Sunday 20 April 2014

on the Resurrection

From Aneesh Chacko on the Resurrection:

To All those who Think, Live and Appropriate the Resurrection Faith,

“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Pet 3:15).
“And if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty too, your faith” (1 Cor 15:14).

In early church fathers, particularly in St. Augustine and St. Anselm we find this peculiar aspect of seeking to understand. This is clear from their theological formulae. Augustine’s formulae crede ut intelligas “I believe in order to understand” Intellige ut credas, “I understand, the better to believe” and St. Anslem’s fides quaerens intellectum “faith seeking understanding,” credo ut intelligam “I believe in order to understand” put us on the right track to understand the mysteries of our faith, especially our faith in the resurrection of the Son of God.

In my theological formation one happiest thing that I would take with me is the experience of a seminar on “the Resurrection of the Son of God” under the expertise of Br. Abraham Antony, SDB. The main focus of the seminar was on the New Testament evidences, particularly the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (15), and the gospels. Several insights dawned on our minds as we were grappling with the texts of the New Testament. We unearthed the following:

The creedal formula: the short phrases used by the early Christians to express their faith in Jesus (Christ is risen, alleluia). In 1 Cor 15:3-5 “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” is the earliest creedal formula that we have in the NT. In the Gospels we see that there is a shift in the expression of the creedal formula into creedal story. This shows the enthusiasm of the NT writers to express the experience of the resurrection in new ways, to make it lasting in the minds of the hearers.

The use of the ‘divine passive’: St. Paul uses the passive voice in referring to the resurrection. Such a usage is called the “divine passive” because God’s agency in the action is implied [that he was raised on the third day” (1 Cor 15:4)]. The Resurrection is an action of God. Take another instance of the rolled away stone from the gospel of Mark, “when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back” (Mk 16:4). Here too we see the use of the perfect passive. In the gospel of Matthew the stone was rolled away through the agency of an earthquake/an angel of the Lord. Here in mark what is implied is a divine agency. God is the main actor in the drama of salvation.

Now what is the credibility of our resurrection faith? Many people today treat the resurrection as a mythical story. Some others consider it as a symbol of the continuation of Jesus’ activity through the apostles, Christians. These are spurious claims. What is important is to consider the historicity of the event. The myths are ahistorical in nature. In the resurrection narratives we have the mention of the places like Judea, Jerusalem, and Galilee. They are historical places. No one would dare to accept martyrdom for a mythological story. The early Christians and Christians even today lay down their life for their faith in the resurrected Lord. This is the credibility of the resurrection. The resurrection faith helps us to live with this conviction, “you are not your own. For you have been purchased at a price” (1 Cor 6:19,20). The victorious Lord is in Control of our lives and not we. He leads us, shows us the way and he has promised us, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).

Another important aspect of our faith is the dimension of ‘living with the mystery.’ The resurrection of Jesus is a mystery, the truth that cannot be contained in limited linguistic categories. Next Sunday (27/04/2014) Bl. John Paul II will be declare a saint together with Pope John XXIII. In his encyclical Redemptor Hominis, Pope John Paul II applies the term “mystery” to Christ about 50 times. Hence, it is a forceful reminder that in our pilgrimage of faith, we must be content with glimpses, parables and partial insights.

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