Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Mystery of Christ: Church and Kingdom

This post is the convergence of my experiences of yesterday, specifically the meeting of The Cathedral of the Madeleine Book Club, during which we discussed Jesus of Nazareth, by Pope Benedict XVI, and a Baptism I was privileged to perform, along with my morning reading. To me, it verifies that the journey to truth is, indeed, an experience, a convergence of experiences.

The Mystery of Christ is ever present and all pervasive. A witness to Christ's mysterious presence "is only authentically Christian insofar as it has two factors at heart" (The Journey to Truth Is an Experience 89). The two factors any authentically Christian witness must possess are, according to Fr. Giussani, "visibly expressed unity and the link to authority," specifically the bishop, through whom the visibly united community's authenticity is ensured, as is "its integration into the mystery of the Mystical Body", which integration, incorporation, allows the community "its participation in [Christ's] redeeming power" (89).

On this account, "Even the most astute or generous social dynamism, open cultural expression, or dignified moral stance are ambiguous testimonies if not qualified" by these two factors (89). It is only through a visible community linked to authentic authority that "Christian Reality" is made objective (89). Lacking these two factors, which make the Christian witness concrete, "observers will all too easily identify the value of a witness with the specific person who accomplishes it, and will ascribe this achievement to an exceptional group or a modern movement with praiseworthy personalities and their own determined ideas" (89). Indeed, we observe this all the time, even within the Catholic Church.

Lacking an "expressed reference to the community and authority, a [witness] can easily be reduced in the heart of an observer to an example of gentlemanly conduct, modernity of spirit, or social sensitivity; that is, to an idea or a way of life and not to a reality outside ourselves" (89-90). In other words, lacking the two factors of authentic Christian witness (i.e., community and authority) the witness becomes attributed "to the 'glory' of man and not of God, to another form of man's kingdom, not the Kingdom of God" (90). The Kingdom of God is not merely that which is ushered in by Christ, but is Christ, as the Holy Father, taking his cue from Origen, writes in Jesus of Nazareth.

"We can identify three dimensions in the Church Fathers' interpretation of [the kingdom] (49). The first of the three dimensions of God's Kingdom taught by Christ is what Origen "called autobasileia, that is, the Kingdom in person. Jesus himself is the Kingdom; the Kingdom is not a thing, it is not a geographical dominion like worldly kingdoms. It is a person; it is he" (49). In this dimension "Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in him God himself is present among them, that he is God's presence" (49).

The second dimension the Holy Father calls "the idealistic or mystical interpretation" (49). In this interpretation "the essential location of the Kingdom of God" is in the individual human being's "interiority" (49). Of course, this comes from Jesus' own words as relayed to us in Luke (Luke 17,21). For this dimension the Pontiff also looks to Origen, specifically his work On Prayer, in which he wrote: "those who pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God pray without any doubt for the Kingdom of God that they contain in themselves, and they pray that this Kingdom might bear fruit and attain its fullness. For in every holy man it is God who reigns" (50). His Holiness inserts a comment after the words "it is God who reigns", "exercises dominion, is the Kingdom of God" (50). "So," Origen continues, "if we want God to reign in us"- another pontifical comment his Kingdom to be in us"- then sin must not be allowed in any way to reign in our mortal body (Rom 6,12)" (50). Indeed, at Baptism we "reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God's children". Also in Baptism we "reject the glamor of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin" (The Rites 427).

So, we start with Jesus as the Kingdom of God and move to God's Kingdom reigning in us. Hence, we move to the third dimension, which represents a theological progression that takes us back to the beginning of this post, the two necessary factors for authentic Christian witness, visible community and authority. "The third dimension of the interpretation of the Kingdom of God we could call the ecclesiastical: the Kingdom of God and the Church are related in different ways and brought into more or less close proximity" (Jesus of Nazareth 50). I like this explanation, "close proximity" instead of total identification of the Kingdom of God and the Church because the Kingdom of God, even within us and among us, is already and not yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment