Thursday, May 25, 2006

May 18, 2006: Birthday of John Paul II

John Paul II, the new David, removed the armor of Saul and gained freedom to do battle with Goliath - empowered by the Lord .
"There are some very real grounds to fear that the Church may assume too many institutions of human law, which then become the armor of Saul making it difficult for the young David to walk. We must always ascertain if institutions which were once useful still serve a purpose. The only institutional element the Church needs is the one give to it by the Lord: the sacramental structure of the people of God, centered on the Eucharist;” Josef Ratzinger, 30 Days, No. 5 – 1998, p. 22.
John Paul II: The New David Confronting the Goliaths of East and West
Two Facets: In Communist Europe/In the West.
a) In Communist Europe: John Paul II was a towering, virile figure with no fear. In the homily of June 2, 1979, he gave the Poles back their identity as a Christian nation. He sparked the peaceful revolution that was “Solidarity” and the eventual fall of Communism worldwide. Unbelievably, under the guns of a grinding and dehumanizing Communism, he dared to say blatantly and unafraid:
“Without Christ, it is impossible to understand this nation, with a past so splendid and at the same time so terribly difficult. It is not possible to understand this city, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, which in 1944 committed itself to an unequal battle against the aggressor, a battle in which it was abandoned by the allied powers, a battle in which it was buried under its own rubble, if one does not recall that under this same rubble there was also Christ with his cross which can be found facing the church of Krakowskie Przedmiescie. It is impossible to understand the history of Poland from Stanislaw in Skalka to Maximilian Kolbe in Oswiecim, if one does not apply, to them also, that unique and fundamental criterion which bears the name, Jesus Christ.”[1]

All the while, during the homily, the crowd – also under the guns – “began a rhythmic chant, `We want God, we want God…, we want God in the family, we want God in the schools, we want God in books, we want God, we want God…’ Seven hours after he had arrived, a crucial truth had been clarified by a million Pole’s response to John Paul’s evangelism. Poland was not a communist country; Poland was a Catholic nation saddled with a communist state. Poland’s `second baptism,’ which would change the history of the twentieth century, had begun.”[2]

b) In the West: Lourdes 2004: John Allen reported: “During his homily at a Mass for some 200,000 pilgrims Sunday morning, John Paul struggled again. He could be heard muttering `Jesus and Mary’ under his breath in Polish, and once mumbled `help me’ to no one in particular. Later John Paul seemed confused during the Eucharistic prayers, and had to be reminded to elevate the host at the consecration. At another point, the pope muttered, `I have to finish,’ almost as if to will himself forward…. We may find that 50 years from now, it’s not his role in the collapse of Communism that we remember, but these years of decline and public suffering. John Paul has not allowed himself to be shunted off to a home, the normal fate of elderly and infirm people. He has refused to spare us the embarrassment of his saliva and his slurred, unsteady speech. He makes us watch him slump, and wince, and become confused, and thereby forces us to confront the reality of decline and death – our own and that of our love ones.

“Whatever one makes of the particular policy choices that have marked his pontificate, one simply can’t watch the pope these days and not think about the final things, about the meaning and purpose of life. That, indeed, is a legacy.

Allen quoted French Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger:

“The pope, in his weakness, is living more than ever the role assigned to him of being the Vicar of Christ on earth, participating in the suffering of our Redeemer. Many times we have the idea that the head of the church is like a super-manager of a great international company, a man of action who makes decisions and is judged on the basis of his effectiveness. But for believers the most effective action, the mystery of salvation, happens when Christ is on the cross and can’t do or decide anything other than to accept the will of the Father.”[3]


John Paul II: “Radiating Fatherhood" Gives Oneness to the Church and Identity to Persons and Nations

Supreme Trinitarian Principle: Without affirmation by another, one does not have identity as person. Someone must name me. I see myself as good only when told so by another. I cannot do this to myself.

Benedict XVI said: “The root of man’s joy is the harmony he enjoys with himself. He lives in this affirmation. And only one who can accept himself can also accept the thou, can accept the world. The reason why an individual cannot accept the thou, cannot come to terms with him, is that he does not like his own I and, for that reason, cannot accept a thou.

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

John Paul II, not simply ex officio but in the existential act of self-gift, was the Bridegroom before the Bride. His love was spousal, and therefore, had the divine quality of agape: self-gift to death. It doesn’t seek goodness already there, but creates it. In so doing, he dynamized persons to make the gift of self – be they bishops, ministers or lay faithful. He was Pontifex Maximum and, as Benedict XVI clarified at the beginning of 2006, the Pope and Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. He was not merely the “Patriarch of the West” but the “vice-Dios en la tierra”[5] (as St. Josemaria Escriva liked to day), that is to say, Peter, who has primacy over the universal Church.
As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that "communion with the universal Church and the Successor of Peter is not an `external element’ in the life of a particular Church, but `constitutes one of its inner elements as a being.’ Hence it is ecumenism’s aim `that in continuously new conversion towards the Lord everyone may be enabled to recognize the continuity of the primacy of Peter in his successors – the bishops of Rome – and to see the realization of the Petrine office as the Lord wished it: as the universal apostolic service, present in all Churches from within’[6] (bold mine).

Globalism depends on accessing the one universal truth that can order global freedom. That truth is not the fruit of abstract ideology, but the experience of the existential truth of the human person. It can be accessed only in Jesus Christ who is the prototype of the human person, and that again can be accessed only through living faith emanating from the one Church of Christ that subsists in the Catholic Church.

That one Church of Jesus Christ subsisting in the Catholic Church is a communio of particular Churches, which is not to say that it is a federation of churches. There is only one Church of Christ that is instantiated in particular churches each engendered by a bishop in union with the Bishop of Rome: Peter. “12… The unity of the Church is… rooted in the unity of the episcopate. As the very idea of the body of the Churches calls for the existence of a Church that is head of the Churches, which is precisely the Church of Rome, `foremost in the universal communion of charity,’ so too the unity of the episcopate involves the existence of a bishop who is head of the body or college of bishops, namely the Roman Pontiff. Of the unity of the episcopate, as also of the unity of the entire Church, `the Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation.’ This unity of the episcopate is perpetuated through the centuries by means of the apostolic succession, and is also the foundation of the identity of the Church of every age with the Church built by Christ upon Peter and upon the other apostles.

“13. The bishop is a visible source and foundation of the unity of the particular Church entrusted to his pastoral ministry. But for each particular Church to be fully Church, that is, the particular presence of the universal Church with all its essential elements, and hence constituted after the model of the universal Church, there must be present in it, as a proper element, the supreme authority of the Church: the episcopal college `together with tier head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never apart from him.’ The primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the episcopal college are proper elements of the universal Church that are `not derived from the particularity of the Churches,’ but are nevertheless interior to each particular Church.
Consequently `we must see the ministry of the successor of Peter, not only as a `global’ service, reaching each particular Church from `outside,’ as it were, but as belonging already to the essence of each particular Church from `within.’ Indeed, the ministry of the primacy involves, in essence, a truly episcopal power, which is not only supreme, full and universal, but also immediate, over all, whether pastors or other faithful. The ministry of the successor of Peter as something interior to each particular Church is a necessary expression of that fundamental mutual interiority between universal Church and particular Church”[7] (bold mine).

As Christ-Bridegroom, John Paul II radiated fatherhood – and engendered sons and daughters, particular Churches, and nations. He is the Good Shepherd as Father Engendering Life with Pastoral Charity (self-gift).

Texts: a) “Jesus Christ is head of the church, his body. He is the `head’ in the new and unique sense of being a `servant,’ according to his own words: `The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mk. 10, 45). Jesus’ service attains its fullest expression in his death on the cross, that is, in his total gift of self in humility and love…. The authority of Jesus Christ as head coincides then with his service, with his gift, with his total, humble and loving dedication on behalf of the Church. All this he did in perfect obedience to the Father; he is the one true Suffering Servant of God, both priest and victim [His unique mediation as priest]…

“Christ’s gift of himself to his Church, the fruit of his love, is described in terms of that unique gift of self made by the bridegroom to the bride, as the sacred texts often suggest, Jesus is the true bridegroom who offers to the Church the wine of salvation (cf. Jn. 2, 11). He who is `the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its savior’ (Eph. 5, 23) `loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5, 25-27). The Church is indeed the body in which Christ the head is present and active, but she is also the bride who proceeds like a new Eve from the open side of the redeemer on the cross.

“Hence Christ stands `before’ the Church and `nourishes and cherishes her’ (Eph. 5, 29), giving his life for her. The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the spouse of the Church.”

b) “The internal principle, the force which animates and guides the spiritual life of the priest inasmuch as he is configured to Christ the head and shepherd, is pastoral charity as a participation in Jesus Christ’s own pastoral charity, a gift freely bestowed by the Holy Spirit and likewise a task and a call which demand a free and committed response on the part of the priest.

“The essential content of this pastoral charity is the gift of self, the total gift of self to the Church, following the example of Christ. `Pastoral charity is the virtue by which we imitate Christ in his self-giving and service. It is not just what we do, but our gift of self, which manifests Christ’s love for his flock. Pastoral charity determines our way of thinking and acting, our way of relating to people. It makes special demands on us.’

“The gift of self, which is the source and synthesis of pastoral charity, is directed toward the Church. This was true of Christ who `loved the Church and gave himself up for her’ (Eph. 5, 25), and the same must be true for the priest” … The gift of self has no limits, marked as it is by the same apostolic and missionary zeal of Christ, the good shepherd, who said: `And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd’ (Jn. 10, 16).”



John Paul II: Gift of Self to Death

Assassination attempt (1981
Onset of Parkinson’s
Removal of colon tumor (1992)
Dislocated shoulder (1993)
Broken femur and hip replacement (1994)
Appendix (1996)
Serious development of Parkinson’s until death on April 2, 2005.

Notwithstanding, he completed 104 pastoral visits outside of Italy, and 144 within, visiting almost 130 countries – tirelessly. The only scheduled ceremony that he missed came on February 27, 2005. Cardinal Deskur referred to John Paul II’s will and fortitude to serve indomitable.

Final Verbal Legacy: Suffering Rebuilds Goodness.[10] Benedict XVI made much of it in his address to the Roman Curia on Dec. 22, 2005. He said:

“In the end… his lot was a journey of suffering and silence. Unforgettable for us are the images of Palm Sunday when, holding an olive branch and marked by pain, he came to the window and imparted the Lord’s blessing as he himself was about to walk toward the cross.

“Next was the scene in his private chapel when, holding the crucifix, he took part in the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum, where he had so often led the procession carrying the cross himself.

“Last came his silent blessing on Easter Sunday, in which we saw the promise of the Resurrection, of eternal life, shine out through all his suffering. With his words and actions, the Holy Father gave us great things; equally important is the lesson he imparted to us from the chair of suffering and silence.

“In his last book `Memory and Identity’ (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005), he has left us an interpretation of suffering that is not a theological or philosophical theory but a fruit that matured on his personal path of suffering which he walked, sustained by faith in the Crucified Lord. This interpretation, which he worked out in faith and which gave meaning to his suffering lived in communion with that of the Lord, spoke through his silent pain, transforming it into an important message.

“Both at the beginning and once again at the end of the book mentioned, the Pope shows that he is deeply touched by the spectacle of the power of evil, which we dramatically experienced in the century that has just ended. He says in his text: "The evil... was not a small-scale evil.... It was an evil of gigantic proportions, an evil which availed itself of state structures in order to accomplish its wicked work, an evil built up into a system" (p. 189).

“Might evil be invincible? Is it the ultimate power of history? Because of the experience of evil, for Pope Wojty³a the question of redemption became the essential and central question of his life and thought as a Christian. Is there a limit against which the power of evil shatters? "Yes, there is", the Pope replies in this book of his, as well as in his Encyclical on redemption.

“The power that imposes a limit on evil is Divine Mercy. Violence, the display of evil, is opposed in history - as "the totally other" of God, God's own power - by Divine Mercy. The Lamb is stronger than the dragon, we could say together with the Book of Revelation.

“At the end of the book, in a retrospective review of the attack of 13 May 1981 and on the basis of the experience of his journey with God and with the world, John Paul II further deepened this answer.

“What limits the force of evil, the power, in brief, which overcomes it - this is how he says it - is God's suffering, the suffering of the Son of God on the Cross: "The suffering of the Crucified God is not just one form of suffering alongside others.... In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love.... The passion of Christ on the Cross gave a radically new meaning to suffering, transforming it from within.... It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love.... All human suffering, all pain, all infirmity contains within itself a promise of salvation;... evil is present in the world partly so as to awaken our love, our self-gift in generous and disinterested service to those visited by suffering.... Christ has redeemed the world: "By his wounds we are healed' (Is 53: 5)" (p. 189, ff.).

“All this is not merely learned theology, but the expression of a faith lived and matured through suffering. Of course, we must do all we can to alleviate suffering and prevent the injustice that causes the suffering of the innocent. However, we must also do the utmost to ensure that people can discover the meaning of suffering and are thus able to accept their own suffering and to unite it with the suffering of Christ.

“In this way, it is merged with redemptive love and consequently becomes a force against the evil in the world.”


Intellectual Achievement

Wojtyla: Person as “I” – Being
(Phenomenological Metaphysics)

John Paul II made this personalism of self-gift into a metaphysic of Esse after exploring and disclosing the “I” phenomenologically. This is his intellectual legacy that may be the greatest since 6th Century Greece. Josef Seifert commented:

“I do not know any work in contemporary philosophy which addresses itself in an equally original way to this key topic of metaphysics and to an issue of such significance for ethics: the person. It is perhaps not since the time of Augustine that a philosopher as deeply committed to the truth and to the great philosophical tradition as Wojtyla has moved so far beyond a metaphysic of being and substance in general, and gone into the metaphysics of the personal being as actualized in consciousness and freedom. And while Augustine’s profound insights into the nature of the person, deeply inspired by Plotinus, are inserted in theological contexts (notably in De Trinitate), The Acting Person is a `purely’ philosophical work which applies a rigorous phenomenological-philosophical method to its topic….

“(T)he book is full of discoveries which properly belong to its author. The philosophical originality of the work manifests itself especially in the deliberate attempt to overcome a one-sidedness in the philosophical approach to the person which has dominated philosophy since Descartes, but which actually goes back to Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy. The one-sidedness in question lies in approaching the person primarily through knowledge and cognition. The book The Acting Person tries to correct this one-sidedness by viewing the person primarily as he manifests himself in action, and ation as it reveals the person. This approach itself is highly original; so are those philosophical investigations in the book which elucidate the essence of freedom and of `man-acts.’”

I might add that the great contribution to the recovery of the “I” as being – which is unique to Wojtyla - is precisely his use of phenomenology in describing the act of faith as he had discovered it in his doctoral thesis on “Faith in St. John of the Cross.” His discovery that the “proportional medium” of identity, and therefore knowledge, between the Divine Being and the human person in the beatific vision is no created concept, but the very person of the believer experiencing self as transcendent act, i.e., loving as self-gift. Faith, then, is not merely the act of a faculty, but the gift of the entire person, and, as such, was an experience of the entire self in this transcending act. He deployed a new style of phenomenology to describe this interior experience of self-determination – which is in fact an empiricism because as experience it is access to being (not thought) – and he applied Aristotelian act and potency to give a philosophic account of the act. That done, he invariably found that the self was not consciousness but Being disclosed through the experience of self-determination in the genesis of the moral act (faith). Notice that, as Seifert points out, the “I” is not disclosed by reflection of the faculty of the intellect on itself in its act of knowing something, but the conscious awareness of self – unmediated by sensation of concept – in the act of self-determination and self-gift. John Paul II expressed this in Fides et Ration #83 when he said: “In a special way, the person constitutes a privileged locus for the encounter with being, and hence with metaphysical enquiry.”

Ratzinger: Person as “I” - Being

(Theological Deduction)

Keep in mind also that, from another angle, Josef Ratzinger had come to the same point from a theological perspective when he observed: “I believe that if one follows this struggle in which human reality had to be brought in, as it were, and affirmed for Jesus, one sees what tremendous effort and intellectual transformation lay behind the working out of this concept of person, which was quite foreign in its inner disposition to the Greek and the Latin mind. It is not conceived in substantialist, but, as we shall soon see, in existential terms. In this light, Boethius’s concept of person, which prevailed in Western philosophy, must be criticized as entirely insufficient. Remaining on the level of the Greek mind, Boethius defined `person’ as naturae rationalis individua substantia, as the individual substance of a rational nature. One sees that the concept of person stands entirely on the level of substance. This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greek mind which thinks in substantialist terms.”[13]

Consecration to Mary and the Collapse of Communism

On March 25, 1984, John Paul II made the consecration of Russia (and the entire world) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary together with all the bishops and faithful of the entire Church. In of the letters written by Sister Lucia (visionary of Fatima), she said: “Our Lord has never ceased to persevere in this request, promising recently – if Your Holiness will deign to make the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with special mention of Russia, and order that in union with Your Holiness at the same time all the bishops of the world also make the consecration – to shorten the days of tribulation with which He has decided to punish the nations for their crimes, through was, hunger and various persecutions of Holy Church and of Your Holiness.

“This consecration was made by Pius XII with a veiled mention of Russia which God well understood. But the act was carried out without the union of all the bishops of the world, and since this consecration is a call for union with all the people of God, this particular condition was indispensable.

“Later, the Popes that followed Pius XII repeated this consecration. But they did so more or less under the same conditions, without the union of all the world’s bishops. This is why in 1982 I said to the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Portalupi that the consecration that the Virgin Mary requested had not yet been carried out. It was later made by the present pontiff John Paul II on March 25, 1984, after he wrote to all the bishops of the world, asking that each of them make the consecration in his own diocese with the people of God who had been entrusted to them. The Pope asked that the statue of Our Lady of Fatima be brought to Rome, and he did it publicly in union with all the bishops who with His Holiness were uniting themselves with the people of God, the Mystical Body of Christ, and it was made to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, …

“Thus the consecration was made by His Holiness John Paul II on March 25, 1984. I believe there is no contradiction here, and that we must keep in mind that the most important thing about this consecration is the union of all the people of God, as Christ desired and asked of the Father…”

Third Part of the Secret of Fatima

“After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left had; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendor that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand point to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: Penance, Penance, Penance! And we saw in an immense light that is God: `something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White `we had the impression that it as the Holy Father.’ Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different tanks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.”[15]


“Theological Commentary”

Cardinal Ratzinger:

“Let us now examine more closely the single images. The angel with the flaming sword on the left of the Mother of God recalls similar images in the Book of Revelation. This represents the threat of judgment which looms over the world. Today the prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer seems pure fantasy: man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming sword. The vision then shows the power which stands opposed to the force of destruction – the splendour of the Mother of God and, stemming from this in a certain way, the summons to penance. In this way, the importance of human freedom is underlined: the future is not in fact unchangeably set, and the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changes. Indeed, the whole point of the vision is to bring freedom onto the scene and to steer freedom in a positive direction. The purpose of the vision is not to show a film of an irrevocably fixed future. Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction. Therefore we must totally discount fatalistic explanations of the `secret,’ such as, for example, the claim that the would-be assassin of 13 May 1981 was merely an instrument of the divine plan guided by Providence and could not therefore have acted freely, or other similar ideas in circulation. Rather, the vision speaks of dangers and how we might be saved from them.”[16]

John Paul II commented: “It was a motherly hand that guided the bullet’s path, and the agonizing Pope, rushed to the Gemelli Polyclinic, halted at the threshold of death.”

Ratzinger: “That here `a mother’s hand’ had deflected the fateful bullet only shows once more that there is no immutable destiny, that faith and prayer are forces which can influence history and that in the end prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies….

“And so we come to the final question: What is the meaning of the `secret’ of Fatima as a whole (in its three parts)? What does it say to us? First of all we must affirm with Cardinal Sodano: “…the events to which the third part of the `secret of Fatima refers now seem part of the past.’ Insofar as individual events are described, they belong to the past. Those who expected exciting apocalyptic revelations about the end of the world or the future course of history are bound to be disappointed. Fatima does not satisfy our curiosity in this way, jus as Christian faith in general cannot be reduced to an object of mere curiosity….

“I would like finally to mention another key expression of the `secret’ which has become justly famous: `my Immaculate Heart will triumph.’ What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Savior into the world – because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time. The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually, he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: `In the world you will have tribulations, but take heart; I have overcome the world’ (Jn. 16, 33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise.”

Totus Tuus Sum Ego

Santo Subito!

[1] Quoted by Rocco Buttiglione in his “Karol Wojtyla, The Thought of the Man Who Became Pope John Paul II,” Eerdmans (1997) 6.
[2] George Weigel, “Witness to Hope,” Cliff Street Books (1999) 293-295.
[3], August 20, 2004.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Ignatius (1987) 79-80.
[5] Letter, January 9, 1932, no. 20.
[6] “When Pope Benedict XVI visits Istanbul, Turkey, in November, he will visit as a Pope and no longer as the Patriarch of the West (or the Occident). Patriarch Bartholomew I will receive `only’ the Successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome – hence the Pope and the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. It will be a friendly encounter between the two in Phanar, the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople But it will no longer be an encounter between two equals. Pope Benedict ensured this when he eliminated his title `Occidentis Patriarca’ – Patriarch of the West – out of the list of titles in the `Papal Yearbook 2006 at the beginning of the year. It was a small step of great significance….
“Already as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger emphasized the Roman standpoint on several aspects of the Church as a communion. In 1997, he wrote that communion with the universal Church and the Successor of Peter is not an `external element’ in the life of a particular Church, but `constitutes one of its inner elements as a being.’ Hence it is ecumenism’s aim `that in continuously new conversion towards the Lord everyone may be enabled to recognize the continuity of the primacy of Peter in his successors – the bishops of Rome – and to see the realization of the Petrine office as the Lord wished it: as the universal apostolic service, present in all Churches from within;’” Inside the Vatican, May 2006, 8-9 (all emphasis mine).
[7] SCDF, “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion,” L’Osservatore Romano, N. 24 – 17 June 1992 8/9.
[8] John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis #21, 22
[9] Ibid. #23.
[10] “Suffering must serve for conversion, that is, for the rebuilding of goodness in the subject, who can recognize the divine mercy in this call to repentance. The purpose of penance is to overcome evil, which under different forms lies dormant in man. Its purpose is also to strengthen goodness both in man himself and in his relationships with others and especially with God. 13. But in order to perceive the true answer to the `why’ of suffering, we must look to the revelation of divine love, the ultimate source of the meaning of everything that exists. Love is also the richest source of the meaning of suffering, which always remains a mystery: we are conscious of the insufficiency and inadequacy of our explanations. Christ causes us to enter into the mystery and to discover the `why’ of suffering, as far as we are capable of grasping the sublimity of divine love;” Salvifici Doloris, #12, 13.
[11] Benedict XVI, “Interpreting Vatican II,” Origins January 26, 2006. Vol. 35, No. 32, 534-535.
[12] Josef Seifert, “Karol Cardinal Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) As Philosopher and tne Cracow/Lublin School of Philosophy,” Aletheia, The International Academy of Philosophy Press, Irving, Texas (1981) 131-132.
[13] J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 448.
[14] 30 Days March 1990, 13.
[15] L’Osservatore Romano – Special Insert, N. 26 (1649) – 28 June 2000, IV.
[16] Ibid. IX.
[17] Idem.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

May 17: Anniversary of the Beatification of St. Josemaria Escriva

Prelate of Opus Dei on the Founder's Charism: L'Osservatore Romano 5, 27/92, 6/7.

(1) “What constitutes the nucleus of Mons. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer’s message is the consciousness of the radical transformation that occurs in man through the working of baptismal grace: made a participant in the divine nature, man becomes a son of God and because of this he is called to sanctity. This boldness appears admirably synthesized in the point of Furrow `Look – we have to love God not only with our heart but with his’ (n. 809).

(2) A vigorous recovery of the roots of the Gospel which signifies the vital convergence of essential dimensions of the Christian life: the Church as a place and source of union with God, the primacy of grace, the centrality of the sacraments.

(3) “However, this awareness of the Christian vocation as a call to sanctity was not only the axis around which his preaching revolved, but above all the nucleus of the new Blessed’s spiritual life.

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

(5) “The identification of his very self with his foundational activity implied that Mons. Escriva perfected himself as a subject – up to the point of living the virtues to a heroic degree – in the measure in which he carried out Opus Dei, feeling the need to second God’s plans daily. Frequently he expressed his feelings of responsibility as founder, which led him to carry out Opus Dei as God wanted and as the universal Church needed.

“Never did he erase from his mind the sound of the bells of Our Lady of the Angels Church, which rang out festively in honour of their patron only a few hundred meters away on 2 October 1928, the day Opus Dei was founded. That sound, along with other numerous graces that our Lord gave to sustain and guide him in the foundation, formed a great symphony in his heart. Among these I would like to recall the episode written in his Intimate Notes [Apuntes intimos] on 7 August 1931: `The moment of the consecration came. On raising the sacred Host, without losing due recollection, without becoming distracted – I had just made an offering `in mente’ to the Merciful Love – there came to my mind, with extraordinary force and clarity, that passage of Scripture: `et si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum’ (Jn. 12, 32). Usually, in the face of the supernatural I am frightened. Then comes the `ne timeas!,’ it is I.

(6) “ I understood that it would be the men and women of God who would raise up the cross on the pinnacles of all human activities with the doctrines of Christ… and I saw our Lord triumph, drawing all things to himself.’”

* * * *

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

* * * * *

“Just as other great figures in the history of the Church, in a special way he had the gifts corresponding to spiritual paternity, and in a more radical way, of fidelity in serving the divine will which, in building up the Church is the only reason for being.”

* * * * * * * * * * *
By the Numbers:

(1) Furrow #809: To love with Christ’s Heart = To be Christ Himself:

This is an enigmatic statement made by St. Josemaria during a get together before Christmas and New Years, 1970 indicating that he is “Christ Passing By:”

“The Lord is passing very close to you. I know it, but you don’t realize it. His passing by quasi in occulto. Besides, without hiding himself, He is in your heart, in these small battles which perhaps are not so small, and which other times you made big with your foolishness, just as I do. But I’m not referring to the interior life when I say this to you.
“Some day, when the years pass, you will see that Jesus has been very close to you: not only in the Eucharist and not only by grace. You have not had the occasion of seeing him because I have tried that you not see him, knowing that I want you to love Him with all your strength, with all your mind, with all your heart.”

(2) “A vigorous recovery of the roots of the Gospel which signifies the vital convergence of essential dimensions of the Christian life:”

John Paul II said: “The organic convergence of priests and laity is one of the privileged areas which will give life and pastoral solidity to that `new energy’ whereby we all feel invigorated after the Great Jubilee. In this context I wish to draw attention to the importance of that `spirituality of communion’ emphasized in the Apostolic Letter [Novo Millennio Ineunte #43[3]].”[4]

St. Josemaria Escriva said: “Opus Dei is a little bit of the Church.”[5]

D. Pedro Rodriguez: “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 form of participating in 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 `functional’ 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. Opus Dei’s Statues put it more technically: `Under the prelate’s authority, the clergy, by means of their priestly ministry, enliven and inform all of Opus Dei.’ But these terms – “inform,” “enliven” – point to a `functional priority,’ they also clearly manifest the `substantial priority’ of Opus Dei’s lay faithful. Graphically, the founder told the Work’s priests that their task is to be a `carpet’ for others. He wrote: `In Opus Dei we are 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.’”

(3) “However, this awareness of the Christian vocation as a call to sanctity…”

The consciousness of the Christian vocation is the result of the experience in the self as gift in the ordinary affairs of secular life. The loss of this experience annuls the consciousness such that it had been forgotten by the laity and even in the law of the Church. St. Josemaria said: “For those who knew how to read the Gospel, how clear was that general call to holiness in ordinary life, in one’s profession, without leaving one’s own environment! But for many centuries most Christians did not understand this: there was no evidence of the ascetical phenomenon of many people seeking sanctity in this way, staying where they were, sanctifying their work and sanctifying themselves in their work. And soon, by dint of not practicing it, the doctrine was forgotten.”[7]

Bishop Alvaro del Portillo once remarked that the ascetical way of sanctity was like a road in the forests of Brazil. If the road is not used, the forest overgrows it in no
time and every trace of it is wiped out.

(4) “(H)is person was inseparable from the mission for which God had chosen him…”

There is a notable identity in description between this first hand experience Alvaro del Portillo had of St. Josemaria and the Christology described by Benedict XVI. To be Christ - which was a constant in the mouth of St. Josemaria – consisted in the total relativity of existence as self-gift in the theology of Benedict:

“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…. Similarly, as faith understood the position, Jesus did not perform a work that could be distinguished from his `I” and depicted separately. On the contrary, to understand him as the Christ means to be convinced that he has put himself into his word. Here there is no `I’ (as there is with all of us) which utters words; he has identified himself so closely with his word that `I’ and word are indistinguishable” he is word. In the same way, to faith, his work is nothing else than the unreserved way in which he merges himself into this very work; he performs himself and gives himself; his work is the giving of himself.” [8]

“To John, the description of Jesus as Son is not the expression of any power of his own claimed by Jesus but the expression of the total relativity of his existence. When Jesus is ut completely into this category this means that his existence is explained as completely relative, nothing other than `being from’ and `being or,’ coinciding in this very totality of its relativity with the absolute. IN this the title `Son’ is identical with the descriptions `the Word’ and `the envoy.’ And whewn John describes the Lord in the words of God’s dictum in Isaiah, `I am (it),’ again the same thing is meant, the total unity with the `I am’ which results from an attitude of complete surrender. The heart of this Son-Christology of John’s, the basis of which in the synoptic gospels and through them in the historical Jesus (`Abba!’) was made plain earlier, lies accordingly in what has become clear to us as being the starting-point of all Christology: in the identity of work and being, of deed and person, of the total merging of the person in his work and in the total coincidence of the doing with the person himself, who keeps back nothing for himself but gives himself completely in his work…

“To that extent it can indeed be maintained that in John there is an `ontologization,’ a reaching back to the being behind the `phenomenal’ character of the mere happening. It is no longer simply a question of speaking about the doings, sayings and teaching of Jesus; on the contrary, it is now established that at bottom his teaching is he himself. He as a totality is Son, Word and mission; his activity reaches right down to the ground of being and is one with it…

“(H)is being itself is service. And precisely because this being as a totality, is nothing but service, it is sonship. To that extent it is not until this point that the Christian revaluation of values reaches its final goal; only here does it become fully clear that he who surrenders himself completely to service for others, to complete selflessness and self-emptying, clearly becomes these things – that his very person is the true man, the man of the future, the commixture of man and God.

[Referring to Bultmann’s “actualism” whereby “the real being of the man Jesus remains static behind the event of `being-God’ and `being-Lord,’ like the being of any man,”], Benedict says: “The Christology of John and the Church’s Creed… goes much further in its radicalism, inasmuch as it acknowledges being itself as act and says, `Jesus is his work.’ Then there is no man behind it al to whom nothing has really happened. His being is pure actualitas of `from’ and `for.’ But precisely because this `being’ is no longer separable from its actualitas it coincides with God and is at the same time the exemplary man, the man of the future, through whom it becomes evident how very much man is still the coming creature, a being still, so to speak, waiting to be realized; and what a short distance man has even now progressed towards being himself. When this is understood it also becomes clear why phenomenology and existential analyses, helpful as they are, cannot suffice for Christology. They do not reach deep enough, because they leave the realm of real `being’ untouched.”[9]

It might be important to add, however, that the philosophic work of Karol Wojtyla consisted precisely in uniting a phenomenology of the acting “I” in which the experience of the “I” as Being was disclosed and joined with the metaphysics of “Esse” of St. Thomas. Since the Thomistic “Esse” is the dynamic “act of all acts,” it will tend to be constitutively relational as “from” and “for” and therefore going far in giving an ontological account of the “I” in conformity with Christological theology. See my “Relational Esse and the Person”[10] and “The Person as Resonating Existential.”[11]

(5) “The identification of his very self with his foundational activity implied that Mons. Escriva perfected himself as a subject…

This turn to the subject whereby the “I” as Being makes the gift of self is the grounding of the universal call to holiness. Everyone is an “I” in the image of the “I Am” [Jn. 8, 24, 28, 54] of God in Christ. Hence, everyone is called to activate this self-gift-image because of the insertion into Christ by Baptism (the sacrament of faith) on the occasion of, and in the execution of, ordinary secular work and family life.

Ocariz said: “This more direct meaning of the universal call to holiness could be designated as the `subjective’ dimension, in the sense that all men and women are personally called. Closely linked to it is what we might call the `objective’ dimension of the universality of the Christian vocation – the fact that everything that shapes the life of a person, situating him or her in the Church and in the world, constituted the place and the medium of his or her Christian sanctification and apostolate.”[12]

(6) “the cross on the pinnacles of all human activities with the doctrines of Christ… and I saw our Lord triumph, drawing all things to himself.’”

Secularity is not secularism. Secularity is a “dimension” [Christifideles laici #15] of the entire Church because the humanity of Christ, although dynamized by the Person of the divine Logos, is not suppressed but enhanced and fulfilled precisely as image of God and human. Human freedom is fulfilled in the radical gift of self of Christ to the obedience of death. Secularity is, besides, the very “characteristic” [Ibid] of the lay faithful because it is the world itself, the family and professional work, where they exercise the self-mastery (autonomous freedom) that gives them the self-possession to make the gift of themselves in becoming “other Christs.” Christ draws all things to Himself by the conversion of persons to become Him in the very work of secular society.

[1] L’Osservatore Romano, N. 21 – 27 May 1992, 6.
[2] From a get-together after Christmas in December 1970:
[3] : “43. To make the Church the home and the school of communion: that is the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning, if we wish to be faithful to God’s plan and respond to the world’s deepest yearnings.
“But what does this mean in practice? Here too, our thoughts could run immediately to the action to be undertaken, but that would not be the right impulse to follow. Before making practical plans, we need to promote a spirituality of communion, making it the guiding principle of education… A spirituality of communion indicates above all the heart’s contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as `those who are a part of me.’ This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship. A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a `gift for me’… Let us have no illusions: unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, `masks’ of communion rather than its means of expression and growth.”
[4] John Paul II, Address at an audience for participants at a seminar on `Novo Millennio Ineunte’ March 17, 2001:
[5]“The Place of Opus Dei in the Church” in Opus Dei in the Church Scepter (1994) 1.
[6] Ibid. 38.
[7] Letter, January 9, 1932, no. 91.
[8] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 149-150.
[9] Ibid. 169-170.
[10] Connor, Robert A. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly annual ACPA Proceedings 65, (1991) 253-267.
[11] Connor, Robert A. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, (1992) Vol LXVI, No. 1, 39-56.
[12] Fernando Ocariz, “Vocation to Opus Dei as a Vocation in the Church,” Opus Dei in the Church (1994) 90.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Resurrection - 2006

“What does `Rising From the Dead’ Mean?”

In his Easter Vigil homily, Benedict XVI reported that “A German theologian once said ironically that the miracle of a corpse returning to life – if it really happened, which he did not actually believe – would be ultimately irrelevant precisely because it would not concern us.” Basically, it would be a miracle of an isolated event, of an isolated individual, and therefore would not in itself have any cosmic or universal human repercussion. And that seems quite correct. Why would Benedict go on to say that “Christ’s Resurrection is something more, something different” “the greatest `mutation,’ absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history.”

Jesus Christ is Prototype of Man, not Exception

As we have seen below, then-Cardinal Ratzinger labored to clarify that scholastic philosophy had not permitted Christian faith to penetrate radically into the pre-Christian philosophy that had assumed and was using. In the struggle of the early Church to generate an adequate Christology, it had to go through four major councils: Nicea (325), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451) and Constantinople (480-481). It labored to distinguish nature and person, and in doing so transmogrified the Greek and Latin meaning of being from individual substance into constitutive relation. But this was/is not easily grasped. Ratzinger commented:

“The first misunderstanding is to take the statement, `Christ has only one person, namely, a divine person,’ as a subtraction from the wholeness of Jesus’ humanity. This misunderstanding has occurred de facto and is still occurring. All too easily one thinks as follows: Person is the authentic and true apex of human existence. It is missing in Jesus. Therefore, the entirety of human reality is not present in him. The assumption that some defect is present here was the point of departure of various distortions and aberrations, for example in the theology of the saints and of the Mother of God. In reality, this formula does not mean that anything is lacking in the humanity of the man Jesus. That nothing is lacking hi his humanity was fought through inch by inch in the history of dogma, for the attempt was made again and again to show wehre something is missing. Arianism and Appollinarianism first thought Christ had no human soul; monophysitism denied him his human nature. After these fundamental errors had been rejected, weaker forms of the same tendency made their appearance. The monothelites asserted that although Christ had everything, he had at least no human will, the heart of personal existence. After this view had been rejected too, monergism appeared. Although Christ had a human will, he did not have the actualization of this will; the actualization comes from God. These are all attempts at localizing the concept of person at some place in the psychic inventory. One after the other was rejected in order to make one point clear: this is not how the statement is meant; nothing is missing; no subtraction from humanity whatever is permitted or given. I believe that if one follows this struggle in which human reality had to be brought in, as it were, and affirmed for Jesus, one sees what tremendous effort and intellectual transformation lay behind the working out of this concept of person, which was quite foreign in its inner disposition to the Greek and Latin mind. It is not conceived in substantialist, but, as we shall soon see, in existential terms. In this light, Boethius’s concept of person, which prevailed in Western philosophy, must be criticized as entirely insufficient. Remaining on the level of the Greek mind, Boethius defined `person’ as naturae rationalis individua substantia, as the individual substance of a rational nature. One sees that the concept of person stands entirely on the level of substance. This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greek mind which thinks in substantialist terms.”

Ratzinger then points out that, although scholastic philosophy moved from the level of essence and substance to the level of existence in people like Richard of St. Victor and St. Thomas Aquinas, they kept the insight to the level of the Trinity and Christology, but did not bring it to bear on the level of anthropology. Certainly, St. Thomas Aquinas gave ontological primacy to existence, or more exactly to “esse” as the “act of all acts and perfection of all perfections,”[2] but he did not make the relationality of the Esse Personale of the Logos (which he saw clearly[3]) hold through to the meaning of man. Rather, he treated Christ, says Ratzinger, “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”[4] (underline mine).

Vatican II Makes Explicit the Connection Between Christology and Anthropology

Christ is not the exception, but the meaning of man

Vatican II: In Gaudium et Spes #22, it reads, “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 then goes on to present Christ as St. Paul: “He who is the `image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1, 15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin.” The footnote refers to Romans 5, 14 that reads: “yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin after the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a figure of him who was to come” and then quotes Tertullian in the same footnote: “For in all the form which was moulded in the clay, Christ was in the thoughts as the man who to be.”

All of this means that Jesus Christ is not merely a religious figure, but the anthropological prototype. When God thought man, He did not think Adam; He thought Christ. Jesus Christ, as God-man, is not the exception, but the meaning of man - every man. And that is the reason why the resurrection of Christ from the dead has implications for the resurrection from the dead for every man. Perhaps, even a stronger reference to the meaning of the human person is Ephesians 1, 4-5: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons according to the purpose of his will…”

There is only one act of existence – “Esse” – in Jesus Christ:

St. Thomas poses the question as to whether there are one or two acts of existence in Christ. In accord with his metaphysics of “esse,” he states: “It seems that in Christ there is not only one at of existence but two. For Damascene states that whatever follows upon nature is in Christ two-fold. But the act of existence follows upon nature since it is a consequence of form. Therefore in Christ there are tow acts of existence.” His “sed contra” states that “a thing is one to the extent that it is a being; for `that which is one’ and `that which is a being’ are convertible terms. If, then, there were two acts of existence in Christ and not only one, he would be two and not one.” Thomas then “replies:” “Since in Christ there are two natures and one subsisting subject, it necessarily follows that what pertains to nature is in Christ two-fold, while what pertains to the subsisting subject is one only. Now the act of existence pertains both to nature and to the subsisting subject. It pertains to the subject as to that which possesses existence. It pertains to the nature as to that by which something has existence; thus the nature is considered as a form which belongs to the order of existence inasmuch as by it something exists.”[5] Finally, in his response to the second objection, he says: “The esse aeternum of the Son of God which is identified with the divine nature becomes the existence of the man inasmuch as the human nature is assumed by the Son of God into the unity of his person.”

This is the major point that Benedict makes. The “Esse” of Christ is the very relational Person of the Son. The Son is son as subsistent only insofar as He is relation from and to the Father. As the Father is the engendering of the Son, the Son is the glorification and obedience to the Father.

The man, Jesus of Nazareth, does not exist in a static fashion because of the personal Esse of the Son. The Esse of the Son is the relation of obedience. Since the human will of the man Jesus is the human will of the divine Person, there is a crescendo to a radical maximum in the obedience to death on the Cross. There is a historical development of the assimilation of the human will by the divine Person until finally in living out radically who He is as obedient Son, the humanity of Christ is given totally and radically. Hence, after the crucifixion, death and resurrection, those who recognized Jesus before did not recognize Him in His post-resurrection appearances.

The Resurrected Christ Is “Mutation” into a New Order of Being: the Original Pre-Destination of Man

Benedict said in his Easter Vigil Homily: “Christ’s Resurrection is something more, something different. If we may borrow the language of the theory of evolution, it is the greatest `mutation,’ absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history.” He asks: “What happened there? What does it mean for us, for the whole world and for me personally? Above all: what happened? Jesus is no longer in the tomb. He is in a totally new life[6] (bold mine).

Christ: Not a Resurrected “Corpse:”

A resurrected “corpse” would be a return to βίος or ψυχη, but not a progression into ζώην αιώνιον (eternal life). Eternal life is intrinsically relational as Trinitarian Life, and the conversion of the physical death of Christ into prayer – a “Yes” – to the will of the Father radically divinizes the body of Christ and makes it unrecognizable by those who have not entered into a similar radicality of self-gift.

“First of all it is quite clear that after his resurrection Christ did not go back to his previous earthly life, as we are told the young man of Naim and Lazarus did. He rose again to definitive life, which is no longer governed by the chemical and biological laws and therefore stands outside the possibility of death, in the certainty conferred by love. That is why the encounters with him are `appearances;’ that is why he with whom people had sat at table two days earlier is not recognized by his best friends and, even e\when recognized, remains alien: only where he grants vision is he seen; only when he opens men’s eyes and makes their hearts open up can the countenance of the eternal love that conquers death become recognizable in our mortal world, and in the new, different world, the world of him who is to come. That is also why it is so difficult, indeed absolutely impossible, for the gospels to describe the encounter with the risen Christ; that is why they can only stammer when they speak of these meetings and seem to provide contradictory descriptions of them. In reality they are surprisingly unanimous in the dialectic of their statements, in the simultaneity of touching and not-touching, or recognizing and not-recognizing, of complete identity between the crucified and the risen Christ and complete transformation. People recognize the Lord and yet do not recognize him again; people touch him, and yet he is untouchable; he is the same and yet quite different. As we have said, the dialectic is always the same; it is only the stylistic means by which it is expressed that changes.”

The Christological Anthropology of Resurrection

Continuing the line of thought in Benedict’s Easter Vigil Homily, he asks: “What happened there? What does it mean for us, for the whole world and for me personally? Above all: what happened? Jesus is no longer in the tomb. He is in a totally new life. But how could this happen? What forces were in operation?” He answers: “The crucial point is that this man Jesus was not alone, he was not an “I” closed in upon itself. He was one single reality with the living God, so closely united with him as to form one person with him. He found himself, so to speak, in an embrace with him who is life itself, an embrace not just on the emotional level, but one which included and permeated his being. His own life was not just his own, it was an existential communion with God, a `being taken up’ into God, and hence, it could not in reality be taken away from him. Out of love, he could allow himself to be killed, but precisely by dong so he broke the definitiveness of death, because in him the definitiveness of life was present. He was one single reality with indestructible life, in such a way that it burst forth anew through death. Let us express the same thing once again from another angle. His death was an act of love. At the Last Supper he anticipated death and transformed into self-giving. His existential communion with God was concretely an existential communion with God’s love, and this love is the real power against death, it is stronger than death. The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which dissolved the hitherto indissoluble compenetration of `dying and becoming.’ It ushered in a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which a new world emerges.”

The Christology is the following: The divine nature and the human nature are not sitting in parallel next to each other tied together by the Person of the Logos. We have seen in other postings below that the act of existence and dynamics of the man, Jesus of Nazareth, is the Esse of the divine Logos.[8] That means, not that the humanity of Christ existed in fact and functioned as a “pure nature” endowed with human intellect and will as the knowing and consenting source of the crucifixion. Rather, it means that the humanity of Jesus Christ is the humanity of the Person of the Logos and that He willed obedience to the Father’s will. He said “Yes” to the will of the Father, and the human will and divine will were one “Yes” of the “I” of the Son of God. To give this some clarity, elsewhere Benedict said:

“In the manuals, the theological development after Chalcedon (451) 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. The 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, where one stands alongside the other, but real compenetration – compenetration between God and man – means salvation for humankind. Only thus in fact does that true `being with God’ take place, without which liberation and freedom do not exist.”[9]

The key here is that the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth (no human person is present) is totally absorbed, not by a “divine nature,” but in the divine Person of the Logos. The result is that the human will of Jesus is the will of the divine Person Who says “Yes” to the Father with it, and with it ladened with all the sins of all men of all time (2 Cor. 5, 21: “He made him to be sin”). The assumption of the human will by the Person of the Logos is not an absorption by a parallel divine nature which would overpower and annul its humanness. Rather, this concrete human nature becomes that of the divine Person who lives out His divine Personhood precisely as human. The relation, or self-gift, of the Person-divinity brings the initial imaging of God that man is to fulfillment. Gaudium et spes #22 says: “He” – the divine Person - “worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart, he loved.” Instead of annulling human freedom, the assumption and exercise of the humanity by the divine Person increases that freedom and brings it to its fulfillment. Notice that John Paul II teaches that “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully I the total gift of himself and call his disciples to share in his freedom”[10] The obedience of Christ to death precisely with the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth does not remove its autonomy and freedom. It enhances it. It is precisely the divine Person of the Logos saying and living out the “Yes” of obedience with the human will that is our Redemption. It is not a parallelism of natures bound together by the glue of the “glue” of the divine Person, but the compenetration of nature and Person that is Incarnation and Redemption

Benedict continues:

“If God joins himself to his creature – man/woman – he does not wound or diminish it: he brings it to its plenitude. But on the other hand (and this is no less important) there remains no trace of that dualism or parallelism of the two natures which in the course of history was frequently judged necessary to defend the human liberty of Jesus. Such studies forgot that the assumption of the human will into the divine will does not destroy freedom, but on the contrary generates true liberty. The Council of Constantinople has analysed concretely the problem of the will of joss. We are reminded firmly that there exists a specific will of the man Jesus that is not absorbed into the divine will. But this human will follows the divine will and thus becomes a single will with it, not, however, in a forced way but by way of freedom. The metaphysical duplicity of a human will and a divine will is not eliminated, but in the personal sphere, the area of freedom, there is accomplished a fusion of the two, so that this becomes not one single natural will but one personal will. This free union – a mode of union created by love – is a union higher and more intimate than a purely natural union. It corresponds to the highest union which can exist, the union of the Trinity. The Council explains this union by a saying of the Lord given in the Gospel of John: `I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me’ Jn. 6, 38). Here the divine Logos is speaking, and speaking of the human will of Jesus in the mode by which he calls his will the will of the Logos. With this exegesis of John 6, 38, the council proves the unity of the subject: in Jesus there are not two `I,’ but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought of Jesus using the `I;’ this has become his `I,’ has been assumed into his `I,’ because the human will has become fully one with the will of the Logos, and with it has become our assent to the will of the Father…

“(T)he Logos stoops to assume as his own the will of man, and speaks to the Father with the `I’ of this man, and thereby transforms the word of a man into the eternal word, into his own blessed `Yes, Father.’ While giving to this man his own `I,’ his own identity, the logos frees the man, saves him, divinizes him. We here touch almost palpably on the reality meant by the phrase `God became man:’ the Son transforms the anguish of a man into the obedience of the Son, transforms the speech of the `servant’ into the words transformation of any person, which is at the same time the one thing ultimately desirable: divinization. Thus the prayer which enters into the prayer of Jesus, and which in the body of Christ becomes the prayer of Jesus Christ, can be defined as the `laboratory’ of freedom. Here and in no other place occurs that profound change in a person which we need for the world to become better.”

Ultimately, we are looking here at the anthropology of divinization and therefore resurrection.

Semantically, the hagiographers of the New Testament used different words for “life” and “living” to communicate this anthropology of divinization. For example, when Jesus Christ refers to Trinitarian Life or eternal life, St. John as well as the synoptic writers use the Greek word ζωη.[12] βίος refers to biological life.[13] Ψυχη refers to biological and psychic life.[14]

Benedict asserts the significance of the Greek words, particularly two of them: ζωη and βίος with regard to the Resurrection: “It goes without saying that the life of him who has risen from the dead is not once again βίος, the bio-logical form of our mortal life inside history; it is ζωη, new, different, definitive life; life which has stepped beyond the mortal realm of βίος and history, a realm which has here been surpassed by a greater power. And in fact the resurrection narratives of the New Testament allow us to see clearly that the life of him who has risen again does not lie within the historical βίος, but beyond and above it. It is also true, of course, that this new life begot itself in and had to do so, because after all it is there for history, and the Christian message is basically nothing else than the transmission of the testimony that love has here broken through death and thus transformed fundamentally the situation of al of us. Once we have realized this, it is no longer difficult to find the right kind of hermeneutics for the difficult business of expounding the biblical resurrection narratives, that is, to acquire a clear understanding of the sense in which they must properly be understood.”[15]

In another rendering of the same argument, Benedict says: “Jesus is not one who has `returned’ from the dead like for example the young man of Naim and Lazarus, called back again to an earthly life, which then had to end in a final death. The Resurrection of Jesus is not, for example, an overcoming of clinical death, which we also know about today, which must however at a certain moment end in a clinical death without return. That matters do not stand like this is not only shown by the Evangelists, but also by the same Credo of Paul’s (1 Cor. 15, 3-11) in so far as it describes the successive appearances of the risen Jesus with the Greek word ophthe, customarily translated as `he appeared;’ perhaps we should say more correctly: `made himself seen.’ This formula would make clear that what is treated of here is something different: that Jesus, after the Resurrection, belongs to a sphere of reality which is normally withdrawn from our senses. Only so can it be explained that Jesus was not recognized, as all the Evangelists agree in telling us. He no longer belongs to the world perceptible to the senses, but to the world of God. He can therefore be seen only by one to whom he grants it. And involved also in such a way of seeing are likewise the heart, the spirit, the whole inward person. Even in everyday life, seeing is not that simple process we generally take it to be. Two people looking at the world at the same time rarely see the same thing. Moreover seeing is always from within. According to circumstances, one person can perceive the beauty of things or only their usefulness; one can read in another’s countenance preoccupation, love, hidden s suffering, dissimulation, or notice nothing. All of this appears manifest to the sense also but comes however to be perceived only by a process of the mind and senses together, which is all the more demanding, the more profoundly the sensible manifestation of a thing arises from the depths of reality. Something analogous is true of the risen Lord: he manifested himself to the senses, and yet can stimulate only those senses that sees better than through the senses.

“Taking the whole passage into account, we should then admit that Jesus did not live like are-animated corpse but in virtue of divine power, beyond the region of what is physically and chemically measurable. But it is also true that he himself, this person, the Jesus sentenced two days earlier, was alive…. Resurrection and appearance are two distinct facts, clearly separated in the confession. The Resurrection does not come to an end with the appearances. The appearances are not the Resurrection, but only its reflection. Before all this it is an event for Jesus himself, occurring between him and the Father in virtue of the power of the Holy Spirit; then the event happening to Jesus himself becomes accessible to other people because it is he who makes it accessible. And with this we are back again at the question of the tomb, for which the answer is now found. The tomb is not the central point of the message of the Resurrection; it is instead the Lord in his new life.”[16]

The “Appearances:” Re-Cognition of Christ as “ζωη”

· We have seen below: in theological epistemology, like is known by like.
· The Person of Christ is relation to the Father
· This Relation is lived out through the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth when the Logos says “Yes” with His human will to the Father.
· Only by becoming relational as the Logos is relational can the Logos be known as “I.”
· Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and the seven apostles at Lake Genesareth did not recognize the risen Christ…
· Until each of them made the gift of self: Mary offered to re-bury the body; the two disciples asked Him to stay with them that night at the inn of Emmaus, and the seven (even John) did not recognize Him until they obeyed Him to throw the nets to the right.
· Conclusion: there must be an interior act of self-giving in order to be “like” Christ, and therefore to “know” Him. To know Him is to already be in eternal life (Jn. 17, 3) because of having entered the configuration of ζώη.

The Significance of the 40 Day Delay Before the Ascension:

Why did the Lord hang around for 40 days after the Resurrection? The short answer: To confirm the supernatural dimension of the ordinary life of Jesus of Nazareth. The eternal Christ remains Jesus of Nazareth in the flesh and in the ordinariness of life.

The Gnostic mind boggles at the Incarnation in the first place. The natural rationalism of the human mind affirms God to be pure Spirit. Plato posited the One who transcends all matter and cannot be contaminated with it. The first unmoved Mover of Aristotle is the pure immateriality of Thought thinking itself in immanent activity As Guardini says: “Who is God? The supreme Spirit, and so pure, that the angels by contrast are `flesh’! He is the Endless, Omnipotent, Eternal, All-inclusive One in the simplicity of his pure reality. The Unchanging One, living in himself, sufficient unto himself. What possible use could he have for a human body in heaven? The Incarnation is already incomprehensible enough; if we accept it as an act of unfathomable love, this life and death, isn’t that sufficient? Why must we also believe that this piece of creation is assimilated into the eternity of God’s existence? What for? A bit of earthliness los and caught up into the tremendousness of eternity? Why doesn’t the Logos shake the dust from him and return to the pure clarity of his free divinity? But what manner of God is this, with whom Resurrection, Ascension and throning on his right hand are possible? Precisely the kind of God who makes such things possible! He is the God of the Resurrection, and we must learn that it is not the Resurrection that is irreconcilable to the him, but part of our thinking that is irreconcilable to the Resurrection, for it is false.

“If we take Christ’s figure as our point of departure, trying to understand from there, we find ourselves faced with the choice between a completely new conception of God and our relation to him, and utter rejection of everything that surpasses the limitations of a `great man’… We must also completely reform our idea of humanity, if it is to fit the mould Christ has indicated. We can no longer say: man is as the world supposes him to be; therefore it is impossible that he throne at God’s right, but: since Revelation as revealed that the Son of Man does throne at God’s right, man must be other than the world supposes him.”[17]

“The significance of the 40 day wait in secular ordinariness after the Resurrection confirms the supernatural character of radical self-giftedness in the humdrum of each day. If, muses Guardini, “the Resurrection and the period afterwards had been only offshoots of morbid religious experience, legend or myth – what would those days have looked like? Doubtless, they would have been filled with demonstrations of the liberated one’s power; the hunted one, now omnipotent, would have shattered his enemies; he would have blazed from temple altars, would have covered his followers with honors, and in these and other ways, have fulfilled the longings of the oppressed. He would also have initiated the disciples into the wonderful mysteries of heaven, would have revealed the future, the beginning and end of all things. But nothing of al this occurs. No mysteries are revealed; no one is initiated into the secrets of the unknown. Not one miracle, save that of Christ’s own transfigured existence and the wonderful fish-catch which is only a repetition of an earlier event.”[18]

It is obvious that if the Resurrected body of Christ lives on in ordinariness before ascending to throne at the right hand of the Father, and we have been sacramentally introduced into living the life of that body, then we are capable of living a supernatural life in our own ordinariness and daily work/family life.

St. Josemaria Escriva said: “Surely this confirms in your minds, in a tangible and unforgettable way, the fact that everyday life is the true setting for your lives as Christians. Your ordinary contact with God takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. There you have your daily encounter with Christ. It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God all mankind….You must understand now more clearly that God is calling you to serve him in and from the ordinary, material and secular activities of human life. He waits for us everyday, in the laboratory, in the operating theater, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all the immense panorama of work. Understand this well: there is something holyl, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.”[19]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 447-448
[2] “Esse est actualitas omnium actuum, et propter hoc est perfectio omnium perfectionum;” Qu. Disp. De Anima, q. 7, art. 2, ad 9m.
[3] Summa Theologiae, I, 40, 2, ad 1: “Dicendum quod personae sunt ipsae relationes subsistentes;” Ad 4m: “Dicendum quod relatio praesupponit distinctionem suppositorum, quando est accidens; sed si relatio sit subsistens, non praesupponit, sed secum fert distinctionem.”
[4] Ibid. 449
[5] Summa Theologiae, III, 17, 2.
[6] Benedict XVI, Easter Vigil Homily, Holy Saturday, 15 April 2006 [his birthday].
[7] J. Ratzinger, op. cit. 235.
[8] See above. Summa Theologiae, III, 17, a.2, ad 2.
[9] J. Ratzinger, “Journey Towards Easter” Crossroad (1987) 88.
[10] Veritatis Splendor #85.
[11] Ibid 88-91.
[12] “The way is hard that leads to life,” Matt. 7, 14; “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” Jn. 14, 6; “I give them eternal life,” Jn. 10, 28; “I came that they may have life,” Jn. 10, 10).
[13] “The cares and riches and pleasures of life,” Lk. 8, 14,
[14] (Psychic: “If he gains the whole world and forfeits his life, Mt. 16, 26; “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it,” Lk. 17, 33. Physical: “Those who sought the child’s life are dead,” Matt. 2, 20; “I tell you, do not be anxious about your life” Matt. 6, 25.
[15] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 234.
[16] J. Ratzinger, “Journey Towards Easter,” op. cit. 114-115.
[17] R. Guardini, “The Lord,” Regnery (1954) 412-413.
[18] Ibid 420-421.
[19] Conversations with St. Josemaria Escriva Sinag-Tala Publishers Manila (1968) 192.