Sunday, February 26, 2006
secularity is not simply your condition as people living in the world, an external condition. It is rather an attitude, the attitude of people who are aware that they have a responsibility, being in the world, to serve the world, to make it as God would have it, more just, more human, to sanctify it from within.
Paul VI goes on to say that
This attitude is primarily one of respect for the world’s rightful autonomy, its values, its laws (cf. Gaudium et Spes 36) though of course this does not imply that the world is independent of God, Creator and final end of all. One of the important dimensions of this characteristic quality of your secularity is that you take the natural order seriously, working to bring it to perfection and to holiness so that things which are necessarily a part of life in the world may be integrated into the spirituality, the training, the ascetics, the structure, the external forms, the activities, of your Institute. Thus is will be possible to fulfill what Primo Feliciter expresses in these words: “(that) your own special character, the secular, may be reflected in everything” (emphasis mine).
The key word in these passages is “attitude.” Attitude denotes something personal (as subjective) and interior. Paul VI is thus affirming that secularity is not something “out there” that so to say rubs off on one or to which one conforms in order to become “secular.” As an attitude that is interior to the person, secularity, with all that it implies (work, occupations, outlook, lifestyle, ways of acting and behaving), is not added on to the Christian vocation from outside but flows from its very core as a sharing in Christ’s priesthood.
As we have seen above, Jesus Christ is priest par excellence as mediator between men and the Father through his unique gift of self. The baptized person shares in this priesthood by making the same gift in the context of work in the world. The laity fulfill their calling to be persons through the creation of secularity by living out their unique way of sharing in Christ’s priesthood. It is the world, and work in it, as the proprium of the layman, not ministries, that delivers to the layman the radical call to priestly existence. And it is in this vein that we are called to love the world passionately.
The laity have what might be called an existential priesthood, rooted in baptism. The locus of this priesthood is the act of self-gift. This self-gift, we have seen, is to be performed in the world, which thus becomes intrinsic to the priesthood of the laity. But it may seem strange in this context that the Magisterium refers to secularity in terms of autonomy. How, indeed, can self-gift and autonomy stand together?
Autonomy, of course, has the connotation of self-determination. I want to propose that this self-determination is the locus of the self-gift that is the core of the existential priesthood of the laity. Conversely, the existential priesthood of the laity is personal self-determination seen in its fullest, most paradigmatic form. But if this is the case, it must be true that self-gift and, indeed, obedience, is not extrinsic to what we mean by self-determination. Obviously, it exceeds the scope of the present reflection to explain in detail why and how this is so. One could certainly make a compelling philosophical case for this claim. But there is also a Christological dimension to this claim that inwardly completes the philosophical one. Christ, the Second Vatican Council teaches us, reveals man to himself. In Christ, we see the unity of freedom as self-determination and obedience; Christ is perfectly free precisely to the extent that, in love, he obeys the Father, a prior relation to whom shapes his freedom from the outset. The prototype of self-determination, then, is the free human obedience in love of Jesus Christ.
That self-gift in loving obedience and autonomy are two sides of the same coin brings us back to the assertion the laity have an existential priesthood, expressed in self-gift in the world. We now see why this connection between existential priesthood and the world is so fundamental to the proprium of the laity: the existential priesthood of the laity, exercised as self-gift in free obedience, is the fullest meaning of autonomous worldly activity. Note, however, that we can say this precisely because the paradigm of freedom is Christological. The laity’s existential priesthood, with its self-gift in loving obedience, is a participation in Christ’ s own priestly self-offering in a free obedience, a free obedience that we see in the priestly gesture of submitting to the Father, rendering the cumulative sinfulness of all men concentrated in that will. In other words, the existential priesthood of the laity is the full paradigm of man’s autonomous worldly activity precisely because it is a specific mode of sharing in Christ’s priesthood. If, in fact, Christ reveals the primordial figure of freedom and of autonomy, he is also the paradigm of secularity.
Secularity, then, is a fundamental dimension of the human person enlightened by the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is “respect for the world’s rightful autonomy.” But what is thus respected is not some “thing” out there that has “autonomy.” The only autonomy that we are privy to experientially, and therefore know in the biblical sense, is in fact our own as persons when we experience the freedom, the joy, and the agony of self-determination. The import of Gaudium et Spes 24 underscores that the human person, “man,” is `the only earthly creature God has willed for itself.'" This means that only the self—the “I”—has autonomy. The truly autonomous self, however, is not the Cartesian cogito as consciousness. It is rather the ontological self of the human person who “fully discovers his true self only in a sincere giving of himself,” i.e., in existential action. However, precisely because what is in play is not the Cartesian cogito, this action of self-gift can only occur in an encounter with another who awakens, sustains, and brings to light the full meaning of self-determination as a response to love in free obedience. This other is, ultimately, Christ, the “I” who is the Revealer of the Godhead and of humanity. By the same token, the true “I” of man is the believing self as gift from and back to this Christological “I.” The paradigmatic act of autonomy is the act of divinized human freedom as seen archetypically in Christ’s self-gift in obedience-to-death to the Father and, from our side, in Mary’s unconditional fiat. Secularity, in this perspective, is an attitude of respect for the autonomy of the person, and his world—as autonomy is illumined in its fundamental meaning by Jesus Christ.
The true autonomy of created being is discovered only in the historical encounter with Jesus Christ wherein the “I” says Yes, in free obedience, to his giving me to myself as gift. This historical encounter, in fact, is “the privileged locus of the encounter with the act of existence, and with metaphysical inquiry.” It is only when the whole of reality lights up in this encounter that it becomes a world---a secularity with an “autonomy” of its own. And so secularity is essentially Christian. Secularity is a priestly way of being and living because it flows from Christ’s own freedom of self-determination as self-sacrifice before the Father. It is lived out in an attitude of respect for the freedom of others—which finds its ultimate fulfillment in Christ’s Paschal mystery. Secularity, then, must be interpreted primarily in terms of Christian faith and morality, and not by a given state of affairs that is taken as an a priori that is exterior, and perhaps contrary, to the meaning of the person as revealed in Jesus Christ. In other words, secularity should be judged and valued—or rather, discovered— from the starting-point of a lived Christian faith, and of what Christian faith reveals to us about man, about the world, and about our destiny. What we mean by self-determination and the autonomy of worldly activity must take its basic shape within Christ’s revelation of man to himself.
Thus, secularity—not ministerial functions within the Church as institution—is the proper context, “the theological proprium,” in which the laity “seek the Kingdom of God.” As such, secularity is “not only an anthropological and sociological reality, but in a specific way, a theological and ecclesiological reality as well.” It is not merely a “dimension” of the layman; it is considered his “characteristic.” Secularity characterizes the laity because the world is intrinsic to their exercising the priesthood of mediation. It is what uniquely and specifically characterizes them as being other Christs and constituting the Body of Christ, the Church. They become Christ, and therefore Church, in the profound sense of a mystical identity, precisely by living an ordinary life in the world: they study, they work, they form relationships as friends, professionals, members of society, cultures, and so forth. The world is a specific vocation for laypeople as the place of their self-gift. It is the place in which they “are charged with carrying out an apostolic mission.” John Paul observes:
Their specific competence in various human activities is, in the first place, a God-given instrument to ‘enable the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mold communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture.’ They are thereby spurred on to place their own skills effectively at the service of the ‘new frontiers,’ which are seen as challenges to the Church’s saving presence in the world. The priests for their part have a primary and irreplaceable role: to help souls, one by one, through the sacraments, preaching and spiritual direction, to open themselves to the gift of grace. A spirituality of communion will best strengthen the role of each ecclesial element.
LG 31; GS 32, 36, 41, 48; Apostolicam actuositatem 5.
Christifideles Laici 15.
Paul VI, “A Presence and an Action which will Transform the World From Within,” February 2, 1972; AAS 64 (1972), 208.
 “Passionately Loving the World,” the title of a homily preached on the campus of the University of Navarre, October 8, 1967 by Blessed Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer; it forms the last section of Conversations (Scepter, 1974), 113-123 in which the author professes: “I am a secular priest, a priest of Jesus Christ, who is passionately in love with the world.”
“In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling” (Gaudium et Spes 22).
“For our sakes he made him to be sin who knew nothing of sin, so that in him we might become the justice of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
 “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom” (Veritatis Splendor 85).
 “Man’s genuine moral autonomy in no way means the rejection but rather the acceptance of the moral law, of God’s command… Others speak, and rightly so, of theonomy, or participated theonomy, since man’s free obedience to God’ s law effectively implies that human reason and human will participate in God’s wisdom and providence” (Veritatis Splendor 41).
 Christifideles Laici says as much quoting Paul VI: “the Church ‘has an authentic secular dimension, inherent to her inner nature and mission, which is deeply rooted in the mystery of the Word Incarnate, and which is realized in different forms through her members.’”
 Fides et Ratio 83.
 Secularity as characteristic is intrinsic to Christian anthropology, not the result of an extrinsic state.” Secularity… is not added on to our vocation from outside. On the contrary, it receives it fullest meaning from our vocation. Our vocation means that our secular state in life, our ordinary work and our situation in the world, are our only way to sanctification and apostolate. Secularity is something Christian, a Christian way of being and living. In other words, our divine vocation, our spirit – or in broader terms, Christian faith and morality – cannot be judged from the starting-point of a secularity defined a priori. Rather, secularity should be judged and valued – or rather, discovered – from the starting-point of our vocation, and what the Christian faith reveals to us about man, about the world and about our destiny.” (Javier Echevarria, Prelate of Opus Dei, Letter 11/28/95, #20).
 “The Diversity of Charisms,” 310.
 Lumen Gentium 31.
 Christifideles Laici 15.
 The distinction between secularity as “dimension” and secularity as “characteristic” bears on the distinction of layman and priest. Secularity of “dimension” is a note of the entire Church inasmuch as Christ himself can be considered the paradigm of secularity. As Christ is Head, the Church is Body, both being one and same thing. Secularity as “characteristic,” however, refers to the laity’s engagement in the world of work as “the place, the environment, the means, or if you prefer, the tools and language of our response to the caring love of God” (L’Osservatore Romano (no. 17, April 26, 1995), 3). The point is: “what makes us holy is not work, but the action of grace within us.” That grace moves us to make work a self-gift. In that sense, work and the secular world are intrinsic to holiness, and therefore the “characteristic” of, the layman.
 John Paul II, Address during an audience for participants at a seminar on Novo millennio ineunte organized by the Opus Dei Prelature, March 17, 2001, #2.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
2) Escriva glimpses a way: He proposes that the "Priestly Society of the Holy Cross" take the juridical form of a Society of Common Life without vows that is envisioned in title 17 of book 2 of the Code, and that a small number of the laymen be in preparation for ordination. In a letter in 1944, he propsed "to transform a small nucleus of our Work, made up of priests and some laymen approaching ordination, into a Society of common life without voews, the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross."
In effect, Opus Dei would really be presented "backwards" for juridical approval. It would be proposed as a society of priests with laity in proximate and remote preparation for ministerial priesthood. He saw that Opus Dei could avail itself of this form without prejudice to the secularity proper to it, thanks to the formal and explicit declaration that members of these societies are not religious.
- May 1943, Escriva sends Alvaro del Portillo to Rome to initiate the necessary consultations with the Holy See.
- June 4, he was received Pope Pius XII to whom he explained at length the nature of Opus Dei and its apostolates.
- On Pentecost 1943, Escriva formally requested of the bishop of Madrid the erection the Priestly Society as a Society of Common Life without vows.
- June 22, the bishop of Madred applied to Rome's Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Religious requesting the nihil obstat for this erection. Bishop Leopoldo Eijo y Garay testifies that Escriva had developed his apostolic work `with my total approval and blessing.'"
- September 29, 1943, the Holy Office decreed the nihil obstare concerning the Priestly Society to the Congregation for Religious.
- October 11, 1943, the Sacred Congregation for Religious granted its nihil obstat for the diocesan erection of "The Priestly Society...."
- October 18, 1943, the feast of St. Luke, the bishop of Madrid informs Escriva of the event.
- December 8, 1943 Eijo y Garay erects the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross as a "Society of Common Life."
Erecting a part of the pastoral phenomenon into a Society of Common Life, while keeping the rest under the name of Opus Dei as `a work proper, united and inseparable' to the Society, effectively preserves the traits Opus Dei had in 1941. The Work remains an association of the faithful, whose lay members `continue being ordinary Christians,' while making possible the achievement of the goals mentioned.
Evaluating the formula adopted, Escriva writes, "It offers undeniable advantages." His words express his satisfaction with what has been accomplished, but he immediately refines them by saying, "even though I cnanot hide from you...," which opens the way to examining the limits and difficultires this solution implied.
Two Shortcomings of the New Juridical Configuration:
1) The relationship established between the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei does not properly reflect the reality of the pastoral phenomenon. Opus Dei could be considered "a part of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, when the fact of the matter is that the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross is only a small part of the Work." Escriva wrote: "I repeat to you, my beloved children, that you continue beng ordinary faithful, you continue in the state you had when the Lord called you to his Work.... The means to achieve Christian perfection in one's own state in life, (which is translated into) the ledge of striving for personal sanctity and the exercise o os apostolate in themiddle of the world, which is somethingf fitting for all souls without exception." (Letter, February 14, 1966 #14).
Years later he put it: "Opus Dei appeared as something secondary: as an association proper to and inseparable from the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, when the fact of the matter is that none of these two parts of our Work is secondary. Both of them are principal" (Letters, December 29, 1947/ February 14, 1966). The priests and lay people who are the protagonists of a single pastoral pheneomenon, united in self-giving, are co-responsible for a single mission, to whose realization both actively contribute. The function of the ministerial priesthood consists in making present, in the organism of the Work, Christ's face and grace, mainly through the sacraments.
2) "The second shortcoming: even though the new juridical formula clarified that Opus Dei members were not religious, the figure of Societies of common life was seen by most canonists as approaching the religious state. This formula therefore, could sow confusion. The founder did all he could to stress the differences. For example, in requesting the erection of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross in June 1943 and to underline the special characteristcs of the juridical form submitted for approval, he did not refer to the canons that then regulated the Societies of common life without qualifications. Rather he interjected the phrase ad instar - with a resemblance - to indicate the existence of these spoecial characteristics....
"The founder spared no pains to reflect and safeguard in the best way possible Opus Dei's secularity. But the limitations of the juridical figure remained. In itself it was incapable of faithfully expressing the reality of Opus Dei. While the additional refinements managed to safeguard the substance, they did no achieve a fully satisfactory fit. It was the `least inappropriate' solution from among the possible ones, the founder taught. In 1944 he wrote, `For the moment there is no better arrangement.' It was a question of taking a step forward, `yielding in the words, but without giving up as regards substance,' to make growth in the apostolate possible and to facilitate in this way a better solution in the future" (The Canonical Path..." ibid. 128-129) (emphasis mine).
Enter Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis #10 and Ecclesiae Sanctae #4 - all of which ends in the Prelature of Ut Sit, November 28, 1982 (See below).
The Secular Institute was not a happy fit for Opus Dei because a) Opus Dei remained dependent upon the Sacred Congregation for Religious (whereas Opus Dei is characteristically “secular”); and b) it set Opus Dei in the context of the states of perfection which heretofore involved the taking of vows, living common life as separation from the world, and wearing distinguishing dress to indicate pertinence to that state. All of this was foreign to the spirit received by St. Josemaria Escriva which he summed up like this: “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.” The immense advantage of such pontifical approval, however, was the ability to expand internationally to all dioceses pending the approval of the local Bishops.
The Obstacle: The Code of Canon Law of 1917 was the first compilation of the law of the Church. At the time Escriva was looking for a juridical solution for Opus Dei, the Code “was at its apex. After a period in Church history when a consensus had been reached that the old sources of legislation lacked the clarity and vitality to confront the grave and great questions facing the Church… the Codex was seen as the answer. It would foster the formation and improvement of the clergy to direct the ecclesiastical organization, while offering improved or new channels for pastoral action. This view was solidly grounded. But one must also recognize that, without doubting the Code’s undeniable advantages, it was sometimes applied too rigidly. The traditional flexibility of Canon Law to welcome renewing and rejuvenating movements in the pastoral life of the Church was curtailed. Some even claimed that what was not regulated or recognized in the Codex could have no citizenship in the life of the Church. A phrase circulating in Rome and attributed to… the Secretary of State until 1930 and principal mover of the new Code, had acquired the status of a maxim: quod non est in Codice non est in mundo: what is not found in the Code does not exist in the world.”
The Intention of Escriva: “What did I want? A place for the Work within the law of the Church, in accordance with the nature of our vocation and the demands imposed by the expansion of our apostolates; a full approval from the Magisterium for our supernatural way, including a clear and explicit description of our spiritual character. The growth of the Work, the multitude of vocations of people of every class and walk of life, all this which was a blessing from God urged me to try to obtain – from the Holy See – full juridical approval for the way which our Lord had opened up.”
The Reality That Did Not Fit: The radicality equality of vocation of laymen and priests who formed the same juridical class. “Thus to the question, What is the ecclesiological nature of Opus Dei? One could reply: `It is an institution whose internal structure replicates the basic ecclesial articulation between the common priesthood of the faithful, possessed by virtue of baptism, and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood, possessed by the clerics incardinated in it.’
“So, what we find in Opus Dei, different yet complementing one another, are the two ecclesial forms of participating Christ’s priesthood. We find both the `substantial’ priority of Opus Dei’s lay faithful, at whose service is the priestly ministry, and the `functional’ priority of the sacred ministry, in whose head (the prelate) resides the sacra potestas that governs the prelature. The clergy’s `function’ priority was described by the founder when he said that the ministerial priesthood `impregnates with its spirit our personal life and all our apostolic work.’…Graphically, the founder told the Work’s priests that their task is to be a `carpet’ for others. He wrote: `In Opus Dei we’re all equal. There’s only a practical difference: priests are more bound to place their hearts on the floor like a carpet, so that their brothers and sisters may tread softly.’” 
Vatican II (Lumen Gentium): The Key to the Radical Equality of All the Baptized:
“The basis of this whole problem and the key to its solution lies in one incontrovertible fact, emphasized with unprecedented vigour by the Second Vatican Council, namely that all persons who belong to the Church have a common fundamental legal status, because they all share one and the same basic theological condition land belong to the same primary common category. All the faithful, from the Pope to the child who has just been baptized, share one and the same vocation, the same faith, the same faith, the same Spirit, the same grace. They are all in need of appropriate sacramental and spiritual aids; they must all live a full Christian life, following the same evangelical teachings; they must all lead a basic personal life of piety – that of children of God, brothers and disciples of Christ – which is obligatory for them before and above any specific distinction which may arise from their different functions within the Church. The all have an active and appropriate share – within the inevitable plurality of ministries – the single mission of Christ and of the Church. Therefore it follows logically that within the Church all members have certain fundamental rights and obligations in common.”
The Personal Prelature
The Final Step: The Prelature as guardian of 1) the oneness of the subjective vocation of both laity and priests forming a "communio": each, being sacramentally irreducible [by Baptism and Orders], makes the total gift of self being dynamized to do so by the pastoral charity (fatherhood) of the Prelate; and 2) secularity as “characteristic” whereby the world of work and family is the occasion of the self-giving.
The Conciliar Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis #10 reads: “Where the nature of the apostolate demands this, not only the proper distribution of priests should be made easier but also the carrying out of special pastoral projects for the benefit of different social groups in any region or among any race in any part of the world. For this purpose there can with advantages be set up some international seminaries, special dioceses, or personal prelatures and other institutions to which, by methods to be decided for the individual undertaking and always without prejudice of the rights of the local ordinaries, priests can be attached or incardinated for the common good of the whole Church.”
On August 6, 1966, Paul VI wrote the Apostolic Letter Ecclesiae Sanctae for the implementation of, in our case, Presbyterorum Ordinins #10: It read:
“(4) Furthermore, in order to accomplish special pastoral or missionary tasks for various regions or social groups requiring special assistance, prelatures may usefully be established by the Apostolic See. These would consist of the secular clergy specially trained and under the rule of a prelate of their own and governed by statutes of their own.
“It would be the duty of such a prelate to erect and govern a seminary for the suitable training of students. He would have the right to incardinate such students under the title of service to the prelature and to promote them to Orders.
“The prelate should show care for the spiritual life of those he promoted under the title mentioned above, and for the continuance of their special formation and their particular ministry, by making arrangements with the local ordinaries to whom they are sent. He should also make provision for suitable means of living either by such agreements as are mentioned above or out of the resources of the prelature or by appropriate subsidies. He should also make provision for those who through illness or other reasons are obliged to relinquish their post.
“There is no reason why laymen, whether celibate or married, should not dedicate their professional service, through contracts with the prelature, to its works and enterprises.
“Such prelatures shall not be erected without first hearing the views of the episcopal conferences of the territory in which they will serve. In the exercise of their function care is to be shown that the rights of the local ordinaries are not infringed and that close relations are kept with the episcopal conferences at all times.”
John Paul II erects Opus Dei as a personal prelature: November 28, 1982: Apostolic Constitution Ut Sit of universal extension.
 St. Josemaria Escriva, “Passionately Loving the World,” Scepter (2002) 5.
 “The Canonical Path of Opus Dei,” Scepter (1994) 139.
 Letter 25 January 1961.
 Pedro Rodriguez, “The Place of Opus Dei in the Church,” Opus Dei in the Church (Scepter (1994) 38.
 Alvaro del Portillo, “Faithful and Laity in the Church,” Ecclesia Press (Shannon, Ireland) (1972) 19.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
"This commitment to expressing a specific truth in a new way demands new thinking on this truth and a new and vital relationship with it; it is also clear that new words can only develop if they come from an informed understanding of the truth expressed, and on the other hand, that a reflection on faith also requires that this faith be lived."
1) It is Peter who re-cognizes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Like is known by like. Since the Person of the Logos is the Transcendent God, only he who becomes divinized by the self-gift of prayer that images the relationality of the Logos to the Father, “knows” him (intellegere: ab intus legere: to read from within).
2) On April 20, 2005, less than 24 hours after being elected Pope, Benedict XVI said: “Surprising every prevision I had, Divine Providence, through the will of the venerable Cardinal Fathers, called me to succeed this great Pope. I have been thinking in these hours about what happened in the region of Cesarea of Philippi two thousand years ago. I seem to hear the words of Peter: `You are Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and the solemn affirmation of the Lord: `You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church… I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’
"`You are Christ! You are Peter! It seems I am reliving this very Gospel scene; I, the Successor of Peter, repeat with trepidation the anxious words of the fisherman from Galilee and I listen again with intimate emotion to the reassuring promise of the divine Master. If the weight of the responsibility that now lies on my poor shoulders is enormous, the divine power on which I can count is surely immeasurable: `You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.’ Electing me as the Bishop of Rome, the Lord wanted me as his Vicar, he wished me to be the `rock’ upon which everyone may rest with confidence. I ask him to make up for the poverty of my strength, that I may be a courageous and faithful pastor of His flock, always docile to the inspirations of His Spirit.”
3) In this first address, Benedict made two goals of his papacy explicit: a) Vatican II: “I, too, as I start in the service that is proper to the Successor Peter, wish to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to enact Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the millennia old tradition of the Church. Precisely this year is the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of this conciliar assembly (December 8, 1965). With the passing of time, the conciliar documents have not lost their timeliness; their teachings have shown themselves to be especially pertinent to the new exigencies of the Church and the present globalized society;” b) Ecumenism: “Theological dialogue is necessary. A profound examination of the historical reasons behind past choices is also indispensable. But even more urgent is that `purification of memory,’ which was so often evoked by John Paul II, and which alone can dispose souls to welcome the full truth of Christ. It is before Him, supreme Judge of all living things, that each of us must stand, in the awareness that one day we must explain to Him what we did and what we did not do for the great good that is the full and visible unity of all His disciples.
“The current Successor of Peter feels himself to be personally implicated in this question and is disposed to do all in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully determined to cultivate any initiative that may seem appropriate to promote contact and agreement with representatives from the various Churches and ecclesial communities.”
4) The Spirit of Opus Dei vis a vis the Papacy: St. Josemaria Escriva:
“Christ, Mary. The Pope. Haven’t we just indicated in three words the loves which make up the whole Catholic faith?”
“Our greatest love, our most profound esteem, our deepest veneration, our most rendered obedience, our greatest affection must be also for the Vice-God on earth, for the Pope. Think always that after God and our Mother the most holy Virgin, in the hierarchy of love and authority there is the Pope. Therefore, many times I say: thank you, my God, for the love for the Pope that You have placed in my heart.
Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia, ibi Deus. We want to be with Peter because with him is the Church, with him is God; and without him God is not. Therefore I have wanted to Romanize the Work. Love the Holy Father much. Pray much for the Pope. Love him much, love him much!! Because he needs all the affection of his sons. And I understand this very will: I know it from experience because I’m not like a wall. I am a man of flesh. Therefore I want the Pope to know that we love him and that we will always love him, and this for only one reason: that he is the sweet Christ on earth.”
5) Revelation: is not a series of abstract truth, but a concrete Person: Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. “After God had spoken many times and in various ways through the prophets, `in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son’ (Heb. 1, 1-2). For he sent his Son, the eternal Word who enlightens al men, to swell among men and to tell them about the inner life of God. Hence, Jesus Christ, sent as `a man among men,’ `speaks the words of God’ (Jn. 3, 34), and accomplishes the saving work which the Father gave him to do (cf. Jn. 5, 36; 17, 4). As a result, he himself – to see whom is to see the Father (cf. Jn. 14, 9) – completed and perfected Revelation and confirmed it with divine guarantees. He did this by the total fact of his presence and self-manifestation – by words and works, signs and miracles, but above all by his death and glorious resurrection from the dead, and finally by sending the Spirit of truth. He revealed that God was with us, to deliver us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to eternal life.”  Therefore, “no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord, Jesus Christ” (underline mine).
6) The experience and consciousness of the Person of Jesus Christ grows and develops in the Church. Since the Person of Christ is Revelation, then Revelation “makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit” in accord with this experience and consciousness. Hence, Dei Verbum #8 says: “The Tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts (cf. Li. 2, 19 and 51). It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth. Thus, as the centuries go by, the Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her.”
7) Interpretation of this Progress and Development: “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.
“It is clear, therefore, that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.”
8) Obedience to Ordinary Magisterium of the Pope: “This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated.”
9) The Challenge to the Church at the Moment: To create a “hermeneutic of continuity and reform” that consists in going “beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, but at the same time, let us say, to transform modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the light and strength of the faith.
“Because it was the Council Fathers’ intention to heal and transform modernity, and not simply to succumb to it or merge with it, the interpretations which interpret the Second Vatican Council in the sense of de-sacralization or profanation are erroneous.”
Our Need to Heal the Secular World As Augustine in His Time, and Aquinas in His:
“Augustine, as you know, was a man who, on the one hand, had studied in great depth the great philosophies, the profane literature of the ancient world.
“On the other hand, he was also very critical of the pagan authors, even with regard to Plato to Virgil, those great authors whom he loved so much.
“He criticized them, and with a penetrating sense, purified them.
“This was his way of using the great pre-Christian culture: purify it, heal it, and in this way, also, healing it, he gave true greatness to this culture. Because in this way, it entered into the fact of the incarnation, no? And became part of the Word’s incarnation.
“But only by means of the difficult process of purification, of transformation, of conversion.
“I would say the word `conversion’ is the kdy word, one of the key words, of St. Augustine, and our culture also has a need for conversion. Without conversion one does not arrive at the Lord. This is true of the individual, and this is true of the culture as well…”
It should be kept in mind that John Paul II, as philosopher Karol Wojtyla, learned and deployed the modern tool of phenomenology to describe the experience of the “I” in the moral moment of self-determination, an experience that had never been differentiated as such before. Prior to Wojtyla, the interior workings of the self in the moral moment was purely facultative as intellect and will and therefore lacking in the ontological stature of the self as subsistent being. And, when the subsistent self was considered, it never left the realm of the object or substance. Hence, “self-determination” was an interplay of the faculties of intellect and will, and the ontological subject was stolidly ensconced as an “in-itself” in the category of substance.
Wojtyla transformed that into the subtlety of the always-emerging subject in the resonating back and forth of the “finding self by gift of self” that became the “definition” of the person as imaging the relationality of the divine Persons. He remained faithful to St. Thomas’s esse as the ontological principle of the resonating person, and with that incorporated all the insights of subjectivity that lay strewn on the relativist and idealist fields of the Enlightenment and rendered them real and dynamic. The achievement is spectacular in that he was totally faithful to the faith and tradition of the Church while assimilating every positive achievement of Enlightenment and putting it at the service of explicating the reality of Jesus Christ as the revelation of man. This, indeed, is the hermeneutic of continuity and reform.
Commenting on this, Benedict said to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005, quoting John XXIII: “`Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us.’ It is necessary that `adherence to al the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness’ be presented in `faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another,’ retaining the same meaning and message.’”
Benedict then commented: “It is clear that this commitment to expressing a specific truth in a new way demands new thinking on this truth and a new and vital relationship with it; it is also clear that new words can only develop if they come from an informed understanding of the truth expressed, and on the other hand, that a reflection on faith also requires that this faith be lived. In this regard, the program that Pope John XXIII proposed was extremely demanding, indeed, just as the synthesis of fidelity and dynamic is demanding.
“However, wherever this interpretation guided the implementation of the council, new life developed and new fruit ripened. Forty years after the council, we can show that the positive is far greater and livelier than it appeared to be in the turbulent years around 1968. Today we see that although the good seed developed slowly, it is nonetheless growing; and our deep gratitude for the work done by the council is likewise growing.”
I here refer you to the “three circles of questions” that had formed at the time of Vatican II – yet to be presented in full - , and referred to in the previous posting: 1) the redefining of the relationship between faith and modern science; 2) “a new definition to the relationship between the Church and the modern state” in accord with the American Revolution as “model of a modern state that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution;” 3) “a new definition of the relationship between the Christian faith and the world religions.”
 “The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI – Let God’s Light Shine Forth” ed. Robert Moynihan, Doubleday (2005) 35.
 “And it came to pass as he was praying by himself, that his disciples also were with him, and he asked them, saying, `Who do the crowds say that I am?’ And they answered and said, `John the Baptist; and others, Elias; and others, that one of the ancient prophets has risen again.
And he said to them, `But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, `The Christ of God’” (Lk. 9, 18-20).
 Vatican II, Dei Verbum #4.
 Vatican II, Dei Verbum #10.
 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium #25.
 “The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI…” op. cit. 34.
 Ibid. 35-36.
 All the references to the December 22, 2005 address to the Roman Curia are from Origins, January 26, 2006, Vol. 35, No. 32, 534-539.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
You use the phrase `epochal struggle’… I said…
`Well, at the very least, that means it is a struggle of enormous historical importance…’
“And it seems to me,” he continued, `that this was the true intention of the Second Vatican Council, to go beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, but at the same time, let us say, to transform modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the light and strength of the faith.
* * * * * * * *
Précis of Response:
The response to this epochal struggle is to pass from knowledge as an objectifying process to a knowledge of the subject as subject, i.e. as “I,” where being is revealed to be intrinsically relational, as well as experienced to be so above all in spousal love. This knowledge of the subject as “I” is then applied to “the three circles of questions” that had formed at the time of the Second Vatican Council and had to be answered. “First of all, the relationship between faith and modern science had to be redefined… Second it was necessary to give a new definition t the relationship between the Church and the modern state… Third… the problem of religious tolerance – a question that required a new definition of the relationship between the Christian faith and the world religions.”
The answers to the “three circles” are all the same: the “I” as self-gift. The answer to the first is: “reason shut in on itself does not remain reasonable or rational… Reason needs revelation in order to be able to be effective as reason.” This is because the food of reason is being, and faith – the act of the “I” as gift to the revealing Christ – is the act that transfigures the being of the “I” believing, and offering it to reason so that it can be itself. The answer to the second, in Benedict’s “Interpreting Vatican II" on December 22, is precisely the United States. “People came to realize that the American Revolution was offering a model of a modern state that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution.” The answer to the third is: “The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church” (Lumen Gentium #8). The Catholic Church is not an object as a structure, but a Subject, Christ Himself. The Church is not the Whole Christ, because she is not the Head, but the Body of the Subject. She is “the space into which this new subject [the believer who makes the gift of self to death in the sacrament of faith that is Baptism] can move.” Ratzinger affirms that “the Church is in no wise a separate subject endowed with its own subsistence. The new subject is much rather `Christ’ himself, and the Church is nothing but the space of this new unitary subject, which is, therefore much more than mere social interaction. It is an application of the same Christological singular found in the Letter to the Galatians.”
The reason for "Deus Caritas Est" is to help the Church become itself by gaining entry into the “I” of Christ by assimilating sensual eros into self-giving agape and experiencing being Christ and achieving the consciousness that accrues to that experience so as to answer these “three circles of questions.” This is the “hermeneutic of continuity and reform” that Benedict likens to the work of St. Thomas Aquinas “who mediated the new encounter between faith and Aristotelian philosophy, thereby setting faith in a positive relationship with the form of reason prevalent in his time.”
* * * * * * * * * *
This is not an encyclical on love or charity as we usually understand it. It is an encyclical designed to give the interpretive key to understand the texts and assimilate the meaning of the Second Vatican Council. That key is the meaning of “person” as subject that is intrinsically and constitutively relational. It attempts to do this by challenging the reader to integrate the total striving of his persona as enfleshed spirit into the total gift of self to God and to men. Eros is to be assimilated into agape.
That done, on December 22, 2005, Benedict had addressed the Roman curia with the question: “Why has the implementation of the council in large parts of the church thus far been so difficult?” And he answers: “Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the council or – as we would say today – on its proper hermeneutic, the correct key to its interpretation and application.” He explains: “The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarreled with each other. One caused confusion, the other silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.”
The Hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture: this interpretation “risks ending in a split between the preconciliar church and the postconciliar church.” This split is caused by accepting only one way of experiencing reality: sense experience and abstract concepts. Instead of seeing the Church as a living Subject, the “I” of the Whole Christ, Head (Bridegroom) and Body (Bride: Church), it views the Church as a structure. Ratzinger offer the scriptural image of the Church arming itself with organizational structures as David was dressed in the armor of Saul to do battle with Goliath. He found himself to be impeded and had to strip to loin cloth and sling shot and empowered by the Lord. Likewise, Ratzinger said the only thing the Church needs is what the Lord gave her: the sacraments of Baptism and Orders together with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The rush to embed the laity in “ministries” today is one of the most egregious examples.
The epistemological root of this hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture is the demand to reduce all knowing to concepts and structures corresponding to those concepts. For example, Christopher Ferrara of Latin Mass magazine, writes, “In the decades following the Council, the Church has been overtaken by a cloud of neologisms lacking any of the the classical precision of Catholic doctrine: `ecumenisms,’ `ecumenical venture,’ `dialogue,’ `ecumenical dialogue,’ `dialogue with the world,’ `interreligious dialogue,’ `collegiality,’ `partial communion,’ `imperfect communion,’ `reconciled diversity,’ `the Church of the new Advent,’ `the new springtime of Vatican II,’ `the new Pentecost,’ `the new Evangelization,’ `the civilization of love,’ `the purification of memory,’ `solidarity,’ `the globalization of solidarity,’ `the Spirit of Assisi’…" Ferrara goes on: "As dramatic as the claim may seem, our forty years of experience with the effects of `ecumenism'and `dialogue' demonstrate that the introduction of these pseudo concepts into Catholic thinking was nothing short of a diabolical strategem to confuse, divide and wreak havoc upon the human element of the Church without the Church ever having imposed upon the faithful an actual doctrinal error, which of course is impossible. Quite the contrary: the pseudo-concepts in question cannot be called doctrinal errors as such because they are not reducible to a proposition whose words would signify the formal contradiction of a Catholic teaching. Indeed, the terms `ecumenism' and `dialogue' contain nothing heterodox in themselves; like actual viruses, these terms remain theologically inert until they come into contact with something they can infect. Hence when neo-Catholics say that traditionalists `dissent' from `ecumenism,' for example, they are unable to articulate precisely what it is about this notion that requres our assent. That is because `ecumenism' has no real doctrinal content" (Christopher A. Ferrara, Latin Mass Summer 2004, 12).
The encyclical, then, is laying the groundwork for a lived change of attitude and consciousness with regard to the whole of reality. It is at work to provoke the exercise of an experience beyond the sensible, that eros become agape, and develop a consciousness that is in continuity with the Church of always. "It is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels that the very nature of true reform consists. In this process of innovation in continuity we must learn to understand more practically than before that the Church's decisions on contingent matters -for example, certain practical forms of liberalism or a free interpretation of the Bible - should necessarily be contingent themselves, precisely because they refer to a specific reality that is changeable in itself. It was necessary to learn to recognize that in these decisions it is only the principles that expres the permanent aspect, since they remain as an undercurrent, motivating decisions from within. On the other hand, not so permanent are the practical forms that depend on the historical situation and are therefore subject to change... For example, if religious freedom were to be considered an expression of the human inability to discover the truth and thus become a canonization of relativism, then this social and historical necessity is raised inappropriately to the metaphysical level and thus striipped of its true meaning. Consequently it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and, on the basis of theinner dignity of the truth, is bound to this knowledge.
"It is quite different, on the other hand, to perceive religious freedom as a need that derives from human coexistence, or indeed, as an intrinsic consequence of the truth that cannot externally imposed but that the person must adopt only through the process of conviction.
"The Second Vatican Council, recognizing and making its own an essential principle of the modern state with the Decree on Religious Freedom, has recovered the deepest patrimony of the Church. By so doing she can be conscious of being in full harmony with the teaching of Jesus himself (cf. Mt. 22, 21), as well as with the Church of the martyrs of all time" (Benedict XVI, "Interpreting Vatican II," Dec. 22, 2005).
Benedict XVI is offering the human experience of love in the broad spectrum from sensual striving for self-gratification to self-gift to death for the other as the way to enter the horizon of the subject without jettisoning the object. He focuses our attention on love not merely as an action one does or performs as “substance-standing-in-itself” performing accidental activities. Rather, he focuses on “love” as the ontological content – the very “stuff” - of the divine Persons, Jesus Christ and, therefore, the human person. In the example of religious freedom above, it is because of the freedom of the "I" to determine self that religion must not be imposed by the state. It is not because there is no truth or that relativism reigns, but the person has the obligation to pursue the truth, and finding it, to impose it on himself. This is the first inalienable right found in Christian anthropology.
In a word, the encyclical has swung the camera from the horizon of objects grounded in the experience of the senses and characterized by abstract thought, to the horizon of the subject where love is not merely what one does, but what one partially experiences self to be: self gift.
The experience of Jesus Christ in a living act of faith is the entrance to this epistemological horizon since as Person, He is both divine and human. Jesus Christ is both the meaning of subject, “I,” and the revelation of its dynamic as pure relation to the Father. To be an “I” means to be a dynamic of being “for” the other. There is no such thing as an “I” that is alone and in self. Benedict is trying to set the stage and describe the experience – which is love as self-gift (agape) – whereby we can finally enter into the depths of Vatican II and the teachings of John Paul II. This was his stated purpose as pope on April 20 when he said, first with regard to Vatican II: “I too, as I start in the service that is proper to the Successor of Peter, wish to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to enact Vatican Council II… With the passing of time, the conciliar documents have not lost their timeliness; their teachings have shown themselves to be especially pertinent to the new exigencies of the Church and the present globalized society.”; and then with regard to Ecumenism: “Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome… the current Successor assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ’s followers. This is his ambition, this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so, expressions of good feelings are not enough. Concrete gestures are required to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of ecumenism.”
Benedict went to pains to explain the inadequate state of scholastic theology prior to Vatican II in its treatment of Jesus Christ as an “exception” to the human person. Christ had been understood from the side of the Trinity, “from above” as it were, while man was to be understood from the side of substantial animality “from below,” a substantial-in-itself endowed with reason and free will. Vatican II made a correction to this by asserting that Jesus Christ “fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling.” In his treatment of the “person in theology,” he remarked that “In Antiquity philosophy was limited entirely to the level of essence. Scholastic theology developed categories of existence out of this contribution given by Christian faith to the human mind. Its defect was that it limited these categories to Christology and to the doctrine of the Trinity and did not make them fruitful in the whole extent of spiritual reality…. The contribution of Christian faith to the whole of human thought is not realized; it remains at first detached from it as a theological exception, although it precisely the meaning of this new element to call into question the whole of human thought and to set it on a new course.
“This brings us to the second misunderstanding that has not allowed the effects of Christology to work themselves out fully. The second great misunderstanding is to see Christ as the simply unique ontological exception which must be treated as such. This exception is an object of highly interesting ontological speculation, but it must remain separate in its box as an exception to the rule and must not be permitted to mix with the rest of human thought…”
The fundamental correction that had to be made to liberate Christian revelation from the epistemological box in which it had been placed was to apply the meaning of Jesus Christ as Person to man as person. That box, of course, is the first order experience on the level of sensation and concept formation. The entire gamut of reality had been restricted to that limit, which Cardinal Ratzinger called the “Dictatorship of Relativism” and graphically portrayed as the lion that had pounced and partially devoured the lamb in the 1158 bas-relief of the Apulian town of Troy. He remarked, “The lion – does it not embody the historical attempt of theology to dominate faith? Does it not embody that violentia rationis – that despotic and brutal reason that Bonaventure would castigate a century later as distortion of theological thinking?”
But, how do we escape from the “box?” Ratzinger offers the theologically elaborated meaning of person in the Trinity in metaphysical terms that would enable translation to the meaning of the human person. I would suggest this as the core insight for the reader of his “Introduction to Christianity.” In objective terms, he describes the ontological “I” of the First Person of the Trinity whose very name is relational: “Father:” He remarks: “the `three person’ who exist in God … are not substances … but the relatedness whose pure actuality (`parcel of waves’!) does not impair the unity of the highest being but fills it out. St. Augustine once enshrined this idea in the following formula: `He is not called Father with reference to himself but only in relation to the Son; seen by himself he is simply God. Here the decisive point comes beautifully to light. `Father’ is purely a concept of relationship. Only in being-for the other is he Father; in his own being-in-himself he is simply God. Person is the pure relation of being related, nothing else. Relationship is not something extra added to the person, as it is with us; it only exists at all as relatedness.” And then, more explicitly: “this means that the First Person does not beget the Son in the sense of the act of begetting coming on top of the finished Person; it is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver but the act of giving, `wave’ not `corpuscle’… In this idea of relativity in word and love, independent of the concept of substance and not to be classified among the `accident’s,’ Christian thought discovered the kernel of the concept of person, which describes other and infinitely more than the mere idea of the `individual.’”
What Ratzinger is saying here and will suggest in other works more explicitly as the real entrance into theology and catechism is the life of prayer and catechumenate as the act of giving the self being the true likeness to the object-now-subject-to-be-known. John Paul II had done this with his thesis on “Faith According to St. John of the Cross” where he found the dark night of the soul to be the absence of conceptual thought, and the proportionate medium of likeness for there to be knowledge was the very self that had gone out of itself to be relation. In a word, here is where Ratzinger and Wojtyla were one and the same on “crossing the threshold of love” into the horizon of the “I.” The key is: if the object to be known is a subject, and knowing is the identity between knower and known, then in order to know an “I,” one must become “I” as the other is “I.” There are no mediums of likeness to the subject “I” that is not an object – which is inadequate. If God is relation as self-gift, then one must become self-gift to “understand” (intellegere= ab intus legere) as reading the other “I” from within one’s own “I.”
Hence, Ratzinger is calling for a “revolution” in thought in order to adequately deal with Christian revelation that is not simply objectified thought as categories from below (sensible experience), but the experience of self-transcendence to be an adequate likeness to the “I” of Jesus Christ that is Revelation. Anything less than that is not false but inadequate, yet highly vulnerable to falsification. He said: “Therein lies concealed a revolution in man’s view of the world: the undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality. It becomes possible to surmount what we call today `objectifying thought;’ a new plane of being comes into view. It is probably true to say that the task imposed on pohilosophy as a result of these facts is far from being completed – so much does modern thought depend on the possibilities thus disclosed, but for which it would be inconceivable.”
This is no passing observation. In a later lecture, he remarks, “Something methodologically decisive for all human thinking becomes visible here. The seeming exception [Jesus Christ] is in reality very often the symptom that shows us the insufficiency of our previous schema of order, which helps us to break open this schema and to conquer a new realm of reality. The exception shows us that we have built our closets too small, as it were, and that we must break them open and go on in order to sees the whole.
“This is the meaning of Christology from its origin: what is disclosed in Christ, whom faith certainly presents as unique, is not only a speculative exception; what is disclosed in truth is what the riddle of the human person really intends. Scripture expresses this point by calling Christ the last Adam or `the second Adam.’ It thereby characterizes him as the true fulfillment of the idea of the human person, in which the direction of meaning of this being comes fully to light fort the first time. If it is true, however, that Christ is not the ontological exception, if from his exceptional position he is, on the contrary, the fulfillment of the entire human being, then the Christological concept of person is an indication for theology of how person is to be understood as such.”
The Impact of Trinitarian Theology on Christology
Action of Christ: From there, Ratzinger takes the reader of “Introduction to Christianity” through the Christology in which person is not a substance Who acts, but a being whose very to be is to-be-“for” the Other. Among other things, he says: “For what faith really states is precisely that with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office, the office is the person. The two are no longer divisible. Here there is no private area reserved for an `I’ which remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be `off duty;’ here there is no `I’ separate from the work; the `I’ is the work and the work is the `I.’”
Word of Christ: In like manner, with regard to the speech of Jesus who is the Logos of the Father, Ratzinger says, “ Inasmuch as Christian faith leads us away from all mere ideas, from any independent body of teaching, to the `I’ of Jesus, it leads towards an `I’ which is complete openness, all `Word,’ all `Son.’ We had also already considered the fact that the concepts `word’ and `son’ are intended to convey the dynamic character of this existence, its pure `actualitas.’ Word never stands on its own; it comes from someone, is there g to be heard, and is therefore meant for others. It can only subsist in this totality of `from’ and `for.’ We could accordingly summarize the whole in the formula, `Christian faith is not related to ideas but to a person, an `I,’ and to one that is defined as `word’ and `son,’ that is, as `total openness’.”
The Impact of Christology on Anthropology
Vatican II in Gaudium et Spes #22, applied the above to anthropology in #24: “Furthermore, the Lord Jesus, when praying to the Father `that they may all be one… even as we are one’ (Jn. 17, 21-22), has opened up new horizons closed to human reason by implying that there is a certain parallel between the union existing among the divine persons and the union of the sons of God in truth and love. It follows, then, that if man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only a sincere giving of himself.”
What we have here is applied Christology. Where Christ is His word, the human person must master self in order to get possession of self to, in turn, be able to govern self and to, again in turn, be able to make the gift of self. And this always presupposing the absolute need to be affirmed as engendered by God which is divine love, human love and affirmation. Man is both a substantial and relational being in equal parts because as we saw Josef Ratzinger say above, “relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality.”
As a result, the human person becomes what he does. If he makes the gift of self, he becomes ever more the Christ who is total self-gift to the Father. At a previous moment, I wrote the following:
“The dynamic seems to be mutual interaction of structure and relation in the simultaneous moment of self-determination. The more he receives, the more he is himself. The more he is himself, the more he is able to give, the greater the outreach and depth of the relation. Again, the more I relate the more I become myself; the more I become myself, the more I relate. First agere precedes esse, then esse precedes agere. This is the free moral moment of `personagenesis.’ The whole process must begin with a minimum self who chooses this act in behalf of another person. But to chose this act, I am co-creating – letting the Divine Motion actualize through me and in me – a more definite, determined, actualized `Me.’ I most literally achieve myself, determine, fulfill, actualize, `substantialize’ myself at the precise moment that I transcend myself (relate) and give myself away to another in act. I become what I do. Esse sequitur agere. Then, I do what I have become. And, besides, the moral correctness of the act – if done true-to-being – translates into joy, because it is an `ek-stasis’ of the self which is what it means to be in the image of the Trinitarian Persons. The free process of transcending relation is so ontologically profound that, as it takes place, the `to be’ (esse) coalesces into an ever increasingly substantial structure. This structure, the more developed `I,’ now a-growing, in turn self-determines in ever more extensive and profound choices of self-gift. The result is an ever increasing relationality and intrinsic existence, the asymptote of which, in the order of grace, is to be `alter Christus.
“This coincides with the notion that man as person is an `unfinished being’ who is his own project. Of course, there must be some minimum of substantiality given with the creation of man, because every relation of love (and creation is an immense act of love) coalesces into some ontological structure. `The dynamic structure of self-determination tells man every time anew that he is simultaneously given to himself as a gift and imposed upon himself as a task… as someone who is an assignment to himself.’ Ratzinger sums up this dynamic as exemplified in John Henry Newman: `All of Newman’s life was a process of conversion; he “transformed” himself often, and in this way remained always himself while becoming ever more himself.”/
The Encyclical: Eros Becomes Agape: Person as Relation
Pre-Christian, or extra-Christian eros which is sensible desire for self must become the Christological total gift of the whole person as enfleshed spirit, agape. In the encyclical, Benedict says, “Eros, reduced to pure `sex,’ has become a commodity, a mere `thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man’s great `yes’ to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless. Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere” (5).
The point of the encyclical is to put forward the notion of the human person as a single thrust tending to the self-gift of agape that assimilates eros. It says, “eros and agape – ascending love and descending love – can never be completely separated. The more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized. Even if eros is at first mainly covetous and ascending, a fascination for the greats promise of happiness, in drawing near to the other, it is less and less concerned with itself, increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants to`be there for’ the other. The element of agape thus enters into this love, for otherwise eros is impoverished and even loses its own nature. On the other hand, man cannot live by oblative, descending love alone. He cannot always give, he must also receive. Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift” (7).
The Challenge: Interpreting Vatican II’s Three Circles of Questions
“Deus Caritas Est” is the groundwork to be able to help assimilate the teachings of Vatican II. On December 22, 2005, Benedict addressed the Roman Curia saying: “(Vatican Council II), with its new definition of the relationship between the faith of the Church and certain essential elements of modern thought, has reviewed or even corrected certain historical decisions, but in this apparent discontinuity it has actually preserved and deepened her inmost nature and true identity.”
There have been two different interpretations of Vatican II: “the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” and “the hermeneutic of reform.” Benedict begins the encyclical speaking of the problem of language.
Lacking time to develop this at length, I go back to the “précis” and insert it here in its truncated form. Then, I offer elements of Ratzinger’s theological formation with the intention of developing how the “I – gift” is the hermeneutic key to interpreting Vatican II with continuity (the Church as the “I” of Christ in development) and true reform:
a) Benedict’s theological formation:
Sources of Insight (“I” as Being-In-Relation) in Benedict XVI
The overriding insight that Benedict carries within him is his initial formation in Theology that is semantically expressed in the autobiography “Milestones.” It begins with his exposure to the meaning of conscience in John Henry Newman, carries through Steinbuchel’s “The Revolution of Thought” where he is introduced to the demise of mechanism and introduced to the new epistemological stance of relativity (Einstein) and quantum mechanics (Bohr and Heisenberg). From there, he was formed in the thought of Romano Guardini through F.W. Maier who taught New Testament exegesis. Ratzinger remarks, “I listened to and assimilated all of Maier’s lectures with the greatest attention. Exegesis has always remained for me the center of my theological work. Maier is to be thanked for the fact that, for us, Sacred Scripture was `the soul of our theological studies,’ as the Second Vatican Council would later require. Even if I gradually became more aware of the weaknesses in Maier’s approach… still, everything I heard from him and learned by way of method remains fundamental to me.” Guardini taught him The Church as awakening liturgical act, i.e., liturgy as living faith in the living enfleshed “I Am” of Jesus Christ. The Person of Christ is the Revelation behind Scripture. There in that the liturgical act that is prayer one finds the consciousness of being Christ and the reflection on that consciousness that was theology. “All of lived with a feeling of radical change that had already arisen in the 1920s, the sense of a theology that had the courage to ask new questions and a spirituality that was doing away with what was dusty and obsolete and leading to a new joy in the redemption. Dogma was conceived, not as an external shackle, but as the living source that made knowledge of the truth possible in the first place. The Church came to life for us above all in the liturgy and in the great richness of the theological tradition.”
G. Soehngen was a philosopher doing theology who next introduced Ratzinger to patristics, especially Augustine, Anselm, Bonaventure, Thomas, and then Luther, Pascal and Newman. He comments on Soehngen – and this had a huge influence on Ratzinger - that “he was never satisfied in theology with the sort of positivism that could usually be detected in other subjects. Rather, he always asked the question concerning the truth of the matter and hence the question concerning the immediate reality of what is believed.” Ratzinger inherited the metaphysical temper that characterizes all his theological insights that revolve around the person as subject.
Now, at the level of the habilitation thesis to become a university professor, he passed to the hands of Michael Schmaus, where his work (no thanks to Schmaus) coalesced into the Bonaventurian insight that where the self is not given, no Revelation takes place since the self, the “I,” is the site of the experience of the Person of Christ Who is the Revelation of the Father. He affirmed, “Where there is no one to perceive `revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This is turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura…”
b) This knowledge of the subject as “I” is then applied to “the three circles of questions” that had formed at the time of the Second Vatican Council and had to be answered. “First of all, the relationship between faith and modern science had to be redefined… Second it was necessary to give a new definition t the relationship between the Church and the modern state… Third… the problem of religious tolerance – a question that required a new definition of the relationship between the Christian faith and the world religions.”
The answers to the “three circles” are all the same: the “I” as self-gift. The answer to the first is: “reason shut in on itself does not remain reasonable or rational… Reason needs revelation in order to be able to be effective as reason.” This is because the food of reason is being, and faith – the act of the “I” as gift to the revealing Christ – is the act that transfigures the being of the “I” believing, and offering it to reason so that it can be itself. The answer to the second, in Benedict’s “Interpreting Vatican II on December 22, is precisely the United States. “People came to realize that the American Revolution was offering a model of a modern state that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution.” The answer to the third is: “The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church” (Lumen Gentium #8). The Catholic Church is not an object as a structure, but a Subject, Christ Himself. The Church is not the Whole Christ, because she is not the Head, but the Body of the Subject. She is “the space into which this new subject [the believer who makes the gift of self to death in the sacrament of faith that is Baptism] can move.” Ratzinger affirms that “the Church is in no wise a separate subject endowed with its own subsistence. The new subject is much rather `Christ’ himself, and the Church is nothing but the space of this new unitary subject, which is, therefore much more than mere social interaction. It is an application of the same Christological singular found in the Letter to the Galatians.”
The reason for "Deus Caritas Est" is to help the Church become itself by gaining entry into the “I” of Christ by assimilating sensual eros into self-giving agape and experiencing being Christ and achieving the consciousness that accrues to that experience so as to answer these “three circles of questions.” This is the “hermeneutic of continuity and reform” that Benedict likens to the work of St. Thomas Aquinas “who mediated the new encounter between faith and Aristotelian philosophy, thereby setting faith in a positive relationship with the form of reason prevalent in his time.”
 J. Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism and Politics, Crossroad (1988) 218.
 J. Ratzinger, “The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology,” The Natuare and Mission of Theology, Ignatius (1995) 51-52.
 Ibid. 54.
 First Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI At the End of the Eucharistic Concelebration with the Members of the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, Wed. 20 April 2005.
 Gaudium et Spes, #22.
 “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 449.
 J. Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth, Ignatius (1992) 202-203.
 J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity Ignatius (1990) 131.
 Ibid. 132.
 “Concerning the Notion of Person… op. cit. 450.
 J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity… op. cit. 149.
 Ibid. 155.
 “Having come substantially into existence, man changes one way or another with al his actions and with al that happens in him: both these forms of the dynamism proper to hm make something of him and at the same time they, so to speak, make somebody of him;” K. Wojtyla, The Acting Person, 96-97.
 30 Days July-August, 1990, 59.
 R. Connor, “The Person as Resonating Existential,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. Vol LXVI, No. 1, 47-48.
 J. Ratzinger, “Milestones, Memoirs 1927-1977,” Ignatius (1997).
 See Ratzinger’s “Conscience and Truth” in Proceedings of The tenth Bishops’ Workshop, Dallas, Texas, The Pope John Center 1991) 7-27.
“Milestones…” Op. cit. 52-53.
 Milestones… op. cit. 57.
 Ibid. 56.
 “From this perspective, we can now understand in a new way why Bonaventure holds that the content of faith is found not in the letter of Scripture but in the spiritual meaning lying behind the letter. Furthermore, we can see why it is that for Bonaventure, Scripture simply as a written document, does not constitute revelation whereas the understanding of Scripture which arises in theology can be called revelation at least indirectly. We can easily understand this in view of the process of revelation itself; for in this process, `revelation’ is understood to consist in the understanding of the spiritual sense…. Here we gain a new insight into the identification of sacra scriptura and theologia. Only Scripture as it is understood n faith is truly holy Scripture. Consequently, Scripture in the full sense is theology, i.e. it the book and the understanding of the book in the faith of the church. On the other hand, theology can be called Scripture, for it is nothing other than the understanding of Scripture; this understanding, which is theology, brings Scripture to that full fruitfulness which corresponds to its nature as revelation;” The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure, Franciscan Herald Press (1989) 66-67.
 Ibid. 108-109.
 J. Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism and Politics, Crossroad (1988) 218.
 J. Ratzinger, “The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology,” The Nature and Mission of Theology, Ignatius (1995) 51-52.
 Ibid. 54.