By Father Bryan Babick, SL.L.
In my haste to write the last article, I used a few words synonymously which could lead to confusion. I wrote that homoousios means like-being. By this expression I intended “alike-being,” as in the same kind. The Father and the Son share in same Godly, or divine being.
I also interchanged “Father” and “God,” as when I wrote that “Jesus is the Father.” Jesus is God; the Father and the Son are distinct Persons of the one God. The assertion “when God the Father came into the world” should have been simply “when God came into the world.” If the Father had come into the world then that would mean that He suffered on the Cross. If this were true, Jesus would not have cried out, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) while on the Cross.
Distinguishing the Persons of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – while maintaining their unity as one God, is important when affirming our Faith. This clarification leads me to reflect on another strange word we will find in the revised Creed. Instead of saying that Jesus Christ was “born of the Virgin Mary,” we will say the He was “incarnate of the Virgin Mary.” Incarnate will more precisely express the Mystery of God’s entrance into humanity and affirm the sacred nature of all human life from its beginning.
“Incarnate” finds prominence in the Gospel of John. In 1:14 Saint John says that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” “Word” is John’s ways of saying that Jesus Christ is the fullest and ultimate revelation of God among us. The Latin text reads “verbum caro factum est.” The word caro, which means “flesh,” is evident in “incarnate.” “Nate” comes from the Latin natus, which means “produced by nature.”
The natural way a human is produced is through the sexual act. Of course this was not the true in the case of Jesus, but historically, when a woman discovered that she had conceived, it was believed that the child was already dwelling within her. This is why Saint John says Jesus “dwelt among us” from the moment Jesus was miraculously conceived.
Natus, sometimes translated as “born,” has more a connection to the moment of conception than to birth. “Born” gives the modern mind more a sense of the actual delivery of a child at the conclusion of a pregnancy. This is important because it means that saying “incarnate” in the Creed affirms that Jesus Christ took on the flesh of humanity at the moment He was conceived, not simply when He was born on Christmas day. If Jesus Christ became human at His miraculous conception, then it means that every child produced by nature is a human being at conception.
Using “incarnate” in the Mass will remind us of the precious gift of all human life from its first moment of natural conception and of the Mystery of the Son assuming it. Christ first dwelt among us in the womb of the Blessed Mother and then He was born. Incarnate affirms our Catholic conviction that all human life begins when it is naturally conceived, like Jesus’ humanity began when He took on flesh through the Blessed Virgin Mary at His miraculous conception.