Welcome back to my Catholic study of Ephesians. It’s been a long time since I left you in a pause of expectancy between You, to the Second Power and You, to the Third. In that pause I, too, waited – holding open a space of yearning for a touch from the Holy Spirit. Like a violin string across that space was the tension of the beginning of this Bible study. Why was that a tension??
Because a beginning implies an end, a promise to fulfill, a yearning for completion. My interior tension was a need for encouragement. When you run ahead in the path, you often find yourself in new territory where you may feel a bit lost. You stop running and wait to get your bearings. The initial oomph of motivation peters out and leaves you wondering, “What was God’s will, again??”
My oomph had come from love of this particular Epistle and a clear sense of God’s calling me to this study through Catholic friends. My hesitation to keep moving forward drizzled down from a little black cloud of discouragement. “This doesn’t even matter to anyone. I’m feeling exposed and embarrassed to be hanging it all out there in cyberspace where nobody is listening anyway.”
I took a big dose of my own advice, letting this project abide a while unfinished while I recollected my freedom. Scriptures and the Divine Mercy chaplet dispelled the dark cloud of doubt. Jesus, I trust in you! In freedom, I turned to a project I felt more clarity about with zeal. (DARE Your Something!) I entrusted the next step on this project to God. “Please, Lord, call me back to this through your Church, if it is your will that I continue.”
Knock, knock – God at the door! I received a request to continue! This seemed to be the call, since it came from a fellow Catholic, through the Body of Christ that I’d hoped for. I’m delighted to hear the starter’s gun sound for the next part of this study. Why have I detailed this process??
Because last time I wrote, I said that you won’t rightly understand the work you’re to do until you understand God as an artistic creator. YOU are the work of art He is creating, and He wants You, Free more than He wants all the results and works and progress and even Bible studies you can offer. A free act is actually a higher thing than a work of art, because it enlarges YOU and your freedom. It’s like a work of art, though, because it is a creative resolution of interior tension. A free act flows from a judgement that combines what your head knows and what your heart feels and resolves those into a conclusion about how you should act. That act may accomplish something, but the greatest thing is that it enlarges your freedom and invites others to freedom.
In my stumbling, I stopped to recover my freedom, knowing that the intrinsic value of all my doing is participation in the glorious freedom of God’s people by which He is realized into the world ever more fully. My being is held in His, and my freedom raises me higher into that participation. You, Free is you to the third power – you able to be hopeful-of-but-not-demanding-of results, and also able to be in-touch-with-but-not-grasping-at desires. You, Free is you with a string between competing realities tensed across the interior spaciousness of detachment. The doing-or-not-doing becomes not-the-point. The longing and hopeful waiting become a longing to hear the note He plays on that string.
Now, can we come back to the ground from all this soaring, please? Well, I’ll try.
I read Ephesians 2: 11-22 and pretty quickly I’m flying again! It starts off on firm enough ground, but by the end of Chapter 2 has me in capitals and exclamation points again. What gets me so excited is that a wonderful pattern keeps repeating and, like a child, I just love that!
We just reached the height of the previous wave: you are God’s work of art. The pattern I’m seeing starts again as the trough, or the plain vanilla first dimensional beginning of a new wave. Ephesians 2:11-14: You are in Christ now, peace. You were far away, now you’re close. Peace. You weren’t in the womb of His people, and now you are. Peace. Wonderful, still, secure, peaceful, womb-like. Your very being begins here, inside a Sabbath-vessel. (See You, to the First Power for more on this.)
Now, for a bit of tension. Ephesians 2: 14-18: Christ is our peace. It is a peace of holding two things in tension and reconciling them through a New Thing. It is the peace not of a baby in the womb, but of a newborn in his mother’s arms, birthed through the pain of another’s labor. It is the peace of a child, whose trajectory is to become like a god through a dynamic growth process in which he alternates between deep rest and hungry, active, explorative, self-assertive, creative forward movement. Whoop! (See You, to the Second Power for more on this.)
In Ephesians 2: 19-22, God takes us ‘to the third power’ in a move so exponentially more huge that the mind, trying to keep up, is left gasping for breath. From ‘what we are’ to ‘what we shall become’ is a leap of disproportion so vast it can only be accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. Try to get your mind to ‘see’ it by considering the dis-proportion between ‘bread and water’ and ‘Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the ever-living Creator God’ in the host held up by your priest. The natural is real and must be there, but the disproportion is mind-boggling – like the gap between the Second and Third dimension, or power of You!
First of all, you can’t accomplish it. This dimension begins with the we of the household of God (2:19), with the edifice of the Church built upon old and new testaments, prophets and apostles, letter of law and its spirit (2:20). Guess Who is the New Thing uniting all those hard-to-reconcile realities-in-tension? Christ…I know you knew. And what note do you suppose the Spirit came down to play on that string at Pentecost? Ecclesia - Church! Repentance and conversion and membership in His Body.
- Incarnation, Messiah, Jewish/natural level (which itself was the culmination of some amazing waves that built from one to three dimensions over time).
- Crucifixion, access to Spirit, new man reborn in Christ and able to stand, to run in the path of God’s commands, to “grow up in all things unto Christ” (REF).)
- Resurrection, structure, dwelling place of God, membership in a Body, generative community, radiance of God’s glory, glorious freedom of the children of God!
You are not just being led to a heavenly participation in the communion of the Trinity, but are participating in that love and kingdom building and enormity right here in your own life, if you are in the Church. The realization of Christ in His Church is the growing up of His presence in you and among His people. IN the Eucharist is IN the liturgy is IN the Sabbath is IN the emerging kingdom is IN the divine economy is IN the center of His will is IN the Truth that sets you free is IN community. Christ is in you (singular) with the aim of being so fully in you (plural) that He may lift His Bride up into the bower of spousal love at the very core of His own being.
Ephesians 2:11 – you are in Christ. Ephesians 2:22 – Christ is in you all. He accomplishes that three-dimensional, full realization of Himself through your being at peace, in Him. CCC 2305, referencing Ephesians 2: 14 and 16, is worth quoting fully:
Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messianic “Prince of Peace.” By the blood of his Cross, “in his own person he killed the hostility,” he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. “He is our peace.”
You, to the Third Power is you with interior peace and at peace in the family of man. You aren’t up to it. You must have means, means, means of grace, grace, grace! (See Ways and Means, Means, Means for more on this.) In the household of God, the divine economy, those graces are the fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery, communicated or dispensed through the Church (CCC 1076). I highly recommend the section of the Catechism on this Sacramental Economy. (CCC 1076-1209) for your edification (literally, for your ‘being built up’ as into a dwelling place for God). The temple of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:21) is referred to in CCC 797, where we hear St. Augustine say, “What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”
He remains in you. You remain in Him, in His Church. Don’t despise the means, because by this implication (literally, your in-folded-ness in the Church) you participate in being the means yourself.
We’ll hear a lot more about the plan, the Man, the Body and its Soul, the womb and the temple as we keep going through the book of Ephesians. Chapter Three is the peak of the wave we’ve been leading up to, and from which the last chapters flow down into our daily lives. Join me for Wisdom’s Manifold Mystery in the next Catholic Bible study post.
If you missed the first posts in this series, here are the links:
What’s a Catholic Bible Study?
Blessed, Blessing, Blessings
God’s Ways & Means
God’s Plan for Your Life
Christ to the Third Power
You, to the First Power
You, to the Second Power