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Christ, The King of the Universe
Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
The spirituality of St. Paul derives all its meaning and finds all its purpose in one dominant mystery of the Christian faithnamely, the person of Christ as the natural Son of God.
After all, what is Christianity except the religion of a human being who was and proved Himself to be the Incarnate God?
It is not so much that Paul knew this, as though his letters somehow serve to confirm what, as Christians, we believe. It is rather that the revelation of Christs divinity is found in St. Paul. His fourteen letters are a mosaic of many things, but of nothing more surely and clearly and fundamentally than that Jesus is the Eternal God.
We could almost close our eyes and choose any one of more than a score of passages in Pauls writings testifying to Christs divine nature. In fact, for Paul, Christ is simply the Lord, Kyrios, the same title as he uses for God.
But the classic passage in which the apostle synthesizes all that Christ is and means to mankind occurs in the first chapter of Colossians. It reads like a symphony, which it is, because it contains in six verses all that the Church believes about her Founder.
Says St. Paul of Christ:
He is the image of the unseen God and the first born of all creation, for in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible, Thrones, Dominations, Sovereignties, Powersall things were created through and for Him.
Before anything was created, He existed, and He holds all things in unity (Col 1:15-17).
The Divinity of Christ
As is customary with St. Paul, he heaps upon the head of Christ all the titles which belong to him by reason of His two natures, human and divine. Paul is not inclined to divide Christ, any more than is St. John.
For the sake of convenience, however, we may separate what Paul says about Christ as God, and what he affirms about Him as man.
As God, Christ is the image of God, the first-born, the Creator, the preserver and the end or goal of all things.
As man, Christ is the first-born of the dead, the head of the Mystical Body, the Redeemer of the human race and the peacemaker of all rational creation. But even as man, Christ is all these things only because He is also, and before everything else, the infinite God.
Christ is the image of the unseen God. He is the image of the Father because He perfectly reflects the Father. His nature is exactly the same as that of the Father; the only difference being that Christ as the Son proceeds from the Father who proceeds from no one. But Christ is as much God as truly divine as is the Father.
Christ is the first-born of all creation. He was born before every creature. He proceeded from all eternity, before anything was made.
Christ is Creator of all things, of everything visible (or the material world) and of everything invisible (the world of angelic spirits and human souls). Each of our souls at the moment of conception was individually and distinctively made by Christas the Second Person of the Trinity, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Christ existed before anything was created. He is therefore eternal, from always, and He would have existed as God, even though God had not freely decided to make the world out of nothing.
Christ holds the universe together. As the wisdom of the Father, He is the Providence of God who governs all things gently and leads them to their appointed destiny.
The Adorability of Christ
In the light of this majestic description that Paul gives us of Christ, is it any wonder that Paul would exhort the faithful to worship Christ as they worship the Father and honor Christ as they honor the Father?
There is much room here, I believe, for looking into our prayer life and frankly asking ourselves how frequently we approach Christ in this spirit of adoration.
We are so accustomed to thinking of the Savior as our Mediator with the Father that we are liable to overlook what should be our primary posture in the presence of Christ. It is the posture of adoration that was perfectly expressed by St. Thomas on the Sunday following Easter, when Christ appeared to the doubting apostle who, on seeing the Master, fell down on his knees and professed, My Lord and my God.
We say this invocation at the elevation at Mass. As a priest, this is my prayer every time I raise the Host and the chalice after consecration.
Let us be very clear here. What we see of the Eucharist is only what appear to be bread and wine. What we believe is that behind these appearances is a man, and behind the man is God.
Faith in Christs adorability as God is the key that unlocks the treasures of His Sacred Heart. I cannot overemphasize how pleased Christ is at our faith in His divinity or how lavish He is with His gifts of grace if we honor Him as God. This is the faith that evoked miracles from Jesus during His visible stay on earth. This is the faith that will evoke miracles in our favor, since the same Jesus is present in our midst in the Holy Eucharist. All He wantshonestly all He wantsis that we approach Him in the Blessed Sacrament, and invoke Him as our twice-hidden God.
Christ is Head of the Church
Because Jesus Christ is God, when He became man and died on the Cross, the moment He expired the Church was born.
As the ancient Fathers express it, the Church of Christ as the Spouse of Christ, came from His open side as the Second Eve; even as the First Eve came from the side of the First Adam.
Once the Church came into existence, like any living body she acquired her members, who are the believing faithful, and she already had her living Head who is Jesus Christ.
How the truth of the Catholic faith needs to be stressed today, when the Church is undergoing the most severe trial of her corporate history.
The Church is being persecuted by her enemies on the outside and by her traitors from the inside. Between the two there is no question who are worse and inflicting the greater harm on the Mystical Body. They are, in the words of the late Pope Paul VI, the Judases who are betraying their Master for thirty pieces of cheap publicity and the friendship of the Pharisees, those who control the media of mass communication in our day.
No doubt Christ is being crucified today in His Body, which is the Church. But we should be certain that, though suffering, the Church is not being abandoned. Abandoned? Why this is exactly as God in His Providence permits things to happen.
Remember the long conversation related by St. Pauls disciple, the Evangelist Luke? On Easter Sunday, Christ joined the two discouraged followers on their way to Emmaus. Remember what He told them, when they sadly told Him how disappointed they were over what had happened on Good Friday?
You foolish men! (He rebuked them.) So slow to believe the full message of the prophets. Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into His glory? (Lk 24:25-26).
This rebuke Christ is addressing also to us. You foolish people, He chides us. So slow to believe the full message of what I had predicted. Is it not ordained that the Mystical Christ, in my members, should suffer and so enter into its glory?
All of this makes sense, however, only on the assumption that when the Churchs members are suffering they are part of His Body; that He is their Head; that just as He underwent His Passion, so we are to undergo ours; that this is all as it should be; that the Mystical Christ like the physical Christ will have a glorious Resurrection. Meantime we are consoled by our faith in Christ, who is God, and whos Spirit we breathe, and who in spite of appearances, will not allow His Church to be finally overcome.
The Fullness of Christ
One of the most expressive ideas in St. Paul is the term fullness, that he uses no less than twelve times with reference to Christ. It is rich in meaning and has some very practical implications for the spiritual life.
What is this fullness or plentitude?
On each of these four levels, Christ is to evoke a corresponding response from us.
Because He is the fullness of God, we are to offer Christ the worship of our sacrifice. At Mass, when He offers Himself, as man, to His heavenly Father, we are to sacrifice ourselves to Jesus, as God. That is why the Mass is a sacrifice of adoration.
Because Christ possesses the fullness of Gods goodness, ready to bless the human race, we are to cooperate with Him in this communication of grace. Cooperate is not too strong a word to describe what Christ wants to do, but He has decreed that we are to work with Him in the distribution of His gifts.
Because Christ is Head of the Mystical Body, which is the Church, we are to do everything in our power to extend the Kingdom of Christ to the whole world. We are to look forward to the day when every knee on earth will bend before the crucifix, and every hand will make the Sign of the Cross, and every mouth will receive the living Bread that came down from heaven for the salvation of souls.
And lastly, because Jesus Christ is the fullness of sanctity and the pattern for us to follow, we are to learn all we can about Him through meditation on the Gospels, and from Him through intimate conversation in prayer. He is what we hope to become. In the degree that we strive to become like Him, we too (in some measure) can tell others, as St. Paul told his contemporaries, Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.
There is no ambition that is higher and none more sublime, than to take on the mind and heart of Christ. The ambition is both possible and achievable; but only because Jesus is God, from whom we come as our Creator and to whom we are going as our predestined Love.
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