Written by Daniel Ibrahim
15 January, 2023
Daniel is an OCCM member studying at the University of Florida
As we approach the season filled with a plethora of joyous Feasts including the Nativity,
Circumcision, and Theophany, it becomes easy to fall into the deception that we are
commemorating historic moments in history. In this day and age and especially in Western
society, so much revolves around ensuring gifts are bought, the tree is decorated, the hot
chocolate is ready, and that the music is played before December. Yet, characterizing these
Feasts as historical occasions sells ourselves short of the blessings that come along with the
Incarnation. After all, praising in the Friday Theotokia, “He took what is ours and gave us what is His"must mean something more than being in our midst. Not only must we recognize these blessings, but we must also center our lives around them and live out each one accordingly. I wish to share two blessings given to us resulting from the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ: salvation and victory over the devil and the temptations that inflict the world.
First, the blessing of salvation. We see in the book of Genesis, the Lord God commanded
Adam and Eve saying, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Yet the devil perverted this by saying, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). We have come to find that this was half true. For indeed we were given knowledge of good and evil, yet rather than being faultless like God, the wages of our sin was death. And because of our sin through Adam, not only was our nature corrupted but the whole world was under the sway of sin and the punishment of death. Thus, when Adam sinned, we all sinned. Just as it says in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned–” (Romans 5:12).
If God assured that should man eat or touch of the fruit, he shall surely die, and if the
wage of sin truly is death, then someone is to receive justice for the law God has established.
Yet, it cannot be anyone. For if it were a regular man, then he is subject to the same bondage as everyone born of women, born of the original sin inherited from Adam and Eve. And even if it was a regular man, one man cannot account for the sins of the rest of humanity. But it cannot be God because being God assumes infallibility. And if God is all-perfect, then he cannot be under the bondage of sin. Therefore, it must be one that assumes our nature who is both fully human and fully divine. It is for this reason that the Son of God became the Son of Man so that man would through Christ, become a son of God. As a result of His incarnation and life-giving death, Christ took our nature to unite and sanctify it with His divinity. Such is why the confession states in every Divine Liturgy, “He made It one with His divinity without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration.” Thus, every time a child is baptized, they die and resurrect with Christ and are a new creation by putting on the new nature that was washed with the blood of the True Lamb. This child becomes born of the Spirit which ultimately becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit through Chrismation with the Holy Myron oil. The punishment of death no longer chains the child which once plagued all of humanity before the cross.
Second, He has given us the power to have victory over the devil and the temptations
that inflict the world. In the Gospel of John, Christ says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” H.E. Metropolitan Youssef uses a beautiful example to explain this verse. It is as if one comes and tells you the exam is impossible, but don’t be afraid, I passed. You might be wondering, “Well how does this impact me?” To properly understand this, we must realize first and foremost He came to save you individually, BY NAME. Thus, by uniting with Him, His victory becomes my victory. This differs from one who tells you that they passed their exam because their success is theirs alone, yet Christ’s victory is all-embracing. This is why the Lord allowed Himself to be tempted. So that by being tempted, He may overcome and by overcoming, we may overcome with Him. And if I am to fall, His life-giving Body and Blood are presented on the altar as an everlasting sacrifice along with the sacrament of repentance and confession for the remission of sins.
So how do I benefit from the Incarnation and how do I live the blessings from it? These
blessings only apply should I choose to unite with Christ. It is crucial to realize that He is in me and I in him. One might say but the wage of sin is still death. That no longer binds me! I have been buried with Him in baptism and am renewed through the sacraments to unite with Him once more and I may enjoy these blessings. This is the vital nature of the orthopraxy (1) the Church asks of us and a pillar OCCM stands upon. As St. James states, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). The Incarnation was more than a historical event or a celebration of a birthday, it was for me specifically (literally). God created man in His image, and it was Him who came to restore the painting of Him which we blurred. As long as I strive to unite with Christ through the sacraments, I inherit the blessings of the Incarnation that come as a result of Christ coming to cleanse me from my filth.
(1) correctness of action or practice