What is your most controversial theological belief
Between Cairos and Parousia
1. Adv C: LK 21, 25-28. 34-36 + 1 Thess 3.12-4.2
Advent begins today, Sunday. He begins in the circle of the liturgical year with which we celebrate the mysteries of faith. Despite the unpleasant emptying of so many signs and customs of faith and despite the hustle and bustle that quite a few are still going on in the weeks before Christmas, these Advent days have something special about them: the warm light of the candles in the dark, green Branches, a quiet song - that makes you more thoughtful than usual; and if one is not quite numb, it touches his soul.
Strangely enough, at the beginning of Advent there is a gospel in the liturgy that does not seem to fit the feeling we associate with these days. But that is only apparently the case: in reality, on the first day of the church year - like the overture at the beginning of a musical work - the Gospel speaks to us about what runs like the red thread through the whole church year: about the basis of our faith and about the Power that works in him.
Jesus speaks of signs in the sky, of the roar of the sea, of the cosmic forces being shaken and people perishing in fear. As always in the Bible, what is told as an external, visible event is a symbol for the internal things that are being spoken of. And that is here in this gospel - it says there - the fear. You all know how it is when you are afraid of something, afraid for someone, maybe also for yourself: the ceiling falls on your head; the sky with the stars, the whole vault of our ideals and orientation collapses: the ground beneath our feet no longer seems to be reliable, we feel that we are literally drowning in fear as in a shoreless, roaring sea that nothing can stop can. When we feel guilty, when we have made serious mistakes, lost a loved one, or failed badly, we feel as though we are about to perish. The world does not collapse just once in a person's life, sometimes so often that he can no longer live.
But our gospel strangely combines the shock of fear with a promise: When all of this begins, straighten up, for your salvation is at hand! Then you will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and glory. With this Old Testament symbol of the God-sent savior from all trouble, the Gospel means: When everything slips out of your hand, man, when you have nothing left to secure yourself and to fool yourself; if you don't numb yourself - through intoxication and drunkenness - and don't cover up fear with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but admit it to yourself, then you come before your own truth, a truth that sets you free.
Incidentally, this early Christian experience developed a very idiosyncratic, fascinating history of effects in the 20th century, because it became one of the pivotal points of his description of the world and life for one of the greatest and most controversial thinkers of the time: Martin Heidegger. In 1920/21, Heidegger, as a young private lecturer in Freiburg, gave lectures on the First Letter to the Thessalonians and on a book of Augustine's “Confessions”. It had nothing to do with the fact that a philosopher was trying to theologize. Heidegger began studying theology after graduating from high school, but broke it off after four semesters because he became more and more convinced that the Catholic theology of his time with its neo-scholastic conceptual apparatus was unable to grasp what was in the words of the New Testament is recorded as early Christian life experience: namely that factual life, life as it really and actually is, was not discovered in the horizon of Platonic philosophy, but in early Christian experience: the uniqueness of its situation, in which it was placed by the coming of Christ is, the Kairos, and on the other hand, his endangerment, his alignment with the future, namely the return of Christ, the Parousia.
The 1st Letter to the Thessalonians, from which the second reading came earlier, is by the way the oldest surviving scripture of early Christianity, the oldest part of the New Testament, so that there the original tone of this original consciousness of faith is heard more directly than in the other scriptures - one notices that, by the way also in the strangeness that pervades quite a few passages of this letter of Paul for today's readers, for example when at one point the trumpet of God is mentioned, which wakes the dead and with them raptures the living on the clouds into the air or similar. But because theology approaches the matter assigned to it with borrowed means, with Platonic and Aristotelian categories, it fails to do what it should actually say. And that is why, according to Heidegger's conviction, philosophy must set itself the task of making that original truth about people and life heard authentically. It was precisely in this early examination of the early Christian life experience that Heidegger sounded out the paths on which the basic ideas of his great work “Being and Time” would later unfold. And one of the guiding principles there is that man's life is at the bottom a “being to death”.
In doing so, the philosopher, of course, without prejudice to the early Christian motif, had moved far from the Christian. Because the believers have never ceased to understand this message of being relaxed in life as a word of consolation and hope. If you acknowledge that you are utterly insecure, then you will automatically discover what alone gives you support and ground under your feet: the Son of Man. That means: where nothing is in my power, I can be human as God intended it to be: that is, humanity.
Christians know what humanity is from the person of flesh and blood whom the Gospel calls the Son of Man because he is what he is: Jesus of Nazareth. The trust in God and the goodness that inspired him, they made that his humanity went through people through and through, sometimes so much that someone has become well through his mere presence, if he was previously torn by fear no longer himself could be. Jesus' trust in God and his goodness encouraged people to start anew with God and with themselves. They gave them the strength to face the hardship of their lives humanly - and sometimes even of dying, that of loved ones and their own once, without being drowned in fear. To trust God like Jesus and even to live a little on the goodness for which he stands, that strengthens against the chaos caused by fear. And in the end that lets you stand up to the one by which we are all measured by God: by the Son of Man, by whom the man was, as God wants people to be.
Faith means: I let the Son of Man - what he stands for - become mighty in me. We will soon hear in great detail how it begins: in the stories of the birth of the human child, in which the Son of Man became one of us, in order to bring us closer to you and you, humanly, what it means to be human . That is why the Gospel, which promises its coming, stands at the beginning of the time in which we prepare for the mystery of the Incarnation, for Christmas. And the great sign of these days - the Advent wreath - makes visible in many ways what hope our faith may dare: There is the wreath that does not have a beginning and an end - God is so faithful, always and without end. The wreath is wound from green branches, living things in the middle of the dead winter time - even where everything seems to be there, there is a new departure. The longer we wait for the Son of Man, the more candles we light - the brighter it becomes in us and around us. And the colorful ribbons on the wreath give us an inkling that despite the hardship that may affect their lives, joy is no stranger to Christians. That is why Paul ends his first letter to the Thessalonians with the following words:
... encourages the fearful,
take care of the weak
be patient with everyone!
Make sure that no one repays the other evil for evil,
but always strive to do good to one another and to all.
Rejoice at any time!
Pray without ceasing!
Give thanks for everything, that's what God wants from you,
you who belong to Christ Jesus!
Do not extinguish the mind!
Check everything, keep the good!
It is like a biblical advent calendar - lots of little windows made of words into the secret of a safe life. If we tried to translate even one or the other of it a little into our lived working day, we would have made a new beginning with faith with this Advent.
© 2020 Seminar for Basic Philosophical Questions in Theology
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