On the Incarnation by St. John of Kronstadt

It is quite an ordinary matter for the word to become incarnate We speak by means of separate sounds: what else is this but an incarnation of the word? We inscribe words upon paper: is not this again an incarnation of the word?
Excerpts from the diary of St. John of Kronstadt

If men had not been created according to the image of God, the Lord would not have been incarnate of the most holy Virgin. O how our nature is raised, both in its creation and in its redemption! Through the incarnation of the Son of God from the most holy Virgin Mary, God has most truly united Himself with men. "O Thou, by Thy glorious birth-giving hast united God-the-Word with men, and linked our apostate nature with heavenly things."[389] Glory to Thee, Who art meetly praised by every reasonable creature, for Thou hast obtained from God such grace and purity that Thou wert able, through favour of God the Father, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, to give flesh to the Son of God! Make us also worthy, O Lord, to attain purity of spirit and body through the communion of the Divine Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Thy Son.

If God had not been incarnate upon earth, if He had not made us godly, if He had not taught us in His Own person how to live, what to hope for and expect, if He had not pointed out to us another perfect and eternal life, if He had not suffered and died and risen from the dead — then we should still have had some reason to live, as we all now live — that is to mostly lead a carnal, earthly life. But, now, we ought to meditate upon higher things, and count all earthly things but dung, [573] for, everything earthly is nothing, in comparison with heavenly things. Meanwhile, the Devil, the father of lies, in spite of the Saviour's teaching and His spirit, teaches us to attach ourselves to earthly goods, and forcibly nails our sensual heart to them. The heart naturally seeks happiness — and the Devil gives a false direction to this tendency, and allures it by earthly happiness, that is — by riches, honours, splendour of dress, furniture, silver, equipages, gardens and various amusements.

It was for our sakes that the Lord was incarnate, suffered, was crucified, died, and rose from the dead. It was for our sakes also that He adorned His Mother, the Most Pure Virgin Mary, with all virtues, and endued Her with all Divine powers, so that She, the most merciful and the most perfect, should be, after Himself, everything to us. And therefore let not God's grace, with which Our Lady is filled, be fruitless for us. Let us all come with boldness and trust to the Virgin's wonderful, ever-helpful, and most pure protection. If sins trouble us, let us pray to Her, that She may cleanse us with the hyssop of Her prayers from every impurity of the flesh and of the spirit.

The Saviour deigned to become incarnate, not only in order to save us when sins and passions have already overcome us, when we are entangled in them, but also in order to save us, at our prayer, when sins and passions are as yet only striving to enter into us, when they attack us. We must not slumber nor be disheartened when the passions attack us; on the contrary, this is the very time to be on the watch, to take courage and pray to Christ not to let us fall into sin. It is not the time to save a house from fire, when the fire has already spread, but rather when the flame has just appeared. It is the same with the soul. The soul is the house, and the passions the fire. "Neither give place to the Devil."[1001]

The minds of the angels cannot grasp and cannot sufficiently marvel at the wisdom, mercy, and omnipotence which the Lord has manifested to us in His Incarnation from the Most Holy Virgin Mary. "All angelic nature wonders at this great act of Thine Incarnation, beholding the unapproachable God in approachable man."[278] Glory to Thy mercy! Glory to Thy bountifulness! Glory to Thy wisdom! Glory to Thy power! Through His Incarnation the Lord has clearly taught us all the mysteries of faith, which were not known, or but little known, in the Old Testament. Through His Incarnation we, accursed sinners, have been deemed worthy of the Communion of His Most Pure Body and Blood, and are thus united to Him in the closest manner; we dwell in Him and He in us. Through His Incarnation the Most Holy Virgin has become our All-Powerful Intercessor and our protection from sins, disasters, and misfortunes, praying for us day and night, our Queen and Lady, Whose power no visible and invisible enemies can withstand, and our very Mother by grace, in accordance with the words of Christ on the Cross to His disciple St. John: "Behold thy Mother!" — and to Her: "Behold Thy son!"[279] Glory to Thy bountifulness, Lord!

The Lord, before His incarnation, let mankind experience all the bitterness of sin, all their powerlessness to eradicate it; and when all longed for a Deliverer, then He appeared, the most wise, all-powerful Physician and Helper. When men hungered and thirsted after righteousness, as it grew weaker, then the everlasting righteousness came.

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handy-work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge."[158] This silent but evident declaration of the heavens of their creation by the Almighty has reached even us, and there is no language or dialect in which this declaration is not understood. And now, since the time of the Incarnation of the Son of God, all the glory of God, the glory of His love towards mankind, as well as the glory of creation, is declared unto us by the Gospel and the Holy Church; by the voices of the preachers of the Gospel; by those who celebrate the Sacraments and prayers; that is, the priests, readers, and singers; by the sound of bells, not excluding also the preaching of the heavens with their luminaries. But the preaching of the living voice is more lively, more intelligible and striking. The glory of the Lord is declared by all the earth, and by all earthly beings.

Render all honour to every man, especially to the Christian, because of the fact that God deigned to receive human nature into the closest union with His Divinity, so that He became God-man. Therefore, looking upon any man, think, "The Lord Himself was in every respect similar to this man, excepting sin;" and if you know, or see, that he does not know this truth of the incarnation of the Son of God, and is leading an unworthy life, then teach and guide him. Also love every man as you love yourself, because he is another you, and is therefore called your neighbour in God's commandments: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."

Through His incarnation the Lord has entered into the closest relation with man. It is marvellous! God Himself is united in one person with man. God became flesh — "the Word was made flesh."[390] God Himself partook of our carnal food and drink, was laid in a manger, lived in a house. He Who cannot be contained by the heavens walked upon the earth, upon the waters, upon the air. 'He went up," it is said, "toward heaven."[391] He was nailed to the tree, "He Who hangeth the earth upon nothing by His command."[392] The whole earth, the waters, and the air — all are sanctified by the incarnate Son of God; therefore the earth is dear to Him — this temporary abode of men, this inn of the human race, this place of His habitation amongst men. But especially dear to Him are men themselves, whose souls and bodies He has received into unity with His own Person, and especially with true Christians. He is in them, and they in Him.

Only faithful servants of Christ give true value to the Incarnation of the Son of God, and to the care of God the Father and the All-Holy Trinity for the salvation of mankind; only they truly value the most pure Body and Blood of Christ, whilst men of this world live like the beasts that have no understanding, in worldly sorrows and in sensual pleasures, not valuing either the Incarnation of the Son of God or His most pure Mysteries. And as God's chosen ones duly value the works of God and the infinite love of God to this adulterous and sinful world, so also God Himself values them, and accomplishes wonderful deeds through them. The Holy Spirit, together with the Father and the Son, dwells in them, and out of their bellies flow rivers of living water; and those who know God go to them to drink of this water, as to sweet springs. Let us all be servants of Christ.

This is indeed the miracle of miracles; this reveals the infinite mercy, wisdom, and omnipotence of the Lord in relation to His creatures; or, above all, that He Himself, the Lord of all creatures, the infinite, the uncontainable, was pleased and was able to become man for our salvation, and that "the Word, by whom all things were made, was made flesh, and dwelt among us,"[551] living with men and being like unto man in everything, except sin. "The heavens were in awe, and the ends of the earth were astonished, that God appeared as man in the flesh."[552] He conversed with men, loaded us with benefits, worked innumerable miracles, suffered (O, wonder!), died (O, awful wonder!), and rose again, raising with Himself us also, who were dead in Adam! I glorify Thy most merciful, holy, almighty, and most wise power, Lord! Show upon me, also, Lord, Thy wonderful power, and, by ways known unto Thee, save me, Thine unworthy servant, disregarding my trespasses, voluntary and involuntary, committed in knowledge or ignorance, guiding me ever in Thy way, and strengthening me upon this way by Thy grace, and through me the others for whom Thou hast placed me as a light, shepherd, teacher, and priest.

[158] Psalm xix. 1, 2.
[278] Acathistos Condakion ix.
[279] St. John xix. 26, 27.
[389] Prayer to the Most Holy Mother of God at Vespers.
[390] St. John i. 14.
[391] Acts i. 10.
[392] Canon of the Fifth Tone.
[551] St. John i. 14.
[552] Canon of the Eighth Tone, Hymn 9.
[573] Philippians iii. 8.
[1001] Ephesians iv. 27.

Excerpts compiled from: My Life in Christ or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and of Peace in God, St. John of Kronstadt.