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.

1 comment:

Robert Nash said...

I would like to see your thoughts on this blog entry: