Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Friday 17 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Hildegard of Bingen
home iconNews
line break icon

Book Review: The Mystery of the Incarnation

Ignatius Press

Steven Meyer - published on 12/18/13 - updated on 06/08/17

The center of the book gives a wonderful spiritual reflection on the real meaning of Christmas: Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, has taken on human flesh and come to us through a Virgin.

As we move through the calendar year, the wisdom of the Catholic Church encourages us to focus on specific mysteries of our faith to deepen our spiritual lives. In the season of Advent, from the Latin adventus or coming, our focus turns to the coming of Jesus Christ and the mystery of his Incarnation through which we believe God became flesh. We both remember and look forward to the promises made to us by God. As Pope Francis in his encyclical letter, Lumen Fidei, puts it, faith is an act of remembrance in the future (L. F. 9). A little book aimed at a wide readership which might help someone seeking contents for meditative prayer during Advent is The Mystery of the Incarnation by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. The author is a Dominican, the Archbishop of Vienna, Austria since 1995, and has achieved international recognition for his work as editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Reprinted by Paulist Press in English, Schönborn gives a series of five meditations beginning on the genre of myth, moving to three on the Creed concerning God becoming a man, and ending on icons depicting Christmas. I would like to give a brief sketch of what Schönborn presents and let the reader decide whether this book could be helpful.  

Schönborn’s first chapter title, borrowed from C. S. Lewis, is “Myth Became Fact.” I am convinced that this topic needs to be considered by thoughtful Christians in our contemporary world, and I will treat the contents of this chapter in the greatest detail for this brief review. The idea that God is born as a human being through a virgin classifies as the genre of myth. There are similarities of this concept in world religions, including death followed by resurrection. The early Fathers of Christianity were well aware of this problem and viewed, in general, other religions as a form of plagiarism. However, since the 19th century, a growing criticism is that Christianity is the religion of plagiarism. Schönborn takes issue with this charge, which reduces the fact of the Incarnation to a plagiarized myth – that is, to something not true. To do so, he turns to the work of C. S. Lewis on myth. Myth for Lewis causes a fascination in us – a longing, a cause of purification and an expansion of our consciousness. Myth as a genre should not be rejected as a falsehood under which Enlightenment philosophers would have us believe. Christians should not be afraid of myth parallels in other religions to Christianity. Creative theology is grounded in myth.

To demythologize Christianity misses the point. “The heart of Christianity,” Schönborn quotes Lewis as writing, “is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth: of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle” (Lewis, God in the Dock, 66-7; see Schönborn p.8-9). On the one hand, myth is important for theology; on the other hand, it is also wrong to overlook the historical reality of the central Christian mysteries: the Incarnation (Christmas) and the Paschal Mystery (Easter). I have enjoyed the respect Schönborn seems to take for the writings of Lewis. In another book familiar to me by Schönborn, Happiness, God, and Man (Ignatius 2010), he writes two essays, one about Lewis’s space trilogy and the other giving an analysis of Till We Have Faces.

  • 1
  • 2
Tags:
BooksChristmasJesus Christ

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
CELEBRITIES
Cerith Gardiner
Our favorite stories of celebrities who inspire us in daily life
2
communion
Philip Kosloski
How receiving Holy Communion can drive away demons
3
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
4
Berthe and Marcel
Lauriane Vofo Kana
This couple has the longest marriage in France
5
As irmãs biológicas que se tornaram freiras no instituto Iesu Communio
Francisco Veneto
The 5 biological sisters who joined the religious life in just tw...
6
CROSS
Philip Kosloski
Why is the feast of the Holy Cross celebrated on September 14?
7
SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been known to f...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.