All Christians know that God became man for us. Not all, however, realize that He did more than this. Not only did He become one of us; He willed also to make each one of us a part of Himself. In addition to the mystery of the Incarnation, there is the mystery of Incorporation. We are incorporated into the person of Christ.
Christ might have been content to pay for us, as it were, “from without,” like one who, hearing that his neighbor is in debt, says to him, “I will pay for you. How much do you want? Here is the money.” This would be generosity, but it would not create a bond of blood between the two; such a gift would not make them children of the same Father. They become greater friends; they do not become relatives.
Many imagine that our Lord is nothing more than a very generous divine neighbor. We could not pay the debt; He put at our disposition a great fortune: His manger, His Cross, every moment of His life, every drop of His blood; and by this means God was satisfied and forgave us our debt.
Had our redemption been accomplished in this way, it would still have been a priceless favor. But our Savior has done incomparably more than this. Not only has He put Himself in our place; He has identified Himself with us. He has not been content to remain an outsider — however divinely generous — He has made us His brethren, children of the same Father. He has engrafted us on His own person. In the operation of grafting, the bark and the sapwood are pierced, and grooves are made through which the sap may flow and give life to the branch engrafted. So it was with Christ. He, the living vine, was placed upon the hard wood of the Cross and in His hands, His feet, and His side were made deep wounds, and through the merit of those wounds, the divine life, which is in Him in all its fullness, passed from Him into us. Henceforth we are branches grafted upon Him, called to live His life.
When Christ appears before his Father, He is not alone, but we are with Him. Without us He is not completely Himself. Not physically, indeed, but mystically, we are a part of Him. The full and complete Christ is at once one and manifold. The complete Christ is Jesus, the Son of the Father, the son of Mary, together with all of us who are become divine through and in Jesus Christ.
The result of the Incarnation was that one who is truly God is capable of giving adoration and, precisely because he is God, of giving infinite adoration. Thanks to our incorporation in Christ, this mystery becomes more wonderful still. Only one person in the world, we said, can glorify God as He deserves — namely, Christ Jesus. But by the mystery of incorporation, through Baptism we become an integral part of Christ, and every increase of sanctifying grace makes us more a part of Christ than before. In this manner, the whole of the adoring power of Christ is placed at our disposal.
As an integral part of the mystical body of Christ — plenarium corpus Christi, as St Augustine puts it — I benefit by the advantages of this sublime union. Only Christ can give to God a glory that is worthy of God; but of this Christ I am a part. I am nothing, if I consider myself as a creature enclosed in my own solitary personality with all my deficiencies, and hence, I am quite incapable of giving to God any but an insignificant worship. . . Since I am a creature, I am obviously bound to give to Him all the glory that He expects from me; but what glory is that? What can an infinitesimal atom give to its maker; what homage can a bit of debased metal from the divine workshop offer to the Most High?
Gaze one fine evening at the myriads of stars scattered through space, and think what this earth of ours is, in comparison with all these worlds. The most recently discovered have taken three thousand years to send us their light, and their weight in pounds would be expressed in thirty or forty figures. Charts of the heavens already show 140,000 stars, and each one of these, like our sun, is the center of a similar system! In the midst of all these worlds, what is this little earth of ours, and on this earth of ours, what is a mere man? A mere atom, a mere nothing. And this nothing talks of adoring God! Yet adore he must, for it is his duty as a creature. But can he adore? Can he give a worship that is worthwhile? He can, and in a way that is undoubtedly worthwhile. This he can do because he is not merely a man; he is a “Christ.”
This insignificant earth of ours — and a rebellious earth at that — was chosen by the Word for his Incarnation. But He did more; He willed to go to the very extreme in His love for us. The inhabitants of this earth had been raised at the beginning to a divine dignity; but from that high estate they had fallen, and were dead. God willed to raise them to the dignity of being “other Christs.” He, Christ, will be the head; human beings, supernaturalized by the grace that his merits have restored to us, will be His members. And when Christ appears before His Father with the words “Behold your beloved Son, in whom you are well pleased,” He will include us in His oblation.
The complete Christ is made up of the head and the members together. Hence, when, being in the state of grace, we offer up prayer of adoration to the Father through and in Jesus Christ, our worship will not be merely the worship of a creature, but a worship to which the Son of God adds all that it needs in order to give condign glory to the Father. In fact, our Lord asks us to be His complement, to make up, with St. Paul, what is wanting to the sufferings of Christ.
But He, our Savior, the head of the Mystical Body, the divine head of all deified souls, constitutes our divine supplement. He supplies, in the fullest sense of the word, all that is lacking in our offering. This was human; He makes it divine, He makes it a “Christ-prayer” and therefore a prayer worthy of God. The model prayer, the most excellent of all prayers — whether it be the prayer of worship, of thanksgiving, of contrition, or of petition — is the offering that we make to God of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Elsewhere we have pointed out that by Baptism we are given part in a priesthood — not indeed a complete, but yet a spiritual and a royal priesthood — whereby we are able privately — not officially or publicly — to offer Christ to his Father. When the Church prays, she prays in this way, gathering into the prayer of Christ all the poor prayers of us members of his Body; poor prayers indeed, yet endowed with a divine, a salutary, and a glorious character, because they are offered “in Christ.”
The culmination of this joint prayer, of this prayer truly worthy of God, is the Mass, in which Christ again offers His supreme Sacrifice. Our Lord’s supreme act of worship was His death on the Cross. There did our Savior recognize most completely the sovereign majesty of God, when He submitted to the will of the Most High, even to the yielding of His life. Having assumed the nothingness of our human nature, He willed to submit to the lot of mankind; He died. Every Mass renews this recognition on the part of Christ of God’s sovereign rights; and hence, every Mass represents the apex of adoration.
This reflection should help us when we assist at Mass; it should help us whenever we pray. In answer to the invitation of the priest at Mass: Orate fratres, we pray, “May the Lord receive this sacrifice from thy hands, to the praise and glory of His name, to our benefit and to that of all His holy Church.” So also the Imitation of Christ bids us offer ourselves during Mass in this way: “Lord, in the simplicity of my heart I offer myself to Thee this day, as Thy servant forevermore, for Thy homage and for a sacrifice of perpetual praise. Receive me with this sacred oblation of Thy Precious Body, which I offer to Thee this day in the invisible presence of assisting angels, that it may be for salvation unto me and all Thy people.”
“Since, O my divine Brother,” writes St. Gertrude, “Thou didst become man to make reparation for all the faults of mankind, I beseech Thee to intercede for me with Thy Blessed Mother, and make up on my behalf for all that has been wanting in the praises that I have addressed to her.” So also St. Mechtilde: “Glory be to Thee, most sweet, most noble, most glorious Trinity, ever tranquil and ineffable. Deign, O Lord, to join the words most sweet to Thy divine sweetness; the words most noble to Thy excellent nobility; the word resplendent to Thy inaccessible light; the word tranquil to Thy peaceful repose; the word ineffable to Thy unspeakable goodness.”
May our prayer of adoration rise to these heights. This is a truly Christian prayer.
Editor’s note: This article has been adopted from Fr. Plus’ How To Pray Well, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.