Saturday, October 21, 2017

Christ, Mediator and Priest

From Hugo Rahner's A Theology of Proclamation (Herder and Herder, 1968):

It is not a historical reality of great import that there has been a radical change in the way that the divinity of Christ is preached. The dogmatic conviction has not been touched in any way. Rather, it is the way that the dogmatic data are tied together and preached by J. A. Jungmann. In his work The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer, he brings this idea out quite well, as is also true in Die Frohbotschaft und unsere Glaubensverk√ľndigung, where we find the following basic section: "The doctrine of grace in the apostolic belief in faith and catechetics." Due to the attack that Arianism made on the revealed and--in the early times of Christianity--rigidly adhered to and carefully pondered teaching on the divinity of Christ, great emphasis was placed on the fact of the divinity. The result was that in their kerygma the relationship which this outline had with Paul and the Fathers of the early Church was almost entirely overlooked. The heresy which showed how Christ became God had to be highlighted. From this came the danger that Christ would not longer be presented as the bringer of salvation, but that he would be presented to a certain extent as being empty handed so that people saw in him only the appearance of God, the visible, who has come into the world in order to receive our homage, or perhaps in order to instruct us through word and example. One does not pray any longer so much "through Christ" the mediator to the Father but "to Christ, God." Church and grace are much more readily conceived as the effected work of the Trinitarian God, in whose inaccessible light the God-man as the second person appeared to advance. Here lie the roots for the direction which prayer took in the Eastern piety, to pray to Christ. The typical way in the non-Roman liturgies (the French and Mozarabic, which grew from the bottom up and from which the last hot war against the Arians was led, is to pray to Christ as our God. One need merely refer to the daily prime to find the prayer stemming from the French: "Directly and sanctify. . . Saviour of the world." Here are also found the piety for Jesus which was so prevalent in the Middle Ages. It concerned itself almost exclusively with the love fostered interest in the deep authenticity which comprises the humanity of Jesus who is worthy of our love. So it was that they came to speak of the "Body of God," the "Corpse of God," and this was carried on to the notion of the "loving Father of heaven in the tabernacle." Even today one can find such references in very pious books.

Opposed to this notion the Roman liturgy contained (as Jungmann shows) the treasures of the prayer of a time in which the inner relationships of the early Christian kerygma were still vital. So there grew up in our time, when prayer life and dogmatic thinking are more and more formed in the law of praying of the Church, the desire for a preaching of Christ in the way that it was preached in the kerygma of revelation and the early Church. That is not a revival of the ancient pristine forms, not "an early Christian" playing of games (although they may frequently be played with), but the "today" of the lasting and timeless coming of the Word of God. Even today we can say, "Do not harden your hearts"! Our kerygmatic structure and restructuring must handle that which deals with the divinity of Christ, not so much following the path of the anti-Arian movement, nor even the patterns of the Eastern Christology (which people today prize as a continuing form of the Christology of the early Church, which it certainly is not), but rather the divinity of Christ ought to be viewed as it was contained in the structure of the apostolic symbols and in the sources of revelation, in Scripture, and in Tradition.

In a word, the fundamental thoughts that the early Church held in her preaching of Christ are as follows: the Logos became man, not so much in order to receive the adoration which we owe him, who is of the same essence as the Father (the trembling proskenesis, the veiled leiturgia, of which the Byzantine kontakien and hymns speak so joyfully) but rather, that through him each life becomes transformed in the Holy Trinity, which was lavished upon us when we became members of the race of Adam, and finds its fulfillment in the return to the Father through Christ, who is the source of life. It is Christ who is joined to humanity "eis ton patera" in the Spirit of the Anointed.

Jesus is the man, God, in order that his brothers might become deified. That implies two relationships: the divinity of Christ is the invisible mysterious shimmering fundament for his role as mediator which comes through the visibility of his human presence and so, therefore, that relationship with which he transposes humanity in the Father, "at the right hand of the Father," "always interceding for us." And further: the divinity of Christ is the prototype and basic reason for the manner and way that we received the previously mentioned dispensing of the new life, which proceeds from and returns to the Father. It is also the way that we achieve the sonship of grace, as the completion of the metaphysical sonship of the Logos. The divine birth of grace is the fulfillment of the special way to the Logos, the participation in the divine nature, and the spiritual fulfillment of this "spiritual life" both of the Church and the individual sou. It is the fruit of this completion, this birth from the Father, the communal love in God, and the breathing for of the Spirit. Only in the mystery of the divinity of Christ does one find the key for the whole and entire understanding of his mediatorship and at the same time the Trinitarian structure of our individual sanctification.


Has any Byzantine theologian/liturgist responded to Jungmann's comments on Byzantine Christology and the development of the Byzantine rite? I suppose I need to read The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer: Trinity, Christology, and Liturgical Theology edited by Bryan D. Spinks.

Fr. Rahner goes on to talk about the mediatorship of Christ in the following pages; is the account he presents that of St. Paul and the Apostolic Fathers? Or is it more Latin that he recognizes?

Archimandrite Seraphim Bit-Haribi

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