The Incarnation: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Incarnation of the Son of God

By Stephen T. Davis; Daniel Kendall et al. | Go to book overview

8 Nature and the 'Mode of Union': Late Patristic Models for the Personal Unity of Christ

Brian E. Daley, SJ

One of the older colleges of the University of Oxford—the one which still, more than six centuries after its foundation, characteristically goes by the name of 'New College'—bears on its coat of arms a medieval English proverb which apparently was the motto of its fourteenth-century founder, Bishop William of Wykeham: 'Maners Makyth Man'. The bishop was surely not trying to remind future generations of undergraduates of the importance of writing thank-you notes promptly and passing the port to the left; 'manners', in this somewhat archaic usage, clearly means something closer to 'virtue' or 'good character', something akin to the Latin word mores—in the words of the Oxford English Dictionary, 'a person's habitual behaviour or conduct, especially in reference to its moral aspect'. It may not be too much of an exaggeration to say that behind this phrase lies a whole anthropology, a whole metaphysics of what it is to be human: as free and intelligent beings, we are not simply the products of instinct or of the mechanical forces of our nature, not fully definable by dispassionate observation or philosophical analysis; we are formed, made human, made persons in the fullest sense by our choices and habits, and by the patterns in our relationships to others that define moral character.

We have gathered in this 'summit' conference to reflect on the significance, for the church and for human thought, of the Christian doctrine of the incarnation: the fundamental conviction of Christian faith that in Jesus of Nazareth God's eternal, personally substantial

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