Though it’s not technically the end of Lent until tomorrow, we have come to the end of The Lord. And with that comes a reflection from Guardini on the promise that is made by God: the promise of redemption, of renewal, of the fulfillment of all things where divine truth finally breaks through and consumes all. We get a glimpse of what this looks like in the book of Revelation, with the vibrant precious jewels of all kinds, the gold trumpets, white garments, crowns, thrones, and Elders falling on their faces before the One. And it’s not a chaotic assortment of wondrous things either, as we see the New Jerusalem described in a very orderly fashion, with streets and buildings and the Tree of Life that follows some pattern of the seasons.
It’s the New Creation, in which everything is exactly as God intended it to be—perfect fulfillment of all things, according to their kind. This is the promise made to every one of us, individually, the offer of salvation. But in Revelation, we don’t see this fulfillment on a purely individual level. No, we see “masses.” We see the People of God fulfilled as one Body, united to Christ in the Spirit, who with one voice proclaim the glory of the divine. Within us now is the first fruits of this fulfillment, the seed of faith which the Spirit will eventually bring to blossom in eternity. In the here and now, our duty is to care for that seed, to “feed” it through prayer and adoration, through loving our fellow men, by imitating Christ and allowing him to transform the inner man so that it can break through to the outer man and thus to the world around us.
“In every believer flows the spring of the new glory. If we take this word seriously, faith is not easy. Everything in us and around us contradicts it, often with arguments difficult to refute. We might be asked the embarrassing question, ‘whether the redeemed shouldn’t look more redeemed?’ But after all, the stupendous claim is not of our making, nor proved by our existence; we have it from Revelation, from God’s own words. The Christian himself must struggle to sustain the promise against his own not-too-convincing personal experience. This is what John means when he says that our true selves are yet hidden—not only to others, but to ourselves. Nevertheless, the intrinsic splendor is there and grows in spite of all weakness.”
-Romano Guardini ("The Lord")
The difficulty of faith cannot be overstated, though it is quite often understated. We say things like “all you need to do is believe in Jesus” or “have you accepted Jesus yet” as if those are casual things we can simply do, when everything within us and without seems to repel the thought. Especially in the modern age, when we are so far removed from when Jesus walked the Earth, when we’re constantly inundated with questions of science, like archaeology or psychology, which try to make sense of Jesus as if he was merely a man. It can make it incredibly difficult for one to maintain his belief.
I don’t mean to say these aren’t useful things, even in trying to better understand Christ. Of course they can be. But the simple fact is that Christ cannot be separated into “Jesus the Christ” and “Jesus the Historical Man.” If we remove the divinity from Jesus, we are left with little more than a vague sense of moral direction which is barely worth acknowledging in the grand scheme of things. If we remove the historical man from the Christ, we are left without any salvation at all and without the one who, face-to-face with us, reveals the Father. Jesus is both God, from before all time, eternal, and also man, having lived in a particular time and place with particular people. Any attempt to understand Christ apart from that essential fact is doomed to failure, and can lead nowhere but to unbelief.
And so, amidst all the tumult of the world, and all the concupiscence within us that rebels against God, we must hold fast to that seed of faith within us. We must hold fast to Christ, for it is only through Jesus that the promise can be fulfilled, only through Jesus that we can be led to the Father, only through Jesus that we will finally discover our true selves, our Christian Personality, our fulfillment and who God intended us to be from eternity.
Every day of Lent, I am writing a reflection piece on two chapters of "The Lord" by Romano Guardini. If you'd like to read or follow along, you can find the full calendar of where we're at below, or Click Here for the main landing page.