Seeing man from the eyes of Christ

Jesus Christ, God and Man, is the center and heart of our Catholic faith.   In the Creed, we express our belief in certain events of his life and in certain truths concerning him: that he is the only Son of the Father, God from God, consubstantial with the Father; that he died for us and for our salvation, that he rose from the dead and that he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

Everything in the Old Testament, the inspired word of God, points in one way or another to the coming Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.  The Psalms all refer to him.   My point is that Jesus is God in the flesh—God made visible so that we can see him, hear him, touch him and carry him in our memory and imagination.  The Person, Jesus Christ, is God Almighty, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Creator of heaven and earth.

We worship Jesus Christ not because he was a great teacher and wonder worker, but because he is God in the visibility of human flesh and, at the same time, the infinite source of all finite, created being.  Romano Guardini, philosopher and theologian, stresses the fact that in Jesus, we experience both the nearness and the remoteness of God.   We experience the nearness because he is a man like us who lived and died at a certain place, and in a certain time.  He has a history—a  history recorded for us in the four Gospels.  Since he is God, Jesus manifests certain attributes of God by his self-sacrificing love, his obedience to the Father, and his compassion for the suffering of others.  At the same time, there is a remoteness about Jesus.  Everything about him is mysterious.  Nobody truly understands him because as God, he is incomprehensible.   Those who had some understanding of him were: his mother, Mary; St. John, who leaned on his breast at the Last Supper; and St. Paul, who was taught about the mystery of Christ by Jesus himself.  Because of his human nature, Jesus is immanent in the world; because of his divinity, he is also transcendent.

Because of his intellect, will, and spiritual nature, man is also quite mysterious and, therefore, difficult to understand.  On this point, Vatican II said: “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear” (Church in the Modern World, 22).   Guardini takes this as the basic principle of his view of Christology and his Christian Weltanschauung  (world view).   Since Christ is God and knows everything, since he created the world and man, he alone knows man perfectly.  So in order to understand man in the fullness of his reality, we must consider him from the view of Christ.  Thus, only Christ possesses the complete view of human life; only he knows the true reality, such as it is, in its totality and concreteness.

By faith in Jesus Christ and his revelation, Christians participate in this view of Christ.  Revelation illuminates our human knowledge, and helps us to understand man in his concrete existence, as a creature of God who has an eternal destiny of complete happiness in the beatific vision of God.

Guardini challenges us to see the totality of human existence with the eyes of Christ.  He says that this is a challenge that conflicts with our culture, which has been secularized, accustomed to thinking without reference to God.  Our secular culture, for the most part, looks upon any reference to God as a sign of simplicity, sentimentality and a lack of critical maturity.  In order to overcome the crisis of secular, modern thought—which is the result of the abandonment of God—a rediscovery of  knowledge of Christ and revelation is necessary.  Only by thinking in vital union with Christ and the faith will we obtain a unified and total vision of man.  It is necessary to place Christ at the center of human thought in order to learn how “to see with his eyes.”

Guardini says that the recovery of the centrality of Christ is the key to all thought.  Christ is the key to a unified knowledge of all reality.  The essence of revelation is the Person of Jesus Christ, God who became man and came to save us.

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avatar About Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ

Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., is editor emeritus of HPR, having served as editor for over 30 years. He is the author of the best selling Fundamentals of Catholicism (three volumes) and of the popular introduction to the Scripture, Inside the Bible.

Comments

  1. avatar Jim Roddy says:

    Fr. Baker, thank you so much for all you have written over these many years for HPR. It is nice to see you on the internet, but I do miss the hard copy that came monthly. Like our current Pope Benedict XVI, you can say so much in a few words.

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