Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Radicality of Divine Vocation - Man:Vocation = Eye:Seeing

March 19, 2006

Function Precedes Structure: “If man wants to understand what he is in essence, he must not look predominantly backward to his origin in the dust of the earth, but forward to his calling to be the image and likeness of God. What he is by nature is related to his essential calling as the complicated anatomy of the eye is related to the simple act of seeing. Without consciously adverting to them, the act of seeing makes use of an infinite variety of physical, chemical and physiological processes to accomplish the one thing necessary: the simple, clear and unclouded act of seeing. The accompanying processes have no other purpose than to make possible this act of seeing that could not exist without them, but that in no way derives from them or is the sum of their parts. The same relationship exists in the creature between its `nature’ as a creature composed of body and soul and its calling, which is love. Not that the creature itself is love, for only God is love. The creature is a being in the service of love. Even if, in itself, it is a miracle of corporal and spiritual organs, connecting tissues living sinews and tendons, the complicated maze of which man contemplates in wonder just as the layman marvels at a telephone exchange whose meaning remains incomprehensible to him so long as he fails to take into account its purpose, nevertheless the true meaning of the creature, as conferred by God, can be properly understood only if it is explained and interpreted as an instrument of love.”[1]

Vocation Precedes Being: Alvaro del Portillo, in March preceding the beatification of St. Josemaria Escriva, as Prelate of Opus Dei, wrote to his sons and daughters: “God has also chosen us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ (Eph 1, 4-5)." "Before the creation of the world, he destined us to be saints! He chose us first, and then created us to fulfill that call. We were chosen before we exited. What is more, that choice determines the reason for our existence. `It can be said,’ the Pope [John Paul II] teaches us, `that God has “first chosen man to participate in the divine filiation, in the eternal and consubstantial Son, and only `later’ has He willed creation, willed the world.’” “Elegit nos ante mundi constitutionem… God has chosen us to be saints by being Opus Dei, by doing Opus Dei, because the call to the Work is the specific Christian vocation that God has determined for us. He has not called us in view of the virtues we may have, but the other way round. He has granted us the good qualities we have because he had chosen us first. What have you that you did not receive?, asks Saint Paul. If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? (I Cor. 4, 7). It is only in the light of our vocation that the gifts of God acquire their full significance, because it is only by following that call that they can be used entirely for his glory.” If Vocation Precedes Being, then the Whole Being must be Deployed: St. Josemaria Escriva: “On our path in life, we too have stumbled upon an amazing treasure: our vocation as children of God. To gain this treasure, to acquire the happiness of following Christ, we need to renounce everything. The goods that I must sell are my ambitions, my concupiscence, my dreams of earthly happiness, my affections that stem from flesh and blood, which are noble but tie me down, my professional dreams, even though these will often fit in with my apostolic plans. Is this all I need to sell? Harder still, I have to sell my will. Is there still something left to renounce? Yes, my entire `I,’ my self-complacency. In a word, my self-love.”[2]

To what is this vocational commitment in Opus Dei? Entrustment is always to persons. The vocational commitment is always to the Person of Christ Who calls. Nevertheless, is takes on a human form: 1) Objective Content: The charism received from God by St. Josemaria on October 2, 1928 and codified in the Law of the Church as "Personal Prelature." In a letter to his sons and daughters in 1995, the Prelate of Opus Dei (always "Father") wrote: “In order to serve the Church in Opus Dei, everything must always be understood and carried out, taking as its starting point our Father’s foundational charism. This charism, which was a gratuitous supernatural reality, endures in the Work, endowing it with well defined characteristics. The Holy Spirit didn’t place it in our Father’s soul merely with a view to his personal response to God but so that it would give shape for centuries to come to the Work our Lord was entrusting him with. This charism cannot become, therefore, a mere historical reference taking us back to the past. It is, through God’s mercy, a living and effective reality in Opus Dei, a power, a grace, from which we all ought to draw nourishment and which we all have the duty of guarding and passing on.” 2) Living Subjects: This objective content is on the books and stabilized in law. But, unless it becomes a living reality in subjects, it does not exist. Hence, the Prelate remarked: “This also means that there is noting left for us to invent…That the Work, now complete, is in our hands, has one very important consequence, which at first sight might seem paradoxical: we have to make the Work a reality! The Work is now complete, and yet we have to do it…. In other words, the Work will be whatever we are, whatever our lives are, whatever the Christian quality of our dedication to God is. Our task is clear and exciting. It is to carry out Opus Dei in the world, on all the earth’s pathways and cross-roads, in ipso ortu rerum novarum, as our Father once put it in Latin: in the midst of, and even in the very conception of cultural and social changes. There, the men and women in Opus Dei will be – there they must be! – with their ideals and concerns and their dedicated lives, striving to place Christ at the summit of all human activities.” 3) Communio of Persons: All (priests and laity) with the same identical vocation to make the radical gift of self: “Opus Dei, my children, is not `a thing;’ nor even, primarily, an institution. Like the Church, of which it forms part, it is a communion of persons, the kind of communion proper to a family. In our case, it has family customs and traditions which show how paternity, filiation and fraternity are taken very seriously, in accordance with the spirit that God entrusted to our Founder.”
4) Secularity: “Secularity, with all that it implies (work, occupations, outlook, lifestyle, ways of acting and behaving) is not added on to our vocation from outside. On the contrary, it receives it fullest meaning from our vocation. Our vocation means that our secular state in life, our ordinary work and our situation in the world, are our only way to sanctification and apostolate. Secularity is something Christian, a Christian way of being and living. In other words, our divine vocation, our spirit – or in broader terms, Christian faith and morality – cannot be judged from the starting-point of a secularity defined a priori. Rather, secularity should be judged and valued – or rather, discovered – from the starting-point of our vocation, and what the Christian faith reveals to us about man, about the world and about our destiny.” Secularity is the true freedom of true autonomy where each baptized faithful is self-determining according to a conscience formed on the truth of Christ as interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church. It is a consequence of the “priestly soul” as we see above. Jesus Christ as God-man is the meaning of secularity. The divine Person exercises his autonomy (loved and affirmed by the Father) by mastering Himself as man. He determines His human will and makes the free gift of Self in obedience to the Father on the Cross – for us. Since the layman makes this priestly self-gift on the occasion and prosecution of work in the world, secularity is the “characteristic” of the layman (while it is a "dimension" of the entire Church: see Christifideles laici #15).

These are four features of the radical commitment that is made by the faithful of Opus Dei in honor of St. Joseph.

[1] Hans Urs von Balthasar, “The Christian State of Life,” Ignatius (1983) 70-71.

[2] St. Josemaria, “Growing on the Inside,” Meditation preached as a refugee in the Honduran Consulate in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War

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