Wednesday, February 22, 2006

February 22, 2006: Chair of St. Peter

The Positive Challenge of Fidelity in a New Key:
“To Transform Modernity, to Heal It of Its Illnesses, by Means of the Light and Strength of the Faith"

"This commitment to expressing a specific truth in a new way demands new thinking on this truth and a new and vital relationship with it; it is also clear that new words can only develop if they come from an informed understanding of the truth expressed, and on the other hand, that a reflection on faith also requires that this faith be lived."[1]

1) It is Peter who re-cognizes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Like is known by like. Since the Person of the Logos is the Transcendent God, only he who becomes divinized by the self-gift of prayer that images the relationality of the Logos to the Father[2], “knows” him (intellegere: ab intus legere: to read from within).

2) On April 20, 2005, less than 24 hours after being elected Pope, Benedict XVI said: “Surprising every prevision I had, Divine Providence, through the will of the venerable Cardinal Fathers, called me to succeed this great Pope. I have been thinking in these hours about what happened in the region of Cesarea of Philippi two thousand years ago. I seem to hear the words of Peter: `You are Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and the solemn affirmation of the Lord: `You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church… I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’

"`You are Christ! You are Peter! It seems I am reliving this very Gospel scene; I, the Successor of Peter, repeat with trepidation the anxious words of the fisherman from Galilee and I listen again with intimate emotion to the reassuring promise of the divine Master. If the weight of the responsibility that now lies on my poor shoulders is enormous, the divine power on which I can count is surely immeasurable: `You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.’ Electing me as the Bishop of Rome, the Lord wanted me as his Vicar, he wished me to be the `rock’ upon which everyone may rest with confidence. I ask him to make up for the poverty of my strength, that I may be a courageous and faithful pastor of His flock, always docile to the inspirations of His Spirit.”

3) In this first address, Benedict made two goals of his papacy explicit: a) Vatican II: “I, too, as I start in the service that is proper to the Successor Peter, wish to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to enact Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the millennia old tradition of the Church. Precisely this year is the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of this conciliar assembly (December 8, 1965). With the passing of time, the conciliar documents have not lost their timeliness; their teachings have shown themselves to be especially pertinent to the new exigencies of the Church and the present globalized society;” b) Ecumenism: “Theological dialogue is necessary. A profound examination of the historical reasons behind past choices is also indispensable. But even more urgent is that `purification of memory,’ which was so often evoked by John Paul II, and which alone can dispose souls to welcome the full truth of Christ. It is before Him, supreme Judge of all living things, that each of us must stand, in the awareness that one day we must explain to Him what we did and what we did not do for the great good that is the full and visible unity of all His disciples.

“The current Successor of Peter feels himself to be personally implicated in this question and is disposed to do all in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully determined to cultivate any initiative that may seem appropriate to promote contact and agreement with representatives from the various Churches and ecclesial communities.”

4) The Spirit of Opus Dei vis a vis the Papacy: St. Josemaria Escriva:

“Christ, Mary. The Pope. Haven’t we just indicated in three words the loves which make up the whole Catholic faith?”

“Our greatest love, our most profound esteem, our deepest veneration, our most rendered obedience, our greatest affection must be also for the Vice-God on earth, for the Pope. Think always that after God and our Mother the most holy Virgin, in the hierarchy of love and authority there is the Pope. Therefore, many times I say: thank you, my God, for the love for the Pope that You have placed in my heart.

Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia, ibi Deus. We want to be with Peter because with him is the Church, with him is God; and without him God is not. Therefore I have wanted to Romanize the Work. Love the Holy Father much. Pray much for the Pope. Love him much, love him much!! Because he needs all the affection of his sons. And I understand this very will: I know it from experience because I’m not like a wall. I am a man of flesh. Therefore I want the Pope to know that we love him and that we will always love him, and this for only one reason: that he is the sweet Christ on earth.”

5) Revelation: is not a series of abstract truth, but a concrete Person: Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. “After God had spoken many times and in various ways through the prophets, `in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son’ (Heb. 1, 1-2). For he sent his Son, the eternal Word who enlightens al men, to swell among men and to tell them about the inner life of God. Hence, Jesus Christ, sent as `a man among men,’ `speaks the words of God’ (Jn. 3, 34), and accomplishes the saving work which the Father gave him to do (cf. Jn. 5, 36; 17, 4). As a result, he himself – to see whom is to see the Father (cf. Jn. 14, 9) – completed and perfected Revelation and confirmed it with divine guarantees. He did this by the total fact of his presence and self-manifestation – by words and works, signs and miracles, but above all by his death and glorious resurrection from the dead, and finally by sending the Spirit of truth. He revealed that God was with us, to deliver us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to eternal life.” [3] Therefore, “no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord, Jesus Christ”[4] (underline mine).

6) The experience and consciousness of the Person of Jesus Christ grows and develops in the Church. Since the Person of Christ is Revelation, then Revelation “makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit” in accord with this experience and consciousness. Hence, Dei Verbum #8 says: “The Tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts (cf. Li. 2, 19 and 51). It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth. Thus, as the centuries go by, the Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her.”

7) Interpretation of this Progress and Development: “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.

“It is clear, therefore, that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.”[5]

8) Obedience to Ordinary Magisterium of the Pope: “This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated.”[6]

9) The Challenge to the Church at the Moment: To create a “hermeneutic of continuity and reform” that consists in going “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.

“Because it was the Council Fathers’ intention to heal and transform modernity, and not simply to succumb to it or merge with it, the interpretations which interpret the Second Vatican Council in the sense of de-sacralization or profanation are erroneous.”

Our Need to Heal the Secular World As Augustine in His Time, and Aquinas in His:

“Augustine, as you know, was a man who, on the one hand, had studied in great depth the great philosophies, the profane literature of the ancient world.
“On the other hand, he was also very critical of the pagan authors, even with regard to Plato to Virgil, those great authors whom he loved so much.
“He criticized them, and with a penetrating sense, purified them.
“This was his way of using the great pre-Christian culture: purify it, heal it, and in this way, also, healing it, he gave true greatness to this culture. Because in this way, it entered into the fact of the incarnation, no? And became part of the Word’s incarnation.
“But only by means of the difficult process of purification, of transformation, of conversion.
“I would say the word `conversion’ is the kdy word, one of the key words, of St. Augustine, and our culture also has a need for conversion. Without conversion one does not arrive at the Lord. This is true of the individual, and this is true of the culture as well…”

It should be kept in mind that John Paul II, as philosopher Karol Wojtyla, learned and deployed the modern tool of phenomenology to describe the experience of the “I” in the moral moment of self-determination, an experience that had never been differentiated as such before. Prior to Wojtyla, the interior workings of the self in the moral moment was purely facultative as intellect and will and therefore lacking in the ontological stature of the self as subsistent being. And, when the subsistent self was considered, it never left the realm of the object or substance. Hence, “self-determination” was an interplay of the faculties of intellect and will, and the ontological subject was stolidly ensconced as an “in-itself” in the category of substance.

Wojtyla transformed that into the subtlety of the always-emerging subject in the resonating back and forth of the “finding self by gift of self” that became the “definition” of the person as imaging the relationality of the divine Persons. He remained faithful to St. Thomas’s esse as the ontological principle of the resonating person, and with that incorporated all the insights of subjectivity that lay strewn on the relativist and idealist fields of the Enlightenment and rendered them real and dynamic. The achievement is spectacular in that he was totally faithful to the faith and tradition of the Church while assimilating every positive achievement of Enlightenment and putting it at the service of explicating the reality of Jesus Christ as the revelation of man. This, indeed, is the hermeneutic of continuity and reform.

Commenting on this, Benedict said to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005, quoting John XXIII: “`Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us.’ It is necessary that `adherence to al the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness’ be presented in `faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another,’ retaining the same meaning and message.’”

Benedict then commented: “It is clear that this commitment to expressing a specific truth in a new way demands new thinking on this truth and a new and vital relationship with it; it is also clear that new words can only develop if they come from an informed understanding of the truth expressed, and on the other hand, that a reflection on faith also requires that this faith be lived. In this regard, the program that Pope John XXIII proposed was extremely demanding, indeed, just as the synthesis of fidelity and dynamic is demanding.

“However, wherever this interpretation guided the implementation of the council, new life developed and new fruit ripened. Forty years after the council, we can show that the positive is far greater and livelier than it appeared to be in the turbulent years around 1968. Today we see that although the good seed developed slowly, it is nonetheless growing; and our deep gratitude for the work done by the council is likewise growing.”

I here refer you to the “three circles of questions” that had formed at the time of Vatican II – yet to be presented in full - , and referred to in the previous posting: 1) the redefining of the relationship between faith and modern science; 2) “a new definition to the relationship between the Church and the modern state” in accord with the American Revolution as “model of a modern state that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution;” 3) “a new definition of the relationship between the Christian faith and the world religions.”[9]

[1] “The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI – Let God’s Light Shine Forth” ed. Robert Moynihan, Doubleday (2005) 35.
[2] “And it came to pass as he was praying by himself, that his disciples also were with him, and he asked them, saying, `Who do the crowds say that I am?’ And they answered and said, `John the Baptist; and others, Elias; and others, that one of the ancient prophets has risen again.
And he said to them, `But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, `The Christ of God’” (Lk. 9, 18-20).
[3] Vatican II, Dei Verbum #4.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Vatican II, Dei Verbum #10.
[6] Vatican II, Lumen Gentium #25.
[7] “The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI…” op. cit. 34.
[8] Ibid. 35-36.
[9] All the references to the December 22, 2005 address to the Roman Curia are from Origins, January 26, 2006, Vol. 35, No. 32, 534-539.

No comments: