on the Incarnation
from the Early Church
Nativity by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255 -
If Christ Had Not Been
Born of Woman
by Proclus of
Constantinople (died 446 AD)
A God who was not only God, and a man who was not
simply man, was born of woman.
the time had fully come, God sent
forth his Son, born of woman, born
under the law, to redeem those who
were under the law, so that we might
receive adoption as sons. And because
you are sons, God has sent the Spirit
of his Son into our hearts, crying,
"Abba! Father!" So through God you are
no longer a slave but a son, and if a
son then an heir. - Galatians 4:4-7
By being born he formed the gate of salvation
from what had at one time been the way in for
sin. Where in fact the serpent by exploiting
human disobedience had infused his poison, there
the Word entered through obedience and built a
living temple. From the womb of a woman had come
forth the original son of sin, Cain; and from
the womb of a woman, without seed, there came
into the light the Christ, the redeemer of the
Let us not be ashamed that he was born of a
woman. That birth was for us the beginning of
If Christ had not been born of woman, he would
not have died either, and would not 'by death
have destroyed him who had the power of death,
that is, the devil.' [Letter to the Hebrews
[from Homily on the Mother of God (PG6S,
Christ Comes, God Will Be Seen by Men
From a treatise Against
Heresies by Irenaeus, 130-200 A.D.
There is one God, who by his word and wisdom
created all things and set them in order. His
word is our Lord Jesus Christ, who in this last
age became man among men to unite end and
beginning, that is, man and God.
The prophets, receiving the gift of prophecy
from this same Word, foretold his coming in the
flesh, which brought about the union and
communion between God and man ordained by the
Father. From the beginning the word of God
prophesied that God would be seen by men and
would live among them on earth; he would speak
with his own creation and be present to it,
bringing it salvation and being visible to it.
He would free us from the hands of all who hate
us, that is, form the universal spirit of sin,
and enable us to serve him in holiness and
justice all our days. Man was to receive the
Spirit of God and so to attain to the glory of
The prophets foretold that God would be seen by
men. As the Lord himself says: Blessed are
the clean of heart, for they shall see God.
In his greatness and inexpressible glory no one
can see God and live, for the Father is beyond
our comprehension. But in his love and
generosity and omnipotence he allows even this
to those who love him, that is, even to see God,
as the prophets foretold. For what is impossible
to men is possible to God.
By his own powers man cannot see God; yet God
will be seen by men because he wills it.
He will be seen by those he chooses, at the time
he chooses, and in the way he chooses, for God
can do all things. He was seen of old through
the Spirit in prophecy; he is seen through the
Son by our adoption as his children, and he will
be seen in the kingdom of heaven in his own
being as the Father. The Spirit prepares man to
receive the Son of God, the Son leads him to the
Father, and the Father, freeing him from change
and decay, bestows the eternal life that comes
to everyone from seeing God.
As those who see light are in the light sharing
its brilliance, so those who see God are in God
sharing his glory, and that glory gives them life.
To see God is to share in life.
Life Itself Appeared in
Augustine of Hippo's commentary on the
first letter of St John, 5th century
‘That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard, which we have seen with
our eyes and touche with our hands, concerning
the Word of Life'. Who could touch
the Word with his hands, were it not that the
Word became flesh and dwelt among us?
This Word, who became flesh in order
that he could be touched by hands, began to be
flesh in the Virgin Mary's womb. But he
did not hen begin to be the Word; for St John
says, ‘That which was from the
beginning'. See how his letter
corroborates his gospel, from which you heard
a short time ago, ‘In the beginning was the
Word and the Word was with God'.
Possibly some may understand ‘concerning the
Word of life' as a vague expression referring
to Christ, not meaning that very body of
Christ which was touched by hands. But
you must take into account what follow, ‘And
life itself was made manifest'. It is
Christ, therefore, who is the Word of life.
And how was life manifested? It
was from the beginning, but it had not been
manifested to men; yet it had been revealed to
the angels, as they saw it and were nourished
by it as if it were their bread. What
does scripture say? ‘Man has eaten bread
So the life itself was made manifest in
the flesh, because it depended on
‘manifestation', that a reality only
perceptible to the heart might also be visible
to our eyes, and thus heal our hearts.
For the Word is seen only by the heart, but
the flesh is seen also by bodily eyes.
There was in fact flesh which we could see, in
order to heal the heart, the means by which we
could see the Word.
‘And we are witnesses', he says, ‘and
proclaim to you the eternal life, which was
with the Father and was made manifest among
us'; to make the text clearer it is
permissible to read ‘was made manifest to us'.
‘That which we have seen and heard therefore
we proclaim to you'. My dear brethren in
Christ, take note of this: ‘that which we have
seen and heard therefore we proclaim to
you'. They - namely the writers - saw
the Lord himself, present in the flesh and
heard the words from the Lord's own lips, and
proclaimed them to us. So we also have
heard, but we have not seen.
Is it to be concluded that we are less
blessed than those who heard and also
saw? How then does the writer add, ‘that
you say have fellowship with us'? They
saw, we have not seen; and yet we are in
fellowship with them, for we hold a common
‘And our fellowship is with God the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ. And', he
adds, ‘we are writing this that you joy may be
complete'. This complete joy of which he
speaks is in that very fellowship itself, in
that very love, in that very unity.
The Word Made Flesh
From the treatise of
Hippolytus, 130-200 A.D.
We do not put our faith in empty phrases, we
are not carried off by sudden impulses of the
heart, we are not seduced by plausible and
eloquent speech, but we do not refuse belief to
words spoken by divine power.
These God committed to the Word. The Word
spoke, and by these words he turned man away
from disobedience, not enslaving him by force or
necessity, but inviting him to choose freedom of
his own accord.
In the last days the Father sent the Word. In
his plan the Word was no longer to speak through
the prophets. He was no longer to be a figure
of conjecture, announced in an obscure
way. He was to be manifested visibly, so
that the world could see him and be saved.
We know that the Word assumed a body from a
virgin and, through a new creation, put on our
old nature. We know that he was a man, formed
from the same substance as we are. If he were
not of the same nature as ourselves, his command
to imitate him as a master would be a futile
one. If he was of a different substance, why
does he command me, naturally weak as I am, to
do as he did? How can he be good and just?
To show that he was no different from us, he
undertook hard work, he went hungry and thirsty,
he took rest and sleep, he did not shirk
suffering, he revealed the resurrection. In all
this he offered his own self, so that when you
suffered you would not lose heart, but rather
would recognize that you are a man, and would
yourself expect to receive what he received from
When you have learned to know the true God, you
will have a body immortal and incorruptible,
like your soul; you will gain the kingdom of
heaven, you who lived on earth and knew the king
of heaven; freed from passion, suffering and
disease, you will be a companion of God and a
co- heir with Christ, for you have become a god.
All that you had to suffer as a man, God gave
you, because you were a man. All that
belongs to God, he has promised to give you,
because you have been deified and have become
immortal. This is what it means to know
yourself, to recognize the God who made you; to
know and to be known is the lot of the man
called by God.
And so, men, do not be hostile to one another, do
not hesitate to return. Christ who is God, supreme
over all, has arranged to wash man clean of sin
and to make our old nature new. From the beginning
he called this old nature his image, and in this
way gave you a sign of his love for you. If you
obey his sacred commandments, if you become a good
follower of him who is good, you will become like
him, you will be honoured by him. God is not
lacking in anything, and he made you also a god
for his glory.