Monday, August 15, 2011

Assumption - 2011 The Reasoning of "Fittingness

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: The reasoning is from the experience of love and beyond necessary deductive reasoning.

Ratzinger makes a critique of St. Anselm:

St. Anselm of Canterbury had attempted to give a rational and deductive account of Cur homo Deus? His answer was that God had been offended and the injury to divine justice could only be healed by an infinite God becoming man and restoring the lost state of justice. Finite man could make this restoration.
Ratzinger’s response to this is the relationality of the divine Person who restores justice not because of our understanding of justice, but because He is Love and do so for that reason. God becomes man because of the foolishness of His Love.

In the same way with the Assumption of our Lady into Heaven. She is not assumed because of rational necessity, but because it was fitting with the divine Love. In the encyclical promulgating the Assumption, “Munificentissimus Deus,” Pius XII
“St. John Damascene, an outstanding herald of this traditional truth, spoke out with powerful eloquence when he compared the bodily Assumption of the loving Mother of God with her other prerogatives and privileges. "It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God's Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God."[17]
22. These words of St. John Damascene agree perfectly with what others have taught on this same subject. Statements no less clear and accurate are to be found in sermons delivered by Fathers of an earlier time or of the same period, particularly on the occasion of this feast. And so, to cite some other examples, St. Germanus of Constantinople considered the fact that the body of Mary, the virgin Mother of God, was incorrupt and had been taken up into heaven to be in keeping, not only with her divine motherhood, but also with the special holiness of her virginal body. "You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life."[18] And another very ancient writer asserts: "As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him."[19]
24. Among the scholastic theologians there have not been lacking those who, wishing to inquire more profoundly into divinely revealed truths and desirous of showing the harmony that exists between what is termed the theological demonstration and the Catholic faith, have always considered it worthy of note that this privilege of the Virgin Mary's Assumption is in wonderful accord with those divine truths given us in Holy Scripture.
25. When they go on to explain this point, they adduce various proofs to throw light on this privilege of Mary. As the first element of these demonstrations, they insist upon the fact that, out of filial love for his mother, Jesus Christ has willed that she be assumed into heaven. They base the strength of their proofs on the incomparable dignity of her divine motherhood and of all those prerogatives which follow from it. These include her exalted holiness, entirely surpassing the sanctity of all men and of the angels, the intimate union of Mary with her Son, and the affection of preeminent love which the Son has for his most worthy Mother.
26. Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers,[20] have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption. Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist: "Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified"[21]; and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord's temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven. Treating of this subject, they also describe her as the Queen entering triumphantly into the royal halls of heaven and sitting at the right hand of the divine Redeemer.[22] Likewise they mention the Spouse of the Canticles "that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense" to be crowned.[23] These are proposed as depicting that heavenly Queen and heavenly Spouse who has been lifted up to the courts of heaven with the divine Bridegroom.
27. Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos.[24] Similarly they have given special attention to these words of the New Testament: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women,"[25] since they saw, in the mystery of the Assumption, the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special blessing that countered the curse of Eve….
28. Thus, during the earliest period of scholastic theology, that most pious man, Amadeus, Bishop of Lausarme, held that the Virgin Mary's flesh had remained incorrupt-for it is wrong to believe that her body has seen corruption-because it was really united again to her soul and, together with it, crowned with great glory in the heavenly courts. "For she was full of grace and blessed among women. She alone merited to conceive the true God of true God, whom as a virgin, she brought forth, to whom as a virgin she gave milk, fondling him in her lap, and in all things she waited upon him with loving care."[26]
29. Among the holy writers who at that time employed statements and various images and analogies of Sacred Scripture to Illustrate and to confirm the doctrine of the Assumption, which was piously believed, the Evangelical Doctor, St. Anthony of Padua, holds a special place. On the feast day of the Assumption, while explaining the prophet's words: "I will glorify the place of my feet,"[27] he stated it as certain that the divine Redeemer had bedecked with supreme glory his most beloved Mother from whom he had received human flesh. He asserts that "you have here a clear statement that the Blessed Virgin has been assumed in her body, where was the place of the Lord's feet. Hence it is that the holy Psalmist writes: 'Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark which you have sanctified."' And he asserts that, just as Jesus Christ has risen from the death over which he triumphed and has ascended to the right hand of the Father, so likewise the ark of his sanctification "has risen up, since on this day the Virgin Mother has been taken up to her heavenly dwelling."[28]
30. When, during the Middle Ages, scholastic theology was especially flourishing, St. Albert the Great who, to establish this teaching, had gathered together many proofs from Sacred Scripture, from the statements of older writers, and finally from the liturgy and from what is known as theological reasoning, concluded in this way: "From these proofs and authorities and from many others, it is manifest that the most blessed Mother of God has been assumed above the choirs of angels. And this we believe in every way to be true."[29] And, in a sermon which he delivered on the sacred day of the Blessed Virgin Mary's annunciation, explained the words "Hail, full of grace"-words used by the angel who addressed her-the Universal Doctor, comparing the Blessed Virgin with Eve, stated clearly and incisively that she was exempted from the fourfold curse that had been laid upon Eve.[30]
St. Thomas Aquinas:
31. Following the footsteps of his distinguished teacher, the Angelic Doctor, despite the fact that he never dealt directly with this question, nevertheless, whenever he touched upon it, always held together with the Catholic Church, that Mary's body had been assumed into heaven along with her soul.[31]
St. Bonaventure:
32. Along with many others, the Seraphic Doctor held the same views. He considered it as entirely certain that, as God had preserved the most holy Virgin Mary from the violation of her virginal purity and integrity in conceiving and in childbirth, he would never have permitted her body to have been resolved into dust and ashes.[32] Explaining these words of Sacred Scripture: "Who is this that comes up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her beloved?"[33] and applying them in a kind of accommodated sense to the Blessed Virgin, he reasons thus: "From this we can see that she is there bodily...her blessedness would not have been complete unless she were there as a person. The soul is not a person, but the soul, joined to the body, is a person. It is manifest that she is there in soul and in body. Otherwise she would not possess her complete beatitude.[34]
Comment by Christoph Schönborn:

As opposed to St. Anselm, St. Thomas “approaches Christology - the entire history of salvation, indeed – with a different theological method. Everything that God, in his sovereign freedom, has disposed, all that he sets to work in accordance with his plan for creation and salvation, transcends our rational powers and does not allow itself to be deduced as ‘rationally necessary: ‘neither the creation, nor the election of Israel, the Son’s saving mission, the work of redemption on the Cross or the mission of the Church, may be deduced as necessary on rational grounds. They are not, however, on that account irrational and arbitrary, Nominalism thought. All these works of the goodness and wisdom of God make sense, have their coherence, have indeed – as Anselm himself says – their own beauty. In the words of Irenaeus of Lyons, they are symphonic, they ‘are in harmony,’ or (as Thomas says) they are ‘fitting.’ The argument from fitness plays a central role in the Christology of Saint Thomas. In response to the question of why God should become man, Thomas offers no demonstration of ‘rational necessity,’ but he does suggest ten ‘grounds of fitness’ that show this act of God to be extremely appropriate, coherent, consistent with God’s other actions…
“The very strength of the Thomistic argument of fitness is that it does not attempt to derive what is concrete and historical from some general concept but, on the contrary, seeks to arrive at a view of the whole through the most precise examination possible of the concrete historical events and likewise, therefore, through an exact comprehension of the literal sense of texts. The search for ‘fitness’ thus keeps a balance between strict attention to textual and historical facts and a sense of the interconnectedness in the large whole.”
Hans Urs von Balthasar’s “Theological Aesthetic:”
“For a long time I (Christoph Schönborn) concerned myself with the question of whether Hans Urs von Balthasar’s theological aesthetic does not represent a further development, in the current context, of Saint Thomas’ method of fitness…What von Balthasar calls ‘seeing the form,’ taking up Goethe’s concept of a form, does in fact seem to me to be very close to what results from the argument from fitness in Thomas’ work. Common to both is the careful attention to the concrete reality of the history of salvation. Both have an outstanding knowledge of Holy Scripture, which they served all their lives as faithful commentators. Yet both have a keen sense that the overall view of the many details is not produced by the efforts of their own reason but results from a point of view granted by grace, from the ‘eye of faith,’ which shares in the light of the divine wisdom and which views the interrelationships in this light, even if only ‘as in a mirror (1 Cor. 13, 12), that is, in faith and not yet by full vision.”[1]
My Take: Since Ratzinger confronts and rejects the deductive logic of Anselm concerning the Redemption with the logic of Love and the Cross, would it not be the same across the boards? By that I mean: We don’t go to God by our own initiative, but God comes to us out of Love. And He loves like this because He is constitutively relational. He is Self-gift. There are not reasons except who He is as He reveals Himself: Relation. Therefore, fittingness is another way of saying “relation.” Redemption is not the healing of an injustice, but a madness of Love.
The Assumption would fit into the same theo-logic.
[1] Christoph Schönborn, “God Sent His Son,” Ignatius (2010) 16-18

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