Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Task of Benedict XVI: Broaden Reason

“We will succeed in (broadening our concept of reason and its application) only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons” Benedict XVI, Regensburg 2006

The Restriction of Reason: As far back as 1993, Joseph Ratzinger explained that relativism and subjectivism were the product of a reason starving for the absolute and the infinite that had been methodically restricted and silenced by the alleged certainties of natural or applied sciences. He said that “this restriction of reason has the result that we are left in almost total darkness regarding some essential dimensions of life. The meaning of man, the bases of ethics, the question of God cannot be subjected to rational experience, certified by mathematical formulae. And so they are left to subjective sensibility alone. This is serious because if, in a society, the bases of ethical behavior are abandoned to subjectivity alone, released from common motives for being and living, handed over to pragmatism, then it is man himself who is threatened.”[1] And then, presciently, he observed that “in the present situation of emptiness, there looms the terrible danger of nihilism, that is to say, the denial or absence of all fundamental moral reference for the conduct of social life. This danger becomes visible in the new forms of terrorism.”[2]

John Paul II pronounced the same diagnosis over the state of reason and the projected fallout: “Reason… has wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift it is gaze to the heights, to daring to rise to the
truth of being.”[3]

What has been lost to reason – wherever the gift of self has been lacking and “acedia” (accedie)[4] as a turning back on self has dominated - is full access to reality as the being of the believing person. That access is the experience of the act of being of the believing person without the diminishment or distortion by mediations such as sensible perception or conceptualizations.

The theology that stands behind the above is the following: the human person has been created in the image and likeness of the divine Persons. Since they are pure relations vectoring in different directions like Father engendering Son, Son glorifying Father, Spirit personifying the “opposing” relational self-gift of the Two, no one can be given without the other two. If there were no Father, there would be no Son since the Father is the very act of engendering the Son, etc. Hence, the God of the three irreducibly different Relations is “One” as a “communio” where each needs the other to be.

Made in the image of the Son, the human person is also a relation, but created, and therefore with the need to activate the relation that will be self-gift in obedience to God and in the service of the others. The exegesis of John Paul II in the “Theology of the Body” discloses the activation of self-awareness of Adam when he (Adam) accepts the relation of obedience to the Creator in the act of naming the animals. The resulting state of “being alone” signifies that Adam had crossed the threshold from simply being aware of “things” as objects to becoming aware of self as “I,” a subject. He thus experienced being alone as a subject in a universe of objects.

This cognition is not conceptual (yet) since it is simply mirroring the act of self-dominion and self-determination to be the self-gift of obedience. All the other acts of cognition that are directed toward sensible phenomena are conceptual. This particular act produces a different type of experience with the type of cognition that we call “consciousness.”[5] It is important to note that consciousness of the self only takes place
on the occasion of the self-transcendence of the self, i.e., when the “I” experiences itself receiving self-identity from another as from the mother from conception onward, mastering self to make the gift to another. Wherever there is the act and experience of self-transcendence, there is consciousness on the level of the subject as subject.

The content of that consciousness, when it is self-gift, is a consciousness of God, and this because wherever there is a relation that is self-transcending, there is divinization. And, as Benedict said in Brazil in May of 2007: “Only God knows God.”[6] Of course, this is only to repeat Matthew 11, 27: “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.”

And, to finish this brief but intense “foreword,” let me present Ratzinger’s compressed “theological epistemology:”

Scripture reveals the Person of Jesus Christ to be prayer: Lk. 6, 25; Lk. 9, 18; Lk. 9, 28.
Like is known by like.
Therefore, only he who experiences himself to be such and so in the act of self-giving prayer, experiences himself to be another Christ, “Ipse Christus.” The ontological architecture of one who truly prays is an activated relationality, and will be called “Petros” by Him Who is “Corner Stone,” the paradigm of relationality.
Only then, by reflection on the consciousness of the self in prayer, will such an active believer be able to conceptualize the content of his self-consciousness and transfer to Jesus of Nazareth: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16).
This, and this alone, is the reconstitution of reason to know the living God experientially, and to create the context within which all subsequent knowledge finds “meaning.”

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

Benedict announced in his “The New Evangelization” (2000) that the crisis of our times is the knowledge of God.

“The true problem of our times is the ‘Crisis of God,’ the absence of God, disguised by an empty religiosity… Everything changes, whether God exists or not. Unfortunately – we Christians also often live as if God did not exists (‘si Deus no daretur’). We live according to the slogan: God does not exist, and if he exists, he does not belong.”[7]

The reality is that “No one has at any time seen God. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him” (Jn. 1, 18). Therefore, if the Word – Jesus Christ - became flesh in my historical time and space, i.e., within the domain of my experience that involves not only empirical sensation, but also, and particularly my total experience as a subject – then I am capable of that experience of Jesus Christ in myself.

The crucial question then becomes: if the divine Person is a man like me, then to know Him means that I have to understand who I am as man. That is, what does it mean to be man as a who?[8] The received report from antiquity and the Middle Ages prior to the Cartesian turn to the subject claims objectively that man is a rational animal. But the question we ask ourselves now is: who am I? Joseph Ratzinger tackles the question of the identity of the ego directly under the rubric of “self-love” and turns to Scripture for help.

He finds contradictory texts like “For whoever would save his life (his soul) for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8, 35); or “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14, 26).

On the other side, he finds “we are told we must love our neighbor ‘as yourself.’ But this means that self-love, the affirmation of one’s own being, provides the form and measure for love of one’s neighbor too. According to this self-love remains a natural and necessary thing without which love of neighbor would lose its foundation.”

Ratzinger assesses the contradiction by confronting the fact that one cannot love self if one is an egotist. “One could almost talk of an anthropological circle: to the extent that people are always seeking themselves, would like to bring about their own self-realization, and are intent on the success and fulfillment of their ego, this ego becomes objectionable, annoying, and unsatisfactory. It dissolves itself into a thousand forms, and in the end all that remains is the flight from oneself, the inability to stand oneself, the recourse to drugs or to the myriad other forms of self-contradictory egoism.” In fact, it is possible to accept oneself only if there is affirmation by another that one is good, and with the personal identity that accrues from that, one masters and determines self to go out of self in the service of the other.

What is being stated here is the key to the theological anthropology of the human person as a “resonating existential”[9] who achieves fullness of being – becoming oneself – by the achievable gift of oneself. The resonation is the (a) finding of self – the subsidiarity of personal autonomy by the (b) giving of oneself in solidarity. I say “achievable” because spousal love is pointed in this direction and takes its meaning from it while martyrdom in the shadow of the Cross of Christ is its crowning achievement

Faith is a gift from God. It is a grace as an act of love that makes me capable of saying yes to the audible announcement of the Word through Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church. But faith is not fully faith until it becomes an act of obedience of my whole self, just as a word is not really “heard” until it is put into practice and lived.

As primitive terrain for entering into the mind of the present pope, one must remember that his “habilitation” thesis to be a professor of theology in Germany was precisely on this topic. It was rejected by the then reigning German dogmatist Michael Schmaus and destined to become a determining principle of Vatican II. It basically proposed that the believer had to undergo the experience of self-gift in order to “know” the revealing Subject behind the words of Scripture (whose ontological profile and architecture was Self-gift, and this because only “like knows like”). Biblically, spouses “know” one another by becoming one flesh. In the absence of this ontological one-fleshedness, there is the so-called “intentional” oneness via mental signs or sensible perceptions. This is knowing on the level of conceptual common sense and scientific knowing.

But there is another level. There is the subject that has been disclosed to us by the 300-400 years of so-called “Enlightenment” philosophy. The “I” from Descartes to the present day has been erroneously but understandably identified as consciousness since we have no noetic access to self except through thought. But that does not mean that the “I” is thought. Wojtyla has had the immense sensitivity and philosophical intelligence to glimpse behind the phenomenon “consciousness” to its root and cause, which is the ontological reality of the “I” as Being.

Concerning faith and experience, Benedict XVI observed in the synod bishops of Asia (1998): “Various Fathers have correctly stated that for the proclamation of Christ’s Gospel one’s own spiritual experience is a fundamental condition. Only those who know God through a personal encounter can make God known to others: only those who live in a deep relationship with Christ can guide others to communion with the Lord.” He goes on to caution: “However, it is important to distinguish between faith and experience. Faith is a gift from God, almost an anticipation given to us by divine love, which precedes our action. In faith, God opens his heart to us and communicates himself; experience is thus the appropriation and personalization of faith. Therefore, faith is common and universal; the experience of it is in itself personal and individual. Only faith unites and synthesizes our always fragmentary experiences; faith is the criterion and measure of experience, the guide that gives us light on the path of our experience.”[10]

Just so that it stand here clearly, I repeat Ratzinger’s discovery of the mediaeval Bonaventurian notion of revelation and faith:

“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 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…because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.”[11]

In the actual thesis, he wrote:

“As far as I can see, at no time does Bonaventure refer to the Scriptures themselves as ‘revelation.’ He speaks of revelare and facies revelata primarily when a particular understanding of Scripture is involved, namely that ‘manifold divine wisdom’ which consists in grasping the three-fold spiritual sense of Scripture – the allegorical, the anagogical [mystical] and the tropological [figurative]…. (W)e grasp that which we are to believe not from the letter of Scripture, but first of all by the use of allegory. The letter by itself is merely the water which is transformed into wine in the spiritual understanding; the letter is one which must be changed into bread… Consequently that which is properly New Testament does not consist in a new book, but in the Spirit who makes these books full of life. Here, therefore, ‘revelation’ is synonymous with the spiritual understanding of Scripture; it consists in the God-given act of understanding, and not in the objective letter alone. Only those who understand Scripture spiritually have a ‘facies revelata’… Furthermore, we must say that while only Paul speaks expressly of being taken up into the third heaven, this was not a privilege of Paul alone. Rather, it was granted to all the Apostles and inspired writers of Scripture; for it is identical with the process of inspiration. This means that since Scripture is born from a mystical contact of the hagiographers with God, it can be understood ultimately only on a level which must be called ‘mystical.’ It is clear that the meaning of Scripture lies on the level of the visio intellectualis; anyone who approaches Scripture on the level of the visio corporalis or spiritualis will necessarily miss its meaning.

Ratzinger continues: “From this perspective, we can now understand in a new way why Bonaventure holds that the content of faith is found not in the letter of Scripture but in the spiritual meaning lying behind the letter. Furthermore, we can see why it is that for Bonaventure, Scripture simply as a written document does not constitute revelation whereas the understanding of Scripture which arises in theology can be called revelation at least indirectly. We can easily understand this in view of the process of revelation itself; for in this process, ‘revelation’ is understood to consist precisely in the understanding of the spiritual sense.”[12]

Ratzinger here confronts the question if this is subjectivism (“subjective actualism”): “Such an idea has no foundation in the intellectual world of Bonaventure. For the deep meaning of Scripture in which we truly find the ‘revelation’ and the content of faith is not left up to the whim of each individual. It has already been objectified in part in the teachings of the Fathers and in theology so that the basic lines are accessible simply by the acceptance of the Catholic faith, which… is a principle of exegesis. Here we gain a new insight into the identification of sacra scriptura and theologia. Only Scripture as it is understood in faith is truly Holy Scripture. Consequently, Scripture in the full sense is theology, i.e. it is the book and the understanding of the book in the faith of the church. On the other hand, theology can be called Scripture, for it is nothing other than the understanding of Scripture; this understanding, which is theology, brings Scripture to that full fruitfulness which corresponds to its nature as revelation…. In the light of this, it should be obvious enough what a difference lies between Bonaventure’s view and any actualistic misinterpretation of it. We can express this difference as follows. The understanding which elevates the Scripture to the status of ‘revelation’ is not to be taken as an affair of the individual reader; but is realized only in the living understanding of Scripture in the Church. In this way the objectivity of the claim of faith is affirmed without any doubt. If we keep this in mind, we can say that without detriment to the objectivity of the faith, the true meaning of Scripture will be found only by reaching behind t he letters. Consequently, the true understanding of revelation demands of each individual reader an attitude which goes beyond the merely ‘objective’ recognition of what is written. In the deepest sense, that understanding can be called mystical to distinguish it from all natural knowledge. In other words, such an understanding demands the attitude of faith by which man gains entrance into the living understanding of Scripture in the Church. It is in this way that man truly receives ‘revelation.’”[13]

But this “going beyond the merely ‘objective’ recognition of what is written” and reaching the “deepest sense, can be called mystical to distinguish it from all natural knowledge,” is achieved by what Ratzinger describes in his Thesis 3 of “Behold the Pierced One.” It is here in the prayer that is self-gift that one not only knows conceptually, but experientially, the Person-Subjectivity-“I,” of the Revealer Jesus Christ: “In Thesis 1 we saw 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 j(as we have seen) is an act of love, of self-giving, which (as we have seen) 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.”[14]

Now, clearly, this prayer is an experience of the subjective “I” of the whole person. It is the personalization of faith, without which faith would not be completely faith. It is a lighting-up of the being of the “I” of the believer. It is the key to the relation of faith and reason, for reason would not be illuminated to the fullness of Being that the “I” of the believer discloses in its transfiguration of the self-transcendence. There is no distorting medium (sensible percept nor concept) between the praying believer and reason. Notice: as the Person of Christ was transfigured as radiant light and energy “as he prayed” (Lk. 9, 28), so also the reason of the believer is suffused with the light of the being of the subject of the believer in his act of prayer. I would suggest that this is the context to understand the remark of John Paul II in #83 of “Fides et Ratio:” “In a special way, the person constitutes a privileged locus for the encounter with being, and hence with metaphysical enquiry.”


The epistemological starting point for the Enlightenment was to take the “I,” the “res cogitans,” the phenomenon of consciousness as self-justified given and to proceed deductively or inductively from there. The immediate and necessary consequence of that was the bifurcation of “reality” into a dualism of thought and empirical thing. The notion of experience did not surface. This was understandable. It had never surfaced before since - outside of Augustine’s Confessions - there was no attention focused on subjectivity as a horizon to be considered in itself in the ancient and mediaeval world. The entire history of thought has been classified by John Courtney Murray and Bernard Lonergan in terms of “classicism.” Murray remarked that “classicism designates a view of truth which holds objective truth, precisely because it is objective, to exist `already out there now” (to use Bernard Lonergan’s descriptive phrase). Therefore, it also exists apart from its possession by anyone. In addition, it exists apart from history, formulated in propositions that are verbally immutable.”[15] It is only within the context of the “recovery” of the “I” as reality prior to objectification by reflective, conceptual knowing that the notion of experience as “contact” with reality becomes meaningful.

Joseph Pieper opens a short entry on “Experience” with the observation that “experience is knowledge coming from direct contact with reality.”[16] Wojtyla makes the same point but textured philosophically: “the fundamental meaning of experience must be firmly rooted not only in psychology but also in anthropology as a whole. In order to grasp this meaning, we must emphasize two elements of it that are in some way constitutive… The first element of experience can be defined as a ‘sense of reality,’ placing the accent on reality – on the fact that something exists with an existence that is real and objectively independent of the cognizing subject and the subject’s cognitive act, while at the same time existing as the object of that act. Because of this, the structural whole of experience also contains a second element, which can be defined as a ‘sense of knowing.’”[17] In a word, experience is a knowledge either of sense or reason based on the real, which we take ultimately to be being. And it is the most basic and foundational. Wojtyla remarks on this: “Experience is always the first and most basic stage of human cognition, and this experience, in keeping with the dual structure of the cognizing subject, contains not only a sensory but also an intellectual element. For this reason, one could say that human experience is already always a kind of understanding. It is thus also the origin of the whole process of understanding, which develops in ways proper to itself, but always in relation to this first stage, namely, experience. Otherwise I see no possibility of a consistent realism in philosophy and science.”[18]


Experience becomes a problematic word particularly in the period of 19th century “Modernism” that located revelation as immanentized in the subjectivity of the believer, which in turn reduced immutable doctrine (conceptual dogma) to historical and psychological development. Murray had the following to say: historical consciousness, while holding fast to the nature of truth as objective, is concerned with the possession of truth, with man’s affirmations of truth… The Church in the 19th century, and even in the 20th, opposed this movement toward historical consciousness. Here, too, the reason was obvious. The term of the historical movement was modernism, that `conglomeration of all heresies,’ as Pascendi dominici gregis called it. The insight into the historicity of truth and the insight into the role of the subject in the possession of truth were systematically exploited to produce almost every kind of pernicious `ism,’ unto the destruction of the notion of truth itself – its objective character, its universality, its absoluteness. These systematizations were false, but the insights from which they issued were valid. Here again a work of discernment needed to be done, and was not done. To be quite summary about it, this work had to wait until Vatican Council II.” [19]

This remark is important and nuanced. Murray is taking about Modernism as a false systematization but true as insight. Let us consider what the modernists, and concretely George Tyrrell, mean by “experience. In an unpublished lecture entitled “Revelation and Experience”[20] reported by Allesandro Maggiolini, we find

“Tyrrell, referring to revelation, suggests the need to clarify whether this revelation consists ‘in certain divine statements, or in certain spiritual experiences about which man makes statements that may be inspired by those divine experiences, yet are not divine but human statements’ (RE, 130). In the same context, Tyrrell observes that we must ask how revelation occurs: ‘By way of statements, or by way of experience?.... Does God, disguise himself as one who thinks in human categories and speaks in human words; or has he some proper and natural mode of communication, some way of affecting the soul, moving the will, kindling the heart, that reveals him as the sun is revealed by its heat and brightness?’ (RE, 131-32). The work of expressing revelation in statements falls to the "plain man," to "common sense," and, therefore, to Scholasticism, which ‘is just a philosophy of common sense’ (RE, 133). On closer inspection, however, Scholasticism turns out to be radically deficient. Tyrrell's well-crafted examination of Scholasticism seems to give particular prominence to two motifs. The first is the incommensurability of human words and thoughts, indeed of everything human, with the reality of God, hence, their incapacity to reveal God as he is. Refusing to acknowledge this incapacity, Neo-scholasticism strives to understand the primordial form of revelation propositionally. But the only result of this effort is an infinite regress from proposition to proposition. ‘Altogether,’ concludes Tyrrell, ‘I do not think that the idea of a divine statement directly addressed to the prophet's intellect is quite coherent or thinkable. Such a statement needs a supplementary revelation as to its divine origin and content, and this supplementary revelation cannot be a statement without raising the same problem" (RE, 135). It becomes necessary to break the circle by conceiving of the primordial revelation as an experience. The second principal motif of Tyrrell's critique has to do with the absolute character that propositions would have if they were understood as a ‘direct revelation’ of God. For Tyrrell, this absoluteness is problematic, indeed, ‘untenable.’ ‘Divine truth I still think is revealed to us not as a statement but as a thing—just as beauty or love is revealed to us. We may utter it in statements or receive it through a statement, but what we apprehend is not a statement but an experience’ (RE, 138).”

Ultimately, Maggiolini goes on, Tyrrell “interprets revelation as an ‘interior’ and personal experience to which every ‘exterior’ factor, whether historical or theological, is subordinate. ‘In other words, the teaching from outside must evoke a revelation in ourselves. The prophet’s experience must become experience for us. It is to this evoked revelation that we answered by the act of faith, recognizing it as God’s word in us and to us. Were it not already written in the depths of our being, where the spirit is rooted in God, we could not recognize it.’ Therefore, ‘without personal revelation, there can be no faith, nothing more than theological or historical assent. Revelation cannot be put into us from outside. It can be occasioned, but it cannot be caused, by instruction.’”[21]

The heart of Tyrrell’s Modernism instantiates the overview of Pascendi’s general take on Modernist notion of experience: “religious immanence.” Critiquing this, Pius X’s Pascendi states that “the first actuation… of every vital phenomenon – and religion (…) belongs to this category – is due to a certain need or impulsion; but speaking more particularly of life, it has its origin in a movement of the heart, which movement is called a sense. Therefore, as God is the object of religion, we must conclude that faith, which is the basis and foundation of all religion, must consist in a certain interior sense, originating in a need of the divine. This need of the divine, which is experienced only in special and favorable circumstances, cannot of itself appertain to the domain of consciousness, but is first latent beneath consciousness, or, to borrow a term from modern philosophy, in the sub-consciousness, where also its root lies hidden and undetected” (emphasis mine).

The “Adequate” Response to Modernism

John Courtney Murray had affirmed that historical consciousness had overtaken “classicism” without giving up absolute truth but finding it in the self-experience and consciousness of the ontological subject. Classicism was not jettisoned but incorporated within this larger epistemological method which gave it context and meaning. He went on to affirm, however, that “The Church in the 19th century, and even in the 20th, opposed this movement toward historical consciousness. Here, too, the reason was obvious. The term of the historical movement was modernism, that `conglomeration of all heresies,’ as Pascendi dominici gregis called it. The insight into the historicity of truth and the insight into the role of the subject in the possession of truth were systematically exploited to produce almost every kind of pernicious `ism,’ unto the destruction of the notion of truth itself – its objective character, its universality, its absoluteness. These systematizations were false, but the insights from which they issued were valid. Here again a work of discernment needed to be done, and was not done. To be quite summary about it, this work had to wait until Vatican Council II.
“The sessions of the Council have made it clear that, despite resistance in certain quarters, classicism is giving way to historical consciousness.”[22]

The Meaning of Revelation and Faith in Joseph Ratzinger

Michael Schmaus had accused Joseph Ratzinger of Modernism. The latter comments: “At that moment… the burning question was the habilitation thesis, and Michael Schmaus, who had perhaps also heard annoying rumors from some in Freising concerning the modernity of my theology, saw in these theses a not at all 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.”[23] Ratzinger, interpreting Bonaventure, was clearly identifying revelation as taking place in the subjectivity of the believer in that the Revealer and the believer became similar (“like”) as self-gift. They experience in themselves a similar (as much as can be expected between uncreated Person and created) act of self-giving such that the “oneness” that is knowing can take place. The likeness to Christ as relation/self-gift was freely activated in the believer by the moral act of self-mastery that makes self-gift possible. Cor ad Cor loquitur. In a word, Ratzinger, as well as Bonaventure, was talking about an ontological subject entering into the total self-gift of prayer. The believing subject must experience in himself what the Revealer experiences in Himself.[24]

In a keynote address on conscience and truth, Ratzinger grounds the awareness of good and evil in an empirical ontological experience within. Transcending the negativity of Enlightenment empiricism that denies the derivation of ought from is, as well as the Kantian idealist consignment of moral value to ontological bereft categories of the practical intellect, Ratzinger crafts his own terminology of “anamnesis” as the recall of moral value from the experience of an “ontological tendency.” This ontological tendency is an experience that is hidden beneath the consciousness of “good” and “evil” that is causing it. As Pieper and Wojtyla remark, there is no experience that is not realist, and by realism we mean contact with being. And the being that we are talking about is the being of the person as subject, about which John Paul II remarked in “Fides et ratio” #83: “In a special way, the person constitutes a privileged locus for the encounter with being, and hence with metaphysical enquiry.”

Nevertheless, this internal experience and concomitant consciousness that precedes conceptual revelation from without looks very much like the modernism of George Tyrrell seen above where he says that “the teaching from outside must evoke a revelation in ourselves. The prophet’s experience must become experience for us. It is to this evoked revelation that we answered by the act of faith, recognizing it as God’s word in us and to us. Were it not already written in the depths of our being, where the spirit is rooted in God, we could not recognize it.” This statement could be an orthodox account of what will be presented below were it not for the fact that it terminates in the heresy of “vital (religious) immanence” which, being so close to the truth, becomes “the synthesis of all heresies.”[25] Murray remarked: “These systematizations [Tyrrell, Loisy, etc.] were false, but the insights from which they issued were valid. Here again a work of discernment needed to be done, and was not done. To be quite summary about it, this work had to wait until Vatican Council II.”[26]

A Suggestion for Discernment Between Ratzinger and Modernism

Ratzinger is talking about the experience of being; Tyrrell uses the word “experience” but misuses it since he does not understand it as contact with reality. He is talking about thought.
John Henry Newman and Joseph Ratzinger would agree that there is something inside us that has been implanted there by God in the moment of our creation in the image and likeness of the divine Persons. It is an ontological implant, and as tendency, relational. In a letter responding to the Duke of Norfolk, Newman remarked: “Certainly, if I am obliged to bring religion into afterdinner toasts, (which indeed does not seem quite the thing), I shall drink – to the Pope, if you please, - still, to conscience first and to the Pope afterwards.”[27] What is implanted in our very being by the Creator in the moment of creation is a yearning for the Absolute. It is a being-based yearning which reaches out for the supernatural since we do not experience in the sensible world the answer to that yearning. The Person of the Redeemer, as an individual man, stands before us and announces Himself to be (1) the “I Am” (Jn. 8, 24, 28, 58) first announced in Exodus 3, 14, and (2) “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (Jn. 14, 6). The response to that personal Absolute produces a “like” divinization in the believer as “alter Christus” that becomes an internal experience, and a consciousness that enables the believer to know and to say: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 15), which in turn puts him in possession of eternal life (Jn. 17, 3).

The pope, then, does not impose but proposes to the yearning and the freedom that alone can respond. Man is not a stimulus-response organism but a free self-determining being, the only earthly being God has willed for itself (Gaudium et spes #24). This “only earthly being God has willed for itself” means that the human person is autonomous (better: “theonomous” since there is no autonomy without creation and grace) as self-determining. He is not driven blindly by natural necessity but must propose truth and goals to himself for himself. But these truths are present to him in conscience, not as a set of retrievable concepts and ready-made principles, but as a consciousness that we call “conscience.” Ratzinger first quotes from St. Basil who says, “The love of God is not founded on a discipline imposed on us from outside, but is constitutively established in us as the capacity and necessity of our rational nature.”[28] Ratzinger then explains:

“This means that the first so-called ontological level of the phenomenon conscience consists 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 addresses, 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.”[29]

Ratzinger is pointing to the internal – “immanent” if you will – experience in the human person as a result of the ontological tending to the divine by its original metaphysical architecture. This to say that the being of man appears to be constitutively relational to God. The orientation to the divine is ontological, and therefore “natural.” The “supernatural” will consists not in the orientation and tendency to the divine, but the actualization of the relationality as self-gift that is stimulated by the love from God that is grace.

Corresponding to the tendency from within, there is the revelation from without that is not a merit of ours. It is a Love, a grace. Ratzinger affirms: “Faith is not a merit of mine; it is not the fruit of the depth of my interior journey, but an anticipation given by God to our poverty. To believe is to submit to divine sovereignty, an insertion into the common measure of the Word of God. An arrogant faith would be a contradiction, would seem an absolutizing of one’s own doctrine, whereas faith is actually a stripping of oneself and communion with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who made himself the servant of God and our servant.”[30]

In contrast to Modernism, the poverty of the human person needs the exterior revelation to fulfill himself/herself as person. It can’t be demanded as a right of nature but a yearning from the poverty of the created image. When it is given, like love it is given freely. The exterior revelation is not simply an “occasion” for the workings of the essential inner dynamic. As Ratzinger says it, “The anamnesis 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 a maieutic function, imposes nothing foreign, but brings to fruition what is proper to anamnesis, namely, its interior openness to the truth.”[31] This is the reason why Newman’s toast to conscience must precede the toast to the pope. There would not be a pope if there were no conscience needing the elucidation from without as to what man must do to achieve that he most wants: eternal life. Man is urgently seeking the absolute in a world culture dominated by relativistic and positivistic activism. Ratzinger concludes his thought by remarking that “the anamnesis of the creator extends from within us outward toward the redeemer, and how everyone may see him as redeemer, because he answers our own innermost expectations.”[32]


There is a residual difficulty to understand Benedict XVI as there was to understand John Paul II. It consists in replacing one kind of theological imagination for another. The Kingdom of heaven and the Kingdom of God has been understood “up there,” the Judgment is “at the end of time,” and the important part of men is their souls, not their bodies.

There is reluctance to reach the core of the mind of Benedict as there was also with regard to the mind of John Paul II. Pace the philosophical difficulty of reading John Paul II and the mystical and apparently much simpler depths of Benedict XVI, the real difficulty is the fact that we are not dealing with essences, definitions and principles to be abstracted into conceptual categories. We are always dealing with the mysteriousness of the divine Persons and the person of man.

The great crisis of our times is man’s unhappiness. He has pleasures, but he does not have joy. Joy is the result of fulfilling oneself as being and as person. Experientially, only love gives joy.

Since God has revealed Himself to be Love, man must know God in order to know Love. But it turns out that the only way to know love is to love, and therefore, the only way to know God is be God.

This is the task of Benedict XVI. To move the Church from an epistemology of facts and concepts in which we are culturally enmeshed, to an epistemology of the experience of Love so as to know Him Who is Love. As he says at the end of his “New Evangelization,” “If we take the Christian message into well-thought-out consideration, we are not speaking about a whole lot of things. In reality, the Christian message is very simple: We speak about God and man, and this way we say everything.”

[1] J. Ratzinger, “And Marxism Gave Birth to… NIHILISM,” Catholic World Report, January 1993, 54
[2] Ibid
[3] John Paul II, “Fides et ratio” (1998) #5.
[5] A modern day example that is a paradigm of this transition from objective cognition to subjective consciousness (that is not subjectivism) is Helen Keller’s discovery of her “I” in the naming of the water with Ann Sullivan in Tuscumbia, Alabama in 1887. See Walker Percy, “The Message in the Bottle, Noonday Press (1995) 34-35.
[6] “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;” APARECIDA, Brazil, MAY 13, 2007 (Zenit).
[7] A conference given during the Jubilee of catechists, 2000. Published Vatican City, June 23, 2001.
[8] In a similar context, Ratzinger once remarked: “What does the Church believe? This question includes the others: who believes and how should one believe? The Catechism has dealt with both fundamental questions: the question of ‘what’ to believe and of ‘who’ believes, as one question with an interior unity. In other words, the catechism illustrates the act of the faith and the content of the faith in their inseparability;” J. Ratzinger, “What Does the Church Believe?” Catholic World Report, March 1993, 27. Succinctly, the “what” of faith is the “who” of the believer who has become the “I” of Christ. The strangeness of this is somewhat clarified if we say that the Person of Jesus Christ is the content or “what” of revelation which becomes mine insofar as I become Him by replicating His “form” of self-gift by going out of myself to him (prayer) and in the service of others (work).
[9] I offer the conclusion of my paper “The Person as Resonating Existential:” “My effort consists in proposing a metaphysical solution for the phenomenological description of self-determination. This proposal consists in seeing substance and relation as two resonat­ing dimensions manifesting a deeper core, a kind of Heisenberg con­stant, which is the act of existence itself [the thomistic intensive esse]. As an act of existence, the person would be unconceptualizable, not as lacking intelligibility but as a superfluity of it, while yet manifesting facets variously, now as act, now as growing (or diminishing) structure in a resonating mutual causality. Since all ethical and social structure flows from what we understand person to be, the ramifications of such a proposal as offered above are many and deep. Such a notion represents a task to be achieved, a project for the next millennium;” Robert A. Connor, “The Person as Resonating Existential,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly Vol. LXVI, No. 1 (1992) 39-56.
[10] L’Osservatore Romano, N. 22, 3 June, 1998, 16.
[11] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones…” Ignatius (1997) 108-109.
[12] J. Ratzinger, “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure,” Franciscan Herald Press (1989) 62-66.
[13] Ibid 67-68.
[14] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 26.
[15] John Courtney Murray S.J., Appendix III to the document Declaration on Religious Freedom of Vatican Council II, Paulist Press (1966).
[16] J. Pieper, “An Anthology,” Ignatius (1989) 102.
[17] K. Wojtyla, “The Problem of Experience in Ethics,” Person and Community Lang (1993) 115.
[18] K. Wojtyla, “The Personal Structure of Self-Determination,” ibid. 188.
[19]John Courtney Murray, S.J. op. cit.
[20] G. Tyrrell, “Revelation as Experience: An Unpublished Lecture of George Tyrrell, Heythrop Journal 12 (1971) 130-149.
[21] Allesandro Maggiolini, “Magisterial Teaching on Experience in the Twentieth Century: From the Modernist Crisis to the Second Vatican Council,” Communio 23 (Summer 1996) 231.
[22] Declaration on Religious Freedom of Vatican Council II, Paulist Press (1966), Appendix III by John Courtney Murray, S.J.
[23] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones…” op. cit 109.
[24] Ratzinger makes the analogy with modern quantum physics: “We know today that in a physical experiment the observer himself enters into the experiment and only by doing so can arrive a a physical experience. This means that there is no such thing as pure objectivity even in physics, that even here the result of the experiment, nature’s answer depends on the question put to it. In the answer there is always a bit of the question and a bit of the questioner himself; it gives back something of man, of our individuality, a bit of the human subject. This too, mutatis mutandis, is true of the question of God. There is no such thing as a mere observer. There is no such thing as pure objectivity. One can even say that the higher an object stands in human terms, the more it penetrates the center of individuality, and the more it engages the beholder’s individuality, then the smaller the possibility of the mere distancing involved in pure objectivity. Thus, wherever an answer is presented as unemotionally objective, as a statement that finally goes beyond the prejudices of the pious and provides purely factual, scientific information, then it has to be said that the speaker has here fallen a victim to self-deception. This kind of objectivity is quite simply denied to man. He cannot ask and exist as a mere observer. He who tries to be a mere observer experiences nothing. Even the reality ‘God’ can only impinge on the vision of him who enters into the experiment with God - the experiment that we call faith. Only by entering does one experience; only by co-operating in the experiment does one ask at all, and only he who asks receives an answer;” Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius (1990)125.
[25] “Iam systema universum… ut omnium haereseon conclectum.” Pascendi Dominici Gregis, #39 (Acta IV, 93. Russell Hittinger remarks that “For Pius X, not just one, but virtually all sectors of sacred doctrine were being reduced to evolving historical constructs;” in “Pascendi Dominici Gregis at 100” in Nova et Vetera Fall 2007, Vol 5, no. 4, 843.
[26] Declaration on Religious Freedom of Vatican Council II, Paulist Press (1966), Appendix III by John Courtney Murray, S.J.
[27] “Letter of Norfolk,” in Works of Cardinal Newman: Difficulties of Anglicans II, Westminster, Maryland: Christian Classics (1969) 261.
[28] Regulae fusius tractatae Resp. 2, 1 PG 31, 908.
[29] J. Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth,” Proceedings of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop, Dallas, Texas, The Pope John Center (1991) 19-20.
[30] J. Ratzinger, “L’Osservatore Romano,” op. cit.
[31] Ibid. 21.
[32] Ibid. 24.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Considering Ratzinger and Escriva

It strikes me as something I have never seen before, yet something I have had within me for 60 years, and certainly for the last 50, the years I have been in Opus Dei. I am referring to the “Magna Charta” (“Passionately Loving the World”) of Opus Dei pronounced by St. Josemaria in 1967.

Simply to reread the opening remarks:

“We are celebrating, therefore, the most sacred and transcendent act which we, men and women, with God’s grace can carry out in this life: receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord is, in a certain sense, lilke loosening our ties with earth and time, so as to be already with God in Heaven, where Christ himself will wipe the tears from our eyes and where there will abe no more death, nor mourning, nor creis of distress, because the old world will have passed away.

“This profound and consoling truth, which theologians usually call the eschatological meaning of the Eucharist, could, however, be misunderstood. Indeed, this had happened whenever people have tried to present the Christian way of life as somehtng exclusively spiritual – or better, spiritualistic – somethin reserved ‘for pure, extraordinary people who remain aloof from the contemptible things of this world, or at most tolerate them as something that the spirit just has to live alongside, while we are on this earth.

“When people take this approach, churches become the setting par excellence of theChristian way of life. And being a Christian means going to church, taking part in sacred ceremonies, getting into an exxlesiastical mentality, in a special kind of world, considered the ante-chamber to Heaven, wheile the ordinary world follows it own separate course. IN this case, Christian teaching and the lifeof grace would pass by, brushing very lightly against the turbulent advance of human history but never coming into proper contact with it.”

* * * * * * * *

Now compare this with the remarks of Joseph Ratzinger on the following:
“what is sublime in this message is precisely that the Lord was talking not just about another life, not just men’s souls, but was addressing the body, the whole man, in his embodied form, with his involvement in history and society:”

Consider the epistemological shift that is at stake in both these statements, that of Escriva and Ratzinger, and let us begin to work out what Benedict XVI is about in his pontificate!!

* * * * * * * * *

“Christian theology, which was very soon confronted by this discrepancy between expectation and fulfillment, in the course of time turned the kingdom of God into a kingdom of heaven that is beyond this mortal life; the well-being of men became a salvation of souls, which again comes to pass beyond this life, after death. But theology did not thereby provide an answer. For what is sublime in this message is precisely that the Lord was talking not just about another life, not just about men’s souls, but was addressing the body, the whole man, in his embodied form, with his involvement in history and society; that he promised the kingdom of God to the man who lives bodily with other men in this history. As marvelous as the knowledge is that has been opened up for us by biblical scholarship in our century (that is, that Christ was not just looking forward to another life, but was talking about real people), it can also disappoint and unsettle us when we look at real history, which is in truth no kingdom of God.”

[1] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means To Be a Christian,” Ignatius (2006) 27-28.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means To Be a Christian,” Ignatius (2006) 27-28.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Unity Octave 2008: The Meaning of "One"

The amazing point to be made is that the “one” is to take place in this world of “things” where individual beings appear to be “united” accidentally. What's being affirmed is that the union of "persons" is not accidental. What seems to be suggested is that we work within a new epistemological horizon whereby we are able to perceive the personal as divine “in” the world, rather than outside it, above it or after it.

Let’s consider the scriptural foundation and the Ratzinger-Benedict commentaries.

1) a) “I pray… for those also who through their word are to believe in me, that all may be one, even as thou Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory that thou hast given, I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them and thou in me; that they may be perfected in unity, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and that thou hast loved them even as thou hast loved me" (Jn. 17, 20-23).

b) Galatians: 2, 20: “I live; no, not I; Christ lives in me.”

3, 16: “The promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. He does
not say, ‘And to his offsprings,’ as of many; but as of one, ‘And to they offspring,’ who is Christ.”

3, 28: “For all you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are the offspring of Abraham, heirs according to promise.”

2) The “One” is not the accidental binding of individual substances. It is the conversion of persons into the one Person of Jesus Christ where they find their irreducible uniqueness. The reason for this is the divine Person of Jesus as “prototype” of the meaning the human person. Since His Person is nothing but relation to the Father and does not stand as autonomous “substance” (in itself) before the Father but a pure “for” the Father, the human person approaches “being” Him, who is prototype, in the measure that he/she goes out of self in love and service to others.

Conversion: “A Death Event”

The operative word for becoming Christ is “conversion.” The “Sequela Christi” (“Following Christ”) has to be understood in these terms. “Following Christ is not an outward imitation, since it touches man at the very depths of his being. Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to him who became a servant even to giving himself on the Cross (cf. Phil. 2, 5-8). Christ dwells by faith in the heart of the believer (cf. Eph. 3, 17), and thus the disciple is conformed to the Lord. This is the effect of grace, of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in us.”[1]

John Paul punctuates the point with St. Augustine’s: “Let us rejoice and give thanks, for we have become not only Christians, but Christ (…). Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ!”[2]

Ratzinger comments: “To explain … that becoming and being a Christian rest upon conversion would still be much too weak a way of putting things. This is not to deny that such an interpretation is aiming in the right direction, but the point is that conversion in the Pauline sense is something much more radical than, say, the revision of a few opinions and attitudes. It is a death-event. In other words, it is an exchange of the old subject for another. The `I’ ceases to be an autonomous subject standing in itself. It is snatched away from itself and fitted into a new subject. The `I’ is not simply submerged, but it must really release its grip on itself in order then to receive itself anew in and together with a greater `I.’”[3]

An Outstanding Eye-Opening Observation and Hermeneutic of Paul’s 1 Cor. 12, 12 of Ratzinger:

Text: 1 Corinthians 12, 12: “As in an organism there are many members working in harmony, so it is with Christ.”

Exegesis: “Paul does not say `as in an organism there are many members working in harmony, so too in the Church,’ as if he were proposing a purely sociological model of the Church, but at the very moment when he leaves behind the ancient simile, he shifts the idea to an entirely different level. He affirms, in fact, that, just as there is one body but many members, `so it is with Christ…’ The term of the comparison is not the church, since, according to Paul the Church is in no wise a separate subject endowed with its own subsistence. The new subject is much rather `Christ’ himself, and the Church is nothing but the space of this new unitary subject, which is, therefore, much more than mere social interaction. It is an application of the same Christological singular found in the Letter to the Galatians. Here, too, it has a sacramental reference, though this time it points to the Eucharist, whose essence Paul defines two chapters before in the bold assertion: `Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body’ (10, 17)… soma [the Greek word for “body’], may be translated as `one subject’…”[4]

[1] John Paul II, “Veritatis Splendor,” #21.
[2] Ibid. Augustine’s commentary “In Johannis Evangelium Tractatus,” 41, 10: CCL 36, 363.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology,” in The Natuare and Mission of Theology, Ignatius (1995) 51.
[4] Ibid 53-54.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

St. Irenaeus: On the Occasin of the Office of Readings, Wednesday of Week 1, Ordinary Time.

St. Irenaeus on the Knowledge of God by Experience: Mt. 11, 27.

“No one can know the Father apart from God’s Word, that is, unless the Son reveals him, and no one can know the Son unless the Father so wills. Now the Son fulfills the Father’s good pleasure: the Father sends, the Son is sent, and he comes. The Father is beyond our sight and comprehension; but he is known by his Word, who tells us of him who surpasses all telling. In turn, the Father alone has knowledge of his Word. And the Lord has revealed both truths. Therefore, the Son reveals the knowledge of the Father by his revelation of himself. Knowledge of the Father consists in the self-revelation of the Son, for all is revealed through the Word.

“The Father’s purpose in revealing the Son was to make himself known to us all and so to welcome into eternal rest those who believe in him, establishing them in justice, preserving them from death.
[1] To believe in him means to do his will.

“Through creation itself the Word reveals God the Creator. Through the world he reveals the Lord who made the world. Through all that is fashioned he reveals the craftsman who fashioned it all. Through the Son the Word reveals the Father who begot him as Son. All speak of these things in the same language, but they do not believe them in the same way. Through the law and the prophets the Word revealed himself and his Father in the same way, and though al the people equally heard the message not all equally believed it. Through the Word, made visible and palpable, the Father was revealed, though not all equally believed it. But all saw the Father in the Son, for the Father of the Son cannot be seen, but the Son of the Father can be seen.

“The Son performs everything as a ministry to the Father, from beginning to end, and without the Son no one can know God. The way to know the Father is the Son. Knowledge of the Son is in the Father, and is revealed through the Son. For this reason the Lord said: No one knows the Son except the Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom the son has revealed him. The word ‘revealed’ refers not only to the future – as though the Word began to reveal the Father only when he was born of Mary; it refers equally to all time. From the beginning the Son is present to creation, reveals the Father to all, to those the Father chooses, when the Father chooses, and aw the Father chooses. So, there is in all and through all one God the Father, one Word and Son, and one Spirit, and one salvation for all who believe in him.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

The real God who is Creator and Lord of all is invisible but within the range of experience. But not sensible experience.

The pagan gods are projections by us of our sensible experience. They belong to the world of the senses. They become explanatory principles of order like laws of nature (cosmic evolution) or first causes of motion (Aristotle’s first unmoved Mover [self-contemplating intelligence]) or intelligibility (Plato’s “One”).

John Henry Newman says: “As regards the first principles expressed in such propositions as ‘There is aright and a wrong,’ ‘a true and a false,’ ‘a just and an unjust,’ ‘a beautiful and a deformed;’ they are abstractions to which we give a notional assent in consequence of our particular experiences of qualities in the concrete, to which we give a real assent. As we form our notion of whiteness from the actual sight of snow, milk, a lily, or a cloud, so, after experiencing the sentiment of approbation which arises in us on the sight of certain acts one by one, we go on to assign to that sentiment a cause, and to those acts a quality, and we give to this notional cause of quality the name of virtue, which is an abstraction not a thing.

And in like manner, when we have been affected by a certain specific admiring pleasure at the sight of this or that concrete object, we proceed by an arbitrary act of the mind to give a name to the hypothetical cause of quality in the abstract, which excites it. We speak of it as beautifulness, and henceforth, when we call a thing beautiful, we mean by the word a certain quality of things which creates in us this special sensation.

“These so-called first principles, I say, are really conclusions of abstraction from particular experiences; and an assent to their existence is not an assent to things or their images, but to notions, real assent being confined to the propositions directly embodying those experiences. Such notions indeed are an evidence of the reality of the special sentiments in particular instances, without which they would not have been formed; but in themselves they are abstractions from facts [sensible experience], not elementary truths prior to reasoning.”

Newman’s Point: We do not “know” causality through sensible experience. Rather, we experience regularity in sensible experience for which the Ancients posited gods who populated the upper realms within the sensible cosmos.
[3] The arrival at the notion of “cause” is not taken “from” sensible reality by way of abstraction, but rather by way of experience of the self exercising self-mastery as part of the sensible, corporeal world. Newman appears to be favoring Hume and Kant, but is doing something quite different. He is talking about a direct experience of the self-as-being-as-cause of one’s free corporeal action.

It is here that we experience the true God of revelation. The operative concept and word here is “experience God.” This is pure John Paul II and Benedict XVI. For brevity, I quote Ratzinger commenting on John Paul II’s “Crossing the Threshold of Hope:”

“‘Be not afraid:’ with these words the pope desires to renew in us that certainty which dwells in the depths of the human soul: ‘Someone exists who holds in his hands the destiny of this passing world; Someone who holds the keys to death and the netherworld (cf. Rev. 1, 18); Someone who is the Alpha and the Omega of human history (cf. Rev. 22, 13)… and this someone is Love (cf. 1 Jn. 4, 8, 16) (222). Here the question of God meets the question of man and the question of redemption, and this three-way connection is characteristic of the thought of Karol Wojtyla. He who knows God, the true God, the living God who loves men, is redeemed, set free from fear and kept safe in loving confidence.

“This knowledge of God, in which God is no longer merely thought, but is also experienced, ripens in that dialogue with God which we call prayer. ‘Prayer is a search for God, but it is also a revelation of God,’ says the pope (25): to pray is not just to talk, but also to listen….

“God in Karol Wojtyla is not only thought but also experience. The pope expressly opposes the limitation of the concept of experience which occurred in Empiricism; he points out that the form of experience elaborated in the natural sciences is not the only kind, but that there are also other forms which are no less real and important: moral experience, human experience, religious experience

Robert Sokolowski’ “The God of Faith and Reason”[4]

Sokolowski speaks of two levels of experience: one is of the senses and the material cosmos that appears. Within that one homogeneous experience and that cosmos there are things and, for both ancients and moderns, gods. The gods are the supreme beings of most power in the world, but they are always within the world delivered to us with that one seamless experience. Sokolowski says: “In Greek and Roman religions, and in Greek and Roman philosophies, god or the gods are appreciated as the most powerful, most independent and self-sufficient, most unchanging beings in the world, but they are accepted within the context of being. Although god or the gods are conceived as the steadiest and most complete beings, the possibility that they could be even though everything that is not divine were not, is not a possibility that occurs to anyone. The being of pagan gods is to be a part, thought the most important part, of what is; no matter how independent they are, the pagan gods must be with things that are not divine….Zeus, Poseidon, Ares and Aphrodite, the Muses, and Apollo are agents that rule over their particular domains, and they are the causes, the ones responsible for what happens.”[5] But the point is that they are within the sensible world, and they could not be if everything else were not.

The Christian understanding of God involves a notion of God that is distinct from the world in the sense that if the world did not exist, God would not be less. And that it does exist, God is not more. This means that there must be an experience of the God that is distinct from the experience of the world, which is in contradistinction to what we have just seen above. We saw above that the experience of the world and the gods was of the same type of experience, since the gods were/are “within” the world.

Since the Christian God and the world are two different notions, they are coming from two different kinds of experience. One is the experience of sensible reality through sensation. The other is an experience of the self as “being” different from the world.
Sokolowski says: “Christian theology is differentiated from pagan religious and philosophical reflection primarily by the introduction of a new distinction, the distinction between the world understood as possibly not having existed and God understood as possibly being all that there is, with no diminution of goodness or greatness. It is not the case that God and the world are each separately understood in this new way, and only subsequently related to each other; they are determined in the distinction, not each apart from the other. The Christian distinct on between the world and God may receive its precise verbal formulation in a theoretical context, since it is described especially by theologians and philosophers, but the distinction does not emerge for the first time in this theoretical setting. It receives its formulation in reflective thought because it has already been achieved in the life that goes on before reflective thinking occurs. The distinction is lived in Christian life, and most originally it was lived and expressed in the life of Jesus…”

This corresponds to Ratzinger’s understanding of revelation and faith in his original habilitation thesis. Revelation is an action that is the Incarnation itself. Faith is the action of receiving that action and becoming one with it such that revelation takes place in the subject receiving who is believing. This is the experience of God in oneself that produces the consciousness of being that is not part of the world. Hence, on reflection, a distinction – the “Christian Distinction” – is made by the mind that understands God to be so transcendentally such that if the world did not exist, He would not be less. And this because what is experienced is of another level of being. It is being as relation, as self-transcending that is not perceived by the senses. It is precisely because of this that God is not able to be perceived by the senses, although He is eminently present and active “in” the world. He is in it, but not of it since He is Creator, and would not be less if the world were not. And so, the Christian perception involves two kinds of experience yielding two kinds of consciousness, both of which correspond to the two dimensions of being of the human person: the divine (as image) and the human.

Therefore, the pagan does not know the God that the Christian knows. And when we say “know” we mean that the Christian knows God experientially in himself because he, the Christian, has entered into the self-transcendence of faith that is a distinct ontological way of being (and therefore, knowing). And the Christian’s is a natural knowing according to a divine way of being (which makes sense since the prototype of the human person is Jesus Christ, and not Adam, nor the Greek abstraction of “individual substance of a rational nature”).There is no such thing as a “natural man” since his ontological constitution as embodied person tends toward the “supernatural” Trinitarian Life (see CCC #27: “Man’s Capacity for God: I. The Desire for God: 27: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for”).

[1] Consider Jn. 17, 3: “Now this is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ.”
[2] A Grammar of Assent, UNDP (1992) 69-75.
[3] Newman makes the major point that we experience causality – never through the external senses – only as the self exercising dominion over self and the external world. In apparent agreement with Hume and Kant, Newman posits causality in the self, but not as a false idol or an a priori category of the mind, but as the experience of the self: “One of the first experiences of an infant is that of his willing and doing; and, as time goes on, one of the first temptations of the boy is to bring home to himself the fact of his sovereign arbitrary power, though it be at the price of waywardness’, mischievousness, and disobedience. And when his parents, as antagonists of this willfulness, begins to restrain him, and to bring his mind and conduct into shape, then he has a second series of experiences of causes and effect, and that upon a principle or rule. Thus the notion of causation is one of the first lessons which he learns from experience that experience limiting it to agents possessed of intelligence and will. It is the notion of power combined with a purpose and an end. Physical phenomena, as such , are without sense; and experience teaches us nothing about physical phenomena as causes;” “(B)ut when we come to the question of cause, then, as I have said, we have no experience of any cause but Will. If, then, I must answer the question, What is to alter the order of nature? I reply, That which willed it; That which willed it, can unwill it; and invariableness of law depends on the unchangeableness of that Will;” A Grammar of Assent, UNDP (1992) 69-75.
[4] UNDP ((1982)
[5] R. Sokolowski, “The God of Faith and Reason,” UNDP (1981) 12.
[6] Ibid 23.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Baptism of the Lord: January 13, 2008

The Baptism Initiates the Public Ministry: Benedict XVI: “It formed part… of the apostolic preaching, as it constituted the starting point of a series of events and words on which the apostles were to give testimony (cf. Acts 1, 21-22; 10, 37-41).The apostolic community considered it very important, not only because in that circumstance, for the first time in history, the manifestation was taking place of the Trinitarian mystery in a clear and complete manner, but also because with that event Jesus’ public ministry began on the roads of Palestine.”[1]

The Mission of Jesus Christ: Preach

Isaiah, 61, 1-3: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn; to place on those who mourn in Sion a diadem instead of ashes, to give them oil of gladness in place of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.”

Mark, 1. 38-40: “And Simon, and those who were with him, followed him. And they found him and said to him, ‘They are all seeking thee.’ And he said to them, ‘Let us go into the neighboring villages and towns, that there also I may preach. For this is why I have come.’ And he was preaching in their synagogues, and throughout all Galilee, and casing out devils.”


Isaia, 49, 6-7: “It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth…When kings see you, they shall stand up, and princes shall prostrate themselves because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.”

Baptism Activates the Priesthood of Christ that Consists in Mediating between His Persona and the Father for us. “Mediation” = Gift of Self.

The First Act of Priesthood is to Evangelize: To Preach the Word:

Ratzinger: “What does it mean to ‘evangelize?’ What really happens when someone doest this? And just what is this Gospel? The Council could certainly have referred to the Gospels to establish the primacy of preaching. I have in mind here a short but significant episode from the beginning of Mark. Everyone was seeking out our Lord for his miraculous powers, but he goes off to a remote place to pray (Mark 1, 35-39); when he is pressed by ‘Simon and those who were with him,’ our Lord says, ‘Let us go on to the nearby villages, so that I may preach there also, for this is what I have come out to do’ (1, 38). Jesus says that the purpose of his coming is to preach the Kingdom of God. Therefore this should also be the defining priority of all his ministers: they come out to proclaim the Kingdom, and that means, to make the living, powerful and ever-present God take first place in our lives.”[2]
This also means us: “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (Jn. 20, 21).

Now, what is the Word to be preached? “Jesus does not convey a knowledge that is independent from his own person, as any teacher or storyteller would do. He is something different from, and more than, a Rabbi. As his preaching unfolds, it becomes every clearer that his parables refer to himself, that the Kingdom and his person belong together, that the Kingdom comes in his person. The decision that he demands is a decision about how one stands toward him, as with Peter, who said, ‘You are the Christ’ (Mk. 8, 29). Ultimately, the message of his preaching about the Kingdom of God turns out to be quite clearly Jesus’ own Paschal mystery, his destiny of death and resurrection.”

This, of course, solves an until-now, unresolved question: the oneness of the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. Ratzinger says: “We now understand that Jesus’ preaching can be called ‘sacramental’ in a deeper sense than we could have seen before. His word contains in itself the reality of the Incarnation and the theme of the Cross and the Resurrection. It is ‘deed/word/ in this very profound sense, instructing the Church in the mutual dependence of preaching and the Eucharist, and in the mutual dependence, as well, of preaching and an authentic, living witness….

“I would like to recall now an episode from the early days of Opus Dei, which illustrates the point. A young woman had the popportunity to listen for the first time to t talk given by Fr. Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. She was very curious to hear a famous opreacher. But after participating in a Mass he celebrated, whe no longer wanted to listien to a human orator. She recounted later that from that moment on, her only interest was to discover the word and will of God.

“The ministry of the word requires that eh priest share in the kenosis of Christ, in his ‘[increasing and decreasing..’ The fact the priest does not speak about himself, but bears the message of another, certainly does not mean that he is no personally involved, but precisely the opposite: it is a giving-away-of-the-self, and communion with him who is the Word of God in person. This Paschal structure of the ‘not-self’ that turns out to be the ‘true self’ after all, shows, in the last analysis, that the ministry of the Word reaches beyond all ‘functions’ tot penetrate t he priest’s very being, and presupposes that the priesthood is a sacrament.”

May it be added that “Priesthood” belongs to both laity and ministers under the rubric of two distinct sacraments: Baptism and Orders. Both laity and priest-ministers are priests of Jesus Christ – mediators, by the gift of self [priests of their own existence] – in irreducibly different ways. But as priests, both are the Word (“Ipse Christus”) that must be given, and this is the meaning of “apostolate.”

[1] Benedict XVI Angelus, January 7, 2007 (Zenit).
[2] J. Ratzinger, “The Ministry and Life of Priests,” October 24, 1995 during the International Symposium organized by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the promulgation of Presbyterorum Ordinins.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The "Parrhesia" (Daring) of Benedict XVI

The Deep Message of Benedict XVI, spoken with “Parrhesia” (daring): Heaven is Not a Place. Men are Not Souls.

“The parrhesia [1]of faith must be matched by the boldness of reason”[2]

The positive part which the title contradicts is: Heaven and men are persons. Heaven is not a place; men are not souls. To put the message this way is epistemologically huge, in fact shocking. It changes the entire architecture of what we have come to understand as “reality.” It is shocking to the way we think. But this is precisely the point.

The “way” we think is to experience sensibly, to abstract from that experience, to construct - within that abstraction - symbols/signs that we call concepts, form propositions from which we establish propositions that we link with others and induce or deduce to conclusions that we then compare with the sensible reality from which we started.

Vatican II and John Paul II have not been understood for this very reason. Both are talking about a real experience that is not sensible reality. They are talking the “I” – real being – that is a resonating “process” (“man, the only earthly being God has loved for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself;” Gaudium et spes #24) rather than as “thing-in-itself” (substance).

The task that Benedict XVI has taken on is precisely to attempt to render Vatican II and the 14 encyclicals of John Paul II intelligible to the modern mind. But that will demand a “raising of consciousness” of the modern mind. On October 16, 2005, he remarked on Polish television: “Initially, in speaking of the Pope's legacy, I forgot to mention the many documents that he left us -- 14 encyclicals, many pastoral letters, and others. All this is a rich patrimony that has not yet been assimilated by the Church. My personal mission is not to issue many new documents, but to ensure that his documents are assimilated, because they are a rich treasure, they are the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. We know that the Pope was a man of the Council, that he internalized the spirit and the word of the Council. Through these writings he helps us understand what the Council wanted and what it didn’t. This helps us to be the Church of our times and of the future.”

Since the parrhesia of God is His un-concealment in the Person of Jesus Christ, faith as the total gift of self is a parrhesia in return. And faith seeks understanding as we saw in the encounter of Old Testament faith with the pagan Greek mind in Babylon. There the Scriptures were composed in the fifth century because Israel, having lost its land and its customs, was beginning to lose its faith. Ratzinger remarks: “Israel always believed in the Creator God (but) (t)he moment when creation became a dominant theme occurred during the Babylonian Exile. It was then that the account… based, to be sure, on very ancient traditions- assumed its present form. Israel had lost its land and its temple. According to the mentality of the time this was something incomprehensible, for it meant that the God of Israel was vanquished – a God whose people, whose land, and whose worshipers could be snatched away from him. A God who could not defend his worshipers and his worship was seen to be, at the time, a weak God. Indeed, he was not God at all; he had abandoned his divinity. And so, being driven out of their own land and being erased from the map was for Israel a terrible trial: Has our God been vanquished, and is our faith void?

“At this moment the prophets opened a new page and taught Israel that it was only then that the true face of God appeared and that he was not restricted to that particular piece of land. He had never been: He had promised this piece of land to Abraham before he settled there, and he had been able to bring his people out of Egypt. He could do both things because he was not the God of one place but had power over heaven and earth. Therefore he could drive his faithless people into another land in order to make himself known there. And so it came to be understood that this God of Israel was not a God like the other gods, but that he was the God who held sway over every land and people. He could do this, however, because he himself had created everything in heaven and earth. It was in exile and in seeming defeat of Israel that there occurred an opening to the awareness of God who holds every people and all of history in his hands, who holds everything because he is the creator of everything and the source of all power.”[3]

The Present Crisis of Faith: An Occult but Most Dangerous Atheism.

We know about God conceptually, by we do not experience Him directly within ourselves.

A similar epistemological crisis has set in for us now after 400 years of Enlightenment rationalism. If you can’t feel it and touch it, it is not real. The self has been relegated to pure consciousness and feeling, and is quite alone and individualized. Faith is reduced to a series of dogmas and creeds that are philosophically rendered as concepts, and orthodoxy consists in having the “right” ideas and becomes identified with “conservatism.” This conservatism looks toward the realization of those ideas in domestic, economic and political life which masquerades as a thinly veiled theocracy called “Christendom.” The blatant evil is “secular humanism” which co-ops the word secularity, if not the concept which involves theonomous freedom.

We masquerade with a veneer of religious performance and doctrinal orthodoxy but there is a lack of intimacy of the ontological self with Jesus Christ. This is best seen in the exegesis of the relation of John the Baptist with Jesus.

Ratzinger’s Exegesis of John the Baptist: The scriptural narrative yields the paradigm example. I transcribe from Ratzinger:

[Keep in mind that John had a visual take on the divinity of Jesus Christ. When Christ came to be baptized, “heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, ‘Thou are my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased’” (Lk. 22). He saw and heard the divine signs, but for all the input of sensible experience of those signs, John did not reach the level of the divinity of the Person of Christ. To do that, he would have to go through the experience of conversion that was to take place in the Ratzinger’s narrative below.]

“John’s real suffering, the real recasting as it were of his entire being in relation to God, began in earnest with the activity of Christ during the time when he John, was in prison. The darkness of the prison cell was not the most fearful darkness John had to endure. The true darkness was what Martin Buber has called ‘the eclipse of God;’ the abrupt uncertainty John experienced regarding his own mission and the identity of the one whose way he had sought to prepare.

“In words of burning power John had prophesied the coming of the judge and had painted in fiery colors the great day of the Lord. He had portrayed the Messiah as the judge with the winnowing fan in his hand that would separate the chaff from the grain and throw the chaff once and for all into eternal fire. He had portrayed him as one who would cast out this adulterous generation and, if need by, raise up children of Abraham from the very stones to replace the faithless people who called themselves the children of Abraham. Above all, amid the fearful ambivalence of this world where we are constantly waiting and hoping in darkness, John had expected and proclaimed a clear message: that the day would finally come when the hopeless darkness would be dispelled in which human beings wander to and fro and know not where they are going. The ambiguity would disappear, and men would no longer have to grope their way in the endless mist but would know for certain that this and no other is God’s unequivocal claim on them, that this and no other is their situation in relation to God.

“Meanwhile at God’s command, John’s prophetic finger was pointing out a man. ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (Jn. 1, 29). God’s presence had begun… but what a difference from what John had imagined! No fire fell from heaven to consume sinners and bear definitive witness to the just; in fact, nothing changed at all in the present world. Jesus went about preaching and doing good in the land, but the ambiguity remained. Human life continued t o be a dark mystery to which people had to entrust themselves with faith and hope amid the world’s darkness.

“Clearly, it was this utterly different personality of Jesus that most tormented John during the long nights in prison: The eclipse of God continued, and the imperturbable advance of a history that was so often a slap in the face to believers. In his distress John sent messengers to the Lord: Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Mt. 11, 3)… ‘Are you really he: the Redeemer of the world? Are you really here now as the Redeemer? Was that really all that God had to say to us?’

“In answer, Jesus reminds John’s messengers of what the prophet Isaiah had said in foretelling precisely this kind of peaceful, merciful Messiah who ‘will not cry or lift up his voice, preaching and doing good. Jesus adds the significant words: ‘Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.’ This means that it is in fact possible for men to take offense at him. Even when he comes he does not bring such absolute clarity to the human situation as to eliminate all questions and solve all riddles; people can take offense at him, but ‘Blessed is he who takes no offense.’ Blessed is he who ceases to ask for signs and absolute certainty. Blessed is he who is able, even in this darkness, to go his way in faith and love.

“This was probably the final task set the Baptist as he lay in prison: to become blessed by this unquestioning acceptance of God’s obscure will; to reach the point of asking no further for external, visible, unequivocal clarity, but, instead, of discovering God precisely in the darkness of this world and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed. In point of fact, we cannot see God as we see an apple tree or a neon sign, that is, in a purely external way that requires no interior commitment. We can see him only be becoming like him, by reaching the level of reality on which God exists; in other words, by being liberated from what is anti-divine: the quest for pleasure, enjoyment, possessions, gain, or, in a word, from ourselves. In the final analysis it is usually the self that stands between us and God. We can see God only if we turn around, stop looking for him as we might look for a street sings and dollar bills, and begin looking away from the visible to the invisible.

“John, then, even in his prison cell had to respond once again and anew to this own call for metanoia or a change of mentality, in order that he might recognize his God in the night in which all things earthly exist. ‘Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.’

“The Christian of our day, too, can be shown no other way to friendship with God than the way of ceasing to look for external clarity and beginning to turn from the visible to the invisible and thus truly finding the Lord who is the real foundation and support of our existence. Only when we act in this manner does another and doubtless the greatest saying of the Baptist reveal its full significance: ‘He must increase, but I must decreases’ (Jn. 3, 30). We will know God to the extent that we are set free from ourselves. This brings us back to the main theme of Advent: We will know God to the extent that we give him room to be present in us. A person can spend his life seeking God in vain if he does not enable God to continue in his life the presence begun.”[5]

How “Heaven” and “Souls” Came About!

The "Parrhesia" (daring) of Josef Ratzinger:

Ratzinger (1964)

The Expectation of Justice to Our Measure

And the Discrepancy!!!!



“`The time is accomplished: the kingdom of God has arrived.’ Behind this saying lies the whole history of Israel, that little people who had been a plaything for the great powers, who had sampled, so to speak, all the empires, one after another, that had ever arisen in that highly congested area of world history, and know about the profligacy of any and every human rule, even that by their own people. They knew all too well that, wherever men rule, it is done in a very human way – that is, frequently in a very miserable and questionable fashion. Through this experience of a history full of disappointments, full of servitude and of injustice, there had grown up in Israel the demand for a kingdom that would not be any human rule, but the kingdom of God himself; the kingdom of God, in which he, the true ruler of the world and of history, would reign supreme. He, who is himself truth and righteousness, ought to rule everyone, so that well-being and justice among men should at last really be the only ruling powers. The Lord is responding to the hopes, accumulated over centuries when he says: The time is not here; the kingdom of God has come. It is not difficult to understand the hopes aroused by such a saying. And our own disappointment, which sweeps over us when we look back at what has happened, is just as understandable.”[6]

The False Resolution to the Scandal: Create a Heaven “Above” Space and “Outside” of Time

The Kingdom of God is Not the kingdom of heaven:

Ratzinger’s Daring Text: “Christian theology, which was very soon confronted by this discrepancy between expectation and fulfillment, in the course of time turned the kingdom of God into a kingdom of heaven that is beyond this mortal life; the well-being of men became a salvation of souls, which again comes to pass beyond this life, after death. But theology did not thereby provide an answer. For what is sublime in this message is precisely that the Lord was talking not just about another life, not just about men’s souls, but was addressing the body, the whole man, in his embodied form, with his involvement in history and society; that he promised the kingdom of God to the man who lives bodily with other men in this history. As marvelous as the knowledge is that has been opened up for us by biblical scholarship in our century (that is, that Christ was not just looking forward to another life, but was talking about real people), it can also disappoint and unsettle us when we look at real history, which is in truth no kingdom of God.”[7]

To settle the epistemological landscape, recall Ratzinger’s remarks on Advent: that God did not drop out of eternity like a meteor and suddenly pitch his tent among us 2,000 years ago; that before that God was not in time, and after that He is not here either – really. He explains the meaning of the genealogy of Jesus Christ: “In his genealogy Matthew carefully plots the transition from the long and bewildering history set down in the Old Testament to the new reality that has begun with Jesus Christ. He sums up, as it were, this entire history in three sets of fourteen names and brings it down to him for whose sake alone, in the last analysis, it had existed. He shows that as it traveled its many ways and byways this history was, in a hidden manner, already bringing forth Christ; that during those centuries it was already, and at every point, one and the same God who was visiting his people and who now, in Jesus Christ, had become a brother to the human race. He brings out the inherent finality of history, which in the last analysis had no higher purpose than to produce this man Jesus.” Ratzinger specifies that the word “Advent” is a Latin translation for parousia “which means ‘presence’ or, more accurately ‘arrival,’ i.e., the beginning of a presence”[8].[9] He is saying that the goal of the whole creation is Jesus Christ, who is already present in the whole of creation from the very beginning, and toward whom the whole is tending by a kind of “super-evolution” in God’s original intention, mentioned in St. Paul: “For all things are your, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; or the world, or life, or death; or things present, or things to come – all are your, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3, 22-23). He goes on: “Advent reminds us, therefore, of two things: first, that God’s presence in the world has already begun, that he is present though in a hidden manner; second, that his presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, of becoming and progressing toward its full form. His presence has already begun, and we, the faithful, are the ones through whom he wishes to be present in the world.”

Let me add, by way of reminder, the experience of St. Josemaria Escriva on August 7, 1931 when he heard Christ’s words recorded in St. John 12, 32: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself,” and the meaning of the words: that He wanted to placed at the summit of all human activities by the conversion of each of us into being “other Christs.”[10]

And let me add further exegetical theology of Benedict XVI on the nature of the Kingdom of God. To cut to the chase, the kingdom of God is a Person, and we become that kingdom of God insofar as we become “other Christs.” The kingdom, then, is wherever we are. The Kingdom of God is “personal” and is present and hidden and present now as persons are present and hidden to us.[11]

The Kingdom of Heaven

Perhaps the most daring statement - and for that the most clarifying – is the following:
“(H)eaven is not a place but a person, the person of him in whom God and man are forever and inseparably one. And we go to heaven and enter into heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him. In this sense, ‘ascension into heaven’ can be something that takes place in our everyday lives.”[12]

The Integral Text: “What, then, is the meaning of Christ’s ‘ascension into heaven’? It expresses our belief that in Christ human nature, the humanity in which we all share, has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God. Heaven is not a place beyond the stars, but something much greater, something that requires far more audacity to assert: Heaven means that man now has a place in God.”

“The basis for this assertion is the interpenetration of humanity and divinity in the crucified and exalted man Jesus. Christ, the man who is in God and eternally one with God, is at the same time God’s abiding openness to all human beings. Thus Jesus himself is what we call ‘heaven.’”[13]

Ascension into Heaven is the Assumption of the humanity of Jesus into the Person of the Christ:

Ratzinger: “Thus the Logos adopts the being of the man Jesus into his own being and speaks of it in terms of his own I: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 38). In the Son’s obedience, where both wills become one in a single Yes to the will of the Father, communion takes place between human and divine being. The ‘wondrous exchange,’ the ‘alchemy of being,’ is realized here as a liberating and reconciling communication, which becomes a communion between Creator and creature. It is in the pain of this exchange, and only here, that that fundamental change takes place in man, the change which alone can redeem him and transform the conditions of the world. Here community is born, here the Church comes into being. The act whereby we participate in the Son’s obedience, which involves man’s genuine transformation, is also the only really effective contribution toward renewing and transforming society and the world as a whole. Only where this act takes place is there a change for good – in the direction of the kingdom of God.”[14]

The text of Chalcedon (451): 2 natures-one person: the definition presumes a static philosophy of nature.

“Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all teach that with one accord we confess one and the same son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in human nature, truly God and the same with a rational soul and a body truly man, consubstantial with the Father according to divinity, and consubstantial with us, according to human nature, like unto us in all things except sin,; indeed born of the Father before the ages according to divine nature, but in the last days the same born of the virgin Mary, Mother of God according to human nature; for us and for our deliverance, one and the same Christ only begotten Son our Lord, acknowledged in two natures, without mingling, without change, indivisibly, undividedly, the distinction of the natures nowhere removed on account of the union but rather the peculiarity of each nature being kept, and uniting in one person and substance, not divided or separated into two persons, but one and the same son only begotten God Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as from the beginning the prophets taught about Him and the Lord Jesus Himself taught us, and the creed of our fathers has handed down to us.”

The Text of Constantinople III (680-681): Not merely two natures, but two autonomous and dynamic wills exercised by the same divine Person Who says “Yes” through them both as a single “Yes.” This gives us “compenetration” rather than “parallelism” that has engendered all the dualisms: supernatural/natural; grace/nature; faith/reason; church/state; priest/layman, etc.

“And we proclaim equally two natural volitions or wills in him and two natural principles of action which undergo no division, no change, no partition, no confusion, in accordance with the teaching of the holy fathers. And the two natural wills not in opposition, as the impious heretics said, far from it, but his human will following, and not resisting or struggling, rather in fact subject to his divine and all powerful will. For the will of the flesh had to be moved, and yet to be subjected to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius. For just as his flesh is said to be and is flesh of the Word of God, so too the natural will of his flesh is said to and does belong to the Word of God, just as he says himself: I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me, calling his own will that of his flesh, since his flesh too became his own. For in the same way that his all holy and blameless animate flesh was not destroyed in being made divine but remained in its own limit and category, so his human will as well was not destroyed by being made divine, but rather was preserved, according to the theologian Gregory, who says: "For his willing, when he is considered as saviour, is not in opposition to God, being made divine in its entirety"… Therefore, protecting on all sides the "no confusion" and "no division", we announce the whole in these brief words: Believing our lord Jesus Christ, even after his incarnation, to be one of the holy Trinity and our true God, we say that he has two natures [naturas] shining forth in his one subsistence[subsistentia] in which he demonstrated the miracles and the sufferings throughout his entire providential dwelling here, not in appearance but in truth, the difference of the natures being made known in the same one subsistence in that each nature wills and performs the things that are proper to it in a communion with the other; then in accord with this reasoning we hold that two natural wills and principles of action meet in correspondence for the salvation of the human race.

"The key to understanding the unity of the divine and human in Christ is to understand that there is one divine Person Who has taken the humanity of the man Jesus of Nazareth epitomized in the human will as His own. It is critical to understand that it is not the will that wills, but the person. That is, the divine Person wills with His own human will. Only this can make sense of Jn. 6, 38: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” The divine “I” does not do His own human will, but that of the Father. The dynamic of self-mastery consists in the Person subduing the human will that has been “made to be sin” (2 Cor. 5, 21).
[15] In a word, this is the radical self-gift of the Son as God-man."
Put more clearly, the relation of the divine and the human in Christ is not a parallelism of two natures bound together by the commonality of a Person as substance in itself. Rather, it is the compenetration of the divine and the human by the fact that the divine Person has taken the human will as His own and He, the divine Person, wills with the human will. The result is the “compenetration” of the two “wills,” the divine and the human because it is one and the same Person doing the willing.
And yet, the human will does not lose its autonomy and freedom, but rather has it radically enhanced by the fact that it is a divine Person living out the Trinitarian relation to the Father, now as man with a human will.

“Going to Heaven” = “Becoming Christ”

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2, 20):

“To explain … that becoming and being a Christian rest upon conversion would still be much too weak a way of putting things. This is not to deny that such an interpretation is aiming in the right direction, but the point is that conversion in the Pauline sense is something much more radical than, say, the revision of a few opinions and attitudes. It is a death-event. In other words, it is an exchange of the old subject for another. The `I’ ceases to be an autonomous subject standing in itself. It is snatched away from itself and fitted into a new subject. The `I’ is not simply submerged, but it must really release its grip on itself in order then to receive itself anew in and together with a greater `I’
“In the Letter to the Galatians, the fundamental intuition about the nature of conversion – that it is the surrender of the old isolated subjectivity of the `I’ in order to find oneself within the unity of anew subject, which bursts the limits of the `I,’ thus making possible contact with the ground of all reality – appears again with new emphases in another context. Paul, with the help of the antithesis between the law and the promise, is pursuing the question whether man can, as it were, create himself on his own or whether he must receive himself as a gift. While doing so, he emphasizes quite vigorously that the promise was issued only in the singular. It is intended, not for a mass of juxtaposed subjects, but for `the offspring of Abraham’ in the singular (Gal 3, 16). There is only one bearer of the promise, outside of which is the chaotic world of self-realization where men compete with one another and desire to compete with God but succeed merely in working right past their true hope.”[8]Ratzinger then tops it off with this eye-opening hermeneutic of Paul:
St. Paul says: “As in an organism there are many members working in harmony, so it is with Christ” (1 Cor. 12, 12).Ratzinger does the exegesis:
“Paul does not say `as in an organism there are many members working in harmony, so too in the Church,’ as if he were proposing a purely sociological model of the Church, but at the very moment when he leaves behind the ancient simile, he shifts the idea to an entirely different level He affirms, in fact, that, just as there is one body but many members, `so it is with Christ…’ The term of the comparison is not the church, since, according to Paul the Church is in no wise a separate subject endowed with its own subsistence. The new subject is much rather `Christ’ himself, and the Church is nothing but the space of this new unitary subject, which is, therefore, much more than mere social interaction. It is an application of the same Christological singular found in the Letter to the Galatians. Here, too, it has a sacramental reference, though this time it points to the Eucharist, whose essence Paul defines two chapters before in the bold assertion: `Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body’ (10, 17)… soma, may be translated as `one subject…”[9]This is startling. We must understand that we are being invited to enter into a new epistemological horizon, that of the “I.” In this horizon, the being of the “I” is, as they say, “constitutively” relational (to distinguish it from the “accidentally” relational), in the sense that I, as image of the Trinitarian Persons who are nothing but Relation (“I and the Father are one" (Jn. 10, 30); "the Father is greater than I” (Jn.14, 29) “find myself… by the sincere gift of myself” (Gaudium et Spes #24)

The Conclusion: Contemplative Secularity[16]

“You must realize now, more clearly than ever, that God is calling you to serve him in and from the ordinary, secular, and civil activities of human life. He waits for us everyday, in the laboratory, in the operating theater, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home, and in all the immense panorama of work. Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.”

“I often said to the university students and workers who were with me in the thirties that they had to know how to materialize their spiritual lives. I wanted to warn them of the temptation, so common then and now, to lead a kind of double life: on the one hand, an inner life, a life related to God; and on the other, as something separate and distinct, their professional, social, and family lives, made up of small earthly realities.

“No, my children! We cannot lead a double life. We cannot have a split personality if we want to be Christians. There is only one life, made of flesh and spirit. And it is that life which has to become, in both body and soul, holy and filled with God: we discover the invisible God in the most visible and material things.

There is no other way, my daughters and sons: either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or we shall never find him. That is why I tell you that our age needs to give back to matter and to the apparently trivial events of life their noble, original meaning. It needs to place them at the service of the kingdom of God; it needs to spiritualize them, turning them into a means and an occasion for a continuous meeting with Jesus Christ.”[17]

Rev. Robert A. Connor

January11, 2008

[1] A related use of parrhesia is found in the Greek New Testament, where it means "bold speech," the ability of believers to hold their own in discourse before political and religious authorities (e.g. Acts 4:13: "Now when they saw the boldness [την παρρησίαν] of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus."). See Heinrich Schlier, "παρρησία, παρρησιάζομαι," Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Eds. Ann Arbor: Eerdmans, 1967. Vol. V, pp. 871ff. “Parrhesia” appears in Psalm 79 as “O Shepherd of Israel… shine forth before Ephraim…”

[2] John Paul II, “Fides et ratio,” #48.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “In the Beginning…” Eerdmans (1995) 10-12.
[4] The core of the philosophic work of Karol Wojtyla centers on the experience the “I” has of itself. This experience of self-determination in every moral moment is the experience – and therefore, the consciousness – of self-mastery that is the unique moment of freedom. The only being that I have the freedom to control is myself. That experience of existentially shaping who I am in each of the moments in which personal freedom is exercised in this self-mastery is totally unique to me. I cannot experience that self-determination in another self. But in a community of common action, I can “transfer” to another the experience and the consciousness that accrues to it, to another, and therefore “know” another “from within” by the transference of that experience and its consciousness to that other.
This is the philosophic basis of the theological epistemology of Simon-son-of-John – when praying with Jesus - being able to say to Jesus (Who is the constant act of prayer to the Father), “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). Like is known by like. Since the human person, as image of the divine relations, is constitutively relational in potency awaiting act, Simon’s being is transformed from being merely potentially relational to actually being relational by the act of praying with Jesus (Lk. 9, 18). Hence, Jesus changes his name from Simon to His own as “Rock:” Peter. Hence, the only way to “re-cognize” Jesus the Christ (the Son of God) in Jesus of Nazareth (the son of man) is to make the gift of self in prayer. This explains the re-cognition of God in the Child hidden in the decayed Throne of David – the stable – in the Davidic town of Bethlehem. It also explains our task to re-cognize Christ in the ordinary hiddenness of secular life, and thus enter into the realism that the “place” of heaven as the Kingdom of God is here and now in persons who have become “other Christ.” The great task is to give the secular here and now its true ontological and divinizing weight.
[5] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 74-77.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means to Be a Christian,” Ignatius (2006) 27-28.
[7] Ibid
[8] Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium #48 says in this regard: “The end of the ages is already with us (1 Cor 10, 11: “Now all these things happened to them as a type, and they were written for our correction, upon whom the final age of the world has come”). The renewal of the world has been established, and cannot be revoked. IN our era it is in a true sense anticipated: the church on earth already sealed oby genuine, if imperfect, holiness…”
[9] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 71-72.
[10] Andres Vazquez de Prada, “The Founder of Opus Dei,” Volume I: The Early Years, Scepter (2001) 287: “A voice, perfectly clear as always, said, Et ego, si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad me ipsum! [‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself!’ (Jn. 12, 32). “And here is what I mean by this: I am not saying it in the sense in which it is said in Scripture. I say it to you meaning that you should put me at the pinnacle of all human activities, so that in every place in the world there will be Christians with a dedication that is personal and totally free – Christians who will be other Christs.”
[11]From my blog on November 29, 2007 where “Kingdom of God, 2007” is developed in full:” Benedict XVI: “Speaking of God, we are touching precisely on the subject which, in Jesus’ earthly preaching, was his main focus. The fundamental subject of this preaching is God’s realm, the ‘Kingdom of God.’ This does not mean something that will come to pass at one time or another in an indeterminate future. Nor does it mean that better the better world which we seek to created, step by step, with our own strength. In the term ‘Kingdom of God,’ the word ‘God’ is a subjective genitive. This means: God is not something added to the ‘Kingdom’ which one might even perhaps drop.“God is the subject. Kingdom of God actually means: God reigns. He himself is present and crucial to human beings in the world. He is the subject, and wherever this subject is absent, nothing remains of Jesus’ message.“Therefore, Jesus tells us: the Kingdom of God does not come in such a way that one may, so to speak, line the wayside to watch its arrival. ‘The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you!’ (cf. Lk. 17, 20ff).“It develops wherever God’s will is done. It is present wherever there are people who are open to his arrival and so let God enter the world. Thus, Jesus is the Kingdom of God in person: the man in whom God is among us and through whom we can touch God, draw close to God. Wherever this happens, the world is saved.” (Benedict XVI, Bavaria, September 14, 2006).
[12] J. Ratzinger “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 63
[13] Ibid
[14] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 92.
[15] “Made to be sin” is to enter into the loneliness of sin as the rejection of the Triune God, and therefore of the others. This is Benedict’s interpretation of Jesus death cry, `My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Mark 15, 34) which is the first and only time that Jesus refers to the Father as “El” and not as “Abba.” Benedict says: “In this last prayer of Jesus , as in the scene on the Mount of Olives, what appears as the innermost heart of his passion is not any physical pain but radical loneliness, complete abandonment;” “Introduction to Christianity,” op. cit 227.
[16] See Christifideles laici, #15 and Gaudium et spes #36.
[17] St. Josemaria Escriva, “Passionately Loving the World,” A homily delivered at a Mass celebrated for the Friends of the University of Navarre in October, 1967 (5-6.).