An Orthodox Advent Reflection
God’s original plan was to make us like himself. God made man so that man may become God. Jesus wasn’t plan b. God becoming man wasn’t simply a response to our sin. God always planned on becoming one of us in order to make us like himself.
God partakes of human nature completely so that you and I might partake of the divine nature. As the priest says at Mass while he mixes the water and wine, “May we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
From Metropolitan Kallistos Ware in The Orthodox Way.
St Isaac urges, God's taking of our humanity is to be understood not only as an act of restoration, not only as a response to man's sin, but also and more fundamentally as an act of love, an expression of God's own nature. Even had there been no fall, God in his own limitless, outgoing love would still have chosen to identify himself with his creation by becoming man.
The Incarnation of Christ, looked at in this way, effects more than a reversal of the fall, more than a restoration of man to his original state in Paradise. When God becomes man, this marks the beginning of an essentially new stage in the history of man, and not just a return to the past.
The Incarnation raises man to a new level; the last state is higher than the first. Only in Jesus Christ do we see revealed the full possibilities of our human nature; until he is born, the true implications of our personhood are still hidden from us.
Christ's birth, as St Basil puts it, is “the birthday of the whole human race”; Christ is the first perfect man—perfect, that is to say, not just in a potential sense, as Adam was in his innocence before the fall, but in the sense of the completely realized “likeness”.
The Incarnation, then, is not simply a way of undoing the effects of original sin, but it is an essential stage upon man's journey from the divine image to the divine likeness. The true image and likeness of God is Christ himself; and so, from the very first moment of man's creation in the image, the Incarnation of Christ was in some way already implied.
The true reason for the Incarnation, then, lies not in man's sinfulness but in his unfallen nature as a being made in the divine image and capable of union with God.