The relationship of creature to Christ, of the first to the second Adam, signifies that the human person is a being en route, a being characterized by transition. He is not yet himself; he must ultimately become himself.
In the Beginning, 64Reflection – Have you ever noticed that your dog doesn’t have too many existential crises? That cats don’t spend much time anguishing over their identity? I’m just wrapping up writing my latest book (publication details pending…) on the effects of technology on our humanity, the subtitle of which will be Staying Human in a Digital Age. But we don’t see pigs publishing books about staying porcine in a bovine age, or fish publishing about staying piscine in a mammalian age.
And its not just because of the lack of opposable thumbs, either. There is something deeply human about the very fact that we don’t know what being deeply human means. We have to struggle and wrestle and labor at our humanity, toiling and spinning around madly in a way that the birds of the air and the lilies of the field just don’t have to do. They just are; we just aren’t, not without a fight.
This is actually one of the great arguments against atheistic materialism, if you think about it. If human beings are just one more form of protoplasm, just one more blob of tissue in a universe that is nothing but one big blob of tissue… then why do we mind so much? Why, if we are just meaningless products of a wholly material universe, do we constantly kick against the goad, constantly look for some deeper meaning, some deeper definition or identity or human expression? Because we do, you know, and it’s across cultures and civilizations, across history and place.
Human beings ask questions about human being, and seek to become what we are not.
Ratzinger explains this universal human experience in light of the creation of the first Adam in the image of the second Adam. Adam (humanity in its origin) is made with a view to, in consideration of Christ (humanity as perfected by the divine indwelling).
Human beings are created, then, to be open vessels, empty cups, a space in which God can give Himself in a unique way, a being incomplete in itself, but opening up to be completed by the gift of its Maker. We are a creature endowed, not only with a present reality, but a future destiny that surpasses it, that surpasses our own capacities.
Sin complicates this, of course, as we try to fill that empty space with any number of created goods and fulfill our destiny in all sorts of self-directed ways. And so we get all confused and conflicted and frankly miserable.
But this second Adam, who is not merely an abstraction or an idea, but the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, the Christ of God, comes to each of us, I maintain, to work in us precisely this completion of our humanity.
It ties back to exactly what I wrote about yesterday. Love comes to us; love is given to us. Love is our destiny, our divine identity, and to be filled with the divine love is what we are made for. And this love comes to us, not just 2000 years ago when Jesus was born, but here and now, every day. And not just in some abstract or mysterious esoteric way—no, Love comes as food and drink, concrete, specific, real, tangible, in the Eucharist.
We are creatures in transition, en route, becoming. But this becoming has to be guided and shaped by the One who is our destiny, or else it goes badly awry. Cats and dogs, pigs and fish, birds and flowers are all OK. We need help! And that’s OK, as long as we know that help has been given, it is available, and all we have to do is show up and ask nicely for it.