Man, Not Superman

Man, Not Superman April 25, 2017

The Red Cross by Evelyn De Morgan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Red Cross by Evelyn De Morgan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
God the Word became man. He did not become super-man; he became man. God took all that is human and made it his own. He became lowly so that we may be raised up on high. He emptied himself so that we could become filled. The one who is by his divine nature invisible, omnipotent, and omniscient, took on a visible form, with human weakness and intellect. He who cannot be comprehended allowed himself to be bound to the cross.

He whose glory is his by nature allowed himself to become inglorious in the sight of men and women.  On the cross, beaten and bruise, with a crown of thorns cutting into his head, his hands open wide, Jesus comes to us, and we can come to him in return, face to face. He shows us the limitless bounty of his love so that our cold hearts can be set aflame.  As we look upon him, he draws us in by his glory, for we see his beauty, a beauty which transcends his disfigurement on the cross.  Thus, we feel the call to follow him, to follow his path, to empty ourselves of all that constrains us from the purity of love and putting it upon him, on his shoulders, at the cross, so that wherever he shall go, we go with him, knowing that he takes our burden upon himself and disposes it at the gates of hell so that he can then take us with him to the paradise of heaven.

Jesus, the God-man, came to us as man. He could have interacted with the world through his divine power, but instead he willingly engaged us as man. He could have acted on the earth as a super-man, but he knew and understood, whatever signs and wonders he did, they would be believed only for a short time, and then when they were done, his followers who came after him solely for such miracles would abandon him when they did not come forth again, wondering why they had believed and followed him in the first place. He came to teach the path of love. God came to the world to be man, and only a man. This is not to deny his divinity, but his humanity has to be understood as human, and nothing but human.

For those seeking a sign, Jesus gave the only true sign possible, the sign of his being, the sign of Jonah. He shows us the possibility which lies before us, purification of humanity, taking away all that is unnatural from it so that it becomes true to itself. He gives us the sign of death as well as the end of death, the transformation of death itself into a means of glory, not because he aims to turn us into supermen and women, but rather, because he desires to show us who and what we truly can be if we become all that we were meant to be.

Likewise, Jonah was called to teach, and so Jesus also gave us a sign, a great sign, through his teaching. He showed us the truth, a truth which transcends words. He reveals how the truth is simple and yet incomprehensible, for the truth manifests that which he is, love, and such love is able to be both impotent by its willingness to be vulnerable to us and yet omnipotent as it is able to revive those who are touched by its power. He gives us the miracle of truth, the miracle which is always around us, the miracle which always penetrates us, the miracle which we are at once most familiar with and yet find ourselves the least able to understand and comprehend. We intuitively know and recognize the value of the truth, but the truth eludes us; Jesus comes with the truth so it no longer has to elude us. It Is rendered to us, able to be had by us insofar as we give ourselves over to it. It is hidden and ever before us in the light of glory; we are blinded by the light, so that we find ourselves in a glorious darkness in which we are tested. If we stay in that light, instead of flee from it, we find ourselves becoming accustomed to it and the truth which is found in it. If we turn away in fear, if we close our spiritual eyes because of how painful the light at first seems, we will forever be closed off from what it reveals, but if we keep them open, then we shall find the blaze of glory is a joy to behold, a wonder which transcends creation itself.

And yet, God helps us, God shields us from the fulness of his glory as he comes to us in the lowly form of Jesus Christ. The God-man mediates for us the glory of God, coming to us as our shield, veiling his glory in his humanity. Jesus certainly is divine, but he knows we cannot comprehend his divinity so he comes to us through his humanity. Jesus is God, but we empties himself so that we can truly know God. Jesus is God, but he is known by his humanity.  He is God from God, but he is also God who assumed humanity through the flesh of the Virgin Mary. He is human, fully human, according to his humanity, equal to everyone else in their humanity so long as their humanity is understood to be natural and without sin.  He did not come to be seen as some mighty Lord, some demi-god who transcended all others; as St. Ambrose wrote. “Christ did not wish Himself to be known thus, nor to be judged only by those merits which are superhuman.”[1]He was human; he grew up human, growing with wisdom and knowledge, as his human intellect grew as is normal for human youth:

How did God’s wisdom increase? Let the order of words teach you, He increased in age and increased in wisdom, that is, human wisdom. So the Evangelist placed ‘age’ first, that you might believe that it was said, according to man; for age does not belong to divinity but to the body. So, if He advanced in the age of man, He advanced in the wisdom of man, but wisdom advances according to the senses, because wisdom is from the senses. But Jesus advanced in age and in wisdom. What senses advanced? If the human senses, then these, too, were taken on; if the divine, then they are changeable through advancement. For what advances, sure is changed for the better, but what is divine is not changed. So what is changed surely is not divine. Therefore, the human senses advanced; thus, He took on the human senses. [2]

Because God took upon himself all that it meant to be human, Jesus had senses and an intellect which grew and became greater as he went from infancy to adulthood. He would not have been like us if he did not experience what we experience through the stages of life. Scripture shows us that as he grew older, he grew in wisdom and knowledge, in his ability to process all that he had in him as the wisdom of God made flesh. He showed us, in and through his own historical life, how we can all grow in wisdom and knowledge as we find ourselves drawn into the wisdom of God.

Those who have a super-human view of Christ often have the best intentions. There are many theological truths which they try to incorporate into their understanding of the person of Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, they confuse his natures, as is easy to do, and so make it difficult to truly understand what it meant for him to become man. Yet this is what we should be able to understand the most, because we are human like him. That is the point of the incarnation.


 

[1] St. Ambrose, “The Sacrament of the Incarnation of our Lord”  in St. Ambrose: Theological and Dogmatic Works. trans. Roy J. Deferrari, PhD (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1963), 228.

[2] Ibid., 246-7.

 

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