Jesus Christ is from above

Editorial, December 2010

Romano Guardini was one of the great Catholic thinkers of the twentieth century. He is perhaps best known for his penetrating analysis of Jesus in his book called The Lord, which first appeared in 1937. Recently I read an article entitled “Romano Guardini’s Christocentrism” by Professor José Manuel Fidalgo (Scripta Theologica, Vol. 42, No. 2, 2010). Dr. Fidalgo has studied the work of Guardini carefully and distilled a few important points that I would like to pass on to you.

The author stresses the fact that, for Guardini, Jesus Christ is a unique person in all of history. That is because he is God in the flesh and, because he is God almighty, he has a complete and total view of man and the world. He knows everything that is, was and will be. He has a view of the world—Weltanschauung is the German word he used—that includes everything and everyone. His knowledge is not limited to particular things and events as our knowledge is. We see only a part of reality—he sees it all because he is from above.

An amazing thing about Jesus is that he shares his total view of reality with the person who believes in him. One who is converted by Christ and becomes a Christian learns from Christ, by means of the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He or she shares in the wisdom of the Catholic Church which is guaranteed to her by the Spirit of truth. That Spirit teaches the Church, and us, all things that are necessary for salvation (see Jn 14:26).

Guardini says that to have a total view of the world one must have distance from the world, be outside of the world. Because Jesus is the Word, the Son of God, he comes from outside of this world and he has distance from it. Because of that he is not tied down to earthly categories. He is different from all mundane realities. He is mystery in the flesh.

Guardini says that Jesus’ distance is evident in his authority, solitude and awareness of eternity. Jesus speaks with authority: he drives out devils, he cures lepers with a word; he raises the dead to life. But there is solitude in Jesus because even his closest disciples do not understand him until after his Resurrection. His consciousness of the eternal is captured by St. John; an infinite abyss exists between normal human beings and Christ: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58).

Another point made by Guardini is that Jesus cannot be measured by human standards. If we want to understand Christ we must admit that he does not respond to human categories. He is original and unique; he brings a whole new view of the world and of life.

According to Guardini Jesus’ thinking is simple but uncompromising; it is realistic. He does not spin theories—his words are concrete and living. There is no sign in the Gospels that Jesus’ thinking grows or develops. His love for the Father is unchanging from the beginning. Jesus is a person in the full sense, but he cannot be explained by human psychology. He is a person totally new and different because he is the incarnate God. He is the beginning of something totally new in the world: the Gospel of salvation, faith, grace, sacraments and a community of saints known as the Church. From Christ we must revise our image of man—it makes us see man from a new perspective—from God’s perspective.

According to Guardini, the Catholic vision of the world is made possible by faith and does not consist in a particular mode of looking at the world, but precisely in a universal mode. This sovereign view of the world, in its completeness, is found only in the Catholic Church.

During December and the Christmas season our thoughts dwell on the little Child born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. That Child is a gift from God who came into this world to bring salvation to those who listen to him, love him and follow him. God is love and Jesus is the visibility and peace of God in the flesh: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will” (Lk 2:14).

Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ About Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ

Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ, 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.