Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Anniversay of Beatification of St. Josemaria Escriva 5/17/1992

Jesus Christ: "Fact" As Meaning of Scripture:

“At first, Jesus’ death on the Cross had simply been an inexplicable fact that placed his entire message and his whole figure in question. The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24, 13-35) presents this journeying, talking and searching together as the process by which the soul’s darkness is gradually illumined by walking with Jesus (v. 15). It becomes clear that Moses and the Prophets – ‘all the Scriptures’ – had spoken of the events of Christ’s Passion (vv. 26-27): the ‘absurd’ now yields its profound meaning. IN the apparently senseless event, the real sense of human journeying is truly opened up: meaning triumphs over the power of destruction and evil.”[1]

Escriva: "Fact" as Presence of Christ in the Secular World:

In May 1992, just after the beatification of Josemaria Escriva, Alvaro del Portillo wrote in L’Osservatore Romano: “All those who knew Josemaria Escriva perceived that his person was inseparable from the mission for which God had chosen him. Having been able to form a particularly close and profound relationship with him for 40 years reinforces in my memory this characteristic dimension of his human and spiritual physiognomy. I have seen him, so to speak, in his ‘first act’ as founder, that is to say, in the daily and continuous building of Opus Dei, and as a consequence, of the Church, as he affirmed not in vain that the Work exists solely to serve the Church.”

The vocation-mission of St. Josemaria Escriva was not to follow Christ, imitate Christ, study Christ, teach Christ or preach Christ. It was to be Christ. On August 7, 1931, after intense devotion to the Virgin accompanied by praying the (then) three parts of the rosary every day during the month of May, he heard: “’When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself’ (Jn. 12, 32); not in the sense that Scripture says it; I say it to you in the sense that you put me at the summit of all human activities, so that all over the world there be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, that they be other Christs.” And two months (October 16, 1931 later, he heard in the middle of the street, on a streetcar: “You are my son, you are Christ.”[2]

And this “being Christ” was to take place in the exercise of ordinary work and family life. It consists in making every secular act a gift of oneself. This “gift of oneself” is the meaning of being Christ. Consider Joseph Ratzinger on this: “What faith really states is precisely that with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office, the office is the person. The two are no longer divisible. Here there is no private area reserved for an ‘I’ which remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be ‘off duty,’ here there is no ‘I’ separate from the work; the ‘I’ is the work and the work is the ‘I.’”[3]

I think it is safe to say that Opus Dei is the Church itself coming to the consciousness of the presence of Christ in the world by dint of the experience of Escriva becoming the work that he was called to do, viz, to found Opus Dei. As mentioned above, Del Portillo observed for 47 years how Escriva’s persona – like Christ - was “inseparable from the mission for which God had chosen him.” He went on: “The identification of his very self with his foundational activity implied that … Escriva perfected himself as a subject – up to the point of living the virtues to a heroic degree – in the measure in which he carried out Opus Dei, feeling the need to second God’s plans daily.”[4]

The uniqueness of the charism of Josemaria Escriva and Opus Dei is a development of the experience and consciousness of the Church about herself. Opus Dei is the Church herself becoming enriched with the experience and consciousness of being the very Person of Christ. Christ is the Head, and the Church is the Body. But the Body is the Subject – the “I” of Christ - as much as the Head. That is why Lumen Gentium #8 declares that “the sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic… subsists in the Catholic Church.” The word “subsist” (and not “exist”) is used for a subject, a Person. “Many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines” where they “are.” But Christ, as Subject – “I” – subsists only in the Catholic Church. Opus Dei carries within it the charism of living that subjectivity of being Christ himself by becoming self-gift on the occasion and in the execution of ordinary secular work.

Consider Ratzinger’s remarks on “subsistence” of the Church of Christ only in the Catholic Church: “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, 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.”[5]

It is interesting that when Escriva went to Rome to have Opus Dei approved by the Church, he was told that he was 100 years ahead of his time, and that he should come back in 100 years. But then, within 12 years the Second Vatican Council was called and within 16 it had begun. And Alvaro del Portillo was able to affirm that Vatican II “had taken up and promulgated as common doctrine for all Christians the substantial lines of the charism of Opus Dei.”[6] The Church had crossed the threshold of the ontological subject and therefore the "enrichment" of faith, which is the achievement of Vatican II. (See Wojtyla's "Sources of Renewal" Chpt. 1).

The Charism – “Gestalt” - of Opus Dei Is Fixed For All Time: Escriva received “a powerful light, a profound interior motion, a clear awareness of the divine will and he saw the nature and mission of Opus Dei in the Church and in the world. He saw… the essential nucleus of Opus Dei, in the way God had defined and planned it. That day… our Lord founded his Work… [After that] It was necessary to open up the juridical path; and necessary also to define the features and characteristics of our apostolate and our mode of government… In this work, the Holy Spirit accompanied him as a Teacher, through the big and small events of secular and Church history, and above all through the experience of the Work itself, which our Lord offered for his discernment.”[7]

The Future? This Gestalt is in our hands. If we do not live the charism of becoming Christ Himself by the gift of self in secular work, then Opus Dei literally does not really exist. It exists on the books objectively. But it would not exist as the subjective ontological reality that God has will for it, the Church and the world. It would not be Christ Passing By.

Therefore, the need to dream daringly. Perhaps we could call the protagonists of this adventure “reckless romantics” who are professionally competent with their feet on the ground “to raise the world to God and transform it from within: this is the ideal the holy founder points out to you, dear brothers and sisters, who rejoice today to see him raised to the glory of the altars.” [8]

[1] Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth” Ignatius (2011) 203.
[2] J. Coverdale, “Uncommon Faith,” Scepter (2002) 90-93.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 149.
[4] L’OR Ibid.
[5] J. Ratzinger, “The Ecclesiology of the Constitution On the Church, Vatican II, ‘Lumen Gentium.’”
[6] Cfr. Romana et Matriten., Beatificationis et Canonizationis Servi Dei Iosephmaria Escriva de Balaguer, Positio super vita et virtutibus, Summarium, no. 964.
[7] Javier Echevarria, Letter November 28, 1995
[8] John Paul II, Homily, October 6, 2002.

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