Friday, June 02, 2006

The Christological Anthropology Presupposed in the Ascension

I

The Ascension is the denouement of the Resurrection, which reveals that humanity exists within God – divinized – now in a permanent way. The humanity of Christ taken from our Lady – which is our humanity – exists with the existence (“Esse”) of the Logos. The concrete humanity that is Jesus of Nazareth (no human person) - that is a duality of soul with its faculties of intellect and will that informs matter to be the body of Jesus - is the body and soul of the divine Person of the “I” of the Logos of the Father. This concrete humanity is not suppressed by the divine “nature” of the Logos, nor does it subsist in parallel. There is “compenetration” between the two “natures” by being the very “I” of the Son of the Father.

Text of Benedict XVI: “In fact only that unity of divinity and humanity which in Christ is not parallelism, where one stands alongside the other, but real compenetration – compenetration between God and man – means salvation for human kind. Only thus in fact does that true `being with God’ take place, without which liberation and freedom do not exist.

"This same query returned at the third Council of Constantinople (680-681) after two centuries of dramatic struggle, marked most often also by Byzantine politics. According to this Council, on the one hand: the unity between the divinity and the humanity in Christ does not in any sense imply an amputation or reduction of the humanity. If
God joins himself to his creature – man/woman – he does not wound or diminish it: he brings it to its plenitude. But on the other hand (and this is no less important) there remains no trace of that dualism or parallelism of t he two natures which in the course of history was frequently judged necessary to defend the human liberty of Jesus. Such studies forgot that the assumption of the human will into the divine will does not destroy freedom, but on the contrary generates true liberty. The Council of Constantinople has analyzed concretely the problem of the two natures and one person in Christ in view of the problem of the will of Jesus. We are reminded firmly that there exists a specific will of the man Jesus that is not absorbed into the divine will. But this human will follows the divine will and thus becomes a single will with it, not, however, in a forced way but byway of freedom. The metaphysical duplicity of a human will and a divine will is not eliminated, but in the personal sphere, the area of freedom there is accomplished a fusion of the two, so that this becomes not one single natural will but one personal will. This free union – a mode of union created by love – is a union higher and more intimate than a purely natural union. It corresponds to the highest union which can exist, the union of the Trinity. The Council explains this union by saying of the lord given in the Gospel of John: `I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 38). Here the divine Logos is speaking, and speaking of the human I will of Jesus in the mode by which he calls his will the will of the Logos. With this exegesis of John 6, 38, the Council proves the unity of the subject: in Jesus there are not two `I,’ but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought of Jesus using the `I;’ this has become his `I,’ has been assumed into his `I,’ because the human will has become fully one with the will of the Logos, and with it has become pure assent to the will of the Father.
“Maximus the Confessor, the great theologian-exegete of this second phase of the development of Christological dogma, has illustrated those references to the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, which we have already seen in the previous meditation, as the most clear expressions of the singular relationship of Jesus with God.
[1] In effect in such prayer we can, so to speak, look into the inner life of the Word become man. We can see it in that phrase which remains the measure and model of all effective prayer: `Not what I will, but what thou wilt’ (Mk. 14, 36). The human will of Jesus enters intot he will of the son. By doing so, it receives the identity of the Son, which consists n entire subordination of the `I’ to the `Thou:’ this is the mode of being of the one who is pure relation and pure act. When the `I’ gives itself to the `Thou,’ freedom originates, because the `form of God’ has been assumed.

“But we can describe this process also and better still from another viewpoint: the Logos stoops to assume as his own the will of man, and speaks to the Father with the `I’ of this man, and thereby transforms the word of a man into the eternal word, into his own blessed `Yes, Father.’ While giving to this man his own `I,’ his own identity, the Logos frees the man, saves him, divinizes him. We here touch almost palpably on the reality meant by the phrase `God became man:’ the Son transforms the anguish of a man into the obedience of the Son, transforms the speech of the `servant’ into the words of the `Son.’ Thus becomes comprehensible also our way of liberation, our sharing in the freedom of the Son.

“In the unity of wills of which we have spoken is attained the greatest conceivable transformation of nay person, which is at the same time the one thing ultimately desirable: divinization. Thus the prayer which enters into the prayer of Jesus, and which in the body of Christ becomes the prayer of Jesus Christ, can be defined as the `laboratory’ of freedom. Here and in no other place occurs that profound change in a person, which we need for the world to become better. Only on this road in fact does conscience attain its full rectitude and an irresistible strength. And only from this conscience can be born again that order in human affairs which corresponds to human dignity and which can defend it: an order which in every generation must be sought afresh by a vigilant human conscience, so that the Kingdom of God may come, a kingdom which God alone can build.”
[2]

II

The Ascension:


Text of Benedict XVI: “What, then, is the meaning of Christ’s `ascension into heaven’? It expresses our belief that in Christ human nature, the humanity in which we all share, has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God. Heaven is not a place beyond the stares, but something much greater, something that requires far more audacity to assert: Heaven means that man now has a place in God.

“The basis for this assertion is the interpenetration of humanity and divinity in the crucified and exalted man Jesus. Christ, the man who is in God and et eternally one with God, is at the same time God’s abiding openness to all human beings. Thus Jesus himself is what we call `heaven;’ heaven is not a place but a person, the person of him in whom God and man are forever and inseparably one. And we go to heaven and enter into heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him. In this sense, `ascension into heaven’ can be something that takes place in our everyday lives...”
[3]

[Here insert the spirit of sanctification of ordinary life, for if the humanity of man can so betaken into the God-head so as to be one with the Son, then the humanity that we exercise here can be the locus of experiencing the quid divinum in ordinary life]

“(A)fter the Ascension the disciples returned to Jerusalem `with great joy’ (Lk. 24, 52). They knew that what had occurred was not a departure; if it were, they would hardly have experienced `great joy’ (Lk. 24, 52). No, in their eyes the Ascension and the Resurrection were one and the same vent. This event have them the certainty that the crucified Jesus was alive; that he had overcome death, which cuts man off from God, the Living One; and that the door to eternal life was henceforth forever open.”




[1] Cf. Thesis I, II, III in “Behold the Pierced One” Ignatius (1986).
[2] Josef Ratzinger, “Journey Towards Easter,” Crossroad (1987) 88-91.
[3] Josef Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” St. Martin’s Press, 62-63.

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