True God and True Man
Everything of our faith is centered on Christ Jesus. Our beliefs have been revealed in Him or through Him.
Which brings the question, Who is Jesus?
He is both true God and true man, that is, we say that He is Incarnate.
Incarnate means IN THE FLESH. It means that God assumed the human nature.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the Church calls ‘Incarnation’ the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it.”
What does that mean for us? Faith is incarnational.
At Christmas we celebrate the fact of the Word becoming flesh. It means our faith is about things which are very real and tangible.
As human beings we are persons with bodies. We have a soul that is spiritual but is joined with a body that is physical and material.
It is not enough for our faith to be only about thoughts or philosophies, concepts or historical facts. While all these things are true, their truth in us ultimately must touch the physical part of who we are. Our Faith has to become flesh, it has to reach and influence our very behavior.
Faith is not an abstraction, it is not merely about theories and words on a page. It cannot be reduced to slogans or even merely pious sayings.
It is about a transformed life, it is about the actual love of God and His Commandments manifest in the way we live. It is about the actual love of my neighbor. True faith is incarnational, that is to say, it takes on flesh in my very “body.”
Remember, as humans we are not pure spirit, not intellect and will only. We are also flesh and blood. What we are must be reflected in our bodies, what we actually, physically do as well.
Keeping the commandments is not the cause of faith, it is the fruit of it. It is not the cause of love, it is the fruit of it.
Note this too, in the Scriptures, to “know” is always more than a mere intellectual knowing. To “know” in the Scriptures means, “deep intimate personal experience of the thing or person known.” It is one thing to know about God, it is another thing to “know the Lord.”
An authentic faith, an authentic knowing of the Lord will change our actual behavior. Our faith becomes flesh in us. Theory becomes practice and experience. It changes the way we live.
Come to know the Lord more and more perfectly and we will grow in holiness.
Faith is incarnational. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, really and physically.
So too our own faith must become flesh in us, really, physically in our actual behavior in our very body-person.
Where do we learn about Christ? about His Life, Death, and Resurrection?
We learn about Christ in the Gospels. When were they written- right away? No.
(hard for us to imagine now life without ‘google’ or the internet, when memory and oral tradition were prevalent. Books were not as prevalent, nor literacy – literacy, even today.)
Development of the Gospels:
- First, we have Christ’s earthly life and ministry (actual). His words and actions.
- Proclaiming of the Good News. Christ is resurrected. “Make disciples of all nations” (vocal)
- Written Down. Towards the end of their lives, they began to write things down, inspired
- Authorized. Canon is the official list of books of the Bible accepted by the Church.
St. Matthew: Winged Man (which also symbolizes The Incarnation)
To St. Matthew was given the creature in human likeness, because he commences his gospel with the human generation of Christ, and because in his writings the human nature of Our Lord is more dwelt upon than the divine.
St. Mark: Winged Lion (which also symbolizes The Resurrection)
The Lion was the symbol of St. Mark, who opens his gospel with the mission of John the Baptist, ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness.’ (lions lived in the wilderness). He also sets forth the royal dignity of Christ (compare: the lion is king of the beasts) and dwells upon His power manifested in the resurrection from the dead. The lion was accepted in early times as a symbol of the resurrection because the young lion was believed always to be born dead, but was awakened to vitality by the breath, the tongue, and roaring of its sire.
St. Luke: Winged Ox (which also symbolizes The Passion)
The form of the ox, the beast of sacrifice, fitly sets forth the sacred office (of Christ the High Priest), and also the atonement for sin by blood, on which, in [Luke’s] gospel,[Luke] particularly dwells.
St. John: The Eagle (which also symbolizes Ascension)
The eagle was allotted to St. John because, as the eagle soars towards heaven, [John] soared in spirit upwards to the heaven of heavens to bring back to earth revelation of sublime and awful (i.e., awesome) mysteries.
Why four gospels?
Each author was a member of a different community, each facing different concerns and challenges. The Holy Spirit inspired them with stories they could relate to in understanding Jesus.
Ex: Matthew was written to a Jewish community converting to Christianity. Jewish prophecies of Scripture revealed in Him.
Sometimes they used the same stories, but told them in slightly different ways to emphasize a religious truth needed for their community. Thus we need all four Gospels to understand the truth. (not a historical biography, but a message of truth and salvation)
Church Art: Symbols of the Four Evangelists
The Evangelists: The wings on all of the symbols of the gospels are to symbolize their connection to the divine, like eagle wings or angels (who were the messengers of God) they deliver this story and good news.
Here are the explanations for each symbol as interpreted in the early Church:
The origin of these symbols is from an interpretation of the early Church concerning the mention of the Four Beasts in the Prophet Ezekiel 1:4-10 and in the Book of Revelation 4:6-8. The original authors of these two Bible books were not thinking of the Four Gospels, i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but each beast or figure got associated later with the Four Gospels and their authors (or Evangelists). (original source)
Titles of Jesus in the Bible | Teacher, Prophet, Lord
Jesus means “God Saves” in Hebrew. God “gave him the name that is above every name…”
Christ, not a last name but a title. Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word messiah, which means “anointed.”
oil on one’s head. Prophets and kings of old were anointed. When kingdom collapsed, the Jews believed that God would send a new anointed one, the Messiah, who would fulfill all God’s promises for salvation.
Who do people say that I am?
And Peter answers, “You are the Messiah.” (Mark 8:29)
When you say “Jesus Christ” – you are saying, “Jesus, the anointed one sent by God to be the savior of the world”.
Jesus is frequently called Lord in the New Testament.
Why called Lord? YHWH
Lord is the Greek word they used instead of Yahweh, the Hebrew name often used for God in the Old Testament.
Yahweh was considered too sacred to be pronounced out loud, so the Jews came to use the name Lord to refer to God. When we call Jesus Lord, we recognize his divinity and acknowledge that He alone is worthy of our worship and complete obedience.
From all these titles, we see that the authors of the Gospels came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was fully God. They also recognized His human nature, and that He was fully human and fully divine.
The mystery of the union of Jesus’ divine and human natures in one person is called the Incarnation.
Because in Jesus Christ the human and the divine are perfectly united, He is the perfect and only mediator between God and humanity.
By believing in Jesus and in giving ourselves to Him with all our whole heart, body, mind, and soul, the Holy Spirit will help us become more fully the image of God, which is our ultimate destiny.
Controversies arose about His humanity and divinity.
Humanity —– Divinity
Two early examples of heresies that divide His nature in the exclusion of the other:
Arianism (said fully human – super creature) – Docetism (said fully God, human disguise)
Importance of fullness of humanity and divinity:
to redeem us from sin, to atone. When we sin, we owe an infinite debt but we are finite, so cannot pay this back. We sin against God and He is infinite and so our sin is infinite.
For justice and mercy to be satisfied, we would need God to forgive us.
Had to become man to be our representative, share our nature so man would be repaying the debt. But would have to be fully divine to repay our infinite debt. Fully God, otherwise He would need redemption as well.
ex: clock – broken, needs new gear, must be supplied from outside (share its nature). Cannot fix itself.
Jesus coming into time: Mary why she is so significant, as “the mother of God” – in Greek – Theotokos
Not to raise her up, but to acknowledge who HE is. She was His first disciple, being obedient to God by saying “yes” to the angel Gabriel. Any attention given to Mary is done to explain His greatness.
(The title of Theotokos combats heresies that seek to deny His divinity, His fullness.)
Hail Mary – full of grace… She was full of God’s grace.