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).

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).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"One by one they were all becoming shades"

"A few lights taps on the pane made him turn to the window.  It had begun to snow again.  He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight.  The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward.  Yes, the newspapers were right:  snow was general all over Ireland.  It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling onto the dark mutinous Shannon waves.  It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried.  It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns.  His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

James Joyce, "The Dead," Dubliners (Dubliners:  text, criticism, and notes, ed. Robert Scholes & A. Walton Litz, Viking critical library (New York, NY:  The Viking Press, 1969), 223-224).