Saturday, May 12, 2012

I Will Rise and Go to My Father

The exitus, or rather God’s free act of creation, is indeed ordered toward the reditus, but that does not mean the rescinding of created being, but rather… the creature, existing in its own right, comes home to itself, and this act is an answer in freedom to God’s love. It accepts creation from God as his offer of love, and thus ensures a dialogue of love, that wholly new kind of unity that love alone can create. The being of the other is not absorbed or abolished, but rather, in giving itself, it becomes fully itself. 
Spirit of the Liturgy, 32-33

Reflection – The terms exitus and reditus, perhaps unfamiliar to some of this blog’s readers, have a venerable theological pedigree. The ‘going out from’ and ‘returning to’ of all created reality vis a vis God is a strong (some would argue central) theme in Thomas Aquinas, who himself inherited it from the neo-Platonic thread of Christian thought found in such writers as Pseudo-Dionysius and Augustine.

However, enough of that. I have limited interest and energy to give the history of theology, and I imagine most of you have even less. The key question is: Whassit mean? And, what’s it to ya? What’s it got to do with anything?

Well, it means we come from the mind of God and return to the heart of God. This is the whole meaning of… well, everything. The whole movement of the world’s life, human life, my life, your life, is summed up in the words spoken by the prodigal son in Luke 15: “I will rise and go to my Father.”

This is the whole point of the exercise. God sends us out, real creatures with our own true possession of being, like the father in the parable giving his son his share of the estate. But all of this genuine possession of being, this genuine freedom, this genuine subjectivity and (in a certain limited sense) autonomy, is meant to bear fruit in a true ‘dialogue of love’, a true returning to Him to abide in his love.

And in this going out and returning of the creature to God, we become like Him in his Triune nature. The Father already and eternally has a Son; the Father and the Son continually go out and return One to the Other in a communion of love that is beyond anything we can conceive. But our little human pilgrimage, then, of exitus and reditus becomes a sharing, an imitation, a following, a reproduction of this Triune life in ‘the key of humanity’, the ‘key of creation.’

Now we know that the road from and to the Father has gotten a little twisted, a little bent, a little foggy. We know that pigs have entered the picture at some point. It’s all a bit smelly and nasty. And that is the tragic dimension of life—at some point we all rebelled from the path of reditus.

But it does not change one bit that this is still the path open to us, the path we are made to tread. And the whole substance of Christianity is that the Son of God has come after us. He is not like the elder son in the parable who sulks and glowers and wraps himself in his own righteousness; He is a True Son of the Father, and so comes running out to us to find us and carry us home.

Exitus and reditus, and the way of reditus is the way of following the Son of God become Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Mary, the man. This is Christianity, and this is the key to understanding what happens at every Mass, in every sacrament, and out of that, in every moment of our lives.


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