Read ~ Chapter 3: Incarnation, Salvation, Redemption
Father Anthony Nachef, STD (Doctorate in Sacred Theology)
The teachings contained in this chapter are based on Holy Scriptures, the Tradition of the Catholic Church [especially the First and Second Vatican Councils, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the Fathers of the Church (especially St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine)], the Magisterium of the Catholic Church (especially Saint Pope Paul VI, Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis). All Apostolic Encyclicals and Letters are found on the Vatican Website: Vatican
Universal Creation and Universal Salvation through the Son’s Incarnation
Did God know that we will be ‘creating’ evil?: In the previous chapter I explained that Evil is not an existent entity like any items of the created order. Evil is basically a deficiency in a created, intelligent, limited, and free will. It has a temporary, paradoxical existence in our will and therefore it is a nonexistent entity in existence. Did God know that man and woman (created in the original state of justice) were going to be able to create that deficiency called evil? Yes, but God also knew that he was going to send his only begotten Son to redeem humanity. The Incarnation of the Son exists in the foreknowledge of God before creation. In this sense, St. Pope John Paul II, as he comments on Ephesians 1, states that God’s plan of creation and salvation “is eternally linked to Christ” (Redemptoris Mater, 7). He is the same Word through whom everything was created (John 1) and without whom there is no salvation.
Creation and Incarnation are God’s one plan: There is a parallel theology of creation and salvation between the book of Genesis and the Gospel of John. To reverse the curse of the old creation of Genesis, the Son was incarnate to bring about the new creation. Genesis, 1:“ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” John, 1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The intrinsic goal of creation is to share God’s life, which is salvation. Salvation, on the other hand, fulfills God’s first work of creation. In this regard, the Catechism teaches: “creation is the foundation of ‘all God’s saving plans,’ the ‘beginning of the history of salvation’.” (CCC, 280)
Creation out of nothing and salvation out of nothing complete God’s plan: Parallel to the creation out of nothing on the physical level, God creates out of nothing a new spiritual life to sinners by giving them a pure heart (Psalm 50). In the letter to the Romans there is a bold emphasis on the creation of the human person as being ultimately fulfilled by their redemption. Talking about the faith of Abraham that brings him righteousness and salvation, we read that God “gives life to the dead (salvation) and calls into existence the things that do not exist (creation).” (Rom 4:17) It is the Holy Spirit who, similarly to the creation out of nothing, will create life in the dead body through resurrection at the end of time. Creation and salvation are Trinitarian actions.
Was God weak when he allowed evil to ‘exist’?
Focusing on God’s wisdom and goodness and not only on his power: We often focus on the power of God and we forget his wisdom and goodness. Could have God created a perfect world? Yes because God is infinitely powerful and there is nothing impossible to him. Yet, in his infinite wisdom, God freely created a world in a state of journeying towards its ultimate perfection. Through divine providence, angels and humans must choose to achieve their destinies by free choice. Above all keep in your mind that God would have never allowed evil to exist in the world if he “were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.” (St Augustine, Enchiridion 3, 11). In mysterious ways God’s providence guides all creation to attain its perfection.
Only Jesus Christ defeats evil and bring about humanity’s salvation: In recent theological thought, many tried to place Christ’s Incarnation as an action parallel to other actions that God performed for the salvation of humanity. In other words, some new trends place Jesus’ action as a parallel one to many other gurus in the history of the world. This conviction contradicts the Catholic Faith in her believe in the universality and the unicity of God’s will and plan. God cannot logically have 2 or more plans. Pope Benedict VI states: “It must therefore be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith that the universal salvific will of the One and Triune God is offered and accomplished once for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God.” (Dominus Iesus, 14)
Humanity’s expectation of the Savior
The Catholic Church rejects re-incarnation: The Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity happened in the womb of the Virgin Mary once for all. It is a unique event in which God the Son himself assumed a true human nature. The Catholic Church rejects the belief in the reincarnation: no human person will ever return after death in a different body or as an animal. All beliefs of the human person coming back constantly from death to life in different forms or different life are false.
The Jewish are still the chosen people in transition to become the Church: The Jewish people were expecting a political Messiah who would drive the Romans out of the Holy Land. God coming in the flesh is not what Israel was waiting for. For a Jew, God is transcendental and cannot become human. Even though the Old Testament has lots of theological approaches pointing to the Incarnation, this idea did not sink in. They are still the chosen people of God but only in transition to become the new people of God, the Church. They are the shadow, the Church is the reality. Reality and shadows co-exist and fulfill each other. In this regard and describing the Jews’ identity, St. Paul says that they “are descended from the patriarchs and from their flesh and blood came Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed! Amen.” (Romans 9:5)
Christ’s Incarnation rooted in the Jewish expectations: The Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, is not an isolated act. God didn’t just say “I am coming down to save humanity.” The progressive historical Revelation of God to the Jewish people culminated in the Incarnation. The Fiat of Mary (Let it be done to me according to your will) made it possible. At the Annunciation of the Angel, in a way unprecedented, irrevocable, non-repeated, irreplaceable, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son, through the action of the Holy Spirit became incarnate once and for all in the womb of the Virgin Mary. It is not a magical event; it is the Holy Spirit who executed the Incarnation as all elements of nature served God’s purpose.
Positive elements in other religions share in the universality of Christ’s Incarnation: Christ being the only savior who established only the Catholic Church, does not exclude the existence of positive elements in other religions. In a way only known to God, what is true in non Catholic religions falls within God’s divine plan of salvation executed exclusively through Christ in the Catholic Church. However, these elements have one and the same source and cannot be set as parallel or completing Christ’s universal salvation. On this subject, Vatican II comments: “The unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude, but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a participation in this one source.” (Lumen Gentium, 62) Saint Pope John Paul II elaborated that concept further by saying: “Although participated forms of mediation of different kinds and degrees are not excluded, they acquire meaning and value only from Christ’s own mediation, and they cannot be understood as parallel or complementary to his.” (Redemptoris Missio, 5). So, Christ’s Incarnation is the only way to save humanity which leads us to examine its nature.
The nature of Christ’s Incarnation
Definition of nature: To approach the mystery of the Incarnation, we need to differentiate between the concept of nature and the concept of person. Nature is a general concept that includes a multitude of persons that fall under that category. For example, when I say the word “woman”, all the women of the earth are included in this concept. Nature is a universal reality that includes many different individual entities that share that same nature. Therefore, when I say the word “God” I am indicating his Divine Nature, his essence, his substance, his being, or his entity.
Definition of person: The term person, on the other hand, is an entity that individualizes a certain nature. So, when I say ‘woman’ I indicate a nature but when I say “Mary” I am individualizing the nature of woman in that specific individual of Mary. The person is a nature made concrete and therefore it has a name. Even though ‘nature’ is a universal concept encompassing many persons, it is still differently individualized in different persons. In other words, the term “woman” is equally applied to Mary and Theresa, yet they both still make the nature of woman concrete in a different way. So, when I say “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” I am pointing to the different Persons within the One Divine Nature of God: They each make concrete the same Divine Nature in Three different personal properties. This presents the ultimate dimension of God: three different Divine Persons individualize the same Divine Nature but in three different way without being three different ‘Gods’.
Hypostatic Union ONLY in Christ: The Greek word ‘hypostasis’ means person. In the amazing event of the Incarnation, the Church called the union between the Son and His human nature taken from Mary, the ‘Hypostatic Union.’ Jesus Christ is one Dive Person, not two persons. He is a Divine Person with a full Divine Nature and a full human nature. He is God in his Divine Nature and man in his human nature. Both natures are united in the one Person of the Son. This union is irrevocable and eternal: even though the Son entered once and for all in our world uniting a human nature to himself, this human nature now risen will always be his nature for ever in the bosom of the Trinity.
The difference between a mere human action and Christ’s action: When I walk or talk, me as Father Anthony, I am a human person acting in a human nature using human faculties. In the case of Christ the person acting is divine but his actions are taking place in a fully human nature with all human faculties. Pope Benedict emphasizes that the hypostatic union eliminates a mere appearance of God in history: God the Son took on a human nature and made it his own authentically. Consequently, all his actions become the actions of God himself in history. The transcendence of God was authentically active in history, even though the very nature of this union remains unfathomable to the human mind: “Therefore, the words, deeds, and entire historical event of Jesus, though limited as human realities, have nevertheless the divine Person of the Incarnate Word, true God and true man’ as their subject. For this reason, they possess in themselves the definitiveness and completeness of the revelation of God’s salvific ways, even if the depth of the divine mystery in itself remains transcendent and inexhaustible.” (Pope Benedict VI, Dominus Iesus, 6) The Incarnation, therefore, cannot be reduced to a mere appearing of God in history. It is a “metaphysical emptying of the historical incarnation of the Eternal Logos.” (Pope Benedict VI, Dominum Iesus, 4)
A summary: Jesus is truly human and truly divine: The Catholic Church has always believed that in the Incarnation God the Son assumed a full human nature without ceasing to be God. Jesus Christ is equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit in his divinity and equal to us in his humanity. Jesus’ human nature is true and authentic. St. Gregory Nazianzen in the fourth century summarized the true humanity of Jesus in this way: “What was not assumed by Jesus was not redeemed.” So to save humanity, Jesus had to have an authentic human soul and an authentic human body. They both were united to his Person as the Son, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
Understanding Christ’s Incarnation eliminates heresies
Against Arianism: Jesus Christ is God the Son himself but also full human. To be fully human Jesus did not have to have sinfulness in his human nature. In fact, sin is a foreign element to our nature because it was not God’s original plan for us to sin. Add to that Jesus could not sin because the Person acting in his human nature is God the Son. Even though he acted humanly, the subject acting is still divine and God could not and cannot commit an act against Himself.
Against Adoptionism: In the first centuries of the Church, Adoptionism taught that Jesus Christ was a wonderful man, but he was adopted by God as his Son at the time of His baptism. When Jesus received the Holy Spirit at baptism, argues Adoptionism, he was adopted by God to be a type of “superman.” He became superior to and above all creatures, but Adoptionism denied that Jesus is ontologically divine. Of course, the Church rejected Adoptionism because the center of the Church’s faith is the divinity of Jesus Christ: he is God.
Against Docetism: Another erroneous teaching that came up at the beginning of the Church is Docetism. Docetism denied that Jesus Christ was fully human. It taught when God came down he wasn’t formed in the womb of the Virgin Mary according to the laws of gestation. Docetism believed that Jesus’ flesh is only a fake and apparent flesh, and Jesus did not suffer in the full sense of the word. The true Motherhood of Mary is true, real and authentic. Jesus underwent an authentic conception, growth, and birth in the womb of Mary. On the other hand, if the suffering of Jesus Christ was fake, the Gospels would be nothing but a lie. Because of the ‘hypostatic union’, Jesus’ suffering for the salvation of humanity is real; his death on the cross is real; his historical resurrection from the dead to redeem humanity is real and true.
Against Gnosticism: Gnosticism reduces Christ to a myth. Gnosticism, from the beginning of the Church (still exists today in many circles), rejects the human dimension of salvation and of the Church. The Fathers of the Church have always emphasized the importance of the Oikonomia (the economy) of salvation. Economy of salvation means the way God wanted to save us. Instead of becoming man, could God have extended his hand down from heaven to save us? Yes and no. Yes, because nothing is impossible for God; no, because he did not choose that way to save us. If God the Son Himself decided to become man in the womb of the Virgin Mary to save us, who are we to choose another way? If God decided to honor the human nature by making that nature his own, who are we to eliminate the human element? Every heresy from the beginning of the Church until today is caused by a misunderstanding of the theology of Incarnation. These heresies always eliminated the cooperation between the divine dimension and the human dimension in salvation economy.
The Consequences of the Son’s Incarnation
The Incarnation is a New Creation: God did not save us by remaining in heaven. When God decided to save humanity, He himself wanted to recreate it: He himself became human, He himself intrinsically worked from within not from without, He himself became the new Adam in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the new Eve. Therefore, in the Gospel of John, Jesus is called “Man” by Pontius Pilate and Mary is called “Woman” at the feast of Cana in Galilee.
Jesus the New Adam: This is how St. Paul describes how Jesus recreated the old human nature by uniting it to himself: “Now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single New Man in himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the cross, to unite them both in a single Body and reconcile them with God: in his own person he killed the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:13-16)
Mary the New Eve: Eve is called ‘woman’ in the book of Genesis (old Creation). In the Gospel of John (new Creation) Mary is called the “Woman” (John, 2) Don’t ever foolishly believe that when Mary told Jesus at the feast of Cana in Galilee “they have no wine,” Christ disrespected her by calling her “Woman”. Far from it. That word “Woman” implies Mary being the new Eve. Do you think that Christ who established the 10 Commandments and who said “Honor thy mother and father,” would contradict himself by disrespecting his mother? The Gospel of Luke, God’s Word, relates our relationship to Mary forever: “all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48) Those who don’t call Mary ‘Blessed,’ are not following the Word of God in the Gospel of Luke.
Jesus used the ‘procedure of inversion’ to accomplish the new creation: Why did God choose the Son’s Incarnation to save humanity? The Fathers of the Church called God’s method ‘the procedure of inversion.’ As an example, if a sheep falls in the well, to get it out one must go after it in the same way, and then reverse the procedure by going the opposite direction. Adam and Eve sinned and died. Jesus Christ and Mary, the new Adam and the New Eve, went the same way and reversed the old creation by rising from the death (Jesus) and by being assumed into heaven body and soul (Mary). The Catechism confirms that “the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection… that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.” (CCC, 632) By rising from the dead Jesus brought up with him the ‘falling sheep.’
Jesus’ death and resurrection as the fulfillment of the new creation: The ultimate fulfillment of this new creation took place when Jesus died and rose from the dead. His presence in the tomb on Saturday is parallel to God’s rest on the Sabbath after creating the world in 6 days in Genesis. His resurrection the following day, the first day, is the beginning of the new creation just like God did in the first day of creation in Genesis. The Catechism teaches: “The state of the dead Christ is the mystery of the tomb and the descent into hell. It is the mystery of Holy Saturday, when Christ, lying in the tomb, reveals God’s great Sabbath rest after the fulfillment of man’s salvation, which brings peace to the whole universe.” (CCC, 624)
The Incarnation reverses the curse of sin: Jesus Christ cannot sin. The subject who is acting in His human nature is the Second Person of the Trinity. The subject in Mary is human and she was endowed with authentic freedom. However, God prevented her from Original Sin and she decided not to sin. Even though she was conceived without original Sin, Mary still had a free will and she decided until the end of her life never to sin. By assuming an authentic human nature without sin, Jesus reversed the curse of sin in his body. By being created without original sin and deciding not to sin when she used her freedom, Mary reversed the curse of sin in her body too.
The Incarnation reverses the curse of death: According to the Tradition of the Catholic Church, the Magisterium, and Holy Scriptures, sin is the cause behind the death of the human person. At the beginning, God created Adam and Eve in the state of original justice; He created them not to sin and not to die. By sinning Adam and Eve introduced death. Therefore, for Christ to reverse the reality of sin, He himself had to come down and reverse it: He went the same exact way of Adam and Eve which is death but then He rose from the dead to undo death. In this regard, the ‘Living One” says in the Book of Revelation:”I died, and behold I am alive for evermore.” (Rev 1:18)
If Jesus and Mary did not sin, why did they ‘die’? If death is the result of sin, and Jesus did not sin, why did He die? He died (in his human nature) only to rise and reverse the curse of death. Mary didn’t sin either, did she die? She only slept (koimisis) to be assumed into heaven body and soul (her death is not like ours because she never had original sin). The death and resurrection of Jesus and the falling asleep of Mary and her Assumption are two facets of the one mystery. Therefore, there is no death without resurrection. Here lies the mystery of our hope accomplished in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The body and soul of Jesus separated at the moment of his death and reunited at his resurrection: Even though Jesus’ body and soul were separated at the moment of his death on the cross, they were still the body and soul of the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son. His body and soul were reunited at the moment of his resurrection accomplishing therefore the new creation. St Gregory of Nyssa in the fourth century writes:”God [the Son] did not impede death from separating his soul from his body according to the necessary order of nature, but has reunited them to one another in the Resurrection, so that he himself might be, in his person, the meeting point for death and life, by arresting in himself the decomposition of nature produced by death and so becoming the source of reunion for the separated parts.” (Orat. Catech., 16)
Jesus’ death and resurrection reverse the curse of corruption: The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was real; it put an end to his earthly existence. Even though at that moment, his soul and the body were separated, both these elements were still the body and soul of the Person of the Son. Therefore Jesus’ body was not a mortal corpse like others and consequently could not experience corruption. In that sense St Thomas Aquinas confirmed that the “divine power preserved Christ’s body from corruption.” (STH III, 51, 3) Now we can understand Acts 2:26-27, “My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption.”
Salvation is Redemption by nature
Christ’s salvation is redemptive by nature: When we introduced sin into the world, we created an infinite gap between God and humanity. The distance is infinite because everything in God is infinite. His mercy is infinite, His love is infinite, His life is infinite, all the properties of God are one, and they are all infinite. Our sin also infinitely offends God. In this sense we read in Psalm 49:7-9: “Truly no man can ransom himself, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of his life is costly, and can never suffice, that he should continue to live on forever, and never see the pit.”
The way Jesus Christ saves humanity is paying the price of sin to the Father by eliminating the infinite distance between us and the Father. That is called Redemption. How did Jesus do that?
Old Testament mediators: No human being in the Old Testament could have ever filled the infinite gap between humanity and the Father. The reason is because all mediators were mere human beings and therefore could not reach to the infinite God. We read in the Letter to the Hebrews that the priests in the Old Testament “serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary…But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” (Heb 8:5-6)
Jesus’ mediation: Jesus is the mediator between God and humanity, not in the sense that Jesus is “floating” somewhere between the Father above and humanity below. Jesus Christ is the only one who can do it because He is equal to the Father in his divinity and equal to us in his humanity. The mediation of Jesus is perfect because He is at the same time here with us and there with the Father. Being one Person and uniting in his Person the human and the divine natures, Jesus smashed the gap between God the Father and humanity. In this sense we read in Hebrews that Jesus “is able for all time to save those who drew near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25). In this regard, Pope Benedict VI rejects current theological thoughts which deny Jesus Christ being the ONLY savior of humanity and try to establish ‘parallel’ saviors of the world. He says: “The thesis which denies the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ is also put forward. Such a position has no biblical foundation. In fact, the truth of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lord and only Saviour, who through the event of his incarnation, death and resurrection has brought the history of salvation to fulfilment, and which has in him its fullness and centre, must be firmly believed as a constant element of the Church’s faith.” (Dominus Iesus, 13)
Jesus, being God, emptied himself: The entire mystery of the Son’s Incarnation resides in the fact that when Jesus assumed human nature, the subject acting in that human nature was still Divine. God the Son emptied himself assuming human nature with all its limitations (Philippians, 2). He himself took the form of a slave, lived among us: “the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us.” (John, 1:14)
Jesus used his human nature as an instrument of salvation: When Jesus was walking on the streets of Jerusalem, it was God walking on those streets but in his human nature. When Jesus walked on the water, God walked on the water but in his human nature. When Jesus cried, did God cry? Yes, but He did so in his human nature. When Jesus died on the cross, did God die on the cross? Yes, but he did so in his human nature, not in his Divine nature; He cannot die in his Divine nature. It was necessary that Jesus Christ truly died and went to the realm of the netherworld but only as a victorious God. The Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians relates that Jesus “descended into the lower parts of the earth. He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens.” (Eph 4:9-10)
Jesus took his risen human nature to the bosom of the Blessed Trinity: When Jesus ascended into heaven, did God ascend into heaven? Yes, but in his human nature. Jesus Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father in a way that is different from before the Incarnation. Before the Incarnation, the Son did not have a human nature in the bosom of the Blessed Trinity. After the Incarnation, His resurrection, and ascension into heaven, Jesus’ risen human nature became a part of the Trinity. Jesus did not leave his humanity on earth after his Ascension.
In this regard the Catechism teaches: “In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus’ Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is ‘the man of heaven’.” (CCC, 646)
The Father sees our humanity united to the humanity of Jesus when we die: The human nature that Jesus took from the womb of the Virgin Mary and used as an instrument of salvation, is right now with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Every time that a human person dies and approaches the Father, the Father sees two things: on one hand He sees a sinner that had created an infinite distance from God; on the other hand, the Father sees the risen human nature of Jesus.
The union of Jesus’ humanity to his Person and the union of his Person to the Person of the Father: So when we die and are in front of the Father, the Father has two choices: the first choice is rejection because of the Evil of sin in us. The second choice, the Father will look at the human person through the risen human nature of Christ. His nature is united forever to His Person and his Person is united forever to the Father. Therefore, the Father ‘has no choice’ but to accept our nature with him because of Jesus’ humanity. In other words, which is stronger, the Evil of sin that infinitely separates us from the Father, or the infinite love between the Father and the risen Lord? Of course, the eternal Trinitarian love is stronger. The Father knew all that at the moment of our creation: “We have said that in Jesus’ filial communion with the Father, his human soul is also taken up into the act of praying. He who sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. John 14:9). The disciple who walks with Jesus is thus caught up with him into communion with God. And that is what redemption mean: this stepping beyond the limits of the human nature, which had been there as a possibility and an expectation in man, God’s image and likeness, since the moment of creation.” (Pope Benedict VI, Jesus of Nazareth, 8)
How did Jesus pay the debt of our sin to the Father? The infinite distance created by our evil made our nature foreign to God. Because Jesus took our same nature, died in it, and was risen in it, the Father looks at our nature only through the risen nature of Christ. Now the Father will see that the Evil of sin has been paid by the blood of the risen Lord. Therefore, the only reason our nature will have access to the Father now is because Jesus’ nature put a sign on our nature “redeemed and paid by my blood.” In this sense, the Letter to the Hebrews teaches that through his sacrifice, Jesus “entered once and for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves (like in the Old Testament) but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption…For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands…but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” (Heb 9:12 and 24)
Christ’s divinity made the price enough to pay the Father the debt of our sin: St. Paul said that Jesus nailed to the cross the debt that we owed the Father from the beginning of time until now. The blood of Christ paid the Father once and for all the eternal price of death because Christ is Divine. Christ’s salvation is redemptive by nature because Jesus not only saved us, but also paid our eternal debt to God. We read in the letter to the Ephesians: “Now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single New Man in himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the cross, to unite them both in a single Body and reconcile them with God: in his own person he killed the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:13-16) St. Leo the Great, many centuries earlier, said in this regard: “It is likewise contrary to the Catholic faith to introduce a separation between the salvific action of the Word as such and that of the Word made man. With the incarnation, all the salvific actions of the Word of God are always done in unity with the human nature that he has assumed for the salvation of all people. The one subject which operates in the two natures, human and divine, is the single person of the Word.” (Tomus ad Flavianum: DS 294). Pope Benedict VI adds and concludes: “Therefore, the theory which would attribute, after the incarnation as well, a salvific activity to the Logos as such in his divinity, exercised ‘in addition to’ or ‘beyond’ the humanity of Christ, is not compatible with the Catholic Faith.” (Dominus Iesus, 10)
Mary’s Presence in the Mystery of Salvation: Who gave Christ his human nature? Mary. Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary according to the laws of gestation. He grew in her womb just like all children grow in their mothers’ wombs. Because Jesus’ human nature was the instrument of our salvation and because Mary gave him that nature, it is against God’s plan to ignore Mary’s role in the mystery of our salvation. Her presence in her Son’s redemption is everlasting.
Reference: Scott Hahn: Catholic for a Reason Box Set
By Fr. Antoine (Anthony) Nachef, STD (Doctorate in Sacred Theology)
Capítulo 3: Encarnación, Salvación y Redención
Las enseñanzas en este capítulo se basan en las Escrituras Sagradas, la Tradiciones de la Iglesia Católica (especialmente el Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica (CCC)), los Padres de la Iglesia (especialmente San Thomas Aquinas y San Agustín) él Magisterio de la Iglesia Católica (especialmente San Papa Pablo VI, San Papa John Paul II y Papa Benedicto XVI).
El Conocimiento Anterior de Dios sobre La Maldad y La Encarnación del Hijo: En el capítulo anterior expliqué que la maldad no es una entidad existente como el orden creado. La maldad básicamente es una deficiencia en una voluntad creada, inteligente, limitada y libre. La maldad tiene una existencia temporal y paradójica en nuestra voluntad y, por lo tanto, es una entidad inexistente en existencia. ¿Sabía Dios que el hombre y la mujer (creados en el estado original de justicia) iban a poder crear esa deficiencia llamada maldad? Sí, pero Dios también sabía que iba a enviar a su único Hijo engendrado para redimir a la humanidad. La Encarnación del Hijo existe en la presciencia de Dios antes de la creación. Para ser claros, estamos hablando de la Encarnación que sucedió en el vientre de la Virgen María de una vez por todas. La Iglesia Católica rechaza la creencia de la reencarnación: ninguna persona humana volverá después de la muerte en un cuerpo diferente o como un animal.
Las Expectativas Judías de la Venida de Cristo: La gente Judía esperaban un Mesías político que expulsara a los romanos de Tierra Santa. Dios viniendo en la carne no era lo que Israel esperaba. Para un Judío, Dios es un ser trascendental y no puede convertirse en humano. Aunque el Antiguo Testamento tiene muchos enfoques teológicos que apuntan hacia la Encarnación, esta idea no se sumó. El largo proceso histórico de esperar al Mesías culminó en la Encarnación.
La Encarnación de la Segunda Persona de la Trinidad, Jesucristo, no es un acto aislado. Dios no solo dijo: “Vengo para salvar a la humanidad”. La revelación histórica progresiva de Dios hacia los Judíos culminó en la Encarnación. El Fiat de María (hazlo de acuerdo a su voluntad) lo hizo posible. En la Anunciación del Ángel, de manera inédita, irrevocable, sin repetición, la Segunda Persona de la Trinidad, el Hijo, por la acción del Espíritu Santo, se encarnó de una vez por todas en el vientre de la Virgen María. No es un evento mágico; Es el Espíritu Santo quien ejecutó la Encarnación ya que todos los elementos de la naturaleza sirvieron al propósito de Dios.
Humanidad Verdadera y Divinidad Verdadera de Jesús: La Iglesia Católica siempre ha creído que la encarnación Jesús asumió una naturaleza humana completa sin dejar de ser Dios el Hijo. Jesucristo es igual al Padre en su divinidad e igual a nosotros en su humanidad. Tenga en cuenta que su naturaleza humana es verdadera y auténtica. San Gregorio Nacianceno en el cuarto siglo resumió la verdadera humanidad de Jesús de esta manera: “lo que no fue asumido por Jesús no fue redimido”. Jesús tuvo alma humana, voluntad humana, cuerpo humano, pero sin pecado. El pecado es un elemento extraño a nuestra naturaleza; no fue el plan original de Dios para nosotros pecar. Entonces, Jesús no tuvo que asumir el pecado para ser completamente humano. La sola Persona de Dios el Hijo tenía dos naturalezas: una naturaleza completamente humana como la nuestra y una naturaleza completamente divina como el Padre y el Espíritu Santo.
La Encarnación es una Creación Nueva: Para revocar la maldición de la vieja creación, la Encarnación del Hijo se convierte en una nueva creación. Leemos en Génesis, 1: “En el principio Dios creó los cielos y la tierra …” El Evangelio de Juan dice: “en el principio era la Palabra y la Palabra estaba con Dios y la Palabra era Dios”. Génesis y el Evangelio de Juan son historias paralelas que relacionan la creación antigua y la nueva. Pero de acuerdo con el mismo Evangelio “la Palabra se hizo en carne”. Esto demuestra que Dios no nos salvó de permanecer en el cielo; así no es como Dios eligió salvar a la humanidad (economía de salvación). Cuando Dios decidió salvar a la humanidad, él mismo quiso recrearla: él mismo se hizo humano, él mismo se extendió desde dentro, él mismo trabajó intrínsecamente desde dentro y no desde fuera, él mismo se convirtió en el nuevo Adán en el vientre de la Virgen María, la nueva mujer. Entonces, en el Evangelio de Juan, Jesús es llamado “Hombre” por Poncio Pilato. Adam es el viejo hombre; Jesús es el nuevo Hombre.
Eva es llamada mujer en el libro de Génesis (creación antigua). En el Evangelio de Juan (nueva creación), María es llamada la “Mujer”. Nunca creas tontamente que cuando María le dijo a Jesús en la fiesta de Caná en Galilea “no tienen vino”, Cristo le faltó él por llamándola “mujer”. Lejos de ahí. Esa palabra Mujer implica que María es la nueva Eva. ¿Piensas que Cristo que estableció los 10 mandamientos y que dijo “Honra a tu madre y a tu padre” se contradice a sí mismo al faltarle el respeto a su madre?
La razón por la que Jesús y María son la nueva creación es porque la Encarnación estaba destinada a revertir la vieja creación. Los Padres de la Iglesia lo llamaron “el procedimiento de inversión”. Por ejemplo, si una oveja cae en el pozo, para sacarlo uno debe ir tras él de la misma manera, invertir el procedimiento y luego ir en la dirección opuesta. Adán y Eva pecaron y murieron. Jesucristo no pecó revirtiendo la maldición de Adán. Jesús murió, pero solo para resucitar revirtiendo la maldición de la muerte.
La Encarnación Invierte la maldición del Pecado y la Muerte: Según la tradición de la Iglesia Católica, el Magisterio y las Sagradas Escrituras, el pecado es la causa de la muerte de la persona humana. Al principio, Dios creó a Adán y Eva en el estado de justicia original; él los creó para no pecar y no morir. No era el plan de Dios para ellos pecar. Al pecar, Adán y Eva introducieron la muerte. Imagínense que en un momento de la historia humana no había pecado: el hombre y la mujer vivían históricamente en el estado de justicia original (simbolizado por el Jardín del Edén) pero luego introducieron el pecado. Entonces, para que Cristo revierta la realidad del pecado, él mismo tuvo que bajar y revertirlo: siguió el mismo camino de Adán y Eva, que es la muerte, pero luego resucitó de entre los muertos para deshacer la muerte.
Jesucristo no puede pecar. El sujeto que actúa en esa naturaleza humana es la Segunda Persona de la Trinidad. El sujeto en María es humano y ella estaba dotada de auténtica libertad: Dios le impidió el pecado original y ella decidió no pecar. A pesar de que fue concebida sin un pecado original, María todavía tenía voluntad libre y decidió no pecar hasta el final de su vida. Si la muerte es el resultado del pecado, y Jesús no pecó, ¿por qué murió? Murió sólo para levantarse y revertir la maldición de la muerte. María tampoco pecó, ¿ella murió? Ella solo durmió (kimisis) para ser asumida en el cielo cuerpo y alma (su muerte no es como la nuestra porque nunca tuvo el pecado original).
La salvación de Cristo es redentora por naturaleza: La manera en que Jesucristo salvó a la humanidad es pagando el precio del pecado al Padre: eso se llama redención. El Padre envía a su Hijo (imagen del Padre) para redimir a la humanidad. Cuando introducimos el pecado en el mundo, creamos una brecha infinita entre Dios y la humanidad. La distancia es infinita porque todo en Dios es infinito. Su misericordia es infinita, su amor es infinito, su vida es infinita, todas las propiedades de Dios son una sola y todas son infinitas. Ningún ser humano en el Antiguo Testamento podría ver llenado este vacío devolviendo la naturaleza humana al Padre. La razón es porque todos los mediadores eran meros seres humanos y, por lo tanto, no podían alcanzar al Dios infinito. Jesucristo es el único que puede hacerlo porque es igual al Padre en su divinidad e igual a nosotros en su humanidad. La carta al Hebreo relata: “En el pasado, Dios nos habló a través de los Profetas, pero en estos últimos días él mismo nos habló a través de Su único Hijo”. La mediación de Jesús es perfecta porque él está al mismo tiempo aquí con nosotros y allí con el Padre. Siendo una Persona y uniendo en su Persona la naturaleza humana y divina, Jesús rompió la brecha entre Dios el Padre y la humanidad. Jesús es el mediador entre Dios y la humanidad, no en el sentido de que Jesús está “flotando” en algún lugar entre el Padre Dios arriba y la humanidad abajo.
¿Cómo se realizó la redención?: Todo el misterio de la Encarnación del Hijo reside en el hecho de que cuando Jesús asumió la naturaleza humana, el sujeto que actuaba en esa naturaleza humana todavía era divino. Cuando Jesús caminaba por las calles de Jerusalén, en realidad era Dios caminando en esas calles pero en su naturaleza humana. Cuando Jesús caminó sobre el agua, Dios caminó sobre el agua pero en su naturaleza humana. Cuando Jesús lloró, ¿lloró Dios? Sí, pero en su naturaleza humana. Cuando Jesús murió en la cruz, ¿Murió Dios en la cruz? Sí, pero en su naturaleza humana, no en su naturaleza divina; él no puede morir en su naturaleza divina. El Hijo se vació asumiendo la naturaleza humana con todas sus limitaciones (Filipos, 2). Dios mismo tomó la forma de un esclavo, vivió entre nosotros. Juan 1 relata que “la palabra se hizo y habitó entre nosotros”. Las palabras “habitó entre nosotros” en griego son “eskinosen”, que significa que la Palabra de Dios estableció su “tienda” entre nuestras tiendas.
Cuando Jesús ascendió al cielo, ¿ascendió Dios al cielo? sí, pero en su naturaleza humana. Jesucristo está ahora sentado a la derecha del Padre de una manera que es diferente a la de la Encarnación. Antes de la Encarnación, el Hijo no tenía una naturaleza humana en el seno de la Santísima Trinidad. Después de la Encarnación, su resurrección y su ascensión al cielo, la naturaleza humana resucitada de Jesús se convirtió en parte de la Trinidad. ¿Quién le dio esa naturaleza? María. Jesús fue concebido en el vientre de la Virgen María según las leyes de la gestación. Él creció en su útero como todos los bebés crecen en el vientre de sus madres. Debido a que la naturaleza humana de Jesús fue el instrumento de nuestra salvación y porque María le dio esa naturaleza. Es contra él plan de Dios ignorar la parte que tuvo María en el misterio de nuestra salvación. Su presencia en la redención de su Hijo es eterna.
La naturaleza humana que Jesús tomó del vientre de La Virgen María y que se usa como un instrumento de salvación, es ahora mismo con Dios el Padre y el Espíritu Santo. Cada vez que una persona humana muere y se acerca al Padre, el Padre ve dos cosas: por un lado, ve a un pecador que ha creado una distancia infinita de Dios; por otro lado, el Padre ve la naturaleza humana resucitada de Jesús. El Padre no mira a la persona humana directamente debido a la naturaleza resucitada de Cristo. Ahora el Padre tiene dos opciones: la primera opción es el rechazo a causa del mal del pecado. La segunda opción, debido a la naturaleza humana resucitada de Cristo, el Padre mirará a la persona humana y verá que el mal del pecado ha sido pagado por la sangre del cordero. En otras palabras, ¿cuál es más fuerte el mal del pecado que nos separa infinitamente del Padre, o el amor infinito entre el Padre y el Hijo? Por supuesto, el eterno amor trinitario es más fuerte. En otras palabras, la única razón por la cual nuestra naturaleza tendrá acceso al Padre es porque la naturaleza de Jesús puso un signo en nuestra naturaleza “redimido por mi sangre”. En ese sentido, San Pablo dijo que en la cruz Jesús clavó la deuda que nosotros le debíamos al Padre desde el principio de los tiempos hasta ahora. La sangre de Cristo pagó al Padre de una vez por todas el precio eterno de la muerte. Eso fue posible sólo porque Cristo es divino. La salvación de Cristo es redentora por naturaleza porque Jesús pagó nuestra deuda eterna con Dios.
By Father Antoine (Anthony) Nachef, STD (Doctorate in Sacred Theology)