Christological Ontology is a mystery before even selecting a subject of study. It delves into the philosophical study of Christian beliefs, metaphysical concepts, and existential applications of said beliefs. The early church recognized deviating teachings from well-meaning Christian believers that were taking on different aspects or definitions of three incarnational truths regarding Jesus Christ are simultaneously maintained:
- Jesus is the Son of God who is man with full divinity (of the father).
- Jesus is truly man that the Son of God is here on earth, experiencing full humanity (birth, hunger, thirst, doubt, pain, and death).
- Jesus, although having two natures (that of man and that of Son of God) is one being – he is the son of god existing in man.
Thomas Weinandy, OFM., CAP presented these truths as coming out of three councils (Nicaea 325 bc, Ephesus 431 bc, and Chalcedon 451 bc). The above three truths do not strike me as controversial, however, the early church had real challenges and accusations of heresy lodged at fellow believers over the essence of who Jesus Christ represented within the context of the Trinity. How could he be both man and God at the same time? If he is man, he cannot be God and vice a versa.
The Council of Chalcedon, the last of the three councils above, solidified the above three ontological truths for the Catholic Church. Not all churches followed suit and to this day questions are raised by these assumptions. How can I explain the unexplainable? As a catholic we have a difficult task of explaining our beliefs as they are based on a rich tradition, history, and lived experiences. They become self-referential and from the outside become even more mysterious than we may feel as believers.
Jesus Christ was incarnate by the Holy Spirit in Mary, the Mother of God. From the very beginning he is different than prior prophets. He is spirit and divinity by getting life through the Holy Spirit and Human by being born like you and me from the Virgin Mary. As he fulfills his redemption and salvation journey, he performs miracles and experiences fully as a human being. He is man. Yet he is not separated from his divinity and his divinity is not tainted by or changed by his sacrifices. God gave us his only son temporarily, to experience and sacrifice for our redemption. His son “emptied himself” of his divinity to be made man while simultaneously still being one with the father. The council of Chalcedon demanded that we recognize Jesus full humanity (which authenticates his descending to earth and sacrificing for us wholly and completely) and that we recognize that he remains the son of God while temporarily giving himself up totally to being man. Hence, after the ultimate sacrifice, being crucified for our redemption with the body of man (and all that entails in pain and suffering), he is called back to the father thru the resurrection to fulfill the majesty of scripture and the word of God.
The practicing catholic need not get caught up in metaphysical existential philosophy and Ontological Christology. We have to only strive to think and act like Jesus Christ (easier said than done). However, if we are to be messengers of the word of God, we have to be able to provide a story or an account of the mystery of the trinity, that although not entirely explainable as it is a mystery, has essential truths that define Jesus Christ and Christianity.