Friday, December 22, 2017

The 2nd Advent Sermon for the Papal Household

SPECIAL: 2nd Advent Sermon From Fr. Cantalamessa
‘Christ is the same today, tomorrow, and forever’

© PHOTO.VA - Osservatore Romano
Today, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the pontifical household, gave the the second Advent sermon of this season.
Here is a translation of the text:
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, ofmcap
Second Sermon for Advent 2017

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, ofmcap
(Heb 13:8)
The Omnipresence of Christ in Time
  1. Christ and Time
After having meditated last time on the place Christ occupies in the cosmos, I would like to dedicate this second reflection to the place Christ occupies in human history: after first considering his presence in space, we will now consider his presence in time.
At Mass on Christmas Eve in St Peter’s Basilica, the ancient chant of the Kalends drawn from the Roman Martyrology has been reinstated since Vatican II. In it the birth of Christ is placed at the end of a series of dates that situate it in time. Here are some of its statements:
When ages beyond number had run their course from the creation of the world…,
in the thirteenth century since the People of Israel were led by Moses in the Exodus from Egypt,
around the thousandth year since David was anointed King. . . ,
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad,
in the year seven hundred and fifty-two since the foundation of the City of Rome,
in the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus,
the whole world being at peace, JESUS CHRIST, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to consecrate the world by his most loving presence, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and when nine months had passed since his conception, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man.
This relative approach to calculating time, starting with a beginning and referring to different events, was bound to change radically with Christ’s coming, even though that did not happen immediately or all at once. Oscar Cullman, in his famous study Christ and Time, explained in a very clear way what this change in the human way of calculating time meant.
We no longer begin with a starting point (the creation of the world, the exodus from Egypt, the founding of Rome, etc.) followed by a numbering that goes forward into an unlimited future. We now start with a central point, the birth of Christ, and calculate the time before it in descending order—five centuries, four centuries, one century before Christ—and in an ascending order for the time that follows: one century, two centuries, or two millennia after Christ. In a few days we will celebrate the 2017th anniversary of that event.
This way of calculating time, as I said, did not come about immediately or in the same way. Starting with Dionysius Exiguus (Dionysius the Humble) in 525, people began to calculate years starting from the birth of Christ instead of the founding of Rome. However, only in the seventeenth century (it seems with the theologian Denis Pétau called Petavius) was the custom established of counting the time prior to Christ according to the years that preceded his coming. We now have the general custom in English of using the formula “Before Christ” (abbreviated as B.C.) and “Anno Domini” (“the year of the Lord,” abbreviated as A.D.), meaning “after Christ.” Whatever abbreviations are used in different languages, dates now represent “before Christ” and “after Christ.”
For some time now the custom has spread, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world and in international relations, of avoiding this wording that is no longer acceptable, for understandable reasons, to people belonging to other religions or to no religion. Instead of speaking of “the Christian era” or “the year of the Lord,” people prefer to speak of the “Current Era” or the “the Common Era.” “Before Christ was born” (B.C.) has now been substituted by “Before the Common Era” (BCE), and “the year of the Lord” (A.D) has been substituted by “the Common Era” (CE). The wording has changed but not the essence since the manner of calculating the years and time has stayed the same.
Oscar Cullman has clarified the innovation of this new chronology introduced by Christianity. Time does not proceed in cycles that are repeated, as in the thinking of Greek philosophy and, among the moderns, of Friedrich Nietzsche. Rather, it moves forward in a linear fashion, starting from an unspecified moment (that we are unable to date precisely), namely, the creation of the world, toward a point that is equally unspecified and unforeseeable, which is the parousia. Christ is at the center of the line, the One to whom all things before him point and to whom all things point backward after him. Defining himself as “the Alpha and the Omega” of history (Rev 21:6), the Risen One assures us that not only will he gather together into himself the beginning and the end but also that he himself is that unspecified beginning and unforeseeable end, the author of creation and its consummation.
At the time, Cullman’s position met with a strong, hostile reaction from representatives of the dialectical theology that was dominant then: Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, and their disciples. Their theology tended to de-historicize the Kerygma, reducing it to an existentialist “summons to decision.” Consequently they showed a marked lack of interest for the “Jesus of history” in favor of the so-called “Christ of faith.” However, the revived interest in “salvation history” in theology after the Council and the rekindled interest in the Jesus of history in biblical scholarship (the so-called “new quest for the historical Jesus”) have confirmed the validity of Cullman’s insight.
One achievement of dialectical theology has remained intact: God is completely other with respect to the world, history, and time. There is an “infinite and irreducible qualitative difference” between them. When it comes to Christ, however, alongside the certainty of an infinite difference, there must always be the affirmation of an equally great “infinite” similarity. This is the core of the definition of Chalcedon, expressed by the two adverbs “inconfuse, indivise,” without confusion and without separation. We must say of Christ in an eminent way that he is “in the world” but not “of it.” He is in history and time, but he transcends history and time.

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