Thursday, April 13, 2006

Holy Thursday 2006

Аγάπη: The Radical Gift of Self

The esse – the dynamizing act of existence - of the flesh of Jesus Christ is the esse of the Logos of the Father.[1] It is divine. The Eucharist is that very flesh. Therefore, to consume that flesh, sacramentally present in the Eucharist, is to consume the very Person of the Logos. And since we have seen that the Person of the Logos is pure relation to the Father, and not a substance in Himself (otherwise God would not be one), and that, when enfleshed, the very Person of Christ is His act (“He in whom person and work are identical”[2]), it then follows that in receiving the Eucharist, we receive the Person of Christ and His Act of Self-gift that is revealed by the word: Аγάπη. This enables us “to love not with our heart only, but with His…”[3]

As we saw in the previous post, Christ asks Simon (Jn. 21, 15) whether he loves him with the love of Agape. The answer is not Agape but Philos that is a love of friendship, but not to death. Agape is to death. Christ revealed that “As the Father has loved (ηγάπησεν) me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love (Аγάπη) (Jn. 15, 9).

Such a love does not desire the good, but creates it. Ξρος desires the object or person because it or he/she is good. The mission of the love of Agape is to create the good by affirmation. Because a thing is good, eros desires it. Agape makes it good. [However, in spite of this major difference of the “natural” and the “supernatural,” the huge point of "Deus Caritas Est" is that eros has a built-in capacity for Agape and is yearning and waiting for it. There is no such thing as “pure nature” on a so-called “natural level.”]


“In the time of Jesus… Passover was celebrated in the homes and in families, following the slaughter of the lambs in the Temple. A regulation forbade anyone to leave the city of Jerusalem in the night of the Passover. The entire city was felt to be the locus of salvation over against the chaotic night, its walls the rampart protecting the creation. Israel had to make a pilgrimage, as it were, to the city every year at Passover in order to return to its origins, to be recreated and to experience once again its rescue, liberation and foundation. A very deep insight lies behind this. In the course of a year, a people is always in danger of disintegrating, not only through external causes, but also interiorly, and of losing hold of the inner motivation which sustains it. It needs to return to its fundamental origin. Passover was intended t be this annual event in which Israel returned from the threatening chaos (which lurks in every people) to its sustaining origin; it was meant to be the renewed defense and recreation of Israel in the basis of its origin….

“Jesus too celebrated the Passover according to these prescriptions, at homes with his family; that is to say, with the Apostles, who had become his new family. In doing so he was observing a current rule which permitted pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem to form companies, the so-called
habhuroth, who would constitute a family, a Passover unity, for this night. That is how Passover became a Christian feast. We are Christ’s habhura, his family, formed of his pilgrim company, of the friends who accompany him along the path of the gospel through the terrain of history. Companions of his pilgrimage, we constitute Christ’s house; thus, the Church is the new family, the new city, and for us she signifies all that Jerusalem was - that living home which banishes the powers of chaos and makes an area of peace, which upholds both creation and us. The Church is the new city by being the family of Jesus, the living Jerusalem, and her faith is the rampart and walls against the chaotic power that threaten to bring destruction upon the world. Her ramparts are strengthened by the blood of the true Lamb, Jesus Christ, that is, by love which goes to the very end and which is endless. It is this love which is the true counterforce to chaos.”[4]

“Seeking the Kingdom of God by Engaging in Temporal Affairs”[5]

“Passover was celebrated at home. Jesus did this too. But after the meal he got up and went out, and he overstepped the bounds of the law by going beyond the Brook Kidron which marked the boundary of Jerusalem. He went out into the night. He did not fear the chaos, did not hide from it, but plunged into its deepest point, into the jaws of death: as we pray, he `descended into hell.’ He went out; that is to say, since the Church’s rampart is faith and the love of Jesus Christ, the Church is not a bunker or a sealed fortress but an open city. Faith always means going out together with Jesus, not being afraid of the chaos, because he is the stronger one. He `went out’ and we go out with him if we do the same. Faith means emerging from the walls to build places of faith and of love in the midst of the chaotic world by the power of Jesus Christ. The Lord `went out’ – it is a sign of his power. He went out into the night of Gethsemane, the night of the Cross and the grave. He is the `stronger man’ who stands up against the `strong man’ – death – (Lk 11, 21-23). The love of God –God’s power – is stronger than the powers of destruction. So this very `going out,’ this setting out on the path of the Passion, when Jesus steps outside the boundary of the protective walls of the city, is a gesture of victory. The mystery of Gethsemane already holds within it the mystery of Easter joy. Jesus is the `stronger man.’ There is no power that can withstand him now; no place where he is not to be found. He summons us to dare to accompany him on his path; for where faith and love are, he is there, and the power of peace is there which overcomes nothingness and death.”

[1] St. Thomas: Summa Theologiae III, 17, a.2, ad 2: There are two (2) natures in Christ. From this, the objection is raised: “It seems that in Christ there is to only one act of existence but two. For Damascene states that whatever follows upon nature is in Christ two-fold. But the act of existence follows upon nature since it is a consequence of form. Therefore in Christ there are two acts of existence.” St. Thomas responds: “Since in Christ there are two natures and one subsisting subject, it necessarily follows that what pertains to nature is in Christ two-fold, while what pertains to the subsisting subject is one only. Now the act of existence pertains both to nature and to the subsisting subject. It pertains to the subject as to that which possesses existence. It pertains to the nature as to that by which something has existence; thus the nature is considered as a form which belongs to the order of existence inasmuch as by it something exists.” Therefore, only the person or subject exercises esse: "actiones sunt suppositorum." Therefore, as there is only one (1) Person in Christ, there is only one esse, and by it everything of the humanity of Christ exists. Hence, to receive the flesh of His humanity is to receive Him.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 155.
[3] St. Josemaria Escriva, “Furrow” 809.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “The Passover of Jesus and the Church – A Meditation for Holy Thursday,” Behold the Pierced One, Ignatius (1986) 104-105.
[5] Vatican II, “Lumen Gentium” #31
[6] J. Ratzinger, Behold the Pierced One, op. cit. 108-109.

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