Monday, June 19, 2006

Class II on "Deus Caritas Est"

Deus Caritas Est

“God is love and who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him” (1 Jn. 4, 16).

The Encyclical


To Be is to say “Yes”

The Fathers of the Church gave a metaphysical account of the Father and the Son as homoousios – one Being yet irreducibly two. Therefore each is relational Being. But scholasticism left it as an exception to the rest of being “below” Christ. That is, the Trinity and Christ - Being as “Being-For” – were exceptions to creation. Imaging and the orientation and tendency of man as image and likeness to the direct vision of God were not included in theological thought from the Enlightenment to the time of Vatican II. Vatican II changed that, but the change has not yet been understood nor assimilated.

“Deus Caritas Est” is an attempt to show how all eros (that is being that is not God and Christ as agape) is fulfilled as agape in Christ. And therefore in us. It is Baptism that assimilates us to Christ, empowers us to create the good (agape). How? By engendering sons and daughters.

Therefore, the absolute point of the encyclical: Eros becomes agape as Jesus of Nazareth becomes Christ and we, fallen images, are restored to it. Christ is not an exception but the rule as prototype! Christ cannot be understood outside of the Trinity. Therefore, this is similar to the relation of faithful and Church.

Parts I and II:

“A first reading of the encyclical might perhaps give the impression that it is divided in two parts, that it is not greatly related within itself: a first, theoretical part that talks about the essence of love, and a second part that addresses ecclesial charity, with charitable organizations. However, what interested me was precisely the unity of the two topics, which can only be properly understood if they are seen as only one thing.”[1]

“The heart of the Christian faith” is the love of God for us. That love takes the form of a Person who becomes an event in our life, reveals Himself as Love and calls us to love.

“The summary of Christian life:” “to know and to believe in the love God has for us.”


1) Faith is “not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

The result of this encounter and the free response of the believer is eternal life: “whoever believes in him should… have eternal life” (Jn. 3, 16).

Therefore, faith is not merely a set of ideas. It is an act of the whole self which is an experience that is a consciousness of the self as a unique “I” responding to another “I” whose name is “I Am” (“Yahweh,” Exodus 3, 16 and Christ, Jn. 8, 24, 28, 58)

2) The early Church chose the God of the philosophers – Plato’s “One,” Aristotle’s “First Mover” – over the pagan gods.

“Again it was a question of stating which God the Christian faith really had in mind. It is true that the early Christian decision could base itself on the whole preceding struggle, especially on the last phase of it, on the words of Deutero-Isaiah and the Wisdom literature, on the step had been taken in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and finally on the writings of the New Testament, especially St. John’s gospel. It was in the wake of this whole series of events that early Christianity boldly and resolutely made its choice and carried out its purification[P1] by deciding for the god of the philosophers and against the gods of the various religions. Wherever the question arose to which god the Christian God corresponded, Zeus perhaps or Hermes or Dionysus or some other god, the answer ran: to none of them. To none of the gods to whom you pray but solely and alone to him to whom you do not pray, to that highest being of whom your philosophers speak. The early Church resolutely put aside the whole cosmos of the ancient religions, regarding the whole of it as deceit and illusion, and explained its faith by saying: When we say God, we do not mean or worship any of this; we mean only Being itself, what the philosophers have exposed as the ground of all being, as the god above all powers – that alone is our god. This proceeding involved a choice, a decision, no less fateful and formative for ages to come than the choice of El and `yah’ as opposed to Moloch and Baal had been in its time with the subsequent development of the two into Elohim and towards Yahweh, the idea of Being.”[2]

Note: Consider that the close geographical, and here, cultural, connection between the faith experience in Israel and the high development of Greek philosophy in the 6th and 5th centuries b.c. This is enormously suggestive that there was a unique experience of Being in the self in the act of transcendence that is faith, understood as the response of the whole self to a revealing God.

Ratzinger: “(T)here are quite amazing parallels in chronology and content between the philosopher’s criticism of the myths in Greece and the prophets’ criticism of the gods in Israel. It is true that the two movements start from completely different assumptions and have completely different aims; but the movement of the logos against the myth, as it evolved in the Greek mind in the philosophical enlightenment, so that in the end it was bound to involve the fall of the gods, has an inner parallelism with the enlightenment which the prophetic and Wisdom literature cultivated in its demythologization of the divine powers in favor of the one and only God. For all the differences between them, both movements coincide in their striving towards the logos.”

3) God is Being Who is Love, who crates us in His image as love and calls us to respond to Him in the personal encounter between the believer and Christ. Love as the giving of the whole self can be commanded because Creating Love has made us to become who we are by giving ourselves back to Him (i.e. by loving). This loving back as response is called “faith.”

4) Love always takes place in the context of “we” – since made in the image of the “We” (“Let us make…” Gen. 1, 26). Unless one is engendered into the unique self of person (with a name), by another, one is not empowered to master self and make the gift of that self.[3] Therefore, the space in which the “I” is incubated is the Church, which is the God of the “I Am” of the Whole Christ. Baptism is the sacrament of death whereby we become alter Christus and capable of loving “not with our heart only, but with His…” Furrow 809).

Therefore, the encyclical has 2 parts intrinsically connected: Let us repeat:

“A first reading of the encyclical might perhaps give the impression that it is divided in two parts, that it is not greatly related within itself: a first, theoretical part that talks about the essence of love, and a second part that addresses ecclesial charity, with charitable organizations. However, what interested me was precisely the unity of the two topics, which can only be properly understood if they are seen as only one thing.”

Part I

(#2) Language: Our experience of the love that is God and the we image is spousal – man and woman. Celibacy is spousal in that it is a self gift to Christ on his initiative that is the goal of the carnal spousal union.
(#3) Pre-Christian spousal union is called “eros.” The Old Testament uses the word twice; it is never used in the New Testament. Philia is a love of friendship. It is used by St. John to indicate the relation between Christ and his Apostles. But Christ asks for agape but is answered by Simon, son of John by the word Philein [Note the strange triple exchange of agape and Philein in John 21, 15-17

Nietzsche complains that Christianity destroyed eros turning to bitterness “the most precious thing in life…. Blows the whistle on joy as a foretaste of the divine.” However, the New Testament did not destroy eros but uses it together with new vision of love.

3) Purification of eros: When man is both spirit and matter as constituent parts of the person as a unified creature who loves. When purified, i.e., mastered, eros tends toward the divine. Christianity is not opposed to body.

#5: Body is not “thing” ad object but the person enfleshed. The tendency – when seen as object – is to render the body “enjoyable and harmless>’ This is debasement. Hatred of the body.

“Christian faith… has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter “compenetrate”, and in which each is brought to a new nobility.”

Note that the use of this word “compenetrate” in this context and the denial that “biblical faith does not set up a parallel universe” (#8) points us in the direction of the nature of the Incarnation as the personal assimilation of nature by the “I” of Christ.

Hence, “Eros tends to rise `in ecstasy’ towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.”

#6. What is the purification?

Eros tends ontologically toward Agape. But it cannot achieve Agape without Agape ‘s free self-gift to dynamize it into itself. What the encyclical is really talking about is the Incarnation of the divine “I” of the Logos assimilating the concrete human nature of Jesus of Nazareth (there if no human person) and making it His own. The concrete human nature of Christ is not “parallel” to His divine “nature” but “compenetrated” with it in such wise as to say the identical “Yes” to the will of the Father. This is so, not because the nature says “Yes” but because the one Divine Person says “Yes.” The “Yes” of eros is the “Yes” agape.

Best Expression of Benedict on the relation between “Eros” and “Agape.” This is also the par excellence expression of the “Law of the Person” (natural law).

“There is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From its origin, man’s being resonates with some things and clashes with others. This anamnesis of the origin, which results from the godlike constitution of our being is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is so to speak an inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears it echo from within. He sees: That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.”[4]
However, this “anamnesis instilled in our being needs, on might say, assistance from without so that it can become aware of itself. But this `from without’ is not something set in opposition to anamnesis but ordered to it. It has a maieutic function, imposes nothing foreign, but brings to fruition what is proper to anamnesis, namely its interior openness to the truth.”[5]

And then: “One can only comprehend the primacy of the pope and its correlation to Christian conscience in this connection. The true sense of the teaching authority of the pope consists in his being the advocate of the Christian memory. The pope does not impose from without. Rather he elucidates the Christian memory and defends it. For this reason the toast to conscience indeed must precede the toast to the Pope because without conscience there would not be a papacy. All power that the papacy has is power of conscience.”[6]

So also, “the anamnesis of the creator extends from within us outward toward the redeemer, and how everyone may see him as redeemer, because he answers our own innermost expectations.”[7]

In a word, eros is longing to become agape.[8] The radical call of Christ to give all – the call extended to every one – is the answer to their deepest desire and anamnesis. Therefore the mission of the apostolate is not imposition but the eagerly awaited answer lurking as explanation of the popularity of such as the “Da Vinci Code.”

Love as eros seeks to be eternal. The language of love is “forever.” Therefore “if love is not forever, what is forever for?” Love is ex-static as an exodus “out of the closed inward-looking self towards it liberation[9] through self-giving, and thus toward authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God.”

#7. Biblical Faith: Is there “an underlying unity “ to eros and agape? #8. In God, “Love is a single reality.” The Answer: The Person of Christ.

Summary Commentary: This means that Love is the Being of the Person. But what person? Answer: the Person of Christ as revelation of who the Father is, and who the Son is. Jesus Christ is both Agape and Eros, distinct in nature but the same in the one Person of the Logos. As the Father is relation as pure self-gift, so also the Son is relation as pure self-gift. Eros is not suppressed or eliminated but continues free and autonomous, but now enhanced since it is the Eros of the divine Person. The freedom of man images the freedom of God. As God’s freedom is to “stream forth” as reciprocal generation and glorification, so is the freedom Christ, and those baptized into him by water or desire, to be free by obedience to death. Eros and agape are one and the same Person, not as metaphor or myth, but as Being.
Since Christ is the revelation of the meaning of man, and man was created in the image of likeness of God in Jesus Christ, this identity of eros and agape are one being in every man. Hence, to experience what it means to be God, and to know God, one must experience self as both eros and agape. This takes place in the act of self-gift that is prayer, work, service, love.

Here is the ontological center of the encyclical. It states: “Eros and agape – ascending love and descending love – can never by completely separated. The more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized. Even if eros is at first mainly covetous and ascending, a fascination for the great promise of happiness, in drawing near to the other, it is less and less concerned with itself, increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants “to be there for” the other. The element of agape thus enters into this love, for otherwise eros is impoverished and even loses its own nature.”

#9. The newness of biblical faith:

1) Biblical faith: a) reveals One God who is Creator of all being. This is a metaphysical understanding of God.
a) But also, this Creative Being that is ontologized as Greek Unmoved Mover is transformed into Love as Agape. He loves His creation, but particularly man in a spousal way (that discloses itself as both agape and eros. This is unprecedented in the history of world religions where the One Creating God is Husband to an elected wife, Israel, whom He created as Agape and loves as eros (with jealousy).

2) Christ: This transcendent Being becomes Incarnate in His own Creation as Bridegroom to His Church, Bride. They become One flesh in the Eucharist whereby the Bride becomes the Body of Bridegroom, the Head – both forming the “Whole Christ.” This is the “real novelty of the News Testament.” Not new ideas, but Christ Himself as an ‘unprecedented realism.”

The eros of the Body of Christ is empowered by the agape of the Head to love as the Head loves. This is Part II of the Encyclical. There is no such thing as a person alone.

Christ as Incarnate Love of God can best be explained by the huge intellectual struggle the Church went through in the first four Councils: Nicea (325) affirmed the homo-ousios of the Father and the Son; Ephesus (431) affirmed that Christ was fully man (nothing is left out: what isn’t assumed isn’t redeemed); Chalcedon (451) affirmed that there is only one Person in Christ; Third Constantinople (680-681) the relation of the natures is personal by “compenetration” in the Person. Benedict, following Maximus the Confessor, is maximal in the explanation of the latter. From there he offers the physiognomy of the Being of Christ and therefore the being of man.

KEY: Agaph-Erox: Christ-Jesus

Ratzinger: Thesis 6: “The so-called Neo-Chalcedonian theology which is summed up in the Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) makes an important contribution to a proper grasp of the inner unity of biblical and dogmatic theology, of theology and religious life. Only from this standpoint does the dogma of Chalcedon (451) yield its full meaning.”

“It is common enough for the theological textbooks to pay scant attention to the theological development which followed Chalcedon. In many ways one is left with the impression that dogmatic Christology comes to a stop with a certain parallelism of the two natures in Christ. It was this same impression that led to the divisions in the wake of Chalcedon. In fact, however, the affirmation of the true humanity and the true divinity in Christ can only retain its meaning if the mode of the unity of both is clarified. The Council defined this unity by speaking of the `one Person’ in Christ, but it was a formula, which remained to be explored in its implications. For the unity of divinity and humanity in Christ which brings `salvation’ to man is not juxtaposition but a mutual indwelling. Only in this way can there be that genuine `becoming like God,’ without which there is no liberation and no freedom.

“It was to this question, after two centuries of dramatic struggles which also, in many ways, bore the mark of imperial politics, that the Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) addressed itself. On the one hand, it reaches that the unity of God and man in Christ involves no amputation or reduction in any way of human nature. In conjoining himself to man, his creature, God does not violate or diminish him; in doing so, he brings him for the first time to his real fullness. On the other hand (and this is no less important), it abolishes all dualism or parallelism of the two natures, such as had always seemed necessary in order to safeguard Jesus’ human freedom. In such attempts it had been forgotten that when the human will is taken up into the will of God, freedom is not destroyed; indeed, only then does genuine freedom come into its own. The Council of Constantinople analyzed the question of the two-ness, and the one-ness in Christ by reference t the concrete issue of the will of Jesus. It resolutely maintains that, as man, Jesus has a human will that is not absorbed by the divine will. But this human will follows the divine will and thus becomes one will with it….


… not in a natural manner but along the path of freedom. The metaphysical two-ness of a human and divine will is not abrogated, but in the real of the person, in the realm of freedom, the fusion of both takes place, with the result that they become one will, not naturally, but personally. This free unity – a form of unity created by love – is higher and more interior than a merely natural unity. It corresponds to the highest unity there is, namely Trinitarian unity. The Council illustrates this unity by citing a dominical word handed down to us in the Gospel of John: `I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 38). Here it is the divine Logos who is speaking, and he speaks of the human will of the man Jesus as his will, the will of the Logos. With this exegesis of John 6, 38 the Council indicates the unity of the subject in Christ. There are not two `I’s in him, but only one. The Logos speaks in the I-form of the human will and mind of Jesus; it has become his I, has become adopted into his I, because the human will is completely one with the will of the Logos. United with the latter, it has become a pure Yes to the Father’s will.

“Maximus the Confessor, the great theological interpreter of this second phase of the development of the Christological dogma, illuminates this whole context by reference to Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives, which, as we already saw in Thesis 1, expresses Jesus’ unique relationship to God. Indeed, it is as if we were actually looking in on the inner life of the Word-made-man. It is revealed to us in the sentence, which remains the measure and model of all real prayer: `Not what I will, but what thou wilt’ (Mk. 14, 36). Jesus human will assimilates itself to the will of the Son. IN doing this, he receives the Son’s identity, i.e., the complete subordination of the “ to the Thou, the self-giving and self-expropriation of the I to the Thou. This is the very essence of him who is pure relation and pure act. Wherever the I gives itself to the Thou, there is freedom because this involves the reception of the `form of God.’

“But we can also describe this process, and describe it better, from the other side: the Logos so humbles himself that he adopts a man’s will as his own and addresses the Father with the I of this human being; he transfers his own I to this man and thus transforms human speech into the eternal Word, into his blessed `Yes, Father.’ By imparting his own I, his own identity, to this human being, he liberates him, redeems him, and makes him God. Now we can take the real meaning of `God has become man’ in both hands, as it were: the Son transforms the anguish of a man into his own filial obedience, the speech of the servant into the Word that is the Son.

“Thus we come to grasp the manner of our liberation, our participation in the Son’s freedom. As a result of the unity of wills of which we have spoken, the greatest possible change has taken place in man, the only change which meets his desire: he has become divine. We can therefore describe that prayer which enters into the praying of Jesus and becomes the prayer of Jesus in the Body of Christ as freedom’s laboratory. Here, and nowhere else, takes place that radical change in man of which we stand in need, that the world may become a better place. For it is only along this path that conscience attains its fundamental soundness and it unshakable power. And only from such a conscience can there come that ordering of human affairs which corresponds to human dignity and protects it.”[10]

#13: Eucharist: God becomes incarnate. The action of agape is now present in creation. It persists via the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the action of the “I” of the Logos as man, making the gift of self to the Father. The assistance at Mass and ingestion of the Eucharist is to be empowered to make this act here and now. This is neither myth of metaphor but metaphysical anthropology.

#14: Sacraments: To be one with Christ is to be one Christ with the others. We are not united but one: unum. The very act of self gift to Christ is to be one Christ with all others who do the same. We are all one Body as one Bride. Baptism is a death-event whereby we pass through the water three times as symbol of death in order to become a new Subject. In this self-gift, we do this by free self-determination, and so become most uniquely who we are in the very act of determining ourselves to dispossess ourselves. We are most ourselves when we die to self to become the new Subject, Christ. DCE says: “God incarnate draws us all to Himself.” “God’s own agape come to us bodily in order to continue his work in us and through us.” To love, then, must always be loving with His heart (agape), not just with ours (eros)[11].

Agape is not just morality and will power. It is sacraments. Without the affirmation of divine Love through the sacraments, you cannot love with agape. With the sacraments, agape can be commanded because it was given.

#16. Love of God and Love of Neighbor: God is absent through the experience of my senses. Benedict asks: “Can we love God without seeing him?”

#17: God is visible in Jesus Christ. But can we recognize His face? Only eros becoming the experience of agape. The key to know God: to replicate the assimilation of the human will of Jesus of Nazareth by the divine “I” of the Logos. This is done by entering into the prayer of Jesus (Lk. 9, 18: “as he was praying, his disciples were with him”), being drawn by the Father (Jn. 6, 44). This transforms any “parallelism” of the divine and human wills into the single compenetration of “Yes” of the personalization of the two wills in the “I Am” [12] of the Logos in obedience to the Father.

#18: Now divinized, I can love the way Jesus loves – to death, i.e., with agape and by affirming them and bringing them to self gift and, therefore, goodness.

Part II

Reminder: “A first reading of the encyclical might perhaps give the impression that it is divided in two parts, that it is not greatly related within itself: a first, theoretical part that talks about the essence of love, and a second part that addresses ecclesial charity, with charitable organizations. However, what interested me was precisely the unity of the two topics, which can only be properly understood if they are seen as only one thing.”[13]

The Practice of Love by the Church as Communio

#19: Christ “gave up his spirit” (Jn. 19, 30) who empowers believers to love as Christ loves: agape. He washes their feet and then dies as an act of freedom. He wasn’t killed. He died as a free act and transformed it into prayer.

- The Church is powered by the Spirit to act as single Subject. Cfi. “Lumen Gentium” #8: “This Church [of Christ]… subsists in the Catholic Church… Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines.”[14]
- Its entire activity is the expression of agape giving goodness to man.

#20: The Church as single Subject (chaburah of Christ @ the Pascal meal) is a communio of faithful (“aboriginally”) lay faithful and ministers) that needs to be organized to live agape such that there is no distinction between rich and por. There must be no room for poverty.

- Deacons: responsible for well-ordered love of neighbor. “Part of the fundamental structure of the Church.”
- Diaconia: (4th century) service of charity fort the poor, first in monasteries, then in dioceses.
- Julian the Apostate (363): scandalized by the brutal savagery of Emperor Constantine who passed himself off as an outstanding Christian. Becoming emperor, Julian restored paganism but insisted that Christian charitable works be established in the empire.

The Church is chaburah[15], communio, in which each equally hears as believer (not just male landowners as in Greece and Rome) that preaches the Word (Kerygma), administers sacraments (leitourgia) and exercises charity (Diakonia) – that extends beyond the frontiers of the Church.

#26: Justice and Charity: Marxism championed justice and saw charity as an obstacle to its implementation. Charity slows down putting structures of justice in place.

#27:From Gelasius I to Leo XIII (1891) the Church leadership was slow to conceptualize social doctrine. Leo XIII was the first to formulate social doctrine around the key: the human person. He explained that the defining relation between Church and State is not between institutions as object but within the person as subject: believer and citizen. That is, the self-evident truths of democratic society came from the consciousness and experience of faith as self-gift to the revealing God. Therefore Rerum Novarum (1891), Quadragesimo anno 1931), Mater et Magistra (1961); Populorum Progressio (1967); Laborem Exercens (1981); Sollicitudo Socialis (1987); Centesimus Annus (1991), and now the Compendium of Social Doctrine (2004). Now in a globalized economy, the church offers the “fundamental guidelines” valid beyond the confines of the Church for a globalized society (one world) of solidarity and subsidiarity based on Gaudium et spes #24.

#28: Christian faith as the act of offering the Being - the “I” – of the believer to reason produces the consciousness of the dignity of the human person – his dignity and freedom as ground of the separation of the Church and State as objective institutions.

[1] Address by Benedict XVI to “Cor Unum” on January 23, 2006.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 94-95.
[3] Consider Michael Lewis’ “Coach Fitz.”
[4] J. Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth,” Proceedings of the tenth Bishops’ Workshop, Dallas, Texas, The Pope John Center (1991) 20.
[5] Idem 21.
[6] Idem 22.
[7] Ibid 24.
[8] My experience in Toronto on a Saturday night – late – passing the library window and seeing Gilson studying at midnight Saturday night, there passed through me a deep longing that God would call me to something so “radical” as studying at midnight on Saturday night.
[9] See Veritatis Splendor #85.
[10] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One, Ignatius (1986) 37-42.
[11] Josemaria Escriva, “Furrow” #809.
[12] Jn. 8, 24, 28, 54.
[13] Address by Benedict XVI to “Cor Unum” on January 23, 2006.
[14] See Ratzinger’s “The Ecclesiology of the Constitution on the Church, Vatican II, Lumen Gentium.”
[15] Ratzinger explains chaburah or habhuroth: “Jesus too celebrated the Passover according to these prescriptions, a t home with his family; that is to say, with the Apostles, who had become his new family. In doing so he was observing a current rule which permitted pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem to form companies, the so-called habhuroth, who would constitute a family, a Passover unit, for this night. That is how Passover became a Christian feast. We are Christ’s habhura, his family, formed of his pilgrim company, of the friends who accompany him along the path of the gospel through the terrain of history. Companions of his pilgrimage, we constitute Christ’s house; thus, the Church is the new family, the new city, and for us she signifies all that Jerusalem was – that living home which banishes the powers of chaos and makes an area of peace, which upholds both creation and us. The Church is the new city by being the family of Jesus, the living Jerusalem, and her faith is the rampart and wall against the chaotic powers that threaten to bring destruction upon the world. Her ramparts are strengthened by the blood of the true Lamb, Jesus Christ, that is, by love which goes to the very end and which is endless. It is this love which is the true counterforce to chaos;” Behold the Pierced One, Ignatius (1986) 104-105.

[P1]This is a major point in Benedict’s mind with regard to the “purification of the Enlightenment philosophy. What he is about in “Deus Caritas Est” is precisely to give ontological density to the un-reality of the “Cogito” that has dominated modern thought from Descartes to the present day. That density is the person, divine and human, who is constitutively relational. Wojtyla did this by the philosophical application of phenomenology to describe the inner workings of the self with the metaphysics of being from St. Thomas.

No comments: