Monday, August 01, 2005

Zubizantine Theology: The Resurrection (Part 9)

Zubiri's theology of the Resurrection is essentially the Christus Victor model, although because of his metaphysics of respectivity, this victory inherently includes some juridical aspects. The Resurrection represents the victory of the power of God over the power of sin (which was described in the previous installment), and Zubiri ties all aspects of salvation back to the power of God. Accordingly, Zubiri's Christus Victor view provides a framework for describing grace, sacrament, and glorification in terms of the power of God. Because of the relative importance of the doctrine of the Resurrection to Zubiri's thinking, I have reproduced the following extensive discourse from Christianity (© 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo. Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged) on the Resurrection in its entirety:

The second act I wanted to consider is an act intimately connected with the death of Christ, his resurrection. We then ask analogously, what was the resurrection of Christ in itself? And also, what was it for men insofar as an act that founds religion, an act through which Christianity is molded in the spirit of men?

Certainly, there is a detail in the resurrection that has been the subject of much speculation, the well-known detail of the third day. Actually it is not the only place in the Bible where the third day appears connected to life and death. To die and resurrect on the third day is mentioned in the prophet Hosea, “He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up” (Hos 6:2). In the time of Hosea the parable of Jonas who lived three days in the belly of the whale had not been written yet. Christ refers to the signal (the account does mention it is indeed a symbol) of Jonas (cf. Mt 12:39-41; 16:4; Lk 11:29-32). That expression can even be traced outside the Bible throughout the surrounding cultures, for example, concerning the death and resurrection of Hadad and Tammuz in spring. To say that he is going to resurrect on the third day means he is going to resurrect quickly, and that this short time is the only one allowed to the power of evil.

We now ask, in what does the resurrection of Christ consist? The first thing we must consider is that the resurrection of Christ is exactly the opposite of what we imagine. We all imagine Christ resurrecting doing to himself what he did with Lazarus or the daughter of Jairus, someone dead who is reanimated, and returned to life, and walks on the streets of Jerusalem. To resurrect would be the reanimation of a cadaver. {330} This reanimation would consist on that cadaver, and the human being dead as a cadaver, returning to this world as if nothing had happened, so to speak. He has died, yet he is returned to life. And life is the reanimation of a cadaver. Nevertheless, this is absolutely not what happened in the resurrection of Christ. In the first place, what is important and essential in the resurrection of Christ is not to say he was dead, but that he is alive. That is the essential matter, Christ alive after Holy Saturday. In the second place, that it is not the case he may be alive as Lazarus was on the streets of Jerusalem. No, the fact is he is alive for always. The power of sin, and of death will no longer have access to Christ. It is a different life. And in third place, the Christ that is alive is a life in the plenitude of power, and not one simply subject to the historical contingencies of humanity, and the power of sin.

a) Hence, if we wish to express more accurately in what the resurrection consists, composed (sit venia verbo) of these characteristics we find, in the first place, that the resurrection does not consist in a reanimated cadaver returning to this world. It is just the opposite; it goes to the other world. That is precisely the question, to proceed to another world, to that world where Christ at the right hand of the Father —as the Creed says symbolically, anthropomorphically, and cosmically— precisely has the fullness of powers in a life that will never be taken from him.

b) Certainly, in this condition he is not exempt from corporeity. But the resurrected body of Christ is not an ordinary body; it is a different body. St. Paul called it sóma pneumatikón, a “spiritual body” (1 Co 15:44), which definitely is the condition of a glorified body. The body of Christ goes through walls, appears at the Cenacle, and disappears again (cf. Jn 20:19-29). It is not an ordinary body. Consequently, it would be chimerical to think that the resurrected Christ {331} could return to his life in Nazareth. The place that belongs to the resurrected Christ is precisely the center of creation and history, something entirely different. The resurrection of Christ is definitely not the reanimation of a cadaver that now walks on earth. It is precisely the opposite, the internal transformation of a cadaver that places Christ in the other world.

However, it has characteristics of corporeity, because the primary function of corporeity is not precisely to have a carnal characteristic. I have mentioned this numerous times and will repeat it again; the body has in first place, the condition of being the present actuality of that of which it is a body. In the second place, in one form or another, it confers an internal consistency to that of which it is a body. And, in addition, it corporally expresses what that of which it is body constitutively is1. Therefore, to say that the resurrected Christ has the same body means it has the same actuality, the same consistency, and the same expression. But this does not mean that he may have an identical structure. The resurrected Christ does not have a stomach, just as no man will have in glory after the resurrection; it makes no sense. It is not a question of sameness through structural identity in his substantive reality; it is a question of sameness of presence, consistency, and expression. When Christ says to St. Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side” (Jn 20:27), Christ does not have scars. That is something different, he expresses precisely in his reality, through the form of scars, what the internal condition of the passion and death of Christ is, by way of expression, not by way of an anatomical and physiological structure.

{332} It is precisely because of this that the resurrection not only had no witnesses, but also could not have had any. Exegesis has sometimes said (and rightly so) that if someone had been present with Christ in his sepulcher he would not have seen what we imagine a resurrection is. He would have seen what the Apostles saw at the Cenacle, suddenly Christ disappeared (cf. Lk 24:51). At best a kind of volatilization (sit venia verbo) of his cadaver. The resurrection of Christ was not the reanimation of a cadaver, but the glorious transfiguration of a body, which confers actuality, consistency, and expression to what Christ is.

c) Of course, this resurrected Christ goes to another world, does not return to this one. However, he manifests himself in this one. This is precisely the issue of recognition. Of the accounts of the apparitions of Christ the oldest, and the one that has to be considered carefully is the text of St. Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians. St. Paul mentions the apparitions with only one verb in the passive voice óphthe “was seen” (1 Cor 15:5-8). It really means “Christ made himself to be seen”. This means that for St. Paul it is not the case of a subjective illusion, but that he made himself visible. Therefore, the manifestation of Christ has an objective and real characteristic. Consequently, this is a manifestation that has its initiative with Christ himself. It is not the case that Christ is walking and the others are seeing him. If I were to walk down the street without others seeing me it would require a miracle. That the resurrected Lazarus was seen on the streets of Jerusalem is not a miracle; the miracle will be his walking on the streets of Jerusalem. But if he walks it would be perfectly normal to be seen. The miracle would be not to be seen. That is not the question here, it is just the opposite. Here we have Christ’s own personal initiative. He makes himself visible in his condition with a glorified body. And he makes himself visible to whom he pleases, when he pleases, and how he pleases. {333} But he does it to be recognized, at least in the form of expression.

Nevertheless, this recognition is also not the recognition of a person I meet on the street, and say, “yes, it is so-and-so”. Among the passages referring to the apparitions it will be enough if we select the encounter of the two disciples with Christ on the road to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35), it is a slow and progressive recognition. This is surprising; don’t they see his face? And if they were disciples, had they not seen him before? The fact is it was not that way at all. It is a progressive recognition, in the first place, he seemed to be an ordinary man walking on the road. Afterwards, he seemed to be someone who was not aware of what had happened in Jerusalem, and more or less became interested. They began talking about it, and was able to explain its meaning. Of course, it is a group communication, a group recognition. And finally at the breaking of bread (having nothing to do with the Eucharist in his case, but is purely the way of distributing bread at the table) he is recognized. At that point Christ disappears. The recognition of Christ has been progressive. It is not the immediate recognition of a face on the street.

And it is not only a recognition in which the manifestation comes by an initiative of Christ, and has a progressive characteristic from the part of those receiving it. The apparitions of Christ have never had the characteristic of simply saying, “they killed me, but here I am”, of course not. In the same way that the miracles in the life of Christ were not teratological prodigies to overwhelm those facing the prodigious events (which does not mean they were not prodigious), anlogously the apparitions of Christ were not simply teratology. That enormous wonder that someone who is dead may appear on {334} Earth. It was more than a prodigy (needless to say), but it had a framework. Miracles were framed in the mission to forgive sins. I refer to the case of the cure of the paralytic where Christ says, “Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins (...) Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home” (Mt 9:4-6). That was the framework of all the miracles of Christ. Hence, analogically the resurrection has a perfect framework, which is the mission of propagating Christianity upon Earth.

Now we ask, and what has it been for men? Because here we try to see the resurrection of Christ insofar as it is a numerically single act of molding Christianity into each of the persons it reaches. St. Paul describes it perfectly when discussing baptism (cf. Rom 6:3-11). What he means to say is that with the death of Christ we have died to sin, and have passed precisely to a different and superior life. It is the molding of this transit from Earth to the right hand of the Father (in which the resurrection formally consisted) in the being of each one of us. The resurrection of Christ is in itself, as a personal action of Christ, a molding of the being of man. And what does that molding produce? Precisely that this being, which in a radical way was aversive to God by being under the power of the world, now is converted into a being that in a radical way is, or at least can be, conversely towards God. It is, in the forceful phrase of St. Paul, a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17); Gal 6:15). It is the “new man” (cf. Eph 2:5; 4:24; Col 3:10). Man, St. Paul says using a term borrowed from the mystery religions, should “put on” (endúei) Christ (cf. Rom 13:12-14), of course, by incorporation.

{335} And we ask, in what does this “putting on” consist? It is exactly what happened in the resurrection. St. Paul tells us —regardless of the origin of his ideas, which is a different question— there is a sóma psychikón, and a sóma pneumatikón, there is a “psychic body” (not animal, but animated), and a “spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:44). And he says the first is earthly and the second celestial. The first is precisely the body of Adam, the second is the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 15:47). And he calls the body of Christ spiritual (pneumatikón) because it is “vivifying” (zoopoioûn, cf. 1 Cor 15:45). However, the psychism is for St. Paul purely and simply animating. The body of Christ, by his resurrection, gives us precisely a spirit we did not have through Adam, who only provided us with animation. The body of each one of us is not transformed because of this, but is radically destined to have, precisely in the resurrection of the dead, the pneumatic characteristic the body of Christ has. It is an eschatological notion, but absolutely real. The resurrection of Christ is not a mere symbol of what may happen to the body of man. It is the very enunciation (the arrabôna, the down payment, as St. Paul says, cf. 2 Cor 1:22; 5:5) of what really, and effectively happens by virtue of what Christ has given to it.

And how is this molding produced by virtue of the resurrection? St. Paul answers with only one concept full of richness, it is paliggenesía, regeneratio (cf. Ti 3:5). What is this regeneration? Certainly, it is not the molding ad extra of the Trinitarian life, not that at all. In the very exordium of creation, and as its formal reason we find there precisely the deiformity of man. The paliggenesía is not a “remolding”, that makes no sense. It is something different. I mentioned it already; it is to give this very Trinitarian molding ad extra the capacity of being within the power of God. The paliggenesía is a “re-generation”. {336} In other words, the being of man is taken out of its condition of being subjected to the power of sin, and is now subjected to the ambit of the power of God. It is that in which, in a non-symbolic manner, but absolutely real, the resurrection of Christ consists as molding of Christianity into the spirit of men. Then, what it places in the one regenerated is precisely the power of God in him. And the power of God in him is that, which (from this point of view) deserves to be called cháris, grace.

Grace is not a kind of shower that comes from the outside; it is the intrinsic insertion inside the Trinitarian molding in which the reality of man consists (although he may be condemned), while he is in this world. Precisely inside that molding the power of God is inscribed, which, as any power, is precisely something dynamic. Scholasticism thought, with a very Aristotelian notion, that grace is the quality of a substance, a habitus. There is no reason to think that grace is the quality of a substance. It is something richer, it is the power of God in the real and effective life of man, the power with which man continues to build his own substantive being. The power of God in us makes us be deiform. This power of God is not an assistance that comes from the outside. It is something that the resurrection of Christ has molded in the depths of the spirit of man, in a pneumatiké (spiritual) way, i.e., the presence of that Trinity in whose molding consists the formal reality of man, as fountain of that power of God in each one of us. By virtue of this, it deserves that we may be called, strictly speaking, sons of God.

That is why the life of grace is not a psychological experience. This is something the psychologists rush to demand, but it is not a psychological experience. No one has a psychological experience of grace. But not because of metaphysical reasons as scholastic theology believed, which always advanced the argument that {337} it was the case of a hidden habitus. It is not the case of a psychological experience or a mere habitus, but is something different. It is an experience that certainly involves a moral ingredient, and is a moral experience, but is not merely moral. It is a moral experience lived under the light of a faith. In this sense it is a theological experience2. Man has a theological experience of grace, not at a certain moment, but throughout the whole of life or at least certain periods of it. That is what the moral is in faith.