Thursday, February 25, 2010

We go to prepare a place for you

"the idea of Jesus being bodily in heaven in complete bodily solitariness is probably not a coherent conception, certainly not fitting; and not present in Scripture.  There is no trace in Scripture of any idea that the Old Testament figures would wait until the last days, along with St. Paul and the other saints, before being taken up into heaven and the very presence of God, there to have the kind of immediacy to the presence of God portrayed in the book of Revelation 21-22--even though before Christ's own Resurrection, the Jewish conception seems to have been only of some kind of earthly paradise.  It is the days of Jesus' ministry with the completion of that ministry in the Passion and the Resurrrection that prophets and kings are portrayed as waiting for (Lk 10:23-4; 1 Pet 1:10ff; Heb 11:39-40) so that those that went before might enter into their inheritance with the Church, Jesus 'going (ahead) to prepare a place for you,' in his 'Father's house' where 'there are many abiding-places.'  In the Eastern Church, amongst the Old Testament figures, the Patriarchs and prophets have always been thought of as amongst the saints as ones who could pray for us, along with the saints, and not only John the Baptist, Mary's spouse Joseph, Joachim and Anne, as in the modern Western rite liturgies.  And, in the iconography of Christ's descent into Hades, he has long been portrayed as triumphantly leading a repentant Adam and Eve as well as a troop of others along with the saintly dead out of Sheol or Hades into heaven with him.
"Christ's bodily ascension to glory gives heaven a bodily aspect making it difficult to suppose that he did not take more than one to be present with him bodily in heaven in the interval before his second coming--for mankind, two does not constitute a complete community."

David Braine, "The Virgin Mary in the Christian faith:  the development of the Church's teaching on the Virgin Mary in modern perspective," Nova et vetera: the English edition of the international theological journal 7, no. 4 (Fall 2009):  924, 927 (877-940).  Nonetheless, the Assumption proper remains "a special privilege of the Virgin Mary," and has "a rationale and role which removes it from any close analogy to the assumptions of Enoch, Moses, and Elijah in earlier Jewish thinking, each thought of as already bodily in paradise, even before the Resurrection, and perhaps also of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob along with them according to the words of Jesus, or even of the saints or holy ones who were raised up and seen in Jerusalem, of whom St. Matthew speaks" (923).

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