Sunday, June 18, 2006

Corpus Christi 2006

The Extrinsic Priesthood of the Old Testament: “Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar.”[1]

The Intrinsic Priesthood of the New Testament: “When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.”[2]

Priesthood = Mediation

The Difference of Priesthood in Old and New Testaments is the meaning of mediation as “Gift of Self.” Instead of mediating extrinsically between two parties, Jesus Christ gives us the true anthropology that is priesthood, His priesthood. Christ mediates between Himself and the Father by mastering Himself, owning Himself, governing Himself, and finally, giving Himself.

The large point here is that the divine Person of the Logos - the divine “I Am” of the Son - has assimilated the concrete man, Jesus of Nazareth (no human person) into His very Self. The Logos now has a human soul, human intellect, human will, human body as His own. St. Thomas explains that the Esse Personale of the Logos is the Esse Personale of the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth. There is only one Person.

Priesthood in Christ IS "Agape"

But more must be said. After the Council of Chalcedon (451), “one is left with the impression that dogmatic Christology comes to a stop with a certain parallelism of the two natures in Christ. It was this same impression that led to the divisions in the wake of Chalcedon. In fact, however, the affirmation of the true divinity in Christ can only retain its meaning if the mode of the unity of both is clarified. The Council defined this unity by speaking of the `one Person’ in Christ, but it was a formula which remained to be explored in its implications. For the unity of divinity and humanity in Christ which brings `salvation’ to man is not a juxtaposition but a mutual indwelling. Only this way can there be that genuine `becoming like God,’ without which there is no liberation and no freedom.

“It was to this question, after two centuries of dramatic struggles which also, in many ways, bore the mark of imperial politics, that the Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) addressed itself. On the one hand, it teaches that the unity of God and man in Christ involves no amputation or reduction in any way of human nature. In conjoining himself to man, his creature, God does not violate or diminish him; in doing so, he brings him for the first time to his real fullness. On the other hand (and this is no less important), it abolishes all dualism or parallelism of the two natures, such as had always seemed necessary order to safeguard Jesus’ human freedom. In such attempts it had been forgotten that when the human will is taken up into the will of God, freedom is not destroyed; indeed, only then does genuine freedom come into its own. The Council of Constantinople analyzed the question of the two-ness and the one-ness in Christ by reference to the concrete issue of the will of Jesus. It resolutely maintains that, as man, Jesus has a human will which is not absorbed by the divine will. But this human will follows the divine will and thus becomes one will with it, not in a natural manner but along the path of freedom. The metaphysical two-ness of a human and divine will is not abrogated, but I the realm of the person, in the realm of freedom, the fusion of both takes place, with the result that they become one will, not naturally but personally. This free unity - a form of unity created by love - is higher and more interior than a merely natural unity. It corresponds to the highest unity there is, namely, Trinitarian unity. The Council illustrates this unity by citing a dominical word handed down to us in the Gospel of John: `I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me’ (Jn 6, 38). Here it is the divine Logos who is speaking, and he speaks of the human will of the man Jesus as his will, the will of the Logos. With this exegesis of John 6, 38 the Council indicates the unity of the subject in Christ. There are not two `I’s' in him, but only one. The Logos speaks in the I-form of the human will and mind of Jesus; it has become his I, has become adopted into his I, because the human will is completely on with the will of the Logos. United with the latter, it has become a pure Yes to the Father’s will… Jesus human will assimilates itself to the will of the Son. In doing this, he receives the Son’s identity, i.e., the complete subordination of the I to the Thou, the self-giving and self-expropriation of the I to the Thou. This is the very essence of him who is pure relation and pure act. Wherever the I gives itself to the Thou, there is freedom because this involves the reception of the `form of God.’[3]

This is the Christological grounding of the anthropology of self-gift. Notice that it is the self that is the gift. The mediation that is the priesthood of Christ, and that therefore is our priesthood, is to mediate between the self and God in the service of others. Because it is Christological - i.e. the human will is capable of making a similar totality as the divine “will” - the human person becomes divinized by this total self-expropriation. This gift of the whole self means that man is “capax Dei,” capable of becoming like God, and therefore capable of a love that completely surpasses him. That is to say, man is capable of the αγάπn that is very Being of God. Benedict twice remarks in the encyclical that this kind of radical love can be commanded of us, since it has been given to us (#14 and #16).

In English, we have only one word for to carry the freight of the many meanings, from “love of country, love of one’s profession, love between friends, love of work, love between parents and children, love between family members, love of neighbor and love of God…. Amid this multiplicity of meanings, however, one in particular stands out: love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness. This would seem to be the very epitome of love; all other kinds of love immediately seem to fade in comparison.”[4] Benedict then proposes: “So we need to ask: are all these forms of love basically one, so that love, in its many and varied manifestations, is ultimately a single reality, or are we merely using the same word to designate totally different realities?”[5]

For example, in Jn 15, 9, Jesus says: “As the Father has love me, I have love you.” The verbs for “loved” is egapesen and egapesa from the verb Agapao and Agape. Or, in Jn. 15, 12 “that you love one another as I have loved you,” the verbs are agapatae and egapaesa; and in Jn. 15, 13-14: “No greater love has anyone than that he give up his life for his friends. I have called you friends.” The word for “love” is again agape

New Testament Greek has two most significant words: Filein and Agapein.
Agapein means the prototypical spousal love between God the Creator and Israel, and Jesus the Bridegroom and His Bride the Church – for whom He will give His life. It is total self-gift even to death. Filein is a love of friendship and comradeship, but not to the depths.

“Agape” and “Filein”

Benedict recently contrasted this most illuminating use of the words agape and philein and their meaning with regard to the relation of Christ to Simon Peter, and therefore to us in the following:

“On a spring morning… the encounter [between the risen Christ and seven Apostles] takes place on the shore of the Lake of Tiberius. John the Evangelist recounts the conversation between Jesus and Peter in that circumstance. There is a very significant play on words."
"In Greek, the word `fileo’ means the love of friendship, tender but not all-encompassing; instead, the word `agapao’ means love without reserve, total and unconditional. Jesus asks Peter the first time: `Simon… do you love me (agapas-me)’ with this total and unconditional love (Jn 21, 15)?
“Prior to the experience of betrayal, the Apostle certainly would have said: `I love you (agapo-se) unconditionally.’ Now that he has known the bitter sadness of infidelity, the drama of his own weakness, he says with humility: `Lord; you know that I love you (filo-se),’ that is, `I love you with my poor human love.’ Christ insists: `Simon, do you love me with this total love that I want?’ And Peter repeats the response of his humble human love: `Kyrie, filo-se,’ `Lord, I love you as I am able to love you.’ The third time Jesus only says to Simon: `Fileis-me?’ `Do you love me?’

“Simon understands that his poor love is enough for Jesus, it is the only one of which he is capable, nonetheless he is grieved that the Lord spoke to him in this way. He thus replies: `Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you (filo-se).’

“This is to say that Jesus has put himself on the level of Peter, rather than Peter on Jesus’ level! It is exactly this divine conformity that gives conformity that gives hop to the Disciple, who experienced the pain of infidelity.

“From here is born the trust that makes him able to follow [Christ] to the end: `This he said to show by what death he as to glorify God. And after this he said to him, `Follow me’” (Jn 21, 19).

“From that day, Peter `followed’ the Master with the precise awareness of his own fragility; but this understanding did not discourage him. Indeed, he knew that he could count on the presence of the Risen One beside him.

“From the naive enthusiasm of initial acceptance, passing through the sorrowful experience of denial and the weeping of conversion, Peter succeeded in entrusting himself to that Jesus who adapted himself to his poor capacity of love. And in this way he shows us the way, notwithstanding all of our weakness. We know that Jesus adapts himself to this weakness of ours.[6]

Corpus Christi and “Agape”

From “Deus Caritas Est:"

“Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduing presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood as the new manna (cf. Jn. 6, 31-33). The ancient world had dimly perceived that man’s real food – what truly nourishes him as man – is ultimately the Logos, eternal wisdom: this same Logos now truly becomes food for us – as love. The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: It had meant standing in God’s presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus’ self-gift, sharing in his body and blood. The sacramental `mysticism,’ grounded n God’s condescension towards us, operates at a radically different level and lift us to far greater heights than anything that any human mystical elevation could ever accomplish” (my underline).

Then, importantly, Benedict says: “I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become `one body,’ completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself. We can thus understand how agape also became a term for the Eucharist: there God’s own agape comes to us bodily, in order to continue his work in us and through us. Only by keeping in mind this Christological and sacramental basis can we correctly understand Jesus’ teaching on love.”[7]
[1] Exodus 24, 7.
[2] Hebrews 9, 11-14.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” (1986) 37-41.
[4] Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est,” #2.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Benedict XVI, “General Audience,” Wednesday, 24 May 2006.
[7] Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est,” #13, 14.

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