Begotten, not made

By Br Mark O’Connor FMS, 4 September 2020
Image: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash.


Remember that intriguing Gospel story (Lk 2:41-52) where Jesus, as a 12-year-old boy, went with his parents to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover?

After the festival was over, his parents began their trip home, confident that Jesus was with relatives and friends. Discovering that Jesus was missing, his parents returned to Jerusalem only to find him in the Temple expounding Torah with teachers, who were amazed at his understanding.

Mary was upset with Jesus. She was astonished, not only by his ability to hold his own with the teachers in the Temple, but because he seemed to care so little about how Mary and Joseph would feel once they discovered he was not with relatives and friends.

Jesus does not seem the least bit ashamed, telling his mother that he must be in the house of his Father, that is, the God of Israel. It was an extraordinary claim that they failed to understand at the time, although we are told that Mary treasured ‘all these things in her heart’.

Early Christians, in their communities, also pondered and treasured stories like this in their hearts and minds. They wanted to know how Christ, whom Paul claimed was with God before there was a ‘was’, could be the same Jesus who thought it more important to interact with the teachers in the Temple than to join Mary and Joseph as they made their way back to Nazareth.

Gradually, the early Church came to see that Jesus Christ is not some afterthought God might have had. Unlike us, there was, or is, no time when Christ was not.

This reality—that is, that there was never a time when Christ was not— helped the Church to discover the truth that our mysterious God is trinitarian. That is why, Sunday after Sunday, we say phrases like: ‘We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God: begotten, not made …’

These early Christian communities also affirmed that Jesus was not 50 per cent God here and 50 per cent human there, but in everything, he was 100 per cent God and 100 per cent human. How extraordinary the ordinary is—a 12-year-old is God’s son!

How wondrous. Jesus was a boy who had to grow up like any child. Yet the love that moves the sun and the stars is fully present in this boy. And we too are now ‘insiders’—for this same Trinitarian God lives and is being ‘born’ within each of us baptised disciples. Glory be to God the Father, Son and Spirit!

Do you want to know what goes on in the heart

of the Trinity?

I will tell you.

In the heart of the Trinity

the Father laughs and gives

birth to the Son.

The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to

the Spirit.

The whole Trinity laughs and

gives birth to us.

When God laughs at the soul and the soul laughs back

at God, the persons of the Trinity are begotten.

When the Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs

back at the Father, that laughter gives pleasure,

that pleasure gives joy, that joy gives love, and that is the

Holy Spirit.

– Meister Eckhart


This article is part of a series of reflections entitled ‘I Believe…Help My Unbelief’: Meditations on the Creed by Br Mark O’Connor FMS.

Br Mark O’Connor FMS is the Vicar for Communications in the Diocese of Parramatta.


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