December 25, 2013
FROM THE ARCHIVES: "I AM MAN":
The Incarnation (Frank Sheed, From A Map of Life)
Christ is God-made-man: that is He is truly God and He is truly man. He is God-with the nature of God: He took to Himself and made His own a complete human nature-a real human body and a real human soul. He is, then, one person-God-with two natures-divine and human. Nor is all this mere abstract matter, of no real concern to us. Everything in our life is bound up with the one person and the two natures of Christ. We must grasp this central luminous fact, or everything remains in darkness.
The distinction between person and nature is not some deep and hidden thing to which philosophy only comes after centuries of study. It is, on the contrary, a distinction so obvious that the smallest child who can talk at all makes it automatically. If in the half-light he sees a vague outline that might be anything, he asks "What is that?" If, on the other hand, he can see that it is a human being, but cannot distinguish or does not recognize the features, he asks "Who is that?" The distinction between what and who is the distinction between nature and person. Of every man the two questions-what is he? and who is he?-can be answered. Every man, in other words, is both a nature and a person. Into my every action, nature and person enter. For instance I speak. I, the person, speak. But I am able to speak only because I am a man, because it is of my nature to speak. I discover that there are all sorts of things I can do: and all sorts of things I cannot do. My nature decides. I can think, speak, walk: these actions go with the nature of man, which I have. I cannot fly, for this goes with the nature of a bird, which I have not.
My nature, then, decides what I can do: it may be thought of as settling the sphere of action possible to me. According to my nature, I can act: apart from it, I cannot. But my nature does not do these things-I, the person, do them. It is not my nature that speaks, walks, thinks: it is I, the person.
A man may then be thought of as a person-who acts-and a nature-which decides the field in which he acts. In man there is simply one nature to one person. In Christ there are two natures to one person: and our minds used to the one-nature-to-one-person state of man tend to cry out that there is a contradiction in the idea of two natures to one person.
But once it has been grasped that "person" and "nature" are not identical in meaning: once it has been grasped that the person acts and the nature is that principle in him which decides his sphere of action, then we see that mysterious as Our Lord's person and nature may be, there is no contradiction. God the Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, assumed-took to Himself-a human nature: made it His own: not simply as something which He could use as a convenient sphere to act in, but really as His own: just as our nature is our own. In us the relation of person and nature is such that not merely do we say "I have a human nature" (as we might say "I have an umbrella") but person and nature are so fused in one concrete reality that we say "I am a man." So God the Son can say not only "I am God with a human nature to act in" but in the most absolute fullness of meaning He can say "I am man." He does not simply act as man: He is man-as truly man as we.
This one person has two spheres of action: Christ our Lord could act either in His nature as God or in His nature as man. Remember the principle stated a few paragraphs back, that it is not the nature that acts, but the person. Therefore, whether He was acting in His divine nature or in His human nature, it was always the person who acted: and there was only the one person-God.
Then this is the position. Christ is God: therefore whatever Christ did, God did. When Christ acted in His divine nature (as when He raised the dead to life) it was God who did it: when Christ acted in His human nature (as when He was born, suffered and died) it was God who did it: God was born, God suffered, God died. For it is the person who acts: and Christ is God.
Posted by oj at December 25, 2013 7:24 AM
[originally posted: 12/28/08]