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What We Considered Unworthy, God Made Glorious

The Ascension, by Benjamin West

As God [Jesus] was never without those graces which He received as man, and by that means communicated to our nature; His union with which will by no means affect His Divinity, so as to give it any occasion of soliciting such graces. On the contrary, it highly glorified the nature it assumed, and very richly benefitted the race of man.

As the Word of God, and as being in the form of God, His creatures always adored Him; and, although He has become man, even the man Christ Jesus, He still exercises an absolute dominion over the whole creation. All bend their knees at this Holy Name, and acknowledge that the Incarnation and cruel death of the Son of God, instead of derogating from, do rather conduce to the glory of God the Father.

For it is indeed to the glory of the Father, that man, created and afterwards lost, should be found again; and should be snatched from death and given life once more, and should become the very temple of God.

How highly is our nature dignified, since the Son of the Most High God is adored Incarnate! Angels and Archangels and all the heavenly host now sing those praises to the Blessed Jesus, which before they had always sung to God the Word.

And so after this, it will not be a matter of such great surprise to the heavenly host to see such bodies as ours, of the same nature and form as our Lord’s, admitted and welcomed into those glorious mansions; as otherwise we may suppose it must have been. For this would not have happened unless He, who is in the form of God, had taken upon Himself the form of a servant, and had been pleased to humble Himself to suffer the cruel death of the Cross.

Behold, then, what men considered unworthy of the Wisdom of God, namely, the infamy of the death of the Cross, has become of all things the most glorious! For the certainty of our resurrection entirely hinges upon this; and hence it is, according to the prediction of the Prophet, not Israel only, but the whole Gentile world renounce their idols, and acknowledge the true God, the Father of Christ Jesus. The impostures of evil spirits are all defeated, and the true God alone is worshipped in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For since, when our Lord is believed on as the Son of God in the nature of man, and by the name of Jesus, and the knowledge of the Father is conveyed to us through Him, it is plain, as has been shown, that not the Word, as such, but our nature receives additional graces and privileges. For it follows from His having a body of the same nature as ours, that we are become the temples and the sons of God, so that even in us the Lord is now worshipped, and they who behold us may cry out in the words of the Apostle, that “God is in us of a truth” (1 Cor. 14:25).

As S. John also says in his Gospel, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (S. John 1:12); and again, in his Epistle, “Hereby we know that He abideth in us by His Spirit which He hath given us” (1 S. John 3:24). And this is an instance of His great goodness towards us that He has thus exalted our human nature by personally uniting it with His Divine nature. This He condescended to do for our sakes, that Almighty God, from whom all our good things do come, should surpass all other manifestations of His favour in enlarging the object of them by the addition of a part for the redemption of the whole.

Our Saviour humbled Himself exceedingly when He took upon Him our frail unworthy nature. He assumed the form of a servant in making that flesh, which was enslaved to sin, a part of Himself. He received no advantage from doing this. It was impossible for the Word of God to do so, whose being is incapable of any improvement. Our nature gained all the benefit, for “He is the Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (S. John 1:9).

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This excerpt is adapted from Athanasius of Alexandria, The Orations of S. Athanasius against the Arians (London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden, & Welsh, 1893), 56–57.

Comments

  1. Francis McGlynn says:

    What man today considers himself capable of doing through progress God has already accomplished in Christ Jesus. Since man’s belief in progress denies the eternal truth of God, faith in God accepts in humility that man cannot raise himself but only be raised by God.

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