Thursday, June 02, 2011

Benedict's Theology of the Ascension and the Charism of Escriva

The presence of Christ in the world (which has been forgotten because Christians had lost the experience of it) is unknown. Consciousness comes from experience. If the experience is lost, the consciousness and the conceptual doctrine disappear. Hence, when Escriva arrived in Rome to have this charism approved, he was told that he had come 100 years too soon. Benedict XVI and Escriva are speaking the same language. Consider:

The Joy of the Apostles: Why? Jesus Christ disappears after having given them a mission that could not possibly perform.

“Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God”

Benedict XVI: “This conclusion surprises us. Luke says that the disciples were full of joy at the Lord’s definitive departure. We would have expected the opposite. We would have expected them to be left perplexed and sad. The world was unchanged, and Jesus had gone definitively. They had received a commission that seemed impossible to carry out and lay well beyond their powers How were they to present themselves to the people in Jerusalem, in Israel, in the whole world, saying: ‘This Jesus, who seemed to have failed, is actually the redeemer of us all’?”

Explanation: “The disciples do not feel abandoned. They do not consider Jesus to have disappeared far away into an inaccessible heaven. They are obviously convinced of a new presence of Jesus. They are certain (as the risen Lord said in Saint Matthew’s account) that he is now present to them in a new and powerful way.”

The Cloud: This is theological language. The cloud is sign of entrance into the mystery of God. The cloud at the Transfiguration, the overshadowing of Our Lady with the power of the Most High at the Annunciation, the tent in the Old Covenant, the cloud leading the people out of Egypt and through the desert. The cloud “presents Jesus’ departure, not as a journey to the stars, but as his entry into the mystery of God. It evokes an entirely different order of magnitude, a different dimension of being…. It does not refer to some distant cosmic space, where God has, as it were, set up his throne and given Jesus a place beside the throne. God is not in one space alongside other spaces. God is god – he is the premise and the ground of all the space there is, but he himself is not part of it. God stands in relation to all spaces as Lord and Creator. His presence is not spatial, but divine. ‘Sitting at God’s right hand’ means participating in this divine dominion over space.”

The entire point that Benedict wants to make is that the Eschaton is not only to take place at the end of the world, but is already here, alive, working and powerful. He refers to Christ being off in the mountain after the multiplication of the loaves and fish and the apostles struggling on the lake in the storm. Christ seems to be far away, but He is not. “Because he is with the Father, he sees them. And because he sees them he comes to them across the water; he gets into the boat with them and makes it possible for them to continue to their destination. This is an image for the time of the Church – intended also for us.”

Bernard of Clairvaux: The Lord comes three times: the first is birth. The second is at the end of the world. The third comes between the other two. “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn. 14, 23). The interim time is not empty.

Opus Dei: Escriva hears the following internal locutions. The vocation to Opus Dei consists in becoming Christ Himself in the middle of the world. That is the “interim” between creation and the end of the world is the call to the transformation into Christ by everyone in the world:

August 7, 1931: Locution: “Et si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum” (Ioann. 12, 32). “A voice, as always, perfect, clear… And the precise concept: it is not in the sense in which Scripture says it; I say it to you in the sense that you put me at the summit of all human activities, so that in all the places of the world, there may be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, that they be other Christs.”
October 16, 1931: Locution: “You are my son, you are Christ.” And I only knew how to repeat: Abba, Pater!, Abba, Pater! Abba!, Abba!, Abba!”

Escriva’s “The Way” (584) “Stir up the fire of your faith. –Christ is not a figure who has passed. He is not a memory that is lost in history.
He lives!: Jesus Christus heri et hodie: ipsae et in saecula! says Saint Paul: Jesus Christ yesterday and today and for ever!

[1] Lk. 24, 50-53.
[2] Benedict XVI “Jesus of Nazareth” II Ignatius (2011) 280.
[3] Ibid 281.
[4] Ibid 282-283.
[5] Ibid.284.

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