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Sunday, May 15, 2011

From the Pastor - 'God's Dwelling Place'

A weekly column by Father George Rutler.

One of the characteristics of Our Lord’s risen body was its freedom from the physics of weight. Although a real body — “A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39) — its agilitas enabled Christ to appear and disappear and to be unconfined by distance. Along the Emmaus road He broke bread and “vanished,” as He similarly entered and left the Upper Room without a trace (cf. John 20:19, 26 and Luke 24:31). Jesus ordered the Apostles to go to Galilee and was there ahead of them when they arrived. Here is a dimension outside the laws of physics. The temptation is to assume that our bodies are more real, when so limited, than Christ’s body is when It is moved by the soul without any limitation.
 Classical philosophy characteristically identified divine perfection with immobility. The Eternal Wisdom is sublimely static. Yet this Wisdom is an “unmoved mover” from whom everything gets its energy. The Incarnation of this Serenity into time and space is the “King eternal, immortal, invisible . . .” (1 Timothy 1:17).  In Walter C. Smith’s hymnodic paraphrase, Christ is “Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light.” Yet His risen body walks with two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. When He seemed about to walk away from them, just as He once appeared to be doing on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 6:48), they pleaded for Him to stay with them.

In 2004, Blessed John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine: “Amid the shadows of the passing day and the darkness that clouded their spirit, the Wayfarer brought a ray of light which rekindled their hope and led their hearts to yearn for the fullness of light. ‘Stay with us,’ they pleaded. And He agreed. Soon afterwards, Jesus' face would disappear, yet the Master would ‘stay’ with them, hidden in the ‘breaking of the bread’ which had opened their eyes to recognize Him.”
The Edwardian writer H.H. Munro (“Saki”) had a charmingly malicious character, Clovis Sangrail, who was invited to many elegant country houses “once.” Everyone has had experience of such a personality, “loved most by those who knew him least.” How different it is with Christ. He is a most congenial guest, and those who know Him want Him to stay with them. Mary Magdalene tried to cling to Him, and the Apostles were dismayed when He said He must leave them in order to send the Holy Spirit. He walks through history and through the lives of each of us by a paradox, never stopping and yet always with us. In His Church He is both unresting and hasting, working His purpose in ways that confound false sophisticates with eternal Wisdom. In every church, at every altar, it is so:  “God's dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them” (Revelation 21:3).

Father George W. Rutler is the pastor of the Church of our Saviour in New York City. His latest book, Cloud of Witnesses: Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, is available from Crossroads Publishing.
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