Sunday, January 14, 2007

"Broadening Reason" - Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord,

The import of Regensburg:

“The intention here is … broadening our concept of reason and its applications… We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirical falsifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons.”

The limitations imposed on reason: 1) positivism; 2) an incomplete account of the origin of knowledge. on its two levels: consciousness and concepts.

1) Positivism: Ratzinger: “Only what can be tested and proved appears as rational. [Sensible] 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.”[1]

2) The classical epistemology of knowing:

a) Reality (Being) as the Measure of Cognition: “A basic principle of any realist epistemology is this: `Objects are the measure of our knowledge.’[2][3]

St. Thomas: “Created things, from which our intellect receives knowledge, give the measure to our intellect. But they have received their measure from the divine intellect, in which all created things are as all objects of art are in the mind of the artist. Thus, the divine intellect gives the measure and does not receive the measure. But created things both give and receive the measure. But our intellect, in regard to natural objects, is receptive of the measure and does not give the measure. It does this only in regard to artifacts.”[4]

“The statement that objective reality is the measure of our knowledge means precisely this: the real objects are the pre-forms and models of that which our mind cognitively forms and actually is. The world of knowledge is `pre-formed’ in the objective world of being; the latter is the original image, the former the copy. The intellect `in act’ is of its nature an imitation; it has an essential relation to something anterior in its nature. This something which naturally precedes all cognition is reality. The intellect is not `of itself;’ it is something secondary and essentially dependent. `The intellect receives its measure from objects; that is, human knowledge is true not of itself, but it is true because and insofar as it conforms to reality.’”[5]

b) The Identity of Mind and Reality: “in knowledge the intellect and the known reality become one;[6] `the intellect is wholly – that is, in a perfect manner, the known object;’ `the soul becomes, so to speak, transformed into the real object;’ the act of knowledge brings about identity between the mind and reality.’”[7]

The “Form” as Image (Medum Between the Real and the Intellect).

How? “The identity between the intellect and the object, a true and actual self-sameness, is brought about by the immaterial, spiritual image of reality which impresses itself upon the intellect, as the seal impresses itself upon the wax. `The intellect is the known reality through the intelligible image of the reality.’ In the image, the super-material core of `what-ness’ of the real, formed by the creative intellect and adapted to cognition on the part of the created intellect, presents itself. It is the proper task of the spontaneous power of our mind (called intellectus agens by Saint Thomas [S. Th. I, 79, 3; 4] which shares in and resembles the original divine spontaneity, to free this super-material core of `what-ness,’ is prepared and made possible, as the reality is raised to the state of immediate knowability.

“The intelligible image, then, is on the one hand a representation of reality;” [This is the “concept”] “indeed, in the `what’ it is identical with the objective reality. `The intelligible image is in a certain sense the essence and nature of the reality itself, not according to natural being, but according to intelligible being.’ But `natural being’ and `intelligible being’ are two ways of being, so to speak, of the same reality.”
[8] [That “reality” is the “form” that is both in the thing and in the intellect but in different modes of existing, the one real and the other mental].

The intellect is “nothing with regard to reality” without the “form:”

The intelligible image which is impressed upon the intellect becomes the interior essential form of the cognitive power, which is raised to `act’ through this formation; that is, which realizes is potentiality. Before the intellect is `in act,’ it is, Aristotle says in his book on the soul [Book III, 429 a] `nothing in regard to reality.’ And Saint Thomas says, `The potential capacity of our intellect has the same place in the order of cognition that prime matter has in the order of natural objects.’ [S. Th. I, 14, 2 ad 3] This means that our intellect, like prime matter at the beginning of creation, is a substantial potentiality of being, a pure possibility, receptive of being, not yet qualitatively or quantitatively determined, but awaiting determination and formation, until it rises to the point of self-realization by means of the intellectual images of the real.”[9]

Francisco Ferrara de Silvestre (1474-1528): Commentator of St. Thomas

“But because every being is what it is by virtue of its interior form it follows that the intelligence in act is the known reality in itself. For it knows in act because and insofar as the interior form of the known reality is within it. He who knows a stone is a stone, for all that possesses the interior form of a stone is a stone. However, we cannot say that the intellect which knows a stone is simply and absolutely a stone, for the essential form of the stone exists in the intellect in an intelligible way and not in its natural existence. Hence, the intellect which knows a stone is a stone in an intelligible way. The intelligence, then, which is transformed by the intelligible image of a reality can called the reality itself because it possesses the form by which the reality is what it is.”


Broaden Reason

The Regensburg Challenge:

“The intention here is … broadening our concept of reason and its applications… We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirical falsifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons.”

Reason expands if the experience of Being is expanded. This occurs when experience is not contracted to sense experience only, but identified with the “I” in the moral moment of self-determination.

To know the “I” is to know beyond sensible perception and “abstraction of `forms’” that we call “conceptualization.” To experience the “I” is to identify a new level of Being that is not “object” but “subject.” It is the experience of the “I” as Being and yields what we all know as “consciousness” as distinct from “concept.” This is a revolution in that it is not knowing the “spiritual” over and instead of the material because the “I” is both spiritual and material. The body is not a machine and the soul is not the self. The “I” is both soul and body.

Consider Wojtyla on the different epistemological approaches to the “I:” “(I)t is one thing to be the subject, another to be cognized (that is objectivized) as the subject, and a still different thing to experience one’s self as the subject of one’s own acts and experiences.”

The beginning of so-called “modern” thought is Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum.” He identified the “I” with consciousness. And the great difficulty was (and is) to see the “I” through the consciousness that masks it. Consciousness disguises the “I” as thought. But in reality it is hard ontological reality that is most truly experienced as Being in the moment of exercising itself as subject-agent of the free moral act. It is at that moment that the “I” is conscious of itself as potential to determine itself, and after that moment of self-determination, it sees itself in act. Wojtyla is the first to describe this before and after as potency and act of the unique “I” experiencing itself. This is his unique amalgam of phenomenology and metaphysics whereby he pronounces the “I” as Being. And it is this “Being,” as image and likeness of the God who alone is good, who then experiences himself/herself as “good.” And since God alone is Absolute Good, then this absoluteness of goodness is experienced in the very experience of the self as an individual, contingent being who is also absolute. This is the foundation of the entire moral life as source of the self-evidence that is not merely “principles” but consciousness.

This revolutionary conclusion had escaped modern philosophy from Descartes onward through Kant, Hegel and the Enlightenment. They all found no way to ground the experience of absolute value, speculative or practical (truth or good), except by reduction, i.e. reducing it to contingent sensible perception, or in the more sophisticated theories of “transcendental” “a priori” structures of the mind. Hegel attempted to save Kant’s insight of the absoluteness of the “I” and thought/value, and the reality of the sensible, by creating a “philosophoumenon” such as the Geist that would bridge the gap between mind and matter.
This affirmation is of another level of being and knowing, besides (not replacing) sensible perception and abstraction, is what Benedict means by “Broadening Reason.” Benedict’s method is theological, not philosophical as in Wojtyla who gave a phenomenological-metaphysical account of theological faith as lived in St. John of the Cross. Consider that Benedict has been consistently writing about two levels of experience in order to know the Person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. For example, when Nathanael asks Philip, what good can come from Nazareth, Philip says, “Come and see” (Jn. 1, 46.), he is referring to the two levels on which Jesus Christ of Nazareth must be experienced. He says: “Nathanael’s words present a double and complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: He is recognized both by his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the only-begotten Godn, as well as by his relationship wit the people of Israel, of whom he is called King, an attribution proper to the awaited Messiah.
“We must never lose sight of either of these two elements, since if we only proclaim the heavenly dimension of Jesus we run the risk of making him an ethereal and evanescent being, while if we only recognize his concrete role in history, we run the risk of neglecting his divine dimension, which is his proper description.”

The Epistemological Transition that took place in Vatican II and John Paul II and Benedict XVI:

Reason has been broadened by the living faith of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. John Paul described the experience of faith in St. John of the Cross (as also found in himself as dramatist, actor and patriot) and found it to be one’s very self as ontological reality given totally to God. The major point is the discovery of the experience of the self as Being and not as consciousness – i.e. as reality. The grave confusion of the Enlightenment from 1620 to the present day is its understanding of the self as “consciousness.”

Benedict’s original intellectual insight – prior to 1954 – and original question that “stood in the foreground of concern within German-speaking, Catholic theological circles was the question of the relation of salvation-history to metaphysics. This was a problem which arose above all from contacts with Protestant theology which, since the time of Luther, ahs tended to see in metaphysical thought a departure from the specific claim of the Christina faith which directs man not simply to the Eternal but to the God who acts in time and history. Here questions of quite diverse character and of different orders arose. How can that which has taken place historically become present? How can the unique and unrepeatable have a universal significance? But then, on the other hand: Has not the `Hellenization’ of Christianity, which attempted to overcome the scandal of the particular by a blending of faith and metaphysics, led to a development in a false direction? Has it [Hellenic metaphysics] not created a static style of thought which cannot do justice to the dynamism of the biblical style?
“These questions had a strong influence on me, and I wanted to make a contribution toward answering them. In the light of the accepted tradition of German theology, it was self-evident to me that his could not be done in an a priori was. Rather, it could take place only in dialogue with that very theological tradition which was being called into question. Only on the basis of this type of study could any systematic sketch of such a formulation in my book “Introduction to Christianity” which appeared in 1968. Since I had devoted my first study to Augustine, and thus had become someowhat familiar with the world of the Fathers, it seemed natural now to approach the Middle Ages. For the questions with which I was concerned, Bonaventure was naturally a more likely subject for study than Aquinas. Thus, a partner was found for the discussion. The questions which I hoped to direct to this partner were sketched in general terms in the concepts of revelation – history – metaphysics.”

His answer then was that faith is the con-version of the ontologically real person as image of the ontologically real Trinity of Persons Who are intrinsically relational. Faith is the response of the ontological totality of the “I” to the ontologically total “I” of the Son of the Father, the Logos. Revelation is not a series of concepts and propositions (Scripture, creeds or dogmas). Faith is not an act of the mind or the will as a faculty of desire but the turn of the entire self as being.

Benedict’s understanding of revelation and faith: `revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, 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. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then 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.

Perhaps clearer in John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor #88: “It is urgent to rediscover and to set forth once more the authentic reality of the Christian faith, which is not simply a set of propositions to be accepted with intellectual assent. Rather, faith is a lived knowledge of Christ, a living remembrance of his commandments, and a truth to be lived out.”

Clearly, the recovery of this ontological subject now is taken from the Fathers, and concrete for Ratzinger, Augustine:

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty, so ancient and so new, late have I love you! And behold, you were within me and I was outside, and there I sought for you, and in my deformity I rushed headlong into the well-formed things that you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. Those outer beauties held me far from you, yet if they had not been in you, they would not have existed at all. You called, and cried out to me and broke open my deafness; you shone forth upon me and you scattered my blindness. You breathed fragrance, and I drew in my breath and I now pant for you: It tasted and I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for Your peace.”[13]

Wojtyla, as mentioned above, worked philosophically, not theologically. His response was to use the descriptive method of phenomenology to give account of the experience that we all have of the self in the moment of freedom, i.e. self-determination in the moment of moral decision in the performance of action. The “action” he had chosen was the “act of faith” as in St. John of the Cross. This had never been done before philosophically. There had been no rational account of this second tier of experience which was not of the external senses, but of the self. If there were experience of the self in the moral moment, then the self could not be consciousness. It had to be Being. He presents this huge transformation of thought in Fides et ratio #83: “In a special way, the person [the “I”] constitutes a privileged locus for the encounter with being, and hence with metaphysical enquiry.”

Compare and contrast this with the rendering of thomistic epistemology above, and the need for the mediation of the “form” to bring about knowledge and truth. Here, there is no mediation since the “I” experiences itself as “naked” being in the activity of self-determination. There is a consciousness or content of truth much more profound than “form” at play here. This experience of the “I” is the experience of Being, and the Good as imaging God Who alone is Good. Here, we have the account of the provenance of the absolute (the good and the true) in the experience of the singular self. And note that this is not subjectivism, but ontological subjectivity. And it is here that we can know Jesus Christ, the “I Am,” by transferring to Him the experience we have of ourselves in that mimicking act of self-transcendence we call “faith.”

That being so, the Thomistic epistemology and subjacent metaphysics that we have above, now become transformed in that knowing reality is not only through the experience of the external senses, but there is a deeper and immediate (not mediate through the “form”) experience of reality in the self.
This experience yields not concepts, but consciousness, the consciousness that we can explore in the Epiphany. The power behind that experience of faith as self-gift is the incorporation into Christ by Baptism. Thus…


January 7-8-9/2007

Feasts of the Luminous: Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord, The Marriage Feast of Cana – the Birthday of St. Josemaria Escriva.

Because of Sin, Man becomes Deaf and Dumb. God Disappears. God reappears by bi-lateral revelation. As He reveals Himself through Abraham, Moses and Prophets from the outside, man is called to respond from within. Made in the image of God, the response from the inside makes man “like” the revelation from outside. The final revelation of God is God’s gift of Himself as Jesus of Nazareth to whom man must make the gift of his entire self. God reveals Himself completely by man’s becoming “another Christ.” This interior experience of self as gift is the deepest meaning of “revelation.”

Background: God revealed Himself to Abraham without a Name as yet, which Moses elicited from Him as “Yahweh:” “I Am.” Benedict says: “Within the Old Testament, the process which started at the burning bush came to new maturity at the time of the Exile, when the God of Israel, an Israel now deprived of its land and worship, was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth and described in a simple formula which echoes the words uttered at the burning bush: I am.”[14]

The event of the exile was decisive for the universal, catholic scope of divine Revelation. This catastrophic event meant that “the God of Israel was vanquished – a God whose people, whose land, and whose worshipers could be snatched away from him. A God who could not defend his worshipers and his worship was seen to be, at that time, a weak God. Indeed, he was no God at all; he had abandoned his divinity. And so, being driven out of their own land and being erased from the map was for Israel a terrible trial: Has our God been vanquished, and is our faith void?

“At this moment the prophets opened a new page and taught Israel that it was only then that the true face of God appeared and that he was not restricted to that particular piece of land. He had never been: He had promised this piece of land to Abraham before he settled there, and he had been able to bring his people out of Egypt. He could do both things because he was not the God of one place but had power over heaven and earth. Therefore he could drive his faithless people into another land in order to make himself known there. And so it came to be understood that this God of Israel was to a God like the other gods, but that he as the God who held sway over every land and people. He could do this, however, because he himself had created everything in heaven and on earth. It was in exile and in the seeming defeat of Israel that there occurred an opening to the awareness of the God who holds every people and all of history in his hands, who holds everything because he is the creature of everything and the source of all power.”[15]

Returning to Regensburg, Benedict went on to say that “This new understanding of God is accompanied by a kind of enlightenment, which finds stark expression in the mockery of gods who are merely the work of human hands (cf. Psalm 115). Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature.
“Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria -- the Septuagint – is more than a simple… translation of the Hebrew text: It is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of Revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion. From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: Not to act `with logos’ is contrary to God’s nature.”

Judaism Becomes Universal Through Jesus Christ’s Epiphany to the Magi:

Abraham --> Moses --> Greek Mind (Septuagint) --> Jesus Christ --> Gentiles as World Religion --> Person (Global Truth) Ordering Free Global Order

The Catechism of the Catholic Church [#528]:

“The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Hews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations. Their coming means that the pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Ephiphany shows that the `full number of the nations’ now takes its `place in the family of the patriarchs,’ and acquires Israelitica dignitas (are made `worthy of the heritage of Israel’)

The Mission of Jesus: to unite Jews and “pagans:”[17]

“In this text, we can see how the Catechism 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 Scriptures are fulfilled that speak again and again of the nations worshiping the God of Israel….

“In order to present this unification of Israel, and the nations, the brief text – still interpreting Matthew 2 [the Magi] - gives a lesion on the relationship of the world religions, the faith of Israel, and the mission of Jesus: the world religions can become the star that enlightens men’s path that leads them in search of the kingdom of God. The star of the religions points to Jerusalem, it is extinguished and lights up anew in the Word of God, in the Sacred Scripture of Israel. The Word of God preserved herein shows itself to be the true star without which, or bypassing which, the goal cannot found.”

“What does all this mean? The mission of Jesus consists in bringing together the histories of the nations in the community of the history of Abraham, the history of Israel…. The history of Israel should become the history of all, Abraham’s sonship is to be extended to the `many.’ This course of events has two aspects to it: the nations can enter into the community of the promises of Israel in entering into the community of the one God, who now becomes and must become the way of all because there is ony one God and because his will is therefore truth for all. Conversely, this means that all nations, without the abolishment of the special omission of Israel, become brothers and redeivers of the promises of the chosen People; the become People of God with Israel through adherence to the will of God and through acceptance of the Davidic kingdom.”[18]

* * * * * * * *

At the moment we have lost perception of Christ. The reasons: 1) possessions; 2) human relations that involve us such that we no longer feel the need for anything else to fill our time and therefore our interior existence.

Context: The disappearance of God from concept and consciousness as the constant and persistent theme of Benedict XVI. The supreme theme of Benedict XVI throughout 2006 (also before and after) including his four apostolic journeys was/is God and the experience of Him. The trip to Valencia, Spain and Bavaria (Munich, Altotting, Regensburg and Freising) provoked the question: what and who is man? – due to the confrontation with the lack of permanent commitment in de facto couples and gay “marriage.” The theme in Germany was God.

“The great theme of my Journey to Germany was God. The Church must speak of many things: of all the issues connected with the human being, of her own structure and of the way she is ordered and so forth. But her true and – under various aspects – only theme is `God.’
Moreover, the great problem of the West is forgetfulness of God. This forgetfulness is spreading. In short, all the individual problems can be traced back to this question. I am sure of it.
“Therefore, on that Journey, my main purpose was to shed clear light on the theme `God,’ also mindful of the fact that in several parts of Germany there are a majority of non-baptized persons for whom Christianity and the God of faith seem to belong to the past.
“Speaking of God, we are touching precisely on the subject which, in Jesus’ earthly preaching, was his main focus. The fundamental subject of this preaching is God’s realm, the `Kingdom of God.’ This does not mean something that will come to pass at one time or another in an indeterminate future. Nor does it mean that better world which we seek to create, step by step, with our own strength. In the term `Kingdom of God,’ the word `God’ is a subjective genitive. This means: God is not something added to the `Kingdom’ which one might even perhaps drop.
“God is the subject. Kingdom of God actually means: God reigns. He himself is present and crucial to human beings in the world. He is the subject, and wherever this subject is absent, nothing remains of Jesus’ message.
“Therefore, Jesus tells us: the Kingdom of God does not come in such a way that one may, so to speak, line the wayside to watch its arrival. `The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you!’ (cf. Lk 17, 20 ff.).
“It develops wherever God’s will is done. It is present wherever there are people who are open to his arrival and so let God enter the world. Thus, Jesus is the Kingdom of God in person: the man in whom God is among us and through whom we can touch God, draw close to God. Wherever this happens, the world is saved.”[19]


God plays hide and seek with man.

“I am reminded here of a rabbinical tale recorded by Elie Wiesel. He tells of Jehel, a little boy, who comes running into the room of his grandfather, the famous Rabbi Baruch. Big tears are rolling down his cheeks. And he cries, `My friend has totally given up on me. He is very unfair and very mean to me.’ `Well, could you explain this a little more?’ asks the Master. `Okay,’ responds the little boy. `We were playing hide and seek. I was hiding so well that he could not find me. But then he simply gave up and went home. Isn’t that mean?’ The most exciting hiding place has lost its excitement because the other stops playing. The Master caresses the boy’s face. He himself now has tears in his eyes. And he says, `Yes, this is not nice. But look, it is the same way with God. He is in hiding, and we do not seek him. Just imagine! God is hiding, and we people do not even look for him.’ In this little story a Christian is able to find the key to the ancient mystery of Christmas. God is in hiding. He waits for his creation to set out toward him, he waits for anew and willing Yes to come about, for love to arise as a new reality out of his creation. He waits for man.”[20]

Who plays and discovers Him? The little ones: ox and ass: The Magi, Shepherds, Joseph and Mary. And who doesn’t play?

Benedict talks about Herod and “all Jerusalem with him” who did not “see” Christ. “Those who did not see were all those `dressed in fine clothing’ – the refined people (Mt. 11, 8). Those who did not see were the scholars, the Bible experts, the specialists in the interpretation of Scripture, who knew exactly the correct biblical passage but nonetheless understood nothing (Mt. 2, 6). The ones who `saw’ – those were, in comparison to all these renowned people, but `ox and ass:’ the shepherds, the magi, Mary, Joseph. How could it be otherwise? In the stable, where he dwells, there you do not find the `fine’ people; there you will find, of course, ox and ass. And what about us? Are we so far away from the stable because we are much too refined and too smart for that? Do we not get all entangled in scholarly exegesis… to the extent that we have become blind and deaf to the Child himself? Do we not really all too intensely dwell in `Jerusalem,’ in a palace, withdrawn within ourselves, in our self-sufficiency, our fear of being challenged, too much so to be able to hear the voice of the angels, to set out to worship? Thus in this holy night, the faces of ox and ass are turned toward us questioningly: My people does not understand, do you recognize the voice of your Lord? When we pout the familiar figures in our crèche, we would do well to pray that God would bestow on our heart the kind of simplicity that recognizes the Lord in this Child – just like Francis in Greccio. Then this might happen also to us: everyone returned home, full of rejoicing.”[21]

Benedict on how to enter into the game:

- The nature of revelation and faith:

“But he [Michael Schmaus] also did not like the result of my analyses. I had ascertained that in Bonaventure (as well as in theologians of the thirteenth century) there was nothing corresponding to our conception of `revelation,’ by which we are normally in the habit of referring to all the revealed contents of the faith: it has even become a part of linguistic usage to refer to Sacred Scripture simply as `revelation.’ Such an identification would have been unthinkable in the language of the High Middle Ages. Here, `revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, 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. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then 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. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (`by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.”[22]

Baptism: Acquiring Sight

· The Crossing of the Red Sea and desert experience as prelude to becoming the People of God and taking possession of the Promised Land (Heaven).
· The Baptism of Christ: the beginning of the Mission of Christ as Messiah-Priest: to be washed in his own blood as unique gift of self to the Father for us.

Benedict: “Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan is recalled and highlighted, though in a different manner, by all the Evangelists. It formed part, in fact, of the apostolic preaching, as it constituted the starting point of a series of events and words on which the apostles were to give testimony (cf. Acts 1, 21-22; 10, 37-41). The apostolic community considered it very important, not only because in that circumstance, for the first time in history, the manifestation was taking place of the Trinitarian mystery in a clear and complete manner, but also because with that event Jesus’ public ministry began on the roads of Palestine.

“Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan is the anticipation of his baptism of blood on the cross, and it is also a symbol of all the sacramental activity with which the Redeemer would enact the salvation of humanity.”[23]

1) The Baptism of Jesus Christ initiates the following priestly anthropology: the giving of the “I” which is the experience and consciousness of being “like” God: divinization. Notice the meaning of the public life of Jesus Christ from the point of view of anthropology. Benedict writes: “The transformation [of the word “Christ”] into a mere proper name [“Jesus Christ”], which it is for us today, was certainly completed at a very early period, but here `Christ’ is still used as the definition of what this Jesus is. The fusion with the name Jesus is well advanced, it is true; we stand here at the last stage, so to speak, in the change of meaning of the word Christ…. The words `Kaiser’ and Wilhelm’ go so closely together that the title `Kaiser’ had itself already become almost a part of the name; yet everyone was still aware that the word was not just a name but denoted a function. The phrase `Christ Jesus’ is an exactly similar case and shows just the same development: Christ is a title and yet also already part of the unique name for the man from Nazareth. This fusion of the name with the title, the title with the name, is far from being just another example of history’s forgetfulness. On the contrary, it spotlights the very heart of that process of understanding which faith went through with regard to the figure of Nazareth. 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 is 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 word and the work is the `I’” …

“Similarly, as faith understood the position, Jesus did not perform a work that could be distinguished from his `I’ and depicted separately. On the contrary, to understand him as the Christ means to be convinced that he has put himself into his word. Here there is not `I’ (as there is with all of us) which utters words; he has identified himself so closely with his word that `I’ and word are indistinguishable: he is word. In the same way, to faith, his work I s nothing else than the unreserved way in which he merges himself into this very work; he performs himself and gives himself; his work is the giving of himself.”[24]

The conclusion is that the Baptism of Jesus Christ is the starting signal for the Messianic mission in which the developed human nature/will of Christ is totally compenetrated by the divine Person of the Logos. Benedict said: “The apostolic community considered it very important, not only because in that circumstance, for the first time in history, the manifestation was taking place of the Trinitarian mystery in a clear and complete manner, but also because with that event Jesus’ public ministry began on the roads of Palestine.

“As the Baptism of the Jews was the crossing of the Red Sea, so also the Baptism of Christ was the pouring forth of red blood on the Cross that was His total priestly (mediation) gift of Himself.”

The Distinction of Nature and Person

The struggle of the Fathers of the Church from Nicea through Ephesus, Chalcedon to Constantinople III consisted in disengaging the Greek understanding of nature (ousia) as individual being from the notion of person in God as a unique reality irreducible to nature. The struggle in Nicea was to counteract the Arians who, working only with logic, insisted that if Christ is “from” the Father, then He could not be equal to the Father but subordinated. The Church defined that Christ as Son was equal to the Father as Person but not the same. Ephesus defined that although Christ was God, He was also fully and completely man, not lacking a human soul, human intellect nor human will. Chalcedon defined that there were indeed two natures but only one divine Person.

3) Our Baptism: Benedict then connected Christ’s baptism and ours, saying: “There is a profound relationship between Christ’s baptism and our baptism. In the Jordan, the heavens were opened (cf. Luke 3, 21) to indicate that the Savior opened to us the way of salvation and that we can follow it precisely thanks to the new birth `of water and the Spirit’ (John 3, 5), which takes place in baptism. In it we are introduced in the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, we die and rise with him, we are clothed in him, as the Apostle Paul underlines on several occasions (cf. 1 Corinthians 12, 13;omans 6, 3-5; Galatians 3, 27)……”

These Pauline references and their exegesis are very important in understanding both Paul and Benedict. Let’s take the first reference to1 Corinthians 12, 13. The underlying point is that Baptism – as the sacrament of faith - is a most subjective (in an ontological and therefore “objective” sense) and radical empowerment to hand over the self. “It is a death event. In other words it is the replacement of the subject – of the `I.’ The `I’ ceases to be independent and to be a subject existing in itself. It is torn from itself and inserted into a new subject. The `I’ does not perish, but must let itself diminish completely, in effect, in order to be received within a larger `I’ and, together with that larger `I,’ to be conceived anew.”[25]

Now, Benedict says: “We find the same thought in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. He uses the common comparison of the body and its members, which was used in ancient social philosophy. In the transfer of this metaphor to the Church, however, there is a surprising change which is often overlooked. To miss this change inevitably leads to an incorrect grasp of Paul’s entire understanding of the Church. He does not hesitate to use comparisons with the sociology prevalent at his time, but he doe s so in a way which shows that his conception of the Church is entirely different from his view of society. In fact Paul does not say: `Just as in an organism there are many members interacting with one another, the same thing holds true for the Church.’ He actually abandons the ancient image and says something on a completely different level: `Just as the body and the various members interact, the same is true of Christ.’ (1 Cor. 12, 12). The subject being compared is not the Church as such, or a subject which is separate in itself. Rather, the new subject is `the Christ,’ and the Church is thus nothing more than the space into which this new subject can move. Therefore, the Church for Paul is much more than simple social interaction. At issue here is the same Christological `singular’ which Paul emphasized in the Galatians [“I live, no, not I; Christ lives in me” Gal. 2, 20].[26]

The logic of the above is the following: As the mission of Christ is His very Person as Gift to the Father for men, so we have to actualize that same anthropology in us because of faith and its sacrament which is Baptism.

Now we have to link this way of being gift to what it means to know. What is knowing like in Christ, and what must knowing be in us?

The first thing to affirm is that Jesus Christ as Trinitarian Person made flesh is the revelation of the Father. No one has ever seen God Who has revealed Himself as “I.” Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, has revealed this “I” of the Father by His own “I.” Revelation then is not a series of ideas, but a Person. And the difficult step to take here is to understand that person is “I” as subject and not object, and that there are no objective signs, symbols or concepts that represent the unique “I” of a person. As Walker Percy said:

“Semiotically [semiotics is the study of signs and symbols], the self is literally unspeakable to itself. One cannot speak or hear a word which signifies oneself, as one can speak or hear a word signifying anything else, e.g., Apple, Canada, 7-Up.
“The self of the sign-user can never be grasped, because once the self locates itself at the dead center of its world, there is no signified to which a signifier can be joined to make sign. The self has no sign of itself. No signifier applies. All signifiers apply equally.”[27]

The conclusion of this is that knowledge of a person must come from another way of knowing than conceptual abstraction, or, as they say, “objectification,” which is placing a medium between the knower and the known. To experience the self, there is not medium. But to experience another there must be the medium of sense perception or abstract concept, and this because “to know” is to be one being with another. If that is impossible, we must use some form of mediation which is compatible with our way of being and knowing.

Another Way: Consciousness

However, there is another way which is the experience of the self in the moment of free acting in which the finite, created “I” must reduce itself from potency to act in determining or mastering itself to act in this way or that. Such an act of self-mastery yields an experience of the self that is always accompanied by an awareness that we call consciousness. This awareness of the self accompanies the exercise of the self as agent of action.

Example: Helen Keller

We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten – a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that `w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.
left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me. On entering the door I remembered the doll I had broken. [She had earlier destroyed the doll in a fit of temper.] I felt my way to the dearth and picked up the pieces. I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow.”[28]

What had happened? Helen had exercised her subjectivity as cause by “throwing” (Ballein) the “likeness” (sym): w-a-t-e-r at the wet flowing object. She had experienced herself as cause, and therefore came to a consciousness of herself as “self.”

Walker Percy: “before, Helen had behaved like a good responding organism. Afterward, she acted like a rejoicing symbol-mongering human. Before, she was little more than an animal. Afterward, she became wholly human. Within the few minutes of the breakthrough and the several hours of exploiting it Helen had concentrated the months of the naming phase that most children go through somewhere around their second birthday.”… [29]

Rev. Robert A. Connor

[1] J. Ratzinger, “And Marxism Gave Birth to… NIHILISM,” The Catholic World Report January 1993, 52.
[2] St. Thomas: “Ipsae res sunt causa et mensura scientiae nostrae (De Potentia. 7, 10 ad 5). Since the speculative intellect is receptive in regard to things, it is in a certain sense moved by things and consequently measured by them. (De Veritate. I, 2).
[3] Joseph Pieper, “Reality and the Good,” Living the Turth Ignatius (1989) 121-124.
[4] “Res naturals, ex quibus intellectus noster scientiam accipit, mensurant intellectum nostrum, sed sunt mensuratae ab intellectu divino, in quo sunt omnia creata sicut omnia artificiata in intellectu artificis. Sic ergo intellectus divinus est mensurans, non mensuratus; res autem naturalis mensurans et minsurata; sed intellectus noster est mensuratus, non mensurans quidem res naturales, sed artificiales tantum. De Veritate I,2.
[5] “Intellectus enim humanus est mensuatus a rebus, ut scilicet conceptus hominis non sit verus propter seipsum, sed dicitur verus ex hoc quod consonant rebus.” Summa Theologiae I-II, 93, 1 ad 3.
[6] “Intellectus in actu et intellectum in actu sunt unum. St. Thomas, Summa Contra Gentiles 2, 59.
[7] Pieper, op. cit. 127-129.
[8] Ibid 129.
[9] Ibid 130.
[10] Ibid 131.K. Wojtyla, “The Acting Person” Reidel (1979) 44.
[11] Benedict XVI, “His `Words Present a Double Aspect of Jesus’ Identity,” The Apostle Bartholomew, Vatican City, Oct. 4, 2006: General Audience.
[12] J. Ratzinger, “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure, Franciscan Herald Press, (1989) xi-xii.
[13] Augustine, “Confessions” Bk. 10, 27.
[14] Benedict XVI, Regensburg, “Three Stages in the Program of De-Hellenization.”
[15] J. Ratzinger, “`In the Beginning…’ Eerdmans (1995) 10-12.
[16] Benedict XVI, Regensburg, op. cit.
[17] “It was inevitable that Christians would begin to take notice of the actual religious message of the world religions. After all, the gospel was not being proclaimed to religion-less people who had no knowledge of God. It was not longer possible to overlook the fact that Christians were addressing a world deeply penetrated by religious convictions and stamped by these convictions even in the tiniest details of daily life, so that the religiosity of these people put to shame the somewhat tired faith of Christians. It was less and less sufficient, therefore, to describe the adherents of other religions simply as pagans, or purely negatively as `non-Christians.’ It was necessary to get to know what made them what the were; one had also to ask whether it was right simply to destroy their religious world, or whether it was perhaps possible, or even an obligation, to understand them from within and bring into Christianity the inheritance that was theirs;” (emphasis mine). J. Ratzinger, Many Religions – One Covenant Ignatius (1999) 92.
[18] J. Ratzinger, “Many Religions – One Covenant,” Ignatius (1999) 25-28.
[19] Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia Offering Them his Christmas Greetings, Friday, December 22, 2006 (published January 6, 2007).
[20] J. Ratzinger, “Co-Workers of the Truth,” Ignatius (1992) 407.
[21] Ibid 406
[22] J. Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 Ignatius 107-109.
[23] Benedict XVI, Vatican City, Jan. 7, 2007 on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
[24] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 149-150.
[25] J. Ratzinger, “The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology,” The Nature and Mission of Theology Ignatius (1995) 51.
[26] Ibid 53-54.
[27] Walker Percy, “Lost in the Cosmos,” Noonday Press (1996) 106-107.
[28] Walker Percy Message in the Bottle, The Noonday Press (1995) 34-35.
[29] Ibid 35.

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