Christus Victor — A Primer (Part Two)


Icon of the Annunciation

STEP ONE: We must have a different spiritual being who approaches the woman — one who is holy and truthful. The following New Testament passages come from St. Luke’s Gospel:

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee by the name of Nazareth towards a virgin having been betrothed to a man by the name of Joseph from the House of David, and the name of the virgin was Mary. And upon approaching her he said, “Greetings, one-having-been-graced, the Lord is with you (Luke 1: 26 – 28).

Gabriel, unlike the serpent of old, does not deceive. He clearly declares his message:

And the angel said to her, “Fear not, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, for you shall conceive, and the Son born of you will name Jesus. He shall be great and be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God shall give to him the throne of his father David. And he shall rule over the House of David forever and his Kingdom shall not end (Luke 1: 30 – 33).

STEP TWO: There must be a new woman, a new Eve. The above awkward phrase, “one-having-been-grace” is my translation of the perfect, passive participle found in Luke. The perfect aspect of a Greek verb/participle involves a past action with an ongoing consequence. This means that Mary was a well prepared vessel — part of God’s plan from the foundation of the earth. Additionally, it is quite interesting to note, that in the iconography of the Church, this encounter is portrayed in a courtyard, an altered garden-like setting, perhaps the Temple, in which case (of course) the Temple is the new Garden. Here, Mary is knitting, or weaving, holding a spool of yarn at the approach of the Archangel. The iconography also declares that we have a new Eve, even the anti-Eve, even though she too enters into dialogue with the spiritual being:

And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, for I know no man?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the Power of the Most High shall overshadow you. The one begotten is holy, and he shall be called the Son of God”…Then Mary said, “Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be done unto according to your word. And the angel departed from her (Luke 1: 34, 35, 37 – 38). Of note here is the precise parallel found in Exodus 40: 28.

The New Eve obeys and undoes the disobedience of Eve, her mother. The Woman releases the knot, and opens the way of salvation for humanity and creation!

STEP THREE: We have a New Adam. St. John writes, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld his glory — glory as the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1: 14). God the Word (the Son) takes on human flesh: he is fully God and fully man. God enters fully into our human condition to undo the cowardly capitulation of Adam.

In the Christus Victor view of salvation, we have a one God-man commando raid! The New Adam obeys God the Father. The New Adam fulfills the Law. The New Adam fulfills the prophecies of the Prophets. The New Adam undoes the defeat of Adam: the New Adam delivers, redeems, forgives, and recapitulates!

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus

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