The Cross and the Incarnation

Interview With Theologian Eloy Bueno

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BILBAO, Spain, MARCH 15, 2005 ( To experience the cross does not detract from the life of God-made-Man but shows its greater dignity, says a theologian.

Eloy Bueno de la Fuente, dean of the School of Theology of Northern Spain, participated in a meeting March 4 at the University of Deusto on the topic «The Cross: the Most Human Face of God.»

In his address, the theologian emphasized the importance of the cross in the Christian faith, as well as the timeliness of its message in today’s society, a topic he further reflects on in this interview.

Q: Why is the cross God’s «most human» face?

Bueno: In virtue of the Incarnation, the Christian faith has had the audacity to speak of a crucified God. In the light of spontaneous and natural reason, the cross and God seem to be contradictory, incompatible concepts and realities.

And yet, here we find the most original and novel contribution of Christianity. To suffer or experience the cross does not detract from God’s life but shows its greater dignity, what makes him worthy of being believed — precisely because he has shown the closeness and philanthropy, as the Holy Fathers said, of a God who comes to meet his frail creature to make himself participant in our history of affliction.

That is why theology cannot fail to ask itself: What does God do that is «so human» as to make his own the weak and vulnerable flesh of men?

This question contributes to open the door to access the mystery of the Triune God and the incarnate Son, which constitute at the same time, the nucleus of the Christian mystery and of the dignity of the human being.

Q: How can the «Christian philosophy of suffering» be made to fit in a society that prizes the claims of euthanasia?

Bueno: The subtitle of my address was, precisely, «A Cultural Alternative.» With it I hoped to indicate that it is the Christian message that launches a question, and even a challenge, to a culture that elaborates clever strategies to hide or marginalize the weakest and defenseless, those who are considered dead weight because they cannot produce or consume, enjoy or communicate pleasure.

Evidently it is not about — as morality reminds us — of using extraordinary means to prolong life artificially. However, Christian faith must remind our civilization that rejection of the Crucified implies forgetfulness of the many who are crucified.

And given the dignity of the crucified, society must be made to arbitrate the means — financial and personal — so that no sick person, including the terminal, be regarded as a burden.

Q: How can Christ’s cross be presented to the victims of terrorism, terminal patients and refugees?

Bueno: Above all, in such cases words might be rhetoric and remote if pronounced from a distance. Nevertheless, in the light of Easter the believer must feel the responsibility to remind, proclaim and witness to such people their immense dignity as human beings.

Above all, the figure of the Crucified is not an invitation to resignation and the offer of easy consolation. From that perspective, suffering acquires other profiles and other depths of humanity. In the light of the crucified God, recollection of the beatitudes acquires greater depth, and personal union with the experience of Jesus himself becomes easier, with one’s sight set on Easter.

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