In “Why Resurrection?” Part II, we continued looking at how the early church understood resurrection and compared that with how we think about it today. We confronted a paradox: resurrection transcends our everyday experience; thus we can’t imagine what resurrection looks like. At the same time, it is only through us, the Body of Christ, that resurrection can be proclaimed in our time. How can we live faithfully within this paradox?
Although resurrection is beyond human imagining, it is not beyond our experience. As Sofia Cavalletti explains in her book The History of the Kingdom of God; Liturgy and the Building of the Kingdom (Liturgy Training Publications, Chicago, 2013), Christ’s resurrection enables us to cooperate in God’s plan for full communion of all creation through our participation in liturgy.
This diagram, based on Cavalletti’s teachings, shows the progression of God’s action in human history from Creation to Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, and on to the end of time, the Parousia, when God will be all in all. See 1 Corinthinas 15:28 here. John’s gospel tells us that Christ has been present since the beginning of time. See John 1:1-2 here.
In the beginning, God created the heavens, the earth, and all plants and creatures on the earth. See Genesis 1:1-25 here. A new level of life began when God created humankind in God’s own image and likeness. See Genesis 1:26-27 here. A new way of being human opens up with the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. Christ’s risen life, which we receive at Baptism, enables humans to cooperate with God toward the bringing of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, through the work of our hands, through prayer and the sacraments, and through the liturgy.
After Christ’s death and resurrection, the relationship between God and the world is of a different quality entirely, and for all time. Jesus, the new Adam (see 1 Corinthians 15:45 here), makes the definitive response of human freedom in obedience to God, a decisive breakthrough of the final stage of development of human consciousness. This breakthrough will become complete at the Parousia, when God is all in all. In The History of the Kingdom of God Cavalletti writes: “There has always been a plan in God’s mind, one leading all persons and all creation to fullness.”
Jesus’ death and resurrection constitute a revelation about the purpose of the human quest for liberation and justice, a question which cannot be answered by humans without God, nor by God without human cooperation. How can we cooperate with God, who seems so far beyond our human experience? What is the voice in which the announcement of resurrection may be spoken, the experience in which resurrection can be perceived, though “in a glass darkly;” what is the way we can live out the reality – the promise – of our faith? On the night before he died, Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, gave us the means of living the mystery of his resurrection today: the liturgy.
Since the beginning of time, salvation history has told a tale of God coming down to humanity and humanity trying to go up to God, moving ever closer to each other until, in Jesus, the embrace of heaven and earth takes place. God and humanity are one in the person of the risen Christ. In Christ, God’s plan is totally fulfilled. Nevertheless, God’s plan for full communion of God and all creation is not to be fulfilled in one person only, but in all of creation. This time of expansion, from the Resurrection to the Parousia, is the time in which we are living. The fullness of God, meant to be all in all, is gradually accomplished in the liturgy.
Liturgy enables us to enter into the mystery of the joining of God and humanity which is the risen Christ. The word liturgy means work. Liturgy is the work that God and humanity do together to spread the life of the risen Christ to everyone and every thing. Liturgy links us with history. It allows us, together with everyone who ever lived and ever will live, and all creation, to participate in the resurrected life of Christ. Through liturgy, Christ’s death and resurrection is present for each one and all, here and now.
By emptying himself totally, Jesus was filled with the fullness of God. See Philippians 2:6-11 here. We, too, can be emptied and filled with the fullness of God, through liturgy. In liturgy, God’s saving action is not merely a remembered event; it is happening now. In the bread and wine God is already all in all. As we participate in the eucharist, we are filled more and more with the life and light of Christ. Therefore liturgy anticipates the Parousia and helps it to come.
This is the cosmic dimension of liturgy, the most effective action we can take to live the reality of resurrection here and now. There are other gifts of resurrection, and in the remaining weeks of the Easter season we will study Scripture and discuss some of them.