Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Palm Sunday 2007

1) Kingship of Christ = Priesthood of Christ:

Jesus Christ comes as king into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey: a symbol of humility. The Kingship of Jesus Christ is the newtestamentarian meaning of priesthood. To be king is to be priest. But to be Christ, the priest, who is mediator as God-man, the mediation is not between this and that, but between Himself and the Father. This introduces the "new" anthropology of Jesus Christ as the revelation of the meaning of man. That anthropology is not the object "individual substance of a rational nature," but the subject "I" who masters self to become self-gift. This is the import of the Second Vatican Council's "Gaudium et spes" #22 and #24.

The Person of Jesus Christ is literally “out of this world” (transcendent) while incarnated in it. The Person of Jesus Christ is the divine Son Who is the Logos of the Father. He is constitutively a Relation. The Son of the Father does not relate to the Father. He is Relation. This relationality is the meaning of personhood, and priesthood – and it is in the world.

Hence, Christ masters and subdues His own human will such that the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth is the willing and being of the divine Person of the Son. This is all Constantinople III which, in the mouth of Benedict XVI, does the exegesis of Jn. 6, 38:
“The Council’s answer is this: the ontological union of two faculties of will which remain independent within the unity of the Person means that, at the existential level, there is a communion (κοινωνία) of the two wills. With this interpretation of union as communion, the Council sketches an ontology of freedom. The two `wills’ are united in the way in which two wills can be united, namely, in a common affirmation of a shared value. In other words, what unites the two wills is the “Yes” of Christ’s human will to the divine will of the Logos. Thus, in concrete terms - `existentially’ – the two wills become a single will while remaining, at the ontological level, two independent realities. The Council adds that, just as the Lord’s flesh may be called the flesh of the Logos, his human will may also be termed the Logos’ own will. In practice the Council is here applying the Trinitarian model (with the mandatory ever-greater difference in the analogy) to Christology: the highest unity there is – the unity of God – is not the unity of unstructured, amorphous substance[1] but unity by communion, a unity which both creates and is love. Thus the Logos adopts the being of the man Jesus into his own being and speaks of it in terms of his own I: `For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 38). In the Son’s obedience, where both wills become one in a single Yes to the will of the Father, communion takes place between human and divine being. The `wondrous exchange,’ the `alchemy of being,’ is realized here as a liberating and reconciling communication, which becomes a communion between Creator and creature. It is in the pain of this exchange, and only here, that that fundamental change takes place in man, the change which alone can redeem him and transform the conditions of the world. Here community is born, here the Church comes into being. The act whereby we participate in the son’s obedience, which involves man’s genuine transformation, is also the only really effective contribution toward renewing and transforming society and the world as a whole. Only where this act takes place is there a change for good – in the direction of the kingdom of God.”[2]

The inevitable conclusion is that God wills humanly and suffers as divine Person. Remember, human nature does not suffer. The divine Person suffers. If Jesus Christ is the revelation and meaning of the human person, then what we have just described as “Christology” must now be what we mean by “anthropology.” That is, we must master ourselves in order to make the gift of ourselves.

2) The Olive Branch is the Self: Therefore, we must throw down not olive branches, but ourselves: The Church speaks with the words of St. Andrew of Crete on this feast:

“Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish….

“Let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then with, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in Him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.”

3) The Goal: To Suffer. “The triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday seemed to lend color to the Jewish hopes of national deliverance; the people acclaimed Him as their king and gave Him a public reception of such enthusiasm that it only needed a definite sign from Him to start a general movement for national deliverance.

“To us, it might seem that this was the opportune occasion to seize temporal power as a means to building up a spiritual empire. Such was not our Lord’s plan… The kingdom of God, He preached, is within you. In fact, when one remembers who our Lord really was, and what infinite power was at his disposal, the whole wonder of His public life is not the marvelous works He actually did, but the many and more wonderful works which He could have done and did not do. And one gets the impression that, throughout all this period, His chief desire was to press onto the final stage of His life – that the works of His public ministry formed but a small part of His plan, a part perfectly performed, but still something He seemed to have far less at hear than the final stage, - the baptism wherewith He was to be baptized, and to which He hurries on, if one may say so, with the impatience of a lover.

“Our standards cannot be adopted to measure this period, of which certain things are noteworthy. He wrote nothing with His pen; He shared the work of preaching with His disciples and eventually left the whole of that ministry to them; great as were the works which He performed, His disciples were to do still greater; the one pre-eminence He seemed determined to reserve for Himself was that of suffering. Looking at His work as it appeared on the day of His death, it seemed to have been a complete failure. The crowds, who had acclaimed Him on the previous Sunday, are replaced on Friday by a mob who clamors for His death….

“All this is part of a plan, but the plan is one which shatters our standards of value. On that very end of our lord’s life, which material standards condemn as a complete failure, the whole history of the human race hangs in eternal dependence.”

4) The priestly gift of self always means suffering: When Love falls into sinful humanity, it becomes suffering!

John Paul II
: “Suffering must serve… for the rebuilding of goodness in the subject… The purpose of penance is to overcome evil, which under different forms lies dormant in man. Its purpose is also to strengthen goodness both in man himself and in his relationships with others and especially with God (Salvifici Doloris #12-13).

“But in order to perceive the true answer to the ‘why’ of suffering, we must look to the revelation of divine love, the ultimate source of the meaning of everything that exists. Love is also the richest source of the meaning of suffering, which always remains a mystery: we are conscious of the insufficiency and inadequacy of our explanations. Christ causes us to enter into the mystery and to discover the why of suffering, as far as we are capable of grasping the sublimity of divine love.”

Louis Evely: “'When the eternal fall into the sea, it becomes a fish,’ a Japanese proverb says. When love fell into human nature, it became suffering. In God, love is a joyful mutual gift. In us, it is the renunciation of self-love.

“And we know well that there is no means of loving without beginning to suffer, without having to control oneself, to forgive, to be disappointed, to be faithful even so, to believe beyond appearances, to believe in spite of appearances, to give creid sometimes `against all hope,’ so start again always, painfully, to hope for everything, to wait for everything. (`Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…,’ untiringly). There is no profound affection which is not painful, excruciating. ‘When one gives oneself, one has oneself no loner.’

The sin, the only sin (from which all the others derive) is to be incapable of loving.

“Every man desires to know this exchange, this natural gift, this comprehension. And with his own strength, none is able to. Anatole France remarked that, in human affections, only the beginnings are delightful,. This is why, he added, one always begins again!

“When it lasts, it becomes painful. Why?

Louis Evely remarked: “God, as for him, is what theologians call ‘subsistent relation.’ This means that his very being is to be ‘related’ to, to be in relation with another. The Father is all motion of love towards the Son, as the Son is all motion of love towards the Father. God is all ‘elan,’ towards another…

“Man, on the contrary, always tends to retire, to suffice unto himself, to prefer to manage by himself, to send all the others to the devil. And to send oneself to the devil which is not better.

“Pride is not to have a good opinion of oneself (that’s vanity). Pride, on the contrary, is to want to suffice unto oneself, to isolate oneself, to manage with one’s own bad material, while hating oneself. To be at least independent since there is no means of being happy. Pride and despair cover the same resignation to stifle that thirst for happiness which would continue to draw us out so painfully towards others.”

5) The Cleansing of the Temple. Let’s call it: “Liminal Space” (Threshold-Desert Space) and The Call to Conversion. “And Jesus entered the temple of God, and cast out all those who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold the doves. And he said to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves’” (Matt, 21, 12-14).

“Liminal space will almost always feel counterintuitive, like a waste of time and not logical or rational at all. In fact, it must break your sense of practicality and function and move you into the nonfunctional world for a time. Suffering and disease have that effect. Vacations achieve their purpose only if we enter into some kind of vacuum of genuine detachment from our regular conveyor belt of life. [Convalescence the same. Think of St. Ignatius of Loyola healing from war wounds or Walker Percy from Tuberculosis in a sanatorium). Remember, it is the things that we cannot do anything about, the fateful things, and the things we cannot do anything with, the useless things, that invariably do something with us…
“The bubble of usual order has to be broken by a bit of whimsy, holy uselessness, deliberate disruption or displacement, learning to walk in the opposite direction. In liminal space we sometimes need to not-do and not-perform according to our usual successful patterns. We actually need to fail, fast, and deliberately falter to understand the other dimension of life. We need to fast instead of eating, maintain silence instead of talking, experience emptiness instead of fullness, anonymity instead of persona, pennilessness instead of plentifulness. What could break more assuredly our addiction to ourselves?”

[1] Join this affirmation to Ratzinger’s other repudiations of the ontological category of “substance:” “Introduction to Christianity” Ignatius (1990) p. 132; “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 444-445; “Many Religions – One Covenant” Ignatius (1999) 76.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1984) 90-93. Here Ratzinger remarks: “It was Maximus the Confessor who explored theologically the Third Council of Constantinople… giving bibliography in German [footnote on 93].
[3] From a Sermon by Saint Andrew of Crete, Office of Readings, Palm Sunday.
[4] Eugene Boylan, “This Tremendous Lover,” 24-25.
[5] Louis Evely, “Suffering” Herder and Herder (1967) 78-79.
[6] Richard Rohr, “Adam’’s Return” Crossroad (2004) 136-137.

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