Imitate the Unspeakable Example of Christ

Lent 6 Sunday (Palm Sunday)

Philippians 2:5-8

“Have the same mind Jesus Christ had: He, although he was in divine form, did not consider equality with God plunder, but emptied himself and took on the form of a servant, having come into the likeness of man, and was found in the form of a man. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”

 

Here Paul once again presents us the powerful example of the heavenly, eternal fire, that is, the love of Christ, demonstrated to us, in order to entice us to love one another. And he teaches this by using lofty words and precious exhortations. For he well saw how remiss and lazy the Christians were when it came to love. This laziness is caused by the flesh that always resists the willing spirit, seeking its own advantage and establishing its own sects and separatist groups. … Paul addresses here the Christians: “You who now have Christ, who now have all the fullness and sufficiency in him, both in a temporal and eternal sense: Among yourselves, you should not think differently, or consider good, or be satisfied by anything besides what you see Christ to have thought best in relation to you. He did not seek his own advantage, but did everything for you and for your sake. Thus, let each do according to the same image what is good and advantageous for the other.” Paul goes on to say that since Christ, who was a true natural God lowered himself and became everyone’s servant, how much more should we do this, since we are nothing and natural children of sin and death and the devil. And even if we did this and lowered ourselves more than Christ did (which is impossible), it would not be anything special, but a stinking humility compared to Christ’s humility. For even if Christ only humbled himself a tiny bit below the highest of angels while we humbled ourselves a thousand times more under all the devils and all hell, our humility would be nothing compared to Christ’s since he is an infinite good and God himself, while we are poor creatures who are not certain of our existence and life for one second. But how horrible a judgment will strike those who do not imitate this unspeakable example of Christ and who do not lower themselves under their neighbors and serve them, but exalt themselves above their neighbors! This one example should justly terrify all those who sit in positions of authority, but much more those who exalt themselves. For who should not be terrified to sit at the top or to be arrogant when he sees that God’s Son lowers and empties himself? Now, the words “divine form” are not interpreted in the same way. Some think that Paul meant thereby the divine substance and nature in Christ, so that Christ, although he was true God, lowered himself. Now, although it is true that Christ is true God, St. Paul does not here speak of Christ divine, hidden substance. For the very word “form” he uses later on again when he says that Christ took on the form of a servant, so that this word cannot mean the substance of a natural servant who has a servant nature by birth, since Christ did not become our servant by birth, but out of good will and grace. This is also why divine form here cannot mean his divine substance. For no one can see the divine substance, but they saw the divine form. Let us then speak about it clearly to bring St. Paul to the light of day. “Form of God,” thus, means that someone appears as a God and also conducts himself as such or that someone takes on and puts into action the divinity. This does not happen secretly in isolation, but in relation to others who become aware of such conduct or form. To put it most clearly, he conducts himself or appears like a God when he shows himself and speaks and acts in a manner that pertains to or is fitting for God. Accordingly, a servant form is that someone acting and conducting himself like a servant in relation to others.

 

St. Louis ed., 12:466-469.

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