A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pondering the Entire Mystery of Christ

From Robert Royal, The Catholic Thing:
And so today the week without compare since the creation of the world begins. Suffering, death, resurrection – all of it strange, even the resurrection tough to take in, given how it comes about. You can see that in the way the apostles are still stunned, for no little time, despite the empty tomb. Instead of regarding it all as a foregone and familiar conclusion, we'd do well ourselves to stay a while with that uncertainty and astonishment at the mysterious events of Holy Week.

The title above is from Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth, which helpfully unfolds the Gospel from Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, without trying to explain it away with some rationalist system.... There is no fully explaining God's saving action in history. All the Easter bunnies and candy baskets in the world cannot obscure that fact, though they've tried. Unlike Christmas, there is no way to reduce this season to a warm and fuzzy, feel-good holiday. And yet Christians think it the most important event in the life of the cosmos.

Under the circumstances, a believer is tempted simply to push it all away and withdraw. But Christ didn't come into the world for a private séance with a few elect souls. He came into the world to save the world. And in a way, it's a salubrious thing to reflect on how implausible our belief seems to that world, lest we turn this singular and challenging event into a merely comforting story.

The comfort comes eventually, but to go there too quickly means passing over the cost, which really amounts to thinking God could have done this great thing – overcoming sin and death – without the bloody prelude.

Let me confess: I do not entirely understand the need for that. St. Peter seems not to have either and been impatient with it at first. The great St. Anselm tried to explain in Cur Deus Homo? (“Why did God become man?”). The answer: to save us. But there's a deeper question. The Catechism says: he loved us so much that he became a humble creature like us, willing to suffer, die, and be buried to redeem us.

But it says nothing about that deeper "why?" Great theologians have debated whether God would have been Incarnated, even if we had not sinned. Wiser heads than mine can unwind the questions that raises. For me, it's more than enough to contemplate the bare facts of this week to be led into mystery upon mystery, past all unwinding.

And that can be a very good thing. A mystery, as Gabriel Marcel used to say, is not a problem. No amount of genius or rational effort can fully comprehend certain facts and truths, which are nevertheless vital to our lives as human beings.

And so this mysterious series of events that conquer sin and death seems right in light of the mysterium iniquitatis, as Augustine called it. Ultimately, the remedy is as mysterious as the disease. But, Benedict says, what's new in the New Testament is that the Passion brings God and Man closer than anything in the history of the world, that, afterwards, we who believe are in Christ. The world can make nothing of "the entire mystery of Christ." And we can make out only a little. But that little changes everything.
You can read the entire post, "The Entire Mystery of Christ," here.

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