The mystery of Jesus
During the years 1971-1972, our Father, the Abbé Georges de Nantes, carried out a critical study of the Acts of the Second Vatican Council (cf. CCR n° 21-32). He did not merely combat the Church’s formidable demolition that the Council Fathers themselves had started to set in motion between 1962 and 1965. At the same time, he proposed the “schemata” for a future Third Vatican Council, a Council of Counter-Reformation, but also of reconciliation.
In CCR n° 22, the theologian of the Catholic Counter-Reformation explained: « To get back beyond the wrong turning where the Reform went astray, we must undertake a critical examination of the texts of Vatican II and seek out the hidden intentions of those who drafted and imposed them. There we would discover all the principles – wrapped up of course! – of a dogmatic upheaval unprecedented in the Church’s history, but comparable in every respect to the Lutheran heresy. Does this mean that we advocate a simple return to the past? No. Get back to the turning point of 1962 and find the right direction, but in order to push ahead and make up for lost time. The questions debated are new, at least in part, and they oblige us to resolve difficulties that were unknown to the Ancients. Our Catholicism, therefore, will have both a theological and institutional progress to make, and there it will find its proper form and character for the twentieth century, but in continuity with previous epochs and generations… The Church will emerge from this formidable trial, as always, stronger, more beautiful, holier and more conquering than ever. »
It was precisely in order to correspond to this need for progress that during the year following, 1972-1973, our Father gave a monthly course of lectures that is – it must be stressed – unequalled. This series of lectures can be found in Volume V of La Contre-Réforme catholique bulletin that was published the same year (in French edition only).
From the outset, we have to admit that the only means to save the Church is to re-examine the central issue of man’s destiny and of Jesus’ eternal Mystery in all its components and to give it a completely satisfactory solution to which all parties may adhere. Only a theology that has been dubbed “kerygmatic” can achieve this aim:
« The theology of our time needs to be kerygmatic. The preaching (kérugma) of the Word of God today should be the frank, unvarnished and paradoxical proclamation of evangelical salvation, without the rationalist, universal and timeless mediation of a philosophical system. Its locus should be in the particularity of human situations and in the questions raised by the listener who, whilst acting as the interrogator, will in turn find himself interrogated and pressed to reply to this Word which upsets his existence and his plans. » (CRC n° 63, December 1972, p. 8)
Kerygmatic theology, consequently, aims at recovering the truths of Revelation such as the Apostles preached them and Tradition reported them to us. Resorting to “dialectics” makes it possible for us to recover these truths.
« Dialectics is a reasoning process that attains knowledge of things by comparison of words. It can compare contradictory judgements that according to sound reason are totally incompatible with one another, and this compels the mind to choose straight out the true and reject the false. If I claimed to make the synthesis of contradictory terms, I ought to be locked up in a lunatic asylum and treated with three grains of hellebore; I would find myself there with Hegel, Marx, and a great many modern-day Jesuits.
« My form of dialectics is different. It compares contradictory opinions in every subject studied. For example: God is the God of Order – No, our God is the God of Revolution! Classic reasoning shows that such judgements cannot be simultaneously true, but both can be concurrently false! It is precisely my way of clearing the ground of contradictory exclusive terms to set the one against the other in order to manifest their common falsehood and their partial soundness. This was already how Socrates used to proceed in his maieutics.
« How, then, is one to accomplish the final “synthesis”? For logicians in the trade, the solution is easy. These absolute and exclusive judgements, which are brandished with sectarianism, indeed have some truth. But their truth is not universal, it is partial; it is relative to such a situation or circumstance, to some aspect of things but not to all. These judgements, therefore, are not “contraries” but “subcontraries”, which indicates that they are only partially opposed; they can be true at the same time, each one in its own realm, from different points of view.
« When the mind establishes this complementarity, it is wonderfully enriched. Thus, one can elaborate and settle on a reconciliation at a higher level in light of a distinction that appears the mainspring of the dialectic and is the measure of the genius of its inventor... or of the divine character of the Revelation that hands it on to human beings.
Thus: God is the God of Order, indeed, but of the natural order and of the legitimate, positive order of societies. On the other hand, He might be the enemy of certain established orders – even legal ones! – and come to throw them into a fine disorder!
« It is therefore not a question of searching for a hybrid solution, i.e., a demagogical compromise that pleases both parties. Every time it is possible and just it is a matter of drawing the adversaries out of the narrow confines in which both sides have unduly imprisoned the “Kerygma”, that is to say, the totality of the Revelation that the Apostles handed on to the Church and that Tradition has faithfully transmitted in full. The Church has done this dozens of times against all heresies and, at the same time, against the sectarian fits of rage of those of contradictory viewpoints who opposed them. This was what Bossuet used to call “ keeping hold of both ends of the chain”.
« Thus: God is Three and One... Such is the pure “Kerygma”. Absolute monotheism that preached that God in His total self is absolutely One was opposed in a fully contrary manner to tritheism, according to which God was absolutely Three in His total self, being three gods. Kerygmatic research consisted in determining the simultaneous, but partial, truth of these two judgements that are actually “subcontraries”: as regards nature, He is One, but as regards the Persons, He is Three! Thus it was possible to achieve reconciliation at the end of this “dialectic”, despite Arius’ disciples on the one side and the abusive integrists like Lucifer of Cagliari on the other!
« Obviously, the synthesis supposes that a great effort of spiritual openness has been made, that closed systems have been broken, and that Revelation is welcomed. But in this task, we have the vast aid of Holy Scripture and the whole of the Church’s Tradition. Let us not forget that in theology we shall always be overwhelmed by the Subject of our study. Thus, by means of this dialectical method, the legitimate ambition of our kerygmatic approach is to break the narrowness of the exclusive positions in order to reach better the mysterious synthesis that is proposed to us through Revelation and that we embrace in faith.
« But as in the time of each of the Church’s crises, it is a matter of serious consequence to pave the way for the common recognition of the full truth. » (La révolution de Jésus, CRC n° 73, October 1973, pp. 4-5)
THE REVOLUTION OF JESUS
Jesus and revolution are, for our Father, the two most powerful driving forces of human movements of our time and undoubtedly of all time. But the question is whether we shall be “leftist revolutionaries” in Jesus’ name or, on the contrary, “right-wing conservatives”, also in this same Jesus’ name.
The revolutionary puts all his hope in a universal upheaval in order to change the human condition. If he is a Christian, the revolutionary affirms that Jesus is revolutionary, namely that He “takes sides” in any revolution that has the merit of transforming living conditions and even the nature of man in the world.
As for the conservative, he decides in favour of the present, natural, legitimate or legal order, in short the “established order”. He abhors everything that calls this order into question as something that would compromise the marvel of what exists today. Religion, therefore, must condemn every revolution as the supreme sin against God. Jesus is not a revolutionary. He preaches resignation and promises Heaven to those who have suffered.
In such a perspective, however, will the Saviour of the World not find Himself exiled from the world of men, at least from the public arena, the workshop, from cultural and family life, as Someone who has nothing to do there, nothing to contribute that is new, original, and supernatural?
In kerygmatic theology, the answer is that « we are in favour of revolution but of Jesus’ revolution... Only once in the world was there a revolution that succeeded, i.e., a sudden change that was miraculously wrought by an extraordinary man, that was successful, that still lasts and unceasingly produces delicious new fruits. It is Jesus’ revolution in the year 30 a.d., a revolution that has become permanent through the foundation of an institution – the Church – who continues to bring mankind beyond itself but wholly in keeping with that revolution, while basing herself on the immutable laws of nature. This revolution allows the people who become involved in it to achieve things still unseen, things that may endure today, grow and grow, and develop infinitely, as far as the limits of the planet and until the end of the world. »
This is how our Father concludes: « Thus, could we not say in a sort of truly traditional and modern profession of faith: I am a revolutionary with Christ, not a revolutionary involved in all the revolutions of our age but in His Revolution, the only one that will continue to change the face of the earth until He returns. Furthermore, I am a conservative in order to preserve, protect, develop this miracle of nature and grace from which mankind is entitled to expect still a thousand marvels. » (CRC n° 73, pp. 5-7).
We must follow step by step the whole process that leads us to this truly liberating conclusion.
WHO IS GOD?
« Modern man necessarily extrapolates the invisible world, which conditions him, from his immediate visible world and will conceive God in accord with his feeling how the world is, a sentiment that depends on his historical condition and his aims. » (Dieu aujourd’hui, CRC n° 63, December 1972, p. 8).
Now, two mentalities have built two major human projects concerning the world.
According to the mentality of the man of order, « a happy man, a man who is at peace with those around him or reconciled with them, existentially conceives his God as the founder and guarantor of this order. My parents were good French people, good Catholics, I was well-fed and reared well, we went through the horrors of war without mishap, etc. I admire social order, justice, law, authority. I give thanks to God, who is their model and their source... I loathe disorder out of charity for the humble, the poor, and simple folk whom it crushes first, and much more violently than us, the “middle class”. » Thus, the God of the “established order” guarantees middle class interests and arms repression against any contestation or revolt of the poor and utopians, acts that are considered as subversive of a definitive order.
By contrast, the man of utopia « is struck, harrowed by his personal misfortune or that of others. He conceives profoundly hostile feelings towards the world in which he lives, the inequalities, injustices and sufferings of which he does not admit. What strikes him is disorder. He chooses the future utopia of both a better world and a fraternal, equalitarian, and free humanity against this oppressive society and this absurd universe. This man appeals with all his strength to the God the giver of freedom, the God of the future and not of the past, of Right and not of violence or of the established disorder, a Saviour who is bringing about redemptive change and miraculous subversion in the modern world. »
Fr. Jean Cardonnel is the emblematic example of this sort of man. This revolutionary Dominican played a preponderant part in triggering the events of May 1968. In a sermon that he gave in March at the Chapel of the Palace of Versailles, he found fault with God the Father, who « ... judges the whole universe and grants or refuses His grace according to His good pleasure. The sycophants who make the incense of a subjugated universe rise up to Him are assured of Heaven; as for the others, He refuses to open their hearts at the very moment of their death... But that God is only a filthy swine (immonde salaud)! » (ibid., p. 4). Then, after calling our God, our almighty and merciful Father, « a filthy swine » in His presence, Cardonnel dishes up a rant against « a blasted little Jew who spat disorder wherever the calm and lukewarm water of Tradition were the order of the day ». He is a Jesus who was a man just like everyone else, a man who was as revolutionary as they come, so much so that He was made God!
This God of Jesus Christ announces joy to the oppressed. He is a God who makes egoistic man die to himself and restores him to fraternal life. He is a mystical power of general insurrection.
« Jesus uses His present-day prophets to raise the consciousness of the “poor” and reveal to them a Promised Land where they will acquire more than material goods, where they will have dignity, responsibility, involvement, the things that will turn these formless masses into the new People of God. » (ibid., p. 9).
Faced with this seemingly insoluble antinomy, the theologian of the Catholic Counter-Reformation recalls that there is only one God and that the idea according to which there could be two gods, a god of the past and a god of the present, is absurd. « It would be derisory to preach a new revolution basing oneself on an allegedly new God. If there must be a revolution, it must continue from beginning to end. » (ibid.)
This one God is « the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Covenant, the God of the Jewish Order that later on would become Catholic Order and Roman sovereignty. It is a “partisan” intervention of God and the first “revolution” in history. This design of God immediately appears to go counter to so many human projects or to be indifferent to so many others! Yet, whether it appears good or bad in our judgement, God is the Master whose design is necessarily achieved in History. There is no other God than He, and rebelling against His designs is utterly vain. » (ibid., p. 10)
That God is also « the God of Jesus Christ ». God the Creator is also the Father who gives His life through Christ. Did God die in order to save man? Yes, He did, and in doing so He is more God than ever.
Here is the first conclusion: « The triumph of the Christian kerygma lies in the laborious affirmation of God’s Unity against any dialectical dualism. This kerygma is already a power for reconciling all men in brotherhood. But this is insufficient. It must still shake up all the narrow-mindedness and narrow-heartedness of modern man’s political philosophy and aesthetics. »
In the second place, kerygmatic theology must affirm that God is the Father Almighty.
The God of the Christian kerygma is not only the God of the philosophers and scholars, the God of the Old Testament, and the God of the Catholic Order. He is the « God who created the world of all time and who openly assumes the whole human history. God is not anti-establishment. But God the Conservative is also Redeemer… and the only One who can really be revolutionary. His love burst into our history in His Son, Jesus, and from then on He cooperates with man with a view to his conversion, his resurrection, his transfiguration by means of His Spirit. This change is something new. It is not a reversal of the Order; it is the prodigious mutation of everything into a better order. »
God « is not a revolutionary re-creation that man in revolt constructs. This new order is a super-creation of the world by the One God who emerges from His transcendental reserve, binds Himself to His creature by the gift of Himself and a communication of a life that is capable of transforming man, capable of transforming all mankind. The most “revolutionary” project extends the “conservative” project rather than contradicting it. Man, a creature, has been called from being a mere mortal to partaking in the divine nature. God’s ultimate design, however, will be man’s becoming God as an adoptive son. This will come about through God’s life passing into him, provided that his will remains united to Him as to his own Father. »
« It is only in this way that God remains God and becomes the Father of all men who have been restored to grace, without, for all that, becoming their... slave. »
To repeat Cardonnel’s expression, we may therefore say that « Christian preaching is aware of the “ old God” ». The Prophet Daniel calls Him “ the Ancient of days” (Dn 7:9). The Creator of the Universe, who is given worship, « the God of nature, the God of the philosophers, He is the true God, who is the creator of a world where a certain order reigns through His will and also a certain disorder through His permission ».
The Revolution that God introduces in this world is the novelty of both the Covenant that He seals with His creature and the mercy that He manifests towards sinful man: « The God of progress does not destroy His own creation. While admittedly upsetting it, He brings it to perfection, recreates it in an even more admirable way; and the revolutionary is left dumbfounded by the divine Redemption just as the conservative is... Now, after the whole litany of words that made the world, after all the oracles in the Old Testament that announced and paved the way for the last Word, the key Word, the One Word, God’s last word is Jesus Christ... » (Le Mystère de Jésus, CRC 1973, n° 64 p. 3)
WHAT IS JESUS’ WILL?
To wonder who Jesus is, is actually tantamount to posing the following vital question: What place does Jesus have in our lives? What does He require? What sort of evolution or revolution does He want to perform today? Here again two modern mentalities confront one another. To both of them correspond two possible ways of imagining Jesus’ life and mission in our history: the individualist mentality or personalism, on the one hand, and the collectivist mentality or Communism on the other.
The Individualist mentality prevails in the West. Western philosophy conceives « the individual man as a being who is markedly separated from what does not belong to him, who is enclosed in the limits of his own body, namely, the very limits of his thought processes and freedom. This “subsisting” being is thus the subject of the knowledge that he acquires of the surrounding universe; he is also the subject of social rights in accord with which the community is apparently at his service, and the subject of an historical evolution of his own that will be called his very personal “vocation” and “destiny”. » (ibid., p. 4)
We should therefore not be surprised to see « the individual who knows himself as a real, living being, distinct from others, who is occupied with himself », spontaneously imagining that Jesus is likewise. He was a Man from the past, who was born in Bethlehem, brought up in Nazareth, preached in Galilee and Judea, and then was crucified and died in Jerusalem. When He rose from the dead, He was limited to His Body and situated in a place, just as any other man; He is also “the prisoner of the Tabernacle”.
This conception is essentially true. One must, however, clearly admit that this faith leads one to a religion made of solely interpersonal relationships, as though the divine Word had only wanted an abstract and remote bond to exist between Him and each of us, a bond characterised by an interior and completely individual faith. « Nothing really exists between Jesus of Nazareth and the faithful other than the unreal bond of a juridical affirmation: Jesus is worthy to be my Christ, to be our Saviour, because He is God. That in no way changes Jesus’ individual life other than to attribute to Him in the past feelings and thoughts worthy of His role as universal Redeemer. It in no way changes God who, from Heaven, grants us the grace of forgiving us gratuitously on account of Jesus Christ’s merits. It changes our piety, our interior sentimental life because faith teaches us that God loves us and leads us in this view to another Kingdom through Jesus Christ... »
According to the collectivist mentality, on the contrary, it is a question of reaching groups of which our individualities are only members. As a witness for this collectivist conception, our Father calls Fr. Teilhard de Chardin to the stand.
This Jesuit, « the greatest visionary of the twentieth century », perceives the Universe as an immense network of living matter in a continual state of creation, a Universe of which individuals of all kinds are elements. According to him, this Universe is headed towards an Omega Point of concentration and absolute unification that is the goal of history. From then on, Teilhard breaks with the pettiness of philosophico-dogmatical solutions wherein we claim to have sheltered the Universe for ever, and wants to make Christ grow boundlessly, that is, to bring Him to the organic centre of everything.
The Abbé Georges de Nantes remarks, however, that in order to make Christ grow, « Teilhard very soon abandoned... Jesus Christ and turned his back on His Word and works, i.e., on the Scriptures and the Church. He was scornful of His Body that is Christianity with its missionary extensions because all that was too narrow, too petty, too unworthy of Man and the modern World... He did so in order to return to what St. Paul denounces with horror and contempt as idolatry, the cult of Matter, of Life, of Man and of the invisible powers that determine the course of things, these “ elements of the world” (Ga 4:3) the attraction for which comes from demons. Teilhard, who unceasingly revised his work to improve it, indefinitely keep turning out the same antichrist answer to Christ’s thirst that consumes the world: Matter is Christ, Life is Christ, who is larger than life, Evolution is the true Incarnation, the Future of the World is the cosmic Christ, the Soul of things is the Omega Point, united Mankind is love; it is the total Christ. » (ibid., p. 9)
We have to admit, our Father retorts, that the present experience of Teilhardism compels collectivist Christians themselves to recognise their major fault: « That of losing the Jesus of history for whom they logically, necessarily substitute a collective Christ, devoid of all existence and personal human reality. The consequences are disastrous: the Resurrection is no longer an historical event and is reduced to an Easter message that expresses the faith of the primitive community; the Eucharistic Real Presence has no more than a secondary value in comparison with the collective presence of Christ in mankind. Collectivists must therefore subordinate their views to the Church’s fundamental doctrine concerning the historical reality of Christ and the individual salvation of Christians. » (ibid., p. 10)
In fact, the total kerygma of the Catholic Christ proclaims a Son of God who became man. In order to speak about Jesus, it is, therefore, impossible to dispense with an explanation about what man is.
A BETTER ASSESSMENT OF MAN.
Man is « self-subsistent but open to the world, in proportion to his personal stature, his possibilities, his destiny... Each man is a member of the human family. He is formed by his genetic patrimony, shaped by his education and his environment. He is governed by his ties… His self-love is love and need of others, submission and gratitude to, solidarity and communion with others. Far from being a “monad without door or windows”, according to Leibnitz, the human Person is a subject of the tangled web of relations that is identified with himself. If the soul is indeed the “ vinculum substantiale”, the substantial link of all the elements of the individual being, it is far more widely the link of the thousand relations that also define the richness of the personal being.
« The human person, who is thus formed and who results from a thousand series of causes, fulfils himself by extending and modifying them in accordance with his own thought and free will. In proportion to his capabilities and his energy, his influence marks people and things. He gives them life, shape, and perfection... This historical individuality has not yet revealed all its possibilities. Is he not in a transitory state, at the first stage of his growth? Are we unaware that he must experience the great moulting of the resurrection? » (ibid., p. 12)
Here is the capital conclusion: « In his humiliated condition, man is only conscious of his present individual existence. He only has a limited knowledge of his relational being, of his social existence, in others, before and after him. He is stopped by the obstacle of his corporeity and limited to the domain of his thought processes... But the resurrection that will transform the flesh will grant man the new power to be the instrument of an interpersonal communion and of a mutual inhabitation that our spiritual powers of knowledge and love imperfectly anticipate...
« The individual nature of man bears a “social nature”, the scope of which is still indeterminate and open to infinity. »
If this is the case for the human person, what shall we say of the divine Person of the Son made flesh for our salvation?
THE INFINITE GRANDEUR OF THE GOD-MAN.
The Evangelists bear witness to the life of Jesus in His individual historical reality. « At that time, He was really a man who was similar to us in every respect, except sin; He lived in the flesh but in no larger measure than that of an ordinary individuality. Yet already, through His death and Resurrection, He would enter into another existence of which the Apostles would be the first witnesses and to which they would testify unto their martyrdom. » (ibid., p. 13)
According to St. Paul, Christ was freed of the humiliating restrictions and infirmities of His earthly condition by His Resurrection. From that time forward, He has been able to exercise His Kingship over all men. (cf. Ephesians and Colossians)
At the same time, however, « Christ’s Lordship over the whole universe is very closely and really dependent on His labour as a man and on the Blood of His Cross... It is stated that all this new grandeur comes to the Lord from His personal, historical work that is continued beyond death and in His Resurrection; this work is the Church! The progressive domination of the created world, the love and transfiguration of our persons in His likeness are really characteristic of Jesus, our Brother, of this real man, not of an unknown and invisible God whom one would, incomprehensibly, rank among the great men of history or among the major trends of universal evolution. »
We must consider Christ « as a God who reveals Himself to the world in a human nature that He pushes to the paroxysm of its capabilities, its openness, and its conquering energies when He applies it to the truly great Catholic work of the union of all men in Himself and of the world itself around Himself, as King and Lord. »
An heir of this immense past, « without organically being matter in evolution Himself or even total Humanity, Christ recapitulates everything. As a man and at the cost of so many humiliations, labours, and so much Blood, He becomes their Sovereign Master. » (ibid., p. 14)
Thus He is the King of the centuries to come: « As each one of us is open to the world and sets out with all his interior energy to conquer it, Jesus’ Soul is a huge vacuity, a boundless need for everyone and everything. As God, the Word is not subject to anything, neither is He bound to any creature and feels no need or attraction for them. If He loves, it is with a gratuity that leaves us cold and remains incomprehensible to us. But when He became man, i.e., becomes one of us, the least of us, He expects from others milk and honey, bread and wine for His Body and His Heart. This human child needs everything, and, more than the food for His Body, He longs for that of the insatiable Soul that is within Him! He wants to know everything, to love all that He knows, to save all that He loves; He wants to reign over all that He saves. »
In order, however, not to let it be believed that this is a question of pure rhetoric; our Father applies this sumptuous Gospel to the two major battlefields of human life: love and politics.
JESUS AND LOVE
The Abbé Georges de Nantes does not hesitate to speak in favour of a theology of sex, for « if religion has nothing to say on this subject, or can only formulate taboos, condemnations and rules for these important and profound human realities, then “religion” fails to “connect” at all. God is not the Creator and Father of men, and His priests no longer have any raison d’être. » (A Theology of Love, CCR n° 77, August 1976, p. 4)
But whatever can a theology of sex be? Beyond a moral theology, who would dare to foster a mystique of sexuality? What relation is there between the problems of the human couple and the sublime attributes of the Divine Trinity? Our Father proposes to give an answer to these questions on the basis of the opposition of two ways of considering the conflict of the flesh and the spirit.
Here, the objective is to distinguish, divide, and compare them while keeping in mind that God is pure Spirit. The aim then becomes one of ignoring the flesh, surpassing it and freeing oneself from it as though it were the absolute evil. « Such angelism isolates God in His spiritual purity and removes Him far from our universe. The Trinity of the Divine Persons has no connection, except a verbal one, with our human communities and families. » Whence it follows that the human couple in no way shares in the perfection of union and the richness of exchange, which is that of the Divine Trinity.
« Sex is no more than one chapter in moral theology and that to define its prudent and temperate use. A necessary function of the propagation of the species – animal alas, though spiritual! –, it must show itself to be entirely reasonable and the use of the flesh must find its laws in sacramental marriage. Even so, better not to marry; that is St. Paul’s formal advice in the first manner (1 Co 7). »
An ascetism results from this dualism rather than a mysticism. This ascetism is one of total renunciation of carnal tendencies, of creatures and of the world in general. It results in a quest for the heart’s solitude where God is sought and loved and Him alone!
The other perception « consists in a love for all things human, earthly or natural, not as opposed to the Divine, at least partially, but on the contrary as an emanation from Him and in continuity with Him. In this philosophy, sexual attraction, Eros, is immediately upgraded as a sharing in the Love which is in God, in the Love which is God, in Agape. »
At its lowest, humanist morality is carnal licence and the divinisation of the instincts. At its highest, it advocates platonic love and chaste friendship. Yet place of honour is always given to the love relationship between individual, human, carnal beings, drawn to each other by their sexual beauty, which is indissolubly both carnal and spiritual.
Eventually, « this dilemma of flesh and spirit is the fruit of an initial abstraction: that of the individual who isolates himself in order to reflect on and choose between the two sides of himself, alone and away from creatures and God alike. The two options, posed like that are bound to be egoistic and deadly. To choose the spirit the better to satisfy oneself on high, on God, on Pure Spirit, one will repulse every carnal, but fraternal, creature as the enemy of one’s own good. To choose to live in the flesh the better to experience the union of love, the communication and fusion of fraternal existences, one will deprive oneself of God and renounce the spiritual life!
« It suits man to be neither angel nor beast...
« No, let us reject nothing and refuse to make any abstraction. Our earliest experience does not cut us in two but reveals to us the dualities, trinities and charming, protective, beneficent pleiades of our loves: papa, mama, and me, and us... Then later, you, my wife and I, your husband and soon our children. Before I freely choose how I am to relate to others in love, whether it will be on the plain of flesh or of spirit, I already accept or decline relationships in accord with my sentiments of magnanimity or faithfulness. Not one of these relations has anything other than human charity as its source, yet it would be dreadful to reject them under the pretext that there is something better to be had…
« Then before distinguishing spiritual love from bodily love, before making this sort of cut down the middle, it is necessary to make another distinction: those who love only for themselves, be it in a carnal or spiritual mode, and those who love for the sake of others and for God, again whether in carnal or spiritual mode, according to their state in life. »
Ultimately, « what is good for both man and woman is that they should love each other in the sight of God, in Jesus Christ according to their eternal vocation » (ibid., p. 14).
For here is the solution that our Father proposes.
THE SIGNIFICATION OF THE SEXES.
« ... All creation is profoundly marked by the sexual sign, the duality of male and female »; this is so to such an extent that theologians have hardly found any trace of the divine Trinity in nature.
« on the other hand, the same theologians said nothing about the dyad, which is everywhere present, because to them it seemed antagonistic to the triad and characteristic of the created being’s imperfection, besides which it was consequently doomed to rebellion and sin...
« Theologians and moralists are stuck over this failure. The Trinity is left in Heaven, the lofty perfection of pluripersonal and unitary life, far removed from us, whilst wretched carnal nature on earth, the male and female couple, are allotted the shame of a coupling, leading to a union without grandeur, and whose sole excuse is the necessary reproduction of the human race. »
Why has the Trinity no veritable analogical trace in the world? The reason is that there is no total being in the world which can represent the fullness of Trinitarian life, nor is there any creature so perfect and powerful to represent God, our Heavenly Father.
The theologian of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, however, points out that « all the veritable traces of the Trinitarian Mystery, whose likeness the Creator has willed to imprint in His work, are the dyads who, dependent on Him and emanating from His paternal and creative power, make with Him, but never without Him, triads in His own image and likeness. »
Thus « God, Man and Woman maintain a very profound and mysterious union among them; one of complementarity and subordination, conspiring to a certain tangential equality. God the Father is the Source; He is All. Man issued from Him in the image and likeness of the Son, who is Strength, Wisdom, the Word of God... In the created world he is the Head who must increase, multiply and subdue. Woman, who is drawn from Adam’s side by God, is in the image and likeness of the Holy Spirit, who is Love, Gift, the gentle radiance of Divine joy and the term of that movement whereby the latter returns to its Principle. »
That is why, man and woman are invited by God to love one another in His sight, in His grace and with His sacramental benediction, that is to say in His enveloping and divinising strength. A wonderful and mystical morality unfolds from this doctrine.
« Man is called to be the Image of the Son, to be and to appear strong and wise in the eyes of his wife, like a Son of God, an image of God for her. He is her head and her lord but in the name of the One who is Lord principally and absolutely, that is of God the Father. Whence his strength, his authority and his prestige, which are unquestionable but quite relative. »
Woman is « in her submission and inferiority, like the Third Divine Person. Love who receives all and who gives back to him who espouses her as much as she receives from him, is subordinate and submissive but equal in nature, in the tangential equality of exchange, reciprocity and union of love... »
The Trinitarian analogy does not stop there. The Three Divine Persons, nevertheless, had no need of this extension of being in our contingency. « Yet this gratuitous creation, of which we are the term, is the result of a wonderful decision. Well! It is in the same gratuitous and happy way, that the being, the life, and the love of the Father, of the Husband, and of the Wife end in this perfect trinity of persons. And this last produces yet new beings after the likeness of Divine creative fruitfulness, through a gift of the Father and the generative power of the man with the fruitful spouse. »
THE COUPLE IN REVOLT.
Nevertheless, « as a result of Adam’s sin of pride and Eve’s in her turn, what was made to be the noblest in their human condition is now the basest, the most disorderly and the most monstrous...
« With a mankind in a state of rebellion, separated from its Divine Source and enslaved to sin, the couple is no longer the second and third persons of the original Trinity. The second has made himself the first and forces the third to consider him as her All; everywhere is tyranny, violence, oppression and folly... » As for her, « drawn into his rebellion, she wants to be his equal, she wants to be the total image and whole likeness of her All: insubordination, revolt... »
At this stage of his demonstration, our Father can affirm without hesitation that « the false alternative of the flesh or the spirit » is surpassed: « The alternative is profound and absolute: either closed to God and shut in on oneself in malediction and sterility, locked in a restraint of love, which is close to hatred; or religiously dependent on God and open to sons and daughters in a fully harmonious and generous movement of love. »
Conclusion: « The couple who sets itself up as an autonomous unit against God thereby departs from the deepest law of their own nature; they cease to understand themselves and are no longer able to govern themselves. » (ibid., p. 17)
« IN CHRIST AND THE CHURCH ».
« God created the sexes according to flesh and according to spirit to be His image in spiritual union and His likeness in carnal embrace and fruitfulness... When, at the Devil’s suggestion, man’s pride turned him away from God, there was an immediate revolt within him of the carnal, sexual instinct against the spiritual soul and hence against God...
« There is a sexual crime of the spirit as well as of the flesh, when sexual egoism is founded on the pride of the couple in revolt against God. There is a sexual holiness of the flesh as well as of the spirit, when the human couple is attached and assimilated to the Divine Trinity. »
When the Word Made Flesh, the New Adam, came on earth in search of a companion like Himself, He could not find one in a universe stained with sin. He thus remitted Himself to God His Father and in the sleep wherewith He was struck on the Cross « a companion should be drawn from His open side, the perfect spouse who would be complementary to Him, submissive but eschatologically equal. Such is the Church, whose personification was and remains the Virgin Mother and whose uncreated Soul is the Holy Spirit, whose personal vocation is Virginal Love, made inexhaustibly fruitful by grace until the last day » (ibid., pp. 17-18).
Then, our Father brilliantly develops the two wonderful restorations of God’s plan in the Unique Person of Jesus Christ. The one is the work of His individual humanity and the other is the work of His cosmic or social humanity.
« The individual Christ Man seeks a spouse to whom He may give Himself body and soul, flesh and spirit, in all religion, purity and fruitfulness. This perfect Spouse, the new Eve, with whom He wishes to be united in complete chastity, in order finally to raise Her to equality with Himself in a fullness of grace, is the Immaculate Virgin, Mary His Mother. This union of body and spirit, already consummated in the mystery of the Annunciation will soon be brought to its earthly fullness when the most Holy Virgin receives Christ in His Flesh, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Sacrament of the Eucharist... »
But the Social Christ Man is also potentially in possession of all redeemed mankind. By His Resurrection, He is established as the Universal Christ. How does He physically and concretely accomplish this work entrusted to Him by His Father, a work that is the burning desire of His Heart?
First by the Apostles and bishops who are other Christs. « He lives, and relives and lives on in them. » St. Paul shamelessly asked to be loved and imitated as Christ Himself was loved and imitated. The bishops have their church for spouse. Analogically that is true of every priest.
« The Christian, our Father writes, in the sacrament of marriage, is for his wife what Christ is for His Church... If he is a Christian, and above all if he is holy, his wife can see in him Christ whose member he is. And the husband must see the Church in his wife, for she is a true member of it, all the more so for not being his carnal conquest or his human property, but the gift made to him by God to help him rise towards God.
« Similarly, as there is only God the Father, engendering only one Son, so the Christian spouse is unique. And as only one Holy Spirit is the fulfilling term for the twofold procession of the Divine Persons, so there is only one wife. »
In conclusion, man and woman, whether they are priest, religious, husband, virgin, nun, spouse, « have to live according to their sex, this human condition which is their first vocation to the likeness of the Trinity, be it as Christ-Man, as son of God, as the devoted husband of the Church or be it as the Virgin Mary their Mother, as faithful sanctuaries of the Holy Spirit, dedicated to the love of their Spouse Jesus Christ, in perpetual oblation and to the praise and Glory of their Father, eternally blessed! »
JESUS AND POLITICS
In this domain too God imposes His Order, His Project, for nothing is beyond the scope of His Law, His Grace, His Justice, and His Mercy. If God wants some novelties to arise in the world, it can only be in Jesus Christ. Straight away, kerygmatic theology must refuse that Christ the King be robbed of His role in politics. Here is an affirmation that shocks two antagonistic mentalities still.
POLITICS PURE AND SIMPLE.
The first mentality « consists in making of politics a purely temporal, human science and art, quite independent of religion. It is a very widespread mentality » (Politics and Christ, CCR n° 46, January 1974, p.8). Laicism first professed by atheist radicalism and then adopted by liberal Catholics, has become the principle for the conduct of modern political affairs. It leads to evict God from political society and to constitute the State as an absolute, indifferent to God, subjecting the Church to itself.
« At the present time politics is universally considered to be an area reserved for the people, who are their own sovereign masters. Free opinion and pluralism hold the field in politics where everything is related to human interest and passion. By definition it evades the law of God and the governance of Christ. Various anti-democratic currents might succeed in snatching politics away from the whim of mere opinion only to turn them over to science and the techniques of living in society. Laicism will be universally taken for granted. Politics and Religion have nothing to do with each other. » (ibid., p. 8)
POLITICAL FORMS OF MESSIANISM.
At the opposite, messianism tends to turn religion into politics « so that religious salvation becomes the fulfilment of worldly politics and redemption is the liberation granted by God to men. When religious mystique breaks into politics, it ceases to be the art of mere human prudence in search of the good life and becomes a reconstruction workshop for a new and ideal world. »
We distinguish humanist “messianisms”, such as Nazism and Communism from Christian messianisms. The latter « find their origin in the Revelation of God made Man, but they extend the Revelation so that it becomes a mystique of man’s divinisation in his total existence and nature through some revolutionary change here below and on a political level. »
Between these two mentalities, the Gospel kerygma answers this question: « What was Jesus’ political intention and what did He achieve during His life on this earth and since? »
For someone who really has the Faith, this question is essential. The answer is that Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords dominates all our politics but He leaves the management to the temporal powers. Let us pay heed to the teaching of this Royal plan, which is drawn from the source, namely in the Gospel, in order to admire how the history of the Church is its mysterious and incomplete development.
WHAT JESUS WILLED.
At first sight, Our Lord seems to be indifferent to the issue of politics: « Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. » Actually, as our Father points out, « Jesus is indifferent to all questions of regimen, of town planning, the settlement of wills, the management of wealth and the future of civilisation. It is not disdain on the part of Jesus but a serene recognition of human competence in these matters » as well as His affirmation of a higher competence. However, all these secondary concerns of men must finally come under the sovereign influence of Him who said: « Without Me, you can do nothing! », and « Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and its justice and all these other things will be added unto you. » This means that « all politics are associated with the work of Messianic salvation. Universal history is engaged in promoting this great convergence, which is the Kingdom of God established on earth by Christ. You carry out My Divine politics, Jesus Christ seems to say, and I will grant success, prosperity and duration to your human politics. »
Having said this, what political thought of Jesus did the Apostles outline in their preaching?
« Jesus declared Himself the son of David straight away. In doing this He laid claim to the throne of Juda in Jerusalem... He asserts His Kingship in the face of the intruders. He Himself is the political power in Israel. » The priestly authorities of Jerusalem, however, refused to recognise Him as Son of God, a fortiori as King of Israel. If they had acted otherwise, the face of the world would have been changed.
« Jesus would have governed His people in holiness and perfection fulfilling the prophecies to the letter... He and His successors would have governed the world with justice in both spiritual and temporal matters. » (ibid., p. 12)
The Kingdom of Jesus is not a kingdom like others: « My Kingdom is not of this world. » Our Father comments: « It is the Kingdom which comes from Heaven and must rule over all other kingdoms, gathering all men into perfect and universal order... This reign of Christ on earth is God’s political design for history. » Did Jesus not teach us to pray in this way: « Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven »?
This Kingdom, however, is founded on charity. Jesus preached the Beatitudes as the charter for a new mankind. Not that He condemned the means of the old Israel: servile fear of God, force of Law, and terror of sanctions. « But He intended to add to these imperfect but necessary planks of political life, the higher virtues of a new order of grace and fraternal love. » (ibid., p. 12)
« On the Day of Pentecost, the power of the Holy Spirit fell on the nascent Church, who thereby became God’s great, unique and total thought on the world... which was to absorb, espouse, restore and transfigure all human relations, all aspects and happenings of individual, social and thus political life. »
WHAT THE CHURCH DOES.
The « political society transformed by the life of Christ in His members is called Christendom. » It is the political fulfilment of the Gospel. « Christian politics consists essentially in making Christ live in us as political men, that is to say to act politically as members of Christ under the influence of His social Body, which is the Church, “ Jesus Christ diffused and communicated”.
« The foundations of our society are evangelical: Christ is here. You are Christ. It is still necessary to follow not only its moral and spiritual precepts, but obey its social and political demands as well. Christendom was built and went through the centuries thanks to its organisation and laws... All should work with the common good of Christendom in mind. But today no one wants to hear of anything that is not for the general good of mankind, which is non-existent chimera, not confined to the narrow limits of a family, a city, or even of a nation. » (ibid., p. 13)
Christian politics supposes a vital link between the Church and Christianity. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Pope and the whole clerical Apparatus are set against this Christianity. The soul is at war with the body.
In conclusion, the Abbé de Nantes recalls that the absolutely sovereign Principle of all human, individual and social reality, « is Jesus of Nazareth, His Divine Strength and the Church, which is His instrument. It is a physical law, a biology: Christendom is a single body whose Head is Christ and whose soul or vital principle is the Holy Spirit. There has never been anything greater in history. In future there will never be anything better than this Body which step by step, is to win over the whole of mankind... If we do not want this messianic Kingdom of Christ, then we shall have Satan’s monolithic imperialism, which together with the Masonic Republic and Socialist Democracy leads the rebellious world against its Lord and into the Communist slavery of atheistic materialism. That is the message of Fatima. Either Jesus or Hell, in this world and the next! The hell of the present world is the image of that to come! » (ibid., p. 16)
THE MYSTERY OF THE REDEMPTION
The secret of the Gospel is contained in the most perfect act that Jesus performed among us: His Holy Passion and His Cross. To cast light on the historical reality and the meaning of the Cross of Christ, the Abbé de Nantes used the critical study of a book written by Jacques Isorni in 1967 as his point of departure. Contrary to all expectation, this apparently right-wing man of law, who had been Marshal Pétain’s defence attorney, challenged the historical character of the Gospel accounts of Our Lord’s Passion in order to impose against all the odds a veritable rehabilitation of the Jews. According to Isorni, they could not be held responsible for the crime of deicide (La Passion du Christ, CRC n° 70, July 1973).
In a few pages, our Father brilliantly discredits Isorni’s thesis, thanks to his own exquisite understanding and consummate knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.
He straightaway pointed out that Jacques Isorni’s “defence” of the Jews fits into the greatest dispute of our history: the trial of Our Lord. Today still, that trial divides minds and obliges everyone of us to take a stand in favour either of Jesus or of the Jews, for to exculpate the Jews of the crime of deicide amounts to demanding that Our Lord be put to death once again.
« Credo Evangelistam », our Father professes, following St. Augustine: « I prefer to believe the Evangelists with human faith. I trust their obvious good faith, and I rely on them to know the events and their circumstances, their sequence, their lessons. »
Now, what do the Evangelists teach us?
First, that Jesus « claimed to be the Messiah and the Son of God. He proved this to all by means of His miracles and prophesies. » He deserved to be believed, and upright hearts followed Him. « The priests, Scribes and Pharisees themselves were rationally convinced by Jesus’ miracles and demonstrations, the veracity of which was proved to them by their knowledge of the Scriptures... Their certainty, however, was accompanied by acts of refusal and hatred towards Him... Fearing His supernatural power, His popular prestige, and even His physical strength – for He was an athlete – they had Him arrested during the night, submitted Him to a sham trial, and handed Him over to the Roman authorities in order to overcome Him while taking very little risk. » (ibid., p. 9)
The conclusion is inescapable: the crime of the Jewish authorities is established and must be described as a “deicide”. The culpability of the Roman authorities of Jerusalem and in particular that of Pilate is also certain but remains a corollary of the first one.
The Jewish people of that time believed in Jesus: the Galileans first, and then the Judeans. Their faith, however, was imperfect. Jesus disappointed them by refusing to be their temporal leader. They abandoned Him and turned against Him on Good Friday.
After His Resurrection, many Jews converted. But the great majority of people remained stubbornly malicious and made themselves collectively responsible for the deicide. « The permanent culpability of the Jews is certain in contrast with the innocence of Jesus, whom they flout, and the truth of the Church, which they persecute.
« On the contrary, Isorni proclaims the Jews’ innocence and shifts the responsibility for this age-old quarrel onto the Church, but it falls first and in greater degree onto Jesus Christ Himself. Everything should be attributed to the lack of convincing proofs that establish the truth of His mission, His Messiahship, His mystery. If the Jews sincerely thought that they avenged God for a sacrilege, it was because Jesus showed Himself to them as a blasphemer!
« All this is of great consequence: God is at issue. God is the cause of supreme dissension between us. On the one hand, the Jews perpetually claim to avenge God against the blasphemy of Jesus the Imposter and our own, the blasphemy of pagans who perpetuate His crime against God and against His Law. On the other hand, Jesus’ disciples proclaim His innocence and accuse the Jews of having knowingly killed their God and Saviour in defiance of their own Law and the Religion of their Fathers. » (ibid., p. 8)
The dispute continues in this way: « In total keeping with the tradition of his race, in line with his sacred Book, and going beyond the Talmud, a Jew encounters more necessarily than a pagan the mystery of Jesus, the Messiah who was to come and who has come.
« Because Jesus perfectly fulfilled His Mission as a Teacher and Doctor in Israel, any Jew who comes into this world is able to discover, based only on the insights that the Mosaic religion affords, the lies in the Talmud, the perfidy of the Pharisees’ synagogue, and his own recognition that Jesus is the Messiah. Every Jew must convert; if he does not do so, he makes himself share responsibility with his people, i.e., he in turn, ratifies the deicide and stubbornly persists in a false religion which, being antichrist, is necessarily satanic. Such is the terrible destiny of this people and its grandeur. Even as the pagans are outside of this holy tradition, deprived of this “election”, and do not know Christ, the Jews already know Him, but in rebellion and hatred, and they crucify Him once again. »
THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST.
« Jesus Crucified is the Source of everyone’s salvation, of Jews and people of all races, of Christians today and Christians in the future. This central affirmation of our faith dogmatically establishes that we receive divine grace in this world and eternal Life in the next through the merits of Jesus dying on the Cross. Historically, it means that those who are saved are the faithful of the Persecuted One, and the damned are the accomplices and successors of His persecutors. »
Grace comes from the Cross of Christ in virtue of the mystery of the Redemption. We are aware of it, but, our Father asks, are we sure that we understand it well? Because after all, we are moved by Jesus being outraged, Jesus being loathed without reason, Jesus being condemned to the Cross. But how is this failure soaked in blood the foundation of our salvation and of the transfiguration of the cosmos?
Two antithetical perspectives will lead us to associate them in a superior synthesis.
According to the theocentric mentality, « Christ has paid on our behalf, in all justice, in order to make reparation for the insult sin makes to God... In order to save us, God sent His Son in a flesh like ours, making Him our brother in Adam through His birth from the womb of the ever-Virgin Mary. » This Beloved Son wrought our salvation by means of His death on the Cross, achieving thereby an infinite reparation for an infinite insult because His Person is infinitely innocent and holy.
« This doctrine is powerful, clear, and magnificent. » It presents, however, an irremediable defect: « It turns the sacrifice of the Cross into something that is totally isolated in the life of our Lord... His sacrifice is a “cultual” work, an act of oblation to God His Father..., and, therefore, it belongs to a world alien to our human relationships; it took place entirely in the mystery of the relationships of the Son of God with His Father. Once this sacrifice has been carried out, the world is saved without being any the wiser. »
According to the anthropomorphic mentality, which is turned towards man, « it is not the dogmatic why that is of prime importance but the historical and human how ». Christ presents Himself as « the Subversive par excellence, the Rebel, the strong man who comes to engage in the task of obtaining true liberation from all forms of slavery and to save His brothers from the domination of Matter, Power, and the Devil, who hold them in their thrall. Once He Himself has been delivered, Jesus sets out as an athlete and a saviour, to conquer humanity. Coming back from beyond death, He rises and becomes the immortal leader of all our liberations. »
Our Father obviously has no difficulty convincing us of the ridiculous and criminal character of confusing strikes, insurrections, and revolutionary wars with subversive calls of the Holy Spirit and the liberating combat of Christ. But that is no reason to dissociate Christ from our human combats, under the pretext of reintegrating Him into the super-sphere of Divinity!
On the contrary, the kerygma of the mystery of the Cross combines the two perspectives in a rich and fruitful synthesis.
First and foremost Jesus is both an athlete and a victim.
Our Lord « began by giving bread to the hungry, by healing the sick, and by protesting against the injustices and oppressions of this world. He sided with the poor and defied the mighty. He systematically demolished the prestige of the false spiritual authorities of His time and country. He truly sought to establish God’s Kingdom on earth. »
Then, suddenly, this redoubtable, once strong athlete became weak. He hid, He knew what it was to weep and sweat blood, He was overcome with fear. Although He could have dominated them, He submitted to His enemies and let Himself be led to Annas like a lamb to the slaughter. He submitted to the sham trial in order to be handed over to the impious « without raising a word of protest, without a gesture of indignation. »
In reality, what appears as two distinct stages in Christ’s life forms two inseparable components of all His actions:
« When He disputed with the Pharisees, this oblation to His Father, this abandon, this disposition to suffer all that will become fully manifest on the Cross was already present in Him. Conversely, when Jesus was crushed to the ground with anguish and fear, when Jesus was scourged, when Jesus bore His Cross, all the strength of the fighter was expended even more than ever. The agony itself merited the name of combat; a dreadful and terrible combat it was against Himself, a combat in which the salvation of the world hung in the balance. This intense combat, however, ended in Jesus’ victory! The death on the Cross was a demonstration of power and an anticipated affirmation of the victory of a human being such as none has ever seen and never will again. He dominated His pain, He conquered exhaustion, He accepted insult, and in the end, when He died, He gave forth a loud cry, not as a man exhausted but as a powerful athlete who laid down His life at the appointed time. »
Consequently, Redemption and Liberation are one and the same.
From His conception to the day when He will yet come again, the Word made flesh performs His work of salvation at a single glance: obedience and sacrificial oblation to His Father and, concurrently, love and liberating struggle for His brothers.
When He entered into the world, Jesus devoted Himself to the sacred work of redeeming and restoring creation, delivering it from Satan’s yoke. He was animated by this fundamental will to be both the Priest and the holy Oblation offered to God for His brothers.
It was precisely with the intention of oblation and universal consecration that Our Lord entered into the world as a subversive in order to overthrow the domination of Satan who reigns over it. « Jesus was opposed to the world such as it was!... He, therefore, came as someone who is anti-establishment, a fighter, a judge, as the Magnificat proclaims. Such a combat within Him was the product of a threefold love: love for the Father, who is outraged by evil; love for Himself, who rejects this unacceptable solidarity with sin; and love for the poor, the innocents, who are crushed by the powers of hatred and of death. » (ibid., p. 14)
« Jesus had such perfect submission and oblation to His Most Holy Father and such perfect zeal and love for all good that there resulted this pure straight line of His life. In this life, Liberation passes through voluntary Servitude, Combat becomes Passion, revolt passes through the Cross, and Victory is won by the Sacrifice. »
This struggle against the wicked, which was plain for all to see during His public life, remained in Jesus even in His Passion. He went to it in order to rise from the dead and establish His Kingdom of truth, love, justice, and peace beyond their reach.
THE FACT OF THE RESURRECTION
The Resurrection is first a human, visible, historical fact and at the same time a divine design that human intelligence can only approach through faith. Let us follow our Father in his study of the kerygma of the apostolic Church. He distinguishes on the one hand the Event of the Resurrection in its materiality, which is a “miracle”, and, on the other hand, the same event as the glorification of Christ, which deserves the name of “mystery” (Le mystère de la Résurrection, CRC n° 71, August 1973, pp. 3-14).
A CERTAIN HISTORICAL MIRACLE.
Very certain proofs attest the “miracle” that establish the historical character of the Resurrection.
The first of them is a reductio ad absurdum supplied by Fr. Xavier Léon-Dufour, who claims still to believe in the mystery while denying the miracle.
Free of modernist prejudice, we listen to the kerygma, that is, the annunciation of the fact of Christ by the first apostolic generation. To this end, we follow the interpretation that developed from the very thought of the heralds of the faith, which was passed on to the believing Community and has been maintained unchanged to our day.
Here is this preaching:
The indisputable foundation of the witnesses’ accounts is the discovery of the empty tomb and the apparitions of the risen Christ. All the Apostles saw that Jesus emerged bodily from the tomb. In interpreting these given facts, reason concludes that it is possible for man to know, beyond death, an individual, bodily life. But this new life is of a more perfect, transfigured quality.
At last, faith hears the dogmatic message of Our Lord’s exaltation, glorification and enthronement at the right hand of the Father. The event is the basis of the dogma, scientific observation leads to faith, the miracle opens out on to the mystery.
A MYSTERIOUS WORLD.
Once again the comparison of the two mentalities enables the kerygma to be drawn from apostolic preaching.
An “earthly”, realistic, and fixist conception « is founded on the historical fact of the Resurrection and ensures the continuity of Christ’s humanity and His perfect restoration through death... Jesus has come back to life and resumed His somatic and psychic existence where He had left it. » This is strictly true but still somewhat limited, for this conception leaves a whole series of questions unresolved: does Our Lord, once risen, still need to drink, eat, and sleep? How can He entirely and really be present in Heaven and at the same time in all the Hosts of the world? Jesus, who is risen in His full condition as an earthly man, remains enclosed in the spatio-temporal limits of His bodily individuality. From then on, would His relationships be strictly limited to His close circle in Heaven as on earth?
The Gnostic mentality, for its part, takes a totally different path. It no longer defines the risen body as a structure organised by a soul, but as a means of communication, a capacity to be present in the world. Christ, once freed from His fleshly exterior by death, is no longer limited to His own universe. « God has exalted Him by giving Him another body, not one with other arms and legs or with another brain and heart, but another system of relationships with the world. »
Thus Jesus would have become in all truth the Lord of His mystical Body, that is, the Church, and the Master of the whole universe, which has become His cosmic Body.
The Resurrection is then conceived as the transformation of the earthly, limited, imperfect body into a spiritual body, which is no longer a prisoner of space and time. Forgetting, however, the physical and individual body, the supporters of this mentality are persuaded that the universe has become at one go the Body of the Lord in virtue of the Resurrection, that the world is the body of Christ. Hence, they leave the events regarding the empty tomb, the apparitions of Our Lord, etc., as things discredited. On the other hand, they call all Christians, all men, to have in their innermost beings the ineffable experience of the exalted and glorified Christ with whom they have all become one and the same body.
THE SAME JESUS IS DIFFERENT.
The Abbé de Nantes intervenes in this debate in a simple and brilliant manner: « Jesus is the divine Person of the Incarnate Word. The individual flesh that He has taken as body is personalised by its union to the Divinity: the Word is Jesus of Nazareth, forever. He, and no one else, is the One who rose from the dead, that is to say, emerged living from the tomb. His very Body was never separated from the divine Person who assumed it. Texts from the Scriptures… reveal this continuity of the same spiritual and corporeal subject, through the dramatic caesura of death. » (ibid., pp. 13-14)
The same risen Jesus, however, entered another state in the eyes of His Apostles: « It is the same Jesus of Nazareth in His entire concrete individuality: His face, His stigmata, His place in history, His relationships with His entourage, His continuing mission. He returned to pursue His task of establishing the Kingdom of Heaven. His new state freed Him from the servitudes of the past and gave Him a spiritual freedom whereby His Body is the most perfect instrument of His intention to be present and multiply His action tenfold. »
In this new state, the Body of Christ remains the absolute instrument of His presence, His relationships, His appropriation, but it is brought to an extraordinary perfection: « If Jesus enters into infinitely open, perfect contact with the whole of mankind and with the entire universe, He does so by means of His Glorified Body. »
With all His soul, by the infinitely perfect means of His Body, He makes Himself present everywhere priests call Him: this is the Eucharist. He maintains concrete and living relationships with all those who pray to Him and who love Him: this is the formation, from His physical Body, of His Mystical Body and its Catholicity.
« The glorious Body of Jesus, rewarded for His Sacrifice, has gone beyond the limits that Its earthly condition imposed, and It is now capable of responding to all the expectations, demands and impulses of His Soul. It is the perfect instrument of communion with these thousands and millions of beings that His Heart loves and wants to touch in order to appropriate and save them! »
THE RELIGION OF CHRIST’S BODY.
The Resurrection of Our Lord « suffices to prove to the integrist Christian His whole Truth as Son of God Saviour and to found the hope of the progressivist Christian on a universal renewal ». Is He not « the way, the truth, and the life » (Jn 14. 6)? « Nevertheless His Resurrection must last throughout history, and His total life that He has recovered from death must continue its victorious course and achieve its entire project.
« Here lies the very delicate but essential link of the individual and physical Body of the risen Christ with His social and mystical Body that is the present Church and, potentially all mankind in her. If we believe in the Kingdom of the Resurrection not only for Christ alone but for us and for all, the power of His Resurrection must act in us after having acted in Him. » (The Church and the Spirit, CCR n° 43, October 1973 and, in full in L’Église et l’Esprit, CRC n° 72, September 1973)
Only one possibility can result from such a communication: the real, physical union of our beings in thrall to sin with His risen and transfigured Being, for Him to execute in us His work of sanctification and glorification.
We now know the unlimited capacity that Christ has to communicate life to all mankind. As long as one does not see the work of Christ in the Church through His physical intervention – a wholly human intervention thanks to the instrument of His Body –, he has not really given his faith to the Church, has not considered her as the lone decisive Catholic movement for the renewal of the world and the total resurrection of mankind. This movement is systematically organised in accord with the measure of the universe and time.
There is no other revolution, no other decisive and happy novelty in the history of the world than Christ’s Resurrection. « Only the Catholic Church founded by Christ and continuing without any interruption to administer the Sacrament of His Body and His Blood is the conjoint instrument of His Humanity and, therefore She alone gives us the reality of the Body for the true victory and resurrection of our souls and our bodies over evil and death, definitively and entirely. »
Our Father specifies that « this physical need for the corporeal instrument of our salvation forces us to pass from the historical Christ to the Apostles, who were the first to eat His Body and drink His Blood, thus becoming participants in His Resurrection, and to the Community that they assembled, constituted and endowed with life. Yet I do say: to the Apostles, first and for ever, because they alone received from the human and divine word of Christ, from the imposition of His own hands and from the breath of His mouth, the corporeal Power that came forth from Him to consecrate and transfigure or transubstantiate water, oil, bread and wine, human hands, speech, in order to make them efficacious signs, sacraments, instruments and gifts to men of His Resurrection.
« The Church is the Body of Christ, an extension of His own Body in three ways. – She is the object of His life-giving embrace, which raises her from evil and death in the communication of this holy kiss. As such, she is indeed His only Spouse. – She is the sign of His Presence in the midst of the world, extending His manifestation and His preaching to the ends of the earth. As such, she is His historical and universal Body. – She is the organof His assumption of the human and material world into Himself, by the consecration and sacramentalisation of all things and of all being in Himself. As such, she is His Sacrament, His living and life-giving instrument.
« The physical and mystical, individual and social Body of Christ, Eucharist and Church indissolubly connected, is the means by which the Son of God touches us, gives us life and unites us to Himself for time and eternity. » (ibid., p. 12)
Yet, another function of the Body exists: that of bearing the Spirit.
THE RELIGION OF CHRIST’S SPIRIT.
« After having seen that we share in the Resurrection of Christ only by means of the ministry and sacrament of His Body, we must affirm that we have access to His Holy Spirit and attain union with Him, a purifying, enlightening, beatific union, only by means of the contact and the communication of His Body, which is the vehicle of His Holy Spirit. This second truth runs counter to a thousand inventions of the “spirituals” and “visionaries” of all time, who took advantage of the Spirit’s invisible and total freedom to claim that He was present anywhere, in anyone, guaranteeing anything! »
The Holy Spirit, our Advocate « is known to us only by the risen Christ; He is sent to us only by Him... Faith alone, however, will give us access to His intimate and immediate knowledge. Faith in Christ who sends Him to His Church is the very condition of His recognition by the faithful. It is inasmuch as we belong to the historical Body of Christ, which is the very place of His operations, that we will experience His Holy Spirit.
« By His divine personality, His eternal origin, and His temporal mission, the Holy Spirit is linked to the Body of Christ and to His visible, historical, hierarchical work, which means that He subsists in the one, holy, apostolic and Catholic Church. He obviously radiates far beyond her just like music that an instrument like the harp or the organ produces; music is composed of a subtle essence that makes it spread through space in search of innumerable and distant ears. But this music remains linked to the instrument that emits it and fully sent by the one who plays it. Likewise, the Holy Spirit only vibrates in our corporeal world under the hand of Jesus Christ risen from the dead, who is the Spirit’s “musician”, and through the instrumentality of the Church, who gives Him His perceptible existence.
« The Spirit of God is thus in the Church, and if He goes beyond her and is carried via mysterious waves, via spiritual voices, faces, odours and tastes, which emanate and come from her, it is still towards her that He draws souls and to her that He returns.
« Once His link to the Body is clearly perceived and asserted, we are free, with all the ardour of our true and universalist progressivism to perceive the Holy Spirit present everywhere, acting far and wide in all mankind. »
It is this Spirit, and He alone, who has changed the face of the earth, who has restored peace among men, who has established a new society and new morals. Finally it is He who unceasingly works for establishing and restoring a renewed humanity here below and for all eternity.
Brother Pierre-Julien de la Divine Marie.
He is risen ! n° 80, may 2009