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Credo 16: ... of one being with the Father ...

Friday, July 20, 2007
In the post on Credo 15, we learned something of the history of the Arian controversy and the way in which that debate caused the Church to define in its Creed the nature of the person of Jesus Christ. At the council of Nicaea in 325 the Church, in opposition to Arius, confessed that Jesus is ‘begotten, not made, of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father’. In other words, through the incarnation, divine nature assumes human nature.

What is the significance of this affirmation for Christian faith and life? The reason why the Arian controversy was of such significance for the early church was that it called into question the nature of Christ’s saving act. The Council of Nicea eventually settled on the term homoousios (‘of the same substance’) rather than homoisousios (‘of like substance’). One way of accounting for this choice is to look at what the early church was trying to say about Christ’s redemption of humanity. In this context ‘redemption’ means ‘being taken up into the life of God’. So, if the incarnation has the effect of ‘deifying’ (‘making divine’) human nature then it follows that the flesh must be united with God’s nature. That unity is what occurred in the person of Jesus Christ and it has had the effect of enabling human beings to share in the life of God.

The Church’s conviction that humanity is saved in the body is an essential part of our sacramental faith. The sacrifice that Christ makes of his body and blood on Calvary is truly a gift from God’s own nature. Therefore, whenever the Eucharist is celebrated we do not commemorate a mere scapegoat offered for us, but rather God himself, suffering in the body, in order that the body might be the means by which the world is redeemed.

That God united his nature to human flesh gives the world a whole new way of relating to him. We are reminded that our physical nature is an integral part of our prayer and offering to God. To meditate upon the way in which our nature has been raised up to God enables us to see the face of our redeemer in each of our brothers and sisters.


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