When the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation began to be proclaimed it immediately provoked strong reactions. Jews thought it a horrible blasphemy, Greeks a foolish absurdity. From the moment of their first encounter with it they realised its revolutionary implications for the world of thought and religion and reacted accordingly. So radical were these implications that even many who were attracted by the figure of Jesus rejected them and most of the heresies which the primitive Church had to battle, from Gnosticism to Arianism, aimed quite precisely at removing the doctrine of Incarnation from the Christian credo.
However with the spread of Christianity and the passage of time Incarnation became the new normal. It’s implications did not stop being revolutionary but these implications for the most part did stop being considered. Humans adapted to the extraordinary by banalising it, ignoring it or denying it under a form of words which implied accepting it. It belongs, however, to the peculiar genius of the Catholic Church that it is this doctrine above all others which she has held patiently, doggedly and unapologetically before the eyes of the faithful and the world these past two millennia or so. It is this which lies behind the myriad images of the baby Jesus and the crucified Christ, behind the cult of Mary and the saints, behind the relics, the shrines, the pilgrimages and most of all behind the holy sacrifice of the Mass as the ‘source and summit of Christian life.’ To the extent that we simply consider these things severally and together as just being the Catholic ‘brand’ the stuff that Catholics do then we miss the point that it is not just what Catholicism does but also what Catholicism is. To see why this is so we need to step back several paces so that we can encounter the doctrine of Incarnation as if for the first time. Click here to read more