Sometimes it seems that Good Friday is hidden between Christmas and Easter; that Jesus is overshadowed by Christ, the Prince of Peace, and the King of Kings. The “kenotic principle,” if we could call it that, says that Jesus’ cry “My God, My God, why have your forsaken me?” is real and not a metaphor; that Jesus’ thirty-three years of pre-resurrection life is actual, not to be dismissed as some type of imprisonment of divinity or divine-human model strutting down the walkway of Israel. Philippians 2: 6-11, the kenotic passage, and in particular Philippians 2:7 “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,” is a lens through which we can view Jesus, the Trinity, and all existence. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said “You can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday.” David Power asks whether individual, ecclesial, national, and global cultural attempts to have Easter Sunday without Good Friday will result in hell on earth rather than the coming of the Kingdom. To ask the question is to suggest the answer of Jesus’ kenosis. Power’s chapters outline both questions and answers.
Power divides his questions and answers into three parts and ten chapters: three chapters for each part, with a postlude dealing with the church at prayer. The lens for each of these is the Kenosis of Jesus.
Part One, “The Kenosis of Christ,” follows a scholastic theological approach with an equal emphasis upon liturgy. The first chapter exposes the liturgical uses of Philippians 2:7, the Passover Lamb, the suffering servant, the dry bones as well as how kenosis is found in the Anaphora of Basil of Caesarea, the liturgy of Holy Week, Easter, and the Stations of the Cross. Scripture is treated in chapter two where Power reviews the theme of the Son of Man in Mark’s gospel and the meaning of Pasch in terms of “slave” in John’s gospel. His reflections on what and who the powers are that enslave us in Colossians demonstrate the demonic that surrounds us—separating us from each other and the good that we seek enlivened by the Spirit. His examination of pertinent theologies in chapter three includes not only the ancient Fathers but also recent theologians such as Metz and Rahner. This pluralism of theologies also embraces the kenotic dimensions of the World Religions.
In the opening to part two, “The Kenosis of the Church and Its Mission,” the kenotic lens sees the paradox of a Church called to be poor yet including both rich and poor. Here are the chapter headings reworked and set as paradoxical questions rather than declarations: Can the Church witness to Christ in Evangelical poverty? Can the church of Christ allow itself to be emptied out? Can the Church, in fidelity to its mission, serve the Reign of God (rather than reign of its leaders and institutions)? Each chapter is both an explanation and a call to action. For example a declaration of what evangelical poverty is and a call to action for all Christians but especially the religious and the ordained to follow the poor Jesus. The sense of paradox is found throughout this book but highlighted in part two. A sense of paradox that Power is not sure will catch on. As he says: “The Church through the event of the Second Vatican Council had begun anew to catch this sense of paradox, though how well it holds up in ensuing years is yet to be proven.”
Why must the church “catch this sense of paradox?” Because the Church is a Sacrament revealing God. Because God has revealed who God is in the kenosis of Jesus. “It is God’s gift of self, through the kenosis of the Christ whom he sent into the world by which the Church lives in the Spirit, giving witness through its espousal of Gospel poverty. To give himself in this manner is a kenosis on God’s own part.” Part three delves into the underlying reality of all life: the Trinity—For it is in the Trinitarian life of mutual giving as kenosis that we glimpse the life that empowers us all and has all power. It is this view of Trinitarian life that enables us to understand and plunge into the creation, redemption, and sanctification that surrounds us and throws us beyond personal and global death into the eternal life giving dance of creation, redemption, and sanctification. Kenosis is the tune to which the Trinity dances. We, the church, are called to join the dance and the catch the paradox of the Kenotic tune.
Love Without Calculation is a book of reflections that sounds at times like quiet written reflections and at other times like spoken, retreat-like, reflections. It is not for the theological illiterate. It certainly is for someone who, having read David Power in the past, wishes to catch up on his recent thinking.