The Paradox that is the Incarnation


And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

The Incarnation of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ - the teaching that the eternal God, existing "before" time, Maker of all things: visible and invisible, He Who is without beginning or end, the ineffable, unknowable God, could become flesh and be born as a tiny baby, is completely absurd. And it is precisely this absurdity that makes it all the more awe-inspiring when we realise that it is indeed true. It is truly a paradox, and there is so much of our hymnody and poetry that reflects this. Only today, I came across this from Blessed Augustine of Hippo:

Who is this infant? Infant, He is called, that is, "in-fans", one who cannot speak. So that He is both speechless infant and Word of God.

Sermon 190 On the Lord's Nativity.

The Troparion for the Feast of the Nativity in the Byzantine Rite encompasses something of this in the wise men coming from afar to pay homage to this baby:

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined upon the world the light of knowledge. For thereby, they that worshipped the stars were taught by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee!

I think, though, that what illustrates this best for me is the Christmass carol, The Great God of Heaven is come down to Earth. The entire carol is simply a series of contrasts between the human and divine natures of Christ, and a rejoicing in the perfect hypostatic union of the two. Here are some excerpts:

The Great God of heaven is come down to earth,
his mother a virgin, and sinless his birth;
the Father eternal, his Father alone;
He sleeps in the manger, He reigns on the throne.

Then there's this wonderfully homely couplet in the second verse:

Before him their faces the Seraphim hide,
while Joseph stands waiting, unscared, by his side.

But finally, what always brings awe to my heart and a tear to my eye, is this verse:

O wonder of wonders! which none can unfold:
the Ancient of Days is an hour or two old,
the Maker of all things is made of the earth,
Man is worshipped by Angels, and God comes to birth!

I don't really think that there's anything more to be said, except perhaps Marana'tha: come, Lord Jesus!

4 responses:

Ian said...

Nice new look! And wonderful reflections and hymns.

And yes, Marana'tha!

seasick said...

Those hymns remind me of some of the great bits of Charles Wesley's incarnation hymns. In particular, I love:

Being's source begins to be,
and God himself is born!
(from Glory be to God on high, number 684 here)

Michael said...

Thanks, Ian! I'm rather pleased with the result and it's good to hear rom others too. I hope you're well amidst the busyness. :-)

Seasick, thank you so much for that! I looked it up in The Methodist Hymn Book (1933) and was delighted to find that such a gem has been gracing my bookshelf for some time.

Stand amazed, ye heavens, at this;
see the Lord of earth and skies:
humbled to the dust He is,
and in a manger lies.


Yum.

seasick said...

An absolute pleasure. If you have your MHB to hand, Let earth and heaven combine (142) is also great (not that I'm biased or anything...).

A happy and blessed Christmas to you.

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