Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Porta Fidei #10 Offered @ MHP on January 28, 2013

Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas 

Porta Fidei #10:

“At this point I would like to sketch a path intended to help us understand more profoundly not only the content of the faith, but also the act by which we choose to entrust ourselves fully to God, in complete freedom. In fact, there exists a profound unity between the act by which we believe and the content to which we give our assent.”

This means that the act of going out of oneself to receive Christ mimics the very act that Jesus Christ is with regard to the Father. And if Jesus Himself as Person is the entire intelligible content of the faith, and that content is the act of streaming toward and from the Father, then our mimicking that act situates that intelligibility in us. Hence, the believer will “know” Christ to the extent that he goes out of himself and becomes “another Christ.”[1] That is, by knowing himself experientially, he will know Christ – which is to say that if he prays to the Father as Christ prays to the Father, he will know, as Simon (Lk 9, 18), that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Like Simon, his name will change from Simon to Peter, because he is like “Rock” and “Cornerstone” ["Be yourselves as living stones, built thereon into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood  to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, 1 Peter, 2, 5] Hence, in knowing himself experientially as “another Christ,” he knows Christ. And in knowing Christ, he knows the Father and begins to enter eternal life.[2]

            All of this is to say that the act of faith is pre-eminently anthropology as Vatican II said in Dei Verbum #5: “By faith man freely commits his entire self to God.”

This living faith is the cure of the “modern malaise”[3] (Walker Percy) since it activates the very being of the believer and produces the joy that is hope. The modern malaise (sadness) is the contemporary translation of the mediaeval Latin, acedia. Joseph Pieper wrote: "acedia is a kind of sadness... more specifically a sadness in view of the divine good in man. This sadness because of the God-given ennobling of human nature causes inactivity, depression, discouragement (thus the element of actual 'sloth' is secondary).

   "The opposite of acedia is not industry and diligence but magnanimity and that joy which is a fruit of the supernatural love of God. Not only can acedia and ordinary diligence exist very well together; it is even true that the senselessly exaggerated workaholism of our age is directly traceable to acedia, which is a basic characteristic of the spiritual countenance of precisely this age in which we live... The indolence expressed by the term acedia is so little the opposite of 'work' in the ordinary meaning of the term that Saint Thomas says rather that acedia is a sin against the third of the Ten Commandments, by which man is enjoined to 'rest his spirit in God.' Genuine rest and leisure... are possible only under the precondition that man accepts his own true meaning."[4]

            Benedict XVI’s thesis: “`revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result [scripture] of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of `revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scripture (`by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scriptura is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition [my emphasis] is already given.[5]

Again: “You can have Scripture without having revelation. For revelation always and only becomes a reality where there is faith. The nonbeliever remains under the veil of which Paul speaks in the third chapter of his Second Letter to the Corinthians. He can read Scripture and know what is in it, can even understand at a purely intellectual level, what is meant and how what is said hangs together – and yet he has not shared in the revelation. Rather, revelation has only arrived where, in addition to the material assertions witnessing to it, its inner reality has itself become effective after the manner of faith. Consequently, the person who receives it also is a part of the revelation to a certain degree, for without him it does not exist. You cannot put revelation in your pocket like a book you carry around with you. It is a living reality that requires a living person as the locus of its presence.”[6]
            This is not pantheism. This is Christianity as received from the Apostles and elaborated by the Apostolic Father. It is the consequence of being created in the image and likeness of God and chosen “in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world… He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons, according to the purpose of his will…” (Eph. 1, 4). Ireneus (2nd century): “The Word of God became man, the Son of God became the Son of Man, in order to unite man with himself and make him, by adoption, a son of God.”[7] 
The necessity of Scripture: Without Scripture we could not be led to the true experience of the Person of Christ. Scripture is not Revelation, but it is the Word of God written under  the inspiration and experience of the living Word leading us to enter in and receive it (Him) and so become Revelation.
As Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger wrote: “What does the Church believe? This question includes the others: who believes and how should one believe? The Catechism has dealt with both  fundamental questions: the question of ‘what’ to believe and of ‘who’ believes, as one question with an interior unity. In other words, the catechism illustrates the act of the faith and the content of the faith in their inseparability…
            “What does all this mean? The faith is an orientation of our existence as a whole, in its completeness. It is a basic decision, one which has effects in every aspect of our existence and one which is realized only if it is supported by all the efforts of our existence. Faith is not solely an intellectual process,[8] or solely one of will or emotions; it is all of these together. It is an act of the entire self, of the whole person in the unity off all the elements of that person gathered into one. In this sense it was described by the Bible as an act of the ‘heart’ (Rom. 10, 9). It is a highly personal act. But precisely because it is this, it surpasses the self, the ‘I,’ the limits of the individual. Nothing belongs to us as little as our self,[9] St. Augustine affirms in one passage.”[10]
            What does all this mean? That the content of faith is not reducible to ideas or concepts. The content of the faith is not to be contained in a book. It is a Person. But the Person is an action of relating to the Father. As incarnate, it is called “prayer.” Therefore, the action of belief is to pray, and that prayer becomes the content or “what” is believed.
            Another way of saying this: “Only God knows God.” In Brazil, on May 13, 2007, Benedict XVI said: 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).” This is a paraphrase of Mt. 11, 27: “No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
            The point of “only God knows God” is the fundamental truth that I can only know reality by becoming one with it. If I am not the “other,” I must have a likeness of the other within me. In Wojtyla’s thesis on “Faith in St. John of the Cross,” there were no “likenesses” between God  and man, so John’s experience was “the dark night of the soul” in which the self-loving was the likeness (= the mystical life of experience and consciousness).
Benedict’s “Theological Epistemology

Thesis 3: Since the center of the person of Jesus is prayer, it is essential to participate in his prayer if we are to know and understand him.

“Let us begin here with a very general matter of epistemology. By nature, knowledge depends on a certain similarity between the knower and the known. The old axiom is that lie 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).
“We can illustrate this with a couple of examples. Philosophy can only be acquired if we philosophize, if we carry through the process of philosophical thought; mathematics can only be appropriated if we think mathematically; medicine can only be learned in the practice of healing, never merely by means of books and reflection. Similarly, religion can only be understood through religion… The fundamental act of religion is prayer, which in the Christian religion acquires a very specific character: it is the act of self-surrender by which we enter the Body of Christ. Thus it is an act of love. As love, in and with the Body of Christ, it is always both love of God and love of neighbor, knowing and fulfilling itself as love for the members of this Body.
“In Thesis 1 we saw that prayer was the central act of the person of Jesus and, indeed, that this person is constituted by the act of prayer, of unbroken communication with one he calls 1Father.’ If this is the case, it is only possible really to understand this person by entering into this act of prayer, by participating in it. This is suggested by Jesus’ saying that o one can come to him unless the Father draws him (Jn. 6, 44). Where there is no Father, there is no Son. Where there is no relationship with God, there can be no understanding of him who, in his innermost self, is nothing but relationship with God, the Father… Therefore a participation in the mind of Jesus, i.e., in his prayer, which… is an act of love, of self-giving and self-expropriation to men, is not some kind of pious supplement to reading the Gospels, adding nothing to knowledge of him or even being an obstacle to the rigorous purity of critical knowing. On the contrary, it is the basic precondition if real understanding, in the sense of modern hermeneutics – i.e., the entering-in to the same time and same meaning – is to take place… All real progress in theological understanding has its origin in the eye of love and in its faculty of beholding.”[11]

Application: Simon entered into this prayer of Christ (“as he was praying in private, that his disciples also were with him,” Lk. 9, 18), became “like Him, and was able to say: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16) The likeness to Christ becomes evident in the name-change from Simon to Peter (as “rock”) since Jesus is the “Cornerstone.”[12] One knows Christ only by becoming like Him, and in so doing reaches salvation.[13]

            The act of faith is an experience of the whole self making the gift of self to the revealing Person of Christ. This gift of self in faith is the act of acceptance of the “Word” within the self, as our Lady at the Annunciation. Revelation does not take place until the acceptance of the Word takes place. As a tree falling in a forest makes “noise” but not “sound” unless there is a subject receiving the “noise.” So also, God in Christ is present but not known without that receptivity. Ratzinger: : “`revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result [scripture] of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of `revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scripture (`by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scriptura is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition [my emphasis] is already given.[14]

Consciousness That Undergirds Societal Health (Maggie Gallagher):  “Every life is precious. It is better to care for your children than to kill them. Divorce hurts children; it also breaks apart life's most precious commitment -- a family. Men and women are different. A society that pretends otherwise is not going to raise boys to be loving, reliable family men. Marriage is not about settling for less but raising up an ideal much bigger and more important even than the most urgent whispered promises of romantic love. Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies need their mother and their father. Men and women need each other. We all need a strong marriage culture, whether we choose to marry or not. If it is true that sex makes babies, then that is clearly the most important thing about sex, the thing around which a decent person or society will organize sexual values, behavior and norms. If they saw clearly. If they were only told the truth. For of all the ways adult society can abandon the young, one of the worst is to ignore the key adult task of creating and sustaining a larger meaning for sex and sexual desire for young people.”[15]
The Malaise and the Challenge (Maggie Gallagher): On every key measure, marriage is weaker. The consequences are more obviously unsustainable, yet culturally powerful voices are less willing to engage, and the power of porn and Hollywood to create our norms for family life is more triumphant than ever. Since 1993, the proportion of children born out of wedlock has jumped from 31 percent to 41 percent -- mostly since about 2003. For women with only a high school degree or less, non marital childbearing is the new normal. Divorce has declined for the privileged; for everyone else, stable marriage has gotten to be even further out of reach. Without a powerful ideal of masculinity that points men toward marriage and fatherhood, more and more young men are deciding the hard work of becoming marriageable is not worth it: Porn, beer, video games with the guys, freedom and fleeting sexual encounters are good enough. The most urgent overlooked need is the deep need of boys for masculine ideals. If civilization refuses to provide any, porn and video-game makers will step in to fill the gap. Why should young men work hard to become protectors and defenders of women and children when American culture -- and women -- tells them they are not needed in either role? So in this, my final column, I say my farewell to optimism and my hello to hope. What is the difference? Optimism is a prediction; hope is a virtue. My hope rests on this: The truths to which I've dedicated my life, both professionally and personally, are too important to ignore, too foundational to be abandoned, too much a part of reality to be lost forever.”
Do not abandon politics. It is one important means to create culture -- to name our shared reality. But we need, as well, a next generation of culture creators, of storytellers, with the credentials to name reality: empirical social scientists, novelists, poets, preachers and filmmakers. We need donors to invest in building the networks and communities through which such voices are born, flourish and give meaning to the lives of millions. The future belongs to those of us with enough hope to rebuild on the ashes of optimism, a new American civilization -- uniting sex, love, babies, mothers and fathers in this thing called marriage. [16]

Continued statement of #10: Saint Paul helps us to enter into this reality when he writes: “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” (Rom 10:10). The heart indicates that the first act by which one comes to faith is God’s gift and the action of grace which acts and transforms the person deep within.
The example of Lydia is particularly eloquent in this regard. Saint Luke recounts that, while he was at Philippi, Paul went on the Sabbath to proclaim the Gospel to some women; among them was Lydia and “the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). There is an important meaning contained within this expression. Saint Luke teaches that knowing the content to be believed is not sufficient unless the heart, the authentic sacred space within the person, is opened by grace that allows the eyes to see below the surface and to understand that what has been proclaimed is the word of God.
Confessing with the lips indicates in turn that faith implies public testimony and commitment. A Christian may never think of belief as a private act. Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him. This “standing with him” points towards an understanding of the reasons for believing. Faith, precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes. The Church on the day of Pentecost demonstrates with utter clarity this public dimension of believing and proclaiming one’s faith fearlessly to every person. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes us fit for mission and strengthens our witness, making it frank and courageous.

[1] The ascetical core of Opus Dei is the experience and consciousness of St. Josemaria Escriva as “Ipse Christus, alter Christus:” Antonio Aranda “The Christian, “alter Christus, ipse Christus, in the thought of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer,” Holiness and the World, Scepter, (1997) 127-189.
[2] Jn. 17, 3: “Now this is everlasting life that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ.”
[3] Walker Percy, “Diagnosing the Modern Malaise,” Signposts in a Strange Land, Noonday Press,(1991) p. 21`0: “The consciousness of Western man, the layman in particular, has been transformed by a curious misapprehension of the scientific method. One is tempted to use the theological term ‘idolatry.’’ This misapprehension, which is not the fault of science, but rather the inevitable consequence of the victory of the scientific worldview accompanied as it is by all the dazzling credentials of scientific progress. It, the misapprehension, takes the form, I believe, of a radical and paradoxical loss of sovereignty by the layman and of a radical impoverishment of human relations – paradoxical, I say, because it occurs in the very fact  of his technological mastery of the world and his richness as a consumer of the world’s goods” (210).
[4] J. Pieper, “On Hope” Ignatius (1986) 56.
[5]  J. Ratzinger, “Milestones – Memoirs 1927-1977” Ignatius (1997). 108-109.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “God’s Word” Ignatius (2008) 52.
[7] Against Heresies, Book 3, 19.
[8]Andre Frossard asked John Paul II: “Is it possible to give a definition of this faith which is described by some people as a gift of God, by others as a commitment, again as ‘that which gives substance to our hopes’?” Answer: “Personally I would not discount the old catechism definition which I learnt at primary school: faith is “to admit as truth what God has revealed and what the Church gives us to believe.” However,  I will not send you back to the catechism, for this definition, as it stands, can incur the criticism that it does not attach sufficient importance to the person, the subject that experiences faith, even though the very phrase ‘admit as truth’ clearly implies the existence of the  subject. It also indicates the cognitive character of faith in its reference to the truth that motivates it” (my bold).
[9] Now, what does this mean?: “The Son as Son, and in so far as he is Son, does not proceed in any way from himself and so is completely one with the Father; since he is nothing beside him, claims no special position of hi9s own, confronts the Father with nothing belonging only to him, retains no room for his own individuality, therefore he is completely equal to the Father. The logic is compelling: if there is nothing in which he is just he, no kind of fenced-off private ground, then he coincides with the Father, is ‘one’ with him. It is precisely this totality of interplay that the word ‘Son’ aims at expressing. To John, ‘Son’ means being-from another and for others, as a being that is completely open on both sides, knows no reserved area of the mere ‘I.’ When it thus becomes clear that the being of Jesus as Christ is a completely open being, a being ‘from’ and ‘towards,’ that nowhere clings to itself and nowhere stands on its own, then it is also clear at the same time that this being is pure relation (not substantiality) and, as pure relation, pure unity. This fundamental statement about Christ becomes, as we have seen, at the same time the explanation of Christian existence. To John, being a Christian means being like the Son, becoming a son; that is, not standing on one’s own and in oneself, but living completely open in the ‘from’ and ‘towards.’ In so far as the Christian is a ‘Christian,’ this is true of him. And certainly such utterances will make him aware to how small an extent he is a Christian.” (J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius [1990]  133) Now add to that the God-Man [Christ] is the prototype of the human person. Christology becomes the form and meaning of anthropology and man can find himself only by becoming relational: finding self by sincere gift of self [Gaudium et spes #24].

[10] J. Ratzinger, “What Does the Church Believe?” Catholic World Report , March 1993, 27.
[11] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 25-27.
[12] Acts, 4, 11: “This is The Stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the corner stone.”
[13] “Now this is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ.’ (Jn. 17, 3).
[14]  J. Ratzinger, “Milestones – Memoirs 1927-1977” Ignatius (1997). 108-109.
[15] Maggie Gallagher: “The Future: Built by Hope on the Ashes of Optimism.”

[16] Ibid.

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