Today it is a time to look at the Mystery of the Son of God
Every Sunday, as baptised people, we confess our faith in the following words: ‘I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Begotten Son of God, born of the father before all ages; God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God; begotten not made, con-substantial with the Father. Through Him all things were made.’ Nearly one billion people on earth every Lord’s Day repeat these words. We profess these words with our mouth, but today, rarely anyone knows what a dramatic story connects with this text. Hardly anyone remembers that the Church has defended every word in the profession of faith quoted above and paid a huge price for it.
There were great discussions and dramatic disputes throughout the fourth century. Many bishops paid for them by exile, by years in prison, and even death. There was a time when even among the bishops it was possible to count on one hand those who, risking their lives, were faithful to this confession of faith. I will mention only one scene. When the bishops opposed the change of the formula of faith, dozens of them were loaded onto a ship, taken far out to sea, the ship was set on fire, the crew escaped, and they went to the bottom.
The state authorities supported those who claimed that the Son of God is not a true God, but He is only the first and the most perfect creation of God. The Church defended the truth about the Deity of the Son of God. What would be the consequences if it were acknowledged that the Son of God was not God, but only the most perfect creature?
First of all: If the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is not a true God, He cannot reveal to us the full truth about God. He could speak of Him only from the outside, He could say only as much as He could see, how much He could know from the outside. God’s mystery can be revealed only by God. That is why Christ says in the Gospel: ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ (Mt 11, 27b). If He were not a true God, He would not be able to convey the full truth about God.
The second consequence: If the Son of God were only the most perfect creature, God, sacrificing Him, would not have expressed His incredible love in it, for He would sacrifice the work of His hands, not Himself, not His Heart. True revelations of love are made in sacrifice. The Father, offering his Only Begotten Son, participates in it, because everyone who loves participates in the pain and suffering of the one he loves. It is no art to sacrifice the work of our hands. True love is the devotion of a part of our heart. If Jesus Christ was not a true God, we would not deal with the revelation of God’s love.
Third consequence: If the Son of God was not a real God He could not save us. The most perfect angel is just a creature. We would then be still only in the circle of the created world. Salvation is that God allowed us into His life, that He shared His life with us. He leads us out of the created world to bring us into the world of God. So in the question: Who is Jesus Christ, the entire essence of Christianity is included.
The great protector of the Deity of Jesus Christ in the fourth century was Saint Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. He was short in height, but he turned out to be God’s column of steel in God’s Providence plans. Everyone hit this ‘column’ and was broken. Saint Athanasius defended the Deity of Jesus Christ to the last moment of his life. The other great bishop was Saint Hilary. When he found out that his colleagues, who had gathered at the Synod in Rimini in 359, signed a false formula of confession, he wrote to them: ‘A dog can defend his master, and you cannot defend the Deity of Jesus Christ, your Master.’ He wrote these words while in exile. He did not know in what difficult situation his colleagues found themselves, because they had to choose between signing the imposed formula and exile. A large number of them broke down and signed this false document, and those who did not break down, together with the Pope, were sent into exile. In such circumstances, the words of confession of faith were formed, which we repeat in the whole Church after centuries. This is how the Deity of Jesus Christ was defended, knowing that it is the defence of the very essence of Christian faith.
In the form of a supplement, I will add two more remarks. Man created in the image and likeness of God was called to imitate the child’s mutual references to the Father and Father to the child. In this we must discover the foundation of the fourth commandment: ‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land that your God is giving you’ (Exodus 20, 12). God, before the creation of the world was already the Father and loved the Son, and the Son loved the Father. Before the first father was created on earth, before the creation of parenthood here on earth, it was already in God. God is a model for every father. This is the most elementary interpersonal reference and if it were correctly set up, life on earth would look completely different. If the reference of children to parents was based on this pattern that God gives, life on earth would be a reflection of God’s life.
The second remark is historical. Secular authority, wanting to interfere in the Church’s actions, was always on the side of those who denied God’s dignity to Jesus Christ. This is significant and at the same time understandable. For if Jesus Christ is not a true God, the Church is not divine either, she is only one of the earthly institutions. The state authorities always want to have all the institutions under their control. The mystery of the freedom of the Holy Church is hidden in the mystery of the Deity of Jesus Christ. The deeper the Church discovers her divine origin, the more she is free from all temptations of secular power because she is directly subjected to God.
I realise that today’s reflection can be difficult. However, I would like to show that the Gospel is an amazing diamond in which the harmony of all elements is so perfect that any disturbance of one of them immediately leads to the destruction of everything. Therefore, let us not be surprised that thousands of people gave their lives in defence of the Deity of Jesus Christ, choosing the Gospel treasure for all eternity.
With love and prayers and asking for yours, Fr. Marcin