Sunday, February 18, 2007

Lent 2007

God Is Eros As Well As Agape

He, who as Agape, creates all things, as Eros, yearns for one thing.

What is that one Thing? Your Love for Him as Agape. You are capable of Agape, i.e. total gift of yourself because you have been created and hard-wired as image of the Second Divine Person, the Son. You have been re-created in Him who re-started the human race, after God’s initial “failure” in Adam as the New Adam. You have been baptized into His very Being and capacitated to act as He acts. His “Act” is the Trinitarian self-gift to the Father on the Cross that is instantiated daily for you to restart yourself in ordinary life as “another Christ.”

Therefore, you are not simply to love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and your whole soul, and your whole mind, and your whole strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Rather, you are to love God and neighbor (who is Christ in disguise) the way God loves God as well as the neighbor who lies waylaid on the side of the road.

The Experience and Consciousness of the Reality of the “I” as Being

Also, you cannot love in this way without being first loved. This is profound with regard to the meaning of divine grace and the sociology and psychology of personality formation.


Consider the case of Descartes. The etiology of the philosophy: his mother died when he was one year old. He lacked the tactile experience that is at the root of the affirmation of the “I.” The pre-conceptual consciousness that is mystical knowing that comes from that experience was lacking forcing the person to a unilateral way of knowing that is conceptual and “scientific.” Karl Stern says, “All knowledge by union; all knowledge by incorporation (incorporating or being incorporated); and all knowledge through love has its natural fundament in our primary bond with the mother. The skeptic warns the believer not to `swallow’ things and to `to be taken in.’ And from his point of view, he is right. Faith, the most sublimes form of non-scientific knowledge is (if we consider its natural history, independent of all questions of grace) a form of swallowing or being taken in. It does back to an infantile, oral form of union. This is also true about Wisdom. Sapientia is derived from sapere, to taste, and Sophia is the she-soul of Eastern Christendom. However, does the fact that the rationalist cogito appear ontogenetically and phylogenetically late in the game mean that earlier forms of knowledge are mere rudiments cluttering up the basement of the human mind? `The unsophisticated thinking of our earliest years remains an indispensable acquisition underlying that of maturity, if there is to be for the adult one single intersubjective world,’ says Merleau-Ponty. `My awareness of constructing an objective truth would never provide me with anything more than an objective truth for me, and my greatest attempt at impartiality would never enable me to preveail over my subjectivity (as Descartes expresses it by the hypothesis of the malignant demon), if I had not, underlying my judgments, the primordial certainty of being in contact with being itself. If before any voluntary adoption of positivism I were not already situated in an intersubjective world, and if science, too, were not upheld by this basis. With the cogito begins that struggle between consciousnesses, each one of which, as Hegel says, seeks the death of the other. For the struggle ever to begin, and for each consciousness to be capable of suspecting the alien presences which it negates, all must necessarily have some common ground and be mindful of their peaceful coexistence in the world o childhood.’ Thus we see that the phenomenologist, without any bias, states that a later level of thinking is not higher than an earlier one, but that the two must be harmoniously combined to form an undistorted view of reality.”

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An Aside on Knowing Christ:

Let me interject here that this is the total and ongoing teaching of Benedict XVI. He is constantly referring to the two levels of experience: the one on the sensible empirical level that is historical as well as geographical. For example, the Apostle Bartholomew asks Philip, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Jn. 1, 45). Philip replies: “Come and see” (John 1, 46). Benedict says:
“Our knowledge of Jesus is in need above all of a living experience: Another person’s proclamation that comes to us from one or several witnesses. But we ourselves must be personally involved in an intimate and profound relationship with Jesus.”[1] He goes on: “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 Son, as well as by his relationship with 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.”

God is Erotic for Our Agape

· Furrow 809: “Look, We must love God not with our heart only, but with His…."

· “What is specific to the supernatural order is not this love for God above all things – which is already the first and most grave obligation of the natural order -, but that this love be the divine Love itself: that we love God as He loves Himself; that we love our brothers and sisters as Christ has loved us. (cf. Jn. 13, 34; 11, 12). The perfection of this love is the very essence of the sanctity which God asks of us.”
· “Thus a transformation must come about, and this is the concrete translation of devotion to the Sacred Heart: we need a sort of heart transplant. It would be interesting to follow up this analogy of the surgical operation and to love God with a new heart, not with this heart of stone;”
· “I believe that it is important that we should love with God’s love, which takes the initiative and is gratuitous; God’s love is a personal love which is attentive to people and to each individual person.”[4]

One Can Love Only If Loved

“God loves us with his whole attention: I have chosen you, I have loved you from all eternity; even before your birth, I already loved you from all eternity; even before your birth, I already loved you, in your father and in your mother and in all your ancestors. `I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jer 31, 3) `I have called you by name, you are mine’ (Is 43, 1)" (Leo Suenens).

Consider Benedict’s profound insight on the meaning of self acceptance, the grounding of that in affirmation by another, and the acceptance and affirmation of others

“For that man is truly redeemed who can love himself as a part of the suffering members of Christ, who can be simultaneously forgetful of self, free and so in harmony with himself.
Let us express the same thought more simply and more practically: the root man’s joy is the harmony he enjoys with himself. He lives in this affirmation. And only one who can accept himself can also accept the thou, can accept the world. The reason why an individual cannot accept the thou, cannot come to terms with him, is that he does not like his own I and, for that reason, cannot accept a thou.

“Something strange happens here. We have seen that the inability to accept one’s I leads to the inability to accept a thou. But how does one go about affirming, assenting to, one’s I? The answer may perhaps be unexpected: We cannot do so by our own efforts alone. Of ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our I becomes acceptable to us only is 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. It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist. When the initial harmony of our existence has been rejected, when that psycho-physical oneness has been ruptured by which the `Yes, it is good that you are alive’ sinks, with life itself, deep into the core of the unconscious – then birth itself is interrupted; existence itself is not completely established.”

Only We Can Give Our Love

God has created us with the freedom to master ourselves such as to be able to make the gift of our very selves, as Agape. The command of Christ is that we love Him and one another as He loves, i.e. as disinterested Love. But only we can give it. God can’t make us give it since He has created us in such a way that we are self-determining. If He made us give it to Him, it would not be what He wants: our free gift. This is the theme for this Lent, and the core of the first encyclical of Benedict XVI: Deus Charitas Est. It must be noted that God does not love. Rather, God is Love. This is a different metaphysic.

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Benedict’s Message for lent 2007

Papal Message for Lent 2007: "They Shall Look on Him Whom They Have Pierced" VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2007 (

Dear Brothers and Sisters! "They shall look on Him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19:37). This is the biblical theme that this year guides our Lenten reflection. Lent is a favourable time to learn to stay with Mary and John, the beloved disciple, close to Him who on the Cross, consummated for all mankind the sacrifice of His life (cf. Jn 19:25). With a more fervent participation let us direct our gaze, therefore, in this time of penance and prayer, at Christ crucified who, dying on Calvary, revealed fully for us the love of God. In the Encyclical Deus caritas est, I dwelt upon this theme of love, highlighting its two fundamental forms: agape and eros. God's love: agape and eros The term agape, which appears many times in the New Testament, indicates the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the good of the other. The word eros, on the other hand, denotes the love of one who desires to possess what he or she lacks and yearns for union with the beloved. The love with which God surrounds us is undoubtedly agape. Indeed, can man give to God some good that He does not already possess? All that the human creature is and has is divine gift. It is the creature then, who is in need of God in everything. But God's love is also eros. In the Old Testament, the Creator of the universe manifests toward the people whom He has chosen as His own a predilection that transcends every human motivation. The prophet Hosea expresses this divine passion with daring images such as the love of a man for an adulterous woman (cf. 3:1-3). For his part, Ezekiel, speaking of God's relationship with the people of Israel, is not afraid to use strong and passionate language (cf. 16:1-22). These biblical texts indicate that eros is part of God's very heart: the Almighty awaits the "yes" of His creatures as a young bridegroom that of his bride. Unfortunately, from its very origins, mankind, seduced by the lies of the Evil One, rejected God's love in the illusion of a self-sufficiency that is impossible (cf. Gn 3:1-7). Turning in on himself, Adam withdrew from that source of life who is God Himself, and became the first of "those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage" (Heb 2:15). [God “failed” in Adam] God, however, did not give up. On the contrary, man's "no" was the decisive impulse that moved Him to manifest His love in all of its redeeming strength.

The Cross reveals the fullness of God's love

It is in the mystery of the Cross that the overwhelming power of the heavenly Father's mercy is revealed in all of its fullness. In order to win back the love of His creature, He accepted to pay a very high price: the blood of His only begotten Son. Death, which for the first Adam was an extreme sign of loneliness and powerlessness, was thus transformed in the supreme act of love and freedom of the new Adam. One could very well assert, therefore, together with Saint Maximus the Confessor, that Christ "died, if one could say so, divinely, because He died freely" (Ambigua, 91, 1956). On the Cross, God's eros for us is made manifest. Eros is indeed -- as Pseudo-Dionysius expresses it -- that force "that does not allow the lover to remain in himself but moves him to become one with the beloved" (De divinis nominibus, IV, 13: PG 3, 712). Is there more "mad eros" (N. Cabasilas, Vita in Cristo, 648) than that which led the Son of God to make Himself one with us even to the point of suffering as His own the consequences of our offences?

"Him whom they have pierced"

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look at Christ pierced in the Cross! He is the unsurpassing revelation of God's love, a love in which eros and agape, far from being opposed, enlighten each other. On the Cross, it is God Himself who begs the love of His creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us. The Apostle Thomas recognized Jesus as "Lord and God" when he put his hand into the wound of His side. Not surprisingly, many of the saints found in the Heart of Jesus the deepest expression of this mystery of love. One could rightly say that the revelation of God's eros toward man is, in reality, the supreme expression of His agape. In all truth, only the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for reciprocity instills a joy, which eases the heaviest of burdens. Jesus said: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself" (Jn 12:32). The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to Him. Accepting His love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and devote ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ "draws me to Himself" in order to unite Himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with His own love. Blood and water "They shall look on Him whom they have pierced." Let us look with trust at the pierced side of Jesus from which flow "blood and water" (Jn 19:34)! The Fathers of the Church considered these elements as symbols of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. Through the water of Baptism, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, we are given access to the intimacy of Trinitarian love. In the Lenten journey, memorial of our Baptism, we are exhorted to come out of ourselves in order to open ourselves, in trustful abandonment, to the merciful embrace of the Father (cf. Saint John Chrysostom, Catecheses, 3,14ff). Blood, symbol of the love of the Good Shepherd, flows into us especially in the Eucharistic mystery: "The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation � we enter into the very dynamic of His self-giving" (Encyclical Deus caritas est, 13). Let us live Lent then, as a "Eucharistic" time in which, welcoming the love of Jesus, we learn to spread it around us with every word and deed. Contemplating "Him whom they have pierced" moves us in this way to open our hearts to others, recognizing the wounds inflicted upon the dignity of the human person; it moves us, in particular, to fight every form of contempt for life and human exploitation and to alleviate the tragedies of loneliness and abandonment of so many people. May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God's love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must "regive" to our neighbour, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need. Only in this way will we be able to participate fully in the joy of Easter. May Mary, Mother of Beautiful Love, guide us in this Lenten journey, a journey of authentic conversion to the love of Christ. I wish you, dear brothers and sisters, a fruitful Lenten journey, imparting with affection to all of you, a special Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 21 November 2006. BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

[1] Benedict XVI, “The Apostle Bartholomew, His `Words Present a double Aspect of Jesus’ Identity,’” October 4, 2006
[2] Ibid
[3] Leo Joseph Suenens, “Loving Through the Power of the Holy Spirit,” Towards a Civilization of Love Ignatius (1985) 92.
[4] Ibid 94.
`My awareness of constructing an objective truth would never provide me with anything more than an objective truth would never provide me with anything more than an objective truth for me… if I had not underlying my judgments, the primordial certainty of being in contact with being itself, if before any voluntary adoption of positivism I were not already situated in an intersubjective world, and if wcience, too, were not upheld by this basis.
[5] J. Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Ignatius (1987) 79-80.

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