Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ascension - 2010


The Sanctification of Ordinary Life: the Divine and the Human are Not in Parallel but One and the Same in the Person. They are objectively Distinct but Personally One.

The Christology

The text of Chalcedon (451):

“Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all teach that with one accord we confess one and the same son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in human nature, truly God and the same with a rational soul and a body truly man, consubstantial with the Father according to divinity, and consubstantial with us, according to human nature, like unto us in all things except sin,; indeed born of the Father before the ages according to divine nature, but in the last days the same born of the virgin Mary, Mother of God according to human nature; for us and for our deliverance, one and the same Christ only begotten Son our Lord, acknowledged in two natures, without mingling, without change, indivisibly, undividedly, the distinction of the natures nowhere removed on account of the union but rather the peculiarity of each nature being kept, and uniting in one person and substance, not divided or separated into two persons, but one and the same son only begotten God Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as from the beginning the prophets taught about Him and the Lord Jesus Himself taught us, and the creed of our fathers has handed down to us.”

The Text of Constantinople III (680-681):

“And we proclaim equally two natural volitions or wills in him and two natural principles of action which undergo no division, no change, no partition, no confusion, in accordance with the teaching of the holy fathers. And the two natural wills not in opposition, as the impious heretics said, far from it, but his human will following, and not resisting or struggling, rather in fact subject to his divine and all powerful will. For the will of the flesh had to be moved, and yet to be subjected to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius. For just as his flesh is said to be and is flesh of the Word of God, so too the natural will of his flesh is said to and does belong to the Word of God, just as he says himself: I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me, calling his own will that of his flesh, since his flesh too became his own. For in the same way that his all holy and blameless animate flesh was not destroyed in being made divine but remained in its own limit and category, so his human will as well was not destroyed by being made divine, but rather was preserved, according to the theologian Gregory, who says: "For his willing, when he is considered as saviour, is not in opposition to God, being made divine in its entirety"… Therefore, protecting on all sides the "no confusion" and "no division", we announce the whole in these brief words: Believing our lord Jesus Christ, even after his incarnation, to be one of the holy Trinity and our true God, we say that he has two natures [naturas] shining forth in his one subsistence[subsistentia] in which he demonstrated the miracles and the sufferings throughout his entire providential dwelling here, not in appearance but in truth, the difference of the natures being made known in the same one subsistence in that each nature wills and performs the things that are proper to it in a communion with the other; then in accord with this reasoning we hold that two natural wills and principles of action meet in correspondence for the salvation of the human race.

The Epistemology

The large point for us working on the order of sensible experience and abstract thinking, we have understood God to be Spirit and without flesh. We have understood divinity (God) to be totally immaterial, and therefore eternal because we understand change to be part and parcel of matter/flesh. Hence, the ascension of the flesh into the God-head scandalizes us. And this because we are infected by the heresy of Gnosticism. The spirit and the immaterial are good. Matter and the flesh are bad. Hence, the Incarnation, which is the divinization of man by God becoming man, is a blur for us intellectually. We believe it, but as an idea.

Therefore, the large point of the Ascension is to fix on the revelation that “the Word became flesh” in that He took human nature as His. Human nature, i.e. the individual (no human person) is an integral part of the Second Person of the Trinity. And, by “human nature” we mean body, soul, human intelligence and human will. Therefore, there are two intelligences and two wills in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Also, the question arises: what is the Redemption? Chalcedon (451) does not answer this. The answer comes from Constantinople III (680-681). The real key to grasp this is to make the epistemological move of the millennium: understand that there are two levels of experience: 1) external senses and abstract thinking; 2) the freely acting “I” that is not mere consciousness but being. The reason we think that the “I” is consciousness is that consciousness is all we perceive of the “I.” But what gives reality (being) to the self is the fact that we experience peace, guilt, joy, sorrow, repentance etc. None of this is available to us from the external senses, yet they are more real to us than sunshine and dollar bills. Our free and most real actions produce these experiences and consciousness.

The point of this: there is only one “I” in Christ, and that “I” is the protagonist of every free act that He performs. The human nature of Christ is an object – the exact same humanity that you have – that is assumed by the Subject (“I”) that is divine and divinizes it. He uses it as He lives out a human life. But the point that is still to sink in is that it is His “I” that lives a totally human life, but in a divine way. The humanity does not live. Only the “I” of God lives the human life of Jesus in Nazareth.

Not Gone: “The historical character of the mystery of the resurrection and ascension of Christ helps us to recognize and to understand the transcendent and eschatological condition of the Church, which was not born and does to live t o take the place of the Lord who has ‘disappeared’ but which finds its reason for being in his mission and in the invisible presence of Jesus working with the power of his Spirit. In other words, we could say that the Church does not carry out the function of preparing for the return of an ‘absent’ Jesus but, on the contrary, lives and works to proclaim his ‘glorious presence’ in an historical and existential manner [my underline][1]. Since the day of the Ascension, every Christian community advances in its earthly journey toward the fulfillment of the messianic promises, fed by t he Word of God and nourished by Body and Blood its Lord. This is the condition of the Church – the Second Vatican Council says – as she ‘presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes’ (Lumen Gentium, 8)… (T)oday’s solemnity calls on us to reinvigorate our faith in the real presence of Jesus; without him we cannot do anything of value in our lfe or apostolate. It is he, as the Apostle Paul recalls in the second reading, who ‘made some apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,’ that is, t he Church.”[2]

The Ecclesiology

Therefore, it is most important to affirm that in the suffering and joys of human life, it is God who suffers and rejoices through the humanity. And this means that as He lives the human as His, we can live the divine as ours (if we want to) since He empowered us to do so by the sacraments.

That then means that His Kingdom can come here and now because He is the Kingdom, and the King. But He is obedience to the Father, forgiveness for us, service to all, fidelity in love, beginning again after failure, attention to detail for love, etc. In a word, the human is defined by being assumed by Him and His living it out. The God-man is the prototype of man. There is no man who has not been made in the image of Christ. Christ pre-exists man and the creation of the world: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons, according to the purpose of his will…” (Eph 1, 4-5).

And He is all powerful. He ascends to the “right hand of the Father” which is an expression of the almighty power of God.

The Mission

Put Christ at the summit of all human activities. Be Christ Passing By in work and family life. The world is awaiting this new experience of the working person, characterized by secularity and freedom. All peoples are looking for one single absolute truth upon which to build a global human and economic reality. That truth is the human person working as gift. The prototype of that person is the Person of Christ Who with the power of the God-head thrones at the right of the Father as King of hearts

The key to understanding the unity of the divine and human in Christ is to understand that there is one divine Person Who has taken the humanity of the man Jesus of Nazareth epitomized in the human will as His own. It is critical to understand that it is not the will that wills, but the person. That is, the divine Person wills with His own human will. Only this can make sense of Jn. 6, 38: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” The divine “I” does not do His own human will, but that of the Father. The dynamic of self-mastery consists in the Person subduing the human will that has been “made to be sin” (2 Cor. 5, 21). [3] In a word, this is the radical self-gift of the Son as God-man.

Put more clearly, the relation of the divine and the human in Christ is not a parallelism of two natures bound together by the commonality of a Person as substance in itself. Rather, it is the compenetration of the divine and the human by the fact that the divine Person has taken the human will as His own and He, the divine Person, wills with the human will. The result is the “compenetration” of the two “wills,” the divine and the human because it is one and the same Person doing the willing.

And yet, the human will does not lose its autonomy and freedom, but rather has it radically enhanced by the fact that it is a divine Person living out the Trinitarian relation to the Father, now as man with a human will.

Rev. Robert A. Connor – May 14, 2010 (OLP)

[1] This is the basic thesis of Joseph Ratzinger. Although we cannot see Him, Christ lives. Now. This is the reason for updating the epistemological reality of the second experiential tier of the self. Revelation is the “I” of Christ. Faith is the act of becoming that “I” whereupon Revelation takes place from within the self as “other Christ.” This is the whole of Ratzinger and Josemaria Escriva.

[2] Benedict XVI “The Ascension Invites Us to a Profound Communion with Jesus,” May 24, 2009.

[3] “Made to be sin” is to enter into the loneliness of sin as the rejection of the Triune God, and therefore of the others. This is Benedict’s interpretation of Jesus death cry, `My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Mark 15, 34) which is the first and only time that Jesus refers to the Father as “El” and not as “Abba.” Benedict says: “In this last prayer of Jesus , as in the scene on the Mount of Olives, what appears as the innermost heart of his passion is not any physical pain but radical loneliness, complete abandonment;” “Introduction to Christianity,” op. cit 227.

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