from the Treatise De Incarnatione Verbi Dei by St. Athanasius.. ..from my Substack
You know what happens when a portrait that has been painted on a panel becomes liberated through external stains. The artist does not throw away the panel, but the subject of the portrait has to come and sit for it again, and then the likeness is re-drawn on the same material. Even so it was with the All-holy Son of God.
He, the Image of the Father, came and dwelt in our midst, in order that He might renew mankind made after Himself, and seek out His lost sheep, even as He says in the Gospel: “I came to seek and to save that which was lost.”1 This also explains His says to the Jews: “Except a man be born anew…”2 He was not referring to a man’s natural birth from his mother, as they thought, but to the re-birth and re-creation of the soul in the Image of God.
Nor was this the only thing which only the Word could do. When the madness of idolatry and irreligion filled the world and the knowledge of God was hidden, whose part was it to teach the world about the Father? Man’s, would you say? But men cannot run everywhere over the world, nor would their words carry sufficient weight if they did, nor would they be, unaided, a match for the evil spirits. Moreover, since even the best of men were confused and blind by evil, how could they convert the souls and minds of others? You cannot put straight in others what is warped in yourself.
Perhaps you will say, then, that creation was enough to teach men about the Father. But if that had been so, such great evils would never have occurred. Creation was there all the time, but it did not prevent men from wallowing in error. Once more, then, it was the Word of God, Who sees all that is in man and moves all things in creation, Who alone could see the needs of the situation. It was His part and His alone, Whose ordering of the universe reveals the Father, to renew the same teaching.
But how was He to do it? By the same means as before, perhaps you will say, that is through the works of creation. But that was proven insufficient. Men had neglected to consider the heavens before, and now they were looking in the opposite direction.
Wherefore, in all naturalness and fitness, desiring to good to men, as Man He dwells taking to Himself a body like the rest; and through His actions done in that body, as it were on their own level, He teaches those who would not learn by other means to know Himself, the Word of God, and through Him the Father.
1 St. Luke xix, 10.2
2 St. John iii, 3.