Wednesday, January 11, 2006

More on "Fatherhood" As Power Engendering Communio: Opus Dei and the Church

The prototype of Communio is the revealed Trinity of Persons where the Father is not the Father and then engenders the Son, but is the very act of engendering the Son. Divine Person in this theological elaboration discloses itself as pertaining to a radically distinct metaphysical horizon, one in which Person is the very act of relationship. Person, then, is not substance who then relates accidentally as the act of a subject. Person as Subject is the very act of relating or “being-for” the Other. To be is not to-be-in-self, but to-be-for-other.

We have no direct experience of this except as an enlightenment of the mysterious relationship of spouses in conjugal union. The prime human experience of communio is spousal union or “betrothed” love. The intellectual grasp of this is not a “grasping” as in forming a concept or symbol of it in what we have come to call “intentional knowing.” Rather it is an experience of the “I” that has been disclosed by Karol Wojtyla to be a different kind of being than everything that we have come to experience through sensation and abstract conceptualization of that which is outside of us. It is the experience of the “I,” or subject itself, as “Being,” not as a kind of Cartesian consciousness or “thinking thing,” but as a consciousness of self that is “pre-conceptual” that arises from the experience.

On my reading, the first appearance of the terminology of the phrase “self-gift” occurred in “Love and Responsibility.” There, Wojtyla said: “Betrothed love differs from all the aspects or forms of love analysed hitherto. Its decisive character is the giving of one’s own person (to another). The essence of betrothed love is self-giving, the surrender of one’s `I.’ This is something different from and more than attraction, desire or even goodwill. These are all ways by which one person goes out toward another, but none of them can take him as far in his quest for the good of the other as does betrothed love. `To give oneself to another’ is something more than merely `desiring what is good’ for another – even if as a result of this another `I’ becomes as it were my own, as it does in friendship. Betrothed love is something different from and more than all the forms of love so fast analysed, both as it affects the individual subject, the person who loves, and as regards the interpersonal union which it creates. When betrothed love enters into this interpersonal relationship something more than friendship results: two people give themselves each to the other.”[1]

I think it is safe to say that the entire philosophical corpus of Wojtyla hinges on his sensitivity to this experience of the “I” that he has objectified phenomenologically and rendered ontological by perceiving the act of self-determination in the stages of pre and post, potency and act, in the execution of moral action (the first of which is the act of faith as disclosed in St. John of the Cross). Faith for Vatican II and Wojtyla/John Paul II is "Not simply a set of propositions," but "a living knowledge of Christ," "a truth to be lived out" (Veritatis Splendor #88). Faith is a spousal act in the Magisterium whose chief protagonist is Our Lady.

This experience of the self as “I – gift” in betrothed love that seeks to give an account of itself, and finds such an account in the Trinitarian theology of the divine Persons. As Josef Ratzinger once said: “the first so-called ontological level of the phenomenon conscience consists in the fact that something like an original memory of the good and true (both are identical) has been implanted in us, that there is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From its origin, man’s being resonates with some things and clashes with others. This anamnesis of the origin, which results from the godlike constitution of our being is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is so to speak an inner sense, a capacity to recall, sot that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears its echo from within. He sees: That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.”[2]

Created Communio Must Be Driven by Love/Affirmation/Grace

It is impossible for a human person, created in the image and likeness of the divine Persons, to make this gift of self without being related to by love. This is, in itself, totally mysterious, yet experienced again, and again, and again. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger explains:

“The root of man’s joy is the harmony he enjoys with himself. He lives in this affirmation. And only one who can accept himself can also accept the thou, can accept the world. The reason why an individual cannot accept the thou, cannot come to terms with him, is that he does not like his own I and, for that reason, cannot accept a thou.

“Something strange happens here. We have seen that the inability to accept one’s I leads to the inability to accept a thou. But how does one go about affirming, assenting to, one’s I? The answer may perhaps be unexpected: We cannot do so by our own efforts alone. Of ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our I becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become acceptable to another I. We can love ourselves only if we have first been loved by someone else. The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life; she gives total life when she takes the child’s tears and turns them into smiles. It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable.”[3]

Communio of Persons: "Oneness of Heterogeneity"

By analogy to a living biological organism, the communio of persons is greater than the sum of its parts. We have seen that Aristotle, and Gilson commenting,[4] insists that we cannot give an account of an organism, i.e., a oneness made up of heterogeneous parts without recurring to the presence of a third something that is not a part and which is the cause of the integration of the irreducible heterogeneity. It must be borne in mind that a biological organism is precisely heterogeneous in its parts in order to be and to be self-moving. If there were not parts moved and parts moving (heterogeneity), the organism could not be self-moving without presenting a contradiction in the very experience of being a being.

The Church as Communio

By analogy, and in the light of the absolute need of persons made in the image and likeness of the divine Persons, the Church needs the pastoral love and affirmation of the Good Shepherd in order to be His Body. Recall that the Church in the person of our Lady is the Bride who receives the Word, the Bridegroom. St. John the Baptist reveals Christ to be the Bridegroom who defines Himself to be the Good Shepherd. He makes the literal gift of Himself on the Cross for His Bride, the Church, who, in the one-flesh union (spousal) of the Eucharist, becomes His very Body by becoming empowered to make like self-gift. Christ is the Head, the Church is the Body of the Whole Christ: “One,” not merely “united.” The love of Christ - Head and Good Shepherd – empowers us to make the act of faith, which is the gift of ourselves whereby we, as Body, form the Communio.

Opus Dei: “A Little Bit of the Church”

As “a little bit of the Church,” Opus Dei, like the “aboriginal configuration of the Church,” is made up of precisely laity and ministers. Both are “priests” (not ministers) in the sense that they share in the one priesthood of Christ in “essentially” distinct and irreducible ways by way of the distinct sacraments (with their ontological “characters”). On this reading, laity and ministers are heterogeneous components of the Communio that is the Body of Christ. The point to be made is that they are not able to live out this Communio or “oneness” of heterogeneous components unless they make the free gift of themselves. As we have seen, this cannot be done without the affirmation, love, direction and radiation of another, in this case, the fatherhood of the Prelate. Without the Prelate, Opus Dei cannot be the “little bit of the Church,” just as the Church cannot be the communio of the Body of Christ without the Love of Christ hierarchically communicated through the sacrament of Orders in the Pope, bishops and their presbyterates.

“Opus Dei is a prelature because it has a prelate directing it, possessed of sacra potestas. And, of course, because it has clergy and laity – its faithful people. But a gathering of priests and lay people does not produce the `organic unity’ of a `personal prelature’ unless it has a head, who brings unity to that grouping and makes it the compages apostolica …”[5]

“The power of Opus Dei’s prelate… has a jurisdictional content of an episcopal nature (even when the prelate is not a bishop). This is so, because the object of that power radically consists in moderating and regulating the constitutional `faithful/sacred ministry’ relation, which is the nucleus of the internal dynamism of the Church and of the `pastoral’ function of bishops. Opus Dei’s prelate carries out this function with regard to his faithful and clergy in order to serve the communio Ecclesiarum entrusted to the prelature…."[6]

“The kind of power its prelate has is explained by the theological nature of Opus Dei. He [the prelate] does not `need’ the fullness of the priesthood as bishop does, since his role, unlike that of the bishops presiding over local Churches, is not one of making the universal Church’s sacramental fullness present in a particular place (local Church). Rather, his role is to gather faithful and priests in Opus Dei in order to carry out its own particular apostolic mission, which is one of a universal scope. But, at the same time, it is very appropriate that Opus Dei’s prelate, since he has episcopal powers, should also have episcopal ordination.”[7]

The Father as Engendering the Communio

“What truly defines Opus Dei’s prelate is his `fatherhood,’ his role as a pastor who is a father to all the prelature’s faithful. That is why in Opus Dei he is usually called `Father.’”[8]

St. Josemaria once said:

“Christ Our Lord spoke many times about ships and nets, of seas and fish…, But haven’t you heard Him deal also with sheep and flocks? And with what tenderness! How He loved to describe the figure of the Good Shepherd! He makes us take note that the sheep follow Him with confidence, and they love Him and distinguish His voice from all others, and they know themselves cared for when he clusters them around Himself, within the pen or on the wide pastures…

“There are two classes of shepherds. The shepherd that goes behind the sheep, and leads them by getting the dogs after them, throwing stones at the ones who begin to stray and shouting at those who lag behind. There is the shepherd who goes ahead of the sheep, opening the way and removing obstacles, encouraging the flock with his whistling.

“I have tried to go in the lead always. Although on occasions it may have been necessary to correct and reprimand, and, even at times, to give a shout…

“Opus Dei is also the flock of Christ, with its Good Shepherd and its sheep. In the Work, there will always be a Father who can say: “I know mine and mine know me” (Jn. 10, 14), I know my sons and my sons know me. Because the Good Shepherd in Opus Dei who presides will always be: The Father, whoever he be.”

This is the meaning of "hierarchy" (sacred origin): Pope, bishop and the presbyterate

* * * * * * *
[1] Karol Wojtyla, “Love and Responsibility,” Farrar Straus Giroux, (1981) 96.
[2] Josef Ratzinger. “Conscience and Truth,” Catholic Conscience Foundation and Formation, Proceedings of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop, Dallas, Texas, The Pope John Center (1991) 20.
[3] Josef Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Ignatius (1987) 79-80.
[4] Etienne Gilson, “From Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again,” UNDP (1984) “Aristotelian Prologue” 1-16.
[5] Pedro Rodriguez, “The Place of Opus Dei in the Church,” op. cit. 52-60.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid. 56.
[9] From conversations and letters in the 1950’s.


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