By Christopher Simon
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” ~ John 1:14 NIV
The doctrine of the incarnation in Christianity refers to the notion that God became man in the person of Jesus, and thereby became embodied. We sometimes forget that God had a human body. Catholics should be reminded of this every time they look at a crucifix. There is indeed a body there!
The incarnation is pregnant with meaning and significance, including the fact that Mary was literally pregnant with Jesus and that He had to be born just like every other person. And everything that is born must also die.
As Sir Thomas Browne so eloquently put it, “With what strife and pains we come into the world we know not, but ’tis commonly no easy matter to get out of it.”
Among other things, the incarnation means that God understands our physical suffering. It also entails that our bodies are something we share with God. We can use our senses to taste and see the goodness of the Lord, and to imagine what Jesus experienced.
An interesting way to make the stories of the Bible more real is to imagine what the experience was like that is being described, whether it is Jesus having his last meal with his disciples, or Paul being shipwrecked in the Mediterranean. We miss something important when we think of ourselves as only minds or spirits that happen to be in a body. We are essentially embodied creatures, and so is our God.