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The Incarnation and the Holy Trinity

The Incarnation and the Holy Trinity

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Published by akimel
by George D. Dragas
by George D. Dragas

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THE GREEK ORTHODOX THEOLOGICAL REVIEW Vol
 4^,Nos
 1-4.1998
The Incarnation and the Holy Trinity: An Introduction to the Theme
FR. GEORGE DION. DRAGAS
 L Preamble
The Incarnation has to do with the union of 
 God
 with man, in the sense that God has become human (inhominated) without ceasing to be divine and,
 vice versa,
 man has become divine without ceasing to be human. The inhomination of God and deification of man constitute the reality of the Incarnation. As St. Athanasius stated it in a classic way:
 "He
 became
 human
 that we may become divine"
1
 This reality is accomplished and fulfilled in and through our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son and Word. It is God's Son and Word that actually became incarnate and inhominated and it is because of this that we speak of God's incarnation and inhomination. The incarnation and/or inhomination of 
 the
 Son
 and Word
 of God means that God has assumed human being and life in all its aspects and dimensions without sin. It also means that the Son of God has become in person a man, being all that we are by nature and experiencing all
 that
 we experience
 naturally,
 from
 birth to death and
 beyond death, but this was done in a way which is truly natural and sinless and therefore saving. Thus, the inhominated Son of God has fulfilled, through his incarnate life, the true destiny of humanity, its deification, which is appropriated by us, human beings, through our union and communion
 (metousia
 and
 mimesis)
 with him. The Son's inhomination is an eschatological, i.e. final and irreversible, but also saving event, which actually involves the entire Trinity. Incarnation and Trinity are inseparable and we might say that they presuppose or reveal each other. In a real sense we cannot understand
 or
 speak about
 the
 one without
 the
 other. These
 two
 constitute a twin event as it were.
257
 
258
 The Greek Orthodox Theological 
 Review: 43/1-4,
 1998
The Gospel begins with this
 event:
 "to
 the beginning
 was
 the Word
 ... and the
 Word 
 was God ...in him there was Life
 ...
 and the Word  became flesh, and we have seen his glory, as of a
 Father's
 only Son,  full of grace and 
 truth...
 From
 his fullness we have all received grace
upon
 grace"
 and it continues...
 "God so loved 
 the
 world 
 that he
 gave  his only
 Son,
 so that everyone who believes in him might not perish  but have everlasting Life."
 2
 God, the Word (Only Son) and Life, the divine Trinity, is the background to the Incarnation of the Word. But the Incarnate Word also incurs the revelation of the Holy Trinity, since in his glory the disciples see the divine Son and the Father and the fullness of divine grace and truth. Other well-known expressions of this Gospel event come from St. Paul. And here again, the same connection between the divine Trinity and the Incarnation is observed:
 "When the
 fullness of 
 time
 had  come, God sent his Son, born of 
 a
 woman, born under the law, in  order to redeem those who were under the
 law,
 so that we might re ceive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has  sent his Spirit
 into
 your
 hearts crying
 Abba, Father"
 or
 "God 
 was in Christ reconciling the world to himself not
 counting
 their trespasses  against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation"
 or
"Let the same mind be
 in
 you,
 that was
 in
 Jesus
 Christ,
 who, though
 he
 was
 in
 the form of God,
 he
 did not
 regard equality
 with God some
 thing
 to be
 claimed,
 but emptied 
 himself,
 taking
 the form of 
 the
 servant,
 and humbled 
 himself,
 becoming obedient to
 the
 point of 
 death,
 even  death on a cross ... Therefore God exalted him and gave him the  name that is above every name, so
 that...
 every tongue should con fess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God 
 the
 Father."
3
 In all these classic Gospel statements the Incarnation and the Trinity are intertwined in a context which is both eschatological and soteriological. God's condescension to be with us in this eschatological and saving way through the inhomination of 
 his
 Son has meant that God has fully disclosed himself to
 us.
 This full or final revelation of God entails the mystery of God's identity, the mystery of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that we come to experience
 and to
 know this mystery
 as a
 saving event. Thus,
 in Jesus
 Christ, the inhominated God, we have been given the full disclosure of the Holy Trinity, as far as this is possible to our human capacities and limitations and as far as we are worthy to receive it.
 
Dragas:
 The
 incarnation
 and 
 the
 Holy  Trinity 
 259
St
 Athanasius stated in his
 Contra Arianos 
 that now that Christ has come,
 "Theology is perfect 
 (complete)
 in the
 Trinity 
 and this is the only true piety." 
 In his first
 Letter 
 to Serapion
 he pointed out that,
 "The
 Lord 
 Jesus 
 Christ himself taught his disciples the perfec-tion of  the Holy 
 Trinity 
 existing undividedly in the one Godhead" 
5
The
 great
 Apostle
 Peter
 says
 in his
 first
 Catholic Epistle that in Christ  we have been given
 "everything we
 need 
 for life
 and 
 godliness 
 through
our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory 
 and 
 goodness...  so that 
...
 [we] 
 may 
 participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil 
 desire." 
6
The interconnection between the inhomination of 
 the
 Son of God and the mystery of the persons of 
 the
 Holy Trinity needed clarifica-tion because of heretical misinterpretations. Thus the Fathers of the Church sought
 to
 provide
 it in their dogmatic teaching which is rooted in the apostolic tradition whose custodians they had been appointed
to
 be. The Fathers clearly teach that it is not the Holy Trinity, nor the Godhead, but one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, the Son that
became
 inhominated. In the
 biblical
 and patristic tradition it is clear that the other two persons of the Trinity, who
 fully 
 share the one Godhead
 with
 the one who became inhominated,
 do not personally
 participate
 in the inhomination. The Father and the Spirit are not inhominated, although they are in fact, really 
 involved
 in procuring and sustaining this event. As an Orthodox
 hymn
 puts it,
 "The Father was well pleased' 
 and
 "the
 Spirit 
 collaborated." 
1
On the other
 hand,
 it was the
 entire Godhead that was united 
 to manhood at the incarnation and inhomination of the Son of 
 God.
 As the Apostle says,
 "all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in him [in
Christ] 
 bodily."*
 Since
 the Godhead equally 
 exists
 in the three per-
sons
 of the Holy Trinity, all three persons are equally connected
 with
the incarnation, but this connection pertains to the Godhead (the di-
 vine
 nature) and not to the
 divine
 Persons.
 The crucial point here is that only the
 Son
 was personally 
 (hypostatically,
 in patristic language)
involved
 in the incarnation by 
 becoming himself inhominated.
 Only the Son of God
 (in
 person) became
 man. As for the Godhead,
 it did not become
 inhominated, but
 was united 
 with
 the manhood through the
 Son's
 inhomination. To quote
 St.
 Athanasius again,
 "It was not the
 [divine] 
 being 
 (ουσία)
 of the
 Word 
 [the
 Godhead] 
 but he himself
(αυτός) [his 
 person] that 
 became
 human" 
 or as he says elsewhere,
"//
 was himself 
 (εαυτόν)
 that the
 Word 
 gave to condescend and 
 be󰀭

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