The One who makes rich is made poor, taking on the poverty of flesh, that I may gain the riches of divinity. The One who is full is made empty, devoid a while of glory, that I may share that glory fully. What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that surrounds me? – St. Gregory Nazianzen (329-390 CE)
It’s an ancient theological question: Why did God become one of us?
Some Christians think it was to fix a big problem—to pay the debt incurred by Adam’s sin. When he grows up, this theory goes, Jesus will bridge with his broken body the vast gulf our disobedience created between us and God.
If that’s what you believe about God’s purpose, you stand in a venerable stream of Christian tradition, and I won’t say you’re wrong.
I will say that it’s not the only story the Church has told about why God drew so near to us, taking a body. There are other venerable traditions, and one of them imagines that the Savior came to divinize us, to give us God’s own glory.
In this version, God empties out to take humanity in. God stoops down to raise us up. God accepts limits to dissolve the limits that made it seem as if God and humans were opposites. The great wonder of the Incarnation is that we’re not.
If you believe this, then what you’re waiting for in Advent is not someone to fix us but someone to reveal us to ourselves. The gift on the horizon is not a moral course correction but a bright mirror, a gaze, a joyous shock of mutual recognition—look, there, the eternal resemblance, the beauty, the dignity, the nearness, the ever-shining love.
O this wealth of goodness! O this mystery that surrounds us!
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.