Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lumen Fidei: Attempt to Give An Account

Precis: The encyclical is about "Revelation" as Light. One "sees" light when one receives Christ into self as  Word of the Father. What impedes the light of revelation is being "stuck" in the self as center of all reality. When one goes out of self, the "veil" (vel) in "re-vel-ation" is removed and one has a direct experience of the Person of the Son within oneself. Conversion is the only way out of self, and this, again and again.
This exodus from self is effected in the sacrament of baptism as a "death-event" symbolized in the triple drowning in water. When Christian faith is lived one is compelled to stammer "Abba, Father," because there is only one Son of God, and He alone - in us - speaks to God as Abba. To be Christ in ordinary life is the meaning of Christian existence. It is a relational way of living. 

Christ as Divine is the light of the world.
·         Anyone who believes in Him will not remain in the darkness: #1: “those who believe, see.”
·         The critique of today: faith is relegated to the illusory. It’s a leap in the dark.
·         However, autonomous reason is not enough; the future is dark and produces fear.
·         Therefore, Benedict XVI convokes “The Year of Faith: the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. The goal of this year has been: The primacy of God in Christ as the center of life in all dimensions.

Two Foci (for pedagogical purposes) of the Encyclical:
Receiving the Incarnate God into Self: 18-19-20: i.e. Becoming Christ Himself.

Text: “18. (…) In faith, Christ is not simply the one in whom we believe, the supreme manifestation of God’s love; he is also the one with whom we are united precisely in order to believe. Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing. In many areas in our lives we trust others who know more than we do. We trust the architect who builds our home, the pharmacist who gives us medicine for healing, the lawyer who defends us in court. We also need someone trustworthy and knowledgeable where God is concerned. Jesus, the Son of God, is the one who makes God known to us (cf. Jn 1:18). Christ’s life, his way of knowing the Father and living in complete and constant relationship with him, opens up new and inviting vistas for human experience.”
Salvation by faith

“19. (…) In accepting the gift of faith, believers become a new creation; they receive a new being; as God’s children, they are now "sons in the Son". The phrase "Abba, Father", so characteristic of Jesus’ own experience, now becomes the core of the Christian experience (cf. Rom 8:15). The life of faith, as a filial existence, is the acknowledgment of a primordial and radical gift which upholds our lives. We see this clearly in Saint Paul’s question to the Corinthians: "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor 4:7). This was at the very heart of Paul’s debate with the Pharisees: the issue of whether salvation is attained by faith or by the works of the law. Paul rejects the attitude of those who would consider themselves justified before God on the basis of their own works. Such people, even when they obey the commandments and do good works, are centered on themselves; they fail to realize that goodness comes from God. Those who live this way, who want to be the source of their own righteousness, find that the latter is soon depleted and that they are unable even to keep the law. They become closed in on themselves and isolated from the Lord and from others; their lives become futile and their works barren, like a tree far from water. Saint Augustine tells us in his usual concise and striking way: "Ab eo qui fecit te, noli deficere nec ad te", "Do not turn away from the one who made you, even to turn towards yourself".[15] Once I think that by turning away from God I will find myself, my life begins to fall apart (cf. Lk 15:11-24). The beginning of salvation is openness to something prior to ourselves, to a primordial gift that affirms life and sustains it in being. Only by being open to and acknowledging this gift can we be transformed, experience salvation and bear good fruit. Salvation by faith means recognizing the primacy of God’s gift. As Saint Paul puts it: "By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Eph 2:8).
20. Faith’s new way of seeing things is centered on Christ. Faith in Christ brings salvation because in him our lives become radically open to a love that precedes us, a love that transforms us from within, acting in us and through us.

2) How to Become Christ Himself, i.e. passing the Incarnate God on to Others:
 Baptism as “Encounter”

Relationality and Transmission of the Faith: #36: The Sacrament of Baptism:  God cannot be reduced to an object. He is a subject who makes himself known and perceived in an interpersonal relationship. Right faith[1] orients reason to open itself to the light which comes from God, so that reason, guided by love of the truth, can come to a deeper knowledge of God.”[2] #40:The transmission of this faith comes from an encounter with the true God, a light which touches us at the core of our being and engages our minds, wills and emotions, opening us to relationships lived in communion…. The transmission of faith occurs first and foremost in baptism.”
Text: #38-42:
“40 (…) For transmitting a purely doctrinal content, an idea might suffice, or perhaps a book, or the repetition of a spoken message. But what is communicated in the Church, what is handed down in her living Tradition, is the new light born of an encounter with the true God, a light which touches us at the core of our being and engages our minds, wills and emotions, opening us to relationships lived in communion. There is a special means for passing down this fullness, a means capable of engaging the entire person, body and spirit, interior life and relationships with others. It is the sacraments, celebrated in the Church’s liturgy.

41. The transmission of faith occurs first and foremost in baptism. Some might think that baptism is merely a way of symbolizing the confession of faith, a pedagogical tool for those who require images and signs, while in itself ultimately unnecessary. An observation of Saint Paul about baptism reminds us that this is not the case. Paul states that "we were buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:4). In baptism we become a new creation and God’s adopted children. The Apostle goes on to say that Christians have been entrusted to a "standard of teaching" (týpos didachés), which they now obey from the heart (cf. Rom 6:17). In baptism we receive both a teaching to be professed and a specific way of life which demands the engagement of the whole person and sets us on the path to goodness. Those who are baptized are set in a new context, entrusted to a new environment, a new and shared way of acting, in the Church. Baptism makes us see, then, that faith is not the achievement of isolated individuals; it is not an act which someone can perform on his own, but rather something which must be received by entering into the ecclesial communion which transmits God’s gift. No one baptizes himself, just as no one comes into the world by himself. Baptism is something we receive.
42. What are the elements of baptism which introduce us into this new "standard of teaching"? First, the name of the Trinity — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit — is invoked upon the catechumen. Thus, from the outset, a synthesis of the journey of faith is provided. The God who called Abraham and wished to be called his God, the God who revealed his name to Moses, the God who, in giving us his Son, revealed fully the mystery of his Name, now bestows upon the baptized a new filial identity. This is clearly seen in the act of baptism itself: immersion in water. Water is at once a symbol of death, inviting us to pass through self-conversion to a new and greater identity, and a symbol of life, of a womb in which we are reborn by following Christ in his new life. In this way, through immersion in water, baptism speaks to us of the incarnational structure of faith. Christ’s work penetrates the depths of our being and transforms us radically, making us adopted children of God and sharers in the divine nature. It thus modifies all our relationships, our place in this world and in the universe, and opens them to God’s own life of communion. This change which takes place in baptism helps us to appreciate the singular importance of the catechumenate — whereby growing numbers of adults, even in societies with ancient Christian roots, now approach the sacrament of baptism — for the new evangelization. It is the road of preparation for baptism, for the transformation of our whole life in Christ.

·         Man is made in the image and likeness of the Son
·         We will see below that the Son is nothing in Himself. He is pure relation to the Father and us. He totally “from” and “toward.”
·         As created and sinful, we are mired at the center of our “I”
·         Therefore, we can know Him Who is nothing but relation “from” and “toward” only by “Conversion” from our being centered in the “I.”  But this “conversion” is much more radical than “a mere revision of a few opinions or attitudes. It is a death event. In other words it is the replacement of the subject – of the ‘I.’ The ‘I’ ceases to be independent and to be a subject existing in itself. It is torn from itself and inserted into a new subject. The ‘I’ does not perish, but must let itself diminish completely, in effect, in order to be received within a larger ‘I’ and, together with that larger ‘I,’ to be conceived anew.”[3]
Hence, entering into true prayer that goes outside of self is the becoming of Christ in us that is the act of the believing subject that is “revelation” where the “veil” is set aside. By prayer, we become “another Christ,” and therefore (although only the Father knows the Son) we know the Son by becoming the Son and knowing Him from within ourselves.

[I believe what is below to be the core for explaining the Lumen Fidei]

Theological Epistemology

Joseph Ratzinger makes a succinct accounting of this in his “Theological Epistemology” which I offer below:
a)      Luke 9, 18: “And it came to pass as he was praying in private, that his disciples also were with him, and he asked them, saying, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ And they answered and said, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elias; and others, that one of the ancient prophets has risen again.’ And he said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘The Christ of God.’”
I repeat the scene only from the more complete Matthew 16, 13-20:

                “Now Jesus, having come into the district of Caesarea Philippi, began to ask his disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say the son of Man is?’ But they said, ‘Some say, John the Baptist; and  others, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee, but my Father in heaven. And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ Then he strictly charged his disciples to tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.”

b)      The critical point is to understand the difference between God and His creation.  This can best be understood by saying that God is not more Being or reality because He has created a world of being, nor would He be less if there were no created world at all. That is, His Being is so different – so “other” - from the being of the created world. Each of the three Persons is pure relation but differently as relations (engendering, glorifying, loving). No created being is pure relation but a created in-itself-ness, oriented as image of the divine Persons to become relation-gift.

And since Christ revealed that there were three divine Persons Who are One God, it means that person must be understood as relation: the Father as the act of engendering Son, the Son as glorifying Father, and the Holy Spirit as the personification of the Two.

Ratzinger presents the pure relationality of the Son as being nothing in himself: “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 his 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; thus with this word he defines the being of this man as 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 substantiality0 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.”[4]

Now: to know the Person of Jesus Christ as uncreated “Son” is outside the bounds of a created intelligence. We can know about God, but we cannot know Him experientially since we are not like Him as creatures. And Christ said as much: “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” (Mt. 11, 27); and “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him…” (Jn. 6, 44). 

The key to unlock the puzzle is Ratzinger’s Thesis 3 from “Behold the Pierced One.”[5]

            “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.” [Thesis 1 and 2 offered texts from St. Luke showing vital moments in Christ life where he was at prayer: Luke 6, 12; Luke 9, 18 and Luke 9, 28].
            Let us begin where 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 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 of intellectual reality concerned, become one with him or it, and thus become able to understand (intelligere – 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 understood through religion – an undisputed axiom in more recent philosophy of 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 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 the one he calls ‘Father.’ If this is the case, it is only possible really to understand this person by entering into this act of prayer, by entering into this act of prayer, by participating in it. This is suggested by Jesus’s saying that no 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 – although one can doubtless establish plenty of details about him. Therefore a participation in the mind of Jesus, i.e., in his prayer, which (as we have seen) 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 the same meaning – is to take place.

            “The New Testament continually reveals this state of affairs and thus provides the foundation for a theological epistemology. Here is simply one example: when Ananias was sent to Paul to receive him into the Church, he was reluctant and suspicious of Paul; the reason given to him was this: go to him ‘for he is praying’ (Acts 9, 11). In prayer, Paul is moving toward the moment when he will be freed from blindness and will begin to see, not only exteriorly, but interiorly as well. The person who prays begins to see: praying and seeing go together because – as Richard of St. Victor says – ‘Love is the faculty of seeing.’ Real advances in Christology, therefore, can never come merely as the result of the theology of the schools, and that includes the modern theology as we find it in critical exegesis, in the history of doctrine and in an anthropology oriented toward the human sciences, etc. All this is important, as important as schools are. But it is insufficient. 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.”

Conclusions from the central point that the act of faith consists in becoming Christ Himself:
   Faith and Truth: By becoming Christ, we experience the Truth as ontological person in ourselves.
Knowledge of the truth and love: to know Him who is relation to the Father revealed as prayer is to know Truth and Love and therefore to be divinized in the core of one’s being.

   Faith as hearing and sight: Christ as God-man can be both heard and seen.

·         Dialogue between faith and reason: reason sees Being as absolute in the transformation of the converted believer into the relationality of the Son.

·         Faith and the search for God: Since faith is the experience of going out of self as prayer, it is not shut into categories as concepts, but open. And this at the same time possessing a consciousness of the Absolute.

·         Faith and theology:  theology is the search to know by reason what we experience by self transcendence in love and prayer.

·         The Church, mother of our faith: You cannot take in puore relation (Christ) without poutting out pure relation (faith). And you can put out pure relation because you have been loved before (grace). Pope Francis seeks God but finds that he has already been loved when he finds Him. “It is impossible to believe on our own” (#39).

·         The Sacraments and the transmission of faith: read ## 40-42.

·         Faith, Prayer and the Decalogue: the four parts of the CCC:

o    Profession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” – Creed
o    Celebration of Sacraments: Baptism and Eucharist
o    The Ten Words and the Sermon on the Mount
o    Prayer – as key to knowing and making the profession of faith
Unity and Integrity of Faith: (Against Gnostics): there is only one faith (not two: “crude” and “perfect”) and it is embedded in the Flesh and History of Christs. John Henry Newman must be read on the meaning of “The Catholica.”

·         Faith and the Common Good: the mutual self-gift of persons – builds “communion.” Living faith is that self-gift.

·         Faith and the Family: Self-gift of matrimony is forever since the self has been given away.

·         A Light for Life in Society: the dignity of the human person as a subject capable of self-determination means that everything was created for man. Without faith as ontological self-giving, secular society is unstable.

·         Consolation and Strength Amid Suffering: Suffering for love destroysd evil and enlightens.

·         Blessed is he who believed:” By going out of herself the Holy Spirit incarnates the Son of God in her flesh. “The believer is taken up into his or her confession of faith” (#59). As our Lady, anyone who hears the Word of God and does it, is my mother.


Rev. Robert A. Connor

[1][1] “Right faith” is the involvement of the whole self to open itself as gift to the Person of the Word and receive Him and enflesh Him by performing the Word in the activity of ordinary life. Remember Ratzinger’s recovery of the meaning of “revelation” as the conversion of the self into Christ. Revelation doesn’t occur  until the believing subject receives the Person of the Word into self, becomes Him by the very act of going out of self, and experiences Him from within (ab intus legere = intelligere). I remind you: “Revelation now appeared no longer simply as a communication of truths to the intellect but as a historical action of God in which truth becomes gradually unveiled (104).” “Here, ‘revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act [the act of prayer]. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, 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 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 down” J. Ratzinger “Milestones…” Ignatius 108-109). To be clear: the act of revelation is the subject praying.
[2] Reason perceives the self of the believer as going out and transcending itself, and so becoming “enlightened” in a transfiguration similar to Christ on the mount when He prayed and was transfigured before Peter, James and John (Lk. 2, 29: “And as he prayed, the appearance of his countenance was changed, and his raiment became a radiant white”). That is, when the image and likeness of the Son is activated by becoming relational as self-gift in prayer, the very being of the self radiates the glory of its prototypical divine Person.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “the Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology” [“The Church as an Essential Dimension of Theology”], The Nature and Mission of Theology, Ignatius (1995) 51.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 134.
[5] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 25-27.

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