Thursday, February 12, 2015

More On Escriva as "Christ Himself"

Class: OLP – February 13, 2015.

On October 16, 1931 in a trolley in Madrid, Josemaria Escriva experienced hearing within himself: “You are my son, you are Christ.” He found himself babbling for several hours after that:  “Abba, Pater…”: Father, Father.

Question: is it possible to actually become another Christ, Christ himself, as Escriva affirmed in his writings and throughout his life, and has established the spirit of Opus Dei on this truth and its consequence which is divine filiation? And are we talking metaphor, or ontological exaggeration?

Joseph Ratzinger on the meaning of Son of God: To be nothing in self.

The Son is 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 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.[1][2]
The Christology of Chalcedon and Constantinople III would have to intervene here:

Chalcedon: There is one divine Person and 2 natures, divine and human.
Constantinople III: The divine Person assumes the human nature (will) and, as active Agent, wills with His human will [not destroying it, but perfecting it as will and human]. He lives out His divine Life humanly, and reveals most perfectly who He is by His total gift of self on the Cross, thus revealing the ontological meaning of Son.

Now. this nature as “son” revealed as self-gift on the Cross becomes ours by 1) being made in His image and likeness from the beginning; and 2) by receiving the sacrament of Baptism which introduces us into his act, which is the death of the Cross (and revelation of His Persona).

How does this introduce us into the Ipse Christus? By giving us the power to do what we could never do without Him: to make the gift of self in ordinary life.

However, how do we live ordinary life? On the surface. Revelation has not taken place.

·         Here is a woman going into a retreat presumably in grace and with a sense of personal goodness. She prays on the Friday night of the retreat:

My Daily Surrender
To You, O Lord, I surrender my life: every breath I take; every beat of my heart.
To You, O Lord, I surrender my days: my prayers, works, joys and sufferings.
To You, O Lord, I surrender my nights: every restful and sleepless moment, every pain and worry.
To You, O lord, I surrender my family” my husband, my children and all the others.

·         On Sunday morning, after two Masses, possible a confession and time of silence before the Blessed Sacrament, the good woman examines herself courageously and writes:

Examination of my life:

·         I am consumed with self
·         I am lazy
·         I procrastinate
·         I lie/ I hide from God/ I cheat God
·         I am self-righteous with others
·         I condemn/ I slander/ I judge
·         I criticize/I mock, ridicule and grumble
·         I lament/I seek self pity and praise
·         I want from others what I will not igve to others
·         I want from others what I will not give to others
·         I want to be loved unconditionally without loving the others unconditionally
·         I am rash with others
·          I run from mortification
·         I am controlling and manipulative
·          I take and do not give
·         I harbor resentment s and grudges
·         I do not accept others as Christ does
·         I fail to see Christ in the others
·         I persecute  others
·         I do not let go
·          I supersede God and usurp His authority with my pride
·         I am selfish
·         I want my way because I think it is the best and only way
·          I react instead of listening
·         I react instead of contemplating
·         I want the last word
·         I put down others to appear superior
·         I seek to help others but I am really looking for myself, needing to be needed
·         I ask others how things went, but I’m really fishing for compliments
·         Fearful of not being accepted, I brag, exaggerate, get loud
·         I gossip which seems to give me importance in the eyes of others.
·         To give myself importance, I name-drop
·         I am constantly concerned about what the others think of me

In the Gospel, this ability to see the truth of the self is success. Christ said to the Samaritan woman who confessed to Him, “I have no husband:” “Thou hast said well” (Jn. 4, 18). 


What is faith? Ratzinger: Faith is an action that produces revelation. Revelation is the experience of becoming Christ. That action is the prayer that Simon shared with Christ (who was praying alone to the Father, Luke 9, 18). “Who do men say that I am,” “Who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). And the anthropological and epistemological point: Like is known by like, and this because “to know” is to become one being with another (as scripturally, “Adam knew his wife”  (Gen. 4, 1)   Therefore, faith is grace (Love received) to go out of self and experience being Christ in act, and therefore knowing Christ ab intus from within oneself as “Ipse Christus.” It isn’t that Christ is within you, or that you are imitating Him. It is, rather, that you are a work-in-progress becoming him. It becomes ontological identity. As God named Himself Yahweh (I Am, Ex. 3, 14) and Christ said (I Am, Jn. 8, 24, 28, 58), now, you and I can say “I am.”  
Here’s the way I put a few days ago: I quote myself:

“Here is the revolution for our day concerning the meaning of Christian faith after reducing it to propositional truths for over a millennium. The Habilitation thesis of Joseph Ratzinger distinguishes between revelation and faith.  Revelation is a divine Person. Faith is an act of the human person whereby he goes out of himself, converts from himself, does an about-turn and in so doing becomes, to some degree, Christ himself Who is the Revelation of the Father. Hence, Revelation as the Person of Christ cannot be identified with the printed words of Scripture but their source. He comments that you cannot put Revelation in your pocket, but you can put Scripture there. You experience Revelation by prayer, the act that mimics the Logos of the Father as pure relation and self-gift to Him.”


 Notice that it is a death-event for the self that receives the grace (love) from the sacrament of Baptism. Scripture does not yield revelation. Re(vel)ation is the removal of the veil that is the self as individual-in-self. To be an “individual-in-self” is precisely Satan. Consider Robert Barron’s use of Dante’s Inferno: “At the center and deepest ground of Hell, buried to his waist in ice, presides Satan, the great beast [666], the one-time angel of light whose pride had destroyed him. His angel’s wings have been transformed into the wings of a bat which beat the air unceasingly, producing the atmospheric conditions of this underground, upside-down world… Following Aquinas and others, Dante held that the goal of the human spirit is to soar upward and outward in the direction of the fullness of reality…. (T)he geography of Hell, moves in the opposite direction, toward greater and greater fear and  narrowness, culminating in the single point where Satan himself is frozen in place. His angelic wings, originally evocative of the sailing upward of the healthy soul, now beat in vain, symbolizing the pointless efforts of the soul locked in sin… When we live in fear, we close in on ourselves, inhabiting, in the end, a kingdom precisely as large as the narrow confines of our egos.”[3]

Satan cannot escape from himself. But discover Christ by lowering yourself, looking at the evil that is dormant within you, and naming it to another. You must speak it and name it to be freed. And again and again. By lowering yourself and escaping yourself you experience the Christ that you are to become. It becomes a most intimate of all encounters. The two footprints in the snow is now not just beautiful metaphor, but ontological reality. You begin to live out the connection of Gaudium et spes #22 and #24. Gaudium et spes #22 proclaimed that Jesus Christ is not only the revelation of who God is, but of who man is. Christ is the meaning of man, the Prototype of the human race, and it is in Him alone that we can discover who we are and achieve our full stature. We will do this by turning the ordinary events of my life into occasions of making the gift of self which is loving God and the others (Gaudium et spes #24). Hence sanctity is achieved in the world in ordinary life. It is the meaning of true secularity (secularity is the freedom resulting from being master of self to get possession of self so as to make the gift of self) and the eschatological fulfillment of the Kingdom of God – here – in Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man.

            Ratzinger once said this in the most puzzling way, but to my mind the truest and most succinct (and in a popular magazine):
“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, or solely one of the will or emotions; it is all of these together. It is an act of the entire self, of the whole person in the unity of 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 of this, it surpasses the self, the ‘I,’ the limits of the individual. Nothing belongs to us as little as our self, St. Augustine affirms in one passage.

            Where the human being as a whole is at stake, he surpasses himself; an act of ‘being with.’ And even more: we cannot realize ourselves without touching our most profound foundation, the living God, who is present in the profundity of our existence and sustains it. Where the human being as a whole is at stake, together with the ‘I’ there is also present the ‘we’ and the ‘you’ of the totally other, the ‘you’ of God.”[4]

Hence, the simple but mystical conclusion: the act of faith is the very act of revelation whereby we become Christ and experience Him as ourselves. The act of faith and the act of revelation is the action of prayer that can be every one of our most insignificant, secular and ordinary acts if we keep converting them into “self-gift.” The ordinary way of faith is the mystical life – for everyone.
Person = Action in Christ:

            This is the consequence of being beyond the categories of substance and relation: “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 ia 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.’”[5]

Person = Action in Escriva (you):

            "(A)ll 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)he 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...[6]

Conclusion: One can become another Christ, and Christ Himself, because Christ as Creator transcends all the created categories that comply with our way of conceptualizing things into categories. Hence, the Person of the Logos of the Father is both “one” with Father as Son (Jn. 10, 30: “I and the Father are one”), and distinct from the Father as Son (Jn. 14, 28: The Father is greater than I). As revealed to us, the Person of Christ is self-gift to the Father (obedience) and self-gift to us (redeeming). Since He is nothing in Himself, He is totally “for.” Made in His image and Baptized into Him to mimic His act, if we make progressively frequent and more profound gifts of ourselves in the small ordinary actions of every day, we do what He is, and therefore we become/are Him.

Hence, Escriva’s 1931 and life-long experience of Ipse Christus. And I would dare say that this experience was the provocation of the calling of the Second Vatican Council and the re-thinking of the whole doctrine of the Church in terms of the subjectivity of the believer. As John Paul II said in his Catechism for Krakow in1972: “If we study the Conciliar magisterium as a whole, we find that the Pastors of the Church were not so much concerned to answer questions like ‘What should men believe/, ‘What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith?’ and so on, but rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean to be a believer, a Catholic and a member of the Church”’ They endeavored to answer this question in the broad context of today’s world, and indeed the complexity of the question itself requires.
   The question ‘What does it mean to be a believing member of the Church?’ is indeed difficult and complex, because it not only pre supposes the truth of faith and pure doctrine, but also calls for that truth to be situated in the human consciousness and calls for a definition of the attitude, or rather the many attitudes, that go to make the individual a believing member of the Church. This would seem to be the main respect in which the Conciliar magisterium has a pastoral character, corresponding to the pastoral purpose for which it was called. A ‘purely’ doctrinal Council would have concentrated on defining the precise meaning of the truths of faith, whereas a pastoral Council proclaims recalls or clarifies truths for the primary purpose of giving Christians a life-style, a way of thinking and acting.  In our efforts to put the Council into practice, this is the style we must keep before our minds.[7]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 134.
[2] Ratzinger: “I think it is not unimportant to note how the doctrine of the Trinity here passes over into a statement about existence, how the assertion that relation is at the same time pure unity becomes transparently clear to us. It is the nature of the Trinitarian personality to be pure relation and so the most absolute unity. That there is no contradiction in this is probably now perceptible. And one can understand from now on more clearly than before that it is not the ‘atom,’ the indivisible smallest piece of matter, that possesses the highest unity; that on the contrary pure oneness can only occur in the spirit and embraces the relativity of love. Thus the profession of faith in the oneness of God is just as radical as in any other monotheistic religion; indeed only in Christianity does it reach its full stature. But it is the nature of Christian existence to receive and to live life as relatedness, and thus to enter into that unity which is the ground of all reality and sustains it. This will perhaps make it clear how the doctrine of the Trinity, when properly understood, can become the nodal point of theology and of Christian thought in general…idem 135.

[3] Robert Barron, “And Now I See – A Theology of Transformation,” Crossroad, (1998) 32-33.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “What Does the Church Believe? The Catholic World Report, March 1993, 27.
[5] J. Ratzinger “Introduction to Christianity,” op. cit. 149.
[6] L'Osservatore Romano, May 28, 1992.

[7] John Paul II, “Sources of Renewal” Harper and Row, 1979 17-18.

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