Posts Tagged ‘Christology’

Advent: a time for purification

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2013/11/29 at 12:00 AM

If you view Advent as a time of purification, of evacuating the self to make room for Christ in you at Christmas, it will appear as “a little Lent.”

It would be likening Advent to the state of a desert, which is precisely the meaning of Lent as a desert experience. But Advent has a different and bigger meaning.

Advent is salvation history itself writ small. Its proper understanding demands refocusing on the meaning of Emmanuel — “God with us.”

Indeed, God has become man in Jesus Christ and is with us and continues to be with us. He has not gone “off to heaven,” leaving us alone in what can seem to be a desert.

Recall that the apostles returned from Olivet — the mount of the Ascension — rejoicing. Jesus continued to be with them invisibly in much the same way that he was with the two disciples — unrecognized — on the road to Emmaus.

In an Advent sermon delivered in 1964 by Father Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI explained that because of the discrepancy between Christ’s announcement that “the time is accomplished: The Kingdom of God has arrived” and the apparent failure of said arrival, “Christian theology … turned the Kingdom of God into a kingdom of heaven that is beyond this mortal life.” The expectation of the Kingdom of God taking place on this earth was put aside and vaulted out of reach into the beyond of space and time. Heaven is “up there” and beyond the “now.”

The presence of Christ on earth is put on hold and stored, and his temporal presence is not recognized.

Even when physically present, he also seemed not to be recognized by John the Baptist.

From jail, John sent out messengers asking Christ if he were really the Messiah — or “Shall we look for another?” 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” (Luke 7:19).

Of course, John identified Christ at the Savior’s baptism, when he heard the voice of the Father and saw the dove; yet he himself testified twice: “And I did not know him” (John 1:31-33). Puzzling!

He sees, hears and gives testimony with a burning triumphalism that the Messiah “will clean out his threshing floor,” and “the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17). And so, John knows, but doesn’t know.

And so it is with Advent.

In his 1985 work Dogma and Preaching, Benedict describes it with a seemingly contradictory shorthand: “already,” “not yet.” That is, Christ is present already but not fully so — yet. What does this mean?

It means that Christ is present in the world here and now insofar as you and I become “other Christs.” It does not refer to an objectified institution such as “Christendom.” It refers to the transformation of individual subjects into the Subject, Jesus Christ.

St. Paul speaks about a growth of Christ in the world by a “transformation of persons into Christ.” It is not simply a following of Christ or an imitation of Christ. In his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, Blessed Pope John Paul II quotes St. Augustine saying to the baptized: “Let us rejoice and give thanks, for we have become not only Christians, but Christ. … Marvel and rejoice: We have become Christ!”

Christ becomes progressively present in the world by the transformation of Christians — and others — into Christ.

Emphasis should be put on the words “in the world,” since this most personal and intimate encounter with Christ can take place in the exercise of ordinary work and family life. And is not the whole point of the Year of Faith the recovery of the enthusiasm for having the Lord with us? Doesn’t Benedict XVI see the present state of affairs in many modern societies — without and within the Church — as a practical atheism that is like the chosen people in the desert?

At one point in his 1988 book Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, then-Cardinal Ratzinger quipped, “However did we arrive at that tedious and tedium-laden Christianity which we moderns observe and, indeed, know from our own experience?”

The task before us is similar to the people of God who had traversed the desert with Moses and were on the point of taking the Promised Land. At the negative report of the scouts who had been sent to reconnoiter it, the people, turned back on themselves and counting only on their own strength, grumbled against the Lord and against Moses.

Caleb and Joshua alone trusted in the Lord with faith: “The country which we went through and explored is a fine, rich land. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us in and give us that land, a land flowing with milk and honey. But do not rebel against the Lord! You need not be afraid of the people of that land. … Their defense has left them, but the Lord is with us. Therefore, do not be afraid of them” (Numbers 14:8-9).

And so must we refocus our minds and hearts and all our efforts on Christ’s constant presence, on the Emmanuel, who is “God with us.”

Father Ratzinger concluded his 1964 sermon this way: “It is Advent. … The first thing we have to accept is, ever and again, this reality of an enduring Advent. If we do that, we shall begin to realize that the borderline between ‘before Christ’ and ‘after Christ’ does not run through historical time in an outward sense and cannot be drawn on any map; it runs through our own hearts. Insofar as we are living on a basis of selfishness, of egoism, then even today we are ‘before Christ.’ But in this time of Advent, let us ask the Lord to grant that we may live less and less ‘before Christ,’ and certainly not ‘after Christ,’ but truly with Christ and in Christ — with him who is indeed Christ yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Amen.”

Opus Dei Father Robert Connor serves as chaplain at Southmont, a center of Opus Dei in South Orange, New Jersey.

He blogs at The Truth Will Make You Free


Mount of Olives Psalms

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2011/04/22 at 3:35 PM

The early church began to recite the Psalms with new insight, having recognized Jesus as the new David.  They heard Christ speaking through the Psalms.  They recognized the unity between the two Testaments which Jesus had consistently demonstrated.

On the Mount of Olives, Jesus prayed the Psalms of which he was the subject.  “Jesus’ utterly personal prayer and his praying in the words of faithful, suffering Israel are here seamlessly united.” J. Ratzinger

Bishop Sheen’s Life of Christ

In 14 Book Corner on 2011/04/18 at 9:28 PM

LIFE OF CHRIST by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Ignatius Press.

There are two version: one with 480 pages; another with 658 pages.  The longer one is recommended because it contains valuable materials for Catholics.

This book has been hailed as the most eloquent of Fulton Sheen’s writings.  It is the product of many years of prayer, daily devotions and scholarly research.  This brilliant scholar recounts all the major incidents in the life of Christ: not only in their historical content, but with deep and insightful comments on their theological significance and their practical application.  Christ is its constant focus and is shown as the Incarnate Son on God, prophet, teacher and healer who brought salvation into the world then and throughout the ages

“It was not so much that His birth cast a shadow on His life, and led to His death,” writes Sheen. “It was rather that the Cross was there from the beginning, and it cast its shadow backward to his birth.”

Bishop Sheen’s historical, philosophical and sagacious insights as well as his probing into the motives and hearts of a myriad of persons in the life of Christ present timeless lessons for the reader.

You will always be grateful for having read this book: a book which has also inspired countless others to live the inspirations gain from this great narrative of the Saviour and His motivating love for each person.

I have personally led several studies of the Life of Christ (for Catholics, Anglicans and Episcopalians), using the outstanding narrative presented by Bishop Sheen.  He has become a favorite of the participants, who treasure the book as a guide and a source: one to be read and re-read.


Sheen, Fulton LIFE OF CHRIST.  Ignatius Press.


The Risen One, the New Temple

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2011/04/12 at 5:34 PM

The Apostle John records a three word powerful sentence concluding the Prologue:  He explains Him. John 1:18.  He (Christ) explains Him (the Father).

In this theological Gospel, John reveals the person of Jesus intimately, perceiving His inner most thoughts and emotions. If you want  to understand the true meaning of life, if you seek eternal life, if you long to know God, you will find all those desires fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in all the Gospels.

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to enlighten the apostles so that they recorded, with divine authority, God’s truth.  Imagine the power that inspired a teenage fisherman to later write: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 1: 1. And, later in an epistle:  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” I John 1:1.

Each Gospel writer had a goal and specific audience in mind, which  guided him to select certain miracles or signs to point to the different aspects of eternal truth. The Synoptic Gospel were recorded much earlier than John’s Gospel.  Matthew, Mark and Luke simply recorded what Jesus did and what He said. It is the beloved disciple, John, who  gives a special emphasis on what Jesus meant. All four portrait painters of Jesus had one goal, expressed by John: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”  John 20:31

Jesus is divine; He is also human.  He is now in heaven in His human resurrected body which although invisible to us, is nonetheless is as real as you are. Peter knew what was what when he said to our Lord: “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6: 66-69. The doubting disciple,  Thomas who as a Jew was strictly monotheistic, recognized the divinity of Christ when he exclaimed in faith: “my Lord and my God.”  John 20:28.

Christ is a living person, who has come to make knowledge become light and life in you.  Trust Him and as you read the Gospels, expect Him to show you He can help you now.  Seek to find  in the heart of Jesus, the meaning  of His words and miracles. Look  into your own heart.  Expect Him to enable you to see whatever changes you can make in your life for your own good.

In his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two, Pope Benedict XVI states: “God revealed his ‘name’ to Moses.  That ‘name’ was more than a word.  It meant that God allowed himself to be invoked, that he had entered into communion with Israel….God’s name means: God present among men.”

“The revelation of the name is a new mode of God’s presence among men, a radically new way in which god make his home with them.  In Jesus, God gives himself entirely into the world of mankind: whoever sees Jesus sees the Father. (cf.Jn 14:9)”

“In him God is truly ‘God-with-us’….As the Risen One, he comes once more, in order to make all people into his body, the new Temple.”

Reading the Gospels

In 07 Observations on 2011/04/12 at 5:10 PM

“It is in the Gospel we must learn the supreme knowledge of Jesus Christ: how to imitate Him and follow in His footsteps. And, to learn from Him, we must try to know His life…mediating on the scenes….reading an re-reading the Scriptures…in order to understand the divine meaning of His life on earth.”

“The Gospels were not intent on giving some kind of biography of Jesus Christ, as a historian might write it, but on giving witness to those things that are essential for us.”

“We cannot get to know the real God by trimming Him to fit our normal standards.”

“Christianity is not an idea, a way of thinking, a plan of action. The essence of Christianity is a person: Jesus Christ Himself.”

These quotations were written by Pope Benedict XVI in his days as Cardinal Ratzinger.

He also recommends a very simple 4 step plan:

As you read, ask yourself:

1. What does this passage say?

2. How does it refer to Christ?

3. How does it refer to me?

4. What does Christ expect of me?

Your aim is not to study the Scriptures like a scholar, but to learn to love the Person of Jesus Christ.