The Cross is revelation. It reveals who God is and who man is. There is a curious presentiment of this situation in Greek philosophy: Plato’s image of the crucified “just man”. In the Republic the great philosopher asks what is likely to be the position of a completely just man in this world. He comes to the conclusion that a man’s righteousness is only complete and guaranteed when he takes on the appearance of unrighteousness, for only then is it clear that he does not follow the opinion of men but pursues justice only for its own sake. So according to Plato the truly just man must be misunderstood and persecuted in this world; indeed, Plato goes so far as to write: “They will say that our just man will be scourged, racked, fettered, will have his eyes burnt out, and at last, after all manner of suffering, will be crucified.…” This passage, written four hundred years before Christ, is always bound to move a Christian deeply. Serious philosophical thinking here surmises that the completely just man in this world must be the crucified just man; something is sensed of that revelation of man which comes to pass on the Cross.
The fact that when the perfectly just man appeared he was crucified, delivered up by justice to death, tells us pitilessly who man is: thou art such, man, that thou canst not bear the just man—that he who simply loves becomes a fool, a scourged criminal, an outcast. Thou art such because, unjust thyself, thou dost always need the injustice of the next man in order to feel excused, and thus canst not tolerate the just man who seems to rob thee of this excuse. Such art thou. Saint John summarized all this in the “Ecce homo” (“Look, this is [the] man!”) of Pilate, which means quite fundamentally: this is how it is with man; this is man.
- Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger from Co-Workers of the Truth
And spotted elsewhere:
Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised
from the dead. There they made him a supper.
Four days dead and sipping soup, Lazarus
Sits up, grunts, asks, “What’s today?” He reeks
Of tomb, but no one blanches at this banquet.
Sister Martha feeds him, wipes his chin, reminding him
Of time and mass and the unforgiving weight of resuscitation.
There’s that late-charge he thought he was clear of,
And the pruning, and that long look a bar-maid
Once gave him, but that’s all in Lazarus’ moldy brain.
The guests merely gape; the vacuum of the tomb
Has sucked every verb from the house, but Mary
Has an idea. She produces a jar of nard, pure, priceless,
And gloppy as death. She smashes it like some Jeremiah,
Peeling the fractured alabaster, lavishing the ooze
On Jesus’ chapped knees and feet. All stand transfixed,
But Lazarus’ eyes are still on Martha’s spoon,
Hovering a bit out of reach. Slowly he searches the room
For an explanation. There’s Mary, as busy as a Martha,
And Martha, nonplussed, her heart churning envy and disgust.
What kind of household is this, Lazarus wonders,
Where the dead are fed and the living embalmed?
Nothing sealed is safe; nothing at rest left undisturbed
By the merciless provocations of the living.
Source: “Exquisite Corpse” by Scott Dalgarno from America Magazine , Vol. 192
No. 9 (3/14/2005).