Arthur Middleton on the Incarnation
Continuing with our choirboy’s perusal of the Quicunque Vult, in the last edition he will find, when it speaks of the Incarnation, an identification of Jesus of Nazareth with God in heaven. It recognizes a continuity of being between the one like unto a son of man who had tabernacled amongst us, and Him who is and who was and who is to come. The living one, the source and fountain of all being, the ‘I am,’ the alpha and omega, is one who speaks of himself as identically the same, who was dead and now lives. Here is the continuity between the Jesus of the gospels and the Christ of history, the pre-existent and the eternally present. This is the vision our choirboy will see.
It is the vison of St John on the isle of Patmos, who sees the crucified Jesus enthroned on high at the centre of heaven’s worship, glorified indeed. For St John this glorified being is the Jesus whom he had known in the flesh—Jesus the same yesterday, today and forever.
He is not two distinct persons, a man called Jesus Christ and another who dwelt in him and at the same time was not he. That is the Nestorian heresy. Nor did he adopt our human nature and dispense with it when it was no longer necessary, which is the adoptionist heresy. The pre-incarnate logos, the man Jesus, the risen Christ, the Lord of glory—all are one in identity and continuity of being. Jesus, in his claim ‘I and the Father are one,’ is vindicated. A Trinitarian formula alone is adequate to do justice to the facts.
What the Quicunque Vult gives us is the faith of our fathers, which had opened out before them a new world—the transvaluation of all values. A new and astounding conception of God was theirs, and this was the result of their belief in the divinity of their master. They must proclaim it that God is like Jesus. God it was in human form who ‘became flesh and dwelt among us.’ We beheld his glory, which consisted in showing mercy and pity. The disciples of Jesus looked back and saw in the earthly life of the incarnate lord a wonderful revelation of the character of God.