Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Class on Creation Impacting the Meaning of Reality With Attention to R. Sokolowksi and Newman

Prolegomenon to the Revelation of Creation

Robert Sokolowski: “In the Christian faith we are told about ourselves, about our history, and about the world. We are told both how things are and how they ought to be. But the teachings are coherent only when they are taken within a setting provided by a special understanding of God. Words like ‘incarnation’ and ‘redemption,’ ‘Eucharist,’ ‘charity,’ ‘sin,’ ‘conversion,’ and ‘hope’ when used in a specifically Christian way, do not simply name things that show up in a human experience; what they name is determined by the God who is involved with such things. God himself, as God, does not appear in the world or in human experience.[1] He is not the kind of being that can be present as a thing in the world. And yet, despite this necessary absence, he is believed to be that which gives the definitive sense to everything that does appear in the world and in experience.
            “We first learn about the Christian God in the course of Christian living. We hear about him through preaching,[2] we address him in prayer, and we attempt to respond to him in our actions; however, we approach him as one who will always be absent to us while we remain in something we now must call ‘our present state’… The primary task of Christian theology is to clarify how the God we believe in is to be understood. He is not a part of the world, and yet the world has its being and definitive sense from him. What kind of existence does he enjoy and, consequently, what kind of being does the world enjoy in relation to him? Only when this issue is sufficiently clarified can we approach other things – like the history of salvation, the sacraments, Christian virtues, and the Christian moral life – in our theological reflection.”[3]
Me: The question that is opened with the revelation of Creation is not what about this or that truth of faith (understood as a conceptual creed), which is to reason within creation as a given to our senses and concepts. Rather, the question is to reason about a Creator who might not have created; that he would not be less if he did not create, nor would he be more if he did create, so different is the being of the created from the being of the Creator. Creation would not add anything to his reality. This means that he alone is what it would mean “to be.” And we know him not by reasoning to him from this created fact or that created data but from the consciousness of accepting the proclamation that “He Is.” This is the kerygma: Christ lives!
            The Joy of the Gospel: #165: “We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more ‘solid’ formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected ina dn constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully  the significance of every subject which the latter treats
Christ is the meaning of creation:
Eph. 1, 4: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons according to the purpose of his will, unto the praise of the glory of his grace, with which he has favored us in his beloved Son”
Colossians 1, 15: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers. All things have been created through and unto him, and he is before all creatures, and in him all things hold together. Again, he is the head of his body, the Church; he, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he may have the first place. For it has pleased God the Father that in him all his fullness should dwell, and that through him he should reconcile to himself all things, whether on the earth or in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross.”
Gaudium et spes #22:   The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown.
“He Who is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15), is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.”
Me: Christ: Unique Access to the Father:
"No one comes to the Father, but by me" (Jn 14:6)
5. If we go back to the beginnings of the Church, we find a clear affirmation that Christ is the one Savior of all, the only one able to reveal God and lead to God. In reply to the Jewish religious authorities who question the apostles about  the healing of the lame man, Peter says: "By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well.... And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10, 12). This statement, which was made to the Sanhedrin, has a universal value, since for all people-Jews and Gentiles alike - salvation can only come from Jesus Christ.”[4]
18. The Kingdom of God: The Person of Christ.
“This is not the kingdom of God as we know it from Revelation. The kingdom cannot be detached either from Christ or from the Church.
“As has already been said, Christ not only proclaimed the kingdom, but in him the kingdom itself became present and was fulfilled. This happened not only through his words and his deeds: "Above all,...the kingdom is made manifest in the very person of Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, who came 'to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mk 10:45)."22 The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God.23 If the kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is no longer the kingdom of God which he revealed. The result is a distortion of the meaning of the kingdom, which runs the risk of being transformed into a purely human or ideological goal, and a distortion of the identity of Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom everything must one day be subjected (cf. 1 Cor 15:27).”[5]
Paragraph 4. THE CREATOR
279 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."116 Holy Scripture begins with these solemn words. The profession of faith takes them up when it confesses that God the Father almighty is "Creator of heaven and earth" (Apostles' Creed), "of all that is, seen and unseen" (Nicene Creed). We shall speak first of the Creator, then of creation and finally of the fall into sin from which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to raise us up again.
280 Creation is the foundation of "all God's saving plans," the "beginning of the history of salvation"117 that culminates in Christ. Conversely, the mystery of Christ casts conclusive light on the mystery of creation and reveals the end for which "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth": from the beginning, God envisaged the glory of the new creation in Christ.[6]
281 And so the readings of the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the new creation in Christ, begin with the creation account; likewise in the Byzantine liturgy, the account of creation always constitutes the first reading at the vigils of the great feasts of the Lord. According to ancient witnesses the instruction of catechumens for Baptism followed the same itinerary.119
282 Catechesis on creation is of major importance. It concerns the very foundations of human and Christian life: for it makes explicit the response of the Christian faith to the basic question that men of all times have asked themselves:120 "Where do we come from?" "Where are we going?" "What is our origin?" "What is our end?" "Where does everything that exists come from and where is it going?" the two questions, the first about the origin and the second about the end, are inseparable. They are decisive for the meaning and orientation of our life and actions.
283 The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers. With Solomon they can say: "It is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements. . . for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me."121
284 The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin: is the universe governed by chance, blind fate, anonymous necessity, or by a transcendent, intelligent and good Being called "God"? And if the world does come from God's wisdom and goodness, why is there evil? Where does it come from? Who is responsible for it? Is there any liberation from it?
285 Since the beginning the Christian faith has been challenged by responses to the question of origins that differ from its own. Ancient religions and cultures produced many myths concerning origins. Some philosophers have said that everything is God, that the world is God, or that the development of the world is the development of God (Pantheism). Others have said that the world is a necessary emanation arising from God and returning to him. Still others have affirmed the existence of two eternal principles, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, locked, in permanent conflict (Dualism, Manichaeism). According to some of these conceptions, the world (at least the physical world) is evil, the product of a fall, and is thus to be rejected or left behind (Gnosticism). Some admit that the world was made by God, but as by a watch-maker who, once he has made a watch, abandons it to itself (Deism). Finally, others reject any transcendent origin for the world, but see it as merely the interplay of matter that has always existed (Materialism). All these attempts bear witness to the permanence and universality of the question of origins. This inquiry is distinctively human.
286 Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins. The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason,122 even if this knowledge is often obscured and disfigured by error. This is why faith comes to confirm and enlighten reason in the correct understanding of this truth: "By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear."123
287 The truth about creation is so important for all of human life that God in his tenderness wanted to reveal to his People everything that is salutary to know on the subject. Beyond the natural knowledge that every man can have of the Creator,124 God progressively revealed to Israel the mystery of creation. He who chose the patriarchs, who brought Israel out of Egypt, and who by choosing Israel created and formed it, this same God reveals himself as the One to whom belong all the peoples of the earth, and the whole earth itself; he is the One who alone "made heaven and earth".125
288 Thus the revelation of creation is inseparable from the revelation and forging of the covenant of the one God with his People. Creation is revealed as the first step towards this covenant, the first and universal witness to God's all-powerful love.126 And so, the truth of creation is also expressed with growing vigor in the message of the prophets, the prayer of the psalms and the liturgy, and in the wisdom sayings of the Chosen People.127
289 Among all the Scriptural texts about creation, the first three chapters of Genesis occupy a unique place. From a literary standpoint these texts may have had diverse sources. The inspired authors have placed them at the beginning of Scripture to express in their solemn language the truths of creation - its origin and its end in God, its order and goodness, the vocation of man, and finally the drama of sin and the hope of salvation. Read in the light of Christ, within the unity of Sacred Scripture and in the living Tradition of the Church, these texts remain the principal source for catechesis on the mysteries of the "beginning": creation, fall, and promise of salvation.
Me: “(God plus the world) cannot be conceived as greater than God alone” (Anselm with parenthesis by Robert Sokolowski[7]).
The Reform of Consciousness: “The life of faith demands a revolution in our sense of reality. In our consciousness, which is not only entangled, but completely befuddled by the world, the body is more ‘real’ than the soul; electricity more real than thought; power more real than love; utility more real than truth. Together they form ‘the world’ – incomparably more real than God. How difficult it is even in prayer to sense the reality of God! How difficult, and how seldom given us, the grace of contemplation in which Christ is more tangibly, powerfully present than the things of existence! And then to rise, to mix with people, perform the duties of the day, feel the tug of environment and public life and still to say, God is more real than all this, Christ more powerful, to say this spontaneously, absolutely convinced that it is so, how many can do this?
            “Living in faith, working in faith, practicing faith – that is what counts. Daily, earnest exercise of faith is what alters our sense of reality. Experience of genuine reality must be our aim.[8] But that is auto-suggestion, someone objects. To this there is not much that can be said, little more than: You say that because you stand outside the experience. It is true that in the reforming of the consciousness all means of self-renewal are effective; nevertheless, it is not so much the technique that counts, as the actual result of that renewal. Enter into faith, and you will see clearly what it is we are striving for. And you will no longer talk of auto-suggestion, but of the service of faith and its bitterly needed daily exercise.”[9]
290 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth":128 three things are affirmed in these first words of Scripture: the eternal God gave a beginning to all that exists outside of himself; he alone is Creator (the verb "create" - Hebrew bara - always has God for its subject). the totality of what exists (expressed by the formula "the heavens and the earth") depends on the One who gives it being.
291 "In the beginning was the Word. . . and the Word was God. . . all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made."129The New Testament reveals that God created everything by the eternal Word[10], his beloved Son. In him "all things were created, in heaven and on earth.. . all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."130 The Church's faith likewise confesses the creative action of the Holy Spirit, the "giver of life", "the Creator Spirit" (Veni, Creator Spiritus), the "source of every good".131
292 The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit,132 inseparably one with that of the Father. This creative co-operation is clearly affirmed in the Church's rule of faith: "There exists but one God. . . he is the Father, God, the Creator, the author, the giver of order. He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom", "by the Son and the Spirit" who, so to speak, are "his hands".133 Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity.

293 Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: "The world was made for the glory of God."134 St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things "not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it",135 for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand."136 The First Vatican Council explains:
This one, true God, of his own goodness and "almighty power", not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel "and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal."137
Me: Christian faith is Kerygma. It proclaims God as not part of the world. God is in it, but not part of it. Pope Francis makes the point profoundly: “We have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the center of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal. The kerygma is Trinitarian.[11] It proclaims the Person of Christ as in the world but not of it.
Robert Sokolowski: the “is” of “God is” is different from “the world is.” Therefore, God plus the world is not greater than God alone. The pagan understanding of God is always in the world or intrinsically related to it. In Aristotle, God is a substance thinking himself, and in this activity attracts the circular motion of the spheres which move everything else. He is first and greatest, but he is always part of the world. Plato’s “One” is always in function of the many, and therefore is always part of the world. In Judeo-Christian revelation of creation, we are required to think beyond the setting of the world. This is a unique movement of the mind. The Being the Creator is such  that if everything else we experience were not, reality would not be less. God could have been all that there is.
Notice that we know the reality of the Creator by the action of going out of ourselves, which is a different way of being than anything we experience in the world. That is, we are able to experience the Being of the Creator by experiencing ourselves as believing, i.e. as self-transcending. By this experience of beings-in-themselves (everything through the senses) and the self as going out of self, we distinguish the being of God from the being of the world.
            Hence, our proclamation of God the Creator is of a being that is not part of the world. This is the fundamental Christian distinction, and it is the result of an interior action, a lived experience of going out of yourself. For example, St. Exupery talks of the greatest joy he ever experienced: to purposely crash his plane in the Sarah to give his last food to his friend in his downed plane. All other joys pale next to that.

[1] Jn. 1, 18: “No one has at any time seen God. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him.”
[2] The “kerygma:” Pope Francis: “The Joy of the Gospel” #164-165.
[3] “The God of Faith and Reason,” UNDP 1981) 1.
[4] St. John Paul II, “Mission of the Redeemer,” #5.
[5] Ibid. #18.
[6] Egeria: [Revelation is a “secret.” “A catechumen… may not enter at the time when the bishop is teaching them the law. He does so in this way: beginning with Genesis he goes through the whole of Scripture during these forty days, expounding first its literal meaning and then explaining the spiritual meaning. In the course of these days everything is taught not only about the Resurrection but concerning the body of faith. This is called catechetics…. (In Holy Week)… the bishop comes… and one by one they come forth, the men with their godfather, the women with their godmother. And each one recites the Creed back to the bishop. After the Creed has been recited back to the bishop, he delivers a homily to them all, and says: ‘During these seven weeks you have been instructed in the whole law of the Scriptures, and you have heard about the faith. You have also heard of the resurrection of the flesh. But as for the whole explanation of the Creed, you have heard only that which you are able to know while you are still catechumens. Because you are still catechumens, you are not able to know those things which belong to a still higher mystery, that of baptism… Because you are still catechumens, the most secret of the divine mysteries cannot be told to you.”

John Henry Newman comments: “Even to the last, they (the catechumens) were granted nothing beyond a formal and general account (my underline) of the articles of the Christian faith; the exact and fully developed doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, and still more, the doctrine of the Atonement, as once made upon the cross, and commemorated and appropriated in the Eucharist being the exclusive possession of the serious and practiced Christian… (The ancient fathers) received them as the fulfillment of our Lord’s command not to give that which is holy to dogs, nor to cast pearls before swine… They also considered this caution as the result of the most truly charitable consideration for those whom they addressed, who were likely to be perplexed, not converted, by the sudden exhibition of the whole evangelical scheme…. ‘Should a catechumen ask thee what the teachers have determined, (says Cyril of Jerusalem) tell nothing to one who is without. For we impart to thee a secret and a promise of the world to come. Keep safe the secret for Him who gives the reward. Listen no to one who asks, ‘What harm is there in my knowng also?’ Even the sick ask for wine, which, unseasonably given, brings on delirium, and so there come two ills, the death of the patient and the disrepute of the physician.’ In another place he (Theodoret) says ‘All may hear the Gospel, but the glory of the Gospel is set apart for the true disciples of Christ… What is the blaze of Divine glory to the enlightened, is the blinding of unbelievers. These are the secrets which the Church unfolds to him who passes on from the catechumens, and not to the heathen. For we do no unfold to a heathen the truths concerning Father, Son and Holy “Spirit; nay, not even in the case of catechumens, do we clearly explain the mysteries, but we frequently we frequently say many things indirectly so that believers who have been taught may understand, and the others may not be injured;” J.H. Newman, “The Arians of the Fourth Century,” UNDP (2001) 47-51.
[7] Robert Sokolowski, “The God of Faith and Reason,” UNDP (1981) 8.
[8] “When Jesus reassures the frightened disciples that it is indeed he and no ghost, Peter ways: “Lord, if it is thou, bid me come to thee over the water.’ What do the words reveal” The desire for proof, and we admire the boldness of that desire, for if it is a ghost that stands there, the proving will be fatal; it is also evidence of faith, for Peter does believe. And finally, it is an example of that great, undaunted will to union with Christ which is the apostle’s profoundest trait. So Jesus calls: Come! Peter, his eyes deep in the eyes of the Lord, steps overboard and sets his foot upon a wave. The water bears his weight. He believes, and his faith lifts him to the circuit of that power which flows from Christ. Christ himself does not ‘believe,’ he simply is who he is, God’s Son. To believe means to share not what Christ believes, but what he is. Thus Peter participates in this power, is part of Jesus’ act. But all divine action is living action that rises and falls. As long as Peter’s gaze holds that of the Master and his faith remains one with the divine will, the water carries him…. (Then) Peter drops his eyes. Contact with the divine strength is severed, and he starts to sink… Lord, save me!” (Romano Guardini, “The Lord,” Gateway (2002) 231-232.
[9] R. Guardini, “The Lord,” Gateway, (2002) 233.
[10] Realism: “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;” Benedict XVI, Keynote Address, Synod Oct. 6, 2008.

[11] That is, the announcement is the revelation of the Being of the Son of the living God: pure relation to the Father as obedience and glorification. The announcement is the revelation/call to go out of self as response. The response is the act of faith: “Here I am because you called me” (Isaiah). The “Being” of the Son is not like any other being. It is constitutively relational. It is nothing in itself (Himself). Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel 104: “On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: ‘Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’ This first proclamation is called ‘first’ not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment….
105: We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more solid proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats. It is the message of the infinite which abides in every human heart. The centrality of the kerygma calls for stressing those elements which are most needed today: it has to express God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part. It should not impose the truth but appeal to freedom; it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness… 

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