Monday, April 25, 2005

Girard on the Paraclete

From I See Satan Fall Like Lightning:

The principal meaning of parakletos "lawyer for the defense," "defender of the accused." In place of looking for periphrases and loopholes to avoid this translation, we should prefer it to all others and marvel at its relevance. We should take with utmost seriousness the idea that the Spirit enlightens the persecutors concerning their acts of persecution. The Spirit discloses to individuals the literal truth of what Jesus said during his crucifixion: "They don't know what they are doing." We should also think of the God whom Job calls "my defender."

The birth of Christianity is a victory of the Paraclete over his opposite, Satan, whose name originally means "accuser before a tribunal," that is, the one responsible for proving the guilt of the defendants. That is one of the reasons why the Gospels hold Satan responsible for all mythology. The Passion accounts are attributed to the spiritual power that defends victims unjustly accused. This corresponds marvelously to the human content of the revelation, to the extent that violent contagion permits it to be understood.

The anthropological revelation is not prejudicial to the theological revelation or in competition with it. It is inseparable from it. This union of the two is demanded by the dogma of the Incarnation, the mystery of the double nature of Jesus Christ, divine and human. ...

To highlight the role of the Holy Spirit in the defense of victims, it will be useful, finally, to take a look at the parallelism of two great conversions that occur in conjunction with the Resurrection. The first is Peter's repentance after his denial, so important that we can view it as a second and more profound conversion. The other is the conversion of Paul, his famous "road to Damascus" experience.

On the surface these two events seem completely different: they don't occur in the same texts, and one happens at the very beginning, the other at the end of the crucial period of Christianity's infancy. Their circumstances are very different. The two men are very different. But the profound meaning of the two experiences is nonetheless exactly the same. What the two converts become capable of seeing, thanks to their conversions, is the violent social instinct, the adherence to the will of the crowd, which neither knew possessed him. This is the violent contagion that compels us all to participate in the Crucifixion.

From The Scapegoat:

When the Paraclete comes, Jesus says, he will bear witness to me, he will reveal the meaning of my innocent death and of every innocent death, from the beginning to the end of the world. Those who come after Christ will therefore bear witness as he did, less by their words or beliefs than by becoming martyrs and dying as Jesus died.
Most assuredly, this concerns not only the early Christians persecuted by the Jews or by the Romans but also the Jews who were later persecuted by the Christians and all victims persecuted by executioners. To what does it really bear witness? In my thinking it always relates to the collective persecution that gives birth to religious illusions. It is to this that the following sentence alludes: "the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God." Witch-hunters are encompassed by this revelation, as are totalitarian bureaucrats of persecution. In future, all violence will reveal what Christ's Passion revealed, the foolish genesis of bloodstained idols and the false gods of religion, politics, and ideologies. The murderers remain convinced of the worthiness of their sacrifices. They, too, know not what they do and we must forgive them. The time has come for us to forgive one another. If we wait any longer there will not be time enough.

(Hat tip: The Girardian Lectionary.)


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