Thursday, January 22, 2015

Josemaria Escriva as “Ipse Christus,” and Therefore, All of Us.

St. Josemaria Escriva experienced himself to be not only another Christ, but Ipse Christus, Christ Himself. The experience did not consist in having Christ within him, or of imitating Christ, or of following Christ, or being like Christ. He experienced being Christ, and heard the words, “you are my Son; you are Christ.” It seems that we are talking about an ontological identity of really becoming Christ. But this sets of an alarm that we are talking about man becoming God, and if that is the case, how do we not fall into pantheism?

There were two audible experiences (locutions) that he had 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 suddenly (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 (charisms) with reference to Christians as "other Christs" and himself as "my Son, you are Christ," gave him the clarity of mind to persistently repeat throughout his life that the vocation of every man as image of God, and not just the Christian via the sacrament of Baptism, is to be "no ya alter Christus, sino ipse Christus, !el mismo Cristo!" (not just another Christ, but Christ Himself) [1]

Two authors, Burkhart and Lopez[2], add here that the novelty is not so much that Escriva affirms that being created in the image of God, or being baptized 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 not new to say that one can have a vocation to be Christ Himself, but it is new to say that all are called to actually become Christ Himself by living out ordinary life.[3]

            And so let's note that Escriva did not experience or hear within him that he had become like Christ, that he was imitating 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) but ontologically (my underline). Removing any lingering ambiguity, our Father writes” “Each Christian is not simply alter Christus; another Christ, but ipse Christus: Christ himself!”

            Burkart and Lopez attempt to give a theological account of this ontological identification of the human person with Christ by assuming the theology that had been crafted in the Council of Chalcedon (451) of the one Person, two natures and applying the notion of participation of the human nature in the divine nature.

            It should be noted that the affirmations of St. Josemaria point to a radical ontological identity that the Christian “is” and the presence of the Cross is the patent, existential and experiential confirmation that, indeed, one has become “another Christ, Christ Himself.” The two authors affirm that the identity with Christ is ontological, and that it cannot be reduced to abstract thought or doctrine.[4] They go on to say that we are not dealing here in St. Josemaria with a “confusion between Christ and the Christian,” but rather with an “identification.” And the “identification” does not mean the “disappearance of one’s own identity” but a “compenetration.” And the only adequate analogy for this is the union between the Trinitarian Father and the Son when Jesus says “As the living Father has sent me, and as I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me” (Jn. 6, 58), and “I in them and You in me” (Jn. 17, 23). But we must remember what was heard, and what, therefore, was said by St. Josemaria: “you are my Son; you are Christ,” and Escriva could not stop saying Abba, Abba which is the unique language of the Ipse Christus.
   The question, then, is Christ in Escriva? Or is Escriva Christ?, and what could we possibly mean by that?

            Burkhart and Lopez, once they reach the point of giving a theological, conceptual explanation, slide into a more reasonable Christ is in Escriva. And they do it in the more conventional metaphysical / terms of participation.

They apply the Christology of Chalcedon in its Scholastic metaphysical terms of one Person, two natures. Obviously, they want to avoid falling into an offensive confusion of the uncreated Divinity of Christ with a created human person. They do not want to fall into pantheism. And so they apply Neo-Scholastic Christology and anthropology: the Humanity of Christ – the human nature – is the efficient “instrumental”cause of grace. That is, the Humanity of Christ, in so far as it is assumed by the divine Person of the Logos, possesses the fullness of grace (assuming grace to be the communicator of divine Life). They then assign that the Humanity of Christ is the instrumental (not principal) cause. They then say that Christ is present in the human person in so far as the action of His humanity is made present in him. That is, Christ is not in Escriva. Rather, the grace of Christ’s humanity is in Escriva which acts in him.[5]

My complaint with this is the following: if the human person has the profound ontological likeness to the divine Person because created in His image and likeness, and after Christ, baptized into His power to make the gift of Himself to death, why not apply the anthropology of Gaudium et spes 24 that is the dynamic concretion of Gaudium et spes 22.  Why take an anthropology from below (rational animal) as from Aristotle and Boethius and try to force a relational Christology into it? That is, follow the Magisterium that says that Jesus Christ is the revelation not only who God is, but who man is. That is, Christ is not an exception to man (as taken from below as rational animal) but his Prototype. Therefore the anthropology has to follow the Christology. And the Christology of Chalcedon (451) was complete and dynamized by the Christology of Constantinople III (680-681) that says that the human will of Christ becomes the human will of the divine Person of the Son, and that the human and the divine compenetrate in that both wills (divine and human) are longings of the same Person for the Father. That is, the human will is not damaged but perfected by being the will of a divine Person.

This would mean that the freedom of the human will of Christ consists in obeying the Father[6] to death on the Cross. This is made in the magisterium of Gaudium et spes #24 that says, “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds itself by the sincere gift of self.” Therefore, if man is capable of making the gift of himself in obedience to the Will of the Father, he is capable of being Christ Himself.

The theology of Jesus Christ reveals that the Person of Christ is nothing in Himself. Since the Trinity is One God, then the Persons must be subsistent Relations. Each Person is not a “substance” or “individual” in self, but a “for” the other. It is the Communio of the one Christian God.
 Hence, the ontological content of the Son is to be nothing in Self. Hear Ratzinger: “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 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”[7]
And further, the person of the Son and His act cannot be distinguished. Ratzinger again: “For what faith really states is precisely that with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. 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 be4 ‘off duty;’ there is no ‘I’ separate from the work; the ‘I’ is the work and the work is the ‘I.’”[8]

And now to connect what Bl. Alvaro del Portillo, having lived 40 years with St. Josemaria and having observed him in his “first act” as founder of Opus Dei, wrote in the Osservatore Romano in May of 1992: “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 – in the measure in which he carried out Opus Dei, feeling the need to second God’s plans daily.” He commented that it was impossible to distinguish his persona from his vocation to found the Work.

Hence, if the Person of Christ is His action, and His Person is His teaching, then if the human person, image and baptized, is capable of this totality of self gift over a life-time, then, with this Christological anthropology, we are able to give a metaphysical account of the human person approximating his Prototype.

[1]Josemaria Escriva “Christ is Passing By,” #104
[2] Ernst Burkhart - Javier Lopez, “Vida Cotidiana y Santidad En La Ensenagnza de San Josemaria,” Rialp, (2011) Vol. II, 85.
[3] Ernst Burkhart - Javier Lopez, “Vida Cotidiana y Santidad En La Ensenagnza de San Josemaria,” Rialp, (2011) Vol. II, 85.
[4] “La filiacion divine percibida por san Josemaria en 1931 no se agota en la doctrina – profunda, pero quiza algo abstracta – de ser ‘hijjos en el Hijo,’ sino que es una filiacion divine ‘en Cristo,’ una filiacion divina ‘encarnada’ y redentora.’
[5] “Que la cause instrumental sea causa por participacion comporta que es causa no por su ser (como la causa principal, la Divinidad) sino por su accion o ‘virtud,’ que la Humanidad de Cristo tiene de modo indefectible. Esto implica que la presencia de Cristo encuanto hombre en el Cristiano que recibe al gracia, no es como la pesencia de la causa principal, la Divinidad, que inabita en el alma in gracia, sino que es una presencia de su accion o ‘virtud.’ En este sentido se la puede llamar ‘presencia virtual,’ entendiendo este ultimo termino como presence de la accion de Cristo o de su virtus: su ‘poder’ o ‘fuerza.’ La presencia virtual de Cristo en cuanto Hombre in el Cristiano es una presencia verdadera y real, pero no sustancial; es presencia del poder o del influjo de la Humanidad de Cristo, no de su sustancia. Se trata de una presencia dinamica. Gracias a ella puede decirse que las acciones de un hijo de Dios, surgidas de su naturaleza elevada por la gracia de Cristo, son tambien acciones d Cristo a traves del Cristiano como miembro suyo: vida d Cristo en el Cristiano. Y es, ademas, una presencia permanente, que existe mientras permanence la gracia. Burkart y Lopez …. P. 99.
[6] See Veritatis Splendor#85.
[7] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 134.
[8] Ibid. 149.

1 comment:

Bob Hall said...

That is so good. Says it all.