Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Holy Spirit

Finding God in Everyday Life

The Mission of the Holy Spirit is not to create an age of the Spirit. There is no “age of the Spirit.” Jesus Christ as God-man is the meaning of “age.” Ratzinger-Benedict XVI writes that “For the first thousand Christ is not the turning-point of history at which a transformed and redeemed world begins, nor is He the point at which the unredeemed history prior to His appearance is terminated. Rather, Christ is the beginning of the end. He is ‘salvation’ in so far as in Him the ‘end’ has already broken into history. Viewed from an historical perspective, salvation consists in this end which He inaugurates while history will run on for a time…and will bring the old aeon of this world to an end.”[1]

            We are not called to a detached mysticism as might be found in Buddhism, Confucius or Lao-tzu. Even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not “great religious personalities.”[2] We are not called to rise up to God by being individually drawn. Rather, God has come down to us as man, and asked us to make the gift of ourselves to Him in His own lowliness as man. Guardini once said: “We are not great religious personalities; we are servants of the Word.” We are not called to a transcendent mystical life in solitude. Rather we are called to the far greater reality of becoming God-incarnate in the humdrum and quotidian actions of everyday life. As the risen Christ spoke to Paul: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts…) the “Me” being the Christians of Damascus.

Magisterium and Scripture testify to this truth: “The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father… At the same time he is the Spirit of the Son: he is the Spirit of Jesus Christ, as the Apostles and particularly Paul of Tarsus will testify”[3] (emphasis mine). “Many things yet I have to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will teach you all the truth…. He will glorify me, because he will receive of what is mine, and will declare it to you.” And, of course, Jesus Christ is “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (Jn. 14, 6).

The Eschatological Crisis of the Present Day:

            We do not know experientially today that God exists, because the culture is positivist and reductive. Since we cannot “see God as we see an apple tree or a neon sign, that is, in a purely external way that requires no interior commitment,”[4] there is no God in any significant transcendent sense. And there is no knowing God without becoming God.[5] Like is known by like. Unless there is a conversion to seeking sanctity in the ordinary things of each day experientially, we are practical atheists.

            We may go through the motions of religiosity, but it is empty. The technology has aided and abetted the turning back on self which is the meaning of original sin and the real crisis of the moment. Because of the present state of unremitting sensible distraction, it is possible to be living in a state of continuous sin without realizing it. This is why there is an urgent need to clarify the eschatological theology introduced by Joachim of Fiore which dominates Christian consciousness and a fortiori the secular consciousness that is formed by it. Said differently: Christ lived 2000 years ago. He ascended into heaven. He is neither visible in the world nor apparently acting in the world now except for the administration of sacraments as signs. We believe the profession of faith that declares that He has sent the Holy Spirit who moves us and assists us individually to develop the Kingdom of God here on earth in this the last stage of history. At the end, He will return in the Parousia for the final reckoning to judge the living and the dead: “Dies Irae.”
Ratzinger-Benedict has proclaimed the above to be the scandal of the ineffectiveness of Christianity. He writes that “It has been asserted that our century 20th) is characterized by an entirely new phenomenon: the appearance of people incapable of relating to God. As a result of spiritual and social developments, it is said, we have reached the stage where a kind of person has developed in whom there is no longer any starting point for the knowledge of God.”[6] Since Christ spoke, and the people understood, that He was to make an immediate return, the discrepancy between the kingdom of God being among you and nothing apparently not changing at all was theorized in the 12th century as Christ’s being a turning point in history and that there was to be a new age of the Spirit in which there was to be the new world of the accomplished kingdom.
Ratzinger-Benedict suggests that the result of this was the pronouncement over time by the theologians that the kingdom of God was a kingdom of heaven up there outside of this world, and that the well-being of men became the salvation of souls, which comes to pass beyond this life, after death. In a word, the Christian message was “clericalized.” Salvation and sanctification takes place outside the world and at the end of history. World history becomes de-christianized.[7]
This false Christian eschatology is a widespread error that has spawned the early Enlightenment utopias, Marxism as a Christian heresy, the secularism that dominates our culture of individualist capitalism and the conceit that financial success equates with human value. This drive for intramundane perfectibility drives us deeper into this proud self-sufficiency that renders us unspeakably lonely while attending to our visual and audible gadgetry. We may speak against abortion, but we do not see through to its metaphysical root in contraception that undermines spouses as persons. It is this that has spawned everything from the abortions to the homosexuality of the gay culture.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure,” Franciscan Herald Press (1971 – 1989) 106-107.
[2] J. Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, Ignatius (2004) 42 (quoting J. Danielou).
[3] John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem #14.
[4] J. Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching, Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 76.
[5] Benedict XVI: “Yet here a further question immediately arises: who knows God? How can we know him? (…) For a Christian, the nucleus of the reply is simple: only God knows God, only his Son who is God from God, true God, knows him. And he ‘who is nearest to the Father’s heart has made him known’ (John 1:18). Hence the unique and irreplaceable importance of Christ for us, for humanity. If we do not know God in and with Christ, all of reality is transformed into an indecipherable enigma; there is no way, and without a way, there is neither life nor truth.

God is the foundational reality, not a God who is merely imagined or hypothetical, but God with a human face; he is God-with-us, the God who loves even to the Cross. When the disciple arrives at an understanding of this love of Christ "to the end", he cannot fail to respond to this love with a similar love: "I will follow you wherever you go" (Luke 9:57),
 Brazil: CELAM 2007 (Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean). 

[6] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means to Be a Christian,” Ignatius (2006) 24-25.
[7] Ratzinger notes that “Christ was not just looking forward to another life, but was talking about real people” and that “when we look at real history,” it is in fact no kingdom of God. “What It Means….” Ibid 29. 

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