Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Cross-Shattered Christ: Chapter Five

In Chapter Five of The Cross-Shattered Christ, Stanley Hauerwas listens to the words of Christ when he cries out, "I thirst!" As in previous chapters, he asks again: how can the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity "thirst"? Should we think metaphorically here? Or are we to think that the cry somehow comes from the human side of Jesus Christ who is physically thirsty. Perhaps. But is it really a matter of a dry throat and parched lips? While, as I understand Hauerwas, there is a good bit of truth to these possibilities, something else, Hauerwas tells, far more significant takes place when the Son of God finds himself screaming (is that too strong a verb?) for water. As I understand what Hauerwas is saying in his own sparse sentences, it's something like this:

For centuries Israel, God's wilderness people, have been longing for everything that water means, abundant and full life with God, the coming to God's pasture-land. Is it not in the Songs of Israel that God's people cry out "in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Psalm 42). If we are to believe the Gospel, in the Incarnation, in the emptying of God into "Mary's belly," the Waters of Heaven have poured themselves into a cross-shattered Christ whose "mouth is dried up like a potsherd" (Psalm 22). In Christ we are witness to the oceanic Waters of Life going absolutely dry, drained of divinity, emptied of everything God is. Yet even as we make such statement, our words do not "explain" Jesus's "I thirst" from the cross. In Hauerwas's words:

It is a mistake to think these great doctrines of our faith, the Trinity and Incarnation, are meant to explain. These doctrines are quite literally names for mysteries, that is, the naming of what is open for all to see yet become for us the incomprehensible salvation wrought in Christ.

Quoting Rowan Williams (as he has done before), Hauerwas asks us to "remember the point of doctrine is to hold us still, to create depth in us, 'a space for radical change in how we think of ourselves and how we act'."

While I'm not quite sure what that "space for radical change" means, I'm grateful to Hauerwas to suggest that it may require that in the depth of Christ as I listen to him cry for water, I am called "to care for those who thirst for God's kingdom," and in that caring "the kingdom will be present." Perhaps then I will understand "I thirst."


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