Below is a lightly edited excerpt from the second section of Athanasius' writing, On the Incarnation, written about AD 320.
"The Divine Dilemma and Its Solution in the Incarnation"
Now He [the Word] entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us.
He saw the reasonable race of men that, like Himself, expressed the Father's Mind, wasting out of existence, and death reigning over all in their corruption.
He saw that corruption held us, because it was the penalty for the transgression.
He saw how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled.
He saw how unfitting it would be for the very things which He Himself made should disappear.
He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them.
He saw their universal bondage to death.
All this He saw.
And He pitied our race. He was moved with compassion for our limitation, and was unwilling that death should have the mastery. Rather than have His creatures perish, and the work of His Father for us come to nothing, He took to Himself a body, a human body even like our own.
He did not choose merely to become embodied or merely to appear. Had that been so, He could have revealed His divine majesty in some other and better way.
No, He took our body, and not only so, but He took it directly from a spotless, stainless virgin, without the agency of human father.
He, the Mighty One, the Maker of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt.
Thus taking a body like our own, and because all our bodies were subject to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father.
This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished. Having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, death was emptied of its power for men from that time onward.
This He did that He might make incorruptible those who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the giving of His body and by the grace of His resurrection.
Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.