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The painting of Holy Family in church Chiesa di San Benetetto by unknown artist of 19th centuryRenata Sedmakova /

(LifeSiteNews) — I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences this, but I often feel closer than usual to our Lord Jesus Christ during the Christmas season. Prayer becomes a bit sweeter; carrying out His will for my life seems easier; I sense more acutely the truth of these consoling words of His: “My yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

That does not necessarily make me less of a sinner, of course! But perhaps our Lord is giving the additional graces needed to properly celebrate His first coming as a lowly babe. I’m blown away every time I reflect on what a great mystery and gift it was for pure subsisting Being, the Creator of the universe, to “pitch His tent” among us and become one of us in all things save sin and ignorance.

And what’s even more astonishing about the Incarnation is that God didn’t need to become man to save us. (He didn’t need to save us at all, in fact, but let’s set that aside for another day.)

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologiae, argues that the Incarnation was not strictly necessary for salvation because God “with His omnipotent power could have restored human nature in many other ways.” St. Thomas does not give any hypothetical examples of those ways — and rightly so, I might add, since he professes that the Incarnation was the best and most fitting way to guide us to our heavenly destination. What could be gained from reflecting on the “what-could’ve-been” when the “what-is” is so sublime?

St. Thomas recognizes there are innumerable reasons why the Incarnation was the most fitting for our salvation, many of them beyond any human being’s finite comprehension, but in the Summa he offers a few accessible ones in terms of progressing in good and turning away from evil.

For instance, the Incarnation greatly strengthens us in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, in addition to providing us with a real-life example of virtuous living for God and for others. Learning from the Master and His best “students,” the apostles and saints, shows us that with God’s grace it is possible to become a “little Christ” in this life, not just the next. The Incarnation also shows us the remarkable dignity and goodness of human nature and, by extension, the horrific ugliness of sin and the real damage it inflicts.

In short, Christ chose to live a fully human life so we can “find our humanity in His,” to borrow a phrase I heard Father Gregory Pine, OP once use. All of our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings serve as opportunities to be more closely conformed to Christ, to take on His mind and heart, which is the essence of what “conversion” means. Even the most mundane, quotidian tasks can be offered up to Him, and it is the key to living out one’s entire life as a prayer to God, just as Christ did so perfectly.

For the more poetically inclined, I conclude with St. Gregory Nazianzen’s illumination of these truths in a sermon I encountered during the first week of Advent:

He who makes rich is made poor; he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of his divinity. He who is full is made empty; he is emptied for a brief space of his glory, that I may share in his fullness. What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that surrounds me? I received the likeness of God but failed to keep it. He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh. He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first.

Holiness had to be brought to man by the humanity assumed by one who was God, so that God might overcome the tyrant by force and so deliver us and lead us back to himself through the mediation of his Son.

Merry Christmas to you all. May God’s blessings be on you and your families.

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Evan Stambaugh is a LifeSite editor. He has a BA in Theology and an MA in Philosophy.