Pope Explains the Incarnation Using Tolstoy

At Chrism Mass, He Reflects on Christ's Understanding of Man

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 5, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Though God can't be seen with our eyes, we can see his action in the world, says Benedict XVI.



The Pope said this today at the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass, celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica, with cardinals, bishops and priests present in Rome.

The Holy Father illustrated God's actions using a narration by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, about a severe ruler who asked his wise men to show him God so that he could see him.

"The wise men did not know how to do this. So a shepherd, who was just returning from the fields, offered to take the place of the priests and the wise men," the Pontiff recalled.

The king learned that his eyes would not suffice to see God, Benedict XVI added. But the shepherd offered to show the king how God acts. To do this, we must exchange clothing, said the shepherd to the king.

"Hesitantly, but urged by curiosity, the king consented, giving his regal clothing to the shepherd and dressing himself in the simple clothing of the poor man," the Pope related.

"And then came the answer: 'This is what God does,"" he continued. "In fact, the Son of God -- true God from true God -- left his divine splendor […] took on the condition of servant and became a man."

Sacred exchange

The Holy Father added that God performed a "sacred exchange […] he took on what was ours, so that we could receive what is his, becoming similar to God."

"This is what happens in baptism, " Benedict XVI continued. "We clothe ourselves in Christ."

"This means that we enter into an existential communion with him," the Pope added, referring to St. Paul's explanation: "'I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.'"

The Holy Father explained that "Christ wore our clothing: the pain and joy of being a man, thirst, hunger, tiredness, the hopes and delusions, the fear of death, all our anguishes until death."

During the Mass, after the renewal of the priests' promises, the Pope blessed the oil of the catechumens, the oil of the sick, and the holy chrism.