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Fruits of Study 1: Christology

Saturday, August 27, 2011
We teach …  that the one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, is to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not split or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ ...

So teaches the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) about Jesus Christ. At first glance, it could seem rather obscure, an argument about the philosophical terms of nature and person which surely, we might think, can’t have too many implications for most Christians and their practice of the faith. And yet, on closer consideration, we realise that this teaching on the person of Jesus Christ lies at the very heart of our faith. Now, as Pope Benedict has frequently reminded us, ‘Christian faith is not only a matter of believing that certain things are true, but above all a personal relationship with Jesus Christ’:* this doctrine, then, is central because it tells us something about who that person Jesus is, namely that he is fully man but also fully God.

The Christological doctrine of the Church leads us deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation; the heretical opinions on either side of the orthodox doctrine detract from the fullness of that mystery, by denying either that the Word made Flesh could be fully human (i.e. denial of two natures in Christ), or that God and Man could truly be united in one person (i.e. assertion of two persons). In both cases, the mind-blowing truth of the extent of God’s love for us shown by his truly taking on our nature is watered down.

As Our Lord himself teaches us, ‘the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). As he also tells us, he is himself ‘the Truth’ (John 14:6), and it is the only in the truth of the fullness of the Incarnation that we see Christ’s power to save us. In the words of St Leo the Great, ‘If he were not true God, he would not be able to bring us healing; if he were not true man, he would not be able to give us an example’.

* Message for the XXVI World Youth Day, n. 2

Gregory Pearson OP


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