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Trinity

Yesterday’s post on the Visitation produced, as does any discussion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the usual response from Bosco to the effect that she was ‘just a woman’ and that her son was ‘just a man’; no one claimed more than the first, but the latter is heresy. Bosco, as ever, quoted the usual verses about Jesus being the ‘Son of Man’, and between us, Servus Fidelis, myself and Bosco, went through a karaoke version of the Arian crisis. It was, therefore, refreshing to find that our relatively new commentator, Theophiletos, had managed, in the middle of moving house, to find access to the internet to post a comment which deserves rescuing from the comments section and setting out in full here. This is what he wrote:

“The fact that Jesus did not stop being God when he became incarnate is proven by Paul’s statement, “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9), and is implied by Jesus’s own statement that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt 12:8). After all, who has authority over the Sabbath but God who instituted the Sabbath? Jesus also said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), which, while not precise, probably should be understood to imply that Jesus is still God. Again, Jesus said, “Just as the Father has life in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26), which expressly states that a divine attribute held by God the Father is also held by Jesus as the Son of God. The opponents of Jesus understood him to be claiming to be God (John 5:18). The logic of John 1:14 presumes that the Word of God (who was God and with God, according to John 1:1) dwelt among humanity (i.e. became incarnate) while still possessing the “glory as of the only begotten from the Father.” And the prayer of Jesus in John 17 states not only that the Father is in Jesus, but also that Jesus is in the Father, and Jesus prayed that during the time between his birth and his crucifixion. (There’s also a textual variant at John 3:13, where the reading that I suspect is correct (for various technical reasons) states that Jesus while incarnate is in fact still present in heaven.) True, Jesus did not go around saying, “I am God,” but had he done so he would simply have been misunderstood by those around him. Instead, he taught (and the Bible teaches) that he is God even while incarnate. (By the way, the incarnation didn’t stop with the crucifixion and burial; Jesus was raised bodily from the dead. So if Jesus is God and incarnate as a person now, there is no reason he couldn’t be both God and human from his birth.)

Some people say that Jesus stopped using his divine powers during his incarnation (or, as I have seen a few people state it crudely, that Jesus stopped being God), usually citing Philippians 2:6-8, that Jesus “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself.” The question is what he “emptied himself” of. It’s parallel to Paul’s phrase in the next verse that “he humbled himself,” and is explained in its own verse by “taking the form of a slave, and being made in the likeness of men.” In other words, Paul is talking about Jesus choosing to give up his divine glory and the divine prerogative of commanding worship, in order to become what we are. The paradox here is that Jesus “emptied himself” not by giving up what he had, but by taking on himself our own nature, which was empty and lacking in any virtue.

Your king analogy works better than you think. The king doesn’t cease to be the king when he takes off his crown; he just ceases to be recognizable as the king to those who do not know him. So Jesus, when he was born, did not cease to be God, but was not recognizable as God by those who did not know God.”

This seems to me as good a summary of the orthodox position as I have read in short compass, and it is a pleasure to share it with others here who wonder about how Our Lady can be the ‘Mother of God’, and want to know why it matters. It is, as St Cyril of Alexandria said long ago, the key to understanding that the Son is God and Man simultaneously, not sequentially.