Coptic homilies in the dialect of Upper Egypt/IV. Ethiopic Version of a Discourse of Proclus on the Incarnation

Coptic homilies in the dialect of Upper Egypt; edited from the papyrus codex Oriental 5001 in the British museum  (1910)  translated by Ernest Alfred Wallis Budge
IV. Ethiopic Version of a Discourse of Proclus on the Incarnation

THE HOMILY PREACHED BY PROCLUS, BISHOP OF CYZICUS, ON THE INCARNATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ON THE DAY OF THE FESTIVAL OF THE NATIVITY.

May the festival of the Virgin this day make to blossom our tongue, O my brethren ! May it be called upon to give praise, and may it become unto us this day, and unto those who have gathered together [here], a guide of salvation, a faithful one. For pure and without blemish is His word, and He Whom we preach is the glory of the generation of women. And there is honour to them because of the Virgin, and through this honour the Synods of the Church are glad, and earth and sea crown the Virgin. The sea [because on] its back multitudes of ships come and go, and the earth because it receives the footsteps of those who journey over it with gladness ; and creation exults and rejoices. Women are held in high honour, and men utter cries of gladness throughout all the earth, for, to oppose the multitudes of sins which are exceedingly many in this world, grace and righteousness have been gathered together by Saint Mary, who is the vessel of virginity which cannot be destroyed. She is the garden of the spirit of the Second Adam. She is the union of existence, and she is the possessor of salvation, whereby she has purchased us. [She is] the pure edifice wherein one lives daintily. [She is] the Word, the flesh, and is indeed the wood of the bush, wherein was a soul, which the fire consumed not. [She is] the Deity, whereof in truth the cloud has been stripped away. And she carried with her flesh Him Who was above the Cherubim, and Who came [down] from heaven. [She is] the pure rain [upon] the wool, wherefrom the Shepherd clothed Himself in the garb of the Lamb, Mary, the handmaiden, mother and virgin.

She is heaven, and she became the bridge from God to man, [the bridge] of His incarnation in our life, wherein was woven the awful fabric of His flesh. His apparel was miraculous, the Fashioner thereof was the Holy Spirit, the thread thereof was from above, the shadow of the Power, the fiber thereof existed from the beginning, the flesh of Adam, the web thereof was of the virgin, [whose] flesh was pure, and the Weaver was His Grace which He put on. And His Maker was the Word which was obedient to His Father which is in heaven.

The womb of the Virgin was not too strait for Him in any respect, and He was brought forth by a woman, God, not stripped of flesh, and not man an inferior, but God with His flesh. And He Who was in times past the door, the door of man, redeemed him ; He Who was brought forth worked righteousness. By the obedience of a woman at His coming He healed woman, who had disobeyed His word, of the venomous vomit of the serpent, and by woman, by whom was brought forth Cain, the first worker of sin, was brought forth our Redeemer Jesus Christ, without seed of offspring. And the Lover of man was not ashamed to be brought forth by a woman, for what He had made was life, and He Who was the Creator did not destroy His habitation in her womb, and He was without disgrace. Had she not remained a virgin after giving birth to God, verily He Who was brought forth by her would have been an ordinary man, and His birth would not have been miraculous. But, seeing that after she had given birth to Him she continued to be a virgin, verily He Who was born of her was a miraculous Being, for through a closed barrier God came. Thomas, His disciple, having perceived the nature of His substance, cried out and said, 'My Lord and my God.'

You will not be ashamed of His birth from a woman, for a woman became the means of salvation. If He had not been born of a woman, His mother, He could not have died in His flesh. And if He had not died in His flesh, He could not have destroyed by His death him that has dominion over death, Diabolos.

The materials used by the architect when he builds them into a building are not disgraced, and the brickmaker does not destroy the clay whereof the bricks are made when he restores old brickwork, and in like manner by His birth from a pure virgin He was not destroyed. When He created her He was not defiled, and similarly, when He was born of her He was not destroyed.

Hail, Belly, wherein was written the freedom of all the world ! Hail, Womb, wherein was wrought the shield against death ! Hail, Field, wherein germinated the Crop of the Ploughman without seed ! Hail, Palace, wherein lived God the High-Priest, Whose nature is unchanging, and Who, in His mercy, arrayed Himself after the manner of the order

of Melchisedek.[1].

And now, we say, the Word became flesh, and although the Jews have refused to believe in God, yet did God make flesh, and put it on [Himself], even though the Arami 2 vainly imagine it to be a mystery. [ i. e., an impossible, ununderstandable thing. ] Because of this thing it is written, 'To the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Nations (or, Heathen) madness,' [2] that is to say, the Cross, which is marvellous above all speech. If the Word did not dwell in the womb we will not sit [in] our flesh on the great throne. If God suffered disgrace by dwelling in the womb, the angels who are sent to the children of men suffer degradation in their office.

He Who in His own nature could not suffer pain, by reason of His compassion for us, became one who could suffer pain in His flesh. He Who was the Lord Christ did not thereby acquire the qualities (or, attributes) thereof - God forbid ! - but for our sakes, being God, He became a man, and even thus do we believe. And we do not preach a man who became God, having changed himself, but we believe in God, Who became incarnate, and Who made a handmaiden to be [His] mother.

Now, in His Divine Nature, He had no mother, and in His fleshly nature He had no father on the earth; for He is of like substance with the Father. How can one liken Him to Melchisedek, [the names] of whose father and mother were not written [in genealogies], if He was an ordinary (or, humble) man? Christ was not without a mother, for He had a mother on the earth. And as He was God His Being was not of the flesh, because He had no [earthly] father, for He had a Father in heaven. Now, in his character of Christ, He had no mother in heaven above, for He is the Creator, and He had no father [on earth] below, for He was created in His flesh.

The salutation of the angel caused Mary to be greatly ashamed ; now ' Gabriel 5 was the name of the angel who saluted Mary, and the interpretation thereof in Hebrew is 'he is God'. He saluted her first of all in order that His incarnation might be believed [by her]. Understand, O man, the means whereby He came, and glorify the power of Him that became incarnate. Much did the first generation of man owe as the debt for his sin, for through Adam the Devil made us sinners and slaves. The Devil had taken possession of us, and he bore the testimony [which was against] us, and he set down on his bill of indictment the suffering of our flesh. And the Evil One stood up and wrote a statement of claim against us, and he acted craftily in respect of us, and he watched the bill of our debts increasing, and [at last] he demanded us in death.

Now from all this it follows of necessity that there cannot be two [Persons]. One Person has redeemed all of us from our litigation, and similarly One [Person], our Lord, was given for the redemption of us all. For to Him is all righteousness to save man, and degraded man did He deliver from a state of helplessness. For us He redeemed the debt. From a state of helplessness He bought us into a state of divinity ; for there was no being of flesh who could redeem us. Therefore it was necessary for Him that had no sin in Himself to die in His flesh because of our sin. This was the means whereby He Who is Himself the Creator Who created saved us from our sins. Nothing is impossible with His graciousness, nothing is [too great] for Him to give.

Now He obtained strength and gladness of life for sinners, and caused the overthrow of death, which was right. And according to the design which He Himself knew, He became incarnate, and He became a man like unto ourselves, and He died in the flesh wherewith He had clothed Himself. And He redeemed [us] by that which He had put on, according to that which Paul says, 'For in Him we have found our redemption by His Blood, [and] the remission of our sins'. [3] This thing could not have been wrought by any other than He. He is not mortal, for He is the Being Who cannot die. And like unto Him there is no other in respect of His flesh ; there is none who will be, and there is none who has been, He Who was brought forth by the Virgin, that is, God, Who became incarnate, stands alone. And He was [not] of weight like unto the many who were weighed with Him, for He Who redeemed j us is greater than we, greater than all of us, in every matter, and in every computation. He redeemed us [and made us] to be redeemed men because He was the Son Who was equal with His Father, and He saved us because He was the Creator, Whose power is infinite.

And because He was the Loving One He did not disdain to show mercy upon us, nay, He suffered for us openly ; and because He was the High Priest, He brought us to His faithful Father as something for which He had made petition, and would not be denied from possessing. Where can be found another who is like unto Him, or who will be compared with Him? Nowhere.

And consider His love towards the men who wished to condemn Him to death ! After they had crucified Him He made their dead to live, and He changed the transgressions of those who slew Him into [their] salvation. He saved degraded man from his helpless state, and because he was degraded He wished to save him, even as Paul says, 'We have all sinned.' [4] and our sins have brought us close unto the Devil, and the Devil has given us over unto death. [5] And the generation of man was in great suffering, and there was none to deliver [him], and those who had been sent, the keepers of medicine, [ i.e., physicians. ] the Prophets, were unable to heal him. Pol. 119 & And when they saw that the wound was waxing sore in the whole nature of man, they cried out unto the Keeper of medicine [ The Physician, Christ. ] Who was in the heavens, and spoke, and one said, ' Lord, bow the heavens, and come down.' [6] And another said, ' Heal You me, and I will be healed.' [7] And another said, 'Lift up your power, and come, deliver us.' [8] And another said, ' Thus will God dwell with man.' [9] And another said, 'Let your mercy find us quickly.' [10] And another said, ' Woe is me, O Lord, for the good man has perished from the earth.' [11] And another [said], ' O Lord, look You to my help ; O Lord, hasten to my help. [12] And another said, 'He Who is will come, and will not tarry.' [13] And another said, ' I have gone astray like a sheep which is lost, seek your servant.' [14]

With all these [prayers], however, creation was not healed, nay, she was oppressed. But He Who is in truth King in His Being, and Whose Being is eternity, came, and He gave Himself [to be] the redemption, and He Who put on flesh of the virgin gave the price of death for the generation of man, and He bought him for ever from the curse of the Law. Now, He Who redeemed us was not an ordinary man, O Jew, for the race of man was in bondage to sin, but He redeemed us ; and the Lord was not a mediator through the flesh, for the flesh is an enemy. O Manichean, had He not put on [the flesh], He could not have saved us. But in the womb of the virgin, there did He put on that which had sinned, and there took place the awful change in Him that redeemed us. And it was not the Spirit which became incarnate, but He, the Son, took flesh from the virgin, and the Spirit overshadowed the Son as He became incarnate of her.

Now if you say, [There are] ' Two Christs ' and ' Two Words', know that it is not so in the Trinity wherein we believe, but in a Tetrad. Now, therefore, hold not in abhorrence the garment of His flesh which was woven in heaven above, and become not a disciple of Arius, for this man blasphemously divided Him Whose Being is a Trinity, and you will not separate blasphemously the substance of the Being of Christ. Who was it that appeared unto those who sat in the darkness and shadow of death? [15] And who is he who dwells in the shadow? Hearken unto Paul who says, ' Who has delivered us from the shadow.' [16] And again he says, ' For you are the I first of darkness.' [17] And who is He that appeared?

David taught us, saying, ' Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord. [18] And who is He that will come? Let us hearken unto David again : ( God has declared Himself. The Lord has appeared unto us.' [His] Being was joined in union, and He remained without change. He came to save him (i. e., man), and His own death was necessary.

[Besides] all this, how was it possible for an ordinary man to save him (i. e., man)? It was impossible for God, his Mediator, to suffer in the flesh, but being God He became man, and through His Divinity He saved him ; and in that He had become incarnate He suffered in the flesh. And for this reason when the Church saw Him, as they were crowning Him with the crown of thorns, weeping for the Temple, she cried out, ' O children of Jerusalem, get ye forth and see the crown wherewith His mother has crowned Him.' For He put on the crown of thorns, and He made whole him that had suffered from the thorns. He Who was in the bosom of His Father was in the womb of the virgin. He Who was in I the arms of His mother was glorified on the wings of spirits.

He before Whom the angels bowed in homage reclined at meat with the tax-gatherers. He upon Whom [not] one of the Seraphim dared to look did Pilate examine in the hall of judgement. And creation trembled because of Him. They set up the Cross. No place was empty of Him. He was shut in the grave. And heaven was laid out (or, rent) like sackcloth. And in His Divinity He was watching. He was counted among the dead ; He moved about in Sheol. And He Who was treated with contumely like a thief here below was proclaimed holy above, for He is holy.

But I see [the mystery of] the miracles of Him Who was thus, and I preach His Divinity. Emmanuel did not open the door of the virgin, like a man ; He did not burst the bolt of her virginity, for He was God. As He entered the womb without corruptible matter, so was He produced, and so was He conceived ; He came in without corruptible matter, and He went out without corruptible matter, even as Ezekiel the Prophet says ' He brought me by the way of the gate of saints, outside the door which looks towards the east, and it was I closed. And God said unto me, Son of man, this grate is closed, and it will not be opened. And no one will go in through it except the God of Israel. He alone will go in through it, and come out from it, and it will remain closed.' [19] Behold, then, the true and open testimony concerning the holy God-bearer, Mary. And now, from this time onwards, let there be cast aside all contention and unbelief, and let us expound the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, so that God may give us a portion in the kingdom of heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom, and to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit, be glory and power, for ever and ever. Amen.

  1. John xx. 28.
  2. 1 Cor. i. 23.
  3. Rom. iii. 25.
  4. Rom. iii. 23.
  5. Heb. ii. 14.
  6. Ps. cxliv. 5.
  7. Jer. xvii. 14.
  8. Ps. lxxx. 2.
  9. Ezek. xliii. 7.
  10. Ps. xc. 14.
  11. Ps. xii. 1.
  12. Ps. lxxi. 12.
  13. cf. Isa. xlvi. 13.
  14. Ps. cxix. 176.
  15. Isa. ix. 2.
  16. Col. i. 13.
  17. 1 Cor. xv. 20 ; Col. i. 18.
  18. Ps. cxviii. 26.
  19. Ezek. xliv. 1-3.