On the Mystery…

…Salvation as a gift given, not a bargain struck.  A father who does not trade forgiveness for good behavior, but who kisses the prodigal son before he gets his confession out of his mouth.  A vineyard owner who pays what he pleases, not what the laborers earn.  A shepherd who allows no sensible business considerations to keep him from leaving ninety-nine sheep in jeopardy to bring one to safety.  A wheat grower who runs his farm, not for profit, but for the sake of letting everything grow as it pleases till the end.  An Incarnate Word who won’t talk to Pilate; a Carpenter of Nazareth who saves the world by nailing down his own hands; a Risen Lord who runs everything by going away.  A God, in other words, who does all things well by doing practically nothing right, whose wisdom is foolishness, whose strength is weakness – who runs this whole operation by being no operator at all and who makes no deals because, in the high Mystery of his being, he’s got it made already…

…We call Christ’s dying and rising the Paschal Mystery, the Passover Mystery.  But seen in the light of a non-transactional view, this isn’t just typology anymore.  It’s a flat assertion that the Passover and the Resurrection are, beneath the surface, the same thing.  You don’t have to work up some system for getting the Israelites in the wilderness in touch with Christ: They already were, long before Jesus turned up on the scene.  And so were Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  And so, to take it all the way, is everybody and everything that is.

Christ wins in every triumph and loses in every loss.  Christ dies when a chicken dies, and rises when an egg hatches.  He lies slain in the wreckage of all Aprils.  He weeps in the ruins of all springs.  This strange, savage, gorgeous world is the way it is because, incomprehensibly, that is his style.  The Gospel of the Incarnation is preached, not so that we can tell men that the world now means something it didn’t mean before, but so that they may finally learn what it has been about all along.  We proclaim Christ crucified, the formless, uncomely Rood Out Of A Dry Ground, in order to show men, at the undesired roots of their own being, the Incarnate Word who is already there, making Jerusalem to flourish.  We do not bring Jesus to people or people to Jesus.  We preach the Word who sends their roots rain, whether they hear or whether they forbear.

And so at last, the theological Rube Goldberg contraptions go into the trash can.  At Auschwitz and  Buchenwald, the Jews died in Christ and Christ in them.  No limbos.  No bookkeeping.  If the church never got around to them – or if it did, but put them off with rotten manners – Christ still draws all men to himself.  He descends into every hell.  The Incarnate Word preaches on all days, to all spirits, in all prisons.  The Good Shepherd has other sheep, and he flatly refuses to lose a single one.

Robert Farrar Capon ~ Hunting the Divine Fox


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