He Takes a Body of Our Kind

From On the Incarnation of the Word, 8 (ca. 326-328).

The incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God comes to our realm… He comes in condescension to show loving-kindness upon us, and to visit us. And seeing the race of rational creatures in the way to perish, and death reigning over them by corruption… seeing, once more, the unseemliness of what had come to pass: that the things whereof hhimself was the artificer were passing away: seeing, further, the exceeding wickedness of humanity, and how little by little they had increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves: and seeing, lastly, how all people were under penalty of death: He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery — lest the creature should perish, and his Father’s handiwork in humanity be spent for nothing — he takes unto himself a body, and that of no different sort from ours.   

For he did not simply will to become embodied or will merely to appear. For if he willed merely to appear, he was able to manifest His divine appearance by some other and higher means as well. But he takes a body of our kind, and not merely so, but from a spotless and stainless virgin… And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the place of all, and offered it to the Father.    

He did this so that, first, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone (inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord’s body, and had no longer holding-ground against humanity, his peers), and that, secondly, whereas people had turned toward corruption, He might turn them again toward incorruption and drive them from death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like straw from the fire. 

St. Athanasius (ca. 298-373) was a bishop and theologian, the great defender of the Nicene confession of Christ’s true divinity. He was the primary spokesman for the orthodox cause at the Council of Nicaea, and became Bishop of Alexandria several years later. He also played an important role in finalizing the canon of New Testament books. Athanasius was exiled from his see five times for his unwillingness to compromise with Arians, and wrote several defenses of Nicene teaching, among them the treatise On the Incarnation of the Word. He is commemorated on May 2 by Western Christians, on May 15 by the Coptic Church, and on January 18 in the other Eastern Orthodox churches. 


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