Monday, March 29, 2021

Christ’s Life is the Church’s Life

The great English writer Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson believed that, because the Church is Christ’s Body extended over time and space, the life of the Church as it unfolds throughout the course of history must follow the pattern of the earthly life of Christ. His divine-human life is the pattern of her own origin, growth, and destiny, for He lived her life in concentrated form, and weaves anew the tapestry of His mysteries as each century passes. If the Church is Christ’s bride, she will enjoy a perfect union not only with His triumphant entry into Jerusalem and His glorious resurrection, but also with His sufferings, His passion and death on the Cross. Christ is the microcosm, and His Church, journeying through history, is the macrocosm which mirrors His own earthly mission.

Christ was born in humble surroundings, the son of a virgin, protected by a guardian; His Church is born from the humble throne of the Cross, the handiwork of the virginal High Priest, shrouded with a protecting veil by His Mother. Christ was obscure in His hidden life at Nazareth; the Church, too, remains hidden beneath the surface of the Roman Empire, and slowly comes to light as paganism exhausts itself in lupercalian gasps. Christ came into public prominence and was subjected to persecution by the authorities; His Church is the subject of imperial anger, sword, and fire. Christ was crucified by His own people; His Church will be martyred in every land where she dwells, as long as she gives living testimony to His Gospel. Christ is risen from the dead; His Church rises like the phoenix from every bed of ashes into which she seems to be dissolved.

The cycle began long ago and will continue until the end of time. Whatever was made manifest in the life of Christ will take place within His Church, in her sacred history. In every age of the Church there will be obscure births, a hidden and a public life, trials and crucifixions, resurrection and ascension. The whole of reality exists from Him, through Him, and towards Him: He is Alpha and Omega.

Wisely did the fathers of the Council of Nicaea name Pontius Pilate in the Christian Creed. For all time he represents the profane world. His voice can be heard across the centuries uttering the cry of despair “What is truth?,” which has become the modern question par excellence. Thinking himself generous and fair, Pilate haughtily “finds no crime” in Christ, the very Sun of Justice (cf. Jn 18:37–39). In the eyes of the contemporary West, Christ is nothing but a moral teacher, thanks to the efforts of Thomas Jefferson and his Enlightenment peers who felt quite comfortable with Pilate’s cowardly indifference. Having judged Christ innocent, the ruler hands the master over to the slaves to be crucified.

Pilate foreshadows the modern democratic leader, appealing to the people for a final decision and washing his hands of their irrational choice, while the Sanhedrin gloat over the conquered prophet: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum. Here we see the frightening consequence of indifference to truth: the Good is handed over to be crucified, in favor of Barabbas, an insurrectionist, a rebel from order, a violator of natural law. The monied rulers and avaricious slaves who populate our cities, from America to Europe, the Middle East to the Far East, acknowledge Caesar—the secular city, the civil state, the temporal realm—as their sole king. We who wish to follow Our Lord hail a different, higher, nobler, immortal King: Gloria, laus et honor tibi sit, Rex Christe, Redemptor.

Almighty Father, draw all men to your Son, draw them into the bosom of His holy Church. Lord Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, draw us all into the safe haven of your Sacred Heart, that we may not be lost in the growing confusion and darkness, but remain ever united to you in a love that knows no end. O Holy Spirit, raise up prophets of conviction and preachers of truth in your Church, to confront and unmask the lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets (cf. 1 Kgs 22:22). O Holy Trinity, eternal, unchanging Good and source of all life, save us, have mercy on us, for You are gracious and you love mankind. Amen.

Artwork by Daniel Mitsui.

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