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Credo 19 - ... he came down from heaven

Sunday, July 29, 2007
The author of the so-called ‘third-Isaiah’ (the third part of the book of Isaiah, composed by a later prophet), when confronted with the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, prayed to God as follows: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down” (Is. 64:1). The psalmist prayed in a similar way: “Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down; touch the mountains so that they smoke.” (Ps 144:5).

These prayers of the psalmist and of Isaiah could appear somewhat childish to our modern minds. Is God a magician, who would use his power over the creation to tear open the heavens? With proofs and wonders of such a kind, what room would be left to our freedom? In fact, this coming down from heaven is much more subtle than we might think at first sight. This does not mean to ‘come from one place to another’. God is everywhere and therefore lives in any place. This ‘coming down’ means, figuratively, a way of humbling himself. As we know, this humbling took place in the incarnation. Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-7). In the first chapter of Mark’s gospel, we read that during his baptism, when he came up out of the water, Jesus “saw the heavens opened and the spirit descending upon him like a dove” (Mk 1:10).

Therefore, by an act of love, God humbled himself and came down to us. Begotten from the Father, he came down from heaven and entered into our humanity. The meaning of it is, first and foremost, that Jesus, fully divine, took our humanity. It is not a landing! I mean by this it is more of a taking off for our humanity! As some fathers of the Church like Saint Irenaeus repeatedly said, God took our humanity in order that our humanity might become divine. Coming down from heaven does not mean, of course, that Jesus ceased to be divine in any way. He remains one with God: “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:38). Rather, his coming down from heaven implies that if we let Christ reign over our lives, the Kingdom of heaven is among us!


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