Thursday, December 29, 2005

Holy Innocents, December 28, 2005

“When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. There was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more"
(Mt. 2, 16-18).

The entrance antiphon of the Mass reads: “These innocent children were slain for Christ. They follow the spotless Lamb, and proclaim for ever: Glory to you, Lord.”

Theme: tiny children live out heroic, silent sacrifice (unwittingly) and win the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, there is heroic virtue in small objective things because it takes place on the level of the subject making the gift of self.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger remarked about notorious, heroic virtue on the occasion of the canonization of St. Josemaria Escriva:

“Knowing a little about the history of saints, and understanding that in the causes of canonization there is inquiry into `heroic’ virtue, we almost inevitably have a mistaken concept of holiness: `It is not for me,’ we are led to think `because I do not feel capable of attaining heroic virtue. It is too high a goal.’ Holiness then becomes a thing reserved for some `greats’ whose images we see on the altars, and who are completely different from us ordinary sinners. But this is a mistaken notion of holiness, a wrong perception which has been corrected – and this seems to me the central point – precisely by Josemaria Escriva.

"Heroic virtue does not mean that the saint performs a type of `gymnastics’ of holiness, something that normal people do not dare to do. It means rather that in the life of a person God’s presence is revealed. – something man could not do by himself and through himself. Perhaps in the final analysis we are rather dealing with a question of terminology, because the adjective `heroic’ has been badly interpreted. Heroic virtue properly speaking does not mean that one has done great things by oneself, but rather that in one’s life there appear realities which the person has not done himself, because he has been transparent and ready for the work of God. Or, in other words, to be a saint is nothing other than to speak with God as a friend speaks with a friend. This is holiness” (Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, "Letting God Work," L'Osservatore Romano, October 6, 2002)

Commentary: Let’s complement the underlined above, suggesting that heroic virtue, in the spirit of St. Josemaria Escriva, does not have to do with having “done great things by oneself,” but in not having done great things at all. Rather, it is a case of “non loquendo sed moriendo” – not making boast of but dying in the small things of daily, quotidian life. St. Josermaria would affirm: It is heroic to fulfill the acts of piety each day, punctually. It is heroic to pour ourselves out, working for others, never thinking about ourselves. It is heroic to finish our work well, when we are tired and exhausted. It is heroic to continue our ascetical struggle in the points indicated to us, with humility and determination. “You ask me, `Why the wooden Cross?’ And I quote from a letter: `As I raise my eyes from the microscope, my sight comes to rest on the Cross – black and empty. That Cross without a Corpus is a symbol; it has a meaning others won’t see. And I, tired out and on the point of abandoning my work, once again bring my eyes close to the lens and continue. For that lonely Cross is calling for a pair of shoulders to bear it."[1]

The heroism asked of us is an everyday heroism of silent and hidden sacrifice. We can never feel vainglory for things so small. The sacrifice of deeds in very small things is the act of self-mastery whereby with God's love as "grace," we hone ourselves by service to others into the figure of "another Christ." We wash feet and by so doing affirm persons. With this, God makes our lives fruitful. We irradite fatherhood by engendering life ("life" as Zoe that is Trinitarian Life [Gift]). Since we act out of love, our sacrifice is a willing one that seeks no applause; we don’t even call it a `sacrifice.’ We receive each day’s annoyances without complaint, as coming from God’s will, with respect and love, with joy and peace. And we strive to fulfill the duty of each moment willingly, although it is hard, since it is God’s will for us.

St. Josemaria wrote to his children: “My children, are you and I determined to live a life that serves as a model and lesson for others? Are we determined to be other Christs, to behave like children of God? It’s not enough to say it; we have to prove our determination by our deeds… Are you happy with how you have behaved up until now? You, who are another Christ, who are a child of God, do you deserve to have it said of you that you have come to do and to teach, facere et docere (Acts 1, 1): to teach others by your behavior to do all that is good, that is noble, that furthers the Redemption?”

[1] Josemaria Escriva, “The Way,” Scepter Press #277.

St. John Apostle and Evangelist: December 27, 2005

Knowing "The Word:" LIGHT

St. John : Unique in the Experience and Consciousness of Christ:

The interpersonal experience between St. John and Jesus Christ was unique among the apostles and evangelists. If the apostles were mediators (priests) between the people and Christ, John was the mediator between the apostles and Christ. He was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” John Henry Newman preached, “He was one of the three or four who always attended our Blessed Lord, and had the privilege of the most intimate intercourse with Him; and, more favoured than Peter, James, and Andrew, he was His bosom friend, as we commonly express ourselves. At the solemn supper before Christ suffered, he took his place next to Him, and leaned on His breast. As the other three communicated between the multitude and Christ, so St. John communicated between Christ and them. At that Last Supper, Peter dared not ask Jesus a question himself, but bade John put it to Him, - who it was that should betray Him. Thus St. John was the private and intimate friend of Christ. Again, it was to St. John that our Lord committed His Mother, when He was dying on the cross; it was to St. John that He revealed in vision after His departure the fortunes of His Church”[1] (the Apocalypse).

John does not write about Christ in an external way. He does not simply report facts and quotations. He writes in Christ from his experience of Christ from within. As his knowledge of Christ is privileged, his language is uniquely symbolic: “God is light” (1 Jn. 1, 5). And the epistemology is embedded in his words: “The Message which we have heard from him and announce to you, is this: that God is light, and in him is no darkness. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as he also is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…” (1 Jn. 1, 5-7).

Self-Gift as the Experience of Christ

John gives the anthropological dynamic that grounds the epistemology of knowing God: “practicing the truth” – as in St. Paul’s “facientes veritatem in charitate” (Eph. 4, 15). Augustine says: "It was not enough for God to make his son our guide to the way; he made him the way itself, that you might travel with him as leader, and by him as the way" (In ps. 109, 1-3). But Christ is the Truth, and Christ is self-gift to the others. At the institution of the Eucharist, He exteriorizes the nature of the truth of the person by washing the feet of the apostles. John PaulII remarked, “Significantly, in their account of the last Supper, the Synoptics recount the institution of the Eucharist, while the Gospel of John relates, as a way of bringing out its profound meaning, the account of the `washing of the feet,’ in which Jesus appears as the teacher of communion and of service (cf. Jn. 13, 1-20).”[2] The knowing of Christ in the intimacy of his Person does not come through the senses but through the experience of giving self, as in the obedience of faith. John had recorded Christ’s words: “If you abide in my word, you shall be my disciple indeed; you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8, 32). The experience and consciousness of knowing the truth of Christ as the “meaning” of the human person[3], comes as a result of the moral dynamic of self-giving that takes place first in obedience, and then in service to the others.

St. John: Uniquely Affirmed by Christ So As To Be Enabled to Make the Gift

- John stayed with Christ “that day. It was about the tenth hour” (Jn. 1, 39).

- He was brought in with Peter and James to heal the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue: “He allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James, and John the brother of James.” (Mk. 5, 37).

- And again: “As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, `Tell us, when are these things to happen, and what will be the sign when all these things will begin to come to pass?'” (Mk. 13, 3-4).

- At the Transfiguration: “He took Peter, James and John and went up the mountain to pray” (Lk. 9, 28).

- They entered a Samaritan town, “and they did not receive him because his face was set for Jerusalem. But when his disciples James and John saw this, they said `Lord, wilt thou that we bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them…” (Lk. 9, 54-55).

- “And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him, saying, `Master, we want thee to do for us whatever we ask…’” (Mk 10, 35).

- Gethsemani: "And he took with him Peter and James and John….”

- The Post Resurrection Miraculous Catch: “The disciple whom Jesus loved [John] said therefore to Peter, `It is the Lord’” (Jn. 20, 6).

Experience of Christ is Consciousness and Knowledge of Christ

It is John who discloses Christ’s revealing the connection between knowledge, faith as obedience and eternal life: Observe this extraordinary affirmation: “Now this is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn. 17, 3). Therefore, to reach eternal life, one must know Christ because “no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt. 11, 27). But, to know the Son, one must actually live the faith by the act of prayer (which is self-gift) in order to be able to pronounce the supreme truth of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). And the connection, once again, John gives in 8, 32: “If you abide in my word [i.e., obey my commandment in deed], you are my disciple indeed [you will be ipse Christus]; you will know the truth [I am the Truth {Jn. 14, 6}] and the truth will make you free [you will be free from death: eternal life]. And, since to see the Son and re-cognize Him is to see the Father (“Philip, he who sees me, sees also the Father” Jn. 14, 9), such a one will have eternal life. Hence, wherever there is the act of self-giving, and therefore the experience of the “I” as relational and transcendent, there is a consciousness of living out the imaging of the divine Persons who are nothing but relation, self-giving and self-transcendence. One experiences being divinized as another Christ. And since like is known by like (i.e., knowing is a way of overcoming the irreducible pluralism of being, by experiencing becoming the other via doing what the other does, or, if that is impossible, to take in a sign or likeness of the other into self as proxy [mediation], hence: concepts), if one does what the other does (prayer is the proper act of imaging the Son as relation to the Father), one experiences what the other experiences, and therefore has the self-consciousness that the other has. This is the theological epistemology that Ratzinger proposes as the undergirding of Mt. 16, 16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” He said, as recorded below on a previous date: “Thesis 3: Since the center of the person of Jesus is prayer, it is essential to participate in his prayer if we are to know and understand him. Let us begin here with a very general matter of epistemology. By nature, knowledge depends on a certain similarity between the knower and the known. The old axiom is that like is known by like. In matters of the mind and where persons are concerned, this means that knowledge calls for a certain degree of empathy, by which we enter, so to speak, into the person or intellectual reality concerned, become one with him or it, and thus become able to understand (intellegere = ab intus legere).”[4]

John establishes this absolute connection between loving and knowing. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God. And everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. He who loves is born of God, and knows God. He who does not love, does not know God; for God is love” (1Jn. 4, 7-9). He repeats: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4, 16).

This experience of becoming another Christ is the absolute ground for the experience of fellowship with others since the likeness is the personhood that is achieved by mimicking the prototype of human personhood, Jesus Christ. That is, the more Christ we become (by the experience of self-giving), the closer we are to one another on the basis of sheer personhood. Christogenesis is the basis of a true and integral humanism. The more Christic persons are the more human and secular will be the society. Thus St. John says, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as t he also is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…” (1Jn. 1, 5-7). And further: “And by this we can be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says that he knows him, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him. But he who keeps his word, in him the love of God is truly perfected; and by this we know that we are in him. He who says that he abides in him ought himself also to walk just as he walked” (1 Jn 2, 3-6). “He who says that he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in the darkness still. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and for him there is no stumbling. But he who hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and he does not know whither he goes because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn. 2, 9-11).

The New Epistemology: “The Word Became Flesh” (Spirit and Matter are One Single Person: Dualism is Overcome)

The Church struggled to reconcile the conceptual philosophy of Greece with Revelation. For example: “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10, 30) with “The Father is greater than I” (Jn. 15, 29). How can the Son be equal to the Father, yet be less than the Father? The Council of Nicea (325) struggled with the distinction of Persons but radical equality as God, and affirmed that the two were “of the same substance.” However, the problem then emerged whether the Son was really man? Did he have an intellectual soul, or was that replaced by the divine Person of the Logos? If he had a body, but not a human soul (and therefore a human intellect, and a human will), he would not be man, and the redemption of the whole man would not have taken place. The Council of Ephesus (431) answered, that indeed, Jesus Christ had a human soul with human intellect and human will. The Council of Chalcedon (451) then nailed down the entirety that Jesus Christ was a single divine Person with a divine nature and a complete human nature, perfect God and perfect man. Only a constitutively relational Being as divine Person could be totally equal to the Father as self-gift, less than the Father as engendered (totally receptive), and completely man as the "kenosis" (lowering) of assuming a concrete fallen human nature as His own.

The solution to this tension was the expansion of the notion of person, and therefore of being as relational – something which Greek abstractive and conceptual thought never envisaged nor possibly could have done so. Christianity proved explosive of Greek metaphysical categories, an explosion that only now are we coming to formulate as "relation... discovered as an equally valid promoridal mode of reality" (J. Ratzinger, "Introduction to Christianity," Ignatius (1990) 132). Only faith as response to Revelation could call a man to totally self-transcend to martyrdom (Martyrdom as denouement of faith: Veritatis Splendor #89-90). Hence, there could be no such experience of person in pagan thought. If, in Christian thought, being is constitutively relational such that the Father is the very act of engendering the Son, and vice versa for the Son, then one could be equal but not the same. The Son’s obedience and glorification of the Father would be equal to the Father’s self-gift of engendering the Son. The Son as engendered would be “less” than the Father (“The Father is greater than I” [Jn. 15, 29]), but equal to the Father as self-gift.

The conceptualism of abstractive thought does not permit of any penetration here and results in Gnostic Arianism (Judaizing of Christianity) where Christ as Son is engendered by the Father, is “less” than the Father, and therefore cannot be equally God with the Father. The DeVinci Code is a modern dramatization of this. St. John’s Gospel swings the full metaphysical weight of “Logos, flesh, step into the world; the eternal origin, the tangible earthly reality, mystery of unity”[5] that exploded the intra-mundane conceptualism of Greek thought and gave the world a new dimension of being.

Incarnation: The Word Was Made Flesh (Contradiction to Gnosticism): Explosion to Thought

Romano Guardini: “Of all the apostles, who stresses most the corporal reality of the Resurrected Christ? He who most stressed the divinity of Jesus, John. He who proclaimed Christ as the Logos, the eternal Son, also traced the living features of his resurrected body.”[6]

“I write of what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have handles: of the Word of Life. And the Life was made known and we have seen and now testify and announce to you, the Life Eternal which was with the Father, and has appeared to us. What we have seen and have heard we announce to you, in order that you also may have fellowship with us, and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (I Jn. 1, 13).

Guardini is referring to the resurrected body of the The Lord. He says: “Again and again it is stressed: Here is something far out of the ordinary. The Lord is transformed. His life is different from what it was, his existence incomprehensible. It has a new power that comes straight from the divine, to which it constantly returns for replenishment. Yet it is corporal; the whole Jesus is contained in it, his essence and his character. More: his earthly life, passion and death are incorporated into it, as the wounds show. Nothing is sloughed off; nothing life behind as unessential. Everything is tangible, though transformed, reality; that reality of which we were given a premonition on the last journey to Jerusalem – the mysterious lightning-like flash of the Transfiguration. This was no mere subjective experience of the disciples, but an independent reality; no `pure’ spirituality, but the saturation, transformation by the Holy Spirit of Christ’s whole life, body included. Indeed, only in the transformed existence, does the body fully come into its own. For the human body is different from the animal’s and is only then fulfilled when it no longer can be confused with the animal body. The Resurrection and Transfiguration are necessary to the full understanding of what the human body really is.”[7]

What is Gnosticism? Basically, it is conceptual thought abstracted from sensible experience. It is “objectified,” categorical thinking disengaged from existential experience of the self. It was the root and branch of Arianism in the third century and Nestorianism in the fourth and fifth, which denied the equality of the Son with the Father as God, as well as the equality of the Son with man, and it is the root and branch of modern dualism from Descartes to the momentous work of Wojtyla who united consciousness with the experience of the “I.” Gnosticism is an abstractionism that de-existentializes reality into monadic individualities, substances that exist in self and not other: Father-son, God-man, thought/spirit-matter, grace-nature, Church-state…

Guardini expatiates on Gnosticism as: “the pagan and half-Christian spiritualism [that was] convinced that God was spirit. However their [the Gnostics] conviction was so narrow and distorted, that they concluded that he was therefore anti-corporal, and that in his eyes all matter was impure. Consequently, they could not accept the Incarnation; insisting instead that a divine being, the eternal Logos, had descended from heaven and made his dwelling in the man Jesus. Through his mouth we were taught the truth and shown the way from the fleshly to the spiritual. When the man Jesus died, the Logos left him returned to heaven. To this St. John says: God became man and remains man in all eternity.

“To the question: What have we to do with the spiritualism of Gnostics? – the answer is: A great deal! Modernity is often completely confused by `spiritualism’… (I)t is constantly trying to explain away the Resurrection as deception; Jesus’ divinity as mere religious experience; the figure of the resurrected Christ as the product of communal piety, on order to separate `the real’ Jesus from the Christ of faith. Whether expressed historically or psychologically, as it is today, or mythologically, as it was at the time of the Gnostics, the argument remains the same. In reply, John erected two monumental landmarks. The first in the sentence: `And the Word was made flesh…’ (Jn. 1, 14). Not `entered into’ a human being, but became that being, so that he was simultaneously human and divine; his deed God’s deed; his fate God’s fate, resulting in an indivisible unity of existence, responsibility and dignity. Not merely `And the Word was made man’ – but, that there be no possible mistake, `…was made flesh’ – the clarity is almost unbearable.”[8]

To illustrate the Gnostic abstraction for a God who does not exist, Guardini asks: “Who is God? The Supreme Spirit, and so pure, that the angels by contrast are `flesh’! He is the Endless, Omnipotent, Eternal, All-inclusive One in the simplicity of his pure reality. The Unchanging One, living in himself, sufficient unto himself. What possible use could he have for a human body in heaven? The Incarnation is already incomprehensible enough; if we accept it as an act of unfathomable love, this and death, isn’t that sufficient? Why must we also believe that this piece of creation is assimilated into the eternity of God’s existence? What for? A bit of earthliness lost and caught up into the tremendousness of eternity? Why doesn’t the Logos shake the dust from him and return to the pure clarity of his free divinity?... Revelation defines such ideas as philosophy or worldly religion, to which Christian thought is by nature and definition diametrically opposed. But then what manner of God is this, with whom Resurrection, Ascension and throning on his right hand are possible?” Guardini answers: “Precisely the kind of God who makes such things possible! He is the God of the Resurrection, and we must learn that it is not the Resurrection that is irreconcilable to him, but part of our thinking that is irreconcilable to the Resurrection, for it is false.

“If we take Christ’s figure as our point of departure, trying to understand from there, we find ourselves faced with the choice between a completely new conception of God and our relation to him, and utter rejection of everything that surpasses the limitations of a `great man.’ … We must also completely reform our idea of humanity, if it is to fit the mould Christ ahs indicated. We can no longer say: man is as the world supposes him to be; therefore it is impossible that he throne at God’s right, but: since Revelation has revealed that the Son of Man does throne at God’s right, man must be other than the world supposes him. We must learn that God is not only `supreme Being,’ but supremely divine and human Being; we must realize that man is not only human, but that the tip of his essence reaches into the unknown, and receives its fulfillment in his Resurrection.”[9]

We could conclude this point on St. John with Guardini’s remark: “We must revise our whole conception of what redemption is. Rationalism is still deeply rooted in us, with its insistence on the spiritual alone in after-life… Now we begin to understand what sacrament means. Were we not also among those in Capharnaum who protested: `How can this man give us his flesh to eat’ (Jn. 6, 53)? Why these strange words about the flesh and blood of Christ – why not `the truth’ and `the love’ of Jesus? (…) Wouldn’t remembrance of the Lord in all the purity and dignity of the spirit suffice? Why not? Because not only the spirit of Christ, but his resurrected flesh and blood, his whole, transfigured humanity is redemption! Because through the Holy Eucharist we participate again and again in this transfigured reality at once human and divine.”[10]


“The prologue of John is certainly the key text that gives full expression to the truth about the divine sonship of Christ. He who `became flesh’ in time, is the Word himself from all eternity. He is the only-begotten Son – God `who is in the bosom of the Father.’ He is the Son `of the same substance of the Father,’ he is `God from God.’ He receives the fullness of glory from the Father. He is the Word `through whom everything was made.’ Therefore everything that exists owes to him that `beginning’ of which the book of Genesis speaks (cf. Gen. 1, 1), the beginning of the work of creation. This same eternal Son, when he comes into the world as the `Word become flesh,’ brings with him for humanity the fullness `of grace and truth.’ He brings the fullness of truth because he gives teaching about the true God whom `no one has ever seen.’ And he brings the fullness of grace, because he gives to those who receive him the power to be reborn of God.”[11]

[1] John Henry Newman, Plain and Parochial Sermons #5.
[2] John Paul II, “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,”
[3] 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.”
[4] Josef Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” (1986) 25.
[5] Romano Guardini, “The Lord,” Regnery (1954) 4.
[6] Ibid. 411.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Romano Guardini, “The Lord,” Regnery (1954) 411-412.
[9] Ibid. 412-413.
[10] Ibid. 414.
[11] John Paul II, “The Prologue of John’s Gospel Synthesizes the Faith of the Apostolic Church, A Catechesis on the Creed: Jesus, Son and Savior, Vol. II, DSP(1996) 161.

Monday, December 26, 2005

St. Stephen, Martyr: December 26, 2005

An insight into St. Stephen’s martyrdom can come from Benedict XVI’s words for this Christmas 2005.

1) First, he explains that “God is not eternal solitude but rather a circle of love and mutual self-giving. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Reading the word “solitude,” one cannot help but remember then- Josef Ratzinger’s words: “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.’ Let us listen once again to St. Augustine: `In God there are no accidents, only substance and relation.’ Therein lies concealed 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.”[1] One cannot forget either the explanation of John Paul II gives to the so-called “original solitude” in the “Theology of the Body:” “Solitude also signifies man’s subjectivity, which is constituted through self knowledge. Man is alone because he is `different’ from the visible world, from the world of living beings.”[2]

In a word, God is not an individual Substance in the philosophic sense of substance being that which is in itself and not in another. That understanding is taken by abstraction from the sensible created world. It cannot be applied to God except abstractly. In the divine Revelation which is the existential real world, we see that God is the prototypical Communio of three “irreducible” Persons (three “I’s” that are not conflatible into the universal “Person” [and therefore the abstract “God” {that does not exist}]) who are so given to each other that none is alone as an “individual.” The divine “I’s” that are radically different are constitutively relational, and therefore there cannot be one without the other. The Father is the very act of engendering the Son. Hence, if there were no Son, there would be no Father. And vice versa, if there were no Father, there would be no Son. Hence, Benedict XVI’s “God is not eternal solitude but rather a circle of love and mutual self-giving.” That “circle” is the Communio, and is the prototype of every other relation of persons.

2) Since self-gift is, as it were, God’s “hard wiring,” God reveals more of himself in giving self as mercy than in the creation of the world itself. That is, there is more “power” involved and disclosed in “having mercy” than simply in “making-be.” Therefore, the human person, as image and likeness of this self-giving, shows more of what he/she is in forgiving, affirming, serving other persons (and then disappearing), than in great feats of inventive creation where the self remains within the itself. To this effect, Benedict said yesterday at Midnight Mass:

“God is so great that he can become small. God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenseless child, so that we can love him. God is so good that he can give up his divine splendor and come down to a stable, so that we might find him, so that his goodness might touch us, give itself to us and continue to work through us. This is Christmas.”

Therefore, if we really wish to become great, we must lower self – freely – to affirm others, think about others, forgive others and thus “radiate fatherhood.” Hence, the first blush of God’s “kenosis” (self-lowering) in becoming a child in a stable is the martyrdom of St. Stephen as the only adequate response of faith to Revelation.

The insight would be that the Church places the martyrdom of St. Stephen – his self-gift to death – as the like response to the radical self-gift of Father to us in the Son. Self-gift for self-gift. Behold the power of martyrdom to engender life. (Cardinal Ratzinger explained the canonization of St. Nicholas of Bari [Myra] as among the first of the non-martyred saints to be canonized precisely because he showed "constant kindness in every day life" - See December 6 below for Ratzinger's development on St. Nicholas as a manifestation of Christ's self-gift as persistent kindness in ordinary life).

* * * * * * * * *

[1] Josef Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 132.
[2] John Paul II, “The Theology of the Body,” DSP (1997) [General Audience of October 10, 1979] 37.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas 2005

1) Is Christmas a tradition that we remember as an historical event, or is it an ontological reality that keeps occurring? Can it happen today, and to me and to you? In the case of the Eucharist, we believe that every Mass is the ontologically the same sacrifice that took place on the Cross 2,000 years ago. It is the same “I” of the Logos of the Father who make the gift of himself as eternal “I” that never left the “side” of the Father while in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth He said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (Jn, 38). The “I” of Jesus Christ is not human but divine and therefore is both divine and in time. In fact, the action of the “I-Gift” of the divine Person of Christ is precisely what is instantiated every time the words of consecration are intentionally repeated over valid matter. Because of this transcendent “I,” every Mass is ontologically Calvary since it is the same ontological Person. To substantiate this, recall chapter 8 of St. John’s Gospel where three times Jesus uses the equivalent of Yahweh translated into the Greek “ego eimi” (“When I am lifted up from the earth, you will know that “ego eimi” [I Am], {Jn. 8, 24}; “If you do not believe that “ego eimi,” you will die in your sins” [I Am] {Jn. 8, 28}; “Before Abraham came to be “ego eimi” [I Am] {Jn. 8, 58}.

The conditions for this ontological recurrence is the apt matter and form as receptivity: the bread and wine with the ministerial priests intentionally wanting to do and doing what the Church does. In the case of instantiating the birth of Christ, the apt “matter” is the radical gift of self of the Virgin. Any one who hears the word of God and does it is my brother and sister and mother: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk. 8, 20-21).

2) The two states of John the Baptist are revealing. John saw Christ and recognized Him as Messiah. At the baptism, he heard the words of the Father (“This is my beloved Son…”) and saw the Spirit descending on Him as dove. He preached the fiery revelation of Christ setting things definitively right in the society. The ax was to be put to the root of the tree, and the threshing floor was to be swept clean of the chaff. He did the same to Herod and was imprisoned.

From the prison, John hears nothing of the ax and the sweeping. Things continue much as they had before. The visible transformation that he had expected was not taking place. He becomes scandalized, falters in faith; he sends messengers to ask Christ: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Lk. 7, 19). Christ sends back the message: “Go and tell John what it is that you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them…. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me”? (Lk. 7, 22-23). John Paul II comments: “Love is present in the world.” The redemption is taking place in the darkness and ambiguity. Then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: Christmas 2005

Then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “This was probably the final task set the Baptist as he lay in prison: to become blessed by this unquestioning acceptance of God’s obscure will; to reach the point of asking no further for external, visible, unequivocal clarity, but, instead, of discovering God precisely in the darkness of this world and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed. In point of fact, we cannot see God as we see an apple tree or a neon sign, that is, in a purely external way that requires no interior commitment. We see him only by becoming like him, by reaching the level of reality on which God exists; in other words, by being liberated from what is anti-diving: the quest for pleasure, enjoyment, possessions, gain, or, in a word, from ourselves. In the final analysis it is usually the self that stands between us and God. We can see God only if we turn around, stop looking for him as we might look for street signs and dollar bills, and begin looking away from the visible to the invisible.”[1]

3) There is only one Christmas. It consists of a sign: “`Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes’ (Lk. 2, 12). This is still the sign for us too, men and women of the third millennium. There is no other Christmas” (Benedict XVI, December 11, 2005[2]). Christmas has a “secret.” The all powerful Creator of the world who is neither more because the world exists, nor less if it did not, enters into His creation. He becomes a part of it, but is not “of” it. To recognize the Creator in His Creation, we must become like Him, since like is known by like.

Therefore, to recognize Jesus Christ – as John the Baptist did not – the experience of a conversion has to be gone through, not merely externally – materialistically – but internally with the experience of self-giving. This is the meaning of faith and the divine maternity that can and must be repeated by the men and women of the third millennium. Benedict XVI suggest that we make the crib scene, the liturgy, and get involved in both; also that we get involved with the others and make the gift of ourselves to them because they are the way to God for us..

St. Josemaria Escriva wrote in 1974: “My children, God teach us to abandon ourselves completely. Look where Christ is born. Everything there bespeaks unconditioned self-giving. Joseph, whose life is a succession of hardships mixed with the joy of being Jesus’ guardian, risks his honor, the serene continuity of his work, his tranquil future: his entire existence is ready availability for whatever God may ask. Mary shows herself to be the handmaid of the Lord (Lk 1, 38), who by her fiat transforms her entire existence into an acceptance of the divine plan of salvation. And Jesus? Suffice it to say that our God reveals himself to us as a child. The Creator of the universe present himself to us in an infant’s swaddling clothes [“swaddling” clothes are bands in which an infant is wrapped so as to restrain it: hence another image of the subjection and lowering of the Logos in becoming man], so we may never doubt that he is true God and true Man” (Letter, February 1974, 2).

[1] Josef Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching Franciscan Herald Press ((1985) 76-77.
[2] L’Osservatore Romano, N. 50 (1923) – 14 December 2005, p. 1.”[1]

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Guadalupe: The Dynamics of Obedience; December 12, 2005

Fruit of Obedience: the Incarnation.

1) We have already seen the meaning of sin as conversion to self and therefore the preservation of Our Lady from it as freedom to make the gift, to say “Yes.” Revisit Josef Ratzinger’s on same:

Sin: “We may say that original sin is not an assertion about a natural deficiency in or concerning man, but a statement about a relationship that can be meaningfully formulated only in the context of the God-man relation. The essence of sin can only be understood in an anthropology of relation, not by looking at an isolated human being. Such an anthropology is even more essential in the case of grace. We could therefore describe original sin as a statement about God’s evaluation of man’ evaluation not as something external, but as a revealing of the very depths of his interior being. It is the collapse of what man is, both in his origin from God and in himself, the contradiction between the will of the Creator and man’s empirical being.

Preservation from sin: “This contradiction between God’s `is’ and man’s `is not’ is lacking the case of Mary, and consequently God’s judgment about her is pure `Yes,’ just as she herself stands before him as a pure `Yes.’ This correspondence of God’s `Yes’ with Mary’s being as `Yes’ is the freedom from original sin. Preservation from original sin, therefore, signifies no exceptional proficiency, no exceptional achievement; on the contrary, it signifies that Mary reserves no area of being, life, and will for herself as a private possession: instead, precisely in the total dispossession of self, in giving herself to God, she comes to the true possession of self. Grace as dispossession becomes response as appropriation. Thus from another viewpoint the mystery of barren fruitfulness, the paradox of the barren mother, the mystery of virginity, becomes intelligible once more; dispossession as belonging, as the locus of new life.”[7]

The metaphysical translation of the revelation of the Divine Persons is: to be = to be for the other. Augustine expressed that “In God there are no accidents, only substance and relation.”[1] Ratzinger comments: “Therein lies concealed 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.”[2] Therefore, as the relational gift of self in the Father is who the Father is and identically the engendering of the Son, there can never be a Father without there being the Son. If there were no Son, there would be no Father. Hence, God is not a “substance” as an ontological reality standing in itself, but three irreducibly different Persons as relations that cannot be given without each other. They are what we have come to understand to be “communio,” which is not community of individuals united by accidental relations. Rather “communio” means persons that cannot be who they are without being related.

Fruitfulness: And this relation is ontological life-giving. Hence, when Our Lady said “Yes,” it was such a radical and total gift of self that the Spirit engendered the Person of the Son from and in her flesh. The Venerable Bede quotes “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” and interprets:

“The Lord has exalted me by a gift so great, so unheard of, that language is useless to describe it, and the depths of love in my heart can scarcely grasp it. I offer then all the powers of my soul in praise and thanksgiving. As I contemplate his greatness, which knows no limits, I joyfully surrender my whole life, my senses, my judgment, for my spirit rejoices in the eternal Godhead of that Jesus, that Savior, whom I have conceived in this world of time.”[3]

All Called To Be the Mother by Obeying

2) We also can engender Jesus Christ and become His Mother: The astounding reality is that anyone who makes a like gift of self in terms of “hearing the word of God and doing it,” like Our Lady, also engenders Jesus Christ and becomes His Mother.

“While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brethren were standing outside, seeking to speak to him. And someone said to him, `Behold, thy mother and thy brethren are standing outside, seeking thee.’ But he answered and said to him who told him, `Who is my mother and who are my brethren?’ And stretching forth his hand towards his disciples, he said, `Behold my mother and my brethren! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12, 46-50).

John Paul II comments: “Is Jesus thereby distancing himself from his mother according to the flesh? Does he perhaps wish to leave her in the hidden obscurity which she herself has chosen? If this seems to be the case from the tone of those words, one must nevertheless note that the new and different motherhood which Jesus speaks of to his disciples refers precisely to Mary in a very special way. Is not Mary the first of `those who hear the word of God and do it?’” [4] The point being that it was precisely Mary’s self-gift that provoked the divine Maternity and engendered God to be physically present in the flesh within His own creation.

Guadalupe and Now: The Present Dynamic of Obedience

3) An example of this divine power at work in the dynamic of the faith as self-gift is Juan Diego at Tepeyac. He is told by the Virgin: “go to the house of the Bishop of Mexico City and tell him that I sent you and that it is my desire to have a teocali built here. Tell him all that you have see and heard. Be assured that I shall be very grateful and will reward you for doing diligently what I have asked of you. Now that you have heard my words, my son, go and do everything as best as you can.”

Juan Diego fails and returns to Our Lady at Tepeyac, and asks Our Lady to “entrust this message to someone of importance, someone will-known and respected, so that your wish will be accomplished. For I am only a lowly peasant and you, my Lady, have sent me to a place where I have no standing. Forgive me if I have disappointed you for having failed in my mission.

“The Virgin smiled tenderly on him and said, `Listen to me, my dearest son, and understand that I have many servants and messengers whom I could charge with the delivery of my message. But it is altogether necessary that you should be the one to undertake this mission and that it be through your mediation and assistance that my wish should be accomplished. I urge you to go to the Bishop again tomorrow. Tell him in my name and make him fully understand my disposition that he should undertake the erection of the teocalli for which I ask. And repeat to him that it is I in person, the ever Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, who sends you.”

Failing a second time, Juan Diego returns to Our Lady communicating the request of the bishop for a sign that it is really she. She promises it to him, and he, being troubled by the sickness of his uncle, is disturbed. Trying to avoid her on his way to get a priest for his uncle, the Virgin, appearing again, intercepts him and confides to him the now famous phrases intended for all of us: “Listen and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little son. Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? And am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? Do not let the illness of your uncle worry you because he is not going to die of his sickness. At this very moment, he is cured.”

Juan Diego obeys her indications to climb to the top of Tepeyac and gathers the roses – in December - that are the supposed miracle, but which are only a preview of what is to come. Coming down the hill to her, she herself arranges the Castilian roses in his “overcoat” (tilma) and gives him instructions not to unfold the tilma, nor reveal its contents until he is in the presence of the bishop. Then, to tell him everything.

When he enters into the presence of the bishop, he kneels down and releases the ends of his tilma and the flowers, mingled with Castilian roses, cascade to the floor. “Zumarraga gazed at them, momentarily speechless. It was the sign he had asked of the Blessed Virgin: to show that she had heard his prayer for peace in the country. Fullof wonder, he lifted up his eyes to the tilma and at the instant there appeared on it a glorious image of the Mother of Christ.

“For one electrifying moment, the eyes of every person in that hushed room were riveted on the flowing image as if they were contemplating an apparition. Then slowly they sank to their knees in awe and veneration. Utterly perplexed, Juan glanced down at the object of their gaze to see what it was that had transfixed them, and was overwhelmed to find himself contemplating an exact replica of the celestial Lady he had seen at Tepeyac.”

The Dynamic of Obedience From 1532-1548

Juan Diego converted in 1519 on the occasion of the victory of Cortes over the pagan chieftain of the Aztecs, Montezuma. Our Lady appeared to him in 153i, “Until 1531, the Sacrament of Baptism had been administered mostly to infants. The overwhelming majority of Aztec adults had resisted the advances of the missionaries since embracing Christianity would have entailed the abandonment of polygamy. However, as the cult of Our Lady of Guadalupe began to spread throughout the country, great numbers of all ages and classes began to long for the supernatural revelation and conversion." From 1531 to 1548, the total number of baptized Indians in Mexico was approximately nine million (9,000,000).

As Juan Diego, So Us

John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia in America: “The appearance of Mary to the native Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531 had a decisive effect on evangelization. Its influence greatly overflows the boundaries of Mexico, spreading to the whole Continent. America, which historically has been, and still is, a melting-pot of peoples, has recognized I the mestiza face of the Virgin of Tepeyac, `in Blessed Mary of Guadalupe, an impressive example of a perfectly inculturated evangelization.’ Consequently, not only in Central and South America, but in North America as well, the Virgin of Guadalupe is venerated as Queen of all America” (11).

John Paul expressed the hope that the formation of a new culture in America (singular, not plural) could take place in the Western Hemisphere as it was not taking place in Europe. His hope was the following: “Trusting in the help of Mary, the Church in America desires to lead the men and women of the continent to encounter Christ. This encounter will be the starting-point of authentic conversion and of renewed communion and solidarity. Such an encounter will contribute greatly to strengthening the faith of many Catholics, helping them to nature in strong, lively and active faith” (12).

[1] Augustine, De Trinitate, V, 5, 6 (PL 42, 913 f.): “… In Deo autem Nihil quidem secundum accidens dicitur, quia nihil in eo mutabile est; nec tamen omne quod dicitur, secundum substantiam dicitur… quod tamen relativum non est accidens, quia non est mutabile.” See also on the whole question M. Schmaus, Catholishce Dogmatik 1, 3d ed., Munich, 1948, pp. 425-432.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 132.
[3] From a commentary on Luke by Venerable Bede, priest: Lib. 1, 46-55: CCL 120. 37-39.
[4] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, #20.
[5] Johnston, The Wonder of Guadalupe, 36.; Cfr. Warren H Carrol, “Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the conquest of Darkness,” Christendom Publications (1983) 107-110.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Advent 2005: Conversion to Love in order to "See."

1) “Parousia” means presence or, more accurately, “arrival,” i.e., the beginning of a presence. “In antiquity the word was a technical term for the presence of a king or ruler and also of the god being worshipped, who bestows his parousia on his devotees for a time. `Advent,’ then means a presence begun, the presence being that of God.” [1]

2) The astounding reality is that God Himself, Creator of the entire visible world, more than simply being present by man being His image and likeness, is really present in His very Person enfleshed: “The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us” (John 1, 14). That is, there is quid divinum in the ordinary things of everyday, and it is up to each one of us in our freedom to find it.

3) The even more astounding thing is that we don’t see it. Benedict XVI said in Cologne: “In vast areas of the world today there is a strange forgetfulness of God." He then develops the argument: 1) We are forgetful of God. 2) Everything seems to be the same as it would be without Him. 3) But this “same” is not enough. We are unfulfilled and sense there is something missing. 4) Therefore, we create our own “religion;” we turn it into a “hobby” done in “leisure time, and a morality that fits our sensibilities and preferences. 5) However, in the crisis, we are alone.

4) This fits the scriptural description of John the Baptist.

a) His initial preaching is hard and demanding of clarity. The appearance of the Messiah means that laying of the ax to the tree and the thorough cleaning of the threshing floor. He demands the removal of ambiguity.
b) John demands this same clarity of Herod – who immediately has him thrown in jail.
c) While in jail, John begins to doubt whether Christ is really “He who is to come” and sends messengers to ask, “should we look for another” (Lk. 7, 19)?
d) Christ responds: “Go and tell John what it is that you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” And then adds: “Blessed is he who takes no offense at me” (Lk. 7, 22-23).

5) John Paul II comments: “Jesus revealed that love is present in the world in which we live – an effective love, a love that addresses itself to man and embraces everything that makes up his humanity. This love makes itself particularly noticed in contact with suffering, injustice and poverty – in contact with the whole historical `human condition,’ which in various ways manifests man’s limitation and frailty, both physical and moral.”[2]

This means that God is present in the world, and is recognizable, if we enter into the same way of being as He is present, i.e., as love. John was scandalized at Christ’s invisibility in “straightening things out.” Josef Ratzinger commented:

“This was probably the final task set the Baptist as he lay in prison: to become blessed by this unquestioning acceptance of God’s obscure will; to reach the point of asking no further for external, visible, unequivocal clarity, but, instead, of discovering God precisely in the darkness of this world and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed. In point of fact, we cannot see God ad we see an apple tree or a neon sign, that is, in a purely external way that requires no interior commitment. We can see him only by becoming like him, by reaching the level of reality on which God exists; in other words, by being liberated from what is anti-divine: the quest for pleasure, enjoyment, possessions, gain, or, in a word, from ourselves. In the final analysis it is usually the self that stands between us and God We can see God only if we turn around, stop looking for him as we might look for street signs and dollar bills, and begin looking away from the visible to the invisible.

"John, then, even in his prison cell had to respond once again and anew to his own call for metanoia or a change of mentality, in order that he might recognize his God in the night in which all things earthly exist. `Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.’

“The Christian of our day, too, can be shown no other way to friendship with God than the way of ceasing to look for external clarity and beginning to turn from the visible to the invisible and thus truly finding the Lord who is the real foundation and support of our existence. Only when we act in this manner does another and doubtless the greatest saying of the Baptist reveal its full significance: `He must increase, but I must decrease’ (Jn. 3, 30). We will know God to the extent that we are set free from ourselves. This brings us back to the main theme of Advent: We will know God to the extent that we give him room to be present in us. A person can spend his life seeking God in vain if he does not enable God to continue in his life the presence begun.”[3]

[1] See Josef Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 71.
[2] John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia #2.
[3] Josef Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching op. cit. 76-77.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

December 14, 2005: Feast of St. John of the Cross

1. Benedict XVI Commenting on His Mission as Pope:

“I forgot to mention the many documents that he left us -- 14 encyclicals, many pastoral letters, and others. All this is a rich patrimony that has not yet been assimilated by the Church. My personal mission is not to issue many new documents, but to ensure that his documents are assimilated, because they are a rich treasure, they are the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. We know that the Pope was a man of the Council, that he internalized the spirit and the word of the Council. Through these writings he helps us understand what the Council wanted and what it didn’t. This helps us to be the Church of our times and of the future.”

The Experience of St. John of the Cross as Core of Vatican II:

A - The Figure of Jan Tyranowski: Key to the formation of the mind of John Paul II on the experience of St. John of the Cross. Faith is a moral act of the whole person whereby God is experienced in the self when the self is given as gift. This yields a consciousness that is pre-conceptual and traditionally called “mystical:”

“(Tyranowski)…a very simple man who was one of those unknown saints, hidden amid the others like a marvelous light at the bottom of life, at a depth where night usually reigns. He disclosed to me the riches of his inner life, of his mystical life. He had cut short his studies to work as a tailor in his father’s workshop: this work better suited his inner life. Under the occupation he was a real master of spiritual life for many young people united in a `living rosary’ round my parish. His name was John. In his words, in his spirituality and in the example of a life given entirely to God alone, he represented a new world that I did not yet know. I saw the beauty of the soul opened up by grace. I was not yet thinking of the priesthood when he gave me, among other books, the works of St. John of the Cross, of whom he was the first to speak to me. He belonged to this school.
Later, when I was a theology student, I learnt Spanish on my own in order to be able to comment on the thought of the Mystical Doctor in my doctoral thesis, which was begun in Krakow and continuted in Rome at the Angelicum. The final examination took place in two parts, in Rome and in Krakow. But that is not the important point. What counts is what I we to the admirable person, unknown by the world, whose memory I have just evoked – the revelation of a universe. The shock was comparable to the one I felt, as I told you just now, in the depths of my metaphysical forest.”

From the “Kalendarium” (diary): “February 1940 – He (Wojtyla) meets Jan Tyranowski. `With regards to my vocation to the priesthood, I owe very much to the late Jan Tyranowski, about whom I once wrote in Tygodnik Powszechny (Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, The Nest From Which I Came; see also entry for September 1940).
“Fragments of an article about Jan Tyranowski:”

[The point of the following implies that the personality and the impact thereof on Wojtyla and all the others derived from Tyranowski’s identification with the mind and spirit of St. John of the Cross.] In May of 1949, Wojtyla wrote:

“This man was not a fiction or a symbol, but a real living person. His name was Tyranowski. Jan Tyranowski. He lived in Krakow, in Debniki, at 15 Rozana Street. He was born in 1900 and died in March of 1947… His family was of a typical suburban middle class… It is worth noting that Jan’s demeanor, for example, the way he wore his watch, his expressions, all of the many details that reflect the social environment, were totally consistent with that environment. The entire difference was hidden within, and it was from within that all his external habits obtained their particular character. Jan guided his inner life according to the book Mistyka by Fr. Semenenko. Later, however, St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of the Child Jesus became his chief spiritual masters. They were not only his masters, they led him to discover himself, they explained and justified his own life.
"Jan’s death was indeed a form of self-sacrifice. Jan approached it consciously; he wished it and prayed for it…"

Earlier, in 1945, the 25 year old Wojtyla wrote:

“At this point, our recollections require some comments about the very methodology of expressing these memories about January. Because it is not easy to remember this man, he cannot be understood as a mere compilation of the events of his life. For us, events did not define January. External actions could never tell us everything about him. If every contact with a person leaves us with some general impression, so also our impressions and judgments of Jan were formed by our contact with him over the period of several years. Our impressions of Jan grew from regarding him as an aging, pious gentleman to a personal conviction that we were dealing with someone who was indeed a saint. So our internal experience of Jan overcame our resistance and reservations, and his personality became indelibly imprinted on us. It is this personality which is the subject of these reminiscences, as is his humanity which is so transfigured that his words and deeds were but a meager reflection of it. For his words and deeds must have seemed very ordinary to anyone who was not drawn into the orbit of Jan’s interior life. No, Jan could not be known from the outside, he had to be experienced and tested from within[3].
“Our road to knowing Jan was so much the harder because he brought with him a concept of life that was totally foreign to us. He wanted to draw his listeners to this new life. He was the apostle and teacher of this new concept. This is the essence of the matter: he was an apostle. With his very being, he gave witness to the truth he was proclaiming….
Imagine, if you will, these young people who judged Jan quite skeptically, who carried within them an inflated concept of their own self-sufficiency and arrogance typi8cal of their age. And each one of them asked: what does this man want of me? What is it that he finds lacking in me? For it became apparent very quickly that Jan already possessed, was totally unknown to them. This was not a question of a lecture, of learning some new facts, but of reforming one’s life and attitudes – a life which, until now, seemed quite good, virtually perfect, inviolable, impervious to all external influences, especially the influence of some overly pious old man. Each of us tenaciously challenged the truth of Jan’s words and was reluctant to overcome his reservations,...He proved to us that God could not only be studied, but also lived….
“The main element of his interior life, however, was contemplation. For him, this did not mean a reasoned analysis of God’s truths, a pure thought exercise. His aim was to become enamored of the subject under contemplation; he sought not a dry exercise of the mind, but a full exercising of the spirit...
“He was an apostle of God’s greatness, God’s beauty, and God’s transcendence. This he learned from his spiritual guide, St. John of the Cross. God exists within us not so we can stifle Him in the narrow confines of our human spirit; God is within us to tear us away from ourselves toward His supernatural transcendence. That was also the main goal of Jan’s strivings. In this he was the strongest, the clearest, the most convincing, and the most apostolic. God is within us. Jan know this. One could often meet him along the banks of the Wisla (Vistula River), or in his own home, explaining to some young listeners the essence of God’s virtues, the methods of meditation or the mysteries of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

B - The Impact of St. John of the Cross on “Dei Verbum” of the Second Vatican Council, evident in the commentary of John Paul II:

The Pope contrasts (complementarity, not contradiction) the “definition” of faith from Vatican I from the “description” of faith in Dei Verbum of Vatican II:

“Personally I would not discount the old catechism definition which I learned at primary school: faith is `to admit as truth what God has revealed and what the Church gives us to believe.’ However, I will not send you back to the catechism, for this definition, as it stands, can incur the criticism that it does not attach sufficient importance to the person, the subject that experiences faith, even though the very phrase `admit as truth’ clearly implies the existence of the subject…. These admirable compact and precise words do not yet speak of faith but of Revelation. Revelation is `God communicating himself.’ It thus possesses the character of a gift or a grace: a person-to-person gift in the communion of persons….
"All this concerns Revelation. What about faith?
We read further on in the same text: `To God who reveals himself we must bring the obedience of faith by which man entrusts himself entirely, freely, to God, bringing to him who reveals the complete submission of his intelligence and heart and giving with al his will full assent to the Revelation which he has made.’ Thus faith is man’s reply to the Revelation by which God `communicates himself.’ The constitution Dei Verbum expresses perfectly the essentially personal character of faith.

“In the words `man entrusts himself to God by the obedience of faith,’ ne must see, if only indirectly, the thought that faith, as response to the revelation by which God `gives himself to man,’ implies through its internal dynamism a reciprocal gift on the part of man, who in a way `also gives himself go God.’ This gift of oneself is the profoundest and most personal structure of faith.
“In the act of faith, man does not respond to God with the gift of a bit of himself, but with the gift of his whole person. Of course, in this reciprocal relationship the disproportion remains.

“So misapprehension is frequent. Those who say, `faith is a gift,’ implying that they have not received it, are at the same time both right and wrong. Right, because there really is a gift on the part of God. Wrong, because this gift is not one of those which require only a banal acknowledgement of receipt; it only takes effect when there is reciprocity” (
Frossard/John Paul II, "Be Not Afraid", St. Martin's Press [1984] 62-68).

At this point, John Paul II clarifies any apprehension of Pelagianism that we respond by our own powers alone: Man needs to be loved by God to achieve the identity of being an “I” in order to be able to master self, take possession of self, and then to make the free gift of self that is faith. This loving affirmation by God is called “grace.” Grace is not a “thing” but the relation of the divine Person to us, affirming us and therefore empowering us. Thus this self-gift must be preceded by a divine affirmation that is “an inner action of the Holy Spirit and that it depends entirely and essentially on this action.”

The large picture here is the move from an objectified epistemology of faith to a subjective epistemology of personal experience and therefore a consciousness of the Person of Jesus Christ as revelation of the Father. It is the move from understanding faith as a series of concepts or sets of propositions to a life style of self-giving in response to the gift of the Son Who is the Gift of the Father. John Paul II notes this difference:

“I have already drawn your attention to the difference between the catechism formula, `accepting as true all that God reveals,’ and surrender to God. In the first definition faith is primarily intellectual, in so far as it is the welcoming and assimilation of revealed fact. On the other hand, when the constitution “Dei Verbum” tells us that man entrusts himself to God `by obedience of faith,’ we are confronted with the whole ontological and existential dimension and, so to speak, the drama of existence proper to man.
“In faith, man discovers the relativity of his being in comparison with an absolute I and the contingent character of his own existence. To believe is to entrust this human I, in all its transcendence and all its transcendent greatness, but also with its limits, its fragility and its mortal condition, to Someone who announces himself as the beginning and the end, transcending all that is created and contingent, but who also reveals himself at the same time as a Person who invites us to companionship, participation and communion. An absolute person – or better, a personal Absolute.

“The surrender to God through faith (through the obedience of faith) penetrates to the very depths of human existence, to the very heart of personal existence. This is how we should understand this `commitment’ which you mentioned in your question and which presents itself as the solution to the very problem of existence or to the personal drama of human existence. It is much more than a purely intellectual theism and goes deeper and further than the act of `accepting as true what God has revealed.’
“When God reveals himself and faith accepts him, it is man who sees himself revealed to himself and confirmed in his being as man and person."

To Appropriate St. John’s Understanding of Faith Demands a Confrontation, Purification and Assimilation of Enlightenment Philosophy.[5]

This involvement of the entire self in the act of faith, when reflected on by reason using the method of phenomenology, is rendered under the concept of “experience.” But this involves a radical confrontation with the philosophical dualism that has come down to us from the Enlightenment. “Experience” in the Enlightenment has been identified exclusively with the sensible world and radically “disengaged” from the “I.” The “I” is pure consciousness. There is no such thing as an “experience” of consciousness.

As we have seen, the formulation of faith in Vatican Council I, “can incur the criticism that it does not attach sufficient importance to the person, the subject that experiences faith, even though the phrase `admit as truth’ clearly implies the existence of the subject.”[6] Wojtyla’s use of phenomenology has enabled him to discover that “experience” always involves the subjectivity of the “I,” an action of the “I,” and contact with the “reality” of being. After writing his doctoral thesis on “Faith According to St. John of the Cross,” Wojtyla sought out this philosophic method to explain what he had found in St. John of the Cross’s rendering of faith as “a dark night” (without concepts) and found that it was precisely the experience of the whole self – obeying – that was the likeness to the divine Person (Jesus Christ, the enfleshed Logos) who revealed the Father. This enabled him – and the other fathers of the Council – to “purify” the Cartesian turn to the subject “existentializing” it by disclosing that it is precisely in experience, especially the experience of self-transcendence – that faith can be rendered “reasonable.” Faith then becomes rendered anthropologically and therefore metaphysically, and made accessible to the whole domain of moral action. The act of faith as self-gift becomes the explanatory core of sexuality and the entire social doctrine of the Church. Faith becomes “reasonable” and accessible to ordinary, quotidian life, and thus be able to ontologically ground the social doctrine of the Church. This constitutes the revolution of Vatican II and the resolution of the hitherto insoluble dualism of Enlightenment modernism. In brief, it reads: “man, the only earthly creature that God has willed for itself [meaning: “creature with the power of self-determination, i.e. freedom of self-mastery], can fully discover his true self [the “I”] only in a sincere giving of himself [the self-transcendence of faith]” (Gaudium et Spes #24). And this because Christ said, “when praying to the Father `that they may all be one… even as we are one’ (Jn. 17, 21-22), has opened up new horizons closed to human reason by implying that there is a certain parallel between the union existing among the divine persons and the union of the sons of God in truth and love” (Ibid.).

What Had Wojtyla Done?

Wojtyla translated the phenomenological work of Max Scheler: Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die Materiale Wertethik (1916) and wrote his own habilitation thesis : “Valutazioni Sulla Possibilita di Costruire L’Ethica Cristiana Sulle Basi del Sistema di Max Scheler.” He finds Scheler’s work on the intentionality of emotions incapable of describing the Christian “experience” of the radical absolute call to self gift to the point of martyrdom. Even though Scheler opposed Kant’s philosophy of consciousness, he never transcended it by reaching the experience of the “I” as being, but remained on the level of the faculties of the “I” and emotion. Hence, he said, “The person, in Scheler’s view, is in no sense a being, but is merely a unity of experiences…. The person is not a being, but solely and exclusively a consciousness. This is a consciousness of being a person, but this is ot the objective being of the person… values are merely contents of consciousness… They do no perfect the person’s being… Every value, including moral value, is merely an intentional object of feeling. The person’s intentional feelings of moral value, however, cannot be equated with the real perfection of the person’s being through moral value. Thus Scheler’s system allows us to witness the perfectionistic tendencies that pervade consciousness, but it does not allow us to construct a truly perfectionist ethics. This is, as in Kant, a consequence of an idealistic understanding of consciousness. Consciousness is understood realistically when it is connected with the person’s being as its subject, when it is an act of this being.”[7]

Hence, Wojtyla constructed his own brand of phenomenology, that of inspecting the acting person and the experience of the “I” as being, mirrored in consciousness. He asserts: “My lived experience discloses not only my actions but also my inner happenings in their profoundest dependence on my own self. It also discloses my whole personal structure of self-determination, in which I discover my self as that through which I possess myself and govern myself – or, at any rate, should possess myself and govern myself. The dynamic structure of self-determination reveals to me that I am given to myself and assigned to myself. This is precisely how I appear to myself in my acts and in my inner decisions of conscience: as permanently assigned to myself, as having continually to affirm and monitor myself, and thus, in a sense, as having continually to `achieve’ this dynamic structure of my self, a structure that is given to me as self-possession and self-governance. At the same time, this is a completely internal and totally immanent structure. It is a real endowment of the personal subject; in a sense, it is this subject. In my lived experience of self-possession and self-governance, I experience that I am a person and that I am a subject.”[8]

2. Benedict XVI (Cardinal Ratzinger) on the Meaning of EXPERIENCE in the Mind of John Paul II:

“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: moral experience, human experience, religious experience."[9]

- The Testimony of John Paul II:

“The fact that human knowledge is primarily a sensory knowledge surprises no one. Neither Plato nor Aristotle nor any of the classical philosophers questioned this. Cognitive realism, both so-called naïve realism and critical realism, agrees that `Nihil est in intellectu, quod prius non fuerit in sensu’ (`nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses’). Nevertheless, the limits of these `senses’ are not exclusively sensory. We know, in fact, that man not only knows colors, tones, and forms; he also knows objects globally – for example, not only all the parts that comprise the object `man’ but also man in himself (yes, man as a person). He knows, therefore, extrasensory truths, or, in other words, the transempirical. In addition, it is not possible to affirm that when something is transempirical it ceases to be empirical.

"It is therefore possible to speak from a solid foundation about human experience, moral experience, or religious experience. And if it is possible to speak of such experiences, it is difficult to deny that, I the realm of human experience, one also finds good and evil, truth and beauty, and God. God Himself certainly is not an object of human empiricism; the Sacred Scripture, in its own way, emphasizes this: `No one has ever seen God’ (cf. Jn. 1, 18). If God is a knowable object – as both the Book of Wisdom and the Letter to the Romans teach – He is such on the basis of man’s experience both of the visible world and of his interior world. This is the point of departure for Immanuel Kant’s study of ethical experience in which he abandons the old approach found in the writings of the Bible and of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Man recognizes himself as an ethical being, capable of acting according to criteria of good and evil, and not only those of profit and pleasure. He also recognizes himself as a religious being, capable of putting himself in contact with God. Prayer – of which we talked earlier – is in a certain sense the first verification of such a reality.” [10]

Ratzinger on the Theology of Experience

Ratzinger lays out different stages of experience with corresponding levels of knowledge. (1) empirical experience: (Nihil in intellectu nisi per sensum)What you see is what you get, or at least, think you get. “We see the sun rise; we see it set. We see a train pass. We see colors; and so firth. This manner of experience is, certainly, the beginning of all knowledge, but it is always superficial and inexact. And therein lies its danger.”[11] He goes on to say, “`empirical experience’ is the necessary starting point of all human knowledge, it becomes false if it does not let itself be criticized in terms of knowledge already acquired and so open the door to new experiences.”[12] (2) experimental experience: (Nihil in sensu nisi per intellectum) Intelligence “sets up” the experiment that gives us a new experience. This is science. Reason controls and subdues nature to yield new experiences that in turn yield knowledge. The only difficulty with this is the control and the subduing turns reality from subject into object and literally “kills” it. The scientific method becomes tyrannous and tends to admit of no rationality outside of sensation. This means that the vital questions of absolutes, truth, good, God, the nature of man, etc. must be reduced to matter and experimental sensation. Freedom falls outside of this kind of experience. Behold the root of the "dictatorship of relativism." (3) Existential experience: this is the experience of the “I” as free self-determination. It is fundamentally Christian as faith-response. It is always mastering sensible drives and instincts so as conform self to truth of the revelation.

John Henry Newman on Causality: Experienced Only in the "I"

In his Grammar of Assent, he asserts – in agreement with David Hume – we do not experience causality through the senses, but rather in the existential “I” at the moment of free action. He says, “It is to me a perplexity that grave authors seem to enunciate as an intuitive truth, that every thing must have a cause. If this were so, the voice of nature would tell false; for why in that case stop short at One, who is Himself without cause? The assent which we give to the proposition, as a first principle, that nothing happens without a cause, is derived, in the first instance, from what we know of ourselves; and we argue analogically from what is within us to what is external to us. One of the first experiences of an infant is that of his willing and doing; and, as time goes on, one of the first temptations of the boy is to bring home to himself the fact of his sovereign arbitrary power, though it be at the price of waywardness, mischievousness, and disobedience. And when his parents, as antagonists of this willfulness, begin to restrain him, and to bring his mind and conduct into shape, then he has a second series of experiences of cause and effect, and that upon a principle or rule. Thus the notion of causation is one of the first lessons which he learns from experience, that experience limiting it to agents possessed of intelligence and will. It is the notion of power combined with a purpose and an end. Physical phenomena, as such, are without sense; and experience teaches us nothing about physical phenomena as causes. Accordingly, wherever the world is young, the movements and changes of physical nature have been and are spontaneously ascribed by its people to the presence and will of hidden agents, who haunt every part of it, the woods, the mountains and the streams, the air and the stars, for good or for evil; - just as children again, by beating the ground after falling, imply that what has bruised them has intelligence; - nor is there anything illogical in such a belief. It rests on the argument from analogy.
As time goes on… when we witness invariable antecedents and consequents, we call the former the cause of the latter, though intelligence is absent, from the analogy of external appearances. At length we go on to confuse causation with order; and, because we happen to have made a successful analysis of some complicated assemblage of phenomena , which experience has brought before us in the visible science of things, and have reduced them to a tolerable dependence on each other, we call the ultimate points of this analysis, and the hypothetical facts in which the whole mass of phenomena is gathered up, by the name of causes, whereas they are really only the formula under which those phenomena are conveniently represented…. That all the particles of matter throughout the universe are attracted to each other with a force varying inversely with the square of their respective distances, is a profound idea, harmonizing the physical works of the Creator; but even could it be proved to be a universal fact, and also to be actual cause of the movements of all bodies in the universe, still it would not be an experience, any more than is the mythological doctrine of the presence of innumerable spirits in those same physical phenomena.”

Karol Wojtyla on Causality

(“I” as Cause of My Own Act: Xt’s priesthood)

Karol Wojtyla does the phenomenological description of this huge insight. “In phenomenological experience, I appear as someone who possesses myself and who is simultaneously possessed by myself. I also appear as someone who governs myself and who is simultaneously governed by myself. Both the one and the other are revealed by self-determination: they are implied by self-determination and also enrich its content. Through self-possession and self-governance, the personal structure of self-determination comes to light in its whole proper fullness.

In determining myself – and this takes place through an act of will – I become aware and also testify to others that I possess myself and govern myself. In this way, my acts give me a unique insight into myself as a person. By virtue of self-determination, I EXPERIENCE in the relatively most immediate way that I am a person. Of course, the path from this experience to an understanding that would qualify as a complete theory of the person must lead through metaphysical analysis. Still, EXPERIENCE is the indispensable beginning of this path, and the lived experience of self-determination seems to be the nucleus of this beginning….

(B)oth self-possession and self-governance imply a special disposition to make a `gift of oneself,’ and this a `disinterested’ gift. Only if one possesses oneself can one give oneself and do this in a disinterested way. And only if one governs oneself can one make a gift of oneself, and this again a disinterested gift…

Only if one can determine oneself… can one also become a gift for others. The Council’s statement that `the human being… cannot fully find himself or herself except through a disinterested gift of himself or herself’ allows us to conclude that it is precisely when one becomes a gift for others that one most fully becomes oneself. The `law of the gift,’ if it may be so designated, is inscribed deep within the dynamic structure of the person. The text of Vatican II [Gaudium et Spes #24] certainly draws its inspiration from revelation, in the light of which it paints this portrait of the human being as a person.. One could say that this is a portrait in which the person is depicted as a being willed by God `for itself’ and, at the same time, as a being turned `toward’ others. This RELATIONAL portrait of the person, however, necessarily presupposes the immanent (and indirectly `substantial’) portrait that unfolds before us from an analysis of the personal structure of self-determination….

I have attempted… even in this short presentation, to stress the very real need for a confrontation of the metaphysical view of the person that we find in St. Thomas and in the traditions of Thomistic philosophy with the comprehensive EXPERIENCE of the human being. Such a confrontation will throw more light on the cognitive sources from which the Angelic Doctor derived his metaphysical view. The full richness of those sources will then become visible. At the same time, perhaps we will better be able to perceive POINTS OF POSSIBLE CONVERGENCE WITH CONTEMPORARY THOUGHT, as well as POINTS OF IRREVOCABLE DIVERGENCE FROM IT in the interests of the truth about reality” (overkill by capitalization mine).[14]

Experience and the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Prayer is Applied Faith”

(Cardinal Josef Ratzinger)

“In a certain sense, the fourth part (of the Catechism of the Catholic Church), which is devoted to prayer, recapitulates the preceding parts: prayer is applied faith. It is inseparable tied to the world of the sacraments. On the one hand, the sacraments presuppose personal prayer. On the other hand, they guarantee it a stable orientation, inserting it into the common prayer of the Church and thus into Christ’s dialogue with the Father. But prayer and morality are also inseparable: only when man turns to God does he find the paths leading to his true being. From prayer we continually receive the correction we need; reconciliation with God makes possible reconciliation among ourselves.”

Notice that the fourth part, prayer, is the common experiential thread of the previous three parts: Creed, Sacraments, Morality. At the press presentation of the Catechism in 1992, Cardinal Ratzinger was asked if the Catechism was about morality. He remarked:

“The Catechism is about morality, but about much more, too. It deals with man, but its treatment reflects the conviction that it is impossible to separate the question of man from the question of God. We do not speak rightly about man unless we also speak about God. But we cannot speak rightly about God unless God himself tells us who he is. For this reason, the moral instruction offered by the Catechism cannot be severed from what the text says concerning God and God’s history with us. The Catechism must be read as a unity. We misread the passages concerned with morality when we detach them from their context, that is, from the Creed and from the doctrine of the sacraments. For the Catechism’s fundamental anthropological proposition is that man is created in God’s image and is thus like God. Everything the text says about the rectitude of human behavior rests upon the recognition of this central truth. This truth also grounds those rights that are inherent in man from conception to the final moment of his existence. No one has to give man these rights, no one can take them from him: he has them of himself. It follows that the image of God is also the basis of human dignity, which in every man is inviolable simply because he is man.”[15]

But, it must be noted that, for all of the above, the Revelation of Jesus Christ cannot be captured in a book. Jesus Christ as Person is the Revelation of the Father. The experience and consciousness of His Person cannot be substituted even by the words of Sacred Scripture. As the young Ratzinger noted about his early discoveries and the controversy over his habilitation thesis:

“But he [Michael Schmaus] also did not like the result of my analyses. I had ascertained that in Bonaventure (as well as in theologians of the thirteenth century) there was nothing corresponding to our conception of `revelation,’ by which we are normally in the habit of referring to all the revealed contents of the faith: it has even become a part of linguistic usage to refer to Sacred Scripture simply as `revelation.’ Such an identification would have been unthinkable in the language of the High Middle Ages. Here, `revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is 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-ation 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 conciliar 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.”

Therefore, Catholicism cannot be reduced to the book. He commented in an interview: “Now, I have my doubts as to whether the quintessentially Catholic, as a living structure, can be captured in a formula. One can try to indicate the essential elements, but it requires more than just knowing something about it, as I can, for example, know something about a party program. It is an entrance into living structure, and it comprise the totality of one’s life plan. For this reason, it can never, I think, be expressed in words alone. It has to be a way of living, of lived identification, a merging with a way of thinking and understanding. The two things enrich each other.
Of course, it is possible to specify crucial points, namely, that tin the first place we believe in God, and a God who knows man, who enters into relation with men, and who is accessible to us, has become accessible in Christ, and who makes history with us. Who has become so concrete to us that he has also founded a community.
But I would say that all of this becomes understandable only when one sets off on the way. Thinking and living belong together; otherwise there is, I believe, no understanding of the Catholic reality” ("Salt of the Earth," Ignatius [1997] 19).

On another occasion, he asked

“What, in the light of the Bible, is `faith’? And let us again affirm clearly: it is not a system of semi-knowledge, but an existential decision – it is life in terms of the future that God grants us, even beyond the frontier of death. This is the attitude and orientation that gives life its weights and measure, its ordinances, and its very freedom. Certainly a life lived by faith resembles more an expedition up a mountain than a quiet evening spent reading in front of the fire; but anyone who embarks upon this expedition knows and feels more and more, that the adventure to which it invites us is worth while”
[17](underline and emphasis mine).

The Experience of Self-Gift as Contemplative Life in Secular Work:

“For the desire of your heart is itself your prayer. And if the desire is constant, so is your prayer. The Apostle Paul had a purpose in saying: Pray without ceasing. Are we then ceaselessly to bend our knees, to lie prostrate, or to lift up our hands? Is this what is meant in saying: Pray without ceasing? Even if we admit that we pray in this fashion, I do not believe that we can do so all the time.
Yet there is another, interior kind of prayer without ceasing, namely, the desire of the heart. Whatever else you may be doing, if you but fix your desire on God’s Sabbath rest, your prayer will be ceaseless. Therefore, if you wish to pray without ceasing, do not cease to desire.
The constancy of your desire will itself be the ceaseless voice of your prayer. And that voice of your prayer will be silent only when your love ceases. For who are silent? Those of whom it is said: Because evil has abounded, the love of many will grow cold.
The chilling of love means that the heart is silent; while burning love is the outcry of the heart. If your love is without ceasing, you are crying out always; if you always cry out, you are always desiring; and if you desire, you are calling to mind your eternal rest in the Lord.
And all my desire is before you. What if the desire of our heart is before him, but not our groaning? But how is that possible, since the groaning is the voice of our desire? And therefore it is said: My groaning is not concealed from you. It may be concealed from men, but it is not concealed from you. Sometimes God’s servant seems to be saying in his humility: My anguish is not concealed from you. At other times he seems to be laughing. Does that mean that the desire of his heart has died within him? If the desire is there, then the groaning is there as well. Even if men fail to hear it, it never ceases to sound in the hearing of God.”

St. Josemaria Escriva on Contemplation:

“Asceticism? Mysticism? Whether asceticism or mysticism, what’s the difference? Either way, it is a gift of God’s mercy. If you try to meditate, Our Lord will not deny you his assistance. Faith and deeds of faith are what matter: deeds, because, as you have known frm the beginning and as I told you clearly at the time, the Lord demands more from us each day. This is already contemplation and union. This is the way many Christians should live, each one forging ahead along his own spiritual path (there are countless paths) in the midst of the cares of the world, even though he may not even realize what is happening to him.”[19]


Wojtyla introduced his doctoral thesis on St. John indicating his dependence on experience that Wojtyla would emulate in his own lived intellectual itinerary:

“(T)here are others [sources] that contributed to the elaboration of St. John’s theological system. The first is the study of the Gospel and of Sacred Scripture in general, with which St. John of the Cross was so well acquainted. His writings testify to this.
The second is experience. We have already spoken of the experience of others as described in the mystical literature that St. John read. Now we refer to his own experience, whether drawn from his contact with other souls in spiritual direction or from his own interior life. And here, it seems, we touch a constitutive element of his works. They are not simply speculative treatises on mystical theology; they are a witness to mystical experience. We would say that speculative theology provided the principles, the spiritual authors gave the terminology and a vast area of comparative study, but the writings of St. John of the Cross are the fruit of experience. It was a vital experience of the supernatural reality that is communicated to the soul, a dynamic experience of participation in the intimate life of the Blessed Trinity, and, finally, an experience of the unifying power of that which serves as a `means of union’ with God.
Considering all this, we are faced with an important task. By means of testimony verified for the most part by St. John’s personal experience, we learn what faith is as a means of union with God.”

[1] Interview with Polish Television on October 16, 2005.
[2] Andre Frossard and Pope John Paul II, “Be Not Afraid,” St. Martin’s Press (1984) 18-19.
[3] Notice the remark of John Paul II to George Weigel on March 7, 1996 about various biographical efforts to portray him as “statesman:” “They try to understand me from outside. But I can only be understood from inside;” Witness to Hope, Cliff Street Books (1999) 7.
[4] Kalendarium of the Life of Karol Wojtyla Marian Press [Marians of the Immaculate Conception] (2000) 66-70.
[5]“Ought we to accept modernity in full, or in part? Is there a real contribution? Can this modern way of thinking be a contribution, or offer a contribution, or not? And if there is a contribution from the modern, critical way of thinking, in line with Enlightenment, how can it be reconciled with the great intuitions and the great gifts of the faith.”
“Or ought we, in the name of the faith, to reject modernity? You see? There always seems to be this dilemma: either we must reject the whole of the tradition, all the exegesis of the Fathers, relegate it to the library as historically unsustainable, or we must reject modernity.
“And I think that the gift, the light of the faith , must be dominant, but the light of the faith has also the capacity to take up into itself the true human lights, and for this reason the struggles over exegesis and the liturgy for me must be inserted into this great, let us call it epochal, struggle over how Christianity, over how the Christian responds to modernity, to the challenge of modernity.”
“And it seems to me, that this was the true intention of the Second Vatican Council, to go beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, but at the same time, let us say, to transform modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the light and strength of the faith;” J. Ratzinger, “Let God’s Light Shine Forth,” ed. R. Moynihan, Doubleday (2005)34-35.
[6] John Paul II, “Be Not Afraid,” op. cit. 62.
[7] K Wojtyla, “In Search of the Basis of Perfectionism in Ethics,” Person and Community, 1993) 53-54.
[8] Karol Wojtyla,”Subjectivity and the Irreducible in the Human Being,” Person and Community Lang (1993) 214.
[9] Josef Ratzinger, “God in Pope John Paul II’s Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” Communio 22 (Spring, 1995) 110.
[10] John Paul Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Knopf (1994) 33-34.
[11] Josef Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Ignatius (1987) 347.
[12] Idem.
[13] John Henry Newman, Grammar of Assent, UNDP ([1870] 1992) 70-71.
[14] Karol Wojtyla, “The Personal Structure of Self-Determination,” Person and Community (1993) 192-193.
[15] Josef Ratzinger, “Gospel Catechesis, Catechism,” Sidelights on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Ignatius (1997) 14-15.
[16] J. Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 Ignatius 107-109.
[17] Josef Ratzinger, “Faith and the Future,” Franciscan Herald Press (1971) 50.
[18] St. Augustine, In Psalm 37, 13-14: CCL 38, 391-392.
[19] St. Josemaria Escriva, “Towards Holiness” in Friends of God, Scepter (1981) 268.
[20] Karol Wojtyla, “Faith According to Saint John of the Cross,” Ignatius (1981)21-22.
[21] Both quotes are from von Balthasar “Gotteserfahrung biblisch und patristisch,’ in IKZ 5 (1976) 500.
[22] J. Ratzinger, “The Anthropological Element in Theology,” Principles of Catholic Theology op. cit., 349-350.
[23] “To know reality is to have a correct representation of things – a correct picture within of outer reality, as it cam to be conceived. Descartes declares himself “certain that I can have no knowledge of what is outside me expect my means of the ideas I have within me” (Letter Gibieuf, 19 January 1642; Descartes: Philosophical Letters, Tran. Anthony Kenny [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970 {123}]… “bodies are not properly speaking known by the senses or oby the faculty of the imagination, but by the understanding only, and… they are not known from the fact that they are seen or touched, but only because they are understood;” Meditations IX -1 26.
[24] J. Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 Ignatius 107-109.
[25] J. Seifert, “Karol Cardinal Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) As Philosopher and the Cracow/Lublin School of Philosophy,” Aletheia, vo. II (1981) 132.
[26] Fides et Ratio #83.
[27] John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, #88.
[28] Andre Frossard-John Paul II, Be Not Afraid, St. Martin’s Press (1984) 67.