Dec 4, 2009

Grace and Glory: On the Incarnation

I’m re-reading E.L. Mascall’s Grace and Glory (1961) with a friend during Advent and Christmas this year. It’s a beautiful and helpful book. Because it’s short (just 83 pages and notes), it’s ideal for reading, ruminating, and then re-reading as you go.

Grace and Glory
is an extended meditation on Augustine’s closing thoughts in City of God, in which he says of the coming “Lord’s Day,” “an eighth day, as it were, which is to last forever”:

There we shall rest and we shall see; we shall see and we shall love; we shall love and we shall praise. City of God, XXII, 30.

Mascall talks of the life of grace, here, and the life of glory, to come, considering how the life of grace is both transformed by and partakes of the life in glory.

In the opening chapter, he meditates on the resurrection of the body:

Christ has taken, in His Incarnation, not just a human soul but human nature in its fullness, soul and body alike, and in that human body He has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. That final transfiguration and glorification of the material universe which the phrase “the Resurrection of the Body” denotes is indeed a great mystery; we can dimly see what it will involve if we look at the human being in whom it has already happened, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It does, however mean that the final glory for which God has made us and to which He calls us will involve every aspect of our being, both mental and physical, and not just our disembodied spirits. And it means in consequence that our life in the Church includes in its embrace our bodies no less than our souls. The notion that religion has as its object the deliverance of our souls from their entanglement with our bodies is a pagan view against which the Christian Church has consistently waged war, though not a few Christians have allowed their religion to be contaminated by it. Not the deliverance of our souls from our bodies, but the sanctification and supernaturalization of our whole being, body and soul alike—this is the purpose for which the Catholic Church and its whole sacramental equipment exists, and it is for this that the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, took human flesh from a human mother.

Grace and Glory, pp. 12-13.

As we look forward to our celebration of the incarnation of the eternal Son of God, it is helpful to consider the coming resurrection of the body and its implications for our bodily lives now.

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