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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook: The Love of God and the Necessity of the Death of Christ 
7th-Dec-2010 10:56 pm
Masaccio's Holy Trinity
An idea for future development: I'm reading chs. 9-10 in Ratzinger's Jesus of Nazareth right now in preparation for class tomorrow. In ch. 9, he's talking about the texts of Peter's confession of Jesus as Messiah/Christ and the Transfiguration, and the connected texts in the gospels about Jesus' prediction of the Passion, with Ratzinger mentioning the connection of the confession to the prediction, and the necessity of the Passion in Jesus's language.

The question comes up as to whether the crucifixion was really necessary. Isn't the grand miracle the Incarnation itself, the Word/Logos becoming flesh and dwelling among us? Was the crucifixion, strictly speaking, necessary? Or could not redemption have happened in some less violent way, despite the symbolic development of crucifixion/sacrifice themes that Christians would later develop from the circumstances of Jesus's death?

It strikes me that interesting connections might be made between the theology of death, Christology, and Trinitarian theology by exploring the notion as to whether the death of Christ was (again, speaking strictly) necessary as part of redemption or as part of bringing humanity/creation into the life of God because everything had to be given in the Incarnation. As part of that kenosis, that self-emptying, that the Word went through in order to enter into the finite universe in the time and space of a human life, perhaps the further giving of a sacrificial death was necessary as part of the complete or utter self-giving of the Logos. In Trinitarian theology, we speak of the love that is God's triune existence as being an existence of these three infinite Persons in perichoresis, a Greek word that perhaps best translates as "interpenetration." I try to get students to imagine this, however weakly we humans can, when we talk about God existing as Love Itself: the total and utter interpenetration of Persons – beyond any conversation, any sexual intercourse, even any telepathy we could imagine – the complete and utter knowing and possession of one another, an intimacy that is infinite in scope and holding nothing back.

If we are to be drawn into the life of God through Christ's Incarnation and through his human existence joining ourselves to the Holy Spirit, then perhaps part of extending that perichoresis to humanity, part of being entirely open to us in his humanity, is to give his life in sacrifice. In human story, in human existence, that is one of the ultimate acts of love for another: to freely offer the whole of our human existence in such a final way. (Or usually final way, given what Christ was about to do in the Resurrection.) Certainly lots of these thoughts are always bouncing around in any discussion of the crucifixion, or the love of God, or of sacrifice, but I'm not sure that I've ever put them together this way, or made the connection to joining into the Life of the Trinity in perichoresis, and so I'm thinking that there might be something to work on, here.
8th-Dec-2010 05:11 am (UTC)
Good thoughts.

I just happened to read this little essay from Catholic Answers last week, which speaks to this: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2004/0402fea1.asp

Ultimately, I think one has to think of it in terms of love and a complete self emptying, as you say. It sure is the mystery of mysteries, as is suffering itself.
11th-Dec-2010 04:41 am (UTC)
Finally had time to sit down with that and read through it: thanks for sharing the link. There's some direct clarity there that beats some of what I had my students read in that direction this semester, I think, although its brevity necessitates skimming over some serious complexities, too. The inevitable trade-off.

Tying in suffering itself might be a key point, too, if I work on developing this: I wonder whether suffering is intrinsic to the human condition in its lack of communion, for example, or in its not-yet-fully-redeemed capacity for communion.

Rich Mullins said something that I've been thinking a lot about in the last month, which may be analogous: that friendship was not a cure for loneliness, and if we tried to make it such, that we taxed friendship too far. Instead, friendship and loneliness were both inherent to our social capacities as they stand (my "theological" paraphrasing for his more elegant delivery), but that's got me thinking along these lines....
11th-Dec-2010 02:53 pm (UTC) - friendship and loneliness
That is an interesting thought. I would think friendship a partial cure. I mean it does help, but it never quite gets you there. There is always a part of yourself that is left alone, due to perhaps as you say our not-yet-fully-redeemed capacity of communion.

For example, I have what I think is a great marriage, but there are parts of me that are not recognized in that, and I am sure my wife has aspects of herself that she feels I fail to see. And that makes us feel ultimately a bit alone.

Perhaps that is one more reason why our relationship with the Lord is so important, for as St. Peter says Lord, you know that I love you, you know everything. We want to be known. It is part of what love is.
12th-Dec-2010 05:11 am (UTC) - Re: friendship and loneliness
Boom. That was a fabulous use of Scripture. I wish my journal were quite a bit more widely read: that deserves to enter into the Tradition!
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