Thursday, January 25, 2007

Unity Octave: January 18-25, 2007

The Stakes: If East and West become one Church under the Pope, Protestantism will disappear (because it appeared ini order to heal in the West the loss of the spirituality of the East, which, in its turn, became entrapped in restrictive nationalisms), the Face of Jesus Christ will re-appear before the nations. Since Christ is not merely the "type" but "prototype" of the human person, a healed Church breathing with both lungs of East and West, will engender a new culture which will spread globally spawning a new consciousness of the human person. Islam will begin to undergo this experience and this consciousness discovering Jesus to be not merely "the prophet" but the Messiah-Son of our Lady of Fatima (the name of the daughter of Muhammed). This consciousness of the truth of the human person coming from a lived experience of Christ will order a new civilization and the ordering of its freedom to both solidarity and the autonomy of subsidiarity. As the French intellectual, Andre Malraux said shortly before his death in 1976, "The twenty-first century will be religious or it will not be at all."

1) The Stage is Set: Jesus Christ: Lumen Gentium: On the occasion of the Solemnity of the Epiphany, Benedict XVI said: Twenty centuries have passed since that mystery was revealed and brought about in Christ, but it has not reached fulfillment. My beloved Predecessor, John Paul II, began his Encyclical on the Church’s mission by writing: `As the second Millennium after Christ’s Coming draws to an end, an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning’ (Redemptoris Missio, #1. He asks: “Is Christ still the Lumen Gentium, the Light of the Gentiles.” “What are the Magi today?”[1]

2) Global Civilization for the First Time: The whole of the Second Vatican Council was truly stirred by the longing to proclaim Christ, the Light of the world, to contemporary humanity. In the heart of the Church, from the summit of her hierarchy, emerged the impelling desire, awakened by the Spirit for a new epiphany of Christ in the world, a world that the modern epoch had profoundly transformed and that, for the first time in history, found itself facing the challenge of a global civilization in which the center could no longer be Europe or even what we call the West and the North of the world.

The need to work out a new world political and economic order was emerging but, at the same time and above all, one that would be both spiritual and cultural, that is, a renewed humanism.”[2]

3) Therefore, the Absolute Need For a New Epiphany of God: “This observation became more and more obvious: a new world economic and political order cannot work unless there is a spiritual renewal, unless we can once again draw close to God and find God in our midst.”[3]

Today’s Solemnity [epiphany] can offer us this perspective, based on the manifestation of a God who revealed himself in history as the Light of the world to guide humanity and lead it at last into the Promised Land where freedom, justice and peace reign. And we see more and more clearly that on our own we cannot foster justice and peace unless the light of a God who shows us his Face is revealed to us, a God who appears to us in the manger of Bethlehem, who appears to us on the Cross.”[4]

4) The Difficulty: The Schism of 1054 Split the Church into East and West. The Face and Voice of Christ are Invisible and Inaudible. Correspondingly, we are globally Deaf, Dumb and Blind. This leaves us in isolation and prevents our coming together to present the Star of the Face and the Voice of Christ to the Gentile Magi. For 1000 years the Church has been breathing with only one lung.

There is Only One Church of Jesus Christ, and She is a “Subject:” In #8 of Lumen Gentium, it reads: “This Church [the Church of Jesus Christ], constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces spelling towards Catholic unity.” The meaning of “subsist in” as opposed to “is” is the attribution of subjectivity to the Church as a Person, the Person of Christ, the Church most properly being the Body (our Lady) with Christ as Head. Head and Body constitute the “Whole Christ” as a single Subject. The elements outside this visible Subject are distinguished as “objects” – “elements of sanctification and truth” such as Scripture, Sacraments such as Baptism, preaching the Word of God, etc. These are objective elements of sanctification, but they are not the irrepeatable and irreducible Subject that is Christ.

Benedict XVI in a previous study clarified and deepened this:

The difference between "subsistit" and "est" conceals within itself the whole ecumenical problem. The word subsistit derives from the ancient philosophy as later developed in Scholastic philosophy. The Greek word hypostasis that has a central role in Christology to describe the union of the divine and the human nature in the Person of Christ comes from that vision. Subsistere is a special case of esse. It is being in the form of a subject who has an autonomous existence. Here it is a question precisely of this. The council wants to tell us that the Church of Jesus Christ as a concrete subject in this world can be found in the Catholic Church. This can take place only once [my underline], and the idea that the subsistit could be multiplied fails to grasp precisely the notion that is being intended. With the word subsistit, the Council wished to explain the unicity of the Catholic Church and the fact of her inability to be multiplied: the Church exists as a subject in historical reality.

“The difference between subsistit and est however contains the tragedy of ecclesial division. Although the Church is only one and `subsists’ in a unique subject, there are also ecclesial realities beyond thus subject – true local Churches and different ecclesial communities.”[5]

Because of sin, which is a turning back on self, the visibility of this one Subject – the Church – disappears and the observers become deaf, dumb and blind.

The splitting of the unity of the Church in 1054 shatters the Face of Jesus Christ and He becomes invisible to the world. Hence, the imperious call to unity in order to show the unum of the Subject. The ecumenical call is to be “one,” not merely “united.”

The Goal: Not "United," but "UNUM"

“Jesus himself, at the hour of his Passion, prayed `that they may all be one’ (Jn. 17, 21). This unity, which the Lord has bestowed on his Church and in which he wishes to embrace all people, is not something added on, but stands at the very heart of Christ’s mission. Nor is it some secondary attribute of the community of his disciples. Rather, it belongs to the very essence of this community. God wills the Church, because he wills unity, and unity is an expression of the whole depth of his agape.”[6]

Faith Is Conversion Away From Self

The entrance into the Church that is the Subject, Christ, demands that one become subject, i.e. activate the uniqueness of being “I,” by the conversion to self-gift. This, of course, presupposes the ontological configuration of the person is to be relation as imaging the Trinity. The “oneness” of the Church is the reality of each becoming “I” as Christ is “I am” (“Yahweh” as in Jn. 8, 28, 58). To pass from being “individual” to “subject,” one must cross the threshold from object to subject. This demands the subduing or mastering of self to get possession of self so as to be able to make the gift of precisely the “I.” This is the meaning of “conversion.” In 1968, Benedict had written:

“(B)elief signifies the decision that at the very core of human existence there is a point which cannot be nourished and supported on the visible and tangible, which encounter and comes into contact with what cannot be seen and fins that it is a necessity for its own existence.

“Such an attitude is certainly to be attained only by what the language of the Bible calls `reversal,’ `con-version.’ Man’ natural center of gravity draws him to the visible, to what he can take in his hand and hold as his own. He has to turn round inwardly in order to see how badly he is neglecting his own interests by letting himself be drawn along in this way by his natural center of gravity. He must turn round to recognize how blind he is if he trusts only what he sees with his eyes. Without this change of direction, without this resistance to the natural center of gravity, there can be no belief. Indeed belief is the con-version in which man discovers that he is following an illusion if he devotes himself only to the tangible. This is at the same time the fundamental reason why belief is not demonstrable: it is an about-turn; only he who turns about is receptive to it; and because our center of gravity does not cease to incline us in another direction it remains a turn that is new every day; only in a life-long conversion can we become aware of what it means to say `I believe.’” He goes on: “(I)t has always meant a leap, a somewhat les obvious and less easily recognizable one perhaps, across an infinite gulf, a leap namely out of the tangible world that presses on man from every side. Belief had something of an adventurous break or leap about it, because in every age it represents the risky enterprise of accepting what plainly cannot be seen as the truly real and fundamental ("Introduction to Christianity," Ignatius (1990) 24-25).

The Church is the “Space” of the “I” of Christ and All Who Become This “I”
Faith as "Conversion"

Note that God wills unity of subjects, and then, wills the Church as the “space” in which persons make the gift of self. The sacrament of Baptism is the sacrament that empowers the 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”[7] – to be actually lived. It is lived as a conversion away from self, a veritable “death event.” In line with today’s feast, “becoming and being a Christian depend on conversion…. Yet conversion according to Paul is something much more radical than a mere revision of a few opinions or attitudes. 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 [as a “substance” standing on its own ground as an “individual”]. 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.”[8] Benedict continues: “The basic notion that conversion is the abandonment of the old, isolated subjectivity of the `I,’ and the finding of oneself within a new and subjective unity in which the limitation of the former `I’ have been surpassed, makes it possible to come into contact with the basis of all truth. This fundamental thought is something we find again, but with new accents, in another passage from the Galatians.”[9] He had been explaining Galatians 2, 20: “I live, no, not I, Christ lives in me.” Now, he goes on to Galatians 3, 16: The promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. He does not say, `And to his offsprings,’ as of many; but as of one, `And to thy offspring,’ who is Christ.” Benedict comments: “Here, Paul vigorously asserts that the promise is made only to an individual. It applies not to a number of isolated individuals, but only to the individual – `the seed of Abraham’ only, and outside this one person sits the confused world of self-realization in which people compete against one another and want to compete with God.[10] He then goes to the third quote in Galatians, 3, 28 that reads “You have been baptized in Christ and have clothed yourselves in Christ. There are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Benedict comments: It is essential to not that Paul does not say `You are a single mass,’ in some collectivist sense, but `You are one.’ You have become a new subject, unique in Christ, and thus, by means of the fusion of the subject, you are not within the realm of the Promise.”[11] Finally, he goes to 1 Cor. 12, 12 and 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 does 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.”[12]

Ecumenical Progress

On May 4, 2001, John Paul II visited Greece after having been refused access the previous year to see the leader of the Greek Orthodoxy Church, Archbishop Christodoulos. In the residence of the archbishop, John Paul II delivered an apology for the sins of the Catholic Crusaders against the Orthodox in Constantinople in 1204. He said: “For the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters may the Lord grant us the forgiveness we beg of Him.” Just moments before saying this, Christodoulos had said: “until now, there has not been heard even a single request for pardon on behalf of the `maniacal crusaders’ of the 13th century. Understandably, a large part of the [church’s adherents]… opposes your presence here.”[13]

By contrast, on December 14, 2006, His Beatitude Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, paid a visit to Pope Benedict XVI during which they signed a Common Declaration. Apart, Christodoulos in an address to Pope Benedict said: We come to you, an eminent theologian and university professor who diligently researched ancient Greek thought and that of the Greek Fathers of the East, but also the one who hopes for Christian unity and the cooperation of the religions to assure peace to the whole world.
“We remember our previous meeting, on 8 April 2005, the day of blessed Pope John Paul II’s funeral.
“The visit to Athens of this great Pope of eternal memory and our meeting on 4 May 2001, at which we had the opportunity to exchange words of love and truth, marked our common desire to lay the first cornerstone on which to build understanding, forgiveness, reconciliation and the purification of the Church’s memory.
“Today, we give thanks to God for the opportunity to be able to exchange with Your Holiness the brotherly kiss of charity and thus move on to a new stage in our churches’ common journey in order to face the problems of the contemporary world.

As of January 23, 2007: Improvement both in Istanbul and Moscow:

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2007 ( Relations between Catholics and Orthodox have improved over the past year, though no meeting is yet foreseen between Benedict XVI and Moscow Patriarch Alexy II, says a Vatican official.
"Relations with the Russian Orthodox Church have improved," Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said at a press conference today.
"An increasingly closer cooperation is taking place, thanks also to other dicasteries of the Roman Curia and to various dioceses," he said. The Vatican official said he is optimistic about the coming year, since the next meeting of the International Mixed Commission in charge of the theological dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is scheduled for October in Italy. Papal primacy In Istanbul in November, Benedict XVI repeated the proposal made by Pope John Paul II, that "a fraternal dialogue to find ways of exercising the Petrine ministry today, respecting its nature and essence, so that it can carry out a service of faith and love recognized" by all. Cardinal Kasper explained that the Orthodox Churches have yet to respond to this issue, as they want to give a joint answer to this proposal. "With the Orthodox Churches we have arrived at the moment in which we must speak about these problems," the cardinal said. The International Mixed Commission, he added, "is the place to do it." Noting the millennium-old division between the Churches, Cardinal Kasper said a new situation exists today because of more contact between Orthodox leaders and the Holy See. "There is a process of rapprochement that we wish to promote," he stressed. Cardinal Kasper added that relations with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople are very good, as could be seen during the Pope's visit to Turkey. Moscow The cardinal said that relations have also improved with the Moscow Patriarchate. "The papal representative in Moscow does an excellent job and is of great help," he said. "We hope, therefore, that the time for a meeting between the Pope and the patriarch will ripen, but for the time being nothing concrete is foreseen." Cardinal Kasper explained that a commission has been established to address the issue of alleged proselytism by Catholics in the patriarchate's canonical territory. "This commission has worked very well," the Vatican official said. "It has said: 'Let's look at the problems and complaints, and if we need to change, we will change.' They have resolved many problems this way. … A new climate has been created with this commission."

Cardinal Kasper acknowledged that there is talk of a possible summit of all the patriarchs and Christian leaders with the Pope, but clarified that it must be preceded by a meeting between Benedict XVI and Alexy II.

Theme of Unity Octave: “Be Opened”
The biblical theme proposed this year for common reflection and prayer during this week is: "He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak" (Mark 7:37). They are the words of Mark's Gospel and refer to Jesus' curing of the deaf-mute. In this brief passage, the evangelist recounts that the Lord, after putting his fingers in the ears and touching with saliva the tongue of the deaf-mute, worked the miracle saying: "Ephphatha," which means "Be opened!" On recovering his hearing and the gift of speech, that man aroused the admiration of the others by recounting what happened to him. Every Christian, spiritually deaf and mute because of original sin, receives in baptism the Lord's gift who puts his fingers on the face and, in this way, through the gift of baptism, is capable of hearing the word of God and of proclaiming it to brothers. Moreover, from that moment on, he has the task to mature in knowledge and love of Christ in order to be able to proclaim and witness the Gospel with efficacy.

This theme, on illustrating two aspects of every Christian community's mission -- the proclamation of the Gospel and the testimony of charity -- also underlines the importance of translating Christ's message into concrete initiatives of solidarity. This favors the path of unity, as it can be said that every relief, even if small, which Christians offer together to their neighbor's suffering, also contributes to making more visible their communion and fidelity to the Lord's commandment.
[1] Benedict XVI, Solemnity of the Epiphany, Saturday, 6 January 2007.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid
[5] J. Ratzinger, “The Ecclesiology of the Constitution on the Church, Vatican II, `Lumen Gentium,’” L’Osservatore Romano, 19 September, 2001, 5.
[6] John Paul II, “Ut Unum Sint,” #9.
[7] John Paul II, “Veritatis Splendor” #88.
[8] J. Ratzinger, “The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology,” The Nature and Mission of Theology, Ignatius (1995) 51.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid
[11] Ibid. 52
[12] Ibid. 53-54.
[13] The Washington Post, Saturday, May 5, 2001.
[14] L’Osservatore Romano, N. 1 – 3 January 2007, 14.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fr. Bob,great stuff! You take the long view which is the view of Hope which we certainly need.