The Wonder of the Incarnation: Fully Human, Fully Divine
If you are anything like me, you are guilty of taking the following line from the Gospel of Luke entirely for granted: ‘And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour’ (Lk 2:52). I have to confess that the following question simply had never dawned on me prior to last year: How is it possible that Jesus – the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the eternal Word of the Father – increased in wisdom? Did He not already possess fullness of wisdom being God?
I am so grateful that I was introduced to the work of Frank Sheed this past year – especially his work ‘Theology and Sanity’ – because he opened my eyes to the sheer wonder of the Incarnation – Jesus becoming man. It is true that Jesus – even in His incarnate existence – was fully divine, meaning He already had fullness of divine knowledge right from the offset – even as He became incarnate in Mary’s womb, even when He lay in the manger in Bethlehem, even as He took His first human steps. Yet He was also FULLY human, sharing in the whole vista of human experience, having to acquire knowledge gradually from that experience – like us. Perhaps similarly to the teaching of the Trinity – that there are three Divine Persons in One God – this can seem baffling to us. How can three wholes or two wholes make one? It doesn’t exactly concur with all we’ve been taught about fractions in school! Moreover, what it must have been like for Jesus to experience this dual reality – fullness of knowledge in one intellect (His divine), limited knowledge in another (His human) – is beyond my ability to imagine fully, yet it is awe-inspiring precisely because of this. Sheed would also assert the following: it is mysterious, certainly, impossible, no.
Relatedly – and mysteriously – Jesus possessed BOTH a human will and a divine will – and perfect harmony existed between them. The Catechism is clear: While learning all that a human invariably has to learn, Jesus had ‘intimate and immediate knowledge’ of His Father, and fully understood the plan He had come to reveal and fulfil (CCC 473-474). He had a mission from the Father which nothing was going to deter Him from. When He is found in the temple as a twelve-year-old, after three days of absence from his family, His enigmatic response to Mary seems to flow from this: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49).
Mary’s reaction to this has also taught me the attitude of a true disciple: She didn’t understand her son fully, yet she nevertheless ‘treasured all these things in her heart’ (Lk 2:51). Similarly, Jesus’ mystery may invariably baffle us, yet ultimately it is something to be treasured always. May we live in a perpetual state of wonder.
By Your grace, may we, like Mary,
deeply treasure Your mysteries always,
and ultimately embrace them eternally.
Through Christ Jesus our Lord,