«The Wounds and the Ascended Body: The Marks of Crucifixion in the Glorified Christ from Justin Martyr to John Calvin Peter Widdicombe Laval ...»
In contrast to Luther, they do not discuss the issue principally in spiritualpsychological terms. Their concern is more with the objective significance of the retention of the marks than with the subjective. For them, no less than the Reformers, it is of course important that it be understood that the sins of humankind have been dealt with by the death and resurrection of Christ and that we appreciate that that is so ; but for them it is also important that God’s encompassing of the reality of the human condition, God’s entry into that condition, and the suffering that the Son endured there for the sake of humankind, be seen to be eternally present at the right hand of the Father. And, whatever we may say about Calvin’s conception of perfection, for the earlier writers the issue of the perfection of creation was not to be abstracted from the consequences of humanity’s corruption of that creation and the awfulness endured by Christ in order to overcome those consequences. The triumph of the resurrection is only a triumph because of its integral and permanent connection to the suffering and death of Christ. If for Cyril, Bede, and Thomas, this created a tension in their thought about how to reconcile the notions of corruption and incorruption, it is a tension they were prepared to live with rather than to put the continuity between the incarnate body and the eternal body in jeopardy.
We see here, expressed in its various ways by the pre-Reformation theologians, an attempt to tie together as closely as possible the economy of God’s salvific work within the created order with the eternal order, to underscore God’s ongoing good
70. For a discussion of the piece and its composition, see K. SNYDER, Dieterich Buxtehude : Organist in Lübeck, London, Collier Macmillan, 1987, p. 142 and 198-200. The wounded side of Christ features here as well. In Cantata IV, we read, “Hail side of the Saviour / Where lies the honey of sweetest / Where is seen the force of love / From which pours a fount of blood / Which washes clean foul hearts.”
intention for, and engagement with, his fallen creation. By contrast, both Luther and Calvin, by their rejection of the sign of the divine engagement with humanity’s fallenness, allow the possibility of a discontinuity to be perceived between Christ’s body as it was on earth and the body as sits at the right hand of the Father. This may be of little significance in itself — the ascended body remains after all for both a real body, a body which suffered and which is the Son’s. Nevertheless, it also allows for the possibility of the perception of a discontinuity between the reality of the human nature of Christ as man on earth and the life lived then, and the reality of that human nature and the life of the Son of Man as that is expressed at the right hand Father.
However transformed in glory, Christ is not to be thought of as dehominised and the evidence of his history as the incarnate and suffering human being is not to be erased.
For the earlier theologians, the reign of Christ in all its fullness is signified by the retention of the marks. Suffering and sinful humanity indeed finds itself in the Son at the right hand of the Father and it can see there the evidence that the divine heart has and continues to beat with compassion for humanity in its continuing brokenness. It is the enduring presence of the marks of the wounds in heaven that testifies to the divine engagement with the sinful human condition, in both judgment and mercy, which in turn is the basis of our response of thankfulness. If in the modern postKantian world, a world in which theology adheres closely to the historical narrative of the biblical texts, we may be reluctant to go beyond the purely historical and are reticent to speculate about the heavenly sphere, if we are tempted to smile at such heavenly dramas as that of Cyril, surely, nonetheless, it is the case that the theological instinct of the pre-Reformation theologians was correct. There are, no doubt, many ways to affirm that the one who reigns at the right hand of the Father is our neighbour, is the one who has suffered with us and will judge us as the one who has suffered with us ; but the belief that the marks of the wounds endured in the glorified body of Christ served the patristic and medieval theologians well, as they sought to give systematic expression to the reality of God’s eternal good intention for his crea- tion.