Animals feel pain, John Paul noted, but only men and women suffer. So suffering, even great physical suffering, has an inner or spiritual character; suffering touches our souls, not just our nervous systems. That is why the Bible is “a great book about suffering” (in John Paul’s striking phrase). And while the Scriptures contain many accounts of profound suffering, the Bible also teaches that “love . . . is the fullest source of the answer to the question of the meaning of suffering.” That was the truth to which Isaiah prophetically pointed in the “Suffering Servant” songs. To grasp that truth fully, however, humanity needed more than images or arguments; a demonstration was required.
That demonstration, Salvifici Doloris teaches, was what God ordained “in the cross of Jesus Christ.”
There the Son, giving himself without reservation to the Father’s plan of redemption, took the world’s evil upon himself and immolated it in perfect self-sacrifice to the divine will. On the cross, theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote, the Son freely bore “all that the Father finds loathsome,” and did so in order to “clear out all the refuse of the world’s sins by burning it in the fire of suffering love.” At Calvary, the divine wrath at the world’s wickedness coincides with the divine mercy, determined to heal all that evil has broken or disfigured. On Calvary, the purifying fire of divine love reaches into history and transforms everything in this world that seems to stand against love, including suffering and death.
To embrace the cross is to embrace the logic of salvation as God has established that logic, not as we might design things. God’s “demonstration” does not end on Good Friday, however. It continues through Holy Saturday until the full meaning of “redemption” is revealed on Easter.
There, in the Risen Lord who manifests what Benedict XVI called an “evolutionary leap”—a new and supercharged mode of human life—we encounter the supreme demonstration of the divine logic of redemption. There, in the “Lamb . . . [who] had been slain” (Revelation 5:6) but who is now gloriously, radiantly alive, we meet God’s triumph over death itself and over all that is death-dealing in the world. There, we meet the redeemer God ordained.
Jesus . . . has become a high priest forever. . . . For all eternity he lives and intercedes for us . . . there is no limit to his power to save all who come to God through him (First Responsory, Office of Readings for Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, from Hebrews 6:19–20, 7:24–25).
What is the Greek for "intercedes" here? ἐντυγχάνειν
Who intercedes? Only Jesus as man? Or the Son of God, in the loving conversation with the Father? The Word of God, who creates anew?
What does God find "loathsome" or "hateful"? Not sin. But the consequences of sin, the ways in which His creation has been damaged or marred because of sin? God does not want suffering.
"There the Son, giving himself without reservation to the Father’s plan of redemption, took the world’s evil upon himself and immolated it in perfect self-sacrifice to the divine will." Here is something akin to the obedience which St. Augustine and Joseph Ratzinger would emphasize as being integral to the sacrifice of Christ. Does such a view find parallels in the East, whether Greek or Syriac? There is definitely scriptural warrant for this, for example St. Paul, Hebrews 5:8-10, Romans 5:19. And this is probably the primary way in which the satisfaction of Christ should be understood, as it is His obedience or "righteousness" which enables us to be obedient or "righteous."
My question is whether this obedience is the main or even the first part of how we should understand the sacrifice of Christ.