We anxiously await the coming of our bridegroom to bring us home, just as Jesus promises us in the Gospel
Throughout the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church, people have been trying to hold firm to the truth of Jesus Christ and create an authentic Christology free from heresy and contradictory statements.
This Christology has evolved through the public ministries of Jesus, the epistles of Paul, the Church Fathers, and various Saints who used their writings to combat the heresies of their time and to clarify an authentic view for someone striving to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
In this article, I intend to express my own personal Christology using the writings of three theologians and my own experience not only as a Catholic but as a full-time minister in His Church.
I want to begin with the Liturgy. Everytime we go to Mass, we encounter Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. If we are striving to know someone, it is best to begin where we meet them in a physical reality.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a book entitled The Spirit of the Liturgy. In the first chapter, he uses the analogy of play to understand the Mass.
“Play takes us out of the world of daily goals and their pressures and into a sphere free of purpose and achievement, releasing us for a time from all the burdens of our daily world of work…Liturgy would be a kind of anticipation, a rehearsal, a prelude for the life to come, for eternal life, which Saint Augustine describes, by contrast with life in this world, as a fabric woven, no longer of exigency and need, but of the freedom of generosity and gift.”
When understanding Christology, it is relevant to look at the expected outcome Jesus had for his public ministry. By sending his only Son into the world, God wanted to ensure his people would be free from the burden of original sin, a portal to return to him. When Jesus offered himself for us and instituted the Eucharist just a day before, He fulfilled this desire of God.
Jesus’ whole public ministry was aimed at preparing God’s people for his crucifixion and recognizing the presence of God here today. The Liturgy is where we freely come to plead for the mercy of God through the unified sacrifice of his Son over and over. Jesus’ very nature is sacrificial, a free-willed offering of himself for us.
This is why it is so important for us to recognize and hold true his complete humanity and his complete divinity. The Liturgy is where we find Jesus’ humanity and divinity. We hear his message of truth in the scriptures but also his divine power to be present at every Mass offered around the world.
So when Cardinal Ratzinger says “but of the freedom of generosity and gift” we must realize this deals directly with the nature of who Jesus is and why he did what he did. This generous gift of himself allows us to experience on a micro level what we are to expect when we encounter Jesus and the perfect love of God in Heaven.
I think Cardinal Ratzinger encompasses the desire of Jesus through his public ministry perfect with his play analogy. Jesus continuously reminded us to not fear and not to let our hearts be troubled because he is going to save us, as long as we walk by faith. When prepared properly to attend Holy Mass, we dispose of our anxieties and struggles on the altar as a part of the mystical body Christ established. His continual sacrifice of himself is the unifying piece that brings us all together.
I find great comfort and a certain connection with the Christology of Saint Bonaventure. Being educated in high school by Franciscans, I saw the emphasis they put on their ministry of a Christ that is alive. The human nature of Christ and his actions play a key role in how they approach ministry.
As I wrote in my assignment before, Oakes brings up four characteristics of Franciscan thought that are echoed through Bonaventure’s writing.
1.) Its clear relation to biblical imagery 2.) The centrality of Christ 3.) The emphasis on the humanity of Christ 4.) The emphasis on God as the highest good.
My favorite area to teach is always the parallel between Old and New Testament, the clear foundation in the Scriptures for my moral actions and faith, especially in the liturgy. I often say you cannot consider yourself a truly well-catechized Catholic if you have no concept of Old Testament and Jewish imagery because it is the root of our connection to the chosen people of God.
"Scripture being in essence the place to find the truth of human nature, divine nature, and natural law." (St. Bonaventure)
For me, I cannot express my faith without explaining the revealed truth of natural and divine law. The second characteristic is extremely important to my spirituality, being the centralization of Christ.
The Holy Mass is the pinnacle of the faith, regardless of how good of a person we are or how intellectually we understand the philosophical concepts of the faith and God, everything culminates in Jesus. Just how the Old Testament culminates in Jesus.
St. Bonaventure famously defends my beliefs when he says “To know much and taste nothing — of what use is that?
The emphasis on the humanity of Christ is the third Franciscan characteristic found in Bonaventure’s teaching. Coming to Jesus to get to the Father is an achievable reality for me when I meditate on the humanity. Jesus laughed, cried, wept, hungered, thirst, and more just like us. Jesus truly came in the fullness of nature to us. He held back nothing to suffer and sympathize with us to ultimately make the point of his message completely attainable by any human because he showed us it can be. He fought emotions and sacrificed; so can we.
Bonaventure speaks to this when he says:
“For as a human being, Christ has something in common with all creatures. With the stone he shares existence; with plants he shares life; with animals he shares sensation; and with the angels he shares intelligence. Therefore, all things are said to be transformed in Christ since–in his human nature–he embraces something of every creature in himself when he is transfigured.”
Lastly, Bonaventure culminates the fourth characteristic of Franciscan thinking in the emphasis on God as the highest good. God remains the only perfection that we could one day have the privilege of encountering. God as the highest good is a humility check for Catholics, no matter how good we are because we attend Mass, pray the Rosary, and volunteer at the food bank, does not make us anywhere near the good of God. We will ultimately always be imperfect sinful creatures in nature and in practice. But because God is the perfect good, even when we die of this world, and our spirit continues, God gives us yet another opportunity in Purgatory to cleanse ourselves enough to see face to face the ultimate good.
The agape love of God continuously fills me with an unsated joy that makes me strive more and more to do what I can in order to bring my soul and the soul of others to it. When you take these points of Saint Bonaventure and relate them to Christology, you see a roadmap on getting people to understand the importance of the humanity and divinity of Christ. The nature of Christ currently dwelling in our midst today, similar to the Liturgy, can fill someone with a sense of peace and joy.
When you can remove the chaos and confusion and anxiety of life, it will allow you to focus on bettering yourself and living a life in accordance with the will of God.
When expressing my understanding and personal Christology, I have to always return to the Carmelites. A theme in all great Carmelite writings is “seeking the interior face of Christ.” Essentially saying, we can’t properly minister to others the truth of Christ if we haven’t found Christ in ourselves and maintained that reality.
Saint John of the Cross wrote a poem entitled The Living Flame of Love.
The first stanza reads:
“O living flame of love that tenderly woulds my soul in its deepest center! Since now you are not oppressive, now consummate if it be your will: tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!”
O living flame of love that tenderly wounds my soul, our soul feels so overwhelmed and flooded by the intimate union we have with God which is made possible through the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, flooded by living water.
“Let anyone who thirst come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as scriptures says, rivers of flowing water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37–38)
Jesus desires a thirsty soul to come to him, his very nature is to be nurturing, a living food and drink. A soul who grasps the concept of Jesus’ nature will be almost to the point of being wounded because it will burst at the seams with living water. The next line shows two things to me: Jesus’ desire for intimacy and the reality of the fact we are all brides waiting to see him in his full glory.
Consummation of a marriage is the most intimate part of the union of two souls. This is the nature Christ desires to have with us.
Christ holds us over with the Eucharist, but the soul will not feel complete consummation until it is reunited in the presence of God. We anxiously await the coming of our bridegroom to bring us home, just as Jesus promises us in the Gospel. The intimacy of the marriage analogy puts into perspective the nature Christ desires to have with us and a nature we need to understand and strive for if we hope to feel the completion of what we miss on earth.
Through the studying of Cardinal Ratzinger, Saint Bonaventure, and Saint John of the Cross, I have been able to formulate a complete understanding of the nature of Christ and authentically relate the Christology I hold in my soul and desire to share with others. A Christology that Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine, that he seeks to pull us away from the anxieties of this world and into a relationship more intimate than a marriage. To be engulfed in the perfect love that was made manifest through the Incarnation.