For the Advancement of the World 2: The Living and the Dead1
When preparing for the festival of Michael, we looked at the way our human role in the world is highlighted in the call of the archangel, as heard in the prayers of this festival time.2 After the Creed has described Christ’s resurrection it speaks of the way Christ, since his ascension, lives as “the fulfiller of the fatherly deeds of the ground of the world”. But he does not only fulfill those fatherly deeds which keep the world as it is in good shape, but he, the Son will, “for the advancement of the world”, unite with all those whom he, through their bearing, can wrest from the death of matter. Thus Christ’s resurrection becomes world-scale resurrection. But this will only become possible when human beings heed that call of Michael, heard in the prayers of his festival. Only when we come to a deeper, a higher awareness, a new grasp of this deed of life and death on Golgotha, will Christ’s forces of resurrection work in us, human beings on earth. To become a creative force, a light-carrying force which will keep alive heavenly light in the darkness of our earthly existence.
The Creed actually introduces Christ by first stating his human connection: “through whom human beings attain the re-enlivening of the dying earth-existence”; then, he is also introduced as “the Son born in eternity”. “The helper of the souls of the dead”, he in future will ally himself with those whom he can wrest from the death of matter. Truly he is the “God of Man”, as is said in the prayers which describe Michael as the countenance of this god. Christ has become the helper of all human beings, both the living and the dead, of all those who have taken his transubstantiating power into their thinking.
With Michael, we are moving into an apocalyptic world, into a world turning more and more apocalyptic. Recently, the line between the physical and the spiritual has become diffuse, the threshold between the world of earth and the world of spirit having shifted. Not only are nowadays human beings able to reach out across the threshold, the threshold as such is “moving down” into the human being itself. This creates a totally new situation, putting human beings into their role of actually becoming co-actors, “players”, becoming directly, actively engaged in the eschatological drama which begins when the world slowly prepares for its “last stage” of death and judgment, of new heaven and new earth. In the book of the Apocalypse, the “Apocalypse to John”, we can perceive how humanity becomes more and more engaged in this process, both while on earth as well as in heaven. It shows how the Christ mystery, encompassing both earth and heaven, is becoming more powerful within a Christian humanity on its way to maturity.3
“With Michael”, I said, meaning on the one hand that Michael, who is the archangel specifically active in our times, presents us with a unique opportunity to become conscious of how to cross that line between the physical and spiritual, at least in intention (see the talk titled Michael’s Call). On the other hand, in the course of the Christian year, from the festival of Michael onwards through Advent, our Christian Community gospel readings carry this apocalyptical signature, first during Michaelmas in the sense that for us living on earth this line between the physical and the spiritual has already shifted with many consequences in our personal sphere. In November we look more at the apocalyptical process on a world-scale, as mirrored in the last book of the Bible. Advent heightens our apocalyptical awareness for the “second coming” of Christ in an apocalyptical setting, until at Christmas the fact that Christ appears on earth can be grasped as an historical and at the same time continuing reality. . At least half the gospel readings of those 12 to 13 weeks are taken from the Apocalypse, the Revelation to John. Here, we’ll focus on this aspect. By the way, this is the great yearly recurring example of the “the hour iscoming and is now” of John’s gospel (4:23 and 5:25), of which Christ’s “second coming” is the prime example. He hás come, he hás risen – but between him and our conscious perception the distance has grown which his disciples experienced as his ascension. Christ’s presence has become obscured to our perceptions; hence for ús he needs to “come again”, needs a “second coming”.
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