Thursday, February 14, 2008

History as Metaphysics

The Last Things: The “Eschaton:”

Death (Fear), Judgment (Guilt), Heaven (Ecstasy), Hell (Depression)

Salvation History and Eschatology

The essence of Christianity is not a concept but a Person. That Person reveals Himself to be totally “for” the Father. His very “To Be” (“I Am,” Jn. 8, 24, 28, 58) is an “Action” of relationality. He is nothing in Himself except to be “for” the Other. This is the burden of Benedict’s “Deus Charitas Est.” Such an account transcends our ability to conceptualize. We do so only by reflecting on our own act of love and the consciousness we have of it.

Benedict’s burden is to reverse the predominance of concept over action. His task is to help the Church (and the world) escape from the doldrums of a full conceptualization of dogma and creed and yet be mired in a bored acedia accompanied by sadness.

The question is raised in terms of “salvation history” and “metaphysics.” He frames salvation history in terms of a “theology of Resurrection” (which is a theology of life - Zoë [Trinitarian life] – i.e. relational] over a metaphysical Sonship of God as we have seen in Chalcedon (one divine Person with two natures in parallel). Christ rises from the dead because He has lived out His very Being “for” the Father in the action of obedience to death through His human will (“I have come down to earth not to do my will, but the will of Him who sent Me” Jn. 6, 38). The result of that living out of the constitutive relation that He is, raises the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth as the individual humanity that He has personally assumed as His own. His relational Being now totally embraces the Jesus of Nazareth, and as a result, He is not recognized by Mary Magdalene, the two on the road to Emmaus, and the seven Apostles fishing at Lake Genesareth. This is because he can be known only one who has entered into the relationality of who he is by their own self-gift.

Ratzinger says: “For if it is true that the prae of God’s action is significant for theology, that faith in an actio Dei is antecedent to all other declarations of faith, then the primacy of history over metaphysics, over all theologies of being and existence, becomes immediately obvious. It has becomes obvious also that the concept of God is removed from the realm of a mere ousia. I believe it was here that the definitive boundary between the biblical and the Greek concept of God became obfuscated, that this obfuscation was the crux of the repeated patristic attempts to combine Greek thought with biblical faith and that from this arose for Christian theology a task that is still far from being accomplished. Decisive for the Greek concept of God was the belief in God as a pure and changeless being of whom, consequently, no action could be predicated; his utter changelessness meant that he was completely self-contained and referred wholly to himself without any relationship to what was changeable. For the biblical God, on the other hand, it is precisely relationship and action that are the essential marks; creation and revelation are the two basic statements about him, and when revelation is fulfilled in the Resurrection, it is thus confirmed once again that he is not just one who is timeless but also one who is above time, whose existence is known to us only through his action.

“The prae of God’s action: this means not just the preeminence of history over metaphysics but also the rejection of a purely existential version of the gospel message – quite simply because the gospel message means the primacy of the ‘in itself’ over the ‘for me,’ because it excludes the intermingling of the ‘in itself’ with the ‘for me’ that was introduced by Luther and reached its utmost radicality in existential theology; that was eventually forced to conclude that there is no ‘in itself’ outside the ‘for me,’ so that, ultimately, the existential interpretation becomes identified with what is interpreted. T o seek another independent reality behind it was said about man, about his isn, about his search for a gracious God.

“Thus the prae of God’s action means, ultimately, that actio is antecedent to Verbum, reality to the tidings of it. IN other words, the level of reality of the revelation-event is deeper than that of the proclamation-event, which seeks to interpret God’s action in human language. Precisely this is the origin of the sacramental principle, the reason why the word of God, which is also action, must be received by man in words and signs.”

Ratzinger then moves to Eschatology: “If we were able to establish, as our fist point, that the Resurrection is an action of God, so now we must extend this statement by saying as our second point: the Resurrection is an eschatological action of God….”

Meaning? The same as the rest of the paper: Salvation history and eschatology are the same thing “if they are willing to reflect deeply on themselves and to open themselves to this reflection.”[1]

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


What can be more exciting than the true immanentization of the Eschaton[2]? God is present in the flesh playing “hide and seek” with us. He is within reach of our experience but we have to activate that experience – the gift of self as receptivity - with our freedom. Hence, Christian experience is always Advent: “already-not yet.” God is present and calling us, but we are not yet fully Himself. As Benedict says in his “habilitation” thesis: “‘Revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result [Scripture] 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.”[3]

“If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Lk 11, 20). Ratzinger remarks: “This verse carries the above reflections to a deeper level and clarifies them in the light of the Gospel’s own inner logic. Jesus is the Kingdom, not simply by virtue of his physical presence but through the Holy Spirit’s radiant power flowing forth from him. In his Spirit-filled activity, smashing the demonic enslavement of man, the Kingdom of God becomes reality, God taking the government of this world into his own hands.”

To intensify the presence of God’s Kingdom of Christ in the present world, Ratzinger continues: “Let us remember that God’s Kingdom is an event, not a sphere. Jesus’ actions, words, sufferings break the power of that alienation[4] which lies so heavily on human life. In liberating people, they establish God’s Kingdom. Jesus is that Kingdom since through him the Spirit of God acts in the world.”

That is to say, independent of the Eucharist and Grace, the divine Person of the Logos is present as person wherever a human person has made the act of self-transcendence and become another Christ. “Only God knows God.”[5]

Keep in mind that the Eschaton continues to be among us, and that “Christian theology, which was very soon confronted by this discrepancy between expectation and fulfillment [of the Eschaton], 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 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 ous when we look at real history which is in truth no kingdom of God.”[6]

Eternal Life (ζωή): To-Be-Relation

The Protestant theologian Oscar Cullmann remarked: “If today one asks an average Christian, no matter whether Protestant or Catholic whether intellectually inclined or not, what the New Testament reaches about the destiny of the individual human being after death, in almost very case one will receive the answer, “’The immortality of the soul.’ In this form, this opinion is one of the greatest misunderstandings of Christianity there can be”[7]

Sacred Scripture does not explicitly speak about the immortality of the soul, but of the indivisibility of the human person, and modern science could not imagine a resurrection of the body. And yet, “the question of what… would happen to the dead person until the ‘end of time’ cannot simply be pushed aside. Luther’s idea of the ‘sleep of the soul’ certainly does not solve this problem. If there is no soul, and so no proper subject of such a ‘sleep,’ who is this person that is going to be really raised?”[8]

The Overview of Ratzinger will be: all theology must be assessed by and in Christology. The experience of Jesus Christ in oneself is the criterion of all exegesis and its “meaning.”

And I remind you of Ratzinger’s (redemptive) Christology: “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 f him who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 380. 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 activity takes place is there a change for good – in the direction of the kingdom of God.”[9] Keep in mind that the Kingdom of God is the Person of Jesus Christ, and all who become “other Christs.”

Immortality is being-one-with Jesus Christ.

Biblical Data:

The Jews had not generally accepted resurrection. It nevertheless became the fundamental confession of Christians, and this because of Jesus’ resurrection as experience and communicated by witnesses. The crucial text is Jesus’ discussion with the Sadducees about the resurrection. Since they argue in fundamentalistic fashion that only the Pentateuch might be acknowledge as Scripture, and took it as the exclusive rule of faith, sola scripture, Jesus is obliged to prove his thesis on the basis of the books of Moses. He does so in a way which is both exciting and wonderfully simple. He points to the Mosaic concept of God, or more precisely to the divine self-presentation in the burning bush as reported by Moses: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ [“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are therefore entirely wrong” Mark 12, 27]. That means: those who have been called by God are themselves part of the concept of God. One would turn God into a God of the dead and thus stand the Old Testament concept of God on its head if one declared that those who belong to him who is Life are themselves dead.”[10] “What is affirmed is that God himself, and the communion he offers, are life. To belong to him, to be called by him, is to be rooted in life indestructible.”[11]

John 11, 25: “I am the resurrection and the life.” “The evangelist has found his way back to the utter simplicity of that vision in Mark 12, 27 [“But as to the dead rising, have you not read in the book of Moses about the Bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is no the God of the dead, but of the living. You are therefore entirely wrong”]. He has translated its theology into Christology in a systematic fashion. ‘He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.’ The bond with Jesus is, even now, resurrection. Where there is communion with him, the boundary of death is overshot here and now. It is in this perspective that we must understand the Discourse on the Eucharist in John 6. Feeding on Jesus’ word and on his flesh, that is, receiving him by both faith and sacrament, is described as being nourished with the bread of immortality. The resurrection does not appear as a distant apocalyptic event but as an occurrence which takes place in the immediate present[12] [my exaggerated emphasis]. Whenever someone enters into the ‘I’ of Christ he has entered straight away into the space of unconditional life. The evangelist does not raise the question of an intermediate state between death and resurrection, a rupture in life, precisely because Jesus is himself the resurrection. Faith, which is the contact between Jesus and myself, vouchsafes here and now the crossing of death’s frontier.

[Consider here John 17, 3: “Now this is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ.” Notice that it is only in relationality of knowing Christ {and therefore, the Father} that we have eternal life. But to know Christ, I must be “like” Christ as we have seen in Ratzinger’s Thesis 3 of “Behold the Pierced One.”]

The entire Old Testament inheritance is thus presented in the new mode of Christological transformation. In the Old Testament, it had become clear that death is the absence of communication in the midst of life. Similarly, it had become evident that love is a promise of life. But now it becomes manifest that a love stronger than death actually exists. The borderline between Sheol[13] and life runs through our very midst , and those who are in Christ are situated on the side of life, and that everlastingly.”[14]

Is the Topic of The Immortality of the Soul the Meaning of Eternal Life?

St. Thomas established that the human soul was Aristotle’s “form” of the body. He asks in Question 89, 1 of the First Part of the Summa Theologiae whether the separate soul knows anything. His metaphysical principle is: a being is the way it acts. If the soul separated from the body is able to perform immaterial operations like knowing and willing without the body, then its being must be able to subsist independent of the body. These two positions of Thomas, the first (1)Aristotelian (the soul is the form of the matter that it organizes into “human body,” and (2) that at the same time, the soul as form is able to be the principle of immaterial activity like knowing and willing, transcend Aristotle. The conundrum is the following: “If the soul is form, then it belongs to the world of bodies, marked by coming to be and passing away again. And this in turn means that the spirit, which does not belong to the world, cannot individual or personal. Indeed, only as being neither is it immortal.”[15]

Ratzinger quotes Anton Pegis on this thomistic achievement: “From this point of view, the Thomistic doctrine of an intellectual substance as the substantial form of matter must be seen as a moment in history when an Aristotelian formula was deliberately used to express in philosophical terms a view of man that the world and tradition of Aristotelianism considered a metaphysical impossibility.” He then comments: “And so we come at last to a really tremendous idea: the human spirit is so utterly one with the body that the term ‘form’ can be used of the body and retain its proper meaning. Conversely, the form of the body is spirit, and this is what makes the human being a person.” He quotes Pegis again: “‘The soul is not two things: substance, and the form of the body. Rather, is it substance as the form of the body, just as it is the form of the body as substance … The separation of the soul from its body goes against its nature and diminishes its likeness to God, its Creator. Being in the body is not an activity, but the self-realization of the soul. The body is the visibility of the soul, because the soul is the actuality of the body.’”[16] Ratzinger continues: “What seemed philosophically impossible has thus been achieved. The apparently contradictory demands of the doctrine of creation and the Christologically transformed belief in Sheol have been met. The soul belongs to the body as ‘form,’ but that which is the form of the body is still spirit. It makes man a person and opens him to immortality.”[17]

Still the Question: How is the Human Soul Immortal as Form of the Body? By being the ontological basis of constitutive relationality of the whole “I.”

Ratzinger: “We agreed earlier that it is not a relationless being oneself that makes a human being immortal, but precisely his relatedness, or capacity for relatedness, to God. We must now add that such an opening of one’s existence is not a trimming, an addition to a being which really might subsist in an independent fashion. On he contrary, it constitutes what is deepest in man’s being. It is nothing other than what we call ‘soul.’ We could also come at the same insight from another angle and say, A being is the more itself the more it is open to all being, in its wholeness and in its Ground, and becomes thereby a ‘self,’ who is truly a person. Such openness is not a product of human achievement. It is given to man; man depends for it on Another. But it is given to man to be his very own possession. That is what is meant by creation, what Thomas means when he says that immortality belongs to man by nature. The constant background here is Thomas’ theology of creation: nature is only possible by virtue of a communication of the Creator’s, yet such communication both establishes the creature in its own right and makes it a genuine participator in the being of the One communicated.”[18]

This paragraph needs explanation. The soul - and its intellect and will is - “openness to all being.” This openness is not “trimming” as “an addition to a being” which really might subsist in an independent fashion.” Intellect and will are necessary “accidents” to body-soul “to-be-in-relation” to God. Notice again St. John’s 17, 3: “This is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ.” Knowing and loving in such a way as to “experience” Jesus Christ by entering into His prayer (Lk. 9, 18) yields eternal life.

Knowing and willing can also turn one back on self, and in so doing enter into Tolkien’s ring of hell. But it is here where Christology and the relation of Christ to us enters into the understanding of immortality. Ratzinger comments: “An existence in which man tries to divinize himself, to be come ‘like a god’ in his autonomy, independence and self-sufficient, turns into a Sheol-existence, a being in nothingness, a shadow-life on the fringe of real living….”[19] When man sins like this, turning back by knowing and willing on himself, “What he can achieve in this regard is not the annulment of being, but lived self-contradiction, a self-negating possibility, namely ‘Sheol.’ The natural ordination towards the truth, towards God, which of itself excludes nothingness, still endures, even when it is denied or forgotten.

“And this is where the affirmations of Christology come into their own. What happened in Christ was that God overcame this self-contradiction from within – as distinct from destroying human freedom by an arbitrary act from without. The living and dying of Christ tell us that God himself descends into the pit of Sheol, that in the land of absolute ]loneliness he makes relationship possible, healing the blind and so giving life in the midst of death….Immortality is not something we achieve. Though it is a gift inherent in creation [intelligence and will] it is not something which just happens to occur in nature… Immortality rests upon a relationship in which we are given a share, but by which, in sharing it, we are claimed in turn. It points to a praxis of receiving [consider the meaning of faith as active receptivity], to that model for living which is the self-emptying of Jesus, as opposed to the vain promise of salvation contained in the words ‘Ye shall be as gods,’ the sham of total emancipation. If the human capacity for truth and for love is the place where eternal life can break forth, then eternal life can be consciously experienced in the present [here and now]. It can become the forma corporis, not in the sense of estranging us from the world, but, rather, in that of saving us from the anarchy of formlessness, shaping us into a truly human form instead.”

Conclusion: “What gives rise to man’s longing for survival? Not the isolated I, but the experience of love. Love will eternity for the beloved and therefore for itself. The Christian response to our problem is, therefore: immortality does not inhere in a human being but rests on a relation, on a relationship with what is eternal, what makes eternity meaningful. This abidingness, which gives life and can fulfill it, is truth. It is also love. Man can therefore live forever, because he is able to have a relationship with that which gives the eternal. ‘The soul’ is our term for that in us which offers a foothold of this relation. Soul is nothing other than man’s capacity for relatedness with truth, with love eternal. And in this way, we can get right the real order of priorities: the truth and love that we call ‘God’ give man eternity, and because in the spirit and soul of man matter is integrated, matter attains in him to the fulfilled completeness of the resurrection.”[20]

Is the soul the source of eternal life? Yes, but only insofar as it is the power in the human person to be in relation. Eternal life is the actual relation of truth and love in us. The soul is the capacity for that relation.

In his “Introduction…,” Ratzinger says: “Is it not then much simpler to see the distinguishing mark of man in the fact that he has as a spiritual, immortal soul? This definition is perfectly sound; but we are in fact at th9is moment engaged in the process of trying to elucidate its concrete meaning. The two definitions are not in the least contradictory; they simply express the same thing in different modes of thought. For ‘having a spiritual soul’ means precisely being willed, known and loved by God in a special way; it means being a creature called by God to an eternal dialogue and therefore capable for its own part of knowing God and replying to him. That we call in substantialist language ‘having a soul’ will be described in a more historical actual language as ‘being God’s partner in a dialogue.’ This does not mean that talk of the soul is false (as is sometimes asserted today by a one-sided and uncritical biblical approach); in one respect it is indeed even necessary in order to describe the whole of what is involved here. But on the other hand it also needs to be complemented if we are not to fall back into dualistic conception which cannot do justice to the dialogic and personalistic view of the Bible.”

“So when we say that man’s immortality is based on this dialogic relationship with God, whose love alone bestows eternity, we are not claiming a special destiny for the pious but emphasizing the essential immortality of man as man. After the foregoing reflections it is also perfectly possible t develop the idea out of the body-soul schema, whose importance, perhaps even indispensability, lies in the fact that it emphasizes this essential character of human immortality. But it must also be continually put back in the biblical perspective and corrected by it in order to remain serviceable to the view of man’s future opened up by faith. For the rest, it becomes evident once again at this point that in the last analysis one cannot make a clear distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural:’ the basic dialogue which first makes man into man moves over without a break into the dialogue of grace known as Jesus Christ. How could it be otherwise if Christ actually is the ‘second Adam,’ the real fulfillment of that infinite longing which ascends from the first Adam – from man in general?”[21]

The Human Body

“If it belongs to the very essence of the soul to be the form of the body then its ordination to matter is inescapable. The only way to destroy this ordering would be to dissolve the soul itself. What is thus emerging is an anthropological logic which shows the resurrection to be a postulatea of human existence. Secondly, the material elements from out fo which human physiology is constructed receive their character of being ‘body’ only in virtue of being organized and formed by the expressive power of soul. Distinguishing between ‘physiological unit’ and ‘bodiliness’ now becomes possible…. The individual atoms and molecules do not as such add up to the human being. The identity of the living body does not depend upon them, but upon the fact that matter is drawn into the soul’s power of expression. Just as the soul is defined in terms of matter, so the living body is wholly defined by reference to the soul. The soul builds itself a living body, a self-identical living body belongs so inseparably to the being of man, the identity of that body is defined not in terms of matter but in terms of soul.”

The overriding principle we take from Thomism is “the unity of body and soul, a unity founded on the creative act and implying at once the abiding ordination of the soul to matter and the derivation of the identity of the body not from matter but from the person, the soul [keep in mind that the soul is not the person but a constitutive part of the person. Jesus Christ is one divine Person with a human soul, intellect, will, etc.]. The physiology becomes truly ‘body’ through the heart of the personality. Bodiliness is something other than a summation of corpuscles.”[22]

Also, keep in mind, that since the person is created in the image and likeness of the Son Who is pure relation to the Father, so also, the body images God, the Son, as relation such that Ratzinger can say: “Because the body is the person become visible, and the person is an image of God, the body, taken in its full network of relationships, is also the space where the divine becomes imaged, expressed, seen.”[23]

Purgatory: To Enter into Relation

“The essential Christian understanding of Purgatory has now become clear. Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where man is forced to undergo punishment in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather is it the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace.[24] What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy. This insight would contradict the doctrine of grace only if penance were the antithesis of grace and not its form, the gift of a gracious possibility. The identification of Purgatory with the Church’s penance in Cyprian and Clement is important for drawing our attention to the fact that the root of the Christian doctrine of Purgatory is the Christological grace of penance. Purgatory follows by an inner necessity from the idea of penance, the idea of the constant readiness for reform which marks the forgiven sinner.”

Ratzinger goes on to face the problem that Purgatory seems to be extrinsic to my intimate self, my “I.” How can there be substitution or replacement for another? I take his response in the line of the love of others affirming and loving me in the Body of Christ, they give me back an identity and make me capable of making the self-gift by the receptivity of the burning love of Christ. As the Son is engendered by the others, the soul in Purgatory is engendered by those making suffrage enabling him/her to freely make the gift of self by accepting the searing and burning of the divine Love.

Ratzinger says: “Yet the being of man is not, in fact, that of a closed monad. It is related to others by love or hate, and, in these ways, has its colonies within them. My own being is present in others as guilt or as grace. We are not just ourselves; or, more correctly, we are ourselves only as being in others, with others and through others. Whether others curse us or bless us, forgive us and turn our guilt into love – this is part of our own destiny. The fact that the saints will judge means that encounter with Christ is encounter with his whole body. I come fact to face with my own guilt vis-à-vis the suffering members of that body as well as with the forgiving love which the body derives from Christ it Head.”[25] Ratzinger then quotes Peguy: “‘I hope in you for me.’ It is when the ‘I’ is at stake that the ‘you’ is called upon in the form of hope.’”[26]
He ends the section referring to II Maccabees 12, 42-45:

“And they found under the coats of the slain some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbidden to the Jews, so that all plainly saw that for this cause they were slain. Then they all blessed the just judgement of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden.
“And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the sins of those that were slain. And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”


“Christian tradition uses the image of heaven, an image linked to the natural symbolic force of what is ‘high’ or ‘above,’ in order to express that definitive completion of human existence which comes about through the perfect love towards which faith tends. Such a fulfillment is not, for the Christian, some music of the future. Rather is it sheer description of what happens in the encounter with Christ, itself already present in its fundamental elements. To raise the question of ‘heaven’ is thus not to float free from earth in a balloon of enthusiastic fantasy. It is to come to know more deeply that hidden presence by whose gift we truly live, even though we ourselves continually permit it to be camouflaged, and to withdraw from us, displaced by the man objects that occupy the foreground of our lives.

“Heaven, therefore, must first and foremost be determined Christologically. It is not an extra-historical place into which one goes. Heaven’s existence depends upon the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man, and makes space for human existence in the existence of God himself. One is in heaven when, and to the degree, that one is in Christ. It is by being with Christ that we find the true location of our existence as human beings in God. Heaven is thus primarily a personal reality, and one that remains forever shaped by its historical origin in the paschal mystery of death and resurrection. From this Christological center, all the other elements which belong to the tradition’s concept of heaven may be inferred. And, in pride of place, from this Christological foundation there follows a theological affirmation: the glorified Christ stands in a continuous posture of self-giving to his Father. Indeed, he is that self-giving. The paschal sacrifice abides in him as an enduring presence. For this reason, heaven, as our becoming one with Christ, takes on the nature of adoration. All cult prefigures it, and in it comes to completion.
Christ is the temple of the final age;’ he is heaven, the new Jerusalem; he is the cultic space for God. The ascending movement of humanity in its union with Christ is answered by the descending movement of God’s love in its self-gift to us. And so worship, in its heavenly, perfected form, entails an immediacy between God and man which knows of no setting asunder. This is what theological tradition calls the vision of God.”[27]

The “We” of the Church: “The Christological statements made here also have their ecclesiological aspect. If heaven depends on being in Christ, then it must involve a co-being with all those who, together, constitute the body of Christ. Heaven is a stranger to isolation. It is the open society of the communion of saints, and in this way the fulfillment of all human communion.”

Rev. Robert A. Connor

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Faith and History,” Principles of Catholic Theology, Ignatius (1987) 184-190.
[2] Benedict XVI deals with a false version of the Eschaton in history (Spengler), and a true version (Toynbee): “There are two opposing diagnoses on the possible future of Europe. On the one hand, there is the thesis of Oswald Spengler, who believed that he had identified a natural law for the great moments in cultural history: first came the birth of a culture, then its gradual rise, flourishing, slow decline, aging, and death. Spengler argued his thesis with ample documentation, culled from the history of cultures, that demonstrated the law of the natural life cycle. His thesis was that the West would come to an end, and that it was rushing heedlessly toward its demise, despite every effort to stop it. Europe could of course bequeath its gifts to a new emerging culture – following the example set by previous cultures during their decline – but as a historical subject its life cycle had effectively ended.”
“Spengler’s Biologistic’ thesis attracted fierce opponents during the period between the two wars, especially in Catholic circles. Arnold Toynbee reserved harsh words for it, in arguments too readily ignored today. Toynbee emphasized the difference between technological-material progress and true progress, which he defined as spiritualization. He recognized that t the Western world was indeed undergoing a crisis, which he attributed to the abandonment of religion for the cult of technology, nationalism, and militarism. For him this crisis had a name: secularism.
“If you know the cause of an illness, you can also find a cure: the religious heritage in all its forms had to be reintroduced especially the ‘heritage of Western Christianity.’ Rather than a biologistic vision, he offers a voluntaristic one focused on the energy of creative minorities and exceptional individuals;” The Spiritual Roots of Europe: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, “Without Roots,” Basic Books (2006) 67-68.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones…” Ignatius (1997) 108. Cf. Eric Voegelin’s “The New Science of Politics,” Chicago Univ. Press (1987) 107-189.
[4] “Might evil be invincible? Is it the ultimate power of history? Because of the experience of evil, for Pope Wojtyla, the question of redemption became the essential and central question of his life and thought as a Christian. Is there a limit against which the power of evil shatters? "Yes, there is", the Pope replies in this book of his, as well as in his Encyclical on redemption.

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

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

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

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

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

[5] Benedict XVI in Brazil, May 2007. It is gloss on the Matt. 11, 27: “No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does any one know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
[6] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means To Be a Christian,” Ignatius (2006) [1965] 28-29.
[7] J. Ratzinger, “Eschatology,” CUA (1988) 104.
[8] Ibid 106.
[9] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 92-93.
[10] Ibid 114.
[11] Ibid
[12] The continuous theme running throughout Ratzinger’s eschatology is that the Person of Jesus Christ is the Eschaton who is present here and now. He is judgment, heaven, purgatory, and his absence is hell. Eternal life is to be relational to and through him. That relationality, already begun in through grace and the sacraments of initiation, is not yet all that it is destined to be, which is the fullness of divinization.
[13] For Israel (which had not made any distinctive contribution of her own), Sheol is “a kind of un-life among the shades. As a shade, the dead man “can make an appearance in the world above, and is thus perceived as dreadful and dangerous. Nonetheless, he is essentially cut off from the land of the living, from dear life, banished into a non-communication zone where life is destroyed precisely because relationship is impossible. The full extent of Sheol’s abyss of nothingness is seen from the fact that Yahweh is not there, nor is he praised there. In relation to him too, there is a complete lack of communication in Sheol. Death is thus an unending imprisonment. It is simultaneously being and nonbeing, somehow still existence and yet no longer life;” “Eschatology” op. cit 80.
[14] J. Ratzinger, Eschatology,” op. cit. 117.
[15] Ibid 148.
[16] Ibid 149.
[17] Ibid
[18] Ibid 155.
[19] Ibid 156.
[20] Ibid 259.
[21] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 275.
[22] J. Ratzinger, “Eschatology,” op. cit 181.
[23] J. Ratzinger, “Paschal Mystery as Core and foundation of Cevotion to the Sacred Heart,” Civilization of Love Ignatius (1985) 149.
[24] What is grace? “Grace in the proper and deepest sense of the word is not some thing that comes from God; it is God. Redemption means that God, acting as God truly does, gives us nothing less than himself. The gift of God is God – he who as the Holy Spriit is communion with us.” “Hail Full of Grace,” in Mary, The Church at the Source, Ignatius (2005) 67-68. Ratzinger adds in a footnote (5) that he is referring here only to uncreated grace because he wants to underscore the relational character of grace. “As a matter of fact, the idea of created grace is indispensable, inasmuch as relation – a fortiori the God-man relation – does not leave the person who enters into it unchanged.”
[25] J. Ratzinger “Eschatology,” CUA (1988) 232.
[26] Ibid
[27] J. Ratzinger, “Eschatology,” op. cit 234.


Anonymous said...

Could you please define the terms: eschaton and immanentization.

Are you saying that Jesus, the Person of Christ, is by definition relation? He is this because he is Trinity by essence? If so then the human person by essence is not relation because we are not Trinity, but we are meant to be like God which means relational? Is any of this right? Please explain.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I read on further to: "soul is the capacity for relation". That helps clarify some.

Rev. Robert A. Connor said...

As I read over your question, I think that you are completely right. The divine Persons are "constitutively" (essentially) relations. Made in the image of the Son, we image God when we become relational. (We are not relation in act since we are created, but we can make ourselves relational by mastering ourselves, getting possession of ourselves, and making the gift of ourselves. This is "Christogenesis" which is the meaning of Redemption.

If we left out the abstractions like "essence," and attend to the revelation, we are told that God is Three Persons. Ratzinger shows in "Behold the Pierced One" (Thesis 1, 2 and 3; pp. 15-26) that the Person of Jesus Christ reveals Himself as the act of "prayer." He uses Luke 6, 12; 9, 18; 9, 28 to see action of Christ's discourse with the Father as the action one would have to have to "experience" Him, and therefore, also, the Father. The emphasis is on the word experience that is not of the external senses, but of the self as going out of self. Anyone who goes out of self in the performance of any work, is entering into the Person of Christ. (And this cannot be done without grace which is the Love of God affirming us).
Jesus Christ is the prototype of the human person, in whose image we are made. If He "is" prayer, then we, made in his image, begin to experience Him when we begin to pray as authentic self-transcendence.

Rev. Robert A. Connor said...

As I read over your question, I think that you are completely right. The divine Persons are "constitutively" (essentially) relations. Made in the image of the Son, we image God when we become relational. (We are not relation in act since we are created, but we can make ourselves relational by mastering ourselves, getting possession of ourselves, and making the gift of ourselves. This is "Christogenesis" which is the meaning of Redemption.

If we left out the abstractions like "essence," and attend to the revelation, we are told that God is Three Persons. Ratzinger shows in "Behold the Pierced One" (Thesis 1, 2 and 3; pp. 15-26) that the Person of Jesus Christ reveals Himself as the act of "prayer." He uses Luke 6, 12; 9, 18; 9, 28 to see action of Christ's discourse with the Father as the action one would have to have to "experience" Him, and therefore, also, the Father. The emphasis is on the word experience that is not of the external senses, but of the self as going out of self. Anyone who goes out of self in the performance of any work, is entering into the Person of Christ. (And this cannot be done without grace which is the Love of God affirming us).
Jesus Christ is the prototype of the human person, in whose image we are made. If He "is" prayer, then we, made in his image, begin to experience Him when we begin to pray as authentic self-transcendence.