28. April, 2015Church News, Feature, Ladyewell News Comments Off

“THEY PLACED SOLDIERS TO GUARD HIS BODY”: AN ECCLESIOLOGICAL EASTER REFLECTION

In his Encyclical Mystici Corporis in which he charismatically with expressive touch of a pastor elaborated the essential nature of the Church as the Body of Christ, Pius XII, like St. Paul, affirmed the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ. For him, St. Paul was motivated by his experience at the gate of Damascus where he encountered Christ in a famous dramatic incidence. The author of the Acts of the Apostles reports: “As Saul was coming near the city of Damascus, suddenly a light from the sky flashed round him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him: ‘Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me? … I am Jesus whom you persecute’”. Benedict XVI also shares this idea in his work “Ecclesiology of Communion” as he maintains that the Pauline thought is primarily inner-biblically inspired as against some earlier opinions that Paul was primarily inspired by the philosophy of his days. The Lord’s statement was registered permanently in the mind of the fervent Apostle. St. Paul right from the time conceived the Church as the Body of Christ. Therefore, the “Ecclesia” (qahal Yahweh) is nothing more than the sacrament of Christ.

There was a funny scenario of a sort that took place during the Passion of Christ. After his death, the evil men that killed him were worried about certain things concerning their victim. They were worried that he may keep hanging on the Cross until the Holy day and that would be a defilement of that day. To make sure that he was dead before the holy day dawns, Longinus, a Roman Soldier pierced his side, blood and water gushed forth. Thus, He was confirmed dead after all. They also got agitated concerning the Pilate’s inscription on the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. They failed in all their attempt to change it as he – Pilate – reiterated: “What I have written, I have written” (cf. John 19:21-22). Funny enough, they were also afraid about the security of his body, though not in the positive sense of it. They wanted the story of Jesus to die off naturally as the story of any human being. They dreaded mysterious stories that could emerge about this man whom they killed. Probably, they were afraid that he may rise from death or that his apostles may come and carry the body of their master for a befitting burial elsewhere. One thing is glaring. They would not like to hear anything glorious or prosperous about this “wretched man” even at his death, after all they gibbeted him as a public danger and firebrand that deserves nothing but ignominy and rejection. To make sure the body is caged in their custody, they “placed soldiers to guard his body”.

The Church has been famously affirmed to be the Body of Christ. The action of this evil men to quench the glorification of the Lord’s Body was undeniably a prognosis of what the Church would see in future. As they did not succeed in this evil plan, so the enemies of the Church did not and will never succeed in their plans to suppress the progress of the Church. Psalm 110:1 says: “The Lord said to my Lord, sit here at my right until I put your enemies under your feet”. Christ is the winner and so is his Church unstoppable. Jesus was very much aware of the plans of the enemies to get rid of the Church. Because of this, he started warning the apostles on time with saying couched in proverbs. In Mt 11:12, Jesus declares: “The kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent one takes it by force”. One of the major interpretations given to this text is the fact that the Church cannot escape the violent attacks of the evil one, which aims to bring it to extinction. The Church is the kingdom of God on earth as many theologians proclaim. The Church proclaims the message of the Kingdom of God, which will always be a “stumbling block” to the evil one and to the crooked world. Jesus told Peter that the gate of hell will not prevail against the Church (cf. Mt 16:18). This means that the Church will face oppressions from the hell even though the power of hell will not succeed against the Church. Prophet Isaiah fumed: “No weapon fashioned against you shall prosper” (Is 54:17). Again, the Lord encouraged his disciples: “In the world, you will have trouble, but be brave. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

In the early Church, persecution and attacks to hunt down this new community of the faithful were the order of the day. The Church was as it were a thorn on the flesh of the political, religious and intellectual authorities of the time. As they vowed to stop its growth, massacre ensued and incarceration of the faithful was propagated. In his interpretation of Psalm 128(129), St. Augustine ponders: “The Church tells of the sufferings it endures”. Hunter (1986:724) affirms that the spirituality of the early Church was shaped by certain factors one of which is the threat of persecution by the Roman officials. If nothing baffles historians, the tremendous growth of Christianity amidst persecutions does. Right from the earliest days people have been perplexed about the fact that the more the Church is being hunted, the more the Church advances in glory and efficacy. Tertullian inspirationally revealed the secret of the indefatigable growth of the church: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.”

In our own time, the Church suffers a persecution of various forms. The plans of the devil to subjugate the church are predominantly fixed in certain fashionable view of modern existence. “Ours is a new age of history with critical and swift upheavals spreading gradually to all corners of the earth. They are the products of man’s intelligence and creative activities, but they recoil upon him, upon his judgments and desires…” (GS no.4). There are still modern day Herods, Pilates, Pharisees, Sadducees, Neros, Domitans and so on. Their influences pose horrendous setbacks on the Church’s mission which is the Salvation of souls. They do not unleash physical tortures as such to be compared to the ancient time experience. Their intrigues are found in certain modern ideologies and promises of science and technology that are morally valueless and spiritually empty. In the past, the Church suffered from the physical hands of Nero and the likes, but now it suffers massively from the effect of the inimical systems of thought that present interior life as an outdated religious hue that should be forgotten and replaced by fashionable way of living that is characteristically atheistic and mundane.

A theologian observes: “The Sanhedrins of the modern world are different and they are numerous. These Sanhedrins are individual men who reject divine truth. They are systems of human thought, of human knowledge; they are the different conceptions of the world and also the different programmes of human behaviour, they are also the various forms of pressure of so-called public opinion, of mass civilization and of the media of social communication of a materialistic, lay, agnostic and anti-religious hue. They are finally also some contemporary systems of government, which – if they do not deprive citizens completely of the possibility of confessing the faith at least limit it in various ways, exclude believers, and make them second-class citizens.”

The Church is a mystery. It is “both human and divine” (SC 5). The human elements of the Church could be seduced into evil but the divine grace which is the substantial nature of the real ecclesiastical life continues to keep the Church and delivers the children of the Church from the seduction of the world. The Church, the Body of Christ grows and continues to influence history of humankind despite all ancient and modern attacks. Just as the Jews failed in their plans to suppress the resurrection and glorification of Christ, so all the human and demonic plans to eliminate the inner nature of the Church and its mission will always be in vain. This is our hope in the risen Christ Jesus in whom we have our victory as the adopted children of God.

Happy Easter!