Thursday, August 22, 2013

Account of the Spirit of St. Josemaria Escriva

An Unfinished Work in Progress

The Universal Call To be Ipse Christus

St. Josemaria Escriva had two back to back audible experiences (
locutions) in 1931: One was during Mass on August 7 when he heard the words: "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself" and "You are my son (Psalm 2, 7), you are Christ."
With regard to the first, Escriva commented years later that he understood Christ saying those words "not in the sense in which in which Scripture says them. I say [them] to you in the sense that you are to raise me  up in all human activities, in the sense that all over the world there should be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, that they be other Christs."

With regard to the second, he recounted later: the Lord was giving me those blows around the year 31, and I did not understand. And suddently (de pronto), in the midst of that great bitterness, these words: 'You are my Son (Psalm 2, 7), you are Christ.' And I could only stammer: 'Abba, Pater! Abba, Pater! Abba! Abba! Abba!' Now I see it with new light, like a new discovery, just as one sees, after years have passed, that hand of God, of divine Wisdom, of the All-Powerful One. You've led me, Lord, to understand that to find the Cross is to find happiness, joy. And I see the reason with greater clarity than ever: to find the Cross is to identify oneself with Christ, to be Christ, and therefore to be a son of God.”

These two locutions with reference to Christians as "other Christs" and to himself "You are my Son, you are Christ," gave him the consciousness to persistently repeat throughout his life that the vocation of every man as image of God, and not just the Christian by the sacrament of Baptism, is to be "no ya alter Christus, sino ipse Christus, !el mismo Cristo!" (not just another Christ, but Christ Himself)

Burkart and Lopez add here that the novelty is not so much that Escriva affirms that being created in the image of God, or being bapized into Christ will bring about an identification with Christ Himself (which is already deep in Christian Tradition), but that this identification with Christ has an ontological character to it, and it is accessible to all in ordinary secular life. It is new to say that one can actually become Christ Himself by living out ordinary life.

Let it be clear that Escriva did not experience that he had become like Christ, that he wasimitating Christ, that he was following Christ, that he had identified himself with Christ, that he was sharing with Christ, that he belonged to Christ, that he was tending toward the fullness of the humanity of Christ, or even that he was another Christ. Rather, these two authors commented that: he saw and felt that to be a son of God was “to be Christ' and therefore God the Father treated him as he treated Christ when giving him these physical and moral pains: the cross. It was the evident proof of his filiation, because as the Father had wanted the passion and death of His incarnate Son for the redemption of men, so those contradictions of his were the way to fulfill the mission which He has given him to share in the redemptive work of Christ. God the Father had not only treated him 'as Christ' but when inviting him to embrace the cross, he said to him: 'you are Christ' 'you are my son.'”(?)

 The texts of our Father are unambiguous: To have the Cross is to be identified with Christ, it is to be Christ, and therefore, to be a son of God.” In the same meditation, our Father said: There is only one way to live on earth: to die with Christ in order to rise with Him, until we may be able to say with the Apostle: 'It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me' (Gal 2, 20)” Burkhart and Lopez comment: St. Josemaria understands that Gal. 2, 20 speaks of a presence of the life of Christ in the Christian not only in an intentional sense (as the known is in the one who knows, and the beloved in the one who loves) butontologically” (my underline). Removing any lingering ambiguity, our Father writes” Each Christian is not simply alter Christus; another Christ, but ipse Christus: Christ himself!”

What Is Meant By Saying That One Becomes“Ipse Christus?”

 It is impossible to become Ipse Christus as uncreated Person ontologically. The Person of Jesus Christ is divine and therefore uncreated. We are created. Therefore, we are not to become uncreated. But since the divine Person has assumed a complete human nature and lived a divine life through a human nature, it is not contradictory to consider the possibility of living a human life in a divine way ontologically, since it has been already done by Christ.

What does that mean? The Council of Chalcedon (451) was considered by Joseph Ratzinger to be the simplest and best statement of Christology. He called it  “the boldest and most sublime simplification of the complex and many-layered data of tradition to a single central fact that is the basis of everything else: Son of God, possessed of the same nature as God and of the same nature as us...."1 

one and the same Christ only begotten Son our Lord, acknowledged in two natures, without mingling, without change, indivisibly, undividedly, the distinction of the natures nowhere removed on account of the union but rather the peculiarity of each nature being kept, and uniting in one person and substance, not divided or separated into two persons, but one and the same son only begotten God Word, Lord Jesus Christ..."]

  Ratzinger went on to say that " ... 
In contrast to the many other approaches that have been attempted in the course of history, Chalcedon interpreted Jesus theologically. I regard this as the only interpretation that can do justice to the whole range of tradition and sustain the full impact of the phenomenon itself. All other interpretations become too narrow at some point. Every other conception embraces only one part of the reality and excludes another. Here and here alone does the whole of the reality disclose itself.” 

He explains this by going on to say that “
he (Jesus) requires much more than the Church dares to require and that his radical words call for radical decisions of the kind Anthony, the Desert Father [the progenitor of the “religious life”], or Francis of Assisi made when they took the Gospel in a fully literal way. If we do not accept the Gospel in this manner, then we have already taken refuge in casuistry, and we remain afflicted by a gnawing feeling of uneasiness, by the knowledge that like the rich young man we have turned away then we should have taken the Gospel at face value”2
There is the constant referral by Escriva to his love for the canonical religious who have been called to the consecrated life involving leaving the world and taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Theirs is the radical call to be Christ Himself in this way. But, that said, he testified: “We are not religious. We bear no resemblance to religious nor is there any authority on earth which could require us to be religious. Yet in Opus Dei we venerated and love their religious state. I pray every day that all venerable religious will continue to offer the church the fruits of their virtues, their apostolic works, and their holiness.”3 But I add, that there is no greater holiness nor perfection of life in principle in the consecrated life of separation from the world and taking vows. The sacrament of Baptism suffices for

This is what is new in Escriva's proposal: the radical call to be "Christ Himself" in ordinary secular life by engaging in the ordinariness of work and family life. And since the context is ordinary, there is something extraordinary going on in the internal workings. Ordinary also is the sacramental entre into this radical life: Baptism as the "death event" of the "exchange of the old subject for another. The 'I' ceases to be an autonomous subject standing in itself.  It is snatched away from itself and fitted into a new subject. The 'I' is not simply submerged  but it must really release its grip on itself in order then to receive itself anew in and together with a greater 'I.'”4 Contrary to the normal understanding, Baptism as the sacrament of death to self (three drownings) is enough for radical holiness.The "consecrated life with the characteristics of stepping out of the secular world and the taking of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, does not increase the radicality of the call to holiness which is already there in the sacrament of Baptism. What is radical in Escriva's experience of the vocation to live Baptism is the gift of self. And what is new is that it is foreveryone. The novelty of the “Ipse Christus” is that it is the universal call for everyone and that it is achievable in the secular world through ordinary work. 

This is not explainable by any kind of anthropology "from below." This can only be explained by a Christology, and in particular, the Christology of Chalcedon and perfected by the Council of Constantinople III.

 Chalcedon (451): As we saw above, Benedict XVI considers Chalcedon to be the most ontologically complete in expressing the architecture of the God-man: One divine Person, two ontologically distinct natures ("nature" meaning principle of operation): created human nature and uncreated divine nature. But Chalcedon offered the metaphysical Christology in abstraction. The dynamic of the relation of the natures with and through the divine Person of the Son of the Father was not confronted in Chalcedon. Chalcedon worked within an abstract objectivity that left unexplained how the divine and the human worked as one in Christ: concretely, how could the human will of Christ be free without diminishing the absoluteness of His divinity?

Constantinople III:  introduced the dynamic of relation of the two natures in Christ thus overcoming the impression of a static parallelism and explaining how God brings salvation to man, not by a juxtaposition of the two natures but by a mutual indwelling of the divine Person which he calls "compenetration." The nub of the teaching of Constantinople III is that natures do not operate. Persons do. The human will of Christ is not a nature that acts with its own autonomy as human will. It is the human will of Jesus of Nazareth of the soul of His body taken from the Virgin, all of which has been assimilated by the Divine Person of the Son. The human will of Christ does not will. The Son wills with His human will. And that will, laden with all the sin of all men of all time ("he made Him to be sin who knew nothing of sin" [2 Cor. 5, 21]) is the human will of the divine "I" of the Son Who willed obedience to death in conformity to the Will of the Father. The divine Will could not assimilate the evil; but the human created will could. The divinization of the man, Jesus of Nazareth, is the result of the "compenetration" of the divine Person willing with His own human will - laden with all sin - His relationality to the Father as Son . The operative and decisive text of Constantinople III was Jn. 6, 38: "I have come down from heaven not to do my [human] will, but the will of Him Who sent Me."This decisive exegesis of Jn. 6, 38 has given the Church the Christological anthropology that is the very meaning of man. That is, Scripturally, man has been understood to be made in the image and likeness of God as Three Divine Persons, and concretely "sons in the Son."5Besides, "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...chose us in him before the foundation of the world [and] predestined... to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons..." (eph. 1,4-5)

The Explanation Takes Place on the Level of the Person as Subject:  

 The vocation that Escriva received in 1928 found voice, as we saw above,  in the locution of 8/7/1931 took place in the first person singular "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth...". It was interpreted  and interpreted as staying in the world, working, becoming "other Christs" and confirmed two months later that, indeed, by so doing, one becomes Ipse Christus: "You are my son, you are Christ." But this takes place in the first and second person.

   Escriva had experienced becoming Christ (and told so) in living out his vocation to found Opus Dei in the arduous years of 1928 to 1931. They were years of suffering (
the Lord was giving me those blows around the year 31, and I did not understand. And suddenly (de pronto), in the midst of that great bitterness, these words: 'You are my Son (Psalm 2, 7), you are Christ.'"). They were years of his experience of mastering his will (his entire self as a subject) in order to obey the vocation received on October 2, 1928. We can see the parallel here between the passion of Christ and the founding of Opus Dei, and we can see how the subjective Council of Constantinople III can be the theological account of Escriva mastering his will to obey that divine command. The grace received was a call to give his entire self to fulfill the divine Will. Constantinople III, grounded on Jn. 6, 38: "I have come not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me" (Jn. 6, 38) gives us the theological prototype to understand the radicality of total self-giving even to death. The subjectivity of "I" and the call to self-mastery, self-gift asks for a phenomenological anthropology to account for this. 

The Philosophical Account:

Wojtyla's "The Personal Structure of Self -Determination" (Person and Community [Lang) [1993] 190-193). reads: "Self-determination takes place through acts of will, through this central power of the human soul. And yet self-determination is not identical with these act in any of their forms, since it is a property of the person as such... (S)elf-determination is a property of the person, who, as the familiar definition says, is a naturae rationalis individual substantia. This property is realized through the will, which is an accident. Self-determination -or, in other  words, freedom - is not limited to the accidental dimension, but belongs to the substantial dimension of the person: it is the person's freedom, and not just the will's freedom, although it is undeniably the person's freedom through the will."

   The large development here, and germane to the topic of the "Ipse Christus," is that self determination is not simply the subject orienting itself to a value, or a good, but that "I simultaneously determine myself as well." Wojtyla goes on:  "I am not only the efficient cause of my acts, but through them I am also in some sense the 'creator of myself (191).'" 

Here we have the ontological/phenomenological grounding of the meaning of the "good," not simply as an abstract conclusion of metaphysical/psychological reasoning, but as the
experience of the self as imaging the divine Person of the Son, determining itself along the lines of the dynamic of the Son toward the Father. And if this very act of determining the self (affirmed by grace [Love]) is radical in its generosity in response to the call, we have the experience of being made in the image of the Prototype: Ipse Christus.

The root of the radicality - 
to be Christ - is to be found in the fact the gestalt of the interplay of the divine and the human in Christ is a divine Person who is nothing but Relation to the Father.6  That totally transcendent Trinitarian modality can only be imaged by the mystical (but world-immanent) experience of self-gift (mastering self to get control and possession of self to make the gift). Escriva experienced this to be the vocation to found Opus Dei, the meaning of the vocation to Opus Dei, and the meaning of all baptized and yet-to-be-baptized human existence. Man is called by the very imaging of the divine Persons and the reality of the Incarnation of God Himself in Jesus Christ, to be Christ Himself,and to be so by living out the giving of himself.
   Escriva wrote prodigiously on this experience: "We really have to give ourselves, my children. And that's something we're always in time to do. We have to get off the omnibus and travel the world without attachments, ready to be nothing and to have nothing, for the love of Jesus Christ.

   "Our self-giving gives us a great feeling of peace and confidence. That is why I usually say that Opus Dei, without the omnibus, is a wonderful place to live and a wonderful place to die. We are not afraid either of life or of death." 

   Does one lose one's unique personality by submerging the "I" in the larger "I"of Christ?

Since the anthropology is self-determination, there are two things happening in each internal act. The human "I" becomes more and more determined as itself by the ongoing free choices made according to conscience. One creates the human "I" more and more in its individuality.

   But, as each of these choices is to transcend self "for" another as gift in accordance with the ontological tendency that images the very being of the Person of the Son as total self-gift to the Father, the more I determine myself to be gift, the more I am uniquely who I am humanly, and the more Christ I am. The respective asymptotes of this development is the identity between Jesus as Christ, as well as Escriva as Founder of Opus Dei.

The Name: “Jesus Christ”

Various perspectives converge confirm the identity of the founder of Opus Dei with Christ Himself. The name Jesus Christ emerged in the consciousness of the first Christian community because His very Self was His activity. "Christ" is the name for the redemptive act which was, as we have seen, the uncreated "I" of the Son willing each human act in the secular minutiae of each day. Escriva had written that "there is a divine something in the ordinary things of every day, and it is up to each one of us to find it" (Passionately Loving the World). That "divine something" is the self given totally to the Lord in the service of the others. The "self-given" in any human, secular act is a "divine something," it is being "Christ."
 What we are dealing here in this anthropology grounded in Christ's priesthood, the action of the person is his very self as gift. That is, your action is the very gift of your "I." Consider the name "Jesus Christ." Jesus of Nazareth is Christ the Redeemer, and the first Christians experienced this. He has come down to us as "Jesus Christ." Ratzinger wrote: "It can be shown that the Christian community at Rome, which formulated our Creed, was still completely aware of the significance of the word's content. The transformation into a mere proper name, which it is for us today, was certainly completed at a very early period, but here 'Christ' is still used as the definition of what this Jesus is. The fusion with the name Jesus is well advanced.7
Consider:  It is impossible to be the Son of God-become-man and not be redeemer of man, and this for the same reason that we saw above in Constantinople III. It is impossible for a divine Person to have a human will without living out who He is as total self-gift to the Father with that will. As Escriva said it: "You cannot separate the fact that Christ is God from his role as redeemer." 8

   In the case of Jesus as Christ, Benedict XVI wrote that "with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person... The person is the office, the office is the person. The two are no longer divisible. Here there is no private area reserved for an 'I' which remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be 'off duty;' here there is no 'I' separate from the work; the 'I' is the work and the work is the 'I'" 9
Alvaro del Portillo made the same observation concerning Escriva: "all those who knew Josemaria Escriva perceived that his person was inseparable from the mission for which God had chosen him. Having been able to form a particularly close and profound relationship with him for 40 years reinforces in my memory this characteristic dimension of his human and spiritual physiognomy. I have seen him, so to speak,in his 'first act' as founder, that is to say,in the daily and continuous building of Opus Dei, and as a consequence, of the Church, as he affirmed not in vain that the Work exists solely to serve the Church.
   "(T)the identification of his very self with his foundational activity implied that Mons. Escriva perfected himself as a subject - up to the point of living the virtues to a heroic degree...10

1J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching” Ignatius (2011) 121-124.
2 Ibid.
3Conversations with Msgr. Escriva de Balaguer, Ecclesia Press, 1972 #43.
4 J. Ratzinger, "The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology" in The Nature and Mission of Theology Ignatius (1995) 51.
6“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 won 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 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;” J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 134.
7J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 149.
8 “Christ is  Passing By” #106.
9 J. Ratzinger "Introduction to Christianity," Ignatius [1990] 149.

10 L'Osservatore Romano, May 28, 1992.

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