Saturday 18 January 2014

Baptized into his death

Von Balthasar provides a good interpretation of 'being baptized into his death'. The gift of grace - participation in "the free obedience and obedient freedom of divine love" might have involved no renunciation for paradisal man. But for fallen man it creates "an agonizing tension between the laws of sinful nature and those of reconciling grace." "The obedience of faith means the sacrifice of personal autonomy; the surrender of one's life to Christ means emptying oneself of one's own nature.The state of grace puts the stamp of death on one's innerworldly state: 'Do you not know that all we who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? For we are buried with him by means of baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ has arisen from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life' (Rom 6:3-4)."

And he goes on: "Though definitive in nature, this death is reflected in man's consciousness as a demand that he 'take up his cross daily' (Lk 9:23).... [The Christian State of Life 218.]

Lonergan following Aquinas talks of the gift of sanctifying grace as a change in the probabilities: where before the probability was loaded in favour of doing evil, now it is loaded in favour of doing good. Yet experience shows that falls from grace are frequent, and one wonders why. Perhaps one needs to call in the analysis of human development, and its laws, one of them being the law of integration: a change that is initiated on one level has to be integrated on all levels; else man becomes a basket case, and what is not integrated tends to wither away and die.

Perhaps we could call in also the phenomenon of falling in love: falling in love is not enough; unless it is concretized and given expression, unless the risk of expressing it is taken, it will atrophy and die.

Or perhaps Thomas had all this when he says that the gift, which is operative grace, is at once also cooperative grace, and as such calls for our active cooperation... The dialectic, therefore, between grace and freedom cannot be ignored. God does not save us 'automatically' - though sometimes we find ourselves wishing he would; but perhaps there is bad faith involved in this kind of wish: the wanting to have the 'good feeling' of being right with God, while also hoping to retain whatever else.  

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