Sunday, April 08, 2007

Not a Resurrected Corpse! Therefore, Not Re-Cognized

“First of all it is quite clear that after his resurrection Christ did not go back to his previous earthly life, as we are told the young man of Naim and Lazarus did. He rose again to definitive life, which is no longer governed by the chemical and biological laws and therefore stands outside the possibility of death, in the eternity conferred by love. That is why the encounters with him are ‘appearances;’ that is why he with whom people had sat at table two days earlier is not recognized by his best friends and, even when recognized, remains alien: only where he grants vision is he seen; only when he opens men’s eyes and makes their hearts open up can the countenance of the eternal love that conquers death become recognizable in our mortal world, and in the new, different world, the world of him who is to come.”[1]

There are three words for “life” in the New Testament: βιος, ψυχη and ζωη. Bios and Psyche refer to biological and mental/emotional life in and of this world. Zoë refers to Trinitarian life, a life of pure relation that is out of this world and yet incarnated in it uniquely by Christ and extended to us sacramentally. And we called to raise all of creation to it.

Because of the radical divinization of the man Jesus by his obedience to death to become total relation to the Father, the body of Jesus Christ is relational in a different way after than before the death and destruction on the Cross. It is a real and physical body – “Feel me and see, a spirit does not flesh and bones as you see I have” – but it is totally and radically of the Person of the Logos to the extent that it transcends chemistry, physics, physiology, time, space… as does the divine Person.

And, since like is known by like – knowing being a result of being one with another – that risen body of Christ cannot be recognized unless the likeness of self-gift is exercised by the perceiver. Self-gift must take place in the potential knower in order to cognize in himself what is to be re-cognized in Christ. Self-gift can only be known by some one making the gift of himself.

Thus, Magdalene (who buried the body and should have recognized him if he were a resuscitated corpse) recognized him only after she said “’Sir, if thou has removed him, tell me where thou hast laid him and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ Turning, she said to him, ‘Rabboni!’ (Jn. 20, 15).

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus said: “Art thou the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’… And they drew near to the village to which they were going, and he acted as though he were going on. And they urged him, saying. ‘Stay with us, for it is getting towards evening, and the day is now far spent.’ And he went in with them. And it came to pass when he reclined at table with them, that he took the bread and blessed and broke and began handing it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him…’” (Lk. 24, 28-31).
So also, the seven apostles, after the resurrection, “went out and got into the boat. And that night they caught nothing. But when day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Young men, have you any fish?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them ‘Cast the net to the right of the boat and you will find them.’ They cast therefore, and now they were unable to draw it up for the great number of fishes. The disciple whom Jesus loved said therefore to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’” (Jn. 21, 1-7).

In each case, there had to be a giving of self in order to enter into the epistemological horizon of the Person of Christ as Trinitarian relation to the Father. This applies much to ourselves at this moment when the risen Christ is not recognizable, and for this very same reason. In so far as we are one by one and culturally into ourselves and turned back on self as the Ring of “The Lord of the Rings,” we are not able to see Christ, and therefore not understand ourselves, nor perceive the meaning of things and events. At the same time, as Stratford Caldecott remarks, the Ring “makes the wearer invisible to normal sight. What is the connection that Tolkien is hinting at here between the lust foro power and the ability to become invisible? The person who places himself within the golden circle of the Ring seeks not to be seen, and thereby to have power over others. Through the magic power of the Ring we escape the limitations of matter to enter the world of spiritual forces, but in the very act of doing so we become horribly visible to the forces of evil… The Ring is partly a symbol of the sin of pride. It draws us towards the Dark Lord by tempting us to become like him. Its circular shape is an image of the will closed in upon itself. Its empty center suggests the void into which we thrust ourselves by using the ring.”[2]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 235.
[2] S. Caldecott, “The Horns of Hope… A Hidden Presence, The Catholic Imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Chesterton Press (2003) 15.

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