Monday, December 18, 2006

The Defined Relation of the Human and the Divine cum Theological Interpretation

Magisterial Texts on Christology

The text of Chalcedon (451):

“Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all teach that with one accord we confess one and the same son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in human nature, truly God and the same with a rational soul and a body truly man, consubstantial with the Father according to divinity, and consubstantial with us, according to human nature, like unto us in all things except sin,; indeed born of the Father before the ages according to divine nature, but in the last days the same born of the virgin Mary, Mother of God according to human nature; for us and for our deliverance, one and the same Christ only begotten Son our Lord, acknowledged in two natures, without mingling, without change, indivisibly, undividedly, the distinction of the natures nowhere removed on account of the union but rather the peculiarity of each nature being kept, and uniting in one person and substance, not divided or separated into two persons, but one and the same son only begotten God Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as from the beginning the prophets taught about Him and the Lord Jesus Himself taught us, and the creed of our fathers has handed down to us.”

The Text of Constantinople III (680-681):

“And we proclaim equally two natural volitions or wills in him and two natural principles of action which undergo no division, no change, no partition, no confusion, in accordance with the teaching of the holy fathers. And the two natural wills not in opposition, as the impious heretics said, far from it, but his human will following, and not resisting or struggling, rather in fact subject to his divine and all powerful will. For the will of the flesh had to be moved, and yet to be subjected to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius. For just as his flesh is said to be and is flesh of the Word of God, so too the natural will of his flesh is said to and does belong to the Word of God, just as he says himself: I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me, calling his own will that of his flesh, since his flesh too became his own. For in the same way that his all holy and blameless animate flesh was not destroyed in being made divine but remained in its own limit and category, so his human will as well was not destroyed by being made divine, but rather was preserved, according to the theologian Gregory, who says: "For his willing, when he is considered as saviour, is not in opposition to God, being made divine in its entirety"… Therefore, protecting on all sides the "no confusion" and "no division", we announce the whole in these brief words: Believing our lord Jesus Christ, even after his incarnation, to be one of the holy Trinity and our true God, we say that he has two natures [naturas] shining forth in his one subsistence[subsistentia] in which he demonstrated the miracles and the sufferings throughout his entire providential dwelling here, not in appearance but in truth, the difference of the natures being made known in the same one subsistence in that each nature wills and performs the things that are proper to it in a communion with the other; then in accord with this reasoning we hold that two natural wills and principles of action meet in correspondence for the salvation of the human race."

The key to understanding the unity of the divine and human in Christ is to understand that there is one divine Person Who has taken the humanity of the man Jesus of Nazareth epitomized in the human will as His own. It is critical to understand that it is not the will that wills, but the person. That is, the divine Person wills with His own human will. Only this can make sense of Jn. 6, 38: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” The divine “I” does not do His own human will, but that of the Father. The dynamic of self-mastery consists in the Person subduing the human will that has been “made to be sin” (2 Cor. 5, 21). [1] In a word, this is the radical self-gift of the Son as God-man.
Put more clearly, the relation of the divine and the human in Christ is not a parallelism of two natures bound together by the commonality of a Person as substance in itself. Rather, it is the compenetration of the divine and the human by the fact that the divine Person has taken the human will as His own and He, the divine Person, wills with the human will. The result is the “compenetration” of the two “wills,” the divine and the human because it is one and the same Person doing the willing.
And yet, the human will does not lose its autonomy and freedom, but rather has it radically enhanced by the fact that it is a divine Person living out the Trinitarian relation to the Father, now as man with a human will.

Josef Ratzinger

(“Journey Towards Easter”[2])

The Christian Meaning of “Communio”
- and its Roots –

“A brief analysis of the roots of the Christian usage of the word `communion’ can show us how the stages of development in the human spirit are directed towards Christ and how in the Lord is realized the synthesis of separate or even opposed elements in human thought.

“1. A primary origin of the Christian word communio appears to be a long way off from the religious and spiritual world, but it is precisely this profane root which has become important; we shall meet it in our last meditation, and therefore I will limit myself here to a brief reference.

“In the account of St. Peter’s call (Lk. 5, 10) we read that James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were koinonoi of Simon, that is his `partners’ in the fishing. In other words: the three constitute a `cooperative,’ they are proprietors of a small enterprise, of which Simon is the manager. `You shall be fishers of men:’ in the conference on the priesthood we shall meditate on the marvelous transformation of this cooperative of Simon’s into the `communion’ of the Church. The fishing koinonia (communion, cooperative) becomes the koinonia of the fish wrapped in mystery, Christ.

“2. The second root of the Christian word communio is to be found in the Hebrew world. In our mediation of Holy Thursday we have already shown that the chaburah of the Hebrews corresponds to the koinonia of the Greeks; this word too, indicates a cooperative, a society of common work and common values, But naturally the particular situations of Hebrew society are reflected in the word, adding specific aspects to its meaning. Essentially there are three. The Pharisees as a group already called themselves chaburah in the first century BC; the Rabbis came to be called the same by the end of the second century; and finally also the community gathered in for the Passover meal (at least ten people). In this last significance the mystery of the Church appears again. The Church is the chaburah in a very profound sense: it is the community of Jesus’ Pasch, the family that fulfills his eternal desire to eat the Pasch with us (cf. Lk. 22, 15). His Pasch is more than a meal; it is love unto death. His Pasch is therefore the participation in his own life, shared in his death for all, communicated in this anticipation of death which is realized when he says, `Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you. Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you ad for al so that sins may be forgiven.’

“Here we find in a very clear fashion what is specific of the New Testament, what is new in the `New.’ In the Old Testament also the ultimate intention of sacrifice and meal is the communion between God and his people. But the word chaburah – communion – is never used to express the relation between God and the human race; it means exclusively relations between human beings. Between God and humans there is no communion: the transcendence of the Creator is insuperable. The relationship actually existing between God and human being is not expressed by the word `communion’ but with the term ‘covenant’ (testament: berith). This terminology signifies both the superiority of God, who alone can take the initiative of forming a relationship, and the distance permanent within the relationship. For that reason some exegetes refuse to translate berith as covenant: covenant expresses a certain equality between the partners, which on the contrary does not exist in the relation between God and human beings. In conclusion, the Old Testament does not know a communion between God and the human race: the New Testament conversely is communion.

Clarifications: The Old Testament had no “communio” (which involves equality of the protagonists) but asymmetrical “covenant” that meant “testament” (which is unilateral). For example, in the Old Testament, God is completely asymmetrical to man: the law is an action by which the king binds his vassals and makes them such; grace is an action that is freely given without any preceding merit. This corresponds to the idea of God’s greatness and sovereignty which flows from the fact that He is the ontological Creator of everything. Creation from nothing is unilateral.

this is not fully true in that God bound Himself with Abraham. God creates symmetry between Himself and man, and thereby grounds the communio that is to come in Christ. In the "mysterious account of the making of the covenant with Abraham… the patriarch, in oriental fashion, divides the sacrificial animals into two parts. As a rule, the covenant partners pass between the divided animal halves, thereby invoking a conditional curse upon themselves: let it be to me as to these animals if I break the covenant. Abraham has a vision of a smoking oven and a blazing torch – images of theophany – passing between the animal parts. God seal the covenant by guaranteeing his faithfulness in an unmistakable symbol of death. Is it possible, then, for God to die? Can he punish himself?" (J. Ratzinger, "Many Religions - One Covenant" Ignatius [1999] 73).

“3. While the Old Testament opposes the transcendence and the uniqueness of God to pagan polytheism, and has consequently to reject the beautiful concept of communion between God and humankind, in the pagan world this concept was central to religion[RAC1] (see below). Plato speaks in his Symposion of the reciprocal communion between the gods and men and explains that this communion is the ultimate intention and the most profound content of the sacrifice, of worship. In the final analysis, he says, worship is concerned with nothing else than love’s care and cure. What a foreshadowing of the truth of Christ! Let us add that for Greek mysticism also communion between the divinity, human beings, and all relational beings, is a central concept, but the true desire of this mysticism is union, not communion, with the divinity: in the end it is identity, not relation. If Philo distances himself from the traditional Hebrew terminology and in the framework of Greek mysticism he too speaks of the koinonia between God and worshipper, we may well speak of a certain hellenization of Hebrew thought. But if in the New Testament the Church is communion, not only between persons but, by means of the mystery of death and resurrection of Jesus, it is communion with Christ, man and son of God – and therefore with the eternal love of the Trinity – this is not the result of a new thought synthesis but rather the fruit of a new reality. The one and only transcendent God of the Old Testament reveals his inmost life; he reveals that he is in himself the eternal dialogue of love. Since he is in himself relation, he is word and love and therefore can speak, listen, respond, love[RAC2] . Since he is relation, he can open himself to a relation of the creature with himself. In the Incarnation of the eternal Word is realized that communion between God and humankind that at first seemed incompatible with the transcendence of the one and only God (all the emphasis is mine).

“Plato’s affirmation that things pertaining to worship are concerned with communion between the gods and the human race and that all this belongs to the safeguarding and healing of love, now takes on a new significance. Let us note that Plato is not speaking of God but of gods, and that Greek mysticism also does not speak of God but of the divinity. [The gods in Plato are “thought synthesis:” i.e. abstractions like “divinity,” instead of “God”]. In Jesus we have something totally new: that the one and only personal God really communicates with human beings, incarnating himself in human nature. Divine nature and human nature compenetrated - `inconfuse et indivise’ – in the person of Christ. It would be absurd to want to see here a hellenization of Christianity out of a desire to return to pure Hebrew origins. To do such a thing would be simply to renounce the newness of Christianity. In reality the Incarnation is the new synthesis drawn by God himself, going beyond the limits of the Old Testament, assuming the whole heredity but bringing to it the riches of every culture: the Incarnation is reconciliation, it is communion of those once at enmity (cf. Eph. 2, 11-22), of Jews and pagans, and in the fields of thought as well. The charge of hellenization and the purist return to Hebraic origins signify a want of comprehension of the essence of Christianity.
The charge of Hellenization is absurd in the face of the reality of Jesus Christ

“4. In 1 Cor. 10, 16 ff:

[“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation of the blood of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread’”]

we find the heart of Christianity explained by means of the word `participation’ – communion. In this passage of Scripture the central premise of our argument finally appears: the enduring origin of ecclesiastical communion is founded on Christology; Christ Incarnate is the communion between God and humankind; the essence of Christianity is fundamentally nothing other than participation in the mystery of the Incarnation, or, using a formula from St. Paul, the Church, as Church, is the body of Christ. If we accept this truth the indivisibility of Church and Eucharist, communion and community, is entirely clear. In the light of this statement the words of St. Paul concerning our problem, or better, our mystery, are explained without difficulty. `The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread’ (1 Cor. 10, 16 ff). For St. Augustine these verses formed the core of his theology, and his homilies for Easter are in fact an exegesis of these words. By eating the same bread we become what we eat. This bread – he says in his Confessions – is the food of the strong. The usual foods are less strong than the person taking them and in the last analysis this is to their purpose: they are assimilated into the organism of the one eating them. But this food is superior to the person taking it, it is the stronger, and therefore the purpose is inverted: the person becomes assimilated to Christ, becomes bread like him: `We being many are one bread, one body.’ The consequence is obvious: the Eucharist is not a dialogue for two only, a private meeting between Christ and myself: Eucharistic communion is a total transformation of my life. This communion discloses the `I’ of a person and creates a new `we.’ Communion with Christ is necessarily communication also with all `his;’ I thus become part of this new bread which he creates by the transubstantiation of earthly beings.

“Now we may see the close connection between the notion of communio and the concept of the Church the body of Christ as well as the images of Christ, the true vine, or the fig tree, symbols of the people of god. These biblical concepts demonstrate once again the dependence of the community of Christians on Christ. The community of Christians is not to be explained in purely horizontal fashion: a two-way relationship with the Lord is the condition of its existence; we can also say: the Church is relationship realized by the love of the Lord, which creates also a new relationship with us. With the fine words of Plato we can say that the Eucharist is really `love’s healing.’”


[“Behold the Pierced One’]

Thesis 6: “The so-called Neo-Chalcedonian theology which is summed up in the Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) makes an important contribution to a proper grasp of the inner unity of biblical and dogmatic theology, of theology and religious life. Only from this standpoint does the dogma of Chalcedon (451) yield it full meaning.”

“It is common enough for the theological textbooks to pay scant attention to the theological development which followed Chalcedon. In many ways on e is left with the impression that dogmatic Christology comes to a stop with a certain parallelism of the two natures in Christ. It was this same impression that led to the divisions in the wake of Chalcedon. In fact, however, the affirmation of the true humanity and the true divinity in Christ can only retain its meaning if the mode of the unity of both is clarified. The Council defined this unity by speaking of the `one Person’ in Christ, but it was a formula which remained to be explored in its implications. For the unity of divinity and humanity in Christ which brings `salvation’ to man is not a juxtaposition but a mutual indwelling. Only in this way can there be that genuine `becoming like God,’ without which there is no liberation and no freedom.

“It was to this question, after two centuries of dramatic struggles which also, in many ways, bore the mark of imperial politics, that the Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) addressed itself. On the one hand, it teaches that the unity of God and man in Christ involves no amputation or reduction in any way of human nature. In conjoining himself to man, his creature, God does not violate or diminish him; in doing so, he brings him for the first time to his real fullness. On the other hand (and this is no less important), it abolishes all dualism or parallelism of the two natures, such as had always seemed necessary in order to safeguard Jesus’ human freedom. In such attempts it had been forgotten that when the human will is taken up into the will of God, freedom is not destroyed; indeed, only then does genuine freedom come into its own. The Council of Constantinople analyzed the question of the two-ness and the one-ness in Christ by reference to the concrete issue of the will of Jesus. It resolutely maintains that, as man, Jesus has a human will which is not absorbed by the divine will. But this human will follows the divine will and thus becomes one will with it, not in a natural manner but along the path of freedom. The metaphysical two-ness of a human and a divine will is not abrogated, but in the realm of the person, in the realm of freedom, the fusion of both takes place, with the result that they become one will not naturally, but personally. This free unity – a form of unity created by love – is higher and more interior than a merely natural unity. It corresponds to the highest unity there is, namely, Trinitarian unity. The Council illustrates this unity by citing a dominical word handed down to us in the Gospel of John: `I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 38). Here it is the divine Logos who is speaking, and he speaks of the human will of the man Jesus as his will, the will of the Logos. With this exegesis of John 6, 38 the Council indicates the unity of the subject in Christ. There are not two `I’s in him, but only one. The Logos speaks in the I-form of the human will and mind of Jesus; it has become his I, has become adopted into his I, because the human will is completely one with the will of the Logos. United with the latter, it has become a pure Yes to the Father’s will.

Immediate Practical Application:

Secularity stands as a personalist peak between Western secularism – be it capitalist or Marxist and Islamic theocracy. The latter two are reductionist objectifications of the political reality of the human person. Concerning the former, Benedict XVI has said that we have not seen the last of Marxism[5] since we have not yet answered its fundamental question about the reality of the transcendent God. Left unanswered, it will return.

Concerning Islam, he said: “the attempt to graft on to Islamic societies what are termed western standards cut loose from their Christian foundations misunderstands the internal logic of Islam as well as the historical logic to which these western standards belong, and hence this attempt was condemned to fail in this form. The construction of society in Islam is theocratic, and therefore monist and not dualist; dualism, which is the precondition for freedom presupposes for its part the logic of the Christian thing [read; faith]. In practice this means that it is only where the duality of Church and state, of the sacral and the political authority, remains maintained in some form or another that the fundamental pre-condition exists for freedom. Where the Church itself becomes the state freedom becomes lost. But also when the Church is done away with as a public and publicly relevant authority, then too freedom is extinguished, because there the state once again claims completely for itself the justification of morality; in the profane post-Christian world it does not admittedly do this in the form of sacral authority but as an ideological authority – that means that the state becomes the party, and since there can no longer be any other authority of the same rank it once again becomes total itself. The ideological state is totalitarian; it must become ideological if it is not balanced by a free but publicly recognized authority of conscience. When this kind of duality does not exist the totalitarian system in unavoidable

“With this the fundamental task of the Church’s political stance, as I understand it, has been defined; its aim must be to maintain this balance of a dual system as the foundation of freedom. Hence the Church must make claims and demands on public law and cannot simply retreat into the private sphere. Hence it must also take care on the other hand that Church and State remain separated and that belonging to the Church clearly retains its voluntary character.”[6]

[1] “Made to be sin” is to enter into the loneliness of sin as the rejection of the Triune God, and therefore of the others. This is Benedict’s interpretation of Jesus death cry, `My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Mark 15, 34) which is the first and only time that Jesus refers to the Father as “El” and not as “Abba.” Benedict says: “In this last prayer of Jesus , as in the scene on the Mount of Olives, what appears as the innermost heart of his passion is not any physical pain but radical loneliness, complete abandonment;” “Introduction to Christianity,” op. cit 227.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Journey Towards Easter,” Crossroad (1987).
[3] Josef Ratzinger, “Journey Towards Easter,” Crossroad, (1987) 133-137.
[4] Ratzinger comments: “The central distinction which is fundamental to the Council (and which has received scant attention up to now) was worked out by Maximus the Confessor: he distinguishes the Thelema Physikon which belongs to the naturae and thus exists separately in Christ’s godhead and manhood, from the `gnomic’ thelema `which is identical with the liberum arbitrium and pertain to the person; in Christ it can only be a single thelema, since he subsists in the divine Person’ (Beck 41). Thus `much that had earlier been regarded as Monophysite… could be taken into spiritually’ (Beck 43). Once this basic idea of Constantinople III, which is central to Neo-Chalcedonian Christology, based on Pannenberg, are futile, resting on a misunderstanding. In Theo. Berichte 2, 29, Wiederkehr speaks of the `symmetrical path of the two-natures doctrine’ under the influence of the `two wills’ decision and thinks that it resulted from the idea `of an internal Christological dialogue… between a divine and a human nature.’ Thus he can rightly object that `there is nothing of this in the Jesus of the synoptics.’ `As far as the man Jesus is concerned, his dialogue partner is the Father, not his own self in his divine nature and person.’ This assertion, which he opposes to Neo-Chalcedonism, is in fact precisely the view of Constantinople III, except that the latter works out its ontological and existential structure very much more thoroughly than Widerkehr. Pannenberg (Jesus, God and Man, 1968) formulates it thus: “`Person’ is a relational concept, and, because the relation of Jesus to the Father in his dedication to him is identical with the eternal Person of the Son of God’ (339). It seems to me, if I read him correctly, that Pannenberg too fails to see that he is thinking along sthe same lines as Constantinople III (and Maximus the Confessor). In fact he is concentrating rather on the dispute with Leontius of Byzantium. From this point of view… etc., etc.
[5] “The essential problem of our times, for Europe and for the world, is that although the fallacy of the Communist economy has been recognized, its moral and religious fallacy has not been addressed. The unresolved issue of Marxism lives on: the crumbling of man’s original uncertainties about God, himself, and the universe. The decline of a moral conscience grounded in absolute values is still our problem, and left untreated, it can lead to the self-destruction of the European conscience, which we must begin to consider as a real danger – above and beyond the decline predicted by Spengler;” Benedict XVI, “Europe and Its Discontents,” First Things, January 2006, 20.
[6] Joseph Ratzinger, “Theology and the Church’s Political Stance,” Church, Ecumenism and Politics, Crossroad (1987) 162-163.

[RAC1]For Greek pagan mysticism, there is communion as union with the gods, BUT it isn’t real. The concept is there but not the reality.
Therefore, in sum, the Jews had real covenant with the beginnings of communio. But, they weren’t able to establish an ontological communio until Christ was both God and man in Person.

[RAC2]Only with the revelation by God Himself that He is Love (Agape), the ontologically impossible now takes place. God Himself crosses the impossible vastness of the infinite difference between Creator and creature, and continuing to be Creator, becomes this individual creature. And the creature, without losing the nano-but-real existence that is given him as an autonomy, exists with the existence of the Second Divine Person. Communio between divine and human now takes place as “compenetration,” not “parallelism.” This is the prototype of all relation between divine and human: e.g. faith and reason; supernatural and natural; grace and nature; Church and State; priest and layman