Yes, this does help and prompts more questions.
How can we complete what is lacking in Christ when it comes to suffering? He is God!
Does the monastic act as an intermediary when it comes to suffering such as a priest does in confession?
For what it is worth, I am a convert (former RC to Protestant [Baptist]). I think my Protestant understandings (read that as baggage ) is getting in the way. I have read Romans 8 and have never really grasped what St. Paul is saying.
Please don't give up on me! I truly want to be able to understand this in my heart.
Humbly, Athanasia (Trudy)
Okay, one by one: I don't think cosmically we can complete anything in Christ's suffering in regard to the events from the Last Supper to his being placed in a tomb, dead. That was a perfect offering and sacrifice. Nor do I believe there was or is anything lacking in His suffering to be completed. Does that put me at odds with St. Paul? Not really. I think, again, he was saying this "as a manner of speaking"
There is the sense in which Christ is present in the Church; after all the Church is the Body of Christ. In that sense our sufferings are His sufferings. I think that is the sense Paul meant this. To the extent the Body of Christ and its individual members are called to suffer, Christ suffers with us. In that sense His suffering is not complete until His return and we are helping to complete it the on-going suffering of Christ in and with His Church. That is the only sense I can imagine St. Paul's comment.
Yes, I think the monastic is acting as intermediary - suffering for the world in prayer for the world; spending time attending to ALL the services and hours of prayer on behalf of the Church and the world; living simply and fasting on behalf of the world; practicing ascetic discipline to become examples of theosis for all of us, Christian and pagan. Battling demons in prayer is suffering, not just for the monastic's own salvation but for the world too. It is a sacrifice and a suffering borne of love - love for God and love for the world. The monastic takes this on willingly for Christ's sake.
I wouldn't attempt an exposition of Romans 8, but your are correct that the protestant baggage (for example, the tendencty to view Christ's suffering as a strictly legal transaction of God puninshing sin in Christ and forgiving it in anyone who receies Christ, kind of makes the whole affair a "done deal." Any other understanding seems to be re-opening the deal or saying it wasn't enough). But if you look at the Incarnation as the beginning of the salvific event and the re-uniting of human nature with the divine, and if you see Christ's suffering as conquering sin and death and defeating Satan and that being a Christian is being called to participate in the uniting of our humanity with God and participating in that victory with Christ and being joined to God and once again to become the image and likeness of God, then these things begin to make a little more sense.
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