December 8, 2011

Eschaton Made Flesh

I love the feast of the Immaculate Conception because I think it's one of the most explicitly and plainly eschatological liturgical observances of the whole year, and because we are so badly in need of recovering our eschatological sense. I think this is especially true for us Franciscans. As the young Benedict XVI wrote of the Franciscan Rule in his Habilitationsschrift, The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure:

The unsophisticated and unrealistic way in which Francis tried to make the Sermon on the Mount the rule of his 'new People' is not understood properly if we designate it as 'idealism' is understandable only as...eschatological confidence..

A couple of common-sense objections to the Immaculate Conception help us to understand the eschatological nature of this dogma. First, it is asked how Mary could have benefited from the salvation Christ won by his Passion and Resurrection before these things happened. Second, if Mary was free of both the guilt and the effects of original sin from the first moment of her conception, what need did she have of the redemption Christ was to win for us?

These objections reveal an overly temporal and mechanical imagination surrounding the Resurrection of Christ and the salvation that it is for us. The Resurrection matters precisely because it is an eschatological event; it is the end and destiny of the creation made historical by revelation.

This is why Paul, in Romans 4, is able to suggest that Abraham's faith that God could bring forth descendants from the bodies of himself and Sarah, which were 'as good as dead,' is a sort of occult faith in the Resurrection. Abraham believed that God could bring a fresh and new life from a creation that had become old and dead in the corruption inherited from our first parents, and that God would do just that through his body and that of his wife.

Isaac, is then, the first visible light of the dawn of Resurrection faith. As the power of this eschaton-made-history rolls through time, it prepares Mary to be the new and final Ark in which the full inauguration of the End will come into the world.


Anthony Zuba said...

Happy solemnity, Brother Charles. Your post gives buoyancy to thoughts I have been trying to surface.

Those who theologize about trauma dwell on the ways that events from the past continue to wound creation. We are still being irradiated by the fallout from the Fall. We are shell-shocked by original sin. We are victim-survivors of the Past. We suffer flashbacks, constantly. We cannot look or move forward. At best, we can put the past behind us and learn to live in the ambiguous present. But the theologians of trauma have yet to examine the Resurrection, its place in the economy of salvation, and its historical impact. If they did, they would give it its due as the event from the future, renewing and transforming creation. We are now, and already have been, irradiated by the effects of the Resurrection. We are subsisting now on the Future. The prophets and saints among us "flash forward," constantly. And we see, in Abraham and Sarah, in Mary, and in other mysterious moments now long in age, contours of the new and the everlasting.

Since World War II, modern and postmodern theologians have been investigating original sin with fresh intention. Like detectives on crime's trail, they have been examining its clues and interrogating its witnesses. In truth, they are reconstructing the Fall, and they are coming around to its phenomenality. It is time they did so with the Resurrection.

Greg said...

One of the most exciting phrases uttered in theological circles today...

"eschatological confidence"

Brilliant language. Hats off to Benedict XVI.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post; a Möbius strip in theological / eschatological terms.