The Reason for the Incarnation: Sin or Love

“He has become like a man, so that men should be like him.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Here are several quotes that you can use to reflect on the meaning of the Incarnation.

For Anselm, sin is the reason for the season. He believes that if humanity had not sinned, if we had continued to enjoy the rectitude and right relationship Adam and Eve are said to have enjoyed with God before the Fall, the eternal Logos would never have needed to become human. The Incarnation is, for Anselm, a sign of God’s benevolence, but it is also entirely predicated on our disobedience, pride, sin and need for reconciliation. BY DANIEL P. HORAN National Catholic Reporter/ Opinio

“Franciscan John Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) said the plan from the beginning was to reveal Godself as Christ. Jesus didn’t come as a remedy for sin—as if God would need blood before God could love what God created. The idea that God, who is love, would demand the sacrifice of his beloved Son in order to be able to love what God created is the conundrum that reveals how unsatisfying that quid pro quo logic really is.” Richard Rohr, osf, Franciscan Mysticism: I AM That Which I Am Seeking

“Christ took upon himself this human form of ours. He became Man even as we are men. In his humanity and his lowliness we recognize our own form. He has become like a man, so that men should be like him. And in the Incarnation the whole human race recovers the dignity of the image of God. Henceforth, any attack on the least of men is an attack on Christ, who took the form of man, and in his own Person restored the image of God in all that bears a human form. Through fellowship and communion with the incarnate Lord, we recover our true humanity, and at the same time we are delivered from that individualism which is the consequence of sin, and retrieve our solidarity with the whole human race. By being partakers of Christ incarnate, we are partakers in the whole humanity which he bore. We now know that we have been taken up and borne in the humanity of Jesus, and therefore that new nature we now enjoy means that we too must bear the sins and sorrows of others. The incarnate Lord makes his followers the brothers of all mankind. The “philanthropy” of God (Titus 3:4) revealed in the Incarnation is the ground of Christian love towards all on earth that bears the name of man. The form of Christ incarnate makes the Church into the Body of Christ. All the sorrows of mankind fall upon that form, and only through that form can they be borne.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

“For our lives, incarnation means being focused on the spiritual and the eternal but bringing that focus deep into our life. … This is really the heart of the Christmas theological message: Live in two worlds that overlap but are distinct. Don’t be materialistic, but don’t sacrifice our ordinary physical life for any spiritual ideal. Be lowly and lofty.”
― Thomas Moore, The Soul of Christmas

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

“When spirituality becomes spiritualization, life in the body becomes carnality. When ministers and priests live their ministry mostly in their heads and relate to the Gospel as a set of valuable ideas to be announced, the body quickly takes revenge by screaming loudly for affection and intimacy. Christian leaders are called to live the Incarnation, that is, to live in the body, not only in their own bodies but also in the corporate body of the community, and to discover there the presence of the Holy Spirit.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership

“All true friendliness begins with fire and food and drink and the recognition of rain or frost. …Each human soul has in a sense to enact for itself the gigantic humility of the Incarnation. Every man must descend into the flesh to meet mankind.”
― G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World

“Christ is, then, the perfect art work in the sense of that reality in whom is realised those goals that all artistic making has as its explicit or implicit ends. Because he is infinite meaning, life and being perfectly synthesised with finite form, the cave painters at Lascaux, or Hesiod penning his hymns, or Beethoven working on his last quartets, were all gesturing towards him though they realised it not.”
― Aidan Nichols O.P., Redeeming Beauty: Soundings in Sacral Aesthetics

Disguise is central to God’s way of dealing with us human beings. Not because God is playing games with us but because the God who is beyond our knowing makes himself known in the disguise of what we can know. The Christian word for this is revelation, and the ultimate revelation came by incarnation. … God is the master of disguises, in order that we might see. Richard John Neuhaus

But when finally the scrolls of history are complete, down to the last word of time, the saddest line of all will be: “There was no room in the inn.”…The inn was the gathering place of public opinion, the focal point of the world’s moods, the rendezvous of the worldly, the rallying place of the popular and the successful. But there’s no room in the place where the world gathers. The stable is a place for outcasts, the ignored and the forgotten. The world might have expected the Son of God to be born in an inn; a stable would certainly be the last place in the world where one would look for him. The lesson is: divinity is always where you least expect to find it. So the Son of God made man is invited to enter into his own world through a back door.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen

About Dr. Ernie Sherretta, D. Min.

Retired Director of Religious Education for the Catholic Church since 2014, granted a B.A. in Philosophy from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Immaculata University, and a Doctor of Ministry from the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Spiritual Well-Being Counselor
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