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Perichoresis, Christological


The mutual indwelling of the divine and human natures in Jesus Christ. Trinitarian perichoresis (circumincession) is the sacred indwelling of the three Persons in one sole God. The second is the compenetration of Divine Persons in one nature; the first, the compenetration of the human nature in Christ by the divine in the one Person of the logos. Trinitarian perichoresis affirms the consubstantiality of the Divine Persons against arianism and the distinction of Persons against sabellianism. Christological perichoresis proclaims (a ) one sole person in Christ against nestorianism's concept of two persons morally united and (b ) two distinct natures against monophysitism's confusion of the elements of Christ in one nature.

Only the Second Person possesses human nature, for only the word was made man and lived among men. Only He can say, "This is my body." Both natures subsist mutually in each other without any modification of the Logos, but with, in predication, reciprocal interchange of attributes because of the oneness of Person. Thus the hypostatic union is the basis for the perichoresis that is reflected in this interchange or communication of idioms.

Incarnational perichoresis must be studied in its concrete existential richness, not merely in abstractive repetition of the great (and eternally true) Chalcedonian formula: two natures, one Person, unconfused, undivided, the difference of nature preserved in one subsistence. The unifying power is from the Logos alone: the theologian must explain the concrete human subject, totally sanctified by the divine, existing with all the perfection of mind, will, and heart, profoundly conscious of itself, possessing tremendous initiative in the work of Redemption. Diverse from the Logos, it can be studied only as united to the Logos, only diversity explaining the unity, and unity giving insight into the diversity (Rahner).

Christ's human nature is God's presence among men. It is the divine plan that men are to find in Jesus Christ. Only in His human face can they see God, only in His word hear God, only in His grace become close to God. For this reason the Son of God took on visible human form. Even in His humanity He is the Son of God. Therefore Christ is God in a human way, and man in a divine way. As man He acts out His divine life in and according to His human existence. Everything He does as man is an act of God the son, a divine act in a human form, His human love the human embodiment of the redeeming love of God, His humanity concretely intended by God as fulfillment of the promise of salvation. Because the human deeds are divine deeds, personal acts of the Son of God, divine acts in human form, they bring salvation, cause grace (Schillebeeckx).

In this light of the Incarnational perichoresis one studies the impeccability of christ, for His humanity is substantially sanctified by uncreated holiness, His human nature and existence actuated by the divine Logos. In this light, also, the theologian studies the knotty problems of the one or two existences in Christ, of the human consciousness of the Savior and His "psychological" personality. Devoutly men commit themselves to Christ in whom alone they encounter God, for He is the primordial sacrament, the divine invitation and human response. In His Eucharistic presence both Trinitarian and Incarnational perichoresis promise the eternal encounter.

See Also: hypostasis; incarnation; jesus christ, iii (special questions); person, divine; theandric acts of christ.

Bibliography: f. malmberg, Über den Gottmensche (Quaestiones disputatae 9; Basel 1960). e. h. schillebeeckx, Christ: The Sacrament of the Encounter with God, tr. p. barrett (New York 1963). k. rahner, Theological Investigations, v. 1, tr. c. ernst (Baltimore 1961). i. solano, Sacrae theologiae summa (Madrid 1962) 3:1.46. l. kÖsters, The Believer's Christ, tr. j. w. grundner (St. Louis 1939).

[e. g. kaiser]

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