Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas: New Creation, New Start

“If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5, 17)

Everything was always leading up to this Omega point which is the new beginning of all creation. Benedict XVI writes: “To become a Christian means to be brought in to share in a new beginning. Becoming a Christian is more than turning to new ideas, to a new morality, to a new community. The transformation that happens here has all the drastic quality of a real birth, of a new creation.”[1] The ontological ground for such an affirmation is the fact that we are dealing with a divine Person, the Creator of all things, and hence of a totally distinct dimension of reality. The Creator ontologically transcends His creation such that having created all, He is not more Being; and everything else ceasing to exist, He is not less. In philosophical jargon, the word deployed to deal with this is “incommensurable.” He cannot fit into any category since He is the creator of all categories, and the very meaning of “category.”

Romano Guardini states this reality of the Incarnation in the following terms: “The person of Jesus is unprecedented and therefore measurable by no already existing norm. Christian recognition consists of realizing that all things really began with Jesus Christ; that he is his own norm – and therefore ours – for he is Truth.

“Christ’s effect upon the world can be compared with nothing in its history save its own creation: ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth.’ What takes place in Christ is of the same order as the original act of creation, though on a still higher level. For the beginning of the new creation is as far superior to the love which created the stars, plants, animals and men. That is what the words mean: ‘I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?’ (Lk. 12, 49). It is the fire of new becoming; not ‘truth’ or ‘love,’ but the incandescence of new creation.”[2]

Guardini grounds this ontological radicality in Christ’s revelation: “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!’ ‘Baptism’ is the mystery of creative depths: grave and womb in one. Christ must pass through them because human hardness of heart does not allow him to take the other road. Sown, down through terrible destruction he descends, to the nadir of divine creation whence saved existence can climb back into being.

“Now we understand what St. Paul mean t with his ‘excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ:’ the realization that this is who Christ is, the Descender. To make this realization our own is the alpha and omega of our lives, for it is not enough to know Jesus only as the Savior. With this supreme knowledge serious religious life can begin, and we should strive for it with our whole strength and earnestness, as a man strives to reach his place in his profession; as a scientist wrestles with the answer to his problem; as one labors at his life work or for the hand of someone loved above all else.

“Are these directives for saints [as strange elites]? No, for Christians. For you….”[3]

Ratzinger continues: “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Cor. 5, 17). God is not tied down to stones, but he does tie himself down to living people. The Yes of Mary opens for him the place where he can pitch his tent. She herself becomes a tent for him, and thus she is the beginning of the Holy Church, which in her turn points forward to the New Jerusalem, in which there is no temple any more, because God himself dwells in her midst. The faith in Christ that we confess in the Creed of the baptized people thus becomes a spiritualization and a purification of everything that was ever said or hoped in the history of religions, about God's dwelling in the world. Yet it is at the same time an embodiment of God's being with men, which renders this concrete and particular, going far beyond anything that might have been hoped for. 'God is in the flesh' - this indissoluble association of God with his creature, in particular, is what constitutes the heart of the Christian faith."

Now observe this! "To know Christ entails accepting his will as norm. We can participate in the beginning which is he, only by becoming one with his will. When we feel this we draw back, startled, for it means the Cross. Then it is better to say honestly: 'I can't, yet' than to mouth pious phrases. Slow there, with the large words, 'self-surrender' and 'sacrifice'! It is better to admit our weakness and ask him to teach us strength. One day we shall really be able to place ourselves fully at his disposal, and our wills will really be one with his. Then we shall stand at the threshold of the new beginning. What that will mean we do not know. Perhaps pain or a great task, or the yoke of everyday existence. It can also be its own pure end; it is for God to decide" (Guardini, 307).

[1] J. Ratzinger, “God Is Near Us” Ignatius 23-24.

[2] R. Guardini, “The Lord,” Gateway (1954) 306.

[3] Ibid 307

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