At the eve of Passion Week we pause and return to the beginning of Christ’s life on earth with the feast of the Incarnation that we celebrate as the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. The Church presents this mystery as a starting point from which to reflect on the events that are about to unfold before us again: Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and the onset of the hour for which He came –the hour in which he would to ‘bear witness to the truth (cf. John 18.37)’.
But before the hour of the Passion we must return to the hour of the Incarnation: that hidden moment when the Son of God entered the world to live a life that would begin its conclusion in a climb to the hill of Calvary.
We can truly say, then, that the sacrifice of the Cross began in the womb of the Virgin, because God sent His Son as a savior who would die and rise, and this Savior took on human flesh in the womb of a human mother.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
– John 1.14
We can say this of no other person who ever walked this earth. The Incarnation is the feast of weakness made strong, and strength taking on human weakness. To contemplate the full significance of the ‘Word become flesh’, we contemplate the baffling reality that God united himself to finite human frailty and elevated it.
Saint Augustine summarizes this in the startling reflection: ‘All of eternity, the womb of one woman bore’ (Sermon 184.3). This is God’s descent that leads us to understand how God’s infinite love transforms what has been wounded in sin and elevates it – making it ascend to himself and giving us access to divinity itself
The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, 460
The ‘Word made flesh’, then is divinity in the flesh. This is the Word that Mary hears in her home in Nazareth, when even her name is transformed, and she is addressed as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Luke 1.28). In her, the hidden Godhead takes on human form – takes on her flesh and blood. From her womb we gain a Savior, that sacramental Word that heals the soul, the same Word that created the world, and enters the roads of the Passion walking through his own creation as a witness to the truth of the redemptive love of God.
Each thing God touches is changed in the Incarnation, when he chose for the mother of his only begotten Son a woman immaculate and pure, whose womb would prefigure the tomb, and begin to reveal the promise of the resurrection of the flesh.
The son of God who was in the beginning with God, through whom all things were made, without whom nothing was made, became man to free him from eternal death. He stooped down to take up our lowliness without loss to his own glory. He remained what he was; he took up what he was not. He wanted to join the very nature of a servant to that nature in which he is equal to God the Father. He wanted to unite both natures in an alliance so wonderful that the glory of the greater would not annihilate the lesser, nor the taking up of the lower diminish the greatness of the higher.
What belongs to each nature is preserved intact and meets the other in one person: lowliness is taken up by greatness, weakness by power, mortality by eternity. To pay the debt of our human condition, a nature incapable of suffering is united to a nature capable of suffering, and true God and true man are forged into the unity that is the Lord. This was done to make possible the kind of remedy that fitted our human need: one and the same mediator between God and men able to die because of one nature, able to rise again because of the other.
-Saint Leo the Great, Pope, Sermo 1, In Nativitate Domini
The ‘Word made flesh’ is our remedy in the flesh. We are made whole as the Son of God assumes a human body. From this we see the value of our own lives, the great love that God pours into them as He creates them, and as He sustains what he has made — as He intends us to become partakers of His divinity.
Our hope then is the same. It is to arrive at divinity in the flesh that is given us. The Incarnation brings us the hope of beatitude, when all that is illness and sorrow, weakness, and sin, and hopeless darkness, is turned to everlasting joy.
And we will then truly know what glory is available to us, and what we believe when we pray
‘Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you…’
because we also will be with Him, who is full of grace and truth.
You may reach Maria Grizzetti at IncarnationandModernity@gmail.com