Monday, August 28, 2006

St. Augustine

Pope Bids Mothers to Persevere in Prayer - Presents St. Monica as Hope for Families
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 27, 2006 ( Benedict XVI proposed Sts. Monica and Augustine as two signs of hope for today's struggling families. Benedict XVI said that St. Augustine made his mother "suffer with his rather rebellious temperament." "As Augustine himself would say later," the Pope continued, "his mother gave him birth twice; the second time required a long spiritual labor, made up of prayer and tears, but crowned in the end by the joy of seeing him not only embrace the faith and receive baptism, but also dedicate himself entirely to the service of Christ." The Pontiff added: "How many difficulties there are also today in family relationships and how many mothers are anguished because their children choose mistaken ways!" St. Monica invites all these mothers "not to be discouraged, but to persevere in their mission of wives and mothers, maintaining firm their confidence in God and clinging with perseverance to prayer," the Holy Father said.
Truth Seeker
The Holy Father highlighted Augustine's "impassioned search for truth." The saint, "attracted by earthly beauty ... 'fell upon' it," said the Pope. "Through a toilsome journey," the Holy Father continued, and with the help of his mother's prayers, Augustine "discovered in Christ the ultimate and full meaning of his life and of the whole of human history." That is why Augustine, whose feast is on Monday, is a "model of the way to God, supreme truth and good," added the Pontiff. Benedict XVI expressed the hope that St. Augustine may "obtain for us also the gift of a sincere and profound encounter with Christ," especially "for all those young people who, thirsty for happiness, seek it in mistaken ways and get lost in dead ends." The Bishop of Rome entrusted to the Virgin Mary "Christian parents so that, like Monica, they will support their children on their way with their example and prayer, and young people so that, as Augustine, they will always tend to the fullness of truth and love, which is Christ." The Pope added that Christ "alone can satisfy the profound needs of the human heart."
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St. Augustine

Augustine was a Christian from birth. However, in his youth and adolescence, he lived a life of sensual immorality as well as a high level of rationality. He sought the truth, but within himself. “You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things keep me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.”[1]

He had always been loved and affirmed by his mother Monica. This grace of God – which is the extension of the divine Love of God to this person – plus the love and affirmation of this woman was the foundation of the personal identity of Augustine, who is immense in the history of biographical literature as perhaps the first to express the experiences of the inner self in narrative form. Benedict XVI expressed the startling fact of the absolute need of affirmation and love for the establishment of the human person as “I.” He said: “The root of man’s joy is the harmony he enjoys with himself. He lives in this affirmation. And only one who can accept himself can also accept the thou, can accept the world. The reason why an individual cannot accept the thou, cannot come to terms with him, is that he does not like his own I and, for that reason, cannot accept a thou.

“Something strange happens here. We have seen that the inability to accept one’s I leads to the inability to accept a thou. But how does one go about affirming, assenting to, one’s I? The answer may perhaps be unexpected: We cannot do so by our own efforts alone. Of ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our I becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become acceptable to another I. We can love ourselves only if we have first been loved by someone else. The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life; she gives total life when she takes the child’s tears and turns them into smiles. It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist… When the initial harmony of our existence has been rejected, when that psycho-physical oneness has been ruptured by which the `Yes, it is good that you are alive’ sinks, with life itself, deep into the core of the unconscious – then birth itself is interrupted; existence itself is not completely established.”[2]

He awoke at the age of nineteen to the love of wisdom, when he read the Hortensius of Cicero - `That book altered my way of thinking… and I desired wisdom’s immortality with an incredible ardor in my heart.’ He loved the truth deeply, and sought it always with all the strength of his soul: `O Truth, Truth, how deep even then was the yearning for you in the inmost depths of my mind!’”[3]

Having not broken with the dissolute life, his intellect was not able to see the Truth of the Person of the Logos because that can only be done by the pure of heart who experience Him from within. Only he who self-transcends and becomes “alter Christus” can experience and cognize Christ within himself and therefore re-cognize Him outside of himself. As a result, Augustine fell into serious intellectual errors: “First, a mistaken account of the relationship between reason and faith, so that he would have to choose between them; second, in the supposed contrast between Christ and the Church, with the consequent conviction that it was necessary to abandon the Church in order to belong more fully to Christ; and third, the desire to free himself from the consciousness of sin, not by means of the remission of sin through the working of grace, but by means of the denial of the involvement of human responsibility in the sin itself.” His mind remained wrapped up in Manichaean propaganda.

But the conversion begins. John Paul II says: “Taught by his own experience of life, he made the decisive discovery that sin has its origin in the will of the human person, a will that is free and weak: `It was I who willed and refused; it was I, I.”[4] However, even though he saw the truth, he hesitated. “Now he could no longer make excuses: the truth so long desired was now certain. Nevertheless, he hesitated, seeking reasons to put off the decision to do this. The bonds that tied him to the earthly hopes were strong: honors, money, marriage, especially the last, in view of the way of life that that had become customary for him.

“Augustine knew well that he was not forbidden to marry; but he did not want to be a Catholic Christian in any other way except by renouncing the excellent ideal of the family in order to dedicate himself with `all’ his soul to the love and possession of wisdom. In taking this decision which corresponded to his deepest aspirations but was in contrast to his most deeply-rooted habits, Augustine was prompted by the example of Anthony and of the monks who were beginning to spread in the West also and whom he came to know by chance. He accused himself with great shame, `you could not do what these men and women do.’ A deep and painful struggle ensued, which was brought to its close by divine grace once again.

“Augustine related to his mother his serene and strong decision: `Then we went to my mother and related the matter to her: she rejoiced. We related how it had come about: she exulted in triumph and she blessed You, who are able to do more than we ask or think, (Eph. 3, 20), because she saw that You had given her so much more, as regarded me, than she had been accustomed to ask with her unhappy and tearful groanings. For You converted me to yourself, so that I might seek neither wife nor hope of this world.’” [5]

This entrance into, and experience of, the real self became the theological and philosophic method of Augustine that has once again surfaced in the Second Vatican Council. The “I” here is not the Cartesian “I” of a “thinking thing” that is nothing but consciousness. It is an ontological “I” that is entered, plumbed and experienced, and as experienced, “ known.” And in knowing the self experientially, one “knows” God experientially insofar as the self is image and likeness of the Godhead. Augustine says:

“Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance into the inmost depth of my soul. I was able to do so because you were my helper. On entering into myself I saw, as it were with the eye of the soul, what was beyond the eye of the soul, beyond my spirit: your immutable light. It as not the ordinary light perceptible to all flesh, nor was it merely something of greater magnitude but still essentially akin, shining more clearly and diffusing itself everywhere by its intensity. No, it was something entirely distinct, something altogether different from all these things; and it did not rest above my mind as oil on the surface of water, nor was it above me as heaven is above earth. This light was above me because it had made me; I was below it because I was created by it. He who has come to know the truth knows this light.”

And then:

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled by blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”[6]

[1] Augustine, “Confessions,” Bk. 7, 10, 18; 10, 27.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Ignatius (1984) 79-80.
[3] John Paul II, “Augustinum Hipponensem,” Apostolic Letter to the bishops, priest, religious families and faithful of the whole Catholic Church on the occasion of the 16th centenary of the conversion of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor, 28 August 1986.
[4] Confessions, 8, 10,22.
[5] John Paul II, op. cit. Chapter I.
[6] Confessions, from the Office of Readings of the August 28.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

St. Bartholomew. The Humanity of Christ and Apostolate

Humanity of Christ:

There are four major Christological Councils: Nicea (325) Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451) and Constantinople III (680-681).

1) The Nicene Creed: The principal struggle was with the subordinationism of Arius who claimed Christ to be less in being than the Father, and therefore, not God.[1] The basic affirmation is that Jesus Christ is one in being - homoousios –– with the Father, and therefore equal to Him as God.

2) The Council of Ephesus: The principal struggle here during the fourth century came from the lack of emphasis on the completeness and autonomy of the humanity of Christ. The fourth century was dominated by the revolutionary truth that Jesus is homoousios with the Father. Thus a Logos-Sarx (God wrapped in flesh) Christology flourished whereby the Word had become flesh. But the question still remained, had he become fully man also with a human soul and its faculties of intellect and will such that in Christ there would be two intellects and two wills? How would that work?

Nestorius (with the discipleship of Theodore of Mapsuestia) championed the affirmation of the full humanity of Christ. However, the Greek mind and its conceptual metaphysics of substance had to be exploded into the distinction between nature and person precisely here. The heresy that Nestorius proclaimed insisting on the full humanity of Christ (which is the totally correct positions) consisted in proclaiming that if there were two full natures, then there must be two persons. And the inexorable logic of that demanded that the son of Mary would not be the son of God. Mary would not, then, be the Mother of God (Theotokos). Besides, “(t)he two persons are connected with each other by a mere accidental or moral unity. The man Christ is not God, but a bearer of God. The Incarnation does not mean that God the Son became man, but merely that the Divine Logos resided in the man in the same manner as God dwells in the just. The human activies (birth, suffering, death) may be asserted of the Man-Christ only; the Divine activities (creation, omnipotence, eternity) of the God-Logos only. Consequently Mary cannot in the proper sense be designated by the title, customary since the time of Origen, of `Mother of God’ (θεοτόκος). She is merely a bearer of man (άνθρποτόκος) or Mother of Christ (χριστοτόκος) The conviction that in Christ there are two persons appears also in the doctrine of authentication peculiar to the Antiochians, according to which the Man-Christ was obliged to merit divine dignity and adoration by his obedience in suffering. Nestorian tendencies appear in the Christology of early scholasticism also, above all in the `habitus’’ theory, which goes back to Peter Abelard, and which was favoured by Petrus Lombadrus which compares the assumption of human nature by the Divine Logos to the putting on of a garment. St. Thomas condemns this as heresy, since it implies a mere accidental unification (S. Th. III, 2, 6).[2]

St. Cyril of Alexandria launched Twelve Anathematisms that were confirmed by the Council of Ephesus and summarized by Ott:

“Christ Incarnate is a single, that is, a sole Person. He is God and man at the same time. (b) The God-Logos is connected with the flesh by an inner, physical or substantial unification. Christ is not the bearer of God, but is God really. (c) The human and the divine activities predicated of Christ in Holy Writ and in the Fathers may not be divided between two persons or hypostases, the Man-Christ and the God-Logos, but must be attributed to the one Christ, the Logos become Flesh. It is the Divine Logos, who suffered in the flesh, was crucified, died, and rose again. (d) The Holy Virgin is the Mother of God since she truly bore the God-Logos become Flesh.”[3]

St. Cyril wrote to Nestorius the following epistle approved by the Council of Ephesus:
“For in the first place no common man was born of the holy Virgin; then the Word thus descended upon him; but being untied from the womb itself he is said to have endured a generation in the flesh in order to appropriate the producing of His own body. Thus [the holy Fathers] did not hesitate to speak of the holy Virgin as the Mother of God.”[4]

3) Council of Chalcedon: (451) “Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all teach that with one accord we confess one and the same son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in human nature, truly God and the same with a rational soul and a body truly man, consubstantial with the Father according to divinity, and consubstantial with us, according to human nature, like unto us in all things except sin,; indeed born of the Father before the ages according to divine nature, but in the last days the same born of the virgin Mary, Mother of God according to human nature; for us and for our deliverance, one and the same Christ only begotten Son our Lord, acknowledged in two natures, without mingling, without change, indivisibly, undividedly, the distinction of the natures nowhere removed on account of the union but rather the peculiarity of each nature being kept, and uniting in one person and substance, not divided or separated into two persons, but one and the same son only begotten God Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as from the beginning the prophets taught about Him and the Lord Jesus Himself taught us, and the creed of our fathers has handed down to us.

“Therefore, since these have been arranged by us with all possible care and diligence, the holy and ecumenical synod has declared that no one is allowed to profess or in any case to write up or to compose or to devise or to teach others a different faith.”

4) Council of Constantinople III (680-681):

Preface of Benedict XVI (Josef Ratzinger):

“As we have seen in our reflections so far, Jesus Christ opens the way to the impossible, to communion between God and man, since he, the incarnate Word, is this communion. He performs the `alchemy’ which melts down human nature and infuses it into the being of God To receive the Lord in the Eucharist, therefore, means entering into a community of being with Christ, it means entering through that opening in human nature through which God is accessible – which is the precondition for human beings opening up to one another in a really deep way. Communion with God is the path ot interpersonal communion among men. If we are to grasp the spiritual content of the Eucharist, therefore, we must understand the spiritual tension which marks the God-man: only in the context of a spiritual Christology will the spirituality of the sacrament reveal itself to us.

"Western theology, with its predominantly metaphysical and historical concerns, has rather neglected this aspect, which is in fact the link between the various disciplines of theology and between theological reflection and the concrete, spiritual working out of Christianity. The third Council of Constantinople (the thirteen hundredth anniversary of which, in 1981, was – significantly enough – almost forgotten, compared with the celebrations commemorating the First Council of Constantinople and that of Ephesus) sets forth the essential elements which, in my view, are also fundamental to a proper interpretation of the Council of Chalcedon. Obviously, we do not have space to make a thorough exposition of the problems, but let us at least try briefly to outline the issues which concern us here. Chalcedon had described the ontological content of the Incarnation with its celebrated formula of Two Natures in One Person. This ontology signaled the beginning of a great dispute, and the Third Council of Constantinople found itself confronted with the question: What is the spiritual substance of this ontology? Or, more concretely: What does it mean, in practical and existential terms, to speak of `One Persons in Two natures’? How can a person live with two wills and a twofold intellect? These were by no means questions posed out of theoretical curiosity: the questions affect us too, for the issue is this: How can we live as baptized people, to whom Paul’s words must apply: `I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal 2, 20)?

“As is well known, then – in the seventh century – as today, two solutions which were equally unacceptable presented themselves. Some said that in Christ there was in fact no actual human will. The third Council of Constantinople rejects this picture of Christ as that of a `Christ lacking on both will and power.’ The other solution took the opposite view and assumed that there were two completely separate spheres of will in Christ. But this led to a kind of schizophrenia, a monstrous suggestion which was also unacceptable. The Council’s answer is this: the ontological union of two faculties of will which remain independent within the unity of the Person means that, at the existential level, there is a communion (κοιωνία)of the two wills. With this interpretation of union as communion, the Council sketches an ontology of freedom. The two `wills’ are united in the way in which two wills can be united, namely, in a common affirmation of a shared value. In to her words, common affirmation of a shared value. In other words, what unites the two wills is the Yes of Christ’s human will to the divine will of the Logos. Thus, in concrete terms - `existentially’ – the two wills become a single will while remaining, at the ontological level, two independent realities. The Council adds that, just as the Lord’s flesh may be called the flesh of the Logos, his human will may also be termed the Logos’ own will. In practice the Council is here applying the Trinitarian model (with the mandatory ever-greater difference in the analogy) to Christology: the highest unity there is – the unity of God – is not the unity of unstructured, amorphous substance but unity by communion, a unity which both creates and is love. 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. Only where this act takes place is there a change for good – in the direction of the kingdom of God.”

In a later moment (1985), Cardinal Ratzinger directed a retreat for John Paul II. There, he made the same point, but with nuances. He said:

“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 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 not yet fully examined. In fact only that unity of divinity and humanity which in Christ is not parallelism, whereon 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 free do not exist.

My Comment: It is most important to observe that the two “wills” are “wills” of the One Person Who wills as both God and man. The human faculty of a human person does not will. The person wills. So also, if that human will is the will of a divine Person, it is that same divine Person willing with a human faculty, not the human faculty. And yet, at the same time, that human will is not abolished by the fact that it has been assumed by a divine Person. On the contrary, the human will as the entire human nature of the historical man Jesus (whose only Person is the Logos) now achieves the autonomy and freedom of the divine Person. The human will does not lose its freedom by saying Yes to the will of the Father. It achieves the supreme freedom of self-gift that is its ontological “construction” as image of God.


If man’s constitution as person was created in view of the God-man Jesus Christ (as St. Paul says in Ephesians 1, 4), and the Magisterium of the Church insists that “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear” and goes on to say that “Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself,”[7] and if the humanity of Christ is “compenetrated” with the divinity of the Logos, then there can be no such thing as a “natural man.” Christ ceases to be a “religious” figure because He is the anthropological prototype. One cannot be truly human without a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Such an understanding would end all dualisms as antagonistic or even parallel poles such as grace and nature, faith and reason, Church and State. As the solution to the divine and the human in Christ is found in the “communio-compenetration” of the divine Person with Jesus of Nazareth, so the dualisms that have so troubled the second half of the second millennium would find their solution here. By turning to Christ as the meaning of man, we turn from an epistemology of object to that of subject, but of an ontological and realist stripe. For example, instead of the terms being grace and nature, they would become love and person.
Instead of faith and reason as distinct intellectual habits, faith has been explained by Vatican II’s Dei Verbum #5 as the obediential act of the whole person. It is the anthropological act of self-gift of the ontological “I” whereby the being of the self (as image of God) is the light of reality itself bathing reason in the ultimate meaning of all that is known otherwise through sensible perception. Ratzinger remarks elsewhere that reason cannot be reason without faith.
Instead of the objective institutions of Church and State, the solution to their relation would be sought in personalist coindicence of the same “I” being believer and citizen. The experience of belief as self gift yields an experience and a consciousness of personal dignity and freedom that is the foundation of the democratic civil, secular order.

The humanity of Christ (that is neither destroyed by the assumption by the Person of the Logos, nor separated out as “parallel," thus creating a schizophrenia) is, then, the ontological center of the entire creation. St. Paul stated it: “For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; or the world, or life, or death; or things present, or things to come – all are your, and your are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3, 22-23). The freedom, autonomy and secularity of the world is based on the understanding of the humanity of Christ as defined and refined in Chalcedon and Constantinople III. Jesus Christ is the prototype of the human person (as in Ephesians 1, 4) as well as the revelation of the meaning of man expressed in Gaudium et Spes #22. He is not an exception to man. St. Josemaria Escriva experienced the locution, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself” Jn 12, 32) and heard the interpretation that it will be achieved not by the imposition of a theocracy, but by the conversion of each person into “another Christ.” Secularity is the autonomy of each person being converted into “another Christ” in the middle of secular activities, and thus living the sacra mentality of the Church as the Body of Christ’s Humanity. “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (Jn.20, 21). Hence, the command “Duc in altum” is directed to all to go out into the deeper waters of secular activity, and there subdue the earth (first themselves) in their professional work

[1] The Creed reads: “Accordingly it is the right faith, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God is God and man. He is God begotten of the substance of the Father before time, and he is man born of the substance of his mother in time: perfect God, perfect man, consisting of a rational soul and a human body, equal to the Father according to his Godhead, less than the Father according to humanity. Although he is God and man, yet he is not two, but he is one Christ; one, however, not by the conversion of the Divinity into a human body, but by the assumption of humanity in the Godhead; one absolutely not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For just as the rational soul and body are one man, so God and man areone Christ. He suffered for our salvation…” Denzinger “The Sources of Catholic Dogma” (Enchiridion Symbolorum) Herder (1957) #40, 16.(Enchiridion Symbolorum).
[2] Ludwig Ott, “Fundamental of Catholic Dogma,” Herder (1964) 143-144.
[3] Ibid. 144.
[4] Denzinger, #111a, p. 49.
[5] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1984) 90-93.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “Journey Towards Easter,” Crossroad (1987) 88-89.
[7] “Gaudium et spes” #22.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Locution of St. Josemaria Escriva: August 23, 1971

"Adeamus cum fiducia ad thronum gloriae, ut misericordiam consequamur” (Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy).
[There is one change in words: he heard "gloriae" for "gratiae")

The following is his commentary:

“I am going to tell you something that God Our Lord wants you to know. We sons of God in Opus Dei adeamus cum fiduciamust go with much faithad thronum gloriae, to the throne of glory, who is the Most Holy Virgin, Mother of God and our Mother, whom we invoke so many times as Sedes Sapientiae, ut misericordiam consequamur, to get mercy…”

“Keep it in mind in these moments and also afterwards. I would say that it is God’s desire (un querer de Dios).: that we place our personal interior life within these words which I have just said to you. At times you will hear them without any noise, in the intimacy of your soul, when you least expect it. Adeamus cum fiducia: go – I repeat – with confidence to the Most Sweet heart of Mary, who is our Mother and the Mother of Jesus. And with her, who is Mediatrix of all grace, to the Most Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus Christ.”

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Benedict XVI’s Message to Communion and Liberation @ Rimini, August 21, 2006.

Theme: “Reason needs the Infinite and culminates in the sigh and premonition that this Infinite manifest itself.”

“Man `knows’ he has the confused and clear premonition that he is made for an infinite end, which alone can fill that `space’ that he feels in his interior, a space that must be filled” The human being “experiences the anxiety of constant search, which always goes beyond that already reached. And yet, this search for the Infinite seems to be `condemned’ to develop in the limitation of what is `finite.’ Man, in fact, like the reality to which he applies his strength of knowledge, is always conditioned by time and space, as well as by the limit of his capacities. How can he resolve this paradox? How can he fulfill himself if what enables him to achieve it is structurally beyond his reach?” The answer is “the everlasting truth of Christianity. God, the Infinite, has assumed our finite character, to be able to perceived by our senses and, in this way, the Infinite has `met’ the rational search of finite man. The Christian `revolution’ consists in this: God the Creator `goes out to meet today and always man’s rational search that tends toward him; goes out to meet the creature that sighs for him.” Through the message the Holy Father asks the Rimini Meeting to remind its participants that “the infinite has become `findable,’ that every man can know God and quench his thirst in him.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Queenship of Mary - The Church - The Ongoing Engendering of the "Alter Christus"

The key text for today is Apoc. 12, 1- 6: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon was under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And being child, she cried out in her travail and was in the anguish of delivery. And another sign was heaven, and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and upon seen in his heads seven diadems. And his tail was dragging along the third part of the stars of heaven. And it dashed them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bring forth, that when she had brought forth he might devour her son. And she brought forth a male child, who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that there they may nourish her a thousand two hundred and sixty days.”

St. Pius X, whose feast was yesterday, commented:

“Everyone knows that the great woman of Revelation represents the Virgin Mary, who without blemish give birth to our Head. But the Apostle continues: `Being with child, she cried travailing in birth and was in pain to be delivered.’ John therefore saw the holy Mother of God, who indeed already possessed eternal beatitude, nevertheless in pain at a mysterious birth. What birth was this? It was indeed our own birth, for we are still in exile and in a state of being born for the perfect love of God and for everlasting happiness. And the woman’s pain also symbolizes the Virgin’s love, because of which she labours with unceasing prayer from her place in heaven, to fill up the number of the elect.” [1]

Our Lady is the Church:

Hugo Rahner, S.J. commented: “Thus we can begin to penetrate the impenetrable mystery of the Church that is at once glorious and suffering, through understanding the position of Mary. The Church here is still surrounded by dangers from Satan, and these dangers we have often seen with our own eyes. Yet she is already glorified, and every day her members enter the glory of Christ and His mother. And in her life on earth she is daily fulfilling the mystery of the Incarnation, since Christ our Lord was at one and the same time walking the earth and in possession of the vision of God.”[2]

“The Queen Mother” as Old Testament “Type:”
(Edward Sri: "Queem Mother, A Biblical Theology of Mary's Queenship")

Summary Conclusions: “We have examined how the gehirah tradition lends biblical support to the doctrine of Mary’s Queenship which has emerged over the centuries.
While our goal has not been to prove the Queenship as a truth revealed explicitly in Scripture, we have demonstrated how the queen-mother theme can shed important biblical light on why the mother of Jesus might be considered a queen in God’s kingdom…. In the Davidic kingdom, it was the king’s mother who ruled as queen, not the king’s wife. She held an official position in the royal court, serving as an advocate for the people and as an influential counsellor to the king. She also shared in the king’s rule over the kingdom and, in fact, was one of the most powerful persons int he kingdom under her royal son…."[3]

Queen Mother: An Official Position in the Royal Court:

"Just like her Near Eastern neighbors, Israel bestowed great honor upon the mother of the ruling king. Roland De Vaux notes how the queen mother was given a special preeminence over all the women in the kingdom of Judah, even the king's wife. He highlights the fact that although one particular woman from the royal harem usually held the king's preference, `the king's favor was not enough to give this wife official title and rank.' This is seen in the fact that throughout the entire Old Testament, the word queen (feminine form of melek, or `king') is used only once in association with Israel, and even there it is used primarily petically. On the other hand, the prestigious title gebirah was used often in the Old Testament to odescribe the mother of the king. Meaning `mistress,' `great lady,' or `queen,' gebirah is the feminine form of gebhir (`lord' or `master'). De Vaux notes how the term corresponds to adon (Lord), the feminine of which is not used in Hebrew. In the Old Testament, gebirah is often used as a title for the mother of the king, but it is never used to describe the wife of an Israelite king.

"By examining various Old Testament passages involving the mother of the Davidic kind, we can see that the queen mother held an official position in the royal court of Judeah. Her power in the kingdom was not based simply on a mother's influence over a son; the queen mother actually `held a significant official political position superseded only by that of the king himself."

The Queen Mother's Influence in the Kingdom

"How much influence did the queen mother wield in the kingdom?" Sri develops three sections: Royal Authority; Advocate; and Counselor. He concludes: "In sum, we have seen how the queen mother held an important office in the kingdom due to her unique relationship with the king and her role in dynastic succession. This position seems to have been second only to the king himself in the royal court. In her office, the queen mother served as an intercessor for the people and a counselor to her royal son. All this serves as background for understanding two key Old Testament texts that took on messianic significance, and that involve a royal mother figure and her son" (53).

Sri concludes his chapter on the Old Testament queen-mother as "type" of Mary as queen: "With all this background in mind, we are now prepared to examine how Mary, the mother of the Davidic King par excellence int he New Testament, can be understood in light of this queen-mother tradition of the Old Testament" (66)

[1] Hugo Rahner, S.J., “Our Lady and the Church,” Zacchaeus Press (2004) 130.
[2] Ibid. 131
[3] Edward Sri,, “Queen Mother, A Biblical Theology of Mary’s Queenship,” Emmaus Road, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, (2005) 105.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Maximilian Kolbe: Confessor-Martyr

He was born January 8, 1894 near Lodz in Poland. As a boy, after being scolded by his mother for being mischievous, he asked the Mother of God in a dream “what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”

In 1907, Raymond and his elder brother entered a junior Franciscan seminary in Lwow. Here he excelled in mathematics and physics and his teachers predicted a brilliant future for him in science. Others, seeing his passionate interest in all things military, saw in him a future strategist. For a time his interest in military affairs together with his fiery patriotism made him lose interest in the idea of becoming a priest. The fulfillment of his dream would lie in saving Poland from her oppressors as a soldier. However, his vocation matured with his age and he entered the Franciscans in 1910 taking the name Maximilian. From 1912 to 1915, he studied philosophy in Rome at the Gregorian College, and from 1915 to 1919 theology at the Collegio Serafico. He was ordained in Rome on 28 April 1918. Within a short time he developed tuberculosis and lost a lung. His love for our Lady grew to soon become the devouring characteristic of his life. He regarded himself as no more than an instrument of her will.

In 1927, Fr. Maximilian went to the friary of Niepokalanow, the “City of the Immaculate,” which he saw as “a place chosen by Mary Immaculate and is exclusively dedicated to spreading her cult. All that is and will be at Niepokalanow will belong to her. The monastic spirit will flourish here; we shall practice obedience and we shall be poor, in the spirit of St. Francis.” In 1930, Fr. Maximilian left Poland with four brothers on a journey to the Far East. They traveled by way of Port Said, Saigon and Shanghai, and on 24 April they landed at Nagasaki in Japan. He was immensely resourceful in his spreading the Gospel and devotion to the Virgin. By 1938 he is back in Poland as it is invaded by Hitler and annexed as part of the Third Reich. IN March of 19398, before most people thought of a war, he had said to the Brothers:

“During the first three centuries, the Church was persecuted. The blood of martyrs watered the seeds of Christianity. Later, when the persecutions ceased, one of the Fathers of the Church deplored the lukewarmness of Christians. He rejoiced when persecutions returned. In the same way, we must rejoice in what will happen, for in the midst of trials our zeal will become more ardent. Besides, are we not in the hands of the Blessed Virgin? Is it not our most ardently desired ideal to give our lives for her? We live only once. We die only once. Therefore, let it be according to her good pleasure.”

And again:

“God is cleansing Poland,” he said. “After this her [spiritual] light will shine on the world.” A footnote reads: “Although Poland was a country with much spiritual fervor and many religious vocations before the war, there has been far more zeal and far more vocations after it. Held up to the world as an example of a spiritually vibrant nation and home of the present much-loved pontiff, the image of Poland’s light shining on the world does not seem far-fetched today.”

And again:

“We are living in a time of intense penance. Let us at least avail ourselves of it. Suffering is a good and sweet thing for him who accepts it wholeheartedly.”

Father Stanley Frejlich remembers Kolbe in 1940-1941 as his philosophy teacher. In Krakow at the same time, young Karol Wojtyla was also secretly preparing for the priesthood through the illegal theology department of Jagiellonian University hidden, with several others, in the house of Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha during his clandestine study hours. He commented: “As a teacher he was the best. He shared wo much with us from his own life and his own job –especially from his period in Japan. And during our lessons he was wonderfully cheerful – always smiling. And very funny too.”

In Auschwitz, “the work was done at a run, with foremen stationed every several yards to beat any prisoner – especially priests, for whom Krott [one of the capos] had a special ferocity – who slowed down. It was a real Way of the Cross. For Father Maximilian it lasted two weeks. He was singled out to carry loads that were two or three times what non priests carried] – and carrying anything, especially at a run [with only one lung], was difficult over the uneven ground of the swamp. If he paused to rest, he was beaten with sticks. Fellow priests who saw him bleeding wanted to help, but he told them – usually with a smile - `Don’t expose yourselves to a beating. The Immaculata is helping me. I’ll get alone.’”

The Event:

There were 600 men in Block 14. Someone had escaped the Block. Fritsch , the camp Commandant barks: “`The fugitive has not been found. In reprisal for your comrade’s escape, ten of you will die by starvation. Next time, it will be twenty.’ Immediately, the selection begins. Palitsch and a prisoner-secretary precede him with pad and pencil to take down the numbers of the condemned; Fritsch walks down the first row of identically garbed, nameless men. He meanders slowly to prolong their terror. Perhaps he is even so sick that he enjoys the feeling that each life is momentarily his to dangle helplessly before its owner before setting it down or shattering it forever. He scrutinizes faces. The, with a gesture, he chooses his first victim from the front row. This does not mean the rest in that line are safe, however, He might take another. Even when the tenth man is chosen, the SS had been known to go on and take eleven, twelve, thirteen – as many as eighteen. After the first row is inspected, the order is given: `Three paces forward.’ They move up, leaving an alley between them and the second row so that arrogant Fritsch can one by one, stare each of these hapless souls straight in the face, while musing with leisurely care on his fate. Francis Mleczko recalls:

“I was in about the fifth or sixth row back and fifth or sixth man frm the end Fritsch started at. As he came closer and closer my heart was pounding. `Let him pass me, let him pass me, oh pass, pass,’ I was praying. But no. He stopped directly before me. With his eyes, he examined me from my head to my feet, then back again. A second complete up and down. I saw the [secretary] pose his pencil to write my number. Then, in Polish, Fritsch orders, `Open you mouth.’ I open. He looks. He walks on. I breathe again.

They are coming to Kolbe. His admirers can only think God will never permit a son who has given his whole life to his Father’s work – and whose work of studding the world with Christian communication centers is so far from finished – to be condemned by these agents of evil. Fritsch does not even pause.

But now he is beckoning to Palitsch. They are examining Koscielniak, who watches the two SS officers exchange looks:

It seemed to me this look would never end and in a moment I would be called out… But no, they passed me and chose someone else. I began to tremble from relief…

The line of the forlorn souls, the condemned, is growing. At each selection, Fritsch’s newest victim steps out forever from the Block ranks to join this death row. When the SS officer reaches the eighth row, the sinister quota is almost filled. Wojtkowski:

"I am thinking my luck is okay. Then suddenly he points down the row at me and calls `You!’ I freeze in terror and can’t move. Since I don’t put my foot forward, my neighbor decides Fritsch is calling him. Unsure, he puts one foot slightly out.

“Not you, dummkopf Polish swine,’ Fritsch snarls, and points at me again. Then suddenly, in a split second, he changes his mind and, as my neighbor starts to step back, he orders him forward and takes him instead of me. I remain paralyzed…

"Finally the grisly selection is complete. Fritsch turns to Palitsch, the noncommissioned officer who likes to brag about the numbers he has shot at the execution wall by Block 11. Together the SS officers check the secretary’s list against the numbers on the condemned. As their German passion for accuracy occupies them, one of the victims is sobbing. `My wife and my children!’ It is Francis Gajowniczek. The SS ignore him.

"Suddenly, there is movement in the still ranks. A prisoner several rows back has broken out and is pushing his way toward the front. The SS guards watching this Block raise their automatic rifles, while the dogs at their heels tense for the order to spring. Fritsch and Palitsch too reach toward their holsters. The prisoner steps past the first row.
It is Kolbe. His step is firm, his face peaceful. Angrily, the Block capo shouts at him to stop or be shot. Kolbe answers calmly, `I want to talk to the commander,’ and keeps on walking while the capo, oddly enough, neither shoots nor clubs him. Then, still at a respectful distance, Kolbe stops, his cap in his hands. Standing at attention like an officer of some sort himself, he looks Fritsch straight in the eye.
`Herr Commandant, I wish to make a request, please,’ he says politely in flawless German.
Survivors will later say it is a miracle that no one shoots him. Instead, Fritsch asks,
`What do you want?’

`I want to die in place of this prisoner.’
And Kolbe points toward the sobbing Gajowniczek. He presents this audacious request without a stammer. Fritsch looks stupefied, irritated. Everyone notes how the German lord of life and death, suddenly nervous, actually steps back a pace.
The prisoner explains coolly, as if they were discussing some everyday matter, that the man over there has a family.

`I have no wife or children. Besides, I’m old and not good for anything. He’s in better condition,’ he adds, adroitly playing on the Nazi line that only the fit should live.
`Who are you?’ Fritsch croaks.
`A Catholic priest.’
Frisch is silent. The stunned Block, audience to this drama, expect him in usual Auschwitz fashion to show no mercy but sneer, `Well, since you’re so eager, we’ll just let you come along too,’ and take both men. Instead, after a moment, the deputy-commander snaps,
`Request granted.’ As if he needs to expel some fury, he kicks Gajowniczek, snarling, `Back to ranks, you!’

Prisoner in ranks are never allowed to speak. Gajowniczek says:
`I could only try to thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me – a stranger. Is this some dream or reality?...”[1]

“After two weeks, “the prisoners were dying one after the other, and by this time only four were left, among them Father Kolbe, who was still conscious. The SS decided things were taking too long… One day they sent for the German criminal Bock from the hospital to give the prisoners injections of carbolic acid. After the needle prick in the vein of the left arm, you could follow the instant welling as it moved up the arm toward the chest. When it reached the heart, the victim would fall dead. Between injection and death was a little more than ten seconds.
“Some of Kolbe’s friends were brash enough to request that his body not be burned, but buried. The request was denied. … Years earlier he had said, `I would like to be ground to dust for the Immaculate Virgin and have this dust be blown away by the wind all over the world.”[2]

John Paul II at Auschwitz

“From the helicopter pad on the outskirts of town, the Pope was driven to the gate of the Auschwitz concentration camp in limousine constantly pelted with flowers thrown by the half-million Poles lining the roadway. But this was neither the place nor the moment for smiles. John Paul walked through the wrought-iron entrance gate with its infamously cynical inscription, Arbeit Macht Frei [Work Makes you Free], and along the gravel paths separating the red-bricks barracks buildings until he came to Block 11. There, in the basement, in Cell 18, Maximilian Kolbe had died a martyr to charity. The Pope knelt in prayer, kissed the cement floor where Kolbe had lain in agony, and then left a bouquet of red-and-white flowers and an Easter candle brought from Rome. Outside Block 11 was the `Wall of Death,’ against which prisoners were executed by firing squad. Enroute to praying there with West German’s Cardinal Hermann Volk, the Pope met and embraced seventy eight-year-old Franciszek Gajowniczek, whose life Father Kolbe had saved by his self-sacrifice.”[3]

Beatification as Confessor (white) Canonization as Martyr (red)

“Kolbe’s canonization was set for St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, October 10, 1982. But a question had arisen. Father Kolbe was widely regarded as a martyr, but was he a `martyr’ in the technical sense of the term – someone who had died because of odium fidei, `hatred of the faith’? He had not been arrested because of odium fidei, and witnesses to his self-sacrifice had testified that the Auschwitz commandant, Fritsch, had simply accepted Kolbe’s self-substitution for the condemned Fransciszek Gajowniczek without evincing any particular satisfaction that he was killing a priest. The theologians and experts of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (the Vatican office that considers beatifications and canonizations) had argued that Kolbe, while undoubtedly a saint, was not a martyr in the traditional sense of the term….

“John Paul II appointed two special judges to consider the question from the theological and historical points of view. Their reports were then submitted to a special advisory commission. The majority of the commission concluded that Blessed Maximilian Kolbe’s self-sacrifice did not satisfy the traditional criteria for martyrdom, heroic as ti undoubtedly was. On the day of his canonization, it was unclear whether Kolbe would be given the accolade of a martyr, as many Poles, Germans, and others wished.

“October 10, 1982, a magnificent autumn morning, found a quarter of a million people in St. Peter’s Square, where they saw a great banner, a portrait of Father Kolbe, draped from the central loggia. Still, the question hung in the air: Would Kolbe be recognized as a martyr?
The answer came when John Paul II processed out of the basilica and into the square wearing red vestments, the liturgical color of martyrs. He had overridden the counsel of his advisory commission, and in his homily he declared that `in virtue of my apostolic authority, I have decreed that Maximilian Mary Kolbe, who following his beatification was venerated as a confessor, will henceforth be venerated also as a martyr!’”[4]

And so as a young boy when Kolbe dreamed of asking our Lady “what was to become of me,” she held out to him two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked him if he was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that he should persevere in purity and the red that he should become a martyr. He said that he would accept them both. And so it was!

[1] Patricia Treece, “A Man for Others,” Harper and Row (1982) 169-171.
[2]) Ibid. 176
[3] George Weigel, “Witness to Hope,” Harper and Row, Cliffside Books (1999) 314-315.
[4] Ibid. 447.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Destined To Be In Christ Before Sin

Consider the Distinction Between the “Sacrament of Creation” (Matrimony) and the “Sacrament of Redemption” (The Cross)

The human person is ordained to fulfillment in Jesus Christ not because of sin but because of the original intention of the Creator at the moment of creation before sin. The meaning of every man, then, is Jesus Christ, and the anthropology that grounds every human action for every man is that of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is, then, the meaning of every man “before” - as it were - the salvation from sin. To this effect, John Paul II, in his exegesis of Ephesians, chapters1[1]-5 distinguishes between the “sacrament of creation” (“the sacramental `beginning’ of man and of marriage in the state of original justice [or innocence”] marriage”[2]) and the “sacrament of redemption.” They are two moments of “gracing.”

With regard to the first, John Paul says: “This salvific initiative comes forth from God, the Creator, and its supernatural efficaciousness is identical with the very act of the creation of man in the state of original innocence. In this state, already beginning with the act of the creation of man, his eternal election in Christ has borne fruit. In this way, one must recognize that the original sacrament of creation draws it efficaciousness from the `beloved Son’ (see Eph. 1, 6, where the author speaks about `his grace, which he has given to us in is beloved Son’). As for marriage, one can deduce that – instituted in the context of the sacrament of creation in its totality, or in the state of original innocence – it was to serve not only to extend the work of creation, or procreation, but also to spread the same sacrament of creation to further generations of human beings, that is, to spread the supernatural fruits of man’s eternal election by the Father in the eternal Son, the fruits man was endowed with by God in the very act of creation.
“Ephesians seems to authorize us to understand Genesis in this way, and the truth about the `beginning’ of man and marriage contained in it.”

With regard to the second, he says: “In Ephesians 5, 31, when the author appeals to the words of the institution of marriage in Genesis 2, 24 (`For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and unite with his wife, and the two will be one flesh’), and immediately after this declares, `This mystery is great; I say this with reference to Christ and the Church’ (Eph. 5, 32), he seems to point out not only the identity of the Mystery hidden in God from eternity, but also the continuity of its realization between the primordial sacrament connected with man’s supernatural gracing [that is, endowment with grace] in creation itself and the new gracing – which was brought about when `Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her, in order to make her holy’ (Eph. 5, 25-26) – an endowment with grace that can be defined in its entirety as the sacrament of redemption. This redemptive gift of self `for’ the Church also includes – according to Pauline thought – Christ’s giftos self to the Church, in the image of the spousal relation that unites husband and wife in marriage. In this way, the sacrament of redemption clothes itself, so to speak, in the figure and form of the primordial sacrament. To the marriage of the first husband and wife, as a sign of the supernatural endowment of man with grace in the sacrament of creation, corresponds the marriage, or rather the analogy of the marriage, of Christ with the Church, as the fundamental `great’ sign of man’ supernatural gracing in the sacrament of redemption, of the gracing in which the covenant of the grace of election that was broken in the `beginning’ by sin is renewed in a definitive way.

“The image contained in the passage quoted from Ephesians seems to speak above all about the sacrament of redemption as the definitive realization of the Mystery hidden from eternity in God. Indeed, in this mysterium magnum, everything that Ephesians talks about in chapter 1 is definitively realized. It says, in fact, as we remember, not only that `in him [that is, Christ] he has chosen us before the creation of the world to be holy and immaculate before him’ (Eph. 1, 4); John Paul II’s addition), but also, `in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace. He has abundantly poured it out on us’ (Eph. 1, 7-8). Man’s new supernatural endowment with the gift of grace in the `sacrament of redemption’ is also a new realization of the Mystery hidden from eternity in God, new in comparison with the sacrament of creation. At this moment, endowment with grace is in some sense a `new creation.’ It differs, however, from the sacrament of creation inasmuch as the original gracing, united with the creation of man, constituted that man `from the beginning’ through grace in the sate of original innocence and justice. Man’s new gracing in the sacrament of redemption, by contrast, gives him above all the `forgiveness of sin.’ Still, even here `grace’ can `superabound’ as St. Paul expresses himself elsewhere: `Where sin abounded, grace superabounded’ (Rom. 5, 20).

“On the basis of Christ’s spousal love for the Church [the original sacrament of creation], the sacrament of redemption – fruit of Christ’s redeeming love – becomes a permanent dimension of the life of the Church herself, a fundamental and life giving dimension. It is the `Mysterium magnum of Christ and the Church, the eternal mystery realized by Christ, who `gave himself for her’ (Eph. 5, 25), uniting with her with an indissoluble, just as spouses, husband and wife, unite in marriage. In this manner, the Church lives from the sacrament of redemption and on her part completes this sacrament, just as the wife in virtue of spousal love, completes her husband, which was in some way already brought out `at the beginning’ when the first man found in the first woman `a help similar to himself’ (Gen. 2, 20).”

Redemption is, then, a restoring of man as “ipse Christus.” Man was created in Christ – “Ipse Christus” - before sin. Therefore, there is no such thing as “natural” man. To be truly man is to be Christ.

[1] “Blessed by God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. In him he has chosen us before the foundation of the world to be holy and immaculate in his sight in love, predestining us to be his adoptive sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise and glory of his grace that he gave us in his beloved Son
[2] John Paul II, TOB op. cit. 507.
[3] Ibid. 506-507.
[4] Ibid. 507-509.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

St. Edith Stein

The Mind of St. Edith Stein: “Inklings of Vatican II and John Paul II”

Her last major work was to be a commentary on the great mystic and collaborator of St. Teresa of Avila in the reform of Carmel, St. John of the Cross.[1] She had the following trenchant remark to make in the unfinished manuscript’s Introduction entitled "Meaning and Basis of the Science of the Cross":

“There are naturally recognizable signs indicating that human nature as it actually exists is in a state of depravity. This includes the inability to assimilate and react to facts according to their true value. . . .This lack of sensibility is particularly painful in the religious sphere. Many Christians feel depressed because the events of the Gospel do not—or do no longer—impress them as they ought and fail to affect and shape their lives. The example of the saints shows how it ought to be: where there is truly living faith there Christian doctrine and the mighty deeds of God are the content of life which shape everything and before which everything else must give way. . . If a saintly soul thus assimilates the truths of faith they become the science of the saints. If the mystery of the Cross becomes its inner form it grows into the science of the Cross.”

Stein estimated that Christians are depressed because they do not "react to facts according to their true value." Unfortunately, they share in a "lack of sensibility" to reality because they show less than a "truly living faith."

This estimate of the situation does not flow from pessimism. Stein was writing her study on Saint John of the Cross during World War II, and our generation is painfully aware of how paralysis among believers in the face of that war’s atrocities has spawned other problems in our midst. One need only reread the Vatican’s recent declaration "We remember" on the Shoah to appreciate how sad a break-down in morale occurred among Catholic believers back then.

Stein gives the reader an antidote. She claims that if "Christian doctrine and the mighty deeds of God. . .[were] the content of [their] life" they would react to events most differently. What is lacking is assimilation on the part of those who by the rebirth of baptism are expected to take an active part in the Church which has engendered them to eternal life.

In fact, Stein uses the word "assimilate" twice, and here is the nub of the question and her challenge. She would call upon the Church today to give more effective ways to assimilation of the riches of the faith. Ever an alert pedagogue, the former "Fraülein Doktor" who now as Saint Edith will give added credibility to an intellectual apostolate among Catholics, reminds us that effective catechetical methods and outreach is essential to vibrant participation by Catholics in all happenings of life, be they directly related to their church or be they found in the mainstream of secular life. But, if believers die of hunger for want of proper understanding of the teachings transmitted to them from Christ and his preaching of the Good News of Salvation, the world will lack the proper leaven Christianity can give. In parallel fashion, Stein tells us the reserves of holiness in our world will diminish too: there will be no science of the Cross at work because those who are called to be saints will hardly craft it into that "inner form" she would educe out of the "truths of the faith." The blockage they suffer and the lost contact with Gospel values will stunt their growth. In this connection it is very suitable to delve into the life of a true saint of our times, Stein, to see some of the ways she tried to take seriously knowledge of the faith and to transmit her grasp of it to her contemporaries.

Intellectual Tools to Describe this “Assimilation: Thomistic Metaphysics and Phenomenology.

(“Inklings” of John Paul II)

“Being the type to insist on acquaintance with the best exemplar of a particular field of knowledge, she turned to the system of reflection most popularly acclaimed by Catholics at that time, viz., Thomism. She translated an important work of St. Thomas into German, the "Questions on the Truth," and as she did it she devised fine linguistic rendering of the medieval genius’ teaching in contemporary German. But she did not stop there. She worked at building bridges between Thomism, the then reigning Catholic expression of the philosophia perennis and Phenomenology as a cutting edge trend in modern philosophical thinking.” This was the vision and work of Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II.

Irreducibility of the Woman as “I”

“Along with St. Thomas and Aristotle, Stein acknowledged that there are traits unique to the human soul, abilities (or at least dispositional traits) that are shared by every member of the species. Rationality, and along with it free choice, belong to every human being and so to every woman as a human person. But if the soul is the form of the body, and the form of humanity is individuated by being united with this body or that one, Stein reasoned that the woman’s soul will have a spiritual quality distinct from the man’s soul. She did not argue that biology is destiny, but that the physical differences between men and women profoundly mark their personalities. The woman’s body stamps her soul with particular qualities that are common to all women but different from distinctively masculine traits. Stein saw these differences as complementary and not hierarchical in value, and so they should be recognized and celebrated rather than minimized and deplored. There are two ways of being human, as man or as woman.
Stein supported her view both by philosophical appeal to the intimacy of the body/soul relationship and to psychological theories that focus on personality types, rather than on behavior alone. She considered the differences between males and females to be evident even to common sense, and so in need of little argument. Her thesis would be denied by many feminists today, but probably not by anyone who has children of both genders. The differences between girls and boys are evident and seem totally resistant to manipulation. Nature has a stubborn way of asserting herself in total disregard for our theories.

Deep dispositions
Stein looked especially to the creation narratives of Genesis to draw out what she took to be the natural vocation of woman. Every woman, she claimed, is meant to be both a companion (her spousal vocation) and a mother. Because of her close connection with human birth and development, woman seeks and embraces whatever is living, personal, and whole. “To cherish, guard, protect, nourish, and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning.” Woman naturally focuses on what is human, and tends to give relationships a higher importance than work, success, reputation, etc. Here Stein’s thinking lines up with recent neo-feminist authors like Carol Gilligan who claim that women approach moral questions with more attention to the people affected by their actions and decisions than to abstract and impersonal considerations of duty, rights, and justice.
Woman is naturally more attuned to the individual, and hence to a concrete, particular person with all of his or her own needs and potential. Further, this maternal concern aims at the total development of the other person as a unity of body, soul, and spirit. No one aspect of the personality is to be sacrificed to any other. In particular, there is to be no divorcing of mind and body, treating persons (especially students) as if they were disembodied intellects.
The maternal aspect of woman’s vocation involves helping other persons develop to their fullest potential, and for those who are married, this will include their husbands as well as their children. Motherhood is a universal calling for women, and so not simply a task to be exercised with one’s biological children. Woman’s concern for the good of persons must extend to all those whose lives touch hers in some way.
Pope John Paul II raises this feminine vocation to truly cosmic proportions, looking to women for the rehumanization of a world dominated by hedonism and materialism. In The Gospel of Life he calls upon women to “teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty or health.” This contribution of women, declares the Holy Father, is “an indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change,” for replacing the culture of death with the civilization of love.
In addition to this cultural or spiritual motherhood, Stein sees woman’s calling as including a spousal dimension, the role of companionship. This involves sharing the life of another, entering into it and making that person’s concerns one’s own. One might argue that this is a vocation for both men and women, and it is unlikely that Stein would deny that it is. But it may also be true that women have a special genius for friendship, perhaps because of their orientation to the human and personal, and a greater capacity for exercising empathy. Stein’s dissertation on the subject of empathy was completed some years prior to her lectures on women’s roles, but one can see its influence on that later work. She describes empathy as a clear awareness of another person, not simply of the content of his experience, but of his experience of that content. In empathy, one takes the place of the other without becoming strictly identical to him. It is not just understanding the experiences of the other, but in some sense taking them on as one’s own.
Obviously this ability to enter into another’s life is especially helpful within marriage, but it can and should be exercised in other relationships as well. For women who are single, or for those who have consecrated themselves wholly to God, this aspect of their vocation should take on a more universal scope, and will call for a more disinterested {that is to say a more divine} kind of love. Everyone who knew Edith Stein tells us that she was a living example of this capacity for empathy. Her spiritual director in the late '20s, Abbot Raphael Walzer, wrote that she possessed “a tender, even maternal, solicitude for others. She was plain and direct with ordinary people, learned with the scholars, a fellow-seeker with those searching for the truth. I could almost say she was a sinner with the sinners.”

* * * * * * * *

The Life of St. Edith Stein Canonized by John Paul II on October 11, 1998.

"We bow down before the testimony of the life and death of Edith Stein, an outstanding daughter of Israel and at the same time a daughter of the Carmelite Order, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a personality who united within her rich life a dramatic synthesis of our century. It was the synthesis of a history full of deep wounds that are still hurting ... and also the synthesis of the full truth about man. All this came together in a single heart that remained restless and unfulfilled until it finally found rest in God." These were the words of Pope John Paul II when he beatified Edith Stein in Cologne on 1 May 1987.
Who was this woman?

Edith Stein was born in Breslau on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11, as her family were celebrating Yom Kippur, that most important Jewish festival, the Feast of Atonement. "More than anything else, this helped make the youngest child very precious to her mother." Being born on this day was like a foreshadowing to Edith, a future Carmelite nun.
In 1913, Edith Stein transferred to G6ttingen University, to study under the mentorship of Edmund Husserl. She became his pupil and teaching assistant, and he later tutored her for a doctorate. At the time, anyone who was interested in philosophy was fascinated by Husserl's new view of reality, whereby the world as we perceive it does not merely exist in a Kantian way, in our subjective perception. His pupils saw his philosophy as a return to objects: "back to things". Husserl's phenomenology unwittingly led many of his pupils to the Christian faith. In G6ttingen Edith Stein also met the philosopher Max Scheler, who directed her attention to Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, she did not neglect her "bread-and-butter" studies and passed her degree with distinction in January 1915, though she did not follow it up with teacher training.
During this period she went to Frankfurt Cathedral and saw a woman with a shopping basket going in to kneel for a brief prayer. "This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot. "Towards the end of her dissertation she wrote: "There have been people who believed that a sudden change had occurred within them and that this was a result of God's grace." How could she come to such a conclusion?
Edith Stein had been good friends with Husserl's Göttingen assistant, Adolf Reinach, and his wife.When Reinach fell in Flanders in November 1917, Edith went to Göttingen to visit his widow. The Reinachs had converted to Protestantism. Edith felt uneasy about meeting the young widow at first, but was surprised when she actually met with a woman of faith. "This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it ... it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me - Christ in the mystery of the Cross."
Later, she wrote: "Things were in God's plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that - from God's point of view - there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes."
In Autumn 1918 Edith Stein gave up her job as Husserl's teaching assistant. She wanted to work independently. It was not until 1930 that she saw Husserl again after her conversion, and she shared with him about her faith, as she would have liked him to become a Christian, too. Then she wrote down the amazing words: "Every time I feel my powerlessness and inability to influence people directly, I become more keenly aware of the necessity of my own holocaust."
Edith Stein wanted to obtain a professorship, a goal that was impossible for a woman at the time. Husserl wrote the following reference: "Should academic careers be opened up to ladies, then I can recommend her whole-heartedly and as my first choice for admission to a professorship." Later, she was refused a professorship on account of her Jewishness.
Back in Breslau, Edith Stein began to write articles about the philosophical foundation of psychology. However, she also read the New Testament, Kierkegaard and Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. She felt that one could not just read a book like that, but had to put it into practice.

One evening Edith picked up an autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila and read this book all night. "When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth." Later, looking back on her life, she wrote: "My longing for truth was a single prayer."
On 1 January 1922 Edith Stein was baptized. It was the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, when Jesus entered into the covenant of Abraham. Edith Stein stood by the baptismal font, wearing Hedwig Conrad-Martius' white wedding cloak. Hedwig washer godmother. "I had given up practising my Jewish religion when I was a 14-year-old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God." From this moment on she was continually aware that she belonged to Christ not only spiritually, but also through her blood. At the Feast of the Purification of Mary - another day with an Old Testament reference - she was confirmed by the Bishop of Speyer in his private chapel.
After her conversion she went straight to Breslau: "Mother," she said, "I am a Catholic." The two women cried. Hedwig Conrad Martius wrote: "Behold, two Israelites indeed, in whom is no deceit!" (cf. John 1:47).

Immediately after her conversion she wanted to join a Carmelite convent. However, her spiritual mentors, Vicar-General Schwind of Speyer, and Erich Przywara SJ, [mentor in the metaphysics of the analogia entis of Urs von Balthasar] stopped her from doing so. Until Easter 1931 she held a position teaching German and history at the Dominican Sisters' school and teacher training college of St. Magdalen's Convent in Speyer. At the same time she was encouraged by Arch-Abbot Raphael Walzer of Beuron Abbey to accept extensive speaking engagements, mainly on women's issues. "During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I ... thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one's mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learnt that other things are expected of us in this world... I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to `get beyond himself' in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it."
She worked enormously hard, translating the letters and diaries of Cardinal Newman from his pre-Catholic period as well as Thomas Aquinas' Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate. The latter was a very free translation, for the sake of dialogue with modern philosophy. Erich Przywara also encouraged her to write her own philosophical works.
In 1931 Edith Stein left the convent school in Speyer and devoted herself to working for a professorship again, this time in Breslau and Freiburg, though her endeavours were in vain. It was then that she wrote Potency and Act, a study of the central concepts developed by Thomas Aquinas. Later, at the Carmelite Convent in Cologne, she rewrote this study to produce her main philosophical and theological oeuvre, Finite and Eternal Being. By then, however, it was no longer possible to print the book.

In 1932 she accepted a lectureship position at the Roman Catholic division of the German Institute for Educational Studies at the University of Munster, where she developed her anthropology. She successfully combined scholarship and faith in her work and her teaching, seeking to be a "tool of the Lord" in everything she taught. "If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him."

In 1933 darkness broke out over Germany. "I had heard of severe measures against Jews before. But now it dawned on me that God had laid his hand heavily on His people, and that the destiny of these people would also be mine." The Aryan Law of the Nazis made it impossible for Edith Stein to continue teaching. "If I can't go on here, then there are no longer any opportunities for me in Germany," she wrote; "I had become a stranger in the world."
The Arch-Abbot of Beuron, Walzer, now no longer stopped her from entering a Carmelite convent. While in Speyer, she had already taken a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. In 1933 she met with the prioress of the Carmelite Convent in Cologne. "Human activities cannot help us, but only the suffering of Christ. It is my desire to share in it."
When she made her eternal profession on 21 April 1938, she had the words of St. John of the Cross printed on her devotional picture: "Henceforth my only vocation is to love." Her final work was to be devoted to this author.
Edith Stein's entry into the Carmelite Order was not escapism. "Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede to God for everyone." In particular, she interceded to God for her people: "I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is great comfort." (31 October 1938)
On 9 November 1938 the anti-Semitism of the Nazis became apparent to the whole world.
In Echt, Edith Stein hurriedly completed her study of "The Church's Teacher of Mysticism and the Father of the Carmelites, John of the Cross, on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, 1542-1942." In 1941 she wrote to a friend, who was also a member of her order: "One can only gain a scientia crucis (knowledge of the cross) if one has thoroughly experienced the cross. I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart: 'Ave, Crux, Spes unica' (I welcome you, Cross, our only hope)." Her study on St. John of the Cross is entitled: "Kreuzeswissenschaft" (The Science of the Cross).
Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with the other sisters. She was to report within five minutes, together with her sister Rosa, who had also converted and was serving at the Echt Convent. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: "Come, we are going for our people."
Together with many other Jewish Christians, the two women were taken to a transit camp in Amersfoort and then to Westerbork. This was an act of retaliation against the letter of protest written by the Dutch Roman Catholic Bishops against the pogroms and deportations of Jews. Edith commented, "I never knew that people could be like this, neither did I know that my brothers and sisters would have to suffer like this. ... I pray for them every hour. Will God hear my prayers? He will certainly hear them in their distress." Prof. Jan Nota, who was greatly attached to her, wrote later: "She is a witness to God's presence in a world where God is absent."
On 7 August, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. It was probably on 9 August that Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, her sister and many other of her people were gassed.When Edith Stein was beatified in Cologne on 1 May 1987, the Church honoured "a daughter of Israel", as Pope John Paul II put it, "who, as a Catholic during Nazi persecution, remained faithful to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ and, as a Jew, to her people in loving faithfulness" (underline mine).

[1] From John Sullivan, OCD. SYMPOSIUM INTERNATIONALE EDITH STEIN Rome - Teresianum1998.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Transfiguration (In a culture in search of "Meaning")

Moses sees God in the Face:

“Moses said, `I pray thee, show me thy glory.’ And he said, `I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name “The Lord;” and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will how mercy. But,’ he said, `you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live.’ And the Lord said, `Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand upon the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”[1]

Comment: Moses asks for a more intimate knowledge of God – to see his glory, that is, to see him as he really is. But…it is not possible for man, given his creaturely limitations, to fully comprehend God. The Bible frequently refers to the fact that `no one can see the face of God and live’ (cf. 20; Gen 32, 30; Ex. 1921; Deut. 4, 33; Judg. 6, 22-23). To show the sublime greatness of God, Scripture says that even the Seraphim hide their face in the presence of the Lord (cf. Is. 6, 2).

“The vision of God described so mysteriously here is a work of special for to Moses, his special friend (cf. Num. 12, 7-8; Deut. 34, 10). But not even he is allowed to see God directly; he will see only the back of him, as if to say that man can only manage to see God in the tracks he leaves behind. This vision was a very special privilege, and it is one which will also be given to Elijah[2] (cf. 1 [3] Kings 19, 9-13). And it is in fact these two men who appear in the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor (cf. Mt. 17, 1-7), where Christ’s divinity is revealed. Only Christ has seen God and has made him known (cf. Jn. 1, 18). The blessed in heaven will attain the fullest vision of God (cf. 1 Cor. 31, 12; 1 Jn. 3, 2) (Navarre Bible, Pentateuch, 386, 392).

The Brilliance of the Face of One Who Has Seen God: The Apostolate!

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tables of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. And when Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the people of Israel came near and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone; and Moses would put the veil upon his face again, until he went into speak with him.”[3]

Ratzinger on Who is Jesus Christ, and How is He Known:

“According to Luke, Jesus had spent the night which preceded this event [the calling of the twelve] at prayer on the mountain: the calling of the Twelve proceeds from prayer, from the Son’s converse with the Father. The Church is born in that prayer in which Jesus gives himself back into the Father’s hands and the Father commits everything to the Son. This most profound communication of Son and Father conceals the Church’s true and ever-new origin, which is also her firm foundation (Lk. 6, 12-17).”

“Again it is Luke who shows that Jesus put the crucial question of how the disciples stood toward him at the very moment when they had begun to share in the hiddenness of his prayer. In this way the Evangelist makes it clear that Peter had grasped and expressed the most fundamental reality of the person of Jesus as a result of having seen him praying, in fellowship with the Father. According to Luke, we see who Jesus is if we see him at prayer. The Christian confession of faith comes from participating in the prayer of Jesus, from being drawn into his payer and being privileged to behold it; it interprets the experience of Jesus’ prayer, and its interpretation of Jesus is correct because it springs from a sharing in what is most personal and intimate to him.

“Thus we have arrived at both the very basis and the abiding precondition of the Christian confession of faith: only by entering into Jesus’ solitude
[4], only by participating in what is most personal to him, his communication with the Father, can one see what this most personal reality is; only thus can one penetrate to his identity. This is the only way to understand him and to grasp what `following Jesus’ means. The Christian confession is not a neutral proposition; it is prayer, only yielding its meaning within prayer. The person who has beheld Jesus’ intimacy with his Father and has come to understand him from within is called to be a `rock’ of the Church. The Church arises out of participation in the prayer of Jesus (cf. Lk. 9, 18-20; Mt. 16, 13-20).”

The Transfiguration:

“My third example is the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration `on the mountain.’ In the Gospels, `the mountain is always the realm of prayer, of being with the Father. It was to this `mountain’ that Jesus had taken the Three who formed the core of the community of the Twelve: Peter, James and John. `As he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered,’ Luke tells us (9, 29). Thus he makes it plain that the Transfiguration only renders visible what is actually taking place in Jesus’ prayer: he is sharing in God’s radiance and hence in the manner in which the true meaning of the Old Testament – and of all history – is being made visible, i.e., revelation. Jesus’ proclamation proceeds from this participation in God’s radiance, God’s glory, which also involves a seeing with the eyes of God – and therefore an unfolding of what was hidden. So Luke also shows the unity of revelation and prayer in the person of Jesus: both are rooted in the mystery of Sonship… Thus Luke suggests that the whole of Christology – our speaking of Christ – is nothing other than the interpretation of his prayer: the entire person of Jesus is contained in his prayer.”

Ratzinger now reaches his climax by explaining the theological epistemology that is at the heart of his thought:

“Thesis 3: Since the center of the person of Jesus is prayer, 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 is 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).

[This is a “new” logic differs from our “ordinary” logic built on sensation, the formation of symbols (concepts) and syllogisms whereby we think “objectively.” It is the same kind of conclusion that Karol Wojtyla came to in his thesis on Faith According to St. John of the Cross: “only through charity and the gifts is infused faith the proportionate means of intimate union with God”[5]. St. John talked of the dark night of the soul because the whole self as gift was the “proportionate likeness” to the revealing Person of Christ who was self-gift from the Father as Word-Likeness, or Revelation of Himself. Therefore, Cardinal Ratzinger explained (1993) why a “universal catechism” was published at this time: “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”

“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 – an undisputed axiom in more recent philosophy of religion. The fundamental actof religion is prayer, which in 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 love of neighbor, knowing and fulfilling itself as love for the members of this Body.

“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 the 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 not 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 – although one can doubtless establish plenty of details about him. Therefore a participation in the mind of Jesus, i.e., in his prayer, which (as we have seen) 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 the same meaning – is to take place.
“The New Testament continually reveals this state of affairs and thus provides the foundation for a theological epistemology. Here is simply one example: when Ananias was sent to Paul to receive him into the Church, he was reluctant and suspicious of Paul; the reason given to him was this: go to him `for he is praying’ (Acts 9. 11). In prayer, Paul is moving toward the moment when he will be freed from blindness and will begin to see, not only exteriorly, but interiorly as well. The person who prays begins to see; praying and seeing go together because – as Richard of St. Victor says - `Love is the faculty of seeing.’ Real advances in Christology, therefore, can never come merely as the result of the theology of the schools, and that includes the modern theology as we find it in critical exegesis, in the history of doctrine and in an anthropology oriented toward the human sciences, etc. All this is important, as important as schools are. But it is insufficient. It must be complemented by the theology of the saints, which is theology from experience. All real progress in theological understanding has it origin in the eye of love and in its faculty of beholding.”[7]

The above found a central place in the major document of John Paul II – Novo Millennio Ineunte (19-20):

“ Engaging in a kind of first evaluation of his mission, Jesus asks his disciples what "people" think of him, and they answer him: "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets" (Mt 16:14). A lofty response to be sure, but still a long way — by far — from the truth. The crowds are able to sense a definitely exceptional religious dimension to this rabbi who speaks in such a spellbinding way, but they are not able to put him above those men of God who had distinguished the history of Israel. Jesus is really far different! It is precisely this further step of awareness, concerning as it does the deeper level of his being, which he expects from those who are close to him: "But who do you say that I am?" (Mt 16:15). Only the faith proclaimed by Peter, and with him by the Church in every age, truly goes to the heart, and touches the depth of the mystery: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16).
20. How had Peter come to this faith? And what is asked of us, if we wish to follow in his footsteps with ever greater conviction? Matthew gives us an enlightening insight in the words with which Jesus accepts Peter's confession: "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (16:17). The expression "flesh and blood" is a reference to man and the common way of understanding things. In the case of Jesus, this common way is not enough. A grace of "revelation" is needed, which comes from the Father (cf. ibid.). Luke gives us an indication which points in the same direction when he notes that this dialogue with the disciples took place when Jesus "was praying alone" (Lk 9:18). Both indications converge to make it clear that we cannot come to the fullness of contemplation of the Lord's face by our own efforts alone, but by allowing grace to take us by the hand. Only the experience of silence and prayer offers the proper setting for the growth and development of a true, faithful and consistent knowledge of that mystery which finds its culminating expression in the solemn proclamation by the Evangelist Saint John: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father (1:14).”

Prime Example of this Epistemology in the Fathers of the Church:

St. Gregory of Nyssa:

“In our human life bodily health is a good thing, but this blessing consists not merely in knowing the causes of good health but in actually enjoying it. If a man eulogies good health and then eats food that has unhealthy effects, what good is his praise of health when he finds himself on a sickbed? Similarly, from the Lord’s saying: Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God, we are to learn that blessedness does not lie in knowing something about God, but rather in possessing God within oneself.

"I do not think these words meant that God will be seen face to face by the man who purifies the eye of his soul. Their sublime import is brought out more clearly perhaps in that other saying of the Lord’s: The kingdom of God is within you. This teaches us that the man who cleanses his heart of every created thing and every evil desire will see the image of the divine nature in the beauty of his own soul. I believe the lesson summed up by the Word in that short sentence was this: You men have within you a desire to behold the supreme good. Now when you are told that the majesty of God is exalted above the heavens, that his glory is inexpressible, his beauty indescribable, and his nature transcendent, do not despair because you cannot behold the object of your desire. If by a diligent life of virtue you wash away the film of dirt that covers your heart, then the divine beauty will shine forth in you.

“Take a piece of iron as an illustration. Although it might have been black before, once the rust has been scraped off with a whetstone, it will begin to shine brilliantly and to reflect the rays of the sun. So it is with the interior man, which is what the Lord means by the heart. Once a man removes from his soul the coating of filth that has formed on it through his sinful neglect, he will regain his likeness to his Archetype, and be good. For what resembles the supreme Good is itself good. If he then looks into himself, he will see the vision he has longed for. This is the blessedness of the pure of heart: in seeing their own purity they see the divine Archetype mirrored in themselves.

“Those who look at the sun in a mirror, even if they do not look directly at the sky, see its radiance in the reflection just as truly as do those who look directly at the sun’s orb. It is the same, says the Lord, with you. Even though you are unable to contemplate and see the inaccessible light, you will find what you seek within yourself, provided you return to the beauty and grace of that image which was originally placed in you. For God is purity; gee is free from sin and a stranger to all evil. If your mind is untainted by any evil, free from sin, and purified from all stain, then indeed are you blessed, because your sight is keen and clear. Once purified, you see things that others cannot see. When the mists of sin no longer cloud the eye of your soul, you see that blessed vision clearly in the peace and purity of your own heart. That vision is nothing else than the holiness, the purity, the simplicity and all the other glorious reflections of God’s nature, through which God himself is seen.”[8]

To Find the Face of Christ in Ordinary Life = To Find “Meaning” of Life’s Events

Contemplative Life in the Street: “Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it” (St. Josemaria Escriva, "Passionately Loving the World")

That “something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations” is the ontological experience of self-transcendence, of going out of self in the performance of ordinary secular work. And this “going out” takes place by learning how to live a plan of life that involves mental prayer, Holy Mass, reading of Scripture, rosary and the attempt to “pray the work. St. Josemaria Escriva says: “We start with vocal prayers which many of us have been saying since we were children. They are made up of simple, ardent phrases addressed to God and to his Mother, who is our Mother as well. I still renew, morning and evening, and not just occasionally but habitually, the offering I learned from my parents: `O my Lady, my Mother! I offer myself entirely to you, and in proof of my filial love, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my tongue, my heart…’ Is this not, in some way, a beginning of contemplation, an evident expression of trusting self-abandonment? What do lovers say when they meet? How do they behave? They sacrifice themselves and all their possessions for the person they love.

“First, one brief aspiration, then another, and another… till our fervor seems insufficient, because words are too poor…: the this gives way to intimacy with God, looking at God without needing rest or feeling tired. We begin to live as captives, as prisoners. And while we carry out as perfectly as we can (with all our mistakes and limitations) the tasks allotted to us by our situation and duties, our souls long to escape. It is drawn towards God like iron drawn by magneto. One begins to love Jesus, in a more effective way, with the sweet and gently surprise of his encounter.”

[1] Exodus, 33, 18-33.
[2] The speaks to Elijah directly: “`Elijah, why are you here!’ He replied, `I have been most zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. But the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.’ `Go, take the reload back to the desert near Damascus,’ the Lord said to him. `When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazel as king of Aram…”
[3] Exodus, 34, 29-35.
[4] Take note of the use of this notion in anticipation of the “original solitude” that we will see in Adam on the occasion of naming the animals.
[5] Karol Wojtyla, “Faith According to St. John of the Cross,” Ignatius (1981) 268.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “And Marxism Gave Birth to… NIHILISM,” Catholic World Report, January 1993 52.
[7] J. Ratzinger, Behold the Pierced One, Ignatius (1986) 15-27.
[8] De Beatitudinibus: PG 44, 1270-1271.
[9] Josemaria Escriva, “Towards Holiness,” Friends of God, Scepter (1989) #296, 458-459.