The Divine Bait

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

… [I]t was not in the nature of the opposing power to come in contact with the undiluted presence of God, and to undergo His unclouded manifestation, therefore, in order to secure that the ransom in our behalf might be easily accepted by him who required it, the Deity was hidden under the veil of our nature, that so, as with ravenous fish, the hook of the Deity might be gulped down along with the bait of flesh, and thus, life being introduced into the house of death, and light shining in darkness, that which is diametrically opposed to light and life might vanish; for it is not in the nature of darkness to remain when light is present, or of death to exist when life is active. (Great Catechism 24)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

 I am a worm and not a man (Ps. 21:7, LXX). He truly became, and was thus called, a worm because He assumed the flesh without being conceived by human seed. For, just as the worm is not born through copulation or sexual procreation, so too our Lord was not born in the flesh through sexual procreation. Moreover, the Lord mounted His flesh on the fish-hook of His divinity as bait for the devil’s deceit, so that, as the insatiable serpent, the devil would take His flesh into his mouth (since its nature is easily overcome) and quiver convulsively on the hook of the Lord’s divinity, and, by virtue of the sacred flesh of the Logos, completely vomit the Lord’s human nature once he swallowed it. As a result, just as the devil formerly baited man with the hope of divinity, and swallowed him, so too the devil himself would be baited precisely with humanity’s fleshly garb; and afterward he would vomit man, who had been deceived by the expectation of becoming divine, the devil himself having been deceived by the expectation of becoming human. The transcendance of God’s power would then manifest itself through the weakness of our inferior human nature, which would vanquish the strength of its conqueror. As well, it would be shown that it is God Who, by using the flesh as bait, conquers the devil, rather than the devil conquering man by promising him a divine nature. (Ad Thalassium 64: On the Prophet Jonah and the Economy of Salvation)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

Since our Lord Jesus Christ was without sin (for He committed no sin, He Who took away the sin of the world, nor was there any deceit found in His mouth ) He was not subject to death, since death came into the world through sin. Rom. 5:12 He dies, therefore, because He took on Himself death on our behalf, and He makes Himself an offering to the Father for our sakes. For we had sinned against Him, and it was meet that He should receive the ransom for us, and that we should thus be delivered from the condemnation. God forbid that the blood of the Lord should have been offered to the tyrant. Wherefore death approaches, and swallowing up the body as a bait is transfixed on the hook of divinity, and after tasting of a sinless and life-giving body, perishes, and brings up again all whom of old he swallowed up. For just as darkness disappears on the introduction of light, so is death repulsed before the assault of life, and brings life to all, but death to the destroyer. (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. 3.27)