Friday, April 06, 2007

The Cross and Our Reditus to God

The following passage is one of my favorite pieces by Pope Benedict. In it, he describes creation as a great exitus (going forth) from God and redemption as our reditus (return) to God, and how in the Crucifixion, Christ comes and does what we were unable to do on our own power: bridge the infinite gap that sin places between us and God. It is one of the most profound interpretations of the parable of the Lost Sheep that I've found, so I thought I'd share it with you:
As we have said, Christian though has taken up the schema of exitus and reditus... The exitus, or rather God's free act of creation, is indeed ordered toward the reditus, but that does not now mean the rescinding of created being, but rather... the creature, existing in its own right, comes home to itself, and this act is an answer in freedom to God's love.

But everything is bound up with freedom, and the creature has the freedom to turn the positive exitus of its creation around, as it were, to rupture it in the Fall: this is the refusal to be dependent, saying No to the reditus. Love is seen as dependence and is rejected... The arch from exitus to reditus is broken. The return is no longer desired, and ascent by one's powers proves to be impossible.

If "sacrifice" in its essence is simply returning to love and therefore divinization, worship now has a new aspect: the healing of wounded freedom, atonement, purification, deliverance from estrangement... Worship is directed to the Other in himself, to his all-sufficiency, but now it refers itself to the Other who alone can extricate me from the knot that I myself cannot untie. Redemption now needs the Redeemer.

The Fathers saw this expressed in the parable of the Lost Sheep. For them, the sheep caught in the thorn bush and unable to find its way home is a metaphor for man in general. He cannot get out of the thicket and find his way back to God. The shepherd who rescues him and takes him home is the Logos himself, the eternal Word, the eternal Meaning of the universe dwelling in the Son. He it is who makes his way to us and takes the sheep onto his shoulders, that is, he assumes human nature, and as the God-Man he carries man the creature home to God. And so the reditus becomes possible. Man is given a homecoming.

But now sacrifice takes the form of the Cross of Christ, of the love that in dying makes a gift of itself. Such sacrifice has nothing to do with destruction. It is an act of new creation, the restoration of creation to its true identity. All worship is now a participation in the "Pasch" of Christ, in his "passing over" from divine to human, from death to life, to the unity of God and man. Thus Christian worship is the practical application and fulfillment of the words that Jesus proclaimed on the first day of Holy Week, Palm Sunday, in the Temple in Jerusalem:

"I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32).
Amen. So be it.

[Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000), 32-34]

1 comment:

Adoro te Devote said...

Wow, thank you. I have heard wonderful things about this book...I'm adding it to the ever-growing list of books I need to read as soon as possible!