20 May 2007

Easter with St Athanasius III

Taken from Athansius Contra Mundum

And this above all shows the foolishness of those who say that the Word was changed into bones and flesh. For if this had been so, there were no need of a tomb. For the Body would have gone by itself to preach to the spirits in Hades. But as it was, He Himself went to preach, while the Body Joseph wrapped in a linen cloth, and laid it away at Golgotha. And so it is shown to all that the Body was not the Word, but Body of the Word. And it was this that Thomas handled when it had risen from the dead, and saw in it the print of the nails, which the Word Himself had undergone, seeing them fixed in His own Body, and though able to prevent it, did not do so.

On the contrary, the incorporeal Word made His own the properties of the Body, as being His own Body. Why, when the Body was struck by the attendant, as suffering Himself He asked, 'Why do you smite Me?' And being by nature intangible, the Word yet said, 'I gave My back to the stripes, and My cheeks to blows, and hid not My face from shame and spitting (Isaiah 50:6).' For what the human Body of the Word suffered, this the Word, dwelling in the body, ascribed to Himself, in order that we might be enabled to be partakers of the Godhead of the Word. And verily it is strange that He it was Who suffered and yet suffered not. Suffered, because His own Body suffered, and He was in it, which thus suffered; suffered not, because the Word, being by Nature God, is impassible. And while He, the incorporeal, was in the passible Body, the Body had in it the impassible Word, which was destroying the infirmities inherent in the Body. But this He did, and so it was, in order that Himself taking what was ours and offering it as a sacrifice, He might do away with it, and conversely might invest us with what was His, and cause the Apostle to say: 'This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality.'

Now this did not come to pass putatively, as some have supposed: far be the thought: but the Saviour having in very truth become Man, the salvation of the whole man was brought about. For if the Word were in the Body putatively, as they say, and by putative is meant imaginary, it follows that both the salvation and the resurrection of man is apparent only, as the most impious Manich├Žus held. But truly our salvation is not merely apparent, nor does it extend to the body only, but the whole man, body and soul alike, has truly obtained salvation in the Word Himself. That then which was born of Mary was according to the divine Scriptures human by nature, and the Body of the Lord was a true one; but it was this, because it was the same as our body, for Mary was our sister inasmuch as we all are from Adam.

And no one can doubt of this when he remembers what Luke wrote. For after He had risen from the dead, when some thought that they did not see the Lord in the body derived from Mary, but were beholding a spirit instead, He said, 'See My hands and My feet, and the prints of the nails, that it is I Myself: handle Me and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see Me to have. And when He had said thus, He showed them His hands and His feet.' Whence they can be refuted who have ventured to say that the Lord was transformed into flesh and bones. For He did not say, 'As you see Me to be flesh and bone,' but 'as you see Me to have,' in order that it might not be thought that the Word Himself was changed into these things, but that He might be believed to have them after His resurrection as well as before His death.

-Letter LIX

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