Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Thumbnail Sketch of Opus Dei as Prelature (delayed from Nov. 28)


1. One vocation for lay faithful, be they married or celibate, and ministerial priests. All share sacramentally in the one priesthood of Christ, be it the sacrament of Baptism or Orders. Priesthood means “mediation,” which consists in the gift of self. Each becomes “priest of his own existence” by subduing self, getting possession of self so as to be able to make the gift of the self now possessed. All make the gift of their “I” to Jesus Christ either in service to their family and the world by the exercise of their secular work, or the ministers by their service in persona Christi to the layfaithful.

Hence, there is a “radical equality” of all as being “other Christs” (as priests with “priestly soul”) with the “functional diversity” of exercising the gift of self in a plurality of objective ways. A key concept is to understand the equality on the level of the subject, and the diversity on the level of the object. Sanctity as subject can be exercised in a universality of objective states and ways.

2. Communio: This is the social reality – the ontological unum - of the constitutive relation between laity and priests whereby one cannot be who each is without the other. As “a little bit of the Church,”[1] Opus Dei is the “aboriginal relationship obtaining in the Church between christifideles – called to live out the requirements and implications of their baptism – and sacred ministers, who bring in, besides, the `ministerial’ consequences of the sacrament of Order.”[2]

3. The Father. The self gift in a communio such as family or Church is impossible without the dynamizing force of being loved. Benedict XVI said: “Of ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our `I’ becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become acceptable to another `I.’ We can love ourselves only if we have first been loved by someone else. The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life; she gives total life when she takes the child’s tears and turns them into smiles.”[3]

The task of dynamizing the gift of self in Opus Dei falls to the Prelate who has been known and called from the beginning (1928), “Father.” Rodriguez remarked: “We ought to say that in Opus Dei’s institutional life and in its members’ relations with their prelate, what is decisive is neither his `jurisdiction’ nor their obedience. Rather, what truly defines Opus Dei’s prelate is his `fatherhood,’ his role as a pastor who is a father to all the prelature’s faithful. That is why in Opus Dei he is usually called, `Father.’ The prelate’s role in the life of Opus Dei deeply configures the prelature. Therefore it is important to consider it when determining the ecclesial profile of the social arrangement lived therein.”[4]

4. Secularity. “Pope Paul VI said the Church `has an authentic secular dimension, inherent to her inner nature and mission, which is deeply rooted in the mystery of the Word Incarnate, and which is realized in different forms through her members.”
The meaning of secularity is taken from the relation of the human will of Jesus Christ to His Divine Person. Then-Joseph Ratzinger remarked in his 1985 retreat to John Paul II: “The Council of Constantinople has analyzed concretely the problem of the two natures and one person in Christ in view of the problem of the will of Jesus. We are reminded firmly that there exists a specific will of the man Jesus that is not absorbed into the divine will. But this human will follows the divine will and thus becomes a single will with it, not, however, in a forced way but by way of freedom. The metaphysical duplicity of a human will and a divine will is not eliminated, but in the personal sphere, the area of freedom there is accomplished a fusion of the two, so that this becomes not one single natural will but one personal will. This free union – a mode of union created by love – is a union higher and more intimate than a purely natural union. It corresponds to the highest union which can exist, the union of the Trinity… The Council explains this union by a saying of the Lord given in the Gospel of John: `I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 38). Here the divine Logos is speaking, and speaking of the human will of Jesus in the mode by which he calls his will the will of the Logos. With this exegesis of John 6, 38, the Council proves the unity of the subject: In Jesus there are not two `I,’ but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought of Jesus using the `I;’ this has become his `I,’ has been assumed into his `I,’ because the human will has become fully one with the will of the Logos, and with it has become pure assent to the will of the Father.”[5]

The concluding point is that the human will of Jesus Christ has the Being and the autonomy of the divine Person of the Logos. It continues to be human, yet with the freedom of God to be total self-gift. Here, remember that the prototype of the human person is the divine Person of Jesus Christ (Gaudium et spes #22). Christ is the meaning of man. There is no adequate anthropology that is not Christological. We were created in view of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1, 4: "He chose us in him before the constitution of the world"). It is this freedom of self-determination given to us in view of Christ that we are able to achieve an autonomy that is not absolute, but, as they say, “theonomy” (see Veritatis Splendor #41) as relative to the relationality of being loved by God. This attitude of autonomy that is rooted in the metaphysics of an “I” that can master self, own self and give self is “secularity.”

The secularity that is “dimension” for the entire Church (including clerics and religious) is “characteristic” for the laity because it is precisely their involvement in secular work and family life that is the occasion and locus for the this gift of self that is “secularity” as well as – as we saw above – the priesthood of all the faithful (See christifideles laici #15)

For this reason, St. Josemaria Escriva always referred to “priestly soul” and “lay mentality” as the distinguishing characteristic of the spirit of Opus Dei.

[1] Pedro Rodriguez, “The Place of Opus Dei in the Church,” Opus Dei in the Church Scepter (1995) 1
[2] Ibid. 38.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Scepter (1987) 79-80.
[4] Pedro Rodriguez, op. cit. 56.
[5] J. Ratzinger, “Journey Towards Easter,” Crossroad, (1987) 88-89.

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