Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Last Class: The Last Things

The Last Things:

The Eschatology of the Last Things – “Entirely a Doctrine of Salvation”

“God is the ‘last thing’ of the creature. Gained, he is heaven, lost, he is hell; examining, he is judgment; purifying, he is purgatory. He it is to whom finite being dies, and through whom it rises to him, in him. This he is, however, as he presents himself to the world, that is, in his Son, Jesus Christ, who is the revelation of God and, therefore, the whole essence of the last things. In this way, eschatology is, almost more even than any other locus theologicus, entirely a doctrine of salvation. This is, as we shall see, absolutely central.” [1]

Death: CCC

Since Life is self-transcendence (imaging the Trinitarian Relations), then, death is the definitive turn to the self.

570 1008 Death is a consequence of sin.[2] The Church's Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man's sin.
571 Even though man's nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin.
572 "Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned" is thus "the last enemy" of man left to be conquered.

573 1009 Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father's will.
574 The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.

575 * The meaning of Christian death 1010 Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

576 "The saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him.

577 What is essentially new about Christian death is this: through Baptism, the Christian has already "died with Christ" sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ's grace, physical death completes this "dying with Christ" and so completes our incorporation into him in his redeeming act: It is better for me to die in (eis) Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek - who died for us. Him it is I desire - who rose for us. I am on the point of giving birth. . . . Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man (St, Ignatius of Antioch).

578 1011 In death, God calls man to himself. Therefore the Christian can experience a desire for death like St. Paul's: "My desire is to depart and be with Christ."

579 He can transform his own death into an act of obedience and love towards the Father, after the example of Christ:
580 My earthly desire has been crucified; . . . there is living water in me, water that murmurs and says within me: Come to the Father.
581 I want to see God and, in order to see him, I must die.
582 I am not dying; I am entering life.
583 1012 The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church:
584 Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.
585 1013 Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When "the single course of our earthly life" is completed,
586 we shall not return to other earthly lives: "It is appointed for men to die once."587 There is no "reincarnation" after death.
 1014 The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the ancient litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: "From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord";
588 to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us "at the hour of our death" in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death. Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience. . . . Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren't fit to face death today, it's very unlikely you will be tomorrow. . . .
589 Praised are you, my Lord, for our sister bodily Death, from whom no living man can escape. Woe on those who will die in mortal sin! Blessed are they who will be found in your most holy will, for the second death will not harm them.590
 IN BRIEF 1015 "The flesh is the hinge of salvation" (Tertullian, De res. 8, 2:PL 2, 852). We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh. 1016 By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives forever, so all of us will rise at the last day.
 1017 "We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess" (Council of Lyons II: DS 854). We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible body, a "spiritual body" (cf. 1 Cor 15:42-44).
1018 As a consequence of original sin, man must suffer "bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned" (GS § 18).
1019 Jesus, the Son of God, freely suffered death for us in complete and free submission to the will of God, his Father. By his death he has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men.


 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.
592 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul--a destiny which can be different for some and for others.593
1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven through a purification 594 or immediately, 595 -- or immediate and everlasting damnation.596 At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.


 1023 Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they "see him as he is," face to face:
598 By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints . . . and other faithful who died after receiving Christ's holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died, . . . or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death, . . .) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment - and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven - have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature

.599 1024 This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity - this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed - is called "heaven." Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness. 1025 To live in heaven is "to be with Christ." The elect live "in Christ,"
600 but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.601 For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.
602 1026 By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has "opened" heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ.

 1027 This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father's house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."
603 1028 Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man's immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory "the beatific vision": How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God's friends.

604 1029 In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God's will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him "they shall reign for ever and ever."

605 III. THE FINAL PURIFICATION [i.e. the totality of giftedness to other], OR PURGATORY
 1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:
607 As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.
608 1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611 IV.

1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."

612 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.

613 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.

614 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"

615 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"

616 1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."

617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

618 Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."

619 1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; 620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":621 Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.

622 V. THE LAST JUDGMENT 1038 The resurrection of all the dead, "of both the just and the unjust,"623 will precede the Last Judgment. This will be "the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man's] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment."624 Then Christ will come "in his glory, and all the angels with him. . . . Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. . . . And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

625 1039 In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man's relationship with God will be laid bare.626 The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life: All that the wicked do is recorded, and they do not know. When "our God comes, he does not keep silence.". . . he will turn towards those at his left hand: . . . "I placed my poor little ones on earth for you. I as their head was seated in heaven at the right hand of my Father - but on earth my members were suffering, my members on earth were in need. If you gave anything to my members, what you gave would reach their Head. Would that you had known that my little ones were in need when I placed them on earth for you and appointed them your stewards to bring your good works into my treasury. But you have placed nothing in their hands; therefore you have found nothing in my presence" (St. Augustine, Sermon 18).
627 1040 The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory. Only the Father knows the day and the hour; only he determines the moment of its coming. Then through his Son Jesus Christ he will pronounce the final word on all history. We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end. The Last Judgment will reveal that God's justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God's love is stronger than death.
628 1041 The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them "the acceptable time, . . . the day of salvation."629 It inspires a holy fear of God and commits them to the justice of the Kingdom of God. It proclaims the "blessed hope" of the Lord's return, when he will come "to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed."


630 1042 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed: The Church . . . will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.
631 1043 Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, "new heavens and a new earth."
632 It will be the definitive realization of God's plan to bring under a single head "all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth."
633 1044 In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men.
634 "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."
635 1045 For man, this consummation will be the final realization of the unity of the human race, which God willed from creation and of which the pilgrim Church has been "in the nature of sacrament."
636 Those who are united with Christ will form the community of the redeemed, "the holy city" of God, "the Bride, the wife of the Lamb."
637 She will not be wounded any longer by sin, stains, self-love, that destroy or wound the earthly community.
638 The beatific vision, in which God opens himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion.

 1046 (Pope Francis’ new encyclical) For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and man: For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God . . . in hope because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

639 1047 The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, "so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just," sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.

640 1048 "We know neither the moment of the consummation of the earth and of man, nor the way in which the universe will be transformed. The form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men."
641 1049 "Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come. That is why, although we must be careful to distinguish earthly progress clearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ, such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the better ordering of human society."
642 1050 "When we have spread on earth the fruits of our nature and our enterprise . . . according to the command of the Lord and in his Spirit, we will find them once again, cleansed this time from the stain of sin, illuminated and transfigured, when Christ presents to his Father an eternal and universal kingdom."
643 God will then be "all in all" in eternal life:

644 True and subsistent life consists in this: the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, pouring out his heavenly gifts on all things without exception. Thanks to his mercy, we too, men that we are, have received the inalienable promise of eternal life.

645 IN BRIEF 1051 Every man receives his eternal recompense in his immortal soul from the moment of his death in a particular judgment by Christ, the judge of the living and the dead. 

1052 "We believe that the souls of all who die in Christ's grace . . . are the People of God beyond death. On the day of resurrection, death will be definitively conquered, when these souls will be reunited with their bodies" (Paul VI, CPG § 28). 1053 "We believe that the multitude of those gathered around Jesus and Mary in Paradise forms the Church of heaven, where in eternal blessedness they see God as he is and where they are also, to various degrees, associated with the holy angels in the divine governance exercised by Christ in glory, by interceding for us and helping our weakness by their fraternal concern" (Paul VI, CPG § 29).
 1054 Those who die in God's grace and friendship imperfectly purified, although they are assured of their eternal salvation, undergo a purification after death, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of God.
1055 By virtue of the "communion of saints," the Church commends the dead to God's mercy and offers her prayers, especially the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, on their behalf.
1056 Following the example of Christ, the Church warns the faithful of the "sad and lamentable reality of eternal death" (GCD 69), also called "hell."
 1057 Hell's principal punishment consists of eternal separation from God in whom alone man can have the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.
 1058 The Church prays that no one should be lost: "Lord, let me never be parted from you." If it is true that no one can save himself, it is also true that God "desires all men to be saved" (1 Tim 2:4), and that for him "all things are possible" (Mt 19:26).
 1059 "The holy Roman Church firmly believes and confesses that on the Day of Judgment all men will appear in their own bodies before Christ's tribunal to render an account of their own deeds" (Council of Lyons II [1274]:DS 859; cf. DS 1549).
1060 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ for ever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed. God will then be "all in all" (1 Cor 15:28), in eternal life. "AMEN"
1061 The Creed, like the last book of the Bible,644 ends with the Hebrew word amen. This word frequently concludes prayers in the New Testament. The Church likewise ends her prayers with "Amen."
1062 In Hebrew, amen comes from the same root as the word "believe." This root expresses solidity, trustworthiness, faithfulness. And so we can understand why "Amen" may express both God's faithfulness towards us and our trust in him.
1063 In the book of the prophet Isaiah, we find the expression "God of truth" (literally "God of the Amen"), that is, the God who is faithful to his promises: "He who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth [amen]."645 Our Lord often used the word "Amen," sometimes repeated,
46 to emphasize the trustworthiness of his teaching, his authority founded on God's truth. 1064 Thus the Creed's final "Amen" repeats and confirms its first words: "I believe." To believe is to say "Amen" to God's words, promises and commandments; to entrust oneself completely to him who is the "Amen" of infinite love and perfect faithfulness. The Christian's everyday life will then be the "Amen" to the "I believe" of our baptismal profession of faith: May your Creed be for you as a mirror. Look at yourself in it, to see if you believe everything you say you believe. And rejoice in your faith each day.
647 1065 Jesus Christ himself is the "Amen."648 He is the definitive "Amen" of the Father's love for us. He takes up and completes our "Amen" to the Father: "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God":649 Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, God, for ever and ever. AMEN.

A Regenerate Eschatology in St. Josemaria and Benedict XVI

Ratzinger writes of the absence of Christ  in history which he blames on Joachim of Fiore for his non relational/nominalist view of history: the three ages. St. Josemaria had the same experience as recorded in “Christ is Passing By” #129. The response  in both cases is that heaven is here in the Person of Christ  that each one is becoming in the world through the gift of self in work and family life, Christ is present now – already – but not fully – yet. The dynamic is that each of us is becoming Christ and Christ is becoming us. See Escriva and Caryll Houselander “The  Reed of God” pp. ? (I don’t have the book with me; ask Martha). This conceptual error of Joachim and the experiential absence of Christ in daily life lived “part time” as a Christian, has produced the radical secularism of Modernity. Being alone, we create ideologies, not least of which are liberal capitalism and its concomitant radical individualism.

        The three encyclicals of Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est,” “Spe Salvi” and “Caritas in Veritate” are situated in an epistemological drought of the experience and consciousness of God. That being so, the hope of “development” into becoming “another Christ” has morphed into an itch for “progress.” Instead of an “attitude” of relation to other, there is absorption with self, aided and abetted by information technology. Bored and alienated because of imprisonment in the self, one agitates for distraction by sound and screen in the enforced solipsism of self-sufficiency.
        Benedict XVI sets the intellectual provenance of this state of affairs to be the work of Joachim of Fiore in the 13th century. He remarked: “I have tried to show in my professorial dissertation that this was what was believed concerning the theology of history throughout the first millennium of Christianity. The division of history into ‘before Christ’ and ‘after Christ,’ into redeemed and unredeemed time that seems to us nowadays the essential expression of the Christian consciousness of history, for we think we cannot formulate any concept of the redemption, thus of the keystone of Christianity, without it – this division of history into periods is in fact simply the result of the great change in thinking about the theology of history that occurred in the thirteenth century. This was prompted by the writings of Joachim of Fiore:  his teaching about the three epochs was indeed rejected, but the understanding of the Christ-event as a point in time separating different periods within history was adopted from him. The change in the overall understanding of everything to do with Christianity that results from this has to be seen as one of the most significant turnarounds in the history of Christian consciousness. A reappraisal of this will constitute an urgent task for theological study in our time.”[3]
        It is principally Bonaventure who explicitly rejects Joachim’s ‘third age’ of the Spirit because it destroys the central position of Christ. Ratzinger wrote in his thesis: “If is justified to say that for Joachim, Christ is merely one point of division among others, it is no less justified to say that for Bonaventure, Christ is the ‘axis of the world history,’ the center of time. Even though Bonaventure accepts and affirms the parallel structure of the ages which had been rejected by Thomas [Aquinas], he is led in this by a completely different tendency than that which led Joachim to his structuring of time. If Joachim was above all concerned with bringing out the movement of the second age to the third, Bonaventure’s purpose is to show on the basis of the parallel between the two ages, that Christ is the true center and the turning point of history. Christ is the center of all. This is the basic concept of Bonaventure’s historical schema, and it involves a decisive rejection of Joachim.”[4]
                Ratzinger understands the Parousia (the “advent” – “presence” of Christ) to be “already-not yet.” We cannot see Him because we have lost the likeness to Him whereby we experience Him in ourselves, and therefore, “know” Him. Not experiencing Him in ourselves we cannot re-cognize Him with our external senses. We are scandalized by His “absence” and we lose hope. We are alone, thrown back on ourselves, and alienated in the world. The three encyclicals are calling us to conversion so that we begin to experience Him as Love, hope in His presence and power, and exercise that presence and power as self-gift in the world.
Ratzinger asks: “However did we arrive at that tedious and tedium-laden Christianity which we moderns observe and, indeed, know from our own experience?”(8) By the loss of the experience of Christ in the world.

Parousia (Advent) – Now as well as the Second Coming
Ratzinger asks the question: “What, then, is the real heart of the Advent experience?

“‘Advent’ does not, for example, mean ‘expectation,’ as some may think. It is a translation of the Greek word Parousia which means ‘presence’ or, more accurately, ‘arrival,’ i.e., the beginning of a presence. In antiquity the word was a technical term for the presence of a king or ruler and also of the god being worshipped, who bestows his Parousia on his devotees for a time. ‘Advent,’ then, means a presence begun, the presence being that of God.

        “Advent reminds us, therefore, of two things: first, that he is present though in a hidden manner; second, that his presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, of becoming and progressing toward its full form. His presence has already begun, and we, the faithful, are the ones through whom the wishes to be present in the world. Through our faith, hope, and love he wants his light to shine over and over again in the night of the world.

        “The lamps we light on the dark nights of this winter season are both a comfort and a warning. They are a comforting assurance that ‘the light of the world’ has already begun to shine in the dark night of Bethlehem and that the unholy night of man’s sin has been transformed into the holy night of God’s forgiveness. They are also a warning: This light can and will continue to shine only if it is lit in those who as Christians carry on Christ’s work through the ages. Christ seeks to illumine the night of the world with his light by having us be lights in our turn. His initial presence is to grow through us.

        “When, therefore, we hear it repeatedly said during the holy night of Christmas that ‘Today Christ is born,’ is should remind us that what was begun at Bethlehem is meant to increase through our constant new beginnings and that the holy night truly can be, and is, ‘today,’ whenever a human being allows the light of goodness within him to shine through his self-centeredness and egoism. That night is ‘today’ whenever the ‘Word’ again becomes ‘flesh’ or genuine human reality. ‘The Christ child comes’ in a real sense whenever human beings act out of authentic love for the Lord and do not settle for a mere exchange of ‘gifts.’

        “Advent tells us that the presence of the Lord has already begun but also that it has only begun. This means that the Christian looks not only to the past and what ahs been but also to what is coming. Amid all the catastrophes of this world he has a transcendent certainty that the seed of the light is growing in secret, until some day the good achieves a definitive victory and all else is made subject to it. On that day Christ will come again. The Christian knows that the presence of God which has now only begun will some day be a full and complete presence. This knowledge sets him free and gives him a basic security.”[5]

Therefore the key to the present moment: “Christ lives!” “Already – Not Yet”
Since Theology is the study of the experience of Christ, Eschatology is the Center of all Theology Now.

The Kingdom of God
        “The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but is is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God. If the kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is not longer the kingdom of God which he revealed. The result is a distortion of the meaning of the kingdom, which  runs the risk of being transformed into a purely human or ideological goal, and a distortion of the identity of  Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom Everything must one day be subjected (cf. 1 Cor. 15, 27).”[6]

                The Creation of the Kingdom: I hasten to add that the understanding of “The Kingdom” as the very Person of Christ, and all who become “other Christs” in this world are the way in which the Kingdom becomes a reality. Notice, the Kingdom is a phenomenon of “persons.” It is not a “thing” or “Christendom.” It is not a clericalized structure or state but a secular presence of the “Ipse Christus” whose intramundane Body we are.
Therefore, the trick is how to become “Another Christ” In the World!
                Work: The imitation of Christ: “the eloquence of the life Christ is unequivocal. He belongs to the working world, He has appreciation and respect for human work. It can indeed be said that He looks with love upon human work and the different forms that it takes, seeing in each one of these forms a particular facet of man’s likeness with God, the Creator and Father. Is it not He who says: ‘My Father is the vinedresser,’ and in various ways puts into, His teaching the fundamental truth about work…’… ‘Just as human activity proceeds from man, so it is ordered towards man. For when a man works he not only alters things and society, he develops himself as well. He learns much, he cultivates his resources, he goes outside of himself and beyond himself. Rightly understood, this kind of growth is of greater value than any external riches which can be garnered…. Hence, the norm of human activity is this: that in accord with the divine plan and will, it should harmonize with the genuine good of the human race, and allow people as individuals and as members of society to pursue their total vocation and fulfill it [divinization = other Christs].”[7]

The Most Concrete Proposal: to live the spirit of becoming “another Christ” in the exercise of intramundane, ordinary, professional work as communicated to the Founder of Opus Dei in 1928 visually and 1931 (audibly). And since the Kingdom of God is not “up there” or “at the end of history” but a “Person with the fact and name of Jesus of Nazareth”[8] who is present in the world now – and working -, not only in the Eucharist or grace, but in all the persons who make the gift of themselves to God and the others in the service of ordinary work and rest, the Kingdom of God is present “already” – “not yet.” “Not yet” in the sense that, although Christ has come and is present, the number of those who are to become “other Christs” is not yet complete. The Kingdom is not a structure, certainly not an ideology, not even the Church, but the continuous conversion of persons into Christ by beginning again and again to make the gift of self in work and ordinary affairs.
                Such action is the subjective experience that creates a change in “attitude” and consciousness of everything. It is the response of a call to holiness in the world. And of course, the rub is here. What is at stake in the pope’s mind is the universal call to holiness. Who today would agree that these world crises are crises of saints? Yet, that is exactly what is up at the present moment. The relationality of the human person in the image of the Triune God, turning work into an experience of gift and gratuitousness, “a new trajectory of thinking” (“Charitas in Veritate”#53) which will be the “presence of God” is the deep work of a radical transformation into Christ in the middle of the world. Fundamentally, this is what’s up.
The Great Scandal: The Kingdom is Invisible:

   John the Baptist preached the appearance of the Messiah as a visible Christendom ruled theocratically with divine justice. It did not appear. John was scandalized and sent messengers to Jesus: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?”[9] Christ responds: “Go and tell John what it is that you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me!”[10] The import of Christ’s answer: “Especially through His lifestyle and through His actions, Jesus revealed that love is present in the world in which we live – an effective love, a love that addresses itself to man and embraces everything that makes up his humanity. This love makes itself particularly noticed in contact with suffering, injustice and poverty – in contact with the whole historical ‘human condition,’ which in various ways manifests man’s limitation and frailty, both physical and moral. It is precisely the mode and sphere in which love manifests itself that in biblical language is called ‘mercy.’”[11]

[1] H. U. Von Balthasar, “Explorations in Theology” 1. The Word Made Flesh, 260.
[2] Since human life is understood in terms of the person as protagonist of the action [actiones sunt suppositorum], death should be the act of the whole person and not the result of a part. Consider Newman concerning Christ’s death as act of the whole person considered as both material and immaterial: “. His Divine Person was not subject, could not be exposed, to the influence of His own human affections and feelings, except so far as He chose. I repeat, when He chose to fear, He feared; when He chose to be angry, He was angry; when He chose to grieve, He was grieved. He was not open to emotion, but He opened upon Himself voluntarily the impulse by which He was moved. Consequently, when He determined to suffer the pain of His vicarious passion, whatever He did, He did, as the Wise Man says, instanter, "earnestly," with His might; He did not do it by halves; He did not turn away His mind from the suffering as we do—(how should He, who came to suffer, who could not have suffered but of His own act?) no, He did not say and unsay, do and undo; He said and He did; He said, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God; sacrifice and offering Thou wouldst not, but a body hast Thou fitted to Me". He took a {331} body in order that He might suffer; He became man, that He might suffer as man; and when His hour was come, that hour of Satan and of darkness, the hour when sin was to pour its full malignity upon Him, it followed that He offered Himself wholly, a holocaust, a whole burnt-offering;—as the whole of His body, stretched out upon the Cross, so the whole of His soul, His whole advertence, His whole consciousness, a mind awake, a sense acute, a living cooperation, a present, absolute intention, not a virtual permission, not a heartless submission, this did He present to His tormentors. His passion was an action; He lived most energetically, while He lay languishing, fainting, and dying. Nor did He die, except by an act of the will; for He bowed His head, in command as well as in resignation, and said, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit;" He gave the word, He surrendered His soul, He did not lose it” [Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion Discourse 16]. Note: on this reading, there would be no bio-chemical/physiological empirical mearureables that would be the criterion of death (such as “brain death”) since death would be the act of the whole person. This is a telling criterion for us since Christ is the prototype and ultimage meaning of man.

[3] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means to Be a Christian,” Ignatius (2006) ftn. 35-36
[4]               J. Ratzinger, “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure,” Franciscan Herald Press (1989) 118.
[5] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 71-73.
[6] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, #18.
[7] John Paul II “Laborem Exercens #26.
[8] John Paul II, “Redemptoris Missio” #18.
[9] Lk. 7, 19.
[10] Lk. 7, 21-22.
[11] John Paul II, “Dives in Misericordia,” 3,  DSP 12. 

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