God the Word Offered His Own Body – Athanasius

Athanasius writes that God the Word assumed our nature and took a human body in order to offer it in sacrifice, winning us salvation from sin and death.

God the Word of the great and good Father did not abandon human nature as it was falling into corruption and decay. By offering his own body he wiped out the death towards which mankind was heading. By his teaching he healed their ignorance, and by his power and might he re-founded the whole of human nature.

If you want confirmation of this, look to the authority of Christ’s own disciples and what they have written about God: The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them, our Lord Jesus Christ. And again: We see in Jesus one who was for a short while made lower than the angels and is now crowned with glory and splendor because he submitted to death; by God’s grace he had to experience death for all mankind. Then he gives the reason why only God the Word could become man: It was appropriate that God, for whom everything exists and through whom everything exists, should make perfect, through suffering, the leader who would take them to their salvation. These words mean that the rescue of mankind from corruption and decay was the task of none other than God the Word, by whom they were originally created.

God the Word Offered His Body - Athanasius -1- Moving the Body of Christ

The Word’s purpose behind taking on a body was that he should become a sacrifice for bodies of the same kind, as scripture says: Since all the children share the same blood and flesh, he too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could take away all the power of him who had power over death, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. So by offering up his own body he brought an end to the law that had been condemning us, and by giving us the hope of resurrection he gave our lives a new beginning.

It was through the act of man that death received power over man, and through the act of God the Word for man that death lost its power and the resurrection of life took its place. Thus Paul said: Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ… and so on. We no longer die to be condemned, we die to be raised up and await the resurrection of all, which God will bring about at a time of his choosing, the creator of all things and the giver of all gifts.

This excerpt on God the Word offering his body for us in sacrifice comes from a sermon of St. Athanasius (Oratio de incarnatione Verbi, 10: PG 25, 111-114) is used in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings for Saturday in the 23rd week in ordinary time with the accompanying biblical reading taken from Lamentations 5:1-22. 

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Athanasius , St.

St. Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, around the year 296 AD. Most probably, he was educated in the famous catechetical school of that city, which decades earlier was led by St. Clement of Alexandria and then Origen. Athanasius became a deacon and secretary to the Alexandria’s bishop, Alexander, and in that capacity accompanied his bishop to the first great Ecumenical Council, the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Shortly after returning from the Council (328), St. Athanasius was named the successor to Bishop Alexander and became patriarch archbishop of Alexandria, the greatest episcopal see in the Church after Rome.St. Athanasius is one of the most important of the Early Church Fathers, best known for his tireless proclamation of the Council of Nicaea’s profession of faith in the full divinity of Christ during the troubled period of the Arian heresy, which denied Jesus’ equality with the Father. For decades after the Council, powerful forces in the government of the Eastern Roman empire lobbied for an Arian form of Christian faith. Athanasius bravely stood against them and was exiled numerous times by the government and actually had to flee to Rome in 339 where he stayed for 7 years in exile, establishing close relationships with the Roman Church which supported him throughout the rest of his life as he continued to stand for orthodoxy. While still a deacon in his twenties, Athanasius wrote his famous treatise, On the Incarnation (full text available below), which remains one of two best known works. The other is his Life of Antony, the spiritual classic which tells the story of St. Anthony of the Desert who initiated the monastic movement in Egypt and indeed throughout the entire Christian world. St. Antony and his monks were stalwart supporters of Athanasius throughout his struggle with Arianism. From 339 to 359 Athanasius also wrote a number of other works defending the orthodox faith of the Council of Nicaea. St. Athanasius died in Alexandria on May 2, 373, and to this day he is honored on May 2 in the Roman liturgy.  (Bio by Dr. Italy)