Dear Father Angelo,
my name is Viviana and I am 19 years old. I send you my wishes for Christmas and a new year full of joy. During thisChristmas time I once again read the first chapter of the Gospel according to St. John and a question arose in me that I just can’t answer: St. John says that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”, but then if Jesus existed before the creation of the world, before he became incarnate, how was he different from the Father? Let me better explain my thoughts: my understanding is that God is Love and that he made himself the Son by becoming incarnate, and it was exactly the fact that he took our flesh upon himself that “differentiated” him from the Father. But if instead God has always been Father and Son in two different Persons in eternity already, in what are they different? So does original sin have anything to do with the flesh? That is, if we had no sin in us, would we be only spirit? Furthermore, if the Father was Love given as the Son since eternal time, why did he create us as well? How can we be “the fullness in Him”?
I apologize if I was not clear enough. Thank you in advance for your reply and let me renew my wishes for you.
The priest’s answer
1. to your question “if Jesus existed before the creation of the world, before he became incarnate, how was he different from the Father?” one would answer: in nothing at all.
In fact, all that is in the Father is also in the Son.
The Son is the knowledge that the Father has of himself.
Since God knows himself perfectly, everything is present in his knowledge.
2. If there were any real distinctions between Father and Son, the Father would cease to be God, and likewise the Sonas well. In fact, each of them would be missing that which makes them different from one another.
Furthermore, we would fall into polytheism, which is in itself absurd as it is incompatible with the concept of supreme perfection.
If there were two or more gods, each one would be missing that which makes it different from the other.
3. Father and Son are therefore not different, as I will say later, but they are distinct.
We speak of Father and Son because by knowing himself, God generates himself in his divine mind.
God begetting is the Father and God begotten is the Son.
But the substance is the same, the divine one.
He is in fact the only God who is not an anonymous force, but a Person, indeed, a trinity of Persons. He is a communion.
4. However, everything would be so cold and barren if we did not keep in mind that, in addition to knowing himself, God loves himself and loves himself in a divine way, that is, perfectly and infinitely.
So here is the Holy Spirit: the one who unites Father and Son in a communion of love.
So the one who begets is not only the divine mind that knows.
He is the Father. And this name evokes the infinite and omnipotent love of God.
He is the One who gives himself, who communicates himself, who keeps nothing for himself, but is fully in the One who is generated, in the Word, in the Son.
5. Therefore Jesus is the Son since eternal time.
By Incarnation, Jesus remained the Son.
6. But by taking on himself human nature, he has also become the Son of Man, a biblical expression that exactly indicates God made flesh.
7. You continue by saying: “But if instead God has always been Father and Son in two different Persons in eternity already, in what are they different?”
There is a mistake here, because the two divine persons are not different, as I said, but the same. They are the same divine substance.
Instead, they are distinct from each other.
Distinct, but not different.
As theologians point out, they are the same divine substance. What sets them apart is the relationship.
One is the begetting one, the other the begotten one, and the third is the proceeding one.
8. You continue with another expression: “So does original sin have anything to do with the flesh? That is, if we had no sin in us, would we be only spirit?”
I do not see here what original sin has to do with the Most Holy Trinity, especially since Christ did not take on original sin in his incarnation.
Perhaps, you have a peculiar (and imprecise) concept of Trinity that escapes me, and makes me unable to comprehend the consequentiality by which you say: “So…”.
9. You conclude: “Furthermore, if the Father was Love given as the Son since eternal time, why did he create us as well? How can we be “the fullness in Him”?”
He created us as well because he wanted to make us partakers of his “fullness”.
We are not “fullness in God” because we add something to him.
Otherwise God would no longer be God.
Indeed, theologians say that with the act of creation God did not add any perfection to himself.
By creating, God did not become more perfect, or fuller.
But he communicated his fullness. And he does everything to ensure we have it in us at the highest degree possible for a creature.
I send you my Christmas 2017 wishes for Christmas 2018, since at the time of the publication of this answer it will not be very far away.
I remember you in prayer and I bless you.