“Being More” By Giving Self
Overall Eschatological Context of the Encyclical: The Experience of God (or Lack Thereof).
The three encyclicals of Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est,” “Spe Salvi” and “Caritas in Veritate” are his attempts to recover the experience of Christ in history that has been lost since the 13th century. It actually began to corrupt at the split of the Church into East and West. He wrote: “I have tried to show in my professorial dissertation that this 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.”
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The State of the Question ( from Ratzinger’s “Eschatology” – CUA (1988).
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
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 answer: We became progressively rationalized after the split of East and West in 1054. We progressively lost the experience of Christ as God-man in history, and with this loss of consciousness of God, the theologian Joachim of Fiore prevailed by solidifying it in the theory of the three ages: Christ is not present now. He is in the past, and will come again at the Second Coming. The Parousia is not now, but will occur at the end. Hence, we are alone, alienated, bored, religiously superficial, and, unable to endure the lack of authentic development as persons, we seek distraction in the technology of the media. The collapse of global economy is one symptom of the failure of development of the human person into Christ Himself.
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 the 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).
 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.
 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).
 Joseph Ratzinger, “Eschatology” CUA (1988) 1-15.
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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.”
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 seek sanctification in ordinary work. To become Christ in the world by the exercise of self-gift in ordinary work, and by so doing instantiate the
I. The Supreme Statement of Christian Anthropology: The Trinitarian and Christological meaning of the human person:
“There is a certain parallel between the union existing among the divine persons and the union of the sons of God in truth and love. It follows, then, that
if man is the only earthly creature that God has willed for itself, man fully finds himself only by the sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et Spes #24).
II. The topic of “Caritas in Veritate” is “integral human development in charity and truth.” That is, the topic is the recovery of Christian anthropology before the split between East and West.
Benedict XVI takes the theme from the message of Paul VI’s “Populorum Progressio” (1967) which had taken the theme from Gaudium et Spes #24 (above). Benedict says as much: “The publication of Populorum Progressio occurred immediately after the conclusion of the Second
Let’s not be afraid to point out that in Vatican II, there was a paradigm shift from the Aristotelian-Thomistic anthropology – “individual substance of a rational nature,” that is Greco-Roman philosophy derived “from below” by sensible observation – to the “(s)ocial doctrine…built on the foundation handed on by the Apostles to the Fathers of the Church, and then received and further explored by the great Christian doctors.” He then asserts: “This doctrine points definitively to the New Man, to the ‘last Adam [who] became a life-giving spirit’ (1 Cor. 15, 45, the principle of the charity that ‘never ends’ (1 Cor. 13, 8).”
Development for Paul VI, following Vatican II, means to “do more, know more and have more in order to be more.” Benedict asks “what does it mean ‘to be more?” He answers: “Christ” and quotes Gaudium et Spes #22 (below): “Christ, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself.” More fully: “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… fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling… Human nature, by the very fact that it as assumed, not absorbed, in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare” (Gaudium et Spes #22).
To “be more” is to be Christ. But then, who is Christ? For this, let’s go to the 5th Chapter of the Encyclical. Here he announces that “One of the deepest forms of poverty a person an experience is isolation” which produces “alienation:” “All of humanity is alienated when too much trust is placed in merely human projects, ideologies and false utopias.” At this point, he paraphrases Gaudium et Spes 24: “As a spiritual being, the human creature is defined through interpersonal relations. The more authentically he or she lives these relations, the more his or her own personal identity matures. It is not by isolation that man establishes his worth, but by placing himself in relation with others and with God. Hence these relations take on fundamental importance. The same holds true for peoples as well. A metaphysical understanding of the relations between persons is therefore of great benefit for their development. In this regard, reason finds inspiration and direction in Christian revelation, according to which the human community does not absorb the individual, annihilating his autonomy, as happens in the various forms of totalitarianism, but rather values him all the more because the relation between individual and community is a relation between one totality and another.”
To the question, who is Christ? The answer must be: He who is the pure Relation to the Father. Benedict explicitly ties the idea of development with being relation, because such is Christ, and such is man as imaging the divine Person of the Son. “The Trinity is absolute unity insofar as the three divine Persons are pure relationality. The reciprocal transparency among the divine Persons is total and the bond between each of them complete, since they constitute a unique and absolute unity.”
“A New Trajectory of Thinking”
And then, Benedict explicitly demands “a new trajectory of thinking” for the meaning of man (anthropology). He announces: “God desires to incorporate us into this reality of communion as well: ‘That they may be one even as we are one’ (Jn. 17, 22).
He is asking for Gaudium et Spes #24, and he is asking for a new metaphysics of relationality. Instead of the Aristotelian-Thomistic understanding of the prime meaning of being as “substance-nature (to-be-in-self-and –not-in other) that has come down to us in the last millennium, he is a asking for “metaphysical interpretation of the ‘humanum’ in which relationality is an essential element.” In a word, he is asking for “man to find himself by the sincere gift of himself.”
This formulation of the meaning of man taken from above rather than from below is the defining meaning of Christian sexual ethics as well as the entire corpus of the social doctrine of the Church. In the social doctrine, two principles spring from Gaudium et Spes 24: solidarity and subsidiarity.
Work: The Prime Relational Act of the Created Image of Son.
As created (and sinful: turned back into self), the creature is not its own act, but only capable of it. Therefore, there must be a dynamic of 1) Receptivity: being loved (grace) and therefore receiving an “I”; 2) Self-Determination: As “I,” mastering self in order to get possession of self; 3) Self-Gift: governing self to be gift of obedience.
Magisterium: “Laborem Exercens”
- “Only man is capable of work…work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons. And this mark decides its interior characteristics; in a sense it constitutes its very nature” (“Introduction”).
- “human work is a key, probably the essential key, to the whole social question…of ‘making life more human’” [“Not only does he (Christ) arouse in them a desire for the world to come but he quickens, purifies, and strengthens the generous aspirations of mankind to make life more human and conquer the earth for this purpose.”].
I “become more” human the more person I become. But I become person by increasing relation as giftedness, and this because I have been created in the image of the Son who is pure relation to the Father. I achieve this only by exercising the agency of being a self by having been loved by God (grace) and others (primarily parents). Having received my “I,” I am empowered to exercise agency to master myself, own myself and make the gift of myself. The more this is done, the “more” gift I am, and ultimately, the more Christ I am. Jesus Christ reveals the divinity of His relationality to the Father by His Self-gift to death on the Cross.
The Metaphysical Anthropology: Self-determination
Wojtyla described this anthropology: “When I am directed by an act of will toward a particular value, I myself not only determine this directing, but through it I simultaneously determine myself as well. The concept of self-determination involves more than just the concept of efficacy: I am not only the efficient cause of my acts, but through them I am also in some sense the ‘creator of myself.’ Action accompanies becoming; moreover, action is organically linked to becoming.”
And then as John Paul II, he wrote magisterially, “Man has to subdue the earth and dominate it, because as the ‘image of God’ he is a person, that is to say, a subjective being capable of acting in a planned and rational way, capable of deciding about himself and with a tendency to self-realization. As a person, man is therefore the subject of work. As a person he works, he performs various actions belonging to the work process: independently of their objective content, these actions must all served to realize [actualize] his humanity, to fulfill the calling to be a person that is his by reason of his very humanity.”
HolyMass (Cross): Prototype of Work
Since the supreme “Work” of Christ which was self-gift to death on the Cross in obedience to the Father, the Mass is also the supreme “Work” as the center and root of the work day, empowering the baptized person to heroically sanctify the ordinary and the small turning it into gift, and therefore, prayer. The Mass sums up the entire hidden life of work in
By it, I become another Christ. Escriva says: “Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.” As “another Christ,” I become “co-redeemer” of the present moment. In fact, being “another Christ,” I become the
Consider that the audible locutions Escriva received (August 7, 1931; October 16, 1931) to be “another Christ” involved instantiating the
 J. Ratzinger, “What It Means to Be a Christian,” Ignatius (2006) ftn. 35-36
 J. Ratzinger, “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure,” Franciscan Herald Press (1989) 118.
 John Paul II commented in 1986: “As the year 2000 since the birth of Christ draws near, it is a question of ensuring that an ever greater number of people ‘may fully find themselves… through a sincere gift of self,’ according to the expression of the Council [above] quoted. Through the action of the Spirit-Paraclete, may there be accomplished in our world a process of true growth in humanity, in both individual and community life” (Dominum et vivificantem  #59.)
 “Caritas in Veritate” #10.
 Ibid 12.
 Populorum Progressio 6: loc. Cit., 260.
 Caritas in Veritate #53.
 Caritas in Charitate #55.
 Gaudium et Spes 38.
 Karol Wojtyla, “The Personal Structure of Self-Determination,” Person and Community, Lang (1993) 191.
 John Paul II, “Laborem Exercens,” #6.