Wednesday, May 27, 2015

and going forth with Joy

The following passages are those of Karl Rahner, from his slight but mighty book, On the Theology of Death:

If the reality of Christ, as consummated through his death, in his death is built into this unity of the cosmos, thus becoming a feature and intrinsic principle of it, that means that the world as a whole and as the scene of personal human actions has become different from what it would have been had Christ not died.

Christ's death, and his subsequent descent into hell, are fundamentally linked to the Ascension. The Ascension is a necessary departure of Christ's physical body from the physical world, in order that He might make Himself available to us mystically, universally, through the Eucharistic species.

But, the death and the descent of Christ into hell: into that core, primal, fundamental unity of the world, has radically and unalterably transformed our world. Our world is crucially different than a pre-Resurrected world. 

And not only is our physical world different, but heaven--that is, union with the Godhead--has been transformed as well. For Christ is there, in union with the Father, retaining still His mortal body. Humanity has a representative there at the throne of God. Humanity is now united to the Godhead in a deeper way than before.

The thought that Christ, in his life and death, belongs to the innermost reality of the world, would be less alien to us if we were not so prone to identify the world with the handful of crude and superficial data gathered from everyday sense-experience, or if we were better able to realize how profound, mysterious and filled with spiritual realities this world is, and how everyone draws life from the whole of the universe, which extends to such measureless depths.

If only we were able to think of the world as less like traffic lights and alarm clocks, and more like the deep, fundamental principles that guide it. It is a shame that most of our waking days are so divorced from reality. Twenty-first century America is a culture that has cultivated itself to be divorced from reality: the messy, ugly business of blood, sweat, and dying. It doesn't quite succeed, of course.
Perhaps it would, were we not to be in daily contact with the holiest thing next to the Eucharist itself: our neighbor. For each person we encounter is a reality of Resurrection. Each person we see is a new image of God, brought into the world to undergo the Paschal Mystery; and to share in the new life of Resurrection.

This Easter Season, I think that this is the reality that hit me with unexpected force: we are living in the Resurrection. Easter Sunday morning, the bright sunlight streaming through St. Vincent Ferrer's luminous rose window, and the strange way in which the world seemed to brighten and lighten from the inside out seemed different this year. The world seemed different. And I suddenly didn't know why. What exactly am I celebrating, I wondered, as I sat in Church and stared at the triumphant Christ above the tabernacle.

The mechanics of the Crucifixion I understand. They break your heart too easily, because they are so easily understood. How does someone die? We know the answer all too well. The scientific process of dying is not foreign to us, we know all too well the myriad possible causes of death a human can encounter. That Christ was a victim of one of these causes is not, on the surface, an impenetrable mystery, but, rather, a piteous tragedy. And the tragedy is more piteous each year. As the earth slowly rotates into chaos, as the sorrow of Golgotha is manifest in new murders, earthquakes, disasters, wars, bitter words, sibling bickering, petty selfishness-es, and new cruelties, the sorrow of Calvary on Good Friday grows. The world is so broken, and grows more so yearly, and such a tender being broke Himself for it; how can we not weep?

But the Resurrection. The more you look at the thing, the more mysterious it grows. For, the mechanics of Resurrection are hidden from me. I do not understand them in the least. And nothing seems less likely than Resurrection, and nothing seems more likely. Since Easter Sunday, I have wanted to shout this to all the people around me. Do you not know!? Have you not heard!? Have you not understood? How can I explain this mystery to you; and how can I ever hope to understand it myself?
But we are living in a world that is not as it was; it is different.
I wish I could have seen and felt those days, when the old world was torn in two from top to bottom, crumbling, cracking open to reveal this new world, gilt with Resurrection, shining with the glorious revelation of Life Beyond Death.

I think of Paul's words, they are full of mystery and grace, because this is crazed man. A man who is crazed with Joy, shouting to the entire ancient world: Wake up. The world has changed. Something new is here; and it is here for you.

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