St. Ephraim the Syrian, poetically captures the mystery of the incarnation of God which we celebrate at Christmas. Look at Christ, then look again. We can see Him as both God and human, but also as either God or human. It is, as I’ve noted before for me as a photographer – I can pay attention to the big picture, the landscape, only at the expense of the smaller details. My lens widens my view. Or, I can use the macro-lens and focus on the detail, but only at the expense of losing sight of the big picture. My lens through which I see the world won’t let me view fully both at the same time. Both views can be beautiful and worth capturing in pictures, but I need to switch between lenses and so can only really view one at a time. My mind knows both views exist and appreciates both, but isn’t able to picture both simultaneously.
St Ephrem lyrically expresses the theology of Christ:
We come to see You as God,
and, lo! You are a human:
we come to see You as human,
and there shines forth the Light of Your Godhead!
(adapted from Hymns and Homilies of St. Ephraim the Syrian, Kindle Loc 3039-40)
The mystery of the incarnation is that we see the God-man Jesus Christ, fully God and fully human. It is also true though that in most encounters with Christ people tend to focus on His divinity or His humanity. We do this not because we can’t accept the truth but because the truth is beyond comprehension. If we know the theology of Christ, we can only marvel at how it is possible for Jesus to be both God and human. The mystery and marvel of who Jesus caused many to wonder whether His mother gave to birth to God or to a man. Holding the truth together was the constant challenge in early Christian theology. God in the flesh – God becomes that which is not God. God able to do what seems impossible.