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in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

The Body

From a discourse by Saint Athanasius, bishop

On the incarnation of the Word

The Word of God, incorporeal, incorruptible and immaterial, entered our world. Yet it was not as if He had been remote from it up to that time. For there is no part of the world that was ever without His presence; together with His Father, He continually filled all things and places.

Saint AthanasiusOut of His loving-kindness for us He came to us, and we see this in the way He revealed Himself openly to us. Taking pity on mankind’s weakness, and moved by our corruption, He could not stand aside and see death have the mastery over us; He did not want creation to perish and His Father’s work in fashioning man to be in vain. He therefore took to Himself a body, no different from our own, for he did not wish simply to be in a body or only to be seen. If He had wanted simply to be seen, He could indeed have taken another, and nobler, body. Instead, He took our body in its reality.

Within the Virgin He built Himself a temple, that is, a body; He made it His own instrument in which to dwell and to reveal Himself. In this way He received from mankind a body like our own, and, since all were subject to the corruption of death, He delivered this body over to death for all, and with supreme love offered it to the Father. He did so to destroy the law of corruption passed against all men, since all died in him. The law, which had spent its force on the body of the Lord, could no longer have any power over His fellowmen. Moreover, this was the way in which the Word was to restore mankind to immortality, after it had fallen into corruption, and summon it back from death to life. He utterly destroyed the power death had against mankind—as fire consumes chaff—by means of the body He had taken and the grace of the resurrection. . . .

—Saint Athanasius, bishop
Office of Readings, May 2


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