Something quite wonderful has happened in the world of theology these past fifty years. Just prior to Vatican II (1958-1965) some German theologians were working on a new way of explaining who Jesus is and how he achieved the salvation of the human race. It keeps the traditional doctrine of Christ, of course, but adds a new dimension – – – from below.
Most notable in this regard was a theologian named Karl Rahner who, in his Foundations of Christian Faith, pro- posed an “Ascending Christology” which would compliment the traditional “Descending Christology” of the Catholic Church.
The traditional way of viewing Jesus is as the Eternal Word. From all eternity he has existed with the Father and the Holy Spirit. “True God from True God. Consubstantial with the Father”, which we recite in the Creed. Full of divinity and power he “comes down from heaven” and is born among us.
The problem with a “Descending Christology” is that it tends to overshadow Christ’s real humanity. The danger is to see Jesus as basically “God in human clothing”. God uses the humanity of Jesus like a cloak or instrument to work out the divine plan. Jesus’ solidarity with humanity in its real struggles and sufferings can be lost and obscure the critical role of his real humanity.
In “Ascending Christology”, God unites to himself a real humanity in Jesus Christ. Scripture and our Catholic Faith tell us Jesus is human in every way but sin. What does this mean “like us in all things”? Some guidelines for thinking about the nature of Jesus were hammered out at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.
The Council said Jesus has two natures: the nature of God and the nature of man. These two natures are hypostatically (inseparably) united in one divine person (the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity). Two natures, one divine person. This means our human nature is forever united to God in the Blessed Trinity!
“Ascending Christology” attempts to see Jesus from be- low, in his humanity. If Jesus truly has a human nature then he must have a human consciousness, he thinks as humans do. He must reason, ponder . . . figure things out. Jesus could not have known the world as we know it to- day through science. (When asked when the “end would come?” Jesus said, “I don’t know. That has not been given to me.” If his consciousness is truly human then it is finite, limited. He was tempted (Luke 4).
What I find so inspiring is Jesus smells like us. He really suffers, rejoices, grows angry, and fearful. And yet . . . . he accomplishes the mission he knows he has been chosen to do, namely, in his death and resurrection. Surely Jesus is absolutely exceptional in his humanity. He knew himself to be more than a prophet. He embraced his role as Savior of humanity. But he did all these things as a human being. We are saved by one like us!
And so I can turn to Jesus who knows my limited human heart because he had one of them as well.
Dear Jesus. Truly you know the human heart. Give me courage when my heart grows faint. Give me Faith when all seems dark. Give me Love when my heart is empty. Give me Hope that, in the end, “all will be well.
Because you did it Jesus! You died for us and now you live!
Let Him come to you this week.