Sunday, October 07, 2007

Lepanto of the Third Millennium

At the first Lepanto (1571), the intervention of the Virgin was considered the principal cause of the victory of the Christian forces against the Islamic attack against the then Christian culture of the West known as Christendom. In the most summary fashion, we can say that the actual surviving model of Church and State after the first millennium, pace the doctrine of Pope Gelasius (492) who taught that Church and State are two distinct societies, was one single political-religious society with miter and crown, the Res Publica Christiana. What was saved at Lepanto was Christian culture instantiated in this single religio-political society. As a result one could say that the war and the victory were extrinsic since the Christian West was suffering a progressive anemia in both its spiritual and secular expression, and what was saved was being devoured from within. There was a progressive split of faith from life that has deposited us in a secularism in which God is absent. This, unhealed, was what was saved in the first Lepanto.

A Second Lepanto

At this beginning of the third millennium, a second Lepanto challenges us to establish a world culture that will be based on the truth and dignity of the human person. This can have no other source than God Himself who took our human nature, assuming it in to His Divine Person as His own and lived out His relation to the Father by obeying to death with His human will. This world culture – crafted on the human nature of Christ – will have the double dynamic of solidarity and subsidiarity whereby it will be universal without being homogenized. It will conform to the Christological anthropology described in Gaudium et spes #24 that “man, the only earthly being that God has loved for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.” The solidarity of self-gift derives from and returns to enhance the subsidiarity of the subsistent and autonomous subject.

The Kingdom of God

The truth and dignity of the human person is Christ Himself. As God-man, Jesus is both Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus the Christ. He is the revelation both of who God is and who man is. “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling” (Gaudium et spes #22).

Christ is both in time and out of time. He is both now and at the end of the world. The fullness of His presence will not only be at the end of time, but took place 2000 years ago, and is happening at this moment. Ratzinger clarifies the meaning of “parousia” by referring to its translation as “Advent:” “‘Advent does not… mean ‘expectation,’ as some may think. It is a translation of the Greek word parousia which means ‘presence’ or, more accurately, ‘arrival,’ i.e., the beginning of a presence. In antiquity the word was a technical term for the presence of a king or ruler and also of the god being worshipped, who bestows his parousia on his devotees for a time. ‘Advent,’ then, means a presence begun, the presence being that of God.

“Advent reminds us, therefore, of two things: first, that God’s presence in the world has already begun, that he is present though in a hidden manner; second, that his presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, of becoming and progressing toward its full form. His presence has already begun, and we, the faithful, are the ones through whom he wishes to be present in the world.”[1]

This “presence” of God in history and space is Jesus Christ, and it is the meaning of the Kingdom of God. John Paul II, in Redemptoris Missio #18 says: “The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation. It is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God.”

Notice the implications of the above. If the Kingdom of God is a Person who is both the transcendent creating, eternal God as well as this man Jesus of Nazareth who looks me in the eye, shakes my hand, introduces me to His mother and father and shows me where he works, eats and sleeps, then the Kingdom of God is present here in this world whenever and wherever He is.

The Mission of Opus Dei: To Instantiate the Kingdom of God in Time and Space

Add to this the locution that Josemaria Escriva received on August 7, 1931 and solidified two months later in October of the same year. He heard: "a voice, as always, perfect, clear: et ego, si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum! (Jn. 12, 32). And the precise concept: it is not in the sense in which Scripture says it that I say it to you. I say it to you in the sense that you place me at the summit of all human activities; that in all the places of the word, there may be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, that they be other Christs" (underline mine).The meaning is clear: if the Kingdom of God is the Person of Jesus of Nazareth (this historical figure who lived 2,000 years ago), who is Jesus the Christ (and therefore God, and therefore lives now), and if the entire thrust of the Christian revelation and sacramental system is the identification of each baptized, confirmed and communicated person such that he/she becomes Christ Himself by the becoming capable of making the total gift of self, then wherever one of these persons is, Christ is, and the Kingdom is.

Now, add to this, that the human person who actually did this was the Blessed Virgin Mary who - full of Grace (God's love affirming her and making her capable of making the gift saying "Yes" - "Fiat" - is inviting us through the Church and today's feast of the "Holy Rosary" and the historical precedent of the First Lepanto to pray with her such that we can do what she did: engender the God-man in us by making a like gift of ourselves.

Add further, that tomorrow, October 8th, is the 7th anniversary of the consecration of the third millennium to the heart of Mary by John Paul II which echoes that other consecration made on March 25, 1984 which presaged - and many believe, caused - the collapse of Communism in 1989. Notice that in the year 2,000, John Paul II had the original statue of the Virgin of Fatima brought to Rome, exactly as he did in 1984. He had asked the entire Church to make the consecration of the world (including Russia) with him. On this occasion, he had about 1, 500 bishops in Rome in St. Peter’s Square celebrating their special Jubilee, who made the “Act of Entrustment” to Mary with him. He, and they, prayed to the Mother of Christ to protect the Church and the world at the beginning of the Third Millennium.

In retrospect, Opus Dei appears as the affirmation of Jesus of Nazareth. Every believer holds that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, i.e. that Jesus is God. What has been blurred in the praxis for centuries is the Jesus Who is God, is also Jesus Who is man; that He was, will be, and is at this moment in the world and Lord of history; and that wherever there is a baptised Christian (or not) who makes the gift of self, there is the Kingdom of God - but hidden.

[1] J. Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching, Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 71-72.

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