Just us--and the Resurrection - Philip McShane - 15 April 2002

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Part of the job of writing in this forum-which I don't do often enough-is trying to put words on fleeting experiences. So here goes.

I had a sense of understanding the resurrection more clearly this Easter. For many years I have been aware of how important it is to go through the great cycle of feasts with their texts, and to go deeper and deeper in one's contemplation of the mysteries, to take part in the liturgies and to hear the preaching. Things come into new light, connections are reaffirmed and deepened. This is part of the way that experience opens out in the presence of a tradition (see my reflections on the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus).

This year I was listening to my Dominican brother Alan White talking about transparency; he was commenting on the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and on the fact that we do not know anything about them, but only what they announced to the apostles. We do know the apostles' names (more or less) but it is the message they announce, not themselves. (Here I am reminded of the difference, according to Luce Irigaray, between angels and devils: the angel is transparent, is the conduit for a message. The devil presents himself, is opaque, is not a sign of anything other than himself.) Paul does talk about himself, but in function of the message: it is not Paul or Apollos who is important, but Christ, whom they preach.

Christ himself is transparent: "Philip, have you been with me so long and you still do not know me? To see me is to see the Father." (Jn) Also (in paraphrase): I do/say only what the Father gives me to do/say (Jn). Balthasar talks about this as a complete identification of Jesus with his role (cf. Theodrama, vol. , p. ).

Now, how does all this clarify for me this year the resurrection? It is because with transparency we are not in the realm of the material as object, but of the material as sign through which and in which the Father is perceived: "No one has seen the Father. It is the only Son, who is nearest the Father's heart, who has made him known." (Jn 1, 18). So the tendency to focus on material marvels is overcome. Christ, who makes known the Father, disappears, and now there is only us. It is the two disciples who now announce to the apostles, not Christ himself. They are transparent to the one who is transparent to the Father. "From this moment you have seen him and you know him" (Jn) What is this moment? It is the moment (in Barthélemy's interpretation) when Christ is revealed as servant: in that, the Father is revealed. So, too, for us: when we serve, then it is not we who are in evidence, not we who are proclaimed, but the fundamental structure of life is revealed and the Father is shown. So there is something here about the disappearance of Jesus and about the disappearance of ourselves, and about God being all in all.

Now, what is it that is "clarifying" as I said? It has to do with the disappearance of a too material view of Christ--as is favoured by the extraordinary grip that artistic images have on us: there are so many depictions of Christ emerging victorious from the tomb, rising in light while the guards are thrown down. But the tradition never claims that the guards are witnesses to the resurrection. The clarifying thing has to do with the difference from the Transfiguration, where Peter, James and John in the end "see no-one, only Jesus" ( ). Now we, after the resurrection, see no-one, only each other. After the event of Jesus, the other, the neighbour and our own showing ourselves to be neighbour to those in need (the good Samaritan) is now what shows the Father, right here and now--and this is our path to the Father. So there is just us and how we are and what we do. Living in the full depth of things is to live in the path of service opened up by Jesus: doing the Truth is the Way our Life both comes from the Father and goes to the Father.

Finally, here, I am reminded of an exchange between Donagh O'Shea OP and Willigis Jaeger OSB in a Zen retreat: Donagh was meditating a lot and went to Willigis with his problem: "I don't seem to be getting anywhere", said Donagh. "There is nowhere to go" was the reply.

So, here we are... for the moment.

-- Anonymous, April 15, 2002


Is Donagh still sitting, or has he decided to go somewhere? Philip, I have been rereading and trying to understand your reflection. There is so much use of the word 'transparency' at present I find it difficult to apply it to people, as I find them anything but transparent. I prefer the word conduit. I can identify with being a conduit through which Jesus works, though I know I'm not an angel,- ask my husband.

Your final sentence" So there is just us and how we are and what we do. Living in the full debth of things is to live in the path of service opened up by Jesus". My difficulty with this is the 'how'. Am I taking the easy way out if I trust that the Lord works through me ,and I go along enjoying life?.Can we seperate the Kingdom of God from the person of Jesus?

In his encyclical' Redemptoris Missio' John Paul 11 writes: "The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine or a program subject to free interpretation, but is before all else a person with a face and a name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisable God.If the Kingdom is seperated from Jesus, it is no longer the Kingdom of God which is revealed. The result is a distortion of the meaning of the Kingdom, which runs the risk of being transformed into a purely human or ideological goal, and a distortion of the identity of Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom everything must one day be subjected."

My commitment is to the person of Jesus, to follow him.I know that this leads ultimately to the Cross,it is what I have been called to, the way that I must go, I am convinced of this. What it entails for me personnally, I don't know, but my faith and trust is in him, Jesus of Nazareth ,nothing will ever change that. Do I sound like St. Peter??/


-- Anonymous, April 21, 2002

Rita, I'll try and answer your questions and respond to what I hear from you.

First of all about Donagh: Yes he is still sitting! And he said that the reply of Willigis was of more help to him than if Willigis had talked for half an hour. Sometimes a reply just "hits the spot". It works for us. That was certainly the case here for Donagh. And that was what Willigis was aiming at: what would help Donagh to see further than the block he was stuck in at the time.

About trying to understand my reflection: I think that most of it is straightforward for me (not necessarily easy to understand!) except for one phrase: "we are not in the realm of the material as object, but of the material as sign". It is not my usual language ad I am a bit suspicious of it--and was when I wrote it. On rereading it, it seems all right. By "the material as object" I mean that our gaze stops there on the thing, seeing it in its limitation, just as a material thing that is not any other thing. By "material as sign" I mean that it points beyond itself in some way (like a signpost). I think that what Balthasar has to say about the person of Christ, about his body as showing God is relevant here. Particular things, people, events open out into the great reality. We find the great reality *in* things, people, events...

You write: "My difficulty with this is the 'how'." I think the answer to this is in the way in which the path of life opens up in the path of prayer. I think it has to do with trying to do God's will. I think it is right to "trust that the Lord acts through" you: Jesus says: "Make your home in me, as I make mine in you."

As to going "along enjoying life": if we keep on taking the next step, then we enjoy the enjoyable and we struggle with the difficult and we suffer the painful: we find things in their difference and variety, all open to the great expance of God's way and God's will and God's life--as we see in the life of Jesus: he took part in the joy of the wedding at Cana and he wept over Jerusalem and over the death of Lazarus, his friend.

You ask: "Can we seperate the Kingdom of God from the person of Jesus?" I think the answer is no. But there are things we don't know about, like how God's will that all should be saved is actually achieved. We don't see all these things, so we trust in God and we hope.

You have picked a very fine quotation from John Paul II. Our reading in the von Balthasar seminar at the moment goes along the same very central lines.

And on your own fine statement in the final paragraph: well Peter seemed to doubt and to waver (he was told "Get behind me Satan...!) but in spite of it--or maybe because of it in a way--he was confirmed and became the rock of faith...

God bless!

-- Anonymous, April 28, 2002

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