Saturday, February 18, 2012

Christology and Recapitulation

from pages iii-x

"At the center of St. Maximus' theological and christological universe is the doctrine of Recapitulation. It is this doctrine which forms the basis of all that the New Testament and the Fathers have to say in connection with the Incarnation. While the term "recapitulation" itself appears only twice in the New Testament, the concept itself occurs repeatedly; one has only to recognize its principles of operation in order to know when it is being applied. These may be categorized as fellows: 1) preeminence 2) repetition and recontextualization, 3) reversal, and 4) fulfillment.

The Confessor elegantly summarizes this doctrine and its principles of operation in compact sentence: "The One Logos is the many logoi, and the many logoi are the One Logos." In other words, in His Incarnation and enhominization, Jesus Christ possesses and is all the fulness of the universals common both to deity and humanity. In terms of the four principles enumerated above, then, this works itself out in a multitude of ways. In terms of preeminence, it means that Christ is both the presupposition, the method, the paradigm, and the summit of whatever might be said either about God or about man. God is truly, uniquely, ultimately and finally revealed in The Word Incarnate. And man, perfect humanity, is also only understood properly in its union with the Word. In Scriptural terms, Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega of all that can be said of God and man, and thus has the preeminence "in all things". Being thus preeminent in all things, Christ becomes the final context, the ultimate and perfect "recontextualization" and repetition, of the logoi, understood here as both the words of the Old Testament Scripture and the principles of nature: of creation as a whole and of man in particular. That is, not only are the typological themes of Scripture repeated in His Incarnate Economy from His conception to His Second Advent, but He also repeats all of the natural stages of humanity itself; Christ recapitulates and summarizes not only sacred history but the history of all of humanity as a whole, and the stages of life of each individual human being in particular. In doing so, He reverses the effects of the Fall. As the Second Adam, the entire drama of the Fall is replayed, this time to an opposite conclusion. Instead of a Fall into passions and corruption, mankind in Christ is raised and exalted. Deification and the spiritual life, in other words, are integral components and implications of the doctrine of Recapitulation. By thus repeating, and in some cases reversing, the typological themes of Holy Scripture and the natural laws and stages of humanity, Christ is not only preeminent in all things, but fulfills all Old Testament prophecy and expectation concerning His Coming, there being nothing more that canbe said about them outside of and without reference to Christ.

Consequently, the doctrine of the Recapitulation in Christ bears implications not only for the exegesis and interpretation of Scripture and the understanding of the Incarnation, but implies also a general basis on which to interpret human history and the whole created order and their principles of activity.

At this point, it would be helpful to survey how this doctrine is employed by other Fathers prior to St. Maximus before proceeding to his own use of it. The word 'recapitulation' means 'to collect several different things together under one head', or simply 'to summarize'. It occurs only twice in the New Testament, in Ephesians 1:10--"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him"--and in Romans 13:9 -- "if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." It is significent that St. Paul uses this word so sparingly, and then only in contexts having to do either with christological affirmation or with counsels on living a Christian life. In other words, the doctrinal affirmations of Christology and the principles of the spiritual life go hand in hand, they cannot be divorced fromeach other. The doctrinal principles of Christology are not mere intellectual constructs which have no force or bearing on the conduct of life, nor are the counsels of a virtuous life in love ever fully apprehended apart from Christ. Love, the union of God and man in Christ and the love of man for God and his neighbor, are the essence of the doctrine. This union was to play an important role in St. Maximus' own theology, as we shall see.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons is the name most often associated with recapitulation. For him, the two natures of Christ along with their various properties, establish His preeminence in both heavenly and earthly things and thus Christ fulfills them in Himself, ie., fills them with Himself:

"He was invisible and became visible; incomprehensible and made comprehensible; impassible and made passible; the Word, and made man; consummating all things in himself. That, as in things above the heavens and in the spiritual and invisible world the Word of God is supreme, so in the visible and physical realm he may have pre-eminence, taking to himself the primacy and appointment himself the head of the Church, that he may 'draw all things to himself' (St. John 12:32) in due time.

Here not only is Christ's recapitulation taken to refer to His preeminence in deity and humanity, but, since His divine nature is spiritual and invisible, it also includes "the spiritual and invisible world", the world of the angels and also of man's soul and mind. And by the same token, for St. Irenaeus the fact that Christ's humanity is physical and part of the physical creation, all of "the physical realm" is also effected by His Incarnation. Thus, the "one Christ Jesus our Lord" came "in fulfillment of God's comprehensive design and consummates all things in himself." In other terms, as the Word Himself in conjunction with His everlasting Father created "all things visible and invisible", so His Incarnation effects all things visible and invisible.

The double entendre of the word 'effects' is intentional, for Christ's Incarnate Economy affects all invisible and visible things both in the sense of accomplishing and even causing them to be, as well as in the sense of influencing them. The Recapitulation consequently effects the very design of time and history itself, since it pertains to "the mystery which hath been hid from the generations" of the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Recapitulation is the christological basis, then, of a proper understanding of the history of creation and of humanity from its inception to its consummation:

He was incarnate and made Man; and then he summed up in himself the long line of the human race, procuring for us a comprehensive salvation, that we might recover in Christ what in Adam we lost, namely, the state of being in the image and likeness of God.

This constitutes the allegorical or typological basis on which Irenaeus and other Fathers read the Old Testament. On the basis of the Pauline precedent of the parallelism between them: Adam is fashioned of virgin untilled earth, Christ is born of the Virgin Mary. As the Fall occurred through a (fallen) angel, and the disobedience of Eve and Adam, so the restoration is effected not only by a repetition of these elements in the Annunciation by an angel, but by a reversal of disobedience by the obedience of Christ the Second Adam and Mary the Second Eve.

(This is) the back-reference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which those bonds of union had arisen; so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the former again liberty.

That is, in order for there to be a fulfillment of the Old Testament, their must be a repetition and recontextualization of its themes in the Life of Christ, and where necessary, a reversal of them. This presupposes certain principles in order for typological exegesis to take place. Types are like leitmotifs in music; they are repeated, and with each repetition, recontextualized, reaching their fulfillment in Christ.

Not only does this repetitional fulfillment of types occur in reference to the events of the Old Testament, but also in reference to the principles stages of human life itself, i.e., in reference to the observed phenomena of nature:

Therefore he passed through every stage of life, restoring to each age fellowship with God.......He sanctified each stage of life by [making possible] a likeness to himself. He came to save all through his own person: all, that is, who through him are re-born to God: infants, children, boys, young men and old.
Therefore he passed through every stage of life. He was made an infant for infants, sanctifying infancy; a child among children, sanctifying childhood, and setting an example of filial affection, of righteousness and of obedience; a young man among young men, becoming an example to them, and sanctifying them to the Lord.....And thus he came even to death, that he might be 'the first-born from the dead, having the pre-eminence among all [or in all things].'

But this recapitulation of humanity is not merely by repetition of its laws and stages, as the reference to Holy Baptism suggests. There is an ecclesiological and sacramental dimension in which it takes place.

With these principles of the doctrine in mind -- the preeminence of Christ in all things pertaining to deity and to humanity, and to the invisible and visible worlds, the repetition and fulfillment in His Incarnate Economy of the laws of human history, collective and individual, as well as of the repeated typology of the Old Testament -- we may now see how they operate in two other Fathers writing in entirely different times and for different purpose: St. Athanasius the Great of Alexandria, and St. Ambrose of Milan.

For St. Athanasius as for St. Irenaeus the Incarnation recapitulates all of humanity:

Through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all men were clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection. For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word's indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all.

That is, in His human nature which is consubstantial with all men, the Son and Word effectively bestows incorruption, with a certain irresistible determination, on all of humanity.

In the rest of the created order, St. Athanasius like St. Irenaeus sees that the salient events of the Incarnation life of Christ have the result of effecting and filling all of Creation, being above by virtue of His coming down from heaven and His bodily Ascension and return there, being present in this world in virtue of His Incarnation in it, and below it in virtue of His Descent into Hades prior to the Resurrection:" The Self-revealing of the word is in every dimension--above, in creation; below, in the Incarnation; in the depth, in Hades; in the breath, throughout the world. All things have been filled with the knowledge of God." Thus thus the sensible world itself, in virtue of the Word becoming man, has been made the vehicle of the knowledge of the Word, because "He, as Man," centers "their senses on Himself."


from pages iii - x in the book "The Disputation with Pyrrhus of our Father among the Saints Maximus the Confessor: Translated from the Greek by Joseph P. Farrell






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