The Centerpiece of All Creation
The Incarnation is at the center of history (time) and the universe (space). St. Paul speaks of a fullness of time and a fullness of space, both of which converge in the God-Man Jesus Christ. The fullness of time is that moment when chronology and eternity intersect: “But when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman…” (Gal 4:4; cf. Eph 1:8-10). At the moment of the Incarnation the eternal Son of God becomes the temporal Son of Man – He becomes man without ceasing to be God; He enters time without ceasing to be timeless. Time and eternity kiss.
The fullness of space is that location where divinity and humanity meet: “For in Him [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col 2:9; cf. 1 Jn 1:1-2); in fact in the Byzantine and Orthodox Liturgy they pray to Mary thus: “He whom the entire universe could not contain was contained within your womb, O Theotokos.” At the Annunciation the immense, infinite Godhead dwells corporally in a finite space, and thus a human mother is pregnant with God, a creature bears her Creator, Mary is true Mother of God. Creator and creature embrace.
God created the universe with this moment and place in mind – His divine plan from the beginning was that all things would hinge on the mystery of Christ. It seems appropriate to cite the words of St. Maximus the Confessor, a prominent Greek Father of the Church (d. 662), here. He taught that Christ, the Word made flesh, “is the great and hidden mystery, at once the blessed end for which all things are ordained. It is the divine purpose conceived before the beginning of created beings. In defining it we would say that this mystery is the preconceived goal for which everything exists, but which itself exists on account of nothing. With a clear view to this end, God created the essences of created beings, and such is, properly speaking, the terminus of His providence and of the things under His providential care. Inasmuch as it leads to God, it is the recapitulation of the things he has created. It is the mystery which circumscribes all the ages, and which reveals the grand plan of God (cf. Eph 1:10-11), a super-infinite plan infinitely preexisting the ages… Because of Christ – or rather, the whole mystery of Christ – all the ages of time and the beings within those ages have received their beginning and end in Christ.” (Ad Thalassium, q.60; PG 90; 620-621) [one can see more of St. Maximus’ writings on the mystery of Christ here].
The axiom of Aristotle, adopted also by the Subtle Doctor, applies here in a particular way: “What is first in intention is last in execution” (Metaphysica, VI, t.7, c.23). Christ, “the firstborn of every creature” (Col 1:15) and “the beginning of the creation of God” (Apoc 3:14) is first in God’s intention. The entire universe is designed with a view to realizing the centerpiece of all creation, namely the hypostatic union. The realization of this plan, viz. the execution, comes “in the last times” (1 Pt 1:20), “last of all” (Heb 1:2).
As a concrete example, the new foundation of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Fairfield, PA, began with a design, then a shovel. What is first in the intention – a Monastery – is last in the execution. The project continues moving from the less perfect towards the perfect so that what commenced with a shovel will be fully realized on the day the stunning architectural masterpiece is completed and dedicated (click here for a rendering of the Monastery and Church). The driving force behind the construction is the intention to realize this work for the glory of God. Although God is not constrained by space and time in accomplishing His works, nonetheless, He has freely chosen to operate in this fashion when realizing the Masterpiece of all of His creation, Jesus Christ.
When God begins His work of creation He does so with the end in mind, namely the Incarnate Word who is “the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end” (cf. Apoc 21:6). God speaks: Fiat lux, “Let there be light!” (Gen 1:3), and this sets the plan in motion. Mary speaks: Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum – “Be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38) and God’s plan is fully realized. At the “yes” of God the plan is set in motion and light is created; at the “yes” of Mary God’s plan is fully realized and Christ, “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12), “the true Light that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9; cf. v.4-8) comes into this world. God’s words, fiat lux, were uttered in full view of that day when Christ would be manifested in the flesh. Indeed God saw that “fullness of time” and “fullness of space” when he created time and space in the beginning. Consequently, all history either points towards or flows from that moment when the Word became flesh and all space is ordered to and guided by that locus where the Creator and the creature are united in the Divine Person of the Word.