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The Mystery Hidden for Ages in God
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Paul M. Quay, S.J., was one of the most brilliant students that I taught in a Jesuit theologate. He already had a doctorate in physics before he began his study of theology. Over the years, until his premature death, he did not publish extensively. But certainly, The Mystery Hidden for Ages in God is a synthesis of his superb understanding of the Catholic faith and one of the great books of the second half of the twentieth century.
The more than four hundred pages of this volume are an answer to the question which the author raises in his introduction. It is worth quoting in full.
Why should spiritual growth, my own and others, be so slow? Why do some priests or religious seem to go backwards rather than forwards? Why do many Catholics, even priests and religious, seem to lack the close personal relationship with Jesus Christ that is so visibly operative in the lives of many believing Protestants despite the greater spiritual opportunities given the Catholics? After Vatican II, why did so many priests and religious leave their consecrated life to live as laymenor even abandon the Church altogetherand this, after many reasonably productive and apparently contented years under their vows? Why are Christians often more easily led into moral evil by the surrounding culture than are, say, Orthodox Jews? Again, all these are simple variants on the basic question: how should Christians grow spiritually, how do they, and why the difference?
Having raised the question, Quay admits that it cuts more deeply and more terribly than it first appears. Then he adds, and again he is worth quoting at length.
Our century has been drowned in blood: the hundreds of millions of infants aborted; the far fewer, though still many millions, slain by Stalin, Mao, Hitler, and Pol Pot; the other millions killed in the two World Wars and the swarm of lesser conflicts; to say nothing of the victims of the internal collapse of family life and its replacement with gang life, drugs, and virtual reality. The sight of a Christianity seemingly no more powerful to save from such evils than have scientific progress, the achievements of technology, and philosophical argument together. The question, When confronted by such evils, where is Christianity and its vaunted power to change the hearts of men? is answered quickly by Nowhere or Collaborating with the evildoers. But what is nowhere is discarded as nonexistent; what collaborates with evildoers is fought aggressively in order to destroy it. Hence, the current mixture of indifference and hostility.
I thought it was worth quoting at some length from Fr. Quays deeply thought out work on Christianity. He analyzes the faith which he deeply believed into three parts of an equal length. The first part he calls Adam and Christ: Original Sin; the second part is on Recapitulation in Christ, and the third part is on The Church, the New Israel.
Adam and Christ: Original Sin
The author is perfectly frank in discussing the problems that original sin raises. Not the least of these is how the whole human race could be penalized for the disobedience of our first parents. The full answer is, of course, a mystery. But one thing we must not forget. Every grave sin is devastating in its consequences. In the case of Adam and Eve, the consequences were not only for our first parents, but for all their progeny until the end of time. How this needs to be emphasized in our day, when whole nations are suffering the penalty for the sinful behavior of those in positions of authority in modern society.
Recapitulation in Christ
The second part of Father Quays book is on recapitulation in Christ. Through two- hundred pages of carefully organized thinking, he analyzes the role of Christ in fulfilling the prophesies of the Old Law. Understandably the author concentrates on St. Irenaeus (died 202 A.D.) for his exposition of this important subject. As the Church has understood Irenaeus, Christ not only redeemed the world by repairing the damage done by the fall of the human race. By assuming human nature the Son of God recreates and renews creation. He is not only head of the Church which He founded. He is also king of material creation and keystone of the universe. In a way beyond our comprehension, the world has not only been redeemed but marvelously improved. Why? Because God took on a created humanity and, as a result, provided such potential for progress in creation as would have been inconceivable except for the Incarnation.
Every major issue of the Old Covenant reveals this wonderful promise of recapitulation. But it also shows what needs to be courageously faced by the true followers of Christ. No less than the faithful Jews before the Savior had to suffer for their loyalty to Yahweh, so faithful Christians have to suffer for their fidelity to Jesus Christ. Once more an apology for quoting two lengthy paragraphs verbatim. They should be etched in bronze.
To an even greater degree, Catholics who have matured to this point have always been forced into a ghetto often enough by their fellow Catholics. This is not usually a constriction in living quarters but of exclusion from the exercise of their competencies in dealing with the issues that most concern their lives, their country, and the Church. Though they may think that they are bumping into invisible walls, set up to keep them out of positions of influence, more often it is they who are invisible. They are passed over and ignored by people who may have no dislike for them but who sense them as strangers to the life of the world around them.
This is not directly a matter of their own choosing. Like most men, they would like to have some effective say in the running of their world. Their exclusion results from their choice to stay close to the Lord. Those who are less mature, like the earlier Jews, think that compromise is possible and often it is, if one considers the matter abstractly and without realizing the intrinsic corruption of all men by sin. Hence, those less mature do not understand the somewhat distant and reserved coolness or even hostility of someone more mature towards the objects of their enthusiasms. They consider getting ahead a benefit not only to themselves but to the Church, and are puzzled by those who do not. They fail to see that the world lets them get ahead unless the Lord Himself intervenes only insofar as they serve the worlds cause, first unconsciously, then with increasing awareness. But those of that maturity with which we are here concerned know clearly enough that friendship with the world is enmity with God (Jas.4:4) and leads ultimately to betrayal or apostasy.
What are we being told? That Christians have a very simple but awful choice, either to remain faithful to the Savior and pay the price, or remain Christians only in name and be rewarded by the same world that crucified their Master.
The Church, the New Israel
The authors third and closing part of The Mystery Hidden for Ages in God is entitled The Church, the New Israel. All that was said so far is now summarized in the prospects for Catholic Christianity in the future. Whatever else professed members of the Roman Catholic Church need, it is to learn from the past. They dare not compromise their principles with the world which Christ made so clear was hostile to the Gospel. But even more important, they cannot be ordinary Christians or ordinary Catholics. No way!
They have two crucial responsibilities, one for the mind and the other for the will. They must understand their faith, deeply and clearly, as never before in the history of Christianity. The world in which they live is an academically sophisticated world. But that is not all. They must live their faith by using their wills to practice the one virtue on which Christ tells us our eternal destiny depends. Christians must love God, which means the God who was crucified on His cross to teach us that we must be crucified on our cross. Christians must love others, especially those who do not love them. As the Savior made so plain, By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if we have love for one another.
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