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Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Athanasian Creed, an ancient creed of the Christian Church, bears the name of a great theologian who was long dead before its composition. It is a monument of the unchangeable faith of the whole Church as to the great mysteries of godliness, the Trinity of Persons in the one God and the duality of natures in the one Christ. To speak of the Lord, the son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as true and perfect man is of no value if people do not believe that he is descended from the line of ancestors set out in the Gospel. Matthew’s gospel begins by setting out the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham, and then traces his human descent by bringing his ancestral line down to his mother’s husband, Joseph. On the other hand, Luke traces his parentage backward step by step to the actual father of mankind, to show that both the first and the last Adam share the same nature. No doubt, the Son of God could have taught and sanctified men by appearing to them in a semblance of human form as he did to the patriarchs and prophets, when for instance he engaged in a wrestling contest or entered into conversation with them. But these appearances were only types, signs that mysteriously foretold the coming of one who would take a true human nature from the stock of the patriarchs who had gone before him. The Athanasian Creed is too long to quote here in full. But, what relates to the Person of the God-man is as follows:

"27. But it is necessary to eternal salvation that he should also faithfully believe in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 28. It is therefore true faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is both God and man. 29. He is God; generated from eternity from the substance of the Father; man born in time from the substance of his Mother. 30. Perfect God, perfect man, subsisting of a rational soul and human flesh. 31. Equal to the Father in respect to his divinity, less than the Father in respect to his humanity. 32. Who, although he is God and man, is not two, but one Christ. 33. But two not from the conversion of divinity into flesh, but from the assumption of his humanity into God. 34. One not at all from confusion of substance, but from unity of Person. 35. For as rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ...." -- From A. A. Hodge's The Confession of Faith (1869)

So, human kind's reconciliation with God, ordained from all eternity, had to take human form and be born in earthly time. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon the Virgin nor had the power of the Most High overshadowed her, so that within her spotless womb Wisdom might build itself a house and the Word become flesh. "The divine nature and the nature of a servant were to be united in one person so that the Creator of time might be born in time, and he through whom all things were made might be brought forth in their midst." (St. Leo, the Great, taken from Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio)

Recording artist Bob Dylan alludes to the condition of the human body and heavenly spirit in his song "Born In Time," from Tell Tale Signs, Bootleg Series Volume 8. The song can be heard literally as a lyric to love lost, yet allegorically the song makes reference to the temporal finality of anyone or anything conceived in the reality of the passage of time-- the finality of an earthly demise.

Destined to suffer the consequences of birth, even the Son of God cannot escape the fate of Adam. Even though divine, He ultimately pays the price of being born in time as less than the Father in respect to humanity. After all, He had become a creation of human flesh and rational soul, the raw materials used in the expression of human love. Dylan's lyrics speaks stubbornly of a similar resignation.

"You pressed me once, you pressed me twice, You hang the flame, you'll pay the price, Oh babe, that fire Is still smokin'. You were snow, you were rain You were striped, you were plain, Oh babe, truer words Have not been spoken or broken. In the hills of mystery, In the foggy web of destiny, You can have what's left of me, Where we were born in time."

Bob Dylan, "Born In Time"

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