The Wonderful Exchange
Reading I (Isaiah 7:10-14) Reading II (Hebrews 10:4-10)
Gospel (St. Luke 1:26-38)
Of all of the glorious feasts that we celebrate in the Church’s liturgical year, today is the top, because today is the day that we celebrate the Incarnation of the Word of God. Today is the day that we celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ took on our human flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. God entered our world in a human form on this day, in a form just like any of us entered the world, in a way that we were not even able to be recognized yet as being seen with the naked eye, but fully human nonetheless. And the fact that God Himself would condescend to take on our human nature is something which boggles the mind, and it will continue to do so for all eternity. It is a mystery upon which we will meditate forever. We will never tire of it and we will never finish, we will never exhaust it; there will always be more because it is an infinite mystery dealing with the nature of God Himself.
But we see that in order to be filled with this mystery, each one of us must learn from Jesus and Mary as we look at what happened on this day some 2,000 years ago. On this day, Our Lord totally emptied Himself. As Saint Paul tells the Philippians, “He took the form of a slave.” He put aside everything that was of the glory of God and hid it behind our human flesh. He remained God fully, and yet He was willing to become one of us, to be so humble, to put Himself aside to the point that He would descend in a human form – something which is infinitely beneath what He is – and take on our nature to Himself. But before He could do that, He also had to find the most amazing person He had ever created: this astoundingly beautiful woman who had also emptied herself perfectly and completely of herself, and had filled herself completely with Him. So as she set aside her humanity to be filled with His divinity, He set aside His divinity to be completely filled with her humanity. And there was this wonderful exchange that happened: God became Man, and a woman became the Mother of God.
But in this same exchange, she is our mother and we are members of Him. And so like our mother, we must also learn to empty ourselves entirely and we must be filled with Jesus Christ. It is an astounding mystery to think about the fact that Mary had so perfectly and completely emptied herself and filled herself so completely and perfectly with God, that God could become flesh in her, that He Who had made her in His image and likeness would now be created in her image and likeness, that He Who is the Creator would become created in her. Now this exchange continues to happen. The more that we are willing to die to ourselves and to put aside all of the weakness of our humanity, the more we can be filled with Christ. Like Mary, we will remain human; like Jesus, He remained divine; but each one took to Himself or herself that which was not His or hers by nature. Mary became divine, and Jesus became human.
The same mystery happens in each one of us. It has already happened on the day of Baptism where we took on the divine nature and were united to Christ. It continues every day when we receive Holy Communion. And for every single person who is in the state of grace there is that union of the human and the divine. Unlike Jesus, Whose union was a substantial one, ours is merely accidental, but it is a real union nonetheless. And we want that union to grow, to develop, and to become perfect so that we will become like Our Lady, that is, so perfectly conformed to the divinity of Christ that it will no longer be us who lives but Christ Who lives in us. Saint Paul could say that it was Christ living in him. No one could say it as perfectly as Our Lady, who had Christ physically living in Her. But each one of us, when we receive Holy Communion, receives Jesus Christ – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – into ourselves so that it is truly Christ living in us.
Now we need to take that out from here so that it is not just for those few moments that Christ is within us sacramentally, and it is not merely that He is within us because of the Indwelling of the Trinity because we are in the state of grace, but that our life becomes His and He lives his life in us and through us by perfect conformity to Him. So again, we will see that wonderful exchange that we celebrate today in the most astounding way, and something similar will happen to us: As we are conformed to Jesus Christ, He conforms Himself to us; we become Christ and He becomes us, as He lives in us and through us in our lives. And this glorious mystery of the Incarnation, which continues daily in the Eucharist, will also find its daily fulfillment in each one of us where we conform ourselves to Christ; we die to ourselves and empty ourselves of all that is human and take on all that is divine. The divinity of Christ will then work through our humanity and this wonderful exchange will continue: that God becomes Man, and man becomes God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.