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For the Fourth Thursday in Advent: Proclus of Constantinople on the Incarnation

December 22, 2016

From Faith and Life, here is another quote from Proclus, who was a disciple of John Chrysostom himself, and later followed him as Patriarch of Constantinople.

If the Word had never dwelt in the womb, Flesh would not have been seated on the holy throne. He, then, who is by nature impassible, became, by reason of His pity, liable to many sufferings. Christ did not become God from His advanced excellence; God forbid! but by reason of His pity He became Man, as we believe. It is not a deified man that we preach, it is an incarnate God that we confess. He, who in His own nature has no mother, and in respect to His earthly manifestation no father, appointed His own handmaid to be His Mother. If He is mere man, He is not “without mother” for He has a mother. Again, if He is simply God, He is not  “without father” for He has a Father. But now the self-same is without mother, as the Maker; without father, as the thing made. Learn the cause of His Advent, and glorify the might of the Incarnate. Man’s nature, from its sins, owed much, and could find no way of paying its debt. For through Adam all men had given, as it were, a writing of acknowledgment of their sin; the devil held us all in bondage. Of two things one was necessary,— either that the death denounced by the sentence should be inflicted on all,—or that such a price should be given in liquidation of the debt, as could fully claim the release of the debtors. Well, then, man could not save, for he lay under the debt of sin. An angel had not power to redeem mankind, for he had not at hand the ransom required. It remains, then,—for no other mode of release from the evil was left than this,—that the sinless God should die for sinners,—even He alone, the Virginborn, God and Man; He who possessed that price which was not only equivalent to the number of the condemned, but which far outweighed it.

For “the Word was made flesh.” The natures were combined, yet in their union remained unconfused. He who was in the Father’s bosom was in the Virgin’s womb. He who was in a Mother’s arms was on the wings of the wind. He who was being adored by Angels was sitting at meat with publicans. The Seraphim were not daring to gaze on Him who was being questioned by Pilate. The slave buffeted Him, and creation shuddered. He was nailed to the Cross, while the throne of glory was not emptied of His presence. He was enclosed in the tomb, while He was spreading out the Heaven like a curtain. He was reckoned among the dead, while He was despoiling Hades. Here He was being calumniated as a deceiver, there He was being glorified as Holy. O what a mystery! I see the wonders, and I proclaim the Godhead: I see the sufferings, and I deny not the Manhood.

–St. Proclus, Sermon on the Incarnation (a.d. 429).

Now that is profound indeed: It is not a deified man that we preach, it is an incarnate God that we confess.

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