Thursday, August 27, 2015

“Laudato ‘Si”

Class August 28 (Feast of  St. Augustine)

When we misuse the environment in any of its manifestations –physical, social, economic, family, it is because we have not identified it as an extension of the humanity of Christ that is “compenentrated” with the divinity creating it. We have lost the sense of creation.

Fifteen years after the economic collapse of Communism in 1989, Benedict XVI summed up the state of the world. He said: “The essential problem of our times, for Europe and for the world, is that although the fallacy of the communist economy has been recognized – so much so that former communists have unhesitatingly become economic liberals – the moral and religious question that it used to address has been almost totally repressed [i.e.,  God]. The unresolved issue of Marxism lives on.”[1]
What rankles many of our observant orthodox Catholics in the pew is the pope’s apparent hewing to the media line of the environment in general and global warming in particular when the vital issues of abortion, gay marriage, on-going contraception, the lucrative trade in body parts, etc. go unaddressed with the urgency that was exhibited in previous papacies.
My take is that the pope is after something more profound and urgent than today’s and tomorrow’s blood curdling moral atrocity, namely,  Atheism and our unconscious presence in a structure of sin.  We are horrified by moral atrocity, but we know it to be an atrocity. But what happens when you are a being with a transcendent destiny and an internal longing for the Absolute and you are offered a Norman Rockwell picture of the American family at Thanksgiving dinner and everything seems relatively OK. Walker Percy wrote: show me that Rockwell picture “and I’ll show you the first faint outline of the death’s-head.

“God may be good, family and marriage and children and home may be good, grandma and grandpa may act wise, the Thanksgiving table may be groaning with God’s goodness and bounty, all the folks healthy and happy, but something is missing. What is this sadness here? Why do the folks put up with it? The truth seeker does not. Instead of joining hands with the folks and bowing his head in prayer, the truth seeker sits in an empty chair as invisible as Banquo’s ghost, yelling at the top of his voice: Where is it? What is missing? Where did it go? I won’t have it! I won’t have it! What this sadness here? Don’t stand for it! Get up! Leave! Let the boat people sit down! Go live in a cave until you’ve found the thief who is robbing you. But at least protest. Stop, thief! What is missing? God?  Find him!”[2]

In the Rockwell picture, we may have religion, and grandma and the good self. What is this “urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution”[3] that Francis is talking about?  And how does it take the form of attending to global warming, and the sundries of inattention and damage to the physical and social environment, the culture of consumerism, an economy of profit, lonely individualism? What is he really talking about? I respond:  The humanity of Christ. That is, when he is talking about the environment, the economy, the social ecology, he is talking about Jesus Christ as Creator and Creation at the same time. He perceives the world as not simply “there” but “there” as relation from and to the Creator Who has also become part of His own creation and who shows us, in living out His humanity – which is created – how we are to see things with realism and live with them.

 We are atheists unawares. We have lost the sense of creation.  Francis sees that “humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery, and transformation [my emphasis]. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation…. We are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers, and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods,…” (106).

Francis continues: It can be said that many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm[4] which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life. We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build” (107).  “Epistemological paradigm

We see “things” as “formless. We are not dealing with a world that has been created by God Who is really Creator, i.e. of a God Who creates ex nihilo (out of nothing). Rather, we are treating the world as “thing” that God has created out of a pre-existent something. And therefore, God is the Supreme Being, First Cause, Necessary Being, Perfection Itself and Final Cause of all that is in the world. And, although He is first and most, He is still in the world as part of it since He does not give it being.

This is not the God of the Old Testament, nor the God of Jesus Christ. He is not the Creator ex nihilo, and therefore the God Who would be even if nothing else was. So different is the being of God and the being of the world, that if the world were not, God would not be less; and that the world is, God is not more. What we mean by “is” for God is “otherly  other” than what “is” means for anything created.[5] More clearly, Robert Sokolowski writes, “In our natural and original experience, the world is first presented and taken as the encompassing whole, as the ultimate context, enclosing both necessities and contingencies. Everything, both the divine and the non-divine, is subject to the rhythms and destiny of the whole. But through biblical revelation, through the events and teachings presented in both the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, the new understanding of God was gradually brought  forward, and we were taught that the divine is to be found neither in  the stars nor in the Canaanite idols, but in the God who could be all that he is in goodness and perfection even if the world did not exist. A new distinction between the divine and the non-divine was introduced, one that deepens and transforms the distinction between the gods and the profane that was known to paganism… God is hidden not just because of human psychological limitations, but because he is not one of the things in the world.”[6]

Francis’s Vision of the World in Laudato ‘Si: Jesus Christ as the center and meaning of all creation.

 “99. In the Christian understanding of the world, the destiny of all creation is bound up with the mystery of Christ, present from the beginning: “All things have been created though him and for him” (Col  1:16).[7] The prologue of the Gospel of John (1:1-18) reveals Christ’s creative work as the Divine Word (Logos). But then, unexpectedly, the prologue goes on to say that this same Word “became flesh” (Jn 1:14). One Person of the Trinity entered into the created cosmos, throwing in his lot with it, even to the cross. From the beginning of the world, but particularly through the incarnation, the mystery of Christ is at work in a hidden manner in the natural world as a whole, without thereby impinging on its autonomy.

“100. The New Testament does not only tell us of the earthly Jesus and his tangible and loving relationship with the world. It also shows him risen and glorious, present throughout creation by his universal Lordship: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20). This leads us to direct our gaze to the end of time, when the Son will deliver all things to the Father, so that “God may be everything to everyone” (1 Cor 15:28). Thus, the creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One is mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end. The very flowers of the field and the birds which his human eyes contemplated and admired are now imbued with his radiant presence.

            If Christ is the center and meaning of the totality of creation,[8] and He has entered His creation as part, and central part, then the relation of the creature to the Creator must take its meaning from the relation of Christ’s humanity to His divinity. Chalcedon gives us the metaphysical structure of the Person of Jesus Christ: one divine Person, two natures, divine (uncreated) and human (created). The meaning of creation must be taken from that relation: “one and the same Christ only begotten Son our Lord, acknowledged in two natures, without mingling, without change, indivisibly, undividedly, the distinction of the natures nowhere removed on account of the union but rather the peculiarity of each nature being kept, and uniting in one person and substance, not divided or separated into two persons, but one and the same son only begotten God Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as from the beginning the prophets taught about Him and the Lord Jesus Himself taught us, and the creed of our fathers has handed down to us.”

Ratzinger on Constantinople III (680-681): “In the manuals, the theological development after Chalcedon has ordinarily come to be little considered. The impression thus frequently remains that dogmatic Christology finishes up with a certain parallelism between the two natures of Christ. This impression has also been the cause leading to the divisions since Chalcedon. But in effect the declaration of the true humanity and the true divinity of Christ can retain its significance only when there is clarification also of the mode of unity of the two natures, which the Council of Chalcedon has defined by the formula of the `one person’ of Christ, at that time not yet fully examined. In fact only that unity of divinity and humanity which in Christ is not parallelism, whereon stands alongside the other, but real compenetration[9]compenetration between God and man – means salvation for humankind. Only thus in fact does that true `being with God’ take place, without which liberation and free do not exist.”[10]

“The same query returned at the third Council of Constantinople (680-681) after two centuries of dramatic struggle, marked most often also by Byzantine politics. According to this Council, on the one hand: the unity between the divinity and the humanity in Christ does not in any sense imply an amputation or reduction of the humanity. If God joins himself to his creature –man/woman – he does not wound or diminish it: he brings it to its plenitude. But on the other hand (and this is no less important) there remains no trace of that dualism or parallelism of the two natures which in the course of history was frequently judge necessary to defend the human liberty of Jesus. Such studies forgot that the assumption of the human will into the divine will does not destroy freedom, but on the contrary generates true liberty. The Council of Constantinople has analysed concretely the problem of the two natures and one person in Christ in view of the problem of the will of Jesus. We are reminded firmly that there exists a specific will of the man Jesus that is not absorbed into the divine will. But this human will follows the divine will and thus becomes a single will with it, not, however, in a forced way but by way of freedom. The metaphysical duplicity of a human will and a divine will is not eliminated, but in the personal sphere, the area of freedom there is accomplished a fusion of the two, so that this becomes not one single natural will but one personal will. This free union – a mode of union created by love – is a union higher and more intimate than a purely natural union. It corresponds to the highest union which can exist, the union of the Trinity. The Council explains this union by a saying of the Lord given in the Gospel of John: ‘I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 38). Here the divine Logos is speaking, and speaking of the human will of Jesus in the mode by which he calls his will the will of the Logos. With this exegesis of John 6, 38, the Council proves the unity of the subject: in Jesus there are not two ‘I,’ but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought of Jesus using the ‘I;’ this has become his ‘I,’ has been assumed into his ‘I,’ because the human will has become fully one with the will of the Logos, and with it has become pure assent to the will of the Father.

My Comment: It is most important to observe that the two “wills” are “wills” of the One Person Who wills as both God and man. The wills, as the natures, are ontologically distinct, the one being uncreated , the other, created. They are not separated as two persons, nor elided as one, the divine abolishing the human. Rather, they are both wills of the same divine Person, Who alone could do such a thing because, as Creator, divine and the human are not in competition. This is the supreme insight of Robert Sokolowski and Robert Barron projects it through all of his writings. If they were in competition, they could never be the same Person. But Chalcedon (451) declares this as the ontological architecture of Jesus Christ Who is, Himself, the revelation of not only Who God is, but who man is. Ratzinger wrote: “in my view, Chalcedon represents the boldest and most sublime simplification of the complex and many-layered data of tradition to a single central fact that is the basis of everything else: Son of God, possessed of the same nature as God and of the same nature as us. Chalcedon interpreted Jesus theologically. I regard this as the only interpretation that can do justice to the whole range of tradition and sustain the full impact of the phenomenon itself.”[11]
                Therefore, the humanity of Christ is not an instrument of His divinity as an instrument of His Persona, but it is His very Persona: “Feel Me and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Lk. 24, 39-40). Therefore, realism and the truth about the world is intimately connected to the truth of Jesus Christ. And, as we know, “no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt. 11, 27); and “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him” (Jn. 6, 44); and “This is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn. 17, 3). And, since like is known by like, we can know who a person or thing is only by becoming that person or thing. And since Christ has revealed Himself to be constant prayer to the Father as the relation of Self-Gift, only if we pray can we be able to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16).
   Francis writes “Laudato ‘Si” because the misuse of the environment reveals that we have culturally turned back on ourselves “and ended up prizing technical thought over reality, since ‘the technological mind sees nature as an insensate order, as a cold body of facts, as a mere given,’ as an object of utility, as raw material to be hammered into useful shape; it views the cosmos similarly as a mere ‘space’ into which objects can be thrown with complete indifference.’ The intrinsic dignity of the world is thus compromised. When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves” (115).
Knowing Creation àß Knowing Christ

Why Do We Have Such Trouble Keeping the Creation of the World in Focus? Because the Creator of the world is not part of the world, but would be even if the world were not. It is the same question that Christ asks the disciples: Who do men say that I am? Who do you say that I am?

The human faculty of a human person does not will; that is, wills do notwill. Persons will. So also, if that human will is the will of a divine Person, it is the divine Person willing with a human faculty, not the human faculty. And yet, at the same time, that human will is not abolished by the fact that it has been assumed by a divine Person. On the contrary, the human will as the entire human nature of the historical man Jesus (whose only Person is the Logos) now achieves the autonomy and freedom of the divine Person. The human will does not lose its freedom by saying Yes to the will of the Father. It achieves the supreme freedom of self-gift that is its ontological “construction” as image of God. Hence, there is no antagonism between the divine and the human because in the creating Prototype, it is the same divine Person working in the irreducibly distinct (created and uncreated) natures.

 Of major importance is that they are not in parallel. The divine and human wills are not in parallel. They “compenetrate”

The conclusion that must be drawn is the identity of all creation with the humanity of Christ. The entire material cosmos is an extension of that created humanity (body and soul). Hence, creation is not a “thing,” nor an “object.” It is a relation to the Creator. It is no thing in itself. It is not a “substance.” It is a pure receptivity in relation to the Ipsum Esse of the Creator.

Barron on the meaning of being creature, and therefore being world and environment:
“Our consideration of Thomas’s Christological method revealed that knowledge of God and the human are correlative: God’s ecstatic otherness is disclosed precisely in the measure that the human creature becomes self-forgetful. In Christ’s perfect obedience, the ever greater and always stranger love of God pours forth. Following Heidegger, Paul Tillich explicitly states that the human relationship to God is the lens through which the creaturely relationship in general can be understood. A human being can know, feel, and describe the dynamics that characterize all finite being in relation to the infinite. The full expression of the human in rapport with the divine is, for Tillich, Jesus of Nazareth, especially in the obedience and self-surrender of the cross. In that moment of utter transparency to the divine in love and obedience, the crucified Christ reveals what the creature ought to look like in the presence of the unconditioned reality of God. It ishter efore fr om the standpoint of Christ that Tillich reads the ontology of the creature, concluding that  the finite thing is most itself when it is least itself, in sheer transparency to the unconditioned ground of being.”

I move to Barron in 1996: “All of Christian life begins with Jesus because in him we see the meeting of two ecstasies, that of God and that of the human being.  For Thomas the most impressive and powerful aspect of the Incarnation is its surprise. God’s decision to join us human beings in our own flesh, in time and space, in all of the weakness and suffering of our finitude, is something in the presence of which astonishment is the only proper response. God must be a reality stranger, more powerful, more wonderful than we can imagine. Though God needs us not, through God is utterly self-sufficient. God nevertheless goes out of himself, in an unheard of ecstasy, and become one of us. There is, in all of this, says Thomas, en excessive, ever greater quality.
                “And the human being Jesus Christ, in perfect obedience and openness to this ecstatic
God, forgets himself, goes out beyond himself in love, gives himself in a sort of imitation of divine ecstasy. And in this radical self-emptying, Jesus does not lose himself; rather he becomes most fully himself, finding his deepest identity in union with God. This meeting of the ever greater, evermore surprising God and a self-transcending human being is the event of the Incarnation and the icon that presides over all of Thomas spirituality… God is not a being like other beings in the world…God is is not even the highest or supreme being, that God is rather being itself [Ipsum Esse], ungraspable, unknowable power. …
                 “It is from the same point of view that Thomas interprets the act of creation. Creation is not an act at the beginning of time, not a once-and-for-all emanation from God; the life and being of God. The world is totally dependent, from moment to moment, on the sheer generosity of the Creator. Aquinas calls this creation ex nihilo, creation from nothing. When we recall the Christological roots of Thomas’s theology, this teaching takes on great spiritual power. To be a creature means to be ‘nothing,’ that is to say, pure openness and obedience in the presence of the creator God. And, as the icon of Christ reveals, in this ‘nothingness,’ in this ecstatic abandon, the creature most fully discovers herself. Various denials of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo are unmasked by Aquinas as sinful attempts to avoid obedience. To deny the creator God is to live the illusion that one can find oneself apart from total surrender…
See Barron handout “Thomas Aquinas” on Creation as a Relationship (and  therefore not a “substance.”

 R. Connor

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Without Roots,” Basic Books (2006) 73-74.
[2] Walker Percy,  “The Second Coming” Ivy books [Ballantine] (1980) 248.
[3] “Laudato ‘Si” #114.
[4] Science and technology, as ways of knowing and doing, are not ways of giving self but of control and domination, which are ways of being in self. As a paradigm, it tends to render the subject blind to the real crea ted dimention of the world, and will tend to see the world as “thing-in-itself.” Ancient philosophy has seen this as the prius of the meaning of being under the rubric of “substance.” And this paradigm gives us a mistaken perception of material things. We do not see them as created receptivities of being, but as “things-in themselves.” We do not see them aright, and t his because of sin. By sin, we are turned back on ourselves, and therefore lack the experience of self-transcendence and consciousness that accrues to it. Hence, the mind tends to be reductive and objectifying reducing the intelligible content of what is sensed to mere empirical “facts.”
[5] “In Kathryn Tanner’s language, God is not simply other; he is ‘otherly other;.” Robert Barron, “Exploring Catholic Theology,” Baker Academic (2015) 21.
[6] R. Sokolowski, “Eucharistic Presence,” CUA (1994) 51-52.
[7] Barron: “There is not more extraordinary and far –reaching description of Jesus’s significance than the one found in the first chapter of the letter to the Colossians. There we read that Jesus is the ‘the image [eikon] of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,’ the in whom ‘the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Col. 1,, 15, 19). Lest we miss the power of these statements, their implications are clarly spelled out: ‘in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible… In this Jesus, all things have come to be; he is the prototype of all finite existence, even of those great powers that transcend the world and govern human affairs. … Individuals, societies, cultures, animals, plants, planets and the stars – all will be drawn into an eschatological harmony through him. Mind you, Jesus is not merely the symbol of an intelligibility, coherence, and reconciliation that can exist apart from him; rather, he is the active and indispensable means by which these realities come to be. This Jesus, in short, is the all-embracing, al-including, all-reconciling Lord of whatever is to be found in the dimensions of time and space.

                “A text that parallels the first chapter of Colossians in the intensity and range of its claims is, of course, the prologue to the Gospel of John. If in Colossians the particular figure Jesus of Nazareth is identified with the creative power of God, In the Johannine text the process is reversed: now the transcendent Logos of God is appreciated as the one who became concretely available in this Jesus: The Word became flesh.” But the assertion of Christ’s absolute ontological priority remains  the same:  this Jesus is the Word that was with God from the beginning and through whom all things that exist came  to be and continue in being.;” “The Priority  of Christ,” Brazos Press (2007)134-135.

[9] Barron borrows the word “coinherence” from Bruce Marshall and develops the teaching of Chalcedon and Constantinople III in “Exploring Catholic Theology, Baker Academic (2015) 31-43. 
[10] J. Ratzinger, “Journey Towards Easter,” Crossroad (1987) 88-89.
[11] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 8.

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