Saturday, June 6, 2020

Late-modern American antinomianism

"as Luther wields the language, 'the law' is not coterminous with ethics or 'the gospel' with doctrine as something other than ethics; these supposed equivalencies were invented very recently, to accommodate late-modern America's antinomianism impulse by making it appear that ethical decisions cannot impact doctrinal faithfulness."

     Robert W. Jenson, letter to the Rt. Rev. _____ (an ELCA bishop), 20 September 2004, as reproduced here.  I have not yet been able to confirm (though I do not doubt) the authenticity or the accuracy of this reproduction.

"these spiritual contacts of the sacramental dispensation"

     "If Jesus says to [Mary] Magdalene, '"Do not hold on to me"' (Jn 20:17), this is not simply because she must not hold him back because he must go to the Father.  It is rather because the new state into which he has entered by the Resurrection does not allow for the same familiar relations that had been permitted before his death[, as at, for example, Lk 7:37 ff., and Jn 11:2 and 12:3]. . . . Already there can no longer be any question of rendering him the same [corporeal] offices of devotion, for his Body is in a new state that [however] has not yet been definitively consummated by the Session at the right hand of the Father [(et qui n’a pas encore reçu sa consécration définitive par la session auprès du Père)].  This is what the clause '"because I have not yet ascended to the Father"' signifies, i.e. that he has not yet taken complete possession of his celestial glory.  Is it to say that that one will be able to touch him after his ascent to the right hand of the [(montée auprès du)] Father?  Without a doubt.  In this sense the point is less the scene of Jn 20:27 (in which [such] contact takes on a different signification) than that of Jn 6:62 ff., in which the discourse on the Eucharist is associated with [(se clôture par)] a clear allusion to the Ascension and a significant opposition between the Spirit that gives life and the flesh which is useless.  From the rapprochement of these two texts it follows that, by the Ascension, the Body of Christ has taken full possession of the spiritual state that characterizes it as permeated by the Spirit [(qui le pénètre de l’Esprit)] and makes it possible for him to dispense [the Spirit], and under the form of the Eucharist above all.  Before Jesus was glorified, the Spirit could not be given (Jn 7:39).  This means to say that after his glorification by the Resurrection and return to the right hand of the [(auprés du)] Father, he will possess in his very Body the plenitude of the Spirit, whom he will be able to dispense by means of the sacraments.[1]  One sees this by the appearance that follows [(suit)] his ascent to the right hand of the [(sa montée auprès du)] Father, during which he gives to his disciples the Spirit who pardons sins (Jn 20:22 ff.).  It is doubtless to these spiritual contacts of the sacramental dispensation that John refers when he makes Jesus tell [Mary] Magdalene that she must not touch him for as long as he has not re-ascended to the Father; she will be able to do so anew [however] when he returns to her, as to all the faithful, under the form of his spiritualized Body that gives life.[2]

Pierre Benoit, O.P., "L'ascension," Revue biblique 56, no. 2 (avril 1949):  183-184 (161-203), italics mine.  Re. suit above, "John places the appearances of Jesus to the disciples (20:19 ff., 20:24 f.; 21) after his return to the Father (20:17)" (197).  Benoit then goes on to cite the "in heaven" of Mt 28:18 as well as 1 Cor 15:8, according to which Paul had an indubitably post-Ascension experience of the risen Christ every bit "as real and physical for him as for [the first witnesses]," in support of his contention that "there is no incompatibility between the glorious transfer of the body of Christ into the divine sphere and episodic manifestations of it on earth," since "for him as for them it is the Christ risen and already ascended to his Father who manifested himself by resubmitting to their senses the whole physical reality of his spiritualized body" (197-198).

[1]"In order to become the dispenser of th[e divine] life [in the intimacy of the Father and the Spirit from which the Word-become-flesh of course never himself ceased to live], he had to pass through death and conquer at the price of his blood the glory that he had always had in God (Jn 17:1-5).  It is only by the cross and the triumph that crowns it that Christ becomes the appointed dispenser of this divine life.  In order to send to his own the assistance of the Paraclete, he first had to go away in order to fetch him from the [(s’en aller pour le quérir auprès du)] Father (Jn 16:7, 14:26).  Then, having entered into his glory, he will be able to send him and even to return with him and the Father by a mysterious habitation in the heart[s] of his faithful (Jn 14:3, 18-23, 28; 16:16).  One will find an analogous exegesis of the Noli me tangere in St. Cyril of Alexandria (PG 74, col. 696)."
[2]"Note in the Eucharistic discourse the frequent expression, “‘the true Bread. . . . which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’” (Jn 6:32 ff., 50 ff., 58).  It is a question of the spiritual re-descent of Christ after the Ascension rather than of his first descent in the Incarnation (vv. 38, 42, 46)[, as closely compenetrating as those two descents are]."

Thursday, June 4, 2020

"the first cell of the new cosmos"

     "The whole of Pauline teaching is oriented to this corporeal resurrection of Christ as to one of its cardinal points.  In Christ, and in him alone for the moment, has already been effected the cosmic renewal that must characterize the eschatological age.  The risen body of Jesus is the first cell of the new cosmos.  In him the Spirit has already taken possession of matter, as he must do of all creation after the parousia, when Christ 'will recapitulate' definitively all things.  For as long as the present age continues, the bodies of other men do not yet participate in this triumph; they remain submitted to the law of death and corruption.  But his faithful are already united to his [body] by the mystical union of baptism and the eucharist; with him they have died and been raised.  What is for him a state physical and definitive is for them a state mystical and expectant [(mystique et qui attend son achèvement)] but no less real.  It is on these exceptionally concrete footings that the profoundly realistic moral and mystical theologies [(la morale et la mystique si réalistes)] of St. Paul are constructed.  If the bodies of Christians are already now in his eyes the 'temples of the Holy Spirit', if they are sanctified and purified right down to the level of [(jusque dans)] their physical passions, this is because they are united by means of the sacraments with the glorified body of their master.  They are his members and preparing to rejoin him in his celestial existence by a [corporeal] resurrection of their own, which will take place at the time of his parousia."

     Pierre Benoit, O.P., "L'ascension," Revue biblique 56, no. 2 (avril 1949):  181-182 (161-203).