Extension of the Incarnation

Daily Reading for January 16 • Richard Meux Benson, Religious, 1915, and Charles Gore, Bishop of Worcester, of Birmingham, and of Oxford, 1932

Charles Gore, who was certainly one of the most influential theologians of the time, used the phrase “extension of the Incarnation” in order to express the relationship between the event of the Incarnation and the continuing life of the Church. Even though his way of describing the Church was criticized by some as being imprecise, nonetheless it had a great influence upon the doctrine of the Church in its time. It is clear that in speaking in such a way he was concerned to convey that the Church and the sacramental life are both grounded in the person of Christ, that they derive their reality from him, and that they are now the visible expression of his presence. Certainly, he did not mean in some odd way that the actual physical body of Jesus Christ was extended in time and space, but rather than the risen and exalted Christ is now actively present in the Church as his Body in a way that is analogous to the presence of the eternal Word in the historical man, Jesus of Nazareth. The visible Church, with its institutional structures, and the water of baptism and the bread and wine of the eucharist, is an incarnational, sacramental reality, the union of the spiritual and material, of the eternal and temporal.

From Church, Ministry and Unity: A Divine Commission by James E. Griffiss, a volume in the Faith and the Future series, edited by David Nicholls (Basil Blackwell, 1983).

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