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

Chapter XI.
Our Equality in Christ.

The inequalities of human life and human conditions have been a trial to man's patience at all times.

Certain generations have felt them more than others: but no time has been without the angry rumblings of man's resentment at the inequalities of human destinies.

From the revolt of slaves and plebeians in the Roman world, to the idolization of equality in the French revolution, it may be a far cry in point of time; in point of psychology it is the same threatening voice of offended humanity.

To the practical theories of human equality which are at the root of the socialism of all times, there corresponds in the realm of thought a distinct socialism of outlook.

Many philosophical and even religious systems are to a great extent the outcome of unconscious rebellion against privilege and preference, either in the order of nature or even in the Christian dispensation.

It was to be expected that the problem of human inequalities should be brought into contact with the grace of the Incarnation, and if a solution were possible, that it should be solved in Christ. It is very gratifying, then, to see this problem constantly brought up by St, Paul, and as constantly solved in the same manner.

The mind of the Apostle had grasped the principle from the very beginning, and he applies it with perfect appropriateness and success to the most diverse cases.

The principle is one of the most precious elements of the Christian Mind, and it is as original as the Eucharist, or the Pleroma, with which in fact this principle of equality is intimately associated.

It comes to this: Christ is substantive fulness. As such. He fills up all inequalities, so that he who is less, or has less, provided he be in Christ, is not really unequal to him that is more, or has more.

Such is, to my thinking, the general enunciation of the principle of equality in Christ. Whilst safeguarding the difference of attribute and gifts, it does away with inequality of condition.

"He that had much, had nothing over: and he that had little, had no want" (ii. Cor. viii. 15).

We must make a distinction between difference of gifts, nay, even inequalities of gifts, and inequalities of condition.

Gifts in the natural and spiritual order may differ; there may be more or less of them; they may even be called unequal gifts, but such scales of more and less, so long as they do not produce inequalities of condition of existence, are not resented by man.

But the moment the higher endowment isolates its possessor from the man less endowed, makes of him a being apart, the difference is resented, the inequality is no longer in the gift, but in the mode of existence.

Wealth is the main object of human jealousies, not so much on account of the greater physical enjoyments it brings with itself, as on account of the gulf there is between the wealthy and the poor, socially.

Wherever Christian charity bridges over the gulf, when the true fraternity between rich and poor is a practical fact of life, it is wonderful how little resentment there is on the part of the more destitute classes against the rich.

The Son of God in His own person has abolished all inequalities of conditions, in things spiritual and natural, in Heaven and on earth, though there be in Him diversity of gifts and grace and ministries, though there be in Him the more excellent and the less excellent way: and it is one of the greatest privileges of the Christian Mind to have grasped this divine fact.

This wonderful achievement of the Son of God is tersely put by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Ephesians.

"But to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the giving of Christ. Wherefore he saith: Ascending on high, he led captivity captive, he gave gifts to men. Now that he ascended, what is it, but because he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens, that he might fill all things" (Eph. iv. 7-11).

There is no region in the Father's creation which the Incarnate Son does not fill with the presence of His power. And this all pervading presence of the Son of God, this prior occupation by Him of all things, makes it impossible for any power to bring about a real inequality of conditions in those that possess such power.

There may be more power in some, less power in others: but there can be no real inequality, in the condition of existence amongst creatures that live, and move, and have their being in a world whose most distant regions and sections are filled with the presence of the Son of God.

And what is true of the gifts, is likewise true of the more static element, sanctity, in its specific meaning.

There is the greater sanctity, and the lesser sanctity, amongst the elect: there are the higher spirits, and there are the lower spirits. But as Christ is the head of all, as His grace is in them all, the element of union in Him infinitely outweighs the element of variety in the degrees of grace and glory.

"And he (God) hath subjected all things under his feet, and hath made him head over all the church. Which his is body, and the fulness of him who is filled all in all" (Eph. i. 22 23)

The practical conclusions of this great principle are not far to seek, and St. Paul points them out most clearly.

There is in fact hardly anything more completely worked out by the great Apostle, if we except his teaching about law and grace, than this principle of Christ's unifying role as the God-man.

It is the thought that underlies St. Paul's divine metaphor of the Body of Christ, and its mutualities of service and sympathy. The old parable ot Agrippa who succeeded in soothing the Roman plebs in their rebellions against social inequalities, has been given by St. Paul an extension and a meaning that stretches into the infinite. Here again the reader will forgive the full recital of the Pauline texts.

"For as the body is one, and hath many members: and all the members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptised into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free; and in one Spirit we have all been made to drink. For the body also is not one member, but many. If the foot should say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were the eye: where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing: where would be the smelling? But now God hath set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased Him.

And if they were one member, where would be the body? But now there are many members indeed, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand: I need not thy help; nor again the head to the feet: I have no need of you. Yea, much more those that seem to be the more feeble members of the body, are more necessary. And such as we think to be the less honourable members of the body, about these we put more abundant honour; and those that are our uncomely parts, have more abundant comeliness.

But our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, giving to that which wanted the more abundant honour. That there might be no schism in the body, but the members might be mutually careful one for another. And if one member suffer anything, all the members suffer with it, or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member. And God indeed hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors; after that miracles, then the graces of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues, interpretations of speeches" (i. Cor. xii. 12-28).

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