I happened on three quotes in succession today that all seemed to sing a harmonious canticle about the real-world impact of the Risen Jesus. I commented in my journal after reading them: “Jesus, by taking our flesh and blood up in the resurrection, makes clear that loving Him really always means loving our flesh and blood neighbors concretely. Bodily resurrection ruins our valiant attempts to evade our unlovable neighbor while aspiring to embrace our all-lovable God, or failing to feed our hungry neighbor while daring to eat the Bread of Life.”
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: The defenders of orthodoxy are sometimes accused of passivity, indulgence, or culpable complicity regarding the intolerable situations of injustice and the political regimes which prolong them. Spiritual conversion, the intensity of the love of God and neighbor, zeal for justice and peace, the Gospel meaning of the poor and of poverty, are required of everyone, and especially of pastors and those in positions of responsibility. The concern for the purity of the faith demands giving the answer of effective witness in the service of one’s neighbor, the poor and the oppressed in particular, in an integral theological fashion. By the witness of their dynamic and constructive power to love, Christians will thus lay the foundations of this “civilization of love” of which the Conference of Puebla spoke, following Paul VI. Moreover there are already many priests, religious, and lay people who are consecrated in a truly evangelical way for the creation of a just society.
Stanley Hauerwas: Too often I think Christians think about the resurrection in terms of a story told by Soren Kierkegaard about a prince riding through his field. The prince sees a peasant girl gathering the crops. She is beautiful and the prince falls instantly in love with her. However, he is a noble prince and does not want to overwhelm her with his power and riches, so he dresses in peasant clothes and goes to work side by side with her.
Kierkegaard notes that what holds our attention as such a story is told is our curiosity about when the prince will show his true identity. We know the prince and the peasant girl will fall in love – after all, she is beautiful and he is noble so we know they will love one another. But we want to know when and how the prince will reveal to his beloved that she has fallen in love with the prince himself. We let our imaginations run. Perhaps one day they share a lunch during which he tells her of his love. She confesses she also loves him and suddenly he rips back the peasant clothes and reveals the purple. Or perhaps he will wait until the wedding itself. They exchange vows at the end of which he tears away his rough clothes to reveal that through this marriage she has become the queen of the land. If we are really letting our imaginations run, we might think he waits until the wedding night itself.
Kierkegaard uses this story to suggest that we think the resurrection must be like a prince who has been hiding the purple under his rough clothes. The resurrection reveals the purple. However, Kierkegaard notes the only problem with this way of thinking about the resurrection is that Jesus has no purple under his flesh. Jesus is peasant clothes, flesh, all the way down. He is not playing at being a human. He is human all the way down.
The resurrected Christ is the crucified Christ. Only such a Christ, moreover, can save us. For Jesus is the Christ, being for us this particular man making possible a particular way of life that is an alternative to the world’s fear of one like Jesus.
Christians have no fantasy that we may get out of life alive. Instead we have a saviour who was in every way like us, yet also fully God. Jesus is not 50% God and 50% man. He is 100% God and 100% man – he is the incarnation making possible a way to live that constitutes an alternative to all politics that are little less than conspiracies to deny death.
Such a saviour does not promise that by being his follower we will be made safe. Rather, this saviour offers to free us from our self-inflicted fears and anxieties. Jesus does so not by making our lives “more meaningful” – though we may discover our lives have renewed purpose – but by making us members of his body and blood so that we can share in the goods of a community that is an alternative to the world.
Fr. Aidan Kavanagh: Genesis says that we began in a swamp teeming with life, but that something went vastly wrong one evening at dinner. Apocalypse says that the difficult was finally resolved into something called the Banquet of the Lamb. Hebrews tells us how the resolution was accomplished, not in an orchard set in pleasant countryside but in a butcher shop located in the city’s center. The World’s story from beginning to end pivots upon this resolution, a resolution the faint of heart, the fastidious, and the squeamish find hard to bear. Suburbia prefers its meat wrapped in plastic, all signs of violence removed so as to reduce the necessity of entering into the dark and murderous transaction with reality which one creature giving up its life for another entails.
This means that in a Christian assembly’s regular Sunday worship, a restored and recreated World must be so vigorously enfleshed in ‘civic’ form as to give the lie to any antithetical civitas–especially to one raised on the slippery footing of Pelagian optimism and the sovereignty of the individual to whom oppression is thought to come only from without. The assembly is not a political party or a special interest group. But it cannot forget that by grace and favor it is the World made new; that creation, not the state, is a theocracy; and that the freedom with which all people are endowed by the Creator is something which by our own choice is prone to go awry.
Along with the blood-bought right of Christian orthodoxia to celebrate creation root and branch, there goes an obligation to exorcize continually its human inmates’ lust to do their own thing no matter what, especially as doing their own thing blinds them to the risks, duties, and nobility of being creatures of creation’s Source and friends of creation’s Redeemer. This is a frightful ministry carried on with trembling hands and a dry mouth, for the World stops being cute when told it is morbid. The Christian assembly is equipped for such a frightful ministry with no more nor less power than that with which Jesus the Christ came to the same ministry in the days of his flesh. It is what his Body corporate is here for. In him, and according to his example and no other, the Christian assembly is obliged to do its best. It was in the doing of his own best that he laid down his life for the life of the World–not in cynical disgust or in limp passivity before the Human Problem, but for those of those who caused the Problem in the first place. His Church can do no less.
The Church doing the World as God means it to be done in Christ is the greatest prophecy, the most powerful exorcism, of all. The Church is seen and felt by all to be doing its best most overtly and accessibly in its steady, regular round of what I have called orthodoxia, a life of ‘right worship’ which is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. It is a life whose enactment is festive, ordered, aesthetic, canonical, eschatological, and normal. The liturgy is nothing more nor less than the Body corporate of Christ Jesus, suffused with his Spirit and assembled in time and place, doing its best by doing the World as the World issues constantly from God’s creating and redeeming hand. What the liturgical assembly does is the World. Where the liturgical assembly does this is the public forum of the World’s radical business, the Thingplatz of a restored and redeemed creation. When the liturgical assembly does this is the moment of the World’s rebirth–the eighth day of creation, the first day of the last and newest age. Nothing less rides upon the act of the assembly, determines its style, lays bares its service and mission for the life of the World.