On The Incarnation (2:9) Christ the Conqueror

The Word perceived that corruption could not be got rid of otherwise than through death; yet He Himself, as the Word, being immortal and the Father’s Son, was such as could not die. For this reason, therefore, He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection. It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent. For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required.

Ours is a despairing age. In the last century, which began with such lofty dreams of progress, we have seen more carnage and bloodshed than all of the previous centuries combined. As we have advanced in technological capacities, our moral capacities have not inched forward at all. To look back at our world wars and not despair of our species progressing is impossible. The more we advance intellectually, the more we seem to regress spiritually. Now that we live in a comfortable age of cars, coffee makers, microwaves, fast food and the internet, we find ourselves becoming lazier. Where our sires may have spent their evenings reading, thinking and conversing around a roaring flame, we stare absentmindedly into a flickering screen that thinks and dreams for us. Apart from our screens, we are mindless. Our skittering thoughts flit from surface to surface, unable to penetrate into deeper spaces. For all our advances in communication, we find we have nothing to say. For all our advances in creature-comforts, we find ourselves enslaved in velvet cages. However we advance, we also go backwards. This is our corruption. We have only to look at congress to see that when we come together, we get nothing accomplished. To put our faith in humanity is madness. But now we have a choice, to lose faith entirely or to put our faith in something higher and truer.

The Story that Christ has revealed is a story in which despair is defeated by the defeater despairing. When Jesus cried out from the cross “My God, why have you forsaken me” He was not play-acting. In that moment, he took our death and despair upon Himself and (dare I say it?) felt the full weight of it. God experienced God-forsakenness so no one else would ever have to. Athanasius tells us that the Word perceived that the only way His creation could be ridded of its corruption was through death. Death is the hub of our sinful state; our unchecked corruption prods us to utter destruction. In our current state of things, death is natural to humans. We who were created to bear the Image of the Eternal God now flounder in self-inflicted mortality. As we age, we wane. The more we hear the clock tick, the more we fade into oblivion. We are less than we were yesterday. This is the law of sin and death, which we are exiled under. So the Giver of Life has seen our wretched state and has had pity on us, because of His infinite love and goodness. God becoming human was a covert rescue operation. The Giver of Life becomes the Taker of Death by becoming killable. Killing the Giver of Life is like blowing on a dandelion, something was released into the very fabric of reality that turned death around on itself. The Eternal One has wrestled with the serpent and now the serpent is eating its own tail, instead of us. Because He was above all things, the very act of becoming the least of all things has rearranged all things. Now death is but an appearance, and life has swallowed it. We may not see it, since we are living in the interim between the turn of the tide and the coming deluge. Ours is to live in the good story that God is telling, even though it looks to be foolishness to the naked eye. One day our eyes will see that which cannot now be believed. He will be inescapable and those who have bought into the corrupt disorder will have nowhere to hide from His fiery stare. The elements will melt away and there will be no hiding. In His mercy, He offers us an interim in which to gradually learn to endure and later to delight in that fiery gaze of His.

Coming as a human was an act of mercy; we could not endure the fierceness of His presence otherwise. We would not have been able to endure His piercing glare of utter reality; we who are weaned on pixelated screens and addicted to unreality. We are racing toward our own destruction and act as if all will turn out well without the slightest effort of making a conscious turn from non-reality. When He thundered from Sinai, we cowered in fear. Now He comes as one of us, speaking truth into our fabricated fancying. Every moment He was living in the likeness of fallen flesh, He was committing Himself to death in some way. From that first forlorn cry in the stench of the manger, He took on our corruptness and despair. He wielded it like a flaming brand and tamed it like a manic stallion. Under the watchful eyes of those who look back into history, He wrestles the hydra that has terrorized us for ages. In doing this, God becomes our hero. The God of Christians is not some moody tyrant who barks orders from a safe distance, He is the conquering hero who has entered the arena on our behalf and vanquished our spiritual foes to such an extent that they are now a spectacle to be mocked and jeered at. Those dark powers that once took advantage of our innocence and wrought unnatural dark delights in us without our consent are now pinned to the ground in wrathful agony as our champion avenges our enslavement. This is epic stuff. Unfortunately, we usually describe His work for us in cold, calculated, mechanical phrases as if He merely came to fulfill an obligation. No, He came thundering out of Heaven with fire in His eyes scattering the forces of darkness that had drained the joy out of our existence and turned this planet into a brutal place. When the light is turned on, the cockroaches scuttle. He is the conquering hero who has personally wrested our hope from the jaws of death itself. Until that becomes dazzlingly real to us, all the carefully-crafted, overly-technical theological phrases in the world won’t do anything good for us.

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~ by shardsofeternity on August 24, 2012.

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