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Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday Meditation: Jesus, Priest of His Own Victimhood and Victim of His Own Priesthood

By:   Fr. Urban Snyder
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History and Scripture show that ever since Adam and Eve men tend to want a God cut down to their own size: a God fashioned in their own likeness. What they don’t want is a God of infinite perfection who asks them to rise above themselves, above concupiscence and self-love, and strive to be perfect, even as their heavenly Father is perfect.

Men who have a strong tendency to be this way are likely to have difficulty also with the mystery of the Incarnation. Their hearts find it intolerable that an Infinite God should so love the world as to give His only-begotten Son to die in torments for love of us. You understand that what makes this intolerable is the implied obligation of making a like return of love; of putting off the “old Adam” and conforming oneself to Christ the new Adam.


If only Jesus Christ had been born as a sinner like the rest of us, that would be fine! No difficulty there, because then He would not be asking us to rise above our own miserable level, to struggle out of the mire, to get washed and cleaned up, and put on a “wedding garment”. Your modernists find such a Christ quite acceptable. That’s why they make Him out to have actually been, historically, just like us in all things, not excepting ignorance, concupiscence and sin. They can “love” such a Christ after their fashion, because he would allow them to keep their sins, and that is what matters. How like the Gerascenes, who said to the real Christ after He drove a legion of devils out of one of their possessed citizens: “Please go away, and leave us our swine and our devils!”

During the first several centuries of the Christian era, all the possible errors against the mystery of the Incarnation were thought up, flourished for a time, and received formal condemnation from the universal Church. Today the modernists come along with a sort of package-deal of these old errors and sell them to the unwary (especially our young people) as “new insights”, and “ongoing revelation”. Revelation from the devil! The revival of these heresies, now spread everywhere by priest and teachers under the tolerant eyes of spineless bishops, makes it virtually impossible for their victims, ignorant of the Scriptures as they are (or poisoned by false versions) to grasp the ineffable depth and beauty of the Incarnation, the Redemption, the holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Their teachers deprive them on the one hand of sound education in the fundamental truths of who God is, who we are, and who Jesus Christ is, while on the other hand the victims (especially the young) succumb all too easily to the seduction of blasphemous (not to mention immoral) songs and entertainments, gravely offensive to God and His most holy Mother. Worse, these same songs and entertainments are sometimes performed in the church, notably around Good Friday, the day Christ died for us. Given such circumstances, true shepherds of souls must repeat and explain the divine mysteries over and over, and from every angle.

When the Church teaches that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, she means that in Him there is only one Person, the Person of God’s only-begotten Son, “born of the Father before all ages: God of God, light of light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father: by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven…” It is this Person, this eternal Son of the eternal Father who, at the time foretold by the prophets, assumed a true human nature, conceived miraculously in the bosom of the Immaculate Virgin Mary by the over-shadowing of the Holy Spirit. Note that what He took was human nature. No new person was created – only a perfect, real, ideal human nature: a flawless body (in which flowed the blood of Adam, Abraham and David, from whom His Mother was descended), and a human soul with its proper created faculties of intellect and free will.

It is impossible to stress too much the fact that the Holy Spirit did not create for Jesus a human personality.Instead the eternal Son of God so joined a perfect human nature to Himself (in what is called the Hypostatic Union) that He, the Eternal, is the “I”, the only I, to whom it belongs. The function of nature is simply to live, the function of personality is to own. In Jesus, then, there is one Person, but with two natures, the divine and the human, the eternal and the created.

No author I have read can explain this better than Abbot Amscar Vonier,OSB: “In Christ there is no human personality, but…the human personality in Him has been ‘replaced’ by divine Personality. The great struggles of orthodoxy against Nestorianism resulted in the adoption of this formula by the Church. Christ is a human individual nature, but without a human personality; in Him the divine Personality of the Word performs the functions of the human personality…

“The missing…element, finite personality, is not elevated or glorified by the Holy Ghost; it is directly ‘replaced’ by a reality of the same order but of infinite superiority, the Personality of the Word…

“Nothing short of this substitution of divine Personality for created personality will do justice to the traditional view of Christ, the Son of God. I make so bold as to say that Hypostatic Union, thus stated with theological exactness, is indeed worthy of the admiration of the keenest intellect. The whole difficulty resolves itself into this question: Is it possible for Infinite Personality to perform the function of finite personality in an individual created nature? It is in this, and in no other sense, that God is said to become man…” (The Personality of Christ (1914), Ch. VI).

In a later chapter (VIII) Vonier quotes St. Thomas as follows: “Although the human nature in Christ be something new, nevertheless the personality (suppositum) of that human nature is not new, but eternal. And because this name God is predicated of the man Christ not in virtue of the human nature, but in virtue of the personality, it does not follow that we introduce a new God. But such a consequence would follow, if the man in Christ had a created personality, as those who put two persons in Christ (the Nestorians) are compelled to assert.” Vonier then remarks: “Before Abraham was made, Christ is, because eternal Personality takes the place of created personality. The reality represented by ‘is’ belongs to personality. Christ has eternal Personality, therefore He is eternally.”

Since the Person who possesses and acts in the human nature of Jesus Christ is divine, it follows that His entire human nature is anointed, as it were, with the divinity, by reason of its intimate union with His person. It is His, God’s, and therefore adorable, as the Church has always understood. Abbot Vonier gives the text of profession of faith drawn up by the Council of Alexandria (430A.D.), under the presidency of St. Cyril. This text shows how definite were the convictions of early Christians concerning Christ’s divinity. I cite only part of the profession reported by Vonier (Ch. IX): “We receive (the flesh of Christ) not as a common flesh, nor as the flesh of an eminently sanctified man, or of one who has received dignity by being united with the Logos or by divine indwelling, but as the true life-giving and proper flesh of the Word. For since He is – as God is – in His known nature Life, and is become One with His own flesh, so has He imparted to this flesh a life-giving power.”

“Actions belong to the person”, as the philosophers say, so it follows that every word or act of Our Divine Lord on earth was theandric, i.e., the word or act of a divine Person. It was to be attributed to God, and therefore was of infinite dignity and merit: a single tear or sigh of the Savior would have sufficed to redeem the human race. Further, since every word or work of Jesus was divine and inspired by infinite Wisdom, it was a sermon for us. He is the perfect Model for all men of all time. To imitate Him, to live by His counsels, is divine wisdom. “I (in My own Person) am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me. If you had known me, you would also have known my Father.” The eternal Word does not need human words in order to teach and to preach. His whole life on earth, from beginning to end, was a continual revelation of God.

amor cristoIf you read the Gospels attentively, however, you will see that when He does speak (in words), He sometimes does so as the eternal Word in the bosom of the Father, and sometimes as God-made-Man. When He said to the Jews, “Before Abraham was made, I am,” He clearly referred to His existence in the Trinity from all eternity; and He also knew that the Jews would understand the expression “I am” (in the way He used it) in its Biblical sense as a name of God. On the other hand, in moments like that of the supreme desolation which He voluntarily allowed His humanity to experience in Gethsemane or on the Cross, He clearly spoke from the viewpoint of His human nature: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me; yet not as I will, but as thou willest.” “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!”

Every year in the Gospel we hear how Jesus was “transfigured” on a mountain in the presence of Peter, James and John. “His face shone as the sun, and his garments became white as snow…” This startling event was not a miracle but the suspension of a standing miracle. From the first instant of the creation of His human soul, the Savior’s intellect enjoyed the Beatific Vision, i.e., it saw God face to face more wonderfully than do the saints in Heaven. The effects of this should normally have overflowed into His Body, rendering it luminous and incapable of suffering. But since He came to be our Model, and to Redeem us through suffering, He willed to withhold from His created nature that exemption from suffering which normally would be the effect of the Beatific Vision. Father Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., writes lucidly about this:

“Even during His Passion (Jesus) did not lose the Beatific Vision, but feely prevented the irradiation of the light of glory upon His lower reason and sense faculties. He did not wish this light and the joy proceeding from it to lessen in any way…the sorrow invading Him from all sides. He completely yielded Himself up to suffering, so that the holocaust might be perfect….(Note: Interested reader will find this explained eloquently also in Cardinal Newman’s Discourses to Mixed Congregations. No. XVI.)\

“What did Jesus’ human intelligence contemplate under the light of Glory? The Divine essence, the Blessed Trinity, which He already knew in a more perfect manner than did the angels…He also contemplated in the divine essence everything that related to His universal mission as Head of the Kingdom of God, Leader of men and of angels, Judge of the living and the dead. That is to say that in God He already knew all creatures, all souls, all that they have done, are doing and will do…

“Our Lord willed to experience all the sufferings of body and soul which were fitting to His mission as Redeemer and Victim. He chose to go through all our trials, to go to the utmost limits of sacrifice in order to expiate our sins and merit eternal life for us by leaving us the example of the loftiest virtues amid the greatest adversity.

He was a victim in His Body: His garments were torn off Him, He was mocked, struck, scourged, until His Body was one vast wound; He was crowned with thorns and spat upon…He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. He was given gall to drink, and He was sneered at as He hung, dying.

“He was a victim in His Heart. The affection of His people was taken from Him, this people who eight days earlier…acclaimed Him with …’Hosanna, son of David!...

“He was a victim in His innermost Soul, for He suffered most intensely from the sight of sin, from the numberless sins He was to expiate, form the deicide…committed through pride and voluntary blindness…He suffered from sin to a degree that we cannot begin to understand; in the measure of His love for God whom sin offends, in the measure of His love for our souls…(Note that by reason of His foreknowledge, the Sacred Heart of Jesus suffered something additional, special, for each sin of mine. Every fully deliberate sin makes a notable contribution to His Passion. The Redemption was intensely personal for each one of us, as we shall see in the Judgment.)

“Jesus could not have been more completely a victim. There could be no more absolute immolation…

“It is in this weakness and this annihilation that the power of the Lord is manifest in its fullness. Jesus was indeed a victim. But He was also a priest, and the oblation of Himself which He offered up was of infinite value. As St. Paul says, “The weakness of God (in Christ) is stronger than men…But the foolish things of the world has God chosen, that He may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world has God chosen, that He may confound the strong…that no flesh should glory in his sight….” (Taken from the Savior and His Love (1951), pp. 168-9; 280-287)

This article was first published in the March 31, 1979 issue of The Remnant. MJM


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