Last Sunday –Trinity Sunday - May 22, Benedict XVI said, “Today the liturgy celebrates the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, to emphasize that in the light of the paschal mystery the center of the cosmos and of history is fully revealed: God himself, eternal and infinite Love. This is the word that summarizes the whole of revelation: `God is love’ (1 John 4, 8, 16). And love is always a mystery, a reality that surpasses reason without contradicting it; what is more, it exalts is potentialities.”
This is a statement that reflects the depths of the mind of Benedict XVI. He began his theological career pondering the relation of salvation-history to metaphysics.
“When I began the preparatory work for this study in the fall of 1953, one of the questions which stood in the foreground of concern within German-speaking, Catholic theological circles was the question of the relation of salvation-history to metaphysics. This was a problem which arose above all from contacts with Protestant theology which, since the time of Luther, has tended to see in metaphysical thought a departure from the specific claim of the Christina faith which directs man not simply to the Eternal but to the God who acts in time and history. Here questions of quite diverse character and of different orders arose. How can that which has taken place historically become present? How can the unique and unrepeatable have a universal significance? But then, on the other hand: Has not the `Hellenization’ of Christianity, which attempted to overcome the scandal of the particular by a blending of faith and metaphysics, led to a development in a false direction? Has it not created a static style of thought which cannot do justice to the dynamism of the biblical style? And, of course, the short, profound and revolutionary answer of then-Josef Ratzinger was the demand for a metaphysic that burst the mold of the received Aristotelian substance-accident model. It was, and continues to be, the call for a “revolution in man’s view of the world: the undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality. It becomes possible to surmount what we call today `objectifying thought;’ a new plane of being comes into view. It is probably true to say that the task imposed on philosophy as a result of these facts is far from being completed – so much does modern thought depend on the possibilities thus disclosed, but for which it would be inconceivable” (Introduction to Christianity Ignatius (1990) 131).
John Paul II confronted the same conundrum in Fides et Ration # 12: “In the Incarnation of the Son of God, we see forged the enduring and definitive synthesis which the human mind of itself could not even have imagined: the Eternal enters time, the Whole lies hidden in the part, God takes on a human face.”
And, as he says, the identity of the historically contingent and the absolute is the human person – imaging his Prototype - who (we have learned in Gaudium et spes #24) “finds himself in the sincere gift of himself.” The absolute value of the self as “good” is disclosed in the historical and progressive gift of the self on the occasion of the historical and contingent affairs of everyday life.
John Paul II punctuated the point by insisting that “We are almost at the point of that direct experience to which contemporary man aspires….
“Let’s try to be impartial in our reasoning: Could God go further in His stooping down, in His drawing near to man, thereby expanding the possibilities of our knowing Him? In truth, it seems that He has gone as far as possible. He could not go further. In a certain sense God has gone too far! Didn’t Christ perhaps become `a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles’ (1 Cor 1, 23)? Precisely because He called God His Father, because He revealed Him so openly in Himself, He could not but elicit the impression that it was too much… Man was no longer able to tolerate such closeness, and thus the protests began.
This great protest has precise names – first it is called the Synagogue, and then Islam. Neither can accept a God who is so human. `It is not suitable to speak of God in this way,’ they protest. `He must remain absolute transcendent; He must remain pure Majesty. Majesty full of mercy, certainly, but not to the point of paying for the faults of His own creatures, for their sins.”
For the Feast of Corpus Christi today in the year of the Eucharist, May 29, 2005:
In “Mane Nobiscum Domine (#18),” John Paul II said, “This year let us also celebrate with particular devotion the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, with its traditional procession. Our faith in the God who took flesh in order to become our companion along the way needs to be everywhere proclaimed, especially in our streets and homes, as an expression of our grateful love and as an inexhaustible source of blessings.”Benedict XVI said, “In this year, therefore, the solemnity of Corpus Christi must be celebrated with particular prominence.” The Pope reminded everyone “to intensify over the next months their love and devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist and to express in a courageous and clear way their faith in the Lord’s real presence, above all through the solemnity and correctness of the celebrations.”
Last Thursday (May 26, ’05), Benedict XVI made a comparison between the Holy Thursday procession, in which the Church “accompanies Jesus in his solitude, toward the way of the cross,” and the Corpus Christi procession, which “responds symbolically to the Risen One’s mandate” to evangelize.
“We take Christ, present in the figure of bread, through the streets of our city… We entrust these streets, these homes, our daily life, to his goodness. May our streets be Jesus’ streets! May our homes be homes for him and with him! May his presence penetrate our daily life. With this gesture, we place before his eyes the sufferings of the sick, the loneliness of young people and the elderly, temptations, fears, our whole life. The procession is intended to be a great and public blessing for our city: Christ is in person, the divine blessing fort the world.”