The Incarnate Word

Each Christmas, we celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus, the Son of God, who is fully God, became fully human at a point in our history, to be the means of our salvation. St. John exclaimed: "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth." (John 1.14)

Belief in the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is fundamental to our faith. Jesus became flesh, born an infant, with all human fragility, and He died, immersed in the suffering of human pain. While He shared in our humanity, His will remained united with the will of His Father and the Holy Spirit. His heart, united in love with His Father, was filled with immense loving mercy for each person He encountered, and indeed for all of humanity.

As Jesus lived in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit, so we are called to become one with the Trinity through union with Jesus. St. Paul expressed his union with Christ: "I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me." (Galations 2.20)

Mary was chosen and prepared by God to become the mother of Jesus. By her free consent, in the strength of great faith, she united her will completely with God so that the promise of the angel Gabriel would be realized: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." (Luke 1.35) We recall this great mystery when we profess: 'He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.'

Gabriel addressed Mary: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" (Luke 1.28) To be 'full of grace' is to be pure in the fullest sense - to be freed from the stain of original sin as well as from personal sin. The Church teaches that Mary was redeemed from the moment of her conception by the grace of Jesus her Son. Mary's holiness is truly unique in this respect.

In Mary's response to the angel Gabriel, cognizant of her own virginity, she asked: "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" (Luke 1.34) The Church teaches that Mary's virginity was preserved and sanctified by the birth of her only Son, and that her virgin motherhood is another aspect of the divine mystery of the Incarnation. We recall this mystery when we profess 'and born of the Virgin Mary'.

Mary's cousin Elizabeth, prompted by the Holy Spirit, greeted Mary with the words: "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1.42-43) We venerate Mary as the Mother of God as we recall this divine mystery each January 1.

This poem expresses the inseparable link between the events of the birth and death of Jesus. At His birth, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger (c.f. Luke 2.7); at His death, He was wrapped in linen cloth and laid in a rock-hewn tomb. (c.f. Luke 23.53)

Wrapped and Laid

The Father spoke and she conceived
The Word beneath Spirit's shadow.
By her consent, as she believed,
Eternity entered the now.

Born in the flesh, the Babe is wrapped
In linen and laid in a cave.
In Mother's love, He is enrapt --
Emmanuel is here to save!

Angels and shepherds bend the knee
Before the newborn King of kings.
Most humble Babe -- Greatest Glory
Peace comes to earth as heaven sings.

Destined to be the rise and fall
Of many hearts -- a sword would pierce
Her own heart too -- this was His call;
A prophecy enrapt in tears.

Set in the crib; nailed to the cross --
The Lamb of God is sacrifice:
He came that no soul would be lost;
His precious Blood would pay their price.

Dead on the cross, the Man was wrapped,
In linen and laid in a tomb;
Obedient to death, enrapt
Within the Will -- as in the womb.

The Father spoke one Word to save
His children from cradle to grave.

May the Spirit overshadow the caves of our hearts that the Word Incarnate may be born again, enrapt in the joy of our souls. Amen.


New American Bible - Catholic Edition

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 461- 511

Pope Benedict XVI, Introduction to Christianity,
2004 Ignatius Press, San Francisco, p. 271 - 280

prepared by:

Paul Buis

(c) Paul Buis, 2006