John Paul II Highlights New Era Brought by Christ
Wednesday General Papal Audience in Paul VI Hall from February 14th
1. God's plan for salvation, "the mystery of His will" (Ephesians 1:9) concerning every creature, is expressed in the Letter to the Ephesians with a characteristic term: "recapitulate" all things, Heavenly and earthly, in Christ (see Ephesians 1:10). One can imagine the rod around which was wrapped the scroll of parchment or papyrus of the volume, bearing the writing: Christ gives a unitary meaning to all syllables, words, works of creation, and of history.
The first to take up this topic of "recapitulation" and develop it in a wonderful way was St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, great second-century Father of the Church. In face of any fragmentation of the history of salvation, any separation between the Old and New Alliance, any dispersion of revelation and divine action, Irenaeus exalts the only Lord, Jesus Christ, who in the Incarnation brings together in himself the whole history of salvation, humanity and the whole of creation: "He, the Eternal King, recapitulates everything in himself" ("Adversus haereses" III, 21,9).
2. Let us hear a passage in which this Father of the Church comments on the words of the Apostle relating, precisely, to the recapitulation in Christ of all things. In the expression "all things" -- Irenaeus affirms -- man is included, touched by the mystery of the Incarnation, when the Son of God "from invisible becomes visible, from incomprehensible comprehensible, from impassible passible, being Word became man. He has recapitulated everything in Himself, in order that, as the Word of God, He has primacy over supernatural beings, spiritual and invisible; in the same way He may have it over visible and corporeal beings. Assuming this primacy in Himself and giving Himself as head to the Church, He attracts everything to Himself" ("Adversus haereses" III, 16,6). This confluence of all being in Christ, center of time and space, is fulfilled progressively in history, overcoming the obstacles, the resistance of sin, and of the evil one.
3. In order to illustrate this tension, Irenaeus takes recourse to the opposition, already presented by St. Paul, between Christ and Adam (see Romans 5:12-21): Christ is the new Adam, namely, the first born of faithful humanity, Who accepts with love and obedience the plan of Redemption that God has designed as the soul and goal of history. Christ must, therefore, cancel the work of devastation, the horrible idolatry, violence and every sin that the rebellious Adam has spread in the secular affairs of humanity and on the horizon of creation. With His complete obedience to the Father, Christ opens the era of peace with God and among men, reconciling in Himself scattered humanity (see Ephesians 2:16). He "recapitulates" Adam in Himself, in whom the whole of humanity recognizes itself; He transfigures Him into son of God, He brings Him to full communion with the Father. Precisely through His fraternity with us in the flesh and blood, in life and death, Christ becomes "the Head" of saved humanity. Again, St. Irenaeus writes: "Christ has recapitulated in Himself all the blood poured out by all the just and all the prophets who have existed from the beginning" ("Adversus haereses" V, 14,1; see V, 14,2).
4. The good and the evil, therefore, are considered in the light of the redemptive work of Christ. The latter, as Paul helps us intuit, involves the whole of creation, in the variety of its components (see Romans 8:18-30). Nature itself, in fact, subjected as it is to lack of meaning, degradation and devastation caused by sin, thus participates in the joy of the deliverance brought about by Christ in the Holy Spirit.
Thus is the full action of the original plan of the Creator delineated: a creation in which God and man, man and woman, humanity and nature are in harmony, in dialogue, in communion. This plan, upset by sin, was taken up in a more wondrous way by Christ, Who is carrying it out mysteriously but effectively in the present reality, in the expectation of bringing it to fulfillment. Jesus Himself declared He is the fulcrum and point of convergence of this design of salvation when He affirmed: "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself" (John 12:32). And John the Evangelist presents this very work as a kind of recapitulation, "to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (John 11:52).
5. This work will reach completion in the fulfillment of history when -- as Paul, again, reminds us -- "God may be everything to every one" (1 Corinthians 15:28). The last page of the Apocalypse -- which was proclaimed at the opening of our meeting -- describes in bright colors this goal. The Church and the Spirit await and invoke that moment when Christ "delivers the kingdom to God the Father, after destroying every rule and every authority and power. ... The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things in subjection under the feet" of His Son" (1 Corinthians 15:24,26).
At the end of this battle -- sung in wonderful pages of the Apocalypse -- Christ will fulfill the "recapitulation" and those who will be united to Him will form the community of the redeemed, which "will not be wounded any longer by sin, stains, self-love, that destroy or wound the earthly community. The beatific vision, in which God opens Himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1045).
With her sight fixed on that day of light, the Church, beloved Bride of the Lamb, raises the ardent invocation: "Maranatha" (1 Corinthians 16:22), "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Apocalypse 22:20). [Translation by ZENIT]
For past Papal Pronouncements, see THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS Archives
February 18, 2001
volume 12, no. 49
THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS