Saturday in the Last Week of Ordinary Time

The Nicene Creed

Baptism, Forgiveness, Resurrection, and World without End

We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins; we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come.  Amen.

We come to both the end of the Creed and the end of the Church Year.  Tomorrow marks the “First Sunday in Advent” and the season of waiting and expectation for our Lord’s return.  But until then…

“We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins.”  Once again I tread on ground where our several communions differ, and it is a great sorrow.  But I cannot agree that a sacrament, no matter how central to the Christian faith and the Church of Jesus Christ, remits sins in and of itself.  Such a view smacks more of magic than of reality.  Our sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ of which baptism is an indispensible sign.  In other words, if some churches infuse baptism with too much significance, many evangelical churches treat it with too little, as if it were an option or something only done out of obedience.  I do not treat baptism as “only” a sign but as a powerful symbol and even a means of grace which it ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.

“We look forward to the resurrection of the dead.”  I have treated the resurrection in many places in these devotions.  Suffice it to say that the resurrection of the human body at the end of time is a nonnegotiable teaching of the Christian faith.  It matters not that it is impossible in man’s estimation; in short, the One who made us is the One who can put us back together.  God made us embodied souls and that is the way we shall be in the afterlife—either glorious and fit for heaven or wretched and fit for damnation.  We are the hybrids of the universe—soul and body—and if Christ is your Savior, he has saved you one and all.  So rejoice that one day your tired body will slough off its infirmities and put on incorruption and immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53-55). 

“And the life in the world to come.”  And this is the promise that no one can resist, or no one should resist.  God’s final word to His people is “life.”  And in that one word is bound up all joy, peace, felicity, anything a fully redeemed soul could ever want.  And it will be such a life—full of both energy and complacency, fully alive and fully at rest.  All needs will be met—no tears, crying, or pain.  And best of all, what the ancients and medievals called, “the vision of God,” what the Psalmist so longed for, “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” (27:4)—this is heaven itself to the one who has completely and totally fallen in love with God, with the one who has discovered that God has made him for Himself and that his heart can only rest in Him.  Streets of gold, jeweled gates—it all means nothing without Him.  And anything means everything because of Him.

“Amen.”  So be it; every bit of it.

It is my prayer that we will all be able to let this vision shape our lives, thoughts, words, and actions.  Nothing purifies like the vision of God; hence, our Lord said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Friday in the Last Week of Ordinary Time

The Nicene Creed

One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic

We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church

It is the greatest scandal of the Christian faith that the Church of Jesus Christ is so divided; indeed, this division has often been the blight of missionary efforts as pagans scratch their heads over the infighting and contradictory claims among the several branches of the Church.  At the same time, there have always been heretics in the Church and Paul suggests there always will be (1 Corinthians 11:19).  But as far as believers are concerned, our Lord prayed “that they may become perfectly one” (John 17:23).  Until that perfect unity is realized, we must content ourselves with a mockery thereof in what theologians refer to as the “invisible” church—as if there were such things as invisible Christians.

Yet, there are marks of the Church of Jesus Christ which the Creed bears out which are not debatable:

1) The Church of Jesus Christ is ONE.  The Church is Christ’s body, and our Lord cannot have more than one body.  Obviously that body transcends space and even time; that is, more saints are in heaven than are on earth.  But the Lord knows those who are his (2 Timothy 2:19; John 10:14), so that there shall ever be “one flock, one Shepherd” (John 10:16).

2) The Church of Jesus Christ is HOLY.  It is made up of those who have been set apart unto our Lord’s service, those for whom the Lord laid down his life (John 10:15), those who have been washed, sanctified, and justified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).

3) The Church of Jesus Christ is CATHOLIC. We do not mean Roman Catholic, but we do mean that the Church of Jesus Christ is that church of believers which has remained true to the apostolic teaching down through the ages in the face of heretics and even persecution.  It is closely related to the word, “orthodoxy,” meaning “right worship of doctrine.”  To sum: That is catholic and orthodox which the Church has always taught at all times and all places.

4) The Church of Jesus Christ is APOSTOLIC.  No church can claim to be true which is not based upon the teaching of the apostles which makeup the New Testament.  Today there are people who attempt to drive a wedge between Christ and his apostles, namely because they don’t like some things that Paul said.  The Creed makes it clear that the Church is founded upon the teaching of the Apostles who were those especially chosen, taught, and commissioned by our Lord to preach and teach his word.  We can allow no daylight between the apostolic doctrine and any one of the New Testament writings since the apostolic doctrine comprises the whole of the New Testament writings—to wit, each and every book was written by an apostle or someone closely related thereto!  Thus, orthodoxy and catholicity are intricately tied to apostolicity upon which unity and holiness stand.

Thus, the Church of Jesus Christ is that group of believers crossing over time and space who have been set apart unto him and who strive to conform themselves to the image of His Son as that doctrine and way of life has been revealed in the apostolic writings (i.e., the New Testament), the understanding of which has ever been taught by the Church in all times and places.

Thursday in the Last Week of Ordinary Time

The Nicene Creed

And I believe in the Holy Spirit

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life;

who proceeds from the Father and the Son;

who with the Father and Son together is worshiped and glorified;

who spoke by the prophets

I have sinned in leaving myself just one day to speak of the Holy Spirit; but, we do not here speak of all that he does for us on which theologians have written tomes, only of his divine nature and Person equal to the Father and the Son.

What we call the Nicene Creed is really the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381, an expansion of the Creed of Nicaea in 325 where the Bishops defined the relationship between the Father and the Son as being of one nature and substance (homoousios) to combat the heresy of Arius.  The Bishops who met in Constantinople were fighting a related heresy propounded by a certain Macedonius who taught that the Holy Spirit was not God but a creation of Him.  The Fathers at the Council rejected this and affirmed the complete divinity of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son.  It is important that we understand that the Bishops were not deciding between two opinions as to which one was best; the Bishops were decreeing what the Church had always taught based upon her understanding of holy Scripture.  And what she had taught for three-hundred years was that the Holy Spirit was “the Lord and Giver of Life.”  Indeed, the Holy Spirit was there at creation “hovering over the face of the waters” when the world was yet in its unformed shape (Genesis 1:1-2).  The power of the Holy Spirit took the love of the Father and the design of the Son and turned primeval chaos to cosmos.  And the Spirit is also the one who rebirths fallen men bringing new life where sin and death reigned (John 3:5-8).  That is, the Spirit gives life both physical and spiritual—which only God can do.  Moreover, he was the Spirit who spoke through the prophets of both the Old and New Testaments (2 Peter 1:21).  And for this, the Holy Spirit is both worshiped and glorified—as he had always been in the Church’s liturgy.

So we have a God who is “one in being, three in person,” the Early Church declared.  Our God is one, but not a monad; He is three but not divided.  To sum, our God is much more than we can imagine—so incomprehensible to us but ever so lovely—always filling our minds with wonder and amazement, and our hearts with adoration and worship.


Perhaps you have never heard but there is a tremendous controversy in the history of the Church over the Creed, and it concerns what in Latin makes for one word: filioque.  It occurs in that part of the stanza about the Holy Spirit which says, “who proceeds from the Father and the Son.”  It’s the, “and the Son” (in Latin, filioque), that has generated so much controversy.  Why?

The original text of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed says, “who proceeds from the Father”; it says nothing about the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son as well.  “Does this really matter?” you ask.  Well, it has from the ninth century until now and was the cause of schism in that century between the Eastern and Western Churches, what are now referred to as the Orthodox Churches in the East (Greece, Balkans, modern-day Turkey and much of the Middle East) and the Catholic and Protestant Churches in the West (Europe and America).  Of course, there are many other issues dividing the Church today, but this one still remains.

So why does it matter?  It seems like some fine point of doctrine over which only the most fastidious theologians would argue.  The issues lie here:

1) As I said, the original Creed did not include, “and the Son.”  For the Churches of the East, who are scrupulous about Tradition, this settles the matter.  Once a Creed has been agreed upon by bishops from all churches involved (as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan was in 381), no single church can go back and change it.  There is some legitimacy in this argument.  To the Churches in the East, changing the Creed in the West was an unforgiveable act of impudence.  The fact that the papacy later tried to impose the filioque on the Eastern Churches only made matters worse.

2) There are some very subtle theological issues regarding the doctrine of the Trinity.  Though there never was a time when any one of the three were not, the Eastern Churches see the filioque: a) as an affront to the Father’s position as the sole origin of the other two from which the Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds; and, b) as a subordination of the Holy Spirit to the Son.

3) The Catholic Church originally saw the importance of the filioque in proving the divinity of the Holy Spirit against those in the West who denied it.  Protestant churches have seen the filioque as a means of tying the Spirit to the word as the one who enlightens our minds to the meaning of Scripture against those who would claim the Spirit as the origin for every misbegotten and heretical idea, dream, vision, teaching they say they had.

Much of the confusion in ancient times centered around the distinction of the “immanent” Trinity and the “economic” Trinity.  The immanent (or theological) Trinity regards the relations of the Persons to one another within the Godhead, while the economic concerns the relations of the Persons of the Triune God with the world.  The Eastern Orthodox point to John 15:26 (“the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father”) as referring to the immanent Trinity (the relations among the Persons within the Godhead itself) while considering those passages which speak of the Spirit as sent from the Son as referring to the economic Trinity (the relations of the Persons working together in the world).  This may seem like splitting hairs to the uninitiated but these were the thoughts of Eastern theologians before the Western Churches added the filioque.

It seems like a sensible compromise to me: 1) to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone while the Son is begotten of the Father alone in their respective origins from that same Father in the internal workings of the Triune God; and, 2) then to add that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son as that concerns the work of the one God and three Persons in the world. 

Of course, compromise is not the issue but truth.  And here I profess my opinion: that the East is correct concerning the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit within the Godhead “in the beginning,” affirming that such a doctrine protects the singularity of the Father’s origination of the other two, while also protecting the integrity of the Holy Spirit’s equality with the Son.  At the same time, I equally affirm that the Spirit is sent by both the Father and the Son (or sent from the Father through the Son) as that sending involves the work of the Triune God in the world as the Spirit convicts and convinces men of their need for Christ (John 16:8-15) and enlightens believers’ minds to the meaning of the word of God (Acts 16:14; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).

But may such theological wranglings ultimately be resolved by the One who heals all breaches—that the Church may be one as our Lord so prayed for us (John 17:20-26).

Wednesday in the Last Week of Ordinary Time

The Nicene Creed

And He Shall Come to Judge

And he shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end

Our world was not meant to last forever; it is of a definite duration.  And the One who has defined those limits is the Father Himself.  In short, history is not cyclical (though nature is) but linear: It had a beginning in Eden, a middle in Bethlehem, and it will have an end when our Lord returns upon clouds of glory.  I shall not argue particulars of eschatology: the number of resurrections and judgments, millennial theories, and so on.  These are the matters we leave to opinion; a Creed is supposed to define the parameters of the Faith within which one may live with assurance.  The Nicene Creed does this well.  It tells us that Christ shall one day return and bring the world as we know it to an end so that he may gather us into a better one.

But before the beginning of that new world (“Kingdom” was our Lord’s word), there must be a judgment—a coming to terms with every person who has ever lived about his deeds while in the body.  And this is the task of the Son.  Jesus said, “The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son…And [the Father] has given [the Son] authority to execute judgment because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:22, 27).  This is the right the Son has earned from the Father as that Person of the Triune God who became man, suffered, died, was buried, and rose again—who conquered sin and death.  The Son has the right to judge those who have gladly received him—and the right to judge those who have insolently rejected him.  The former he will acquit and receive into his everlasting Kingdom; the latter he shall condemn to eternal punishment in the company of the devil and his minions.  The Father won’t do it; the Holy Spirit won’t do it; only the Son will do it as the one who was condemned by those who knew him not and now know him not.  This is the ultimate expression of the Son’s preeminence.

And when he comes, it shall be “with glory” and “every eye will see him,” a rounded globe notwithstanding (Revelation 1:7).  And his Kingdom will have no end.  What a beautiful promise.  Do you ever long for home?  I know I do.  Life here is so unnatural.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way, you know.  Pain, suffering, disease, and all caused by sin—it was a hideous thing we wrought when we sinned so long ago.  But one day, matters shall be set right.  No more sorrow or crying or pain anymore, “for the former things [will] have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Sleep well.

Tuesday in the Last Week of Ordinary Time

The Nicene Creed

He Ascended into Heaven

He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father

Having just finished the Book of Hebrews, this clause in the Creed sounds very familiar.  Upon our Lord’s resurrection—a resurrection in which he arose in the body he carried with him before his crucifixion, but a body now under the dominion of the Spirit rather than the flesh—he appeared before his disciples during a forty-day period thus proving his resurrection and the new life they were now promised.  But it was necessary that he go away because: 1) It was obviously improper that he remain as he could never experience death again, and 2) His removal was necessary to make way for the coming and work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-15).

But our Lord’s removal did not mean that his work was finished; indeed, he simply took up another task for which his work on earth had prepared him.  First, there was and is his enthronement at the Father’s Right Hand—the place of honor and power.  This act answers his role as King of kings and Lord of lords, the Conqueror of death and hell, the one before whom all angels, principalities, and powers bow.  His office of Prophet is answered as the Holy Spirit enlightens men’s minds to the word of God as pastors, elders, and teachers proclaim the word he has taught them.

But it is chiefly his priestly office that concerns us, for it was his priestly role he exercised when he acted as both Sacrifice and the One who offered the sacrifice.  And it is his priestly role in which he continues at the Father’s side, making intercession for the saints (Hebrews 7:25).  In other words, from there he is our Great High Priest—the one who forgives and through whom we are forgiven.  To that place, he has ascended with his risen flesh and human nature so that we have been lifted with him into the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), for as our sins became his, his resurrection and life are now ours, awaiting that last trumpet when we shall be changed and mortality put on immortality and corruption incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:53-55).  It was through his priestly office that he accomplished this for us—washing us clean, sanctifying us through his blood, making us acceptable unto the Father, and securing us a place in the heavenlies.

And from there he yet works—interceding on our behalf, providing us strength, power, and endurance for the journey.  And we’ve not far to go; this life is but a breath.  And then, eternity with him and the saints in light.

Monday in the Last Week of Ordinary Time

The Nicene Creed

The Third Day

On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures

The Apostle Paul said it best, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).  It is the resurrection of our Lord and Savior that won the victory.  As much as we like to preach the cross (and we should—1 Corinthians 2:2), the cross would be entirely meaningless without the resurrection.  Moreover, it is his resurrection that ensures ours (1 Corinthians 15:17).

The Creed makes mention that he rose again “in accordance with the Scriptures,” meaning the Old Testament.  The writers of the Gospels were ever showing where Christ fulfilled prophecy, and the resurrection is no exception.  When Christ met two of his disciples after his resurrection, he chided them that they did not understand that the Christ must first suffer before “enter[ing] his glory.” And then “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).  So let us rehearse some of these Old Testament passages which prophesied his resurrection.

1) Jesus himself referred to the Prophet Jonah as foreshadowing his resurrection, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:38-42).  2) The Church always considered this word from Hosea 6:1-2 as prophesying the resurrection: “Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up.  After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him.”  3) Isaiah 53 does not only speak of our Lord’s passion, for “when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (53:10).  4) The Apostle Peter was certain that David referred to the Messiah in Psalm 16:10 where he says, “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (also Acts 2:22-36).  5) The Church has also considered the Prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the “Valley of Dry Bones” as an implicit prophecy of our Lord’s resurrection.

These are just a few.  I would have loved to hear how all the Old Testament preaches the death and resurrection of our Savior on that road to Emmaus.  We must learn to see Christ on every page of the Bible; it’s all about him.


Something we must ever bear in mind is that until our Lord returns, he is the only one to have risen bodily from the dead.  This is the teaching of the New Testament.  Speaking of the order of those who will be resurrected, Paul writes, “Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming all who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:23).  And in another place, Paul writes, “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). 

This might confuse some who are also aware that the Apostle says to the Philippians that “to depart and be with Christ…is far better” (1:23); and, in another place, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).  The key here is “away from the body.”  Indeed, when we die, our souls go to their respective places—either to be with the Lord or apart from him.  But that is not the same as the resurrection of our bodies which happens at our Lord’s return—which means that there is what theologians call the “intermediate state” in which our souls are in Paradise without our bodies (Luke 23:43).  The souls of the wicked go to Hades.  Interestingly, Revelation tells us that in the Day of Judgment, “Death and Hades [will be] thrown into the lake of fire” (20:14), the lake of fire being what we usually think of as “hell.”  At any rate, hades, understood as the intermediate place of the unrighteous dead, will one day be cast into the “lake of fire,” or hell, itself (Greek: gehenna).  Revelation 21:1-22:5 then speaks of the New Heaven and New Earth which shall then become the everlasting abode of the righteous.

But until our Lord’s return, only he has risen—which speaks to his preeminence.  We often speak of the “resurrection of Lazarus” and others but we really shouldn’t. To be exact, these were “resuscitated,” meaning that they were alive, died, then came back to life in this world.  To sum, their souls returned to their earthly bodies—in which bodies they later died again, though their deaths are not recorded (i.e., Lazarus isn’t still walking around).

But our Lord was not merely resuscitated—his soul did not return to a merely earthly body but to a resurrected body.  Oh, it was his body and his flesh and blood (Luke 24:36-42), but such flesh and blood that was no longer under the dominion of nature but of the Spirit.  Hence, in his risen body, Jesus could “appear” in a room where the door was locked (John 20:19) or even disappear (Luke 24:31).  And this is the kind of body we shall have; therefore, “Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

The Last Sunday of Ordinary Time

Psalms 2; 72; Luke 1:26-33; Revelation 1:1-20; 19:11-16

Christ the King

In those churches that follow the Church Calendar very closely, this day is called the “Feast of Christ the King.”  It is a feast of very recent origin (1925) and was not followed with regularity until 1970.  I include it because it seems fitting to me that the last Sunday of the Church Year should pay special honor to our Savior who, though he came in humility, shall one day return in majesty as King of kings and Lord of lords.  (I say, “last Sunday of the Church Year,” as next Sunday shall begin the Season of Advent, the beginning of the new Church Year.)

Each one of the passages above deserves consideration on its own terms, but I shall focus on Luke and the “Annunciation.”  It’s a favorite passage of mine because of the profound mystery it unfolds, that our Savior was “born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4).  But even though God ordains that Jesus be born to parents of no reputation in a town with a poor reputation (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46), the angel, Gabriel, makes clear that this baby is royalty: “He shall be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

An unbeliever might wonder if the angel had the wrong address, for we see nothing in the gospels that indicates that Jesus fit the description of the angel at all.  And yet he was all the angel said he was.  Indeed, the believer responds that Jesus did fit the description; after all, whoever spoke such words that have changed the lives of billions over the centuries turning thieves and murderers into saints?  Whoever performed such miraculous signs?  Whoever raised the dead?  And most important, whoever rose from the dead?  The Jews and Romans were right: he is a king, only of a different kingdom.  And he reigns now from heaven over the hearts of his people.  Oh, he rules the world through his unseen providence and care; but one day, what the believer only sees now by faith, everyone shall then see by sight.  In Psalm 89:3-4, God says, “I have sworn to David my servant: ‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.’”  This is what the angel announced, this was the prophecy that was fulfilled, this is the One who will one day gather us together into a kingdom which shall have no end, where we shall behold the beauty of the Lord and worship the King in the splendor of holiness (Psalms 27:4; 29:2).

Saturday in the Thirty-Third Week of Ordinary Time

The Nicene Creed

Crucified under Pontius Pilate, Suffered, Buried

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried

There are things we wish might have been said in the Creed; for instance, something about his sinless life, his miraculous signs, his wonderful teachings, his innumerable works of mercy.  But the Creed was meant to address only those matters which were most necessary and debated at that time.  Even so, the bishops bequeathed to us a Creed which is as comprehensive as any could ever hope to be in so few words.

After affirming his Incarnation, that Creed rushes to his crucifixion, showing us that it was for this that he came.  The crucifixion was not a surprise to God; it was prophesied in Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 53, and a host of other Old Testament passages.  In short, he came to die—and to rise again, but that will have to wait for tomorrow.  Moreover, he died and was buried, indicating that his death was real.  It was no fabrication.  The gospels never suggest that because he was the Son of God he really didn’t die.  Jesus died on the cross.  His soul parted from his body which was left lifeless in a tomb.  And all of this was for us and for our salvation.  Upon his resurrection, it is that blood which he spilt which washes away our sins, reconciles us unto his Father, and sets us on a path of growing in holiness as His Holy Spirit works his will and way in our lives.  Our Lord’s Incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection is all about our redemption.  Even after our rebellion, our God would not leave us behind.

I must say something about “under Pontius Pilate.”  Why that?  Was that line necessary?  Yes, it was—and is.  It’s not because Christians have a chip on their shoulders about Pilate.  Pilate’s name bears out the historicity of our Lord’s crucifixion.  Pontius Pilate was Procurator over Judea when our Lord was condemned.  His name is in ancient records other than the Bible; he can be dated—which is all to say that ours is an historical faith.  The biblical record is steeped in history and verified by hundreds of sources.  No book has ever been subjected to so much scrutiny.  And yet, it endures the test of time, and most especially in the billions of lives it has touched over the millennia. 

Yes, our Lord came down from heaven all for the purpose of paying the price for our sin and winning us back to our God and King.  And in between those two events was the most selfless life ever lived.  What a God!

Friday in the Thirty-Third Week of Ordinary Time

The Nicene Creed

And Was Made Man

And was Incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man

God became man.  We spoke of this yesterday in regards to the line, “He came down from heaven.”  With today’s part of the Creed, we read of the specifics.  And with these specifics, we read of the work of our Triune God and a woman named, Mary. 

Whenever our God works in the world (which is all the time), all three persons of the Holy Trinity are involved.  The specific work will highlight one of the persons in particular, but all three will be involved in the work.  This is what we see here.  Now He is the Father who sends the Son, the Son refering to this over and again (John 5:23-38; 6:29-57; 7:16-33; 8:42; 9:4; 10:36; 11:42; 12:44-49; 13:20; 16:5; 17:3-25).  Indeed, as the Fount of the Trinity, the Father’s primary work in regards to the other two is to ordain the work to be done and send the Son and Spirit to accomplish that work—which, of course, is never done without Him.  So the Father sends the Son.

But the way the Son must come is as mysterious as anything else in the Christian faith: He must come a man as every man must come; that is, he must be born of woman.  If he will be fully man, he MUST come this way.  On the other hand, he must be different in one essential regard; that is, he must come from and remain God.  If he will be fully God, he MUST come this way (besides, not even God can stop being God).  All of this means that his birth will be a different kind of birth—a virgin birth.

This mystery is described in the most beautiful fashion by Luke’s record of the angel’s words to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (1:35).  The Book of Hebrews agrees advancing on Psalm 40:6: “A body you have prepared for me” (10:5).  So the Holy Spirit prepared the body (and humanity) of our Lord from the Virgin’s womb.  And so the Son of God becomes the Son of Man that sons of men might become sons of God.  The Father did not have to choose to send His Son; but when He made the choice to send (I speak in human terms as if God must think before He acts; i.e., His thoughts, words, and deeds are one), this is the way the Son had to come if he would redeem His people—the Second Adam coming to reverse the work of the first—and become man.  And herein is love.

Thursday in the Thirty-Third Week of Ordinary Time

The Nicene Creed

For Our Salvation

Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven

Here in this line is the amazing claim that Christianity makes: God came down from heaven—the God who made the worlds, the Almighty, the All-knowing, the One who is everywhere but never moves, the One who is eternal, for whom past, present, and future are empty words, the One who cannot die, upon whom all things are dependent for being and for life, all of which would vanish like smoke if He removed from the universe His providential care.  We could never say enough about this God—human language is simply inadequate to describe Him.  All we can do is worship and cry with the seraphim, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8).

And it was this God “who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven.”  And not such as the pagan myths spoke about, where some god takes on human form (that is, merely looks human) and comes down to rape a girl or start a war.  No.  God the Son didn’t just “look like” a man, he didn’t just “seem” to be a man, he didn’t just pop in and pop back out in “human form” (whatever that is).  The Son took upon himself our nature—flesh and blood, mind and will.  He added human nature to his divine nature making one unique and never-done, never-heard-of, non-repeatable, Incarnation.  In short, GOD BECAME MAN.  Along with the crucifixion, this is the scandal of our faith.  We take the scandal for granted because we have heard it all of our lives.  We need to hear it again with fresh ears: GOD BECAME MAN. 

And why did God do this?  For us and for our salvation!  Wow!  God came down not to judge us or destroy us—all of which we deserve.  No.  God came down to save us!  God became man to save us!  God joined our human nature to His divine nature that he may become one of us, live our life, conquer temptation, destroy sin and kill death through his death and resurrection.  No other religion teaches this; no other faith knows this.  Other religions might have “avatars” and other such irrelevant inventions but only the Christian faith teaches that God became man for the salvation of his people.  This is the doctrine of the Incarnation and it is the central piece of the Christian faith.

Under no obligation but His own promise from Genesis 3:15.  Our God is holy love poured out for sinful man.  He came down from heaven.  Amazing!