Reappropriating the Mystery and Meaning of Salvation in Christ

On February 22, 2018 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a brief, but important document, Placuit Deo: On Certain Aspects of Christian Salvation. Significantly, its opening sentence, from which its title “Placuit Deo” derives, is a direct citation of the crucial second paragraph from Dei Verbum, Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (§2).

In his goodness and wisdom it pleased God to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of his will (cf. Eph 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, men and women might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (cf. Eph 2:18; 2 Pt 1:4) . . . The deepest truth . . . about God and human salvation shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation.

That the salvation of humanity is revealed and accomplished in Christ, who is “mediator and fullness of revelation,” is the central conviction that the CDF document seeks to elucidate more fully. Placuit Deo begins with the forthright admission that the Church’s “teaching on salvation in Christ must always be deepened” (§1). I suggest that two realities impel this assertion. First, of course, is that the mystery of our salvation in and through Jesus Christ is inexhaustible and, therefore, its meaning invites ever-deepening contemplation and speculative appropriation.

But the other reality that drives the need for ongoing and renewed reflection is the evolving social context that poses new questions and challenges to the received wisdom. Indeed, the CDF document concedes that “the contemporary world perceives not without difficulty the confession of the Christian faith, which proclaims Jesus as the only Savior of the whole human person and of all humanity” (§2).

Among those difficulties Placuit Deo identifies two perennial temptations that, drawing upon the writings of Pope Francis[1], it designates as “Pelagianism” and “Gnosticism.” These deformations of the human spirit are perennial; but they take on a particular coloration and challenge in our contemporary technocratic and therapeutic culture. On the one hand, our culture’s stress on the radical autonomy of the individual leaves little place for the in-breaking of God’s grace. On the other hand, alienation from the material world and even one’s own body spurs a retreat into the inner sanctum of some supposedly untainted “spiritual” self.[2]   

Let me probe this predicament further by calling upon the thought of the Canadian Catholic philosopher, Charles Taylor, in his monumental study, A Secular Age. Taylor, who freely acknowledges the gains of modernity and secularity in areas like religious freedom and tolerance, nonetheless recognizes what might be called “the dark side of secularity.” He regrets the reduction of the contemporary “social imaginary”—our governing images, symbols, and concepts—to “the immanent frame” where a sense of transcendence is dulled by this-worldly concerns and enticements. This experiential constriction often leads to what Taylor terms the “buffered self:” a self not only impervious to graces emanating from a transcendent realm, but also closed off from vital interactions with human others—a plight grown even more acute now than when the book appeared fourteen years ago.

But, to my mind, most interestingly (and I think rather neglected by commentators on Taylor’s work) is his introduction of the category “excarnation” to describe postmodernity’s plight. Ancient “Gnosticism” was, of course, wary of the flesh, with its messiness and fragility. Indeed, its existential “grammar” was deeply “ex-carnational,” as its proponents sought refuge in some spiritual realm beyond the vicissitudes and afflictions of the flesh.

But secularism, for all its touted sexual liberation, is also deeply “excarnational.” Many men and women today are suspicious of history and tradition, hesitant to form binding relations, prone to use others as objects to satisfy fleeting emotions, as they practice death avoidance and denial.[3] These are manifest symptoms of excarnation—a profound unease with and alienation from our somatic reality.[4]

Charles Taylor not only diagnoses the contemporary predicament, but, astonishingly, in a work of historical and philosophical analysis, he indicates a remedy. He writes: “Christians today . . . live in a world where objectification and excarnation reign, where death undermines meaning . . . We have to struggle to recover a sense of what the Incarnation can mean.”[5] Clearly Taylor is not advocating that mere repetition of doctrinal formulas and propositions will be sufficient remedy—however important such propositions remain. What is required is a new “realization” (in Newman’s strong sense) that is at once spiritual, intellectual, and affective. If I may be permitted the phrase: we need a rekindling of the “Christic imaginary!”[6]

The position I will seek to develop, even if succinctly, in what follows is that for the Church and individual Christians to bear cogent witness to this secularized and increasingly technocratic society, they must re-appropriate the mystical, Christic depth of the Christian tradition. They must, as Taylor suggests, discover and proclaim anew the joy, meaning, and implications of the Incarnation.[7]


In what is arguably his most sustained systematic work in theology, the Lectures on Justification, Saint John Henry Newman wrote: “the true preaching of the Gospel is to preach Christ.”[8] Newman surely affirms here what has been recognized in every age of the Church, but, in particular, whenever the Holy Spirit inspires true reform in the Church. The Spirit leads faithful men and women to recover the heart of the New Testament who is Jesus Christ himself.

The golden thread of the New Testament canon is this proclamation of Jesus Christ: “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1Cor 1:24), “Immanuel, God with us” (Matt 1:23), the “Word who is God,” “become flesh and dwelling in our midst” (John 1:1 and 14). The books of the New Testament, in diverse and multiple ways conspire to proclaim the uniqueness and universal significance of Jesus Christ—the absolute novum of his person and work. At the same time the New Testament bears witness that such recognition and confession cannot remain merely “notional,” but must become “real.” To use another word that Newman endows with rich and distinctive content, believers are called to “realize” the Mystery who is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). And this “realization” always entails a transformation of the self, for “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, the new has dawned!” (2Cor 5:17).[9]

The depth grammar of the New Testament witness and faith is this grammar of novum/transformation: the absolute newness of Jesus Christ and the graced transformation to which he summons us. Irenaeus of Lyons, the second century Father of the Church, who has been called the Church’s first “systematic theologian,” has distilled this grammar in memorable fashion. In his great work, Adversus Haereses, Irenaeus writes: “Christ brought all newness by bringing himself.” And he adds, as an inseparable corollary: newness has dawned “in order to renew and give life to humankind.”[10]

60 years ago Vatican II sought to recover this foundational Christological grammar and to present it to the “modern world” in a new key. Though rightly deemed an “ecclesiological council,” whose twin pillars are the two constitutions on the Church—Lumen Gentium (“The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) and Gaudium et Spes (“The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World”)—I have long maintained that distinctive to the Council’s entire enterprise was its foundational Christological vision. All of the documents are “Christologically charged.”[11] And though every council in the Church’s history has affirmed the primacy of Jesus Christ, Vatican II has done so in a distinctive way.

The noted Church historian, John W. O’Malley, has spoken at length of Vatican II’s original “style” compared to previous councils: one that is dialogical and pastoral rather than dialectical and juridical.[12] While grateful for O’Malley’s perceptive insights, I prefer to speak of the unique style of Vatican II as “mystagogic” and “evangelical.” Let me illustrate briefly by appeal to the two constitutions on the Church.

Though sometimes mistakenly thought to be self-referential, the opening words of Lumen Gentium refer not to the Church, but to Christ. Jesus Christ alone is “the Light of the Nations” and the Church only participates in and reflects his Light. Whatever light the Church embodies is derived from and dependent upon Jesus Christ. He is the substance of the “Mystery” to which the Church bears witness.

Hence, though separated from chapter one by three other chapters, chapter five of Lumen Gentium, “The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church,” is intimately connected with this first chapter. Not only does the credibility of the Church’s witness depend upon its faithful reflection of the Light who is Christ, its very identity is to share in the mystery of Christ by embracing his call to holiness. And this call, already embodied sacramentally in the believer’s baptismal renunciation and commitment, is directed to all without exception. Hence all the faithful “are called to the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of charity” by “following in Christ’s footsteps and being conformed to his image” (LG, §40).[13]

John O’Malley has commented acutely about the uniqueness of this chapter five. He writes: “Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Lumen gentium is chapter five . . . leading the way for the call to holiness to become one of the great themes running through the Council.” And he goes so far as to state that the documents of Vatican II are “religious documents in a way notably different from those of previous councils.”[14]

While O’Malley says “religious documents,” I think it more accurate and compelling to say “mystagogic.” Having spoken of the Church in the first instance as “Mystery,” the Council goes on to show that this mystery is not an intellectual conundrum, or a reality to be observed only from afar, but the very substance of the faith in which believers are called to participate and to manifest in their lives.

Let me pass now to the second constitution that treats explicitly of the Church: Gaudium et Spes, “The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.” As is well known, this is the only document of Vatican II that is entirely the initiative of the Council, with no antecedents among the schemata prepared prior to its opening. Once again many of its features have been widely commented upon: its recognition that the Church is in the world and not, in the first place, over against the world, that the Church can learn from the world, and thus the imperative to “dialogue” with the world.

True as these insights are, they risk missing a fundamental trait of Gaudium et Spes, and of the Council as a whole: its evangelical purpose and dynamism. Though Gaudium et Spes has been criticized, both during and after the Council, as betraying a naively “optimistic” view of the modern world, it seems to me that a fair reading of its “Introductory Exposition” on “The Condition of Humanity in Today’s World" (GS §4–10) shows a perceptive assessment both of modernity’s possibilities and its dangers.

After enumerating some of the political, social, economic, and technological dimensions of the crisis confronting the modern world, the Constitution, in the final section of the “Introduction” (GS, §10), addresses still “deeper human questions.” These are rooted in the human heart itself: the internal disorder of sin, lack of meaning and purpose, uncertainty about humankind’s ultimate destiny. In face of these questions and uncertainties that threaten humanity’s true joy and hope (its gaudium et spes), the Council boldly proclaims:

The Church firmly believes that Christ, who died and was raised up for all, can through his Spirit offer humanity the light and the strength to respond to its highest calling. Indeed, no other name under heaven has been given to man and woman by which to be saved. The Church also believes that in her Lord and Master is found the key, the center, and the goal of all human history. She maintains, finally, that beneath all changes there are many realities which do not change and which find their ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hence, under the light of Christ, the image of the unseen God, the firstborn of every creature, the Council intends to speak to all in order to illumine the mystery of man and woman and to cooperate towards finding the solution to the principal questions of our time. (GS, §10, my translation)

Let me offer a number of comments to highlight the richness of this remarkable text. First, the Council, at the end of the introductory section of its “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” lays the explicit Christological foundation for its discernment. Drawing upon the New Testament witness of the Letter to the Hebrews and the Letter to the Colossians, it proclaims the novum of Jesus Christ who is the very “image of the invisible God,” the “firstborn of creation,” who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Moreover, it proclaims Jesus Christ as the God-given response to the deepest yearning of humanity and of all history. Thus, what later Popes will call “the new evangelization” is already initiated by the Council.[15]

Second, this passage and, indeed, Gaudium et Spes as a whole, belies the facile dichotomy between the “dogmatic” and the “pastoral.” The “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” has a clear Christological/dogmatic foundation; just as “The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” as we saw above, with particular reference to its fifth chapter on “The Universal Call to Holiness,” has evident and intrinsic “pastoral” intent.

Third, Vatican II’s Christological vision, as manifest in these two Constitutions on the Church, as well as the “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation” (Dei Verbum) and the “Constitution on the Liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium) bears faithful witness to the New Testament’s novum, the Mystery of Jesus Christ, who, in the words of Dei Verbum is “the mediator and fullness of all revelation” (DV, §2). Thus, “the Christian economy of salvation is the new and definitive covenant” (DV, §4), for it reveals and promotes humanity’s true transformation in Christ.

In sum, the Second Vatican Council is a Christologically saturated Council. Its return to Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, its ressourcement, was at the service of its distinctive re-Sourcement, its return to the unique Source of its life, Jesus Christ. Its robust Christological witness and proclamation was tuned in a new key: personalist, mystagogic, and evangelical. It issued to the Church an ongoing call to realize ever more fully “the breadth and length and height and depth” of that love of Christ “which surpasses knowledge,” that we might be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:18-19).[16]

Ongoing Re-Sourcement

An important spur to these reflections has been Charles Taylor’s injunction to Christians, in the face of the secular world’s spiritual deprivations, to ponder anew “what the Incarnation can mean.” Because the Mystery of Jesus Christ and the salvation which he both effects and enables is inexhaustible, we must always ponder and appropriate it anew. Matthew Levering expresses the salutary challenge well:

We receive divine revelation within the communion of a people (Israel and the Church) called and gathered to share in Christ’s Paschal offering to the Father by the Holy Spirit . . . God’s revelatory words and deeds are never separated from the interpretative matrix of this liturgical people, who are guided by the ascended Lord and his Spirit. Jesus Christ is the measure of true reform of the Church: true reform always deepens the relationship of the whole body of Christ to its head.[17]

The re-Sourcement, the continual return to Jesus Christ, Christians’ unique Source of nourishment and growth, is a communal imperative, one incumbent upon the whole body of Christ as it responds to the Lord’s call to holiness. And it finds its privileged locus in the community’s liturgical celebration.

To obtain further purchase on an approach to this challenge, let me return to one of Charles Taylor’s insights alluded to above: that of “the social imaginary.”[18] The social imaginary is constituted by the shared images, narratives, practices, and understandings that characterize a given historical era and a particular community. Most often this “imaginary” is prior in our consciousness to its explicit conceptual articulation by a society or an individual, but its influence can be even more potent.

One of Taylor’s great merits, as I have stressed, is his acknowledgement of the deficiencies in modernity’s social imaginary. As we saw, he laments its cultivation of a “buffered self,” isolated from and suspicious of others. He regrets modernity’s impoverished “reason,” utilitarian and instrumental, that confines so many to a constricted “immanent frame.” In brief much of the contemporary social imaginary is “excarnational”—in flight from the body, its real limits and its rich possibilities.

In light of this discernment, I think it crucial to explore the contours of a fully incarnational Catholic imaginary that can counter the debilitating hegemony of the secular social imaginary. Obviously, a renewal of the Catholic imaginary will entail the creative endeavors of many, not least poets and artists, musicians—and even theologians. If this communal commitment is to be faithful to both the letter and spirit of Vatican II, it must be mystagogic and evangelical. Toward this end may I propose three images and signposts as orientation to this renewal: Ascension, Transfiguration, Eucharist.

The first, then, is the need to realize, with greater depth, the centrality for Christian life and devotion of the Ascension of the Lord. The Ascension, though liturgically neglected and even sadly transposed, is the fulfillment of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery. Indeed, if we seek to recover the full amplitude of “what the Incarnation can mean,” we must attend carefully to the Ascension. For the Ascension of the Lord is not a “postscript” to the life of Jesus of Nazareth, rather it is the true telos of the Incarnation, the entrance of humanity into the very life of the Triune God. Dante Alighieri’s sublime culminating vision of the Trinity, in the Divine Comedy, discerns within the resplendent second circle of the Godhead “our own image.”[19] And that image is an irreducibly embodied one.

Further, the ascended Lord is not absent, as is somewhat superficially asserted, but actively present, though in a transformed mode of existence. “I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world” (Matt 28:30), Jesus promises his disciples. Thus, a renewed Catholic imaginary will draw amply upon the Letters to the Churches in chapters two and three of the Book of Revelation. The crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus exercises present Lordship as he continues to nourish, sustain, challenge, and judge his followers. “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:19-20).

The Lord is present, indeed, but in a transformed mode of existence. Roman Guardini articulates the mystery this way. The risen and ascended Jesus Christ’s “whole being, body and soul, was transfigured, released by the Holy Spirit . . . into the freedom of pure activity.” And Guardini continues: “For this Christ no limitations exist . . . Christ can inhabit the believer, body and soul, for God’s Son is not only soul, spirit, but holy, glorious reality, mystical corpus.”[20] Thus, the second image that I want to highlight as central to a renewed Catholic imaginary is that of Transfiguration.

In the collect for the Feast of the Ascension the Church prays: “Almighty God, the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation, and, where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope.” Hence, the Ascension concerns not only Christ, it deeply concerns each of us, since it reveals the destiny that the Father has prepared for those who are called to become sons and daughters in his only Begotten. Once again Guardini is a trustworthy teacher:

In [Christ’s] corporeal reality, in his transfigured humanity he is the world redeemed. That is why he is called “the firstborn of all creatures,” “the beginning,” “the firstborn from the dead” (Col 1:15,18) . . . He is the living way who invites all to follow, for all creation is called to share in his Transfiguration.[21]

Rowan Williams, the great Anglican theologian, takes up the theme in a recent significant book. In a richly compact sentence he writes: “This finite life that is Jesus’ enacts the infinite in such a way that its loving agency permeates and transfigures the lives of those touched by it, and so transfigures the meanings of the entire material world.”[22] I suggest that Williams’s affirmation can be further elucidated by appeal to three Pauline passages that will be central to an enriched Catholic imaginary and contemplation.

The first two are from Second Corinthians. It speaks to the experience of Paul and the community he founded: “The God who says, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts, enlightening us with the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). This baptismal enlightenment must extend and permeate all our lives, thoughts and actions, as “beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into his image, from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18).

In the Transfiguration matter becomes translucent, penetrated with divine Presence. Thus the Transfiguration betokens the destiny of humanity and the entire material universe. We are here in a totally different world from that inhabited by Gnosticisms ancient and contemporary. We are in the world not of matter’s denial, but of its divinization. Intriguingly, Charles Taylor urges a recovery of the Patristic notion of theosis, that “further greater transformation,”[23] as one remedy for the stunted horizon of secularity.

The third Pauline image, intimately related to Ascension and Transfiguration, is found in the Letter to the Romans. The pivotal eighth chapter presents the culmination of Paul’s theological argument. Here he closely ties the justification of the believer to the redemption of the whole of creation. Indeed, “Creation waits in expectant longing for the revelation of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19). The liberation of all of creation is intimately tied to that of humanity itself. It is a transfigured humanity that will contribute to the transfiguration of creation. It is this Pauline vision that animates Pope Francis in his appeal for an “integral ecology:” one that both celebrates and takes responsibility for the interconnection of all created reality.[24]

This leads seamlessly to the third signpost or image that can vivify an enhanced Catholic imaginary: that of the Eucharist. Now every authentic renewal in the Church has at its heart a rediscovery of the Eucharistic Mystery. But every age will discover specific depths and implications of its Eucharistic faith. Towards the end of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis gives voice to a Eucharistic vision that is both deeply traditional and newly challenging:

In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living center of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God. Indeed the Eucharist itself is an act of cosmic love.[25]

The Carmelite priest, Wilfrid Stinissen, draws the implications yet further. He speaks of the Eucharist as “the extension of the Incarnation” and as the means of achieving “the goal of the Incarnation,” which is “for all of reality, everything created, to become the body of Christ.”[26]

My contention has been that the three realities of Ascension, Transfiguration, and Eucharist, all sounded, re-presented in a new key, together provide indispensable signposts in mapping a Catholic imaginary that can counter and transform secularity’s stifling “immanent frame” and its ever so impoverished “buffered self.” Such an imaginary can promote the full emergence of that new self, birthed in baptism, and destined to grow into the fullness of Christ. But the condition of such continued growth, as Colossians insists, is that we hold fast “to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and bound together in every joint and ligament, will grow with that growth which is of God” (Col 2:19).

Salvation in Christ: Towards Eucharistic Selfhood

The new self, which might be aptly called a “Eucharistic self” is one who is learning, often painfully, “to do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks [eucharistountes] to God the Father in him” (Col 3:17). It is the self who heeds and embodies the words of the “Preface” to the Eucharistic Prayer that it is “our duty and our salvation always and everywhere to give thanks.” Always and everywhere—even in suffering and deprivation. In a stark recognition José Granados writes:

If the sacraments instituted by Christ carry the fullness of the body’s significance, they do so precisely through suffering. By containing within themselves a passion and death, the sacraments manage to shatter our isolation and open us to the grace of relationship with God and others.[27]

No trace of excarnation here. Far, then, from a “buffered self,” the Eucharistic self is one constituted by its relations. Its selfhood, as the very name “Christian” implies, confesses and celebrates that its defining identity is founded and ever dependent upon him who is its source of life: Jesus Christ. And being, in Christ, he or she is constitutively related to all who, either actually or potentially, are in Christ. Joseph Ratzinger boldly captures the extent of the transformation to which we are called when he writes:

The Eucharist is never an event involving just two, a dialogue between Christ and me. Eucharistic Communion is aimed at a complete reshaping of one’s life. It breaks up man’s “I” and creates a new “we.” Communion with Christ is necessarily also communion with all who belong to him. It means that I myself become part of the new bread that he is creating by the transubstantiation of the whole of earthly reality.[28]

In the Eucharist our transformation in Christ is nourished and stretched toward final transfiguration. Eucharist is the sacrament of the new creation, the fullest anticipation of the heavenly banquet when God in Christ will truly be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28; Col 3:11). The Eucharistic language of “we” will be the native language of that Kingdom where the full communion of humanity with the communion which is the very life of the Trinity is consummated and celebrated through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns forever and ever.

[1] See: Evangelii Gaudium, §93 and 94.

[2] See the analysis by Pope Francis of the “Technocratic Paradigm” in chapter three, “The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis,” in his Encyclical, Laudato Si’.

[3] A classic analysis is Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York: Free Press, 1973).

[4] Angela Franks has offered trenchant commentary on this alienation among influential twentieth-century thinkers.

[5] A Secular Age, 753 (emphasis mine).

[6] See Robert Imbelli, Rekindling the Christic Imagination: Theological Meditations for the New Evangelization (Collegeville, MN, 2014).

[7] In many respects Romano Guardini provides a model for such an undertaking in his classic study of 1937, The Lord (Washington D.C.: Gateway, 2016). I find Guardini’s mystical and metaphysical sensibilities particularly pertinent to our contemporary need. See, The Lord, 608 and passim.

[8] John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification (London: Longmans, Green, 1914, 325.

[9] See: Robert Imbelli, “Until Christ Be Formed in You (Gal 4:19): Saint John Henry Newman’s Theological-Pastoral Mystagogy,” in Heart Speaks to Heart: Saint John Henry Newman and the Call to Holiness, (Leominster: Gracewing, 2021).

[10] Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haereses, IV, xxxiv.  

[11] Robert P. Imbelli, Rekindling the Christic Imagination, xiii–xv, xxiv.

[12] John W. O’Malley, What Happened at Vatican II (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2008), 43–52.

[13] I use the term, “Christification,” to speak of this process of transformation in Christ. See, Rekindling, 5-6, 83, 93.

[14] O’Malley, 51.

[15] For a fascinating study on the role of the young theologian, Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, in the formulation of number 10 of Gaudium et Spes, see Jared Wicks, “Six Texts by Professor Joseph Ratzinger as Peritus Before and During Vatican Council II’,” Gregorianum, 89, 2 (2008), 233–311.

[16] For a further exploration of Vatican II’s robust Christological vision and its not so “benign” neglect in certain quarters of post-conciliar Catholic theology, see Robert P. Imbelli, “No Decapitated Body: Remembering and Misremembering Vatican II,” Nova et Vetera, 18, 3 (2000), 757–775. See also the important study of Matthew Levering, An Introduction to Vatican II as an Ongoing Theological Event (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2017).

[17] Levering, 13.

[18] Taylor, 146, 171–176.

[19] Paradiso, XXXIII, 131.

[20] Guardini, The Lord, 527 and 528 (translation slightly emended; italics mine).

[21] Ibid., 483 (translation slightly emended). I have reflected further on the Mystery of the Ascension and its implications for Christian life in Robert Imbelli, “Sursum Corda: Ascension Theology and Spirituality,” in “Sufficit Gratia Mea:” Studi Offerti al Cardinale Angelo Amato (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2019), 359–368.

[22] Rowan Williams, Christ the Heart of Creation (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), 251.

[23] Taylor, 737.

[24] Francis, Laudato Si’, chapter four.

[25] Laudato si’, no. 236.

[26] Wilfrid Stinessen, Bread That Is Broken (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2020), 63 and 66.

[27] José Granados, “The Pandemic: A Sacramental Reading,” Communio, 47, 3 (2020), 467.

[28] Joseph Ratzinger, “Eucharist, Christology, Ecclesiology: The Christological Core,” in Behold the Pierced One (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 1986), 89 (translation modified slightly).

Featured Image: Mural painting of Jesus Christ, flanked by the Greek letters "Alpha and Omega", in the Catacombs of Commodilla, Rome. 4th century AD; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100.


Fr. Robert Imbelli

Fr. Robert Imbelli is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and Associate Professor Emeritus at Boston College. He is the author of Rekindling the Christic Imagination: Theological Meditations for the New Evangelization.

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