JMC : The Christian Mind / by Dom Anscar Vonier, O.S.B.

Chapter IX.
The New Creature in Christ

St. Paul's concept of man's transformation through the life that comes from the Incarnation, is as radical as possible.

The Incarnation is simply a new creation, and through Christ, and in Christ, we are new creatures.

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them" (Eph. ii. 10).

"And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth" (Eph. iv. 24).

"If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away, behold all things are made new" (ii. Cor. v. 17).

The Greek term chtisis has a very definite meaning in St. Paul's writings.

It stands for creation in its specific significance, as the act of God, or the product of God, implying omnipotence.

All things that are, are God's creation. When therefore St. Paul repeats with such insistence, that in Christ a new creation has taken place, he is writing in his own way something as great, and as original as the first chapter of Genesis.

Man is remade, recreated in the Son of God, not with an inferior sort of chtisis -- creation -- but with one that is the proper act of God, such as God exerted when He made all things at the beginning.

And the new creature that is in Christ lives and thrives on that creative act of God, just as the created universe rests on the divine fiat that brought it out of nothingness.

Here, as in many other instances, it is merely our mental timidity that makes us attach to the words of the inspired writer a meaning different and inferior to their direct and native significance.

Why should I take in a diminished and lower sense the word chtisis -- creation -- when St. Paul utters it in connection with the great supernatural reality, which is our life in Christ?

Why should I qualify its bearing, or modify its literalness? Surely the Incarnation and its results are not such as to give rise to hyperbole in language, as their reality will always be greater than any words contrived by man to express them.

It is therefore both my right, and my privilege to give the term chtisis in connection with the life in Christ as literal an interpretation as I do to the same word when it states the great fact that God made all things out of nothing.

To take the term "creation" in its direct, and literal sense in connexion with the supernatural order of things which is based on the Incarnation, leads us at once to one most precious result for our spiritual estate: through Christ we are lifted bodily above the ordinary human conditions.

We are transplanted into a new world, whose laws and rules and conditions have finality and completeness in themselves.

This new world is not necessarily an opposition to the first, the natural world created by God; it is above it, it has higher and more permanent rights and laws than the first, the natural creation.

To conceive Christ, and ourselves in Him, as a totally new creation with all the universal laws inherent to a creation, settles once for all a subtle perplexity of the Christian Mind; the Christian's relation with the merely natural order of things, and its legitimate interests and aspirations.

How is the Christian, who is part of a new creation, to make use of the first, the old creation?

The two creations could not be at enmity, as they are both the act and the product of God.

As I said, the same term chtisis expresses the making of the world, and the making of the Christ and His graces.

It is the incommunicable act of God.

Therefore both creative acts, though resulting in a lower and a higher order of things, come from the same source.

The Christian, therefore, ought to be completely at home in every aspect and in every phase of creation, precisely because quâ Christian he is God's creation, and quâ man again he is God's creation.

There is indeed in him a duality of life, the life of nature, and the life of grace.

But this duality is not an opposition, as it comes from one and the same fountain head, God's causative omnipotence.

"Every creature of God (chtisma) is good, and nothing to be rejected that is received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. These things proposing to the brethren, thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus" (i. Tim. iv. 4-7). Such is the general principle laid down by St. Paul as to the worth and moral position of the natural creation.

Already at that early period there were signs of a false, unchristian dualism. There were "spirits of error, and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, and having their conscience seared, forbidding to marry, and (wanting people) to abstain from meats" (i. Tim. iv. 1-4). Of such temporal solaces St. Paul affirms that "God hath created (them) to be received with thanksgiving by the faithful, and by them that have known the truth" (i. Tim. iv. 3).

A false, hypocritical reluctance to enter into communion with the things of the natural order, besides leading to a most disastrous spiritual pride, takes it for granted that nature is not God's creation, that there is a chasm between Christ and the natural universe. But if this inhuman dualism is healed in man through his knowledge that both nature and grace are the creation of God in him, there is the other and more important healing in his mind, through the fact that the grace of the Incarnation, being a true creation, has a superior and independent state with regard to nature.

The claims of the Incarnation on man are infinite, because the Incarnation is an infinite mystery of life.

Nature however vast, is finite, with finite claims on man's allegiance. When therefore man is at any time tempted to give too much to nature, he is brought back to the golden mean through the infinitely vaster, and more persistent claims of the Incarnation.

Now St. Paul, when speaking of the grace of Christ as a new creation, exclusively has in view this aspect.

The claims of the Incarnation are so great as to make all other claims appear small.

He is concerned chiefly with the claim of race and nationality.

Without entering into the relative value of such claims, he simply states that in virtue of the new creation in Christ, such a perfect brotherhood, such a complete community of blood exists between Christians, that racial differences, however legitimate, are in no danger of becoming excessive, if Christian grace be given a chance.

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" (Gal. vi. 15).

"Putting on the new, (man) him who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that created him. Where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free. But Christ is all, in all" (Col. iii. 10-12).

This supernatural internationalism of St. Paul, the consequence of his clear vision of the New Creation in Christ, was as bold and difficult then as it is to-day, when racial passions are so sorely on edge.

Yet this attitude of the Christian Mind is the only saving element that can redeem the nations from the absurd and appalling results of racialism out of bounds.

For a good many centuries already Christian thought and national thought have been happily wedded together. The most unworldly follower of Christ is a lover of his country. It is the practical realisation of St. Paul's utterance that all creature is good.

Periodically the question is put to Catholics, whether their religion or their allegiance to their respective country holds the first place in their minds.

Non-Catholics seem to think that in the minds of the perfect Christian there is such a dualism, when in fact it is nowhere to be found. One might as well ask a chance citizen of any state what holds the first place in his mind, whether it is personal honesty, or loyalty to this country.

He would be puzzled no doubt by such a division of his own person. For him honesty and loyalty to a State are inseparable things. But, on second thoughts, he might find out that loyalty is contained in personal honesty, as a smaller thing may be contained in a bigger thing.

Personal honesty is something more universal, as all men may possess personal honesty, whilst loyalty to a definite community of men and interests is only possible then, when such a community exists.

After all it is at least theoretically possible for men to live without such definite, sharply divided communities, whilst personal honesty is at the base of all human life that is superior to animal instincts. Personal honesty can never be truly in opposition to any legitimate loyalty, as no sound cause can be served by anything that is not honesty. Therefore it is as idle as it is irritating to ask a man such questions. Enough for him to know that patriotism is part of general virtuousness, though it be not all virtuousness.

So likewise with that new creation, the Christian Mind. The all embracing charity of Christ is the greater, the more universal thing. Any other love, as love of one's country, is the smaller thing, contained in the great universal, the charity of Christ.

To ask which is first, and which is second in our hearts, Christ or the nation to which we belong, is as silly a question as if I addressed myself to the man in the street, puzzling him with the poser, whether he wants to be an Englishman first, and then an honest man, or vice versa.

All things are the creation of God, but Christ holds in all things the "primacy" (Col. i. 18). All things are in Him and under Him and therefore all things are lovable.

Nothing that is true and good need ever be sacrificed on the altar of Christ, it merely needs to be brought into subjection to Him, into line and harmony with His own lovableness.

This universality of charity that recognises no difference of races in the higher sphere where Christ dwells, is perfectly compatible with difference of special claims on the part of the one nation to which we belong.

But it is not compatible with any kind of hatred, except the hatred of iniquity. Patriotism is no more served by racial hatred than it is by dishonesty. It simply renders man unfit for that immense human advantage of entering into communion with the wealth, spiritual and material, of other nations.

A nation is immensely the poorer if through blind hatred it renders itself unfit for such a participation in the good things of the human race. Its blindness brings its own castigation at once.

The new creature in Christ is therefore the finest mental attitude for all genuine diplomacy.

No men are more fit to handle the great international difficulties than the men who love all races in Christ, and before whose mind the infinitely great factor of universal Redemption through the Incarnation stands out as the one unchanging institution.

The Christian Mind, in virtue of the grace of the new Creation, is endowed with the truest and soundest kind of internationalism, besides having its own legitimate preferences.

A thousand wars, lost or won, cannot do away with the claims of the new Creation in Christ.

We Christians simply must love all men in Christ. If we refuse to do so, we can have no share in the new Creation.

Nationalism in religion makes of nationalism itself a most unreasonable thing, a thing charged with most dangerous potentialities.

Les us rejoice and glory in our new Creation in Christ, and all creation will be our home.

The boldest statement of this spiritual superiority to racial exclusiveness is found in St. Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians.

"Wherefore henceforth, we know no man according to the flesh. . . And if we have known Christ according to the flesh: but now we know him so no longer" (ii. Cor. v. 16).

Christ the Messiah was more than anything else the boast of the Jewish nation, by anticipation.

The Messiah to their minds was essentially Jewish. His mission according to their belief would be a great racial mission. Such had been the dream of Saul of Tarsus. He too, before being struck down by the light from Heaven, was all aglow with hope and fervour for a national Messiah,

It was an enthusiasm all according to the flesh. But when Christ, the Son of David, manifested Himself finally to the mental eyes of Saul, in His own transcending glory, then Saul understood the mystery of Christ's glorious universal ism.

At once he felt lifted up to a new world, the limits of which are infinitude itself And this new world is Christ's.

Paul can move freely in it, his mind travels over it without check or hindrance.

In an ecstasy of joy he cries out: "If then any (man) be in Christ, (he is) a new creature; the old things are passed away, behold all things are made new" (ii. Cor. v. 17).

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