Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Meaning of Advent: Opus Dei and The "Development of Doctrine" in Vatican II

Adventus means “arrival” and is used as the Latin translation of the Greek word Parousia. Parousia means “presence,” or the beginning of a presence such as a king who bestows his presence on his subjects. “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.”

This understanding of Parousia as Christ being already present, and yet not fully as He is to be, “has been thoroughly debased, so much so that the history of eschatology is nothing less than the history of an apostasy.”[1] That apostasy occurred around the year 1000. Without going into the cause of it, the result has been that we are dealing with a Christianity “for which grace and salvation are past, and the future holds only threat and judgment.”[2] What then of this middle time? A Christian life that is boring, Christ does not live now. He lived 2000 years ago, and He will come at the end. Until then, we live in the externals and go through the motions. Ratzinger asked: “However did we arrive at that tedious and tedium-laden Christianity which we moderns observe and, indeed, know from our own experience?”[3] How did we pass from the Maranatha (Come, Lord Jesus) to the Dies Irae (O Day of Wrath)?

It is in the light of this situation that we hear point 584 of St. Josemaria Escriva’s The Way : “Christ lives!” On the occasion of the Escriva’s beatification in 1992, Benedict wrote: However, there is something which one immediately notices when one comes in contact with the life of Monsignor Escrivá de Balaguer and his writings – a very vivid sense of the presence of Christ. ‘Stir up that fire of faith. Christ is not a figure that has passed. He is not a memory that is lost in history. He lives! “Jesus Christus heri et hodie, ipse et in saecula”, says Saint Paul, – “Jesus Christ is the same today as he was yesterday, and as he will be for ever”,’ wrote Josemaría Escrivá in The Way (584). This Christ who is alive is also a Christ who is near, a Christ in whom the power and majesty of God make themselves present through ordinary, simple human beings.”[4]

“Already – Not Yet”[5]


Lumen Gentium #48. “The Church, to which we are all called in Christ Jesus, and in which we acquire sanctity through the grace of God, will attain its full perfection only in the glory of heaven, when there will come the time of the restoration of all things.(237) At that time the human race as well as the entire world, which is intimately related to man and attains to its end through him, will be perfectly reestablished in Christ.(238)

“Christ, having been lifted up from the earth has drawn all to Himself[6]. Rising from the dead(240) He sent His life-giving Spirit upon His disciples and through Him has established His Body which is the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. Sitting at the right hand of the Father, He is continually active in the world that He might lead men to the Church and through it join them to Himself and that He might make them partakers of His glorious life by nourishing them with His own Body and Blood. Therefore the promised restoration which we are awaiting has already begun in Christ, is carried forward in the mission of the Holy Spirit and through Him continues in the Church in which we learn the meaning of our terrestrial life through our faith, while we perform with hope in the future the work committed to us in this world by the Father, and thus work out our salvation.(241)

“Already the final age of the world has come upon us (242) and the renovation of the world is irrevocably decreed and is already anticipated in some kind of a real way; for the Church already on this earth is signed with a sanctity which is real although imperfect. However, until there shall be new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells,(243) the pilgrim Church in her sacraments and institutions, which pertain to this present time, has the appearance of this world which is passing and she herself dwells among creatures who groan and travail in pain until now and await the revelation of the sons of God.”

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Eschatology,” CUA (1988) 5.

[2] Ibid 10.

[3] Ibid 8.

[4] Inaugural message at the Symposium “Holiness and the World” on the founder of Opus Dei, organized by the Faculty of Theology of the Roman Atheneum of the Holy Cross, from 12 to 14 October at the Palazzo Apollinare di Roma.

[5] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 72-81.

[6] Jn 12, 32. Consider the experience of the locution to Escriva during the Mass of August 7, 1931 in which he hears the exegesis of this verse and its bearing on the meaning of Opus Dei. Cf. J. Coverdale, “Uncommon Faith” Scepter (2002) 89-90.

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