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What Is the Hypostatic Union?


A listener named Sue asks Father Dave to explain the hypostatic union, a technical term used in Christian theology that she heard mentioned in a previous episode. 

“Don’t feel bad that you’ve never heard the term, Sue,” Father Dave responds. “I’m pretty sure that I had not heard that term prior to going to seminary. Hypostasis means concurrently existing in the same being, held together with some sort of mystical union — a divine being, God, and a human being, Jesus Christ, who walked around on the earth. They are mysteriously and mystically linked. Jesus is not 50% man and 50% God, he’s 100% of each.”

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“We refer to that in theology as the ‘hypostatic union.’ It comes from philosophical terms that refer to the substance of a thing and how it exists. In its simplest terms, it refers to the fact that Jesus Christ is both divine and human. We see the ways in which the Church wrestled with that concept and argued about it. They finally concretized that in the creeds that we continue to say at Mass, but they were put together in the third, fourth and fifth centuries … It was like, ‘Wait a minute. Did he stop being God when he was born?’ That was one of the weird philosophical terms that they came up with to describe something that’s kind of indescribable.”