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“Athanasius Oratio Contra Arianos, III, 29 - 34

 Athanasius reflects on the significance of the Word becoming flesh and the divine and human natures of Christ.

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29. Now the scope and character of Holy Scripture, as we have often said, is this,—it contains a double account of the Saviour; that He was ever God, and is the Son, being the Father’s Word and Radiance and Wisdom; and that afterwards for us He took flesh of a Virgin, Mary Bearer of God , and was made man. And this scope is to be found throughout inspired Scripture, as the Lord Himself has said, ‘Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me.’ But lest I should exceed in writing, by bringing together all the passages on the subject, let it suffice to mention as a specimen, first John saying, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was made not one thing;’ next, ‘And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of one Only-begotten from the Father;’ and next Paul writing, ‘Who being in the form of God, thought it not a prize to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion like a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.’ Any one, beginning with these passages and going through the whole of the Scripture upon the interpretation which they suggest, will perceive how in the beginning the Father said to Him, ‘Let there be light,’ and ‘Let there be a firmament,’ and ‘Let us make man;’ but in fulness of the ages, He sent Him into the world, not that He might judge the world, but that the world by Him might be saved, and how it is written ‘Behold, the Virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call his Name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us.’


30. The reader then of divine Scripture may acquaint himself with these passages from the ancient books; and from the Gospels on the other hand he will perceive that the Lord became man; for ‘the Word,’ he says, ‘became flesh, and dwelt among us.’ And He became man, and did not come into man; for this it is necessary to know, lest perchance these irreligious men fall into this notion also, and beguile any into thinking, that, as in former times the Word was used to come into each of the Saints, so now He sojourned in a man, hallowing him also, and manifesting Himself as in the others. For if it were so, and He only appeared in a man, it were nothing strange, nor had those who saw Him been startled, saying, Whence is He? and wherefore dost Thou, being a man, make Thyself God? for they were familiar with the idea, from the words, ‘And the Word of the Lord came’ to this or that of the Prophets. But now, since the Word of God, by whom all things came to be, endured to become also Son of man, and humbled Himself, taking a servant’s form, therefore to the Jews the Cross of Christ is a scandal, but to us Christ is ‘God’s power’ and ‘God’s wisdom;’ for ‘the Word,’ as John says, ‘became flesh’ (it being the custom of Scripture to call man by the name of ‘flesh,’ as it says by Joel the Prophet, ‘I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh;’ and as Daniel said to Astyages, ‘I do not worship idols made with hands, but the Living God, who hath created the heaven and the earth, and hath sovereignty over all flesh;’ for both he and Joel call mankind flesh).


31. Of old time He was wont to come to the Saints individually, and to hallow those who rightly received Him; but neither, when they were begotten was it said that He had become man, nor, when they suffered, was it said that He Himself suffered. But when He came among us from Mary once at the end of the ages for the abolition of sin (for so it was pleasing to the Father, to send His own Son ‘made of a woman, made under the Law’),then it is said, that He took flesh and became man, and in that flesh He suffered for us (as Peter says, ‘Christ therefore having suffered for us in the flesh,’ that it might be shewn, and that all might believe, that whereas He was ever God, and hallowed those to whom He came, and ordered all things according to the Father’s will, afterwards for our sakes He became man, and ‘bodily,’ as the Apostle says, the Godhead dwelt in the flesh; as much as to say, ‘Being God, He had His own body, and using this as an instrument, He became man for our sakes.’ And on account of this, the properties of the flesh are said to be His, since He was in it, such as to hunger, to thirst, to suffer, to weary, and the like, of which the flesh is capable; while on the other hand the works proper to the Word Himself, such as to raise the dead, to restore sight to the blind, and to cure the woman with an issue of blood, He did through His own body. And the Word bore the infirmities of the flesh, as His own, for His was the flesh; and the flesh ministered to the works of the Godhead, because the Godhead was in it, for the body was God’s. And well has the Prophet said ‘carried;’ and has not said, ‘He remedied our infirmities,’ lest, as being external to the body, and only healing it, as He has always done, He should leave men subject still to death; but He carries our infirmities, and He Himself bears our sins, that it might be shewn that He has become man for us, and that the body which in Him bore them, was His own body; and, while He received no hurt Himself by ‘bearing our sins in His body on the tree,’ as Peter speaks, we men were redeemed from our own affections, and were filled with the righteousness of the Word.


32. Whence it was that, when the flesh suffered, the Word was not external to it; and therefore is the passion said to be His: and when He did divinely His Father’s works, the flesh was not external to Him, but in the body itself did the Lord do them. Hence, when made man, He said, ‘If I do not the works of the Father, believe Me not; but if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works, that ye may know that the Father is in Me and I in Him.’ And thus when there was need to raise Peter’s wife’s mother, who was sick of a fever, He stretched forth His hand humanly, but He stopped the illness divinely. And in the case of the man blind from the birth, human was the spittle which He gave forth from the flesh, but divinely did He open the eyes through the clay. And in the case of Lazarus, He gave forth a human voice as man; but divinely, as God, did He raise Lazarus from the dead. These things were so done, were so manifested, because He had a body, not in appearance, but in truth; and it became the Lord, in putting on human flesh, to put it on whole with the affections proper to it; that, as we say that the body was His own, so also we may say that the affections of the body were proper to Him alone, though they did not touch Him according to His Godhead. If then the body had been another’s, to him too had been the affections attributed; but if the flesh is the Word’s (for ‘the Word became flesh’), of necessity then the affections also of the flesh are ascribed to Him, whose the flesh is. And to whom the affections are ascribed, such namely as to be condemned, to be scourged, to thirst, and the cross, and death, and the other infirmities of the body, of Him too is the triumph and the grace. For this cause then, consistently and fittingly such affections are ascribed not to another, but to the Lord; that the grace also may be from Him, and that we may become, not worshippers of any other, but truly devout towards God, because we invoke no originate thing, no ordinary man, but the natural and true Son from God, who has become man, yet is not the less Lord and God and Saviour.


33. Who will not admire this? or who will not agree that such a thing is truly divine? for if the works of the Word’s Godhead had not taken place through the body, man had not been deified; and again, had not the properties of the flesh been ascribed to the Word, man had not been thoroughly delivered from them; but though they had ceased for a little while, as I said before, still sin had remained in him and corruption, as was the case with mankind before Him; and for this reason:—Many for instance have been made holy and clean from all sin; nay, Jeremiah was hallowed even from the womb, and John, while yet in the womb, leapt for joy at the voice of Mary Bearer of God; nevertheless ‘death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression;’ and thus man remained mortal and corruptible as before, liable to the affections proper to their nature. But now the Word having become man and having appropriated what pertains to the flesh, no longer do these things touch the body, because of the Word who has come in it, but they are destroyed by Him, and henceforth men no longer remain sinners and dead according to their proper affections, but having risen according to the Word’s power, they abide ever immortal and incorruptible. Whence also, whereas the flesh is born of Mary Bearer of God, He Himself is said to have been born, who furnishes to others an origin of being; in order that He may transfer our origin into Himself, and we may no longer, as mere earth, return to earth, but as being knit into the Word from heaven, may be carried to heaven by Him. Therefore in like manner not without reason has He transferred to Himself the other affections of the body also; that we, no longer as being men, but as proper to the Word, may have share in eternal life. For no longer according to our former origin in Adam do we die; but henceforward our origin and all infirmity of flesh being transferred to the Word, we rise from the earth, the curse from sin being removed, because of Him who is in us, and who has become a curse for us. And with reason; for as we are all from earth and die in Adam, so being regenerated from above of water and Spirit, in the Christ we are all quickened; the flesh being no longer earthly, but being henceforth made Word, by reason of God’s Word who for our sake ‘became flesh.’


34. And that one may attain to a more exact knowledge of the impassibility of the Word’s nature and of the infirmities ascribed to Him because of the flesh, it will be well to listen to the blessed Peter; for he will be a trustworthy witness concerning the Saviour. He writes then in his Epistle thus;‘ Christ then having suffered for us in the flesh.’ Therefore also when He is said to hunger and thirst and to toil and not to know, and to sleep, and to weep, and to ask, and to flee, and to be born, and to deprecate the cup, and in a word to undergo all that belongs to the flesh, let it be said, as is congruous, in each case ‘Christ then hungering and thirsting “for us in the flesh;”’ and saying ‘He did not know, and being buffeted, and toiling “for us in the flesh;”’ and ‘being exalted too, and born, and growing “in the flesh;”’ and ‘fearing and hiding “in the flesh;”’ and ‘saying, “If it be possible let this cup pass from Me,” and being beaten, and receiving, “for us in the flesh;”’ and in a word all such things ‘for us in the flesh.’ For on this account has the Apostle himself said, ‘Christ then having suffered,’ not in His Godhead, but ‘for us in the flesh,’ that these affections may be acknowledged as, not proper to the very Word by nature, but proper by nature to the very flesh.
Let no one then stumble at what belongs to man, but rather let a man know that in nature the Word Himself is impassible, and yet because of that flesh which He put on, these things are ascribed to Him, since they are proper to the flesh, and the body itself is proper to the Saviour. And while He Himself, being impassible in nature, remains as He is, not harmed by these affections, but rather obliterating and destroying them, men, their passions as if changed and abolished in the Impassible, henceforth become themselves also impassible and free from them for ever, as John taught, saying, ‘And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him is no sin.’ And this being so, no heretic shall object, ‘Wherefore rises the flesh, being by nature mortal? and if it rises, why not hunger too and thirst, and suffer, and remain mortal? for it came from the earth, and how can its natural condition pass from it?’ since the flesh is able now to make answer to this so contentious heretic, ‘I am from earth, being by nature mortal, but afterwards I have become the Word’s flesh,’ and He ‘carried’ my affections, though He is without them; and so I became free from them, being no more abandoned to their service because of the Lord who has made me free from them. For if you object to my being rid of that corruption which is by nature, see that you object not to God’s Word having taken my form of servitude; for as the Lord, putting on the body, became man, so we men are deified by the Word as being taken to Him through His flesh, and henceforward inherit life ‘everlasting.’

 

 

 

 

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original Greek text
Oratio III contra Arianos
Orations against the Arians
Athanasius Christology
Two natures of Christ
Word made flesh
Migne Greek
Patrologiae Graecae Cursus Completus
Patrologia Graeca

 

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