Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rahner on Mt 27:52 ff.

"The heart of the earth has accepted and received the Son of God; and it is from a womb so consecrated, this womb of the 'hellish' depths of human existence, that the saved creature rises up.  Not just (not even temporarily) in the Son alone.  It is not that he alone descended and so rose again as victor because death could not hold him captive.  'Even now' he is not the firstborn among the dead in the sense that he is even now the only human being to have found the complete fulfillment of his whole human reality. . . . the Son of Man 'cannot' have risen alone.  What, we may ask, is really to be understood by his glorified bodily condition (if we take it seriously, and don't spiritualize it into another way of talking about his eternal 'communion with God') right up to the 'Last Day', if meanwhile it should persist all by itself--something which is precisely unthinkable for the bodily condition (though glorified)?  So when we find in Mt 27:52 s. that other bodies too, those of saints, rose up with him (indeed even 'appeared'--as he himself did--to show that the end of the ages has already come upon us), this is merely positive evidence from Scripture for what we would have expected anyway, if definitive salvation has already been unshakably founded, death conquered, and a man, for whom it is never good to be alone, has entered upon the fulfillment of his whole being.  Hence to try to set aside this testimony from Matthew as a 'mythological' intrusion, or to argue away its eschatological meaning with ingenious evasions--such as that it is merely a matter of a temporary resurrection or even of 'phantom bodies'--would not be in accord with the authoritative voice of Scripture.  It is a fact that by far the greater part of the Fathers and the theologians, right up to the present day, have firmly maintained the eschatological interpretation of the text as the only one possible from the exegetical point of view."

Karl Rahner, "The interpretation of the dogma of the Assumption," Theological investigations, vol. 1, God, Christ, Mary and grace, trans. Cornelius Ernst, O.P. (Baltimore:  Helicon Press, 1961 [1954]), 219-220 (215-227) = "Zum Sinn des Assumpta-Dogmas," Schriften zur Theologie, Bd. 1, 7. Aufl. (Einsiedeln:  Benziger Verlag, 1964 [1954]), 243-244 (239-252).  "salvation has already advanced so far historically that since the Resurrection it is completely 'normal' (which is not to say 'general') that there should be men in whom sin and death have already been definitively overcome.  Christ's victorious descent into the kingdom of death is precisely not just an event belonging to his private existence, but a saving Event, one which affects the dead. . . .  And his entry into the eternal glory even of his body does not open up an 'empty space', but institutes a bodily community of the redeemed:  however far from being complete the number of the brethren may be, and however little we may be able, with a single exception, to call them by name as those who have been redeemed even in their bodies" (226 = 251, italics mine).

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