Saturday, January 9, 2021

Two Natures Of Christ by Hilary of Poitiers

Hilary of Poitiers (315–368) is a key transitional figure between ante-Nicene and post-Nicene orthodoxy. Claiming that he discovered the Nicene Creed on the eve of his appointment as bishop of Poitiers, he went on to defend its classic expression to the next generation of churchmen. He was one of the chief champions of classical Christianity. What follows is an excerpt from Hilary’s 1600-year-old work, On the Trinity.

“Anyone who fails to see Christ Jesus as at once truly God and truly man is blind to his own life: to deny Christ Jesus, or God the Spirit, or our own flesh, is equally perilous. ‘If anyone acknowledges Me before men, I shall acknowledge him before My Father who is in heaven. But if anyone denies Me before men, I shall deny him before My Father, who is in heaven.’ … Christ has been appointed as in Himself the Mediator, for the salvation of the church, and in that mystery [sacramentum] of meditation between God and mankind He is one being, yet He is both God and man: by the union of the two natures He is one entity comprising both natures; but in such a way that in either capacity He lacked nothing of the other, so that He did not cease to be God by being born as man, or fail to be man by remaining God. This is true faith of human blessedness, to proclaim God and man, to acknowledge Word and flesh; not to fail to recognize God because He is man, nor to fail to see the flesh because He is the Word.

He is born as man, while remaining God.… The birth of a higher nature into a lower state gives us confidence that a lower nature can be born into a higher condition. But on the analogy of the familiar ordering of things in the physical world, the fulfillment of our hopes is more readily comprehended than the working of the divine mystery of the Incarnation. For in all that comes into being, the world has the power to increase; there is no possibility of diminution. Consider trees, crops, and cattle. Observe mankind, the rational creation. Man always advances by increase: he does not contract by diminution; but his increase does not mean that he ceases to be himself.… It is beyond his power to cease to be what he is, so as to create a new self by decrease, that is, by dwindling from an old man into an infant.… So it was appropriate for God to be other than what He continued to be, while not ceasing to be what He had always been: for God to be born in human nature, and yet not cease to be God; to contract Himself even to conception, to the cradle, to infancy; without departing from the power of God.”