What does “Incarnation” mean? | Archdiocese of Washington

When I used to be a math tutor, I helped elementary school students who were struggling with arithmetic. As a physicist, I was knee deep in very difficult and advanced mathematics and realizing that some children had difficulty with addition and subtraction initially took me aback. Basic arithmetic had become so familiar to me that it took some time to figure out how to teach and explain it. I took it so much for granted that I forgot how odd it must seem to a child coming across it for the first time.

In a similar way, we could look at today’s “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” question: “What does the word ‘Incarnation’ mean?” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the Church calls ‘Incarnation’ the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it.”(CCC 461) While this is not easy language it is something that most Catholics are used to hearing and may not think twice about. When we realize that most of the disagreements in the first five centuries of the Church revolved around this doctrine, we may be surprised. What, exactly, is the big deal? In these arguments, the big deal was our salvation.

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