On the Universal Presence of the Word

For He was not, as might be imagined, circumscribed in the body, nor, while present in the body, was He absent elsewhere; nor, while He moved the body, was the universe left void of his working and providence; but, thing most marvellous [sic], Word as He was, so far from being contained by anything, He rather contained all things Himself; and just as while present in the whole of Creation, He is at once distinct in being from the universe, and present in all things by His own power…

St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word, 16 in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. 4.

In subtle ways, we might be seduced by the doctrine of the Incarnation into thinking that the Word is localized. No classical Christian theologian thought this. There is a particular intensification of presence and effect, but the one present is present and efficacious everywhere, considered in himself. The Word is omnipresent or ubiquitous. Witness the words of Athanasius just cited. What God is up to in Jesus, is the same type of thing that God is always up to everywhere, in and through the Word, namely pouring out grace, giving life, establishing justice, showing mercy, establishing and reestablishing all things in a universal communion of love.

As we approach the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we might remember that the content of the Word that lives forever in the bosom of the Father, is made historical, tangible, and visible in the flesh, without for a moment ceasing to be what he always is, the perfect expression within the Godhead of all that God is and wants to be for us–pure and unmixed goodness, giving itself to frail and fallen humanity. And whatever is good, true, or beautiful, wherever we find it–in other words, all that is, insofar as it is–is a reflection of this Word’s splendor, and shares in his Wisdom and purpose. In and through him, God will bring all good things to their perfection.

The Rev. Bill Carroll serves as Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio. His parish blog is at here

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