Living in the Two Hearts

My Spiritual Insights and Musings

Sheen on Kenosis… what?!

Posted by Anne Elizabeth on January 28, 2009

For the next few weeks (or however long God desires it) I will review a series of talks given by Archbishop Fulton SheenI will try as best as I can to quote him accurately – thus all his direct quotes will appear italicized and in “quotation marks”


Yes, that’s right!  Kenosis.  So, what is Kenosis? Kenosis is a Greek word that means “to empty oneself “.   When it is applied to Christ, we come to the understanding that God emptied Himself of His glory so that He could become man (cf. John 1:1-3, 14).  The following lesson is on this understanding of Kenosis, as pertaining to the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

Kenosis Part I

“I’m going to tell you about our Lord…and I’m going to read to you a passage from St. Paul that you many not understand…from the Philippians…that was once a hymn in the early Church.  Greek scholars have found the meter…and just think! St. Paul wrote his epistles before the Gospels were even written…so this was the ‘creed’ in the eastern part of the world, before we had any New Testament.  But here is the passage:

Philippians 2: 5-8

“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God,…

“By this is meant, our Lord was always God.  The divine nature was His from the first…”

[Yet He] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped…

“He didn’t try to be like God because He was God! Who snatched at equality with God? Satan…Satan tried to snatch at equality with God.  Adam did too, because the devil said, ‘You will be like gods‘.  But Our Lord was God by nature.”

Rather, He emptied Himself,…

“This is Kenosis…He emptied Himself, emptied Himself, made Himself nothing…”

…taking the form of a slave,…

“A slave…what does a slave do? A slave does two things: he does dirty things and he does hard things.  So Our Blessed Lord, who was always God, became man.  That meant that He emptied Himself of His glory! He humbled Himself…He became nothing, became a ‘zero’…”

…coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (NAB)

“Suppose you had the power to dispossess yourself of your body, and just keep your soul?  And suppose you wanted to have a Kenosis, and empty yourself ? And you would put your soul into the body of a dog.  Now think how humbling that would be? With your mind and understanding still intact … You would not exceed the limitations of that ‘dog nature’.  First of all you could speak…but you wouldn’t speak, you could only bark.  You would have reason…but you could only follow instinct.  And then there would be another humiliation, you would spend the rest of your life with dogs…knowing you are a thousand times better than they.”

The obvious difference here, man was made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:27).  God came among His own creation.  But He did have to endure containment in ‘a small box’.  For, how can one contain infinity?  You can’t!  How did God endure such ‘tight quarters’? Out of Love.

For God so loved the world, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:8

“When He takes this human nature, He resolves hardly ever to exceed the limitations of this human nature.  So God can suffer.  When people suffer today they say, ‘Does God know anything about pain?  Did God ever go without food for three days, or ten days? Did God ever experience thirst? Does God know anything about the wounds in those brought about by accidents, wars, and in hospitals? Was God ever ridiculed and mocked? Was He ever in exile? Does God know what it is to be in prison?’  Yes!”

Shall we take these questions one at a time?  Click here for the scriptural answers to the above questions. I think they establish an affirmative answer, don’t you?

Next Post: Kenosis Part II

Previous Posts

Cross of Christ
Fulton Sheen: Cross… Part I

Fulton Sheen: Cross…  Part II
Fulton Sheen: Cross… Part III

*Part I
*Part II


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