Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Once Again: Revelation as Person, Faith and the Church

It is always intriguing to try to fathom – yet again and again - the meaning of revelation as Person, faith as response to it, and the reality of the Church as engendered by it.

First, revelation is not “informative” but “performative” in the words of Benedict XVI last weekend. Truth that is the Person of Christ “means more than knowledge.”[1] It is becoming in oneself – the “adequatio” (conformity or “isomer”) of the self as person to the Self that is Christ as Person – what the Person of Christ is in Himself. And that configuration of the Person of Christ is to be relation to the Father. The Logos is not in relation to the Father but is relation to the Father. His substantiality consists in not being “in self” but relation to (“for”) the Other (See 131-132 of “Introduction to Christianity” 1990; or p. 184 of the 2005 edition). Hence, the supreme revelation of God is Jesus Christ extended on the Cross as obedience to death “for” us. That act is the supreme revelation.

That relational act that is the very Person of Christ as Logos “from” and “for” the Father, is revelation. It (the act) cannot become truth in us merely as “information” as “factual data” (Yonkers, 4/20/08) but as our reciprocal “performance” in our very person. Instead of being calibrated as data that we “know” and therefore conceptualize (mediate by a symbol), we have to go through the experience of going out of ourselves in order to receive in ourselves the kind of relationality that He is toward the Father. We have to become like Him. That oneness of being – while being ontologically two – is what it means to become “another Christ.” St. Josemaria Escriva said: “But we have to join him through faith, letting his life show forth in ours to such an extent that each Christian is not simply alter Christus: another Christ but ipse Christus: Christ himself!”[2]

The Church:

Secondly, in concrete terms, one can “know” Christ only by prayer, or by an action that is turned into prayer. If the self of the believer is not given, the Self of God is not “known.” Like is known by like. And once you have become “like” Christ by becoming a kind of “isomer” or “reciprocal” in your very persona, then you know everyone else as well, because they have done the same thing. The difference from a mechanical likeness is the fact that the self-giving has to be a free self-determining act such that each one is the author of his self-giving. Otherwise it is not self-giving but a being-given, and then it is not gift as yours but a being-given, as a “thing.” Hence, in the Church we are all “one” not that we are all the same “thing” or substance, but that we are all – each uniquely – another Christ as self-transcending. So that each one "knows" the other as Christ just as he "knows" himself as Christ.

[It may important to insert here, and precisely here, the philosophic observations of Karol Wojtyla concerning the cognizing of the subjectivity of the self and the other. He says: "When it comes to understnding the human being, the whole rich and complex reality of lived expereince is not so much an element or aspect as a dimension in its own right. And this is the dimension at which we must necessarily pause if the subjective structure - including the subjective personal structure - of the human being is to be fully delineated.

"What does it mean to pause cognitively at lived experience? This 'pausing' should be understood in relation to the irreducible. The traditions of philosophical anthropology would have us believe that we can, so to speak, pass right over this dimension, that we can cognitively omit it by means of an abstraction that oprovides us with a species definition of the human being as a bieng, or, in other words, with a cosmological type of reduction ( homo = animal rationale). One might ask, however, whether in so defining the essence of the human being we do not in a sense leave out what is most humana,a since thehumanum expresses and realizes itself as the personale. If so, then the irreducible would suggest that we cannot come to know and understand the human being in a reductive way alone. This is also what the contemporaory philosophy of the subject seems to be telling the traditinal philosophy of the object.

But that is not all. The irreducible signifies that which is essentially incapable of reduction, that which cannot be reduced but can only be disclosed or revealed. Lived expoerience essentially defies reduction. This does not mean, however, that it eludes our knowledge: it only means that we must arrive at the knowledge of it differently, namely, by a method or means of analysis that merely reveals and discloses its essence. The method of phenomenological analysis allows us to pause at lived experience as the irreducible. This method is not just a descriptive cataloging of individual phenomena (in the Kantian sense, i.e., phenomena as sense-perceptible contents). When we pause at the lived experience of the irreducible, we attempt to permeate cognitively the whole essence of this experience. We thus apprehend both the essentially subjective structure of lived experience and its structural relation to the subjectivity of the human being. Phenomenological analysis thus contribures to transphenomenal undertstanding; it also contributes to a disclosure of the richness proper to human existence int he whole complex compositum humanum" ("Subjectivity and the Irreducible in the Human Being" in Person and Community Lang (1993) 215-216).

When Wojytla talks about this distinct type of experience that is "lived experience," he is talking about the "I" of the subject as Being who is the agent and cause of itself in its free act of self-determination. The subject perceives itself - "reflexively" in mirroring fashion - as both potency and act with regard to a future action to perform, and in so doing, forms the experience of that act. That experience is both caused by and productive of what we understand to be "consciousness" that is not "concepts" (which we understand to be objectifying).

This rather complicated and obscure foray into a phenomenology of consciousness is important to be able to say what Benedict XVI is talking about when he says "truth is a person: Jesus Christ" (Yonkers 4/20/08). He has importantly clarified that remark in his theological epistemology: "Since the center of Jesus is prayer, it is essential to participate in his prayer if we are to know and understand him" (J. Ratzinger, "Behold the Pierced One," Ignatius (1986) 25)].

In this sense, the Church is the gathering together of the pristine harmony of human nature. “It is a foreshadowing, dim but certain, of a new paradise.” “(I)n Christ the faithful are truly present to each other, and that for those who live by his love the good of each is the good of all: ‘If you love unity, whatever in it is another’s is at the same time yours.’”

“A medieval author… expressed this view of the faith very well when he wrote… as a Christian addressing his brother in Christ:

“When you are at prayer you are in my presence, and I am in yours. Do not be surprised because I say presence; for if you love me, and it is because I am the image of God that you love me, I am as much in your presence was you are in your own. All that you are substantially, that am I. Indeed, every rational being is the image of God So he who seeks in himself the image of God seeks there his neighbor as well as himself; and he who finds it in himself in seeking it there, knows it as it is in every man… If then you see yourself, you see me, for I am not different from you; and if you love the image of God, you love me as the image of God; and I, in my turn, loving God, love you. So seeking the same thing, tending towards the same thing, we are ever in one another’s presence, in God, in whom we love each other.”

[1] Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi #2.
[2] Josemaria Escriva, “Christ’s Presence in Christians,” Christ is Passing By, Scepter #104.
[3] Henri de Lubac, “The Church,” Catholicism Sheed and Ward (1958) 31.

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