Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Christ's Third Temptation: Introduction

IN THE PAST TWO POSTINGS we have reviewed the Old Testament notion of Yahweh Malak, Yahweh as the real or final king or ruler of Israel. We also looked at the New Testament understanding of Jesus who announces the kingdom of God, and who is, himself, and seminally and mysteriously through the the New Israel,* i.e., the Church which He founded on Peter, the kingdom or ruleship of this Yahweh. We spent some time looking at the Scriptural references to the kingdom of God or, what is the same thing in typically Matthean language, the kingdom of heaven. With this background we are ready to look at the third temptation of Christ as related in the Gospels.* (Matt. 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8) The version of the Gospel of Matthew is given first. The version in the Gospel of Luke is given next.
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me." At this, Jesus said to him, "Get away, Satan! It is written: 'The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.'"

Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, "I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me." Jesus said to him in reply, "It is written: 'You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.'"
The versions are essentially identical, and it seem little can be gained by contrasting them. What does yield some interesting fruit is the contrast between Christ's assumption of kingship, his preaching of the kingdom of God, and his insistence, immediately prior to his Ascension, that all power under heaven and earth had been given him (Matt. 28:18), with His rejection of the temptation of Satan presented in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Christ rejects ruleship of all "kingdoms of this world," but plainly accepts ruleship of the "kingdom of heaven" or the "kingdom of God." But Christ's rejection of the "kingdoms of this world" is not absolute. Ultimately, as those revelations in Scripture that point to the culmination of history, the eschaton, make plain, all nations, that is, all kingdoms of this world, will be placed under the ruleship of Christ. But this culmination is by God's proffer and in God's time, not through Satan's proffer and Satan's time. "The kingdoms of the world now belongs to our Lord and to his Anointed, and he will reign forever and ever." (Rev. 11:15; cf. Matt. 8:11; Daniel 2:44; 7:27)

The Third Temptation of Christ, by Duccio de Buoninsegna (ca. 1308-11)

While Jesus clearly rejected ruleship over the "kingdoms of this world" in the manner offered by Satan--one of which surely included the imperium of the Roman Emperor Augustus, the divinized "Caesar" of the Gospels--he did not for all that "directly oppose himself to the authorities of his time." (Compendium, No. 379) "Render to Caesar that which is Caesar's, and to God that which is God's." (Matt. 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25). Indeed, Christ insisted that all authority and the power of the "kingdoms of this world" are ultimately derived from God. (John 19:11; Rom. 13:1) He submitted himself to both religious and civil authorities as being part of the Father's plan, knowing that if he wanted he could easily call in heavenly aid. (Matt. 26:52)

How then are we to fit all this together? A kingdom of God for which we ought to sell all, the "kingdoms of this world," the temptations of which we are to shun, and yet whose authority we are not generally directly to oppose because it comes from God?

In contrasting these two kingdoms, we seem to confront what St. Augustine in his work De civitate Dei called the "two cities," "formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self." Indeed, St. Augustine uses the full talents of his Roman rhetoric to contrast the difference between these "two cities," which is nothing other the contrast between the "kingdoms of this world," the keys of which seem to be on Satan's keyfob, and the "kingdom of God" or the "kingdom of Heaven," the keys to which seem to be with the Lord but lent for a time to Peter, His Vicar:

Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, "Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head." In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all. The one delights in its own strength, represented in the persons of its rulers; the other says to its God, "I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength." And therefore the wise men of the one city, living according to man, have sought for profit to their own bodies or souls, or both, and those who have known God "glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened; professing themselves to be wise,"--that is, glorying in their own wisdom, and being possessed by pride,--"they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." For they were either leaders or followers of the people in adoring images, "and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever." But in the other city there is no human wisdom, but only godliness, which offers due worship to the true God, and looks for its reward in the society of the saints, of holy angels as well as holy men, "that God may be all in all."***

To take this exploration between Christ's kingdom and the kingdoms of this world a littler further, we might turn to the insights of Pope Benedict XVI's private reflections on Christ's third temptation in his book Jesus of Nazareth.† What Benedict XVI suggests in his reflections is that what is involved in the interrelationship between the "kingdom of God" and the "kingdoms of this world" is the proper interrelationship between the two great commandments, which, of course, are a synopsis of the natural moral law in the light of Revelation.


*cf. Rom 9:6, Col. 2:11-12; see also CCC § 877, Vatican II, Ad gentes, No. 5.
**It is given as the second temptation in the Gospel of Luke.
***St. Augustine, De civitate Dei, XIV.28. The text is rich with scriptural references, including Ps. 3:4, 17:2, Rom.1:21-23, 25, and 1 Cor. 15:28. The text in Latin: Fecerunt itaque civitates duas amores duo, terrenam scilicet amor sui usque ad contemptum Dei, caelestem vero amor Dei usque ad contemptum sui. Denique illa in se ipsa, haec in Domino gloriatur. Illa enim quaerit ab hominibus gloriam; huic autem Deus conscientiae testis maxima est gloria. Illa in gloria sua exaltat caput suum; haec dicit Deo suo: Gloria mea et exaltans caput meum. Illi in principibus eius vel in eis quas subiugat nationibus dominandi libido dominatur; in hac serviunt invicem in caritate et praepositi consulendo et subditi obtemperando. Illa in suis potentibus diligit virtutem suam; haec dicit Deo suo: Diligam te, Domine, virtus mea. Ideoque in illa sapientes eius secundum hominem viventes aut corporis aut animi sui bona aut utriusque sectati sunt, aut qui potuerunt cognoscere Deum, non ut Deum honoraverunt aut gratias egerunt, sed evanuerunt in cogitationibus suis, et obscuratum est insipiens cor eorum; dicentes se esse sapientes, id est dominante sibi superbia in sua sapientia sese extollentes, stulti facti sunt et immutaverunt gloriam incorruptibilis Dei in similitudinem imaginis corruptibilis hominis et volucrum et quadrupedum et serpentium: ad huiuscemodi enim simulacra adoranda vel duces populorum vel sectatores fuerunt: et coluerunt atque servierunt creaturae potius quam Creatori, qui est benedictus in saecula. In hac autem nulla est hominis sapientia nisi pietas, qua recte colitur verus Deus, id exspectans praemium in societate sanctorum non solum hominum, verum etiam angelorum, ut sit Deus omnia in omnibus.
†We shall also rely on the keen insights of Fr. James V. Schall, who wrote a series on Benedict XVI's book, including one piece that specifically reflected on this third temptation, and which also incorporates Pope Benedict XVI's "Regensburg Lecture." See James V. Schall, "God Is The Issue” The Temptation in the Desert and the Kingdoms of This World" in

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