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JPII and St. Nicholas

Thursday, August 1, 2013

JPII and Redemption

Throughout his life, Karol Wojtyla wrote extensively on Divine Mercy, but more personally, the Redeemer. As a powerful title for Christ, 'Redeemer' had specific meaning to JPII and can be found in most of his speeches, letters, and other works. Why did he refer to Christ under this title so often? How did JPII hope for members of the Church to identify with the Redeemer?

Three encyclicals that prove his affinity for the Redeemer, and his conviction that (in addition to Divine Mercy) redemption was the message for the modern world are: Remptor Hominis, Redemptoris Missio, and Redemptoris Mater. All three refer to the mystery of Redemption and its implications for man (both individually and collectively). I want to largely draw from the first two of these encyclicals in order to illustrate the profound relationship JPII had with the Redeemer, who paid for the Church with the gift of his own blood.

The 'mystery' of the Redemption is precisely that, a mystery, but it is still worth mining for truth, goodness, and beauty under the guidance of the Slavic Pope who explored the mystery so thoroughly. That is to say that the mystery is very much accessible to the layman with the help of the wisdom of the holy father. Therefore, it is safe to proceed with the basic understanding of Redemption as the price paid for man to be reconciled to God.

As the Redeemer, Jesus paid the price of his blood on the cross without reservation, and once dead, was raised on the third day in victory over sin and death. I want to emphasize, as does the Pope, that the Resurrection justified the price of Jesus' blood on the cross with inestimable value, efficaciousness, and life-giving centrality to the Church. JPII's very first encyclical began with these words: "THE REDEEMER OF MAN, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history" (Redemptor Hominis, ch. 1). Furthermore, in the sacraments, especially of baptism and the eucharist, we encounter the power of the Redemption firsthand:

By celebrating and also partaking of the Eucharist we unite ourselves with Christ on earth
and in heaven who intercedes for us with the Father, but we always do so
through the redeeming act of his Sacrifice, through which he has
redeemed us, so that we have been "bought with a price". The "price" of
our redemption is likewise a further proof of the value that God himself
sets on man and of our dignity in Christ. (ibid, ch. 20)

This statement in itself, comprises the whole of the message of Redemption which JPII wished to impart to the world. It was as though the Redeemer urged him to "tell my people that I value them to such a degree that I entirely spent my priceless blood for each of them". The message is very much in line with scriptural and traditional understanding of redemption as 'purchasing', and demands to be delivered with a particular urgency in a world where human dignity has all but been reduced to mere numeric value. Further evidence from Scripture for this same understanding of redemption appears in the books of Ruth and Exodus in particular, foreshadowing Christ as Bridegroom in the former and Christ as Redeemer from slavery in the latter.

Karol Wojtyla saw the worst of ideological indignity in nazism and communism. Yet, he found himself being led by the Redeemer, in the midst of both catastrophes, to communicate the message of Redemption to the world threatened by the allurement of such inhumanity. He challenges man, so strongly influenced by the likes of Freud, Nietzche, and Marx to adopt the "Ethos of Redemption" (Theology of the Body) to combat the "masters of suspicion" already mentioned. He does not settle for the excuse, 'we are only human flesh'. That is why, in Redemptor Hominis, he deals with the truth of redemption in a human dimension and in a divine dimension--as Christ united both in himself:

We can and must immediately reach and display to the world our
unity in proclaiming the mystery of Christ, in revealing the divine
dimension and also the human dimension of the Redemption, and in
struggling with unwearying perseverance for the dignity that each human
being has reached and can continually reach in Christ, namely the dignity
of both the grace of divine adoption and the inner truth of humanity, a
truth which—if in the common awareness of the modern world it has been
given such fundamental importance—for us is still clearer in the light of
the reality that is Jesus Christ. (Redemptor Hominis ch.11)

It is not enough for humanity to come to some greater appreciation of itself as reasonable, industrious, etc. Rather, man has to be raised to his crucial relationship of covenant with God in Christ in order to fully grasp his dignity and worth--and in humility, to acknowledge God as its source and summit. Revolutions like the Enlightenment and Marxism drastically fall short of this call. So too does any technological advancement invented by man that promises to alleviate suffering for a time. JPII covers all of these substitutes for the Redeemer in his writings. Furhtermore, he notes that the need for a redeemer is written on the human conscience ever since the first sin.

The need for a redeemer is clearly seen throughout Scripture. Especially one who could definitively reunite God and man. If we look at the depictions of bloodshed in the earliest recorded Judeo-Christian history, we see that Abel ends up to be the first martyr and victim of familial violence. His death is mentioned in the Letter to the Hebrews "the blood of Christ speaks more eloquently than that of Abel"(Heb 12), and is directly compared to the redemptive blood of the Son of God whose life continued beyond death. Just as the message of the Redeemer 'speaks' to JPII, so too does Abel's blood 'speak' of a need for the Redeemer. Abel's blood, like every innocent victim of violence since himself, demands an answer from God. Even God says, soon after the murder of Abel by Cain, "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground!" (Gen 4). So too, the blood of the martyrs 'speaks' of the past, present, and future need for the blood of the Redeemer to restore life to man's mortality, and JPII captures the pulse of this communication in Redemptoris Missio (ch. 1):

Although participated forms of mediation of different kinds and
degrees are not excluded, they acquire meaning and value
only from Christ's own mediation

That is to say, that the blood of the martyrs does not suffice as redemptive unless Christ is raised from the dead! Abel's blood would have no answer from God had not Christ poured out his blood on the cross. Not only die, but rise to see his blood forever re-gain its vitality and 'speak eloquently'. This is exactly what JPII is writing about in his reference to the Eucharist as the living body and blood, or lifeblood, of the Redeemer. The dignity and value of man, paid for by the priceless and living blood of Christ, is nearly ineffable. In the Eucharist too, this price remains with man as enduring proof of his redemption. None can say that he is far from them or distant from one's suffering, dying, or loneliness. The answer to all of man's wounds is in the redemption!

That is why, as the first Slavic pope, Karol Wojtyla so strongly identified with the Redeemer. He had experienced firsthand, the extent to which Christ had taken on the human condition and with Divine Mercy raised it up to God. He explains (Redemptor Hominis ch.1):

In its penetrating analysis of "the modern world", the Second Vatican
Council reached that most important point of the visible world that is
man, by penetrating like Christ the depth of human consciousness and by
making contact with the inward mystery of man, which in Biblical and
non-Biblical language is expressed by the word "heart". Christ, the
Redeemer of the world, is the one who penetrated in a unique
unrepeatable way into the mystery of man and entered his "heart"

JPII goes as far as saying that Vatican II was an initiative of the Redeemer to more thoroughly influence wayward man! How great an emphasis he places on redemption, as to afford the council a special mission and goal toward this end of proving to man that Jesus loved him to death and beyond. Redemptor Hominis, as his first encyclical, effectively communicates JPII's burden for accurately instituting the teachings of the council and to bring the Church into year of Jubilee, 2000. Wojtyla lived to see that day, having done exactly what he proposed in the opening years of his reign.

picture: blood of JPII preserved as relic

Update "Unequal Exchange":
It is not as though the life of the Redeemer for our life is an equally valid and contractual exchange, no it is completely gratuitous. Pope BXVI says, "The mystery of the Covenant expresses this relationship between God who calls man with his word, and man who responds, albeit making clear that it is not a matter of a meeting of two peers; what we call the Old and New Covenant is not a
contract between two equal parties, but a pure gift of God." (Verbum Domini #22)


Ricardo said...

If the news evangelization is to be efficacious, a rediscovery of "Dia del SeƱor" is absolutely necessary!

Anonymous said...

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough." (Lk. 13:23-)

This applies well to Moses who led Israel from slavery but could not bring them to their final rest.

mystic said...

What is His blood saying to me now? "prepare for a culture of encountering me. I want to speak face to face with my beloved for whom I shed my blood. Holy fear is the right response to encountering my five-fold wounds for you, especially my pierced heart. I will give you wisdom if you fear me, pray to me, make reparation to me for sin. My blood cries out to you: 'encounter me every moment! consider me, the Author, Pioneer and Perfector of your faith. Make decisions for my sake, knowing the price I paid for you. Personally encounter me daily: in song, in word and deed, in speech and listening. Prepare for a culture of encounter, to be followed by a culture of dwelling in my house--the house of prayer, of service, and of my rest'"

mystic said...

What does his blood say?

"I have ransomed you from the futile way of life of your fathers. You are now a 'holy nation and royal priesthood' who was 'once no people but are now God's people'. My blood has given you identity and purpose"

Anonymous said...

Aquinas on Kingship:


Beowulf said...

The resurrection is crucial to it all. Had Jesus not risen, then his blood would be only as equal as Abel’s–another innocently killed man.

Here’s where the term “lifeblood” is important. Had the Redeemer offered ‘deadblood’ to and for man, then there would be no redemption, no payment of an indebtedness to death and sin. The dry blood would be a mockery, and proof of a further need for a redeemer.

Instead, Jesus offered his blood–risking it to be valueless ‘deadblood’, ultimately for it to be Resurrected as “lifeblood”. In other words, most appropriately pertaining to the Eucharist, Jesus’ blood is ‘alive’ and valuable/priceless, not ‘dead’. Another way of thinking of it is that Jesus paid man with a currency that can never be inflated, never lose its value, and more importantly, never be replaced or extinct. It is what affords man’s entry into heaven.

Abel said...

What will be my chief intention for divine mercy Sunday 2014?
1) Hendy's faith?
2) ¡family public commitment to CCR!
3) New house in w/ stability
4) Another car
5) Finish MARE/begin teaching

The blood of Christ speaks more eloquently than that of Abel:
What does his blood say to you? Purification for covenant? Does his blood speak to you of redemption, of total belonging to the Person of the Redeemer!
Does his blood speak of a clean conscience to worship the living God? Does his blood speak to you of eternal life flowing from the source of his veins?

Iverson said...

"Bridegroom of Blood" explanation from Catholic Answers:

Saint Augustine (in his writing on Questions on Exodus II) has no clear answer..."whom did the angel want to kill...Moses or the child...it appears the child because his mother Zipporah circumcises the child and the angle relents." Augustine relates some of these words to words found in the psalms. He simply calls it a scriptural problem!

I like this one best:
John Cragen of Liturgical Press says that maybe as a Hebrew born and raised in Egypt...Moses and his family must be "purified" to be part of God's chosen people...and "circumcision" is their "baptism" into God's family of chosen people. This also portends to how serious God takes this "sacrament of circumcision" and its requirement to be part of his adopted family...without it you will die. Later, Jesus introduces the real sacrament of baptism...and says to Nicodemus that without baptism of spirit and water...you will not see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3 & 5).

Anonymous said...

"However, in Beowulf the hero in every case refuses to contest the customs of blood and instead supports the juristic framework of a coupled inheritance justified by both blood and deeds"
Blood and Deeds: The Inheritance Systems in "Beowulf" (Section titled: Hybrid Inheritance-Blood and Deeds)
Michael D. C. Drout
Studies in Philology
Vol. 104, No. 2 (Spring, 2007), pp. 199-226
Published by: University of North Carolina Press
Specifically quoted page 215

See also, Beowulf's refusal of Hrothgar's adoption for sake of Hygelac:
"Not until the last living man with a superior blood-based claim to the kingly inheritance is dead--
does Beowulf take the office of king. Blood inheritance is one of the fundamental--although unstated--
rules that Beowulf insists upon enforcing. In both situations in which he has an opportunity to become
king, Beowulf demonstrates that inheritance by deeds is not, as far as he is concerned, enough to allow
for a succession out of the traditional blood-line order of kinship passing from father to son. However,
the poet does cause Beowulf to be rewarded for his forbearance. In return for passing Hrothgar's treasure
to Hygelac, Beowulf is rewarded with land and an heirloom sword. In return for his support of Heardred,
he becomes the greatest king of the Geats, his rule untroubled by succession struggles because his
inheritanceis justified by both blood and by deeds" (212)

Beowulf said...

Fr. William Most. “Another example of the need of Hebrew [study] is the way the translations deal with Hebrew hesed. It means the bond between those who have made a covenant, such that each has rights and duties, and should act as kinsmen toward each other. (We can see an implication for the sprinkling of the blood in Exodus 24:8. It meant the people were becoming kinsmen of God). Unfortunately, Greek had no word for hesed. So they usually translated by eleos, which means mercy. There is partial truth in that translation. For if we ask why God gives good things under the covenant, the answer comes on two levels. On the most basic level, He made a covenant and gives things under it out of unmerited, unmeritable generosity. No creature by its own power can establish a claim on Him. All is basically mercy. Yet on the secondary level, given the fact that He did make a covenant, if the people do what He prescribed, He owes it to Himself to give favor (or punishment for disobedience). Incidentally, this twofold sense explains the difficult text of Romans 2;6 where Paul says God will repay each one according to his works. That is part of a quote from Psalm 62:12 which says, in the full text: "You, O God, have hesed, for you will repay each one according to his works." Many English versions unfortunately render it to say: "You O Lord have mercy, for you will repay...." Mercy and repayment do not go together.”

Anonymous said...

Hesed is equivalent to Koinonia in Greek