I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
We profess these words every Sunday when we attend Mass, but what do these words mean exactly? As we continue the great celebration of Christmas, there is no better time to meditate on this great mystery than now.
Jesus Christ, God from God, light from light, is perfectly God and perfectly human. He is fully God and fully man. What does this mean? How can we understand this?
One helpful way of understanding how and in what way Jesus is both God and man is through "who" questions and "what" questions. When you ask the question, "who are you?" what are you asking? If you were to ask me, "who are you?" I would respond with, "I am Br. Nathaniel." When we ask the question, "who are you?" we are asking about someone as a person. That is why we always respond with a name. Since each person is different, each person has a different answer to this question. Therefore, if you were to ask Jesus, "who are you?" he would respond, "I am Jesus."
However, if you were to ask me, "what are you?" I would say, "I am human." Unlike the question regarding "who" if you were to ask multiple people, "what are you?" they would respond with the same answer. This is because "what" questions ask about what nature or what kind of thing someone or something is. Thus, if you were to ask Jesus, "what are you?" he would say, "I am God and I am man." This is because Jesus has two natures, or two "whats," a human nature and a divine nature. So, a good way of understanding the fact that Jesus is both God and human is to say that Jesus has one "who" and two "whats." His divine and human "whats" are united in his "who," in his person.
Why did he do this? Why did God choose to become one of us? There are many reasons we could supply--the most important of which is to free us from our sins. One of the reasons I would like to leave you with is a beautiful passage from St. Thomas Aquinas:
"[N]othing is a greater incentive to love someone than the experience of his love for us. And God’s love for man could not be proved more effectively than by his consenting to personal union with man, since it is peculiar to love that it unites lover and beloved, as far as this is possible. Therefore, since man seeks perfect happiness, it was necessary for God to become man." (SCG IV, 54)
The Incarnation, God becoming one of us, is the greatest sign of his love for us. Let us, then, meditate on this mystery of love, so that we too might love him in return.
Br. Nathaniel Maria Mayne, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE