Crucified Christ

Our witness of Christ to the world is hopelessly inadequate if we fail to contemplate his face.

[1] We must, therefore, meditate frequently on the Scriptures, which are permeated by the mystery of Christ. Christ is present in the Old Testament in a veiled manner; he is fully revealed in the New Testament. St Paul speaks of the spiritual rock quenching the Israelites’ thirst as they wandered through the desert, and this rock was Christ (1 Cor 10:4). Does this mean that Christ was a physical rock before the Incarnation? By no means! St Paul expresses here the ancient belief in God’s provident care for his people throughout salvation history, and that this care is fully manifest in sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to dwell with us, share our joys and sufferings, and liberate us from sin and death, the ultimate forms of oppressive evil. Christ is the “Rock” who quenches our spiritual thirst. St Augustine’s famous maxim—the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old is made manifest in the New[2]—comes alive in light of the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The Scriptures give us the Apostles’ first-hand experience of Christ: they saw him with their eyes, heard him with their ears, touched him with their hands (1 Jn 1:1). The Second Vatican Council teaches that the Gospels present us with a solid historical foundation for the life, teaching, and deeds of Jesus.[3] The Evangelists, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, provide us with theological interpretations of what Jesus did and said for our salvation. Correct interpretation of the Gospels requires an understanding of the Jewish roots of Christ’s deeds and teachings. How do the persons, things, and events in the Old Testament prefigure Christ? The Egyptian Exodus, for instance, foreshadows the definitive Exodus when Christ, through his death and resurrection, leads humanity out of the slavery of sin and death. The Israelites’ passing through the Red Sea prefigures Christian baptism insofar as the ancient Enemy is defeated and we are freed to be children of God. If we are to be authentic witnesses of Christ to the world we must deeply contemplate the divine face of Christ in the Scriptures.

[1] Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter at the Beginning of a New Millennium: Novo Millennio Ineunte, Vatican: the Holy See website (Rome: 2001), § 16.

[2] Cf. St. Augustine, Quest. in Hept., 2,73: PL 34:623.

[3] Cf. “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum, Promulgated by Pope Paul VI, November 18, 1965,” in Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Northport, NY: Costello Publishing, 1981), chapter V, § 19, p. 761.

 

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