It is not by means of one isolated faculty that man is open, in knowledge and in love, to the Thou, to things and to God: it is as a whole (through all his faculties) that man is attuned to total reality, and no one has shown this more profoundly and more thoroughly than Thomas Aquinas According to Thomas, what is involved is an attunement to Being as a whole, and this ontological disposition is, in the living and sentient being, an a priori concordance (con-sensus as cum-sentire, 'to feel with', here prior to the assentire, 'to assent to').Hans Urs von Balthasar - Seeing the Form, vol 1 of The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, page 243-44
Monday, December 03, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
A few days ago, Ben Myers posted a review of Gerd Ludemann's book on "The Pope's Jesus."
While I appreciate the fairness of the review to Benedict, I do take issue with a few things, mostly from this portion of the article.
Lüdemann’s longest chapter (pp. 95-120) is devoted to Benedict’s use of the Fourth Gospel, and it is here that some of the central problems in Benedict’s methodology are brought into view. Benedict privileges the Fourth Gospel and freely uses it as a source of historical information about Jesus, but he offers “no convincing arguments against the scholarly consensus that the Johannine discourses have nothing to do with what Jesus himself actually said” (p. 120). Of course, some scholars are more optimistic about identifying historically authentic layers in the Fourth Gospel; but it is nevertheless rather baffling to hear Benedict assert that “[t]he Jesus of the Fourth Gospel and the Jesus of the Synoptics is one and the same: the true ‘historical’ Jesus” (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 111).
Such methodological shortcomings should be taken seriously in any evaluation of Benedict’s book. Indeed, the fact that Benedict presupposes the divine “inspiration” of the biblical texts is already a significant obstacle to historical understanding. Lüdemann is surely right to insist that the texts cannot be properly understood on the basis of any “supposed divine inspiration”: “Whoever has given a little finger to the historical-critical method must give the whole hand” (p. 151). Of course, I myself think it is still possible to confess the “inspiration” of the canon – but this confession should arise subsequently from an encounter with the witness of the texts, and should not be introduced as a methodological presupposition which guarantees the texts’ reliability in advance.
(Bold is my emphasis. Italics are in the original.)
I am not at all "baffled" by the pope's treatment of John as a legitimate source of knowledge about the historical Jesus, though I am a bit confused by Myers' bafflement. It seems to me rather as if his critique of the use of John introduces the same sort of faith/history dichotomy as Ludemann's, albeit in a less radical form.
That the Gospel of John tells us about the Jesus of faith is, I take it, relatively uncontroversial. Whether it tells us about the Jesus of history is not. But Benedict's basic point (as Myers seems to understand elsewhere in his review) is that the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith are the same Jesus.
This being the case, it would appear that Myers' objection only makes sense if he is privileging the Jesus of history over against John's Jesus of faith. But this is the very thing that he takes issue with in Ludemann.
The relation between scripture and witness in my (and Benedict's?) understanding seems to be quite different from Myer's as well.
In my understanding, the primary witness to Christ is the church as a whole. Included in this, of course, is scripture (written by the early church). But scripture does not stand by itself as witness to it's authenticity and inspiration. The past and present of the community of faith also constitutes a witness to the inspiration of scripture.
Thus it makes sense to me that doing theology and exegesis within the community of faith (rather than engaging in "pure apologetics" or "academic theology") not only can, but should presuppose the inspiration of scripture.
I'm not sure whether this is a Catholic/Protestant difference, or whether certain forms of Protestantism can adopt a similar approach. I suspect that they can.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Queen of Israel
Recently, a friend asked a very interesting question. Why do Catholics (and Orthodox) refer to Mary as a queen? The answer is that, even on Protestant terms of Sola Scriptura, she is one.
In the Kingdom of Israel, there was always one queen, but the kings often had more than one wife. How did this work? For the simple reason that in Israel, the queen wasn't the king's wife, but the king's mother. This can be seen in the relationship between Solomon and Bathsheba, for instance.
So, if the queen of Israel is always the mother of the king, what happens when Jesus is the Heir of David, and King of Israel? By the laws and customs of Israel, Jesus's mother is the queen of Israel, even if she wasn't a descendant of David herself.
Lest it be thought that this threatens the royal prerogatives of Christ, it is worth noting that the queens of Israel had no power in their own right, but only by virtue of their relationship to the son. If the king were to for some reason become displeased with the queen, she had no legal or customary authority by which she could resist him, and as soon as the king died and the kingship passed to another, she was no longer the queen.
Queen of Heaven
All right, you might say, but surely Mary's title as Queen of Heaven is going too far?
If you read Revelation 12, you'll find a mysterious figure: a woman clothed with the sun, standing on the moon, with a crown of 12 stars on her head. The 12 stars indicate the 12 tribes of Israel, or the 12 apostles. What is significant is that a little bit later, we discover that this woman is pursued by a dragon and she gives birth to a son who will "rule the nations." This son is obviously Christ. So Christ's mother is shown in a symbolic way to be a queen, and more specifically, a queen of heaven.
How can this be?
Well, consider how the book of Revelation ends. It ends with the descent of the new Jerusalem, which is obviously meant to symbolize in some way the descent of Heaven to Earth. And Mary, as we saw earlier, is the mother of the King of the New Jerusalem. So it is in that sense that Mary is queen of heaven: not in her own right, but by the grace of her son. She is the icon and greatest example of what we all shall be, kings and queens reigning with Christ our King.
Friday, June 15, 2007
I find myself a bit frustrated with the state of Orthodox apologetics surrounding the question of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. While I am quite sure that there are competent treatments of the question around, I haven't yet found a discussion that didn't make elementary mistakes about the Catholic understanding of original sin (a mistake I've seen even in such an otherwise excellent book as For the Life of the World by Schmemann). I'm not a trained theologian, but I do feel competent to make the following observations.
1. While the Immaculate Conception hasn't been adopted widely in Orthodoxy, it does have a place in Orthodox tradition. St. Seraphim of Sarov, for instance, believed in the Immaculate Conception. So Orthodox apologists shouldn't be so quick to label it a "western heresy."
2. The Catholic Church, both Latin and Eastern Rite, does not teach that original sin involves inheriting actual guilt. Rather, the Church teaches that it involves inheriting a human nature which (among other things) is now prone to sin in a way that it wasn't before the Fall. St. Augustine does appear to have been of the opinion that guilt is inherited, but the Church has rejected this position. See for example CCC 405.
Although it is proper to each individual,295 original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.
3. The exemption of Mary from inheriting original sin does not make Mary superhuman. It merely makes her not subject to concupiscence (the tendency to sin), without necessarily preventing her from being able to sin. (Though obviously the Church teaches that she didn't actually sin either.)
4. The occasional Orthodox apologist who argues that the Orthodox churches don't believe in the Immaculate Conception because they don't believe in original sin, should consult some Orthodox Catechisms. Yes, the understanding of what original sin entails is different, but that is not the same as not believing in it at all.
There is a huge amount of agreement between the Catholic and Orthodox churches regarding mariology, so it annoys me to see mistakes like this being made so often. Also, I would like to do some more reading on Orthodox mariology. Anyone have suggestions?
I've been enjoying the commentary on Vox Nova, a group blog devoted to the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. They do quite a good job of covering social issues that have been mostly overlooked by the Catholic blogosphere.
However, recently there has been some controversy over whether Vox Nova is "too liberal." Personally, I think it is quite refreshing to see a blog that is in the mainstream of Catholic social thought, rather than the "conservative" take that is more common online.
It also looks like they have added another blogger to the site, this time a more conservative one. I am looking forward to reading even more great things from them!
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Happy Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary!
Today the Church remembers the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, and how, as Mary drew near, the Holy Spirit came upon John and Elizabeth so that they recognized Whom Mary brought with her.
It seems to me an appropriate metaphor for the Christian life as the Holy Spirit gives us to recognize the presence of Christ in the Church, especially in the Holy Eucharist.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Also at the heart of the visions that the Book of Revelation unfolds, are the deeply significant vision of the Woman bringing forth a male child and the complementary one of the dragon, already thrown down from Heaven but still very powerful.
This Woman represents Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, but at the same time she also represents the whole Church, the People of God of all times, the Church which in all ages, with great suffering, brings forth Christ ever anew. And she is always threatened by the dragon's power. She appears defenceless and weak.
But while she is threatened, persecuted by the dragon, she is also protected by God's comfort. And in the end this Woman wins. The dragon does not win.— Pope Benedict XVI's Second Catechesis on the Apostle John
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which Earth has given and human hands have made; it will become for us the Bread of Life.
Blessed be God forever!
It occurred to me today that in a certain way, the Eucharist is the archetype of the Catholic understanding of grace.
First, there is a prevenient "goodness" (grace) of God which enables us to act for God. Then there is our actions or "work", our offerings to God. And finally, there is the grace of God in taking this offerings, pitiful though they may be, and transfiguring them, or (to use Eastern terminology) "divinizing" them.
Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.
Blessed be God forever!
Monday, April 09, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
"I used to be a liberal, if liberal means concern for the other guy,” Father Groeschel said. “Now I consider myself a conservative-liberal-traditional-radical-confused person.” - From a very good article on Fr. Groeschel in the New York TimesThis reminds me of some things that Michael & Katerina have been saying lately.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
[St. Joseph] was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Josephs wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying: "Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord." - St. Bernardine of Siena
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
16. To look at Mary and imitate her does not mean, however, that the Church should adopt a passivity inspired by an outdated conception of femininity. Nor does it condemn the Church to a dangerous vulnerability in a world where what count above all are domination and power. In reality, the way of Christ is neither one of domination (cf. Phil 2:6) nor of power as understood by the world (cf. Jn18:36). From the Son of God one learns that this “passivity” is in reality the way of love; it is a royal power which vanquishes all violence; it is “passion” which saves the world from sin and death and recreates humanity. In entrusting his mother to the Apostle John, Jesus on the Cross invites his Church to learn from Mary the secret of the love that is victorious.
Far from giving the Church an identity based on an historically conditioned model of femininity, the reference to Mary, with her dispositions of listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting, places the Church in continuity with the spiritual history of Israel. In Jesus and through him, these attributes become the vocation of every baptized Christian. Regardless of conditions, states of life, different vocations with or without public responsibilities, they are an essential aspect of Christian life. While these traits should be characteristic of every baptized person, women in fact live them with particular intensity and naturalness. In this way, women play a role of maximum importance in the Church's life by recalling these dispositions to all the baptized and contributing in a unique way to showing the true face of the Church, spouse of Christ and mother of believers.
In this perspective one understands how the reservation of priestly ordination solely to men22 does not hamper in any way women's access to the heart of Christian life. Women are called to be unique examples and witnesses for all Christians of how the Bride is to respond in love to the love of the Bridegroom.
Christ is the head, the foundation, and the hard stone of the Roman Church, which He wedded on His Cross, supporting her with two pillars, Peter and Paul, the one on the right, the other on the left. He confirmed and perfected her foundation, adorned her with rich decorations, and stayed her with His Spirit, who gladley came down on her head, to teach her words of truth - Alleluja! - that she might not err for ever. - Syro-Maronite Liturgy The Traditions of the Syriac Church of Antioch Concerning the Primacy and Prerogatives of Saint Peter and of His Successors the Roman Pontiff, by the Most Reverend Cyril Behnam Benni (London: Burns, Oates & Co, 1871).Hat tip to Cathedra Unitatis, who found it over on Google Books.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
The Eucharist and Eschatology The Eucharist: a gift to men and women on their journey 30. If it is true that the sacraments are part of the Church's pilgrimage through history (99) towards the full manifestation of the victory of the risen Christ, it is also true that, especially in the liturgy of the Eucharist, they give us a real foretaste of the eschatological fulfilment for which every human being and all creation are destined (cf. Rom 8:19ff.). Man is created for that true and eternal happiness which only God's love can give. But our wounded freedom would go astray were it not already able to experience something of that future fulfilment. Moreover, to move forward in the right direction, we all need to be guided towards our final goal. That goal is Christ himself, the Lord who conquered sin and death, and who makes himself present to us in a special way in the eucharistic celebration. Even though we remain "aliens and exiles" in this world (1 Pet 2:11), through faith we already share in the fullness of risen life. The eucharistic banquet, by disclosing its powerful eschatological dimension, comes to the aid of our freedom as we continue our journey. - Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis
Saturday, March 10, 2007
However, while the whole community offers Christ in the Echaristic sacrifice and themselves in union with him, according to the immemorial tradition of the Church only a bishop or presbyter can validly preside over the celebration. This is not a mere legal requirement which could be changed by the Church at least in emergency situations. The Eucharist is the sacrifice of Christ entrusted to his Church but remains his own sacrifice. Therefore only someone sent by Christ and representing Christ as the head of his Church can validly make Christ's own sacrifice present in the assembly so that the whole assembly may offer it as her own. In other words, only those who are in the line of apostolic succession, receiving their sacramental authority from Christ through the apostles and their successors can validly consecrate. The absolute need for the ministerial priest in the Eucharistic celebration then does not express the craving of power by the hierarchy but rather the absolute dependence of the Church on Christ in her central act of worship. The need for the ministerial priest expresses sacramentally the radical insufficiency of the Church: she does not possess the source of her life in herself, but receives it continuously from Christ in a tangible, sacramental way. - Roch Kereszty, Communio, Fall 1996
Thursday, March 08, 2007
There is this obvious, undeniable difficulty in the attempt to form a theory of Private Judgment, in the choice of a religion, that Private Judgment leads different minds in such different directions. If, indeed, there be no religious truth, or at least no sufficient means of arriving at it, then the difficulty vanishes: for where there is nothing to find, there can be no rules for seeking, and contradiction in the result is but a reductio ad absurdum of the attempt. But such a conclusion is intolerable to those who search, else they would not search; and therefore on them the obligation lies to explain, if they can, how it comes to pass, that Private Judgment is a duty, and an advantage, and a success, considering it leads the way not only to their own faith, whatever that may be, but to opinions which are diametrically opposite to it; considering it not only leads them right, but leads others wrong, landing them as it may[Pg 222] be in the Church of Rome, or in the Wesleyan Connection, or in the Society of Friends. - John Henry Cardinal Newman
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
A society that breeds suicide is one that has neglected to foster certain traditional Christian attitudes: acceptance of suffering, mercy towards oneself, one's inadequacy, one's mediocrity, an appreciation of life. Young people have not been taught why they are on earth and what they are to do with their existence.
- Xavier Tilliette
Thursday, March 01, 2007
IV JESUS CHRIST SUFFERING CONQUERED BY LOVE 14. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life"(27). These words, spoken by Christ in his conversation with Nicodemus, introduce us into the very heart of God's salvific work. They also express the very essence of Christian soteriology, that is, of the theology of salvation. Salvation means liberation from evil, and for this reason it is closely bound up with the problem of suffering. According to the words spoken to Nicodemus, God gives his Son to "the world" to free man from evil, which bears within itself the definitive and absolute perspective on suffering. At the same time, the very word "gives" ("gave") indicates that this liberation must be achieved by the only-begotten Son through his own suffering. And in this, love is manifested, the infinite love both of that only-begotten Son and of the Father who for this reason "gives" his Son. This is love for man, love for the "world": it is salvific love. We here find ourselves—and we must clearly realize this in our shared reflection on this problem—faced with a completely new dimension of our theme. It is a different dimension from the one which was determined and, in a certain sense, concluded the search for the meaning of suffering within the limit of justice. This is the dimension of Redemption, to which in the Old Testament, at least in the Vulgate text, the words of the just man Job already seem to refer: "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last... I shall see God..."(28). Whereas our consideration has so far concentrated primarily and in a certain sense exclusively on suffering in its multiple temporal dimension (as also the sufferings of the just man Job), the words quoted above from Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus refer to suffering in its fundamental and definitive meaning. God gives his only-begotten Son so that man "should not perish" and the meaning of these words " should not perish" is precisely specified by the words that follow: "but have eternal life". Man " perishes" when he loses "eternal life". The opposite of salvation is not, therefore, only temporal suffering, any kind of suffering, but the definitive suffering: the loss of eternal life, being rejected by God, damnation. The only-begotten Son was given to humanity primarily to protect man against this definitive evil and against definitive suffering. In his salvific mission, the Son must therefore strike evil right at its transcendental roots from which it develops in human history. These transcendental roots of evil are grounded in sin and death: for they are at the basis of the loss of eternal life. The mission of the only-begotten Son consists in conquering sin and death. He conquers sin by his obedience unto death, and he overcomes death by his Resurrection.God's gift to the world was that He took on in His own person the suffering of mankind. It is not that suffering itself is an unqualified gift, but that God's unqualified gift of HimSelf to us is suffering. This is why suffering can be salvific in our lives as well. To offer our own suffering back to the God who gave his suffering to us allows us to partake in his own self-giving and the self-emptying of kenosis. And this participation also protects us against the final and definitive suffering of eternal death. As the liturgy says, "Dying you destroyed our death; rising you restored our life."
15. When one says that Christ by his mission strikes at evil at its very roots, we have in mind not only evil and definitive, eschatological suffering (so that man "should not perish, but have eternal life"), but also—at least indirectly toil and suffering in their temporal and historical dimension. For evil remains bound to sin and death. And even if we must use great caution in judging man's suffering as a consequence of concrete sins (this is shown precisely by the example of the just man Job), nevertheless suffering cannot be divorced from the sin of the beginnings, from what Saint John calls "the sin of the world"(29), from the sinful background of the personal actions and social processes in human history. Though it is not licit to apply here the narrow criterion of direct dependance (as Job's three friends did), it is equally true that one cannot reject the criterion that, at the basis of human suffering, there is a complex involvement with sin.Though it is true that we cannot judge individuals guilty of particular sin merely because they suffer, it is also true that sin lies at the root of truly human suffering. Trace suffering back far enough and eventually one finds its origin, often in multiple and complex ways, in the rejection of that Good offered by God's grace. Something as simple as the pressures of parents dealing with the irritability of a child who refuses to eat until he gets his way shows just how complete the involvement of sin is in human suffering. Yet it is not final.
It is the same when we deal with death. It is often awaited even as a liberation from the suffering of this life. At the same time, it is not possible to ignore the fact that it constitutes as it were a definitive summing-up of the destructive work both in the bodily organism and in the psyche. But death primarily involves the dissolution of the entire psychophysical personality of man. The soul survives and subsists separated from the body, while the body is subjected to gradual decomposition according to the words of the Lord God, pronounced after the sin committed by man at the beginning of his earthly history: "You are dust and to dust you shall return"(30). Therefore, even if death is not a form of suffering in the temporal sense of the word, even if in a certain way it is beyond all forms of suffering, at the same time the evil which the human being experiences in death has a definitive and total character. By his salvific work, the only-begotten Son liberates man from sin and death. First of all he blots out from human history the dominion of sin, which took root under the influence of the evil Spirit, beginning with Original Sin, and then he gives man the possibility of living in Sanctifying Grace. In the wake of his victory over sin, he also takes away the dominion of death, by his Resurrection beginning the process of the future resurrection of the body. Both are essential conditions of "eternal life", that is of man's definitive happiness in union with God; this means, for the saved, that in the eschatological perspective suffering is totally blotted out.Death, though it does bring relief from suffering in one sense, is also the triumph of suffering in another sense. It dissolves that unity which is proper to man in both soul and body, subjecting even man's immortal soul to a kind of suffering. It is not without reason that in the Book of Revelation, the souls of the blessed yearn for a return to embodiment.
As a result of Christ's salvific work, man exists on earth with the hope of eternal life and holiness. And even though the victory over sin and death achieved by Christ in his Cross and Resurrection does not abolish temporal suffering from human life, nor free from suffering the whole historical dimension of human existence, it nevertheless throws a new light upon this dimension and upon every suffering: the light of salvation. This is the light of the Gospel, that is, of the Good News. At the heart of this light is the truth expounded in the conversation with Nicodemus: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son"(31). This truth radically changes the picture of man's history and his earthly situation: in spite of the sin that took root in this history both as an original inheritance and as the "sin of the world" and as the sum of personal sins, God the Father has loved the only-begotten Son, that is, he loves him in a lasting way; and then in time, precisely through this all-surpassing love, he "gives" this Son, that he may strike at the very roots of human evil and thus draw close in a salvific way to the whole world of suffering in which man shares.Because of the Cross and Resurrection, we have hope. It is often forgotten that hope, along with faith and love, is one of the theological virtues. This is because hope is more than mere optimism. It is a recognition that victory has been definitively achieved, though we await its fulfillment. Hope transforms the world.
16. In his messianic activity in the midst of Israel, Christ drew increasingly closer to the world of human suffering. "He went about doing good"(32), and his actions concerned primarily those who were suffering and seeking help. He healed the sick, consoled the afflicted, fed the hungry, freed people from deafness, from blindness, from leprosy, from the devil and from various physical disabilities, three times he restored the dead to life. He was sensitive to every human suffering, whether of the body or of the soul. And at the same time he taught, and at the heart of his teaching there are the eight beatitudes, which are addressed to people tried by various sufferings in their temporal life. These are "the poor in spirit" and "the afflicted" and "those who hunger and thirst for justice" and those who are "persecuted for justice sake", when they insult them, persecute them and speak falsely every kind of evil against them for the sake of Christ...(33). Thus according to Matthew; Luke mentions explicitly those "who hunger now"(34).Even in his ministry of healing, which was about relieving suffering, Christ drew near to suffering. This drawing near took its ultimate shape on the cross, where he has been drawn into full identity with human suffering so that, paradoxically, suffering might be brought to an end.
At any rate, Christ drew close above all to the world of human suffering through the fact of having taken this suffering upon his very self. During his public activity, he experienced not only fatigue, homelessness, misunderstanding even on the part of those closest to him, but, more than anything, he became progressively more and more isolated and encircled by hostility and the preparations for putting him to death. Christ is aware of this, and often speaks to his disciples of the sufferings and death that await him: "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise"(35). Christ goes towards his Passion and death with full awareness of the mission that he has to fulfil precisely in this way. Precisely by means of this suffering he must bring it about "that man should not perish, but have eternal life". Precisely by means of his Cross he must strike at the roots of evil, planted in the history of man and in human souls. Precisely by means of his Cross he must accomplish the work of salvation. This work, in the plan of eternal Love, has a redemptive character. And therefore Christ severely reproves Peter when the latter wants to make him abandon the thoughts of suffering and of death on the Cross(36). And when, during his arrest in Gethsemane, the same Peter tries to defend him with the sword, Christ says, " Put your sword back into its place... But how then should the scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?(37)". And he also says, "Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?"(38). This response, like others that reappear in different points of the Gospel, shows how profoundly Christ was imbued by the thought that he had already expressed in the conversation with Nicodemus: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life"(39). Christ goes toward his own suffering, aware of its saving power; he goes forward in obedience to the Father, but primarily he is united to the Father in this love with which he has loved the world and man in the world. And for this reason Saint Paul will write of Christ: "He loved me and gave himself for me"(40)."Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?" This way of putting the question obviously recalls the Eucharistic sacrifice. Though in the Mass Christ does not suffer again, His suffering is the winepress through which His blood is given to us. Therefore, it is in the Eucharist that we are most able to unite our sufferings with those of the Paschal Victim.
17. The Scriptures had to be fulfilled. There were many messianic texts in the Old Testament which foreshadowed the sufferings of the future Anointed One of God. Among all these, particularly touching is the one which is commonly called the Fourth Song of the Suffering Servant, in the Book of Isaiah. The Prophet, who has rightly been called "the Fifth Evangelist", presents in this Song an image of the sufferings of the Servant with a realism as acute as if he were seeing them with his own eyes: the eyes of the body and of the spirit. In the light of the verses of Isaiah, the Passion of Christ becomes almost more expressive and touching than in the descriptions of the Evangelists themselves. Behold, the true Man of Sorrows presents himself before us: "He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all"(41). The Song of the Suffering Servant contains a description in which it is possible, in a certain sense, to identify the stages of Christ's Passion in their various details: the arrest, the humiliation, the blows, the spitting, the contempt for the prisoner, the unjust sentence, and then the scourging, the crowning with thorns and the mocking, the carrying of the Cross, the crucifixion and the agony."Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." These words present to us the inner essence of Christ's suffering. It was a suffering for. For whom? For what? The song itself answers. For our sakes the evil of suffering and death was taken up into the Trinity so that the Trinity might destroy sin, which is its root, and destroy that definitive suffering which ultimately results from sin. "Dying you destroyed our death," as the liturgy tells us.
Even more than this description of the Passion, what strikes us in the words of the Prophet is the depth of Christ's sacrifice. Behold, He, though innocent, takes upon himself the sufferings of all people, because he takes upon himself the sins of all. "The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all": all human sin in its breadth and depth becomes the true cause of the Redeemer's suffering. If the suffering "is measured" by the evil suffered, then the words of the Prophet enable us to understand the extent of this evil and suffering with which Christ burdened himself. It can be said that this is "substitutive" suffering; but above all it is "redemptive". The Man of Sorrows of that prophecy is truly that "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world"(42). In his suffering, sins are cancelled out precisely because he alone as the only-begotten Son could take them upon himself, accept them with that love for the Father which overcomes the evil of every sin; in a certain sense he annihilates this evil in the spiritual space of the relationship between God and humanity, and fills this space with good.In the Garden of Eden, a radical corruption was introduced into human nature. Christ's death and suffering on the Cross begins the cleansing of this corruption. But where the corruption was there is a space that must be filled. By his Resurrection, and in the Eucharist, Christ offers us his fullness to fill our emptiness. The suffering which seemed meaningless by definition is now full of the meaning of God's own divine life.
Here we touch upon the duality of nature of a single personal subject of redemptive suffering. He who by his Passion and death on the Cross brings about the Redemption is the only-begotten Son whom God "gave". And at the same time this Son who is consubstantial with the Father suffers as a man. His suffering has human dimensions; it also has unique in the history of humanity—a depth and intensity which, while being human, can also be an incomparable depth and intensity of suffering, insofar as the man who suffers is in person the only-begotten Son himself: " God from God". Therefore, only he—the only-begotten Son—is capable of embracing the measure of evil contained in the sin of man: in every sin and in "total" sin, according to the dimensions of the historical existence of humanity on earth.Christ, precisely because He is divine, participates in our human suffering even more than we do ourselves. And it is because of this that his suffering can encompass and overthrow the curse of Adam.
18. It can be said that the above considerations now brings us directly to Gethsemane and Golgotha, where the Song of the Suffering Servant, contained in the Book of Isaiah, was fulfilled. But before going there, let us read the next verses of the Song, which give a prophetic anticipation of the Passion at Gethsemane and Golgotha. The Suffering Servant—and this in its turn is essential for an analysis of Christ's Passion—takes on himself those sufferings which were spoken of, in a totally voluntary way: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth"(43). Christ suffers voluntarily and suffers innocently. With his suffering he accepts that question which—posed by people many times—has been expressed, in a certain sense, in a radical way by the Book of Job. Christ, however, not only carries with himself the same question (and this in an even more radical way, for he is not only a man like Job but the only-begotten Son of God), but he also carries the greatest possible answer to this question. One can say that this answer emerges from the very master of which the question is made up. Christ gives the answer to the question about suffering and the meaning of suffering not only by his teaching, that is by the Good News, but most of all by his own suffering, which is integrated with this teaching of the Good News in an organic and indissoluble way. And this is the final, definitive word of this teaching: "the word of the Cross", as Saint Paul one day will say(44).He who had done no violence had violence done to Him. And this was not a passive acceptance of suffering, but an active embrace of suffering for the "joy that was held out for Him." The embrace of suffering on the Cross is also Christ's embrace of us, in all our fallenness. So we must embrace him by embracing his suffering, by "taking up your cross."
This "word of the Cross" completes with a definitive reality the image of the ancient prophecy. Many episodes, many discourses during Christ's public teaching bear witness to the way in which from the beginning he accepts this suffering which is the will of the Father for the salvation of the world. However, the prayer in Gethsemane becomes a definitive point here. The words: "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt"(45), and later: "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done"(46), have a manifold eloquence. They prove the truth of that love which the only-begotten Son gives to the Father in his obedience. At the same time, they attest to the truth of his suffering. The words of that prayer of Christ in Gethsemane prove the truth of love through the truth of suffering. Christ's words confirm with all simplicity this human truth of suffering, to its very depths: suffering is the undergoing of evil before which man shudders. He says: let it pass from me", just as Christ says in Gethsemane.Christ in the Garden prays that his cup might pass from him, but it does not. At his Father's answer, Christ drinks from the cup of suffering, and in doing so the Second Adam reverses the path of the first Adam. He does not take against the Father's will, but receives whatever the Father gives him, even to death itself.
His words also attest to this unique and incomparable depth and intensity of suffering which only the man who is the only-begotten Son could experience; they attest to that depth and intensity which the prophetic words quoted above in their own way help us to understand. Not of course completely (for this we would have to penetrate the divine-human mystery of the subject), but at least they help us to understand that difference (and at the same time the similarity) which exists between every possible form of human suffering and the suffering of the God-man. Gethsemane is the place where precisely this suffering, in all the truth expressed by the Prophet concerning the evil experienced in it, is revealed as it were definitively before the eyes of Christ's soul. After the words in Gethsemane come the words uttered on Golgotha, words which bear witness to this depth—unique in the history of the world—of the evil of the suffering experienced. When Christ says: "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?", his words are not only an expression of that abandonment which many times found expression in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms and in particular in that Psalm 22  from which come the words quoted(47). One can say that these words on abandonment are born at the level of that inseparable union of the Son with the Father, and are born because the Father "laid on him the iniquity of us all"(48). They also foreshadow the words of Saint Paul: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin"(49). Together with this horrible weight, encompassing the "entire" evil of the turning away from God which is contained in sin, Christ, through the divine depth of his filial union with the Father, perceives in a humanly inexpressible way this suffering which is the separation, the rejection by the Father, the estrangement from God. But precisely through this suffering he accomplishes the Redemption, and can say as he breathes his last: "It is finished"(50).The Son's abandonment to suffering and death is the basis for our redemption. He does not merely serve as a legal substitute for us, but is completely identified with us in such a way that it can be said that He was "made sin" for our sake. This identification began at the Annunciation, when Mary conceived the Divine Word by the divine word delivered through Gabriel. "God became man so that man might become god," as Augustine, Athanasius, Cyril and the other ancient Fathers said. But also the Son was "made sin" so that we, who are sinners, might be made sons.
One can also say that the Scripture has been fulfilled, that these words of the Song of the Suffering Servant have been definitively accomplished: "it was the will of the Lord to bruise him"(51). Human suffering has reached its culmination in the Passion of Christ. And at the same time it has entered into a completely new dimension and a new order: it has been linked to love, to that love of which Christ spoke to Nicodemus, to that love which creates good, drawing it out by means of suffering, just as the supreme good of the Redemption of the world was drawn from the Cross of Christ, and from that Cross constantly takes its beginning. The Cross of Christ has become a source from which flow rivers of living water(52). In it we must also pose anew the question about the meaning of suffering, and read in it, to its very depths, the answer to this question.The question of suffering does not receive an answer in merely theological terms, explaining that suffering must be possible for free will to have meaning (which is true enough) but is answered by the suffering of God HimSelf in such a way that we can hold it before our eyes in the Cross. The cross, as St. Augustine said, is Christ opening his arms to the whole world.