The Dumb Ox Explains …
The Incarnation of Our Lord
Adoration of the Magi by Rogier van der Weyden, great Flemish painter.
Today, American Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The actual day of the solemnity should be Jan. 6. Our American bishops, however, have moved the celebration to the Sunday between the Jan. 2 and Jan. 8.
The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Chapter 2:
1 When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. 2 Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him. … 11 And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Here in the Western Catholic Church, we use the Solemnity to celebrate the arrival of the Magi, their presentation of gifts, and their hommage to Christ.
Because the Magi are not the point of the post, let me simply guide you to two GREAT articles to help you understand the history of the Magi better:
- At Ignatius Insight Scoop, Sandra Miesel delves into the mystery of who these gift-bearing “kings” of the East were; and what their mission has meant to Christians across the ages. (Highly recommended article)
- My first-choice place to go for information, the Catholic Encyclopedia details even more about the Magi. (Beware, the C.E. articles are sometimes a hard read; but they are extremely thorough.)
The point of this post is to introduce another series. This series of posts is called “The Dumb Ox Explains …”. I will point out the inspired brilliance of St. Thomas Aquinas. (To understand why he’s called the Dumb Ox, see my previous post on the Angelic Doctor). In this series, I *hope* to be able to point out how St. Thomas Aquinas has thoroughy explained most elements of faith in his great Summa Theologica.
Today, I will inaugurate the series with the reasons for the Incarnation, when Christ took on human flesh. I will simply paraphrase (butcher is more like it) St. Thomas’ arguments concerning the fitness of the Incarnation:
- Objections to the Incarnation: God is so far above man, so good, so removed from evil, that it is not fitting that He should be joined in flesh to a human body.
- St. Thomas replies: Actually, the Incarnation WAS VERY fitting. The entire world was created to show God’s goodness. Out of His goodness, God could only choose the best, the highest, way to communicate himself to His creatures. Man had sinned. God wanted to communicate His love and salvation to man. The best way to communicate Himself to humans would be to take on their very flesh. This mode of communication did not result in a diminishing of the majesty of God; rather, it resulted in the elevation of human dignity that man could not achieve on his own.
St. Thomas goes on to consider other questions:
- If there were no sin, would the Incarnation have occurred?
- Should He have become incarnate at the beginning of the world? or should He have waited until the end of time?
And, of course, the rest of the Summa contains a great many other topics. I’m not sure yet what Part 2 of the series will be. If you have any suggestions, let me know.