Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Class OLP 3-13-09


The Question: Could the national and global collapse of ideological structures in the United States and the world from 1989, through 2001 into the fall of 2008, be the historical moment for the conversion to the reality of the Person of Jesus Christ as God-man to become the defining center of the world and the truth that orders global freedom?

The Revelation

Christ as Defining Center (Scripture and Magisterium)

1) “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty’” (Apocalypse 1, 8)
“I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end!” (Apocalypse 22, 13).

2) “All things have been created through and unto him, and he is before all creatures, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1, 17-19).

3) “For all things are yours… and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3, 22-23).

4) “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1, 4-5).
4) Dominus Iesus (SCDF 2000) #15:[1] “(O)ne can and must say that Jesus Christ has a significance and a value for the human race and its history, which are unique and singular, proper to him alone, exclusive, universal, and absolute. Jesus is, in fact, the Word of God made man for the salvation of all. In expressing this consciousness of faith, the Second Vatican Council teaches: “The Word of God, through whom all things were made, was made flesh, so that as perfect man he could save all men and sum up all things in himself. The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the desires of history and civilization, the centre of mankind, the joy of all hearts, and the fulfilment of all aspirations. It is he whom the Father raised from the dead, exalted and placed at his right hand, constituting him judge of the living and the dead.” “It is precisely this uniqueness of Christ which gives him an absolute and universal significance whereby, while belonging to history, he remains history's centre and goal: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end' (Rev 22:13).”[2]

The Collapse of the Structures

Benedict XVI remarked in Brazil in May of 2007, that “we inevitably speak of the problem of structures, especially those which create injustice. In truth, just structures are a condition without which a just order in society is not possible. But how do they arise? How do they function? Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared that these, once established, would function by themselves; they declared that not only would they have no need of any prior individual morality, but that they would promote a communal morality. And this ideological promise has been proved false. The facts have clearly demonstrated it. The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful destruction of the human spirit. And we can also see the same thing happening in the West, where the distance between rich and poor is growing constantly, and giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.
Just structures are, as I have said, an indispensable condition for a just society, but they neither arise nor function without a moral consensus in society on fundamental values, and on the need to live these values with the necessary sacrifices, even if this goes against personal interest. Where God is absent -- God with the human face of Jesus Christ -- these values fail to show themselves with their full force, nor does a consensus arise concerning them. I do not mean that non-believers cannot live a lofty and exemplary morality; I am only saying that a society in which God is absent will not find the necessary consensus on moral values or the strength to live according to the model of these values, even when they are in conflict with private interests. On the other hand, just structures must be sought and elaborated in the light of fundamental values, with the full engagement of political, economic and social reasoning. They are a question of recta ratio and they do not arise from ideologies nor from their premises.”

State of Affairs: Crises

1) Death to the unwanted child: Abortion, Fetal Stem Cells, the Handicapped...
2) No discrimination between the sexes: The need to recover the ontological dissimilarity (opposing relations) within the equality as persons: “The person’s power for actively being his sexuality without necessarily engaging his sexual functions. This is one way of stating the original and most authentic meaning of sexual freedomWhen the sexuality of man and woman becomes centered, as it is meant to be, in their capacity for being love without necessarily making love in a genital manner, then their sexual actions emerge from freedom rather than from necessity.”[3]
3) Massive financial fraud: The loss of trust as faith in the other as person. Linda Chavez: “‘Money is a matter of belief, even faith: belief in the person issueing the money he uses or the institution that honors his checks or transfers. Money is... trust inscribed.’ And once trust breaks down, the system itself collapses. What is worrisome in today’s troubled economy is that trust seems to be dissolving before our eyes. Why have banks stopped lending? Why are people pulling their money out of the stock market, driving down the Dow and NASDAQ? Why are people afraid to buy houses? It all boils down to trust. Banks son’t trust that debtors – companies, individuals, even other banks – will pay back the money they lend, so they stop lending...” (NY Post, Sat. Dec. 20, 2008 A23).
Once again, the reduction of person to thing. Mortgages as personal relations turned into “traunches.” Now, the credit card. “The End of the Financial World As We Know It” – Michael Lewis.
4) Loss of Freedom of Speech: The Press is now “advertising” rather than report and critique.
5) Government is not “power” over the people rather than service: “I won (the election).”

The Secret

The Way #301: “I’ll tell you a secret, an open secret: these world crises are crists of saints. God wants a handful of men ‘of his own’ in every human activity. Then... ‘pax Christi in regno Christi’ – ‘the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ.’”

The Charism of Opus Dei

“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself” (Jn. 12, 32).

St. Josemaria Escriva was given the exegesis of these words during a Mass on August 7, 1931. He was told: “Not in the sense in which Scripture says it do I say it to you. I say it to you in the sense that you are to place me at the summit of all human activities, so that in all the places of the earth there will be Christians with a most personal and free dedication, that they be other Christs.”

In “Christ is Passing By,” he gives it this variation: “If you put me at the center of all human activities… by fulfilling the duty of each moment, in what appears important and what appears unimportant, I will draw everything to myself. My kingdom among you will be a reality!”[4]

The Absolute Within the Relative

The Christology Supporting the Centrality of Christ: “The Divine Person of the Logos is present as the Subject of the man Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, the words, deeds, and entire historical event of Jesus, though limited as human realities, have nevertheless the divine Person of the Incarnate Word, “true God and true man” as their subject. For this reason, they possess in themselves the definitiveness and completeness of the revelation of God's salvific ways, even if the depth of the divine mystery in itself remains transcendent and inexhaustible. The truth about God is not abolished or reduced because it is spoken in human language; rather, it is unique, full, and complete, because he who speaks and acts is the Incarnate Son of God.”[5]

What must be grasped here is that the absolute is present within historical contingency and time. God as second Person of the Trinity is present in the here and now. This can only be understood if we grasp the philosophic point that only persons or “supposits” are causes of free action. Bodies don’t act, minds don’t think and wills don’t will, animals and machines don’t work. Only persons act, think, will and work.[6]

4) Gaudium et spes #22: Jesus Christ is the revelation of not only who God is, but who man is: “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 to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam. In the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling…He who is the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1, 15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not absorbed, in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his Incarnation, he, the son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.”

The Dynamic Disclosing the Centrality of Christ as Working Person: Historical Praxis

The great work of David Walsh in his “The Modern Philosophical Revolution – The Luminosity of Existence”[7] centers on the “I” of the human person as the absolute ontological reality. Absolute knowledge of the real comes from experience and consciousness of that “I.” The great value of the work is its reflecting philosophically what has taken place in the Magisterium of the Church in Vatican II and since Vatican II in John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The work is fascinating as a re-reading of so-called “German Idealism” in an ontological existentialist key from Kant through Hegel, Schelling, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Levinas into Wojtyla and Ratzinger both within Vatican II and afterwards as popes. This attempt by Walsh dove-tails with Benedict XVI’s attitude of recovering “modernity” (read modern philosophy) when he said: “(I)t seems to me that this was the true intention of the Second Vatican Council, to go beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, but at the same time… to transform modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the light and strength of the faith.”[8]

The Kingdom of God: The Kingdom of God is here and now, as is the enfleshed Logos of the Trinity. The Kingdom of God is neither “up there” or “after this” in an eschatological future: “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). The Kingdom of God becomes a here and now reality that can be seen when a person makes the act of self-determination to give the self. As one becomes “another Christ” by the gift of self, the Kingdom is present here and now. It is not a thing or a structure, but a person in relation. Because of the scandal of the invisibility of the Kingdom of God that cannot be seen as a “this” and a “that,” “Christian theology, which was very soon confronted by” the promise and the disappointment of its non-appearance, “in the course of time turned the kingdom of God into a kingdom of heaven that is beyond this mortal life, after death. But theology did not thereby provide an answer. For what is sublime in this message is precisely that the Lord was talking not just about another life, not just about men’s souls, but was addressing the body, the whole man, in his embodied form, with his involvement in history and society; that he promised the kingdom of God to the man who lives bodily with other men in this history.”[9]

The Kingdom of God is, then, a reality of persons. It is not a “thing” or a structure like “Christendom.” It is not the Church as visible structure, although it cannot exist without the Church. John Paul II wrote: “Christ not only proclaimed the kingdom, but in him the kingdom itself became present and was fulfilled. This happened not only through his words and his deeds: ‘Above all… the kingdom is made manifest in the very person of Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, who came ‘to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (mk. 10, 45). The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God. If the kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is not lover the kingdom of God which he revealed. The result is a distortion of the meaning of the kingdom, which runs the risk of being transformed into purely human or ideological goal, and a distortion of the identity of Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom everything must one day be subjected (cf. 1 Cor.15, 27).
“Likewise, one may not separate the kingdom from the Church. It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both.”[10]
The point I am suggesting is that the ideological structures of Capitalism and Marxism that have dominated world culture for several centuries are being toppled by the emergence of a personalist culture that will have the working Christ as its prototype and defining center. Could it be that, in the light of the Christian revelation and the pertinent Magisterium, particularly “Dominus Iesus,” the global debacle of the economy is like the movement of tectonic plates presaging the emergence of the new awaited culture of the third Millennium? Could it be that “the 21st century will be religious or it will not be at all.”

Fr. Neuhaus commented: “I'm not sure what Malraux meant by it, but it is one of those oracular pronouncements that have about them the ring of truth. At the threshold of the Third Millennium, it seems that the alternatives to religion have exhausted themselves. That is true of the materialistically cramped rationalisms of the Enlightenment encyclopaedists, which, along with ideological utopianisms, both romantic and allegedly scientific, have been consigned, as Marxists used to say, to the dustbin of history. The perversity of the human mind will no doubt produce other ideological madnesses, but at the moment it seems the historical stage has been swept clean, with only the religious proposition left standing. That is certainly the intuition that informs John Paul II's repeated exhortation, "Be not afraid!"--an exhortation addressed to the entire human community.”[11]

Is This Theologically Feasible?
The ideological structures have in fact collapsed. Could a new truth be emerging now by dint of the praxis of prayer and self-giving as service in ordinary work (where the whole philosophical corpus of modernity has been heading [but incorrectly understood and labeled “German Idealism”]). Could it be understood not as a doctrinaire conservatism but as a true “liberalism” of self-transcendence – a praxis - where the truth emerges from the experience of the self as self-transcendence? And could this truth be the truth of the human person that can be found, as the Second Vatican Council teaches in Gaudium et spes #24: “Man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.” Could it be that this non-doctrinaire liberal formulation of the Magisterium of the Church be the key to the emergence of the truth that has its prototype in Jesus Christ that will make us free (Jn. 8, 32)? Recall that the “theological epistemology” of Ratzinger offers a “liberal” praxis to achieving a “knowledge” of Jesus Christ as transcendent, personal Deity. He offered St. Luke’s “And it came to pass as He was praying in private, that his disciples also were with him.” They were able to transcend contingent sensible knowledge of the man Jesus of Nazareth to draw from the experience and consciousness within themselves as “Other Christs” and transfer that consciousness as the concepts and word: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16).

Could this be where the Spirit is leading the entire world at the present moment? Could it be that we have actually reached the historical moment when The words uttered to St. Josemaria Escriva become historical actual: “If you put me at the center of all human activities… by fulfilling the duty of each moment, in what appears important and what appears unimportant, I will draw everything to myself. My kingdom among you will be a reality!”

Primacy of Persons over Structures

“(The Church) considers that the first thing to be done is to appeal to the spiritual and moral capacities of the individual and to the permanent need for inner conversion, if one is to achieve the economic and social changes that will truly be at the service of man.

“The priority given to structures and technical organization over the person and the requirements of his dignity is the expression of a materialistic anthropology and is contrary to the construction of a just social order.

“On the other hand, the recognized priority of freedom and of conversion of heart in no way eliminates the need for unjust structures to be changed. It is therefore perfectly legitimate that those who suffer oppression on the part of the wealthy or the politically powerful should take action, through morally licit means, in order to secure structures and institutions in which their rights will be truly respected.

“It remains true however those structures established for people’s good are of themselves incapable of securing and guaranteeing that good. The corruption which in certain countries affects the leaders and the state bureaucracy, and which destroys all honest social life, is a proof of this. Moral integrity is a necessary condition for the health of society. It is therefore necessary to work simultaneously for the conversion of hearts and for the improvement of structures. For the sin which is at the root of unjust situations is, in a true and immediate sense, a voluntary act which has its source in the freedom of individuals. Only in a derived and secondary sense is it applicable to structures, and only in this senses can one speak of ‘social sin.’

The Gospel of Work

“The life of Jesus of Nazareth, a real ‘Gospel of work,’ offers us the living example and principle of the radical cultural transformation which is essential for solving the grave problems which must be faced by the age in which we live. He, who, though He was God, became like us in all things, devoted the greater part of His earthly life to manual labor. The culture which our age awaits will be marked by the full recognition of the dignity of human work, which appears in all its nobility and fruitfulness in the light of the mysteries of creation and redemption. Recognized as an expression of the person, work becomes a source of creative meaning and effort.

“Thus the solution of most of the serious problems related to poverty is to be found in the promotion of a true civilization of work. In a sense, work is the key to the whole social question.

“It is therefore in the domain of work that priority must be given to the action of liberation in freedom. Because the relationship between the human person and work is radical and vital, the forms and models according to which this relationship is regulated will exercise a positive influence for the solution of a whole series of social and political problems facing each people. Just work relationships will be a necessary pre-condition for a system of political community capable of favoring the integral development of every individual. …

“A work culture such as this will necessarily presuppose and pout into effect a certain number of essential values. It will acknowledge that he person of the worker is the principle, subject and purpose of work. It will affirm the priority of work over capital and the fact that material goods are meant for all. It will be animated by a sense of solidarity involving not only rights to be defended but also the duties to be performed. It will involve participation, aimed at promoting the national and international common good and not just defending individual or corporate interests. It will assimilate the methods of confrontation and of rank and vigorous dialogue….

“A culture which recognizes the eminent dignity of the worker will emphasize the subjective dimension of work.

“The value of any human work does not depend on the kind of work done; it is based on the fat that the one who does it is a person. There we have an ethical criterion whose implications cannot be overlooked.”

The fundamental value of all subsequent structures is the Person of Christ who has been theologically elaborated as pure relation to the Father, who in turn becomes prototypical of man as the anthropological process of “finding self by the sincere gift of self” (Gaudium et spes #24).

The Question: Could the national and global collapse of ideological structures in the United States and the world from 1989, through 2001 into the fall of 2008, be the historical moment for the conversion to the reality of the Person of Jesus Christ as God-man to become the defining truth that orders global freedom?

In a word, is the moment for the beginning of the new evangelization, the first step of which is conversion in this year of St. Paul, is it now? Benedict just sent the message for World Youth Day on the topic of “Hope.” Until now we have placed our hope in the structure of free market capitalism. It collapsed. Where do we put our hope now? In the survival of the structure by bailing it out financially? Where did Paul put his hope?

Paul: “We have set our hope on the living God” (1 Tim 4, 10). Benedict asks: “How did this hope take root in him?” Saul had a personal encounter with the Person of Christ on the road to Damascus. Benedict: “After that encounter, Paul’s life changed radically… On the road to Damascus, he was inwardly transformed by the Divine Love he had met in the person of Jesus Christ…. For Paul, hope is not simply an ideal or sentiment, but a living person: Jesus Christ, the Son of God… ‘We have set our hope on the living God’ (1 Tim. 4, 10). The ‘living God’ is the Risen Christ present in our world. He is the true hope: the Christ who lives with us and in us and who calls us to share in his eternal life.”

a) Conversion: Sacrament of Penance

b) Prayer: perseverance in short periods of prayer: Jacques Philippe

[1] #6. August 6, 2000.
[2] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 6.
[3] John and Mary Rosera Joyce, “New Dynamics in Sexual love: A Revolutionary Approach to Marriage and Celibacy,” internet: Worldwide Book Drive.
[4] “Christ is Passing By,” #183.
[5] Dominus Iesus, SCDF 2000 #6.
[6] The key is the thomistic text: S.. Th. II-II, 58, 3 Respondeo: "Now actions belong to supposits and wholes and, properly speaking, not parts and forms or powers, for we do not say properly that the hand strikes, but a man with his hand, nor that heat makes a thing hot, but fire by heat, although such expressions may be employed metaphorically. Hence, justice properly speaking demands a distinction of supposits, and consequently is only in one man towards another. Nevertheless in one and the same man we may speak metaphorically of his various principles of action such as the reason, the irascible, and the concupiscible, as though they were so many agents: so that metaphorically in one and the same man there is said to be justice in so far as the reason commands the irascible and concupiscible, and these obey reason; and in general in so far as to each part of man is ascribed what is becoming to it. Hence the Philosopher (Ethic. v. 11) calls this metaphysical justice." Note also this propriety of attribution of action to "supposits" or persons is critical in the case of the humanity and divinity in Christ. The whole of Constantinople III depended on getting this right with regard to the freedom of the human will and its personal identity with the divine.

[7] David Walsh, “The Modern Philosophical Revolution – The Luminosity of Existence” Cambridge (2008)
[8] “The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI, ‘Let God’s Light Shine Forth,’” Doubleday (2005) 35.
[9] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means to Be a Christian,” Ignatius 2006, 28.
[10] John Paul II, Mission of the Redeemer, #18.
[11] First Things 76 (October 1997): 75.

[12] SCDF “Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation” (1986) #75-85.


Anonymous said...

I should like to think that this is indeed the unveiling of a new age where Christ is the center of all human activity. What a hopeful and pleasant thought!

Anonymous said...

" Could it be that “the 21st century will be religious or it will not be at all.”
We can ask this question each morning we arise and see a new day.
Of course no one knows the day or the hour. Surely the events of the recent months have uncovered for all to see that mostly because of our moral weakness, we are weak indeed. St Paul found that in his weakness he was strong. I pray that mankind comes to that same realization. Our only hope ultimatly is God.