Monday, April 07, 2014

Attempt by Blogger To See If "Substance" Means "Subject" as Believer Becoming Christ (response to Joe Wood)

Spe Salvi #7 and 8 by Benedict XVI:

The question: what is the meaning of "subtance" here?

We must return once more to the New Testament. In the eleventh chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews (v. 1) we find a kind of definition of faith which closely links this virtue with hope. Ever since the Reformation there has been a dispute among exegetes over the central word of this phrase, but today a way towards a common interpretation seems to be opening up once more. For the time being I shall leave this central word untranslated. The sentence therefore reads as follows: “Faith is the hypostasis of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen”. For the Fathers and for the theologians of the Middle Ages, it was clear that the Greek word hypostasis was to be rendered in Latin with the term substantia. The Latin translation of the text produced at the time of the early Church therefore reads:Est autem fides sperandarum substantia rerum, argumentum non apparentiumfaith is the “substance” of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen. Saint Thomas Aquinas[4], using the terminology of the philosophical tradition to which he belonged, explains it as follows: faith is a habitus, that is, a stable disposition of the spirit, through which eternal life takes root in us and reason is led to consent to what it does not see. The concept of “substance” is therefore modified in the sense that through faith, in a tentative way, or as we might say “in embryo”—and thus according to the “substance”—there are already present in us the things that are hoped for: the whole, true life. And precisely because the thing itself is already present, this presence of what is to come also creates certainty: this “thing” which must come is not yet visible in the external world (it does not “appear”), but because of the fact that, as an initial and dynamic reality, we carry it within us, a certain perception of it has even now come into existence. To Luther, who was not particularly fond of theLetter to the Hebrews, the concept of “substance”, in the context of his view of faith, meant nothing. For this reason he understood the term hypostasis/substance not in the objective sense (of a reality present within us), but in the subjective sense, as an expression of an interior attitude, and so, naturally, he also had to understand the termargumentum as a disposition of the subject. In the twentieth century this interpretation became prevalent—at least in Germany—in Catholic exegesis too, so that the ecumenical translation into German of the New Testament, approved by the Bishops, reads as follows: Glaube aber ist: Feststehen in dem, was man erhofft, Überzeugtsein von dem, was man nicht sieht (faith is: standing firm in what one hopes, being convinced of what one does not see). This in itself is not incorrect, but it is not the meaning of the text, because the Greek term used (elenchos) does not have the subjective sense of “conviction” but the objective sense of “proof”. Rightly, therefore, recent Prot- estant exegesis has arrived at a different interpretation: “Yet there can be no question but that this classical Protestant understanding is untenable”[5]. Faith is not merely a personal reaching out towards things to come that are still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for, and this present reality constitutes for us a “proof” of the things that are still unseen. Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a “not yet”. The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future.
8. This explanation is further strengthened and related to daily life if we consider verse 34 of the tenth chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews, which is linked by vocabulary and content to this definition of hope-filled faith and prepares the way for it. Here the author speaks to believers who have undergone the experience of persecution and he says to them: “you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property (hyparchonton—Vg. bonorum), since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession (hyparxin—Vg.substantiam) and an abiding one.” Hyparchonta refers to property, to what in earthly life constitutes the means of support, indeed the basis, the “substance” for life, what we depend upon. This “substance”, life's normal source of security, has been taken away from Christians in the course of persecution. They have stood firm, though, because they considered this material substance to be of little account. They could abandon it because they had found a better “basis” for their existence—a basis that abides, that no one can take away. We must not overlook the link between these two types of “substance”, between means of support or material basis and the word of faith as the “basis”, the “substance” that endures. Faith gives life a new basis, a new foundation on which we can stand, one which relativizes the habitual foundation, the reliability of material income. A new freedom is created with regard to this habitual foundation of life, which only appears to be capable of providing support, although this is obviously not to deny its normal meaning. This new freedom, the awareness of the new “substance” which we have been given, is revealed not only in martyrdom, in which people resist the overbearing power of ideology and its political organs and, by their death, renew the world. Above all, it is seen in the great acts of renunciation, from the monks of ancient times to Saint Francis of Assisi and those of our contemporaries who enter modern religious Institutes and movements and leave everything for love of Christ, so as to bring to men and women the faith and love of Christ, and to help those who are suffering in body and spirit. In their case, the new “substance” has proved to be a genuine “substance”; from the hope of these people who have been touched by Christ, hope has arisen for others who were living in darkness and without hope. In their case, it has been demonstrated that this new life truly possesses and is “substance” that calls forth life for others. For us who contemplate these figures, their way of acting and living isde facto a “proof” that the things to come, the promise of Christ, are not only a reality that we await, but a real presence: he is truly the “philosopher” and the “shepherd” who shows us what life is and where it is to be found.

Development of the Notion of Substance (Object) to Subject (“I”)

My Understanding of Spe Salvi #7-8 [above]:

1)       The ultimate reality is the Word of God.[1]
2)       The Word of God is Subject/Person, not object. Hence the Word of God cannot be “substance” as understood by Greek philosophy as individual thing-in-itself, and not-in-another, and this because the Word of God is the Word of the Father as Son. As Son, He is nothing-in-Himself.[2] As the Father is not an individual-in-Himself, so the Son is not an individual-in-Himself. As the Father is not the Father and then engenders the Son, but is the very act of engendering the Son, so also the Son is the act of obeying and glorifying the Father. Hence, in this context, Ratzinger famously wrote: “In this idea of relativity in word and love, independent of the concept of substance and not to be classified among the ‘accidents,’ Christian thought discovered the kernel of the concept of person, which describes something other and infinitely more than the mere idea of the ‘individual’… Therein lies concealed a revolution in man’s view of the world: the undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality.”[3]
3)       The act of faith is the act of the whole person going out of self to receive into self the Word of God. Our Lady is the protagonist of this. She empties self, lowering self, creating space in self to “hear” the Word from within such that the Word becomes flesh – her flesh. She becomes “another Christ,” “Ipse Christus.” She is not addressed as “Miriam” by the angel, but kekaritomene (full of grace = full of God). The act of faith is a death-event powered ontologically by the sacrament of Baptism to transcend self such that one goes to death. Christ’s Baptism was the Passion and Death. So also the act of faith with us. There is a change of subjects in us. “The ‘I’ ceases to be an autonomous subject standing in itself. It is snatched away from itself and fitted into a new subject. The ‘I’ is not simply submerged, but it must really release its grip on itself in order then to receive itself anew in and together with a greater ‘I.’”[4] “I live; no, not I. Christ lives in me” (Gal 2, 20).
4)       This development of the believing baptized subject into the “I” of Christ accounts for the presence of hope, because hope is the tendency of the ontological person, created in the image and likeness of the divine relational Person [of the Son]. And so, Benedict’s talking about the “already-not yet” is talk about becoming the reality of the Son (Christ) which is where we are going. If I have Christ in me – nay, I am inchoately Christ already - but not fully yet. My stretching and yearning for this is hope. It is the result of faith which incarnates Christ in me – and toward which I was always yearning since I was created in His image and likness. He is the Protagonist (GS #22) and meaning of who I am, and Who I am to be.
5)       And notice the light that is involved here. Ratzinger explains in his “Milestones” (108-109) that there is no “re-vel-ation” until I personally receive the Person of the Word in me. Insofar as I am turned back on myself, I am blind and hopeless. I have to remove “the veil,” and the “veil” is my “self-referentiality,” my being-in-myself. It is removed by the generosity of the act of faith to go out of myself in the service of others. The experience of that is always accompanied by consciousness which is the mystical knowing of Christ. Hence, “revelation” is not the texts of Scripture, but behind them and in me by the act of becoming Him from within. This is the same as his thesis 3 in “Behold the Pierced One” when he explains that: since Christ is prayer [as Incarnate Relation to the Father], and like is known by like, I cannot know Christ unless I pray, and only to the extent that I do pray. Prayer is the act of faith whereby I become Christ, and have hope. And this because that relational thrust that He is for and toward the Father, is now in me. The new “substance” that Christians experience is not what Aristotle understood by substance (to be in self) but quite different: the Christ in them Who is out of Self). By going out of myself, I stand on Christ, and not yet being fully Him, I hope.

6)       And so, “faith is the substance of things to be hoped for” [Heb. 11, 1]

Fr. Bob

[1] Furthermore, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our idea that matter, solid things, things we can touch, are the more solid, the more certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one's life: sand and rock. The one who builds on sand builds only on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will pass away. We can see this now with the fall of large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. The one who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is the one who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life.”
[2] “The Son as Son, and in so far as he is Son, does not proceed in any way from himself and so is completely one with the Father; since he is nothing beside him, claims no special position of his own, confronts the Father with nothing belonging only to him, retains no room for his own individuality, therefore he is completely equal to the Father. The logic is compelling: if there is nothing in which he is just he, no kind of fenced-off private ground, then he coincides with the Father, is ‘one’ with him. It is precisely this totality of interplay that the word ‘Son’ aims at expressing. To John ‘Son’ means being-from-another; thus with this word he defines the being of this man as being from another and for others, as a being that is completely open on both sides, knows no reserved area of the mere ‘I.’ When it thus becomes clear that the being of Jesus as Christ is a completely open being, a being ‘from’ and ‘towards,’ that nowhere clings to itself and nowhere stands on its own, then it is also clear at the same time that this being is pure relation (not substantiality) and, as pure relation, pure unity. This fundamental statement about Christ becomes, as we have seen, at the same time the explanation of Christian existence. To John, being a Christian means being like the Son, becoming a son; that is, not standing on one’s own and in oneself, but living completely open in the ‘from’ and ‘towards.’ In so far as the Christian is a ‘Christian,’ this is true of him. And certainly such utterances will make him aware to how small an extent he is a Christian” [Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius (1990) 134.

[3] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 132.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology,” in The Nature and Mission of Theology, Ignatius (1995) 51. 

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