25 December 2010

A "Technical" Christmas

Many readers will, no doubt, have already seen the very cleverly done video which depicts the Nativity using 21st century social media tools. One may well consider it a view of Christmas from a "technical" standpoint. What many may not realize, however, is that the very first Christmas day was also a highly "technical event" ... in the eyes of some.

In 325 at the Council of Niacea, the infamous Arian heresy was disputed and condemned. Arius, as well-intentioned as he was misguided, had proposed that Jesus was neither God nor man; he was, rather, somewhere in between: something akin to the demi-gods of the classical world. Arius used a "technical" term to describe Jesus: 'omoiousios, which means "to be like" or "to be similar." He asserted that Jesus was "similar in being" to God -- but not God. The Council Fathers, insisting that Jesus is truly God, countered with the term 'omoousios simply deleting the iota from Arius' term. This word means "the same as" -- as in "the same substance" or "the same being."

So, why all the fuss about a "technical," headache-provoking theological term on this happy and holy Christmas morning? Had it not been for the insight and perseverance of the Fathers of the Council of Niacea we would not be celebrating the Incarnation. One iota -- one little letter -- could have obscured this precious truth of our faith; it could have shattered all the Christmas balls on every tree and silenced all the "Glorias" which have been sung since that first Christmas night in Bethlehem. As we kneel before the creche today, let us whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for those heroic defenders of our faith who kept alive the legacy of this great mystery -- amid a very "technical" controversy -- 16 centuries before the advent of social media!

"God was united to our human nature by grace, as a vine to its elm, to make it in some sort participate in his fruit; but seeing this union undone by Adam's sin, he made another more close and pressing union in the Incarnation, whereby human nature remains forever joined in personal unity to the Divinity."
St. Francis de Sales

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