St Peter Chrysologus: Do You Acknowledge that God Was Born?

Feast of the Holy Prophet Haggai and Our Righteous Mother Blessed Empress Theophania

St_Peter_Chrysologus_CNA_World_Catholic_News_7_27_12_1_.jpgTHE HOLY Apostle today recounts that two men gave an origin to the human race, namely, Adam and Christ. They are two men alike in body, but different in worth; truly similar in the structure of their members, but truly dissimilar in their own beginnings. “The first man, Adam,” the text says, “became a living soul; the last Adam became a lifegiving spirit.” That first one was made by this last One, from whom he got his soul to be alive. This last One was fashioned by His very Self, that He alone might not await life from another, but give it to all men. The first one was molded from the cheapest earth; the last One came forth from the Virgin’s precious womb. In the case of the former, earth is changed into flesh; in that of the latter, flesh itself is raised up to God.

Why should I say more? This last is the Adam who placed His own image in the first one when He made him. That is why He both plays the same role as the former and receives his name, in order not to let perish, as far as He was concerned, that which He had made to His own image. The first Adam, and the last Adam. That first one has a beginning; this last One has no limit. For, in truth, this last One is Himself first, as He says: “I am the first, and I am the last” (Is. 48.12). “I am the first,’ that is, without a beginning; “I am the last,” assuredly without an end.

“But it is not the spiritual that comes first,” the text says, “but the physical and then the spiritual.” Surely the earth exists before the fruit, but it is not as precious as the fruit. The earth exacts groans and toil, but the fruit gives substance and life. The Prophet rightly glories over such fruit: “Our earth has yielded her fruit” (Ps. 84.18). What fruit? Clearly, that of which he says elsewhere: “Of the fruit of thy womb I will set upon thy throne” (Ps. 131.11).

“The first man,” the text continues, “was of the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven, heavenly.” Where are they who think that the Virgin’s conception and giving birth to her child are to be likened to those of other women (e.g. Cerinthus, Ebion, and the Carpocratians)? For, this latter case is one of the earth, and the Virgin’s is one from heaven. The one is a case of divine power; the other of human weakness. The one case occurs in a body subject to passion; the other in the tranquility of the divine Spirit and the peace of the human body. The blood was still, and the flesh astonished; her members were put at rest, and her entire womb was quiescent during the visit of the Heavenly One, until the Author of flesh could take on His garment of flesh, and until He, who was not merely to restore the earth to man but also to give him heaven, could become a heavenly Man. The Virgin conceives, the Virgin brings forth her child, and she remains a virgin. Consequently, her body is conscious of strength, not pain. By her child-bearing she receives an increase of her integrity, and suffers no harm to her modesty. She is, rather, the witness of her motherhood who suffered none of its customary pains. The new mother marvels at her having a part in heavenly mysteries. Well does she understand that the birth of her Son has nothing which ordinarily occurs among men. If the Magus through His gift acknowledges that God is thus being born, and makes his acknowledgment while he is adoring, think what a Christian ought to feel and believe!

—St Peter Chrysologus, Homily on the First Adam and the Last Adam, Born of a Virgin

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