Category Archives: Christology

Jesus is the true vine

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Saint John’s gospel uses the agricultural image of vine and a vine dresser to express a relationship that is unique. Quite singular when you think that neither the Jews nor the Muslims would admit in terms of intimacy between the Creator and creature, Father and Son, God and me. So, why is Christ called the ‘true vine‘ and why are we his ‘branches’?  The short answer is because it is our Christian belief, our Christology, that God is waiting for humanity to bear fruit, sin notwithstanding.  The Incarnation, and the proclamation of  the Good News tells us of the wine of love, obedience and prayer with the goal of uniting God and humanity in a truer way.

That we are expected to “bear much fruit
and to rely on the Lord for all things there is a hope that we
remain in Him and  that His “words remain in you
“. There is a dependence on God in a radical manner that is unheard of in most of relationships. To remain, to abide, to stay close to Jesus is the key of the spiritual life. Not to remain in Christ is reject the offer of Grace. The question of what it means to remain in Christ is given by the second reading: keep the commandments, of both Testaments of sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church. Concretely, we are nourished by Christ Himself in the sacraments of the Church, notably in the Holy Eucharist.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

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Consummatum est. It is completed — it has come to a full end. The mystery of God’s love toward us is accomplished. The price is paid, and we are redeemed. The Eternal Father determined not to pardon us without a price, in order to show us especial favor. He condescended to make us valuable to Him. What we buy we put a value on. He might have saved us without a price –by the mere fiat of His will. But to show His love for us He took a price, which, if there was to be a price set upon us at all, if there was any ransom at all to be taken for the guilt of our sins, could be nothing short of the death of His Son in our nature. O my God and Father, Thou hast valued us so much as to pay the highest of all possible prices for our sinful souls– and shall we not love and choose Thee above all things as the one necessary and one only good?

Blessed John Henry Newman

Meditation on the 12th Station

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The Son of Man must be lifted up…
“The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which, the day after the dedication of the Basilica of the Resurrection raised over the tomb of Christ, is exalted and honored, in the manner of a memorial of His paschal victory and the sign which is to appear in the sky, already announcing in advance His second coming” (Roman Martyrology)

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Today is a most glorious feast, one in which no Christian can ignore and claim to be a faithful follower of the Word made Flesh, the Savior of the world. It is only by and through the cross is life given and death killed. Nevertheless, this way of following was difficult for the Twelve, the Apostles, the disciples, indeed, all peoples who were attracted to Jesus and his call Life: the cross is a non-negotiable in following the path Christ has set for us. In time Christians would accept the cross as the Tree of Life, a triumph over death.
Sometime between AD 148-155 Saint Justin Martyr speaks of the cross as the standard symbol of Christians (First Apology 55-60) and by AD 211 we know that Tertullian told his students that Christians rarely do anything of substance without making the sign of the cross (De Corona 3:2) thus making the sign of the cross is a ancient symbol of blessing and one which grasps our hearts and minds and clearly identifies to Whom we belong.
We adore you O Christ, and praise you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Let us lift up our voices high;

With radiant faces let us cry:
Christ, through your cross you made death die!
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Joy to you, Cross of Christ the Lord,
Throne of our God be all adored:
Endless the songs your saints afford.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
O holy Cross, life-giving Tree
Through which the Church has victory:
By you, our Lord has set us free.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Praise to the Father, Christ the Son,
And Holy Spirit, Three-in-One
From ransomed souls Christ’s blood has won.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
J. Michael Thompson
Copyright © 2009, WLP
888 with Alleluias; GELOBT SEI GOTT

Is following Christ worth it?

That’s an odd question for Christian, no? Well, no, it is not. The other day my friend Henry and I were talking about this question and why so many Catholics, or at least those who claim to be Catholic, and therefore, Christian, don’t adhere more closely to Christ, the Scripture, Tradition and the Church. Our conclusion is that the poor nature of catechesis, preaching, sacramental preparation, faith formation and pastoral guidance has done a dis-service to the Church for a VERY long time. I am not willing to say “since Vatican II” because while I think that Christian life since V2 has disintegrated a lot and Catholics have become somewhat Protestant, we can’t blame everything on Pope John’s Council.

Stories surface –and you may have heard them too– that some priests, nuns and other lay pastoral associates in the parishes have acted irresponsibly and incredibly when a Protestant comes to them saying, “Father, I’m a baptized Lutheran and I want to be Catholic.” And Father says, “Why bother ‘converting to Catholicism,’ Lutherans and Catholics are the same, our churches just nuance things differently. I wouldn’t bother, you already have a good church. Besides, Lutherans do a lot of things better than we Catholics.” Really? I thought following Christ closely meant living in and with the Church He gave us. Is Christ worth following, or not? Upon this rock….

Is it just about a nuance? Since when can a Catholic say (i.e., hold to be true) that faith in the Triune God, salvation [heaven, hell, or purgatory], sacraments, the Sacrifice of the Mass, ecclesiology, Christology, etc. is just about nuancing “theological opinions” differently from those who live as Protestants? Do these things not truly, substantially matter? Is there no consequence in believing the wrong datum of Christ’s teaching? What about the teaching of the Scriptures on Christ as the Way, the Truth, and Life, that upon Peter, the rock, Christ built the Church, what about the Emmaus and Pentecost experiences, what about the Eucharist, what about the forgiveness of sins, what about the priesthood, etc? What about the clear teachings of the Church Fathers down through the ages on the necessity of the Church as Christ’s foundation for salvation? Do these things not matter? Are there no differences but only nuances? Are we insane in allowing those who seek the face of God according to the sacrament of the Church as Christ established to find their own way, in their own time and according to their own method? Is there no objectivity of faith & reason in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the one founded by Christ in 33 AD? Is there any value in following Christ authentically? It is my hope that Catholics will begin again to seriously take the Catholic way seeing/knowing reality as coherent and life-affirming.

I was surprised just this morning in reading one of the Q&As in 
Rabbi Marc A. Gellman’s

 “God Squad” column (New Haven Register, September 11, 2010) where a 62 year old Catholic says she believes in reincarnation. What???!!!??? Rabbi Gellman’s answer to this person is insufficient on many levels but since space is limited in the Register, and deep theological intercourse is impossible, he reduced the issue to the idea that the Bible is not trying teach us anything about reincarnation or the 4 last things, etc, but “is lovingly scolding us to retain an appropriate  level of spiritual humility when we pretend to know the will and workings of God.” Well, OK, but this answer is not enough and is leaning toward spiritual malpractice from both the Jewish and the Catholic point of view. No practicing Jew or Catholic I know of would be so squishy on this topic but reducing the Scriptures to mere spiritual practice. I have a feeling there’s more in that 72 book volume than mere spiritual humility.

< span class="Apple-style-span" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Tahoma; font-size: medium; line-height: 16px; ">Reflecting on recent experience, I remembered that in my Christian Anthropology class this past year Sister Sarah said that belief in reincarnation is on the rise among mainline Christians, including “practicing” Catholics. I said to myself that can’t be true. Evidently, it is true that many Catholics have some sort of belief in reincarnation and see no problem in doing so. Shirley MacLlain’s teachings seem persuasive for some than the 2000 years of orthodox teachings on life after death, heaven, hell, Messiah, etc.  A little research shows that the question of coherence of Catholicism and reincarnation is a very old question. Many of the Church Fathers addressed the incoherence of saying you believe in Christ and hence the Church as Christ’s visible manifestation on earth, and the possibility of holding reincarnation as a certain path to the destiny God has in mind for us. You can do a search on the web, read the Catechism or read the International Theological Commission’s work on the subject if you are interested.

This brings me back to my conversation with Henry. He’s doing a parish program in adult faith formation at his Brooklyn parish this year and he’s opening the first session with this question about following Christ. I believe it is a useful question for all church-going Catholics, especially since we read in Scripture that we need to given reasons for our hope and testimony that the Risen One is in fact real.

So, how would you answer the following question?

Is it worth it to follow Christ?  Think about that for a minute – Is it worth it to follow Christ?  Imagine I was sincere “seeker” asking you that question, how would you respond in concrete ways?  (If your answer is yes, why?  If your answer is no, why?)

By the way, Henry is hosting a blog. He’s not as neurotic in updating as I am when it comes to this blog, but I think he’s contributing to a deepening and furthering of friendship with Christ and, therefore, I’d recommend visiting Henry over at Bumping Elbows with Christ.

Christ, the life of the Church

Are you thinking about the Transfiguration yet? You know, tomorrow’s feast. I think an excerpt from Samuel H. Miller’s The Life of the Church (p. 44ff) gets me pondering the person of Christ and who I want to be. And you?

He was careless about himself, we are careful.
He was courageous, we are cautious.
He trusted the untrustworthy, we trust those who have good collateral.
He forgave the unforgiveable, we forgive those who do not really hurt us.
He was righteous and laughed at respectability, we are respectable and smile at righteousness.
He was meek, we are ambitious.
He saved others, we save ourselves as much as we can.
He had no place to lay his head and did not worry about it, while we fret because we do not have the latest convenience manufactured by clever science.
He did what he believed to be right regardless of consequences, while we determine what is right by how it will affect us.
He feared God but not the world, we fear public opinion more than we fear the judgment of God.
He risked everything for God, we make religion a refuge for every risk.
He took up the cross, we neither take it up nor lay it down, but merely let it stand.
He was a scandal to the Jews proud of their tradition, a scandal to the scribes proud of the law, a scandal to the priests proud of the temple, scandal to his family proud of respectability, a scandal to the disciples proud of their ambitions.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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