Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Practicality of the Trinity

"The Human Person, Image of God, is Fulfilled in Love, which is the Sincere Gift of Oneself" (Benedict XVI, Trinity Sunday, May 22, 2005).

Objection: The Trinity has been obscured as a “superfluous heavenly theorem” (Immanuel Kant, “The Conflict of the Faculties”).

Karl Rahner once remarked:

“We may venture to say that if the doctrine of the Trinity were to be suppressed as being false, a fairly good portion of religious literature would remain nearly unchanged in the aftermath… We may suspect that in the catechism of mind and heart, as contrasted with the printed catechism, the representation of the Incarnation by Christians would not undergo any change at all if there were no Trinity” (“Il Dio trino come fondamento originario e trascendente della storia della salvezza,” in Mysterium Salutis 3, Brescia, 1969, 404).

On the Contrary:
It has been revealed that man was created in the image of the divine “We.”
“Before creating man, the Creator withdraws as it were into himself, in order to seek the pattern and inspiration in the mystery of his Being, which is already here disclosed as the divine `We’” (John Paul II, “Letter to Families”, 6).

Since God has become man in Jesus Christ as perfect image of the Father (Colossians 1, 15: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature;”), and man has been made in the image of God, it is possible for man to “experience” God in Jesus Christ. And through Jesus Christ, to experience the Father.

1) Jesus Christ is the Revelation of not only Who God is, but Who Man is.
Objection: “In Antiquity philosophy was limited entirely to the level of essence. Scholastic theology developed categories of existence out of this contribution given by Christian faith to the human mind. Its defect was that it limited these categories to Christology and to the doctrine of the Trinity and did not make them fruitful in the whole extent of spiritual reality. This seems to me also the limit of St. Thomas in the matter, namely, that within theology he operates, with Richard of St. Victor, on the level of existence, but treats the whole thing as a theological exception, as it were. In philosophy, however, he remains faithful to the different approach of pre-Christian philosophy. The contribution of Christian faith to the whole of human thought is not realized; it remains at first detached from it as a theological exception, although it is precisely the meaning of this new element to call into question the whole of human thought and to set it on a new course” (Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology” Communio [Fall 1990] 449].

The meaning of this, of course, is that philosophic and theological tradition has reached us with the meaning of man taken from empirical experience of the senses, as it were, “from below.” Hence, man fits within the created category of substance, as a being-in-himself distinguished by the specific difference of rationality. Christ, on the other hand, is considered “from above” and hence relational and exceptional to man. Grace in this state of affairs must be something super-added to man as a second story of a building to a first story.

Sed Contra...

The Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes #22):“In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling. It is no wonder, then, that all the truths mentioned so far should find in him their source and their most perfect embodiment.
He who is the `image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1, 15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not absorbed, in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare.”

That dignity beyond compare is the divinization in the Trinity itself. Hence, the footnote to GS #22 says that when the Creator thought man, he did not think Adam. He thought Christ. Jesus Christ, then, is the prototype of the meaning of the human person, and the meaning of our destiny and therefore fulfillment is to be one with Christ as divinized in the Trinity. Hence, the divinization of ordinary life as self-gift renders the Trinity the most practical of revelations since it is not merely a “superfluous heavenly theorem” but the constant meaning of the present moment in daily life.

Relationality in Trinity Impacts on Christology, which in turn impacts on Christology:
- the resolution of the Theology of the Incarnation (Being) and the Theology of the Cross (Action): to be = to be for the other: one finds self by the sincere gift of self [Gaudium et Spes #24]

1 - The metaphysical meaning of Person in the Trinity is pure Relation as act of self-giving: To Be = To Be For: “the First Person does not beget the Son in the sense of the act of begetting coming on top of the finished Person; it is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver but the act of giving, `wave’ not `corpuscle’… In this idea of relativity in word and love, independent of the concept of substance and not to be classified among the `accidents,’ Christian thought discovered the kernel of the concept of person, which describes something other and infinitely more than the mere idea of the `individual;’” J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity Ignatius (1990) 131-132.

2 – This impacts on the metaphysical meaning of the Person of Christ such that: To Be = To Be For: “with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office, the office is the person. The two are no logner divisible. Here there is no private area reserved for an `I’ which remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be `off duty;’ here there is no `I’ separate from the work; the `I’ is the work and the work is the `I;’”J. Ratzinger, ibid. 149.


“We have found that the being of Christ (`incarnation’ theology!) is actualitas, stepping beyond and out of oneself, the exodus of departure from self; it is not a being that rests in itself, but the act of being sent, of being son, of serving. Conversely, this `doing’ is not just `doing’ but `being;’ it reaches down into the depths of being and coincides with it. This being is exodus, transformation. So at this point a properly understood theology of being and of the incarnation must pass over into the theology of the cross and become one with it; conversely, a theology of the cross that gives its full measure must Passover into the theology of the Son and of being;” J. Ratzinger, Ibid. 171-172.

The same applies to the Word and Work spoken and performed by Christ, and by those empowered to speak in His Person by the sacrament of Orders:
“Jesus did not perform a work that could be distinguished from his `I’ and depicted separately. On the contrary, to understand him as the Christ means to be convinced that he has put himself into his word. Here there is no `I’ (as there is with all of us) which utters words; he has identified himself so closely with his word that `I’ and word are indistinguishable: he is word. In the same way, to faith, his work is nothing else than the unreserved way in which he merges himself into this very work; he performs himself and gives himself; his work is the giving of himself;” J. Ratzinger, Ibid. 150.

And since Jesus Christ is the “prototype” of the human person (Eph 1, 4 and above GS #22), then the very meaning of the human person is achieved by incorporation into Christ. The being of the self becomes being-for the other, as we see in GS #24. This is the Christology and the anthropology of the universal call to holiness as laid out in chapter V of Lumen Gentium. See my "Person as Resonating Existential" in archive.

Confrontation with Jesus Christ as the Venue to experience the self. Experience of the self as venue to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The only person one can “experience” as person is oneself in the free act of self-determination. One cannot experience another as “self” since there is no access to the other’s freedom of self-determination. But if I do what the other does, and therefore determine myself in the same way, the experience I have of myself can be “transposed” to the other, and I can know him/her in his/her very subjectivity as “I.” “Although I cannot experientially transfer what constitutes my own I beyond myself, this does not mean that I cannot understand that the other is constituted in a similar fashion – that the other is also an I” (Karol Wojtyla, “Participation or Alienation?” in Person in Community, Lang (1993) 199-202.
Benedict XVI (then-Cardinal Ratzinger) asserts, that the very Being of the Person of Jesus Christ is disclosed in the act of prayer to the Father. “According to Luke, we see who Jesus is if we see him at prayer” (“Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1984) 19). Since “like is known by like,” if we pray, we experience who Jesus is in ourselves by the very experience we have of ourselves transcending ourselves in prayer. If Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, and His Person is the very act of self-giving to the Father that we call “Son,” when becoming incarnate, that very act of relation to the Father that is His very Person translates in the “kenosis” as “prayer.” And if we pray, then we experience being Christ, and therefore what it means to be relation (not just “in” relation) to the Father in our very self. “I live, no not I, Christ lives in me” (Gal 2, 20).
John Paul II said (“Crossing the Threshold of Hope” [Knopf {1994} 34]), “If God is a knowable object… He is such on the basis of man’s experience both of the visible world and of his interior world.” And then-Cardinal Ratzinger commented, “This knowledge of God, in which God is no longer merely thought, but is also experienced, ripens in that dialogue with God which we call prayer. God in Karol Wojtyla is not only thought but also experienced. The pope expressly opposes the limitation of the concept of experience which occurred in Empiricism; he points out that the form of experience elaborated in the natural sciences is not the only kind, but that there are also other forms which are no less real and important…” (Communio, Spring (1995) 109-110).

In the light of this, both Revelation and Faith are Personal “Acts” that must be Experienced: Clarifications by the mind of Benedict XVI on the meaning of Revelation and Faith as Trinitarian Experience.

Revelation of the Person of the Father is the Person of the Son as Logos (Word-Truth). As Logos, the incarnate Son is the perfect image of the Father. He is the Father’s self-revelation. Sacred Scripture and Tradition are not properly speaking revelation because they are not the act of self-gift that is revelation but the “objectified result of this act.”

“The word [revelation] refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this sis so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of `revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive `revelation,’ no re-vel-lation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the concilar discussion on revelation. Scripture , and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given” ((J. Ratzinger, “Milestones” Ignatius (1998) 108).

As Revelation is an Act that is the Person of Jesus Christ, so also the response to that Person is the total gift of the self that we call “Faith.” Hence, faith is not merely a facultative act of intellect or will, but the moral act of the whole self. It is not merely the free assent to information, but the surrender to a Person. John Paul II taught magisterially:

“It is urgent to rediscover and to set forth once more the authentic reality of the Christian faith, which is not simply a set of propositions to be accepted with intellectual assent. Rather, faith is a lived knowledge of Christ, a living remembrance of his commandments, and a truth to be lived out. A word, in any event, is not truly received until it passes into action, until it is put into practice. Faith is a decision involving one’s whole existence. It is an encounter, a dialogue, a communion of love and of life between the believer and Jesus Christ, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn 14, 6). It entails an act of trusting abandonment to Christ, which enables an act of entrustment to Christ, which enables us to live as he lived (cf. Gal 2, 20), in profound love of god and of our brothers and sisters” (Veritatis Splendor #88).

Faith, then, is an act of the whole person imaging the Relations that are the Trinitarian Persons. By believing, one enters the Trinitarian dynamic by an act of freedom, since self-gift is a free moral act. Hence, this is not pantheism.

A Biblical Example of this Trinitarian Epistemology:
Josef Ratzinger on John 4: The Samaritan Woman and the Experience of God

“This periscope seems to me to be a beautiful and concrete illustration of what we have just been saying. It opens with the meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in the context of a normal, human, everyday experience – the experience of thirst, which is surely one of man’s most primordial experiences. In the course of the conversation, the subject shifts to that thirst that is a thirst for life, and the point is made that one must drink again, must come again and again to the source. In this way, the woman is made aware of what in actuality she, like every human being, has always known but to which she has not always adverted: that she thirsts for life itself [Zoë] and that all the assuaging that she seeks and finds cannot slake this living, elemental thirst. The superficial `empirical’ experience has been transcended.
“But what has been revealed is still of this world. It is succeeded, therefore, by one of those conversations on two levels that are so characteristic of Jon’s technique of recording dialogue, the Johannine `misunderstanding,’ as it is called by the exegetes. From the fact that Jesus and the Samaritan woman, though they use the same words, have in mind two very different levels of meaning and, separated thus by the ambiguity of human speech, are speaking at cross-purposes, there is manifested the lasting incommensurability of faith and human experience however extensive that experience may be. For the woman understands by “water’ that of which the fairy tales speak: the elixir of life by virtue of which man will not die and his thirst for life that is familiar to her, whereas Jesus wants to reveal to her the true life, the Zoë.
“In the next stage, the woman’s full attention has been attracted to the subject of a thirst for life. She no longer asks for something, for water or for any other single thing, but for life, for herself. This explains the apparently totally unmotivated interpolation by Jesus: `Go and call your husband!’ (Jn. 4, 16), It is both intentional and necessary, for her life as a whole, with all its thirst, is the true subject here. As a result, there comes to light the real dilemma, the deep-seated waywardness, of her existence: she is brought face to face with herself. In general, we can reduce what is happening to the formula: one must know oneself as one really is if one is to know God. The real medium, the primordial experience of all experiences, is that man himself is the place in which and through which he experiences God. Admittedly, the circle could also be closed in the opposite direction: it could be said that it is only by first knowing God that one can properly know oneself.
“But we anticipate. As we have said, the woman must come first to the knowledge of herself, to the acknowledgement of herself. For what she makes now is a kind of confession: a confession in which, at last, she reveals herself unsparingly. Thus a new transition has occurred –to preserve our earlier terminology, a transition from empirical and experimental to `experiential’ experience, to `existential experience.’ The woman stands face to face with herself. It is no longer a question now of something but of the depths of the I itself and, consequently, of the radical poverty that is man’s I-myself, the place where this I is ultimately revealed behind the superficiality of the something. From this perspective, we might regard the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman as the prototype of catechesis. It must lead from the something to the I. Beyond every something it must ensure the involvement of man himself, of this particular man. It must produce self-knowledge and self-acknowledgment so that the indigence and need of man’s being will be evident.
“But let us return to the biblical text! The Samaritan woman has achieved this radical confrontation with her own self. In the moment in which this occurs, the question of all questions arises always and of necessity; the question about oneself becomes a question about God. It is only apparently without motivation but in reality inevitable that the woman should ask now: How do things stand with regard to adoration, that is, with regard to God and my relationship to him? (cf. Jn 4, 20). The question about foundation and goal makes itself heard. Only at this point does the offering of Jesus’ true gift become possible. For the `gift of God’ is God himself, God precisely as gift – that is, the Holy Spirit (cf. v10-24). At the beginning of the conversation, there seemed no likelihood that his woman, with her obviously superficial way of life, would have any interest in the Holy Spirit. But one she was led to the depths of her own being the question arose that must always arise if one is to ask the question that burns in one’s soul. Now the woman is aware of the real thirst by which she is driven. Hence, she can at last learn that it is for which this thirst thirsts.

From “Natural Law” to “Law of the Person”

[“When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, it is not enough to take only the good intention and the evaluation of motives into account; the objective criteria must be used, criteria drawn from the nature of the human person and human action, criteria which respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love;” Gaudium et Spes #51]
The experience of self-transcending reveals man as person-image and therefore not merely “nature.” Man is experienced “from above” as image, not “from below” as rational animal. The latter is not false but incomplete and inadequate as objectified as an abstraction. The result of considering such an abstraction as the real existential anthropology leads to positing a natural end for man as “nature.” The recent work of the International Theological Commission “Communion and Stewardship – Human persons Created in the Image of God,” says,

“For the theological tradition, man affected by sin is always in need of salvation, yet having a natural desire to see God – a capax Dei – which, as an image of the divine, constitutes a dynamic orientation to the divine. While this orientation is not destroyed by sin, neither can it be realized apart from God’s saving grace. God the savior addresses an image of himself, disturbed in its orientation to him, but nonetheless capable of receiving the saving divine activity. These traditional formulations affirm both the indestructibility of man’s orientation to God and the necessity of salvation. The human person, created in the image of God, is ordered by nature to the enjoyment of divine love, but only divine grace makes the free embrace of this love possible and effective. In this perspective, grace [i.e., divine Love-affirmation extended to the human person] is not merely a remedy for sin, but a qualitative transformation of human liberty, made possible by Christ, as a freedom freed for the Good” (#48).
From a philosophic position, Karol Wojtyla expressed that “a belief in the primordial uniqueness of the human being, and thus in the basic irreducibility of the human being to the natural world, seems just as old as the need for reduction expressed in Aristotle’s definition [homo est animal rationale].” Therefore, “the traditional view of the human being as a person, which understood the person in terms of the Boethian definition as rationalis naturae individual substantia, expressed the individuality of the human being as a substantial being with a rational (spiritual) nature, rather than the uniqueness of the subjectivity essential to the human being as a person” (“Subjectivity and the Irreducible in the Human Being,” Person and Community, Lang [1993] 211-212).
Adrian J. Reimers (“Karol Wojtyla on the Natural Moral Order” in “The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly,” Summer 2004, 320-321) observes that the nature of a biological organism is not the “nature” that we affirm in “natural law.” He says,

“When Karol Wojtyla calls the `biological order’ an abstraction, he does not mean simply that biological theories are expressed in general terms… His point is that what we call the `biological order,’ that about which biological theories are formulated, is itself an abstraction, and he accounts for that abstraction in terms of a `generalized empiricism.’ This order, abstracted from the order of being, fails to provide an adequate basis for moral guidance, for the natural law. … The biological order is abstract because it prescinds from the totality of what is human to regard only that which pertains to certain aspects of its organism. John Paul II’s remarks concerning the charges of `biologism’ in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae vitae further develop this point: `In this discussion, natural law was taken to mean merely the biological regularity we find in people in the area of sexual actualization. This was said to be natural law.’ But all that the biological sciences can do is to identify biological regularities. The order of being, on the other hand, is expected to provide a basis for moral norms.”
Then-Josef Ratzinger remarked in Texas that the ontological grounding of what we mean by “conscience” is not a “nature” or “essence.” He refers to the “natural law” as an “anamnesis,” non-amnesia:

“This means that the first so-called ontological level of the phenomenon conscience consists in the fact that something like an original memory of the good and true (both are identical) has been implanted in us, that there is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From its origin, man’s being resonates with some things and clashes with others. This anamnesis of the origin, which results from the godlike constitution of our being is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is so to speak an inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears it echo from within. He sees: That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks” (“Conscience and Truth,” Proceedings of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop, Dallas, Texas, The Pope John Center [1991] 20).

The transition from nature from below and person from above is capped off in “Veritatis Splendor” #50 that reads:“At this point the true meaning of the natural law can be understood: it refers to man’s proper and primordial nature, the `nature of the human person’ [Gaudium et Spes #51] which is the person himself in the unity of soul and body, in the unity of his spiritual and biological inclinations…To give an example, the origin and the foundation of the duty of absolute respect for human life are to be found in the dignity proper to the person and not simply in the natural inclination to preserve one’s own physical life. Human life, even though it is a fundamental good of man, thus acquires a moral significance in reference to the good of the person, who must always be affirmed for his own sake. While it is always morally illicit to kill an innocent human being, it can be licit, praiseworthy or even imperative to give up one’s own life (cf. Jn 15, 13) out of love of neighbor or as a witness to the truth. Only in reference to the human person… can the specifically human meaning of the body be grasped. Indeed, natural inclinations take on moral relevance only insofar as they refer to the human person and his authentic fulfillment…”

* * * * *

Impact of Trinity –> Christology –> Anthropology on Sexuality and the Social Doctrine of the Church:
Impact on Sexuality: “In the light of the New Testament it is possible to discern how the primordial model of the family is to be sought in God himself, in the Trinitarian mystery of his life. The divine `We’ is the eternal pattern of the human `we,’ especially of that `we’ formed by the man and the woman created in the divine image and likeness;” John Paul II, Letter to Families #6.

“If… we wish to draw also from the narrative of the Yahwist text the concept of `image of God,’ we can then deduce that man became the `image and likeness’ of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning. The function of the image is to reflect the one who is the model, to reproduce its own prototype. Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion. Right `from the beginning,’ he is not only an image in which the solitude of a Person who rules the world is reflected, but also, and essentially, an image of an inscrutable divine communion of persons.
In this way, the second narrative could also be a preparation for understanding the Trinitarian concept of the `image of God,’ even if the latter appears only in the first narrative. Obviously, that is not without significance for the theology of the body. Perhaps it even constitutes the deepest theological aspect of all that can be said about man;”
John Paul II, Theology of the Body, Pauline Books and Media (1997) 46-47.

Impact on Social Doctrine: “It follows that the Church cannot abandon humanit, and that `this human person is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission… the way traced out oby Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption.’
“This, and this alone, is the principle which inspires the Church’s social doctrine…
“Thus, the Church’s social teaching is itself a valid instrument of evangelization. As such it proclaims God and his mystery of salvation in Christ to every human being, and for that very reason reveals man to himself. In this light, and only in this light, does it concern itself with everything else: the human rights of the individual, and in particular of the `working class,’ the family and education, the duties of the State, the ordering of national and international society, economic life, culture, war and peace, and respect for life from the moment of conception until death.
“The Church received `the meaning of the person’ from Divine Revelation. `In order to know man, authentic man, man in his fullness, one must know God,’ said Pope Paul VI, and he went on to quote Saint Catherine of Siena, who, in prayer, expressed the same idea: `In your nature, O eternal Godhead, I shall know my own nature.’
“Christian anthropology therefore is really a chapter of theology…”
John Paul II, Centesimus Annus #53-#54.

Hence, today to reduce the Trinity to a “superfluous heavenly theorem” is a rationalistic anachronism.

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