2010, An-Nahar, Articles

The Only Son / 30.01.2010

Whenever Christ is addressed as the only Son of God, it is the same as the beloved Son. Christ was not called the child of God in the New Testament. Only once in the First General Epistle of John he was designated as being born of God [cf. 1John 5:1]. The Nazarene [was rather] designated as being born of Mary. The Bible called the human beings the children of God. Thus, to say that He was born, as a designation, is not mentioned in our writings, except in very rare liturgical employments. Sonship, or filiation, is the designation [used]. However, I am not tackling the question of sonship directly, as it is stated in the Nicene Creed in the statement “true God from true God”. My purpose is to arrive at this claim from the humanity of Christ.

I take the baptism in the Jordan River as a starting point for my addressing the topic of sonship. Before John the Baptist, or the forerunner, had baptized Jesus, he said this about Him: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1: 29) Namely, in the context of addressing His death and after his baptism [in Arabic: pigmentation] he has “borne witness that this is the Son of God.” [John 1: 34] This is not a clear statement about the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. Here, we have a sonship that is disclosed through the humanity of Christ, baptized [pigmented] in water. John the Evangelist, as his method was to descend from Christ’s divinity to His humanity, here, he ascends from the humanity to the divinity.

Matthew, who emphasizes the humanity, mentions the baptism. Then, “the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”” (Matt. 3: 16-17) This is how it is mentioned in Mark, almost literally, and also in Luke.

What does this similar description in telling the story of baptism in the Gospels, that we call ‘synoptic’ (Matthew, Mark, Luke), mean, because of the great similarity in describing the Feast of Epiphany (on the 6th of January), commonly called [in the Middle East] Immersion [al-Ghtas]? Our liturgies tell us that it is a revelation of the mystery of Holy Trinity. However, why does God give this revelation on the occasion of Christ’s baptism [pigmentation] in the Jordan River, while this baptism is known to us in the theology of the New Testament, especially in Paul, that it is the symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection (the descent into water is the descent into the earth, and the ascent from it is the ascent from the earth)?

I think that the key to understand these similar texts is what is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke about the transfiguration.

Jesus went up on the mountain to pray; maybe the mountain is Mount Tabor or Hermon, i.e. Jabal al-Sheikh. “And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9: 29-31) He was in glory, of which He came, and the two prophets were in glory, which has descended upon them from above, and the conversation was about His suffering. This is what was meant by “his departure … at Jerusalem”. Then, “a cloud came and overshadowed them” (i.e. the three disciples who accompanied Him to the mountain); “and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”” (Luke 9: 34-35).

Here on the mountain we do not have the statement “with whom I am well pleased”. Rather, we have His conversation with Moses and Elijah, and here I dare to conclude that what the Father said at the Jordan River means that the Father’s delight about the Son refers mainly to the Father’s delight about the suffering Son, since through Him the will of God has been accomplished. And at the time of conversation with the two prophets, glory has been revealed upon Him and from Him upon Moses and Elijah. God is revealed upon God’s wounded Son on the cross, and John the Evangelist had more than once said that the cross is the locus of glory.

And if there is no glory in heaven and on earth other than the glory of God, it becomes evident to us, from all these sayings, that the locus of divine glory, par excellence, has been the body of Christ in its wounds. And when John, in the beginning of his book says: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us … we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” [John 1: 14], he would be relating between Christ’s glory and the description of Him as “the only Son from the Father”. The only and the beloved are the same in the New Testament. And hence, John would be saying, in his way, whatever has been said about the baptism [pigmentation] of the Master in the Jordan River and His transfiguration on the mountain; and he would be descending from his speech about the Word, in the beginning of his narrative, to the humanity of Christ in order to find the divine glory delineated there.

After the descent of the words comes their ascent. This is what we perceive in the most explicit statement in the Gospel of Matthew, where he says: “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son” (Matt.11: 27). It is not possible to understand this verse unless we know that the root of ‘knowing’, which appears in the whole Bible and specially in the Old Testament, refers to nothing else than that which relates a man to a woman, namely their unity until they become one being (in Genesis and then in Paul: the one body). That means that the Father and the Son, together, and because of the reciprocity between them, each loves the other with reciprocal love, which makes their being one. Love for us is the unity of divinity and it forms the bound between the three faces (as they are not numerically three) and we call them the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

From all these sayings we conclude that the New Testament thought makes the whole glory of God upon the face of Jesus Christ. The righteous and the pure person, who has dispensed with all human agitation and has been exempted of all desire, we see that divine lights have been delineated on his face. Here, we see that one human being, who was born of a woman, as Paul says; his name is Jesus the Nazarene, all divine glory has been poured forth upon Him and there is not any delineation from the glory of this world.

In order to explain the mystery of God’s relationship to this unique Man, God has wanted to originate His body from Mary, through God’s Spirit, and God has disclosed that He is God’s Word, which means that whatever this Man says Godself says, so that you might spell divine thought whenever you can read the face of Jesus Christ. And whenever you love Him you love God, and if you can accompany Him to the cross, believing that you see His glory in truth, you might ascend to God’s glory. From the womb of Mary God has chosen Him for Godself, you might follow Him step by step in His miracles and sayings, and you will find the traces of His Father upon Him, till you reach at the cross, where God has laid all God’s projection and has revealed Him to you as a Savior.

A projection which has been covered through blood, and then, the cover has been taken off through resurrection, and the light has radiated from it, which has first appeared at the Jordan River, and second on the mount of transfiguration, and finally in Calvary. There, God has poured all God’s knowledge of the universe, and through it God bound Godself to the whole humanity, since you have received salvation through this torn person, regardless whether you know this or don’t. And if you want glory, all the glory that a human being can attain, you should know Christ, the way, the truth, and the life and you pose there, in order that whenever God raises Him to heaven God raises you with Him. And if God has seated Him on God’s right side, God will seat you there on God’s right side in order that your humanity, whenever receives the glory, becomes Godlike in its power and splendor to the divinity which exists from everlasting to everlasting. And eternity, for which you were called, has renewed its everlasting reality, as the Son has dwelt in the Virgin’s womb. That is to say that you, who as the creature after eternity, move through love to that which is pre-eternal, as if you were not created.

You, as God has brought you into being, become as if you have no beginning, since Christ, in the mystery of His love, would have been seized you and brought you to eternity before.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الابن الوحيد” –An Nahar- 30.01.2010

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