Weapons with Which to Fight, Treasure with Which to Pay, Strength to Go Forward: The Sick and Elderly!

Escriva in Chile in 1974:

…. a priest who was twenty-six years of age and had the grace of God, a good sense of humour and nothing else. He had no virtues, nor money. And he had to do Opus Dei… And do you know how he managed? he asked.

In the hospitals. That General Hospital of Madrid, packed with sick and destitute people lying there in the corridors because there just weren’t enough beds. That King’s Hospital, full of consumptives at a time when consumption was incurable… Those were the weapons with which to fight and win! That was the treasure with which to pay! And that was the strength with which to go forward! (…) And the Lord has taken us all over the world, and we are now in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in America and in Oceania thanks to the sick, who are a treasure…

A few months later, on 19 February 1975 in Ciudad Vieja (Guatemala), he once again recalled those years when he relied on all the artillery of many hospitals in Madrid:

I begged them to offer up their sufferings, their hours in bed, their loneliness (some of them were very lonely): to offer all that to the Lord for the apostolate we were doing with young people.

This was his way of teaching them to discover the joy of suffering, because they were sharing in the Cross of Jesus Christ and were serving a great and divine purpose. The Founder of Opus Dei found in them a real pillar of strength and the conviction that the Lord would carry the Work forward in spite of men, in spite of myself, who am a poor man.

From that time on, along with catechism classes in poorer districts, visits to the poor and homeless have been habitual means to develop the apostolate of Opus Dei with young people the world over.

He also spoke about the Christian meaning of suffering in Lisbon in November 1972:

You too will meet up with physical pain and be happy with that suffering. You have spoken to me of The Way. I don’t know it by heart, but there is a point which says: Let us bless pain. Love pain. Sanctify pain… Glorify pain! Do you remember it? I wrote that in a hospital at the bedside of a dying woman to whom I had just administered the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. How I envied her! That woman had had a very good social and economic position in life, and there she was in that wretched hospital bed, alone and dying, with no more company that what I could supply, until she died. And there she was repeating, joyously savouring the words: Let us bless pain – and she had every sort of moral and physical pain – love pain, sanctify pain, glorify pain! Suffering is a proof that one knows how to love, that one has a heart.

In 1930 Jenaro Lázaro found that besides working in hospitals the Father was also teaching catechism in a number of places. He cannot recall their exact names, but he does remember that he went often to Vallecas. On 1 October 1967 Msgr. Escrivá de Balaguer returned once more to Vallecas. It had changed a great deal. In the auditorium of Tajamar, an apostolic work run by Opus Dei, its Founder recalled that when he was twenty-five, I came to these open spaces often, to brush away tears and help those in need, to treat children, the old and the sick with affection, and I received a lot of affection in return… and the occasional stone.

He continued, referring to Tajamar: Today, for me, this is a dream, a blessed dream, that I relive in so many outskirts of great cities, where we treat people with affection, looking at them straight in the eye, because we are all equal. (…) I am a sinner who loves Jesus Christ with all the strength of my soul; I feel very happy, although I have sorrows, because sorrow is with us always in this world. I want you to love Jesus Christ, to get to know him, to be happy as I am; and it isn’t difficult to attain this relationship. Before God, as men, as creatures, we are all equal.

Anticipating a Talk by Alvaro de Vicente on Shaping a Boy’s Moral Imagination

Richard Rohr: How to be a man: Passing through the fire of initiation, i.e. Christ.

In Adam’s Return, Rohr writes about masculinity. He argues that most cultures have initiation rites that they make their boys go through before they can be men … He thinks that men are finding life hard these days, and that it’s partly because we don’t initiate them properly into manhood any more. According to Rohr, there are five lessons that male initiation teaches:
1) Life is hard
2) You are not important.
3) Your life is not about you.
4) You are not in control.
5) You are going to die.

Blogger: To each of the above lessons, Rohr rejoins with the words of Christ and St. Paul…

 To: Life is hard, he rejoins: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11, 28).

To: You are not important… “Do you not know that your name is written in heaven” (Lk. 10, 20).

To: Your life is not about you… “I live now not my own life, but the life of Christ who lives in me” (Galatians  2, 20).

To: You are not in control… “Can any of you, for all your worrying, add a single moment to your span of life?” (Luke 12, 26).

To: You are going to die… “I am certain of this, neither death nor life, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, not any height nor depth, nor any created thing can ever come between us and the love of God” (Romans 8, 38-39).

* * * * * * * * * * *

Blogger: Notice that the fundamental question, when information technology is so powerful, is formulated in terms of the query: what is the human person? What does it mean to be person and human? What is it that technology cannot do, and can never do? Technology can never deliver one “I am” to another “I am.” Rohr has found experientially, that “the large-than-life people… have all died before they died. At some point, they were led to the edge of their private resources, and that breakdown which surely felt like dying, led them into a large life. That’s it! They broke through in what felt like breaking down. Instead of avoiding a personal death or raging at it, they went through a death, a death of their old self, their small life, and came out the other side knowing that death could no longer hurt them.”[1] Now, it is here that Rohr can be misinterpreted. He writes: “For many Western people, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the preeminent example of this pattern, and he is often recognized, even by many non-Christians, as the most influential person of the last two thousand years. But the pattern is archetypal and hardwired in history, literature, and poetry. Jesus is a perfect examplar of initiation in its full cycle. But there have been many others who have let ‘the single grain of wheat die… Abraham, Buddha, Mary, Rumi, Joan of Arc, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and the blood of all martyrs are the very fuel and fire of history.”

I want to say the following about the above: Jesus Christ is the radically unique instantiation of the God-man. He is 100% God, and 100% Man. There is no other. Born in history, He precedes all history because His Persona is the Creating God. St. Paul writes in Colossians 1 , 15-19: 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.”  This is a formally radical ontological statement that must be taken as such. Barron translates into modern idiom: “Jesus is not only the one in whom things were created but also the one in whom they presently exist and through whom they inhere in one another. And if we are inclined to view the future as a dimension of creation untouched by Christ, we are set straight: ‘Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’(v. 20). 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, all-including, all reconciling Lord of whatever is to be found in the dimensions of time and space.”

                And so it is important to clarify that Jesus Christ does not fit a pattern. He is the Creator of all patterns. However, it should also be made clear that each human person has been created in the image and likeness of Christ and baptized into Him to repeat Him. And if there are anticipations and redundancies of Him, they are not on the same ontological level as competition to and with Him because as they are entities, He is the One Who gives them their very “to be,” and their likeness is due to having been created in this image and likeness. He is the Prototype and the Pattern. Christ, therefore is to be found experientially within us as we obey believing, and believe obeying. And so the realism and salvation of the human person is not to be found in “Religion,” but experientially in Christ. And for that, given finiteness and sin (the turning back on self), every person needs initiation and a death before death.

In his approach to “traditional initiation rites,” Richard Rohr has found that “they interpreted ordinary men from within – crediting maleness with its own innate spirituality – and worked at bringing men to wholeness from the bottom up, and from the inside out.” He says, that he “will try to do the same… in the face of a culture, and a church, that usually tries to interpret men from the top down and from the outside in.” He writes: “Such a technique will never work, in my opinion, and it has not been working for some time. Our religious institutions are not giving very many men access to credible encounters with the Holy or even with their own wholeness… We are sons of Esau, having sold our birthright for fast-food religion… It does not deeply transform the self or the world.”[2] Rohr offers the insight into his mind: “My continuing momentum in this work has been a rather constant sadness and disappointment over the lack of an inner life in so many men I meet, even among ministers, religious, and devoted laymen, and high-level and successful leaders from whom we would expect more. It is not their fault.”[3] Rohr is very much with pope Francis here: “First, I believe that truth is more likely to be found at the bottom and the edges of things than at the top or the center. That is, the pedagogy of the oppressed and the continued testimony of the saints and mystics – and from the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous. Basically, he is with the last four popes + Francis about working on the inside and going to the peripheries. He then, formulated a remark that I, the blogger, wrote to him about, and which he attributed to Einstein. I asked its provenance but he did not know: He wrote: “As Einstein put it, I believe that ‘no problem can be solved from the same level consciousness that create it.’” But in his footnote, and his email to me, no known source.

   Personally, the whole problem is here, and Joseph Ratzinger made reference to the same thing when he put the conceptual conundrum of the “new” physics concerning particle and wave in his offering of the theological epistemology of  substance and relation, and continues to plague us with the internal discord re: chapter 8 of “Amoris Laetitia.” It personally takes me back to Charles Taylor’s presentation Kant’s pure aprior and Herder’s “romanticism.” Consider Ratzinger’s remark that “in a physical experiment the observer himself enters into the experiment and only by doing so can arrive at a physical experience. This means that there is no such thing as pure objectivity even in physics, that even here the result of the experiment, nature’s answer, depends on the question put to it. In the answer there is always a bit of the question and a bit of the questioner himself; it reflects not only nature-in-itself, in its pure objectivity, but also gives back something of man, of our individuality, a bit of the human subject. This, too, mutatis mutandos, is true of the question of God. There is no such thing as a mere observer. There is not such thing as pure objectivity.[4] And so the God question is the human question: what is man? And the man question is: Who is God? Both  questions must be answered from within an initiation into giftedness.

[1] R. Rohr, “Adam’s Return,” Crossroad (2004) 2.

[2] x.

[3] Ibid, xii

[4] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 125.

90 Birthday of Benedict XVI

Joseph Ratzinger – Benedict XVI

“Jesus of Nazareth”

Prologue

Moses only saw God in the back, not in the face. Only He who is one with the Father (Jn. 10, 30) sees the Father in the face. Only He who is equally “face” with the Father sees face. Jesus, as the new Moses, is not only the new prophet – “prophet” being a category of the human mind – but the Prophet – the experienced reality from which we would form the notion of “prophet,” and this because He is the “Word” of the Father. “Word” is a relational term because its “meaning” is always “from” and “for.”

The entire task of this book is to lead reason to a higher experience and consciousness of being by leading it into deeper water: Duc in altum (Lk. 5, 4). Once there, reason will be able to re-cognize the Face of him who is not an individual whom we habitually place in mental categories, but a relation who is one with the Father, whom we can know experientially.[1]

We can only know the Father (and therefore, achieve eternal life [Jn. 17, 3]) by seeing the back of the Father, which is to follow Jesus Christ.[2] “We can only encounter God by walking after Jesus; that the only way we can see him is by following Jesus, which means walking behind him and thus going along behind God’s back….(S)eeing is going.” And “going” is going-out-of-self, particularly praying.

The whole book is an exercise in theological (existential) epistemology[3] whereby we do not know by theoretical categories but by experiencing being in relation to the Father as the Incarnate Son is relation to the Father. As a result, the best way to read the book is to start with the last part of the last chapter: “I Am” where the author announces the kind of Being that Jesus of Nazareth is, thus giving us a clue what he is trying to do in the entire first volume of the work. In this last part of the last chapter, he announces that “The issue at stake… is precisely the oneness of Father and Son…. Jesus is wholly ‘relational,’ that his whole being is nothing other than relation to the Father. This relationality is the key to understanding the use Jesus makes of the formulae of the burning bush and Isaiah. The ‘I am’ is situated completely in the relatedness between Father and Son.”[4]

 

 

Present State of Affairs

The state of affairs that Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI’s (henceforth, R-B) “Jesus of Nazareth” confronts is “the back” of God without the following. In a word, God is simply absent. There is abstract thought about God, lip service is paid, actions are performed toward Him as if He were a “hobby,” but no one sees the Face: “No one has at any time seen God. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him.” (Jn. 1, 18).

Sacred Scripture, which is a major step in experiencing Jesus Christ, and therefore, the Father, has been purged of any supernatural content by the bifurcation exercised by exegetes during the last 200 years into 1) a text reducible to historical, linguistic and cultural facticity not unlike an experiment in the empirical sciences, and 2) the sujectivized myth of a supposed supernatural content – a kind of divine wishful thinking. This renders access to the Persona of Jesus of Nazareth as the “Christ, Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 17) impossible. “Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends, is in danger of clutching at thin air.”[5]

R-B has undertaken the work “Jesus of Nazareth” because he finds this bifurcation of the figure of Jesus into a “Jesus of history” and a “Jesus of faith” unjustified, unreasonable and unscientific. He asserts straightforwardly: “The main implication of this [the explanation of his methodology] for my portrayal of Jesus is that I trust the Gospels.”[6] And the profound reason for his trusting the Gospels is his perception that the Persona of Jesus Christ as “Son of the living God” transcends, not all thought, but all created categories of thought. In a word, R-B has done theology on his knees watching and following the back of the Father in Jesus Christ. He has experienced Christ within himself beyond the categories by the self-transcendence of prayer. He has gone beyond what John Paul II called “the ordinary way of knowing things.”[7] This “ordinary way of knowing things” is the reduction of all sensibly perceptible reality to the Hellenized ontological categories of substance and accident. And it is precisely here that the genius of R-B is deployed. If we go to the last chapter of this first volume of “Jesus of Nazareth,” we find the quite explicit incursus into a metaphysical terminology that presupposes an underlying ontology of person as relation that has been alluded to in the entire opus of Joseph Ratzinger from his first book, begun in 1953 “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure” through his “habilitation thesis,” (1956) to this moment of “Jesus of Nazareth”(2007).

After forming himself in the thought of Augustine, R-B remarks in the forward to his work on Bonaventure: “Has not the ‘Hellenization’ of Christianity, which attempted to overcome the scandal of the particular by a blending of faith and metaphysics, led to a development in a false direction? Has it not created a static style of thought which cannot do justices to the dynamism of the biblical style?”[8] He is asking if Christian revelation is not being crammed into static mental categories of Greek pagan thought when the latter alone is used to give a rational account of the Person of Christ? In 1956, he was asserting that in Bonaventure, revelation that is identical with the Person of Christ is not to be identified with Scripture. Here we can see his apparent affinity with the “bifurcationist” exegetes who assert that there is more in the text that what is said explicitly in a scientifically ascertained text. But with huge difference. In his account of the thesis, he asserts that in Bonaventure and all the theologians of the High Middle Ages, “`revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive ‘revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the concilar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (‘by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.” [9]He immediately adds that this position was not understood to be “a faithful rendering of Bonaventure’s thought (however, to this day I still affirm the contrary) but a dangerous modernism that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept of revelation.”

What we can conclude from this is that there is something in the text that cannot be gleaned from the text if it is treated positivistically and reductively. That is, the text is telling me more than what the words and “concepts” they represent say. If we go to the last chapter of “Jesus of Nazareth,” R-B shows that in the very text of the Gospels, especially Luke, the believer discovers the Person of Christ as “Son of the living God” when he enters into the act of prayer (Lk. 9, 18). The revelation of the divine Person who transcends all cosmic created categories is experienced and known by the one who goes out self in prayer.  This act of prayer constitutes a second tier of experience and being that is the very self in a state of transcendence – R-B calls this by a philosophical concept: “relation.”[10]

In his 1968 “Introduction to Christianity,” we find a “Magna Charta” on the notion of person in God, and therefore, as His image, in us. There R-B, building on Augustine, says, “the first Person does not beget the Son as if the act of begetting were subsequent to the finished Person; it is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of self-giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver[11] but the act of giving…” He goes on: “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.’ Let us listen once again to St. Augustine: ‘In God there are no accidents, only substance and relation.’” He then lays down the fundamental challenge which is precisely the goal toward which this book is being guided: “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. It becomes possible to surmount what we call today ‘objectifying thought;’ a new plane of being comes into view. It is probably true to say that the task imposed on philosophy as a result of these facts is far from being complete – so much does modern thought depend on the possibilities thus disclosed, without which it would be inconceivable”[12]

It is not unreasonable that the Judeo-Christian God transcends these categories as Creator. Said differently, one cannot re-cognize in reality what one does not first cognize.[13] As quoted from Goethe on another occasion: “If the eye were not solar, it could not recognize the sun,” R-B makes the point that “Catechesis should also always be a process involving a type of assimilation with God, since in reality we can recognize only that for which a correspondence is found in us… The process of knowledge is a process of assimilation, a vital process. The we, the what and the how of the faith are closely connected.”[14]  As we saw above, this is the burden of Ratzinger’s “Habilitation” thesis, and, I would suggest, the key to understanding his solution in “Jesus of Nazareth” to the bifurcation of Jesus of history/Jesus of faith and hence the non-presence of God in the experience of the Apostles from the beginning, and hence the presence of the God-man in the world now.

Said differently, although Scripture as written word is not revelation in itself (only Christ as Person is), nevertheless it was written by men who experienced the Person of Christ in themselves and therefore re-cognized Him and knew Him to be “Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 17). They perceived the historical individual Jesus of Nazareth through sight, touch and hearing, but they also were personally involved (on a second tier of experience) with their subjectivity  – their “I” – in the very activity that is cosmically invisible, but which is His very Person as act of being “one” with the Father. Hence, they also knew Him from the very start as “the Christ.”  That act of knowing is ontologically grounded on reality (being) neither as substance or accident. Rather it was the experience of an act of the “I” self-transcending that R-B calls “relation” that is both a divine, and therefore, a human way of being. It is not a mental category and therefore defies reduction to the abstraction or categories which we call concepts. However, as experience of the self-transcending “I,” it produces the consciousness[15] that we reflect on and form “concepts” as categories and communicate them as language.

As an overview of the book, I submit that the controlling insight is the notion of person as relation, a relation that is not reducible to either category of substance or accident. Since the dictatorship of relativism, which is uppermost in the mind of R-B, is a product of this kind of reduction or “objectification” he is taking aim at the epistemological schizophrenia of splitting Christ into objectifiable historical figure or subjectivist myth. He wants to show how the texts and actions themselves offer the whole Christ. Jesus of Nazareth is Jesus the Christ. There are two clear contradictory examples of reaction to the Gospel texts that we will examine below: that of Rabbi Jacob Neusner and Rudolph Bultmann.

 

The work of the book is to show that from the Baptism of Christ to the Transfiguration, the words and the deeds of Jesus of Nazareth are of a Person Who is constitutively relational, one with the Father and therefore very God. Its ambition is to lead reason into a paradigm shift from object to subject, from relativism to the Absolute Who is the God of Jesus Christ by leading the reader to pray with the Jesus of Scripture and experience self-transcendence.

Cardinal Schönborn sees the book as a “`symphonic’ attempt to prove the ‘coherency’ of the figure of Jesus as the One who is in an absolute and immediate relationship with God.”[16] It is not an exercise in syllogistic apologetics although it is not without the rigors of logic. It is simply not reducible to it. It is a cross-weave or crescendo of reasoned consciousness grounded in the real-life text of the history of Jesus of Nazareth but interpreted by another level of consciousness coming from the experience and consciousness accruing to prayer. It is something like an exercise of John Henry Newman’s “illative sense” that constructs from an accumulation of various probabilities, legitimate proof sufficient for certitude.[17]

As mentioned above, the entire theological opus of Ratzinger-Benedict XVI has been exercised on his knees. Recently in Brazil he asked rhetorically, “Who knows God? How can we know him?  … For a Christian, the nucleus of the reply is simple: only God knows God, only his Son who is God from God, true God, knows him. And he ‘who is nearest to the Father’s heart has made him known’ (John 1, 18).”[18]
[1] See John Paul II’s Novo Millennio Ineunte #1, 16, 19-20.

[2] “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).

[3] See J. Ratzinger’s “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Ignatius (1987)  349-355.

[4] Ratzinger-Benedict XVI (henceforth B-R), “Jesus of Nazareth” Doubleday (2007) 348-349.

[5] Ibid xii.

[6] Ibid xxi.

[7] John Paul II “Novo Millennio Ineunte” #20: “`Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’ (Mt. 16, 17). The expression ‘flesh and book’ is a reference to man and the common way of understanding things. In the case of Jesus, this common way is not enough. A grace of ‘revelation’ is needed, which comes from the Father (cf. ibid.). Luke gives us an indication which points in the same direction when he notes that this dialogue with the disciples took place when Jesus ‘was praying alone’ (Lk. 9, 18). Both indications converge to make it clear that we cannot come to the fullness of contemplation of the Lord’s face by our own efforts alone, but by allowing grace to take us by the hand. Only the experience of silence and prayer offers the proper setting for the growth and development of a true, faithful and consistent knowledge of that mystery which finds its culminating expression in the solemn proclamation by the Evangelist Saint John: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have behold his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father’ (1, 14).”

[8] J. Ratzinger, “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure,” Franciscan Herald Press (1989)  xi.

[9] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones,” (1998), 108-109.

[10] “`I and the Father are one’… The issue at stake… is precisely the oneness of Father and Son. In order to understand this correctly, we need above all to recall our reflections on the term ‘the Son’ and its rootedness in the Father-Son dialogue. There we saw that Jesus is wholly ‘relational,’ that his whole being is nothing other than relation to the Father. This relationality is the key to understanding the use Jesus makes of the formulae of the burning bush and Isaiah. The ‘I am’ is situated completely in the relatedness between Father and Son;” “Jesus of Nazareth,” op. cit 348-349.

[11] The entire notion of substance (to-be-in-self) is rejected by R-B in doing the metaphysics of person in God and man. Observe the following: “I believe that if one follows this struggle in which human reality had to be brought in, as it were, and affirmed for Jesus, one sees what tremendous effort and intellectual transformation lay behind the working out of this concept of person, which was quite foreign in its inner disposition to the Greek and the Latin mind. It is not conceived in substantialist, but… in existential terms… Remaining on the level of the Greek mind, Boethius defined ‘person’ as naturae rationalis individual substantia, as the individual substance of a rational nature. One sees that the concept of person stands entirely on the level of substance. This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greek mind which thinks in substantialist terms;” J.  Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 448.

 

[12] Josef Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (2004) 184.

[13] Ratzinger made a formal presentation of this idea in the following: Not only is there nothing in the intellect except through the senses (Nihil in intellectu nisi in sensu), but also there is nothing in the senses that is not first in the intellect (Nihil in sensu nisi per intellectum): “The senses experience nothing if no question has been raised, if there is no preceding command from the intellect without which sensory experience cannot take place. [Experience always involves the “I”]. Experimentation is possible only if natural science has elaborated an intellectual presupposition in terms of which it controls nature and on the basis of which it can bring about new experiences. In other words, it is only when the intellect sheds light on sensory experience that this sensory experience has any value as knowledge and that experiences thus become possible;” Principles of Catholic Theology, Ignatius (1987)  348.

[14] J. Ratzinger, “What Does the Church Believe? The Catholic World Report, March 1993, 59.

[15]This consciousness we understand to be Christian mysticism. R-B alludes to exactly this point when he says: “This [The Lord’s Prayer] also reveals something of the specificity of Christian mysticism. It is not in the first instance immersion in the depths of oneself, but encounter with the Spirit of God in the word that goes ahead of us. It is encounter with the Son and the Holy Spirit and thus a becoming-one with the living God who is always both in us and above us.”[15] It is here that R-B distinguishes Christian and Eastern Mysticisms. In Eastern mysticism, the distinction between the self and God is lost. In the Judeo-Christian “monotheistic revolution,” the distinction between self and God is maintained where they are in relation. The belief in God as other than the self is always a relation and the cause of the experience of self-transcendence, and therefore this non-conceptual consciousness that is the “dark night of the soul” J. Ratzinger, “Truth and Tolerance,” Ignatius (2004) Mysticism and Belief,  32-39.

 

 

[16] L’Osservatore Romano, N. 22 – 30 May 2007, 8-9.

[17] John Henry Newman, “A Grammar of Assent” UNDP (1979) 320.

[18] Benedict XVI, “Not Only the Continent of Hope, but Also the Continent of Love!” Aparecida, Brazil, May 13, 2007 (Zenit).

Joseph Ratzinger – Benedict XVI

“Jesus of Nazareth”

Prologue

Moses only saw God in the back, not in the face. Only He who is one with the Father (Jn. 10, 30) sees the Father in the face. Only He who is equally “face” with the Father sees face. Jesus, as the new Moses, is not only the new prophet – “prophet” being a category of the human mind – but the Prophet – the experienced reality from which we would form the notion of “prophet,” and this because He is the “Word” of the Father. “Word” is a relational term because its “meaning” is always “from” and “for.”

The entire task of this book is to lead reason to a higher experience and consciousness of being by leading it into deeper water: Duc in altum (Lk. 5, 4). Once there, reason will be able to re-cognize the Face of him who is not an individual whom we habitually place in mental categories, but a relation who is one with the Father, whom we can know experientially.[1]

We can only know the Father (and therefore, achieve eternal life [Jn. 17, 3]) by seeing the back of the Father, which is to follow Jesus Christ.[2] “We can only encounter God by walking after Jesus; that the only way we can see him is by following Jesus, which means walking behind him and thus going along behind God’s back….(S)eeing is going.” And “going” is going-out-of-self, particularly praying.

The whole book is an exercise in theological (existential) epistemology[3] whereby we do not know by theoretical categories but by experiencing being in relation to the Father as the Incarnate Son is relation to the Father. As a result, the best way to read the book is to start with the last part of the last chapter: “I Am” where the author announces the kind of Being that Jesus of Nazareth is, thus giving us a clue what he is trying to do in the entire first volume of the work. In this last part of the last chapter, he announces that “The issue at stake… is precisely the oneness of Father and Son…. Jesus is wholly ‘relational,’ that his whole being is nothing other than relation to the Father. This relationality is the key to understanding the use Jesus makes of the formulae of the burning bush and Isaiah. The ‘I am’ is situated completely in the relatedness between Father and Son.”[4]

 

 

Present State of Affairs

The state of affairs that Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI’s (henceforth, R-B) “Jesus of Nazareth” confronts is “the back” of God without the following. In a word, God is simply absent. There is abstract thought about God, lip service is paid, actions are performed toward Him as if He were a “hobby,” but no one sees the Face: “No one has at any time seen God. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him.” (Jn. 1, 18).

Sacred Scripture, which is a major step in experiencing Jesus Christ, and therefore, the Father, has been purged of any supernatural content by the bifurcation exercised by exegetes during the last 200 years into 1) a text reducible to historical, linguistic and cultural facticity not unlike an experiment in the empirical sciences, and 2) the sujectivized myth of a supposed supernatural content – a kind of divine wishful thinking. This renders access to the Persona of Jesus of Nazareth as the “Christ, Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 17) impossible. “Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends, is in danger of clutching at thin air.”[5]

R-B has undertaken the work “Jesus of Nazareth” because he finds this bifurcation of the figure of Jesus into a “Jesus of history” and a “Jesus of faith” unjustified, unreasonable and unscientific. He asserts straightforwardly: “The main implication of this [the explanation of his methodology] for my portrayal of Jesus is that I trust the Gospels.”[6] And the profound reason for his trusting the Gospels is his perception that the Persona of Jesus Christ as “Son of the living God” transcends, not all thought, but all created categories of thought. In a word, R-B has done theology on his knees watching and following the back of the Father in Jesus Christ. He has experienced Christ within himself beyond the categories by the self-transcendence of prayer. He has gone beyond what John Paul II called “the ordinary way of knowing things.”[7] This “ordinary way of knowing things” is the reduction of all sensibly perceptible reality to the Hellenized ontological categories of substance and accident. And it is precisely here that the genius of R-B is deployed. If we go to the last chapter of this first volume of “Jesus of Nazareth,” we find the quite explicit incursus into a metaphysical terminology that presupposes an underlying ontology of person as relation that has been alluded to in the entire opus of Joseph Ratzinger from his first book, begun in 1953 “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure” through his “habilitation thesis,” (1956) to this moment of “Jesus of Nazareth”(2007).

After forming himself in the thought of Augustine, R-B remarks in the forward to his work on Bonaventure: “Has not the ‘Hellenization’ of Christianity, which attempted to overcome the scandal of the particular by a blending of faith and metaphysics, led to a development in a false direction? Has it not created a static style of thought which cannot do justices to the dynamism of the biblical style?”[8] He is asking if Christian revelation is not being crammed into static mental categories of Greek pagan thought when the latter alone is used to give a rational account of the Person of Christ? In 1956, he was asserting that in Bonaventure, revelation that is identical with the Person of Christ is not to be identified with Scripture. Here we can see his apparent affinity with the “bifurcationist” exegetes who assert that there is more in the text that what is said explicitly in a scientifically ascertained text. But with huge difference. In his account of the thesis, he asserts that in Bonaventure and all the theologians of the High Middle Ages, “`revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive ‘revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the concilar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (‘by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.” [9]He immediately adds that this position was not understood to be “a faithful rendering of Bonaventure’s thought (however, to this day I still affirm the contrary) but a dangerous modernism that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept of revelation.”

What we can conclude from this is that there is something in the text that cannot be gleaned from the text if it is treated positivistically and reductively. That is, the text is telling me more than what the words and “concepts” they represent say. If we go to the last chapter of “Jesus of Nazareth,” R-B shows that in the very text of the Gospels, especially Luke, the believer discovers the Person of Christ as “Son of the living God” when he enters into the act of prayer (Lk. 9, 18). The revelation of the divine Person who transcends all cosmic created categories is experienced and known by the one who goes out self in prayer.  This act of prayer constitutes a second tier of experience and being that is the very self in a state of transcendence – R-B calls this by a philosophical concept: “relation.”[10]

In his 1968 “Introduction to Christianity,” we find a “Magna Charta” on the notion of person in God, and therefore, as His image, in us. There R-B, building on Augustine, says, “the first Person does not beget the Son as if the act of begetting were subsequent to the finished Person; it is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of self-giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver[11] but the act of giving…” He goes on: “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.’ Let us listen once again to St. Augustine: ‘In God there are no accidents, only substance and relation.’” He then lays down the fundamental challenge which is precisely the goal toward which this book is being guided: “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. It becomes possible to surmount what we call today ‘objectifying thought;’ a new plane of being comes into view. It is probably true to say that the task imposed on philosophy as a result of these facts is far from being complete – so much does modern thought depend on the possibilities thus disclosed, without which it would be inconceivable”[12]

It is not unreasonable that the Judeo-Christian God transcends these categories as Creator. Said differently, one cannot re-cognize in reality what one does not first cognize.[13] As quoted from Goethe on another occasion: “If the eye were not solar, it could not recognize the sun,” R-B makes the point that “Catechesis should also always be a process involving a type of assimilation with God, since in reality we can recognize only that for which a correspondence is found in us… The process of knowledge is a process of assimilation, a vital process. The we, the what and the how of the faith are closely connected.”[14]  As we saw above, this is the burden of Ratzinger’s “Habilitation” thesis, and, I would suggest, the key to understanding his solution in “Jesus of Nazareth” to the bifurcation of Jesus of history/Jesus of faith and hence the non-presence of God in the experience of the Apostles from the beginning, and hence the presence of the God-man in the world now.

Said differently, although Scripture as written word is not revelation in itself (only Christ as Person is), nevertheless it was written by men who experienced the Person of Christ in themselves and therefore re-cognized Him and knew Him to be “Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 17). They perceived the historical individual Jesus of Nazareth through sight, touch and hearing, but they also were personally involved (on a second tier of experience) with their subjectivity  – their “I” – in the very activity that is cosmically invisible, but which is His very Person as act of being “one” with the Father. Hence, they also knew Him from the very start as “the Christ.”  That act of knowing is ontologically grounded on reality (being) neither as substance or accident. Rather it was the experience of an act of the “I” self-transcending that R-B calls “relation” that is both a divine, and therefore, a human way of being. It is not a mental category and therefore defies reduction to the abstraction or categories which we call concepts. However, as experience of the self-transcending “I,” it produces the consciousness[15] that we reflect on and form “concepts” as categories and communicate them as language.

As an overview of the book, I submit that the controlling insight is the notion of person as relation, a relation that is not reducible to either category of substance or accident. Since the dictatorship of relativism, which is uppermost in the mind of R-B, is a product of this kind of reduction or “objectification” he is taking aim at the epistemological schizophrenia of splitting Christ into objectifiable historical figure or subjectivist myth. He wants to show how the texts and actions themselves offer the whole Christ. Jesus of Nazareth is Jesus the Christ. There are two clear contradictory examples of reaction to the Gospel texts that we will examine below: that of Rabbi Jacob Neusner and Rudolph Bultmann.

 

The work of the book is to show that from the Baptism of Christ to the Transfiguration, the words and the deeds of Jesus of Nazareth are of a Person Who is constitutively relational, one with the Father and therefore very God. Its ambition is to lead reason into a paradigm shift from object to subject, from relativism to the Absolute Who is the God of Jesus Christ by leading the reader to pray with the Jesus of Scripture and experience self-transcendence.

Cardinal Schönborn sees the book as a “`symphonic’ attempt to prove the ‘coherency’ of the figure of Jesus as the One who is in an absolute and immediate relationship with God.”[16] It is not an exercise in syllogistic apologetics although it is not without the rigors of logic. It is simply not reducible to it. It is a cross-weave or crescendo of reasoned consciousness grounded in the real-life text of the history of Jesus of Nazareth but interpreted by another level of consciousness coming from the experience and consciousness accruing to prayer. It is something like an exercise of John Henry Newman’s “illative sense” that constructs from an accumulation of various probabilities, legitimate proof sufficient for certitude.[17]

As mentioned above, the entire theological opus of Ratzinger-Benedict XVI has been exercised on his knees. Recently in Brazil he asked rhetorically, “Who knows God? How can we know him?  … For a Christian, the nucleus of the reply is simple: only God knows God, only his Son who is God from God, true God, knows him. And he ‘who is nearest to the Father’s heart has made him known’ (John 1, 18).”[18]
[1] See John Paul II’s Novo Millennio Ineunte #1, 16, 19-20.

[2] “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).

[3] See J. Ratzinger’s “Principles of Catholic Theology,” Ignatius (1987)  349-355.

[4] Ratzinger-Benedict XVI (henceforth B-R), “Jesus of Nazareth” Doubleday (2007) 348-349.

[5] Ibid xii.

[6] Ibid xxi.

[7] John Paul II “Novo Millennio Ineunte” #20: “`Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’ (Mt. 16, 17). The expression ‘flesh and book’ is a reference to man and the common way of understanding things. In the case of Jesus, this common way is not enough. A grace of ‘revelation’ is needed, which comes from the Father (cf. ibid.). Luke gives us an indication which points in the same direction when he notes that this dialogue with the disciples took place when Jesus ‘was praying alone’ (Lk. 9, 18). Both indications converge to make it clear that we cannot come to the fullness of contemplation of the Lord’s face by our own efforts alone, but by allowing grace to take us by the hand. Only the experience of silence and prayer offers the proper setting for the growth and development of a true, faithful and consistent knowledge of that mystery which finds its culminating expression in the solemn proclamation by the Evangelist Saint John: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have behold his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father’ (1, 14).”

[8] J. Ratzinger, “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure,” Franciscan Herald Press (1989)  xi.

[9] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones,” (1998), 108-109.

[10] “`I and the Father are one’… The issue at stake… is precisely the oneness of Father and Son. In order to understand this correctly, we need above all to recall our reflections on the term ‘the Son’ and its rootedness in the Father-Son dialogue. There we saw that Jesus is wholly ‘relational,’ that his whole being is nothing other than relation to the Father. This relationality is the key to understanding the use Jesus makes of the formulae of the burning bush and Isaiah. The ‘I am’ is situated completely in the relatedness between Father and Son;” “Jesus of Nazareth,” op. cit 348-349.

[11] The entire notion of substance (to-be-in-self) is rejected by R-B in doing the metaphysics of person in God and man. Observe the following: “I believe that if one follows this struggle in which human reality had to be brought in, as it were, and affirmed for Jesus, one sees what tremendous effort and intellectual transformation lay behind the working out of this concept of person, which was quite foreign in its inner disposition to the Greek and the Latin mind. It is not conceived in substantialist, but… in existential terms… Remaining on the level of the Greek mind, Boethius defined ‘person’ as naturae rationalis individual substantia, as the individual substance of a rational nature. One sees that the concept of person stands entirely on the level of substance. This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greek mind which thinks in substantialist terms;” J.  Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 448.

 

[12] Josef Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (2004) 184.

[13] Ratzinger made a formal presentation of this idea in the following: Not only is there nothing in the intellect except through the senses (Nihil in intellectu nisi in sensu), but also there is nothing in the senses that is not first in the intellect (Nihil in sensu nisi per intellectum): “The senses experience nothing if no question has been raised, if there is no preceding command from the intellect without which sensory experience cannot take place. [Experience always involves the “I”]. Experimentation is possible only if natural science has elaborated an intellectual presupposition in terms of which it controls nature and on the basis of which it can bring about new experiences. In other words, it is only when the intellect sheds light on sensory experience that this sensory experience has any value as knowledge and that experiences thus become possible;” Principles of Catholic Theology, Ignatius (1987)  348.

[14] J. Ratzinger, “What Does the Church Believe? The Catholic World Report, March 1993, 59.

[15]This consciousness we understand to be Christian mysticism. R-B alludes to exactly this point when he says: “This [The Lord’s Prayer] also reveals something of the specificity of Christian mysticism. It is not in the first instance immersion in the depths of oneself, but encounter with the Spirit of God in the word that goes ahead of us. It is encounter with the Son and the Holy Spirit and thus a becoming-one with the living God who is always both in us and above us.”[15] It is here that R-B distinguishes Christian and Eastern Mysticisms. In Eastern mysticism, the distinction between the self and God is lost. In the Judeo-Christian “monotheistic revolution,” the distinction between self and God is maintained where they are in relation. The belief in God as other than the self is always a relation and the cause of the experience of self-transcendence, and therefore this non-conceptual consciousness that is the “dark night of the soul” J. Ratzinger, “Truth and Tolerance,” Ignatius (2004) Mysticism and Belief,  32-39.

 

 

[16] L’Osservatore Romano, N. 22 – 30 May 2007, 8-9.

[17] John Henry Newman, “A Grammar of Assent” UNDP (1979) 320.

[18] Benedict XVI, “Not Only the Continent of Hope, but Also the Continent of Love!” Aparecida, Brazil, May 13, 2007 (Zenit).

Holy Saturday 2017- Ratzinger

“On Good Friday our gaze remains fixed on the crucified Christ, but Holy Saturday is the day of the ‘death of God,’ the day which expresses the unparalleled experience of our age, anticipating the fact that God s simply absent, that the grave hides him, that he no longer awakes, no longer speaks, so that one no longer needs to gainsay him but can simply overlook him. ‘God is dead and we have killed him’ This saying in Nietzsche’s belongs linguistically to the tradition of Christian Passiontide piety; it expresses the content of Holy Saturday, ‘descended into hell.’

               “This article of the Creed always reminds me of two scenes in the Bible. The first ist that cruel story in the Old Testament in which Elias (Elijah) challenges the priests of Baal to implored their God to give them fire for their sacrifice. They do so, and naturally nothing happens. He ridicules them, just as the ‘enlightened rationalist’ ridicules the pious person and fins him laughable when nothing happens in response to his prayers. Elias calls o tot the priests that perhaps they had not prayed loud enough: ‘Shout louder. Baal is indeed a god. But perhaps he is deep in thought, or has gone out; or perhaps he is asleep and will wake up!’ (1 Kings   18, 27). When one reads today this mockery of the devotees of Baal, one can begin to feel uncomfortable; one can get the feeling that we have now arrived in that situation and that the mockery must now fall on us. No calling seems to be able to awaken God. The rationalist seems entitled to say to us, ‘pray louder, perhaps your God will then wake up.’ ‘Descended into hell;’ how true this is of our time, the descent of God into muteness, into the dark silence of the absent.

               “But alongside the story of Elias and its New Testament analogue, the story  of the Lord sleeping in the midst of the storm on the lake (Mark 4, 35-41), we must put the Emmaus story (Lk 24, 13-35). The disturbed disciples are talking of the death of their hope. To them, something like the death of God has happened; the point at which God finally seemed to have spoken has disappeared. God’s envoy is dead, and so there is a complete void. Nothing replies any more. But while they are  speaking of the death of their hope and can longer see God they do not notice that this very hope stands alive in their midst; that ‘God,’ or rather the image they had formed of his promise, had to die so that he could live on a bigger scale. The image which they had formed of God, and into which they sought to compress him, had to be destroyed, so that over the ruins of the demolished house, as it were, they could see the sky again and him who remains the infinitely greater. The German Romantic poet Eichendorff formulated the idea – in the comfortable, to us almost too harmless fashion of his age – like this:

‘Thou are he who gently breaks about our heads what we build, so that we can see the sky – therefore I have no complaint’

               Thus the article about the Lord’s descent into hell reminds us that not only God’s speech but also his silence is part of the Christian revelation. God is not only the comprehensible word that comes to us; he is also the silent, inaccessible, uncomprehended and incomprehensible ground that eludes us. To be sure, in Christianity here is a primacy of the logos, of the word, over silence; God has spoken. God is word. But this does not entitle us to forget the truth of God’s abiding concealment. Only when we have experienced him as silence may we hope to hear his speech too, which proceeds in silence. Christology reaches out beyond the cross, the moment when the divine love is tangible, into the death, the silence and the eclipse of God. Can we wonder that the Church and the life of the individual are led again and again into this hour of silence, into the forgotten and almost discarded article, ‘Descended into hell?’”[1] Ratzinger then expatiates on the death cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15, 34) by quoting from Ernst Kasemann: ‘The Son still holds on to faith when faith seems to have become meaningless and the earthly reality proclaims the absent God of whom the first thief and the mocking crowd speak – not for nothing. His cry is not for life and survival, not for himself, but for the Father. His cry stands against the reality of the whole world.’ After this, do we still need to ask what prayer in our hour of darkness must be? Can it be anything else but the cry from the depths in company with the Lord who ‘has descended into hell’ and who has established the nearness of God in the midst of abandonment by God?”

Blogger: Isn’t this the call to intimacy with him.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 225-226.

Trinity and the Crucifixion

In Greek: Perichoresis becomes Kenosis (The Trinitarian Relations become Christ’s Self-emptying)

The Trinitarian mystery has immediate implications for us as we try to live Jesus’ path. All too often our attempts at self-emptying feel isolated and pointless. They seem like dead ends, with no real connection to the world at large or even to our own best intentions. Even Jesus’ crucifixion seems in some sense to be a waste. Why should a good and wise man who could have been a teacher of many die meaninglessly on a cross? Often our own small acts of heroism and sacrifice seem pointless as well—except that the Trinity assures us no act of kenosis is ever isolated, no matter how meaningless it looks, no matter how disconnected, no matter how unproductive in terms of reward and gain. Through the Trinity all kenosis is a tiny hologram of perichoresis. It belongs to that great relational field of “the divine exchange” and connects us instantly with the whole of God, allowing divine love to become manifest in some new and profound dimension. As Raimon Panikkar beautifully expresses it, “I am one with the source insofar as I act as a source by making everything I have received flow again—just like Jesus.” [1]

Jesus’ teaching assures us as we move toward center along this very reckless and in some ways abundant and extravagant path—not “storing it all up” as in the classic ascetic traditions of attaining being, but “throwing it all away”—that divine love is infinite and immediate and will always come to us if we don’t cling. This is a powerful statement, so simple and yet so radical.

This is a kind of sacred alchemy. As we practice in daily life—in our acts of compassion, kindness, and self-emptying, both at the level of our doing and even more at the level of our being—something is catalyzed. Subtle qualities of divine love essential to the well-being of this planet are released through our actions and flow out into the world as miracle, healing, and hope.

The template for the divine alchemy is imprinted in our soul: the Trinitarian impulse which is both the icon of divine reality within us and the means by which that reality brings itself to fullness. As we learn not to harden and brace even in the face of what appears to be ultimate darkness, but to let all things flow in that great river of kenosis and perichoresis, we come to know—and finally become—the river itself, which circulates through all things as the hidden dynamism of love. This, I believe, is the path that Jesus taught and walked, the path he calls us to.

 

Holy Saturday 2017 – Bp Barron

HOLY SATURDAY
MATTHEW 28:1-10
Friends, on this Holy Saturday our Gospel we hear St. Matthew’s account of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the be-all and end-all of the Christian faith. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, all bishops, priests, and Christian ministers should go home and get honest jobs, and all the Christian faithful should leave their churches immediately.

 

As Paul himself put it: “If Jesus is not raised from the dead, our preaching is in vain and we are the most pitiable of men.” It’s no good, of course, trying to explain the resurrection away or rationalize it as a myth, a symbol, or an inner subjective experience. None of that does justice to the novelty and sheer strangeness of the Biblical message.

 

It comes down finally to this: if Jesus was not raised from death, Christianity is a fraud and a joke. But if he did rise from death, then Christianity is the fullness of God’s revelation, and Jesus must be the absolute center of our lives. There is no third option.