Thursday, December 03, 2009

Mind of Ratzinger - Charism of Escriva

The Encounter of Benedict XVI’s Relational Anthropology with St. Josemaria Escriva’s Christopraxis

The mind of Joseph Ratzinger consists in achieving a relational anthropology derived from Revelation and Faith as resonating acts whereby God and man become one Christ, the Word of God.

The charism of St. Josemaria Escriva is the asceticism of becoming Christ Himself in the action of self-gift in secular work.

Joseph Ratzinger

The eschaton as the “Last Thing” will come not only at the end of the world as The Second Coming. In reality it has already come. In fact it has always been here. We are looking right at it but cannot re-cognize it. God in Christ has pre-existed the world. Christ accompanied the People of God into Egypt, and out. In the exodus, He was the Fire by night, the Cloud by day, the rock that followed them in the desert, which, when struck, watered them. He was the manna that fed them as bread and fowl as meat. He was the Word spoken by the angel, received by the Virgin, made Flesh in her womb, lived an ordinary working life, spoke Himself as Word of God, suffered for our sins, died, rose, ascended to the right Hand of the Father and continues to be “with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Mt. 28,20).

In His three years of public life, He restored the twelve tribes with the twelve apostles and told them to gather all the nations into a People of God – a Church – that will be a single Christ by the power of three sacraments: Baptism, Order and Eucharist. Nothing more is essentially needed. The danger has always been dressing David in the armor of Saul to defeat Goliath. Baptism yields the layfaithful; Order gives the hierarchical minister in direct tactile union with Christ; Eucharist is the action of self gift whereby the Church of always passes from the Christ of “already” to the Christ of the “not yet” through the Christological anthropology of self-gift in work.

This People know God experientially in their deepest consciousness by the exercise of priestly anthropology in the liturgy. Like is known by like: “Only God knows God.”[1] The Mass is the supreme Christological act that must become the “form” of all work, and as such is the center and root of Christological life. In all work, secular and ministerial, the baptized, served by the ordained, are empowered to master themselves and the earth, turning it into gift to God in the service of others. Hence, work must become “gift”[2] and “gratuitous,[3] as the person himself must be gift and gratuitous. It goes hand in hand with “being more,”[4] “a new trajectory of thinking”[5] and “a metaphysical interpretation of the ‘humanum’ in which relationality is an essential element.[6] The metaphysical undertone is the entry into a different noetic horizon where to be is to-be-in-relation. The quality of the object produced should be imbued with the heightened divinization (self-gift) of the worker. “And so much the more did they wonder, saying, ‘He has done all things well’” (Mark 7, 37).

The large backdrop of all Benedict XVI’s thinking is the proper understanding of Eschatology. Traditionally, the gap between the Ascension to the Father and the Second Coming that is identified with the end of the world, has been a flat line of the non-presence of Christ and the non-intervention of God in the world. As Benedict wrote (as well as St. Josemaria), “After two thousand 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.”[7] In another place, Benedict erupted, “However did we arrive at that tedious and tedium-laden Christianity which we moderns observe and, indeed, know from our own experience.”[8] And again, in his insightful exegesis of John the Baptist’s consternation that none of what he had preached concerning the sweeping of the chaff from the threshing floor into fire, and the ax being laid to the root of the tree, Benedict extracts the eschatology that the Parousia – the Advent – is taking place now as I write. God is already here and active in Jesus Christ, but hidden. John, being imprisoned and puzzled at hearing nothing of these things taking place, sent messengers to Jesus asking, “Are you he who is to come or shall we look for another.”[9] The answer came back: “God and report to John what you have heard and seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not scandalized in me.”[10] Benedict’s concludes that John has yet to go through a final conversion: to ask “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.”[11] That is, “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.”[12]

God reveals Himself to this People as the Action of Self-gift to death on the Cross, and they re-cognize Him by their reciprocal self-gift whereby they become “other Christs.” They know Him because they become like Him without losing their identity precisely because their most personal identity consists in this free self-mastery-self-gift in liturgy and work. In becoming “like” Christ, the baptized person “knows” Christ from within himself since knowledge is an asymptotic approximation to becoming on ontological reality. Benedict’s habilitation thesis is most instructive here. In “Milestones”[13] he recounts a most revolutionary retrieval of the meaning of Revelation and Faith: “Here ‘Revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it… Then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down.”

Here Benedict has translated Revelation and Faith into the metaphysical anthropology that is Christology. If Christ is revealing act, then the believer must be receiving act, in the way our Lady resonated with the revealed Word: “Fiat.” The veil of the self-sufficient self has to be removed. The act of giving and the act of receiving must resonate. The believer as image of God must become acting as in receiving and becoming. In so doing, the act of receiving is one with the act of giving.

Notice that Benedict is not working in the horizon of concepts, but of consciousness that accompanies action. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, summarizing the Synod on the Word of God in October 2008, wrote:

“Thanks to the Trinitarian and Christocentric vision of Vatican Council II, the Church renewed consciousness in its own mystery and mission. The Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium, and the pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, develop an ecclesiology of communion that relies on the renewed concept of Revelation. In fact, the dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum marked a real turning point in the manner of dealing with Divine Revelation. Instead of privileging, as before, the noetic[conceptual] dimension of truths to be believed in, the Council Fathers emphasized the dynamic and dialogic accent of Revelation as personal self-communication of God. Thus they put down the bases for a more vivid encounter and dialogue between God who calls and His people who respond(underline mine).

One must become the act of Revelation within one’s very self. Benedict explained this in the most limpid terms: “By nature, knowledge depends on a certain similarity between the knower and the known. The old axiom is that like is known by like. In matters of the mind and where person are concerned, this means that knowledge calls for a certain degree of empathy, by which we enter, so to speak, into the person or intellectual reality concerned, become one with him or it, and thus become able to understand (intellegere = ab intus legere).”[14] In a previous section, Benedict had offered Lk. 6, 12; 9, 18; 9, 28 to propose that the relational reality of the divine Person of Jesus, when incarnate, was prayer: “Peter had grasped and expressed the most fundamental reality of the person of Jesus as a result of having seen him praying, in fellowship with the Father. According to Luke, we see who Jesus is if we see him at prayer.” And then, “The Christian confession of faith comes from participating in the prayer of Jesus, from being drawn into his prayer and being privileged to behold it; it interprets the experience of Jesus’ prayer, and its interpretation of Jesus is correct because it springs from a sharing in what is most personal and intimate to him.” [15] Later Benedict will show the dialogue between Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well is this prayer whereby she speaks her whole self in sincere confession to him (“I have no husband,” Jn. 4, 17) whereby he reveals to her that He is the Messiah.[16] He explains: “The woman stands face to face with herself. It is no longer a question now of something [water] but of the depths of the I itself and, consequently, of the radical poverty that is man’s I-myself, the place where this I is ultimately revealed behind the superficiality of the something [water].” As soon as that “veil” is removed, Christ, the Messias, says to her, “I who speak with Thee am he” (Jn. 4, 26).

Ultimately, the removal of the “veil,” for Benedict, is to obey in the hidden. He remarked: The Shepherds were told, “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk. 2, 12). In other words, the sign for the shepherds is that they will meet, not with any sign, but simply the God who has become a child – and they will have to believe in the presence of God in this hiddenness. Their ‘sign’ demands that they learn to discover God in the incognito in which he is hidden.”[17]

St. Josemaria Escriva

Opus Dei – All (Laity and Clerics) - “Priests of Their Own Existence”[18]

The charism of Opus Dei[19] is the vocation to actualize the baptismal grace for the laity, and Orders for ministerial priests, such that they are radically equal (but irreducibly different: like male and female). This means that “All the faithful, from the Pope to the child who has just been baptized, share one and the same vocation, the same faith, the same Spirit, the same grace. They are all in need of appropriate sacramental and spiritual aids: they must all live a full Christian life, following the same evangelical teachings.”[20] It should be borne in mind that Alvaro del Portillo first, and then St. Josemaria, went to Rome in 1946 to win approval by the Church for this “radical equality” of laity and clerics, which is the “basic aboriginal relationship obtaining in the Church between christifideles – called to live out the requirements and implications of their baptism – and sacred ministers, who bring in, besides, the ‘ministerial’ consequences of the sacrament of Order.[21] Rodriguez goes on: “to the question, What is the ecclesiological nature of Opus Dei? One could reply: ‘It is an institution whose internal structure replicates the basic ecclesial articulation between the common priesthood of the faithful, possessed by virtue of baptism, and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood, possessed by the clerics incardinated in it.”[22]

What could this “radical equality” be except the fact that both sacraments ontologically (they both give “character” which is the ontological orientation of the person as relation [different in laity and cleric]) introduce the recipient into the one Priesthood of Jesus Christ, and as such, build the one “People of God.” The topic now becomes vast and I refer you to Maximilian Heinrich Heim’s “Joseph Ratzinger – Life in the Church and Living Theology,” chapter 2: “The People of God.”[23] Basically, we are dealing here with the “Ipse Christus” that Escriva heard on August 7, 1931: The Locution: “Et ego, si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum! (Joann. XII, 32). Y el concepto preciso: no es en el sentido en que lo dice la Escritura; te lo digo en el sentido de que me pongáis en lo alto de todas las actividades humanas; que, en todos los lugares del mundo, haya cristianos, con una dedicación personal y libérrima, que sean otros Cristos.”

In a homily he preached on April 15, 1960, he said: "The Christian is obliged to be alter Christus: another Christ, Christ himself. Through baptism all of us have been made priests of our own existence, 'to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ' (1 Pet. 2, 5).

It fits here to suggest that this historical presence of Escriva in Rome in 1946 and subsequent inadequate juridical approval of the radical equality of laity and clerics in a unity of vocation to be Christ Himself was the catalyst of what was to happen in the calling of the Second Vatican Council and the rewriting of the original Schema “De Ecclesia” (1962) into the Constitution Lumen Gentium. There the phrase “priesthood of all the baptized” appears for the first time in an official Magisterial document.[24]

As radically equal and active as self-gift in their respective functions as secular work and ministerial service to the laity. The work of one and the other as secular and ministerial is sacerdotal in that it is the fruit of the Christological anthropology of self-mastery, self-governance and self-gift. They are priests of their own existence in that they are subjects mastering self and possessing self capable of mediating between themselves and the God the Father in the service of others. And this through ordinary secular work and family life.

The prototype of being “priests of one’s own existence” derives from the Christology where Jesus does not offer “something,” but “Someone,” His very Self.[25] But this Christological anthropology does not belong only to Jesus Christ, but to all. And this because He is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” and therefore the prototype of the human person. Even more radically, St. Paul announces: “Even as he [the Father] 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…” (Eph, 1, 4-6).

Benedict offers the Council of Constantinople III to clarify this priestly mediating anthropology by showing that the one Person of the Logos wills with His human will obeying to death on the Cross. Ordinary secular work then becomes the occasion of the exercise of this Christological anthropology and the way Jesus Christ becomes present “at the summit of all human activities” insofar as each one lives out the Christological anthropology of self-gift in ordinary work.

The entire ascetical apparatus of formation in Opus Dei is directed to implementing this anthropology of gift and gratuitousness that Benedict refers to in his recent “Caritas in Veritate.”

[1] Benedict XVI, Aparecida, Brazil 17 May, 2007

[2] “Gift by its nature goes beyond merit, its rule is that of superabundance. It takes first place in our souls as a sign of God's presence in us, a sign of what he expects from us;” Benedict XVI, “Caritas in Veritate,” 34.

[3] “(I)n commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity. This is a human demand at the present time, but it is also demanded by economic logic;” Ibid. 36.

[4] Ibid 14.

[5] Benedict XVI, “Caritas in Veritate,” 53.

[6] Ibid 55.

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

[8] J. Ratzinger, “Eschatology,” CUA (1988) 8.

[9] Lk. 7, 21.

[10] Lk. 7, 22-23.

[11] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” (1985) 76.

[12] Ibid

[13] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones, Memoirs 1927-1977” Ignatius (1997) 108-109.

[14] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1988) 25.

[15] Ibid 19.

[16] J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Ignatius (198

[17] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means to Be a Christian,” Ignatius (2006) 37.

[18] St. Josemaria Escriva, “Christ’s Presence Among Christians,” Christ is Passing By

[19] Received by St. Josemaria Escriva on August 7, 1931

[20] Alvaro del Portillo, “Faithful and Laity in the Church” Ecclesia Press (1972) 19.

[21] Pedro Rodriguez, “The Place of Opus Dei in the Church,” Opus Dei in the Church Scepter (1994) 38.

[22] Ibid

[23] M.H. Heim “Joseph Ratzinger – Life in the Church and Living Theology,” Ignatius (2007) 78-113.

[24] Ibid, 85.

[25] Hebrews, 9, 11-14: “But when Christ appeared as high priest of the good things to come, he entered once for all through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands (that is, not of this creation), nor again by virtue of blood of goats and calves, but by virtue of his own blood, into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkled ashes of a heifer sanctify the unclean unto the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit offered himself unblemished unto God…”

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