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A video for Claire

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 “God became man, so that man might become God.” This is a rather shocking phrase. Written by St. Athanasius in the fourth century, it succinctly captures the truth of the Christian faith. Since we celebrate this great saint’s feast May 2, I want to share a story which might help illuminate this Christian boast penned by Athanasius.

 

My 3-year-old niece, Claire, suffers from seizures due to a rare form of epilepsy. She recently had scans to monitor her brain activity that involved attaching a bunch of wires to her head —  a very frightening experience for a little girl, as you can imagine. I wanted to do something to help, so I made a video of myself with my head wrapped up in a bandage just like she would be wearing once the wires were attached and secured. I talked to her about how her new hairstyle is pretty but looks better on her than on me —  anything to make her smile or laugh. Later that day, my sister told me that Claire watched my video on repeat while the technician attached the wires.

 

Strangely enough, this simple experience gave me a new view into what Jesus Christ does in the Incarnation (though mostly by contrast). I was merely pretending to be in Claire’s position. I wrapped a bandage around my head and made jokes to make her feel better. I did not actually make her better. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, takes on our sinful human nature and redeems it by his divine goodness. He does not merely imitate our situation; he actually takes on our ‘spiritual seizures,’ or sins. When he becomes a man, it is not merely a show of love, but an efficacious act of love, since he unites our frail human nature to his divine one. What God does by becoming man would be more equivalent to my sending a video to Claire that somehow cured her epilepsy.

 

I cannot take on Claire’s epilepsy for her, but Jesus can take on our spiritual sickness for us. God become man, crucified on the cross, does not merely make us feel better. Rather, he changes us by uniting us to the strength of his divine nature which overcomes our sinfulness. His love is not just a show, it is active and effective. It elevates us to a share in his own divine life.

 

This week as we celebrate St. Athanasius as a great teacher of the true Christian faith, let us joyfully recall and pursue wholeheartedly his wonderfully shocking phrase: “God became man, so that man might become God.”

 

St. George, who is from St. Theresa Church, is in his second year of theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

 

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020