Today’s Catechism sections discuss the Incarnation of Christ. Supplemental material comes from St. Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies”.

Article 3

"HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND WAS BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY"

Paragraph 1. THE SON OF GOD BECAME MAN

I. WHY DID THE WORD BECOME FLESH?

456 With the Nicene Creed, we answer by confessing: "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man."

457 The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who "loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins": "the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world", and "he was revealed to take away sins":70

Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Saviour; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state?71

458 The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God's love: "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him."72 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."73

459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me." "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me."74 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: "Listen to him!"75 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: "Love one another as I have loved you."76 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.77

460 The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature":78 "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81

II. THE INCARNATION

461 Taking up St. John's expression, "The Word became flesh",82 The Church calls "Incarnation" the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. In a hymn cited by St. Paul, the Church sings the mystery of the Incarnation:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. and being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.83

462 The Letter to the Hebrews refers to the same mystery:

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, Lo, I have come to do your will, O God."84

463 Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God."85 Such is the joyous conviction of the Church from her beginning whenever she sings "the mystery of our religion": "He was manifested in the flesh."86

IN BRIEF

479 At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word, that is, the Word and substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature.

In his great work, “Against Heresies” (3, 19, 1), St. Irenaeus discusses the Incarnation of Christ:

1. But again, those who assert that He was simply a mere man, begotten by Joseph, remaining in the bondage of the old disobedience, are in a state of death having been not as yet joined to the Word of God the Father, nor receiving liberty through the Son, as He does Himself declare: If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:36) But, being ignorant of Him who from the Virgin is Emmanuel, they are deprived of His gift, which is eternal life; (Romans 6:23) and not receiving the incorruptible Word, they remain in mortal flesh, and are debtors to death, not obtaining the antidote of life. To whom the Word says, mentioning His own gift of grace: I said, You are all the sons of the Highest, and gods; but you shall die like men. He speaks undoubtedly these words to those who have not received the gift of adoption, but who despise the incarnation of the pure generation of the Word of God, defraud human nature of promotion into God, and prove themselves ungrateful to the Word of God, who became flesh for them. For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God. For by no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality, unless we had been united to incorruptibility and immortality. But how could we be joined to incorruptibility and immortality, unless, first, incorruptibility and immortality had become that which we also are, so that the corruptible might be swallowed up by incorruptibility, and the mortal by immortality, that we might receive the adoption of sons?

Footnotes

70 I ⇒ Jn 4:10; ⇒ 4:14; ⇒ 3:5.
71 St. Gregory of Nyssa, Orat. catech 15: PG 45, 48B.
72 ⇒ I Jn 4:9.
73 ⇒ Jn 3:16.
74 ⇒ Mt 11:29; ⇒ Jn 14:6.
75 ⇒ Mk 9:7; cf. Dt 6:4-5.
76 ⇒ Jn 15:12.
77 Cf. ⇒ Mk 8:34.
78 ⇒ 2 Pt 1:4.
79 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939.
80 St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
81 St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4.
82 ⇒ Jn 1:14.
83 ⇒ Phil 2:5-8; cf. LH, Saturday, Canticle at Evening Prayer.
84 ]⇒ Heb 10:5-7, citing  Ps 40:6-8 (7-9 LXX).
85 I ⇒ Jn 4:2.
86 1 Tim 3:16.