Sunday, October 25, 2009

Contemplations in Theology: #10

Praise to the Giver of good things.

As Christians, we recognize the reality of the Redemption: the sacrifice made by Christ, not merely for the forgiveness of sins but for the restoration of souls. We believe in the promise of our future exaltation. As Paul writes, "Do you not know that we will judge angels?" (1 Cor. 6:3). Or, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, every human you have ever met will one day be either a sight worthy of nightmares, or a creature you would strongly be tempted to worship. As humans, we are sons of God, of whom Jesus was the firstborn. We will inherit the Kingdom through Him and with Him.

But exaltation in only one face of the Christian coin. The other is its necessary companion: humility.

In Mark 10, the apostles James and John approach Jesus to ask Him for a seat at His left and right hand when he ascends to glory. Jesus asks them if they are willing to share in the cup that He must endure. "'We can,' they answered. Jesus said to them, 'You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared" (Mark 10:39-40).

In other words, Christ promised them martyrdom, but did not promise them eternal glory. We know the reality of our future exaltation, but for now we must push that out of our minds as much as possible. There is forgiveness promised to all sinners, but that is not to be borne in mind when approaching the Throne. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ declared that the meek shall inherit the earth, but is it meekness that demands of God, "Here I am, humble before You; now give me my inheritance!" Heaven exists, glory and exaltation awaits, but we must not allow ourselves to be bribed by these things.

This point, incidentally, is the redemption of Saturn. I'd earlier tried to marginalize this divine personality as a symbol of tragedy that was ultimately defeated by Christ's victory on the Cross. Yet now I realize that was not complete. After all, though Christ conquered death, are we not called to take up our crosses and follow Him?

How can I reflect Christ's kingship? How do I come into my inheritance as a son of God? By recalling my nature as a son of Man, by humbling myself, by emptying myself that God may fill me.

I've been wrestling with these issues recently. I am tired of sacrificing myself; I'm tired of constantly being dependable and patient; I'm fundamentally tired of being humble.

I think one of the problems is that I've approached this virtue without relying on God, for a life of pure humility is impossible without the grace and joy of God that gives us strength to continue. Is this not the lesson of the heavens? God presides over the infinity of space, in the ineffable majesty of His Presence, while we are the inhabitants of a speck in that infinity, for whom a description as "relatively small" would be a exaggeration of the greatest degree. We are quite literally nothing before Him; even when we inherit His glory, we shall still be nothing before Him. Everything we do and can ever accomplish is with His grace; that is, God willing.

"In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26-27).

Father, help me. Amen.