Friday, September 25, 2009

How the Crucifixion is Timeless (Sacrifice of the Mass)

By Dave Armstrong (9-25-09) 

Jesus is both God and Man. He has a human nature and a Divine Nature. The human nature could be subject to time. He was born in history, was killed on a certain date, etc.

But God, by nature, is eternal and outside of time, so in His Divine Nature, the crucifixion is timeless and ongoing. That's why we can speak of His death as both historical and ongoing, and how the Sacrifice of the Mass can occur now as a present reality. And it is why, after His Resurrection and Ascension, the Apostle John could still refer to Him as follows:

Revelation 5:6 (RSV) And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, . . .

Many Protestants (particularly Calvinists) appear to minimize the Divine Nature element of the crucifixion, and so they deny that Jesus could be present at the Mass because now He is up in heaven. This is almost akin to the ancient heresy of Nestorianism (that separated the two natures of Jesus too greatly; almost making Him two persons).

Well, if we ignore the fact that He is also God as well as man, we come up with that, but for a God Who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and beyond time (and Jesus is God and has all those qualities in His Divine Nature), the miracle of the Sacrifice of the Mass is entirely plausible, possible, and biblically sanctioned. The following passage seems to suggest a sort of transcendence of time in this regard:

1 Peter 1:18-20 You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, [19] but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. [20] He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake.

What God decrees or ordains or predestines, He does from all eternity (outside of time altogether). All Christians are pretty much agreed on that. Therefore, the crucifixion (an event ordained from eternity and directed towards the God-Man Who willingly sacrificed Himself), has the same characteristics. It has a timeless element, as both a decree from God (the Father) and an act of God (the Son). God died on the cross. Hence the following passage (again, appropriately, from St. Peter, the first pope), where we clearly observe the intersection of God's timeless plan and foreordination, and human history and actions:

Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

I had this thought a few nights ago, in a great discussion with a good friend of mine. I believe it is orthodox, with nothing objectionable. I'd like to pursue it further and see if I can find someone else who makes this argument. I'm sure someone has. I'm not gonna come up with anything totally new, for sure. It has always been thought of before by someone.


David Charkowsky said...

Hi Dave, I think you're speaking to a very important issue that keeps the Body in unfruitful division. (I think this particular issue was essential to my own conversion.)

I think the greatest impediment to Protestants understanding the timelessness of the Sacrifice of the Mass is the penal-substitution theory.

Contrary to the author of Hebrews, who tells us that Christ, on Calvary "entered heaven itself" (9:24), Protestants tend to think of Christ's crucifixion as separation from God---that he suffered the punishment of hell. Because this is such a wretched idea, I'm not surprised that Protestants find the notion of "Sacrifice of the Mass" as repulsive as they do, but of course, it completely misses the theology of suffering presented in the NT writings.

Dave Armstrong said...

Excellent points made. Thanks!

Randy said...

Great minds think alike! I had a similar thought today. If you would permit me the arrogance of quoting myself from a comment on my blog this afternoon. Talking about Mary:

Certainly He granted her the honor of giving her flesh to Jesus and bringing God into the world that way. But Catholics would go further and say that what happened one time physically happens in a timeless way spiritually. A bit like the once and for all physical event of the cross becomes an ongoing reality in the Eucharist.

Dave Armstrong said...

Maybe it's a thought God wants to emphasize, if we're thinkin' the same way!

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CatholicCortex said...

Hi Dave,

If you're interested, I've actually written a book about this:


Dave Armstrong said...

Fabulous. Thanks for the link.