A seminarian prepares for priesthood June 5, 2021 Dcn. Noah Thelen There are a few…
“And perhaps the going forth from God is still more divine than the return home to God.” – Hans Urs von Balthasar in Heart of the World
Exitus and reditus – those who have studied theology know this phrase well. Everything comes from God (exitus) and, in a certain way, everything returns to God (reditus).
Exitus has great meaning for us in the Christian theology. The primal exitus is the Holy Trinity’s love going out and is responsible for creation. But, exitus in the Trinity is more obvious in the incarnate Son of God. Jesus takes on our human flesh and becomes one of us. He was sent by the Father to go “forth from God” in order to proclaim “the Father’s love to the world,” Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar writes in Heart of the World.
Jesus was sent. Jesus lives our life, walks our walk, teaches us about God’s unfailing love for us and witnesses to this unfailing love in his death. Why does he do all of this? Because humanity has been scattered across the world, both literally and figuratively. Literally in that humanity is spread out across the globe. Figuratively, in that humanity is divided by sin, selfishness and discord. Humanity is divided and spread apart. And Jesus came to “draw all [of humanity] to himself.” (Jn 12:32) Jesus’ mission is to gather humanity in God’s love.
Then Jesus returns. He does so in order to empower us. Jesus wants us to carry on his mission of gathering, of unity, and of bringing souls to the Father through him. Jesus was sent to proclaim the Father’s love to the world; now we are sent to proclaim God’s love manifested in Jesus Christ to the world. We are sent. In a beautiful way, Jesus not only allows us, but enables us to share in his mission. Jesus wants us to be significant instruments in the reditus – the return!
And here lies the reason for the quote at the beginning of this article. Perhaps, says Balthasar, the more divine thing, the more Christ-like thing, is going forth from God in order to bring God into our world. Isn’t that the meaning of Christianity – to be Christ’s witnesses today?
Jesus sent the apostles to carry on his mission. And so, we pray that more and more young men desire to share in Jesus’ outward mission. We pray that young men become priests to help search for any human person who is far from God, who is seeking but is lost. Jesus intends for his priests to participate in his exitus by seeking, gathering and teaching all of humanity about the God who loves them.
That mission is not for priests only; by our baptism, each one of us shares in that mission. The word “exit” in English typically implies “to leave.” But in Latin, we get a better understanding of what exitus means for us as Christians: Ex-Ite, or, more literally, Go! This directive is familiar to us. We hear it at every Mass.
The final words from the priest are: “Go! Glorifying the Lord by your life.” Go! You have been sent. Go, leave this beautiful liturgy and participate in Christ’s mission by proclaiming the Father’s love to the world.