So what?

Okay, now that I’ve stressed the need to teach our children about the Incarnation, how the Incarnation figures so prominently in Orthodox theology, and that its unfortunate that it doesn’t figure so prominently in other Christian groups, the question remains, “so what?” Yes, we can see from the hymnography of the Orthodox church that the Incarnation is very important, but why is that? That isn’t made clear at the feast of the Nativity. However, everything in Orthodoxy is connected, in particular to Pascha. In that feast, the ultimate meaning of everything is revealed. However, shortly after the feast of the Nativity is one of the other great feasts of the Church. This feast is so closely connected to the Nativity that they used to be the same feast. Even now, the hymns of Theophany begin not very long after the feast of the Nativity, and Theophany is foretold in some hymns of the Nativity.

Although there is a lot of very deep theology associated with Theophany, there is something that we see with one of the activities associated with Theophany that speaks, I think, to the one aspect of the Incarnation. At Theophany we perform the Blessing of the Waters. In this, we celebrate the Baptism of Christ, and the fact that by his act, he sanctified the waters – all of the waters, not just the River Jordan (which experiences an annual reversal of flow during the Theophany Blessing of the Water). Every year, we repeat this process through the Blessing of the Waters. At Christ’s Baptism, therefore, we see the beginning of the restoration of creation. It starts with the sanctification of the water, and ends, at Pascha, with our own restoration.

This then, points us to what is important about the Incarnation. Christ takes on human nature to heal and restore it, and begin the restoration of all of creation. In fact, it is the teaching of the Church that this assumption of humanity is absolutely necessary in order to heal our humanity. As St. Gregory Nazianzus’ famously said, “that which is not assumed is not healed.” This restoration of creation is then seen throughout the life of the church, most notably with our many incorrupt Saints, such as St. John Maximovitch, or St. Athanasios, for instance. We act on this, but treating holy objects with profound reverence, in part because we know that God has begun the process of the restoration of all.