The Christ Child: So That We can See God

This year the 2nd Sunday before Christmas falls on December 11.  “‘The Sunday of the Forefathers’, the second Sunday before Christmas (for which the Gospel reading is Luke 14:16-24), marks the commemoration of Christ’s ancestors ‘according to the flesh’.”  (footnote in St. Gregory Palamas: The Homilies, p 634)  In the current Orthodox liturgical tradition, we now begin to contemplate the true meaning of the Nativity in the Flesh of our Lord God and  Savior, Jesus Christ.

Some may wonder whether the entire event of ancestral sin and the Fall of Adam and Eve was even necessary.  Was the incarnation of the Word really needed for out salvation?  Couldn’t God have made humans perfect from the beginning and thus eliminated the need for His Son being crucified?  Such questions have existed from the earliest days of Christianity.  St. Irenaeus of Lyon (d. 202AD) wrote:

“ ‘Could not God make people perfect right at the beginning?’ someone may ask. Take the example of a very small child. The mother can give her baby grown up food, but the baby is still unable to take adult nourishment. Similarly, God could have given humanity perfection right at the beginning, but humanity could not have received it because it was only a child.

For that reason Our Lord, who sums up all things in himself, when he came on earth in these last days, came not in the full glory which he could have done, but in a form we could see. Certainly, he could have come in his imperishable glory, but we should not have been able to bear the greatness of his majesty. Therefore, like giving milk to infants, the perfect Bread of the Father revealed himself to us on earth in human form, so that we might be nourished by His Word like babes at the breast and so by degrees become strong enough to digest the Word of God.” (Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary, p 28)

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