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Reflections: Cath. Basics Sctn. (Incarnation/Nativity)

The Annunciation

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Incarnation / Nativity

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Incarnation & Nativity of Christ / Christmas



Incarnation & Nativity of Christ / Christmas

Also See: Christmas (Topic Page)

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." (Isa. 7:14)

"And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: Because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord. And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him. He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever. And Mary abode with her about three months; and she returned to her own house." (Lk. 1:26-56)

"Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,' which means 'God is with us.' When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus." (Mt. 1:18-25) [Note: The use of the word "until" does not mean they had marital relations after the birth of Jesus. For more information on Mary's perpetual virginity, try the Non-Catholics (apologetics) Section.]

"And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For, this day, is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will. And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us. And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child. And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them." (Lk. 2:1-20) [Note: The use of the term 'firstborn' does not mean that Mary had other children, which of course she didn't since she is an ever virgin. For more information on this topic, visit the Non-Catholics (apologetics) Section.]

"After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Mt. 2:9-11)

"In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life: and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him. He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light. That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world: and the world was made by him: and the world knew him not. He came unto his own: and his own received him not. But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth." (Jn. 1:1-14)

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption." (Gal. 4:4-5)

"For what greater thing is there than that God should become man?" (St. John of Damascus, Doctor of the Church)

"...not simply flesh and blood...but rather Lord and God clothed in our likeness" (St. Cyril of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church)

"By the Incarnation is meant that the Son of God, retaining His Divine nature, took to Himself a human nature, that is, a body and soul like ours." (Baltimore Catechism)

"How astonished I am that there is laid before me a Child who is older than all things!" (St. Ephraem the Syrian, Doctor of the Church)

"But as the Conception itself transcends the order of nature, so also the birth of our Lord presents to our contemplation nothing but what is divine." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

Q: "Was the Son of God always man?" A: "The Son of God was not always man, but became man at the time of the Incarnation." (Baltimore Catechism)

"The greatness of God was not cast off, but the slightness of human nature was put on." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"[I]n spite of all our wretchedness and sin, [He] humbled Himself so low as to become one of us, on order that He might exalt us even to union with Himself." (Dom Gueranger)

"'And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.' Such powerful words! They express the deepest reality of the greatest event to ever take place in human history." (Pope John Paul II)

"What [our Lord Christ] was He laid aside. What He was not, He assumed. Not that He became two; rather, He deigned to be made one out of two." (St. Gregory of Nazianz, Doctor of the Church, c. 380 A.D.)

"Now when you hear that the Word was made flesh, be not disturbed, for He did not change His substance into flesh, which it were indeed impious to suppose; but remaining what He was, took upon Him the form of a servant." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"[W]e do not worship Him as mere flesh but as flesh united with divinity…[we] do not introduce a fourth person into the Trinity…the Trinity remains a Trinity even after the Incarnation of the Word." (St. John Damascene, Doctor of the Church, c. 8th century A.D.)

"The Son of God born of the Virgin did not first become the Son of God when He became the Son of Man; but already being the Son of God, He then became the Son of Man, so that the Son of God might be also the Son of Man." (St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor of the Church, c. 365 A.D.)

"St. Justin, almost echoing the voice of the Apostle of the Gentiles, writes: 'We adore and love the Word born of the unbegotten and ineffable God since He became man for our sake, so that having become a partaker of our sufferings He might provide a remedy for them.'" (Pope Pius XII, "Haurietis Aquas", 1956 A.D.)

"Among the external operations of God, the highest of all is the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, in which the splendor of the divine perfections shines forth so brightly that nothing more sublime can even be imagined, nothing else could have been more salutary to the human race." (Pope Leo XIII, "Divinum Illud Munus", 1897 A.D.)

"By His Incarnation, He, the Son of God, in a certain way united Himself with each man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart He loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin." (Pope John Paul II)

"It was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us. It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and of our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body." (St. Athanasius, Doctor of the Church)

"[B]ecause of His exceedingly great love of mankind He took upon Himself perfectly the whole of what He had molded, not out of necessity, but by voluntary purpose, so that in the flesh He might condemn sin, and on the cross discharge the curse, and in the [tomb] take away corruption from our midst" (St. Epiphanius of Salamis, c. 374 A.D.) 

"Weakness is assumed by strength, lowliness by majesty, mortality by eternity, in order that one and the same Mediator of God and men might die in one and rise in the other - for this was our fitting remedy. Unless He was God, He would not have brought a remedy; and unless He was man, He would not have set an example." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"[S]o that He may of Himself sanctify all mankind, becoming as it were a leaven to the whole lump, and, by uniting to Himself the whole that was condemned, may release it from condemnation, becoming for all men all that we are, except sin; body, soul, mind, all through which death comes; and thus He became Man" (St. Gregory of Nazianz, Doctor of the Church, c. 380 A.D.)

"By taking flesh, God did not lessen His majesty; and in consequence did not lessen the reason for reverencing Him, which is increased by the increase of knowledge of Him. But, on the contrary, inasmuch as He wished to draw nigh to us by taking flesh, He greatly drew us to know Him." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"The unchangeable Image of the Father, the type of his eternity, assumes the form of a servant, and is born of a Virgin-Mother; yet he suffers not any change: for that which he was he continues to be - the true God; but that which he was not he now becomes, being made Man for the love of man. Let us cry out to him: O thou that art born of the Virgin! Have mercy on us." [Liturgy, Christmas Day (Liturgical Year)]

"We do not say that the nature of the Word became man by undergoing change; nor that it was transformed into a complete man consisting of soul and body. What we say, rather, is that by uniting to himself in his own person a body animated by a rational soul, the Word has become man in an inexpressible and incomprehensible way and has been called the Son of man." (Council of Ephesus, 431 A.D.)

"We do not say that the Son of God had need, for His own sake, of a second nativity, after that which is from the Father: for it is foolish and a mark of ignorance to say that He who is from all eternity, and co-eternal with the Father, needs to begin again to exist. But because for us and for our salvation, uniting the human nature to His Person, He became the child of a woman, for this reason do we say that He was born in the flesh." (St. Cyril of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church)

"He chose this day whereon to be born, as he chose the Mother of whom to be born, and he made both the day and the Mother. The day he chose was that on which the light begins to increase, and it typifies the work of Christ, who renews our interior man day by day. For the eternal Creator having willed to be born in time, his Birthday would necessarily be in harmony with the rest of his creation." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"Since, therefore, the whole posterity of the first man was felled by one and the same grievous wound, and no merits of the saints were able to alleviate the condition of that mortal injury, the one only Physician came from heaven. Heaving been frequently announced by many signs and long promised in prophetic assurances, He remained in the form of God and lost nothing of his own majesty when He came forth in the nature of our flesh and soul, without the contagion of the ancient wrong-doing [that is, original sin]." (Pope St. Leo I the Great, Doctor of the Church, c. 455 A.D.)

"['And when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented to Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.' (Mt. 2:11)] Though in stature a babe, needing the aid of others, unable to speak, and different in nothing from other infants, yet such faithful witnesses, showing the unseen Divine Majesty which was in Him, ought to have proved most certainly that that was the Eternal Essence of the Son of God that had taken upon Him the true human nature." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"The holy Fathers, true witnesses of the divinely revealed doctrine, wonderfully understood what St. Paul the Apostle had quite clearly declared; namely, that the mystery of love was, as it were, both the foundation and the culmination of the Incarnation and the Redemption. For frequently and clearly we can read in their writings that Jesus Christ took a perfect human nature and our weak and perishable human body with the object of providing for our eternal salvation, and of revealing to us in the clearest possible manner that His infinite love for us could express itself in human terms." (Pope Pius XII, "Haurietis Aquas", 1956 A.D.)

"The Divine goodness, dearly beloved, has indeed always taken thought for mankind in divers manners, and in many portions, and of His mercy has imparted many gifts of His providence to the ages of old; but in these last times has exceeded all the abundance of His usual kindness, when in Christ the very Mercy has descended to sinners, the very Truth to those that are astray, the very Life to those that are dead: so that Word, which is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father, might take our humble nature into union with His Godhead, and, being born God of God, might also be born Man of man." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"From the very beginning of the virginal conception a unity of Person so remained in Christ, and the unconfused reality of both natures so perdured, that neither could the Man be torn asunder from God, nor could God be separated from the Man assumed. Nevertheless, the divinity did not consume the humanity, nor did the humanity change the divinity into something else; and, granted that at the death of Christ the soul would depart from the dying flesh, nevertheless, the divinity of Christ could not be separated from either the soul or the flesh assumed." (St. Fulgence of Ruspe, 6th century A.D.)

"For the divinity communicates to the flesh its own glory and splendor, but does not partake of the passions of the flesh. Therefore the nature of the flesh is deified, but it does not carnalize the nature of the Word... The lesser [human nature] is advantaged by the greater [divine nature], but the greater is not weakened by the lesser. For just as iron is subjected to the fire, but the fire is not made iron; and just as the flesh is animated by a soul, but the soul is not carnalized by the flesh; so too the divine nature deifies the flesh, but is not itself carnalized." (St. John of Damascene, Doctor of the Church, c. 8th century A.D.)

"The Word was not impaired in receiving a body, as if He had been seeking to receive something beneficial to Himself; but rather, He gave divinity to that which He put in, and moreover, with it he graced the human race... For inasmuch as the powers in heaven, the Angels and Archangels, were ever worshipping Him, and do even now worship the Lord in the person of Jesus, the fact that the Son of God is still worshiped when He became man is for us a grace and an extraordinary exaltation; for now the heavenly powers will not be astonished at seeing all of us, who have with Him a common nature, introduced into their realms." (St. Athanasius, Doctor of the Church)

"For the Son of God in the fullness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that (nature) which he had conquered. And in this conflict undertaken for us, the fight was fought on great and wondrous principles of fairness; for the Almighty Lord enters the lists with His savage foe not in His own majesty but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature, which shares indeed our mortality, though it is free from all sin." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"[B]ecause His birth was miraculous, nature was not for that reason different from ours. For He who is true God, is likewise true man, and there is no falsehood in this unity, as long as there are alternately the lowliness of man and the exaltedness of the Divinity. For, just as God is not changed by His compassion, so man is not destroyed by His dignity. For each nature does what is proper to it with the mutual participation of the other; the Word clearly effecting what belongs to the Word, and the flesh performing what belongs to the flesh. One of these gleams with miracles; the other sinks under injuries. And just as the Word does not withdraw from the equality of the Paternal glory, so His body does not abandon the nature of our race." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church, 449 A.D.)

"Since He bestowed on us the better part and we did not keep it secure, He came to share in the lesser part, I mean our own nature, so that through Himself and in Himself He might renew that which was made according to His image and likeness, and might also teach us virtuous conduct, making for us an easier way to it through Himself; that He might by the communication of life deliver us from corruption, becoming Himself the first fruits of our resurrection, and that He might renew the useless and worn vessels and, while calling us to the knowledge of God, might redeem us from the tyranny of the devil, and might strengthen us and teach us how, by patience and humility, to overthrow the tyrant." (St. John Damascene, Doctor of the Church, c. 8th century A.D.)

"Mary His mother, not crowned with a diadem or laying on a golden couch, but with barely one garment, not for ornament but for covering, and that such as the wife of a carpenter when abroad might have. Had they therefore come to seek an earthly king, they would have been more confounded than rejoiced, deeming their pains thrown away. But now they looked for a heavenly King, so that though they saw nothing of regal state, that star's witness sufficed them, and their eyes rejoiced to behold a despised Boy, the Spirit showing Him to their hearts in all His wonderful power, they fell down and worshipped, seeing the man, they acknowledged the God." [Pseudo Chrys (as quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church)]

"God Ineffable - whose ways are mercy and truth, whose will is omnipotence itself, and whose wisdom 'reaches from end to end mightily, and orders all things sweetly' - having foreseen from all eternity the lamentable wretchedness of the entire human race which would result from the sin of Adam, decreed, by a plan hidden from the centuries, to complete the first work of his goodness by a mystery yet more wondrously sublime through the Incarnation of the Word. This he decreed in order that man who, contrary to the plan of Divine Mercy had been led into sin by the cunning malice of Satan, should not perish; and in order that what had been lost in the first Adam would be gloriously restored in the Second Adam." (Pope Pius IX, "Ineffabilis Deus", 1854 A.D.)

"A royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred seed and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body. And lest in ignorance of the heavenly counsel she should tremble at so strange a result, she learns from converse with the angel that what is to be wrought in her is of the Holy Ghost. Nor does she believe it loss of honor that she is soon to be the Mother of God. For why should she be in despair over the novelty of such conception, to whom the power of the most High has promised to effect it. Her implicit faith is confirmed also by the attestation of a precursory miracle, and Elizabeth receives unexpected fertility: in order that there might be no doubt that He who had given conception to the barren, would give it even to a virgin." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"Although God can do by His own power all that is effected by created natures, nevertheless in the counsels of His loving Providence He has preferred to help men by the instrumentality of men. And, as in the natural order He does not usually give full perfection except by means of man's work and action, so also He makes use of human aid for that which lies beyond the limits of nature, that is to say, for the sanctification and salvation of souls. But it is obvious that nothing can be communicated amongst men save by means of external things which the senses can perceive. For this reason the Son of God assumed human nature - 'who being in the form of God... emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of man' (Philipp. ii., 6,7) - and thus living on earth He taught his doctrine and gave His laws, conversing with men." (Pope Leo XIII, "Satis Cognitum", 1896 A.D.)

"He united to His divine Person a truly human nature, individual, whole and perfect, which was conceived in the most pure womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Ghost. Nothing, then, was wanting to the human nature which the Word of God united to Himself. Consequently He assumed it in no diminished way, in no different sense in what concerns the spiritual and the corporeal: that is, it was endowed with intellect and will and the other internal and external faculties of perception, and likewise with the desires and all the natural impulses of the senses. All this the Catholic Church teaches as solemnly defined and ratified by the Roman Pontiffs and the general councils. 'Whole and entire in what is His own, whole and entire in what is ours.' 'Perfect in His Godhead and likewise perfect in His humanity.' 'Complete God is man, complete man is God.'" (Pope Pius XII, "Haurietis Aquas", 1956 A.D.)

"The faithful should also consider the salutary lessons which Christ at His birth teaches before He begins to speak. He is born in poverty; He is born a stranger under a roof not His own; He is born in a lonely crib; He is born in the depth of winter! For St. Luke writes as follows: And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Could the Evangelist have described under more humble terms the majesty and glory that filled the heavens and the earth? He does not say, there was no room in the inn, but there was no room for him who says, the world is mine, and the fullness thereof. Another Evangelist has expressed it: He came unto his own, and his own received him not." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Let the righteous then rejoice in the Lord, and let the hearts of believers turn to God's praise, and the sons of men confess His wondrous acts; since in this work of God especially our humble estate realizes how highly its Maker values it: in that, after His great gift to mankind in making us after His image, He contributed far more largely to our restoration when the Lord Himself took on Him 'the form of a slave.' For though all that the Creator expends upon His creature is part of one and the same Fatherly love, yet it is less wonderful than man should advance to divine things than that God should descend to humanity. But unless the Almighty God did deign to do this, no kind of righteousness, no form of wisdom could rescue any one from the devil's bondage and from the depths of eternal death. For the condemnation that passes with sin from one upon all would remain, and our nature, corroded by its deadly wound, would discover no remedy, because it could not alter its state in its own strength." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"And, dearly beloved, this very fact that Christ chose to be born of a Virgin does it not appear to be part of the deepest design? I mean, that the devil should not be aware that Salvation had been born for the human race, and through the obscurity of that spiritual conception, when he saw Him no different to others, should believe Him born in no different way to others. For when he observed that His nature was like that of all others, he thought that He had the same origin as all had: and did not understand that He was free from the bonds of transgression because he did not find Him a stranger to the weakness of mortality... For the pride of the ancient foe not undeservedly made good its despotic rights over all men, and with no unwarrantable supremacy tyrannized over those who had been of their own accord lured away from God's commands to be the slaves of his will. And so there would be no justice in his losing the immemorial slavery of the human race, were he not conquered by that which he had subjugated." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"The Child that is born of Mary and is couched in the Crib at Bethlehem, raises his feeble voice to the Eternal Father, and calls him, My Father! He turns towards us and calls us My Brethren! We, consequently, when we speak to his Father, may call him Our Father! This is the mystery of adoption, revealed to us by the great event [of Christmas]. All things are changed, both heaven and on earth: God has not only one Son, he has many sons; henceforth we stand before this our God, not merely creatures drawn out of nothing by his power, but children that he fondly loves. Heaven is now not only the throne of his sovereign Majesty; it has become our inheritance in which we are joint-heirs with our brother Jesus, the Son of Mary, Son of Eve, Son of Adam, according to his Human Nature, and (in the unity of Person) Son of God according to his Divine Nature. Let us turn our wondering and loving thoughts first to this sweet Babe, that has brought us all these blessings, and then to the blessings themselves, to the dear inheritance made ours by him. Let your mind be seized with astonishment at creatures having such a destiny! And then let our heart pour out its thanks for the incomprehensible gift!" (Dom Gueranger)

"For it is an equally dangerous evil to deny in Him the reality of our nature and the equality with the Father in glory. When, therefore, we attempt to understand the mystery of Christ's nativity, wherein He was born of the Virgin-mother, let all the clouds of earthly reasonings be driven far away and the smoke of worldly wisdom be purged from the eyes of illuminated faith: for the authority on which we trust is divine, the teaching which we follow is divine. Inasmuch as whether it be the testimony of the Law, or the oracles of the prophets, or the trumpet of the gospel to which we apply our inward ear, that is true which the blessed John full of the Holy Spirit uttered with his voice of thunder:' in the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was nothing made.' And similarly is it true what the same preacher added: 'the Word became flesh and dwelt in us: and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.' Therefore in both natures it is the same Son of God taking what is ours and not losing what is His own; renewing man in His manhood, but enduring unchangeable in Himself." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"And so God, the Son of God, equal and of the same nature from the Father and with the Father, Creator and Lord of the Universe, Who is completely present everywhere, and completely exceeds all things, in the due course of time, which runs by His own disposal, chose for Himself this day on which to be born of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the salvation of the world, without loss of the mother's honor. For her virginity was violated neither at the conception nor at the birth: 'that it might be fulfilled,' as the Evangelist says, 'which was spoken by the Lord through Isaiah the prophet, saying, behold the virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which is interpreted, God with us.' For this wondrous child-bearing of the holy Virgin produced in her offspring one person which was truly human and truly Divine, because neither substance so retained their properties that there could be any division of persons in them; nor was the creature taken into partnership with its Creator in such a way that the One was the in-dweller, and the other the dwelling; but so that the one nature was blended with the other. And although the nature which is taken is one, and that which takes is another, yet these two diverse natures come together into such close union that it is one and the same Son who says both that, as true Man, 'He is less than the Father,' and that, as true God, 'He is equal with the Father.'" (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"Accordingly let those men cease their complaints who with disloyal murmurs speak against the dispensations of God, and babble about the lateness of the Lord's Nativity as if that, which was fulfilled in the last age of the world, had no bearing upon the times that are past. For the Incarnation of the Word did but contribute to the doing of that which was done: and the mystery of man's salvation was never in the remotest age at a standstill. What the apostles foretold, that the prophets announced: nor was that fulfilled too late which has always been believed. But the Wisdom and Goodness of God made us more receptive of His call by thus delaying the work which brought salvation: so that what through so many ages had been foretold by many signs, many utterances, and many mysteries, might not be doubtful in these days of the Gospel: and that the Savior's nativity, which was to exceed all wonders and all the measure of human knowledge, might engender in us a Faith so much the firmer, as the foretelling of it had been ancient and oft-repeated. And so it was no new counsel, no tardy pity whereby God took thought for men: but from the constitution of the world He ordained one and the same Cause of Salvation for all. For the grace of God, by which the whole body of the saints is ever justified, was augmented, not begun, when Christ was born: and this mystery of God's great love, wherewith the whole world is now filled, was so effectively presignified that those who believed that promise obtained no less than they, who were the actual recipients." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"The bodily Nativity therefore of the Son of God took nothing from and added nothing to His Majesty because His unchangeable substance could be neither diminished nor increased. For that 'the Word became flesh' does not signify that the nature of God was changed into flesh, but that the Word took the flesh into the unity of His Person: and therein undoubtedly the whole man was received, with which within the Virgin's womb fecundated by the Holy Spirit, whose virginity was destined never to be lost, the Son of God was so inseparably united that He who was born without time of the Father's essence was Himself in time born of the Virgin's womb. For we could not otherwise be released from the chains of eternal death but by Him becoming humble in our nature, Who remained Almighty in His own. And so our Lord Jesus Christ, being at birth true man though He never ceased to be true God, made in Himself the beginning of a new creation, and in the 'form' of His birth started the spiritual life of mankind afresh, that to abolish the taint of our birth according to the flesh there might be a possibility of regeneration without our sinful seed for those of whom it is said, 'Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.' What mind can grasp this mystery, what tongue can express this gracious act? Sinfulness returns to guiltlessness and the old nature becomes new; strangers receive adoption and outsiders enter upon an inheritance. The ungodly begin to be righteous, the miserly benevolent, the incontinent chaste, the earthly heavenly. And whence comes this change, save by the right hand of the Most High? For the Son of God came to 'destroy the works of the devil,' and has so united Himself with us and us with Him that the descent of God to man's estate became the exaltation of man to God's." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"Therefore, when the time came, dearly beloved, which had been fore-ordained for men's redemption, there enters these lower parts of the world, the Son of God, descending from His heavenly throne and yet not quitting His Father's glory, begotten in a new order, by a new nativity. In a new order, because being invisible in His own nature He became visible in ours, and He whom nothing could contain, was content to be contained: abiding before all time He began to be in time: the Lord of all things, He obscured His immeasurable majesty and took on Him the form of a servant: being God, that cannot suffer, He did not disdain to be man that can, and immortal as He is, to subject Himself to the laws of death. And by a new nativity He was begotten, conceived by a Virgin, born of a Virgin, without paternal desire, without injury to the mother's chastity: because such a birth as knew no taint of human flesh, became One who was to be the Savior of men, while it possessed in itself the nature of human substance. For when God was born in the flesh, God Himself was the Father, as the archangel witnessed to the Blessed Virgin Mary: 'because the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee: and therefore, that which shall be born of thee shall be called holy, the Son of God.' The origin is different but the nature like: not by [relations] with man but by the power of God was it brought about: for a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and a Virgin she remained. Consider here not the condition of her that bore but the will of Him that was born; for He was born Man as He willed and was able. If you inquire into the truth of His nature, you must acknowledge the matter to be human: if you search for the mode of His birth, you must confess the power to be of God." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"[T]he same Son of God with the same form, says, 'The Father is greater than I,' just as He says with the same form, 'I and my Father are one.' For in 'the form of a slave,' which He took at the end of the ages for our restoration, He is inferior to the Father: but in the form of God, in which He was before the ages, He is equal to the Father. In His human humiliation He was 'made of a woman, made under the Law:' in His Divine majesty He abides the Word of God, 'through whom all things were made.' Accordingly, He Who in the form of God made man, in the form of a slave was made man. For 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. And so the mystery of power united to weakness, in respect of the same human nature, allows the Son to be called inferior to the Father: but the Godhead, which is One in the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, excludes all notion of inequality. For the eternity of the Trinity has nothing temporal, nothing dissimilar in nature: Its will is one, Its substance identical, Its power equal, and yet there are not three Gods, but one God; because it is a true and inseparable unity, where there can be no diversity. 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 deceived committed, had no trace in the Savior; nor because He partook of man's weaknesses, did He therefore share our faults. He took the form of a slave without stain of sin, increasing the human and not diminishing the divine: for that 'emptying of Himself,' whereby the Invisible made Himself visible, was the bending down of pity, not the failing of power." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"Of these three persons [of the Blessed Trinity] we believe that for the liberation of the human race only the person of the Son became true man without sin from the holy and immaculate Virgin Mary, from whom He is begotten in a new manner and by a new birth; in a new manner, because invisible in divinity, He became visible in flesh; by a new birth, however, is He begotten, because inviolate virginity ... supplied the material of human flesh made fruitful by the Holy Spirit. This Virgin birth is neither grasped by reason nor illustrated by example, because if grasped by reason, it is not miraculous; if illustrated by example, it will not be unique. Yet we must not believe that the Holy Spirit is Father of the Son, because of the fact that Mary conceived by the overshadowing of the same Holy Spirit, lest we seem to assert that there are two Fathers of the Son, which is certainly impious to say. - In this marvelous conception with Wisdom building a house for herself, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us [John 1:14]. The Word itself, however, was not so converted and changed that He who willed to become man ceased to be God; but the Word was made flesh in such a way that not only are the Word of God and the flesh of man present, but also the soul of a rational man, and this whole is called God on account of God, and man on account of man. In this Son of God we believe there are two natures, one of divinity, the other of humanity, which the one person of Christ so united in Himself that the divinity can never be separated from the humanity, nor the humanity from the divinity. Christ, therefore, is perfect God and perfect man in the unity of one person; but it does not follow, because we have asserted two natures in the Son, that there are two persons in Him, lest - which God forbid - a quaternity be predicated of the Trinity. For God the Word has not received the person of man, but the nature, and to the eternal person of divinity He has united the temporal substance of flesh. Likewise we believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of one substance, but we do not say that the Virgin Mary gave birth to the unity of the Trinity, but only to the Son, who alone assumed our nature in the unity of His person. Also, we must believe that the entire Trinity accomplished the Incarnation of the Son of God, because the works of the Trinity are inseparable. However, only the Son took the form of a servant [cf. Phil. 2:7] in the singleness of His person, not in the unity of His divine nature; in what is proper to the Son, not in what is common to the Trinity; and this form was adapted to Him for unity of person so that the Son of God and the Son of man is one Christ, that is, Christ in these two natures exists in three substances; of the Word, which must refer to the essence of God alone, of the body, and of the soul, which pertain to true man. He has therefore, in Himself the twofold substance of His divinity and our humanity. We understand, however, that by the fact that He proceeded from God the Father without beginning, He was born only, for He was neither made nor predestined; by the fact, however, that He was born of the Virgin Mary, we must believe that He was born, made, and predestined. Yet both births in Him are marvelous, because He was both begotten by the Father without a mother before all ages and in the end of the ages He was born of a mother without a father; He who, however, according as He is God created Mary, according as He is man was created from Mary; He is both father and son of His mother Mary. Likewise by the fact that He is God, He is equal to the Father; by the fact that He is man, He is less than the Father. Likewise we must believe that He is both greater and less than Himself; for in the form of God even the Son Himself is greater than Himself on account of the humanity He assumed, than which the divinity is greater; in the form, however, of a servant he is less than Himself, that is, in His humanity, which is recognized as less than His divinity. For, as by reason of the body which He assumed He is believed to be not only less than the Father but also less than Himself, so according to His divinity He is coequal with the Father, and both He and the Father are greater than man, which the person of the Son alone assumed. Likewise to the question whether the Son could so be equal to and less than the Holy Spirit, as we believe that He is now equal to, now less than the Father, we reply: According to the form of God He is equal to the Father and to the Holy Spirit, according to the form of a servant, He is less than both the Father and the Holy Spirit; because neither the Holy Spirit nor the Father, but only the person of the Son assumed a body, by which He is believed to be less than those two persons. Likewise we believe that this Son, inseparable from God the Father and the Holy Spirit, is distinguished from them by His person, and distinguished from other men by the nature He assumed... Likewise with reference to man it is His person that is preeminent; but with reference to the Father and the Holy Spirit it is the divine nature or substance. Yet we must believe that the Son was sent not only by the Father but also by the Holy Spirit; because He himself said through the prophet 'And now the Lord has sent me and His Holy Spirit' [Is. 48:16]. We believe also that He was sent by Himself, because we acknowledge that not only the will but also the works of the whole Trinity are inseparable. For, He who before all ages was called the only begotten, in time became the first born; the only begotten on account of the substance of the Godhead, the first born on account of the nature of the body which He assumed." (Eleventh Council of Toledo, 675 A.D.)

Also See: Annunciation / Incarnation (Mary, Our Mother Section) | The Incarnation (Our Father's Love Reflections) | Jesus Christ | The Flesh of Jesus is the Flesh of Mary (Mary, Our Mother Section) | Advent | God | The Blessed Virgin Mary (Reflections) | Blessed Virgin Mary (Mary, Our Mother Section) | Sin | Original Sin

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