“If nothing else were to be gained from God becoming the Son of man, we are entitled to say that the Incarnation of the Word had nonetheless to come about, since it was entirely fitting that the Virgin become the Mother of God”

But since God remained silent and did not foretell to her anything that was going to happen, He clearly showed that He did not know anything more beautiful or greater than that which He perceived in the Virgin; from this fact it is evident that He did not choose for His Mother the best of all those in existence, but her who was absolutely the best; nor did He choose her who was more suitable for Him than anyone else in the human race, but her who so totally suited Him, that it was fitting that she become His Mother. Indeed, it was absolutely necessary for human nature at some time to make itself fit for the task for which it was created at the beginning, that is, to bring forth someone capable of worthily serving the purpose of the Creator. For God did not create humanity with one purpose in mind, only to decide later on to use it for a different purpose, in the way that we take tools designed for one pursuit and misuse them for another, so that there is no need for them always to be congruent with their original function. Rather, He created mankind with this end in view, that, when He needed to be born, He might take from it a Mother. Having first established this need as a kind of standard, He then fashioned man in accordance with it. For, neither should we posit any other end for the creation of man than that which is the most excellent of all and which brings the greatest honor and glory to the Artificer, nor is it conceivable that God should in any way fail in creating the things that He creates. After all, builders of houses and manufacturers of clothing and footwear are able to ensure that their product is always in conformity with its end, although they do not have complete control over their materials and the latter do not always coöperate with them but, on the contrary, sometimes put up opposition to them; even so, by virtue of their skill, these craftsmen succeed in drawing the materials towards their purpose. But God has sovereignty over matter, and in the beginning He created it according to His pleasure, knowing how He would use it.

What, therefore, was there to prevent human nature from being in conformity, and in every way in agreement and harmony, with the purpose for which it was created? For it is God Who governs His economy, and this economy is the greatest work of God and par excellence the work of His hands; and He did not entrust the matter to the ministry of any human being or Angel, but reserved it for Himself. Therefore, whom, if not God, does it behoove, when producing anything whatsoever, to observe the requisite standards? And in the case of what else than the most beautiful of His works? On what else, of all things, if not on Himself, would God confer what is appropriate? After all, Paul required that a Bishop “rule well himself and his own house” before caring for the common good.

So be it. When, therefore, all of these factors came together at the same juncture—the most just Ruler of the world, the most suitable minister of His economy, and the most beautiful of all of the works of the Creator from all eternity—, how could everything appropriate not have been present in that place? Complete harmony and agreement had to be preserved, and nothing could happen that would be discordant with this great and wondrous undertaking. Therefore, since it behooves God, Who weighs all things with a balance, to be just and to create all things in a fitting manner, in response to this, the Virgin, who was in every way suited to the task, bore Him and became the Mother of Him Whose Mother it was fitting that she be. Hence, if nothing else were to be gained from God becoming the Son of man, we are entitled to say that the Incarnation of the Word had nonetheless to come about, since it was entirely fitting that the Virgin become the Mother of God, and that the fact that God was bound to render unto every creature that which was proper to it, that is, to act in accordance with justice, was a sufficient reason for the renewal of natures.

For, if the All-Blameless Virgin upheld all of her obligations to God, and proved to be so prudent that she did not neglect even one of the virtues that she was obligated to possess, how would it have been possible for God not to comport Himself with equal justice? And if nothing conducive to her becoming the Mother of God eluded the Virgin, and she had such an intense yearning for God, it would scarcely have behooved God not to accord her the commensurate recompense of becoming her Son. And if God gives rulers to the wicked according to their hearts’ desire, how could He not have taken for His Mother her who proved to be truly in accord in every respect with His own heart? So entirely proper and appropriate to the Blessed Virgin was this gift. Therefore, when Gabriel clearly said that she would bear God Himself, and that “He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end,” she joyfully received the news as if she had learned something unexceptional and not at all at odds or discrepant with the normal course of events. And so it was that with a blessed tongue, an unperturbed soul, and thoughts full of tranquillity she said: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

These were the words that she said, and they were fulfilled at once: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”; and, after giving her reply to God, she received the Spirit that created from her that flesh which was one with God. Her voice was a “mighty voice,” as David puts it; and the Word of the Father is formed by the word of a mother, and the Creator is created by the voice of a creature. And just as when God said, “Let there be light,” “at once there was light,” so, as soon as the Virgin spoke, the true Light dawned; and He Who “lighteth every man that cometh into the world” was joined to the flesh and carried in the womb. O sacred voice! O words of great power! O blessed tongue, which restored the entire inhabited earth in one fell swoop! O treasury of a heart which, by a few words, poured out upon us an abundance of good things! These words made the earth Heaven, emptied Hades of its prisoners, caused Heaven to be inhabited by men, joined Angels with men, and formed the Heavenly and earthly races into a single chorus around Him who is both, being God but becoming man.

What gratitude could we express to you for these words? What should we call you, of whom nothing human is worthy? Our words derive from existing things, whereas you surpass the whole world beyond every sublimity. If words are to be offered to you, this, I ween, is a task for Angels, for a Cherubic mind, for a fiery tongue. Hence, having mentioned, as far as we are able, those things which redound to your praise, and having chanted hymns to you, our salvation, to the best of our ability, we ask next for an Angelic voice. We will conclude with the salutation of Gabriel, adorning the sum of our oration with this additament: “Rejoice, thou who art full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.” May you prepare us to make a habitation for Him within ourselves, for this is conducive to His glory and to the laudation of you who gave birth to Him, when we not only talk about it, but also put it into practice, for unto Him belongs glory unto the ages. Amen.

St Nicholas Cabasilas

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1 Response to “If nothing else were to be gained from God becoming the Son of man, we are entitled to say that the Incarnation of the Word had nonetheless to come about, since it was entirely fitting that the Virgin become the Mother of God”

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Belated thanks for this!

    It reminds me – if a bit tangentially – of an English song, apparently written about the same time, which includes the verses:

    Ne hadde the appil take ben,
    the appil taken ben,
    Ne hadde never our lady
    a ben hevene quen.

    Blyssid be the tyme
    that appil take was!
    Therefore we mown syngyn
    Deo gratias!

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