Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Deus Caritas Est" & The Mission of Benedict XVI: Class I

“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.” (October 16, 2005).

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


God is absent. He must be recovered experientially. For this, a new perception of Christ – with a “new logic” must take place. Vatican II is built around this anthropology of Christ as relation/self-gift/Love by asking a new kind of question: not what is this or that truth of faith? but rather what does it mean to be a “believer” – an “I - making the gift of self to the revealing “I” of the Logos.

“Deus Caritas Est” is the attempt to present Jesus Christ not merely as “information,” or a series of concepts or “data” that can be down-loaded into “the Book,” but as an event to be experienced existentially yielding the content not only who God is, but also who man is.

The Epistemology: Love is a Person, not merely a sentiment as the accident of a substance. “(Love) is a primordial word, expression of the primordial reality," the Holy Father said. "We cannot simply abandon it, we must take it up again, purify it and give back to it its original splendor so that it might illuminate our life and lead it on the right path." That “primordial reality” and “original splendor” is the very Person of Christ (To participants in the conference promoted by the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" on the theme "But the Greatest of These Is Love," [January 23, 2006]).

This is a novelty after a millennium of progressive rationalization. Until now, the received understanding of man has been “substance” as rational animal (“thing”) and Ratzinger has been clear in affirming: “This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greek mind which thinks n substantialist terms.”[1]The novelty is that Christ now ceases to be an “exception” to man but his revelation and Prototype. Christ is the Trinitarian Logos who is pure relation to the Father, who has taken the man Jesus of Nazareth to be himself, and lived out this relation of obedience to death. The point: how to know a Person who is love? The answer: by becoming “like” Him who is love, i.e., by prayer and work turned into prayer as service to others. Like is known by like because to know (intellegere = ab intus legere) is to read the other from the inside. It is to become one being with the other from common action (prayer), and then transference.

The ontological center of the encyclical is found in the negation of the word “parallel” in favor of the Christology of “compenetration.”[2] “Deus Caritas Est” takes the dualism of Eros (sensual desire of the good already there) and Agape (the streaming forth of the divine Person that creates and engenders the good) in Christ and shows how in Him they are “compenetrated” so that the union of the two is persona, and both the divine and the human “natures” are of the same divine Person, the “Yes” of the human will is the “Yes” of the divine will since they are both the “Yes” of the Subject of those “natures.” The human will is His will. Hence, the eros of the human will is one with the agape of the divine Person who exercises it.

Then, the intention of Benedict XVI – from sources outside of the encyclical - is to show that this Christ of compenetration is the defining center of the Second Vatican Council such as in Gaudium et spes #22 that teaches that Christ is not only the revelation of who God is[3], but of who man is. Gaudium et spes then goes on to reformulate anthropology to be Christian anthropology in Gaudium et spes #24 that makes man capable of making the gift of self as God is gift of self:

“Furthermore, the Lord Jesus, 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. It follows, then, that if man is the only earthly creature that god has willed for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself.”[4]

This Trinitarian and Christological anthropology then became the “new logic” to confront the topic of sexuality and social doctrine that was afoot in secular society: The defining principle is that love and life are inseparable since in the Persons of God they are the same thing. Hence, they must become the same thing in man. This moves us out of the order of natures and ends into the order of persons and gift. As a result, the “logic” of NFP, contraception, IVF and homosexuality is personalist. In social doctrine the “logic” is Gaudium et spes #24 becomes the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity.

Finally, in the light of this development of Christological anthropology as the defining core of the Council, Benedict is taking on the so-called “Hermeneutic of Discontinuity” that has split the pre-conciliar Church from the post-conciliar Church. He says: “The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the preconciliar church and the postconcilair church. It asserts that the texts of the council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.” “(I)t would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the council’s deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague.”[5]

Faith As A “New Logic”

Epistemological Prolegomena

Ratzinger Interview[6]

“Why publish a `universal catechism’ in 1992? Were previous catechisms inadequate?

Ratzinger: “The reason is that today we are in a situation exactly like that at the time of the council of Trent, which, held in the middle of the 16th century, marked the dawn of modern times.

“Now we are close to the end of a millennium and in an entirely new historical period, indicated by schemas of thought, science, technology, culture and civilization, breaking completely with all that we knew previously.

“This is why it was necessary to reformulate the logic and the sum total of the Christian faith. This is the fruit of a reflection, over some years, by the universal Church to rethink, re-articulate and bring up-to-date her doctrine.”

“You are, like the Pope, extremely worried by the crisis of faith in modern society. And the new situation in Europe only aggravates the diagnosis since in your last work on Europe you go as far as to say that nihilism is rapidly taking the place of Marxism. How do you analyze this divorce between faith and modernity?

Ratzinger: “It is explained by the encroachment of relativism and subjectivism, an inevitable consequence of a world overwhelmed by the alleged certainties of natural or applied science. Only what can be tested and proved appears as rational. [Sensible] experience has become the only criterion guaranteeing truth. Anything that cannot be subjected to mathematical or experimental verification is regarded as irrational.

“This restriction of reason has the result that we are left in almost total darkness regarding some essential dimensions of life. The meaning of man, the bases of ethics, the question of God cannot be subjected to a rational experience, verified by mathematical formulae. And so they are left to subjective sensibility alone. This is serious because if, in a society, the bases of ethical behavior are abandoned to subjectivity alone, released from common motives for being and living, handed over to pragmatism, then it is man himself who is threatened.

“The great ideologies have been able to give a certain ethical foundation to society. But today, Marxism is crumbling and liberal ideology is so split into fragments that it no longer has a common, solid, coherent view of man and his future. In the present situation of emptiness, there looms the terrible danger of nihilism, that is to say, the denial or absence of all fundamental moral reference for the conduct of social life. This danger becomes visible in the new forms of terrorism.

That is to say…

Ratzinger: “Even though perverted, the political, social terrorism of the 1960’s had a certain kind of moral ideal. But today, the terrorism of drug abuse, of the Mafia, of attacks on foreigners, in Germany and elsewhere, no longer has any moral basis. In this era of sovereign subjectivity, people act for the sole pleasure of acting, without any reference other than the satisfaction of `myself.’
“Just as the terrorism that was born from the Marxism of yesterday put its finger on the anomalies of our social order, in the same way the nihilistic terrorism of today ought to show us the course to be followed for a reflection on the bases of a new ethical and collective reason..

…Are you not tempted, in this period of ideological emptiness, by a sort of Christian reconquest?

Ratzinger: “No, in the dialogue that I wish with all political and intellectual forces in order to define this minimum ethic, the Catholic Church is not seeking to impose a new kind of respublica Christiana. It would be absurd to want to go back, to return to a system of political Christendom. But is true that we feel a responsibility in this world, and we desire to make our contribution as Catholics. We do not wish to impose Catholicism on the West, but we do want the fundamental view of Christianity and the liberal values dominant in today’s world to be able to meet and make one another mutually fruitful.”

The “Old Logic:” “Classicism”

a) John Courtney Murray: “The second great trend of the 19th century was the movement from classicism to historical consciousness… Suffice it to say that classicism designates a view of truth which holds objective truth, precisely because it is objective, to exist `already out there now” (to use Bernard Lonergan’s descriptive phrase). Therefore, it also exists apart from its possession by anyone. In addition, it exists apart from history, formulated in propositions that are verbally immutable. If there is to be talk of development of doctrine, it can only mean that the truth, remaining itself unchanged in its formulation, may find different applications in the contingent world of historical change. In contrast, historical consciousness, while holding fast to the nature of truth as objective, is concerned with the possession of truth, with man’s affirmations of truth… The Church in the 19th century, and even in the 20th, opposed this movement toward historical consciousness. Here, too, the reason was obvious. The term of the historical movement was modernism, that `conglomeration of all heresies,’ as Pascendi dominici gregis called it. The insight into the historicity of truth and the insight into the role of the subject in the possession of truth were systematically exploited to produce almost every kind of pernicious `ism,’ unto the destruction of the notion of truth itself – its objective character, its universality, its absoluteness. These systematizations were false, but the insights from which they issued were valid. Here again a work of discernment needed to be done, and was not done. To be quite summary about it, this work had to wait until Vatican Council II.

“The sessions of the Council have made it clear that, despite resistance in certain quarters, classicism is giving way to historical consciousness;”

b) Ratzinger on the “hegemony of substance:”[8] “In this light, Boethius’s concept of person, which prevailed in Western philosophy, must be criticized as entirely insufficient. Remaining on the level of the Greek mind, Boethius defined `person’ as Naturae rationalis individual substantia, as the individual substance of a rational nature. One sees that the concept of person stands entirely on the level of substance. This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greek mind which thinks in substantialist terms” (underline mine).

Ratzinger goes on to point out: “Scholastic theology developed categories of existence out of this contribution given by Christian faith to the human mind [the existential dimension and therefore relation in itself as category of being]. Its defect was that it limited these categories to Christology and to the doctrine of the Trinity and did no make them fruitful in the whole extent of spiritual reality. This seems to me also the limit of St. Thomas in the matter, namely, that within theology he operates… on the level of existence, but treats the whole thing [Trinitarian theology and Christology] as theological exception (my underline), as it were. In philosophy, however, he remains faithful to the different approach of pre-Christian philosophy [the philosophy of substance]. The contribution of Christian faith to the whole of human thought is not realized; it remains at first detached from it as a theological exception, although it is precisely the meaning of this new element to call into question the whole of human thought and to set it on a new course” (underline mine).

“This brings us to the second misunderstanding that has not allowed the effects of Christology to work themselves out fully. The second great misunderstanding is to see Christ as the simply unique ontological exception, which must be treated as such. This exception is an object of highly interesting ontological speculation, but it must remain separate in its box as an exception to the rule and must no be permitted to mix with the rest of human thought…. This seeming exception is in reality very often the symptom that shows us the insufficiency of our previous schema of order, which helps us to break open this schema and to conquer a new realm of reality. The exception shows us that we have built our closets too small, as it were, and that we must break them open and go on in order to see the whole” [9] (underline mine).

The Result: Man does not image the divine Persons as Relations, in his very being. Rather, the human person has been philosophically elaborated in terms of the category of substance. Jesus Christ is not the prototype of man, but an exception. There would then be such a thing as “pure nature” or the “natural man” to whom the supernatural is added as a “second tier” to safeguard the gratuitousness of the supernatural (grace). Holiness would not (as in fact it has not been) an intrinsic orientation of the very being of the human person, and therefore there is no de facto universal call to holiness.

The Challenge

Joseph Ratzinger: “Here is the problem: 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 the 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.”You use the phrase `epochal struggle’…

I said…“Yes.”`Well, at the very least, that means it is a struggle of enormous historical importance…’

`Yes, certainly…’“And it seems to me,”
he continued, `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.
“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.
“That is, Vatican II must not be interpreted as desiring a rejection of the tradition and an adapting of the Church to modernity and so causing the Church to become empty because it loses the word of faith”[10]

The Greatest “Crisis” Facing the Church and the World: “The Absence of God”

We can know about God. But Scripture refers all knowing to “be one being with the other:” Adam “knew” his wife by becoming one flesh with her. One “knows” only when there is experience of the other – becoming one-being-with the other - by transcending all mediation of sensation and conceptualization. Since God has revealed Himself to be “I AM” – a Triple “I” of Father, Son and Spirit - it is not enough to know about God. One must experience God. One must become one Being with God. When there is no direct experience of God as “I Am,” the intellectual panorama declines into relativism and ultimately nihilism. Human intelligence is fed only facts and sags under the weight of them since it is a faculty of being and the experience of it. Revelation is confused with Scripture, and Christianity itself as a “religion of the Book”[11]

Ratzinger as Cardinal remarked:

“I have my doubts as to whether the quintessentially Catholic [the Person of Jesus Christ], as living structure, can be captured in a formula [i.e. in concepts: “The Book”]. 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 a living structure, and it comprises 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”[12] (underline mine.)

Ratzinger on Relativism on the Eve of His Election as Pope:

“Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled oas fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be `tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine,’ seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.

“We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An `adult’ faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth.

“We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith – only faith – that creates unity and is fulfilled in love…. Make truth in love” [facientes veritatem in caritate].[13]


Christianity: A Person

Christ Lives –Experienced as “I Am”

(If not, He is perceptually “absent” – un-recognized)

Only subjects act, not natures (“Actiones sunt suppositorum”)!

The Relation of the Divine and the Human is “COMPENETRATION” (Not “parallelism”)

Texts of Benedict XVI

“Behold the Pierced One:” “Thus the Logos adopts the being of the man Jesus into his own being and speaks of it in terms of his own I: `For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 38). In the Son’s obedience, where both wills become one in a single Yes to the will of the Father, communion takes place between human and divine being. The `wondrous exchange,’ the `alchemy of being,’ is realized here as a liberating and reconciling communication, which becomes a communion between Creator and creature. It is in the pain of this exchange, and only here, that that fundamental change takes place in man, the change which alone can redeem him and transform the conditions of the world. Here community is born, here the Church comes into being. The act whereby we participate in the Son’s obedience, which involves man’s genuine transformation, is also the only really effective contribution toward renewing and transforming society and the world as a whole…. We have established that the Incarnation of the Son creates communion between God and man and thus also makes possible a new communion among human beings.”[14]

"Journey Towards Easter" (Retreat given to John Paul II in 1983):

“In the manuals, the theological development after Chalcedon has ordinarily come to be little considered. The impression thus frequently remains that dogmatic Christology finishes up with a certain parallelism between the two natures of Christ. This impression has also been the cause leading to the divisions since Chalcedon. But in effect the declaration of the true humanity and the true divinity of Christ can retain its significance only when there is a clarification also of the mode of unity of the two natures, which the Council of Chalcedon has defined by the formula of the `one person’ of Christ, at that time hot yet fully examined. In fact only that unity of divinity and humanity which in Christ is not parallelism, where one stands alongside the other, but real compenetration, - compenetration between God and man – means salvation for humankind. Only thus in fact does that true `being with God’ take place, without which liberation and freedom do not exist…

“If God joins himself to his creature –man/woman – he does not wound or diminish it: he brings it to its plenitude. But on the other hand (and this is no less important) there remains no trace of that dualism or parallelism of the two natures, which in the course of history was frequently judged necessary to defend the human liberty of Jesus. Such studies forgot that the assumption of the human will into the divine will does not destroy freedom, but on the contrary generates true liberty. The Council of Constantinople has analyzed concretely the problem of the two natures and one person in Christ in view of the problem of the two natures and one person in Christ in view of the problem of the will of Jesus. We are reminded firmly that there exists a specific will of the man Jesus that is not absorbed into the divine will. But this human will follows the divine will and thus becomes a single will with it, not, however, in a forced way but by way of freedom. The metaphysical duplicity of a human will and a divine will is not eliminated, but in the personal sphere, the area of freedom there is accomplished a fusion of the two, so that this becomes not one single natural will but one personal will. This free union – a mode of union created by love – is a union higher and more intimate than a purely natural union. It corresponds to the highest union which can exist, the union of the Trinity…. (I)n Jesus there are not two `I,’ but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought of Jesus using the `I;’ this has become his `I,’ has been assumed into his `I,’ because the human will has become fully one with the will of the Logos, and with it has become pure assent to the will of the Father.”[15]

Therefore, the Body of Christ is the Body of the Divine and Trinitarian Person

The resurrected Christ arose from the dead with a physical body (“Feel me and see that a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” Luke. 24, 24), that is not a resurrected “corpse.” What before appeared to exist as simply “body” – what was referred to in New Testament semantics as Bios and Psyche, now appears, and disappears, as Zoe. Benedict writes:

“It goes without saying that the life of him who has risen from the dead is not once again Bioz,, the biological form of our mortal life inside history; it is Zvh, new, different, definitive life; life which has stepped beyond the mortal realm of bios and history, a realm which has here been surpassed by a greater power. And in fact the resurrection narratives of the New Testament allow us to see clearly that the life of him who has risen again does not lie within the historical bios, but beyond and above it…. It is quite clear that after his resurrection Christ did not go back to his previous earthly life, as we are told the young man of Naim and Lazarus did. He rose again to definitive life, which is no longer governed by the chemical and biological laws and therefore stands outside the possibility of death, in the eternity conferred by love. That is why the encounters with him are `appearances;’ that is why he with whom people had sat at table two days earlier is not recognized by his best friends and, even when recognized, remains alien: only where he grants vision is he seen; only when he opens men’s eyes and makes their hearts open up can the countenance of the eternal love that conquers death become recognizable in our mortal world, and in the new, different world, the world of him who is to come.”[16]

“Zoe" (Trinitarian Life) Designates Bodily Life of Christ (not “Bios” or “Psyche”)

Zoe is the word used in the New Testament to speak of the “Life” of Christ’s humanity. It reflects the “compenetration” of the divine and the human. The Body of Christ is taken up fully into the Person of the Logos after His obedience to physical destruction. The body of Christ is totally “compenetrated” with His divine Person. It is His. This is the ultimate explanation of the Resurrection.

The only way to re-cognize the Person of Christ is to “cognize” Him in oneself by making the gift of oneself as He has made the gift of Himself to the Father as Son, as well as gift to us as revelation of the Father. This explains the “appearances” and “disappearances” after the Resurrection. Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the seven fishing in Genesareth do not recognize the face of Christ until each makes the gift in some fashion. Mary exercises generosity asking for the body of Jesus to bury it, the two, on the road to Emmaus, extend hospitality to Christ to stay with them; the seven Apostles fishing at Lake Genesareth obey the command to throw the nets to the right. In each case, they re-cognize the resurrected body after experiencing a generosity corresponding to His own. One must “cognize” the relational person of Christ within oneself in order to be able to “re-cognize” the face on sight.

Christological Anthropology

The meaning of person in the Trinity

“`(T)he three person’ who exist in God are the reality of word and love in their attachment to each other. They are not substances, personalities in the modern sense, but the relatedness whose pure actuality (`parcel of waves’!) does not impair the unity of the highest being but fills it out. St. Augustine once enshrined this idea in the following formula: `He is not called Father with reference to himself but only in relation to the Son; seen by himself he is simply God.’ Here the decisive point comes beautifully to light. `Father’ is purely a concept of relationship. Only in being-for the other is he Father; in his own being-in-himself he is simply god. Person is the pure relation of being related, nothing else. Relationship is not something extra added to the person, as it is with us; it only exists at all as relatedness.

“Expressed in the imagery of Christ tradition, this means that the First Person does not beget the Son in the sense of the act of begetting coming on top of the finished Peron; it is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver but the act of giving, `wave’ not `corpuscle’… In this idea of relativity in word and love, independent of the concept of substance and not to be classified among the `accident,’ 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.”[17]

“Compenetration” of Jesus of Nazareth with Christ

“Jesus `is' Christ”

“Christ is a title and yet also already part of the unique name for the man from Nazareth. This fusion of the name with the title, the title with the name, is far from being just another example of history’s forgetfulness. On the contrary, it spotlights the very heart of that process of understanding which faith went through with regard to the figure of Nazareth. For what faith really states is precisely that with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office, the office is the person. The two are not longer divisible. Here there is no private area reserved for an `I’ which remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be `off duty;’ here the `I’ is not separate from the work; the `I’ is the work and the work is the `I’…

“Similarly, as faith understood the position Jesus did not perform a work that could be distinguished from his `I’ and depicted separately. On the contrary, to understand him as the Christ means to be convinced that he has put himself into his word. Here there is no `I’ (as there is with all of us) which utters words; he has identified himself so closely with his word that `I’ and word are indistinguishable: he is word. In the same way, to faith, his work is nothing else than the unreserved way in which he merges himself into this world; he perform himself and gives himself; his work is the giving of himself….

“In other words, faith’s decisive statement about Jesus lies in the indivisible unity of the two words `Jesus Christ,’ a unity which conceals the experience of the identity of existence and mission. In this sense one can certainly speak of a `functional Christology:’ the whole being of Jesus is a function of the `for us,’ but the function too, is – for this very reason – all being….

“As a fitting conclusion one could indeed assert that… The person of Jesus is his teaching, and his teaching is he himself. Christian faith, that is, faith in Jesus as the Christ, is therefore truly `personal faith.’ What this means can really be understood only from this angle. Such faith is not the acceptance of a system but the acceptance of this person who is his word; of the word as person and of the person as word.”[18]

Jesus is His Work

The Magisterium of John Paul II

There is “work” only where there is the gift of an “I.” Jesus Christ is the prototype of work. The name of God is “I Am.” The name of Jesus Christ is “I Am.”[19] In every deed of Jesus Christ, the divine “I” – according to its very nature as Trinitarian – is totally given. There is no neutral default position. What you see is what you get.

Laborem Exercens:

This is reason that “(o)nly man is capable of work, and only man works,… thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons.”[20] Later in Laborem Exercens (#6), John Paul II says: “Man has to subdue the earth and dominate it, because as the `image of God he is a person, that is to say, a subjective being capable of acting in a planned and rational way, capable of deciding about himself, and with a tendency to self-realization. As a person, man is therefore the subject of work. As a person he works, he performs various actions belonging to the work process; independently of their objective content, these action must all serve to realize his humanity, to fulfill the calling to be a person that is his by reason of his very humanity.”

Letter to Artists:

“Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.

“It is important to recognize the distinction, but also the connection, between these two aspects of human activity. The distinction is clear. It is one thing for human beings to be the authors of their own acts, with responsibility for their moral value; it is another to be an artist, able, that is, to respond to the demands of art and faithfully to accept art’s specific dictates. This is what makes the artist capable of producing objects, but it says nothing as yet of his moral character. We are speaking not of moulding oneself, of forming one’s own personality, but simply of actualizing one’s productive capacities, giving aesthetic form to ideas conceived in the mind.

“The distinction between the moral and artistic aspects is fundamental, but no less important is the connection between them. Each conditions the other in a profound way. IN producing a work, artists express themselves to the point where their work becomes a unique disclosure of their own being, of what they are and of hos they are what they are. And there are endless examples of this in human history. In shaping a masterpiece, the artist not only summons his work into being, but also in some way reveals his own personality by means of it. For him art offers both a new dimension and an exceptional mode of expression for his spiritual growth. Through his works, the artist speaks to others and communicates with them. The history of art, therefore, is not only a story of works produced but also a story of men and women. Works of art speak of their authors: they enable us to know their inner life, and they reveal the original contribution which artists offer to the history of culture.”[21]

SCDF: “Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation:” Since the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth is “compenetrated” with the divine Person of the Logos, and we are baptized into Jesus Christ and so beginning the identification with Him, we are capable of working such as to make the gift of our entire selves and so to reach full identification.[22]

This is the meaning of the “Gospel of work.” Joseph Ratzinger as Cardinal Prefect of the SCDF asserted: “The life of Jesus of Nazareth, a real `Gospel of work,’ offers us the living example and principle of the radical cultural transformation which is essential for solving the grave problems which must be face by the age in which we live. He, who, though He was God, became like us in all things, devoted the greater part oaf His earthly life to manual labor. The culture which our age awaits will be marked by the full recognition of the dignity of human work, which appears in all its nobility and fruitfulness in the light of the mysteries of creation and redemption. Recognized as an expression of the person, work becomes a source of creative meaning and effort.

“ 83. Thus the solution of most of the serious problems related to poverty is to be found in the promotion of a true civilization of work. IN a sense, work is the key to the whole social question.”[23]

Our Father

D. Alvaro chooses Furrow #809 to sum up the spirit of Opus Dei: “Look – we have to love God not only with our heart but with His…” This conforms to Benedict’s Christology that the “I” and work are the same thing. One is another Christ in that the “I” is the work and the work is the “I.”[24] D. Alvaro wrote:

“All those who knew Josemaria Escriva perceived that his person was inseparable from the mission fro which God had chosen him. Having been able to form a particularly close and profound relationship with him for 40 years reinforces in my memory this characteristic dimension of his human and spiritual physiognomy. I have seen him, so to speak in his `first act’ as founder, that is to say, in the daily and continuous building of Opus Dei, and as a consequence, of the Church, as he affirmed not in vain that the Work exists solely to serve the Church.

“The identification of his very self with his foundational activity implied that Mons. Escriva perfected himself as a subject – up to the point of living the virtues to a heroic degree - the measure in which he carried out Opus Dei, feeling the need to second God’s plans daily….

“The text of the Gospel (`et si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum’ [Jn. 12, 32]) takes on a significance that goes beyond the literal sense. While in the Gospel this expression refers to the manner in which our Lord would die, here it is extended to the whole fabric of the history of redeemed humanity. Uniting oneself to Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Christian is called – as Mons. Escriva repeated until the last day of his life – to `place Christ at the summit of all human activities:’ in work, in science, in art, in culture, in the efforts humble or brilliant with which men transform the world, contributing to the development of society and to the fulfillment of themselves. Christ has to be raised up once again; he has to transform from within all the tasks undertaken by man. The Christian, united by the grace of the Holy S[pirit in the communion of life with Christ, sanctifies these tasks sanctifying himself and his neighbor.

“The teaching of temporal realities as a meeting point with Christ and as a means of sanctification constitutes without doubt an enrichment, not only of theology, but also of the very life of the Church.”[25]

The Epistemology of Christological Anthropology

To Know Christ Jesus

The “what” of faith is the “Who” of Christ Whom we know by becoming Him. “What does the Church believe? This question includes the others: who believes, and how should one believe? The Catechism has dealt with both fundamental questions: the question of `what’ to believe and of `who’ believes, as one question with an interior unity. In other words, the catechism illustrates the act of the faith and the content of the faith in their inseparability.”[26]

Benedict's Theological Epistemology: To Know Christ Jesus

“Thesis 3: Since the center of the person of Jesus is prayer [read love, self-gift, work], 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 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).

“We can illustrate this with a couple of examples. Philosophy can only be acquired if we philosophize, if we carry through the process of philosophical thought; mathematics can only be appropriated if we think mathematically; medicine can only be learned in the practice of healing, never merely by means of books and reflection. Similarly, religion can only be understood through religion… The fundamental act of religion is prayer, which in the Christian religion acquires a very specific character: it is the act of self-surrender by which we enter the Body of Christ. Thus it is an act of love. As love, in and with the Body of Christ, it is always both love of God and love of neighbor, knowing and fulfilling itself as love for the members of this Body (underline mine).

“In Thesis 1 we saw that prayer was the central act of the person of Jesus and, indeed, that this person is constituted by the act of prayer, of unbroken communication with one he calls `Father.’ If this is the case, it is only possible really to understand this person by entering into this act of prayer, by participating in it. This is suggested by Jesus’ saying that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him (Jn. 6, 44). Where there is no Father, there is no Son. Where there is no relationship with God, there can be no understanding of him who, in his innermost self, is nothing but relationship with God, the Father… Therefore a participation in the mind of Jesus, i.e., in his prayer, which… is an act of love, of self-giving and self-expropriation to men, is not some kind of pious supplement to reading the Gospels, adding nothing to knowledge of him or even being an obstacle to the rigorous purity of critical knowing. On the contrary, it is the basic precondition if real understanding, in the sense of modern hermeneutics – i.e., the entering-in to the same time and same meaning – is to take place… All real progress in theological understanding has its origin in the eye of love and in its faculty of beholding”[27](underline mine).


1) Simon entered into this prayer of Christ (“as he was praying in private, that his disciples also were with him,” Luke. 9, 18) and became “like” Him, and was able to say: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). The likeness to Christ becomes evident in the name-change from Simon to Peter (as “rock”) since Jesus is the “Cornerstone.”[28] One knows Christ only by becoming like Him, and in so doing reaches salvation.[29] The whole ontological density and orientation of the person changes by entering into the act of Christ. Eros becomes agape and the person begins to exercise Zoë. Notice that Mary become full of grace; Abram becomes Abraham; Jacob becomes Israel; Saul becomes Paul.

2) Reconsider Benedict’s emphasis on conversion to self gift as the entrance into the experience of Chris in the encounter of the Samaritan woman with Jesus at the well (Jn. 4).

“This pericope seems to me to be a beautiful and concrete illustration of what we have just been saying. It opens with the meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in the context of a normal, human, everyday experience – the experience of thirst, which is surely one of man’s most primordial experiences. In the course of the conversation, the subject shifts to that thirst that is a thirst for life, and the point is made that one must drink again, must come again and again to the source. In this way, the woman is made aware of what in actuality she, like every human being, has always known but to which she has not always adverted: that she thirsts for life itself [Zoë] and that all the assuaging that she seeks and finds cannot slake this living, elemental thirst. The superficial `empirical’ experience has been transcended.
“But what has been revealed is still of this world. It is succeeded, therefore, by one of those conversations on two levels that are so characteristic of John’s technique of recording dialogue, the Johannine `misunderstanding,’ as it is called by the exegetes. From the fact that Jesus and the Samaritan woman, though they use the same words, have in mind two very different levels of meaning and, separated thus by the ambiguity of human speech, are speaking at cross-purposes, there is manifested the lasting incommensurability of faith and human experience however extensive that experience may be. For the woman understands by “water’ that of which the fairy tales speak: the elixir of life by virtue of which man will not die and his thirst for life that is familiar to her, whereas Jesus wants to reveal to her the true life, the Zoë.
“In the next stage, the woman’s full attention has been attracted to the subject of a thirst for life. She no longer asks for something, for water or for any other single thing, but for life, for herself. This explains the apparently totally unmotivated interpolation by Jesus: `Go and call your husband!’ (Jn. 4, 16), It is both intentional and necessary, for her life as a whole, with all its thirst, is the true subject here. As a result, there comes to light the real dilemma, the deep-seated waywardness, of her existence: she is brought face to face with herself. In general, we can reduce what is happening to the formula: one must know oneself as one really is if one is to know God. The real medium, the primordial experience of all experiences, is that man himself is the place in which and through which he experiences God. Admittedly, the circle could also be closed in the opposite direction: it could be said that it is only by first knowing God that one can properly know oneself.
“But we anticipate. As we have said, the woman must come first to the knowledge of herself, to the acknowledgement of herself. For what she makes now is a kind of confession: a confession in which, at last, she reveals herself unsparingly. Thus a new transition has occurred –to preserve our earlier terminology, a transition from empirical and experimental to `experiential’ experience, to `existential experience.’ The woman stands face to face with herself. It is no longer a question now of something but of the depths of the I itself and, consequently, of the radical poverty that is man’s I-myself, the place where this I is ultimately revealed behind the superficiality of the something. From this perspective, we might regard the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman as the prototype of catechesis. It must lead from the something to the I. Beyond every something it must ensure the involvement of man himself, of this particular man. It must produce self-knowledge and self-acknowledgment so that the indigence and need of man’s being will be evident.
“But let us return to the biblical text! The Samaritan woman has achieved this radical confrontation with her own self. In the moment in which this occurs, the question of all questions arises always and of necessity; the question about oneself becomes a question about God. It is only apparently without motivation but in reality inevitable that the woman should ask now: How do things stand with regard to adoration, that is, with regard to God and my relationship to him? (cf. Jn 4, 20). The question about foundation and goal makes itself heard. Only at this point does the offering of Jesus’ true gift become possible. For the `gift of God’ is God himself, God precisely as gift – that is, the Holy Spirit (cf. v10-24). At the beginning of the conversation, there seemed no likelihood that his woman, with her obviously superficial way of life, would have any interest in the Holy Spirit. But one she was led to the depths of her own being the question arose that must always arise if one is to ask the question that burns in one’s soul. Now the woman is aware of the real thirst by which she is driven. Hence, she can at last learn that it is for which this thirst thirsts.
“It is the purpose and meaning of all catechesis to lead to this thirst. For one who knows neither that there is a Holy Spirit nor that one can thirst for him, it cannot begin otherwise than with sensory perception. Catechesis must lead to self-knowledge, to the exposing of the I, so that it lets the masks fall and moves out of the realm of something into that of being. Its goal is conversion, that conversion of man that results in his standing face to face with himself. Conversio (`conversion,’ metanoia) is identical with self-knowledge, and self-knowledge is the nucleus of all knowledge. Conversio is the way in which man finds himself and thus now the question of all questions: How can I worship God? It is the question that means his salvation; it is the raison d’etre of catechesis.”[30]

[1]J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall 1990) 448.

[2] The background to this is the scholastic dumbing down of being, and therefore person, to “substance” as being-in-itself and not-in-other, and hence rendering Christ an exception to man. The received definition of man has been “individual substance of a rational nature.” Ratzinger remarks: “I believe that if one follows this struggle in which human reality had to be brought in, as it were, and affirmed for Jesus, one sees what tremendous effort and intellectual transformation lay behind the working out of this concept of person, which was quite foreign in its inner disposition to the Greek and the Latin mind. It is not conceived in substantialist, but as we shall soon see, in existential terms, In this light, Boethius’s concept of person, which prevailed in Western philosophy, must be criticized as entirely insufficient. Remaining on the level of the Greek mind, Boethius defined `person’ as naturae rationalis individual substantia, as the individual substance of a rational nature. One sees that the concept of person stands entirely on the level of substance. This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greek mind which thinks in substantialist terms;” Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 448.
[3] “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….
“He who is the `image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1, 15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not absorbed, in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his incarnation, he, the son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.“ Gaudium et spes #22.
[4] Gaudium et spes, #24.
[5] Benedict XVI, “Interpreting Vatican II,” Origins, Jan. 26, 2006; Vol 35; No. 32, 534.
[6] “And Marxism Gave Birth to…NIHILISM,” Henri Tinq: Catholic World Report, January 1993, 52-55.
[7] Appendix III by John Courtney Murray, S.J. in the Paulist Press (1966) publication of the “Declaration on Religious Freedom of Vatican Council II.”
[8] “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;” J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” op. cit. 132.
[9] J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” op. cit. 17 (Fall 1990) 449.
[10] "The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI: "Let God's Light Shine Forth" - Interview of Josef Cardinal Ratzinger by Robert Moynihan. Doubleday [2005] 34-35.
[11] “Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church” #18.
[12] J. Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth, Ignatius ( 1997) 19.
[13] Homily of His Eminence Card. Josef Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals, Monday 18 April, 2005.
[14] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 92-93.
[15] J. Ratzinger, “Journey Towards Easter,” Crossroad (198 )
[16] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 234-235.
[17] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity, op. cit. 131-132.
[18] Ibid. 149-151.
[19] “If you do not believe that Ego eimi, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8, 24); “When you lift up the son of man, you will know that Ego eimi” (Jn. 8, 28); “Before Abraham came to be, Ego eimi” (Jn. 8, 58).
[20] John Paul II, “Laborem Exercens” p. 5.
[21] John Paul II, Letter to Artists,” N. 17 – 28 April 1999, 2.
[22] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect SCDF, Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation March 22, 1986.
[23] Joseph Ratzinger, “Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation,” SCDF March 22, 1986.
[24] St. Josemaria once confided to his sons in a get-together in December of 1970 in Rome: “The Lord is passing very close to you; I know it, although you don’t realize it. He is passing by quasi in occulto. Besides, without hiding himself, He is in your hearts, in these small battles which perhaps are not so small and that other times you made big with your foolishness, as I do. But I’m not referring to the interior life when I say this.
"Some day, when the years pass, you will see that Jesus has been very close to you; not only in the Eucharist, not only by grace. You have not had the occasion of seeing Him because I have tried that you not see Him, knowing that I want you to love Him with all your strength, with all your mind, with all your heart.”
[25] L’Osservatore Romano, N. 21 – 27 may 1992, 6/7.
[26] The Catholic World Report, March 1993, 26-27, 58-59.
[27] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 25-27.
[28] Acts, 4, 11: “This is The Stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the corner stone.”
[29] “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).
[30] J. Ratzinger “Principles of Catholic Theology, Ignatius (1984) 353-355.

No comments: