Epistles to Ansgar Letter 03: God the Son

This letter is two or three weeks late, but Ansgar is a babe in arms as yet, and may not notice the delay. 

25 December AD 2023, Feast of the Nativity

Dear Godson,

This day is Christmas. So holy is this day that all witches curses fail, nor may stars and planets in adverse conjunctions shed malign influences. For this is the day, foretold since Eden, when Our Lord, the Messiah and Savior of the world is born.

Because the tradition to exchange gifts on this day has had so profound an effect on the surrounding culture, among Christians and nonbelievers alike, it is easy to forget the meaning of this central miracle, a miracle beating at the heart of human history, that this great day commemorates.

To see that God the Father exists is no great difficulty for an honest heart and open mind. Nothing comes from nothing, therefore logic needs Logos. Creation needs a Creator. Nature needs the supernatural. Law implies a lawgiver, both for laws of physics and laws of morality. The hierarchy of being requires a Highmost. All causes in the cosmos point to a First Cause. All purposes in life point to a Final Purpose. All meanings sought by man or found in life point to an Ultimate Meaning. And this all men know to be God.

Likewise, it is no great difficulty for an honest heart and open mind to see that God, in order to be God, must be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, transcendent, benevolent and immortal. God is one, and there is only one God.

Lacking any of these attributes, God would be a creature, a created thing. God would be a being, not the source of being. If he were very powerful, but not all-powerful, or very wise, but not all-knowing, or ancient, but not eternal, or present but not everywhere. In which case there would be aspects of reality, places in time and space, for which He was not responsible. The powerful and ancient but not omnipotent nor eternal being would be, so to speak, a character in the play, not the playwright.

But to see that God the Son exists is a paradox and a puzzlement, if not a shock and scandal. For then the playwright enters the play. How can this be?

God, to be God, must be one, and there can be only one God. How can he have a Son? The only way to have a Son and to remain One would be for the Son and the Father to be the same being.

Likewise, God, to be God, must be spiritual, perfect, invincible to pain and death. God is spirit, but man is embodied. God is perfect, but man is tempted. God is impassive, but man suffers. God is immortal, but man dies. But Son is born in the flesh, be tempted by the devil, suffer scorn and thorn and scourge and cross, and die the death. How can this be?

If anyone but God Himself had said these thing of God, it would be blasphemy. Man’s reason is dazed, if not overthrown, attempting to encompass these mysteries.

But Christians are the only peoples in history ever to see that infinity was too narrow for God. Our God was bigger than infinity. He also could be finite.

Now, as to how it is possible for God to become Man, infinite to become finite, immortal to become mortal, or for the ever-lasting and eternal to have a birthday, all I can see is that while such a thing seems impossible, all things are possible with God.

But a playwright can write himself into play, and step on stage. It is his play, he decides what goes into it. Immortal being mortal and spirit being flesh might seem impossible to us, but the Creator who set the rules, as established what was possible and what was not, says otherwise. He made the universe.

So He made a cosmos whose rules allow Him to enter the cosmos as a baby.

There are many who call it an absurdity, or even a blasphemy, to say that God can be Man. Jews scoff the idea, and Mohammedans curse it; and the perennial heretic sect called the Gnostics have rejected the idea from the days of Simon the Magician to the present day.

Now, of all men on earth, the Sons of Israel are least likely to believe that the One God can have a Son, or that God can suffer and die. But when the Apostles carried the report of these miraculous things to the various pagan peoples conquered by the Romans, or nearby beyond the boundaries of the Empire, they had been prepared to receive and believe, for tales of demigods or Autumn Kings who die and rise again, Horus, Adonis, Attis, acted as foreshadowing. Christ came to fulfil a human need for salvation, for freedom from sin, for victory over death, which is a craving implanting in every human heart. Christians need no scoff at the daydream of pagans, for their hearts are not so different from ours, so it is not surprising that they would invent shadows to sate the appetite we have for the bread and wine of Christ.

Never let the shock and surprise, the sheer unlikeliness, of this strange tale fade. We Christians believe what the world calls absurd and insane, a tale of newborn kings, a baby born of a virgin, a savior whose coming is told not to sages or emperors, but to shepherds, born not in a palace but a stable, amid the stinking beasts, and with no cradle to lay his wee head, only a manger, for there was no room in the Inn for his parents.

It is the last place on Earth anyone would ever look to see the king and priest and messiah born.

In those days, it was not unusual for stables to be hidden in caves and grottos. The Grotto of the Nativity is literally underground: Jesus was born in a cave, hidden beneath the surface of the land.

How odd of God to choose the Jews as those through whom all man would be saved. Why did heaven select this way to make these great events come about?

God did not come to me to ask advice on how he should arrange salvation history. Why these great events were done this strange way and as we men would have done it, men can guess and speculate, but it is wiser to fall mute.

Your godfather

John Charles Justinmartyr Wright