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The Incarnation and the human embryo


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#1 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 June 2016 - 06:56 PM

I am assuming that the Church's doctrine on the Incarnation is well enough known that I do not have to set it forth here. Christ took flesh and His human nature from His All-Holy Mother. The 'enfleshment' was from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and the Son of God became man, Theanthropos (not 'a man').
 
We have this:

St John of Damascus Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book III, chapter 2:

'And then was she by the enhypostatic Wisdom and Power of the most high God, the Son of God Who is of like essence with the Father as of Divine seed, and from her holy and most pure blood He formed flesh animated with the spirit of reason and thought, the first-fruits of our compound: not by procreation but by creation through the Holy Spirit: not developing the fashion of the body by gradual additions but perfecting it at once, He Himself, the very Word of God, standing to the flesh in the relation of subsistence. For the divine Word was not made one with flesh that had an independent pre-existence, but taking up His abode in the wombof the holy Virgin, He unreservedly in His own subsistence took upon Himself through the pure blood of the eternal Virgin a body of flesh animated with the spirit of reason and thought, thus assuming to Himself thefirst-fruits of man’s compound nature, Himself, the Word, having become a subsistence in the flesh.'

 

This passage describes Christ's development in the womb of His Mother in terms different from normal conception and development. It seems to say that Christ, from day one, was not a cell and then a zygote and so on.

 

This raises two questions in my mind. First, I have always thought of St John of Damascus's 'Exact Exposition' as being of very high authority. Ought we to accept all that he says in this work, including this passage? Secondly, if Christ's development in the womb was different from that of all human beings, does this mean that such development is a result of the Fall? I cannot find any authority that treats of the second question. (One priest to whom I quoted the above passage dismissed it out of hand.)


 


Edited by Rdr Andreas, 04 June 2016 - 06:58 PM.


#2 Lakis Papas

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Posted 04 June 2016 - 07:26 PM

Some monks from Holy Mountain also accept that Christ was immediately incarnated with a fully developed body, physically that is. Christ's incarnation is a Singularity, meaning that has resemblance to no other case. As for human embryo, of course is a product of fall.

#3 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 June 2016 - 08:37 PM

Is there some authority for the idea that the human embryo, as it develops in the way we know, is a result of the Fall?

 

What is the status of the contents of St John's 'Exposition'?



#4 Father David Moser

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Posted 07 June 2016 - 02:31 PM

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos in his book, The Feasts of the Church, confirms the teaching of St John of Damascus that the conception of our Lord in the womb of the Virgin was an act of creation and that Christ was immediately fully formed in the womb.  St Basil the Great is cited as another confirmation of this.

 

The "status" of St John of Damascus is that he is indeed a saint an that his patristic writings as given to us by the Church are profitable for our instruction.

 

The only thing in the whole discussion of this that I can find that even comes close to addressing the development of the human embryo in relation to the fall is the statement that conception "by seed" is a result of the fall (not that it is intrinsically sinful, but rather that it is brought about as the result of sin).  What conception and birth might have been prior to the fall is not revealed to us and so to try and "figure it out" leads (as St Gregory the Theologian warns about attempting to know that which is unknown and to meditate upon that which is unrevealed) into madness.

 

Fr David Moser



#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 07 June 2016 - 08:54 PM

Thank you, Father. Does 'profitable for our instruction' mean that this passage is the teaching of the Church?



#6 Father David Moser

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 01:50 PM

Given that there are two patristic fathers that confirm one another and that a very respected bishop of the Church in modern times that says the same thing, I would have to say that indeed this is the teaching of the Church.  However, I would also say that it is not infallible dogma and so there may be room for alternate ways of looking at this.  But I'm not aware of any at this point.

 

Fr David



#7 Lakis Papas

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 05:05 PM

As far as I know this is also accepted by Roman Catholic Church as being supported by the writings of Thomas Aquinas who in this matter is following Patristic Writings.

 

In Orthodox Church this issue is not well known because it has a scholastic nature, there are not many to ask about the anthropological status of Christ as a fetus.

 

The theology suggests that it is weird to accept Christ incarnated as a small in cell numbers body: Christ is the new Adam, and as Adam was created with a full complete body, likewise  Christ's body is created at once in a complete way as a complete body of a small baby. 



#8 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 07:14 PM

Any thoughts on Saint “Gregory of Nazianzus - Critique of Apollinarius and Apollinarianism” the meaning of comments like "humanly, because in accordance with the laws of gestation"
 
 
"Do not let the men deceive themselves and others with the assertion that the “Man of the Lord,” as they call Him, Who is rather our Lord and God, is without human mind. For we do not sever the Man from the Godhead, but we lay down as a dogma the Unity and Identity of Person, Who of old was not Man but God, and the Only Son before all ages, unmingled with body or anything corporeal; but Who in these last days has assumed Manhood also for our salvation; passible in His Flesh, impassible in His Godhead; circumscript in the body, uncircumscript in the Spirit; at once earthly and heavenly, tangible and intangible, comprehensible and incomprehensible; that by One and the Same Person, Who was perfect Man and also God, the entire humanity fallen through sin might be created anew.


If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, he is severed from the Godhead. If anyone should assert that He passed through the Virgin as through a channel, and was not at once divinely and humanly formed in her (divinely, because without the intervention of a man; humanly, because in accordance with the laws of gestation), he is in like manner godless. If any assert that the Manhood was formed and afterward was clothed with the Godhead, he too is to be condemned. For this were not a Generation of God, but a shirking of generation.

 

If any introduce the notion of Two Sons, one of God the Father, the other of the Mother, and discredits the Unity and Identity, may he lose his part in the adoption promised to those who believe aright. For God and Man are two natures, as also soul and body are; but there are not two Sons or two Gods. For neither in this life are there two manhoods; though Paul speaks in some such language of the inner and outer man. And (if I am to speak concisely) the Saviour is made of elements which are distinct from one another (for the invisible is not the same with the visible, nor the timeless with that which is subject to time), yet He is not two Persons. God forbid! For both natures are one by the combination, the Deity being made Man, and the Manhood deified or however one should express it.  And I say different Elements, because it is the reverse of what is the case in the Trinity; for There we acknowledge different Persons so as not to confound the persons; but not different Elements, for the Three are One and the same in Godhead.


If any should say that it wrought in Him by grace as in a Prophet, but was not and is not united with Him in Essence—let him be empty of the Higher Energy, or rather full of the opposite. If any worship not the Crucified, let him be Anathema and be numbered among the Deicides. If any assert that He was made perfect by works, or that after His Baptism, or after His Resurrection from the dead, He was counted worthy of an adoptive Sonship, like those whom the Greeks interpolate as added to the ranks of the gods, let him be  anathema. For that which has a beginning or a progress or is made perfect, is not God, although the expressions may be used of His gradual manifestation. If any assert that He has now put off His holy flesh, and that His Godhead is stripped of the body, and deny that He is now with His body and will come again with it, let him not see the glory of His Coming. For where is His body now, if not with Him Who assumed it? For it is not laid by in the sun, according to the babble of the Manichæans, that it should be honoured by a dishonour; nor was it poured forth into the air and dissolved, as is the nature of a voice or the flow of an odour, or the course of a lightning flash that never stands. Where in that case were His being handled after the Resurrection, or His being seen hereafter by them that pierced Him, for Godhead is in its nature invisible. Nay; He will come with His body—so I have learnt—such as He was seen by His Disciples in the Mount, or as he shewed Himself for a moment, when his Godhead overpowered the carnality. And as we say this to disarm suspicion, so we write the other to correct the novel teaching.

If anyone assert that His flesh came down from heaven, and is not from hence, nor of us though above us, let him be anathema. For the words, The Second Man is the Lord from Heaven; and, As is the Heavenly, such are they that are Heavenly; and, No man hath ascended up into Heaven save He which came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man which is in Heaven; and the like, are to be understood as said on account of the Union with the heavenly; just as that All Things were made by Christ, and that Christ dwelleth in your hearts is said, not of the visible nature which belongs to God, but of what is perceived by the mind, the names being mingled like the natures, and flowing into one another, according to the law of their intimate union.


If anyone has put his trust in Him as a Man without a human mind, he is really bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation. For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved. If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of Him that was begotten, and so be saved as a whole. Let them not, then, begrudge us our complete salvation, or clothe the Saviour only with bones and nerves and the portraiture of humanity. For if His Manhood is without soul, even the Arians admit this, that they may attribute His Passion to the Godhead, as that which gives motion to the body is also that which suffers. But if He has a soul, and yet is without a mind, how is He man, for man is not a mindless animal? And this would necessarily involve that while His form and tabernacle was human, His soul should be that of a horse or an ox, or some other of the brute creation. This, then, would be what He saves; and I have been deceived by the Truth, and led to boast of an honour which had been bestowed upon another. But if His Manhood is intellectual and nor without mind, let them cease to be thus really mindless.

But, says such an one, the Godhead took the place of the human intellect. How does this touch me? For Godhead joined to flesh alone is not man, nor to soul alone, nor to both apart from intellect, which is the most essential part of man. Keep then the whole man, and mingle Godhead therewith, that you may benefit me in my completeness. But, he asserts, He could not contain Two perfect Natures. Not if you only look at Him in a bodily fashion. For a bushel measure will not hold two bushels, nor will the space of one body hold two or more bodies. But if you will look at what is mental and incorporeal, remember that I in my one personality can contain soul and reason and mind and the Holy Spirit; and before me this world, by which I mean the system of things visible and invisible, contained Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. For such is the nature of intellectual Existences, that they can mingle with one another and with bodies, incorporeally and invisibly. For many sounds are comprehended by one ear; and the eyes of many are occupied by the same visible objects, and the smell by odours; nor are the senses narrowed by each other, or crowded out, nor the objects of sense diminished by the multitude of the perceptions.

But where is there mind of man or angel so perfect in comparison of the Godhead that the presence of the greater must crowd out the other? The light is nothing compared with the sun, nor a little damp compared with a river, that we must first do away with the lesser, and take the light from a house, or the moisture from the earth, to enable it to contain the greater and more perfect. For how shall one thing contain two completenesses, either the house, the sunbeam and the sun, or the earth, the moisture and the river? Here is matter for inquiry; for indeed the question is worthy of much consideration. Do they not know, then, that what is perfect by comparison with one thing may be imperfect by comparison with another, as a hill compared with a mountain, or a grain of mustard seed with a bean or any other of the larger seeds, although it may be called larger than any of the same kind? Or, if you like, an Angel compared with God, or a man with an Angel. So our mind is perfect and commanding, but only in respect of soul and body; not absolutely perfect; and a servant and a subject of God, not a sharer of His Princedom and honour. So Moses was a God to Pharaoh, but a servant of God, as it is written; and the stars which illumine the night are hidden by the Sun, so much that you could not even know of their existence by daylight; and a little torch brought near a great blaze is neither destroyed, nor seen, nor extinguished; but is all one blaze, the bigger one prevailing over the other. But, it may be said, our mind is subject to condemnation.

 

What then of our flesh? Is that not subject to condemnation? You must therefore either set aside the latter on account of sin, or admit the former on account of salvation. If He assumed the worse that He might sanctify it by His incarnation, may He not assume the better that it may be sanctified by His becoming Man? If the clay was leavened and has become a new lump, O ye wise men, shall not the Image be leavened and mingled with God, being deified by His Godhead? And I will add this also: If the mind was utterly rejected, as prone to sin and subject to damnation, and for this reason He assumed a body but left out the mind, then there is an excuse for them who sin with the mind; for the witness of God—according to you—has shewn the impossibility of healing it. Let me state the greater results. You, my good sir, dishonour my mind (you a Sarcolater, if I am an Anthropolater) that you may tie God down to the Flesh, since He cannot be otherwise tied; and therefore you take away the wall of partition. But what is my theory, who am but an ignorant man, and no Philosopher. Mind is mingled with mind, as nearer and more closely related, and through it with flesh, being a Mediator between God and carnality.

Further let us see what is their account of the assumption of Manhood, or the assumption of Flesh, as they call it. If it was in order that God, otherwise incomprehensible, might be comprehended, and might converse with men through His Flesh as through a veil, their mask and the drama which they represent is a pretty one, not to say that it was open to Him to converse with us in other ways, as of old, in the burning bush and in the appearance of a man. But if it was that He might destroy the condemnation by sanctifying like by like, then as He needed flesh for the sake of the flesh which had incurred condemnation, and soul for the sake of our soul, so, too, He needed mind for the sake of mind, which not only fell in Adam, but was the first to be affected, as the doctors say of illnesses. For that which received the command was that which failed to keep the command, and that which failed to keep it was that also which dared to transgress; and that which transgressed was that which stood most in need of salvation; and that which needed salvation was that which also He took upon Him. Therefore, Mind was taken upon Him.


This has now been demonstrated, whether they like it or no, by, to use their own expression, geometrical and necessary proofs. But you are acting as if, when a man’s eye had been injured and his foot had been injured in consequence, you were to attend to the foot and leave the eye uncared for; or as if, when a painter had drawn something badly, you were to alter the picture, but to pass over the artist as if he had succeeded. But if they, overwhelmed by these arguments, take refuge in the proposition that it is possible for God to save man even apart from mind, why, I suppose that it would be possible for Him to do so also apart from flesh by a mere act of will, just as He works all other things, and has wrought them without body. Take away, then, the flesh as well as the mind, that your monstrous folly may be complete. But they are deceived by the latter, and, therefore, they run to the flesh, because they do not know the custom of Scripture. We will teach them this also. For what need is there even to mention to those who know it, the fact that  everywhere in Scripture he is called Man, and the Son of Man?


If, however, they rely on the passage, The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us, and because of this erase the noblest part of Man (as cobblers do the thicker part of skins) that they may join together God and Flesh, it is time for them to say that God is God only of flesh, and not of souls, because it is written, “As Thou hast given Him power over all Flesh,” and “Unto Thee shall all Flesh come;” and “Let all Flesh bless His holy Name,” meaning every Man. Or, again, they must suppose that our fathers went down into Egypt without bodies and invisible, and that only the Soul of Joseph was imprisoned by Pharaoh, because it is written, “They went down into Egypt with threescore and fifteen Souls,” and “The iron entered into his Soul,” a thing which could not be bound. They who argue thus do not know that such expressions are used by Synecdoche, declaring the whole by the part, as when Scripture says that the young ravens call upon God, to indicate the whole feathered race; or Pleiades, Hesperus, and Arcturus are mentioned, instead of all the Stars and His Providence over them."
 
In Christ,
 
Matthew Panchisin


Edited by Olga, 09 June 2016 - 12:12 AM.
corrected paragraph formatting for ease of reading


#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 10:07 PM

The 'laws of gestation' likely means the period of time between conception and birth and so that phrase in the second paragraph of the passage quoted from St Gregory  does not contradict St Basil and St John of Damascus (and it is a pity Met. Hierotheos did not say where St Basil's assertion comes from), and Christ in His Mother's womb must have grown over nine months.

 

The reason I raised the topic is because it seems some people shy away from recognising the ways in which the Incarnate Christ was different from human beings (and so are in danger of playing down His Divinity, perhaps simply from their own notions rather than any kind of western influence (though that may be possible though I do not know what western confessions say about this)). Elsewhere in this Forum, there has been discussion of related matters such as that Christ had no gnomic will.

 

As Father David has explained, we can say that what St John of Damascus and St Basil say is a teaching of the Church, and it seems to fit what the Church has more dogmatically affirmed about the Incarnate Christ. As Lakis says, we in this matter may refer to the Incarnate Christ as the New Adam and Perfect Man, Adam as he was meant to become. Whilst, as Father David reminds us, we cannot speculate as to what increase by Adam and Eve would have been like had the Fall not occurred, we presumably can say it would have been very different from how it became subsequent to the Fall.


Edited by Rdr Andreas, 08 June 2016 - 10:08 PM.


#10 Lakis Papas

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 10:35 PM

St Gregory wrote many texts against Apolynarius. In all of them he supports the same orthodox views. In all of them he says that conception was with no seed. Therefore we should understand that no fertilization took place. There was no zygote cell, nor fertilized egg, because these are fruits of mixing seed in egg.
The absence of seed means that there was absence of embryonic plant.
The pregnancy of Holy Mary is a mystery. It does not come in line with pregnancy as we know it. She is Virgin, before conception, at the time of conception, and after birth giving. Her Virginity is not just about gynecological anatomical issues. It is also about not being fertilized.
Christ has no man-father. If we accept that Christ as a human was first a fertilized human egg that evolved into standard embryonic phases, then He was the product of fertilization - then this makes Him a creature.

#11 Lakis Papas

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 10:50 PM

(divinely, because without the intervention of a man; humanly, because in accordance with the laws of gestation)

The phrase above clearly states that there was no fertilization, and that Christ had a human mother.The "laws of gestation" refer to the Mother of God.

We should read the full paragraph, which is about the Mother of God - we should not take the phrase out of context:

If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, he is severed from the Godhead. If anyone should assert that He passed through the Virgin as through a channel, and was not at once divinely and humanly formed in her (divinely, because without the intervention of a man; humanly, because in accordance with the laws of gestation), he is in like manner godless.

Mary is the Mother of God because she carried in pregnancy and gave birth to Christ. But neither pregnancy nor birth were like other pregnancies or births.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 08 June 2016 - 10:55 PM.


#12 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 10:55 PM

Thank you, Lakis; what you say makes things clearer and is persuasive. It seems we can say that three great Fathers of the Church give us the same teaching..



#13 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 11:15 PM

Dear Father David, Andreas and Lakis,
 
 

"Mary is the Mother of God because she carried in pregnancy and gave birth to Christ. But neither pregnancy nor birth were like other pregnancies or births."

 
It seems here that the above quote is consistent with what the Orthodox Church teaches, could you explain in further summary what we should understand regarding the incarnation and the human embryo?
 
Thank you in advance.

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin

Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 08 June 2016 - 11:21 PM.


#14 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 02:56 AM

Dear Lakis
 

It seems this should be searched out, a little anyway. God have mercy on us.


You have said that the "laws of gestation" refer to the Mother of God, you are also saying that Christ never was in the human embryonic state, correct? There is an intimate relationship between the Mother of God (Theotokas) and Jesus Christ the Son of God as you know, correct? You really don't think the Church Fathers would separate that relationship just to support an argumentative essay do you?

 

In real context, what does the Orthodox Church teach about that relationship in terms of the incarnation. To the best of my knowledge a great mystery is conveyed (hear the hymnography) instead of hey I can fiqure this out. Well, if you figured it out or since you have figured it out there seems to be some real problems from my understanding anyway. Maybe you are right and some of us are idiots as you have insinuated.

I wonder Andreas, does that mean that the embryonic human state was never sanctified? That seems rather significant because I thought the Orthodox Church teaches something along the lines of that which is not assumed is not healed relative to human beings or the fallen conditions of human beings at all stages, even death, correct? I think you should understand what we mean.

It seems after all these years we should not have been taught in the Church an understanding of Christ as recapitulating human history, rather (a more complete understanding from posts here on monachos.net ) a less redemptive understanding that the post fall human being embryonic state is the result of the fall that was not passed through with the incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the God-man. In these days and times, what are the ramifications of such presented thinking? Is that actually what the Orthodox Church teaches or some concoction? I know the Orthodox Church doesn't come up with concoctions and I really have never heard the Orthodox Church saying that. However I may not have been paying close attention to the matter as the Orthodox Church has never seemed to direct us in that way.

You men seem to have arrived at some conclusions and understandings according to the cited Church Fathers and your collective understandings. However, these things that are being said seem problematic to some, so tell us in summary what the Orthodox Church teaches on the matter because I think it reasonable that we should know very clearly what we are being reprimanded for.

I'll talk to some learned Orthodox people but I strongly suspect I'll hear in my ears that such a conversation should be dismissed as out of hand to say the least and that we should keep things in context like they are in the Orthodox Church, of course men can mess things up. So the three Church Fathers instead of just one you have lined up for supporting your positions might be dismissed as out of hand or do can you think there actually might be something wrong with the presentation?

Well, if my thinking is very wrong and distorted because I have not listened to what the Church teaches on this and other matters then I will just accept that I'm very wrong and rather lacking in intellectual abilities etc. Perhaps the timing of the hypostatic union should be studied more carefully by scholars.

If you Father David, Lakis and Andreas are correct, then you are correct and we certainly should listen to your understandings and address my misunderstandings and present them to many others for our mutual correction.

Please forgive my sinfulness and wondering fallen intellect in such matters. I suppose as such I really should refrain from any comments here.

Best regards and with much fondness, God have mercy.

In Christ,

Matthew Panchisin


Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 09 June 2016 - 03:10 AM.


#15 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 02:16 PM

So far it seems here that the incarnation and the embryo notions do not seem to work right in the places they should like akathists to the Mother of God.

 

Strange, it seems one really couldn't even seem to force those notions therein, but apparently those notions have been somehow extracted from the writings of the Church
fathers, how could that be? Usually it is the protestants and papist that are interested in re-writing whatever they want to.

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin



#16 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 04:26 PM

Ok, we have seen much here and for one of many examples can even hear St Irenaeus of Lyons' famous consideration of Christ "passing through every age" of human life on
monachos.net.

 

What does St, Irenaeus mean by that? Why is that an important understanding within the Orthodox Church? What do your Christ never was in the human embryonic state ideas do to those lines of thought?

 

There seems to be many conflicts though, for unless I'm greatly misunderstanding you guys the distances that you have created in this thread are rather significant.

 

Andreas, you believe that what Lakis says regarding this matter makes things clearer and you find it persuasive. Would you consider commenting on what St Irenaeus of Lyons

means and how it fits into your conclusions.

 

Please accept my sincere apologies if I'm misunderstanding what you people are comfortable presenting to us for consideration.

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin


Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 09 June 2016 - 04:36 PM.


#17 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 06:30 PM

John Damascene says:

"But neither do we know, nor can we tell, what the essence of God is, or how it is in all, or how the Only-begotten Son and God, having emptied Himself, became Man of virgin blood, made by another law contrary to nature, or how He walked with dry feet upon the waters."

I think this text is clear. Christ became Man of Virgin blood,made by another law contrary to nature.

#18 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 06:39 PM

St John Damascene says:

"We have an analogy in Adam, who was not begotten (for God Himself moulded him), and Seth, who was begotten (for he is Adam's son), and Eve, who proceeded out of Adam's rib (for she was not begotten). These do not differ from each other in nature, for they are human beings: but they differ in the mode of coming into existence."

So, those who differ in the mode of coming into existence, they do not differ from each other in nature. Thus Christ differs in the mode of coming into existence, but this does not make Him to differ in human nature that took from His Holy mother.

#19 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 06:57 PM

" that which is not assumed is not healed "

This is true. But as Christ has no man-father, He got the human nature from His Mother alone. But His body was came into existence by another law contrary to nature, yet His human nature does not differ from our human nature.

#20 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 June 2016 - 07:12 PM

It is important to understand that Christ assumed the human nature not because He imitated human ways but by
restoring into perfection what was fallen.
He did not restored human nature by doing what humans do, He restored human nature by making it His own. This is important: Christ made perfect the human nature by Who He was.
The relation with the rest of humanity is connected by His Holy Mother. By having a human mother He relates to human nature. The "source" of Christ's human nature is His Mother.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 09 June 2016 - 07:13 PM.





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