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The purpose of Christmas: our deification
Posted By Eric Sammons On December 17, 2010 @ 8:31 am In Jesus Christ,Spirituality | Comments Disabled
In a few days we will be celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a good time to remind ourselves why the Word became flesh, and the Church today in the opening prayer at Mass gives us the reason for this wondrous miracle:
creator and redeemer of mankind,
you decreed, and your Word became man,
born of the Virgin Mary.
May we come to share the divinity of Christ,
who humbled himself to share our human nature,
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
The Son of God shares in our human nature so that we can share in his divine nature. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, drawing from Scripture and the Catholic Tradition, emphasizes this connection between God becoming man and our being made like God:
The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4): “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939) “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” (St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B) “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4) (CCC 460)
Too often we look at Heaven as just a really great earth: we eat whatever we want, we hang out with whoever we want and we never get sick or hurt. But Heaven is less about what we do and more about what we become. When we enter into Heaven we are transformed into a new creation: while keeping our human nature we participate in the divine nature. In the scandalous words of St. Athanasius, we “become God” – we are deified. We of course must be careful not to confuse the Christian doctrine of deification with Eastern conceptions which confuse divinity and humanity. But we must also not minimize the great transformation that will take place: we become by grace what God is by nature, all while retaining our human nature and individuality. It might seem impossible to see how this could happen, but we have a model already: Jesus Christ, who is true God and true man. By his incarnation he showed us the path which unites divinity and humanity. In his bountiful love he gives us as a gift what he has by right.
The full name of this blog is “Divine Life: Why We Were Created”. Our deification – being made like God – is the very reason we were created by God; it is the final goal for each and every one of us. The plans God has in store for those who love Him are so much more than just simple happiness and contentment. They include becoming like Him and having our human natures transformed so that they participate in the very divine life of God. This is what we celebrate at this time of year – this is the purpose of Christmas.
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