Sunday, August 17, 2008

Faith as the Act of Becoming Christ: Ipse Christus

Revelation is the action whereby God gives Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. Faith is the action whereby the believer becomes the Person of Jesus Christ. Joseph Ratzinger proclaimed: “‘revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act.” And now faith: “And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive ‘revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it…. Revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it.”[1]

When the person makes the gift of self to the Person of Christ, the act that we call “faith,” the person experiences what it is to be Christ, and there accompanies this experience the consciousness being like God. It is an attitude, a perception of meaning, an understanding in the sense of perception on the plane of a distinct horizon.

This experience of Christ is critical to of epistemological realism. To not have it is not have the experience of being in an immediate fashion but always to perceive “things” mediately, and therefore with distortion. Julian Carron remarked: “It is very important for us to stick to experience without disconnecting ourselves from [this immediate perception] for even an instant. AS soon as we disconnect ourselves, we being a discourse that is ‘pasted on’ to life, and we no longer understand anything.’ What Fr. Giussani taught us is a look that passes from appearances to the You, the ultimate depth of everything, of reality, and therefore it is through what you do that you realize that you are lacking something, that the desire for Something Other is reawakened. This is what I mean when I say that the idea of Mystery is lacking. It is not because I do something ‘religious,’ like saying Morning Prayer, for example, that the Mystery comes in!”

A Helpful Metaphor: The Fresco or the Mere Painting, Secco.

Actions, including so called “religious” actions, when not done with the whole self, such that we call them “ faith,” do not become part of the self, and therefore a development of the self. By them, we do not become Christ (who is self-gift). They are like paintings done on dry plaster walls. The pigment adheres extrinsically, and with time peels off. It fails to become part of the wall.
The difference is self-gift as opposed to performance. Consider the metaphor in the contrast between “buon fresco” and “fesco secco.”

From Wikipedia:
Buon fresco technique consists of painting in pigment mixed with water on a thin layer of wet, fresh, lime mortar or plaster, for which the Italian word for plaster, intonaco, is used. Because of the chemical makeup of the plaster, a binder is not required, as the pigment mixed solely with the water will sink into the intonaco, which itself becomes the medium holding the pigment. The pigment is absorbed by the wet plaster; after a number of hours, the plaster dries and reacts with the air: it is this chemical reaction which fixes the pigment particles in the plaster. One of the first painters in the post-classical period to use this technique was the Isaac Master in the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.

Fresco-secco (or a secco) is a fresco painting technique in which watercolors are applied to dry plaster that has been moistened to simulate fresh plaster. In true fresco (buon fresco), the plaster is still fresh and has not dried when the watercolors are introduced.
Because the pigments do not become part of the wall, as in buon fresco, fresco-secco paintings are less durable. The colors may flake off the painting as time goes by. But it has the advantage of being able to work indefinitely longer time or make aftertouch.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones…” Ignatius (1997) 108-109.

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