Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What does it mean to be a new creation in Christ?

In this year’s Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, Fr. Julián Carrón, head of the Fraternity, began by reciting the theme of the Exercises, taken from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians: “Thus, whoever is in Christ is a new creation” (5:17). I am only a new creation, Carrón continues, “because Christ is something that is happening to me.” He is happening to me right now, in every moment. To demonstrate this point, he uses the example of Christ’s “disciples after Easter.” He begins by rhetorically asking, “What prevailed in their hearts, in their eyes, in their self-awareness, if not His living presence?” His living presence “was so evident for them that they could not rip it away.” But then, who would want to rip it away?
It was a Presence that overcame any doubt, any shadow: it imposed itself. Christ was something that was happening to them. He was not a doctrine, a list of things to do, a sentiment. Yes, He was an external presence, different, but one that permeated their life. The Resurrection of Christ, His living presence, introduced a newness that made life finally life, filling it with an intensity they could not generate by themselves. It was so evident that they called it “newness of life.” And who was living it? A new creature. Newness of life–but we can simply say life in its fullest sense, that reveals itself for the first time with all its intensity–so defined their persons that the Christians were called “the living.” What an experience they had, and what an experience the others watched in them, such that they defined them “the living”! This is what Christ introduced into reality forevermore: a possibility of living life at a level previously absolutely unknown for us

St. Francis of Assisi, by Jusepe de Ribera


A few days after re-reading these striking words, which I am sure were intended as a provocation, I came across a passage in Hans Urs Von Balthasar’s Razing the Bastions: On the Church in This Age, which I have been re-reading in preparation for my long-awaited re-immersion into Balthasar, specifically the Theo-logik part of his grand trilogy, about St. Francis of Assisi:
Everything depends on the awareness that we have of our Christianity. For Francis, to be a Christian was something just as immense, certain and startlingly glorious as to be a human being, a youth, man. And because being a Christian is eternal being, eternal youth, without danger of withering and resignation, his immediate joy was deeper. Not one single year separated him from Christ, the one who had become flesh… For him not one speck of dust had settled on the freshness of the wonder of the passage of time. The hodie of the liturgy on the great feasts was the hodie of his life (underlining emphasis mine; hodie, of course, is Latin meaning “this day,” or, “today”)
Balthasar concludes by asking rhetorically, “Is there a saint who has had any other Christian consciousness of time?” To which the answer is simply, “No,” even if, like Bl Teresa of Calcutta, she had to work for years to achieve such a Christian time-consciousness.

Originally, I was going to post this yesterday, but due to current events that concern so many of my faithful sisters and brothers, I held off until today.

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