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12 The Society of Men

12 The Society of Men

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Published by Douglas Knight

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Published by: Douglas Knight on Dec 09, 2011
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12. The City of Man
Man as Social and Political Being
Two men, Two societies
Christ is the true Body. He is not simply the head at the top but also the body, to be found inthe very lowest position. Christ is the head of the procession of all creatures to God. But bythe Holy Spirit he is also at the bottom of the cosmos. He brings up the rear of procession,
 
carries the stranglers and ensures that no one is left behind.We may liken the history of the human race to a cross-country trek in which teams compete.
Team ‘Christ’
wins by holding together, to ensure the survival of all members. ing: the teamthat of which all members wait for all others, wins. The question is not simply who, that is,
 
which culture, can get a competitor over the finishing first, but which team can get its whole
 
team, and so the very last competitor, over the finishing line? So its captain is found in the
 
least conspicuous or dignified place, bringing up the rear, gathering and helping along everystraggler.But when Christ is understood without the Spirit, and without rest of Christian doctrine, weget a very different account of the man and God. On this logic, the Father way to the Son,who gives way to the Spirit, who gives way to the Church, which gives way to man the
 
individual, and to society and secularity. Each is superseded and replaced by the next.The movement from the Father to the Son would then continue as an unrolling in which manwas fthat rpo is equated with the beginning, the Son with the present, and the Spirit with the
 
end. The order of salvation would then place God as origin. The movement Father
Son
 
 
Spirit would then be an unrolling of God in a process that starts as the history of God and
 
ends as the history of man without God. But such a narrative does not stop with the HolySpirit.At the beginning there was belief in the one God, who gave issue to the Son, who gaveissue to the Spirit and to the Church, so the Church and Christendom gave way to humanity
 
and to the individual, the disappearance of hierarchy, and arrival of secular society anddiversity. In such a narrative we are always moving out of the age of the Son and into theage of the Spirit in some three or seven-ages schema, and a narrative of history which issmoother in prosperous times, and couched in more chiliastic terms of a future convulsion,
 
when times are harder. This is the narrative of modernity, as the overcoming of all partialkingdoms and the final arrival of the universal man and the rule of the people.
The Passover of the Body
The Lord woos us, with
the gift, of ‘his only begotten Son’ (John 3.16). He has set the Body
of Christ on view everywhere before the world. Will the world be won over? The world candecide to be pleased by this gift and receive it. It can receive it as the passage intocommunion with God, and so as its salvation. Or the world can decide to find this giftunpleasing, and decide not to receive the Son. It can decide that the Church is not anacceptable gift, and that it will not be propitiated by this body offered.The Lord gives
this body to world as its way into its salvation. For the world’s sake Christ
keeps his body present in the world. The Church is broken open and sacrificed for the world.Since he preserves and renews it, the Church can take the battering meted out to it.God is wooing the world, and the body of Christ is the gift or bride-price by which the world iswooed. The Lord seeks us, and having found us, calms us, treats our injuries and removesthe cause of our pain and distress. God is winning over the world by this patient offering and
 
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sacrifice of his Son. Since the Lord sets out to please us with this body, we can say that hehopes to propitiate us with it. God propitiates man.We have seen that when man does not identify the true God, he directs his love in all sortsof other directions and, constructing a world of substitutes and compensations, gives himselfaway. He has to be re-oriented, his worship re-directed and he has to be purified. Christpurifies man by directing all our offering to the Father, and gives us the love that purifies us
of false loves. God expiates man, and so man’s misdirection is expiated. The Lord expiates
our sins, so that each of us may become as acceptable to each other as to God.Christ purifies us. The Church is made ready by Christ to be his body for the world. Sincethis purification happens in public, the Church is continually humbled before the world. Weexperience it as a passion. Christ performs this service and this liturgy before the world inorder to show, through his body, that this is the way that the world may take in order to entercommunion with God.We are the sacrifice of Christ. He offers us to the world. He is the fire that shines unceasinglight through us and from us. The Lord is the fire that constantly burns off our sin so that weendure forever. Since this fire burns off whatever does not belong to him, it always appearsas though we are being consumed by it and thus to the world it looks as though the Churchis being punished.
1. Divine Liturgy and Secular Liturgy
If we do not sing along with the first liturgy, that of Christ, it is because we are borne alongby the second, the liturgy of the world that aims to get along without Christ. But we must alsosay that this second, secular, liturgy is entirely dependent on the divine liturgy. The worldthat wants to puts as much distance as itself and Christ as it can, is able to do only becauseChrist sustains its freedom to do so. Christ is the guarantor of the secular sphere, and of thefreedom of man to do without him for as long as he can.The secular liturgy is dependent on the divine liturgy. The worship of the Church , sustainsthe secular liturgy of this world. The Church makes this distinction between church andsecular. This distinction does not divide the Church from the world, but indicates that Christhas made himself the servant of the world, and that we may participate in his service to it. Allthe activity of the Church is just a particular expression of the liturgy of Christ. This action ishis, and ours only in the Holy Spirit, who glorifies him, and in him, glorifies us.Christian worship is a drama performed in public for the world first to watch and increasinglyto participate in.The secular liturgy and the art and labour of man are entirely dependent on the gift to man ofparticipation in this divine liturgy. Our songs are derived from the songs of Christ to man andour many loves are expressions of his one love for us. This true worship opens up the rightway to live and it cleanses us from all lesser ways. All popular song with its language of love,and even all secular music with its rage against form, are derived from the songs of the
Church which resound Christ’s love for us. The
world that wants to puts as much distance asitself and Christ as it can, and receive the love, or the memory of the love, without the giverof that love, can do so because Christ sustains its freedom to do so. Christ is the guarantorof the secularity of the world, and so of the freedom of man to do without Christ for as longas he can.The Church intercedes for the world. It goes through a passion and it accompanies the worldas it puts itself through a passion.
 
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Christ speaks up for us before all others. He has interceded for us with those who wereenraged at us. God speaks on our behalf to persuade all others to be patient with us. Christintercedes with us on behalf of those with whom we are at enmity or of whom we areoblivious. His prayer is directed to us, to persuade us to be merciful with each other. Christrepresent us to those whom we have made our victims. He asks them to give us more time,and another chance to turn around. Christ unceasingly asks us to release those whom, inour fear and rage we have taken into our grip. We may release them and so we ourselvesmay be released; we are blocked and immobilised by the grasp we have on others. Hepersuades our creditors and all those whom we have hurt to be forgiving of us. He asks us tospeak and pray for all men and to pass on the forgiveness that we ourselves have received..
2. Passover and the Continuing Passion of the Body
Christ leads us through
In the passion Christ walks through the assembly of humankind. We are the storm we goesthrough: we lash out, our blows rain down, and Christ is pummelled and battered.The cross is behind Christ, but it lies ahead for us. Our cross is not a repetition of his. Christsuffered alone, entirely without us, and indeed against us, since it was our aggression thathe suffered. But in our passion we are not alone, but with him. Since he cannot be separatedfrom the Spirit, and by the Spirit we cannot be separated from him, our passion will not endin our destruction. Because we are joined to him our passion will not unravel us entirely. Itwill release us from what does not belong to us, so that we may finally be joined solely tohim, and through him we will be truly joined to all men. We will be raised.The passion is the way we may experience the resurrection now. We must live life as thispassion that must be endured until the whole number comes in and the body is complete.Our course through life is a passage through the storm caused by the ungoverned forces,social, political and natural forces that rage around us. The waves tower over us and close inon us so that we do not see how we will get through. They press in and try to break our self-possession. As soon as we are pushed out of our composure and give in to that rage webecome part of it. As psalm 124 puts it:
If the Lord himself had not been on our side… they had swallowed us up quick, the waters
had drowned us and the stream gone even over our soul.
We must resist and absorb the violence of the storm and not pass its buffeting on. We mustremain holy, still and innocent.
‘Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain’ 
(Philippians 1.20-21)
.
‘I want to know Christ 
and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by 
becoming like him in his death’ 
(Philippians 3.10)
.
We display the sufferings and the unrecognisable and unwelcome sight of the Lord.
‘We always carry round in our body the death of Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 4.10 
-12).
It is a joyful labour. We are not left only with the bitterness of our labour and suffering,because we already know (and have constantly to remind one another) that our work ispurposeful, its purpose is already fulfilled, so we are not working in vain, so our work isconnected to its outcome and brings its reward with it. We already anticipate the joy we willhave then together with the very people who are still presently opposing and persecuting us.
‘We rejoice in
 
our sufferings’ (Romans 5.3). They are not for nothing. We are not suffering
for our own salvation, for this has come to us as a sheer gift. Our salvation came through theefforts of others who passed the gospel on to us, and who put up with us and suffered ourantagonism. God has paid out their lives in order to win us.

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