Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Christological Constellation

We were delighted to welcome Sr Cathy Jones r.a, who spoke after lunch to the title ‘The Heart of Vocation.’ Cathy was a resident at Newman House as a student in the year 1999-2000.

She elucidated several threads concerning the nature of the Church, drawn largely from the writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar.

We began by recalling the many and diverse individuals and groups who Jesus called to himself during his ministry. From the Gospel, we can see very clearly that Christ is not a merely abstract concept, but a real person whose ministry took place within the context of human relationships; as such our discipleship also takes place within relationships. The place in which these relationships take shape is within the community of the Church

Von Balthasar calls this ‘Christ in his constellation’, that throughout the Gospel it is the person Christ who accompanies, who invites, rebukes, who brings people out of their isolation and into relationship with him. Within this network of relationships that Jesus sets up there is a certain tension between those of his disciples whose responses to his call take varied emphases.

Peter’s pastoral office, Paul’s freedom, James’ tradition and John’s love: all of these might at first glance seem incompatible. The contribution of the apostles to this network of relationships, however, is partly one of tension: they each retain their own unique authority, their own charism. There are moments when they appear to compete. It is their unrelenting gaze upon the risen Christ, however, that holds these diverse people together and enables them to move forward with their mission at his command.

Balthasar places Mary firmly at the centre of this network as the model of discipleship, who points our way to fidelity by her own example, and it is this fidelity which makes it possible for the other ‘thrusts’ within the Church to be held together by Christ.
‘The Marian fiat, unequalled in its perfection, is the
all-inclusive, protective and directive form of all ecclesial life’ (The Office
of Peter and the Structure of the Church
, p208).
Mary’s ‘yes’ sustains and renews us, because it is a ‘yes’ that never sets itself above Christ, but is born from a contemplative gaze on God.

Von Balthasar tells us that there has always been tension in the Church between those with different emphases and approaches, and that there is a theological justification for this. It is Christ himself, however, through the faithfulness of those at the centre (typified by Mary), who enables that tension to be creative and fruitful, maintaining his Church in love, and keeping her children open to the call to love.
There was plently to take away from this talk, and we are very grateful to Sr Cathy for coming to be with us. Pictures to follow.

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