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The literal meaning of Incarnation is enfleshment. The term refers to the DNA-encoding, conception, and live birth of a sentient creature (generally human) who is the material manifestation of an entity or force whose original nature is immaterial. Incarnation should, and must, be carefully distinguished from the phenomenon of apotheosis[?], which refers to the temporary manifestation of a divine or archetypal force, entity or energy within and through a human being during the course of ritual, religious exercise, meditation, or other spiritual activities.

While Christianity and Hinduism are perhaps the most widely-known traditions to employ this concept within the context of their respective belief systems, they are by no means the only ones to do so.

As used in the Christian tradition The doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ is central to the traditional Christian faith as held by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestants.

Briefly, it is the belief that the Second Person of the Godhead, also known as the Son or the Word, "became flesh" when he was miraculously conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary. In the Incarnation, the divine nature of the Son was perfectly united with human nature in one divine Person. This person, Jesus Christ, was both "truly God and truly man." The incarnation is commemorated and celebrated each year at the Feast of the Incarnation, also known as Christmas.

The significance of the Incarnation has been extensively written about throughout Christian history. It is perhaps nowhere more beautifully summed up than in the Hymn to the Only Begotten Son in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom[?] used by Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic believers:

O only begotten Son and Word of God,
Who, being immortal,
deigned for our salvation
to become incarnate
of the holy Theotokos† and ever-virgin Mary,
and became man without change;
You were also crucified,
O Christ our God,
and by death have trampled Death,
being One of the Holy Trinity,
glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit --
Save us!

† Literally, "God-bearer." In the Western tradition usually translated "Mother of God." See Theotokos.

See also:

External link On the Incarnation (http://www.ccel.org/a/athanasius/incarnation/0content) by Saint Athanasius of Alexandria

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