“One of the most urgent requirements of contemporary Christology is to go beyond
The difference of perspective between the Presidential Address of Terence Tilley, “Three Impasses in Christology,” given to the Catholic Theology Society of America, Halifax in June 2009, and the response to it by Rev. Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap., the Executive Director for the Secretariat of Doctrine USCCB in the Fall 2009 Quarterly of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, offers us the opportunity to deepen our understanding of Christology and therefore to sharpen our own perspective on the Councils of Chalcedon and Constantinople III as defining Christological councils, and perhaps in our own day, on the Second Vatican Council.
Dr. Tilley opens his address considering intellectual impasses of essentially contested concepts and impasses in science. In the latter case, the solutions may take the form of paradigm shifts as in the case of the epistemology of micro physics and Newtonian macro physics. Failing to resolve intellectual impasses, stalemates result in the social order, not least of them within the Catholic Church. Pace his remarks on the state of the Church, its present impasses and stalemates, the Christologies of the theologians Haight and Sobrino, I would like to consider his third Christological impasse: “how could Jesus Christ be both divine and human?” The most notorious impasse Tilley points to is
The bone he picks with the CDF is their insistence on the use of Chalcedonian terminology “whose meanings are substantially different from what they were in the fifth century.” He campaigns for dialogue, new language and new ideas to be a hermeneutic of continuity of the one abiding Tradition. However, he plunges to a deeper level when he says: “My point is this: Where ideology divides solidarity in shared ascetic practices, especially including shared prayer, unites. The very sharing of prayer and table fellowship in spite of theological impasse is a reconciling practice.”
Fr. Weinandy takes sharp exception to Tilley’s position pointing out that one cannot even pray correctly without doctrinal unity. He wrote: “This doctrinal unity is the life-giving source of the Church’s corporate prayer and common life. To endorse and promote erroneous conceptions and faulty expressions of this faith – these actions are the ‘destructive’ ideologies and ‘idolatrous’ theories that divisively undermine ‘shared prayer.”
As both authors speak truth, it would helpful to consider the theological mind of Benedict XVI concerning Christology and its development. In favor with Weinandy’s conceptual-doctrinal adherence to the Council of Chalcedon, Ratzinger-Benedict wrote: “In my view
However, on the side of Tilley’s perspective, Ratzinger-Benedict holds, as the fundamental epistemology of his entire theological opus, that “Real advances in Christology… can never come merely as the result of the theology of the schools…It must be complemented by the theology of the saints, which is theology from experience. All real progress in theological understanding has its origin in the eye of love and in its faculty of beholding.”
To flesh out this assessment, I propose a consideration of what could be called the “diachronic” connection between
Weinandy is Chalcedonian. So is the Church. This Council (451) was, and has continued to be, the defining Council for the metaphysical account of Christology where Jesus Christ as God-man was one Person in two natures. Weinandy concurred that “the Trinitarian and Christological doctrines of the early councils and creeds…provide a true ontological account of the mystery…. To say that Jesus is the divine Son of the Father existing as man… is to define the ontological nature of the mystery of the Incarnation. This is not one model among many other possible models. All else that is or could be said concerning Jesus must conform to the metaphysical truth of this doctrinally defined Incarnational mystery.” As seen above, Ratzinger assessed
According to Weinandy, failing a conceptual dogmatic orthodoxy as prius for theological development was tantamount to loose the moorings of faith and render common prayer and praxis to be impossible. Concretely, Weinandy was particularly exercised over Tilley’s third Christological impasse, namely, whether the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) “simply restated the Christological problem without offering a satisfactory solution as to how one person could be both God and man.” Weinandy sharpens his astonishment quoting Tilley’s remark: “The theological effect of the Chalcedonian strategy of attributing properties to the two natures rather than to the person of Christ basically left the impasse intact.” Weinandy goes so far as to assert that “The Second and Third Councils of Constantinople (553 AD and 680-681 Ad) were held not to re-interpret or even to clarify the teaching of The Council of Chalcedon, but to ensure that it be understood precisely in this manner for this was the original mind of Chalcedon itself.” Weinandy confronts Tilley’s non-doctrinal, experiential approach to truth as “historical relativism,” “trendy presentism,” modern subjectivism” and “phenomenological approximate expressions of the mystery.”
However, Ratzinger remarks that the “is” in
Ratzinger’s point will be that the “is” of
Consider faith as an experience in the conversion of
Because of the encounter with the outside reality of the Revealing Christ, there is a subjective experience of being “Other” by the self-giving of receptivity, and by reflecting on that experience and consciousness intentionally, one is able to formulate the Petrine confession of all times: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). Recall Ratzinger’s “Thesis 3” of “Behold the Pierced One,” where the epistemological key to knowing Who Jesus really is, is not sensible experience but the personal entering into the prayer of Christ to the Father where Simon, son of John, experienced entering into the Person of Christ since Ratzinger had established scripturally that the Person of Christ is prayer, and to pray as Christ and with Christ is to experience within oneself what it is like to be Who Christ is, when incarnate, as pure relation to the Father. is to In a word, instead of saying “is” as to an outside fact, one is saying Yes to an interior “ex-sistere” that mimics the Being of Christ.
This being so, the epistemology that must be deployed to fashion a realist Christology of the “event” of the Incarnation must transcend the objectified horizon of Chalcedon and learn from Constantinople III and the theology of Maximus the Confessor.
Ratzinger offers the following as the hidden Trinitarian dynamic in the
Constantinople III – Diachronic Fulfillment of
From Abstract Object to Existential Subject
Piscatorie, non aristotelice
Constantinople III is an epistemological development from considering Christ as object (substance: ουσία), metaphysically accounted for by the concepts of person and nature, to experiencing Him as Subject of action, in this case of the action of willing both as God and as man. It is making explicit in what we could call an ex-sistere what was implicit in the Chalcedonian “is.” That is, since willing is an action of the “I,” there is only one (personal) willing although carried out by two ontologically irreducible wills: the created and the uncreated. The important insight is the realization that wills are not objects that “will,” but are the two natures by [quo] which the “I” wills. Only the “I” wills. Constantinople III appeals to Scripture of John 6, 38: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me.” It says that Christ is “calling his own will that of his flesh, since his flesh too became his own. For in the same way that his all holy and blameless animate flesh was not destroyed in being made divine but remained in its own limit and category, so his human will as well was not destroyed by being made divine.” Notice that the human will is “made divine” by becoming the will of the divine “I” of the Logos.
Reading Ratzinger’s exegesis of John 6, 38, one can gain the insight
of the epistemological transition from objectifying thought to the existential Subject of the living Christ. He writes: “Here the divine Logos is speaking, and speaking of the human will of Jesus in the mode by which he calls his the will of the Logos. With this exegesis of John 6, 38, the Council (Constantinople III) proves the unity of the subject. In Jesus there are not two “I’s,” but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought of Jesus using the ‘I.’ This has become his ‘I,’ has been assumed into his ‘I,’ because the human will has become fully one with the will of the Logos, and with it has become pure assent to the will of the Father.” It is most insightful to remember that the will does not will. Only subjects will. The human will is not human nature willing and acting. Actiones sunt suppositorum. It is a divine Person-Subject performing the action of willing in this particular human and created way that is the solution to the conundrum of how can God be free the way a human subject is free. The meaning of human freedom is not now abrogated but enhanced since man has been made in the image and likeness of God, and can only become himself when he acts like Him. The exercise of human freedom by a divine Person reveals the true meaning of human freedom, not its annulment by being divinized. The prototypical truth of human freedom is found in the “I” of Jesus Christ willing with a human will. Recall the remark of John Paul II: “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom.” Human freedom, since it has been taken up into the divine Person and exercised by Him as His, does not now mean indetermination and choice, but radical self-gift as its meaning and perfection.
Later, in the same work, Ratzinger-Benedict explains this single Subject, the divine “I” of the Logos willing with the two wills, not as Greek Substantial Being, but “on the level of existence understood as communion. The Fathers thus sketch an ontology of freedom. The two wills are united in a manner in which the different wills can be united, in a common ‘Yes to common values. These two wills are united in the ‘Yes’ of the human will of Christ to the divine will of the Logos. Thus the two wills become in reality a single will, and yet remain two. The Council says, Just as the flesh of the Lord can be called flesh of the Logos, so his will can be called the will proper to the Logos of God. In practice the Council is applying here the Trinitarian model: this ultimate unity, the unity of God, is not a mechanical unity but is communion. It is love.”
The diachronic completing of
Constantinople III - Precursor of the Second
It was at the International Congress on the Sacred Heart of Jesus in
The question is: what is a “spiritual Christology?” For Ratzinger-Benedict, it is to understand Christ as He presents Himself to us, not as we pre-conceive Him to be. The key is to engage in the hermeneutic that will be most receptive of Revelation (the Word as Person of Christ), and therefore the least disruptive and distortive. The analogy from subatomic physics suggests itself where the speed and location of a particle can only gleaned from its interaction with another particle that disrupts both its speed and location. So also, pre-conceived conceptualization only gives us the Christ we want to see. We then apply the historical method that selects the facts that best fit our pre-conceive image, and we end with what we consider the only possible historical Jesus, which in reality is only a caricature of ourselves.
Ratzinger has called this least disruptive mimicry of the Person of Christ, as presented in Scripture, “theological epistemology.” He offers Luke 6, 12 where “the calling of the Twelve proceeds from prayer, from the Son’s converse with the Father;” Luke 9, 18 where He is named “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and Luke 9, 28 where, as He prayed, “the appearance of his countenance was changed, and his raiment became a radiant white.” These are key sites that disclose that Christ is prayer. Since the Person of Christ is constitutive relation to the Father, He reveals His dynamic as Person to be prayer upon becoming incarnate. Ratzinger comments: “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 persons 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).”
For Ratzinger, this “theological epistemology” is the “hermeneutic of faith.”’ To believe is the action of prayer; it is to say “Yes” (as the Virgin) to the Revealing Person of Christ. By praying, a likeness is achieved ab intus whereby the praying Subject is instantiated in the believer and is known subjectively by the believing subject. It is a subjective hermeneutic, but not subjectivism. To be fully realistic, one must experience not only the object but also the subject. Ratzinger remarked: “Pure objectivity is an absurd abstraction. It is not the uninvolved who comes to knowledge; rather, interest itself is a requirement for the possibility of coming to know.” The Person of Christ is not a pre-conceived abstraction, a conceptual mould into which historical facts would be selectively poured – forced to fit the pre-conception. As a result, by realistically experiencing the self as subjective self-gift as prayer, we work with a knowledge of the “I” of the Logos that is more real (objective) and most true.
It can then be said, as Ratzinger writes summarizing his habilitation thesis, that Revelation (the Person of Christ) takes place from within the believing subject; and this in a totally distinct way from the “vital immanence” of 19th century modernism.
This theological epistemology was the achievement of Constantinople III whereby the one “I” of Christ is Protagonist of every action of the God-man. As the flesh is the flesh of the divine “I,” so is the human will the will of the divine “I.” Who wills? The will, or the Person willing? To think that the will wills is to reify it by abstracting it from the subjective reality of the Person as an object. Therefore, there is no parallelism or dualism of the divine and human wills in Christ. They continue to be ontologically distinct as created and uncreated. But they are compenetrated in that the divine “I” has penetrated both and raised them to the single act of the one “I.” This is the redemptive act where the divine “I” suffers because of the excess of Self-gift that He is. God suffers not because He has been ontologically diminished, but because His divine “I” is limitless Self-gift.
This achievement of Constantinople III in 680-681 is in its time a hermeneutic of continuity with
The partial yet complementary achievements of Tilley and Weinandy are an entrée to reconsidering the Councils of Chalcedon and Constantinople III and their epistemological and metaphysical complementarity. They provide us with the perspective we need in evaluating Benedict XVI’s call today to achieve a new metaphysics of the “I” as “a new trajectory of thinking” that would permit us to see the Second Vatican Council, pace Weigel, not as a rupture with prior Church tradition, but as in “continuity” with it.
 Ignace de La Potterie “The Biblical Basis of the Theology of the Heart of Christ” Towards a Civilization of Love Ignatius (1985) 72.
 Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, 32, Number 3, Fall 2009, 4-10.
 Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap. “Terrence Tilley’s Christological Impasses: The Demise of the Doctrine of the Incarnation,” Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly 32 Number 3, Fall 2009, 8.
 J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 8.
 J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 27.
 FCS Quarterly, Fall 2009, 9.
 J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 8.
 J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Ignatius (1987) 182.
 Ibid. 183.
 Ibid. 182.
 Benedict XVI, “
 Ibid 24.
 In this we can glimpse Ratzinger’s rejection of the Greek metaphysical category of “substance” for the constitutive relationality that he understands the person to be. See J. Ratzinger, “The Notion of Person in Theology” in Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 448; also, J. Ratzinger, “Many Religions – One Covenant” Ignatius (1999) 76-77; J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 132.
 J. Ratzinger, “The Nature and
 J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 25-27.
 J. Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology,” op. cit. 190.
 J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” op. cit. 182.
 “Who Jesus was is a question of fishermen, not a problem of ontology…” J. Ratzinger, “The God of Jesus Christ” Franciscan Herald Press (1979) 82. Why the strange ontology of homoousios? As a protection for the faith of the fishermen of
 Thomas G. Weinandy, “Does God Suffer?” UNDP (2000).
 “God’s action is precisely in the objectivity of its ‘in-itself-ness,’ not a hopeless objectivity, but the true formula of human existence, which has its ‘in-itself-ness’ outside itself and can find its true center only in ex-sistere, in going-out-from itself. It is also no empty past but that ‘perfect tense’ that is therefore man’s true ‘present tense’ that is therefore man’s true ‘present tense’ because it is always antecedent to it, always at the same time its promise and its future;” J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” op. cit 190.
 S. Th. II-II, 58, a. 2. “(A)ctions belong to supposits [Cf. I, 29, 2] and wholes and, properly speaking, not to 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 "metaphorical justice."
 J. Ratzinger, “Freedom and Liberation,” Church, Ecumenism and Politics Crossroad (1988) 274: “The real God is bond to himself in threefold love and is thus pure freedom. Man’s vocation is to be this image of God, to become like him. Man is not untranscendably shut up in his or her finiteness. Certainly, he… must first learn to accept his… finiteness. He…must recognize that he… is not self-sufficient and not autonomous. He… must give up the lie of independence of all relationships and doing what you want. He… must say yes to his…need, yes to the other person, yes to creation, yes to the limitation and direction of his…own nature. The person who can merely choose between arbitrary options is not yet free. The free person is only someone who takes the criteria for his or her action from within and needs to obey no external compulsion. For this reason the person, who has become at one with his or her essential nature, at one with truth itself, is free.”
 John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor #85.
 I add: because there is the one “I” Who alone does the willing. Wills do not will. The speak of the will is already to make an abstraction from person who is he-who-wills.
 J. Ratzinger, “Journey to Easter,” Crossroad (1987) 155.
 Benedict XVI, “Christmas Address to the Roman Curia” December 22, 2005.
 Benedict XVI, Keynote Address to the Synod of Bishops on “The Word of God,” October 6, 2008.
 “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 requrei s a someone who apprehends it;” “Milestones…” op. cit. 108.
 J. Ratzinger, “God’s Word – Scripture-Tradition-Office” Ignatius (2008) 56.
 J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 9.
 Ibid 18.
 Recall Ratzinger’s insistence on the constitutive relationality of the divine Persons, where the Son, upon becoming flesh, becomes human prayer: “in that Jesus is called ‘Son’ and is thereby made relative to the Father, and in that Christology is ratified as a statement of relation, the automatic result is the total reference of Christ back to the Father. Precisely because he does not stand in himself he stands in him, constantly one with him;” Introduction to Christianity (1990) 133,
 J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” op cit. 25.
 “Blessed … are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8, 20-21).
 Karol Wojtyla remarks that we have no access to the knowledge of the other person as “I” except by transferring to that person the experience and consciousness I have of my own “I;” “Participation or Alienation?” in Person and Community, Lang (1992) 198-202.
 J. Ratzinger, “Biblical Interpretation in Crisis,” in Thornton, Varenne, The Essential Pope Benedict XVI, Harper San Francisco (2007) 247.
 “(T)he 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;” J. Ratzinger “Milestones…;” op. cit. 108.
 “(O)nly that unity of divinity and humanity which in Christ is not parallelism, where one stands alongside the other, but real compenetration – compenetration between God and man – means salvation for mankind. Only thus in fact does that true ‘being with God’ take place, without which liberation and freedom doe not exist.;” Benedict XVI Journey to Easter Crossroad (1987) 100.
 George Weigel considers “Caritas in Veritate” as a hermeneutic of rupture in that it is in line with the thinking of “Populorum Progressio” which is reality in line with the turn to the ontology of the believing subject as developed throughout Vatican II. For the same reason, he rejects John Paul II’s “Of Social Concern.” The same epistemological and metaphysical quarrel is at work here between Weigel and Vatican II as there is between Tilley and Weinandy over the notion of the “hermeneutic of continuity” as expressed by Benedict XVI on December 22, 2005. Cfi. Weigel’s “Caritas in Veritate in Gold and Red,” National Review, July 7, 2009.