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Christ and the Christian  by R. W. Gleason, S.J.

  Christianity is unique in many ways. One of these ways is the unique relationship between the Christian and Jesus Christ.

The relationship between the Christian and Christ is intimately personal. Through Christ, we not only know about God, we learn to know God by intimate experience. As He Himself announced when He came, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).

For the genuine Christian--and even little children experience this--a matter of conscience is a matter of personal relationship to Jesus Christ. The true Christian is not primarily concerned to conform his conduct to some abstract code, much less the code of the crowd. Nor is the Christian guided in his conduct by the overweening self-esteem of an ethical culturist. Neither is the true Christian preoccupied with questions of loyalty to the “Supreme Architect,” who having designed the universe and “tossed it into space,” decided to let it run its course without further guidance from Him (a favorite concept of vague deists).

The Christian characteristically experiences sin as a rupture of the relationship between himself and Christ-a tarnishing, or even a destruction, of personal friendship between himself and the Source of his life. Amid all the religions of the world, Christianity stands forth with this unique, tender, and intimate personal relationship between the creature and the Creator. “Simon, son of John, dost thou love me?” (John 21:17) ; “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?” (Acts 9 :4) ; “Mary!” (John 20:16) . The roots of this personal relationship are also seen growing out of the personal religious experiences of many of the devout children of Israel under the Old Dispensation.

Christ Himself declared: “He who loves mother or father more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37) . And again, in language flavored deeply with Hebraic hyperbole: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-28).

Such language would be madness on the lips of mere man. But it is the language we could expect from the Source of life. It is the language of the Absolute, of ultimate reality. It is the language of Him who told us that the very first law of life is to love God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind. As a matter of historic record, it is the language of Jesus Christ. Christianity rests solidly on the divinity of Jesus Christ. From the very beginning of Christianity, every new Christian has been baptized equally “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

This sublime mystery of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit takes us to the very heart of God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. Mere reason could never have discovered it. But once God had told us about it, reason finds it reasonable-and loves to reflect on its grandeur.

Nature and Person

God differs from man in a great many ways. For our present purpose, it is important to recall one tremendous difference between God and man. God tells us that He is one divine Being. He also tells us that, sharing the one divine Nature, there are three divine Persons: the Father un-begotten; the Son begotten of the Father; and the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son. Does our reason have any inkling of how this can be?

Of every man we can ask two questions: Who are you? and What are you? The word who refers to his person. The word what refers to his nature. You are a person. You have a nature. It is you the person, that inmost secret self, that owns your nature; that acts through your nature and is responsible for the actions of your nature. It is you, the person, who speaks with your lips, sees with your eyes, hears with your ears, and thinks with your mind. It is you, the person, who eats and sleeps, wakes and prays; who chooses between good and evil and is rightly praised for your good actions and blamed for your evil deeds.

The person is at the very core of your being-the center of your existence. It is the focal point of your independence as a distinct creature in God’s universe. Your nature comes, as it were, to a definite point in your person and radiates from the same unique, distinct person. You are a person. You have a nature. As Elizabeth Vandon remarks in telling the story of her conversion in the book Late Dawn, “I have learned that that mysterious ‘I’ is indeed, not ‘my’ thought, nor ‘my’ body, nor ‘my’ urges and complexes. It is that essential, immaterial (therefore indestructible) ‘I’ to whom all these things, as it were, belong.”

Briefly, there is an important distinction between person and nature. They are not entirely the same. Every man is a person. Every man has his human nature. He is one person, with one nature.

The Trinity

God tells us a most astounding mystery about His inmost life. He tells us that within Himself there are three Persons, three distinct focal points of responsibility, owning, and acting through the one, same, divine nature. There is the Father, un-begotten; there is the Son, begotten of the Father; and there is the Holy Spirit, proceeding from Father and Son. Each Person is equally God, equally eternal.

Condensed from Christ and the Christian by R. W. Gleason, S.J., Sheed & Ward, Inc., 1959

 

  Read other articles of spiritual enlightenment in the October 2001  edition of The Charismatics or return to the Main Menu by clicking on the blue.