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Catholic Northwest Progress
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August 24, 1962     Catholic Northwest Progress
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August 24, 1962
 

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Q Fr;clay, 'uq. 24, 1962 THE PROCRESS--9 A Christian's Reaction to Death Compared with these the Christian is much more honest. He does not hide from reality: mankind is mortally sick, moving toward total Death, physical, spiritual, eternal. Isaia's image is forceful: . . . the nether world enlarges its throat and opens its mouth without limit; down go their nobility and their masses, their throngs and their revelry. What is more. Death anticipates man's arrival, asserts its dominion over him with illness, ignorance, infecting him with selfishness. All this the Christian admits. And more! he does not shirk his responsibility for Death's supremacy. Mankind introduced his Master into this world. Note how different the Juden-Chris- tian story of man's loss of immortality is from those we have heard. In Eden God did not deny man access to the tree of life; He did not prevent him by. deceit from partaking of its fruit. God is not jealous of his im- mortality. He forbade man only to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a tree variously interpreted. It might be the tree of moral autonomy, symbolic of that ability to determine what is good or bad for oneself independently of God, thus sym- bolic of independence from God. And of course, in- dependent from God means usurpation of divine status! An attempted displacement in the hierarchy of being bound to have chaotic effect! Or it might symbolize the sexual act. In other words, man chose to be like God, a creator, a procreator and thus rejected personal immortality for qtmsi- immortality through his seed. The point, is, how- ever, that man did the choosing, that man cut him- self off from life and not God. The Judeo-Christian tradition is not afraid to utter the word "sin" and declare man a sinner. Another tradition makes the same honest accu- sation in different terms. The Hebrew believed in his primitive way that the world was surrounded by chaotic, hostile waters; the rains above, the surging ocean, the waters below whence springs and rivers come. Man lived within a bubble and only God's benign activity kept the bubble intact, clear, orderly within. In the story of Noah we are told that it is only when men reject their Preserver, east out their Sustainer by rebellion, that the bubble collapses and chaos inundates the earth--a point proven as recently as 1914 and 1939. Acknowledging guilt, however, does not deny one the luxury of anguish. The Christian is honest enough not to stifle anguish over this state of affairs by recourse to flattering myth or sublimating acti- vity or tragic posturing--My head is bloody but un- bent! No. Man, realizing his containment, realizing, too, his inability to break out and set things fight, has no recourse but to anguish. He must cry out with complete abandon and sincere agony: "Nfisor- able man that I am, who is there to rescue me out of this mortal body?" There Is A Paradox But here is a paradox. In spite of this pessimism, the Christian has become an extreme optimist and a happy and zealous man. Why? Simply because of a Person and an event. Jesus Christ brings deliver- anee from Death and the sin that begets Death, and this not by way of myth or philosophy but by his historical resurrection from the grave. He was one man over whom Death-Sin were unable to obtain complete and lasting control. And the reason: He had stupendous power, He had tha divine ingredient which alone could conquer Death and Sin. All other revutlons agairm man's condition must fall back upon themselves for their trust is human and im- paired. Only the Christian revolution has a divine potential, a divine thrust. And Christ's Victory is not isolated nor personal. He makes his Victory ours. In the second part of Isaia the exiled People of Israel are described as the Suffering Servant of God, somehow bringing salvation to mankind by their very suffering;, in the New Testament this Suffering Servant has become .gesus. In the Book of Daniel, the People of Israel are described as a Son of Man--human--ascending to God to receive dominion over all nations; in the New Testament this Son of Man has become Jesus. In the same Book of Daniel, the chosen People of Israel are described as a great stone which will one day smash all oppressors and grow then into a great mountain; in the New Testament that stone has become Jesus, the cornerstone of a spiritual house of riving stones. Christ, The Focal Point In other words, the old Israel is concentrated in Christ and in like manner the new and universal Israel, the Church, is concentrated in him and radi- ates from him like some great sunburst. Christ is the focal point of all history. He draws Israel and all humanity in upon himself in order that Israel and all humanity might share in his accomplish- merit in its fruits. IIIIlll There are two ways of viewing Christ's vic- torious confrontation of humanity's oppressors. He might be seen as passive before them, submissive to them in order to obtain authentic identification with man and his mortal condition. As Paul expresses it: "For the divine nature was his from the first; yet he did not think to snatch at equality with God, but made himself nothing, assuming the nature of a slave. Bearing the human likeness, revealed in human shape, he humbled himself, and in obedi- ence accepted even death--death on a cross." He let himself be fully immersed in our lot and then, authentic identification established, he made his break through on Easter morning. And Christ's breakthrough is ours, for Christ is divine and time- less. His action, his event, his passage from Death to Life, though historically pin-pointed, partakes of hi,, timeless nature, and all men can be present at it. And not only present. They can share in it, make the passage with Christ by means of the Sacraments. This is why the Sacraments must form the basis oil all Christian spirituarity. The waters in Baptism symbolize Christ, they symbolize His death, they symbolize the tomb. The candidate, plunged into them, is truly plunged into Christ, plunged into His death, and coming up from them, comes up with Christ from the tomb a resurrected man on the way to total resurrection from his ills. Red Union W'k Oudst The Eucharist is to be seen in the same light. Each Mass makes one a witness and participant in the death and resurrection of Jesus and this soli- darity with him is most tangibly had in Communion. Contact is had  the Body of Christ. Real and not merely metaphorical union with Christ and his Spirit is strengthened. The individual Christian be- oomes more and more an extension of Christ and the community of 'Christians constitutes his growing Mystical Body. Whatever the resurrected Christ has, passes to the Chrtian by virtue of his union with him. The Christian is now a Son of God in a real sense. We can call God "Abba", utilizing that same familiar diminutive Christ used. We have parresia (pan rema), that intimate quality by which we can speak spontaneously to God--no formality, no propriety; we have a fight to the familiarity of a child with its paxem. We have prosagoge, access, a thing once limited to the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, but now that the Veil has been .rent, all Christians can mingle feadessly igflhe Holy of Hofies. We have the Holy Spirit, a ne  1 Law, who not only directs us but assists us in the fulfillment of his directives--The Spirit who gives us a potential for good which renders the minimum standards of all other norms, including the Ten Commandments, obsolete! For now in our relationship with God we have the power to rive on a level of love and anti- eipation and no longer on a level of compulsion and frustration. 'Power And Glory" There are so many other vital elements that flow into us through our participation in Christ and his resurrection. Cardinal Newman liked to dwell on the aspect of power and glory. In the Scripture doxa, glory, denotes God's presence visibly manifest, his radiant goodness and truth, his radiant nature. The glory of the Lord, for instance, appeared over the Tent; the glory of the Lord shone 'round the shep- herds. Christ possesses this doxa. We saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father's only Son. It is toward the complete revelation of this divine glory that Jesus moves through John's Gospel. "I have glorified thee on earth by completing the work which thou gavest me to do; and now, Father, glorify me in thine own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world began. Father, the hour has come. Glorify thy son." By union with Christ the Christian shares somehow in this doxa. ?All that is mine is thine, and what is thine is mine and through them has my glory shone. The glory which thou gavest me I have given to them." In the Scripture the word dynamis, power, often has a technical sense. It denotes divine power; it is by his dynamis, his power, that God effects re- demption. The power of the Most High over- shadowed Mary. Jesus was led by the power of the Sp/rit into the desert or into Galilee. Jesus, o course, possesses this divine power . . . "Jesus, aware that power had gone out of him, turned round in the crowd and asked, 'Who touched me?' . . . everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him, because power went out from him and cured them all." Again, by union with the resurrected Christ this power somehow became the Christian's own power, as Paul indicates: "I pray that your inward eyes may be illumined, so that you may know what is the hope to which he calls yon . . . what the wealth and glory . . . and how vast the resources of his power open to us who trust in him. They are measured by his strength and the might which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the d" We mentioned that Christ's confrontation with Death-Sin might be viewed as passive until Resur- rection morning: It can also be viewed as bel- ligerent, dynamic from the very start! and St. Matthew's Gospel prefers this approach. Until Christ Death and Evil had been supreme, according to Matthew, taut Christ appears on the scene, a con- fident contestant; the forces of Death sensed some- tiring unique about this man and their anxiety is betrayed in the outcry of the demons: "Let us be. What have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Hast thou come to destroy us?" Against the back- ground of a :quotation from Isaia--"The pcople Who sat in darkness have seen a great light; and:u[aou those who sat in the region, the shadow of death, a light has arisen"--Jesus steps forth in Matthew's Gospel shouting: "the Reign of God is at hand," and progressively pushes back Evil on every front. The Fever Left Her There is a definite progression in Matthew's lineup of miracles. A leper came up to Him--If you will, Lord, .you can cure: me-lI will be cured,.A Roman captain came up--My servant is lying sick-- (Continued on Page 16) J