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The "recapitulation" of all things in Christ

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 14 February 2001 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. God's saving plan, "the mystery of his will" (cf. Eph 1: 9) for every creature, is described in the Letter to the Ephesians with a distinctive term:  to "recapitulate" all things in heaven and on earth in Christ (Eph 1: 10). The image could also refer to the roller around which was wrapped the parchment or papyrus scroll of the volumen with a written text:  Christ gives a single meaning to all the syllables, words and works of creation and history.

The first person to take up this theme of "recapitulation" and develop it in a marvellous way was St Irenaeus of Lyons, a great second-century Father of the Church. Against any fragmentation of salvation history, against any division of the Old and New Covenants, against any dispersion of God's revelation and action, Irenaeus extols the one Lord, Jesus Christ, who in the Incarnation sums up in himself the entire history of salvation, humanity and all creation:  "He, as the eternal King, recapitulates all things in himself" (Adversus Haereses, III, 21, 9).

2. Let us listen to a passage in which this Father of the Church comments on the Apostle's words concerning the recapitulation of all things in Christ. The phrase "all things", Irenaeus says, includes man, who was touched by the mystery of the Incarnation when the invisible Son of God "became visible, the incomprehensible became comprehensible, the impassible became passible, the Word became man. He recapitulated all things in himself, so that, just as the Word of God has primacy over heavenly, spiritual and invisible beings, so he does over visible and corporeal beings. Assuming this primacy in himself and giving himself as head to the Church, he draws all things to himself" (Adversus Haereses, III, 16, 6). This coming together of all being in Christ, the centre of time and space, gradually takes place in history, as the obstacles, the resistance of sin and the Evil One, are overcome.

3. To illustrate this movement, Irenaeus refers to the difference, already presented by St Paul, between Christ and Adam (cf. Rom 5: 12-21):  Christ is the new Adam, that is, the Firstborn of faithful humanity, who lovingly and obediently welcomes the plan of redemption which God designed as the soul and goal of history. Christ must therefore cancel the work of devastation, the horrible idolatries, violence and every sin that rebellious Adam sowed in the age-old history of humanity and in the created realm. By his total obedience to the Father, Christ opens the era of peace with God and among men, reconciling dispersed humanity in himself (cf. Eph 2: 16). In himself he "recapitulates" Adam, in whom all humanity can see itself, transforms him into a child of God and restores him to full communion with the Father. Through his brotherhood with us in flesh and blood, in life and death, Christ becomes "the head" of saved humanity. St Irenaeus writes again:  "Christ has recapitulated in himself all the blood shed by all the just and by all the prophets who have lived since the beginning" (Adversus Haereses, V, 14, 1; cf. V, 14, 2).

4. Good and evil, then, are considered in the light of Christ's redemptive work. As Paul shows us, this involves all creation with the variety of its elements (cf. Rom 8: 18-30). Indeed, nature itself, since it was subjected to the senselessness, degradation and devastation caused by sin, thus shares in the joy of the liberation achieved by Christ in the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, the full realization of the Creator's original plan emerges:  that of a creation in which God and man, man and woman, humanity and nature are in harmony, in dialogue and in communion. This plan, upset by sin, is restored in the most marvellous way by Christ, who mysteriously but effectively carries it out in the present reality, waiting to bring it to fulfilment. Jesus himself said he was the fulcrum and point of convergence of this saving plan when he said:  "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (Jn 12: 32). And the Evangelist John presents this work precisely as a kind of recapitulation:  "to gather into one the dispersed children of God" (Jn 11: 52).

5. This work will reach its fullness at at the end of time when - as Paul again recalls - "God will be all in all" (cf. 1 Cor 15: 28).

The last page of the Book of Revelation - proclaimed at the start of our gathering - depicts this goal in vivid colours. The Church and the Spirit are waiting and praying for the moment when Christ will "deliver the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.... The last enemy to be destroyed is death. "For God has put all things in subjection under his [Son's] feet'" (1 Cor 15: 24, 26-27).

At the end of this battle - described on marvellous pages in the Book of Revelation - Christ will complete the "recapitulation", and those who are united with him will form the community of the redeemed, which "will not be wounded any longer by sin, stains, self-love, that destroy or wound the earthly community. The beatific vision, in which God opens himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace and mutual communion" (CCC, n. 1045).

The Church, the loving Bride of the Lamb, with her gaze fixed on that day of light, raises the ardent prayer:  "Maranatha" (1 Cor 16: 22), "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rv 22: 20)."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

I extend a special greeting to the students from Kagoshima, Japan, and from the University of Dallas. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present, and upon your families, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

       Je salue cordialement les francophones présents à cette audience, en particulier le Comité international de coordination de la Société de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, les prêtres du diocèse de Quimper, les jeunes du séminaire d’Ars et le groupe de pèlerins grecs-melkites du Liban accompagnés de Mgr Georges Kwaïter, Archevêque de Saïda. À tous, je donne de grand cœur la Bénédiction apostolique.

        Mit diesen Gedanken grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher, die aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache nach Rom gekommen sind. Ich grüße auch alle Hörer von “young radio”, der neuen Internetseite von Radio Vatikan. Möge Euch das Hören Freude am Glauben bereiten. Euch, Euren Angehörigen daheim und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich gern den Apostolischen Segen.

         Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española presentes hoy en esta audiencia, en especial a los fieles de las parroquias de Nuestra Señora de la Paz y de Santiago Apóstol, de Villena, y de Santa Catalina, de Caudete, así como al grupo de peregrinos mexicanos y de jóvenes chilenos. A todos os animo a hacer de esta peregrinación a Roma un momento privilegiado para el crecimiento de vuestra fe en Cristo, nuestro Salvador. Muchas gracias por vuestra atención.

         Uma cordial saudação às pessoas e grupos de língua portuguesa, que aqui vieram movidos pelo desejo de afirmar e consolidar a sua fé e adesão a Cristo: o Senhor vos encha de alegria e o seu Espírito ilumine todas as decisões da vossa vida para realizardes fielmente o projecto de Deus a vosso respeito. Acompanha-vos a minha oração e Bênção.

    UpÍímn vítám poutníky z farnosti Prostjov, a Hrušovany nad Jevišovkou!

    Církev v Evropdnes oslavuje své spolupatrony, svatého Cyrila a Metodje. Kéñ by se vám stali vzorem k nastolení "spole…nosti lásky", jeñ se musí zrodit z osobního obrácení, a tedy v srdci kañdého jednotlivého kÍest'ana!

    Rád vám ñehnám!

Chvála Kristu!



    Un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini delle Parrocchie Prostjov e Hrušovany nad Jevišovkou.

    La Chiesa in Europa oggi festeggia i suoi Compatroni, i Santi Cirillo e Metodio. Possano essi diventare per voi una guida all'instaurazione di una "civiltà dell'amore", che deve nascere dalla conversione personale, e cioè dal cuore di ogni singolo cristiano.

    Volentieri vi benedico! Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

* * * * *

         Saluto ora i pellegrini presenti. In primo luogo, rivolgo un cordiale pensiero ai partecipanti all'annuale convegno dei Vescovi amici del Movimento dei Focolari, che si svolge presso il "Centro Mariapoli" di Castel Gandolfo. Venerati e cari Fratelli nell'Episcopato, a ciascuno di voi il mio affettuoso saluto e la mia cordiale riconoscenza per questa visita, che mi permette di esprimere apprezzamento per il vostro sforzo di favorire la crescita della comunione in seno alle Conferenze episcopali ed alle comunità diocesane e di incoraggiare un fecondo dialogo con il vasto mondo delle altre religioni. Mentre auguro ogni buon esito al vostro fraterno incontro, lo accompagno con la mia preghiera al Signore e alla Madre dell'unità, affinché vi sostengano nel vostro quotidiano ministero pastorale.

         Saluto poi i membri della Fondazione Internazionale Irina Alberti, che promuove diverse iniziative tese a far conoscere la fede e l'impegno dell'illustre studiosa, recentemente scomparsa, nel mondo della cultura e del dialogo ecumenico tra cristianesimo d'Oriente e d'Occidente. Carissimi, nel ringraziarvi della vostra visita, auspico che la vostra attività porti copiosi frutti di bene.

         Saluto anche i partecipanti al Corso dello "Studium" per futuri Postulatori e Collaboratori della Congregazione delle Cause dei Santi, ai quali auguro di trarre personale giovamento spirituale, attingendo al grande patrimonio che la Chiesa possiede, quello della santità, e di arricchirlo con la loro personale testimonianza cristiana.

         Rivolgo, inoltre, un pensiero ai bambini bielorussi, ospiti del

Convento Frati Minori Cappuccini di Fiuggi. Il Signore protegga voi, cari bambini, e quanti vi hanno generosamente accolti.

         Saluto, infine, voi, cari giovani, malati e sposi novelli. Oggi celebriamo la festa dei Santi Cirillo e Metodio, apostoli e primi diffusori della fede tra i popoli Slavi. La loro testimonianza aiuti voi, cari giovani, a seguire con generosità il Salvatore del mondo; sia di incoraggiamento per voi, cari malati, nell'unire le vostre sofferenze alla croce di Cristo; sia esempio per voi, cari sposi novelli, a porre il Vangelo come regola fondamentale della vostra vita familiare.


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