Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Bp. Robert Barron: Shift Your Perspective

There is a shift in consciousness that is essential to religion. It is the shift—conversion if you will—from a world-centered perspective to a God-centered perspective. It involves a letting-go of passing things in this world and resolutely clinging to God alone.

That means even letting go of relationships—even the best and most intense. Mind you, I don't mean this in the literal sense, but, if I can put it this way, in the attitudinal sense, “as if” they were not all defining.

St. Paul tells us that we are not to make the things of this world all important. We are not to be sad or happy but we are to understand that worldly happiness or unhappiness ultimately doesn’t matter.

St. Paul was so overwhelmed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that everything in this world was relativized. God’s love and purpose and existence—made eminently clear in the Resurrection—caused this world to fade into relative insignificance.

This is the
 apatheia urged by the Greek fathers and the indifferencia of Ignatius of Loyola: “Whether I have a long life or a short life; whether I am healthy or ill; whether I am wealthy or impoverished—it doesn’t matter, as long as I am serving the Lord.”

Instead of seeing money, success, fame, power, and pleasure as ultimate goods, see them as nothing compared to the grace of God. Instead of living as though worldly success were ultimate, live as though the things of this world don’t matter at all. In a word, change your mind, and see things from the perspective of God.

Notice that Bp. Barron says that "there is shift in consciousness." It is not a shift in ideas or concepts. It is a shift in consciousness - attitude -  that comes from the self that determines itself and experiences itself in that determination. That is, self-determination is not simply the interplay between intelligence and will as accidental faculties of a rational substance as found in the received Greek and Thomist rational psychology as offered by neo-thomists. Karol Wojtyla wanted to deepen thomism by doing a phenomenology of the experience of the self in human action. St. Thomas himself did not work explicitly with an understanding of "experience" since it was not his time - the culture before and up to the 13th century (outside of Augustine in the 4th-5th) had not made the turn to the subject except as conceptual  (abstractive) thought. Phenomenology with Husserl in the 20th (after the Cartesian Enlighenment) undertakes the description of "experience." Wojtyla writes: "It seems that the fundamental meaning of experience must be firmly rooted not only in psychology but also in anthropology as a whole. In order to grasp this meaning, we must emphasize two elements of it that are in some way constitutive and at the same time intimately united into one organic whole... The first element of experience can be defined as a 'sense of reality,' placing the accent on reality - on the fact that something exists with an existence that is real and objectively independent of the cognizing subject and subject's cognitive act, while at the same time existing as the object of that act. The object of that act, gained through analysis of experience, is the very subject himself who is not known as "consciousness" but as being. [K Wojtyla "The Problem of Exerience  in Ethics," Person and Community (1993) Lang 115-116].

    To cut to the chase on this, I would offer Joseph Ratzinger's theological espistemology to offer the prototype of all knowing, i.e., how one knows Jesus Christ. Without doing philosophy as such, Ratzinger is deploying a theological phenomenology with a universal reach since Christ is "the image [icon, not sign] of the the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, the one in whom the fullness of god was pleased to dwell (Col. 1, 15. 19). Barron goes on: "Lest we miss the power of these statements, theri implications are clarly spelled out: 'In him all things in heaven and earth were created, thisgs visible and invisible, whether thrones of dominions or rulers or powers' (V. 16). In this Jesus, all things have come to be; he is the proitoitype of all finite existence, even of those great powers that transcend the world and govern human affairs...Individuials, societies, cultures, animals, plants, planets and the stars - all will be drawn into an eschatological harmony though 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 wich these realities come to be. This Jesus, in short, is the all-embracing, all-including, all-reconciling Lord of whatever is to be found in the dimensions of time and space" ("The Priority of Christ," ibid. 134-135).

     I offer this as prototypical of all knowing because Christ as God-Man is the very center of the created world (See R. Barron's "The Priority of Christ" Brazos (2007) 133-135). In knowing Christ, one has already known creation in its most profound ontological architecture. As Barron says: "to acknowledge the epistemic primacy of Jesus Christ is, first, to assume the intelligibiility of all that is. Since all has been made through, and will be ordered by, a divine rationality, there must be form in all finite being as a whole and in each particular thing that exists; what comes to be through the Logos is, necessarily, logical. This implies, of course, that there is an unavoidable correspondence between the activity of the mind and the structure of being: intelligence will find its fulfillment in this universal and inescapable intelligibility.

    In his "Behold the Pierced One," the first two theses have to do with the Person of Jesus Christ - Son/Logos of the Father - as constitutively relational, and, as enfleshed, constantly in prayer. The constancy of prayer is Christ's proper act as man since His Person is Son and therefore pure relation to the Father. Thesis three draws out the logical consequence: if the "to be" of Christ is prayer, and the truth of knowing follows on the conformity of the mind with reality (that is the Person of Christ) - which translates that "like is known by like" - then, Christ can only be known by the act of prayer - which is the going out of self (Lk. 9, 18). In the act of prayer (whatever is action-for other), one experiences going out of self. That is, one is the process of becoming (asymptotically) "another Christ." By the experience of self ab intus (as "other Christ"), one knows Christ by knowing oneselfm and can say: "You are the Christ, the son of the living God" )Mt. 16, 16). This, now, coheres with Ratzinger's work on the meaning of revelation as taking place in the act of faith as the act of self-transcendence. Christ is the revelation of the Father (sacred scripture is the residue of the Person and actions of Christ - not the revelation), and that revelation only takes place where this transformation into Christ takes place. Barron calls this the "Christ-Mind" ('The Priorty of Christ," chpt 10)  It is the mind of the experience of the self as "other Christ" which sees everything in relation: "This implies that the primordial intelligibility is a "being-with-the-other, or better, a being-in-the -other, a coinherence... Therefore relationality, being-for-the-other, must be the form that, at the deepest level, conditions whatever is and the truth that satisfies the hunger of the mind. It is not simply reasonability that characterizes the real, but this type of reasonability" ("The Priority of Christ" ibid. p. 155).

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