Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Papal Encyclical Coming ("Caritas in Veritate") - from "Inside the Vatican" March 2009



"As the 16 month-old disintegration of the post-World War II financial system seems to be accelerating to a climax, Pope Benedict XVI is preparing a major papal encyclical outlining the principles behind a just and stable economy.


"Financial market from New York to Tokyo in early March stood at lower levels than at any other time since the mid-1990s as global trade flows continued to contract, fueling fears that the entire financial ‘architecture’ of the post-war period, now seemingly fibrillating, could enter a period of ‘cardiac arrest’ – complete financial collapse – with a global depression of uncertain duration ensuing.

"This global economic crisis has contributed to the delay in the publication of Pope Benedict XVI’s new social encyclical tentatively titled Caritas in Veritate (‘Love in Truth’) because the Pope is trying to study the complicated issue in order to write clearly on the subject.

"If the encyclical ‘does not deal competently with the economic reality, it cannot be credible,’ Pope Benedict said on February 26 in Rome. ‘As you know, for a long time we have been preparing an encyclical on these points, and on its long journey one can see how difficult it is to speak competently about it.’

"The Pope’s message fundamentally will be one of hope, no matter how devastating the global financial crisis becomes. But it will not seem hopeful to some, because it will be filled also with truth about how false economic principles and moral ideals can lead mankind toward the abyss.

"On February 26, during a meeting with pastors and clergy of the diocese of Rome in the Hall of Blessings in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, Benedict answered eight questions. One dealt with the world economic crisis.

"The Church as a duty to present a reasonable and well-argued criticism of the errors that have led to the current economic crisis, Benedict said.

"This duty form part of the Church’s mission and must be exercised firmly and courageously, avoiding moralism but explaining matters using concrete reasons that may be understood by everyone,' he said.

"Referring to his forthcoming encyclical, the Pope said it will analyze the crisis at two levels.

"The first aspect is the systemic, or ‘macroeconomic’ level. The Pope noted the shortcomings of a system founded on selfishness and the idolatry of money. These passions cast a shadow over man’s reason and will, and lead him into the ways of error, the Pope said.

"Here the Church is called to make her voice heard – nationally and internationally – in order to help bring about a change of direction and show the path of true reason illuminated by faith, which is the path of self-sacrifice and concern for the needy, he said.

"The second aspect of the Holy Father’s analysis will be the personal and the local sphere (‘microeconomics’). Large-scale projects for reform cannot come about unless individuals alter their ways, he said. If there are no just people, then there can be no justice.

"Hence he invited people to intensify their humble, everyday efforts for the conversion of hearts, an undertaking that above all involves parishes whose activity is not just limited ot he local community but opens up to all humanity.

"On the level of global economic systems, the Pope said almost every person in every country is feeling the consequences of ‘these fundamental errors that have been revealed in the failure of the large American banks; the error at the basis of it is human greed.

"‘We must denounce this (system) with courage, but also with concreteness because moralizing will not help if it is not supported by an understanding of reality, which also will help us understand what can be done concretely to change the situation,’ he said.

"While the global financial system must be reformed, the Pope said, individuals also must accept the fact that they will have to make some sacrifices in order to help the poor and move the world toward justice.”


Monday, March 30, 2009

Pay Attention: First Dissolve Trust (and with it the economy), Then the Constitiution (and the nation)




“Judges should interpret the Constitution according to other nation’s legal norms. Sharia law [ see below]could apply to disputes in US courts. The United States constitutes an ‘axis of disobedience’ along with North Korea and Saddam-era Iraq.

Those are the views of the man on track to become one of the US government’s top lawyers: Harold Koh.

President Obama has nominated Koh – until last week the dean of Yale Law School – to be the State Department’s legal adviser. In that job, Koh would forge a wide range of international agreements on issues from trade to arms control and help represent our country in such places as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice.”
[1]


He is a fan of “transnational legal process” whereby the distinctions between US and international law should vanish.

Let me state that the grounding of “self-evident truths” of the Declaration of Independence, and the grounding truth of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the United States is what has traditionally been called “natural law” and would be more properly dubbed “the law of the person.” Such a law derives from the experience of the human person in the act of Christian faith, which is a self-transcending act. Such an act produces a consciousness of the dignity of the self in the image of God as possessor of inalienable rights. Such a self-transcending act is the grounding of the separation of Church and State and the freedom of self-determination that is the core of human freedom, and freedom as it has been understood in the country – until the last half century.

Islam has no such experience of the dignity of the human person and human rights because it is not a religion of faith.
Then-Cardinal Ratzinger had this comment:

“The modern idea of freedom is thus a legitimate product of the Christian environment; it could not have developed anywhere else. Indeed, one must add that it cannot be separated from this Christian environment and transplanted into any other system, as is shown very clearly today in the renaissance of Islam; the attempt to graft on to Islamic societies what are termed western standards cut loose from their Christian foundations misunderstands the internal logic of Islam as well as the historical logic to which these western standards belong, and hence this attempt was condemned to fail in this form. The construction of society in Islam is theocratic, and therefore monist and not dualist; dualism, which is the precondition for freedom, presupposes for its part the logic of the Christian thing.

In practice this means that it is only where the duality of Church and state, of the sacral and the political authority, remains maintained in some form or another that the fundamental pre-condition exists for freedom. Where the Church itself becomes the state freedom becomes lost. But also when the Church done away with as a pubic and publicly relevant authority, then too freedom is extinguished, because there the state once again claims completely for itself the justification of morality; in the profane post-Christian world it does not admittedly do this in the form of sacral authority but as an ideological authority – that means that the state becomes the party, and since there can no longer be any other authority of the same rank it once again becomes total itself. The ideological state is totalitarian; it must become ideological if it is not balanced by a free but publicly recognized authority of conscience. When this kind of duality does not exist the totalitarian system in unavoidable.

“With this the fundamental task of the Church’s political stance, as I understand it, has been defined; its aim must be to maintain this balance of a dual system as the foundation of freedom. Hence the Church must make claims and demands on public law and cannot simply retreat into the private sphere. Hence it must also take care on the other hand that Church and state remain separated and that belonging to the Church clearly retains its voluntary character.”
[2]

As it stands Koh will be poised to be placed on the Supreme Court. The absence of any sense of reality [the being of the person] (and consciousness therein) as the north for the guidance of reason to be “right” appears in the following remark: “I’d rather have [former Supreme Court Justice Harry] Blackmun, who uses the wrong reasoning in Roe [v. Wade] to get the right results, and let other people figure out the right reasoning.’” This is the master statement of ideology. It would be the undoing of the country.

Sahria Law: Note: Sharia (Arabic: '‎شريعة transliteration: Šarīʿah) is the body of Islamic religious law. The term means "way" or "path to the water source"; it is the legal framework within which the public and private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Islamic principles of jurisprudence and for Muslims living outside the domain. Sharia deals with many aspects of day-to-day life, including politics, economics, banking, business, contracts, family, sexuality, hygiene, and social issues.




[1] Meghan Clyne, “Obama’s Most Perilous Legal Pick,” New York Post Marach 30, 2009, 21.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Church, Ecumenism and Politics – Theology and the Church’s Political Stance,” Crossroad (1988) 162-163.



[1] Meghan Clyne, “Obama’s Most Perilous Legal Pick,” New York Post Marach 30, 2009, 21.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Church, Ecumenism and Politics – Theology and the Church’s Political Stance,” Crossroad (1988) 162-163.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bishop's Comment on Obama Presence @ N.D.

March 24, 2009

"On Friday, March 21, Father John Jenkins, CSC, phoned to inform me that President Obama had accepted his invitation to speak to the graduating class at Notre Dame and receive an honorary degree. We spoke shortly before the announcement was made public at the White House press briefing. It was the first time that I had been informed that Notre Dame had issued this invitation. President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation. I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith "in season and out of season," and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions. My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life. I have in mind also the statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 2004. "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." Indeed, the measure of any Catholic institution is not only what it stands for, but also what it will not stand for.I have spoken with Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who is to receive the Laetare Medal. I have known her for many years and hold her in high esteem. We are both teachers, but in different ways. I have encouraged her to accept this award and take the opportunity such an award gives her to teach. Even as I continue to ponder in prayer these events, which many have found shocking, so must Notre Dame. Indeed, as a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth. Tomorrow, we celebrate as Catholics the moment when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, became a child in the womb of his most holy mother. Let us ask Our Lady to intercede for the university named in her honor, that it may recommit itself to the primacy of truth over prestige."

This Is Not a Statement of Political Conservatism. It Is a Theological-Philosophical Statement




The New York Times’ lead article on A1 of Wednesday, March 25, 2009 read: “The federal government has long had the power to take over and close banks and other deposit-taking institution whose deposits are insured by the government and subject to detailed regulation.

“But the Obama administration and the Fred would extend that authority to insurance companies like A.I.G., investment banks, hedge funds, private equity firms and any other kind of financial institution considered ‘systemically’ important. That would let the government for the first time take control of private equity firms like Carlyle or industrial finance giants like GE Capital should they falter.”

In the light of the above, it is important to remember the two fundamental principles of the social doctrine of the Church that derive from Christian anthropology as stated in Gaudium et spes #24:
“Man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.”

“Persons are the active and responsible subjects of social life.

“Intimately linked to the foundation, which is man’s dignity, are the principle of solidarity and the principle of subsidiarity.

“By virtue of the first, man with his brothers is obliged to contribute to the common good of society at all its levels. Hence the Church’s doctrine is opposed to all the forms of social or political individualism.

“By virtue of the second, neither the state nor any society must ever substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and of intermediate communities at the level on which they can function, nor must they take away the room necessary for their freedom. Hence the Church’s social doctrine is opposed to all forms of collectivism.”
[1]

At risk at the present moment is the transcendent value of the human person due to a materialist calculus of success!


[1] Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation,” #72, March 22, 1986.

Monday, March 23, 2009

FOCA (Freedom of Choice Act) by Stealth




The new president, pro-abortion leaders of congress and the abortion industry are joining forces to promote an aggressive and radical agenda -the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) – which would wipe out any laws protecting unborn babies and their mothers which have been passed by the federal government, state legislatures or local communities.

Because of populist opposition, Life Issues Institute, Inc presided over by John C.Willke, M.D. reported that there is an alternate plan which is even more dangerous. “Pro-abortion leaders in Congress will attach their piecemeal legislation as riders to must-pass appropriation bills. We will then have to oppose each entire bill unless the anti-life part is removed. Our goal is to alert as many Americans as possible, federal lawmakers and the media that FOCA is present every time that they propose legislation with parts of it embedded. This makes the entire bill unacceptable. Here are some of the key pieces of FOCA we can expect our pro-abortion” protagonists to hide inside the law:

  • Use the momentum behind universal healthy care to include funding for abortion-on-demand
  • Bring back partial-birth abortion
  • Take away any rights of parents to be involved before their minor daughter undergoes a surgical or chemical abortion
  • Deny full information to women about alternatives and danger of abortion
  • Force health care providers and professionals to participate in the killing of innocent human life. [Comment: Religious liberty and freedom of conscience have been building blocks of our society since its founding. We respect conscientious objection for those opposed to war, physicians opposed to taking part in capital punishment, and others who object to involvement in the taking of life. We can do no less in the context of abortion].
  • Kill babies who survive late-term abortion by reversing the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act.

15 Anniversary of Death: Alvaro del Portillo - Marian Humility




What characterized D. Alvaro was his humility. St. Josemaria had the inscription placed over his door: “vir fidelis multum laudabitur.” His fidelity consisted in being completely transparent to the charism St. Josemaria received on 2 October 1928. So much was this so that after his election as successor to Escriva at the head of Opus Dei, he commented that the Electors “have voted unanimously, not for Alvaro del Portillo, but once again for the Father.”

The significance of this remark comes to light in Joseph Ratzinger’s Christology where the Being of the Person of Jesus Christ is pure relation to the Father, and therefore nothing in Himself. “My doctrine is not mine but his Who sent me” (Jn. 7, 16). Ratzinger remarked: “Word never stands on its own; it comes from someone, is there to be heard, and is therefore meant for others. It can only subsist in this totality of ‘from’ and ‘for.’”
[1]

This Christological dimension of D. Alvaro – that everyone is called to achieve as “another Christ” – comes from his assiduous devotion to our Lady. Constrained by time, I can only refer you to Salvador Bernal’s book: “Alvaro del Portillo” (Little Hills Press, Scepter Publishers 1999), Chapter 24, pp. 276-288, which gives a rich mine of remarks that disclose the Marian source of his spirit that became the common doctrine of the Church in the Second Vatican Council. He himself remarked that the Second Vatican Council “had assimilated and promulgated as common doctrine for all Christians the substantial lines of the charism of Opus Dei.” And it was he who was the conduit of this charism into the Council. Consider his involvement:

· May 2, 1959: named Consultor of the congregation of the Council;
· August 10, 1959: named President of the VII internal Commission De laicatu catholico;
· Named member of the pre-preparatory Commission on the states of perfection;
· August 12 elected member of the III Commission of the Congregation of the Council encharged to study the so-called peculiaria nostrae aetatis apostolatus media.
· October 4, 1962: named conciliar “Peritus.”
· November 4, 1962: named “Peritus” of the Commission for the Discipline of the Clergy and Christian People;

· November 8, 1962: named Secretary of this organism
· Named Consultor of the Commissions for the Bishops and the regime of the dioceses, the Religious and the Discipline of the Faith.
· September 29 – December of 1963: during the Second Session of the Council, the Commission for the Discipline of the Clergy and the Christian People, of which D. Alvaro was Secretary, was encharged to synthesize into a single conciliar decree (to become “Presbyterorum Ordinis). He had to coordinate the work of the members of the Commission which became a conciliar text of a single chapter subdivided into 10 parts.

“To some extent, it as Don Alvaro’s decision that a text be drafted. He argued persuasively that the priesthood was so important in the Church that it well deserved a decree of its own, rather than just a handful of propositions with a concluding message (a suggestion made at some point in the proceedings).

“The drafting of the decree was very hard work, especially because of all the tension there was at that time over the issue of priestly celibacy. That conflict, in fact, got so bad that Pope Paul himself had to intervene. Also, the commission had to reach conclusions regarding the spirituality of priests. One of its decisions was to defend centuries-old traditions against those who regarded them as mere pietism. It discussed the presence of the priest in the world, and why he needed a good formation in the basic human virtues in order to serve the men and women of his time. But it also warned that priests should not adopt lay lifestyles, much less take on commitments of a partisan political nature. Finally, it asserted the freedom to join associations which in one way or another could help them achieve personal sanctification in the carrying out of their priestly ministry.”
[2]

“Not a week had gone by after the close of the Council when Cardinal Ciriaci, president of the commission of which Don Alvaro had been secretary, sent him a note expressing heartfelt gratitude and congratulations for the happy conclusion of a great achievement.” The note said: “You steered to a safe harbor your decree, which is by no means the least important of the decrees and constitutions of the Council.” The vote on the document was 2390 to 4, a nearly unanimous approval after thorough debate, on December 7, 1965. Ciriaci said: (History would regard this decree as) “a fresh, and practically unanimous, confirmation by the Second Vatican Council of ecclesiastical celibacy and the exalted mission of the priesthood.” Pope Paul VI said: “I am well aware of the extent to which this is a result of your prudent, tenacious, and courteous efforts. Without failing to respect the freedom of others to have and to express their own opinions, you never swerved from the track of fidelity to the great principles of priestly spirituality.”
[3]


[1] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 155.
[2] Salvador Bernal, “Alvaro del Portillo,” Scepter (1996) 130-131.
[3] Ibid. 126-128.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Intelligence Powered Exclusively by Love

Adam



Martha Beck was a high achieving graduate of one of our pre-eminently advertised universities who was trying to find herself by “thrashing my way through a maze of difficult requirements toward labels and achievements that contain no joy in themselves.” She and her husband spent years trying to teach Adam (son with Down Syndrome) the alphabet in order to be able to read. She explains:
“He inherited our immense supply of magnetic refrigerator letters once the rest of us had stopped using them, but he didn’t pick up the alphabet as Katie eventually had. Because his speech was almost completely unintelligible, I had no idea whether he was even capable of grasping the idea of written symbols representing phonetic units that can be combined to make words. Written language requires several impressive cognitive leaps, and I had no idea whether Adam would ever make even one. Nevertheless, from the time he started preschool at three, we kept running Adam through the alphabet, repeating the name of each letter, along with its major sound, thousands and thousands of times in the strained voices of tourists who believe they can overcome any language barrier by sheer volume. “It didn’t work. When quizzed without prompting, Adam never recognized the letters on his own. By the time he was six I was ready t o give up. “Then one day John was holding up a plastic letter and making its sound, which happened to be “EEEEEEEEE,” when Adam suddenly perked up and said, ‘Wizbef!’ This is the way he pronounces his sister Elizabeth’s name. Naturally, John and I took this as ample cause to stay home from work and celebrate. During that day, we discovered that Adam’s learning capacity went way beyond anything we expected – as long as everything he learned related directly to someone he cared about. He had absolutely no interest in, for example, “E is for egg.” But E for Elizabeth – now that was crucial information. “In the end we all learned the alphabet this way. The symbols we had been trying to link to abstract sounds ended up as a parade of personalities: Adam first, of course, and then Billy, Caleb, Diane, Elizabeth, Francine, Grandpa … As we figured out how he learned, the landscape of our son’s mind began to reveal itself to us. Instead of rationally constructed structure of empirical observations, logical conclusions, and arbitrary symbols, Adam’s mental world seems to be more like a huge family reunion. ]It is a gathering of people, all linked by Adam’s affection into a complex universe of relationships and characteristics. In this world, Adam learns as fast as anyone I know. Long before he could reads or write even the most basic words (or so I thought), Adam cam home to tell me, in his garbled tongue, about the new boy who had just moved into his class, and who had become Adam’s friend. When I couldn’t understand his pronunciation of the boy’s name, Adam grabbed a pencil in his stubby, grubby little-boy fingers, and wrote ‘Miguel Fernando de la Hoya’ on a piece of paper – a piece of paper, needless to say, which I intend to frame. If I ever need a dose of Adam and he isn’t around, I’ll be able to look at that clumsily written name and remember what it is like to tap into an intelligence powered exclusively by love.”


Because Adam’s intelligence was powered by love, Adam saw things we don’t see while they are right in front of us – like “the divine something hidden in the ordinary” of Escriva. Adam’s mother was afraid that he might slow her down. He did. “Thank God. I was afraid Adam would slow me down, and he has. Not because he has required more care and time than a ‘normal’ boy (he is the most helpful and least demanding of my children) but because the immediacy and joy with which he lives his life make rapacious achievement, Harvard-style, look a lot like quiet desperation. Adam has slowed me down to the point where I notice what is in front of me, its mystery and beauty, instead of thrashing my way through a maze of difficult requirements toward labels and achievements that contain no joy in themselves. Adam takes his joy straight up, in purer form than most of us can handle….He is the one who taught me to appreciate rainbows – not only in the sky but also in lawn sprinklers and dish-soap bubbles and patches of oil. He is the one who stops, and makes me stop, to smell the bushes.”



Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No True "Secularity" For Islam



Islam is “Faith” as Conceptual Ideology, not Anthropology:


The reality is that Islam does not live faith as an anthropological act. That means for Islam, "belief" is a conceptual ideology, but not a moral act of self-giving as Christian faith. Christian faith is an act of obedience of the whole self to Jesus Christ Who is the Revelation of the Father: "Philip, he who sees me, sees the Father" (Jn. 14, 6-9). Christian faith as personal "experience" produces a consciousness of being "another Christ." That is, one cannot "know" Christ without becoming Christ. "Only God knows God" (Benedict XVI Brazil, May 7, 2007).

Islamic "faith" is a conceptual act, not an anthropological act of the whole person in the act of self-transcending, that leads to prayer and fasting, but it is recitation more than faith. John Paul II suggested this when he said: Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation. It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God said about Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son. In Islam all the richness of God’s self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitely been set aside.

“Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Muhammad. There is als0 mention of Mary, His Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.”
[1]

This is the reason, again, that the Koran is recited, not read. David Burrell remarks: “We have already seen how the Qur’an is not so much read as recited in the Muslim community, so that verses chanted and heard in a recurring fashion have the effect of shaping lives by offering spontaneous phrases with which to guide action. And quite consciously so, since the term Qur’an means `a reciting,’ and so it was delivered to Muhammad, who was then told often enough to recite what he heard. Western writers cannot resist the expression `sacramental’ when remarking on the role which recitation of the Qur’an plans in Muslim life, for `reciting of the sacred words is itself a participation in God’s speech.”[2] In this regard, Sandro Magister’s remark that “the Koran is not the equivalent of the Christian Scriptures: it is the equivalent of Christ” is apposite.

Since Christian faith is an obedience of self-gift, and therefore, free, it is significant that faith in Islam is not free. And the result of this is the failure to have any notion of true “secularity” based on the “consciousness” of the self-transcending believer and the consequent dualism of Church and State as consequence. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger had this most important observation:

“The modern idea of freedom is thus a legitimate product of the Christian environment; it could not have developed anywhere else. Indeed, one must add that it cannot be separated from this Christian environment and transplanted into any other system, as is shown very clearly today in the renaissance of Islam;

the attempt to graft on to Islamic societies what are termed western standards cut loose from their Christian foundations misunderstands the internal logic of Islam as well as the historical logic to which these western standards belong, and hence this attempt was condemned to fail in this form. The construction of society in Islam is theocratic, and therefore monist and not dualist; dualism, which is the precondition for freedom, presupposes for its part the logic of the Christian thing.

In practice this means that it is only where the duality of Church and state, of the sacral and the political authority, remains maintained in some form or another that the fundamental pre-condition exists for freedom. Where the Church itself becomes the state freedom becomes lost. But also when the Church done away with as a pubic and publicly relevant authority, then too freedom is extinguished, because there the state once again claims completely for itself the justification of morality; in the profane post-Christian world it does not admittedly do this in the form of sacral authority but as an ideological authority – that means that the state becomes the party, and since there can no longer be any other authority of the same rank it once again becomes total itself. The ideological state is totalitarian; it must become ideological if it is not balanced by a free but publicly recognized authority of conscience. When this kind of duality does not exist the totalitarian system in unavoidable.

“With this the fundamental task of the Church’s political stance, as I understand it, has been defined; its aim must be to maintain this balance of a dual system as the foundation of freedom. Hence the Church must make claims and demands on public law and cannot simply retreat into the private sphere. Hence it must also take care on the other hand that Church and state remain separated and that belonging to the Church clearly retains its voluntary character.”
[3]


[1] John Paul II, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” Knopf (1994) 92-93.
[2] David Burrell, “Freedom and Creation in Three Traditions,” UNDP (1993) 180.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Church, Ecumenism and Politics – Theology and the Church’s Political Stance,” Crossroad (1988) 162-163.

The "Axial Age" - Now

David Walsh[1]


My Preface



Benedict XVI’s point at Regensburg, his undelivered address to the Roman University “La Sapienza,” his Address to European Professors, June 24, 2007 and his address to The Sixth European Symposium of University Professors (June 7, 2008) are all directed to the same point: “Broaden Reason.” This broadening is achieved by the ontological experience of self-transcendence in the act of Christian faith. The mind “sees” the being of the believer as illuminated in the very act of belief that is a moral, ontological act of the “I.” Reason is “broadened” by this new exposure to Being in a way unmediated by sensible perception or conceptual symbolizing. Access to Being broadens reason. It is a new access to a reality that transcends cosmic perception. In the Regensburg address, Benedict made reference to this moment of tansfertilization between Abrahamic faith and Greek pagan culture in which a "transfiguration" took place, the lights went on: “Within the Old Testament, the process which started at the burning bush came to new maturity at the time of the Exile, when the God of Israel, an Israel now deprived of its land and worship, was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth and described in a simple formula which echoes the words uttered at the burning bush: "I am."

“This new understanding of God is accompanied by a kind of enlightenment, which finds stark expression in the mockery of gods who are merely the work of human hands (cf. Psalm 115). Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level, resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature."

[My comment]


The moment we are now living through as a financial debacle, but which is really a crisis of the meaning of man as person, begs for a comparison with the meaning of axiality. Is this beginning of the third millennium not another axial age in which the implication of the Incarnation of God as divine Person not irrupting as a huge tectonic plate in the consciousness of men? An age of conceptual reductionism is being exploded by an age of experiential enlightenment which cannot tolerated the burden and boredom of a meaningless infinity of data bases of facts. The human person is emerging not as an evolving animal but as “another Christ” who is an autonomous and self-determining “I,” a pilgrim of the Absolute.

Consider David Walsh’s remarks on the previous axial moment:
[2]

David Walsh

“Historians have long been fascinated by the question because the study of the past virtually invites reflection on its structure. A pattern that has impressed several generations with its significance is the occurrence of parallel irruptions of transcendent revelation between 800 and 200 B.C. This is the period when the prophets in Israel, the mystic philosophers in Greece, the Vedists and the Buddhists in India, the Taoists and Confucians in China, and the Zoroastrians in Persia were all engaged in the opening of the souls toward the extra cosmic revelation by which universal humanity is constituted. It was a period of such momentous significance in terms of the break with the cosmological myth, the discovery of rationality, and the emergence of universal human nature that Karl Jaspers named it the axis time.
[3] All history seemed to revolve around it, and we recognize the source of the great symbolic forms that endure architectonically up to the present. A particularly striking convergence seems to occur around 500 B.C., at least in retrospect, when we contemplate that Confucius, the Buddha, Heraclitus, and Deutero-Isaiah were contemporaries. The pattern could not be merely coincidental, since the moment seemed to have inaugurated the decisive opening of history toward universality. Jaspers may even be forgiven the enthusiasm of denoting the epochal contemporaneity as the ‘axis time’ because such outbursts do signal a decisive differentiation of order. Of course, remainder is needed that t he axis designation omits such momentous irruptions as the Mosaic revelation and the epiphany of Christ as well as the experience of Mohammed, but the inclination is not false. Each of the Theophanies is axial, but neither individually nor in aggregate are they reducible to a mundane pattern of occurrence. The axis is precisely the shattering of the cosmic realm as the scale of measurement of reality.

“They converge in rupturing the compactness of the cosmological form of experience. Unity is the primary experience of the cosmos within which we find ourselves. It is one order whose consubstantial wholeness indicates that all levels of reality are connected from the most ephemeral to the most enduring. Only the cosmos as a whole is the comprehensive embodiment of order, and everything else gains its position by participating in the imitation of the cosmos. Just as order in the cosmos is mediated hierarchically from the highest visible divinities to the lowliest elements of nature, so too can human society live in order by analogically reflecting the hierarchical mediation of the cosmos. Just as the cosmos undergoes its cyclical redemption from disorder and the rebirth of new order by returning to its first day of creation, so human existence can participate in the same rhythms of regeneration from decay by fitting within the New Year renewal of the cosmos. Cosmological order, as it develop din the ancient high civilizations or as it perennially exists among all archaic societies, is an enchanted world. It is a world ‘full of gods’ in which any event can become the occasion for a hierophany and in which magical transformations can break out at any moment. Not only is nothing simply what it is, but rational speculative unfolding is impossible. The most poignant feature is surely the degree of unself-consciousness concerning the source of it order. Everything must be depeicte din tangible visible terms, since there is no differentiation of the mind, soul, or heart as the seatr of its symbolic profusion.

“All of that unexamined unity is ruptured, not by the breakdown of order that compels men to think about their situation, but only by the concomitant irruption of transcendent Being, whose revelation is, of necessity, wholly inward. The instrument by which it is apprehended is illumined only in the radiance from the Beyond. Apprehension of the radical otherness of the transcendent casts varying degrees of negativity over al other immanent transmitters. Divinity withdraws from the cosmos [i.e. the cosmos considered as divine] as it is concentrated in the revelation of Being. Mediation by the hierarchy or rhythms of the cosmos can no longer occupy central place, when the incompatibility of the God with all intracosmic embodiments has been more or less dramatically discerned. The move is not from polytheism to monotheism, since both variants are discoverable at every point in the cosmological myth. Indeed, the consciousness of the gods as all derived from a common divine cosmic substance is its overriding emphasis. What is decisively new is the irruption of transcendent Being. The encounter with an utterly different order of reality is the signal event . Having once felt its unmistakable touch, the derivative character of all other reality can never be eliminated. All of the epochal spiritual outbursts move in the direction of this fundamental distinction from which all other differentiations follow.

“The line by which the implications are unfolded is never smooth or uniform. It can be expressed as an utter gulf between the transcendent divinity and the rest of reality, as in the Mosaic definitiveness of the I AM, yet never succeed in extending beyond the confines of the Chosen People to the chosenness of each individual human soul. The break with the divine reality of the cosmos may be far less radical, such as in classical philosophy, in which the movement of the soul toward the Beyond is differentiated, but no countermovement from the transcendent can be conceived of a divine source whose paradigmatic ikon remains the cosmos itself. Friendship between man and God is, according to Aristotle, impossible. A fully transcendent and self-revealing God, indispensable for such a relationship, has not yet been experienced by him. The break with the cosmic reality can be so tenuous that the movement toward the Beyond is still expressed hierarchically, as in Confucianism, or has been concentrated into itself as the Way, beyond it, as n Taoism. Or the transcending movement can remain so tied to the struggle against the cosmos that it can only be conceive in terms of the dichotomy of illusion and liberation, as in Hinduism. By contrast, the fuscous on the movement itself can become so intense that it can become its own justification eclipsing all other reality, as in the Buddhist attainment of Boddhisatva. Even when the maximum differentiation is beheld in the self-revelation of transcendent Being within time, as in Christianity, there is no guarantee that the full amplitude of differentiation will be maintained. Islam arises, to a considerable extent, out of the demand for simplification of the mystery of the incarnation, and Gnosticism flourishes because of the perennial demand to overleap the distance that separates us from it consummation.”


[1] Cf. David Walsh, “The Third Millennium – Reflectons on Faith and Reason” CUA (1999) 166-169.
[2] One might also consult Charles Taylor’s “A Secular Age” pp. 150 et seq.
[3] Karl Jaspers, “The Origin and Goal of History,” trans. Michael Bullock, New Haven: Yale University Press (1953).
Class OLP 3-13-09

Holiness



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.”
[12]

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.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Third Sunday of Lent - B



John 2:13-22: The Cleansing of the Temple


2:13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2:14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 2:15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 2:16 He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" 2:17 His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." 2:18 The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" 2:19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 2:20 The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" 2:21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 2:22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.


Intelligence Powered by Love



The clutter, buying and selling that was taking place in the Temple, takes place within us as a dervish of conflicting desires and concepts. These are always going to take place, but they must be encased in the context of a contemplative mind and heart. Bonnie Mahala gave me a chapter (Friday last) of a book written by a woman, Martha Beck, who had a Down syndrome boy named Adam. Martha Beck was a high achieving graduate of one of our pre-eminently advertised universities who was trying to find herself by “thrashing my way through a maze of difficult requirements toward labels and achievements that contain no joy in themselves.”[1] She and her husband spent years trying to teach Adam the alphabet in order to be able to read.

She explains: “He inherited our immense supply of magnetic refrigerator letters once the rest of us had stopped using them, but he didn’t pick up the alphabet as Katie eventually had. Because his speck was almost completely unintelligible, I had no idea whether he was even capable of grasping the idea of written symbols representing phonetic units that can be combined to make words. Written language requires several impressive cognitive leaps, and I had no idea whether Adam would ever make even one. Nevertheless, from the time he started preschool at three, we kept running Adam through the alphabet, repeating the name of each letter, along with its major sound, thousands and thousands of times in the strained voices of tourists who believe they can overcome any language barrier by sheer volume.


“It didn’t work. When quizzed without prompting, Adam never recognized the leeters on his own. By the time he was six I was ready t o give up.


“Then one day John was holding up a plastic letter and making its sound, which happened to be “EEEEEEEEE,” when Adam suddenly perked up and said, ‘Wizbef!’ This is the way he pronounces his sister Elizabeth’s name. Naturally, John and I took this as ample cause to stay home from work and celebrate. During that day, we discovered that Adam’s learning capacity went way beyond anything we expected – as long as everything he learned related directly to someone he cared about. He had absolutely no interest in, for example, “E is for egg.” But E for Elizabeth – now that was crucial information.

“In the end we all learned the alphabet this way. The symbols we had been trying to link to abstract sounds ended up as a parade of personalities: Adam first, of course, and then Billy, Caleb, Diane, Elizabeth, Francine, Grandpa … As we figured out how he learned, the landscape of our son’s mind began to reveal itself to us. Instead of rationally constructed structure of empirical observations, logical conclusions, and arbitrary symbols, Adam’s mental world seems to be more like a huge family reunion. ]It is a gathering of people, all linked by Adam’s affection into a complex universe of relationships and characteristics. In this world, Adam learns as fast as anyone I know. Long before he could reads or write even the most basic words (or so I thought), Adam cam home to tell me, in his garbled tongue, about the new boy who had just moved into his class, and who had become Adam’s friend. When I couldn’t understand his pronunciation of the boy’s name, Adam grabbed a pencil in his stubby, grubby little-boy fingers, and wrote ‘Miguel Fernando de la Hoya’ on a piece of paper – a piece of paper, needless to say, which I intend to frame. If I ever need a dose of Adam and he isn’t around, I’ll be able to look at that clumsily written name and remember what it is like to tap into an intelligence powered exclusively by love.”


Because Adam’s intelligence was powered by love, Adam saw things we don’t see while they are right in front of us – like “the divine something hidden in the ordinary” of Escriva. Adam’s mother was afraid that he might slow her down. He did. “Thank God. I was afraid Adam would slow me down, and he has. Not because he has required more care and time than a ‘normal’ boy (he is the most helpful and least demanding of my children) but because the immediacy and joy with which he lives his life make rapacious achievement, Harvard-style, look a lot like quiet desperation. Adam has slowed me down to the point where I notice what is in front of me, its mystery and beauty, instead of thrashing my way through a maze of difficult requirements toward labels and achievements that contain no joy in themselves. Adam takes his joy straight up, in purer form than most of us can handle….He is the one who taught me to appreciate rainbows – not only in the sky but also in lawn sprinklers and dish-soap bubbles and patches of oil. He is the one who stops, and makes me stop, to smell the bushes.”
[2]


Adam Beck as “Other Christ"

Now let’s do the theology of Adam Beck, The Temple and the Christology involved.
The temple is the humanity of Christ. It has been assumed by and into the Divine Person of the Word. The Person of the Word is prayer. Ratzinger wrote:


“The basic reason why man can speak with God arises from the fact that God himself is speech, word. His nature is to speak, to hear, to reply, as we see particularly in Johannine theology, where Son and Spirit are described in terms of pure ‘hearing;’ they speak in response to what they have first heard. Only because there is already speech, ‘Logos,’ in God can there be speech, ‘Logos,’ to God. Philosophically we could put it like this: the Logos in God is the onto-logical foundation for prayer. Prologue of John’s Gospel speaks of this connection in its very first sentences: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was in communication with God’ (1,1) as a more precise translation of the Greek προς suggests, rather than the usual ‘with God.’ It expresses the act of turning to God, or relationship. Since there is relationship within God himself, there can also be a participation in this relationship. Thus we can relate to God in a way which does not contradict his nature.”[3]

This followed by Ratzinger’s “Thesis 1 of “Behold the Pierced One:” “According to the testimony of Holy Scripture, the center of the life and person of Jesus is his constant communication with the Father.” In this text, he affirms: “According to Luke, we see who Jesus is if we see him at prayer. 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.”[4]

If such is the nature of the Person of Christ, how else could we understand the prayerful silence which must pervade His entire humanity, a humanity which is assumed into His Person and which is exercised as the conduit of His Persona lived out in time and space? And what else could we expect from the Temple which is a symbol of His body and humanity? And since the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old, how clear it becomes why Christ want the prayer, silence and peace that integrates His Persona to reign and integrated the Temple.




Contemplative Prayer


Homily by St. John Chrysostom: “Prayer and converse with God is a supreme good… I do not mean prayer of outward observance but prayer from the heart, not committed to fixed times of periods [which is essential] but continuous throughout the day and night.

“Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, giving generously in the service of others, our spirit should long for God and call him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God’s love, and so make a palatable offering to the Lord of the universe….

“Prayer is the light of the spirit, true knowledge of God, mediating between God and man,. The spirit, raised up to heaven by prayer, clings to God with the utmost tenderness; like a child crying tearfully for its mother, it craves the milk that God provides. It seeks the satisfaction of its won desires, and receives gifts outweighing the whole world of nature.

“Prayer stands before God as an honored ambassador. It gives joy to the sprit, peace to the heart... I speak of prayer, not words. It is the longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift not given by man but by God’s grace…. One who tastes this food is set on fire with an eternal longing for the Lord; his spirit burns as in a fire of the utmost intensity. Practice prayer from the beginning…”[5]



[1] Martha Beck, “Expecting Adam,” Memoir 315.
[2] Ibid 313.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Feast of Faith,” Ignatius (1986)25.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 19.
[5] St. John Chrysostom, Homily, Office of Readings, Friday after Ash Wednesday.