Friday, February 27, 2015

The Clarification of Faith as “Death-Event” Through the Reclarification of Matrimony To the New Evangelization

Bonnie Mahala sent me the following quote from Cardinal Ratzinger (Provenance unknown):

"Conversion is a death event. The 'I' is not simply submerged, it must release its grip on itself in order to receive anew in a greater 'I'. There is only One bearer of the promise of conversion. It is Christ. He exists within us. Outside is the chaotic world of self-realization where men compete with one another and desire to compete with God but succeed merely in working right past their true hope. Their True Hope lies within, always within."

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

I respond to Bonnie Mahala:

Where did you get the Ratzinger quote on conversion? I ask because I have it from a talk he gave in '86 in Toronto, but only the first part. Yours may be earlier and original. But from where? It is important because it is the meaning of faith. Faith is not primarily propositional but performative. It is the outstretching of the self. And in the context of matrimony, it is constitutive for the validity of the sacrament. And the brouhaha is about annulment and therefore validity. And if true faith as a "death-event" is not present in the exchange of vows at the altar, then you do not have a sacrament, and therefore only need a cheap (free) and quick declaration of nullity.

The Crisis of Annulment, Remarriage and Sacraments Opens Up A New Story 

 This is not the end of the story, but its beginning - as al la Opus Dei and the universal call to holiness in ordinary life - which did not become magisterial until after the approval (Decretum Laudis) of Opus Dei (10/11/1943). This means that the whole preparation for marriage is preparation for entering a way of sanctification which is = becoming "Ipse Christus." Marriage now becomes a commitment to death not as a legal barrier but as a positive vocation - and most ordinary - way of holiness and freedom.

            This commitment to sanctity in matrimony has always been soft-spoken within the irrevocability of the marriage vows, but never with the force of a calling to be a saint. And, as we know, that vocation to sanctity was identified with the call to the state of perfection and – until the Opus Dei and Vatican II – it was understood to be the unique call to the religious life as separation from the world and the taking of vows. It took the struggle of St. Josemaria Escriva and Blessed Alvaro del Portillo to break the hegemony of the religious state and leaving the world (celibacy as no marriage) and open the way of – in our case here -  sanctity precisely in matrimony.

   Hence, the development in Vatican II, and particularly in the document on Divine Revelation (Dei Filium), reads (#5): “By faith man freely commits his entire self to God, making ‘the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals….” Ratzinger did original work on this in his habilitation thesis where he comments that “the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive ‘revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it.”[1] He says further: “Revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down.” It means, what he says earlier, that revelation is “wholly Christological and that sees the dualism of word and reality reconciled in him who, as the true Logos, is at the same time the true ground of all that is real, and that consequently sees the antithesis between intellectual dogmatic faith and the yielding-up of one’s whole existence in trust as overcome through the total acceptance coming from the person, which recognizes Jesus Christ as, indissolubly, both the truth and the way. Thus the total character of faith inevitably emerges strongly here; it is expressed in the scriptural idea of obedience in faith, ‘by which man entrusts his whole self freely to God’”[2]

            This becomes diaphanous when Ratzinger describes how Simon comes to know that this physically existent man, Jesus, who is alone in prayer to the Father (Lk. 9, 18), is the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). Simon had entered into this prayer, and began to pray with Jesus, and thus experienced in himself what Christ experienced in Himself. That is, he experienced going out of himself – the “death-event” that is Christ as pure relation to the Father. And so, Simon is able to respond to the question, “Who do you say that I am?” with: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[3] And in doing so, he becomes “Peter” (rock) as Christ is “Cornerstone.” Simon had to go through a death event, an obedience to the Word, whereby he converts away from himself to the Father and so is able to re-cognize Christ in himself because he had become Christ. He did this by way of praying with Christ. And in this context, Ratzinger shows that the very meaning of the Person of the Word is to be prayer.[4] He had not just followed Christ, or imitated Christ, or become like Christ. He had existentially become Christ by the action of prayer, that as action (faith) is obedience to death. The revelation of the Word of Christ that is Christ takes place only in the conversion from self whereby one becomes the Word. One “knows” Christ, only by becoming Christ.

            Conclusion: The clarification of faith as a “death-event”  changes the panorama not only with regard to the validity/invalidity of past marriages, but also with regard to the meaning of marriage for the future. It will change the entire meaning of evangelization from doctrine as ideology to the challenge of the Kerygma of personal sanctity. It will render the politics of same-sex union meaningless since it is incapable of mutual self-giving for enfleshed persons. To reach clarity of heart and mind on this issue of the meaning of faith and validity of matrimony is to become aware of the Kairos of the third century and to begin the new evangelization in earnest.

[1] J. Ratzinger “Milestones, Memoirs 1927-1977” Ignatius (1997) 108-109.
[2] J. Ratzinger, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II “Revelation Itself,” Chapter I,  Vorgrimler,  Vol. III  (1969) Herder and Herder, Article 5, 177-179,
[3] Mt. 16, 16; Lk. 2, 21: “The Christ of God.”
[4] Cf. Thesis 1 of Ratzinger’s “Behold the Pierced One” Ignatius (1986) 15-22.

The Supreme Philosophic Achievement of Karol Wojtyla

The supreme philosophic achievement of Karol Wojtyla that characterized the Second Vatican Council[1] and his entire pontificate: To account for the unique, unrepeatable “I” as ontological and irreducible to the objectivized world of “things.”
As such, the “I” has an inner dynamic distinct from the world of objects, to wit: “man, in only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.

Subjectivity and the Irreducible in the Human Person

Karol Wojtyla


Selected  Essays

Translated by Theresa Sandok, OSM


Peter Lang

Subjectivity and the Irreducible in
the Human Being

The problem of the subjectivity of the human being seems today to be the focal point of a variety of concerns. It would be difficult to explain in just a few words exactly why and how this situation has arisen. No doubt it owes its emergence to numerous causes, not all of which should be sought in the realm of philosophy or science. Nevertheless, philosophy—especially philosophical anthropology and ethics—is a privileged place when it comes to clarifying and objectifying this problem. And this is precisely where the heart of the issue lies. Today more than ever before we feel the need—and also see a greater possibility—of objectifying the problem of the subjectivity of the human being.

In this regard, contemporary thought seems to have more or less set aside the old antinomies that arose primarily in the area of the theory of knowledge (epistemology) and that formed an as though inviolable line of demarcation between the basic orientations in philosophy. The antinomy of subjectivism vs. objectivism, along with the underlying antinomy of idealism vs. realism, created conditions that discouraged dealing with human subjectivity—for fear that this would lead inevitably to subjec­tivism. These fears, which existed among thinkers who subscribed to realism and epistemological objectivism, were in some sense warranted by the subjectivistic and idealistic character—or at least overtones—of analyses conducted within the realm of "pure consciousness." This only served to strengthen the line of demarcation in philosophy and the op­position between the "objective" view of the human being, which was also an ontological view (the human being as a being), and the "subjec­tive" view, which seemed inevitably to sever the human being from this reality.
Today we are seeing a breakdown of that line of demarcation—and for some of the same reasons that gave rise to it in the first place. By "some of the same reasons" I mean that this is also happening as a result of phenomenological analyses conducted in the realm of "pure conscious­ness" using Husserl's epoché: bracketing the existence, or reality, of the conscious subject. I am convinced that the line of demarcation between the subjectivistic (idealistic) and objectivistic (realistic) views in anthropology and ethics must break down and is in fact breaking down on the basis of the experience of the human being. This experience auto­matically frees us from pure consciousness as the subject conceived and assumed a priori and leads us to the full concrete existence of the human being, to the reality of the conscious subject. With all the phenomenologi­cal analyses in the realm of that assumed subject (pure consciousness) now at our disposal, we can no longer go on treating the human being exclusively as an objective being, but we must also somehow treat the human being as a subject in the dimension in which the specifically human subjectivity of the human being is determined by consciousness.

And that dimension would seem to be none other than personal sub­jectivity.

This matter requires a fuller examination, in the course of which wemust consider the question of the irreducible in the human being—thequestion of that which is original and essentially human, that which ac­counts for the human being's complete uniqueness in the world.

Traditional Aristotelian anthropology was based, as we know, on the definition o anthropos zoon noetikon, homo est animal rationale. This definition fulfills Aristotle's requirements for defining the species (human being) through its proximate genus (living being) and the feature that distinguishes the given species in that genus (endowed with reason). At the same time, however, the definition is constructed in such a way that it excludes—when taken simply and directly—the possibility of accentuating the irreducible in the human being. It implies—at least at first glance—a belief in the reducibility of the human being to the world. The reason for maintaining such reducibility has always been the need to un­derstand the human being. This type of understanding could be defined as cosmological.
The usefulness of the Aristotelian definition is unquestionable. It be­came the dominant view in metaphysical anthropology and spawned a variety of particular sciences, which likewise understood the human being as an animal with the distinguishing feature of reason. The whole scientific tradition concerning the composition of human nature, the spiritual-material compositum humanum—a tradition that came down from the Greeks through the Scholastics to Descartes—moved within the framework of this definition and, consequently, within the context of the belief that the essentially human is basically reducible to the world. It cannot be denied that vast regions of experience and scientific knowledge based on that experience reflect this belief and work to confirm it.

On the other hand, a belief in the primordial uniqueness of the human being, and thus in the basic irreducibility of the human being to the natural world, seems just as old as the need for reduction expressed in Aristotle's definition. This belief stands at the basis of understanding the human being as a person, which has an equally long tenure in the history of philosophy; it also accounts today for the growing emphasis on the person as a subject and for the numerous efforts aimed at interpreting the personal subjectivity of the human being.1

In the philosophical and scientific tradition that grew out of the defini­tion homo est animal rationale, the human being was mainly an object, one of the objects in the world to which the human being visibly and physically belongs. Objectivity in this sense was connected with the general assumption of the reducibility of the human being. Subjectivity, on the other hand, is, as it were, a term proclaiming that the human being's proper essence cannot be totally reduced to and explained by the proximate genus and specific difference. Subjectivity is, then, a kind of synonym for the irreducible in the human being. If there is an opposition here, it is not between objectivism and subjectivism, but only between two philosophical (as well as everyday and practical) methods of treating the human being: as an object and as a subject. At the same time, we must not forget that the subjectivity of the human person is also something objective.2

I should also emphasize that the method of treating the human being as an object does not result directly from the Aristotelian definition itself, nor does it belong to the metaphysical conception of the human being in the Aristotelian tradition. As we know, the objectivity of the conception of the human being as a being itself required the postulate that the human being is 1) a separate suppositum (a subject of existence and action) and 2) a person(persona). Still, the traditional view of the human being as a person, which understood the person in terms of the Boethian definition as rationalis naturae individua substantia, expressed the individuality of the human being as a substantial being with a rational (spiritual) nature, rather than the uniqueness of the subjectivity essential to the human being as a person. Thus the Boethian definition mainly marked out the "metaphysical terrain"—the dimension of being—in which personal human subjectivity is realized, creating, in a sense, a condition for "build­ing upon" this terrain on the basis of experience.


The category to which we must go in order to do this "building" seems to be that of lived experience. This is a category foreign to Aristotle's metaphysics. The Aristotelian categories that may appear relatively closest to lived experience—those of agere and pate—cannot be identified with it. These categories serve to describe the dynamism of a being, and they also do a good job of differentiating what merely happens in the human being from what the human being does.3 But when the dynamic reality of the human being is interpreted in Aristotelian categories, there is in each case (including in the case of agere and pate) an aspect not directly apprehended by such a metaphysical interpretation or reduction, namely, the aspect of lived experience as the irreducible, as the element that defies reduction. From the point of view of the meta-physical structure of being and acting, and thus also from the point of view of the dynamism of the human being understood meta-physically, the apprehension of this element may seem unnecessary. Even without it, we obtain an adequate under­standing of the human being and of the fact that the human being acts and that things happen in the human being. Such an understanding formed the basis of the entire edifice of anthropology and ethics for many cen­turies.

But as the need increases to understand the human being as a unique and unrepeatable person, especially in terms of the whole dynamism of action and inner happenings proper to the human being—in other words, as the need increases to understand the personal subjectivity of the human being—the category of lived experience takes on greater significance, and, in fact, key significance. For then the issue is not just the metaphysical objectification of the human being as an acting subject, as the agent of acts, but the revelation of the person as a subject experiencing its acts and inner happenings, and with them its own subjectivity. From the mo­ment the need to interpret the acting human being (I'home agissant) is expressed, the category of lived experience must have a place in anthropol­ogy and ethics—and even somehow be at the center of their respective interpretations.4

One might immediately ask whether, by giving lived experience such a key function in the interpretation of the human being as a personal subject, we are not inevitably condemned to subjectivism. Without going into a detailed response, I would simply say that, so long as in this in­terpretation we maintain a firm enough connection with the integral ex­perience of the human being, not only are we not doomed to subjectivism, but we will also safeguard the authentic personal subjectivity of the human being in the realistic interpretation of human existence.

In order to interpret the human being in the context of lived experience, the aspect of consciousness must be introduced into the analysis of human existence. The human being is then given to us not merely as a being defined according to species, but as a concrete self, a self-experiencing subject. Our own subjective being and the existence proper to it (that of a suppositum) appear to us in experience precisely as a self-experiencing subject. If we pause here, this being discloses the structures that determine it as a concrete self. The disclosure of these structures constituting the human self need in no way signify a break with reduction and the species definition of the human being—rather, it signifies the kind of methodological operation that may be described as pausing at the irreducible. We should pause in the process of reduction, which leads us in the direction of understanding the human being in the world (a cosmological type of understanding), in order to understand the human being inwardly. This latter type of understanding may be called personalistic. The personalistic type of understanding the human being is not the antinomy of the cosmological type but its complement. As I mentioned earlier, the definition of the person formulated by Boethius only marks out the "metaphysical ter­rain" for interpreting the personal subjectivity of the human being. 
The experience of the human being cannot be derived by way of cos­mological reduction; we must pause at the irreducible, at that which is unique and unrepeatable in each human being, by virtue of which he or she is not just a particular human being—an individual of a certain species—but a personal subject. Only then do we get a true and complete picture of the human being. We cannot complete this picture through reduction alone; we also cannot remain within the framework of the ir­reducible alone (for then we would be unable to get beyond the pure self). The one must be cognitively supplemented with the other. Never­theless, given the variety of circumstances of the real existence of human beings, we must always leave the greater space in this cognitive effort for the irreducible; we must, as it were, give the irreducible the upper hand when thinking about the human being, both in theory and in practice. For the irreducible also refers to everything in the human being that is invisible and wholly internal and whereby each human being, myself in­cluded, is an "eyewitness" of his or her own self—of his or her own humanity and person.

My lived experience discloses not only my actions but also my inner happenings in their profoundest dependence on my own self. It also dis­closes my whole personal structure of self-determination, in which I dis­cover my self as that through which I possess myself and govern myself—or, at any rate, should possess myself and govern myself. The dynamic structure of self-determination reveals to me that I am given to myself and assigned to myself. This is precisely how I appear to myself in my acts and in my inner decisions of conscience: as permanently as­signed to myself, as having continually to affirm and monitor myself, and thus, in a sense, as having continually to "achieve" this dynamic structure of my self, a structure that is given to me as self-possession and self-governance. At the same time, this is a completely internal and totally immanent structure. It is a real endowment of the personal subject; in a sense, it is this subject. In my lived experience of self-possession and self-governance, I experience that I am a person and that I am a subject.

These structures of self-possession and self-governance, which are es­sential to every personal self and shape the personal subjectivity of every human being, are experienced by each of us in the lived experience of moral value—good and evil. And perhaps this reality is often revealed to us more intensely when it is threatened by evil than when—at least for the moment—nothing threatens it. In any case, experience teaches that the morale is very deeply rooted in thehumanum, or, more precisely, in what should be defined as thepersonals. Morality defines the personalistic dimension of the human being in a fundamental way; it is subjectified in this dimension and can also be properly understood only in it. At the same time, however, the morale is a basic expression of the transcendence proper to the personal self. Our decisions of conscience at each step reveal us as persons who fulfill ourselves by going beyond ourselves toward values accepted in truth and realized, therefore, with a deep sense of responsibility.


This topic has been the subject of many penetrating analyses, some already completed and others ongoing. While not continuing those analyses here, I wish only to state that, when it comes to understanding the human being, the whole rich and complex reality of lived experience is not so much an element or aspect as a dimension in its own right. And this is the dimension at which we must necessarily pause if the subjective structure—including the subjective personal structure—of the human being is to be fully delineated.

What does it mean to pause cognitively at lived experience? This "paus­ing" should be understood in relation to the irreducible. The traditions of philosophical anthropology would have us believe that we can, so to speak, pass right over this dimension, that we can cognitively omit it by means of an abstraction that provides us with a species definition of the human being as a being, or, in other words, with a cosmological type of reduction (homo = animal rationale). One might ask, however, whether in so defining the essence of the human being we do not in a sense leave out what is most human, since the humanum expresses and realizes itself as the personals. If so, then the irreducible would suggest that we cannot come to know and understand the human being in a reductive way alone. This is also what the contemporary philosophy of the subject seems to be telling the traditional philosophy of the object.

But that is not all. The irreducible signifies that which is essentially incapable of reduction, that which cannot be reduced but can only be disclosed or revealed. Lived experience essentially defies reduction. This does not mean, however, that it eludes our knowledge; it only means that we must arrive at the knowledge of it differently, namely, by a method or means of analysis that merely reveals and discloses its essence. The method of phenomenological analysis allows us to pause at lived ex­perience as the irreducible. This method is not just a descriptive cataloging of individual phenomena (in the Kantian sense, i.e., phenomena as sense-perceptible contents). When we pause at the lived experience of the ir­reducible, we attempt to permeate cognitively the whole essence of this experience. We thus apprehend both the essentially subjective structure of lived experience and its structural relation to the subjectivity of the human being. Phenomenological analysis thus contributes to trans-phenomenal understanding; it also contributes to a disclosure of the rich­ness proper to human existence in the whole complex compositum humanum.

Such a disclosure—the deepest possible disclosure—would seem to be an indispensable means for coming to know the human being as a personal subject. At the same time, this personal human subjectivity is a deter­minate reality: it is a reality when we strive to understand it within the objective totality that goes by the name human being. The same applies to the whole character of this method of understanding. After all, lived experience is also—and above all—a reality. A legitimate method of dis­closing this reality can only enrich and deepen the whole realism of the conception of the human being. The personal profile of the human being then enters the sphere of cognitive vision, and the composition of human nature, far from being blurred, is even more distinctly accentuated. The thinker seeking the ultimate philosophical truth about the human being no longer moves in a "purely metaphysical terrain," but finds elements in abundance testifying to both the materiality and the spirituality of the human being, elements that bring both of these aspects into sharper relief. These elements then form the building blocks for further philosophical construction.

But certain questions always remain: Are these two types of understanding the human being—the cosmological and the personalistic—ultimately mutually exclusive? Where, if at all, do reduction and the disclosure of the irreducible in the human being converge? How is the philosophy of the subject to disclose the objectivity of the human being in the personal subjectivity of this being? These seem to be the questions that today determine the perspective for thinking about the human being, the perspective for con­temporary anthropology and ethics. They are essential and burning ques­tions. Anthropology and ethics must be pursued today within this challenging but promising perspective.

1.   One such effort is my book Osoba i czyn [Person and Action] (Krakow: Polskie Tow. Teologiczne, 1969; rev. ed. 1985). [English edition: The Acting Per­son, trans. Andrzej Potocki, ed. Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (Boston: Reidel, 1979).] Another even more relevant work in this regard is my essay "The Person: Subject and Community" 219-261 below.
2.   See the section entitled "Subjectivity and Subjectivism" in The Acting Person 56-59.
3.   My work The Acting Person is in large measure constructed upon this basis.
4.   One can observe this by comparing my book The Acting Person with Mieczyslaw A. Krapiec's book I—Man: An Outline of Philosophical Anthropology, trans. Marie Lescoe, Andrew Woznicki, Theresa Sandok et al. (New Britain: Mariel, 1983).

Karol WoJtyla, "Podmiotowosci I 'to, co nieredukowalne' w eflowieku,"Ethos 1.2-3 (1988): 21-28. paper sent to an international conference in Paris (13-14 June 1975).

[1] “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 [subject], a Catholic and a member of the Church;” Sources of Renewal, Harper and Row (1979) 17.

In Memoriam: Charles E. Rice


I met Charlie at Windmoor in 1969 and you couldn't help but love him. There was a Christ about him, lover and tough as nails (on himself). He named one of his dogs "Chesty" after a previous head of the Marine Corp. He always deferred to his wife Mary in matters of the heart and laser sharp in those of the head. Contraception was always the bulls-eye
   But to show the greatness of the man, he sent me the manuscript of his book "50 Questions of Natural Law." I critiqued it as two books without a connection. The first half was a clear and coherent presentation of the traditional neo scholastic understanding of theology and philosophy while the second was a rather coherent presentation of the development that took place in Vatican II with the Trinitarian and Christological grounding of man and natural law which is ultimately more realist. We had talked about all that years before using Joseph Ratzinger's understanding of man as relational, not substantial as thing-in-itself. He claimed to understand that (and he was much brighter than I), but in the manuscript.of "50 Questions" he did not acknowledge that development and it showed by the.incoherence. I called him on the phone, explained what I saw, or thought I saw, and by the end of the phone call, he agreed and changed the book. It was a profound example of Charlie's excellence of mind and heart at the service of the Truth. Love him. Pray for us, Charlie!.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

First Sunday of Lent 2015

In this first Sunday of Lent, Let’s recall Benedict XVI’s take on the three temptations. They are all about the use of the extraordinary to overcome temptation: to use supernatural power to change stones into bread = to transform the Christian message into a political/economic one (akin to Marxism); to throw Himself from the temple top and be saved by some supernatural miracle = to seek extraordinary sensible signs to convince people of the truth of Christ; and to change the world into a global Christian theocracy = to transform Christianity into a global political ideology.

         The extraordinary is always working on the epistemological level of sensible perception and conceptual or propositional knowing.  It is always working with the sensibly extrinsic, the empirical/scientific: the technological.

         Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things, cannot be known except by migrating to the transcendent level on which He can be experienced as person. Of course, Christ was experienced sensibly (“Feel me and see” Lk. 24), Even John the Baptist slipped from that level evidenced by the question at the end of his life: “Are you he who is to come, or should we look for another?” And the answer was to look at the mercy of Christ giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, etc. in secret. But, Ratzinger commented on this passage saying that you can’t find Christ as you find dollar bills and neon signs. You have to sacrifice yourself in service to the others in order to experience the Christ that is passing you by in ordinary life. If you go out of yourself thinking about others and not thinking about yourself, you will recognize Him.

         And so, Lent is calling us out to the peripheries.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Isis: We are the Problem

Re: Muslim Extremism, We Are The Problem


Joseph Ratzinger:

After the collapse of Communism, Josef Ratzinger published an interview[14] in 1993 in which he answered the question: “How do you analyze this divorce between faith and modernity? Ratzinger: “It is explained by the encroachment of relativism and subjectivism, an inevitable consequence of a world overwhelmed by the alleged certainties of natural or applied science. Only what can be tested and proved appears as rational. Experience has become the only criterion guaranteeing truth. Anything that cannot be subjected to mathematical or experimental verification is regarded as irrational.

“This restriction of reason has the result that we are left in almost total darkness regarding some essential dimensions of life. The meaning of man, the bases of ethics, the question of God cannot be subjected to rational experience, verified by mathematical formulae. And so they are left to subjective sensibility alone. This is serious because if, in a society, the bases of ethical behavior are abandoned to subjectivity alone, released from common motives for being and living, handed over to pragmatism, then it is man himself who is threatened.

“The great ideologies have been able to give a certain ethical foundation to society. But today, Marxism is crumbling and liberal ideology is so split into fragments that it no longer has a common, solid, coherent view of man and his future. In the present situation of emptiness, there looms the terrible danger of nihilism, that is to say, the denial or absence of all fundamental moral reference for the conduct of social life. This danger becomes visible in the new forms of terrorism.”

In the West, this terrorism takes the form of the quiet elimination of the person as a subject and rendering him an object. The restriction of reason to the scientific method renders any and every other experience outside of the empirically measurable-sensible as “irrational” and obligatorily to be reduced. Every experience of the subject as Being must be reduced to the object. It must be rendered “legible to the computer.” In another place, Benedict had written: “The Book of the Apocalypse speaks of the enemy of God, the beast. The beast – the counterpower – does not bear a name but a number – 666 – the sees tells us. The beast is a number and translates into numbers. What that means is known to us who have experienced the world of the concentration camps: Its horror was due to the fact that the camps obliterated faces, annihilated history, and turned human beings into interchangeable parts of a huge machine. Human beings were identified by their functions, nothing more. Today we must fear that the concentration camps were only a prelude, and that the world, in accord with the universal law of the machine, may adapt itself completely to the organization of the concentration camps. For in a place where only functions exist, human beings can only be a kind of a function. The machines that human beings have constructed will stamp on people the sign of the machines. It is necessary to render human beings legible to the computer, and this is only possible if human beings are translated into figures. Everything else remaining in human beings becomes unimportant. Whatever is not a function is nothing. The beast is a number that transforms people into numbers. But God has names and calls us by name. He is a Person who seeks other persons. He has a countenance and he seeks our countenances. He has a heart, and he seeks our hearts. For him we are not functions of the great machine of the world; precisely those persons who have no automatic function are is people. To have a name means the possibility of being called, and it means communion. For this reason Christ is the true Moses, the fulfillment of the revelation of the name. He did not come to bring a new word as a name, but much more; he was himself the fact of God, he was the name of God; he was the possibility even for God to be called `you,’ to be called as a Person and as heart.”[15]


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.