St Athanasius: Are You Guarding Christ's Likeness?

Feast of St Mark the Apostle & Evangelist

Athanasius_Square_2.jpgSPEAKING OF the manifestation of the Savior to us, it is necessary also to speak of the origin of human beings, in order that you might know that our own cause was the occasion of his descent and that our own transgression evoked the Word’s love for human beings, so that the Lord both came to us and appeared among human beings. For we were the purpose of his embodiment, and for our salvation he so loved human beings as to come to be and appear in a human body. Thus, then, God created the human being and willed that he should abide in incorruptibility; but when humans despised and overturned the comprehension of God, devising and contriving evil for themselves, then they received the previously threatened condemnation of death, and thereafter no longer remained as they had been created, but were corrupted as they had contrived; and, seizing them, death reigned. For the transgression of the commandment returned them to the natural state, so that, just as they, not being, came to be, so also they might rightly endure in time the corruption unto non-being. For if, having a nature that did not exist, they were called into existence by the Word’s advent and love for human beings, it followed that when human beings were bereft of the knowledge of God and had turned to things which exist not—evil is non-being, the good is being, since it has come into being from the existing God—then they were bereft also of eternal being. But this, being decomposed, is to remain in death and corruption. For the human being is by nature mortal, having come into being from nothing. But because of his likeness to the One who Is, which, if he had guarded through his comprehension of him, would have blunted his natural corruption, he would have remained incorruptible, just as Wisdom says, “Attention to the laws is the confirmation of incorruptibility’ (Wis. 6.18). And being incorruptible, he would have lived thereafter like God, as somewhere the Divine Scripture also signals, saying “I said you are gods, and all sons of the Most High; but you die like human beings and fall like any prince” (Ps. 81.6-7). For God has not only created us from nothing, but also granted us by the grace of the Word to live a life according to God.

—St Athanasius, On the Incarnation

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