Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Reflection: The Incarnation Dwells Among Us

By Michael Terheyden
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

When we think of the birth of Jesus Christ in terms of the fullness of the mystery of the Incarnation our understanding of Christmas changes.

'Christmas becomes more meaningful for us because in a very real sense Christ is being born in each one of us, the apex of creation. And he will continue to be born in us until his Incarnation attains absolute fullness, and we reach our full stature as God’s children.'

KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) – The Incarnation was made visible at the first Christmas about two thousand years ago. However, it actually began nine months earlier, for Christ truly became present in the womb of Mary at the time of the Annunciation. Nevertheless, the birth of Christ is not the only manifestation of the Incarnation; it is merely the first and most obvious.

The Incarnation continues on our altars, in the reality of the Church as His Risen Body and in each one of us who have been Baptized into His death and Resurrection. Consequently, the Incarnation is not a one time event, but a continual unfolding of Christ’s presence in creation. We can see this for ourselves if we take a closer look at the three examples already mentioned.

“When the time of his Passion was near, Jesus told the apostles that he would return soon, and they would see him again” (Jn 16:16). So where is he? One place we clearly find Him is in the Eucharist, where He is made visible to us every day on our altars. During the Passover meal, Jesus said, “…this is my body” (Mat 26:26).

Earlier in his ministry, he said that he was living bread, and we must eat his flesh (Jn 6:51-58). Many left him as a result (Jn 6:66), but he let them go because he knew their hearts. Although we can only see him with the eyes of faith in this present age, the Eucharist is Jesus whole and entire--body, blood, soul, and divinity. This means that the Eucharist is a continuation of the Incarnation.

The Incarnation is also as visible as the Church itself. It is visible in two respects: as the Mystical Body of Christ and as the Bride of Christ. In the first respect, we can say that Christ is the head of the Mystical Body, and the members of the Church make up various parts of the Body. The Mystical Body is a spiritual reality whose head and members, like the parts of our own bodies, are so closely united to each other that they constitute one living body. Saint Thomas Aquinas put it this way, “Head and members form as it were one and the same mystical person” (qtd. in CCC 795).

The second respect in which the Incarnation is visible as the Church is as the Bride of Christ. Speaking on marriage and Christ‘s relationship to the Church, Saint Paul writes, "The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5:31-32). In a certain respect, the term “one flesh” indicates that we only realize the fullness of our humanity when we are in relationship with another. The most profound and visible sign of this truth being the one-flesh-marital union between a man and a woman (JPII, Original Unity,73-77).


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