Monday, March 24, 2008

Dazzled by the Light of the Resurrection.... or Bored?

The Office of Readings for Monday after Easter [554-555]:

“The Lord, though he was God, became man. HE suffered for the sake of those who suffer, he was bound for those in bonds, condemned for the guilty, buried for those who lie in the grave; but he rose from the dead, and cried aloud: Who will content with me? Let him confront me. I have freed the condemned, brought the dead back to life, raised men from their braves. Who has anything to say against me? I, he said, am the Christ; I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men up to the heights of heaven: I am the Christ.

“Come, then, all you nations of men, receive forgiveness for the sins that defile you. I am your forgiveness. I am the Passover that brings salvation. I am the lamb who was immolated for you; I am your ransom, your life, your resurrection, your light, I am your salvation and your king. I will bring you to the heights of heaven. With my own right hand I will raise you up, and I wil show you the eternal Father”
(From an Easter Homily by Melito of Sardis, bishop)

1) Is there any real interior life out there? This was a question asked by a priest who heard many off-the-street confessions in the middle of New York City. Another priest responded that probably the two main areas of sin that erupts on the surface are impurity and anger, but quickly argued “How could it be otherwise?” being that the great bulk of the Catholic population, both lay and clerical, have not been evangelized concerning heroic sanctity as the reason for living.

2) Concomitant with this silence is an aggressive disease that Archbishop Chaput, speaking recently in Australia, called “vampiric” in its aggrandizing the human ego and withering the capacity for heroic greatness in self-giving: consumerism. He said:

“The fifth sign of our times is that the society we live in breeds a practical, workaday atheism... There's a hole now in the modern heart. It's a void left by the absence of God. People fill that hole with all the sights and sounds and trinkets of our consumer culture. James' character calls these things "my consolations." But there's something vampiric about the way consumerism works to "console" us for the loss of God. It keeps us absorbed in the unimportant while it drains out the life of the soul.

“The rise of consumerist culture was one of the great worries of John Paul II in the later years of his pontificate. In his 1999 World Day of Peace message. John Paul writes: "The history of our time has shown in a tragic way the danger which results from forgetting the truth about the human person. Before our eyes, we have seen the results of ideologies such as Marxism, Nazism, and Fascism. . . . No less pernicious, though not always obvious, are the effects of materialistic consumerism . . ." Those are strong words. John Paul argued that the habit of consumerist greed is "no less pernicious" in its effects than Nazism, Marxism, and Fascism. The effects are as deadly and as destructive as the murderous systems of the 20th century-ideologies that gave us the Holocaust, the gulag and the killing fields of Cambodia. John Paul finishes this quotation with a comment on what materialist greed entails. With this ideology, he says, there is an "exaltation of the individual and the selfish satisfaction of personal aspirations become the ultimate goal of life." This habit of consumerism forms the mind of the people we [priests] are called to serve. It's so damaging because it makes people prisoners of their selfishness. It invites them to create their own chains, to be willing addicts to their appetites and passions. It keeps them away from the only questions that matter: why we're here, and where we're heading.”

3) Concomitant with that is the reduction of evangelical Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, to the mere Jesus of Nazareth as “bland philanthropist.”[1] Cardinal Ratzinger notes: “Today in broad circles, even among believers, an image has prevailed of a Jesus who demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us… The presence of the figure of Jesus itself is becoming diminished – also with regard to the on-Christian contemporaries who surround us; the figure is transformed from the ‘Lord’ (a word that is avoided) into a man who is nothing more than the advocate of all men. The Jesus of the Gospels is quite different, demanding, bold. The Jesus who makes everything okay for everyone is a phantom, a dream, not a real figure.”[2]

Boredom: This state of affairs that permits the ascendancy of “acedia” that is at the core of all sin, since at its root it is the failure of self-mastery of the self over self. It is sadness. “According to the classical theology of the Church, acedia is a kind of sadness… - more specifically, a sadness in view of the divine good in man. This sadness because of the God-given ennobling of human nature causes inactivity, depression, discouragement (thus the element of actual ‘sloth’ is secondary).
The opposite of acedia is not industry and diligence, but magnanimity and that joy which is a fruit of the supernatural love of God.”[3]

Walker Percy: “The Bored Self: Why the Self is the only Object in the Cosmos which Gets Bored:” “The word boredom did not enter the language until the eighteenth century. No one knows it etymology. One guess is that bore may derive from the French verb bourrer, to stuff…. Boredom is the self being stuffed with itself.”[4]


Bernanos: “Well, as I was saying, the world is eaten up by boredoms. To perceive this needs a little preliminary thought: you can’t see it all at once. It is like dust. You go about and never notice, you breathe it in, you eat and drink it. It is sifted so fine, it doesn’t even grit on your teeth. But stand still for an instant and there it is, coating your face and hands. To shake off this drizzle of ashes you must be for ever on the go. And so people are always ‘on the go.’ Perhaps the answer would be that the world has long been familiar with boredom, that such is the true condition of man. No doubt the seed was scattered all over life, and here and there found fertile soil to take root; but I wonder if man has ever before experienced this contagion, this leprosy of boredom: an aborted despair, a shameful form of despair in some way like the fermentation of a Christianity in decay.

“Naturally I keep these thoughts to myself….”

Bernanos Again: Examining to the CORE: “Used as I am to the confessions of simple seminary students, I still cannot manage to understand what horrible metamorphosis has enabled so many people to show me their inner life as a mere convention, a formal scheme without one clue to its reality. I should imagine that once they have ceased to be adolescents, few Catholics go in mortal sin to communion. It’s so easy not to go to confession at all. But there are worse things. Petty lies can slowly form a crust around the consciousness of evasion and subterfuge. The outer shell retains the vague shape of what it covers, but that is all. In time by sheer force of habit, the least ‘gifted’ end by evolving their own particular idiom, which still remains incredibly abstract. They don’t hide much, but their sly candour reminds one of a dirty window-pane, so blurred that light has to struggle through it, and nothing can be clearly seen.
What then remains of confession? It barely skims the surface of conscience. I don’t say dry rot has set in underneath; it seems more like petrification…

“And of course people always refuse to see beyond the individual fault. But after all the transgression itself is only the eruption. And the symptoms which most impress outsiders aren’t always the gravest and most disquieting.

I believe, in fact I am certain, that many men never give out the whole of themselves, their deepest truth. They live on the surface, and yet, so rich is the soil of humanity that even this thin outer layer is able to yield a kind of meager harvest which gives the illusion of real living. I’ve heard that during the last war timid little clerks would turn out to be real leaders; without knowing it, they had in them the passion to command. There is, to be sure, no resemblance there with what we mean when we use the beautiful work ‘conversion’- convertere – but still it had sufficed that these poor creatures should experience the most primitive sort of heroism, heroism devoid of all purity. How many men will never have the least idea of what is meant by supernatural heroism, without which there is no inner life! Yet by that very same inner life shall they be judged: after a little thought the thing becomes certain, quite obvious. Therefore? …Therefore when death has bereft them of all the artificial props with which society provides such people, they will find themselves as they really are, as they were without even knowing it – horrible undeveloped monsters, the stumps of men.

"Fashioned thus, what can they say of sin? What do they know about it? The cancer that is eating into them is painless – like so many tumours. Probably at some period in their lives most of them felt only a vague discomfort, and it soon passed off. It is rare for a child not to have known an inner life, as Christianity understands it, however, embryonic the form. One day or another all young lives are stirred by an urge which seems to compel; every pure young breast has depths which are raised to heroism. Not very urgent perhaps, but just strongly enough to show the little creature a glimpse, which sometimes half-consciously he accepts, of the huge risk that salvation entails, and gives to human life all its divinity. He has sensed something of good and evil, has seen them both in their pristine essence unalloyed by notions of social discipline and habit. But of course his reactions are those of a child, and of such a decisive solemn moment the grown-up man will keep no more than the memory of something rather childishly dramatic something mischievously quaint, whose true meaning he never will realize, yet of which he may talk to the end of his days with a soft, rather too soft a smile, the almost lewd smile of old men …."

Jesus of Nazareth is Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God: The meaning of “parousia” is “presence.” It has normally been taken to mean the “presence” of Christ at the end of the world. Therefore, it is a presence that is not yet present but still to come. Joseph Ratzinger clarifies – and it seems to be the large motif of his life – that the word “Advent” is the translation of the Greek “parousia.” He says: “In antiquity the word was a technical term for the presence of a king or ruler and also of the god being worshipped, who bestows his parousia on his devotees for a time.”[6] He emphasizes the point: “Advent tells us that the presence of the Lord has already begun but also that it has only begun….” But it has begun. That means that the divine Person, the Son of the living God is present in His creation, i.e. within it. He stands before me and calls me to leave my boat and walk on water.

The audible founding of Opus Dei was the locution Escriva heard within him on August 7, 1931: “I say it to you in the sense that you put me at the summit of all human activities, so that in all the places of the world, there may be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, that they be other Christs.” And two months - October 16, 1931: “You are my son, you are Christ.” And I only knew how to repeat: Abba, Pater!, Abba, Pater! Abba!, Abba!, Abba!

The call that went out from Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago is the identically same call as now. It is the same living Christ, the divine Person Who is the Son of the living God, calling us to be Him, not just toward the future, for a future encounter, but for a present identity

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

[1] J. Ratzinger, “On the Way to Jesus Christ,” Ignatius (2005) “Foreword” 7.
[2] Ibid 8.
[3] J. Pieper, “On Hope” Ignatius (1986) 54.
[4] Walker Percy, “Lost in the Cosmos” Noonday Press (1983) 70-71.
[5] Georges Bernanos “The Diary of A Country Priest,” Image (1954) 2.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 71-72.

Holy Thursday 2008

“Two Immeasurably Profound Sayings:”

“This is My Body, this is my Blood”

“These two immeasurably profound sayings, which stand for all time at the heart of the Church, at the heart of the Eucharistic celebration, the sayings from which we draw our life, because these words are the presence of the living God, the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst, and thereby they tear the world free from its unbearable boredom, indifference, sadness, and evil. “This is my Body, this is my Blood:” theses are expressions taken from the Israelite language of sacrifice, which designated the gifts offered in sacrifice to God in the Temple. If Jesus makes use of these words, then he is designating himself as the true and ultimate sacrifice, in whom all these unsuccessful strivings of the Old Testament are fulfilled. What had always been intended and could never be achieved in the Old Testament sacrifices is incorporated in him. God does not desire the sacrifice of animals; everything belongs to him. And he does not desire human sacrifice, for he has created man for living. God desires some thing more: he desires love.”[1]

The Temple

The Temple is the Locus of “Extrinsic” Sacrifice of Animals. Perhaps the root of the bloody sacrifice of animals was to prevent the further corruption of Israel in its tendency to worship animal “god” of the surrounding nations. Michael Barber posts the following on his blog:

“Ever wonder why God asked the Israelites to sacrifice animals like cattle, sheep and goats? It’s not because God loves the smell of burning meat.Moses explains to Pharaoh why the Israelites must be allowed to go out to the desert to offer their sacrifices to the Lord; their sacrifices would be “abominable” to the Egyptians (Ex. 8:25-27). In other words, Israel was to sacrifice to the Lord the very animals the Egyptians worshipped as gods.In fact, we know that worshipping these gods was a major temptation for the Israelites. The Israelites end up worshipping a golden calf in Exodus 32.God wanted Israel to renounce the gods of Egypt and worship Him as the one true God. No longer would Israel serve other gods – God wanted them to serve Him.When Pharaoh refused to let the people go, God responded by sending 10 famous plagues on Egypt. The plagues symbolize judgment on the gods of Egypt.
● In turning the Nile to blood, God symbolizes his victory over Egyptians gods like Hapi, who governed the Nile (cf. Exodus 7:14-25).● With the plague of the frogs, the frog goddess Heket is mocked (Ex. 8:1-15).● The bull gods Apis and Hathor are judged in the destruction of the cattle (Ex. 9:1-7).● With the plague of darkness, the sun god Re is defeated (Ex. 10:21-23).But even after nine plagues Pharaoh refuses to let God’s firstborn son, Israel, go. Because of this God threatens the firstborn of the Egyptians, as He promised Moses he would. The Lord tells Moses that he will send his angel of death to slay the firstborn sons in Egypt and the firstborn male offspring of all livestock (Ex. 11:4-9).Yet, God gives Israel a way to save their firstborn sons - the Passover (Ex. 12:1-27).By slaying these animals God symbolically slaughters the gods of Egypt. The Lord explains, “I will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment” (Ex. 12:12). This is the event that finally breaks Pharaoh (Ex. 12:30-31). Moses leads God’s people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and into the desert.”

The Temple: Non-existent in Exile: All the animal sacrifices took place in the Temple at Jerusalem. “With the Babylonian exile, Israel had lost its Temple. It could no longer worship God; it could no longer offer up its praises; it could no longer present the sacrifices of atonement; and it was bound to ask what should happen now, how its relationship with God could be kept alive, how order could be maintained in the world’s affairs. For that was what the cult was about, in the final analysis: maintaining the correct relationship between God and man, since only thus can the axis around which reality turns be kept true[2].”[3]

Israel as a People (defective) Replaces the Temple (“Intrinsic Sacrifice”): “This suffering of Israel is the true sacrifice, the great new form of worship, with which it could come before the living God on behalf of mankind, on behalf of the whole world. But there is still one point at which this remains incomplete: Israel is the suffering servant of God, who accepts God in his suffering and stands before God on behalf of the world, and yet it is at the same time stained and guilty and selfish and lost. It cannot play the part of the servant of God properly and completely.”

Jesus Christ, the New Temple [the Definitive Subject/Locus of Worship]: “Jesus, in accepting his death, gathers together and condenses in his person the whole of the Old Testament; first the theology of sacrifice, that is, everything that went on in the Temple and everything to do with the Temple, then the theology of the Exile, of the Suffering Servant.”
[5] This intrinsicism of becoming Himself the sacrifice is the import of Hebrews, chapter 9: “But when Christ appeared as high priest the good things to come, he entered once for all through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands (that is, not of this creation), nor again by virtue of blood of goats and calves, but by virtue of his own blood, into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkled ashes of a heifer sanctify the unclean unto the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit offered himself unblemished unto God.
“And this is why he is mediator of a new covenant…As it is, he has appeared for the destruction of sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

Jesus Christ, the New Covenant: Jeremiah predicted the new Covenant (31,31) “which will no longer be limited to physical descendants of Abraham, no longer to the strict keeping of the law, but will spring from out of the new love of God that gives us a new heart. This is what Jesus takes up here.”
[6] He who is both God and man, by dying “institutes true blood brotherhood, a communion of God and man; he opens the door that we could not open for ourselves.”[7] The ontological strength of the Covenant between God and man is the one Person, God, who is God and man with the two distinct and autonomous natures dynamized by the same divine Person of the Logos. The divine Person of Jesus Christ is both cry and response in Himself.

Keep in mind that Jesus Christ is not an exception to man, but the prototype: “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was tot come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revel ation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling.”
[8] Therefore, since Christ is the intrinsic gift in and of Himself, so also every man is called to make the sacrifice of his very self as “another Christ.”

Christ as Temple Is Kingdom

The major orientation of Ratzinger-Benedict XVI is the recovery of the experience and knowledge of God. That experience and that knowledge come from revelation as the very Person of Jesus Christ. He resolutely insists that Revelation as Person is not reducible to words and propositions. Or, as he says it: “I have my doubts as to whether the quintessentially Catholic, as a living structure, can be captured in a formula.”[9] Or, in remarking about his habilitation thesis of the 1950’s, “the term ‘revelation’ was applied only, on the one hand to that ineffable act which can never be adequately expressed in human words, in which God makes himself known to his creature, and, on the other hand, to that act of reception in which this gracious condescension of God dawns upon man and becomes relation. Everything that can be grasped in words, and thus Scripture, too, is then testimony to that revelation but is not revelation itself[10] (underline mine).

The Core of the Message of Jesus Christ: The Kingdom

Before Easter, It is All Kingdom:

“The core content of the Gospel is this: The Kingdom of God is at hand. A milestone is set up in the flow of time; something new takes place. And an answer to this gift is demanded of man: conversion and faith. The center of this announcement is the message that God’s Kingdom is at hand. This announcement is the actual core of Jesus’ words and works. A look at the statistics underscores this. The phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ occurs 122 times in the New Testament as a whole; 99 of these passages are found in the three Synoptic Gospels, and 90 of these 99 texts report words of Jesus.”[11]

After Easter, It is All Christology: “In the Gospel of John, and the rests of the New Testament writings, the term plays only a small role. One can say whereas the axis of Jesus’ preaching before Easter is the Kingdom of God, Christology is the center of the preaching of the Apostles after Easter.”[12]

The Modernist Alfred Loisy commented on this: “Jesus preached the Kingdom of God, and what cam was the Church.” Benedict XVI remarked: “These words may be considered ironic, but they also express sadness. Instead of the great expectation of God’s own ZKingdom, of a new world transformed by God himself, we got something quite different – and what a pathetic substitute it is: the Church.

“Is this true? Is the form of Christianity that took shape in the preaching of the Apostles, and in the Church that was built on this preaching, really just a precipitous plunge from an unfulfilled expectation into something else? Is the change of subject from ‘Kingdom of God’ to Christ (and so to the genesis of the Church) really just the collapse of a promise and the emergence of something else in its place? Everything depends on who we are to understand the expression ‘Kingdom of God’ as used by Jesus, on what kind of relationship exists between the content of his proclamation and his person, as the proclaimer. Is he just a messenger charged with representing a cause that is ultimately independent of him, or is the messenger himself the message? The question about the Church is not the primary question. The basic question is actually about the relationship between the Kingdom of God and Christ. It is on this that our understanding of the Church will depend.”

The Answer: “Jesus himself is the Kingdom; the Kingdom is not a thing, it is not a geopraphical dominion like worldy kingdoms. It is a person; it is he. On this interpretation,. The term ‘Kingdom of God’ is itself a veiled Christology.”

And What Does This Mean? Benedict responds: “When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, he is quite simply proclaiming God, and proclaiming him to be the living God, who is able to act concretely in the world and in history and is even now so acting. He is telling us: ‘God exists’ and ‘God is really God,’ which means that he holds in his hands the threads of the world. In this sense, Jesus’ message is very simply and thoroughly God-centered.
The new and totally specific thing about his message is that he is telling us: God is acting now – this is the hour when God is showing himself in history as its Lord, as the living God, in a way that goes beyond anything seen before. ‘Kingdom of God’ is therefore an inadequate translation. It would be better to speak of God’s being-Lord, of his lordship.”

When Is This To Happen? Now! “We see, then, that the divine lordship, God’s dominion over the world and over history, transcends the moment, indeed, transcends and reaches beyond the whole of history. It inner dynamism carries history beyond itself. And yet it is at the same time something belonging absolutely to the present. It is present in the liturgy, in Temple and synagogue, as an anticipation of the next world; it is present as a life-shaping power through the believer’s prayer and being; by bearing God’s yoke, the believer already receives a share in the world to come….

“Something new is here, something that finds expression above all in such statements as ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’ (Mk. 1, 15), it ‘has already come upon you’ (Mt. 12, 28), it is ‘in the midst of you’ (Lk. 17, 21). What these words express is a process of coming that has already begun and extends over the whole of history. It was these words that gave rise to the thesis of ‘imminent expectation’ and made this appear as Jesus’ specific characteristic.”

Conclusion: The Kingdom of God is the Person of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God is present wherever the Person of Christ is present. But each of us is baptized into Christ in order to become Christ little by little. And since the Christology of the divine Person is to be pure relation to the Father, the anthropology (cf. Gaudium et Spes #22) that implies that Jesus Christ is prototype from Whom Adam is a “type”) translates this into a becoming Christ by the “sincere gift of self” (Gaudium et Spes #24). And so, one is Christ by imaging and baptism, but not fully yet. And to that measure, the Kingdom of God is already begun, but fully achieved yet.

And this is the specific of the vocation and mission of Opus Dei. Jesus Christ wants to be placed at the summit of all human activities by each person becoming “another Christ.” By becoming Christ (by progressive self-giving), the Kingdom of God becomes present. God becomes present and active in the world as “Lord” via the ordinary secular activity of those who are in development to become Christ.

The Sacrifice of the Mass: The Mass is Calvary. Calvary is the action of Jesus Christ obeying the Father – to death. The divine Person of the Logos, who is Jesus Christ, has never ceased being the Son “at the right hand of the Father.” When He assumes the human nature of the man Jesus of Nazareth, He does not cease to be the Son eternally at the right hand of the Father. He does not cease to be eternal while He is active in time. Hence, the activity of obedience (the Personal mastering of His human will and raising it to the power of self-gift) to death on Calvary that took place in time 2000 years ago, continues to be the activity of a divine Person who is eternal, and hence instantiates that Personal act whenever, and wherever, His Flesh and Blood are made present in time and space. That is, the one and same Personal act of radical self-gift to death is repeatedly taking place wherever there is the Transubstantiation of bread into Flesh, and wine into Blood. That is the action of God as Lord that becomes immanent in history as “Kingdom.” This is the meaning of “Thy Kingdom come!”

To share in and receive this act of Christ is to begin to live it out in the street as our own personal act of work – and secular, remunerated work. As it stands, we are in a position of “non-posse” (not able) to make the gift of self. We literally don’t have it in us as created and sinful to perform such a radically perfect act. We need to receive the power from Christ to make His act our own so that we can live it out continuously, even in the small, secular activities of ordinary life. Hence, the Mass must be the center and root of daily life that is aching to be filled with the Self-transcendence of God

[1] J. Ratzinger, “God Is Near Us,” Ignatius (2003) 32.
[2] Dennis Prager, “Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism(and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality,” Crisis 11, no. 8 (September 1993: “When Judaism demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, it changed the world. The Torah’s prohibition of non-marital sex quite simply made the creation of Western civilization possible. Societies that did not place boundaries around sexuality were stymied in their development. The subsequent dominance of the Western world can largely be attributed to the sexual revolution initiated by Judaism and later carried forward by Christianity.”
[3] J. Ratzinger, “God is Near Us,” op. cit 32.
[4] Ibid 34.
[5] Ibid. 38
[6] Ibid 38.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Gaudium et spes #22.
[9] J. Ratzinger, “Salt of the Earth,” Ignatius (1997) 19.
[10] J. Ratzinger, “Handing on the Faith and the Sources of Faith,” in Handing on the Faith in an Age of Disbelief Ignatius (2006) 29.
[11] J. Ratzinger, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Doubleday (2007) 47.
[12] Ibid 48.
[13] Ibid 56.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Holy Saturday 2008: The Death of God

God is Dead: Nietzsche

"Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market-place, and cried incessantly: "I am looking for God! I am looking for God!" As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, then? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances. "Where has God gone?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us - for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto." Here the madman fell silent and again regarded his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time has not come yet. The tremendous event is still on its way, still traveling - it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the distant stars - and yet they have done it themselves." It has been further related that on that same day the madman entered divers churches and there sang a requiem. Led out and quietened, he is said to have retorted each time: "what are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"

God Lives!

God cannot die in His Divine Nature. But He can die as Divine Person through His human nature. Actiones sunt suppositorum. One cannot kill God. But God can die as a divine Personal act by willing to die through His human nature. Cardinal Newman says: “Nor did He die, except by an act of the will; for He bowed His head, in command as well as in resignation, and said, `Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit;’ He gave the word, He surrendered His soul, He did not lose it.” He went on to say: “God was the sufferer; God suffered in His human nature; the sufferings belonged to God, and were drunk up, were drained out to the bottom of the chalice, because God drank them; not tasted or sipped, not flavored, disguised by human medicaments… What He suffered, He suffered because He put Himself under suffering, and that deliberately and calmly. As He said to the leper, `I will, be thou clean;’ and to the paralytic, `Thy sins be forgiven thee;’ and to the centurion, `I will come and heal him;’ and of Lazarus, `I go to wake him out of sleep;’ so He said, `Now I will begin to suffer,’ and He did begin. His composures is but the proof how entirely He governed His own mind. He drew back, at the proper moment, the bolts and fastenings, and opened the gates, and the floods fell right upon His soul in all their fullness…. `They came,’ (Mark) says, `to the place which is called Gethsemani; and he saith to His disciples, Sit you here while I pray. And He taketh with Him Peter and James and John, and He began to be frightened and to be very heavy.’ You see how deliberately He acts; He comes to a certain spot; and then, giving the word of command, and withdrawing the support of the God-head from His soul, distress, terror, and dejection at once rush in upon it. Thus He walks forth into a mental agony with as definite an action as if it were some bodily torture, the fire or the wheel.”[4]

Cardinal Ratzinger:

“Should we not turn to see that …Holy Saturday stands liturgically in the Church’s year, is particularly close to our day and is to a particular degree the experience of our century” On Good Friday our gaze remains fixed on the crucified Christ, but Holy Saturday is the day of the `death of God,’ the day which expresses the unparalleled experience of our age, anticipating the fact that God is simply absent, that the grave hides him, that he no longer awakes, no longer speaks, so that one no longer needs to gainsay him but can simply overlook him. `God is dead and we have killed him.’ This saying of Nietzsche’s belongs linguistically to the tradition of Christian Passiontide piety; it expresses the content of Holy Saturday, `descended into hell.’”

“This article of the Creed always reminds me of two scenes in the Bible. The first is that cruel story in the Old Testament in which Elias (Elijah) challenges the priests of Baal to implore their God to give them fire for their sacrifice. They do so, and naturally nothing happens. He ridicules them, just as the ‘enlightened rationalis’ ridicules the pious person and finds him laughable when nothing happens in response to is prayers. Elias calls out to the priests that perhaps they had not prayed loud enough: ‘Shout louder, Ball s indeed a god. But perhaps he is deep in thought, or has gone out; or perhaps he is asleep and will wake up!’ (1Kings 18, 27). When one reads today this mockery of the devotees of Baal, one can begin to feel uncomfortable; one can get the feeling that we have not arrived in that situation and that t he mockery must now fall on us. No calling seems to be able to awaken God. The rationalist seems entitled to say to us, ‘Pray louder, perhaps your God will then wake up.’ ‘Descended into hell;’ how true this is of our time, the descent of God into muteness, into the dark silence of the absent.

“But alongside the story of Elias and its New Testament analogue, the story of the Lord sleeping in the midst of the storm on the lake (Mark 4, 35-41) we must put the Emmaus story (Luke 24, 13-35). The disturbed disciples are talking of the death of their hope. To them, something like the death of God has happened; the point at which God finally seemed to have spoken has disappeared. God’s envoy is dead, and so there is a complete void. Nothing replies any more. But while they are there speaking of the death of their hope and can o longer see God they do not notice that his very hope stands alive in their midst; that ‘God,’ or rather the image they had formed of his promise, had to die so that he could live on a bigger scale. The image which they had formed of God, and into which they sought to compress him, had to be destroyed, so that over the ruins of the demolished house, as it were, they could see the sky again and him who remains the infinitely greater.”

God is Hidden in Plain Sight

Insert here the experience of John the Baptist who preached thundering the visible presence of divine justice in the world. While in prison, he heard nothing. He sent messengers to Jesus: “Are you he who is to come or should we look for another?” The response of Christ: “The mute speak, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and blessed is he who takes no scandal in me.” The point is that Christ has been present all along, hidden and silent, but in act.

The same holds for the Kingdom of God. Those without eyes to see or ears to hear overlook him and it. “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). “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. Let us remember that God’s Kingdom is an event, not a sphere. Jesus’ actions, words, sufferings break the power of that alienation 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.”[6]

The deep epistemological reason for the absence of God in the 20th, and now 21st century, is the hegemony of positivism, the acceptance of only one kind of experience, that of the external senses, and the non-discovery of the self and the experience of the self as gift. God can only be discovered experientially by the conversion of the self from the visible to the invisibility of being gift to the other, and therefore experiencing Being on a different horizon and in a different key. To experience being as the self in the act of transcendence of obedience and service is to experience the God whom the self images. This is the major recovery that has to be made in this century, and it is the task of the new evangelization.

At the moment, God is dead in our consciousness. He may be there conceptually, but not consciously as “presence” because we are not experiencing giftedness and thoughtfulness to others as social ethos. However, if we make that gift, He will rise early on Sunday morning and appear to us after appearing first to His Mother. We will know it by the joy that begins to be aroused in us.

[4] John Henry Newman, “Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion,” to Discourses to Mixed Congregations in A Newman Treasure 200-201. Ibid 202-203.
[5] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” (1990) 224-225.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “Eschatology,” CUA (1988) 34-35.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Theology of Incarnation - Theology of the Cross

The epistemological fault line that must be crossed in the consciousness of the Church and in the world at large is the reconciliation of the static and the dynamic, of concept (dogma) and history (the existential). The solution is to see that experience is not simply that of the external senses, but of the self as ontological subject. Both are essential to conform our way of knowing to reality. This dichotomy was at the root of the “Modernist” crisis, and it is at the root of the crisis the Church is in at the present moment, i.e. between so-called conservatism and liberalism.

Ratzinger began an article called “Faith and History” with the following: “History always becomes problematical for us when a crisis occurs in a particular historical configuration. When that happens, we become conscious if the distance – or, indeed, the contradiction – between history and being, between our historical and our ontological nature; we must search again for the union between our being and history, either by invalidating history as it has been up to the present or by conceiving it anew from its roots.”[1] He ends the article with the following:

“(T)he Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, which, as God’s action, is antecedent to every theology, does not insist on an empty ‘in-itself-ness’ but is oriented to the center of human existence…. The Resurrection is the reawakening of him who had first died on the Cross… All salvation history is gathered here, as it were, in the one point of this ultimate Passover that thus includes and interprets salvation history, … For it is evident that this whole history is likewise an exodus history: a history that begins with the call to Abraham to go out from his country – and this going-out-from himself toward the other even to the radical delivery of himself to death so that it can be explained in the words: ‘I am going away and shall return’ (Jn. 14, 28) – by going, I come. The ‘living opening through the curtain,’ as the epistle to the Hebrews explains the Lord’s going-away on the Cross (Heb 10, 20), reveals itself in this way as the true exodus that is meant by all the exoduses of history. Thus we see how the theology of Resurrection gathers all salvation history within itself and concentrates it on its existence-oriented meaning so that, in a very literal sense, it becomes a theology of existence, a theology of ex-sistere, of that exodus by which the human individual goes out from himself and through which alone he can find himself [cf. Gaudium et Spes #24]. In this movement of ex-sistere, faith and love are ultimately united – the deepest significance of each is the Exi, that call to transcend and sacrifice the I that is the basic law of the history of God’s covenant with man and, ipso fact, the truly basic law of all human existence…. God’s action is, precisely in the objectivity of its ‘in-itself-ness,’ not a hopeless objectivity, but the true formula of human existence, which has its ‘in-itself-ness outside itself and can find its true center only in ex-sistere, in going-out-from itself.”[2]

It must be boldly stated yet again that the meaning of “Being” is not the “in-itself-ness” of Hellenic (Aristotelian) “substance.” That is a metaphysic that conforms to our mode of thinking, namely, conceptualizing. As Ratzinger is offering above, the metaphysic of salvation, where the relationality of the divine Person of the Son becomes Flesh, is to be man as total relation of obedience as a total going out self, even unto death. This going out of self can only be experienced as real in the realm of the “I” that until now has been conceptualized as mere “consciousness,” but in reality is “the privileged locus for the encounter with the act of Being” (Fides et Ratio #83). Hence, the only formula which approximates the dynamic of the human person as image of the divine Person of the Son – i.e. an adequate anthropology – is Gaudium et Spes #24: “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself only in the sincere gift of himself.”

The Predominance of Being as Substance and the Cross as Rendering Justice to God: “As False as It is Widespread”[3]

Anselm’s “Satisfaction Theory” (Ratzinger)

The “satisfaction theory” “was developed by St. Anselm of Canterbury on the threshold of the Middle Ages and moulded the Western consciousness more and more exclusively. Even in its classical form it is not devoid of one-sidedness, but when contemplated in the vulgarized form which has extensively moulded the general consciousness it looks cruelly mechanical and less and less feasible.


“Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033-1109) had been concerned to deduce the work of Christ by a train of necessary reasons (rationibus necessariis) and thus to show irrefutably that this work had to happen in the precise way in which it in fact did. His argument may be roughly summarized like this: by man’s sin, which was aimed against God, the order of justice was infinitely damaged and God infinitely offended. Behind this is the idea that the measure of the offence is determined by the status of the offended party; if I offend a beggar the consequences are not the same as they would be if I offended a head of state. The importance of the offence varies according to the addressee. Since God is infinite the offence to him implicit in humanity’s sin is also infinitely important. The right thus damaged must be restored, because God is a God order and justice; indeed, he is justice itself. But the measure of the offence demands infinite reparation, which man is not capable of making. He can offend infinitely – his capacity extends that far – but he cannot produce an infinite reparation; what he, as a finite being, gives will always be only finite. His powers of destruction extend further than his capacity to reconstruct. Thus between all the reparations that man may attempt and the greatness of his guilt there remains an infinite gulf which he can never bridge. Any gesture of expiation can only demonstrate his powerlessness to close the infinite gulf which he himself opened up.
“Is order to be destroyed for ever, then, and man to remain eternally imprisoned in the abyss of his guilt? At this point Anselm hits on the figure of Christ. His answer runs thus: God himself removes the injustice; not (as he could) by a simple amnesty, which cannot after all overcome from inside what has happened, but by the infinite Being’s himself becoming man and then as a man – who thus belongs to the race of the offenders yet possesses the power, denied to man, of infinite reparation – making the required expiation. Thus the redemption takes place entirely through grace and at the same time entirely as restoration of the right. Anselm thought he had thereby given a compelling answer to the difficult question of `Cur Deus homo,’ the wherefore of the incarnation and the cross. His view has put a decisive stamp on the second millennium of Western Christendom, which takes it for granted that Christ had to die on the cross in order to make good the infinite offence which had been committed and in this way to restore the damaged order of things.
“Now it cannot be denied that this theory takes account of crucial biblical and human perceptions; anyone who studies it with a little patience will have no difficulty in seeing this. To that extent it will always command respect as an attempt to synthesize the individual elements in the biblical evidence in one great allembracing system. Is not hard to see that in spite of all the philosophical and juridical terminology employed, the guiding thread remains that truth which the Bible expresses in the little word `For,’ in which it makes clear that we as men live not only directly from God but from one another, and in the last analysis from the One who lived for all. And who could fail to see that thus in the schematization of the `satisfaction’ theory the breath of the biblical idea of election remains clear, the idea that makes election not a privilege of the elected but the call to live for others? It is the call to that `For’ in which man confidently lets himself fall, ceases to cling to himself and ventures on the leap away from himself into the infinite, the leap through which alone he can come to himself. But even if all this is admitted it cannot be denied on the other hand that the perfectly logical divine-cum-human legal system erected by Anselm distorts the perspectives and with its rigid logic can make the image of God appear in a sinister light. We shall have to go into this in detail when we come to talk about the meaning of the cross. For the time being it will suffice to say that things immediately look different when, in place of the division of Jesus into work and person, it becomes clear that with Jesus Christ it is not a question of a piece of work separate from himself, of a feat which God must demand because he himself is under and an obligation to the concept of order; that with him it is not a question… of having, but of being human. And how different things look further on when one picks up the Pauline key, which teaches us to understand Christ as the `last man (’έσχατος Άδάμ: 1 Cor. 15, 45) - the final man, who takes man into his future, which consists of his being not just man but one with God.”[4]

The Cross and Atonement: The New (intrinsic) Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

“What position is really occupied by the cross within faith in Jesus as the Christ… As we have already established, the universal Christian consciousness in this matter is extensively influenced by a much coarsened version of St. Anselm’s theology of atonement, the main lines of which we have considered in another context. To many Christians, and especially to those who only know the faith from a fair distance, it looks as if the cross is to be understood as part of a mechanism of injured and restored right. It is the form, so it seems, in which the infinitely offended righteousness of God was propitiated again by means of an infinite expiation. It thus appears to people as the expression of an attitude which insists on a precise balance between debit and credit; at the same time one gets the feeling that this balance is based on a fiction. One gives first secretly with the left hand what one takes back again ceremonially with the right. The `infinite expiation’ on which God seems to insist thus moves into a doubly sinister light. Many devotional texts actually force one to think that Christian faith in the cross visualizes a God whose unrelenting righteousness demanded a human sacrifice, the sacrifice of his own Son, sinister wrath makes the message of love incredible.

This picture is as false as it is widespread [my emphasis]. In the Bible the cross does not appear as part of a mechanism of injured right; on the contrary, in the Bible the cross is quite the reverse: it is the expression of the radical nature of the love which gives itself completely, of the process in which one is what one does, and does what one is; it is the expression of a life that is completely being for others. To anyone who looks more closely, the scriptural theology of the cross represents a real revolution as compared with the notions of expiation and redemption entertained by non-Christian religions, though it certainly cannot be denied that in the later Christian consciousness this revolution was largely neutralized and its whole scope seldom recognized. In other world religions expiation usually means the restoration of the damaged relationship with God by means of expiatory actions on the part of men. Almost all religions center round the problem of expiation; they arise out of man’s knowledge of his guilt before God and signify the attempt to remove this feeling of guilt, to surmount the guilt through conciliatory actions offered up to God. The expiatory activity by which men hope to conciliate the divinity and to pout him in a gracious mood stands at the heart of the history of religion.

“In the New Testament the situation is almost completely reversed. It is not man who goes to God with a compensatory gift, but God who comes to man, in order to give to him. He restores disturbed right on the initiative of his own power to love, by making unjust man just again, the dead living again, through his own creative mercy. His righteousness to grace; it is active righteousness, which sets crooked man right, that is, bends him straight, makes him right. Here we stand before the twist which Christianity put into the history of religion. The New Testament does not say that men conciliate God, as we really ought to expect, since after all it is they who have failed, not God. It says on the contrary that `God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’ (2 Cor. 5, 19). This is truly something new, something unheard of – the starting-point of Christian existence and the center of New Testament theology of the cross: God does not wait until the guilty come to be reconciled; he goes to meet them and reconciles them. Here we can see the true direction of the incarnation, of the cross.

“Accordingly, in the New Testament the cross appears primarily as a movement from above to below. It does not stand there as the work of expiation which mankind offers to the wrathful God, but as the expression of that foolish love of God’s which gives itself away to the point of humiliation in order thus to save man; it is his approach to us, not the other way about. With this twist in the idea of expiation, and thus in the whole axis of religion, worship too, man’s whole existence, acquires in Christianity a new direction. Worship follows in Christianity first of all in thankful acceptance of the divine deed of salvation. The essential form of Christian worship is therefore rightly called `Eucharistia,’ thanksgiving. In this form of worship human achievements are not placed before God; on the contrary, it consists in man’s letting himself be endowed with gifts; we do not glorify God by supposedly giving to him out of our resources – as if they were not his already! – but by letting ourselves be endowed with his own gifts and thus recognizing him as the only Lord. We worship him by dropping the fiction of a realm in which we could face him as independent business partners, whereas in truth we can only exist at all in him and from him. Christian sacrifice does not consist in a giving of what God would to have without us but in our becoming totally receptive and letting ourselves be completely taken over by him. Letting God act on us – that is Christian sacrifice.”

The Two Theologies: Resolved in a Metaphysic of Being-As-Relation

“The insights so far acquired also provide access to those basic assertions of Christology that still remain to be considered. In the history of the Christian faith two divergent lines of approach to the contemplation of Jesus have appeared again and again; the theology of the incarnation, which sprang from Greek thought and became dominant in the Catholic tradition of East and West, and the theology of the cross, which based itself on St. Paul and the earliest forms of Christian belief and made a decisive break-through in the thinking of the Reformers. The former talks of `being’ and center’s round the fact that here a man is God and that accordingly at the same time God is man; this astounding fact is seen as the all-decisive one. All the individual events that followed pale before this one event of the one-ness of man and God, of God’s becoming man. In face of this they can only be secondary; the interlocking of God and man appears as the truly decisive, redemptive factor, as the real future of man, on which all lines must finally converge.

“Theology of the cross, on the other hand, will have nothing to do with ontology of this kind; it speaks instead of the event; it follows the testimony of the early days, when people did not yet enquire about being but about the activity of God in the cross and resurrection, an activity which conquered death and pointed to Jesus as the Lord and as the hope of humanity. The differing tendencies of these two theologies result from their respective approaches. Theology of the incarnation tends towards a static, optimistic view. The sin of man appears quite easily as a transitional stage of fairly minor importance. The decisive factor is then not that man is in a state of sin and must be saved; the aim goes far beyond any such atonement for the past and lies in making progress towards the convergence of man and God. The theology of the cross, on the other hand, leads rather to a dynamic, topical, anti-world conception of Christianity, a conception which understands Christianity only as a discontinuously but constantly appearing breach in the self-confidence and self-assurance of man and of his institutions, including the Church.

“Anyone at all familiar with these two great historical forms of Christian self-comprehension will certainly not be tempted to try his hand at a simplifying synthesis. The two fundamental structural forms of `incarnation’ and `cross’ theology reveal polarities which cannot be surmounted and combined in a neat-looking synthesis without the loss of the crucial points in each; they must remain present as polarities which mutually correct each other and only by complementing each other point towards the whole. Nevertheless, our reflections may perhaps have given us a glimpse of that unity which makes these polarities possible and prevents them from falling apart as contradictions. For we have found that the being of Christ (`incarnation’ theology!) is actualitas, stepping beyond and out of oneself, the exodus of departure from self; it is not a being that rests in itself, but the act of being sent, of being son, of serving. Conversely, this `doing’ is not just `doing’ but `being;’ it reaches down into the depths of being and coincides with it. This being is exodus, transformation. So at this point a properly understood theology of being and of the incarnation must pass over into the theology of the cross and become one with it; conversely, a theology of the cross that gives its full measure must pass over into the theology of the Son and of being”

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Faith and History,” Principles of Catholic Theology, Ignatius (1987) 153.
[2] Ibid 189-190.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 214.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” op. cit. 172-174.
[5] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction…” op. cit. 213-215.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity” Ignatius (1990) 170-172.

The Cross as the "Birthplace of the Faith in Jesus as the Christ"

Benedict XVI has introduced the American reading public into the perennial mystery of the relation between history and the absolute. It was announced with his post-consistory remark (April 2005) of the “dictatorship of relativism” (history) and the absolute, the Kingdom of God, as the divine Person of Jesus Christ.

The Modernist controversy centered on this debate. To a man, those who were accused of falling into the “heresy of heresies” (“Modernism”) railed against the so-called tyranny of scholastic abstractionism and dogmatism in favor of finding the real and dynamic ontological reality and Revelation by the deployment of the existential pulp unearthed by the critical-historical method. As then-Cardinal Ratzinger explained it: “Within that newfound freedom of thought into which the Enlightenment and launched headlong, dogma or church doctrine appeared as one of the real impediments to a correct understanding of the Bible itself. But freed from this impertinent presupposition, and equipped with a methodology which promised strict objectivity, it seemed that we were finally going to be able to hear again the clear and unmistakable voice of the original message of Jesus. Indeed, what had been long forgotten was to be brought into the open once more: the polyphony of history could be heard again, rising from behind the monotone of traditional interpretations. As the human element in sacred history became more and more visible, the hand of God, too, seemed larger and closer.”[1]

However, what actually has happened, by the very nature of the method, is the inability to find the Person of Jesus as the Christ. How could it be otherwise when we subtract the supernatural ipso facto as standing outside the proper field of the critico-historical method that can only measure sensible phenomena? How does one quantitatively measure non-sensible phenomena like a divine Person? Jesus of Nazareth simply could not be Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God – by the very restrictions of the method. Ratzinger remarked: “(W)ithin Christianity itself, Christology has been losing its meaning. It started with the effort to rediscover the man Jesus behind the gilded background of dogma, to return to the simplicity of the Gospels. Of course, it quickly became evident that the figure of Jesus in the Gospels cannot be reduced to that of a bland philanthropist – that precisely the Jesus of the Gospels, too, burst open the framework of what is merely human, posing questions and demanding decisions that challenge man to the very depths of his soul…. Today in broad circles, even among believers, an image has prevailed of a Jesus who demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no lopnger does anything but affirm us: the perfect opposite of the Church, to the extent that she still dares to make demands and regulations.”[2]

Ratzinger concludes: “The presence of the figure of Jesus itself is becoming diminished – also with regard to the non-Christian contemporaries who surround us; the figure is transformed from the ‘Lord’ (a word that is avoided) into a man who is nothing more than the advocate of all men.” He continues importantly: “The Jesus of the Gospels is certainly not convenient for us. But it is precisely in this way that he answers the deepest question of our existence, which – whether we want to or not - keeps us on the lookout for God, for a gratification that is limitless, for the infinite. We must again set out on the way to this real Jesus.”[3]

Neither Dogmatic Formularies Nor Scientific History”[4][Alone]

Rather: Both Dogmatic Formularies And Scientific History

If I may be permitted to use the insight of Maurice Blondel concerning the two horns of the dilemma between what he called “extrinsicism” (scholastic Hellenism) and “historicism” (positivism), Marvin O’Connell paraphrases the presentation: “’Extrinsicism’ – a barbarous invention to be sure – is the method adopted by the Scholastics, for whom the historical facts recorded in the Scriptures have only an ‘extrinsic’ value. According to this view, dogma expresses revealed truth by an exclusively deductive procedure, which has only an accidental or ‘extrinsic’ relation to the world of fact. Thus, New Testament miracles ‘prove’ the divinity of the Christian message; but that proof is merely ‘a sign, a label, which has been detached from the facts and placarded over the entrance of the dogmatic fortress’ whose battlements have already been secured. ‘The Bible is guaranteed as a whole, not by its content but by an external self of the divine. Why bother to verify its details? It is replete with absolute science, fixed in its eternal truth. Why search out its human conditions and its relative senses? Perhaps such an attitude was defensible in earlier, simpler times. ‘But not the day has come when, thanks to the discoveries of archaeology and philology, the past has been resurrected, … and has confronted hide-bound deductions with facts that give the lie to them, not just on matters of detail but on a whole section of teaching extracted form the Bible. A dangerous crisis has become inevitable.’
“Nor did the solution lie in ‘historicism’ – Blondel’s second ‘incomplete’ solution. Here, though he does not name him, the object of Blondel’s criticism was Alfred Loisy. ‘Can one pretend that [history] is self-sufficient” Obviously not; it depends upon a number of other sciences.’ The historian’s claim to autonomy is a delusion. Moreover, ‘no one should think that history by itself can know a fact which would be no more than a fact or which would be the whole fact. ‘History deals with human life, and ‘human life is metaphysics in act. To claim that the science of history is innocent of any speculative preoccupation, or even to imagine that the smallest details of history could be, strictly speaking, a simple matter of observation, is to fall victim to prejudice under the pretext of an unattainable neutrality.’ What Loisy has offered in his exegetical works – his explanation, for example, of the imminence of the kingdom or of Christ’s self-knowledge as understood by his first disciples – is an ‘historical positivism’ which ‘seems to provide a means or even the means of attaining the reality of history.’ But this too is a delusion, a kind of disguised Scholasticism: ‘Historicism tends to take the external act, the expressive trait, the concrete image for the [real] object itself, to substitute surreptitiously the fact for the actor, the testimony for the witness, the portrait for the real person.’ And so a historicist like Loisy only ‘registers the effects of phenomena’ and situates them in an evolutionary pattern from which they receive an artificial intelligibility.”
“Neither of these soi-disant solutions to the contemporary religious crisis, Blondel concluded, could really answer the fundamental question: ‘How does it happen that legitimately the Bible supports and guarantees the church, and the church supports and interprets the Bible? Neither dogmatic formularies nor scientific history – though both have their uses - can avoid in this matter falling victim to a vicious circle.”[5]

The Cross as the “Birthplace of the Faith in Jesus as the Christ”[6]

“Today we can establish with some certainty that the birthplace of the faith in Jesus as the Christ, that is, the birthplace of `Christ’ –ian faith as a whole, is the cross. Jesus himself had not proclaimed himself directly as the Christ (`Messiah’). This certainly somewhat – to us – surprising assertion now emerges with some clarity from the frequently confusing quarrels of the historians; it cannot be eluded even if, indeed especially if, on e faces with an appropriately critical attitude the hasty process of subtraction current in present-day research into Jesus. So Jesus did not call himself unequivocally the Messiah (Christ); the man who gave him this name was Pilate, who for his part associated himself with the accusation of the Jews by yielding to this accusation and proclaiming Jesus on the cross, in an execution notice drawn up in all the international languages of the day, as the executed king (=Messiah, Christus) of the Jews. This execution notice, the death sentence of history, became with paradoxical unity the `confession of faith,’ the real starting-point and rooting-point of the Christian faith, which holds Jesus to be the Christ: as the crucified criminal this Jesus is the Christ, the king. His crucifixion is his coronation; his coronation or kingship is his surrender of himself to men, the identification of word, mission and existence in the yielding up of this very existence. His existence is thus his word. He is word because he is love. From the cross faith understands in increasing measure that this Jesus did not just do and say something; that in him message and person are identical, that he always already is what he says. John needed only to draw the final straightforward inference: if that is so – and this is the Christological basis of his gospel – then this Jesus Christ is `word;’ but a person who not only has words but is his word and his work is the logos (`the Word,’ meaning, mind) itself; that person has always existed and will always exist; he is the ground on which the world stands – if we ever meet such a person, then he is the meaning which sustains us all and by which we are all sustained.
The unfolding of the understanding that we call faith thus happens in such a way that Christians first hit upon the identification of person, word and work through the cross. Through it they recognized the really and finally decisive factor, before which all else becomes of secondary importance. For this reason their confession of faith could be restricted to the simple association of the words Jesus and Christ – this combination said it all. Jesus is seen from the cross, which speaks louder than any words: he is the Christ – no more need be said. The crucified `I’ of the Lord is such an abundant reality that all else can retire into the background. A second step was then taken and from the understanding of Jesus thus acquired people looked back at his words. When the community began to think back like this it was forced to note, to its amazement, that the same concentration on his `I’ was to be found in the words of Jesus; that his message itself, studied retrospectively, is such that it always leas to and flows into this `I,’ into the identity of word and person. Finally John was able to take one last step and link the two movements. His gospel is, as it were, the thorough reading of the words of Jesus from the angle of the person and of the person from the words. That he treats `Christology,’ the assertion of faith in the Christ, as the message of the story of Jesus and, vice-versa, the story of Jesus as Christology indicates the complete unity of Christ and Jesus, a unity which is and remains formative for the whole further history of faith.”[7]

Via Crucis [Josef Cardinal Ratzinger]
FIRST STATIONJesus is condemned to death
From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:22-23,26
Pilate said to them, "Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?" All of them said, "Let him be crucified!" Then he asked, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!" So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
The Judge of the world, who will come again to judge us all, stands there, dishonored and defenseless before the earthly judge. Pilate is not utterly evil. He knows that the condemned man is innocent, and he looks for a way to free him. But his heart is divided. And in the end he lets his own position, his own self-interest, prevail over what is right. Nor are the men who are shouting and demanding the death of Jesus utterly evil. Many of them, on the day of Pentecost, will feel "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37), when Peter will say to them: "Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God... you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law" (Acts 2:22ff.). But at that moment they are caught up in the crowd. They are shouting because everyone else is shouting, and they are shouting the same thing that everyone else is shouting. And in this way, justice is trampled underfoot by weakness, cowardice and fear of the diktat of the ruling mindset. The quiet voice of conscience is drowned out by the cries of the crowd. Evil draws its power from indecision and concern for what other people think.
Lord, you were condemned to death because fear of what other people may think suppressed the voice of conscience. So too, throughout history, the innocent have always been maltreated, condemned and killed. How many times have we ourselves preferred success to the truth, our reputation to justice? Strengthen the quiet voice of our conscience, your own voice, in our lives. Look at me as you looked at Peter after his denial. Let your gaze penetrate our hearts and indicate the direction our lives must take. On the day of Pentecost you stirred the hearts of those who, on Good Friday, clamored for your death, and you brought them to conversion. In this way you gave hope to all. Grant us, ever anew, the grace of conversion.
* * * * * * * * * *

SECOND STATIONJesus takes up his Cross
From the Gospel according to Matthew. 27:27-31
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
Jesus, condemned as an imposter king, is mocked, but this very mockery lays bare a painful truth. How often are the symbols of power, borne by the great ones of this world, an affront to truth, to justice and to the dignity of man! How many times are their pomps and their lofty words nothing but grandiose lies, a parody of their solemn obligation to serve the common good! It is because Jesus is mocked and wears the crown of suffering that he appears as the true King. His scepter is justice (cf. Ps 45:7). The price of justice in this world is suffering: Jesus, the true King, does not reign through violence, but through a love which suffers for us and with us. He takes up the Cross, our cross, the burden of being human, the burden of the world. And so he goes before us and points out to us the way which leads to true life.
Lord, you willingly subjected yourself to mockery and scorn. Help us not to ally ourselves with those who look down on the weak and suffering. Help us to acknowledge your face in the lowly and the outcast. May we never lose heart when faced with the contempt of this world, which ridicules our obedience to your will. You carried your own Cross and you ask us to follow you on this path (cf. Mt 10:38). Help us to take up the Cross, and not to shun it. May we never complain or become discouraged by life's trials. Help us to follow the path of love and, in submitting to its demands, to find true joy.
* * * * * * * * * * *
THIRD STATIONJesus falls for the first time
From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. 53:4-6
Surely he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Man has fallen, and he continues to fall: often he becomes a caricature of himself, no longer the image of God, but a mockery of the Creator. Is not the man who, on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among robbers who stripped him and left him half-dead and bleeding beside the road, the image of humanity par excellence? Jesus' fall beneath the Cross is not just the fall of the man Jesus, exhausted from his scourging. There is a more profound meaning in this fall, as Paul tells us in the Letter to the Philippians: "though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men... He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross" (Phil 2:6-8). In Jesus' fall beneath the weight of the Cross, the meaning of his whole life is seen: his voluntary abasement, which lifts us up from the depths of our pride. The nature of our pride is also revealed: it is that arrogance which makes us want to be liberated from God and left alone to ourselves, the arrogance which makes us think that we do not need his eternal love, but can be the masters of our own lives. In this rebellion against truth, in this attempt to be our own god, creator and judge, we fall headlong and plunge into self-destruction. The humility of Jesus is the surmounting of our pride; by his abasement he lifts us up. Let us allow him to lift us up. Let us strip away our sense of self-sufficiency, our false illusions of independence, and learn from him, the One who humbled himself, to discover our true greatness by bending low before God and before our downtrodden brothers and sisters.
Lord Jesus, the weight of the cross made you fall to the ground. The weight of our sin, the weight of our pride, brought you down. But your fall is not a tragedy, or mere human weakness. You came to us when, in our pride, we were laid low. The arrogance that makes us think that we ourselves can create human beings has turned man into a kind of merchandise, to be bought and sold, or stored to provide parts for experimentation. In doing this, we hope to conquer death by our own efforts, yet in reality we are profoundly debasing human dignity. Lord help us; we have fallen. Help us to abandon our destructive pride and, by learning from your humility, to rise again
* * * * * * * * * * *
FOURTH STATIONJesus meets his Mother
From the Gospel according to Luke. 2:34-35,51
Simon blessed them and said to Mary his mother: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed". And his mother kept all these things in her heart.
On Jesus' Way of the Cross, we also find Mary, his Mother. During his public life she had to step aside, to make place for the birth of Jesus' new family, the family of his disciples. She also had to hear the words: "Who is my mother and who are my brothers?... Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is brother, and sister and mother" (Mt 12:48-50). Now we see her as the Mother of Jesus, not only physically, but also in her heart. Even before she conceived him bodily, through her obedience she conceived him in her heart. It was said to Mary: "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son. He will be great and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David" (Lk 1:31ff.). And she would hear from the mouth of the elderly Simeon: "A sword will pierce through your own soul" (Lk 2:35). She would then recall the words of the prophets, words like these: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he was like a lamb that is led to slaughter" (Is 54:7). Now it all takes place. In her heart she had kept the words of the angel, spoken to her in the beginning: "Do not be afraid, Mary" (Lk 1:30). The disciples fled, yet she did not flee. She stayed there, with a Mother's courage, a Mother's fidelity, a Mother's goodness, and a faith which did not waver in the hour of darkness: "Blessed is she who believed" (Lk 1:45). "Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Lk 18:8). Yes, in this moment Jesus knows: he will find faith. In this hour, this is his great consolation.
Holy Mary, Mother of the Lord, you remained faithful when the disciples fled. Just as you believed the angels incredible message ­ that you would become the Mother of the Most High, so too you believed at the hour of his greatest abasement. In this way, at the hour of the Cross, at the hour of the world's darkest night, you became the Mother of all believers, the Mother of the Church. We beg you: teach us to believe, and grant that our faith may bear fruit in courageous service and be the sign of a love ever ready to share suffering and to offer assistance.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
FIFTH STATIONThe Cyrenian helps Jesus carry the Cross
From the Gospel according to Matthew. 27:32; 16:24
As they went out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross. Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Simon of Cyrene is on his way home, returning from work, when he comes upon the sad procession of those condemned ­ for him, perhaps, it was a common sight. The soldiers force this rugged man from the country to carry the Cross on his own shoulders. How annoying he must have thought it to be suddenly caught up in the fate of those condemned men! He does what he must do, but reluctantly. Significantly, the Evangelist Mark does not only name him, but also his children, who were evidently known as Christians and as members of that community (cf. Mk 15:21). From this chance encounter, faith was born. The Cyrenian, walking beside Jesus and sharing the burden of the Cross, came to see that it was a grace to be able to accompany him to his crucifixion and to help him. The mystery of Jesus, silent and suffering, touched his heart. Jesus, whose divine love alone can redeem all humanity, wants us to share his Cross so that we can complete what is still lacking in his suffering (cf. Col 1:24). Whenever we show kindness to the suffering, the persecuted and defenseless, and share in their sufferings, we help to carry that same Cross of Jesus. In this way we obtain salvation, and help contribute to the salvation of the world.
Lord, you opened the eyes and heart of Simon of Cyrene, and you gave him, by his share in your Cross, the grace of faith. Help us to aid our neighbors in need, even when this interferes with our own plans and desires. Help us to realize that it is a grace to be able to share the cross of others and, in this way, know that we are walking with you along the way. Help us to appreciate with joy that, when we share in your suffering and the sufferings of this world, we become servants of salvation and are able to help build up your Body, the Church.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
SIXTH STATIONVeronica wipes the face of Jesus
From the Book of Psalms. 27:8-9
You have said, "Seek my face". My heart says to you, "Your face, Lord, do I seek". Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Cast me not off, forsake me not, O God of my salvation.
"Your face, Lord, do I seek. Hide not your face from me" (Ps 27:8-9). Veronica ­ Bernice, in the Greek tradition ­ embodies the universal yearning of the devout men and women of the Old Testament, the yearning of all believers to see the face of God. On Jesus' Way of the Cross, though, she at first did nothing more than perform an act of womanly kindness: she held out a facecloth to Jesus. She did not let herself be deterred by the brutality of the soldiers or the fear which gripped the disciples. She is the image of that good woman, who, amid turmoil and dismay, shows the courage born of goodness and does not allow her heart to be bewildered. "Blessed are the pure in heart", the Lord had said in his Sermon on the Mount, "for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8). At first, Veronica saw only a buffeted and pain-filled face. Yet her act of love impressed the true image of Jesus on her heart: on his human face, bloodied and bruised, she saw the face of God and his goodness, which accompanies us even in our deepest sorrows. Only with the heart can we see Jesus. Only love purifies us and gives us the ability to see. Only love enables us to recognize the God who is love itself.
Lord, grant us restless hearts, hearts which seek your face. Keep us from the blindness of heart which sees only the surface of things. Give us the simplicity and purity which allow us to recognize your presence in the world. When we are not able to accomplish great things, grant us the courage which is born of humility and goodness. Impress your face on our hearts. May we encounter you along the way and show your image to the world.
* * * * * * * * * * *
SEVENTH STATIONJesus falls for the second time
From the Book of Lamentations. 3:1-2,9,16
I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light. He has blocked my way with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes.
The tradition that Jesus fell three times beneath the weight of the Cross evokes the fall of Adam ­ the state of fallen humanity ­ and the mystery of Jesus' own sharing in our fall. Throughout history the fall of man constantly takes on new forms. In his First Letter, Saint John speaks of a threefold fall: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He thus interprets the fall of man and humanity against the backdrop of the vices of his own time, with all its excesses and perversions. But we can also think, in more recent times, of how a Christianity which has grown weary of faith has abandoned the Lord: the great ideologies, and the banal existence of those who, no longer believing in anything, simply drift through life, have built a new and worse paganism, which in its attempt to do away with God once and for all, have ended up doing away with man. And so man lies fallen in the dust. The Lord bears this burden and falls, over and over again, in order to meet us. He gazes on us, he touches our hearts; he falls in order to raise us up.

Lord Jesus Christ, you have borne all our burdens and you continue to carry us. Our weight has made you fall. Lift us up, for by ourselves we cannot rise from the dust. Free us from the bonds of lust. In place of a heart of stone, give us a heart of flesh, a heart capable of seeing. Lay low the power of ideologies, so that all may see that they are a web of lies. Do not let the wall of materialism become insurmountable. Make us aware of your presence. Keep us sober and vigilant, capable of resisting the forces of evil. Help us to recognize the spiritual and material needs of others, and to give them the help they need. Lift us up, so that we may lift others up. Give us hope at every moment of darkness, so that we may bring your hope to the world.
* * * * * * * * * * *
EIGHTH STATIONJesus meets the women of Jerusalem who weep for him
From the Gospel according to Luke. 23:28-31
Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us'; and to the hills, 'Cover us'. For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
Hearing Jesus reproach the women of Jerusalem who follow him and weep for him ought to make us reflect. How should we understand his words? Are they not directed at a piety which is purely sentimental, one which fails to lead to conversion and living faith? It is no use to lament the sufferings of this world if our life goes on as usual. And so the Lord warns us of the danger in which we find ourselves. He shows us both the seriousness of sin and the seriousness of judgment. Can it be that, despite all our expressions of consternation in the face of evil and innocent suffering, we are all too prepared to trivialize the mystery of evil? Have we accepted only the gentleness and love of God and Jesus, and quietly set aside the word of judgment? "How can God be so concerned with our weaknesses?", we say. "We are only human!" Yet as we contemplate the sufferings of the Son, we see more clearly the seriousness of sin, and how it needs to be fully atoned if it is to be overcome. Before the image of the suffering Lord, evil can no longer be trivialized. To us too, he says: "Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves... if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?".
Lord, to the weeping women you spoke of repentance and the Day of Judgment, when all of us will stand before your face: before you, the Judge of the world. You call us to leave behind the trivialization of evil, which salves our consciences and allows us to carry on as before. You show us the seriousness of our responsibility, the danger of our being found guilty and without excuse on the Day of Judgment. Grant that we may not simply walk at your side, with nothing to offer other than compassionate words. Convert us and give us new life. Grant that in the end we will not be dry wood, but living branches in you, the true vine, bearing fruit for eternal life (cf. Jn 15:1-10).
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
NINTH STATIONJesus falls for the third time
From the Book of Lamentations. 3:27-32
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust - there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
What can the third fall of Jesus under the Cross say to us? We have considered the fall of man in general, and the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism. Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency! What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall! All this is present in his Passion. His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison ­ Lord, save us (cf. Mt 8: 25).
Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures. Have mercy on your Church; within her too, Adam continues to fall. When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered. But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up. Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
TENTH STATIONJesus is stripped of his garments
From the Gospel according to Matthew. 27:33-36
And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull), they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there.
Jesus is stripped of his garments. Clothing gives a man his social position; it gives him his place in society, it makes him someone. His public stripping means that Jesus is no longer anything at all, he is simply an outcast, despised by all alike. The moment of the stripping reminds us of the expulsion from Paradise: God's splendor has fallen away from man, who now stands naked and exposed, unclad and ashamed. And so Jesus once more takes on the condition of fallen man. Stripped of his garments, he reminds us that we have all lost the "first garment" that is God's splendor. At the foot of the Cross, the soldiers draw lots to divide his paltry possessions, his clothes. The Evangelists describe the scene with words drawn from Psalm 22:19; by doing so they tell us the same thing that Jesus would tell his disciples on the road to Emmaus: that everything takes place "according to the Scriptures". Nothing is mere coincidence; everything that happens is contained in the Word of God and sustained by his divine plan. The Lord passes through all the stages and steps of man's fall from grace, yet each of these steps, for all its bitterness, becomes a step towards our redemption: this is how he carries home the lost sheep. Let us not forget that John says that lots were drawn for Jesus' tunic, "woven without seam from top to bottom" (Jn 19:23). We may consider this as a reference to the High Priest's robe, which was "woven from a single thread", without stitching (Fl. Josephus, a III, 161). For he, the Crucified One, is the true High Priest.
Lord Jesus, you were stripped of your garments, exposed to shame, cast out of society. You took upon yourself the shame of Adam, and you healed it. You also take upon yourself the sufferings and the needs of the poor, the outcasts of our world. And in this very way you fulfill the words of the prophets. This is how you bring meaning into apparent meaninglessness. This is how you make us realize that your Father holds you, us, and the whole world in his hands. Give us a profound respect for man at every stage of his existence, and in all the situations in which we encounter him. Clothe us in the light of your grace.
ELEVENTH STATIONJesus is nailed to the Cross
From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:37-42
And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus the King of the Jews". Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right hand and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross". So also the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the Cross and we will believe in him".
Jesus is nailed to the Cross. The shroud of Turin gives us an idea of the unbelievable cruelty of this procedure. Jesus does not drink the numbing gall offered to him: he deliberately takes upon himself all the pain of the Crucifixion. His whole body is racked; the words of the Psalm have come to pass: "But I am a worm and no man, scorned by men, rejected by the people" (Ps 22:7). "As one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised... surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" (Is 53:3f.). Let us halt before this image of pain, before the suffering Son of God. Let us look upon him at times of presumptuousness and pleasure, in order to learn to respect limits and to see the superficiality of all merely material goods. Let us look upon him at times of trial and tribulation, and realize that it is then that we are closest to God. Let us try to see his face in the people we might look down upon. As we stand before the condemned Lord, who did not use his power to come down from the Cross, but endured its suffering to the end, another thought comes to mind. Ignatius of Antioch, a prisoner in chains for his faith in the Lord, praised the Christians of Smyrna for their invincible faith: he says that they were, so to speak, nailed with flesh and blood to the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1). Let us nail ourselves to him, resisting the temptation to stand apart, or to join others in mocking him.
Lord Jesus Christ, you let yourself be nailed to the Cross, accepting the terrible cruelty of this suffering, the destruction of your body and your dignity. You allowed yourself to be nailed fast; you did not try to escape or to lessen your suffering. May we never flee from what we are called to do. Help us to remain faithful to you. Help us to unmask the false freedom which would distance us from you. Help us to accept your "binding" freedom, and, "bound" fast to you, to discover true freedom.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

TWELFTH STATIONJesus dies on the Cross
From the Gospel according to John 19:19-20
Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the Cross; it read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews". Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.
From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:45-50,54
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" That is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders hearing it said, "This man is calling Elijah". And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him". And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit". When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"
In Greek and Latin, the two international languages of the time, and in Hebrew, the language of the Chosen People, a sign stood above the Cross of Jesus, indicating who he was: the King of the Jews, the promised Son of David. Pilate, the unjust judge, became a prophet despite himself. The kingship of Jesus was proclaimed before all the world. Jesus himself had not accepted the title "Messiah", because it would have suggested a mistaken, human idea of power and deliverance. Yet now the title can remain publicly displayed above the Crucified Christ. He is indeed the king of the world. Now he is truly "lifted up". In sinking to the depths he rose to the heights. Now he has radically fulfilled the commandment of love, he has completed the offering of himself, and in this way he is now the revelation of the true God, the God who is love. Now we know who God is. Now we know what true kingship is. Jesus prays Psalm 22, which begins with the words: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:2). He takes to himself the whole suffering people of Israel, all of suffering humanity, the drama of God's darkness, and he makes God present in the very place where he seems definitively vanquished and absent. The Cross of Jesus is a cosmic event. The world is darkened, when the Son of God is given up to death. The earth trembles. And on the Cross, the Church of the Gentiles is born. The Roman centurion understands this, and acknowledges Jesus as the Son of God. From the Cross he triumphs ­ ever anew.
Lord Jesus Christ, at the hour of your death the sun was darkened. Ever anew you are being nailed to the Cross. At this present hour of history we are living in God's darkness. Through your great sufferings and the wickedness of men, the face of God, your face, seems obscured, unrecognizable. And yet, on the Cross, you have revealed yourself. Precisely by being the one who suffers and loves, you are exalted. From the Cross on high you have triumphed. Help us to recognize your face at this hour of darkness and tribulation. Help us to believe in you and to follow you in our hour of darkness and need. Show yourself once more to the world at this hour. Reveal to us your salvation.
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THIRTEENTH STATIONJesus is taken down from the Cross and given to his Mother
From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:54-55
When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" There were also many women there, looking on from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.
Jesus is dead. From his heart, pierced by the lance of the Roman soldier, flow blood and water: a mysterious image of the stream of the sacraments, Baptism and the Eucharist, by which the Church is constantly reborn from the opened heart of the Lord. Jesus' legs are not broken, like those of the two men crucified with him. He is thus revealed as the true Paschal lamb, not one of whose bones must be broken (cf. Es 12:46). And now, at the end of his sufferings, it is clear that, for all the dismay which filled men's hearts, for all the power of hatred and cowardice, he was never alone. There are faithful ones who remain with him. Under the Cross stand Mary, his Mother, the sister of his Mother, Mary, Mary Magdalen and the disciple whom he loved. A wealthy man, Joseph of Arimathea, appears on the scene: a rich man is able to pass through the eye of a needle, for God has given him the grace. He buries Jesus in his own empty tomb, in a garden. At Jesus' burial, the cemetery becomes a garden, the garden from which Adam was cast out when he abandoned the fullness of life, his Creator. The garden tomb symbolizes that the dominion of death is about to end. A member of the Sanhedrin also comes along, Nicodemus, to whom Jesus had proclaimed the mystery of rebirth by water and the Spirit. Even in the Sanhedrin, which decreed his death, there is a believer, someone who knows and recognizes Jesus after his death. In this hour of immense grief, of darkness and despair, the light of hope is mysteriously present. The hidden God continues to be the God of life, ever near. Even in the night of death, the Lord continues to be our Lord and Savior. The Church of Jesus Christ, his new family, begins to take shape.
Lord, you descended into the darkness of death. But your body is placed in good hands and wrapped in a white shroud (Mt 27:59). Faith has not completely died; the sun has not completely set. How often does it appear that you are asleep? How easy it is for us to step back and say to ourselves: "God is dead". In the hour of darkness, help us to know that you are still there. Do not abandon us when we are tempted to lose heart. Help us not to leave you alone. Give us the fidelity to withstand moments of confusion and a love ready to embrace you in your utter helplessness, like your Mother, who once more holds you to her breast. Help us, the poor and rich, simple and learned, to look beyond all our fears and prejudices, and to offer you our abilities, our hearts and our time, and thus to prepare a garden for the Resurrection.
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FOURTEENTH STATIONJesus is laid in the tomb
From the Gospel according to Matthew 27:59-61
Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulcher.
Jesus, disgraced and mistreated, is honorably buried in a new tomb. Nicodemus brings a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight, which gives off a precious scent. In the Son's self-offering, as at his anointing in Bethany, we see an "excess" which evokes God's generous and superabundant love. God offers himself unstintingly. If God's measure is superabundance, then we for our part should consider nothing too much for God. This is the teaching of Jesus himself, in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:20). But we should also remember the words of Saint Paul, who says that God "through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere. We are the aroma of Christ" (2 Cor 2:14ff.). Amid the decay of ideologies, our faith needs once more to be the fragrance which returns us to the path of life. At the very moment of his burial, Jesus' words are fulfilled: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (Jn 12:24). Jesus is the grain of wheat which dies. From that lifeless grain of wheat comes forth the great multiplication of bread which will endure until the end of the world. Jesus is the bread of life which can satisfy superabundantly the hunger of all humanity and provide its deepest nourishment. Through his Cross and Resurrection, the eternal Word of God became flesh and bread for us. The mystery of the Eucharist already shines forth in the burial of Jesus.
Lord Jesus Christ, in your burial you have taken on the death of the grain of wheat. You have become the lifeless grain of wheat which produces abundant fruit for every age and for all eternity. From the tomb shines forth in every generation the promise of the grain of wheat which gives rise to the true manna, the Bread of Life, in which you offer us your very self. The eternal Word, through his Incarnation and death, has become a Word which is close to us: you put yourself into our hands and into our hearts, so that your word can grow within us and bear fruit. Through the death of the grain of wheat you give us yourself, so that we too can dare to lose our life in order to find it, so that we too can trust the promise of the grain of wheat. Help us grow in love and veneration for your Eucharistic mystery ­ to make you, the Bread of heaven, the source of our life. Help us to become your "fragrance", and to make known in this world the mysterious traces of your life. Like the grain of wheat which rises from the earth, putting forth its stalk and then its ear, you could not remain enclosed in the tomb: the tomb is empty because he ­ the Father ­ "did not abandon you to the nether world, nor let your flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:31; Ps 16:10 LXX). No, you did not see corruption. You have risen, and have made a place for our transfigured flesh in the very heart of God. Help us to rejoice in this hope and bring it joyfully to the world. Help us to become witnesses of your resurrection.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: On the Question of the Foundations and Approaches of Exegesis Today,” Lecture delivered on 27 January 1988 at Saint Peter’s Church in New York, New York.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “On the Way to Jesus Christ,” Ignatius (2005) 7-8.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Marvin R. O’Connell, “Critics on Trial,” CUA Press (1994) 290-291.
[5] Ibid
[6] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity” Ignatius (1990) 151-153.
[7] Ibid