Semiotic Christology and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The event of resurrection has a complicating relation with time. Although it did occur in time, it stands beyond time. The historicity and trans-historicity of the event require a new language to fully express it. It cannot of course be fully represented by our language and, therefore, remains an event beyond human language. The semiosis of the event stands beyond the semantics of our words. Maybe the semiotic approach might bring light where words fall short. Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols. There are several signs of the resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament. The empty tomb, the appearance of the risen Lord, wounds on his body etc. The event of resurrection itself is a sign. It is a unique and unrepeatable event. It not just opened new orders of meaning or significance to humanity, but also completely transformed the nature of humanity and all creation. Hence, we have to open ourselves to synchronic and performative semiotics or productive hermeneutics of the event of the resurrection. The synchronic approach enables us to move beyond the semantics of words to the semiosis of signs, icons and symbols in our understanding of the event of the resurrection. Performative semiotics attends to the semiosis of the effect that the event has on us. Performative semiotics will take us into the world of grace that is flowing from the event of the resurrection.

Cyril Orji in his book, Semiotics Christology views the resurrection of Jesus as a sinsign. A sinsign in Charles Sander Pierce’s semiotics stands for a singularly occurring event. To us Catholics, it is a unique singularly occurring event that occurred once and for all in Jesus Christ. Semiotically, we, therefore, can view the resurrection as a sinsign of God’s action in the universe. To come to the semiosis of this event. We have to come to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ being fully human and divine, there is something that He possesses singularly and fully. This singularity and fullness become fully visible or experienceable through the event of the resurrection. Bernard Lonergan teaches us that the human nature of Jesus Christ is adorned with habitual grace, together with virtues and gifts in singular fullness. Because of the human and divine nature of Jesus Christ, He has habitual grace which flows from his constitutive Christic dimension. This is why we can understand why St. Paul said that he was one with us except for sin. The singular uniqueness of Christ also relates to his absolute sinlessness.

Being both Human and Divine, he had the fullness of grace. This grace abounds in the paschal event of Jesus. This means the Paschal event is a sign. It is a singular event by which God is offering us hope of victory over sin and death. The event, therefore, is open to human experience. It is not a future-oriented event that was hoped by the Jews during the Maccabean period. The resurrection of Christ does have links with that Jewish hope. The fact that Jews distance themselves from the actualization of hope in the life and person of Jesus brings that newness of the semiosis of the event of the resurrection. It being a mystery we may not be able to fully understand the same. Perhaps, Alain Badiou, thinks being an event might assist us to understand it to come extent while still admitting it fuller inaccessibility to our understanding. Badiou thinks that any event is an infinity set. We do not have access to the full set but have access to subsets of the event. Thus we become subject by becoming subjected to what Badiou calls the truth of an event which is a subset that subjects us. Therefore, we have a relation of fidelity to the truth of the event.

Our openness to the event of resurrection transforms us into subjects of the event. It is through this subjection we rise as subjects of the event. Badiou does not admit the role of God in the emergence of the subject of an event. But since resurrection is a sinsign or singular and unique event, we have the role of God in the evening of the event. We, therefore, have to enter performative semiosis of the event of the resurrection. We are made the subject of the event through the grace of the resurrection. For St. Paul resurrection is a transformation of a person into a new creation. It being a creative act of God, it is available here and now and being a singular and fuller grace of the spirit of God it is also experienced in its fullness the life to come. Therefore, it is not a return to the old body. It gives us a new life. We rise as subjects by becoming subjected to the truth of the resurrection in the grace of the spirit of the risen Lord. Thus, faith to us is a fidelity to the paschal event of Jesus Christ. The performative semiosis of grace of the event of resurrection does not cease with the end of our life. When we die living our life of faith, we join those who are asleep in Christ and rise with Him to eternal life in and through the mystery of the resurrection of the dead.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao