“It Is Consummated”: The “Mad Eros” of the Cross

Every covenant between God and humanity has been a blood covenant, and that has relevance to us, today

On the Cross, God’s eros for us is made manifest. Eros is indeed — as Pseudo-Dionysius expresses it — that force “that does not allow the lover to remain in himself but moves him to become one with the beloved” (“De divinis nominibus”, IV, 13: PG 3, 712). Is there more “mad eros” (N. Cabasilas, “Vita in Cristo”, 648) than that which led the Son of God to make himself one with us even to the point of suffering as his own the consequences of our offences?

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look at Christ pierced in the cross! He is the unsurpassing revelation of God’s love, a love in which eros and agape, far from being opposed, enlighten each other. On the cross, it is God himself who begs the love of his creature: he is thirsty for the love of every one of us.—Pope Benedict XVI, Lent 2007, “Love Letter”

Most modern biblical translations give us Christ’s final words as “It is finished.”

Encountering the Douay-Rheims translation a few years ago, I read “It is consummated,” and the whole meaning of the God-man as Bridegroom and the church as Bride began to expand for me. I had not yet encountered Pope Benedict’s stunning thoughts on the “mad eros of the cross,” but discovering “It is consummated” completed the theology for me.

I can understand how — encountering that “mad eros” of the cross — some people might feel uncomfortable with the Douay-Rheims. For some, both words, eros and consummated, may intrude on fastidious sensibilities.

And yet every covenant between God and humanity has been a blood covenant; back in the day, before the secular world decided that both hymens and babies were mere “bits of tissue,” marriages and births were blood covenants too, all of-a-piece and connected to an understanding of God-with-us; eternal Emmanu-el; present of every part of our lives. To understand that all of our covenants, to God and to each other, are blood covenants is to tell the world that no, the sacrament of marriage cannot simply be walked away from, anymore than we may walk away from our children. The covenants have meaning beyond the world’s willingness to hear.