Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Suffering of Christ

It is mind-blowing to think that Christ became man in all things save sin, yet he took one of the three effects of sin, work and bodily death, in order that he might die so he might rise again on the third day and open up eternal life. He didn't have to, considering that Christ is fully divine and fully man and that God's infinite nature allows for limitless other possibilities. Our Lord for instance did not take on ignorance, and He did not take on concupiscence. The temptations of Christ in the desert were merely external tests administered by Satan. Christ's will is and was at those moments always perfectly conformed to that of His Father in Heaven, and nothing ever could have deviated it. Admittedly that makes sense with the developed doctrine of the hypostatic union, but as far as death goes, it is incredibly paradoxical that the ever-living God, Who took on mortal flesh, died so that we could live.

There was a major controversy in the patristic era over the suffering of God called the theopaschite controversy, and it was wrapped up in the Nestorian heresy. Nestorius argued that God could not suffer and die on the Cross, since for Nestorius there were two persons of Christ, one human and one divine corresponding to Christ's human and divine natures. Only the human person of Christ died on the Cross. By extension, the Blessed Mother could not be Theotokos, God-bearer, but only Christotokos, Christ-bearer, since she could not be the mother of His Divinity, which existed from before all ages, only of His human personhood. The Council of Ephesus emphatically declared that she was in fact the Mother of God, and by the sixth century Leontius of Jerusalem (I've also seen 'of Byzantium') refined the language used earlier to define hypostasis ("person," as in those of the Holy Trinity) so that the relation of the nature and personhood of Christ could be adequately explained. I'd love to explain more, and perhaps I will when I get back to my theology notes...

If Our Lady can be the Mother of God insofar as the Word was made flesh, then in the same way God can truly suffer upon the Cross and die for Christ did truly suffer and truly die. His humanity and divinity penetrate each other. And in His Mystical Body, the Church, Christ continues to suffer, and we must join Him in His suffering. We are called to console His Sacred Heart.

To be continued...

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