Monday, September 21, 2009


Eschatological Context of BXVI’s Three Encyclicals

The three encyclicals of Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est,” “Spe Salvi” and “Caritas in Veritate” are situated in an epistemological drought of the experience and consciousness of God. That being so, the hope of “development” into becoming “another Christ” has morphed into an itch for “progress.” Instead of an “attitude” of relation to other, there is absorption with self, aided and abetted by information technology. Bored and alienated because of imprisonment in the self, one agitates for distraction by sound and screen in the enforced solipsism of self-sufficiency.

Benedict XVI sets the intellectual provenance of this state of affairs to be the work of Joachim of Fiore in the 13th century. He remarked: “I have tried to show in my professorial dissertation that this ["this" being the real presence of Christ in history] was what was believed concerning the theology of history throughout the first millennium of Christianity. The division of history into ‘before Christ and ‘after Christ,’ into redeemed and unredeemed time that seems to us nowadays the essential expression of the Christian consciousness of history; for we think we cannot formulate any concept of the redemption, thus of the keystone of Christianity, without it – this division of history into periods is in fact simply the result of the great change in thinking about the theology of history that occurred in the thirteenth century. This was prompted by the writings of Joachim of Fiore: his teaching about the three epochs was indeed rejected, but the understanding of the Christ-event as a point in time separating different periods within history was adopted from him. The change in the overall understanding of everything to do with Christianity that results from this has to be seen as one of the most significant turnarounds in the history of Christian consciousness. A reappraisal of this will constitute an urgent task for theological study in our time.”[1]

It is principally Bonaventure who explicitly rejects Joachim’s ‘third age’ of the Spirit because it destroys the central position of Christ. Ratzinger wrote in his thesis: “If is justified to say that for Joachim, Christ is merely one point of division among others, it is no less justified to say that for Bonaventure, Christ is the ‘axis of the world history,’ the center of time. Even though Bonaventure accepts and affirms the parallel structure of the ages which had been rejected by Thomas [Aquinas], he is led in this by a completely different tendency than that which led Joachim to his structuring of time. If Joachim was above all concerned with bringing out the movement of the second age to the third, Bonaventure’s purpose is to show on the basis of the parallel between the two ages, that Christ is the true center and the turning point of history. Christ is the center of all. This is the basic concept of Bonaventure’s historical schema, and it involves a decisive rejection of Joachim.”[2]

Ratzinger understands the Parousia (the “advent” – “presence” of Christ) to be “already-not yet.” We cannot see Him because we have lost the likeness to Him whereby we experience Him in ourselves, and therefore, “know” Him. Not experiencing Him in ourselves we cannot re-cognize Him with our external senses. We are scandalized by His “absence” and we lose hope. We are alone, thrown back on ourselves, and alienated in the world. The three encyclicals are calling us to conversion so that we begin to experience Him as Love, hope in His presence and power, and exercise that presence and power as self-gift in the world.

The Most Concrete Proposal: to live the spirit of becoming “another Christ” in the exercise of intramundane, ordinary, professional work as communicated to the Founder of Opus Dei. And since the Kingdom of God is not “up there” or “at the end of history” but a “Person with the fact and name of Jesus of Nazareth”[3] who is present in the world now – and working -, not only in the Eucharist or grace, but in all the persons who make the gift of themselves to God and the others in the service of ordinary work and rest, the Kingdom of God is present “already” – “not yet.” “Not yet” in the sense that, although Christ has come and is present, the number of those who are to become “other Christs” is not yet complete. The Kingdom is not a structure, certainly not an ideology, not even the Church, but the continuous conversion of persons into Christ by beginning again and again to make the gift of self in work and ordinary affairs.

Such action is the subjective experience that creates a change in “attitude” and consciousness of everything. It is the response of a call to holiness in the world. And of course, the rub is here. What is at stake in the pope’s mind is the universal call to holiness. Who today would agree that these world crises are crises of saints? Yet, that is exactly what is up at the present moment. The relationality of the human person in the image of the Triune God, turning work into an experience of gift and gratuitousness, “a new trajectory of thinking” (#53) which will be the “presence of God” is the deep work of a radical transformation into Christ in the middle of the world. Fundamentally, this is what’s up.

Eschatology According to the Mind of Joseph Ratzinger

The State of the Question ( from Ratzinger’s “Eschatology” – CUA (1988).

Current State of the Eschatology Question: Eschatology has come to dominate the entire theological landscape. Its first move to prominence came with Albert Schweitzer’s rediscovery - after the rationalist Enlightenment had dismissed it as the brainchild of eccentrics - that Jesus’ preaching “was soaked through with eschatology.” This new eschatological awareness has been subsumed under the rubric of “Hope.” The driving force of it today is the “emerging crisis of European civilization.” Since the turn of the century, human minds have been increasingly aware of a decline and fall, like the premonition of some imminent earthquake in world history” (3). World War I undermined the dominant Liberalism of the late 19th century. Then followed Existentialism (a philosophy of preparedness and decision… offering itself as a reasonable interpretation of the real meaning of Jesus’ message about the End.”

Then came Marxism, a greater realism, resembling Old Testament messianism, now gong anti-theistic. Barth separated faith from religion and gave us a choice between theology of the future or a theology of God. Hence, there is an eschatology of the future that says noting about death, judgment, heaven, hell or purgatory. But Ratzinger says that “these omitted topics belong intrinsically to what is specific in the Christian view of the age-to-come and its presence here and new” (94).

Historical Presuppositions of the Present Situation:

There was a past apostasy. Eschatology was not about hope but about death, judgment, heaven and hell. But the early Christians invoked the “maranatha” and the mediaevals invoked the “Dies Irae.” The first was joyful hope; the second was fear of judgment. Ratzinger indicates that, in the 19th and 20th centuries, “Christianity [had] been reduced to the level of the individual person(…) to the detriment of what was once the core of both eschatology and the Christian message itself: the confident, corporate hope for the imminent salvation of all the world” (5). The point is that eschatology was reduced to the motto “Save you soul” and not all of us together.

Also, the body was part of prayer in the early Church (6), as it was with the Jews. When the Jew prayed, he turned toward the Jerusalem temple. “By contrast, early Christians prayed turned towards the East, the rising sun, which is the symbol of the risen Christ who rose from death’s night” (6). It is also the sign of the returning Christ who thus establishes the Kingdom of God in this world.[4] Note that the Kingdom of God is already in this world: “Heaven is not a place but a Person, the Person of him in whom God and man are forever and inseparably one. And we go to heaven and enter into heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him. In this senses, ‘ascension into heaven’ can be something that takes place in our everyday lives.”[5] Hence, faith in the resurrection and hope in the Parousia are intimately related. “The two are one in the figure of the Lord who has already returned as the risen One [who] continues to return in the Eucharist, and so remains he who is to come, the hope of the world.

What does this mean? “Christian hope is not some news item about tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. We might put it this way: hope is now personalized. Its focus is not space and time, the question of ‘Where?’ and ‘When?’ but relationship with Christ’s person and longing for him to come close” (8).

Ratzinger asks: “However did we arrive at that tedious and tedium-laden Christianity which we moderns observe and, indeed, know from our own experience?”(8)

The History:

- 1000 a.d. the end is here. (millennarism)

- Later Middle Ages: intensified expectation of the imminent end of the world and the development of the litany of the saints. “The immediate stuff of the prayer llife of the Christian people in its corporate anxiety and jope is perhaps best grasped in the Litany of the Saints. By a development not all of whose phases are as yet clearly seen, this litany grew up by degrees from the Lte Antique period onwards….The first thing to strike us here is that the person who is thus set about by dangers in time and eternity finds a shelter in the communion of the saints. He gathers the redeemed of all ages around him and finds safety under their mantle. This signifies that the walls separating heaven and earth, and past, present and future, are now as glass. The Christian lives in the presence of the saints as his own proper ambience, and so lives ‘eschatologically.’ In the saints, “the Christian promise has already proved its worth. They count for something not as the past but as the present of the Lord’s power to save” (9)

The difficulty with understanding “eschatology” now is the sense that “grace and salvation are past, and the future holds only threat and judgment” Isn’t this shifting of the axis the real cause of the crisis in Christianity? Hasn’t Christianity elected to make the past its preferred moment in time and so deprived itself of the future?” (10)

The deep root of the problem is the objectification of redemption as a fact in past history to which we keep looking back, instead of a present act in which we share co-redeeming. And then, we look forward with dread to the judgement as an objectified event in the future. The problem and the solution are to be found in the epistemological turn to the subject: Christ as “I Am” now, and we as “I am” now. Ratzinger asks: “What can we learn from al this? In the first place, the decisive consideration is still looking to our Lord. Eschatology’s meaning and driving force depend upon the power of this waiting on Christ, not on temporal expectations of the world’s end or transformation, no matter of what kind. Furthermore, though past Christian history receives very considerable emphasis, that history is invoked in the Litany as a generator of hope, and so contains a dynamism directed to the future” (11)

Ratzinger’s big point is this: Christianity cannot be reduced to individualism (my personal death) or otherworldliness. “Both of these rob the Christian faith of its vital power. Here, in fact, lies the task of contemporary eschatology: to marry perspectives, so that person and community, present and future, are seen in their unity” (12)

Schema of eschatology from Middle Ages to early modern period and then to ourselves:

Joachim of Fiore (c. 1130-1202):

- I Age of the Father: Old Testament

- II Age of the Son: The Church

- III Age of the Holy Spirit: The Church living in spontaneous fulfillment of the Sermon on ht e Mount through the universally efficacious activity of the Holy Spirit. Chiliasm: the expectation, founded on the Johannine Apocalypse, of a thousand-year reign of Christ on earth before the end of the world and the final judgment. Joachim revived this and it became a program of practical action in that one could work toward the awaited third age by founding suitable religious Orders. It was taken up by a segment of the Franciscan Order, but underwent increasing secularization until eventually it was turned into political utopia. The notion of utopia has flourished (not least in Marxism) since the 19th century and today has taken the form of “progress.”

The “well-being” – blessedness - which faith promises to the whole person has been diluted into the “salvation of the soul.” “‘Well-being’ had once meant a totality: the well-being of the world through which I too am happy. But now the soul’s salvation is but a fragment, and happiness another, and soon these two parts will be seen as natural enemies. The future salvation of my soul is the adversary of my present happiness, the Christian promise an impairment and menace to the earthly present. This opposition is the source of the resentment one can sense among many theologians against the doctrine of the last things. The traditional eschatology is felt to be suspicious of human happiness which it would fain whittle down by appeal to the specter of uncertain tomorrow” (13-14).[6]

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

It seems that the topic of eschatology is the center point of the three encyclicals of Benedict XVI: God is Agape; Saved by Hope; Caritas in Veritate:

Christ – Agape - is self-gift. To become Christ as self-gift is to ontologically tend toward the Father, which is to hope. This hoping in historical and existential time and space as “another Christ” is the meaning of “development” as primarily the development of the person into the Person of Christ. All human activity including the economic and the political presupposes this “development” of the person that is relation, service through work.

Hence, Ratzinger concludes his introductory “State of the Question” for eschatology:

“Humanity is waking up to the significance of eschatology because the question of the future of the whole has once again become urgent. The creation of a new world: this is the task which now absorbs all energies. As a result, the older eschatology has been pushed back into a corner where it stands bearing the dismissive label ‘salvation for the soul.’ No contribution here, or so it seems [italics mine], to the ‘praxis’ of a new age. This is the situation in which we are to do eschatology but while we must not lose sight of the particular preoccupations of the present we ought not to make it the measuring stick of everything we say. Instead, we need to integrate the opposing elements in the light of the Christian center, to strike a fair balance and come to understand the real promise of faith more deeply” (15).

Eschatology As Center of Theology

Jesus Christ is “Already” and “Not Yet”

  • “Eschatology” is the Greek word for “study of the last things”
  • “Parousia” is the Greek word for the Second Coming of Christ.


The first eye-catcher in this is the meaning of “Parousia.” It is translated in the Latin in the liturgical cycle as “Advent.”

Ratzinger asks the question: “What, then, is the real heart of the Advent experience?

“‘Advent’ does not, for example, mean ‘expectation,’ as some may think. It is a translation of the Greek word Parousia which means ‘presence’ or, more accurately, ‘arrival,’ i.e., the beginning of a presence. 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. ‘Advent,’ then, means a presence begun, the presence being that of God.

“Advent reminds us, therefore, of two things: first, that he is present though in a hidden manner; second, that his presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, of becoming and progressing toward its full form. His presence has already begun, and we, the faithful, are the ones through whom the wishes to be present in the world. Through our faith, hope, and love he wants his light to shine over and over again in the night of the world.

“The lamps we light on the dark nights of this winter season are both a comfort and a waring. They are a comforting assurance that ‘the light of the world’ has already begun to shine in the dark night of Bethlehem and that the unholy night of man’s sin has been transformed into the holy night of God’s forgiveness. They are also a warning: This light can and will continue to shine only if it is lit in those who as Christians carry on Christ’s work through the ages. Christ seeks to illumine the night of the world with his light by having us be lights in our turn. His initial presence is to grow through us.

“When, therefore, we hear it repeatedly said during the holy night of Christmas that ‘Today Christ is born,’ is should remind us that what was begun at Bethlehem is meant to increase through our constant new beginnings and that the holy night truly can be, and is, ‘today,’ whenever a human being allows the light of goodness within him to shine through his self-centeredness and egoism. That night is ‘today’ whenever the ‘Word’ again becomes ‘flesh’ or genuine human reality. ‘The Christ child comes’ in a real sense whenever human beings act out of authentic love for the Lord and do not settle for a mere exchange of ‘gifts.’

“Advent tells us that the presence of the Lord has already begun but also that it has only begun. This means that the Christian looks not only to the past and what ahs been but also to what is coming. Amid all the catastrophes of this world he has a transcendent certainty that the seed of the light is growing in secret, until some day the good achieves a definitive victory and all else is made subject to it. On that day Christ will come again. The Christian knows that the presence of God which has now only begun will some day be a full and complete presence. This knowledge sets him free and gives him a basic security.”[7]

The Kingdom of God

This presence of the Person of Christ is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom spreads only insofar as other persons become “Ipse Christus.” Everything just said will make sense of the words “already” – “not yet.” Christ is present, but not fully present as “The Whole Christ.” Therefore, we are not just waiting for the Second Coming as if Christ were not present here and now in the world. He is present in the world not only by the Eucharist, and not only by grace. But He is present as our Father said it in the get together in December 1970 in Rome:

“El Señor esta pasando muy cerca de vosotros; lo se, aunque vosotros no os dais cuenta. Pasa quasi in oculto. Además, sin ocultarse, esta en el corazón vuestro, en esas pequeñas batallas que a lo mejor no son tan pequeñas y que otras veces agrandáis con vuestras bobadas, como las agrando yo. Pero no me refiero a la vida interior cuando os digo eso.”

“Algún dia, cuando pasen los anos, veréis que Jesús ha estado muy cerca de vosotros: no solo in la Eucaristía, no solo por la gracia. No habéis tenido ocasión de verle, porque he procurado que no lo vierais, sabiendo que quiero que le améis con todas vuestras fuerzas, con toda vuestra mente, con todo vuestro corazón”[8]

Facts on the Kingdom of God:

· Core of the Gospel. Principle object of Christ’s preaching: the phrase is used 122 times in the Synoptics

· It is a Person. Origen is the principal source of this theology calling Jesús autobasileia, His Person is the Kingdom. Jesús himself is the Kingdom; the Kingdom is not a thing, it is not a geogrphical dominion like worldly kindgoms.It is a person; it is he. On this interpretation, the term ‘Kingdom of God’ is itself a veiled Christology. By the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesús leads men to realice the overwhelming Fac. thtat in hm God himself is present among then, that he is God’s presence.”[9]

· “(M)an’s interiority [is] the essential location of the Kingdom of God. This approach to understanding the Kingdom of God was also inaugurated by Origen. In his treatise Prayer, he says that ‘those who pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God pray without any doubt for the Kingdom of God that they contain in themselves, and they pray that this Kingdom might bear fruit and attain its fullness. For in every holy man it is God who reigns…So if we want God to reign in us…, then sin must not be allowed in any way to reign in our mortal body. (Rom 6, 12)… Then let God stroll at leisure in us as in a spiritual paradise (Gen. 3, 8) and rule in us alone with his Christ.[10] The basic idea is clear: The ‘Kingdom of God’ is not to be found on any man. It is not a kingdom after the fashion of worldly kingdoms; it is located in man’s inner being. It grows and radiates outward from that inner space.”[11]

The Great Scandal: The Kingdom is Invisible:

John the Baptist preached the appearance of the Messiah as a visible Christendom ruled theocratically with divine justice. It did not appear. John was scandalized and sent messengers to Jesus: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?”[12] Christ responds: “Go and tell John what it is that you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me!”[13] The import of Christ’s answer: “Especially through His lifestyle and through His actions, Jesus revealed that love is present in the world in which we live – an effective love, a love that addresses itself to man and embraces everything that makes up his humanity. This love makes itself particularly noticed in contact with suffering, injustice and poverty – in contact with the whole historical ‘human condition,’ which in various ways manifests man’s limitation and frailty, both physical and moral. It is precisely the mode and sphere in which love manifests itself that in biblical language is called ‘mercy.’”[14]

In a word, the Person of Christ is Love (Agape), and as such, is invisible to sense perception. And since “like is known by like,” John was being called on to go through another conversion to be able to “perceive” the Person of Christ in the ordinary affairs in which He is exercising His Love (Himself). Thus, Benedict remarks: “This was probably the final task set the Baptist as he lay in prison: to become blessed by this unquestioning acceptance of God’s obscure will’ to reach the point of asking no further for external, visible, unequivocal clarity, but, instead, of discovering God precisely in the darkness of this world and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed. In point of fact, we cannot see God as we see an apple tree or a neon sign, that is, in a purely external way that requires no interior commitment. We can see him only by becoming like him, by reaching the level of reality on which God exists; in other words, by being liberated from what is anti-divine: the quest for pleasure, enjoyment, possessions, gain, or, in a word, from ourselves. In the final analysis it is usually the self that stands between us and God. We can see God only if we turn around, stop looking for him as we might look for street signs and dollar bills, and begin looking away from the visible to the invisible.”

“John, then, even in his prison cell had to respond once again and anew to his own call for metanoia or a change of mentality, in order that he might recognize his God in the night in which all things earthly exist.

“Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.’”[15]

These texts of Ratzinger are the quintessence of what was spoken to our Father on August 7, 1931:

“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself” (Jn. 12, 32). Our Father was given the exegesis of these words at the same time: “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.” Elsewhere he wrote of the same event: “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!”[16](my underline). They are the charism of Opus Dei.

Failure To Undergo This Conversion Produced (1) Scandal; then (2) Rationalism and Clericalism (Most Interesting!!!):

Ratzinger and Our Father: 2,000 years of Christianity, and the world seems exactly the same. “After 2,000 years of Christian history, we can see nothing that might be a new reality in the world; rather, we find it sunk in the same old horrors, the same despair, and the same hopes as ever. And in our own lives, too, we inevitably experience time and again how Christian reality is powerless against all the other forces that influence us and make demands on us. And if, after all our labor and efforts to live on the basis of that is Christian, we draw up the final balance sheet, then often enough the feeling comes over us that the reality has been taken away from us, dissolved, and all that remains in the end is just an appeal to the feeble light of our good will. And then in moments of discouragement like that , when we look back on the path we have traveled, the question forces its way into our minds: What is all this array of dogma and worship and Church, if at the end of it all we are still thrown back onto our own poor resources?”[17]

The Result of this “Scandal:” Theologians remove Christ as “Immanentized Eschaton” from history relegating Him to “Heaven” above and “Kingdom” at the end of the world. Men are rendered as “souls.” Sanctity is clericalized to a religious elite. Epistemology is “objectivized.” Reason is narrowed and becomes positivist. The world is “secularized” in the pejorative sense that God is not present, and if present, He is not engaged and rendered trivial.

Ratzinger: “Christian theology, which was very soon confronted by this discrepancy between expectation and fulfillment in the course of time turned the kingdom of God into a kingdom of heaven that is beyond this mortal life; the well-being of men became a salvation of souls, which again comes to pass beyond this life, after death. But theology did not thereby provide an answer. For what is sublime in this message is precisely that the Lord was talking not just about another life, not just about men’s souls, but was addressing the body, the whole man, in his embodied form, with his involvement in history and society; that he promised the kingdom of God to the man who lives bodily with other men in this history. As marvelous as the knowledge is that has been opened up for us by biblical scholarship in our century ( that is, that Christ was not just looking forward to another life, but was talking about real people), it can also disappoint and unsettle us when we look at real history, which is in truth no kingdom of God.”[18]

Distinction Between Temporal Development and the Construction of the Kingdom:

Temporal Development: “Progress.”

Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space. Enclosed within history, it runs the risk of being reduced to the mere accumulation of wealth; humanity thus loses the courage to be at the service of higher goods, at the service of the great and disinterested initiatives called forth by universal charity. Man does not develop through his own powers, nor can development simply be handed to him. In the course of history, it was often maintained that the creation of institutions was sufficient to guarantee the fulfilment of humanity's right to development. Unfortunately, too much confidence was placed in those institutions, as if they were able to deliver the desired objective automatically. In reality, institutions by themselves are not enough, because integral human development is primarily a vocation, and therefore it involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone. Moreover, such development requires a transcendent vision of the person, it needs God: without him, development is either denied, or entrusted exclusively to man, who falls into the trap of thinking he can bring about his own salvation, and ends up promoting a dehumanized form of development. Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature[17], to recognize the divine image in the other, thus truly coming to discover him or her and to mature in a love that “becomes concern and care for the other.”[18][19]

Construction of the Kingdom: If the Kingdom of God is a Person, then the Kingdom is constructed by the transformation of the created, human person into the Person of Christ, such that they can say: “I live, no not I; Christ lives in me” (Gal. 1, 20). Hence, integral development means “transformation into Christ.”

This “Christogenesis” takes place whenever there is the free act of self-mastery whereby the person subdues the self, gets possession of the self, governs the self to make the gift of self according to the ontological tendency of the person to image the divine Persons as relational self-gifts. The dynamic principle of this Christogenesis – that is secularity[20] - is Gaudium et Spes #24. Since economics is a human activity, there can be no authentic economics without the authentic development of the human person into “alter Christus.”

The SCDF writes: “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 s 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 woruce 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[21] is the key to the whole social question.”[22]

Parousia: Biblical basis:

· Daniel 7, 13: “As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, he received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion what shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.”

· Mt. 16, 27: “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will render to everyone according to his conduct. Amen I say to you, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death, till they have seen the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

· Mt. 24, 30: “And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then will al tribes of the earth mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with great power and majesty.”

· Mt. 26, 64: “(H)hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming upon the clouds of heaven.”

Parousia as Object of Christian Hope:

Christian Hope is not optimism. “It dawned on me… that ‘optimism’ is the theological virtue of a new god and a new religion, the virtue of deified history, of a god ‘hisotry,’ and thus of the great god of modern ideologies and their promise. This promise is utopia, to be realized by means of the ‘revolution,’ which for its part represents a kind of mythical godhead,… (I)n the new religion ‘pessimism’ is the sin of all sins, for to doubt optimism, progress, utopia is a frontal attack on the spirit of the modern age: it is to dispute its fundamental creed on which its security rests…”[23]

What is Christian Hope?” Christian hope is to yearn for what we already have/are, but not fully yet. Benedict says: “The Ephesians, before their encounter with Christ, were without hope because they were ‘without God in the world.’ To come to know God – the true God – means to receive hope. We who have always lived with the Christian concept of God, and have grown accustomed to it, have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God.”[24] Hope is the ontological tendency that proves that the reality of Christ’s presence is already here. The present reality of my being as tending toward what is not fully yet but already here is the “proof” (elenchos) of what is still unseen. That “the future exists changes the present” into hope (=joy).[25]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means to Be a Christian,” Ignatius (2006) ftn. 35-36

[2] J. Ratzinger, “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure,” Franciscan Herald Press (1989) 118.

[3] John Paul II, “Redemptoris Missio” #18.

[4] I hasten to add that the understanding of “The Kingdom” as the very Person of Christ, and all who become “other Christs” in this world are the way in which the Kingdom becomes a reality. Notice, the Kingdom is a phenomenon of “persons.” It is not a “thing” or “Christendom.” It is not a clericalized structure or state but a secular presence of the “Ipse Christus” whose intramundane Body we are.

[5] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Our Sunday Visitor, (1985) 62-62. See also “Eschatology:” “Heaven… must first and foremost be determined christologically. It is not an extra-historical place into which one goes. Heaven’s existence depends upon the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man, and makes space for human existence in the existence of God himself. One is in heaven when, and to the degree, that one is in Christ. It is by being with Christ that we find the true location of our existence as human beings in God. Heaven is thus primarily a personal reality, and one that remains forever shaped by its historical origin in the paschal mystery of death and resurrection. From this Christological center, all the other elements which belong to the tradition’s concept of heaven may be inferred. And, in pride of place, from this Christological foundation there follows a theological affirmation: the glorified Christ stands in a continuous posture of self-giving to his Father. Indeed, he is that self-giving….” (234).

[6] Joseph Ratzinger, “Eschatology” CUA (1988) 1-15.

[7] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 71-73.

[8] (Cronica. January 1971, 37).

[9] Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth” Doubleday (2007) 49.

[10] Origen, “Patrologia Graeca” 11, pp. 495 f). The basic idea is clear: The ‘Kingdom of God’ is not to be found on any man. It is not a kingdom after the fashion of worldly kingdoms

[11] J. Ratzinger, “Jesus of Nazareth,” op. cit 49-50.

[12] Lk. 7, 19.

[13] Lk. 7, 21-22.

[14] John Paul II, “Dives in Misericordia,” 3, DSP 12.

[15] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching” op. cit 76-77.

[16] “Christ is Passing By,” #183.

[17] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means to Be a Christian,” Ignatius (2006) 26.

[18] Ibid 28-29.

[19] Benedict XVI, “Caritas in Veritate,” #11.

[20] Secularity is the autonomy [theonomy] of deciding about the self. “Man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself” (GS #24).

[21] John Paul II, “Laborem Exercens,” 3.

[22] “Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation,” SCDF March 22, 1986, #82- #83.

[23] J. Ratzinger, “To Look on Christ,” Crossroad (1991) 43.

[24] Benedict XVI, “Spe Salvi,” #4.

[25] Ibid. #7.

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