Monday, October 15, 2012

The Year of Faith 2012-2013

The year of faith must be understood as a year of intimacy with God. As Moses said to the Lord: “You, indeed, are telling me to lead this people on: but you have not let me know whom you will send with me” (Gen. 33, 12). The Lord said, “I myself… will go along.(Gen. 33, 14). This is the first glimpse of an incarnate God among his people. St. Paul speaks of a pre-existent Christ in Ephesians 1, 4 to whom we are pre-destined: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world… He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons.”

            And so the presence of God in Jesus Christ in the world is not an extraordinary occurrence but ordinary and normal. Precisely, normal. In fact, John Paul II alludes to this when, pace Augustine’s “felix culpa,” he suggests that God would have become man even if man had not sinned.[1] The vocation to intimacy with God in the flesh preceded the collapse into sin and therefore is the “ordinary” denouement of the human person.[2] We are called to supernatural life in the flesh as the ordinary way.

            This is the burden of Vatican II’s recasting the understanding of faith as the gift of self for the total man and  not merely the operations of intellect and will together with the universal call to holiness of all the baptized.[3] The accent is on Baptism and Ordination into Christ rather than the exceptional way of the “consecrated life” and the evangelical counsels. The overwhelming majority of all Christians is called along this ordinary way of heroic sanctity in secular life and secular work.

            Our Lady is the protagonist of faith in ordinary life even with pre-eminence over Abraham[4] since she was called to an even greater humility in the actual execution of her Son. Her vocation to be the mother of God in a most unexceptional way. Caryll Houselander wrote: “She was not asked to lead a special kind of life, to retire to the temple and live as a nun, to cultivate suitable virtues or claim special privileges. She was simply to remain in the world, to go forward with her marriage to Joseph, to live the life of an artisan’s wife, just what she had planned to do when she had no idea that anything out of the ordinary would ever happen to her. It almost seemed as if God’s becoming man and being born of a woman were ordinary.” [5]

            She then moves to the positive: “The one thing that He did ask of her was the gift of her humanity. She was to give Him her body and soul unconditionally, and… she was to give Him her daily life… She was not to neglect her simple human tenderness, her love for an earthly man, because God was her unborn child On the contrary, the hands and feet, the heart, the waking, sleeping, and eating that were forming Christ were to form Him in service to Joseph… Our Lady said yes. She said yes for us all.”[6]

            To understand faith in these experiential and practical terms resonates with Genesis 1 and 2 where the human person is revealed as image and likeness of God – as is pre-eminently Christ Himself in Col. 1, 15[7] – and comes to experience what John Paul II called the “Original Solitude.”[8] Man experiences himself to be alone after the obedient work of tilling the garden and naming the animals. This aloneness is the achievement of subjectivity as image of God, i.e. of achieved personhood in the original covenant with the Creator. In a word, other Christness. He had freely transcended being a created object albeit rational into becoming a subject – person as Christ.

            This directs us to understand the “already – not yet” Eschatology of Benedict XVI[9] – and therefore the consciousness of the first Christians and the Fathers of the Church concerning Christ’s presence in the world -- but not yet fully. By faith, Jesus Christ wills to be present in the world now by the normal ordinariness of daily work as rendered obedient to the Will of God, and hence to be at all human levels of secular society, particularly on the cutting edge of every new human development. The supernatural destiny of the immense majority of Christians is to exercise the Christological anthropology in work, and in so doing, put Christ “at the summit of all human activities” as St. Josemaria Escriva heard at the elevation of the Host during Holy Mass on August 7, 1931.[10]

[3] “Dei Verbum” #5: “‘The obedience of faith’ (Rom. 16, 26; cf. Rom. 1, 5; 2 Cor 10, 5-6) must be given to God as he reveals himself. By faith man freely commits his entire self to God, making ‘the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals.’” The deep reason for the understanding of the act of faith as a commitment of the whole self is the nature of revelation as the reception of the divine Person within the believing person. Like is known by like.
[4] ” John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater #18: “At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self-emptying. This is perhaps the deepest ‘kenosis’ of faith’ in human history:” John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater #18.
[5] Caryll Houselander “The Reed of God,” Christian Classics, Notre Dame, IN (2006) 33-35.
[6] Ibid.
[7] “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creat ure.”
[8] John Paul II op. cit. “He is not only essentially and subjectively alone. In fact, solitude also signifies man’s subjectivity (my emphasis), which constitutes itself through self-knowledge. Man is alone because he is ‘different’ from the visible world, from the world of living beings…
[9] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Ignatius (2011) 321. “‘Advent’ does not… mean ‘expectation’… It is a translation of the Greek word parousia, which means ‘presence’ or, more, accurately, ‘arrival,’ i.e., the beginning of a presence…. God’s presence in the world has already begun, that he is present, albeit in a hidden manner; second, that his presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, becoming, and maturing toward its full form. His presence has already begun, and we, the faithful, are the ones through whom he wishes to be present in the world.”
[10] John F. Coverdale, “Uncommon Faith” Scepter (2002) 89: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself” (Jn. 12, 32). 

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