Monday, April 1, 2013

"Caro cardis salutis"- Tertullian

In his wonderful book, God Sent His Son: A Contemporary Christology, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, who is the archbishop of Vienna, Austria, begins his section on the second part of the fifth article of the Apostles Creed, "Risen from the dead on the third day," by noting, "There is no subject about which the early Christian writers wrote more than about the bodily Resurrection of Christ."

Cardinal Schönborn then proceeds to summarize how this insistence on Jesus' bodily resurrection, which is summed in the most straight forward manner by St. Paul, who, in the fifteenth chapter of his First Letter to the Corinthians, seeking to correct an erroneous teaching that had been introduced in this early Christian community (many New Testament scholars hold that the likely source of the doctrinal error was Apollos, a Greek convert to Christianity, who was teaching a "Hellenistic" doctrine of resurrection, one that held that Christ was not bodily resurrected): "For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:16-17), offends Jews and Greeks equally, albeit for different reasons. His Eminence, summarizing St. Paul writes that if Christ was not raised, then our devotion, "Our love would be directed toward a dead man, a corpse, and our faith would be a remembrance of a man from the past, and not of him who said, 'I am with you always, to the close of the age' (Mt 28:20)."

The Resurrection of Christ, by Tintoretto- 1565

Without Christ's bodily resurrection, Christian faith is worse than pointless, it is delusional. As St. Paul wrote, "If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all" (1 Cor. 15:19). "This article of faith," Cardinal Schönborn continues, "is so scandalous that the Christian writers made every effort to make it understandable for pagans."

His Eminence then proceeds to note the many connections made by the Church Fathers between Christ's bodily Resurrection and many other aspects of the faith. While Cardinal Schönborn writes in a kind of understated way, he succinctly demonstrates that the entire Christian faith rises or falls, hinges on, is rooted in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In the first instance, Christ's Resurrection demonstrates the inherent goodness of God's creation, of nature, our bodies, etc.: "In the Resurrection of Christ, body and soul are glorified and God makes all things new." In this, His Eminence insists, "lies the soteriological significance of the Resurrection." Because Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of the Father, Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, True God from True God, "for us men and for our salvation," was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, thus becoming fully human, while at the same time remaining divine, His bodily Resurrection, according to Cardinal Schönborn, "has become the central point of salvation."

He then cites Tertullian, who lived and wrote in the early 3rd century: "Caro cardis salutis," meaning something like, "the flesh is the hinge of salvation." This is the Euangelion, the Gospel, the Good News. In it lies not only our hope, or even the hope of the world, but that of the cosmos. To "evangelize," then, is to bring or announce the Gospel, which is the Good News!"

Once we see beyond the reductive, empirical myopia that is so prevalent in our day and grasp what Msgr. Giussani asserted, namely that humanity is the level of nature at which nature becomes conscious of itself, we will see that Jesus Christ's Resurrection, while amazing, is not so incredible as it we sometimes try to make it- even in this the divine Logos is at work.

As the Holy Father said in his first Urbi et Orbi address yesterday: "Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives."

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