(For the first in this Easter mystagogy series see The Doubt of Thomas the Twin)
Mystagogy for the Third Week of Easter: The Meaning of God’s Union with Humanity
We are encouraged in the texts for the third Sunday of Easter to revel in the joyful astonishment of the Resurrection and to ecstatically contemplate the amazing work of God in Jesus of Nazareth. In the Gospel of Luke we continue to hear of that first Easter day, with the Twelve and the disciples of Jesus in that upper room.
Now that we have passed through the waters of baptism and have died and been risen with Christ, in the Easter Vigil, we see two things: 1) Christ’s death and resurrection is an amazing thing and is contrary to what we intuit and expect from Scripture and 2) it is what God had always set out to do and has been part of God’s revelation and what the witnesses to this revelation have consistently been saying. Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of the Scriptures and Hebrew prophets. Moses, the writings and prophets all anticipated what is unexpected and astounding.
These two things show us that only after the incarnation passion and resurrection can we then read the Scriptures in the fullness of God’s self-revelation, and through this new reading and renewed understanding, enter God’s saving and loving work in the cosmos for all time. If we look and interpret the world and the Scriptures from outside this vantage point of Jesus of Nazareth we see a very different world and hear a different word. We read a different text.
This is a source of the joy and awe of the Resurrection: without the Resurrection and prior to the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth, the universe and the human condition makes sense but leads one to only death and futility (“vanity”). While this understanding leads the Church to affirm God’s revelation in the particularity of the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, this biological identity isn’t a guarantee of hearing God’s revelation. The church also affirms that human reflection and contemplation on divinity and the cosmos has encountered something of God. Yet thsi all needs a consummation and completion accomplished by God. God’s theophanies and self-revelation to the particular people of Israel and human seeking to know and understanding the divine share a similarity in these understandings of God are only completed or fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God.
There is a further mystery: the fullness of God found in Jesus Christ doesn’t impart new knowledge , rather the fullness of God in Jesus Christ becomes a way to see all knowledge, and previous understandings of God.
The mystery we wrestle with now after – after Jesus’ Resurrection and ascension, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, after our baptism- is that after is often much like before.
What makes the difference?
This is our awe. Nothing is erased, not even the suffering of God the Son. Rather it is all taken up into God, and thus sin and our separation are transformed. What makes the difference is only the incarnation of God the Son as Jesus of Nazareth. We live either in the awareness of this reality or the reality of the universe before the incarnation, before the union of God and humanity and all creation. We can see the world and in seeing experience the world in very radically different ways, one of true liberation or one of bondage and futile struggle.
This is the meaning of the Resurrection, there is a new way to be in the universe, and there is a new way of being for all of creation. The created, physical, and human order is now united to God – reconciled to God. The logic of this way of being is life that has passed through and overcome death and futility.
We can still be blind to this reality. We can still fail to understand and see that God, in Jesus of Nazareth, accomplished a new thing. But if we commit to the path of theosis, to living in the Resurrection, we live in the age to come and no longer need to be bound to the age that was and is now passing away, but is still here bound to sin and death.