Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Personal Aside on St. Pius X - 2007

Pius X arrested Modernism until it could be put on the right track in Vatican II. Modernism is the summation of all heresy since it evaporates reality into an immanentist subjectivism and reduces all religion to a “vital immanence,” “a movement of the heart… a sense.” John Paul II commented: “In our own century too the Magisterium has revisited the theme on a number of occasions, warning against the lure of rationalism. Here the pronouncements of Pope Saint Pius X are pertinent, stressing as they did that at the basis of Modernism were philosophical claims which were phenomenist, agnostic and immanentist.”

Pascendi Dominici Gregis unmasked this atheism that, from its negative side, reduced the capacity of human reason to only sensible phenomena thus marginalizing the reality of God, the soul, and the absolute; and, from the positive side, positing God, the soul and the absolute as “originating in a need for the divine…beneath consciousness… in the subconsciouosness, where also it root lies hidden and undetected.” The noxious danger of Modernism is the substitution of the ontological reality of the person by a psychological subjectivism, and therefore, relativism.

This action of St. Pius X, prescient and courageous, gave the Church time – some 50 years - to distinguish what was absolutely correct in Modernism as a working of the Spirit, from what was catastrophically destructive. The experience and suffering imposed by two world wars and the persecution of two ideological behemoths in Nazism and Marxism intervened and initiated a period of intense suffering for love by some. Such suffering intensifies intellectual acuity. Concretely, it gave time to develop theologian-philosophers such as Marie-Dominique Chenu, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger as well as ascetical phenomena such as Opus Dei’s experiential incarnation of the universal call to sanctity in the world in the person of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. Opus Dei was purified like silver under the Marxism of Spain the 1930s. The subjectivism which Modernism was espousing morphed into the subjectivity of the ontological “I” as believer which became the defining center of the Second Vatican Council. As Cardinal Karol Wojtyla wrote in his “Sources of Renewal:” The “enrichment of faith” that was sought in the Council was not “to answer questions like ‘What should men believe,?’ ‘What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith?’ and so on, but rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean to be a believer, a Catholic and a member of the Church?’”

Joseph Ratzinger was suspected of Modernism by Michael Schmaus who rejected the doctrinal part of his “habilitation” thesis. He recalls: “Michael Schmaus, who had perhaps also heard annoying rumors from some in Freising concerning the modernity of my theology, saw in these theses not at all a faithful rendering of Bonaventure’s thought (however, to this day I still affirm the contrary) but a dangerous modernism that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept of revelation.” What were “these theses?”

End of story is what actually took place during the Council. In response to a question by Peter Seewald in “Salt of the Earth,” then-Cardinal Ratzinger remarked: “The Council Fathers did not come together with the intention simply of adopting ready-made texts and, so to speak, rubber –stamping them but , in accord with their office, of struggling to find the word that had to be said in that hour. There was the idea that we had to take the task in hand ourselves, not in order to turn the faith upside down, but, on the contrary, to serve it properly. In this sense, [Cardinal] Frings’ introductory speech (which had points in common with that of Cardinal Lienart of Lille) actually put into words the common awareness already present among the Fathers.”

So what did you write in this speech?

“The very first one was not written by me, nor was it a speech in the strict sense. The situation was that proposals had already been worked out in Rome for the composition of the Curia, the commissions. And the expectation was that there would be an immediate vote on the basis of those proposed lists. Now, many of the Fathers didn’t want that. Then both Cardinal Lienart and Cardinal Frings rose to their feet and said that we cannot simply vote at this time, that we have to get in contact with one another in order to find out who is suitable for what, that the elections have to be postponed. That was the first drumbeat at the beginning of the Council….
“The second thing… was that, concretely, when the text on revelation was to be proposed for discussion, Cardinal Frings – and there, admittedly, I did play a part – explained that the text as it was then worded was not an adequate starting point. It was, he said, necessary to start from the ground up, to rework the document within the council itself. That really sounded the alarm. It was what really first led to the saying that we will rework the texts ourselves.

“In the third speech, which has become famous, the subject was the necessity of reforming the methods of the Holy Office and the need for a transparent procedure there. Those are the speeches that stuck in the mind of the public….

“There was a very strong desire among the Council Fathers really to venture something new and to leave behind the habitual scholastic framework, also to risk a new freedom. That went from South America to Australia….

“I cannot recall the individual sentences you cited, but it is correct that I was of the opinion that scholastic theology, in the form it had come to have, was no longer an instrument for bringing faith into the contemporary discussion. It had to get out of its armor; it also had to face the situation of the present in a new language, in a new openness. So a greater freedom also had to arise in the Church…. On the whole it was an awareness that could be noticed all across the Church, an awareness that was connected with the feeling of emergence in the postwar period – and with the hope that now, at last, a new hour of Christianity was also possible.”

Conclusion: Perhaps the purified Modernism (that is the subject-person as ontological relation), that is Vatican II, is what we find in Gaudium et spes #24, which says:

“Furthermore, the Lord Jesus, when praying to the Father ‘that they may all be one… even as we are one’ (Jn. 17, 21-22), has opened up new horizons closed to human reason by implying that there is a certain parallel between the union existing among the divine persons and the union of the sons of God in truth and love. It follows, the, that if man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself.”

This is the Magisterium’s Christological anthropology awaiting the new metaphysic that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have been giving it for the past 28 years as “the new evangelization.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

An Aside on the Feast of the Assumption

The feast of the Assumption is a perfect example of what Benedict XVI is trying to get across with the first volume of his book: “Jesus of Nazareth.” It is the main theme of his “habilitation” thesis from 1954: “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.” (108)

It took 1950 years after the Revelation that is Jesus Christ, for the Church to become conscious of what it had become in that experience of Christ. Pius XII declared in “Munificentissimus Deus" that “the dogma was revealed by God, that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, after completing her course of life upon earth, was assumed to the glory of heaven both in body and soul.”[1]

Notice there is no explicit reference (save the ambiguity of Rev. 12) to the assumption of Our Lady in Sacred Scripture and that there was no source mentioning it in the Tradition of the Church until the 6th century.[2] But this does not mean that the Assumption is not integral to the revelation of the Person of Jesus Christ. The Pope’s point is that the Church is a Subject, a Person (with a consciousness), who is the receiver (believer) of the Revelation of the Person of Jesus Christ. He – Christ – is the “act” of revelation. Scripture and Tradition are the “sources” through which this Revelation is communicated, but that neither of them is Revelation. Revelation actually becomes revelation when the receiving Subject, the Church, experiences the Person of Christ by an act of radical obedience and submission of its entire self (faith).

But this Revelation that is objectively given in totality by Jesus Christ as Word and Son of the Father, only subjectively becomes revelation as it is experienced and received by the Church. Notice above that Benedict insists that “where there is no one to perceive ‘revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed.” This is not new. St. Gregory of Nyssa in mid fourth century taught: “The vision of God is offered to those who have purified their hearts. Yet no man has seen God at any time.. These are the words of the great Saint John and they are confirmed by Saint Paul’s lofty thought, in the words: God is he whom no one has seen or can see. He is that smooth, steep and sheer rock, on which the mind can find no secure resting place to get a grip or lift ourselves up. In the view of Moses, he is inaccessible. In spite of every effort, our minds cannot approach him. We are cut off by the words: No man can see God and live. And yet, to see God is eternal life [Jn. 17, 3]. But John, Paul and Moses, pillars of our faith, all testify that it is impossible to see God. Look at the dizziness that affects the soul drawn to contemplating the depths of these statements. If God is life, then he who does not see God does not see life. Yet God cannot be seen… Yet God does raise and sustain our flagging hopes. He rescued Peter from drowning and made the sea into a firm surface beneath his feet. He does the same for us; the hands of the Word of God are stretched out to us when we are out of our depth, buffeted and lost in speculation. Grasped firmly in his hands, we shall be without fear: Blessed are the poure of heart, he says, for they shall see God.” [3]

The point is that the “veil” must be removed from our very selves so that the image reflect the light of the Prototype. By purity of heart we clean the sludge and filth that prohibits reflection of light that comes from us (not as source, but as reflection). This is not “modernism” as subjectivism as Joseph Ratzinger was thought guilty of by Michael Schmaus. Schmaus had “heard annoying rumors from some in Freising concerning the modernity of my theology, [and] saw in these theses not at all a faithful rendering of Bonaventure’s thought (however, to this day I still affirm the contrary) but a dangerous modernism that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept of revelation.”[4] On the contrary, it is the most pronounced realism since we know God, then, not via the mediation of sensible perception or concepts, but immediately in ourselves as “being.”

Notice what Benedict said in Aparecida, Brazil on May 13, 2007: “As a first step, we can respond to this question with another: what is this "reality"? What is real? Are only material goods, social, economic and political problems "reality"? This was precisely the great error of the dominant tendencies of the last century, a most destructive error, as we can see from the results of both Marxist and capitalist systems. They falsify the notion of reality by detaching it from the foundational and decisive reality which is God. Anyone who excludes God from his horizons falsifies the notion of "reality" and, in consequence, can only end up in blind alleys or with recipes for destruction.

The first basic point to affirm, then, is the following: only those who recognize God know reality and are able to respond to it adequately and in a truly human manner. The truth of this thesis becomes evident in the face of the collapse of all the systems that marginalize God.

“Yet here a further question immediately arises: who knows God? How can we know him? We cannot enter here into a complex discussion of this fundamental issue. For a Christian, the nucleus of the reply is simple: only God knows God [cf. Mt. 11, 27], only his Son who is God from God, true God, knows him. And he "who is nearest to the Father’s heart has made him known" (John 1:18). Hence the unique and irreplaceable importance of Christ for us, for humanity. If we do not know God in and with Christ, all of reality is transformed into an indecipherable enigma; there is no way, and without a way, there is neither life nor truth” (underline mine).

Conclusion: The dogma of the Assumption is a theological conclusion stemming from the Church’s experience of the Person of Jesus and therefore of Our Lady over the course of 1900 years. The “veil” has finally been removed from us by the faith experience of the saints (not least of whom is St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe) down the centuries until at last it becomes a consciousness which the Magisterium of the Church defines as dogma. The good metal of the image beneath the grime and sludge has appeared and is reflecting the light of Christ, the Sun; and this precisely so that we go to her at the beginning of this third millennium that is destined to be grounded on the Christological anthropology of her Son (finding self by the gift of self), and therefore, not without her.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977” Ignatius (1997) 108.
[2] B. Altaner, ‘Zur Frage der Definibilitat der Assumption B..M.V.,” Theologishce Revue 44 (1948), 129-140, in footnote in J. Ratzinger, Daughter Zion, Ignatius (1983) 72.
[3] De Beatitudinibus: PG 44, 1263-1266.
[4] J. Ratzginer, “Milestones…” op. cit 109.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Maximilian Mary Kolbe 2007

Young Maximilian’s mother once said to him, “My little [son], I don’t know what’s going to become of you!” Some time later, seeing him always serious, recollected and praying with tears in his eyes, she asked him, “What’s wrong with you?”

Patricia Treece, in her A Man for Others,” continued the mother’s account: “Trembling and with tears in his eyes, he told me, ‘When you said to me, ‘What will become of you?’ I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would become of me. And later in the church I prayed again. Then the Virgin Mother appeared to me holding in her hands two crowns, one white and one red. She looked at me with love and she asked me if I would like to have them. The white meant that I would remain pure and the red that I would be a martyr.

‘I answered yes, I wanted them. Then the Virgin looked at me tenderly and disappeared.’”

In March of 1938, before the invasion of Poland, Fr. Maximilian said to his Franciscan Brothers:

“During the first three centuries, the Church was persecuted. The blood of martyrs watered the seeds of Christianity. Later, when the persecutions ceased, one of the Fathers of the Church deplored the lukewarmness of Christians. He rejoiced when persecutions returned. In the same way, we must rejoice in what will happen, for in the midst of trials our zeal will become more ardent. Besides, are we not in the hands of the Blessed Virgin? Is it not our most ardently desired ideal to give our lives for her? We live only once. We die only once. Therefore, let it be according to her good pleasure.”[2]

Now in Auschwitz, Treece continues: “Kolbe did no survive Auschwitz. If it was not for lack of resources, it was also no a question of bad luck. He was never condemned. His death was a purely supernatural event. He himself explained it in advance to the young priest Sigismund Ruszczak that summer of 1941. To Ruszczak he said, without giving any further details, that he would not be leaving the camp alive because he had a mission to do for God through the Immaculata. Another priest friend, John Lipski, recalls that Kolbe said to him, ‘We must do a great work for God here’… Long ago, in the vision that called him to sanctity, Mary had held out to him the mystical white crown reserved for the pure in heart and body. He had earned it early and re-earned it in Auschwitz. But there had been a blood-colored crown as well, the one reserved for the man who overcomes his instinctive clinging to this existence to offer his very life for another out of love of God. To glorify God who can forge such heroes and call down the blessings of such a sacrifice on the camp, Kolbe put on the armor of God … and drawing his strength from the Lord’s might power… he waited for this final battle.”[3]

In the camp, Kolbe confided to one prisoner who had gone to confession to him: “If I have to die, I would like it to be on the feast of Our Lady.”[4]

Then, “As July [1941] came to an end, the next feast of the Mother of God, that of her assumption into heaven, lay fifteen days away. With harvest season in full swing, one prisoner assigned to swell the farm details began dreaming of escape through the open fields. Joseph Sobolewski, who arrived at Auschwitz in August 1940 as number 2, 877 in the first Warsaw transport, recalls that there had already been two prisoners that summer who successfully fled that way. But the Nazis made sure such events were no occasion for rejoicing among those left behind. It took a certain kind of desperation to run away, knowing what others would pay. On almost the last day of July, the dreamer had become that desperate. He escaped. He was from Block 14, Kolbe’s block. Ten men will be taken at Commandant Fritsch’s whim to die of starvation.

Six hundred men line up for the selection. When the grisly affair is complete, Fritsch checks the secretary’s list against the numbers on the condemned. As their German passion for accuracy occupies them, one of the victims is sobbing, ‘My wife and my children!’ It is Francis Gajowniczek. The SS ignore him.

“Suddenly, there is movement in the still ranks. A prisoner several rows back has broken out and is pushing his way toward the front. The SS guards watching this Block raise their automatic rifles, while the dogs at their heels tense for the order to spring. Fritsch and Palitsch too reach toward their holsters. The prisoner steps past the first row.

“It is Kolbe. His step is firm, his face peaceful. Angrily, the Block capo shouts at him to stop or be shot. Kolbe answers calmly, ‘I want to talk to the commander,’ and keeps on walking while the cap, oddly enough, neither shoots nor clubs him. Then, still at a respectful distance, Kolbe stops, his cap in his hands. Standing at attention like an officer so some sort himself, he looks Fritsch straight in the eye.

‘Herr Kommandant, I wish to make a request, please,’ he says politely in flawless German.

Survivors will later say it is a miracle that n one shoots him. Instead, Fritsch asks, ‘What do you want?’

‘I want to die in place of this prisoner,’ and Kolbe points toward the sobbing Gajowniczek. He presents this audacious request without a stammer. Fritsch looks stupefied, irritated. Everyone notes how the German lord of life and death, suddenly nervous, actually steps back a pace.

The prisoner explains coolly, as if they were discussing some everyday matter, that the man over there has a family.

‘I have no wife or children. Besides, I’m old and not good for anything. He’s in better condition,’ he adds, adroitly playing on the Nazi line that only the fit should live.

‘Who are you?’ Fritsch croaks.

‘A Catholic priest.’

Fritsch is silent. The stunned Block, audience to this drama, expect him in usual Auschwitz fashion to show no mercy but sneer, and take both men. Instead, after a moment, the deputy-commander snaps, ‘Request granted.’ As if he needs to expel some fury, he kicks Gajowniczek, snarling, ‘Back to ranks, you!’

* * * * * * * * * *

“By some act of God, the prisoner-interpreter who would watch Kolbe’s last days came out of Auschwitz alive. Number 1, 192 Bruno Borgowiez.”
[5] Borgowiec reports:

‘I overheard the SS talking about him among themselves. They were admiring his courage and behavior. One of them said, “So einen wie diesen Pfarrer haben wir hier noch nicht gehabt. Das muss ein ganz aussergewohlicher Mensch sein.” (We’ve never had a priest here like this one. He must be a wholly exceptional man.”)… In this way, two weeks went by. The prisoners were dying one after the other, and by this time only four were left, among them Father Kolbe, who was still conscious. The SS decided things were taking too long… One day they sent for the German criminal Bock from the hospital to give the prisoners injections of carbolic acid. After the needle prick in the vein of the left arm, you could follow the instant swelling as it moved up the arm toward the chest. When it reached the heart, the victim would fall dead. Between injection and death was a little more than ten seconds.

‘When Bock got there, I had to accompany them to the cell. I saw Father Kolbe, with a prayer, himself hold out his arm to the executioner. I couldn’t bear it. With the excuse that I had some work to do, I left. But as soon as the SS and their executioner were gone, I returned.

‘The other naked, begrimed corpses were lying on the floor, their faces betraying signs of their sufferings. Father Kolbe was sitting upright, leaning against the far wall. His body was not dirty like the others, but clean and bright. The head was tilted somewhat to one side. His eyes were open. Serene and pure, his face was radiant.”

* * * * * * *
“Kolbe’s canonization was set for St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, October 10, 1982. But a question had arisen. Father Kolbe was widely regarded as a martyr, but was he a ‘martyr’ in the technical sense of the term – someone who had died because of odium fidei, ‘hatred of the faith’? He had not been arrested because of odium fidei, and witnesses to his self-sacrifice had testified that the Auschwitz commandant, Fritsch, had simply accepted Kolbe’s self-substitution for the condemned Franciszek Gajowniczek without evincing any particular satisfaction that he was killing a priest. The theologians and experts of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints… had argued that Kolbe , while undoubtedly a saint, was not a martyr in the traditional sense of the term. At Kolbe’s beatification in 1971, Pope Paul VI had said that Kolbe could be considered a ‘martyr of charity,’ but this was a personal gesture and the category lacked standing in theology or canon law. Since then, though, the Polish and German bishops had petitioned the Holy See that Kolbe be canonized as a martyr, rather than as a saintly confessor who happened to have died under extraordinary circumstances.

“John Paul II appointed two special judges to consider the question from the theological and historical points of view. Their reports were then submitted to a special advisory commission. The majority of the commission concluded that Blessed Maximilian Kolbe’s self-sacrifice did not satisfy the traditional criteria for martyrdom, heroic as it undoubtedly was. On the day of his canonization, it was unclear whether Kolbe would be given the accolade of a martyr, as many Poles, Germans, and others wished.

On October 10, 1982, a magnificent autumn morning, found a quarter of a million people in St. Peter’s Square, where they saw a great banner, a portrait of Father Kolbe, draped from the central loggia. Still, the question hung in the air: Would Kolbe be recognized as a martyr? The answer came when John Paul II processed out of the basilica and into the square wearing red vestments, the liturgical color of martyrs. He had overridden the counsel of his advisory commission, and in his homily he declared that ‘in virtue of my apostolic authority, I have decreed that Maximilian Mary Kolbe, who following his beatification was venerated as a confessor, will henceforth be venerated also as a martyr.

“John Paul II was making an important theological point in deciding that St. Maximilian Kolbe was indeed a martyr – systematic hatred for the human person (systematic odium hominis, so to speak) was a contemporary equivalent of the traditional criterion for martyrdom, odium fidei. Because Christian faith affirmed the truth about the inalienable dignity of the human person, anyone who hated that truth hated, implicitly, the Christian faith. Modern totalitarianism was an implicit form of odium fidei, because it reduced persons to things.”

[1] Patricia Treece, “A Man for Others,” OSV (1982) 1.
[2] Ibid 107.
[3] Ibid 164-165.
[4] Ibid 166.
[5] Ibid 173.
[6] Ibid. 175-176.
[7] George Weigel, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” Cliffside Books (1999) 447-448.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Points of Benedict XVI on the Assumption (Mostly From "Daughter of Zion" 1977)

“Daughter of Zion”[1]

The following is very important in the light of “Jesus of Nazareth,” i.e., the struggle of Benedict XVI with the split between the Jesus of history, and the Jesus of faith. What we are dealing with here in the Assumption does not appear in Scripture, nor was there a consciousness in the Church until its appearance in the 6th century. As you will see below, the declaration of the Assumption of our Lady is “canonization” and of the highest kind by a surging consciousness of the Church. This is not an increase of Revelation (which was total and complete in the Person of Jesus Christ), but there is a growth in experience of faith in the Church, and with that experience, a heightened consciousness and awareness.

Not “Historical,” Therefore Myth?

1) The proclamation of the Assumption is neither historical tradition (Altaner claims “there is no witness to such a doctrine before the sixth century”) nor historical fact proclaimed as such in Scripture. The Resurrection of Christ “also transcends history and in this sense offers us no historical fact of the usual type, but it is essential for the resurrection that it reach into temporal existence and announce itself in an historical account.”[2]

Rather, Theological Affirmation.

2) The Assumption is “a theological, not an historical affirmation.”[3] The dogma proclaimed in 1950 is an act of veneration. The East achieves this veneration as liturgy. The West achieves it by dogmatic proclamation. “The dogmatic proclamation of 1950 was an act of Marian veneration in the form of a dogmatic statement, which, by exalting the Mother to the highest degree, was intended to be a liturgy of faith.”[4]

Therefore, it is important that we understand that we are dealing here with “canonization.” Benedict said that the Assumption is “the highest degree of canonization in which the predicate “saint” is recognized in the most strict sense, i.e., being wholly and undividedly in eschatological fulfillment.”[5]

The theological base has two scriptural references:

a) “Behold, from henceforth all generations will call me blessed,” (Lk. 1, 48).

b) “Blessed are you who believed.”

Our Lady is assumed into eternal life because of the Immaculate Conception. That is, she had no original sin. That means “no exceptional proficiency, no exceptional achievement; on the contrary, it signifies that Mary reserves no area of being, life, and will for herself as a private possession: instead, precisely in the total dispossession of self, in giving herself to God, she comes to the true possession of self. Grace as dispossession becomes response as appropriation.”[6]

“Full of Grace”

Grace is the relation of love of the divine Person for the human person. “Our religious mentality has reified this concept much too much; it regards grace as a supernatural something we carry about in our soul. And since we perceive very little of it, or nothing at all, it has gradually become irrelevant to us, an empty word belonging to Christian jargon, which seems to have lost any relationship to the lived reality of our everyday life. In reality, grace is a relational term: it does not predicate something about an I, but something about a connection between I and Thou, between God and man. ‘Full of grace’ could therefore also be translated as: ‘You are full of the Holy Spirit; your life is intimately connected with God’… Grace in the proper and deepest sense of the word is not some thing that comes from God; it is God himself. Redemption means that god, acting as God truly does, gives us nothing less than himself. The gift of God is God – he who as the Holy Spirit is communion with us. ‘Full of grace’ therefore means, once again, that Mary is a wholly open human being, one who has opened herself. Entirely, one who has placed herself in God’s hands boldly, limitlessly, and without fear for her own fate. It means that she lives wholly by and in relation to God. She is a listener and a prayer, whose mind and soul are alive to the manifold ways in which the living God quietly calls to her. She is one who prays and stretches forth wholly to meet God; she is therefore a lover, who has the breadth and magnanimity of true love, but who has also its unerring power of discernment and its readiness to suffer.”[7]

The Meaning of “Assumption”

Benedict XVI: The theological connection with the Immaculate Conception: “Where the totality of grace is, there is the totality of salvation. Where grace no longer exists in the fractured state of simul Justus et peccator, but in pure ‘Yes,’ death, sin’s jailer, has no place. Naturally this involves the question: What does the assumption of body and soul into heavenly glory mean? What, after all, does ‘immortality’ mean? And what does ‘death’ mean? Man is not immortal by his own power, but only in and through another, preliminarily, tentatively, fragmentarily, in children, in fame, but finally and truly only in and from the Entirely-Other, God. We are mortal due to the usurped autarchy of a determination to remain within ourselves, which proves to be a deception. Death, the impossibility of giving oneself a foothold, the collapse of autarchy, is not merely a somatic but a human phenomenon of all-embracing profundity. Nevertheless, where the innate propensity to autarchy is totally lacking, where there is the pure self-dispossession of the one who does not rely upon himself (= grace), death is absent, even if the somatic end is present. Instead, the whole human being enters salvation, because as a whole, undiminished, he stands eternally in God’s life-giving memory that preserves him as himself in his own life.”

There, anyone who is “glorified and praised together with God’s name is alive.” As God is the God of the living, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so also is He the God of the Virgin, His Mother. “We added that in the case of Mary and in her case alone (as far as we know) it applies in a definitive, unconditional way because she stands for the Church itself, for its definitive state of salvation, which is no longer a promise awaiting fulfillment but a fact. Here Colossians 3, 3 seems to me to be significant: ‘You have died, and you life is hidden with Christ in God.’ That is, there is something like an ‘ascension’ of the baptized, of which Ephesians 2, 6 explicitly speaks: ‘He raised you up with him and place you in heaven at the right hand of Christ Jesus.’ According to that text Baptism is a participation in Jesus’ ascension as well as his resurrection. The baptized person, as such and on that account, is already included in the ascension and lives his hidden (his most individual) life there, in the elevated Lord. The formula of the ‘assumption’ of Mary’s body and soul loses every trace of speculative arbitrariness in this perspective. The Assumption is actually only the highest form of canonization. She gave birth to the Lord, ‘with her heart before her body’ (Augustine), and therefore faith, i.e., the interior substance of Baptism according to Luke 1, 45, can be predicated of her without restriction, realizing in her the very quintessence of Baptism.”[8]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Daughter of Zion,” Ignatius (1983) 72 -82,
[2] Ibid. 72.
[3] Ibid. 73.
[4] Ibid. 74.
[5]Ibid. 74.
[6] Ibid. 70.
[7] J. Ratzinger, “Mary, The Church at the Source,” Ignatius (2005) 67-68.
[8] J. Ratzinger, “Daughter of Zion,” op. cit 79-80.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

An Interpretatiion of Benedict XVI's "Jesus of Nazareth:" "The Hermeneutic of Continuity"

An Interpretation of Benedict XVI’s “Jesus of Nazareth:” “The Hermeneutic of Continuity”

The Immediate Question: Is the real Jesus given to us in the Gospel texts, or is there a split between the real-life historical Jesus and the Jesus of the faith of the disciples after the Resurrection which was superimposed on the Gospel texts at a later date? Put simply, is there a difference between Jesus of Nazareth as a concrete historical individual from a particular place at a particular time, and Jesus “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16, 16)? At stake: the realism of Christian faith. Is Christian faith about an historical reality, a God-man, or is it about myth?

A More Immediate Question: Why has the Second Vatican Council not been read, accepted or understood? Put more succinctly, which is the interpretive key to understanding the Council, the “hermeneutic of discontinuity or rupture” [consult footnote #1] or the “hermeneutic of continuity? The same point is at stake: was the Second Vatican Council a series of parliamentary "compromise" documents, or the authoritative teaching on Christian faith?

I offer Benedicts talk to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005 to set it up:

“No one can deny that in vast areas of the Church the implementation of the Council has been somewhat difficult, even without wishing to apply to what occurred in these years the description that St Basil, the great Doctor of the Church, made of the Church's situation after the Council of Nicea: he compares her situation to a naval battle in the darkness of the storm, saying among other things: "The raucous shouting of those who through disagreement rise up against one another, the incomprehensible chatter, the confused din of uninterrupted clamoring, has now filled almost the whole of the Church, falsifying through excess or failure the right doctrine of the faith..." (De Spiritu Sancto, XXX, 77; PG 32, 213 A; SCh 17 ff., p. 524).
We do not want to apply precisely this dramatic description to the situation of the post-conciliar period, yet something from all that occurred is nevertheless reflected in it. The question arises: Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult?
Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or - as we would say today - on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarrelled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.
On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call "a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture"; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the "hermeneutic of reform", of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.
The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.
These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the Council's deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague.
In a word: it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit. In this way, obviously, a vast margin was left open for the question on how this spirit should subsequently be defined and room was consequently made for every whim.[1] The nature of a Council as such is therefore basically misunderstood. In this way, it is considered as a sort of constituent that eliminates an old constitution and creates a new one. However, the Constituent Assembly needs a mandator and then confirmation by the mandator, in other words, the people the constitution must serve. The Fathers had no such mandate and no one had ever given them one; nor could anyone have given them one because the essential constitution of the Church comes from the Lord and was given to us so that we might attain eternal life and, starting from this perspective, be able to illuminate life in time and time itself.”

The Most Critical Question for Benedict-Ratzinger: How can the contingency of history and the absoluteness of Hellenic metaphysics be compatible? The young Joseph Ratzinger found this to be the key question of theological Germany at the beginning (1953) of his studies and, in effect, has spent his intellectual career with this question at root. In the “forward” to the American edition of his “habilitation” thesis on “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure” of 1954 on, he wrote:

“When I began the preparatory work fore this study in the fall of 1953, one of the questions which stood in the foreground of concern within 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 metaphysic 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 Einfuhrung in das Christendom 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. For the questions with which I was concerned, Bonaventure was naturally a more likely subject for study than Aquinas. Thus, a partner was found for the discussion. The questions which I hoped to direct to this partner were sketched in general terms in the concepts of revelation – history – metaphysics[2] (underline mine).

The Meaning of Revelation and Faith in Bonaventure and the Fathers of the Church as the Key to the Hermeneutic of Continuity and Reform?

For the present historical moment of Catholic theology of Revelation and Faith, what Ratzinger discovered was revolutionary and gave off an aroma of modernism – the “summation of heresy” that had been roundly condemned by the Magisterium under Pius X. In his autobiography “Milestones,” he wrote:

“I had ascertained that in Bonaventure (as well as in theologians of the thirteenth century) there was nothing corresponding to our conception of `revelation,’ by which we are normally in the habit of referring to all the revealed contents of the faith: it has even become a part of linguistic usage to refer to Sacred Scripture simply as `revelation.’ Such an identification would have been unthinkable in the language of the High Middle Ages. 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.”[3]

Ratzinger goes on to disclose that Michael Schmaus “did not like the result of my analyses.”[4] He had “heard annoying rumors from some in Freising concerning the modernity of my theology [and] saw in these theses a rendering that was not faithful to Bonaventure’s thought (however, to this day I still affirm the contrary, but rather a dangerous modernism that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept of revelation.”[5]

What does the insight “the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation’" mean?

It means that Revelation – that is the Person of Jesus Christ Who is the Word of the Father – demands that the believing person be an ontological person whole (not just consciousness as in Enlightenment thought or a faculty of intellect and will as in neo-scholasticism) who becomes “like” the revealing Person in a historical way. In radio talks given in the winter of 1969-70, Ratzinger said: “faith is not a diluted form of natural science, an ancient or medieval preparatory stage that must vanish when the real thing turns up, but is something essentially different. It is not provisional knowledge, although we do use the word in this sense also when we say, for example, ‘I believe that is so.’ In such a case ‘believing’ means ‘being of the opinion.’ But when we say, ‘I believe you,’ the word acquires quite another meaning. It means the same as, ‘I trust you,’ or even as much as , ‘I rely upon you.’ The you, in which I put reliance, provides me with a certainty that is different from but no less than the certainty that comes from calculation and experiment. And it is thus that the word is used in the Christian Credo. The basic form of Christian faith is not: I believe something, but I believe you. Faith is a disclosure of reality that is granted only to him who trusts, loves, and acts as a human being; and as such it is not a derivative of knowledge, but is sui generic, like knowledge, although it is indeed more basic and more central to our authentically human nature than knowledge is.”[6]

Basically, faith means that I make a gift of myself to the revealer. I trust. I surrender myself. And in the case of the Person of Christ Who reveals Himself to be one with the Father, who is always being found in relation as prayer to the Father, to be in a dialogue of listening and talking with Him who reveals Himself to be dialogue and trust towards the Father, my “I” takes on the same ontological shape as the “I” of Christ Who reveals Himself to be nothing without the Father, and therefore to be pure relation to the Father. In a word, the believing “I” and the revealing “I” become alike, if not identical in the act of self-transcendence. Which means that the believer begins to have the same consciousness as Christ because he has the same sentiments.
Benedict’s theological epistemology kicks in heavy here with the “I” of the believer becoming prayer as Christ is Incarnate Word spoken by and with the Father. He is most clear with the presentation of the Samaritan woman having Christ reveal Himself as Messiah because of her self-giving confessions to Him that she, indeed, had no husband.[7] As he remarked in “Behold the Pierced One:”

“We say that prayer was the central act of the person of Jesus and, indeed, that this person is constituted by the act of prayer, of unbroken communication with the one he calls ‘Father.’ If this is the case, it is only possible really to understand this person by entering into this act of prayer, by participating in it. This is suggested by Jesus’ saying that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him (Jn. 6, 44). Where there is no Father, there is no Son. Where there is no relationship with God, there can be no understanding of him who, in his innermost self, is nothing but relationship with God, the Father… Therefore a participation in the mind of Jesus, i.e., in his prayer, which… is an act of love, of self-giving and self-expropriation to men, is not some kind of pious supplement to reading the Gospels, adding nothing to knowledge of him or even being an obstacle to the rigorous purity of critical knowing. On the contrary, it is the basic precondition if real understanding, in the sense of modern hermeneutics – i.e., the entering-in to the same time and the same meaning – is to take place.”[8]

Notice the last sentence concerning modern hermeneutics and “the entering-in to the same time and the same meaning.” This is the question of being able “to see” the “I” of Jesus Christ now as the meaning of Sacred Scripture then. In a word, the problem with being able to do hermeneutics, i.e. interpretation, as to whether this historical man Jesus of Nazareth is really the Christ, Son of the living God, depends on whether Christ, the Son of the living God can be experienced by me, the believer, now and therefore I can “see” Him in the scenes of the Gospel as they are historically depicted. If there is no divine Person whom I can experience now by giving myself in prayer to Him, and to the Father, then to live realism, I must subtract all the references to miracles and transcendent talk and find the causes and ways that these utterances could come about and be inserted in these texts. It is the Kantian split between the a posteriori and the a priori. If there is a prejudice that the absolute cannot exist in the contingent, that there can be no compatibility between metaphysics and history, then we are in a hermeneutic of discontinuity.

Let me offer one of the major examples of the hermeneutic of discontinuity that has the Hellenization of Christology of the Fathers and the first councils of the Church, and the Reformation (Luther) that saw this metaphysical Hellenization as stultifying the dynamic of lived Christian faith. We have been living with the discontinuity for 400 years. In a word, Jesus Christ, in Catholic theology, has been understood as an “exception” to man. He is God, and is to be understood from the side of God. Man has been understood “from below” as an “individual substance of a rational nature” to whose life the life of Christ is exceptional. We find this in the absence of the universal call to holiness for all lay Christians in preference to the call of the few to the religious life of the vows and leaving the world.

The Hermeneutic of Continuity: To Be = To Be in Relation
The solution to the discontinuity of the metaphysics of one Person with two natures, and the dynamics of the act of self gift to the Cross, is in the understanding of the person as relational being: to be = to be in relation. Then-Ratzinger says: “For we have found that the being of Christ (‘incarnation’ theology!) is actualitas, stepping beyond and out of oneself, the exodus of departure from self [theology of the Cross]; it is not a being that rests in itself, but the act of being sent, of being son, of serving. Conversely, this ‘doing’ is not just ‘doing’ but ‘being;’ it reaches down into the depths of being and coincides with it. This being is exodus, transformation. So at this point a properly understood theology of being and of the incarnation must pass over into the theology of the cross and become one with it; conversely, a theology of the cross that gives its full measure must pass over into the theology of the Son and of being.”

The same situation applies to the dichotomy of Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus, the Son of the living God. The key to grasping that they are the same “I” is the prayerful activity of the believing reader of Scripture.

[1] Tracey Rowland, “Culture and the Thomist Tradition After Vatican II,” Routledge (2003): “As a preliminary point, it should be noted that all commentators agree that Gaudium et spes was a compromise document – that it is the outcome of quite intense debates about the relationship between nature and grace and in particular the tension between the incarnational and eschatological dimensions of Catholic theology. Walter Kasper expresses the problem in concrete from when he ways that there remains within the text a ‘certain lack of clarity with respect to the relationship between man’s character as God’s image according to Genesis 1, 26 and that of Jesus Christ according to Colossians 1, 15. In his account of the history of the document‘s drafting, Charles Moeller stated that in the last two stages of the drafting process a decision was taken that a ‘balance must be struck between the opposing tendencies,’ and as a consequence the document acquired a ‘dialectical character with multiple contrasts.’ In effect, this means that Gaudium et spes cannot read without an overarching theological framework in which the contrasts can be reconciled. However, no such framework was offered by the Conciliar fathers and as a consequence the document became the subject of a riot of interpretations, especially by those plain persons who lacked a training in theology and philosophy, as well as many clergy and religious in positions of authority within the Church’s institutions… Not only was the substance of the document the result of theological compromise, but its form has been described as , inter alia, an ‘innovation in genre’ (Aidan Nichols), ‘a novelty whose structure is unprecedented in the history of the councils’ (Walter Kasper) and ‘an approach which treats Christ more as Omega than as Alpha (Edouard Hamel)…. The form of the document also bears evidence of a series of compromises…”
[2] J. Ratzinger, “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure,” Franciscan Herald Press (1989) xi-xii.
[3] J. Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 Ignatius 107-109.
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid (I reworked the translation so that it was more idiomatic English)
[6] J. Ratzinger, “Faith and the Future,” Franciscan Herald Press (1971) 19-20.
[7] J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Ignatius (1987) 353-355.
[8] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 26.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Random Thoughts on the Prelature on the Occasion of the Anniversay of Ordination to the Ministerial Priesthood of the Prelate, August 7, 1955

1) Opus Dei is a prelature because it is governed and directed by a prelate with the hierarchical powers of Orders and the prelatic powers conferred by papal juridical act to gather lay faithful and ministerial priests for a universal mission within the Church and the world. That mission is the sanctification of ordinary work by both laity and clergy without leaving one’s state in life .

2) The nature of priesthood is mediation (CCC # 1544). The priesthood of Jesus Christ is a revolution in that the terms of the mediation are between the Self of Christ and the Father. This means that Jesus Christ is priest of His own existence whereby as divine Person he masters His human will (that is “His”) and obeys in the totality of His Divine Self as God-man to death on the Cross. This Christology discloses the priestly anthropology of human existence. St. Josemaria Escriva called it "priestly soul."

3) We are all sacramentally inserted into that one priesthood of Christ: laity into the “common priesthood” by baptism, ministerial priests by Orders. These sacramental insertions, although radically equal, are irreducibly different in that the mission of the laity is to the world while the ministerial priest is to the service of the laity.

4) The priestly dimension of both laity and ministers demands a radical giving of the self to each other. The service of the ministerial priest is to make it possible for the layman to make the self-gift by means of providing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the preaching of the Supernatural Work, and the administration of the Sacraments, especially Penance. The service of the layman is to actively need the priest, which is the most profound form of affirmation and identity giving.

This mutual and reciprocal self-giving on the part of these irreducibly different protagonists of the one priesthood of Christ form “communio” (that is not “community” made of substantially independent but “associated” individuals. Rather, the communio is such that one cannot be or function without the other, like “family.” This is “oneness,” not unity. It is the “aboriginal relationship” that obtained in the Church from the beginning, and the reason why Opus Dei is “a little bit of the Church,” and yet not a particular Church (diocese), and this again because the prelate does not geographically instantiate the one Catholic Church in any one place.

4) The principal mission of the Prelate is not jurisdictional such as to command and exact obedience. The principal mission is to “engender sons and daughters,” i.e. to be “father.” The deep principle enunciated by then-Joseph Ratzinger is the necessity that the person has for affirmation and love in order to become actualized as person and to have an identity. This only comes from love. Ratzinger wrote: “Something strange happens here. We have seen that the inability to accept one’s I leads to the inability to accept a thou. But how does one go about affirming, assenting to, one’s I? The answer may perhaps be unexpected: We cannot do so by our own efforts alone. Of ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our I becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become acceptable to another I. We can love ourselves only if we have first been loved by someone else. The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life; she gives total life when she takes the child’s tears and turns them into smiles. It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist.”[1]

5) This love that is endemic to the position of being the Prelate is the dynamic that grounds all his functions. D. Pedro Rodriguez remarks: “what is decisive is neither his ‘jurisdiction’ nor their obedience. Rather, what truly defines Opus Dei’s prelate is his ‘fatherhood,’ his role as a pastor who is a father to all the prelature’s faithful. That is why in Opus Dei he is usually called ‘Father.’ The prelate’s role in the life of Opus Dei deeply configures the prelature.”[2] In a word, the “Father” must engender the Prelature, and continue to engender it by his love for his sons and daughters.

6) What does all this have to do with the anniversary of the Prelate’s ordination to the priesthood? This love that the Prelate must have transcends his natural abilities. The ministerial and therefore hierarchical (sacred origin) powers conferred by Orders together with the power conferred on him by the juridical act of the Pope enable him to love in a unique way with the heart of Christ.

7) The actual love depends on personal correspondence to this grace of state and that in turn depends on our reciprocal prayer and sacrifice for him. As communio, we cannot do what we are supposed to do without him, and he cannot do what he is supposed to without us. Consummati in unum.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology” Ignatius (1987) 79-80.
[2] Pedro Rodriguez, “The Place of Opus Dei in the Church,” Opus Dei in the Church Scepter (1994) 56.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Transfiguration 2007

Epistemic Shift

Only God is Real; Only Those Who Become God Know God

Benedict XVI has written prolifically on the Transfiguration in his recently published “Jesus of Nazareth.” His opening point discloses the hidden logic of the entire work: one can know God only by becoming God. Better said: Only God is real. And then, asking, who knows God, he answered: only God knows God.[1]

The point he is making is the following: “All three Synoptic Gospels create a link between Peter’s confession and the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration by means of a reference to time. Matthew and mark say: ‘And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother’ (Mt. 17, 1; Mk. 9, 2). Luke writes: ‘Now about eight days after these sayings (Lk. 9, 28). Clearly, this means that the two events, in each of which Peter plays a prominent role, are interrelated. We could say that in both cases the issue is the divinity of Jesus as the Son; another point, though, is that in both cases the appearance of his glory is connected wit the Passion motif. Jesus’ divinity belongs with the Cross – only when we put the two together do we recognize Jesus correctly. John expressed this intrinsic interconnectedness of Cross and glory when he said that the Cross is Jesus’ ‘exaltation,’ and that his exaltation is accomplished in no other way than in the Cross.”

The Shift: From Substance to Subject-Relation

As always, the insight that is the mainspring to the theological mind of Ratzinger-Benedict XVI is the constitutive relationality of being. As seen elsewhere in this blog, the category of being as substance is understood by Benedict to be inadequate to bear the ontological weight and carry the theological freight of what it means to be a divine Person, and therefore a human person (since the God-man Jesus Christ is the prototype of every man).[2]

To understand today’s feast, we must recognize – as he says – that it is preceded by the affirmation of Simon-become-Peter that Jesus of Nazareth is Jesus the Christ, Son of the living God. To be able to “re-cognize” the absolute reality of the divine Person, Simon had to “become God,” i.e. he had to enter into the solitude of Christ’s relation to the Father (as Adam had in obediently naming the animals and entering into his “original solitude”) by praying with Him to the Father. He had to be drawn to Christ by the Father in prayer (Jn. 6, 44) and so become “another Christ.” Again, as we have seen elsewhere here, the Person of Jesus Christ is nothing but prayer to the Father. He is pure relation that reveals itself as prayer upon taking flesh.

That clarified, Benedict then shows that the confession that Jesus of Nazareth is Jesus the Son of the Living God is accompanied by the revelation of the Cross: “Jesus’ divinity belongs with the Cross – only when we put the two together do we recognize Jesus correctly. John expressed this intrinsic interconnectedness of Cross and glory when he said that he Cross is Jesus’ ‘exaltation,’ and that his exaltation is accomplished in no other way than in the Cross.”[3]

The mountain is the place of prayer. It is the place of face to face exchange with God. Moses did it on Mt. Sinai where his face became a dazzling light, as did Elijah, the last of the prophets. Israel had lost its faith, was dominated by Ahab and Jezebel who worshipped Baal. Recall the famous encounter between Elijah and the 450 priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel and the calling down of fire for the holocaust victim. This came from the prayer of Elijah, who then had to escape death by walking 40 days to Mt. Sinai for the renewal of faith. These will be the two speaking with Christ on the top of Tabor about His passion and death. Notice the identification of the glory of the Transfiguration and the topic of self-gift in suffering and death. The two are essentially interconnected.

The feast of Tabernacles is the feast of the tents of the people of God in the desert in anticipation of the God pitching His tent among us. The skin of the tent is his flesh. When He enters into prayer with the Father, that “tent” or flesh radiates brilliant light that is the tradition and experience of the halo around the heads of the saints.

Notice also the repudiation of the Gnostic understanding of the flesh. The body of Christ is His very Person. Listen to Ratzinger-Benedict on the now-meaning of the human body: “the body is not just ‘there,’ having a merely external relationship to the spirit; rather, the body is the self-expression and ‘image’ of the spirit. In the human being, what constitutes biological life also constitutes the person. The person actualizes itself in the body and the body is, therefore, its expression. In the body we may see what is invisible as spirit. Because the body is the person become visible, and the person is an image of God, the body, taken in its full network of relationships, is also the space where the divine becomes imaged, expressed, seen. This is why, from the very beginning, the Bible portrays the mystery of God in images of the body and of the world that is ordered to that body. In so doing, the Bible is not creating external images for God; rather, if it can use corporeal things as images and if it can talk about God in parables, it is because these things truly are images. Thus, by the use of such analogous language the Bible does not alienate the corporeal world but rather names the most real thing about that world, the core of what it is. By interpreting the world as a storehouse of images for the story of God with man, the Bible points to the world ‘s true nature and makes God visible in that place where he really expresses himself.”[4]

St. Josemaria Escriva received a locution on this day in 1970: “clama, ne cesses” (Pray without ceasing). On a foundational day for Opus Dei – August 7, 1931 – during the celebration of Holy Mass and at the Consecration, he recalled: “That day of the Transfiguration, celebrating Hly Mass in the Patronato de enfermos , on a side altar while I raised the Host, there was another voice without the noise of words.
“A voice, as always, perfect, clear: et ego, si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum! (Jn. 12, 32). And the precise concept: it is not in the sense that Scripture says it; I say it to you in the sense that you put me at the summit of all human activities; that, in all places in the world, there may be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, that the be other Christs.”

Significantly, Benedict speaks about the Transfiguration as “the irruption and inauguration of the messianic age.”[5] “By experiencing the Transfiguration during the Feast of Tabernacles, Peter, in his ecstasy, was able to recognize ‘that the realities prefigured by the Feast were accomplished… the scene of the Transfiguration marks the fact that the messianic times have come’. It is only as they go down from the mountain that Peter has to learn once again that the messianic age is first and foremost the age of the Cross and that the Transfiguration – the experience of becoming light from and with the Lord – requires us to be burned by the light of the Passion and so transformed.”[6]

Observe: to fully be and achieve the light and glory of existence now divinized, one must make the radical gift of self. To be = to be in relation as self-gift: prayer.

[1] Benedict XVI: “(W)hat is this "reality"? What is real? Are only material goods, social, economic and political problems "reality"? This was precisely the great error of the dominant tendencies of the last century, a most destructive error, as we can see from the results of both Marxist and capitalist systems. They falsify the notion of reality by detaching it from the foundational and decisive reality which is God. Anyone who excludes God from his horizons falsifies the notion of "reality" and, in consequence, can only end up in blind alleys or with recipes for destruction. The first basic point to affirm, then, is the following: only those who recognize God know reality and are able to respond to it adequately and in a truly human manner. The truth of this thesis becomes evident in the face of the collapse of all the systems that marginalize God. Yet here a further question immediately arises: who knows God? How can we know him? We cannot enter here into a complex discussion of this fundamental issue. For a Christian, the nucleus of the reply is simple: only God knows God, only his Son who is God from God, true God, knows him. And he "who is nearest to the Father’s heart has made him known" (John 1:18). Hence the unique and irreplaceable importance of Christ for us, for humanity. If we do not know God in and with Christ, all of reality is transformed into an indecipherable enigma; there is no way, and without a way, there is neither life nor truth” (bold mine); APARECIDA, Brazil, MAY 13, 2007

“Substance:”1) “In this idea of relativity in word and love [that is the person in God], 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.’ Let us listen once again to St. Augustine: ‘In God there are no accidents, only substance and relation.’ 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” (Josef Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius [1990] 132). 2) More recently, he refers to “person” as a “new philosophical category… a concept that has become for us the fundamental concept of the analogy between God and man, the very center of philosophical thought;”[2] J. Ratzinger, “The New Covenant,” in Many Religions – One Covenant Ignatius (1999) 76-770).In the light of this, he remarks: “The meaning of an already existing category, that of ‘relation,’ was fundamentally changed. In the Aristotelian table of categories, relation belongs to the group of accidents that point to substance and are dependent on it; in God, therefore, there are no accidents. Through the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, relatio moves out of the substance-accident framework. Now God himself is described as a Trinitarian set of relations, as relatio subsistens. When we say that man is the image of God, it means that he is a being designed for relationship; it means that, in and through all his relationships, he seeks that relation which is the ground of his existence”(Ibid) 3) “I believe that if one follows this struggle in which human reality had to be brought in, as it were, and affirmed for Jesus, one sees what tremendous effort and intellectual transformation lay behind the working out of this concept of person, which was quite foreign in its inner disposition to the Greek and the Latin mind. It is not conceived in substantialist, but… in existential terms… Remaining on the level of the Greek mind, Boethius defined ‘person’ as naturae rationalis individual substantia, as the individual substance of a rational nature. One sees that the concept of person stands entirely on the level of substance. This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greek mind which thinks in substantialist terms.”

[2](J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 [Fall, 1990] 448).
[3] Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth” Doubleday (2007) 305.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “The Paschal Mystery as Core and Foundation of Devotion to the Sacred Heart,” Towards a Civilization of Love, Ignatius (1985) 149.
[5] Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth,” op. cit 317.
[6] Ibid 315.