Why Did the Second Person of the Trinity Become Incarnate Rather Than the Father or the Holy Spirit?

blog12-19As we continue to await the fast-approaching Feast of Holy Christmas, it is good to ponder some aspects of the Incarnation. Among the questions for us to consider is why it was the Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, that became incarnate, rather than the Father or the Holy Spirit.

Most people have never even thought of this question let alone sought to answer it. God could have chosen many different ways to save us; He chose to act as He did not because it was required, but because it was fitting. It falls to us to ponder, using Scripture and our own reason, why God’s chosen way was fitting, and what we can learn from this.

As always, St. Thomas Aquinas provides rich resources for us. I present below his teaching from the Summa Theologica (part III, question 3, article 8) in bold, italics; my poor commentary appears in red text. St. Thomas proposed four reasons as to why it was most fitting for the Son to become incarnate.

I. First, on the part of the union; for such as are similar are fittingly united. Now the Person of the Son, Who is the Word of God, has a certain common agreement with all creatures, because the word of the craftsman, i.e. his concept, is an exemplar likeness of whatever is made by him. Hence the Word of God, Who is His eternal concept, is the exemplar likeness of all creatures. … for the craftsman by the intelligible form of his art, whereby he fashioned his handiwork, restores it when it has fallen into ruin.

When the Father created all things, he uttered a Word: (i.e., Let there be light). Thus He creates through His Word (the Logos), and the Word of God is Christ. Therefore, in speaking creation into existence by the Logos, God impresses a kind of “logike” (logic) on all things.

In this way the Son, the Logos, has a “certain common agreement with all creatures,” who bear something of logic or likeness to Him. If this be so, then, as St. Thomas reasons, God the Father would best repair His creation by the same Word through whom He first created it.

II. Moreover … Man is perfected in wisdom (which is his proper perfection, as he is rational) by participating the Word of God, as the disciple is instructed by receiving the word of his master. Hence it is said (Sirach 1:5): “The Word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom.” And hence for the consummate perfection of man it was fitting that the very Word of God should be personally united to human nature.

While it is true that Original Sin affected our bodily integrity, perhaps our greatest wound was the darkening of our intellect, which was (and is) our greatest gift, the distinguishing characteristic between us and brute animals. So it is especially fitting that the Word of God, who is also the Wisdom of God, should be joined to our nature and bring healing to us in this way.

St. Paul writes, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God (Rom 12:2). Even human words can instruct; all the more, then, can the Word of God made Flesh enlighten and heal us. This shows forth the fittingness that the Word, the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, should become flesh.

III. The reason of this fitness [of the Second Person becoming flesh] may [also] be taken from the end of the union, which is … the heavenly inheritance, which is bestowed only on sons, according to Romans 8:17: “If sons, heirs also.” Hence it was fitting that by Him Who is the natural Son, men should share this likeness of sonship by adoption, as the Apostle says in the same chapter (Romans 8:29): “For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son.”

In other words, because it is sons who inherit, it is fitting that He who is Son by nature should become incarnate. And thus shall we, conformed to His image as sons through our adoption and membership in His Body, also inherit the Kingdom and glory through the healing He effects in us.

IV. [Further], the reason for this fitness may be taken from the sin of our first parent, for which Incarnation supplied the remedy. For the first man sinned by seeking knowledge, as is plain from the words of the serpent, promising to man the knowledge of good and evil. Hence it was fitting that by the Word of true knowledge man might be led back to God, having wandered from God through an inordinate thirst for knowledge.

In grasping inordinately for the wrong kind of knowledge (the knowledge of evil) and in insisting on his own right to decide what was good and what was evil, Adam sinned. In and of itself, seeking knowledge is good; it was the object that was disordered (and thus forbidden). Because humans have this thirst to know (of itself good), all the more reason that God should offer us the true Word and Wisdom of God: the Son.

For the Word to become flesh is thus more fitting. In effect, God the Father says, “Let me offer you what you were really seeking, but sought inordinately.” For this reason, the Son, who is the Word, who is Truth itself, becomes incarnate.

13 Replies to “Why Did the Second Person of the Trinity Become Incarnate Rather Than the Father or the Holy Spirit?”

  1. It is good that the Holy SON of GOD came to rescue humanity that we may gain divinity as an inheritance. For we, too, are sons of the FATHER and being brother to HIS SON born of the Woman, Mary, who is our Mother, we can be enriched with confidence that the FATHER’s Love can be given to us, as well, not of any righteousness by us but by Grace through faith which The SON has provided to us by HIS obedience to the FATHER. The SON paved us the Way by HIS redeeming Sacrifice. Now we must follow The SON, we must obey The SON in HIS commandment to love one another as HE Love us. LORD gives us the enlightenment to be ready always to be good and help others out of love of The SON, Our Redeemer. Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha-olam.

  2. St Paul seems to have grasped the concept quite well, really! In his letter to the Philippians 2:5-8 he says this:

    5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
    6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
    7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
    8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

    Something only the ‘Son’ could do – humbling Himself, to become a servant and be obedient unto death.
    Paul then goes onto say:

    9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
    10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    That’s the key to the incarnation – and why only ‘The Son’ could become a servant in human form and go on to be King of the Universe.
    Thanks Msgr Charles – and God bless all . . . . .

  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/16/science/the-water-in-your-glass-might-be-older-than-the-sun.html?_r=0he Word has been with prophets, along with the Spirit. Jeremiah stated a reluctance and, in the first few verses of the Book of Jeremiah, words were provided twice.
    As an aside, you mention the creation of light in Genesis 1:3 but, before that there was water and, not until Genesis 1:9 was there land.
    Could this, and many other articles like it, be a confirmation?


  4. My two cents: I agree the Son had to come because He could be uniquely humbled (as noted above). I’d add that the Father could/should not have come because it was He who was wronged by our sin. So He must mantain His exalted state so we could recognize the gravity of our sin and properly humble ourselves and beg forgiveness, in imitation of Christ.

  5. Excellent, thanks.

    St. Thomas writes on the same topic in the Summa Contra Gentiles, THAT THE ASSUMPTION OF HUMAN NATURE WAS MOST SUITED TO THE WORD OF GOD , Book IV, Chapter 42, giving basically the same reasons: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles4.htm#42

    This one stuck out: “Most appropriately, then, was the Word united to the reasonable nature, for by reason of the kinship mentioned the divine Scripture attributes the name “image” to the Word and to man; the Apostle says of the Word that He is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15); and the same writer says of man that “the man is the image of God” (1 Cor. 11:7).”–St. Thomas Aquinas

  6. Good post; I’ve often wondered about that. As a kid I pictured the three drawing straws and Jesus drew the short one. This is much better.

  7. Why The Son has to redeem us? If it were The FATHER, it will be an extreme sin (not that the act done to The SON is not extreme sin) and extreme dishonor to scourge The FATHER and kill HIM and that is not worthy of being forgiven, for we ourselves will rather choose to be doomed forever. If it were The HOLY SPIRIT it will be the unforgivable sin. Nevertheless, though The SON suffered, The FATHER and The HOLY SPIRIT suffered, too, for in our transgressions we have wounded The ONE GOD in Three Persons. These we have done against Our GOD is the most despicable of all acts of mankind that will be remembered and is not bound by time nor space nor any dimension. Forgive us, Oh GOD and thank YOU, The SON Our REDEEMER gave us The Way, The Truth and The Life. ADONAI ELOHENO, ADONAI ERHAD.

  8. Wisdom and Life became flesh to restore The Tree of Life.

    “But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the WISDOM of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:24

    “But the author of LIFE you killed, whom God hath raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.” – Acts 3:15

    “And we are witnesses of all things that he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed, hanging him upon a TREE.” – Acts 10:39

    “Wisdom is a Tree of Life…”- Proverbs 3:18

    “The fruit of THE JUST MAN is a Tree of Life.” – Proverbs 11:30

    “…we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ THE JUST…” – 1 John 2:1

    This method is called interpreting scripture with scripture (Check out Section B, No. 3).

    Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (Rome: Roman Curia, 1994) Section B, No. 3


  9. Concerning the darkness of the intellect, St. Thomas Aquinas well describes it in the introduction to Book IV of the Summa Contra Gentiles (Paragraph 3): “[3] Through these ways our intellect can rise to the knowledge of God. But because of the weakness of the intellect we are not able to know perfectly even the ways themselves. For the sense, from which our knowledge begins, is occupied with external accidents, which are the proper sensibles—for example, color, odor, and the like. As a result, through such external accidents the intellect can scarcely reach the perfect knowledge of a lower nature, even in the case of those natures whose accidents it comprehends perfectly through the sense. Much less will the intellect arrive at comprehending the natures of those things of which we grasp few accidents by sense; and it will do so even less in the case of those things whose accidents cannot be grasped by the senses, though they may be perceived through certain deficient effects. But, even though the natures of things themselves were known to us, we can have only a little knowledge of their order, according as divine Providence disposes them in relation to one another and directs them to the end, since we do not come to know the plan of divine Providence. If, then, we imperfectly know the ways themselves, how shall we be able to arrive at a perfect knowledge of the source of these ways? And because that source transcends the above-mentioned ways beyond proportion, even if we knew the ways themselves perfectly we would yet not have within our grasp a perfect knowledge of the source”

  10. In Johns gospel 1 :3 it says about the second person that “ all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” Saint Athanasius of Alexandria writes that the Redeemer is also the Creator. God became incarnate to redeem fallen humankind and renew all creation. In addition, Christ, the Son of God—the incarnate, redeeming Word—is also the creating Word, who made the universe in the beginning.

    Msgr Pope writes “God could have chosen many different ways to save us; He chose to act as He did not because it was required”
    Yes it was required but it was possibly the only way that Gods supreme Justice could be satisfied by an act of His supreme mercy
    In his work “The Incarnation of the Word” Athanasius seems to take this position;
    “7. Repentance cannot remedy fallen nature: we are corrupted and need to be restored to the grace of God’s image, and no one can renew but he who created. He alone could recreate all, suffer for all, represent all before the Father. Once transgression had got a head-start, human nature ended up completely corrupted and deprived of the grace which we once had from being in the image of God. Our repentance was no longer enough to restore this grace and give us the new beginning that we needed. What was needed then? The Word of God, who at the beginning made all out of nothing. Only he could restore the corruptible to incorruption, while maintaining the justice of the Father towards us. He alone, being the Word of the Father and above all, was able to recreate everything, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be ambassador for all to the Father.”

    i think on this matter Saint Athanasius is the supreme authority

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