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Nature of Christ, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

17- The One Nature and the Suffering


Surely, Divinity is not susceptible to suffering, but when the human nature underwent suffering, it was united with the divine nature. Thus pain was inflicted upon this one Nature.

This Explains why the Creed set by the Holy Council of Nicea says, "The Only-Begotten Son of God descended from heaven, was Incarnate and became man and was crucified for our sake in the reign of Pilate, suffered and was buried and rose from the dead".

There is a great difference between saying that the human nature alone, apart from the Divine nature, suffered, and that the Incarnate Only-Begotten Son was crucified, suffered, was buried and rose from the dead. Thus, here we find the advantage of believing in the One Nature which provides effective unlimited redemption.

But, did the Divinity suffer?

We say that, essentially, the Divine nature is not susceptible to suffering yet He suffered due to His humanity, and was physically crucified. Hence we say in the prayer of the None (the sixth hour), "You who have tasted death physically in the sixth hour". Image: Jesus on the Cross, ancient icon. صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: المسيح على الصليب، أيقونة أثرية. Image: Jesus on the Cross, ancient icon.

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: المسيح على الصليب، أيقونة أثرية.

He, the man, united with the Godhead, physically died and His death provided unlimited atonement.

The holy fathers explained this point through the aforementioned clear example of the red-hot iron, it is the analogy equated for the Divine Nature which became united with the human nature. They explained that when the blacksmith strikes the red-hot iron, the hammer is actually striking both the iron and the fire united with it. The iron alone bends (suffers) whilst the fire is untouched though it bends with the iron.

As for the crucifixion of Christ, the Holy Bible presents us with a very beautiful verse; St. Paul the Apostle speaks to the bishops of Ephesus asking them: "... to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own Blood." (Acts 20:28); he ascribes, the Blood to God, although God is Spirit, and the Blood is that of His human nature.

This expression is the most wonderful proof of the One Nature of the Incarnate Logos; what is related to the human aspect can be attributed to the Divine nature at the same time without distinction, as there is no separation between the two natures.

The separation between the two natures claimed by Nestorus failed to provide a solution to the question of propitiation and redemption, as we have discussed this issue before here on in other sections. The Coptic Church insisted on the expression of the One Nature due to the importance of this matter and to its consequences.

We often say "Mr. X died" but we do not say that his body alone died, seeing that the spirit is in the image of God, and God has bestowed on it the blessing of immortality.

If the first aim of the Incarnation is redemption, and redemption cannot be fulfilled through the human nature alone, faith in the One Nature of the Incarnate Logos is an essential and undeniable matter. Redemption cannot be fulfilled if we say that the human nature alone underwent suffering, crucifixion, blood-shedding and death. Turn to the Holy Bible and read what it says about God the Father,

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? " (Rom. 8:32) and also,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. " (John. 3:16), and "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John. 4:10).

Thus, the One sacrificed by God is the Son, the Only Begotten Son, that is, the Second Hypostasis (Person) of the Holy Trinity; the Logos. The Bible did not say that He sacrificed His humanity or anything of the kind although He died on the cross with His human body, this is clear proof of the One Nature of God the Logos, and herein is the importance of this unity for the act of redemption.

The Bible also says in this context, "God the Father Who has delivered us from the power of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of His Dear Son, in Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins, Who is the Image of the Invisible God." (Col. 1:13-15).

When the Bible speaks about the forgiveness of sins through the Blood of Christ, it attributes this to the Son Who is the Image of the Invisible God, and to Whom is the kingdom. This is more evidence of the One Nature and the concern of the Holy Bible dealing with the matter of redemption.

Another Similar example is apparent in the parable mentioned by Christ about the wicked vinedressers. He says:

"But when the vinedressers saw the son,...So they took Him and cast Him out of the vineyard and killed Him. " (Matt. 21:37-39).

Here, death is attributed to the Son, and He did not specify His human body. How profound are these words concerning the One Nature".

The Holy Bible proves to us the One Nature of Christ by attributing to the Incarnate Word all acts and qualities that some attribute to one of the two natures, and we shall start by quoting the verses which throw light on the Son of Man.