmos, he obscured his immeasurable majesty and took upon himself the form of a servant. Incapable, as God, of suffering, he did not disdain our humanity which is capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death.

The Lord Jesus assumed his mother’s nature without her faults; and, in spite of his wonderous virgin birth, his human nature is not unlike our own. He who is true God is also true man. There is no falsehood in this unity as long as the humility of manhood and the loftiness of the Godhead co-exist together.

As God is not changed by the showing of pity, man is not swallowed up by God’s dignity. Both natures exercises its own activity, in unity with the other. The Word performs what is proper to the Word, and the flesh performs what is proper to the flesh. One nature shines forth with miracles, while the other succumbs to injuries. And as the Word does not loose equality with the Father’s glory, so the flesh does not leave behind the nature of our race. It must again and again be repeated: one and the same is truly Son of God and truly Son of Man.

God in that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”; man in that “the Word became flesh and dwelt in us.” God in that “all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made”; man in that “He was made of a woman, made under law.”

The nativity of the flesh was the manifestation of human nature: the childbearing of a virgin is the proof of Divine power.


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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