Thursday, February 08, 2007

Priestly Soul: Levites to St. Josemaria Escriva

The Experience of Christ From Levites to St. Josemaria Escriva

Priesthood in Israel:

On December 22, 2006, addressing the Roman Curia, Benedict XVI said: “Paul calls Timothy – and in him, the bishop and in general the priest - `man of God’ (1 Tim 6, 11). This is the central task of the priest: to bring God to men and women. Of course, he can only do this if he himself comes from God, if he lives with and by God…. “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, you hold my lot’ (Ps 16, 5).
“The priest praying in this psalm interprets his life on the basis of the distribution of territory as established in Deuteronomy (cf. 10, 9). After taking possession of the land, every tribe obtained by the drawing of lots his portion of the holy land and with this took part in the gift promised to the forefather Abraham.”
[1]

The Tribe of Levi: No Land

“To the tribe of Levi alone Moses gave no inheritance, the Lord God of Israel is their inheritance; the offerings by fire to the Lord God of Israel are their inheritance, as he said to him.” (Joshua 13, 14; 13, 33; 14, 3).


Prophecy of Malchi:


“The Lord God says this: Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fuller’s alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier, he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made [the gift of self]. The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the Lord as in former days, as in the years of old.”
“The tribe of Levi alone received no land: Its land was God himself. This affirmation certainly had an entirely practical significance. Priests did not live like the other tribes by cultivating the earth but on offerings. However, the affirmation goes deeper. The true foundation of the priest’s life, the ground of his existence, the ground of his life, is God himself.”
[2]

Priesthood in the New Testament:

“The church in this Old Testament interpretation of the priestly life… has rightly seen in the following of the apostles, in communion with Jesus himself, the explanation of what the priestly mission means. The priest can and must also say today with the Levite, “Dominus pars hereditatis meae et calicis mei.” God himself is my portion of land, the external and internal foundation of my existence.
“This theocentricity of the priestly existence is truly necessary in our entirely function-oriented world in which everything is based on calculable and ascertainable performance. The priest must truly know God from within and thus bring him to men and women: This is the prime service that contemporary humanity needs.
“If this centrality of God in a priest’s life is lost, little by little the zeal in his actions is lost. In an excess of external things the center that gives meaning to all things and leas them back to unity is missing. There the foundation of life, the `earth’ upon which all this can stand and prosper, is missing.”
[3]

Benedict now speaks about celibacy for the priesthood which can be applied to both clerics and laity (since they are both ontologically “priests” by the sacraments of Baptism and Orders but in essentially irreducible ways [“minister”-“layfaithful”]), and also applied to the way married life is lived since celibacy is essentially spousal relation to Jesus Christ.

Celibacy is the radical way the priest lives out the Levitic renunciation of possession (land). Celibacy is propter Regnum Coelorum. Benedict says: “The true foundation of celibacy can be contained in the phrase Dominus pars – You are my land. It can only be theocentric. It cannot mean being deprived of love but must mean letting oneself be consumed by passion for god and subsequently, thanks to a more intimate way of being with him, to serve men and women too. Celibacy must be a witness to faith: Faith in God materializes in that form of life that only has meaning if it is based on God.
“Basing one’s life on him, renouncing marriage and the family, means that I accept and experience God as a reality and that I can therefore bring him to men and women. Our world, which has become totally positivistic, in which God appears at best as a hypothesis but not as a concrete reality, needs to rest on God in the most concrete and radical way possible.
“It needs a witness to God that lies in the decision to welcome God as a land where one finds one’s own existence. For this reason celibacy is so important today in our contemporary world even if its fulfillment in our age is constantly threatened and questioned.”
[4]
Earlier, Benedict clarified concerning the notion of celibacy as providing greater “availability” of the priest for the people: “The solely pragmatic reason, the reference to greater availability, is not enough: Such a greater availability of time could easily become also a form of egoism that saves a person from the sacrifices and efforts demanded by the reciprocal acceptance and forbearance in matrimony: thus, it could lead to a spiritual impoverishment or to hardening of the heart.”[5]


The Priestly Soul: Levites Foreshadowing Jesus Christ,
Their Purification – and Ours


“This prophecy refers directly to the priests of the tribe of Levi. These priests prefigure all Christians who through Baptism become members of the royal priesthood of Christ. If we allow ourselves to be cleansed and purified, we too can offer up our work and our lives in justice.”
[6]
By the sacrament of Baptism, the human person is ontologically capacitated to live this same intrinsic priesthood which we call “priestly soul.” The layman is baptized into the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

The priesthood of Christ is unique and definitive in that He does not offer anything extrinsically, but offers Himself intrinsically, i.e. He masters His human will and obeys the will of the Father to death. This priesthood of Christ reveals the ontological physiognomy not only of Christian anthropology, but of anthropology itself – that is, all men - since Christ is the revelation of the meaning of the human person (GS #22). Therefore, to be man and human is to be Christ, the Priest.

St. Paul expostulates on this radical novelty: “But when Christ appeared as high priest of the good things to come, he entered once for all through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands (that is, not of this creation), nor again by virtue of blood of goats and calves, but by virtue of his own blood, into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkled ashes of a heifer sanctify the unclean unto the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit offered himself unblemished unto God…[7]

And again:

“For Jesus has not entered into a Holies made by hands, a mere copy of the true, but into heaven itself, to appear now before the face of God on our behalf; nor yet has he entered to offer himself often as the high priest enters into the Holies year after year with blood not his own; for in that case he must have suffered often since the beginning of the world. But as it is, once for all at the end of the ages, he has appeared for the destruction of sin by the sacrifice of himself.”[8]

“For it is impossible that sins should be taken away with blood of bulls and of goats. Therefore in coming into the world, he says, `Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not, but a body thou hast fitted to me: in holocausts and sin-offerings thou hast had no pleasure. The said I, `Behold, I come – (…) to do they will, O God.’ In saying in the first place, `Sacrifices and oblations and holocausts and sin-offerings thou wouldst not, either has t thou had pleasure in them’… and then saying, `Behold, I come to do thy will, O God,’ he annuls the first covenant in order to establish the second. It is in this `will’ that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

“And every priest indeed stands daily ministering, and often offering the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but Jesus, having offered one sacrifice for sins has taken his seat forever at the right hand of God, waiting thenceforth until his enemies be made the footstool under his feet. For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are sanctified.”
[9]


“We have to learn how to give ourselves, to burn before God like the light placed on a lampstand to give light to those who walk in darkness; like the sanctuary lamps that burn by the altar, giving off light till their last drop is consumed.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, Forge #44).



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The Persistent Teaching of Benedict XVI: The Purification of the Human Person as Priest in order to Experience the Person of Jesus Christ.


In his ad limina address to the Bishops of Switzerland on November 7, 2006, Benedict XVI referred to the absence of God in secularized life at the present moment. Referring to the parable of the wedding feast, he asked why the “first guests” largely excuse themselves. “They have no time to come to the Lord. We know the churches that are ever more empty, seminaries continue to be empty, religious houses that are increasingly empty; we are familiar with all the forms in which this `no, I have other important things to do’ is presented.” He asks, “What should we do?”

He then says: “First of all, we should ask ourselves: why is this happening?” The Pope then answers with St. Gregory the Great: “they have never had an experience of God; they have never acquired a `taste’ for God; they have never experienced how delightful it is to be `touched’ by God! They lack this `contact’ – and with it, the `taste for God.’ And only if we, so to speak, taste him, only then can we come to the banquet….

“In another homily, St. Gregory the Great deepened further the same question and asked himself; how can it be that man does not even want to `taste’ God?

“And he responds: when man is entirely caught up in his own world, with material things, with what he can do, with all that is feasible and brings him success, with all that he can produce or understand by himself, then his capacity to perceive God weakens, the organ sensitive to God deteriorates, it becomes unable to perceive and sense, it no longer perceives the Divine, because the corresponding inner organ has withered, it has stopped developing.

“When he overuses all the other organs, the empirical ones, it can happen that it is precisely the sense of God that suffers, that this organ dies, and man, as St. Gregory says, no longer perceives God’s gaze, to be looked at by him, the fact that his precious gaze touches me!

“I maintain that St. Gregory the Great has described exactly the situation of our time – in fact, his was an age very similar to ours. And the question still arises: what should we do?

“I hold that the first thing to do is what the Lord tells us… “Your attitude must be Christ’s”… Learn to think as Christ thought, learn to think with him! And this thinking is not only the thinking of the mind, but also a thinking of the heart.

“We learn Jesus Christ’s sentiments when we learn to think with him and thus, when we learn to think also of his failure, of his passage through failure and of the growth of his love in failure.

“If we enter into these sentiments of his, if we begin to practice thinking like him and with him, then joy for God is awakened within us, confident that he is the strongest; yes, we can say that love for him is reawakened within us. We feel how beautiful it is that he is there and that we can know him – that we know him in the face of Jesus Christ who suffered for us.

“I think this is the first thing: that we ourselves enter into vital contact with God – with the Lord Jesus, the living God; that in us the organ directed to God be strengthened; that we bear within us a perception of his `exquisiteness’….

“This also gives life to our work, but we also run a risk: one can do much, many things in the ecclesiastical field, all for God…, and yet remain totally taken up with oneself, without encountering God. Work replaces faith, but then one becomes empty within.
“I therefore believe that we must make an effort above all to listen to the Lord in prayer, in deep interior participation in the sacraments, in learning the sentiments of God in the faces and the suffering of others, in order to be infected by his joy, his zeal and his love, and to look at the world with him and starting from him…

“Once again, in other words: it is a matter of the centrality of God, and not just any god but the God with the Face of Jesus Christ. Today, this is crucial.”



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Papal Message for 22nd Youth Day, April 1, 2007


“`Dare to Love’ by Following the Example of the Saints”

“My dear young friends, I want to invite you to `dare to love.’ Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful undertaking of giving yourselves as a gift to God and your brothers and sisters, in imitation of the One who vanquished hatred and death forever through love (cf. Rev. 5, 13). Love is the only force capable of changing the heart of the human person and of all humanity, by making fruitful the relations between men and women, between rich and poor, between cultures and civilizations. This is shown to us in the lives of the saints. They are true friends of God who channel and reflect this very first love. Try to know them better, entrust yourselves to their intercession, and strive to live as they did. I shall just mention Mother Teresa. In order to respond instantly to the cry of Jesus, `I thirst,’ a cry that had touched her deeply, she began to take in the people were dying on the streets of Calcutta in India. From that time onward, the only desire of her life was to quench the thirst of love felt by Jesus, not with words, but with concrete action by recognizing his disfigured countenance thirsting for love in the faces of the poorest of the poor. Blessed Teresa pout the teachings of the Lord into practice: `Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’ (Mt. 25, 40)…
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Experiences of Christ


Experience of Vocation as “Event:” the response of self-gift produces an experience of being that enlightens reason as consciousness. Benedict XVI describes this subjective enlightenment as an integral part of revelation. He remarked in his 1997 autobiography "Milestones…":
“Here, `revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of `revelation.’ 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 in 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 (`by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.”[10]

Gregory of Nyssa – Greek Father of the Church (4th century) on the experience of faith enlightening reason:

“`Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God…’ You men have within you a desire to behold the supreme good. Now when you are told that the majesty of God is exalted above the heavens, that his glory is inexpressible, his beauty indescribable, and his nature transcendent, do not despair because you cannot behold the object of your desire. If by a diligent life of virtue you wash away the film of dirt that covers your heart, then the divine beauty will shine forth in you…
“Take a piece of iron as an illustration. Although it might have been black before, once the rust has been scraped off with a whetstone, it will begin to shine brilliantly and to reflect the rays of the sun. So it is with the interior man, which is what the Lord means by the heart. Once a man removes from his soul the coating of filth that has formed on it through his sinful neglect, he will regain his likeness to his Archetype, and be good. For what resemble the supreme Good is itself good. If he then looks into himself, he will see the vision he has longed for. This is the blessedness of the pure of heart: in seeing their own purity they see the divine Archetype mirrored in themselves.
“Those who look at the sun in a mirror, even if they do not look directly at the sky, see it radiance in the reflection just as truly as do those who look directly at the sun’s orb. It is the same, says the Lord, with you. Even though you are unable to contemplate and see the inaccessible light, you will find what you seek within yourself, provided you return to the beauty and grace of that image which was originally placed in you. For God is purity; he is free from sin and a stranger to all evil. If this can be said of you, then God will surely be within you… Once purified, you see things that others cannot see. When the mists of sin no longer cloud the eye of your soul, you see that blessed vision clearly in the peace and purity of your own heart. That vision is nothing else than the holiness, the purity, the simplicity and all the other glorious reflections of God’s nature, through which God himself is seen”
(Office of Readings, Saturday of 12th Week of Ordinary Time).


Augustine:

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace."[11]

St. Josemaria Escriva: The foundational experience of divine filiation as the grounding experience of Opus Dei.

“One day, toward the end of September of 1931, Escriva experienced an overwhelming sense of the reality of God’s fatherhood and of his own sonship. During a long period of prayer of union and thanksgiving, he contemplated these joyful realities. He described the experience briefly, but in sufficient detail to give some idea of its content: `I considered God’s goodness toward me. Full of interior joy, I would have shouted on the street, `Father! Father!’ so that everyone might know my filial gratitude.

“A few weeks later, on October 16, 1931, he experienced an even more intense and prolonged sense of being a son of God. Once again, this period of sublime prayer (which he later described as the most elevated prayer God ever gave him) occurred not in church but on the street. He had spent some time in church trying without success to pray. After leaving the church on a bright fall morning, he bought a newspaper and took the streetcar. There he was invaded by `prayer of copious ardent affections,’ lost in contemplation of `this marvelous reality: God is my father.’

“(I) felt our Lord’s action, bringing to my heart and my lips, with irresistible force, the tender invocation `Abba! Pater!’ [Abba, Father!].
[12] I was on the street, in a streetcar…. I probably made that prayer out loud. I wandered through the streets of Madrid for an hour, or perhaps two. I can’t say. I didn’t feel time go by. People must have taken me for a madman. I was contemplating, with lights that were not my own, this astounding truth that would remain in my soul like a burning coal and never go out.”

“Looking back on this experience years later [1968], Escriva saw an intimate connection between the sufferings he had been undergoing and the sense of being a son of God.

“When God sent me those blows back in 1931, I didn’t understand them…. Then all at once, in the midst of such great bitterness, came the words: `You are my son (Ps. 2, 7), you are Christ.’ And I could only stammer: `Abba, Pater! Abba, Pater! Abba! Abba! Abba!’ Now I see it with new light, like a new discovery, just as one sees, after years have passed, the hand of God, of divine Wisdom, of the All-Powerful. You’ve led me, Lord, to understand that to find the Cross is to find happiness, joy. And I see the reason with greater clarity than ever: to find the Cross is to identify oneself with Christ, to be Christ and therefore to be a son of God.”

“Escriva understood that this experience was not meant to be merely personal. Rather, it signified that the sense of being sons and daughters of God was to be a fundamental characteristic of Opus Dei’s spirit. He begged God to preserve it in the members of Opus Dei. On one occasion he prayed:

Lord, I ask your Mother, St. Joseph our Patron, and my ministerial Archangel, to always preserve this spirit for me and my children. Ne respicias peccata mea, sed fidem (Do not regard my sins, but my faith). May this faith, this love for the Cross be ours till death! This divine light leads us to always understand clearly that it’s worthwhile letting ourselves be nailed to the Cross, since it means entering into Life, immersing ourselves in the Life of Christ. The Cross: it is there you find Christ, and you have to lose yourself in him! Then there will be no more sorrow, no more suffering. You mustn’t say: Lord, I can’t do any more, for I’m so wretched… No! It’s not true! On the Cross, you will be Christ, and you will sense you are a son of God. And you will exclaim `Abba, Pater! What happiness to find you, Lord!’”[13]
Mother Teresa:
On September 10, 1946, on the long train ride to Darjeeling where she was to go on a retreat and to recover from suspected tuberculosis, something happened. She had a life-changing encounter with the Living Presence of the Will of God. She got the sense on that train journey that she was not on right path. As she sat there in the train, she heard our Lord say to her, clear as day, “Come be my light!” "I realized that I had the call to take care of the sick and the dying, the hungry, the naked, the homeless - to be God's Love in action to the poorest of the poor. That was the beginning of the Missionaries of Charity."

She didn't hesitate, she didn't question. She asked permission to leave the Loreto congregation and to establish a new order of sisters.

In 1952 Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity began the work for which they have been noted ever since. Her order received permission from Calcutta officials to use a portion of the abandoned temple to Kali, the Hindu goddess of transition and destroyer of demons. Mother Teresa founded here the Kalighat Home for the Dying, which she named Nirmal Hriday (meaning "Pure Heart"). She and her fellow nuns gathered dying Indians off the streets of Calcutta and brought them to this home to care for them during the days before they died.
In an interview with Malcolm Muggeridge, in the book “Something Beautiful for God,” Mother Teresa tells how she for the first time picked up a woman from the street.
"The woman was half eaten up by rats and ants. I took her to the hospital, but they could do nothing for her. They only took her because I refused to go home unless something was done for her. After they cared for her, I went straight to the town hall and asked for a place where I could take these people, because that day I found more people dying in the street. The employee of health services brought me to the temple of Kali and showed me the "dormashalah" where the pilgrims used to rest after they worshipped the goddess Kali. The building was empty and he asked me if I wanted it. I was very glad with the offer for many reasons, but especially because it was the center of prayer for Hindus. Within 24 hours we brought our sick and suffering and started the Home for the Dying Destitutes."


St. Therese of Lisieux:

“Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of St. Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the 12th and 13th chapters of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.

”I persevered in the reading and did not let my mind wander until I found this encouraging theme: Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will show you the way which surpasses all others. For the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind.
“When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognized myself in none of the members which St. Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favorably within the whole body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and nobler member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realized that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting.
“Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.”[14]

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Mother Teresa and St. Therese: Both experience the need to slake the thirst of Christ for souls: The heartfelt bond between Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and Mother Teresa of Calcutta can be traced to their common interest in assuaging the thirst of Christ on the Cross. Not only their thirst for Jesus, but Jesus' thirst for them, for us. Their profound resemblance to one another is to be found in their unalterable desire to slake the thirst of Christ, to console Him in the face of the indifference of so many people, to quench His thirst for love, to love Him in others and letting them be loved by Him. They did so by opening up the floodgates of tenderness which had prevented the love in His heart from being welcomed as it ought. The cry of Jesus, mentioned countless times in their writings, was a determining factor in each of their lives. The words, 'I Thirst,' are to be found side by side with the Crucifix in all the houses of the Missionaries of Charity, and the photograph of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Patroness of the Missions, is never far away. Saint Thérèse and Mother Teresa are like two mirrors mutually reflecting the compassion of Christ. These two witnesses, making use of the 'little way' of confidence and surrender accessible to all, were chosen by God to reveal to us His thirst for love."
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Luigi Giussani (Founder of “Communion and Liberation”): “In those years I was a lecturer at the Seminary of Venegono, teaching Dogmatic Theology in the seminary courses and Eastern-Rite theology in the faculty. I would not have foreseen any changes but for a small episode that was to change my life and work. During a train journey to the Adriatic coast, I fell into conversation with a group of students. I found them shockingly ignorant of the nature and aim of Christian life and the Church. I then thought of dedicating myself to re-establishing a Christian witness in the school environment, where there seemed to be no Christian presence and where the anti-Catholic battle of teachers and groups with secular or laicist ideas and values was clearly advancing. I will leave to another time the historical reconstruction of what happened shortly afterwards, and what the beginning of our experience meant at the level of relationships within the ecclesial and civic communities.
As I climbed for the first time the three steps at the entrance to the Liceo Berchet, where I had been sent to teach religion, it was clear to me, although I was aware of my limitations, that this was a matter of re-launching the announcement of Christianity as a present event of human interest and suitable for anyone who does not want to renounce the fulfilment of his or her hopes and expectations, as well as the use, without diminishment, of the gift of reason. All that was to follow, with both the élan and the imperfections inherent in every human effort, depended, and still depends, only on that first intuition.”
Notes from a talk by Luigi Giussani in the Basilica of St. Anthony, Padua, Italy, February 11, 1994: “As my classmate in the seminary, I had someone who was to become a great bishop, Enrico Manfredini (for less than a year Archbishop of Bologna, where he went after being Bishop of Piacenza). I remember vividly, as I have told my friends so often, what happened one evening as we were going to the chapel. The bell had rung and we were all running down the stairs near the chapel of the theologians of the huge seminary of Venegono; we were the last two and so were rushing to catch up with the others. All at one, Manfredini took me by the arm and stopped me; I don’t know how, but I looked him in the face and he said these exact words to me, which made me shudder: `To think that God became man is something out of this world!’ Then I walked on and he went ahead of me. The heart or that classmate of mine was full of emotion at the greatest announcement that ever rang out in this world.
“Now… this message is, objectively, in itself, if we repeat it and look at it, the best, most human message, most filled with promise and hope, that man can hear. Can we imagine another phrase that expresses a message better than this? No! Manfredini, my classmate, felt this in his heart; I felt it in the hand that grabbed my arm, like this, suddenly, on the staircase. `To think tat God became man is something out of this world!’ And while he went down the stairs faster than before, ahead of me, I shouted to him (`shouted’ as loud as I dared in that period of silence), `It is something out of this world, in this world!’”
[15]
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Funeral Homily of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for Luigi Giussani: 22nd February, 2005, Feast of the Chair of St Peter,

“(H)e understood that Christianity is not an intellectual system, a packet of dogmas, a moralism, Christianity is rather an encounter, a love story; it is an event….
‘This love affair with Christ, this love story which is the whole of his life was however far from every superficial enthusiasm, from every vague romanticism. Really seeing Christ, he knew that to encounter Christ means to follow Christ. This encounter is a road, a journey, a journey that passes also—as we heard in the psalm—through the “valley of darkness.” In the Gospel, we heard of the last darkness of Christ’s suffering, of the apparent absence of God, when the world’s Sun was eclipsed. He knew that to follow is to pass through a “valley of darkness,” to take the way of the cross, and to live all the same in true joy….This centrality of Christ in his life gave him also the gift of discernment, of deciphering correctly the signs of the times in a difficult time, full of temptations and of errors, as we know. Think of 1968 and the following years. A first group of his followers went to Brazil and found itself face to face with extreme poverty, with extreme misery. What can be done? How can we respond? And there was a great temptation to say, “for the moment we have to set Christ aside, set God aside, because there are more pressing needs, we have first to change the structure, the external things, first we must improve the earth, then we can find heaven again.” It was the great temptation of that moment to transform Christianity into a moralism and moralism into politics, to substitute believing with doing. Because what does faith imply? We can cay, “in this moment we have to do something.” And all the same, in this way, by substituting faith with moralism, believing with doing, we fall into particularisms, we lose most of all the criteria and the orientations, and in the end we don’t build, but divide. Monsignor Giussani, with his fearless and unfailing faith, knew that, even in this situation, Christ, the encounter with Him, remains central, because whoever does not give God, gives too little, and whoever does not give God, whoever does not make people find God in the Fact of Christ, does not build, but destroys, because he gets human activity lost in ideological and false dogmatisms….”


* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Hans Urs Von Balthasar: ( as reported by Luigi Giussani)[16]

“Von Balthasar’s moment came in the summer of 1927 during a Jesuit retreat. He says of it `Even now, 30 years later, I could return to that path in the Black Forest not far from Basel and find that same tree again in whose shade I was struck as if by lightning. And what came into my mind then all of a sudden was neither theology nor the priesthood. It was simply this: “You do not have to make any choice; you have been called. You will not have to serve. You will be taken into service. It will be given to you (the vocation, as a task to fulfill, is given by God; we do not choose it), you do not have to make plans for the future; you are just a tiny piece in a mosaic which has been prepared for a long time.” All I had to do was leave everything, without making plans, without desiring particular intuitions, and follow. I only had to remain there to see how I could serve.’”

Dorothy Day:

“The night the earthquake struck San Francisco – April 18, 1906 – Dorothy Day was there. Startled awake, she lay alone in bed n the dark in the still-strange house, trying to understand what was happening and what it meant, for she was confident that it had a meaning, a significance beyond itself….

“`The earthquake started with a deep rumbling and the convulsions of the earth started afterward, so that the earth became a sea which rocked our house in a most tumultuous manner. There was a large windmill and water tank in back of the house and I can remember the splashing of the water from the tank on top of our roof’ (…).

“`My father took my brother from their beds and rushed to the front door, where my mother stood with my sister, whom she had snatched from me. I was left in a bid brass bed, which rolled back and forth on a polished floor.’

“Before getting into bed she had knelt at the bedside to say her prayers. Of all her family, she alone was religious: she prayed in school, sang hymns with neighbors, went to church by herself because the others would not go. She was `disgustingly, proudly pious.’
“In bed, however, she would have nightmares about God, `a great noise that became louder and louder, and approached nearer and nearer to me until I woke up sweating with fear and shrieking for my mother.’ And that night, alone in the dark on the big rolling bed, shaken by the earth, left behind by her mother and father, she felt God upon her once again, a figure talking her in the dark.

“Or was that night the first time? `Even as I write this I am wondering if I had these nightmares before the San Francisco earthquake or afterward. The very remembrance of the noise, which kept getting louder and louder, and the keen fear of death, makes me think now that it might have been due only to the earthquake…. They were linked up with my idea of God as a tremendous Force, a frightening impersonal God, a Hand stretched out to seize me, His child, and not in love.’

“The earthquake went on two minutes and twenty seconds. Then it was over. The world returned to normal. She got out of bed and went down the stairs and out to the street and looked around.

“She was startled all over again by what she saw: buildings wobbling on their foundations, smoke rising from small fires, parents calming strange children and passing jugs of water back and forth. People were helping one another.

“For two days refugees from the city came to Oakland in boats across San Francisco Bay, making camp in a nearby park. The people of Oakland helped them – the men pitching tents and contriving lean-tos, the women cooking and lending their spare clothing. What did Dorothy Day do? She stood on the street, watching, and felt her fear and loneliness drawn out of her by what she saw.

“`While the crisis lasted, people loved each other,’ she wrote in her autobiography. `It was as though they were united in Christian solidarity. It makes one think of how people could, if they would, care for each other in times of stress, unjudgingly in pity and love.’

“A whole life is prefigured in that episode. In a moment in history – front-page news – Dorothy Day felt the fear of God and witnessed elemental, biblical charity, the remedy for human loneliness. All her life she would try to recapture the sense of real and spontaneous community she felt then, and would strive to reform the world around her so as to make such community possible.”
[17]


* * * * * * * * * * *

Walker Percy:

“The Percys were melancholy people, and their prominence seems to have compounded their sadness. There was a suicide in nearly every generation. One Percy man dosed himself with laudanum; another leaped into a creek with a sugar kettle tied around his neck. John Walker Percy – Walker Percy’s grandfather –went up to the attic in 1917 and shot himself in the head. LeRoy Pratt Percy – Walker Percy’s father –committed suicide in 1929 in precisely the same manner….

“Walker Percy evidently glimpsed early on what his own calling would be, although half his life would pass before he fully grasped it and put it into words. He was called at once to uphold the family history and to defy it, at once to emulate it and to diagnose it – to find the way of being a Percy that was distinctly his, so as to break the pattern of melancholy, loss, and violence against the self that ran down the generations.”
[18]

The icon of his discovery was Helen Keller; the object that had to be discovered was the “I;” and the method of the discovery of the “I” was the use of language by the agency of the “I.”



* * * * * * * * * * *



Helen Keller: “We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten – a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that `w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.
I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me. On entering the door I remembered the doll I had broken. [She had earlier destroyed the doll in a fit of temper.] I felt my way to the dearth and picked up the pieces. I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow.”

What had happened? Helen had exercised her subjectivity as cause by “throwing” (Ballein) the “likeness” (sym): w-a-t-e-r at the wet flowing object. She had experienced herself as cause (and therefore, as Being), and therefore came to a consciousness of herself as ontological “self” and not merely as a “consciousness” or “cogito:” thinking thing.

Walker Percy: “before, Helen had behaved like a good responding organism. Afterward, she acted like a rejoicing symbol-mongering human. Before, she was little more than an animal. Afterward, she became wholly human. Within the few minutes of the breakthrough and the several hours of exploiting it Helen had concentrated the months of the naming phase that most children go through somewhere around their second birthday.”… [19]

* * * * * * * * * * *


Thomas Merton: “St. Antonin was an ordinary village, encircled by a road where the ancient ramparts had been. The ruined buildings were recognizably medieval, except for the church in the center, which was modern. But it was the plan of the town, not its beauty or its history, that struck Merton most powerfully. He explained, `The church had been fitted into the landscape in such a way as to become the keystone of its intelligibility…. The whole landscape, unified by the church and its heavenward spire, seemed to say: this is the meaning of all created things: we have been made for no other purpose than that men may use us in raising themselves to God, in proclaiming the glory of God.’

“As he writes, twenty years have passed and he is cloistered in the Abbey of Gethsemani, the closest thing to a medieval French village to be found in America. The order and unity of the French village, he believes, are the attributes of the Catholic faith, and their fulfillment is the monastery; the longing he first felt as a boy in France he has satisfied as a Trappist.

“There is more to it than that, however. The son of a painter, he describes the village so as to give it the wholeness and harmony and radiance of a landscape painting. He, too, will wind up a painter of landscapes in his way for in entering a monastery he has sought not just to return to France of the Middle Ages but to enter into the vision he had seen over his father’s shoulder in St. Antonin that summer, in which the imperfect world was made perfect in the mind’s eye.”
[20]

Flannery O’Connor:

“`When I was five… I had an experience that marked me for life. The Pathe News sent a photographer from New York to Savannah to take a picture of a chicken of mine. Finish this yourself in Paul Elie's book: "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," p. 12.


* * * * * * * * * *

Adam: Part of the original covenant of God with Adam consisted in subduing the earth and naming the animals. The ontological profile of the human person is revealed as a subject. The naming process demands that Adam must master himself as his first free act, and as such, it is an act of subjective autonomy. He is not merely acting as response to sensible stimulus, but as a self-starter who must take himself in his own hands, much as Thomas More explained to his daughter Margaret that when a man takes an oath “he’s holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then – he needn’t hope to find himself again.”[21]


John Paul II
: “Man finds himself alone before God mainly to express, through a first self-definition, his own self-knowledge, as the original and fundamental manifestation of mankind…. He is not only essentially and subjectively alone. Solitude also signifies man’s subjectivity, which is constituted through self-knowledge. Man is alone because he is `different’ from the visible world, from the world of living beings. Analyzing the text of Genesis we are, in a way, witnesses of how man `distinguishes himself’ before God-Yahweh from the whole world of living beings (animalia) with his first act of self-consciousness, and of how he reveals himself to himself. At the same time he asserts himself as a `person’ in the visible world.”[22]


He could be said to conclude: “The original meaning of man’s solitude is based on experience of the existence obtained from the Creator. This human existence is characterized precisely by subjectivity, which includes also the meaning of the body.”[23]

Therefore, Adam – who at this point is neither male nor female – has experienced “himself” to be a subject as cause who is a body, and a body not like the animals. When the re-creation as male and female occurs, Adam, now male and female, will exclaim, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2, 23).[24]



Rev. Robert A. Connor


[1] Origins, January 18, 2007, Vol. 36, Number 31, 492.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid 492-493.
[4] Ibid 493.
[5] Ibid
[6] Francis Fernandez Carvajal, “The Purification of Our Lady,” 2 February, In Conversation with God #6, 95.
[7] Heb 9, 11-14.
[8] Heb 9, 24-27.
[9] Heb 10, 4-15.
[10] J. Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 Ignatius 107-109.
[11] Confessions, Bk. 10.
[12][12] Abba is a familiar, affectionate term used by Jewish children to address their fathers. Christ used it in the prayer in the Garden (Mk. 14, 36), and St. Paul used it to describe how Christians, inspired by the Holy Spirit, address God (Rom. 8, 15 and Gal. 4, 6).
[13] John Coverdale, “Uncommon Faith,” Scepter (2002) 92-94.
[14] St. Therese of Lisieux: This excerpt from the Autobiography of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (Manuscrits autobriographiques, 1957, 227-229) is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the memorial of St. Therese on October 1.

[15] “Traces,” Communion and Liberation International Magazine Vol. 8, No. 9, 2006, page one.
[16] Luigi Giussani, “He Is if He Changes,” 30 Days, “Notes from conversations with young people. August 1992-September 1993.”
[17] Paul Elie, “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2004) 3-4.
[18] Ibid. 10-12.
[19] Walker Percy Message in the Bottle, The Noonday Press (1995) 34-35.
[20] Ibid 8-9.
[21] Robert Bolt, “A Man for All Seasons,” Vintage International (1990) 140.
[22] John Paul II, The Theology of the Body (TOB), Pauline Books and Media (1997) 37.
[23] Ibid. 41.
[24]It is critical to understand that John Paul II is not talking about man as if to come to a definition of him as an observed phenomenon – and therefore an object perceived through the medium of sense experience - but has entered into the subjectivity of the first Man, Adam, in order to experience what “he” experiences, i.e., solitude. The only way this could be done is that Wojtyla has already lived this out himself in his own experiences and has crafted a philosophical method of describing what that experience of subjectivity is and what it means to be a real “I.” Once he is able to do that, he is in a position to understand why it is “not good” for man as an “I” to be alone. And why is that? Because “he” has been created in the image and likeness of “We.”

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