Wednesday, March 04, 2015

One God, One Christ, One Church, One People

Realism is the Word of God. Only the Word of God is real. Everything else is a secondary reality, and real only in relation to it.

“Furthermore, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our idea that matter, solid things, things we can touch, are the more solid, the more certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one's life: sand and rock. The one who builds on sand builds only on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will pass away. We can see this now with the fall of large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. The one who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is the one who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life (Benedict XVI, Keynote Address, Synod of Bishops on “The Word of God,” Oct , 6, 2008).
        God proclaims the Covenant with Abram who believes the Word: that, because of his belief, he will be the father of all the nations of the earth.

Genesis 17 The promise of the Covenant to Abram: You will be father to all the nations of the earth

 “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you:You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram[b]; your name will be Abraham,[c] for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

15 The Covenant of Abram with God
 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
    I am your shield,[a]
    your very great reward.[b]
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit[c] my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring[d] be.”
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”
The Covenant:
So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”
10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi[e] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites,20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
        This covenant of the Word spoken by God and received by Abram determines the structure, dynamic and meaning of the human race and all history.
         The symbol of the furnace in the vision is the death to the protagonist who does not keep his side of the covenant. By sinning, we did not keep our side. Nevertheless, God, Who is Love as total Self-gift, becomes man and takes our place and fulfills the covenant of the Word such that the promise of the Lord to Abraham will be fulfilled in Christ, i.e. that the Abraham’s paternity in faith will extend to the ends of the earth. There will be one God, one faith, one Believing Man, one people.
        So that the Word of God to Abram be fulfilled, and man having failed through sin, God becomes man and takes his place in the covenant relation, and freely goes to death for us. Christology [one divine Person, two natures: divine and human, their relation being the divine Person) becomes the explanation of reality. Jesus Christ is the way the reality of the Word of God is fulfilled, that is, for man to be man he must receive the Word of God into himself and make the sincere gift of himself; and the Word of God can extend to all peoples in that Christ, Who is the Word of God, is the very meaning of man.
        Let’s say it differently. Once God becomes man and enters man’s side of the covenant, the universality of one religion [which is not a religion but an anthropology becomes possible because man as Christ transcends “religions” as positivist truth-claims and can reach to the experience of imaging God that all ‘religions” reflect on and objectify in concepts. Christ, the God-man, is not a religious figure but the definitive anthropology of man. If God became man, and we can experience Him by His extending sacraments to us, we can know Him experientially in ourselves [More to the point, we can “know” Him by living His Life which is self-transcendence as self-gift. St. Josemaria’s experience is critical here as “Ipse Christus”]. Since “religions” are practices of dealing with a “god” who is the greatest and most in a human category, say, First Cause, First Mover, Necessary Being, Perfect Being, Final Cause,   Hence, they are offered as different “religions.” But again, once God becomes Man, every man has access to God in every authentic performance of being man. Hence, God in Christ makes it possible that there be one religion that is constructed on the mystical anthropology of the God-man.[1]

 The problems Ratzinger offers are the nature of the Covenant of God with Abram and the Testimony of God through Moses. The problem: the Covenant is for all time extends to all people. The Torah (Ten commandments and the Law) seems to be proposed to the Jews only as their law as a concrete people. But Christ teaches that the Torah as ten commandments is for all people, and is concretely Himself: “You have heard of old…, but I say to you…” (Mt. 5). That is, it seems that the covenant with Abram is a “testament” with Abram, and only him. The same with Moses. It seems that gave the Torah to Moses as prophet to the Jews only to guide them as a people.
   But the whole thing changes on the basis of the Christology. Christ is at once Perfect God and Perfect Man. And so the testaments to both Abram and Moses are really covenants (a two sided operation in which God and man are two free and responsible protagonists) (Ratzinger, 71), or testaments (one sided from God to man). In the covenant with Abram, the business of cutting the animals in half with the fire passing between them presages what will happen to either side if he fails in fidelity. The puzzling part was how God could be a protagonist threatened with death. The Christology of Chalcedon and Constantinople III give the answer. For love of man, God takes up man’s covenantal responsibility and takes his place for the failure of sin. “God is faithful, for he has put himself under a debt to us, not as if he had received anything from us, but by promising us so much. The word of promise was too little for him: he wanted to bind himself in writing, by giving us, as it were, a handwritten version of his promises.”[2] Notice now that God enters into man’s side of the covenant, universality becomes possible because Christ, as God-man, transcends “religions” as positivist truth claims and can reach to the imaging experience of all “religions” – and therefore all become one. Ecumenism is built on this Christological perspective.

Answers from the CCC: #528: “The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.212 In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi's coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.213 Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Saviour of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.214 The Epiphany shows that "the full number of the nations" now takes its "place in the family of the patriarchs", and acquires Israelitica dignitas215 (is made "worthy of the heritage of Israel").
Ratzinger:  this text “sees in the Magi the origin of the Church formed out of te pagans; the Magi afford an enduring reflection on the way of the pagans.
            “We can see how the CCC views the relationship between Jews and the nations of the world as communicated by Jesus; in addition, it offers at the same time a first presentation of the mission of Jesus. Accordingly, we say that the mission of Jesus is to unite Jews and pagans into a single People of God in which the universalist promises of the SS are fulfilled that speak again and again of the nations worshiping the God of Israel…”[3]
            What does all this mean? That Jesus Christ – the one God - is Himself the fulfillment of the Jewish Covenant of faith. Old and New Testaments, Jesus and the Sacred Scripture of Israel, appear here as indivisible. The new thrust of his mission to unify Israel and the nations corresponds to the prophetic thrust of the Old Testament itself.
Dominus Iesus: CDF August 6, 2000.
20.  From what has been stated above, some points follow that are necessary for theological reflection as it explores the relationship of the Church and the other religions to salvation.
Above all else, it must be firmly believed that “the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf.Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door”.77 This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); “it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation”.78
The Church is the “universal sacrament of salvation”,79 since, united always in a mysterious way to the Saviour Jesus Christ, her Head, and subordinated to him, she has, in God's plan, an indispensable relationship with the salvation of every human being.80  For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, “salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit”;81 it has a relationship with the Church, which “according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit”.82
21.  With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it “in ways known to himself”.83  Theologians are seeking to understand this question more fully.  Their work is to be encouraged, since it is certainly useful for understanding better God's salvific plan and the ways in which it is accomplished. However, from what has been stated above about the mediation of Jesus Christ and the “unique and special relationship”84which the Church has with the kingdom of God among men — which in substance is the universal kingdom of Christ the Saviour — it is clear that it would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if these are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God.
Certainly, the various religious traditions contain and offer religious elements which come from God,85 and which are part of what “the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures, and religions”.86 Indeed, some prayers and rituals of the other religions may assume a role of preparation for the Gospel, in that they are occasions or pedagogical helps in which the human heart is prompted to be open to the action of God.87 One cannot attribute to these, however, a divine origin or an ex opere operato salvific efficacy, which is proper to the Christian sacraments.88 Furthermore, it cannot be overlooked that other rituals, insofar as they depend on superstitions or other errors (cf. 1 Cor 10:20-21), constitute an obstacle to salvation.89
22.  With the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity (cf. Acts 17:30-31).90 This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism “characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another'”.91 If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain thatobjectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.92  However, “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged”.93 One understands then that, following the Lord's command (cf. Mt 28:19-20) and as a requirement of her love for all people, the Church “proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). In him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19), men find the fullness of their religious life”.94
In inter-religious dialogue as well, the mission ad gentes “today as always retains its full force and necessity”.95  “Indeed, God ‘desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth' (1 Tim 2:4); that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the promptings of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary”.96 Inter-religious dialogue, therefore, as part of her evangelizing mission, is just one of the actions of the Church in her mission ad gentes.97Equality, which is a presupposition of inter-religious dialogue, refers to the equal personal dignity of the parties in dialogue, not to doctrinal content, nor even less to the position of Jesus Christ — who is God himself made man — in relation to the founders of the other religions. Indeed, the Church, guided by charity and respect for freedom,98 must be primarily committed to proclaiming to all people the truth definitively revealed by the Lord, and to announcing the necessity of conversion to Jesus Christ and of adherence to the Church through Baptism and the other sacraments, in order to participate fully in communion with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, the certainty of the universal salvific will of God does not diminish, but rather increases the duty and urgency of the proclamation of salvation and of conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ.

* * * * * * *
            I. THE CHURCH IS ONE
"The sacred mystery of the Church's unity" (UR 2)
813 The Church is one because of her source: "the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit."259 The Church is one because of her founder: for "the Word made flesh, the prince of peace, reconciled all men to God by the cross, . . . restoring the unity of all in one people and one body."260 The Church is one because of her "soul": "It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church's unity."261 Unity is of the essence of the Church:
What an astonishing mystery! There is one Father of the universe, one Logos of the universe, and also one Holy Spirit, everywhere one and the same; there is also one virgin become mother, and I should like to call her "Church."262
814 From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God's gifts and the diversity of those who receive them. Within the unity of the People of God, a multiplicity of peoples and cultures is gathered together. Among the Church's members, there are different gifts, offices, conditions, and ways of life. "Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions."263 The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church's unity. Yet sin and the burden of its consequences constantly threaten the gift of unity. and so the Apostle has to exhort Christians to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."264
815 What are these bonds of unity? Above all, charity "binds everything together in perfect harmony."265 But the unity of the pilgrim Church is also assured by visible bonds of communion: 
- profession of one faith received from the Apostles; 
-common celebration of divine worship, especially of the sacraments; 
- apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, maintaining the fraternal concord of God's family.
816 "The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it.... This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him."267
The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains: "For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God."268
Wounds to unity
817 In fact, "in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame."269 The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ's Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism270 - do not occur without human sin:
Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.271
818 "However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers .... All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."272
819 "Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth"273 are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements."274 Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him,275 and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity."276
Toward unity
820 "Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time."277 Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her. This is why Jesus himself prayed at the hour of his Passion, and does not cease praying to his Father, for the unity of his disciples: "That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, . . . so that the world may know that you have sent me."278 The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit.279
821 Certain things are required in order to respond adequately to this call: 
- a permanent renewal of the Church in greater fidelity to her vocation; such renewal is the driving-force of the movement toward unity;
- conversion of heart as the faithful "try to live holier lives according to the Gospel";
281 for it is the unfaithfulness of the members to Christ's gift which causes divisions; 
- prayer in common, because "change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name 'spiritual ecumenism;"'
Since true religion is the anthropology of experiencing Christ by self-gift which is not reducible to conceptual formulas alone (this would be ideology). Ratzinger writes that “the encounter of the religions is not possible by renouncing truth but only by a deeper entering into it. Skepticism does not unite people. Nor does mere pragmatism. Both renunciation of truth and conviction does not elevate man but hands him over to the calculations of utility and robs him of his greatness…. What we need is the willingness ot look behind the alien appearances and look for the deeper truth hidden there.
            “Furthermore, I need to be willing to allow my narrow understanding of truth to be broken down. I shall learn my own truth better if I understand the other person (note “person”) and allow myself to be moved along the road to the God who is ever greater, certain that I never hold the whole truth about God in my own hands but am always a learner, on pilgrimage toward it, on a path that has no end.”[4]
-fraternal knowledge of each other;283 
- ecumenical formation of the faithful and especially of priests;
- dialogue among theologians and meetings among Christians of the different churches and communities;
- collaboration among Christians in various areas of service to mankind.
286 "Human service" is the idiomatic phrase.
822 Concern for achieving unity "involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike."287 But we must realize "that this holy objective - the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ - transcends human powers and gifts." That is why we place all our hope "in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit."288

[1] Hence, all become one. More, if God becomes man in Christ, and each man can become Christ through Baptism, then all can experience God in themselves by becoming Christ in the practice of going out of themselves in ordinary non-religions-secular life.

[2] Augustine En in ps 109; Ratzinger, op. cit. “Many Religions…” 72.
[3] J. Ratzinger, ‘Many Religions – one Covenant: Israel, the Church and theWorld,” Ignatius (1999) 26 à
[4] J. Ratzinger, “Many Religions – One Covenant,” Ignatius (1999) 110.

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