Friday, June 15, 2012

GLORIOUS BODY

BYZANTINE ICON - THE RESURRECTION

There are aspects of our Catholic Faith that we sometimes set aside as too complex to trouble ourselves with, these vary from person to person, but might include the precise meaning of the Kingdom of God,  the nature of Glorified Bodies etc. With the help of Pope Benedict XVI, we intend to examine the latter, relying on the Holy Father's  excellent Book Jesus of Nazareth, Part II HOLY WEEK.

There is no doubt that there are questions to be asked about the phenomenon of the appearances of the Resurrected Christ:

How is it that repeatedly He is at first, not recognised ?That He is taken for some ordinary person, a gardener, a traveller, a bystander on the shore? Again , how is it that He enters instantly into locked rooms? How is it that He eats normally, and even asks for food? And how is it that He appears and the disappears, yet His risen Body is quite real : eating, wounded  ? Yes, we are a little lazy perhaps and prefer not to think it through, not to draw the various threads together from Sacred Scripture . It is a tribute to the intellect and responsibility of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI that he does not shrink from the task, but rather for our benefit applies himself to it.

He begins by considering in principle, what is involved : a "theophany"that is an action of God in the presence of men. At p 268 he says "What is radically new about the "theophany"of the Risen Lord is that Jesus is truly man : He suffered and died as a man and now lives anew in the dimension of the Living God/ He appears now as true man and yet as coming from God - as being God Himself."

He then defines the outlines of this wondrous circumstance. Jesus Risen is not the same type of body as Jesus before death : death itself can never again affect His risen body. Again His Presence is not some mystical phenomenon.Nor is it simply some interior event. The meetings with Him are intensely real events - He remains embodied , yet in a new way. Saint Luke the "dear and glorious physician" is at pains to emphasise the real physicality of the Risen Lord Who has "flesh and bones"( Lk 24 : 36- 43), rather Saint Luke records the words, but it is Jesus Himself that makes the point to the Disciples who were thinking they beheld a Spirit. So, we have it from the Lord's own Mouth and we know that He wants us to get it right - to Him it is an important reality.

His appearance is in some way different - we are not told how . But it is a recurring theme first He s not recognised , then "They recognised Him in the breaking of the bread"or "It is the Lord!"recognition by some varying cause. And the capabilities of His Risen Body are different, it can pass through physical obstacle e.g.walls, it can appear and disappear  and move at His Will . He is clearly in a new order of reality, yet really physical.

The Holy Father spells it out for us at p 269: "Jesus, however,does not come from the realm of the dead, which He has definitively left behind: on the contrary, he comes from the realm of pure life, from God; He comes as the One Who is truly alive, Who is Himself, the Source of life."

He goes on to analyse the common elements in a number of the Risen Jesus' appearances among His disciples : He appears, speaks with them and shares a meal with them - He thus proves to them that He is truly alive! But the Holy Father digs deeper  to reveal all that Saint Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, intends. At Acts 1 3:4 we read :"For forty days He had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When He had been at table with them, He had told them not to leave Jerusalem." 
THE RISEN LORD WITH TE DISCIPLES
The Holy Father tells us that .."...the word used by Luke - synalizomenos   - is of great significance "though lost in most translations. He continues "Literally translated , it means "eating salt with them ". Luke must have chosen this word quite deliberately. Yet what is it supposed to mean? In the Old Testament, the shared enjoyment of bread and salt, or salt alone, served to establish lasting covenants( cf. Num 18:19; 2Chron 13:5; cf Hauck,TDNT 1, p.228). Salt is regarded as a guarantee of durability.It is a remedy against putrefaction, against the corruption that pertains to the nature of death. To eat is always to keep death at bay- it is a way of preserving life. The "eating of salt"by Jesus after the Resurrection, which we therefore encounter as a sign of new and everlasting life, points to the Risen Lord's new banquet with His followers. It is a covenant-event and in this sense it has an inner association with the Last Supper, when the Lord established the New Covenant. So the mysterious cipher of eating salt expresses an inner bond between the meal on the eve of Jesus' Passion and the Risen Lord's new table fellowship : He gives Himself to His followers as food and thus makes them sharers in His Life, in life itself." 


The Holy Father goes on to summarise : 

"...the encounters with the Risen Lord are not the same as mystical experiences, in which the human spirit is momentarily drawn aloft out of itself and perceives the realm of the Divine and Eternal, only to return then to the normal horizon of its existence. Mystical experience is a temporary removal of the soul's spatial and cognitive limitations. But it is not an encounter with a person coming toward me from without. Saint Paul clearly distinguished his mystical experiences, such as his elevation to the third heaven described in 2 Corinthians 12: 1-4 , from his encounter with the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus, which was a historical event - an encounter with a Living Person."

The Holy Father shows that essentially, something beyond all human experience has happened in the Resurrection : a man did not simply come back to life on that occasion. No, an entirely  new way of being human was opened to all of us  ( cf Christ "the first born from the Dead"( Rev 1: 5) "opening up a dimension that affects us all, creating for all of us a new space of life , a new space of being in union with  God. 
Col . 1: 18) 

                                                 

No comments: