we’re back

Elizabeth has returned with good questions on old posts.  And since my blogging-brain continues to play hide and seek, I’m going to pull one of her questions us front and centre.

The context is liturgy (Cramner, Dix & Mayhew) and the way we speak of Jesus’ life, death resurrection and ascension:

What’s particularly interesting to me in this post, is that when you move from past to present tense, death drops out. I can say ‘Christ is incarnate for us’ ‘Christ lives’ ‘Christ is raised’ but I’m not sure I can say ‘Christ dies’. Does Christ still die in the present tense?

I suspect it might be worth taking the question as it stands before we jump to what ‘present temse’ means in relation to God.

What do you think?

15 thoughts on “we’re back”

  1. God and the risen Christ are, of course, beyond the time dimension altogether. But we can still say ‘Christ dies’ because the same forces that brought him to the Cross are still rampant in the world (cue the Congo, Afghanistan), and he is still in the business of forgiving those who know not what they do.

  2. Interesting! The ASB exclamations (“Let us proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ HAS died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” see also the Roman Rite) lock the Passion firmly in the context of a historical event powering the narrative. But Christ is dying? A sine qua non at least in the figurative sense – the living Christ dies daily as do we to the power of sin/death which he has conquered and is conquering and will triumph over daily in the lives of those joined to him in baptism until he comes again in glory. Of course is that an absolute reality or a religious one generated by the logic of the Resurrection narrative?

  3. Absolute (historically) or relative (individually)? Perhaps that’s the difference.

    Some time during Lent last year I spent an afternoon strolling around Gloucester cathedral, examining their Stations of the Cross, and was somewhat struck by their angle of “seed put in the ground” – sounded a bit both New Age and ancient-Catholic simultaneously – but maybe it reflects both the all-time and per-individual nature of Christ’s death *and* resurrection, as somehow we try to live on the resurrected time-side of the pair.

  4. Christ dies. If there is any truth at all in Matthew’s parable of the sheep and the goats, what happens to his children happens to him. Where a child is bullied, Christ is bullied. Therefore, Christ also dies in his children. Leaving to one side all questions of time and eternity, ISTM that Christ has bound himself to his creation to suffer and joy with it.

    I have written this before, and it remains a mystery, but I feel that we only understand the fullness of God when we suffer with him. It as though his suffering was somehow prior, and we link into it.

    But although I do think he has set the world up so that we inevitably suffer, I don’t think he wills the iniquity of poverty and the horrors of cruelty that people inflict on each other.

  5. Well, okay, I also think Christ dies with the dying, suffers with us when we suffer. But what does this mean for the Eucharist and for liturgy? How do we acknowledge the reality of suffering and Christ’s presence in that reality, without glorifying/celebrating it (which is something that I don’t think I am prepared to do)? This is something I struggle with almost every time I participate in the Eucharist.

    Rosemary, I think what you’re saying about suffering is compelling, but I also find it deeply disturbing. If God’s suffering is prior to ours and necessitates ours (i.e. if we want to participate in the fullness of God we have to suffer), how then do we say that this is different from the iniquities of poverty, injustice, cruelty inflicted on and by humanity (which I agree is not willed by God)? It seems to me all to easy to slip from one to the other and I think Christianity has such a bad track record on this matter that this is dangerous ground. Or am I (probably!) missing something?

  6. “and keeps on dying until we get it right” Whoa Ruth! This throws the burden of atonement right back onto us. Groundhog day for humanity until such time as we learn to stop misbehaving and stop Jesus’s suffering. Psychologically destructive for a start and Pelagian for a second! Augustine gets blamed for messing up a heap of Christian thinking on sex and sin, but this is exactly why we don’t swap him for Pelagius. The real danger of this misunderstanding for liturgy is that it turns the Eucharist into a reparation and repetition for our current and personal sins, a sacrifice re-enacted and offered to get us to heaven (because Jesus is crucified and risen every time we offer the Holy Sacrifice). In other words, we hit a straight flush of medieval popular errors and pop goes the Reformation! But we are saved (through the Calvary incident) and are in the process of being saved (through our being remade in Christ through our participation in his risen life, of which our life in the Church and our participation in the Eucharist is part and parcel).

  7. I completely sympathise with your disturbance, Elizabeth, and I share it. I also agree it is necessary to claim, strongly, that God does not will us to inflict suffering on others.

    I am however forced to my position by considering nature. It is widely argued that Darwin lost his faith, not because of the death of his child, nor his realisation that the Bible is not literally true in its account of creation, but because he saw that natural selection means that all evolution is founded on pain and loss. One species only succeeds because another fails. We are in the position to know that the lion cannot eat hay like the ox, it is bound to eat freshly killed flesh. Parasitic wasps live by chewing their way out of a host species – parasites live which can only survive by blinding their hosts. Mankind can only take the niche it does because the dinosaurs failed. For every successful adaptation/ mutation, others are bound to fail. That is how it works.

    We can no longer claim that this all happens because Adam eat an apple. We know that is how it is set up. Pain is part of the system. God is either in that pain or not.

    I can only imagine if he set it up, it is because it is essential for us, and I am reluctant to believe that it is to ‘discipline’ us. This forces me back to what I experience – that in finding pain, I find something where I am closer to God.

    But I totally agree it is dangerous theology, very dangerous.

  8. I meant to add, as far as I am concerned, this is theology in the making, not fixed. I welcome input and serious grappling and I put my ideas forward most tentatively.

  9. This is interesting stuff. Is the distinction between Christ as head of redeemed humanity and the church (and ultimately all creation?) as the body of Christ useful here?

    Jesus HAS died and IS risen (and he still carries the marks of his suffering), but the members of his body keep entering into this paschal mystery through baptish, the eucharist and our daily life. This enables us to say with Paul both ‘For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again’ (Rom 6:9) and ‘I die every day’ (1 Cor 15:31).

    The problem is that there is also a sense in the New Testament that although our death is obviously in the future, our real death is in the past, in baptism, as Paul says again: ‘Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.’ (Rom 6:3-5).

    It is as if we live in an in between stage between death and life, experiencing both of them. Is this what the eucharist means for us? An interpretation and a promise? Given the nature of this world as a place of suffering and death, is it a death as a means to life? This is a long way from celebrating death as death, as in the Mexican ‘Santa Muerte’ devotion.

  10. This thread is absolutely fascinating and has been dancing around my head for many days. Unfortunately, lots of other things have been dancing around my head as well and they are absorbing most of the action! I’ll be back if/when my pondering leads to anything substantive.

    One thought that occurs to me is the probably heretical one that I’m not at all sure about the connection between baptism and death. Isn’t that a rather cruel thing to do to a child if that’s what we mean?

  11. what, you mean you don’t think we should say,
    ‘we have come together to day to drown this child: to make them dance on the edge of life, so that they can be reborn in Christ.’ ?

    I’m sure you’re right. Do you think we should be able to drown adult candidates?

    (like you, I’ve just not found time to come back to this. Thanks to all who have been writing.)

  12. No, I don’t think we should say that! 🙂 (although I kind of like the ‘dance on edge of life bit’ [which is hardly the same as ‘drown’], what can I say, seduced by good poetry every time)

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we *should* drown adults, but I’m less against it then with child. For one thing, they’ve willingly signed up for it. For another, after a number of years in this world they will undoubtably have had encounters with death of some sort and perhaps make some kind of sense of it for themselves. Although I really don’t know. I don’t know what it would be like to be baptized as an adult. Confirmation was special, but not quite the same! Does anyone out there have experience of adult baptism they’d be willing to share

    Does transformation always require death?

  13. I got dunked as a teenager and appear to have lived to tell the tale. I regarded it as a simple public statement of taking a stand, I think.

    Does transformation always require death?

    Possibly, if transformation is change from some old scheme to a new scheme. Perhaps death/life stipulate the scale and clarity of transformation.

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