Irenaeus on the Incarnation (6)

For the last post for Advent season this year in the “Irenaeus on the Incarnation” series, I have a couple of selections from the Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, chaps. 43 and 47 (translation that of John Behr).  I have edited the selection from chap. 43 quite a bit for both (a) stylistic reasons, and because, (2) while the theology in the paragraph is both correct and glorious, Irenaeus, unfortunately, seems to have relied on some questionable readings of the biblical text as well as a bit of prooftexting for support.  Nevertheless, both paragraphs are strong testimony to the pre-existence and deity of the one whose incarnation we celebrate.

[43]  It is necessary to believe God in all things, for in all things God is true. . . .  There is a Son to God, and He is, not only before His appearance in the world, but also before the world came to be. . . .  Blessed is He who was before He became man. . . .  Therefore also his disciple John, relating to us who the Son of God is, who was with the Father before the world came to be, and that by him all created things came to be speaks thus, ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God; all things were made by Him and without Him nothing was made,’ most clearly demonstrating that the Word, who was in the beginning with the Father, by whom all things came to be—this One is His Son.

[47]  Therefore, the Father is Lord and the Son is Lord, and the Father is God and the Son is God, since He who is born of God is God, and in this way, according to His being and power and essence, one God is demonstrated: but according to the economy of our salvation, there is both Father and Son; since the Father of all is invisible and inaccessible to His creatures, it is necessary for those who approach God to have access to the Father through the Son.

These two paragraphs remind me of the great fourth-century hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six-winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

One very nice recording of this hymn, performed by John Michael Talbot, may be found here.

May all of you have a Merry Christmas.  And may your celebration of the incarnation of our Lord be filled with mystery, and awe, and wonder.

Jerry Shepherd
December 23, 2013