Monday, August 13, 2007

Points of Benedict XVI on the Assumption (Mostly From "Daughter of Zion" 1977)

“Daughter of Zion”[1]

The following is very important in the light of “Jesus of Nazareth,” i.e., the struggle of Benedict XVI with the split between the Jesus of history, and the Jesus of faith. What we are dealing with here in the Assumption does not appear in Scripture, nor was there a consciousness in the Church until its appearance in the 6th century. As you will see below, the declaration of the Assumption of our Lady is “canonization” and of the highest kind by a surging consciousness of the Church. This is not an increase of Revelation (which was total and complete in the Person of Jesus Christ), but there is a growth in experience of faith in the Church, and with that experience, a heightened consciousness and awareness.

Not “Historical,” Therefore Myth?

1) The proclamation of the Assumption is neither historical tradition (Altaner claims “there is no witness to such a doctrine before the sixth century”) nor historical fact proclaimed as such in Scripture. The Resurrection of Christ “also transcends history and in this sense offers us no historical fact of the usual type, but it is essential for the resurrection that it reach into temporal existence and announce itself in an historical account.”[2]

Rather, Theological Affirmation.

2) The Assumption is “a theological, not an historical affirmation.”[3] The dogma proclaimed in 1950 is an act of veneration. The East achieves this veneration as liturgy. The West achieves it by dogmatic proclamation. “The dogmatic proclamation of 1950 was an act of Marian veneration in the form of a dogmatic statement, which, by exalting the Mother to the highest degree, was intended to be a liturgy of faith.”[4]

Therefore, it is important that we understand that we are dealing here with “canonization.” Benedict said that the Assumption is “the highest degree of canonization in which the predicate “saint” is recognized in the most strict sense, i.e., being wholly and undividedly in eschatological fulfillment.”[5]

The theological base has two scriptural references:

a) “Behold, from henceforth all generations will call me blessed,” (Lk. 1, 48).

b) “Blessed are you who believed.”

Our Lady is assumed into eternal life because of the Immaculate Conception. That is, she had no original sin. That means “no exceptional proficiency, no exceptional achievement; on the contrary, it signifies that Mary reserves no area of being, life, and will for herself as a private possession: instead, precisely in the total dispossession of self, in giving herself to God, she comes to the true possession of self. Grace as dispossession becomes response as appropriation.”[6]

“Full of Grace”

Grace is the relation of love of the divine Person for the human person. “Our religious mentality has reified this concept much too much; it regards grace as a supernatural something we carry about in our soul. And since we perceive very little of it, or nothing at all, it has gradually become irrelevant to us, an empty word belonging to Christian jargon, which seems to have lost any relationship to the lived reality of our everyday life. In reality, grace is a relational term: it does not predicate something about an I, but something about a connection between I and Thou, between God and man. ‘Full of grace’ could therefore also be translated as: ‘You are full of the Holy Spirit; your life is intimately connected with God’… Grace in the proper and deepest sense of the word is not some thing that comes from God; it is God himself. Redemption means that god, acting as God truly does, gives us nothing less than himself. The gift of God is God – he who as the Holy Spirit is communion with us. ‘Full of grace’ therefore means, once again, that Mary is a wholly open human being, one who has opened herself. Entirely, one who has placed herself in God’s hands boldly, limitlessly, and without fear for her own fate. It means that she lives wholly by and in relation to God. She is a listener and a prayer, whose mind and soul are alive to the manifold ways in which the living God quietly calls to her. She is one who prays and stretches forth wholly to meet God; she is therefore a lover, who has the breadth and magnanimity of true love, but who has also its unerring power of discernment and its readiness to suffer.”[7]

The Meaning of “Assumption”

Benedict XVI: The theological connection with the Immaculate Conception: “Where the totality of grace is, there is the totality of salvation. Where grace no longer exists in the fractured state of simul Justus et peccator, but in pure ‘Yes,’ death, sin’s jailer, has no place. Naturally this involves the question: What does the assumption of body and soul into heavenly glory mean? What, after all, does ‘immortality’ mean? And what does ‘death’ mean? Man is not immortal by his own power, but only in and through another, preliminarily, tentatively, fragmentarily, in children, in fame, but finally and truly only in and from the Entirely-Other, God. We are mortal due to the usurped autarchy of a determination to remain within ourselves, which proves to be a deception. Death, the impossibility of giving oneself a foothold, the collapse of autarchy, is not merely a somatic but a human phenomenon of all-embracing profundity. Nevertheless, where the innate propensity to autarchy is totally lacking, where there is the pure self-dispossession of the one who does not rely upon himself (= grace), death is absent, even if the somatic end is present. Instead, the whole human being enters salvation, because as a whole, undiminished, he stands eternally in God’s life-giving memory that preserves him as himself in his own life.”

There, anyone who is “glorified and praised together with God’s name is alive.” As God is the God of the living, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so also is He the God of the Virgin, His Mother. “We added that in the case of Mary and in her case alone (as far as we know) it applies in a definitive, unconditional way because she stands for the Church itself, for its definitive state of salvation, which is no longer a promise awaiting fulfillment but a fact. Here Colossians 3, 3 seems to me to be significant: ‘You have died, and you life is hidden with Christ in God.’ That is, there is something like an ‘ascension’ of the baptized, of which Ephesians 2, 6 explicitly speaks: ‘He raised you up with him and place you in heaven at the right hand of Christ Jesus.’ According to that text Baptism is a participation in Jesus’ ascension as well as his resurrection. The baptized person, as such and on that account, is already included in the ascension and lives his hidden (his most individual) life there, in the elevated Lord. The formula of the ‘assumption’ of Mary’s body and soul loses every trace of speculative arbitrariness in this perspective. The Assumption is actually only the highest form of canonization. She gave birth to the Lord, ‘with her heart before her body’ (Augustine), and therefore faith, i.e., the interior substance of Baptism according to Luke 1, 45, can be predicated of her without restriction, realizing in her the very quintessence of Baptism.”[8]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Daughter of Zion,” Ignatius (1983) 72 -82,
[2] Ibid. 72.
[3] Ibid. 73.
[4] Ibid. 74.
[5]Ibid. 74.
[6] Ibid. 70.
[7] J. Ratzinger, “Mary, The Church at the Source,” Ignatius (2005) 67-68.
[8] J. Ratzinger, “Daughter of Zion,” op. cit 79-80.

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