Monday, December 26, 2011

Year of Faith 2012-2013: Faith as Call to Sanctity

The General Monthly Intention for Opus Dei in the United States will be the reception and execution of the will of Benedict XVI for a year of faith beginning on October 11, 2012 until the Feast of Christ the King on November 24, 2013.

I suggest that Benedict XVI is driving toward the one goal of his pontificate: To move the Church to the consciousness and concept that faith and revelation are one subjective act of God revealing Himself and the whole person of the believer receiving Him and becoming Him. This one act of receiving the acting Person of the Son – acting as spoken by the Father and speaking to us as Word – is what Benedict is calling “revelation.” It is our removal of the veil of being in ourselves that is the “hearing the Word of God and doing it” (Lk. 8, 20-21). It is what the Virgin did at the Annunciation. “Indeed, at the Annunciation Mary entrusted herself to God completely, with the ‘full submission of intellect and will,’ manifesting ‘the obedience of faith’ to him who spoke to her through his messenger. She responded, therefore, with all her human and feminine ‘I,’ and this response of faith included both perfect cooperation with ‘the grace of God that precedes and assists’ and perfect openness to the action of the Holy Spirit, who ‘constantly brings faith to completion by his gifts.’ ” There is no revelation unless there is reception just as there is no sound in the forest to receive the noise of the falling tree. If this be true, then there is no faith unless the “I” of the believer becomes the “I” of the Revealer. And if that be so, then the intellegere (ab intus legere) of belief and revelation cannot be explained except in terms of experience. That is, one cognizes the person of the other by experiencing oneself. And if that be so, this experience and consciousness of self (and therefore of the Other) becomes conceptual only by reflecting on one’s consciousness.

In a brief philosophic word, the understanding of faith as the dynamic act of self-giving that is sanctity, can only by “handled” phenomenologically in the sense that John Paul II gave to it. Benedict XVI, also, is always working with faith in phenomenological terms, but he never, as far as I know, does philosophy explicitly although his entire theological opus can only be handled phenomenologically. The same must be said about the Second Vatican Council throughout. The work of John F. Kobler “Vatican II and Phenomenology – Reflections on the Life-World of the Church,” is a researched and nuanced testimony to the reality of the epistemological see-change that took place in Vatican II. Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II), as Cardinal of Krakow, gave testimony concerning Vatican II in his catechesis to the dioceses of Krakow: “Sources of Renewal.” The book sets the theme as an ontological enrichment of faith by the burgeoning development of the believer as being. The first section is entitled: “Enrichment of Faith” in the sense of considering not abstract thought of doctrine and dogma, but “what does it mean to be a believer?” – that is, what does it mean to be an ontological subject oriented to receive the divine Person of the Word and to be experientially heightened in consciousness as a result. As believing person, the believer is phenomenologically differentiated in terms of Gaudium et spes #24: “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.” That is, the human person, enjoying the freedom of autonomy of mastering self, achieves his identity (as other Christ) by the sincere giving of himself, i.e. receiving the Word. Therefore, the meaning of “faith” is not just a series of concepts that are derived from the Old Testament and the revealing Christ, but an ontological change in the very being of the believer. That change of being is the orientation of the believer – the attitude of self-gift in receiving the Word, and the internal ontological change of coming into the reality of one is destined to be, i.e. another Christ – and therefore, a new and heightened consciousness. Revelation takes place within me by the conversion of attitude away from myself to the Word of the Father Who has become man for me. As John F. Kobler writes: “(I)t is an experiential wisdom mirrored in a person’s affective inclinations: i.e., the interplay of his mind and will, knowing and loving, sensitivitry and affectivity. It reflectshis whole attitudinal stance toward reality and the motivational pattern shaping his very being.

Why A Year of Faith?

And why all this? Benedict asked the question: why faith? And the answer: to make up for the shortfall of love that is in us habitually, and making up for it, achieve sufficient likeness to God to enter Trinitarian Life. In a word, what is driving Benedict is the universal call to holiness. That is achieved by knowing God. But one knows God only by faith. And faith is an exercise of becoming the Other and loving like the Other.

Benedict observed: “Who among us would not have to admit that even in the acts of kindness he practices toward others, there is still an element of selfishness, something of self-satisfaction and looking back at ourselves? Who among us would not have to admit that he is more or less living in the pre-Copernican illusion and looking at other people, seeing them as real, only in their relationship to our own selves? Thus, the sublime and liberating message of love, as being the sole and sufficient content of Christianity, can also become something very demanding.”

… “In its simplest and innermost form, faith is nothing but reaching that point in love at which we recognize that we, too, need to be given something. Faith is thus that stage in love which really distinguishes it as love; it consists in overcoming the complacency and self-satisfaction of the person who says, ‘I have done everything. I don’t need any further help.’ It is only in ‘faith’ like this that selfishness, the real opposite of love, comes to an end.”

Notice the first points of the document of the year of faith, “Porta Fidei:” #3 is a recovery of a “taste” for God; #6 is the nature of faith as conversion of the self away from self; #9 and #10 is the distinction between faith-as-concept and faith-as-act; #13 is the Virgin engendering Christ within her and she giving Him her entire humanity and life. We are called to do the same.

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