Monday, August 18, 2014

The Ontological and Epistemic Priority of Christ (in view of Robert Barrons’s “The Priority of Christ”[1]

 “(R)ather than experts in dire predictions, dour judges bent on rooting out every threat and deviation, we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel.”[2]

The Epistemic Priority of Christ: The mind-boggling reality consists in that God, the Creator of all things, has become man. This is the truth that St. Anselm was after, and Robert Sokolowski clarifies in a very important way. Anselm had said that God was “that than which nothing greater can be thought.”  Sokolowski  writes: “Anselm’s argument works explicitly with the contrast between being in the mind and being in reality. This contrast, the two ways of being that it distinguishes, are themselves deserving of further thought. But besides this explicit premise for his argument, there is another, an implicit premise, which the argument requires but which is not expressed openly by Anselm in chapter two [of the Proslogian]. This implicit premise also contains a contrast. It might be formulated as the statement that:
                (God plus the world) is not greater than God alone;”[3]

                The point Sokolowski makes is that the being of God is so different from the world, that His Being (reality) would not be more because the world exists, nor would It be less if it did not. That is to say, the Being of God as Creator of all things is so different from the being of all things that they are incommensurable. That is not to say that they are not analogous insofar as they are; but rather to say that the way that they are is epistemically different. That is, you cannot know God the way you know things. Or better, you can, but that is not the way God is.

                What does that mean? That the Being of God is not part of the world that we know by the experience of sensation, abstraction and rational thought.  His humanity is, indeed, “part” of our world, but His divine Person is not “part” but Creator of all of it.  Nevertheless, His humanity was assumed by His divine Person, and therefore, is it. Being Creator of the world, and yet “in” it, He must be known – as incarnate God in Jesus Christ - through the experience of ourselves as created images of Himself and baptized into Him. We do this by transcending ourselves in the act of faith as He is totally out of Himself as Son of the Father.

Romano Guardini says it thus: “The person of Jesus is unprecedented and therefore measureable by no already existing norm. Christian recognition consists of realizing that all things really began with Jesus Christ; that he is his own norm – and therefore ours – for he is Truth.
                “Christ’s effect upon the world can be compared with nothing in its history save its own creation: ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth.’ What takes place in Christ is of the same order as the original act of creation, though on a still higher level. For the beginning of the new creation is as far superior to the love which created the stars, plants, animals and men. That is what the words mean: ‘I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled’? (Lk. 12, 49). It is the fire of new becoming; not only ‘truth’ or ‘love,’ but the incandescence of new creation…. Down, down through terrible destruction he descends, to the nadir of divine creation whence saved existence can climb back into being…
                Guardini then points out that this will demand a new way of knowing: “Now we understand what St. Paul meant with his ‘excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ:’ the realization that this is who Christ is, the Descender. To make this realization our own is the alpha and omega of our lives, for it is not enough to know Jesus only as the Savior. With this supreme knowledge serious religious life can begin, and we should strive for it with our whole strength and earnestness, as a man  strives to reach his place in his profession; as a scientist wrestles with the answer to his problem; as one labors at this life work or for the hand of someone loved above all else.”[4]
                And then, from my perspective, he makes an implicit reference to the spirit of Opus Dei as I understand it: “Are these directives for saints?  No, for Christians. For you. How long must I wait? God knows. He can give himself to you overnight, you can also wait twenty years, but what are they in view of his advent? One day he will come. Once in the stillness of profound composure you will know: that is Christ! Not from a book or the word of someone else, but through him. He who is creative love brings your intrinsic potentialities to life. Your ego at its profoundest is he.”

                This is totally the charism Escriva received existentially on October 2, 1928 which was not in the theological/legal structure of the Church, but which became so in Vatican II in 1964 [Lumen Gentium #31]. And you will know Christ in the most profound intimacy with the most radical realism because you will become Him, such that you will hear from the Father: “You are my Son; you are Christ.” Escriva wrote: “When God sent me those blows back in 1931, I didn’t understand them… The all at once, in the midst of such great bitterness, came the words: ‘You are my son (Ps. 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, the hand of God, of divine Wisdom, of the All-Powerful. 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.”[5]

                With this in view, Pope Francis encourages “the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which is the first proclamation that must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now  he is living at your side every day to to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” Since it is addressing the unique ontological reality of the God-Man, it is “the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment.”[6]  And as a result, “rather than experts in dire predictions, dour judges bent on rooting out every threat and deviation, “we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel.”[7]

[1] Brazos Press (2007).
[2] Ibid #168
[3] Robert Sokolowski, The God of Faith and rEason, UNDP (1982) 8.
[4] Romano Guardini, The Lord Gateway (2002) 357-358.
[5] John F. Coverdale, “Uncommon Faith,” Scepter (2002) 93-94.
[6] Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, #163.
[7] Ibid #168

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