Monday, July 2, 2012

Christ perfects our humanity, making us all God intended

I am currently reading Christoph Cardinal Schöborn's God Sent His Son: A Contemporary Christology, which is well written, accessible, and comprehensive. Just yesterday I read his treatment of the twenty-seven article Christological formula promulgated at the Council of Chalcedon, held in AD 451.

It is easy to forget that, in addition believing that the Son is homoousios, that is, consubstantial, or one in being, "with the Father as to his Godhead," we also believe Him to be "homoousios with us as to his personhood, in all things like unto us, sin only excepted, and in these last days, the Same, for us and for salvation, born of Mary the Virgin Theotokos." Cardinal Schönborn, at the beginning of his detailed analysis of the Chalcedonian formula, comments on Christ's perfection "in personhood," observing that it "is surely among the most important credal statements of the Christian faith" (157). He goes on to point out that "being human is not a defect, a deficiency, but has its own essential perfection" (157).

Reading this reminded me that, echoing the ancient words of the Council of Chalcedon, the fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of which we mark this year on 11 October, in its one-of-a-kind document, the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, reiterated the importance of our humanity and of the Incarnation for us:
The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown.

He Who is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15), is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin (par. 22)
"Jesus' human existence," Schönborn insists, "is distinguished from that of all other men, not by what it is, but by how it is lived" (157). In his Christmas Urbi et Orbi message back in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI summarized this all succinctly, even giving it practical application: "Christ does not save us from our humanity, but through it; he does not save us from the world, but came into the world, so that through him the world might be saved (cf. Jn 3:17)."

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