Historic meaning of Jesus

Fr Marian Rusecki

Every man is looking for some stable and fundamental point of reference, which he can refer his life to, which he will pursue, and in which he will find a firm support (E. Fromm). Everyone is also looking for the Central Man for himself, who will be his constant point of reference, lasting relationship (P. Tillich). Without these references to the centre, without being directed to Somebody, man feels lost, revolves around himself, around petty matters, small things. The Centre, the Central Man draws, emanates.
The same can be said about communities, nations, humankind, and history. They also need a fundamental point of reference; some centre that will draw them and make them all focused on it.

Epochal turn in Christ

There was no uniform and universal way of counting time in the antiquity. Particularistic chronologies were used to mark the lapse of time and various events. Both in the past and at present various nations, cultures and religions had and have their own calendars and ways of counting time, related to important events, victorious wars, outstanding personalities and dynasties (e.g. in China time is counted according to the zodiacal signs, in Egypt according to the dynasties of the pharaohs, in Rome from the foundation of the city (Urba condita in 753), in Islam from the escape of the Prophet from Mekka to Medina (the Hegira in 622). The particularistic calculations and calendars overlapped and the same events were dated differently (according to their own, particularistic ways of counting time). In ancient times it was very hard to translate worldwide events into various calendars. It was almost impossible to be aware of the important universal events and to date them in the same time parameters. Therefore, it was necessary to standardize the calculation of time according to some universal and worldwide scale.
What was to be the source and basis of such a turn in the chronology of the world? It was the Christians who first reached that idea and source. It was made possible after they had realised that the Incarnation was the beginning of our (new) era and the Christian message was directed to all nations and all times. Finally, Christians had that awareness under the influence of properly interpreted Messianic prophecies and the teaching of Jesus.
The task was first undertaken by Dionysius Exiguus in the 4th century (although some attempts were made earlier, e.g. by Clement of Alexandria, but the attempts were not successful). Dionysius was an extremely diligent monk and Christian chronographer. He took the foundation of Rome (753) as the starting point to calculate the date of Jesus' birth, i.e. the first year. This has since been shown to be mistaken. He miscalculated 5-4 years. Because of that mistake the date of Christ's birth had to be 'moved back' and thus the later chronology had to add 'those missing years'. The miscalculation of Dionysius Exiguus has never been corrected and has not caused any negative effects in the correlation of the era from the foundation of Rome and beginning of the Christian era Dionysius introduced (H. Wasowicz). The above-mentioned miscalculation does not change the fact that the universal time, time of the new era, time of 'our' era begins with the date of Jesus coming to the world. Hence the system of dates 'before Christ' and 'after Christ' is completely justified and correct.
The secular writing, especially that of the secularist, ideological-oriented viewpoint, uses the terms 'before the Common Era' and 'Common (our) Era' instead of the above mentioned dates. A question arises: who began the new era? Who constitutes a differentiation between these two eras? What is the source of that turn of time? Anonymous social processes? Processes of communities? Rulers and the authorities of this world? Politicians? Surely, these would not have been omitted! Through his birth Jesus becomes part of human history and history of humanity. The Evangelists: St Luke and St Matthew showed that Jesus became part of the census in the reign of Caesar Augustus, King Herod the Great and governor Quirinius. Jesus, born in Bethlehem, as Cz. S. Bartnik writes, became the first Citizen of Judaea, and with time of the whole Roman Empire and the whole world. Jesus constitutes the turn of time. When he entered history, the old times ended, and the new times began. This is the historical and historic axis of time, its completion and development, the point of reference for all humanity.

Central Man of history

The salvific Centre of history - Christ - is above all the centre of the history of salvation, the central point of reference of all salvific events. After Adam's fall the long advent of humankind began, which lasted some several hundred thousand years. People awaited the coming of the Promised One, who would free man, restore his freedom and dignity, restore joy and hope, light the path of life as well as overcome darkness and the gloom of death. This was the desire of people who awaited the One who was to come and renew them, renew the people of Israel, nations, and humanity so that the Kingdom of truth, life, love and peace would come.
The prophets depicted the image of the Messianic (Christ's) times in a very vivid and picturesque way. They aroused faith, maintain hope, show God's economy and pedagogy, God's plan of salvation to be fulfilled in the coming of the Awaited One, in his entering the human history when he became man - one of us, when he reconciled us with God and people, and made us God's children and brothers. The fallen men made their way to him. Time, history and all reality were focused on him because everything was to be renewed in him.
When the appointed time came, God sent his Son to the world (Galatians 4:4). All expectations and hopes of humankind were fulfilled in him. As if God made himself historical in Jesus who was born. In him we have access to the Father. The Old Testament was fulfilled and the New Testament came. The time - past, present and future - was completed in Jesus Christ. He set us free from the chains of sin, opened a new vision of the future, a new perspective of life in friendship with God and men, and a horizon of eternal life in his coming, his words and salvation. Now those who believe in him and live in the new era will live the experience of his coming and redemption. Therefore, Jesus' generation and all generations till the end of the world are living in him.
With his salvation Jesus Christ embraces all those who lived before him and those who have lived since his salvific coming into the human history. He is, therefore, the centre of the history of salvation, the Central Man of history and both the past and future times have existed in relation to him. 'Jesus Christ is the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be for ever' (Hebrews 13:8). In the orbit of his influence human being, family, nation, humanity and all reality, aim at being completely fulfilled in him.

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl