Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Leo the Great - Chalcedon (451) and the "New Adam"

The import of today’s feast is the combination of Leo’s Chalcedon and Maximus the Confessor’s Constantinople III in the Christology and consequent anthropology that has everything to do with integral human development in the Third Millennium. That is, the transition from an essentialist metaphysic of seeing the human person as “individual substance of a rational nature” to the dynamic “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself,” is due to the dynamic understanding of the Jesus Christ, the God-man as a single Being with a single (Personal) Will obeying the Father to death. It is the anthropology of priesthood and work (mediating between self and God for others). The ramifications are immense.

The text of Chalcedon (451):

“Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all teach that with one accord we confess one and the same son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in human nature, truly God and the same with a rational soul and a body truly man, consubstantial with the Father according to divinity, and consubstantial with us, according to human nature, like unto us in all things except sin,; indeed born of the Father before the ages according to divine nature, but in the last days the same born of the virgin Mary, Mother of God according to human nature; for us and for our deliverance, one and the same Christ only begotten Son our Lord, acknowledged in two natures, without mingling, without change, indivisibly, undividedly, the distinction of the natures nowhere removed on account of the union but rather the peculiarity of each nature being kept, and uniting in one person and substance, not divided or separated into two persons, but one and the same son only begotten God Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as from the beginning the prophets taught about Him and the Lord Jesus Himself taught us, and the creed of our fathers has handed down to us.”

Two hundred thirty years intervene as the Church – not without concomitant political intrigue - tries to untangle the conundrum of how can Christ have a human will that is humanly free, and at the same time be the will of a divine Person who cannot sin. The answer is that sin is not part of true freedom. As Christ is the meaning of man, so also Christ’s freedom as man is the meaning of human freedom. This was the work of Maximus the Confessor who transcended the abstractive imagination – necessary as it is - that tends to “reify” philosophical and theological profundity. This proliferation of philosophoumena is the drawback of objectifying thought. The key consists in realizing that it is not the will as a sort of “substantialized” faculty that wills, but the person. Once philosophers talk about the will as if it were “a subsistent being,” the discourse unintentionally but tragically treats “the will” as if it were an entity in itself.

It is not. It is the tendency of the person toward the good. That realized, it becomes clear that it is the divine Person of the Logos who wills with what we call “the divine Will” and “the human will.” It is the same “I” of the Logos desire in the human mode of human willing. Hence, there is identity in the divine and the human willing which is “Personal,” the one divine Logos willing and obeying the Will of the Father to death on the Cross. This, then, is the anthropology of Redemption.

Ratzinger: “Maximus the Confessor, the great theological interpreter of this second phase of the development of the Christological dogma, illuminates this whole context by reference to Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives, which, as we already saw in Thesis 1, expresses Jesus’ unique relationship to God. Indeed, it is as if we were actually looking in on the inner life of the Word-made-man. It is revealed to us in the sentence which remains the measure and model of all real prayer: ‘Not what I will, but what thou wilt’ (Mk. 14, 36). Jesus’ human will assimilates itself to the will of the Son. In doing this, he receives the Son’s identity, i.e., the complete subordination of the I to the Thou, the self-giving and self-expropriation of the I to the Thou. This is the very essence of him who is pure relation and pure act. Wherever the I give itself to the Thou, there is freedom because this involves the reception of the ‘form of God.’”[1]

This can be made even clearer by the simpler form in which Ratzinger writes it: “The Council of Constantinople has analyzed concretely the problem of the two natures and one person in Christ in view of the problem of the will of Jesus. We are reminded firmly that there exists a specific will of the man Jesus that is not absorbed into the divine will. But this human will follows the divine will and thus becomes a single will with it, not, however, in a forced way but by way of freedom. The metaphysical duplicity of a human will and a divine will is not eliminated, but in the personal sphere, the area of freedom, there is accomplished a fusion of the two, so that this becomes not one single natural will but one personal will. This free union – a mode of union created by love - is a union higher and more intimate than a purely natural union. It corresponds to the highest union which can exist, the union of the Trinity.

“The Council explains this union by a saying of the Lord given in the Gospel of John: ‘I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me’ (John 6, 38). Here the divine Logos is speaking, and speaking of the human will of Jesus in the mode by which he calls his will the will of the Logos. Wit this exegesis of John 6, 38, the Council proves the unity of the subject. In Jesus there are not two ‘I’s’ but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought of Jesus using the ‘I,’ because the human will has become fully one with the will of the Logos, and with it has become pure assent to the will of the Father.”[2]

The Text of Constantinople III (680-681):

“And we proclaim equally two natural volitions or wills in him and two natural principles of action which undergo no division, no change, no partition, no confusion, in accordance with the teaching of the holy fathers. And the two natural wills not in opposition, as the impious heretics said, far from it, but his human will following, and not resisting or struggling, rather in fact subject to his divine and all powerful will. For the will of the flesh had to be moved, and yet to be subjected to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius. For just as his flesh is said to be and is flesh of the Word of God, so too the natural will of his flesh is said to and does belong to the Word of God, just as he says himself: I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me, calling his own will that of his flesh, since his flesh too became his own. For in the same way that his all holy and blameless animate flesh was not destroyed in being made divine but remained in its own limit and category, so his human will as well was not destroyed by being made divine, but rather was preserved, according to the theologian Gregory, who says: "For his willing, when he is considered as saviour, is not in opposition to God, being made divine in its entirety"… Therefore, protecting on all sides the "no confusion" and "no division", we announce the whole in these brief words: Believing our lord Jesus Christ, even after his incarnation, to be one of the holy Trinity and our true God, we say that he has two natures [naturas] shining forth in his one subsistence[subsistentia] in which he demonstrated the miracles and the sufferings throughout his entire providential dwelling here, not in appearance but in truth, the difference of the natures being made known in the same one subsistence in that each nature wills and performs the things that are proper to it in a communion with the other; then in accord with this reasoning we hold that two natural wills and principles of action meet in correspondence for the salvation of the human race.

Constantinople III as Key to Christological-Priestly Anthropology (“Theology of the Cross): Gift of Self

This work of Constantinople III, which views Christ, the divine Person, not as a static substance with two natures (divine and human) as accidental essences in a kind of objectivized theological “erector set,” has been the key to understanding Jesus Christ as the “New Adam” and “Last Man.” It is an understanding that takes its dynamic, the dynamic of person - the "I" found in the the experience of the the divine Person as self-transcendent. It is Trinitarian dynamic translated into a metaphysics of the image. Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes #22 proclaims that “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.” Therefore, this dynamic of the relationality of the Son to the Father is lived out through the human will and body to obedient death on the Cross. It is the full and perfect immanentization of the eschaton as the apex and goal of all human history. The supreme point of human history has already been reached, and time is granted for the integral development into that supreme achievement that is Christ.

The Being of Christ as dynamic God-man is the model for all men to actively become “priests of their own existence” (Escriva). That dynamism is personal in the sense that it is the Person who is the Agent of two ontologically distinct wills, and Who wills as one will with both (personally). Ratzinger writes:

“A theology of the incarnation situated too much on the level of essence, may be tempted to be satisfied with the ontological phenomenon: God’s being and man’s have been conjoined. This appears as the real turning-point, and in comparison with it the factual life of Jesus and his death are secondary, as it were the realization of a principle which ultimate adds nothing to the principle itself. But since it is made clear that man’s being is not that of a pure essence, and that he only attains his reality by his activity, it is at once evident that we cannot rest content with a purely essentialist outlook. Man’s being must therefore be examined precisely in its activities. If this is done, the concept of the ‘novus homo’ takes concrete shape in that of the ‘agnus innocens.’ It then becomes apparent that Jesus’ concrete reality is ‘pro me’ (and ‘pro nobis’) and for this very reason is a self-sacrificing existence in the mystery of the cross. This alone shows the wholly personal relationship to Christ, for Christ is not a great super-ego into which the I-monads are organized, but a most individual human being who looks at me personally. His relation to me is not that of a great corporate personality. He enters into a personal. Conversation of love; he has something to say to me alone, which no one else knows (cf. Rev 2. 17). Pascal’s intense piety which made him place in the Lord’s mouth the words: ‘In my agony I thought of you; I shed these drops of blood for you,’ is biblically entirely justified in view of the Pauline ‘pro me.’ Thus Christ no longer appears as a merely general form to which human existences are conformed. His exemplarity means the concrete summons to follow him, and this gives meaning to man’s cross; it calls him to share in the ‘pro me’ of Jesus Christ in a Christian ‘pro invicem’ based on the ‘cum Christo.’”[3]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 40-41.

[2] Benedict XVI, “Journey to Easter” Crossroad (1987) 101-102.

[3] J. Ratzinger, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II Herder and Herder ed. H. Vorgrimler (1966) Vol V, “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” “The Church and Man’s Calling – The Dignity of the Human Person,” (1966) 160.

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