Theology Today and Benedict XVI: Overcoming the Dualism Between Faith and Life.
His initial unrest: When Joseph Ratzinger began his intellectual career in the fall of 1953 – and now throughout his entire life – there was one overriding concern to which he wanted to contribute something: the relation of salvation-history to metaphysics. He found that Christian faith “directs man not simply to the Eternal but to the God who acts in time and history. Here questions of quite diverse character and of different orders arose. How can that which has taken place historically become present? How can the unique and unrepeatable have a universal significance? But then, on the other hand: has not the ‘Hellenization’ of Christianity, which attempted to overcome the scandal of the particular by a blending of faith and metaphysics, led to a development in a false direction? Has it not created a static style of thought which cannot do justice to the dynamism of the biblical style?
“These questions had a strong influence on me, and I wanted to make a contribution toward answering them” [underline mine] (J. Ratzinger "The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure," Franciscan Herald Press  xi).
His response: “All Christian theology…must be first and foremost a theology of Resurrection. It must be a theology of Resurrection before it is a theology of the justification of the sinner; it must be a theology of Resurrection before it is a theology of the metaphysical Sonship of God. It can be a theology of the Cross but only as and within the framework of a theology of Resurrection. Its first and primordial statement is the good tidings that the power of death, the one constant of history, has, in a single instance, been broken by the power of God and that history has thus been imbued with an entirely new hope. In other words, the core of the gospel consists in the good tidings of the Resurrection and, consequently, in the good tidings of God’s action, which precedes all human doing…
“(I)f it is true that… as faith in an actio Dei is antecedent to all other declarations of faith, then the primacy of history over metaphysics, over all theologies of being and existence, becomes immediately obvious. It thus becomes obvious also that the concept of God is removed from the realm of a mere οΰσία. I believe it was here that the definitive boundary between the biblical and the Greek concept of God became obfuscated, that this obfuscation was the crux of the repeated patristic attempts to combine Greek thought with biblical faith and that from this arose for Christian theology a task that is still far from being accomplished. Decisive for the Greek concept of God was the belief in God as a pure and changeless being of whom, consequently, no action could be predicated; his utter changelessness meant that he was completely self-contained and referred wholly to himself without any relationship to what was changeable. For the biblical God, on the other hand, it is precisely relationship and action that are the essential marks; creation and revelation are the two basic statements about him, and when revelation is fulfilled in the Resurrection, it is thus confirmed once again that he is not just one who is timeless but also one who is above time, whose existence is known to us only through his action.
“The prae [the "priority"] of God’s action: this means not just the preeminence of history over metaphysics but also the rejection of a purely existential version of the gospel message – quite simply because [on that existential reading] the gospel message [would] mean the primacy of the ‘in itself’ over the ‘for me’ … To seek another independent reality behind it [the text of the gospel] would be foolish objectivism. God acted: this was said before anything was said about man, about his sin, about his search for a gracious God.
“Thus the prae of God’s action means, ultimately that actio is antecedent to Verbum, reality to the tidings of it. In other words, the level of reality of the revelation-event is deeper than that of the proclamation-event, which seeks to interpret God’s action in human language. Precisely this is the origin of the sacramental principle, the reason why the word of God, which is also action, must be received by man in words and signs” ( J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Ignatius  184-186).
Ratzinger says this most simply in his autobiography concerning his habilitation thesis: “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 receive ‘revelation’,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it….(R)evelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This is turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (‘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" (J. Ratzinger "Milestones..." Ignatius  108-109).
The above needs explanation. The Resurrection is the act of revelation. It encloses the self-gift of obedience to death on the Cross that brings it about. Self-gift especially to death where it is total and complete is co-extensive with life. Eternal Life. Christ rises physically with His body, soul, human will and intellect, because He, as divine “I” (Logos), has willed obedience to physical death with His human will, and so communicated the Trinitarian relation of the “I” to His entire humanity. This act of resurrection is the act of revelation of the absolute that is the “I” of the divine Person in the contingency of history. The act of faith of the believer is a mimic of the act of obedience to death by the God-man.
The Resurrection reveals to us what our ontological self has been yearning for and tending toward always and everywhere. When confronted with the Resurrection, our inner conscience, “if it is not turned in on itself, hears its echo from within.” The believer sees: “That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.” The Resurrection reveals us to ourselves. It reveals the the deepest yearning in us that is us: the longing to live forever and to love. I recall a bumper sticker that read: "If love isn't forever, what is forever for?" It reveals the ontological profile of the human person as the meaning of history: the absolute in the relative singular individual.
Being, then, means relation, as going out of self, and finding self in the going out. A whole new metaphysic comes into view. Its marquis announcement is: “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds itself by the sincere gift of self” (Gaudium et Spes #24). History is not just a succession of facts. It is a metaphysic of personhood as a work in progress. Ratzinger is doing here what he advertised in “Introduction to Christianity:” “Therein lies concealed a revolution in man’s view of the world: the undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality. It becomes possible to surmount what we call today ‘objectifying thought;’ a new plane of being comes into view. It is probably true to say that t he tasks imposed on philosophy as a result of these facts is far from being complete – so much does modern thought depend on the possibilities thus disclosed.”
The ontological “shape” of substance now comes into view. In the realism of the existential profile disclosed by phenomenology, instead of being the static in-itselfness that is the underlying support - substrate - of the accidents (hupokeimenon), it is now rather the existential “I” that has become itself by the relational sincere gift of self. The paradigmatic reality of substance-now-become-subject is the divine Person as “act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver but the act of giving, ‘wave’ not ‘corpuscle’… In this idea of relativity in word and love, independent of the concept of substance and not to be classified among the ‘accidents,’ Christian thought discovered the kernel of the concept of person, which describes something other and infinitely more than the mere idea of the ‘individual.’”
In a word, what has until now in traditional metaphysics been taken to be the Greek “substance,” is taken now to be the ontological “I” that is preceded by the love that is the revelation of the Resurrection, and that is perfected by the going out of self that is the response to that revelation. It is in this act that the inchoate “I” comes into the ontological fullness of Being by its self-transcendence as gift.
Ratzinger ties together Resurrection and metaphysics (i.e. Faith and Reason, showing how one cannot be without the other): Resurrection is the action (Revelation) of the Divine "I" that makes the gift of self to the receiving "I" of the believer who is activated by the divine Love and affirmatrion, and then, self-activating as returned self-gift that is "faith." Cor ad cor loquitur. It is an ontological "I AM" speaking to an ontological "I am." Greek "substance" is an abstraction of this ontological dialogue of subjectivities. Ratzinger remarked: “All salvation history is gathered here, as it were, in the one point of this ultimate Passover that thus includes and interprets salvation history, just as it is itself interpreted and illumined by salvation history. For it is evident now that this whole history is likewise an exodus history: a history that begins with the call to Abraham to go out from his country – and this attains its deepest significance in the Passover of Jesus Christ: in the agape eis telos [“loved to the end”], in the radical love that became a total exodus from himself, a going-out-from-himself toward the other even to the radical delivery of himself to death so that it can be explained in the words: ‘I am going away and shall return’ (Jn. 14, 28) – by going, I come. The ‘living opening through the curtain,’ as the epistle to the Hebrews explains the Lord’s going-away on the Cross (Heb. 10, 20), reveals itself in this way as the true exodus that is meant by all the exoduses of history. Thus we see how the theology of Resurrection gathers all salvation history within itself and concentrates it on its existence-oriented meaning so that, in a very literal sense, it becomes a theology of existence, a theology of ex-sistere, of that exodus by which the human indivudal goes out from himself and through which alone he can find himself. In this movement of ex-sistere, faith and love are ultimately united – the deepest significance of each is that Exi, that call to transcend and sacrifice the I that is the basic law of the history of God’s covenant with man and, ipso facto, the truly basic law of all human existence.”
Ratzinger concludes his piece on “Faith and History:” “God’s action is, precisely in the objectivity of its ‘in-itself-ness,’ not a hopeless objectivity, but the true formula of human existence, which has its ‘in-itself-ness’ outside itself and can find its true center only in ex-sistere, in going-out-from itself. It is also no empty past but that ‘perfect tense’ that is therefore man’s true ‘present tense’ because it is always antecedent to it, always at the same time its promise and its future. Thus is implies, of necessity, that ‘is’ that faith soon formulated explicitly: Jesus is Christ, God is man. Hence man’s future means being one with God and so being one with mankind, which will be a single, final man in the manifold unity that the whole greatness of the Easter reality. God ‘is’ man…”
This act precedes all our actions since it is the full response to the “ontological tendency” that is our inchoate personhood as images of the divine Persons. We yearn for the action of this revelation (the gift of self to death on the Cross which becomes Resurrection), which becomes our very selves resurrected when we make the response of self-gift to it. The act of obedience that is called “faith” to the revelation that is Resurrection, tends toward martyrdom as it denouement. In that act, the believer experiences becoming “another Christ.” This experience of the self as gift to death is the Christian experience, which is the experience of the Absolute in time. This is the Ratzinger contribution. And it is enormous. It discloses what the human mind has constantly been searching for and which has continually ended in aporias that are strings of dualism.
In a word, one finds Being as absolute in the historical act of self-gift in the here and now. It demands this new metaphysic, the metaphysic of relation which has already been formulated in Christological anthropology of Gaudium Spes #24: "Man… finds self… only in the sincere gift of self.” Man finds himself to be another Christ only by the overcoming of the self, taking possession of the self and governing the self to serve to death.
Background: The Ancient Regime ended in the 20th century – probably in the spring of 1968. Two world wars preceded by Enlightenment rationalism provoking antagonistic dualisms of supernatural/natural, grace/nature, faith/reason, Church/state, priest/layman, and now even male/female - along with the radical secularisms of militant Marxism and its equally noxious counterpart “the secular city”- have left us with the conundrum that presents, in the words of Josef Ratzinger, the following challenge: “Ought we to accept modernity in full or in part? Is there a real contribution? Can this modern way of thinking be a contribution, or offer a contribution, or not? And if there is a contribution from the modern, critical way of thinking, in line with the Enlightenment, how can it reconciled with the great intuitions and the great gifts of the faith?
“Or ought we, in the name of the faith, to reject modernity? You see? There always seems to be this dilemma: either we must reject the whole of the tradition, all the exegesis of the Fathers, relegate it to the library as historically unsustainable, or we must reject modernity.”
Benedict XVI has his heroes: “Augustine, as you know, was a man who, on the one hand, had studied in great depth the great philosophies, the profane literature of the ancient world.
“On the one hand, he was also very critical of the pagan authors, even with regard to Plato, to Virgil, those great authors whom he loved so much.
“He criticized them, and with a penetrating sense, purified them.
“This was his way of using the great pre-Christian culture: purify it, heal it, and in this way, also, healing it, he gave true greatness to this culture. Because in this way, it entered into the fact of the incarnation, no? And became part of the Word’s incarnation.
“But only by means of the difficult process of purification, of transformation, of conversion.
“I would say the word ‘conversion’ is the key word, one of the key words, of St. Augustine, and our culture also has a need for conversion. Without conversion one does not arrive at the Lord. This is true of the individual, and this is true of the culture as well…”
At root, the challenge is of a metaphysical nature, determined by Christology which, in turn, controls anthropology. The question is the resolution of the conundrum of whether reality is ultimate “being” as static(in-self) or kinetic (for-other). Fergus Kerr, referring to Ratzinger’s “Introduction to Christianity,” remarks: “What Ratzinger is doing… without saying so, is denying that we have to accept the idea that it takes Greek metaphysics to enable us to speak of God as ‘being.’” This has been the standing intellectual question that surfaced in Greek philosophical literature in the 6th century in the personages of Parmenides and Heraclitus. It is the grounding and hounding question of Josef Ratzinger in his theological forays since the beginning of his life as a scholar. He remarked in the foreword to the American edition of “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure:”
“When I began the preparatory work for this study in the fall of 1953, one of the questions which stood in the foreground of concern within the German-speaking, Catholic theological circles was the question of the relation of salvation–history to metaphysics. This was a problem which arose above all from contacts with Protestant theology which, since the time of Luther, has tended to see in metaphysical thought a departure from the specific claim of the Christian faith which directs man not simply to the Eternal but to the God who acts in time and history. Here questions of quite diverse character and of different orders arose. How can that which has taken place historically become present? How can the unique and unrepeatable have a universal significance? But then, on the other hand: Has not the ‘Hellenization’ of Christianity, which attempted to overcome the scandal of the particular by a blending of faith and metaphysics, led to a development in a false direction? Has it not created a static style of thought which cannot do justice to the dynamism of the biblical style?”
“These questions had a strong influence on me, and I wanted to make a contribution toward answering them. In the light of the accepted tradition of German theology, it was self-evident to me that this could not be done in an a priori way. Rather, it could take place only in dialogue with that very theological tradition which was being called into question. Only on the basis of this type of study could any systematic formulation take place. I have attempted to give a tentative sketch of such a formulation in my book Introduction to Christianity which appeared in 1968. Since I had devoted my first study to Augustine and thus had become somewhat familiar with the world of the Fathers, it seemed natural now to approach the Middle Ages.”
Ratzinger concludes: “The results were surprising enough. It became apparent… that the discussion which Bonaventure understood with Joachim of Fiore… led to a change in the concept of eschatology which remains operative even today.” By that is meant that Christ is not only the fulfillment of history at the end of the world, but is situated as the meaning and center of history now. The star that has illuminated the intellectual journey of Joseph Ratzinger has led him to a double experience and two tiered knowledge of Jesus Christ as center of history now and final meaning of history at the end of time. A re-creation has already taken place that is hidden and will become apparent at the end. Ratzinger says: “Here it is given a new tone which significantly comes entirely from Bonaventure’s own world of thought and can apparently be traced to no outside influence. ‘That is why the coming of the Son of God marks the fullness of time: not because time ends with His coming, but because the hidden prophecies of all ages have been fulfilled. Had Christ come at the beginning of time, He would have come too soon; and had His coming been delayed until the very end, He would have come too late. It belonged to Him as the true Savior to provide a time of healing right between the time of sickness and the time of judgment; as the true Mediator, to come midway, some of His elect preceding and others following Him.’ Almost imperceptibly something new is created here out of the old Scholastic concepts that had served to clarify the plenitudo temporum. This is found in the statement that the ‘fullness of time’ is simultaneously the ‘center of time.’ Even the concept of Mediator, which in itself has an entirely different meaning, is employed here to provide a basis for this sense of mediating salvation, but in the sense of standing in the center of time.”
On the same point, Ratzinger again: “Bonaventure does not accept the notion of an age of the Holy Spirit which destroyed the central position of Christ in the Joachimite [Joachim of Flora] view. Certainly the two final ordines are orders of the Spirit; and the Spirit certainly achieves a particular power in the final age; but this age, as such, is an age of Christ. It remains the septima aetas of the New Testament Christ-time which endures up to the end… If it is justified to say that for Joachim [of Flora], Christ is merely one point of division among others, it is no less justified to say that for Bonaventure, Christ is the ‘axis of world history,’ the center of time.”
Take note that this is precisely the thesis that is at work in the work-in-progress, “Jesus of Nazareth.” The individual facticity of the historical individual, Jesus of Nazareth, who lived, died and rose two thousand years ago is the Absolute, Eternal Deity of the divine Person Who is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This divine Person is historically present in the Eucharist and in each of the baptized who by conversion has become “alter Christus.” This conversion of the human person into “another Christ” is the meaning of the “Kingdom of God” as “at hand” (Mk. 1, 15), “already come upon you” (Mt. 12, 28), “within you” (Lk. 17, 21) and to be sought “here” or “there.” The living God who is Lord of the world is present in the world at this moment, not merely at the end moment.
The great crisis that Benedict sees is the absence of God in the present world because there is the absence of the experience of God. God is treated at best as a conclusion to a thought process, which in a positivistic age can be dismissed with ease. In the recent book, “Jesus of Nazareth,” he says: “We can put it even more simply: When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, he is quite simply proclaiming God, and proclaiming him to be the living God, who is able to act concretely in the world and in history and is even now so acting. He is telling us: ‘God exists’ and ‘God is really God,’ which means that he holds in his hands the threads of the world. In this sense, Jesus’ message is very simple and thoroughly God-centered. The new and totally specific thing about his message is that he is telling us: God is acting now – this is the hour when God is showing himself in history as its Lord, as the living God, in a way that goes beyond anything seen before. ‘Kingdom of God’ is therefore an inadequate translation. It would be better to speak of God’s being-Lord, of his lordship.”
This same concern for the presence of God as “reason” in the present confrontation of Islam and Christianity is evidenced in Benedict’s Regensburg speech. Revelation is “reasonable:” “Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: ‘In the beginning was the 'logos.’” Benedict went on to say: “God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word -- a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance.” He concluded the point: “Within the Old Testament, the process which started at the burning bush came to new maturity at the time of the Exile [@ Babylon in the presence of Greek philosophy], when the God of Israel, an Israel now deprived of its land and worship, was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth and described in a simple formula which echoes the words uttered at the burning bush: “I Am.” This “I Am” is not cosmic facticity as an individual substance of Greek, but the triple relationality of the divine Person forming the One Communio that is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God reveals “Himself” to be the God of relation to Israel, not a self-sufficient in-itselfness.
The question that burns deep within Josef Ratzinger-Benedict XVI is the possibility of formulating a metaphysic that can embrace both Absolute Truth and Absolute Good within the historical contingent individual. In a word, a metaphysic that can account for the cosmically experiential event of Jesus of Nazareth as Jesus the Christ, Son of the living God.
Confronting the fact that traditionally there has not been such a metaphysic, the question arises: can there be one? Benedict’s response is to send us into the tension of “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10, 30) and “The Father is greater than I” (Jn. 14, 28) that can only mean that the divine Person cannot be what has been understood by Greek philosophical “substance” as “standing-in-self” but pure relation. Hence, each divine Person must be the unique and irreducible act of relating as engendering, glorifying and mutual self-giving, and as such, a subsistent Subject. There are three Subjects that are so intrinsically related that None can be without the Other, thus forming the one Communio that is God Who proclaims: “I AM.”
The Divine Person Who is the Son-Logos has assumed the concrete humanity Jesus of Nazareth. Ratzinger preached to John Paul II: “The Council of Constantinople has analysed concretely the problem of the two natures and one person in Christ in view of the problem of the will of Jesus. 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 tow, 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 tint he 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 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 be come pure assent to the will of the Father.”
Since the human will is the will of the divine “I” of the Logos Who is pure relation to the Father, the Logos lives out His very “To Be” as obedience to the Father to physical death. The divine “I” of the Logos, then, experiences humanly –through the exercise of His human will – what it means to be Son as man. It is the divine “I” that does the human exercising. And since there is a human intelligence accompanying the will and the conscious component of the human experience of the divine Person, the divine Person of the Logos Who is Son of the Father, utters “Abba.”
This Aramaic word, “Abba,” reveals the relationality of the Being of the Son as pure relation to the Father. It is an utterance that is unique in all of Jewish Old Testament literature, even Jewish prayer. Joachim Jeremias reported: “With the help of my assistants I have examined the prayer literature of ancient Judaism – a large, rich literature, all too little explored. The result of this examination was that in no place in this immense literature is this invocation of God as abba to be found. How is this to be explained? The church fathers Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Theodoret of Cyrus who originate from Antioch (where the populace spoke the West Syrian dialect of Aramaic) and who probably had Aramaic-speaking nurses, testify unanimously that abba was the address of the small child to his father. And the Talmud confirms this when it says: ‘When a child experiences the taste of wheat [i.e. when it is weaned], it learns to say abba and imam [‘dear father’ and ‘dear mother’]. Abba and imam are thus originally the first sounds which the child stammers….”
The large thesis of Joachim Jeremias is contained in the text preceding the immediately above: “When we turn to Jesus’ preaching the answer must be: Yes, here there is something quite new, absolutely new – the word abba. From the prayer in Gethsemane, Mark 14, 36, we learn that Jesus addressed God with this word, and this point is confirmed not only by Rom. 8, 15 and Gal. 4, 6, but also by the striking oscillation of the forms for the vocative ‘O father’ in the Greek text of the gospels, an oscillation which is to be explained only through the fact that the Aramaic term abba les behind all such passages.”
The crucial point is that this human utterance, Abba, discloses the όμοοϋσιος (homoousios) of the “I” of the Logos with the Father and with us. Jesus Christ as both God and man is the revelation of not only who God is, but also who man is. Gaudium et spes #22 says: “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear…. 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.” Hence, the act of self mastery which the divine Person exercises over His human will must be the prototype of self mastery that the human person must exercise of his will. And because of the sacramental insertion into the Person of Christ by baptism and confirmation, the human person is enabled (capax) to make the radical relation of self-gift that is faith and so become “another Christ.”
Revelation and Faith as Relational Acts
Ratzinger enlarges this thesis on the kind of being we have in the God-man. We are seeing here that the “is” of Jesus is not just a fact of being in-itself. “Facticity” is a judgment of the intellect abstracting from the level of sense experience. What we are working on here is not sense experience alone of an historical fact. Doubtless it is historical fact, but at the same time more than historical fact as the experience of the supra-historical Person of the Word.
Revelation: Ratzinger forthrightly distinguishes between Sacred Scripture and Revelation. He asserts that “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.” This “something greater” is the very Person of Christ as revelation of the Father. Revelation is a Person, not a word; or better, revelation is a Word (Logos) as Person.
Ratzinger recounts “About thirty years ago [in the 1950’s), when I was trying to write a study on the ways that revelation was understood in thirteenth-century theology, I stumbled upon the unexpected fact that in that period it had not occurred to any one to characterize the Bible as ‘revelation.’ Nor was the term ‘source’ applied to it. This is not to say that the Bible was held in less esteem then than it is today. Quite the contrary: the respect for it was much more unconditional, and it was clear that theology, by right, can and should be nothing other than the interpretation of Scripture. But their concept of the harmony between what is written and what is lived out was different from contemporary notions. Therefore the term ‘revelation’ was applied only, on the one hand, to that ineffable act which can never be adequately expressed in human words, in which God makes himself known to his creature, and, on the other hand, to that act of reception in which this gracious condescension [Zuwendung] of God dawns upon man and becomes revelation. Everything that can be grasped in words, and thus Scripture, too, is then testimony to that revelation but is not revelation itself. And only revelation itself is also a ‘source’ in the strict sense, the source by which Scripture is nourished. If it becomes disengaged from this living connection to God’s condescension within the ‘We’ of the faithful, then it is uprooted from the ground in which it lives and becomes merely ‘the letter,’ merely ‘the flesh.’”
The operative words in the above paragraph are “act” and “act.” The “act” of God’s gift of Himself in the Person of Christ must be responded to by the “act” of reception that is faith. In his autobiography, Ratzinger said: “’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 [Sacred Scripture]. 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.”
Faith: Antecedent to the revelation/faith relationship as relational act to relational act, is the experiential condition of the human person as seeking after truth. Man is a pilgrim of the Absolute and cannot stop the interior quest to find truth and good. He cannot live without it. Man has an ontological tendency toward God. This was a question that had been shut down in the 15th and 16th centuries by Cardinal Cajetan(1468-1534) who, according to Cardinal Antonio Piolanti, “’separates’ the two orders, natural and supernatural, in a way that completely differentiates him from St. Thomas.” Henri de Lubac asserts that “It is in fact quite clear that in denying the created intellect any natural desire to see God – whereas St. Thomas said and repeated: Omnis intellectus naturaliter desiderat divinae substantiae visionem – Cajetan was in no sense, ‘clarifying’ or ‘developing’ Thomist teaching on the matter; far from ‘pushing it to its ultimate conclusion,’ or bringing it to its goal, as has been suggested in a praiseworthy attempt to achieve harmony, he was profoundly altering its whole meaning.”
Speaking on the topic of conscience and truth, Joseph Ratzinger introduced “the first so-called ontological level of the phenomenon conscience consist in the fact that something like an original memory of the good and true (both are identical) has been implanted in us, that there is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From its origin, man’s being resonates with some things and clashes with others. This anamnesis of the origin, which results from the godlike constitution of our being is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is so to speak an inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addressed, if he is not turned in on himself, hears its echo from within. He sees: That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.”
This does not give us faith, however, but morality. Ratzinger then remarks: “The anamnesis [the “remembering” as ontological image of the divine Persons that is conscience] instilled in our being needs, one might say, assistance from without so that it can become aware of itself. But this ‘from without’ is not something set in opposition to anamnesis but ordered to it. It has maieutic function, imposes nothing foreign, but brings to fruition what is proper to anamnesis, namely, its interior openness to the truth.”
Such an experiences can be mimicked in the believer by the very nature of the act of faith as trust of another. The act of faith takes place on a second level beyond sense experience in the beholder or believer, a personal level that mimics the act of self-transcendence that is “revelation.” This act of the beholder, mimicking revelation, is called “faith.” Hence, we are seeing that the being of the Person of Christ is pure relation to the Father and, as incarnate, has assumed a human will and intellect into the dynamics of His Personal Being whereby He is able to utter an historical “Abba.”
What Ratzinger wants to affirm is “primacy of history over metaphysics, over all theologies of being and existence.” Better stated, he wants to achieve a revolution in the meaning of “being” that will come from the Person of Christ, and therefore the human person, in terms of history. He states that “It thus becomes obvious… that the concept of God is removed from the realm of ousia.” Aristotle wrote: “The term ‘substance’ [ousia] is spoken of, if not in more, still in four main senses: for the essence [to ti en einai] is thought to be the substance of an individual [ousia dokei einai ekastou], and the universal [to katholou], and the genus [to genos], and fourthly the underlying subject [to hupokeimenon].” Ken Schmitz remarks that “Among the Latins, the term substantia came to be used for all three of the above senses, although its very etymology seems to have drawn it towards the notion of ‘substrate.’ Philosophical Latin generally followed this rendering: and, as the more formal structure of Aristotelian metaphysics gave way from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries, the term came more and more, without ever wholly losing its other meanings, to bear the passive meaning of: that which underlies the accidents of the composite as their support.”
Ratzinger underlines the importance of such a paradigm shift: “I believe it was here that the definitive boundary between the biblical and the Greek concepts of God became obfuscated, that this obfuscation was the crux of the repeated patristic attempts to combine Greek thought with biblical faith and that from this arose for Christian theology a task that is still far from being accomplished.”
[Note that Ratzinger is not separating theism or Christianity from metaphysics, but only from the hegemony of Greek metaphysics. Recall his remarks on the notion of person in the Trinity as relation. “Relation,” he says, “is here recognized as a third specific fundamental category between substance and accident, the two great categorical form of thought in Antiquity. Again we encounter the Christian newness of the personalistic idea in all its sharpness and clarity. The contribution offered by faith to human thought becomes especially clear and palpable here It was faith that gave birth to this idea of pure act, of pure relativity, which does not lie on the level of substance and does not touch or divide substance; and it was faith that thereby brought the personal phenomenon into view.” After suggesting the divine Persons as pure act of relation, he commented: “Therein lies concealed a revolution in man’s view of the world: the undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality. It becomes possible to surmount what we call today ‘objectifying thought;’ a new plane of being comes into view It is probably true to say that the task imposed on philosophy as a result of these facts is far from being completed – so much does modern thought depend on the possibilities thus disclosed, but for which it would be inconceivable.” ]
What is that task? To glimpse the self of the believer as the normative center of metaphysical experience and the meaning of being. It is precisely here that that he learned from Bonaventure following Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa that faith “is not a system of semi-knowledge, but an existential decision – it is life in terms of the future that God grants us, even beyond the frontier of death. This is the attitude and orientation that gives life its weights and measures, its ordinances, and its very freedom. Certainly a life lived by faith resembles more an expedition up a mountain than a quiet evening spent reading in front of the fire…” Again: “Let us repeat: at its core faith is not a system of knowledge, but trust. Christian faith is: ‘the discovery of a You, who supports me and, despite all the inadequacies and final frustration of human encounter, gives me a promise of indestructible love, which not only longs for, but grants, eternity. Christian faith lives not merely by giving objective meaning, but by the fact that his meaning knows me and loves me, so that I can entrust myself to it with the attitude of a child, who knows that all his problems are safe with the You who is his mother. And so, in the end, faith, trust, and love are one, and all the specific details embraced by faith are but concretizations of the all-supporting movement of the ‘I believe in you’ – of the discovery of God in the face of the man Jesus of Nazareth.’”
Ratzinger sees this experience of “being” as relation or self-translation in the very act of faith itself as anthropological act. He calls it “the fundamental act of Christian existence.” He says, “In the act of faith the essential structure of Christianity is expressed, its answer to the question how in the art of being human one can reach the goal. There are other answers. Not all religions are ‘faith.’ Buddhism in its classic form, for example, does not aim at this act of self-transcendence, of encounter with the totally other – with God, who addresses me and invites me to love. Characteristic of Buddhism is rather a kind of radical internalization: an act of climbing not out of oneself but into oneself, an act that is meant to lead to liberation from the yoke of individuality, from the burden of being a person, and to a return into the common identity of all being that, in comparison with our experience of existence, can be described as not-being, as nothing, in order to express its total otherness.” Note that if Christ is the revelation of what it means to be man, to be human, and if Christ is the gift of self – the supreme act of relation that is obedience to death - , then the experience of Christ will be a mimicking act of self-transcendence in the believer whereby he/she will experience being “another Christ” and become conscious of this identity. He/she will be able to say: “I live; no, not I, Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2, 20). Christian faith, then, will be “the art of being human,” as Ratzinger began his address on “The New Evangelization:” “To evangelize means: to show this path -- to teach the art of living. At the beginning of his public life Jesus says: I have come to evangelize the poor (Luke 4:18); this means: I have the response to your fundamental question; I will show you the path of life, the path toward happiness -- rather: I am that path” (underline mine).
Notice also that this is exactly the way Benedict began “Jesus of Nazareth:” The uniqueness of Moses as prophet was “neither all the miraculous deeds he is reported to have done nor his many works and sufferings along the say from the ‘house of bondage in Egypt’ through the desert to threshold of the Promised Land. The most important thing is that he spoke with God as with a friend.” He had a personal experience of God, even though he was permitted to see God only in the back, and not face to face. However, there was to come after him a prophet who would speak with God face to face, and this because He was the Son of the living God the Father. He is όμοοϋσιος, God from very God. And therefore, He knows the Father as no other could possibly know Him: “No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt. 11, 27).
This experiential character is now the meaning of revelation and faith. The totality of revelation is the very Person of Christ as the Son of the living God as total self-gift on the Cross; and faith is the act of the subject who has made a like self-gift, and therefore experiences in self what it means to experience being “another Christ” and becoming conscious of same.
From Substance to Subject
The terminus a quo of the paradigm shift in theology and philosophy is the Greek notion of substance. Insofar as it is an ontology that nullifies history as the locus of salvation, Ratzinger is impatient with it. Quotes……….
He delineates levels of experience… At the existential, he finds, rather than substance, subject. And if we add the metaphysical phenomenology of Wojtyla, we can speak of the subject “I” as the real meaning of substance….