The Incarnation and the Revelation of the Trinity

 

208In principio et ante saecula Deus erat Verbum: ipse natus est nobis Salvator mundi.

 

 

 

 

The birth of the Eternal Word in time reveals the mystery of His eternal birth from the Father. Creation is an image of God’s essence: in its manifold way it mirrors the perfection which He has in the absolute unity of His essence, but it does not show the most intimate depths of the Divine life; it does not show the procession of Persons. It is this most Divine of all mysteries that the Son came into the world to reveal. S. Thomas explains this in the Proemium to the Commentary on the Sentences:

. . . it belongs to him [the Son] to be the manifestation of the Father who utters [him as Word] and of the whole Trinity. And so it is said, “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him” (Matthew 11,27), and “No one has ever seen God except the only-begotten who is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1,18). Rightly, therefore, is it said by the person of the Son, “I, wisdom, poured forth the rivers.” Those rivers I understand to be the flows of the eternal procession whereby the Son ineffably proceeds from the Father and the Holy Spirit from both. These rivers were once hidden and in some way poured together, both in the likenesses of creatures and in the enigmas of the Scriptures. . . The Son came and poured out the pent up rivers, as it were, by bringing the name of the Trinity out into the open, “Teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Whence [it also says,] “He searched the depths of the rivers and brought forth what was hidden into the light” (Job 28,11). (Translation by M. Waldstein)

Coming into the world in order to reveal His eternal coming forth from the Father, the Son enters the world in a way which is itself the most perfect temporal image of the eternal procession. De Koninck points out that it is the very lowliness of human condition that enables this imitation:

The assumption of human nature can also be accomplished in two ways: immediately and without any preliminary conditions as would be the case if God immediately formed the assumed nature; or in assuming human nature by way of birth, God would thus place Himself in dependence as it were on man and proceed into the universe by way of origination. And the being itself from which He is born becomes thereby the origin of God. Let us notice right away that this very radical communication would not in any way have been possible in the assumption of an angelic nature. God could not proceed from an angelic nature, since that nature is, on the one hand, too perfect to engender as do natural beings, and on the other hand, too imperfect to engender as does God. “Perfecta imperfecte, imperfecta perfecte.” It is thus thanks to the potentiality of matter, taking matter insofar is it is deprived of form, therefore to the privation which is the weakest reality, that the Son of God can proceed from the very inside of His creation, thus imitating in a very profound manner His generation from the eternal Father. Infixus sum in limo profundi: et non est substantia—I am thrusted in the depth of slime, where there is no point of support (Ps. LXVIII, 3). Happy imperfection of matter which merits such an informing! (Chales De Koninck, Ego Sapientia, ch. 20)

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