Friday, 17 August 2012

Jesus and the Christian faith

Hazy faces from the past
© Godric Godricson

In perceiving Jesus and the Christian faith as a cult of death; I want to draw out some sort of separation between the Jesus portrayed in the Gospel and the Jesus of death, popular culture and the popular imagination. The Gospels have particular ways of seeing Jesus and Mark perhaps even perceives Jesus as embodying a ‘messianic mystery’ as to His identity. We now have the opportunity of considered the ‘messianic mystery’,  how this mystery came about and how disciples came to see past the mystery in The Transfiguration. In the ‘messianic mystery’ we can perhaps see why there may be a contemporary  confusion about the identity of Jesus and how He is perceived. If the disciples with contemporary contact were baffled by Jesus in the 1st Century then why should humanity in the 21st Century be any better informed.

A major problem in perceiving Jesus is the very name ‘Jesus’,  I acknowledge that I still have problems in using the personal name of ‘Jesus’; instead aiming for ‘Our Lord’, ‘Christ’, ‘The son of God’ etc. In this we are following traditional Judaism in refusing to use the name of God and instead we search for names and words that convey respect and discipleship without over familiarity. How the Spanish feel comfortable in calling their sons ‘Jesus’ I will never know although I respect their cultural traditions and the antiquity of this tradition. How Jesus as the meek and mild man came to be so associated with death is another mystery. The name of Jesus is charged with emotion and we can see that Europeans and the heirs to European culture in South America and The Philippines perceive the very name of Jesus differently from Northern Europeans. ‘Jesus’ is the name of a human person and so we have a fundamental problem in worship; are we thinking of Jesus the man or Jesus the Son of God and second person of The Trinity? How do we see the name that is 'enfolded with love' so associated with burials at the East End of the Church?

The Church surrounded by the
relics of the dead
© Godric Godricson
Depictions of Jesus carry the seeds of an inherent confusion between a ‘popular death culture’ and the ‘Gospel Jesus’. Such depictions amplify that existing confusion in that Jesus varies from the a weak and ambivalent ‘meek and mild’ sort of Jesus to the militant Jesus who turned out the money changers from the Temple. Pacifist or warrior; Jesus has been claimed for every camp and political shade of opinion.  Which Jesus are we comfortable with and which Jesus is ‘our’ Jesus as his image is carried with us to the grave. Do we create Jesus in our own image as humans or do we see Him as divine. The heretical status of  historical sects is  acknowledged and recognised as humanity struggled to resolve the dissonance between the idea of Jesus as human or divine.

Similarly, the hymns of the liturgy are often confused (or partisan) and we see  the ‘worship’ songs of the Evangelical tradition that often focus on ‘God’ compared to the more traditional Catholic hymns that often reflect a diverse and rich Catholic tradition. We have Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and a service of  Benediction and “Cor Dulce, Cor Amabile” for the ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus’. We have songs for ‘Christ The king’. The hymns set a theme for worship and the liturgy is a means of sharing in the ministry of Christ through the seasonal readings. The funeral dirge is chanted for all eternity. In the same way that we have a separation in the Gospel version of Jesus and the Jesus of popular culture we also have a divergence in the ways that hymns give witness to the Earthly ministry of Jesus.  The humanity (or divinity) of Jesus is often played up or down in hymns and we often have a gap between the traditions of Catholicism and the more contemporary traditions of the Evangelicals.
The East End brings death to
the sacraments
© Godric Godricson
Prayers contain some of the greatest folly in the world and sometimes the greatest simplicity imaginable; all in the name of Jesus. We have na├»ve prayers that ask that 2+2=5 and more ‘sopisticated’ prayers that ask for the intentions of a specific person at the requiem. The name of Jesus is intoned but sometimes prayers reflect a monotheistic tradition and we are encouraged to see ‘God’.

In effect, there seems to be a continued confusion about the nature of Jesus in the liturgy. We see facets of humanity,  divinity, life and death being emphasised or diminished depending on seasons and tradition. The role  played by Jesus  seems to be ambivalent in popular imagination in the same way that he was the centre of a mystery during His life.

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