The Mirror of Christ Outside

FATHER ANTONIUNUS WALL, O.P.

At the Last Supper, when Our Lord was speaking intimately to his followers for the final time before his death, he informed them that he would shortly be leaving them to return to the Father.



CHAPTER SEVEN
The Mirror of Christ Outside

  • Jesus and the Father are one
  • Jesus' human and divine natures
  • Christ's human nature is a reflection of the divine
  • The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ


This information deeply disturbed them. Philip asked Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father." Jesus answered with disappointment: "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father . . . Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me." [1]

The "me" that Philip and the others heard, saw, touched and were touched by–and with whom they were then breaking bread–was obviously the man Jesus. He was the human being with whom they walked daily. His human nature was a finite, created, mortal, human reality, identical with the humanity of his followers. How, then, could Jesus say, referring to his human nature, when you know me, you know the Father? The Father is divine, uncreated, eternal, infinite, and immutable.

For the first five centuries of her existence, the Catholic Church struggled to understand more clearly the mystery of the Incarnation. She strove to understand that Jesus was both human and divine, created and uncreated, finite and infinite, mortal and immortal, man and God. As happens today, the Church turned for understanding to Jesus' words in Scripture and to the words of other followers taken from the oral tradition.

One of the early heresies in the Church was known as Monophysitism. The name derived from the Greek monos (one) and phusis (nature). Monophysitism taught that Christ had one nature, one reality possessing human and divine properties. Variants of the doctrine were that the human nature is absorbed by the divine, or that the divine Second Person of the Trinity disappears in the humanity of Christ, or that a unique third nature was created. The Church condemned this doctrine and declared solemnly that Jesus was truly human as well as divine, man and God, with each nature distinct from the other while united in the person of the Word. [2]

The Church has consistently affirmed that Jesus was truly, fully human, as human as his followers. It taught that he had a human body, psyche, imagination, memory, intellect, and will. As Saint Paul asserts, Jesus is like us in everything but sin. [3]

At the same time, the Church has taught that Jesus was truly divine, truly God, eternal, uncreated, immutable, infinite, the perfect being who is the source of all beings. Further, the Church asserted that the human and divine in Jesus are radically distinct. The church taught that the same infinite, qualitative difference that separates humans from the divine, likewise separates the humanity of Christ from his divinity. When the human nature of Christ acted, it was truly a human action, but the person acting was the Word of God. His human acts were instruments of his divine wisdom, power, and love.

Finally, the Church affirmed that the Second Person of the Trinity assumed the human nature of Jesus. It was not the Father and not the Holy Spirit, but the Son, the Word of God, who rendered the human nature of Jesus individual and subsistent.

Given this solemn teaching of the Church, what did Jesus mean when he said to Philip "He who has seen me has seen the Father"? How did he equate in himself the human and divine? It may appear that Jesus is guilty of the heresy of the Monophysites condemned at Chalcedon. It should be noted, however, that the teaching of the Council of Chalcedon was arrived at by examining the meaning of these statements of Jesus.

The reflection of the Church was, of course, based on both oral and written traditions. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the following understanding evolved. All the words and actions of Jesus came from his human nature. That human nature operated as the instrument of his distinct divine nature acting in and through his humanity. Therefore, in the human words and actions of Jesus, the otherwise invisible, intangible, inaudible presence of the divine nature became visible, tangible, and audible.

In their experience of the human nature of Jesus acting as the instrument of his separate divine nature, Philip and the other Apostles were seeing, hearing, and being touched by the divine. Further, the person they encountered in these human words and actions was the second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Word of God acting through his assumed humanity.

Finally, the presence of that human nature of Jesus involved the immediate, direct presence of God. When Jesus spoke, it was the Word of God speaking. When Jesus reached out and touched them through his genuinely human touch, it was the Word of God touching them. When they experienced the very human acts of love of Jesus, they were experiencing a human love suffused and transformed by divine love made visible, tangible, and audible through his human nature. The Person loving them was the Word of God. Any contact with the human reality of Jesus placed his followers in a direct, unmediated, personal encounter with the Word of God.

Let us imagine Jesus speaking intimately with Philip in response to Philip's plea "show us the Father." Imagine Jesus' words describing what we now know through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of the Church.

Philip, do you remember the time you saw me reach out my hand and touch the diseased flesh of the leper, instantly healing that flesh? Did you not realize, Philip, that my human touch, as human, has no more healing power than does your own touch. The divine touch, of course, possesses such healing power. When I chose to reach out my hand, I did so as the instrument of the healing power present in my divine touch. Philip, when I touched that leper, the Father was touching him with all the power present in His touch.

Philip, do you remember the night we were out on the boat and I was asleep? Suddenly a fierce storm came. In fear, you awakened me. My first words to you were what little faith you have. I then commanded the waves to be calm and the winds to be still. Instantly, upon my command, the storm ceased.

Philip, my human will does not have the power to control the elements any more than your will does. The Father's will has this power. But I acted as the conscious instrument of the divine will of the Father acting in and through my human will. Therefore, there was present in my human command the very power over the elements uniquely proper to the divine will.

Philip, do you remember the time we found ourselves in a crowded room and the friends of a paralyzed man lowered him through the roof on a litter? Everyone in that room saw a man who was physically paralyzed. I, on the contrary, saw a man who was spiritually and emotionally paralyzed, bitter, full of self-pity, angry, envious of others, shut up in himself, and incapable of love for others. This is sin.

Sin is a paralysis of the inner spirit. I was more concerned, therefore, with his spiritual paralysis than with the physical. So I said to him, your sins are forgiven. With that act of forgiveness, a wonderful change took place in him. For the first time in years, he experienced a peace and joy within, the absence of fear and guilt, and movements of love and hope. This is the effect on the soul of God's forgiveness. It frees the sinner from spiritual and emotional paralysis. It brings back life and mobility to the spirit.

The Scribes and Pharisees who were present, immediately cried, "Blasphemy, blasphemy only God can forgive sins." You know, Philip, they were correct. Sin is an offense against God, and only God can forgive such an offense.

Where they erred, however, was in their failure to recognize in my human act of forgiveness the presence of divine forgiveness. I chose to make my human act of forgiveness the instrument of the divine, acting in, through, and with my human forgiveness.

To show them that I possessed such power, as you recall, Philip, I turned to them and said, "Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven or take up your bed and walk?" To show that the Son of Man has the power to forgive sin, spiritual paralysis, I healed his physical paralysis. Philip, do you still fail to recognize that when I forgive, it is God forgiving?

Jesus' followers grew in awareness of the true meaning of his human words and actions. They recognized in the presence of Jesus a revelation of the divine presence and action. His followers gradually came to see that they were encountering in him a mirror reflecting the divine. With this awareness, they reached the second stage of their journey to the face-to-face encounter with God.

The first mirror of the divine is nature when seen through the eyes of Jesus. As wonderful as are the reflections of God's presence in the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, the miracle of little children, far more wonderful are the reflections of divinity that we encounter in the human nature of Christ. No part of creation more wonderfully reflects the wisdom, love, beauty, joy, and power of God than does the human nature of Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

The Journey to God
by Father Antoninus Wall, O.P.

The grace of Christian Faith is necessary for one to recognize in the human nature of Christ this second mirror of the divine. Without this gift, Jesus is no more than a unique historic person. Without it, one will not recognize that he is the Son of God. With the gift of Christian Faith, one acknowledges Jesus is the Word made flesh, and the perfect mirror of the divine. It is only those persons graced with this awareness who reach the second stage of the journey to God.

When did Jesus' followers awaken to the full reality of the Incarnation? How did the disciples come to see a mirror of the divine in Christ's humanity? Scholars argue about how and when the awakening took place. While these are interesting and important questions, the question of vital interest to us is, What is the relevance of the Incarnation in regard to our journey to God?

Two thousand years have passed since Jesus walked the earth. Unlike the disciples of Jesus before the Ascension, we can no longer see the human nature of Christ. We cannot hear his human voice speaking to us, or experience His human words of forgiveness. Christ in his human nature, as a second and more perfect mirror of divinity, moved his followers along the journey to God. Are we left only with the first mirror, that of nature, and a record of Jesus' words and actions in the Gospels? According to the teaching of Catholic Faith, this is not the case. The human nature of Christ is still accessible to us as it was to his followers two thousand years ago.

The resurrected Christ told his disciples, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." [4]

 

Endnotes

[1]  Cf. John 14:8-11.

[2]  These and other variants were condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD.

[3]  Cf. 2 Cor. 5:21.

[4]  Matt. 28:18-20.


The Journey to God

Chapter 1 - The Journey
Chapter 2 - The Presence
Chapter 3 - The Awakening
Chapter 4 - The Way of Love
Chapter 5 - The Three Stages of Awakening
Chapter 6 - The Mirror of Nature
Chapter 7 - The Mirror of Christ Outside
Chapter 8 - The Catholic Way
Chapter 9 - The Mirror of Christ Within
Chapter 10 - The Coming of the Holy Spirit
Chapter 11 - The Door
Chapter 12 - The End of the Journey
Chapter 13 - The Face to Face Encounter

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Father Antoninus Wall, O.P. "The Mirror of Christ Outside." Chapter 7 in The Journey to God (Antioch, CA: Solas Press, 1999): 53-62.

Reprinted by permission of Father Antoninus Wall and Solas Press.

THE AUTHOR

Father Antoninus Wall, O.P., a native of San Francisco, is the son of Irish-born parents, and the brother of the late Fr. Kevin Wall, O.P. Fr. Wall attended St. Ignatius prep in the Bay City and St. Mary's College of California. Entering the Dominican Order, he pursued his sacred studies at St. Albert's College in Oakland and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He was ordained in Rome in 1950.

Fr. Wall has had a career rich in pastoral and academic experiences. He has served as associate pastor in Seattle and as Professor of Theology at Immaculate Heart and Dominican College. He negotiated the entry of the Dominicans into the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and served two terms there as President of the Dominican School. He currently resides at St. Albert's Priory in Oakland, California. Father Wall is the author of The Journey to God. Father Wall may be reached by phone at 510-596-1800 or by email at antwall@hotmail.com

Copyright © 2010 Solas Press




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