Lent – A Major Text from an Early Father of the Church on the Priesthood of the Faithful: the  Source of the Gift of Self: St. Peter Chrysologus

From a sermon by Saint Peter Chrysologus, bishop – d. 450
Each of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest

I appeal to you by the mercy of God. This appeal is made by Paul, or rather, it is made by God through Paul, because of God’s desire to be loved rather than feared, to be a father rather than a Lord. God appeals to us in his mercy to avoid having to punish us in his severity.

Listen to the Lord’s appeal: In me, I want you to see your own body, your members, your heart, your bones, your blood. You may fear what is divine, but why not love what is human? You may run away from me as the Lord, but why not run to me as your father? Perhaps you are filled with shame for causing my bitter passion. Do not be afraid. This cross inflicts a mortal injury, not on me, but on death. These nails no longer pain me, but only deepen your love for me. I do not cry out because of these wounds, but through them I draw you into my heart. My body was stretched on the cross as a symbol, not of how much I suffered, but of my all-embracing love. I count it no loss to shed my blood: it is the price I have paid for your ransom. Come, then, return to me and learn to know me as your father, who repays good for evil, love for injury, and boundless charity for piercing wounds.

Listen now to what the Apostle urges us to do. I appeal to you, he says, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. By this exhortation of his, Paul has raised all men to priestly status.

How marvellous is the priesthood of the Christian, for he is both the victim that is offered on his own behalf, and the priest who makes the offering. He does not need to go beyond himself to seek what he is to immolate to God: with himself and in himself he brings the sacrifice he is to offer God for himself. The victim remains and the priest remains, always one and the same. Immolated, the victim still lives: the priest who immolates cannot kill. Truly it is an amazing sacrifice in which a body is offered without being slain and blood is offered without being shed.

The Apostle says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. Brethren, this sacrifice follows the pattern of Christ’s sacrifice by which he gave his body as a living immolation for the life of the world. He really made his body a living sacrifice, because, though slain, he continues to live. In such a victim death receives its ransom, but the victim remains alive. Death itself suffers the punishment. This is why death for the martyrs is actually a birth, and their end a beginning. Their execution is the door to life, and those who were thought to have been blotted out from the earth shine brilliantly in heaven.

Paul says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a sacrifice, living and holy. The prophet said the same thing: Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but you have prepared a body for me. Each of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest. Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you. Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity. Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you. Keep burning continually the sweet smelling incense of prayer. Take up the sword of the Spirit. Let your heart be an altar. Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice. God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter, but by the offering of your free will.

 

Lent: Priesthood of Jesus Christ – “Priestly Soul”

Lent is the priesthood of Christ freely giving Himself to death in obedience to the Father and thus destroying all sin of disobedience. The point here is: The Levitical priesthood of the Jews was (“functional,” “cultic”) that consisted in reminding the wilderness generation of their sin of idolatry of worshipping the Golden Calf. The priesthood of Jesus Christ

               The meaning of priesthood is to be a bridge between persons. The priesthood of Adam consisted in being a bridge between the Creator and creation. Adam was asked to till the Garden and to name the animals which in both cases consisted in ruling and dominating. Adam’s priesthood was passed to his progeny in spite of the original sin until the most grave sin of idolatry which consisted in the worship of the golden calf. Scott Hahn wrote that this was “the first rebellion” of the Jews against God, “and the first punishment was to take the priesthood away from the firstborn, which had been theirs for centuries, and to give it to the Levites temporarily.” But St. Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews begins to suggest “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is righteous enough to restore the original pattern of the father-son family priesthood, because this a divine family that God, through Christ, is adopting usinto through the sacrifice of Christ.”

               Hahn continues: “He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek… It means after the manner of Melchizedek’s priesthood. The writer goes on to make a big, sharp contrast between the Levitical priests who had to sacrifice millions of sheep, millions of goats and millions of cattle with millions of gallons of blood running down through the temple. Why? It was all after and because of the Golden Calf, whereas before all of that, you had a father and a son and a clean priesthood that Melchizedek represents. ‘After the manner of Melchizedek’ suggests that Melchizedek’s manner of priestly sacrifice was bread and wine. This how all the early Fathers understood this, as well.” St. Paul makes a sharp distinction between the priesthood of the Levites and that of Melchisedech. He writes: If then perfection was by the levitical priesthood … what further need was there that another priest sould rise, according to the order of Medlchisedek, and said not to be according to the order of Aaron (Levite).” Paul then writes: “Now the main point in what we are saying is this. We have such a high priests, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in the heavens (Heb. 8, 1-2). And then, he writes: “But when Christ appeared as high priest of the good things to come, he entered once for all through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands… nor again by virtue of blood of goats and calves, but by virtue of his own blood, into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption, sprinkled ashes of a heifer sanctify the unclean unto the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ – who through the Holy Spirit offered himself unblelmished unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead wroks to serve the living God?” (Hebr.9, 11-14).

               The priesthood of Christ is the very Christology of being God-Man. Chalcedon gave us the metaphysic: One Person, two natures. In 2 Cor. 5, 21, Paul writes that “he made him to be sin who knew nothing of sin…” The human will of Christ is truly human and created. It alone, in the Christology of Chalcedon and Constantinople III could receive the burden of all the sins of all men of all time. Sin is always disobedience to the will of God. We are talking of the human will that is the will of the divine “I” of the Logos of the Father. But it is created and could become toxic with all sin. The manifestation of that toxicity is the Agony in the Garden where Christ goes through the internal contradiction of being the Sinner. He is guilty. He has taken on our sin as His own. God the Father looks and cannot recognize Him. “My God, my God,why have you forsaken me” (“Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My Godmy God, why have you forsaken me?” It is the only saying that appears in more than one Gospel, and is a quote from Psalms 22:2.).

Jesus is not killed on the Cross. He dies as an action of His divine Self. Being Creator of the world, He could not be killed by any creature. If He dies, it is because He wills it as His free action. Newman wrote. Hs passion was an action; He lived most energetically, while He lay languishing, fainting, and dying. Nor did He die, except by an act of the will; for He bowed His head, in command as well as in resignation, and said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirir; He gave the word, He surrender  ed His soul, He did not lose it.[1]

               This is the so-called “priestly soul” that St. Josemaria Escriva characterized the penitential life in the spirit of Opus Dei. “Priestly soul, lay mentality” are the co-ordinates of the spirit of Opus Dei whereby all are called by divine vocation to “turn all the circumstances and events of my (secular) life into occasions of loving you” (the Lord). This is Lent. It is not to be understood as giving up this or that, but freely handing over the self in service of God and the others in ordinary secular life          In a word, LENT is living “priestly soul.”

 

Priestly Soul:  This nomenclature has nothing to do with priests and laity as such, but represent one or another aspect of the Christological anthropology that applies to both. The first thing to establish is the architecture of the anthropology. It is subjective and dynamic. Hence it is of a phenomenological nature and dynamic. It begins with the “I” mastering self to get possession of self and governing self so as to be able to make the gift of self as indicated in Hebrews 9 where St. Paul describes Christ as not entering the Holy of Holies with the blood of bulls and goats but with His own. Hence, the meaning of the priesthood transcends the received meaning of mediation as between this part and that part. Rather, the priesthood of Christ appears as mediating between self and another. One makes oneself to be gift to another.

 

This is possible because of the dogmatic determination of Christ by the Council of Chalcedon which declared the metaphysical architecture of Christ to be one divine Person with two natures (understood from Greek philosophy as principle of activity). Chalcedon (451) made an insuperable ontological determination of the ontic structure of Jesus Christ. Ratzinger commented: 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. In contrast to the many other approaches that have been attempted in the course of history, 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. All other interpretations become too narrow at some point; every other conception embraces only one part of the reality and excludes another. Here and here alone does the whole of the reality disclose itsel.”[2]

 

[1] John Henry Newman. Discourse 16 to Mixed Congregations:  Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion

[2] J, /Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching” Franciscan Herald Press, (1985)

Lent – Scott Hahn on Priesthood Before Christ. To Come: Your Lent as the Priestly Soul of Christ.

The Meaning of Priesthood before Christ:  Scott Hahn:

 

The Eucharist as the Meal of Melchizedek

from a talk by Scott Hahn

Another key foreshadowing of the Eucharist — the sacrifice and food of the New Covenant — is the bread and wine offered by the priest Melchizedek. Let’s see what this means for our understanding of the Eucharist.

I’d like to call your attention to the Book of Hebrews. Hebrews, chapter 6 describes how God had made a promise [Covenant] to Abraham and then he changed the promise to an oath [Testament]. When God swears an oath to Abraham, he makes a covenant. In Genesis 22:18, right after Abraham went to Moriah to sacrifice his firstborn through Sarah, God prevented it and then swore an oath saying, “Surely all the nations of the earth will be blessed through your seed.”

The New Testament begins, “This is Jesus Christ, the seed of the son of Abraham, the Son of David.” Jesus Christ is the one in and through whom God fulfills that oath he swore to Abraham. Where did he swear it? On Moriah, where the temple was later built and where Christ, the New Temple was later destroyed and rebuilt three days afterwards. It talks about this oath and then it goes on to talk about the priesthood of Melchizedek. In chapter 7, the first ten verses, it describes how Abraham met Melchizedek. It talks about the meaning of his name. He’s the king of righteousness, that’s what Melchizedek means in Hebrew. He is the King of Salem, which means peace, shalom. He is the priest of God Most High and he blessed Abraham, so he was superior to Abraham. Everything is mentioned about the meeting between Abraham and Melchizedek except one thing, the bread and the wine.

Now we are going to ask a question. Is that because the bread and the wine was the only thing that was unimportant about Melchizedek and Abraham meeting, or is it because the importance of the bread and the wine is so great but so obvious that it goes without saying? Let’s study the next few chapters.

For one thing we already saw back in Hebrews 5, verses 5 and 6 where God has sworn an oath to Jesus Christ. He says, “Thou art my Son. Today have I begotten thee.” And he also says in another place, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” To be God’s Son is like the same thing as being a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Remember way back in the Old Testament before the Golden Calf, fathers[1] were high priests and firstborn sons were priests under their authority. This seemed to be the natural family pattern of Melchizedek. This is how the ancient Jews as well as the ancient Church Fathers understood it.[2]

Jesus Christ is not a Levite so Old Testament Jews might be tempted to say, “Well, he can’t be a priest, then.” But Hebrews is talking all about the wilderness generation under Moses and how they committed idolatry and rebelled against God and how God sent all these punishments. The first rebellion was the Golden Calf, and the first punishment was to take the priesthood away from the firstborn, which had been theirs for centuries, and to give it to the Levites temporarily. What the writer of Hebrews is suggesting is that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is righteous enough to restore the original pattern of the father-son family priesthood, because this is a divine family that God, through Christ, is adopting us into through the sacrifice of Christ.[3]

He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The word “order” does not mean order like the Dominican Order. It means after the manner of Melchizedek’s priesthood. The writer goes on to make a big, sharp contrast between the Levitical priests who continue to offer these animals in sacrifice. They had to offer. They had to kill. They had to sacrifice millions of sheep, millions of goats and millions of cattle with millions of gallons of blood running down through the temple. Why? It was all after and because of the Golden Calf, whereas before all of that, you had a father and a son and a clean priesthood that Melchizedek represents. “After the manner of Melchizedek” suggests that Melchizedek’s manner of priestly sacrifice was bread and wine. This is how all the early Fathers understood this, as well.

Now, it says in Hebrews 7 in verse 18, “On the one hand a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness, for the law made nothing perfect. On the other hand, a better hope is introduced through which we draw near to God.” And it was not without an oath and it talks about how God swore this oath, and the oath that has been talked about is the oath that was sworn by God on Moriah where Christ was slain. Verse 22: This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; whereas Jesus is one. There’s the single priesthood, and he lives forever up in heaven. But he holds his priesthood permanently because he continues a priest forever. Consequently, he is able for all times to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

“For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need like those high priests to offer sacrifices daily.” In other words to kill and to have blood shed continuously. “…first for his own sins and then for those of the people. He did this once for all when he offered up himself (my emphasis). Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests.” That is the Levitical law that was given after the Golden Calf, “…but the word of the oath which came later than the law appoints a son who has been made perfect forever.”

Now the point in what we are saying is this. We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. Notice that the Lamb is the one enthroned in Revelation. The Lamb and the firstborn Son of the Passover is the priest who ministers in a sanctuary, the heavenly sanctuary. He is a minister in a sanctuary. It isn’t complete. He is ministering in the heavenly sanctuary and the true tabernacle which is set up not by man but by the Lord. “For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices. Hence it is necessary for this priest to have something to offer.”

In fact, we’re going to be offering this sacrifice forever in and through and with Christ. Not bloody animal sacrifices but our hearts and our souls and our bodies in union with the One whose body and blood, soul and divinity are perfect and pure — the only acceptable sacrifice which makes our otherwise unacceptable sacrifices perfectly acceptable. “Holy and righteous,” Paul says. He goes on talking about the superiority of the New Covenant that Christ established. “The days will come says the Lord when I will establish a New Covenant with the House of Israel” (Jer. 31:31). Verse 9, “Not like the covenant I made with your fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. That covenant, they broke.” When? At the Golden Calf. The covenant that he made with them out of Egypt they broke at the Golden Calf.

It won’t be like that covenant because this firstborn Son won’t break it, and that’s what makes it new. “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” Verse 13, and in speaking of the New Covenant he treats the first as obsolete and what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. The Old Testament only uses “New Covenant one time. Jesus in the gospels only uses the phrase “New Covenant” one time. When? At Passover time. Where? In the Upper Room. Why? To institute the Eucharist.

And so he goes on in Hebrews 9 to talk about the superiority. Back in the Old Testament, verse 9, we read, “According to this Old Testament arrangement, gifts and sacrifices were offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper. What is the contrast implied? Back then sacrifices were offered which couldn’t perfect the worshipper’s conscience, implying that in the New Covenant, what? Sacrifices are offered which do perfect the conscience of the worshipper.

That’s what the Eucharist does. It cleanses our soul. It wipes away all venial sin. These Old Testament sacrifices, verse 10, deal only with food and drink and various ablutions, baptism is, in the Greek, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. Do you know when the real Reformation came? Not in 1517. The real reformation came in the Upper Room when the Eucharist was instituted, when the Catholic Church was formed. The time of reformation wiped away the weak ineffective Old Testament sacrifices. To do away with all sacrifices altogether? No. To initiate a new sacrifice which has intrinsic power to cleanse our consciences.

Verse 11, now, “The one Christ appeared as a High Priest of the good things that have come. Then through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with human hands, that is not of this creation, he entered once and for all into the holy place, that is heaven, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” He took his own blood up there. He’s not bleeding in the sense that he’s suffering and dying, but he’s up there as a Lamb looking as though he’s been slain, offering his own blood. That’s a Eucharistic Passover sacrifice and that’s why the entire structure of Revelation is a Passover liturgy.

And it goes on to talk about the Old Testament’s weakness in comparison with the New Testament’s power. “For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls or with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ who through the Eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God purify your conscience?” The body was cleansed externally in the Old Testament sacrifices, but with Christ’s Passover sacrifice which he continues to administer up in the heavenly sanctuary, our consciences are cleansed as we offer and receive that down here below on earth.

“Therefore,” verse 15 says, “he is the mediator of a New Covenant.” He only said that word covenant one time. “This cup is the blood of the New Covenant,” when he instituted the Eucharist. That fulfilled Jeremiah 31. That’s when he offered what appeared to be bread and wine. That’s when he became a new Melchizedek, feeding the new children of Abraham so that through Abraham’s seed, Jesus, all the nations of the world, all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Something which God had sworn but had not performed until Christ, the son of Abraham, was sacrificed on Moriah on the peak called Calvary.

And he began it in the Upper Room when he instituted the Eucharist which goes on and on and on here on earth and in heaven above forever and ever. He is the mediator of this new, everlasting covenant so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance which goes back to the promise that God gave to Abraham. Verse 24, “For Christ has entered not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”[4]

[1] The fathers of families are Levitical priests of the Trive of Levi

[2] Priest

The Heb. kohen, Gr. hierus, Lat. sacerdos, always denote one who offers sacrifices.

At first every man was his own priest, and presented his own sacrifices before God. Afterwards that office devolved on the head of the family, as in the cases of Noah ( Genesis 8:20 ), Abraham ( 12:7 ; 13:4 ), Isaac ( 26:25 ), Jacob ( 31:54 ), and Job ( Job 1:5 ). N.B. Every man was his own priest and his own victim.

The name first occurs as applied to Melchizedek ( Genesis 14:18 ). Under the Levitical arrangements [which occurs only after the worship of the golden calf] the office of the priesthood was limited to the tribe of Levi, and to only one family of that tribe, the family of Aaron. Certain laws respecting the qualifications of priests are given in Leviticus 21:16-23 . There are ordinances also regarding the priests’ dress ( Exodus 28:40-43 ) and the manner of their consecration to the office ( 29:1-37 ). And the mission of the Levitical priesthoos is to slaughter the animals in the temple to remind the Jews of their idolatry.

Their duties were manifold ( Exodus 27:20 Exodus 27:21 ; 29:38-44 ; Leviticus 6:12 ;10:11 ; 24:8 ; Numbers 10:1-10 ; Deuteronomy 17:8-13 ; 33:10 ; Malachi 2:7 ). They represented the people before God, and offered the various sacrifices prescribed in the law.

In the time of David the priests were divided into twenty-four courses or classes ( 1 Chronicles 24:7-18 ). This number was retained after the Captivity ( Ezra 2:36-39 ;Nehemiah 7:39-42 ).

“The priests were not distributed over the country, but lived together in certain cities [forty-eight in number, of which six were cities of refuge, q.v.], which had been assigned to their use. From thence they went up by turns to minister in the temple at Jerusalem. Thus the religious instruction of the people in the country generally was left to the heads of families, until the establishment of synagogues, an event which did not take place till the return from the Captivity, and which was the main source of the freedom from idolatry that became as marked a feature of the Jewish people thenceforward as its practice had been hitherto their great national sin.”

The whole priestly system of the Jews was typical. It was a shadow of which the body is Christ. The priests all prefigured the great Priest who offered “one sacrifice for sins” “once for all” ( Hebrews 10:10 Hebrews 10:12 ). There is now no human priesthood. (See Epistle to the Hebrews throughout.) The term “priest” is indeed applied to believers ( 1 Peter 2:9 ; Revelation 1:6 ).. All baptized into Christ are priests of Jesus Christ [ministerial (by the addition of the sacrament of Order) or common] to make the gift of themselves in ordinary work and family life. The sacrifice is the very gift of themselves on the occasion  of work and family. The self-gift is the meaning of human freedom and “secularity” where the secular world becomes the occasion of exercising the priesthood of Christ and becoming Christ Himself. This is the meaning of the universal call to holiness by the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium #31]

 

[3] Therefore, notice Hebrews 9: “But when Christ appeared as high priests of the good things to come, he entered once for al through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands (that is not of this creation), nor again aby virtue of blood of goats and calves, but by virtue of hs own blood, into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkled ashes of a heifer sanctify the unclean unto the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ – who through the Holy Spirit offered himself unblemished unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

And this is why he is mediator of a new covenant, that whereas a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the former covenant, they who have been called may receive eternal inheritance according to the promise” (Hebrews , 9, 11-16),

 

[4] J. Ratzinger: “Of great importance for our question is the fact that Jesus gave His power to the Apostles in such a way that He made their ministry, as it were, a continuation of His own mission. “He who receives you receives me”. He Himself says to the Twelve (Mt 10:40; cf. Lk 10:16; Jn 13:10). Many other texts in which Jesus gives His power to the disciples could here be cited: Mt 9:8: 10:1: 21:23; Mk 0:7: 13:34; Lk 4:6: 9:1; 10:19. The continuity between the mission of Jesus and that of the apostles is once again illustrated with great clarity in the Fourth Gospel: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (20:21: cf. 13:20; 17:18).

The weight of this sentence is evident if we recall what we said above concerning the structure of the mission of Jesus. As we saw, Jesus Himself, sent in the totality of His person, is indeed mission and relation from the Father and to the Father. In this light the great importance of the following parallelism appears: “The Son can do nothing of His own accord” (Jn 5:19-30). “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).

This “nothing” which the disciples share with Jesus expresses at one and the same time both the power and the infirmity of the apostolic ministry. By themselves, of their own strength, they can do none of those things which apostles must do. How could they of their own accord say, “I forgive you your sins”? How could they say, “This is my body”? How could they perform the imposition of hands and say, “Receive the Holy Spirit”? None of those things which constitute apostolic activity are done by one’s own authority. But this expropriation of their very powers constitutes a mode of communion with Jesus, who is wholly from the Father, with Him all things and nothing without Him. Their own “nihil posse”, their own inability to do anything, draws them into a community of mission with Jesus. Such a ministry, in which a man does and gives through a divine communication what he could never do and give on his own is called by the tradition of the Church a “sacrament”.

If Church usage calls ordination to the ministry of priesthood a “sacrament”, the following is meant: This man is in no way performing functions for which he is highly qualified by his own natural ability nor is he doing the things that please him most and that are most profitable. On the contrary, the one who receives the sacrament is sent to give what he cannot give of his own strength; he is sent to act in the person of another, to be his living instrument. For this reason no human being can declare himself a priest; for this reason, too. no community can promote a person to this ministry by its own decree. Only from the sacrament, which belongs to God, can priesthood be received. Mission can only be received from the one who sends, from Christ in His sacrament, through which a person becomes the voice and the hands of Christ in the world. This gift of himself, this renunciation and forgetfulness of self does not however destroy the man; rather, it leads to true human maturity because it assimilates him to the Trinitarian mystery and it brings to life the image according to which we were created. Since we were created in the image of the Trinity, he who loses himself will find himself. But here we have got somewhat ahead of ourselves. In the meantime we have acquired a number of conclusions of great importance. According to the? Gospels, Christ Himself handed on the essential structure of His mission to the apostles, to whom He grants His power and whom He associates with His power. This association with the Lord, by which a man receives the power to do what he cannot do alone is called a sacrament. The new mission created in the choosing of 12 men has a sacramental nature. This structure flows, therefore, from the centre of the biblical message.

It is obvious that this ministry created by Christ is altogether new and is in no way derived from the Old Testament, but arises from Jesus Christ with new power. The sacramental ministry of the Church expresses the novelty of Jesus Christ and His presence in all phases of history.:”The Nature of the Priesthood,” L’Osservatore Romano, Editorial and Management Offices, Via del Pellegrino, 00120, Vatican City, Europe, Telephone 39/6/698.99.390. (1 October 1990)

 

 

John Henry Newman – “The Mental Sufferings of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” – Jesus Was Not Killed; He Died As Creator Of The Action of Dying – Full Freedom

Christ crucified (28)

 

Recollect that our Blessed Lord was in this respect different from us, that, though He was perfect man, yet there was a power in Him greater than His soul, which ruled His soul, for He was God [the Divine “I”]. The soul of other men is subjected to its own wishes, feelings, impulses, passions, perturbations; His soul was subjected simply to His Eternal and Divine Personality. Nothing happened to His soul by chance, or on a sudden; He never was taken by surprise; nothing affected Him without His willing beforehand that it should affect Him. Never did He sorrow, or fear, or desire, or rejoice in spirit, but He [the Divine “I”] first willed to be {330} sorrowful, or afraid, or desirous, or joyful. When we suffer, it is because outward agents and the uncontrollable emotions of our minds bring suffering upon us. We are brought under the discipline of pain involuntarily, we suffer from it more or less acutely according to accidental circumstances, we find our patience more or less tried by it according to our state of mind, and we do our best to provide alleviations or remedies of it. We cannot anticipate beforehand how much of it will come upon us, or how far we shall be able to sustain it; nor can we say afterwards why we have felt just what we have felt, or why we did not bear the suffering better. It was otherwise with our Lord. His Divine Person was not subject, could not be exposed, to the influence of His own human affections and feelings, except so far as He chose. I repeat, when He chose to fear, He feared; when He chose to be angry, He was angry; when He chose to grieve, He was grieved. He was not open to emotion, but He opened upon Himself voluntarily the impulse by which He was moved. Consequently, when He determined to suffer the pain of His vicarious passion, whatever He did, He did, as the Wise Man says, instanter, “earnestly,” with His might; He did not do it by halves; He did not turn away His mind from the suffering as we do—(how should He, who came to suffer, who could not have suffered but of His own act?) no, He did not say and unsay, do and undo; He said and He did; He said, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God; sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou fitted to Me”. He took a {331} body in order that He might suffer; He became man, that He might suffer as man; and when His hour was come, that hour of Satan and of darkness, the hour when sin was to pour its full malignity upon Him, it followed that He offered Himself wholly, a holocaust, a whole burnt-offering;—as the whole of His body, stretched out upon the Cross, so the whole of His soul, His whole advertence, His whole consciousness, a mind awake, a sense acute, a living cooperation, a present, absolute intention, not a virtual permission, not a heartless submission, this did He present to His tormentors. His passion was an action; He lived most energetically, while He lay languishing, fainting, and dying. Nor did He die, except by an act of the will; for He bowed His head, in command as well as in resignation, and said, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit;” He gave the word, He surrendered His soul, He did not lose it.

Thus you see, my brethren, had our Lord only suffered in the body, and in it not so much as other men, still as regards the pain, He would have really suffered indefinitely more, because pain is to be measured by the power of realising it. God was the sufferer; God suffered in His human nature; the sufferings belonged to God, and were drunk up, were drained out to the bottom of the chalice, because God drank them; not tasted or sipped, not flavoured, disguised by human medicaments, as man disposes of the cup of anguish. And what I have been saying will further serve to answer an objection, which I shall proceed to notice, and which perhaps exists latently {332} in the minds of many, and leads them to overlook the part which our Lord’s soul had in His gracious satisfaction for sin.

Our Lord said, when His agony was commencing, “My soul is sorrowful unto death”; now you may ask, my brethren, whether He had not certain consolations peculiar to Himself, impossible in any other, which diminished or impeded the distress of His soul, and caused Him to feel, not more, but less than an ordinary man. For instance, He had a sense of innocence which no other sufferer could have; even His persecutors, even the false apostle who betrayed Him, the judge who sentenced Him, and the soldiers who conducted the execution, testified His innocence. “I have condemned the innocent blood,” said Judas; “I am clear from the blood of this just Person,” said Pilate; “Truly this was a just Man,” cried the centurion. And if even they, sinners, bore witness to His sinlessness, how much more did His own soul! And we know well that even in our own case, sinners as we are, on the consciousness of innocence or of guilt mainly turns our power of enduring opposition and calumny; how much more, you will say, in the case of our Lord, did the sense of inward sanctity compensate for the suffering and annihilate the shame! Again, you may say that He knew that His sufferings would be short, and that their issue would be joyful, whereas uncertainty of the future is the keenest element of human distress; but He could not have anxiety, for He was not in suspense; nor despondency or despair, for He never was deserted. {333} And in confirmation you may refer to St. Paul, who expressly tells us that, “for the joy set before Him,” our Lord “despised the shame”. And certainly there is a marvellous calm and self-possession in all He does: consider His warning to the Apostles, “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”; or His words to Judas, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” and, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” or to Peter, “All that take the sword shall perish with the sword”; or to the man who struck Him, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou Me?” or to His Mother, “Woman, behold thy Son”.

All this is true and much to be insisted on; but it quite agrees with, or rather illustrates, what I have been observing. My brethren, you have only said (to use a human phrase) that He was always Himself. His mind was its own centre, and was never in the slightest degree thrown off its heavenly and most perfect balance. “My soul is sorrowful even unto death,” He said. It has been said of that dreadful pestilence which now is upon us, that it begins with death; by which is meant that it has no stage or crisis, that hope is over when it comes, and that what looks like its course is but the death agony and the process of dissolution; and thus our Atoning Sacrifice, in a much higher sense, began with this passion of woe, and only did not die, because at His Omnipotent will His Heart did not break, nor Soul separate from Body, till He had suffered on the Cross.

No; He has not yet exhausted that full chalice, from which at first His natural infirmity shrank. The seizure and the arraignment, and the buffeting, and the prison, and the trial, and the mocking, and the passing to and fro, and the scourging, and the crown of thorns, and the slow march to Calvary, and the crucifixion, these are all to come. A night and a {341} day, hour after hour, is slowly to run out before the end comes, and the satisfaction is completed.

And then, when the appointed moment arrived, and He gave the word, as His passion had begun with His soul, with the soul did it end. He did not die of bodily exhaustion, or of bodily pain; at His will His tormented Heart broke, and He commended His Spirit to the Father.

 

The Two February 14ths in Opus Dei

The dynamics of February 14 in the Founding of Opus Dei:

Ministerial priests and lay women (as well as men) are equal but not the same as “priests/mediators of their own existence.” They are equal because they share equally in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. In Opus Dei, as in the Church, there is only one Christian vocation, to be Ipse Christus. The dynamic of sharing in the “ipse Christus” is the gift of self on the occasion and in the performance of ordinary work and social life.

Women in Opus Dei:

 

“A short time later, on February 14, 1930, I was celebrating Mass in the little chapel of the elderly Marchioness of Onteiro, Luz Casanova’ mother, whom I took care of spiritually while I was chaplain of the Foundation. During the Mass, right after Communion, the whole women’s branch of the Work! I cannot say that I saw it, but intellectually, in detail, I grasped what the women’s branch of Opus Dei was to be. (Later I added other elements, developing this intellectual vision). I gave thanks, and, at the usual time, I went to the confessional of Father Sanchez. He listened to me and then said, ‘This is just as much from God as the rest.’”           

“The participation of women in Opus Dei had been something already implicit in the general vision of October 2. Now his hesitations and investigations into similar institutions came to an end.

            “I noted down in my “Catalinas,” the event and its date February 14, 1930. Later I forgot the date, and I let some time go by, but never again did it occur to me to think, with my false humility (that is, love of comfort, fear of struggle), of becoming a little soldier in the ranks. It was, beyond any doubt, necessary to do some founding.

            “The events of both October 2 and February 14 caught him unprepared, but especially the latter, which flew in the face of his conviction that there was no room in Opus Dei for women. As he saw it, this made the Work’s divine origin all the more clear.

              “I always believed, and I still believe, that our Lord, as on other occasions, ‘managed’ me in such a way that there would be a clear, external, objective proof that t he Work was his. I said, ‘I don’t want women in Opus Dei!’ and God said, ‘Well, I do.’

            “That was not the end of the surprises. Speaking about the paradoxes of the founding, he would say one day:

“The foundation of Opus Dei happened without me; the women’s branch, against my personal opinion; and the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, when I was seeking it but unable to find it.”[1]

Ministerial Priests in Opus Dei

“‘Time went by,’ he says. ‘We prayed. The three who were to be ordained as the first priests of the Work were studying very hard, putting their hearts into it. Then, one day…’

“On the morning of February 14, 1943 – already a day of thanksgiving for the Work as the anniversary of the founding of the women’s branch on February 14, 1930 – Father Josemaria left early to say Mass for his daughters in the oratory of Jorge Manrique. They all participated with great devotion, and he was immersed in God throughout the Holy Sacrifice.

            “As soon as Mass was over, he took out his notebook and wrote on the page for February 14, feast of Saint Valentine, ‘In the house of the women, during Holy Mass “Societas Sacerdotalis Sanctae Crucis” [The Priestly Society of the Holy Cross].” And then, on that same page, he made a little drawing, of a circle with a cross inside it. After making his thanksgiving, he went downstairs, asked for a sheet of paper, and went into a small reception room, while his daughters waited for him in the vestibule. Encarnita later wrote:

“A few minutes later he reappeared in the vestibule, and it was clear he was deeply moved. ‘Look,’ he told us, pointing to a sheet on which he had drawn a circle with a cross of special proportions in its center, ‘this will be the seal of the Work. The seal, not the coat of arms.” Opus Dei will not have a coat of arms. It represents the world, and in the very heart of the world the Cross.”

            “Next day Father Josemaria went to El Escorial, not far from Madrid, where Alvaro del Portillo, Jose Maria Hernandez de Garnica, and Jose Luis Muzquiz were preparing for their theology exams. With a great sense of unworthiness, almost with shame, he told Alvaro of the grace he had received during Mass the day before. The necessary documents needed to be prepared quickly. Alvaro would be the one to go to Rome to seek approval for the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross.

 The Second Vatican Council

The Radical and Fundamental Equality of the People of God

            “(There is) one incontrovertible fact, emphasized with unprecedented vigor by the Second Vatican Council, namely that all persons who belong to the Church have a common fundamental legal status, because they all share one and the same basic theological condition and belong to the same primary common category. All the faithful, from the Pope to the child who has just been baptized, share one and the same vocation, the same faith, the same Spirit, the same grace. They are all in need of appropriate sacramental and spiritual aids; they must all live a full Christian life, following the same evangelical teachings; they must all lead a basic personal life of piety – that of children of God, brothers and disciples of Christ – which is obligatory for them before and above any specific distinctions which may arise from their different functions within the Church. They all have an active and appropriate share – within the inevitable plurality of ministries – in the single mission of Christ and of the Church. Therefore it follows logically that within the Church all members have certain fundamental rights and obligations in common.”[2]

[1] Andrés Vázquez de Prada, “The Founder of Opus Dei,” Vol. 1 (1997) 243-244..

[2] Ibid 19.

Explanation: How One?

FOUNDATION of Opus Dei Being ONE Reality, ONE Vocation: Priesthood of Jesus Christ: Christ is the meaning of priest in that as God-Man He mediates between Himself and the Father. According to Eph1, 4, all were created in view of the Christology of God-man. That is, Christ is the meaning of man. All are created on the blueprint and DNA of Christ. That is, we are all priests as mediators between self and God in the service of others.

Adam was priest and therefore he felt alone in a creation of non-priest (garden and animals). Another priest (Eve) was created so Adam would not be alone. Their priesthood consisted in the self-gift to each other.  This priesthood was removed from man because of the sin of worshipping the golden calf. The priesthood was given to the Levites (Aaron) and became a function to kill the animals and sacrifice their blood in the temple. This changed with Christ and was restored to the fathers of families (Melchisedek). By Baptism and Confirmation, all enter into the priesthood of Christ  which is not functional (offering the blood of bulls and goats (Hebr. 9, 11-14) but prophetic as self-gift. Christ enters before the Father with His own blood, not that of bulls and goats. This is the priesthood that is the ONE of the man, the woman at the foot of the Cross of Christ. All are called to be Him. I add Scott Hahn here:

The Eucharist as the Meal of Melchizedek: Christ’s Self-Gift of Himself. And This is How the Vocation for all in Opus Dei is ONE

From a talk by Scott Hahn

Another key foreshadowing of the Eucharist — the sacrifice and food of the New Covenant — is the bread and wine offered by the priest Melchizedek. Let’s see what this means for our understanding of the Eucharist.

I’d like to call your attention to the Book of Hebrews. Hebrews, chapter 6 describes how God had made a promise to Abraham and then he changed the promise to an oath. When God swears an oath to Abraham, he makes a covenant. In Genesis 22:18, right after Abraham went to Moriah to sacrifice his firstborn through Sarah, God prevented it and then swore an oath saying, “Surely all the nations of the earth will be blessed through your seed.”

The New Testament begins, “This is Jesus Christ, the seed of the son of Abraham, the Son of David.” Jesus Christ is the one in and through whom God fulfills that oath he swore to Abraham. Where did he swear it? On Moriah, where the temple was later built and where Christ, the New Temple was later destroyed and rebuilt three days afterwards. It talks about this oath and then it goes on to talk about the priesthood of Melchizedek. In chapter 7, the first ten verses, it describes how Abraham met Melchizedek. It talks about the meaning of his name. He’s the king of righteousness, that’s what Melchizedek means in Hebrew. He is the King of Salem, which means peace, shalom. He is the priest of God Most High and he blessed Abraham, so he was superior to Abraham. Everything is mentioned about the meeting between Abraham and Melchizedek except one thing, the bread and the wine.

Now we are going to ask a question. Is that because the bread and the wine was the only thing that was unimportant about Melchizedek and Abraham meeting, or is it because the importance of the bread and the wine is so great but so obvious that it goes without saying? Let’s study the next few chapters.

For one thing we already saw back in Hebrews 5, verses 5 and 6 where God has sworn an oath to Jesus Christ. He says, “Thou art my Son. Today have I begotten thee.” And he also says in another place, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” To be God’s Son is like the same thing as being a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Remember way back in the Old Testament before the Golden Calf, fathers were high priests and firstborn sons were priests under their authority. This seemed to be the natural family pattern of Melchizedek. This is how the ancient Jews as well as the ancient Church Fathers understood it.

Jesus Christ is not a Levite so Old Testament Jews might be tempted to say, “Well, he can’t be a priest, then.” But Hebrews is talking all about the wilderness generation under Moses and how they committed idolatry and rebelled against God and how God sent all these punishments. The first rebellion was the Golden Calf, and the first punishment was to take the priesthood away from the firstborn, which had been theirs for centuries, and to give it to the Levites temporarily. What the writer of Hebrews is suggesting is that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is righteous enough to restore the original pattern of the father-son family priesthood, because this is a divine family that God, through Christ, is adopting us into through the sacrifice of Christ.

He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The word “order” does not mean order like the Dominican Order. It means after the manner of Melchizedek’s priesthood. The writer goes on to make a big, sharp contrast between the Levitical priests who continue to offer these animals in sacrifice. They had to offer. They had to kill. They had to sacrifice millions of sheep, millions of goats and millions of cattle with millions of gallons of blood running down through the temple. Why? It was all after and because of the Golden Calf, whereas before all of that, you had a father and a son and a clean priesthood that Melchizedek represents. “After the manner of Melchizedek” suggests that Melchizedek’s manner of priestly sacrifice was bread and wine. This is how all the early Fathers understood this, as well.

Now, it says in Hebrews 7 in verse 18, “On the one hand a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness, for the law made nothing perfect. On the other hand, a better hope is introduced through which we draw near to God.” And it was not without an oath and it talks about how God swore this oath, and the oath that has been talked about is the oath that was sworn by God on Moriah where Christ was slain. Verse 22: This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; whereas Jesus is one. There’s the single priesthood, and he lives forever up in heaven. But he holds his priesthood permanently because he continues a priest forever. Consequently, he is able for all times to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

“For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need like those high priests to offer sacrifices daily.” In other words to kill and to have blood shed continuously. “…first for his own sins and then for those of the people. He did this once for all when he offered up himself. Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests.” That is the Levitical law that was given after the Golden Calf, “…but the word of the oath which came later than the law appoints a son who has been made perfect forever.”

Now the point in what we are saying is this. We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. Notice that the Lamb is the one enthroned in Revelation. The Lamb and the firstborn Son of the Passover is the priest who ministers in a sanctuary, the heavenly sanctuary. He is a minister in a sanctuary. It isn’t complete. He is ministering in the heavenly sanctuary and the true tabernacle which is set up not by man but by the Lord. “For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices. Hence it is necessary for this priest to have something to offer.”

I read that a hundred times before the obvious meaning hit me like a brick in the face. He is a priest in heaven ministering now in the sanctuary and he’s got something to offer and he’s continually offering it. He’s just not bleeding and dying and suffering any more. He’s not killing any more animals, but he’s continually offering the once and for all sacrifice which is himself; but it’s a continual sacrifice. It’s a perpetual offering. He’s not dying, but he’s still offering. That’s exactly what the Catholic Church teaches about the Mass.

In fact, we’re going to be offering this sacrifice forever in and through and with Christ. Not bloody animal sacrifices but our hearts and our souls and our bodies in union with the One whose body and blood, soul and divinity are perfect and pure — the only acceptable sacrifice which makes our otherwise unacceptable sacrifices perfectly acceptable. “Holy and righteous,” Paul says. He goes on talking about the superiority of the New Covenant that Christ established. “The days will come says the Lord when I will establish a New Covenant with the House of Israel” (Jer. 31:31). Verse 9, “Not like the covenant I made with your fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. That covenant, they broke.” When? At the Golden Calf. The covenant that he made with them out of Egypt they broke at the Golden Calf.

It won’t be like that covenant because this firstborn Son won’t break it, and that’s what makes it new. “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” Verse 13, and in speaking of the New Covenant he treats the first as obsolete and what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. The Old Testament only uses “New Covenant one time. Jesus in the gospels only uses the phrase “New Covenant” one time. When? At Passover time. Where? In the Upper Room. Why? To institute the Eucharist.

And so he goes on in Hebrews 9 to talk about the superiority. Back in the Old Testament, verse 9, we read, “According to this Old Testament arrangement, gifts and sacrifices were offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper. What is the contrast implied? Back then sacrifices were offered which couldn’t perfect the worshipper’s conscience, implying that in the New Covenant, what? Sacrifices are offered which do perfect the conscience of the worshipper.

That’s what the Eucharist does. It cleanses our soul. It wipes away all venial sin. These Old Testament sacrifices, verse 10, deal only with food and drink and various ablutions, baptismois, in the Greek, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. Do you know when the real Reformation came? Not in 1517. The real reformation came in the Upper Room when the Eucharist was instituted, when the Catholic Church was formed. The time of reformation wiped away the weak ineffective Old Testament sacrifices. To do away with all sacrifices altogether? No. To initiate a new sacrifice which has intrinsic power to cleanse our consciences.

Verse 11, now, “The one Christ appeared as a High Priest of the good things that have come. Then through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with human hands, that is not of this creation, he entered once and for all into the holy place, that is heaven, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” He took his own blood up there. He’s not bleeding in the sense that he’s suffering and dying, but he’s up there as a Lamb looking as though he’s been slain, offering his own blood. That’s a Eucharistic Passover sacrifice and that’s why the entire structure of Revelation is a Passover liturgy.

And it goes on to talk about the Old Testament’s weakness in comparison with the New Testament’s power. “For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls or with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ who through the Eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God purify your conscience?” The body was cleansed externally in the Old Testament sacrifices, but with Christ’s Passover sacrifice which he continues to administer up in the heavenly sanctuary, our consciences are cleansed as we offer and receive that down here below on earth.

“Therefore,” verse 15 says, “he is the mediator of a New Covenant.” He only said that word covenant one time. “This cup is the blood of the New Covenant,” when he instituted the Eucharist. That fulfilled Jeremiah 31. That’s when he offered what appeared to be bread and wine. That’s when he became a new Melchizedek, feeding the new children of Abraham so that through Abraham’s seed, Jesus, all the nations of the world, all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Something which God had sworn but had not performed until Christ, the son of Abraham, was sacrificed on Moriah on the peak called Calvary.

And he began it in the Upper Room when he instituted the Eucharist which goes on and on and on here on earth and in heaven above forever and ever. He is the mediator of this new, everlasting covenant so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance which goes back to the promise that God gave to Abraham. Verse 24, “For Christ has entered not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”

When East and West Come Together Again –  Split since 1054 – the Broken Mirror of the Face of Christ Will Become Visible To Islam and the World. Then — ONE!

When East and West Come Together Again –  Split since 1054 – the Broken Mirror of the Face of Christ Will Become Visible To Islam and the World. Then — ONE!Universal Conversion to Christ as Alpha and Omega of the Created Universe.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible,… All things have been created through and unto him, and he is before all creatures, and in him all things hold together…. For it has pleased God the Father that in him all his fullness should dwell, and that through him he should reconcile to himself all things, whether on the earth or in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1, 15-20.).

Bp Robert Barron: “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 the time and space”

“The Word became flesh” (Jn. 1, 4)…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 cointinue in being.

“Now what follows from these breathtaking descirtions is a centrally important epistemic claim: that Jesus cannot be measured bay a criterion outside of himself or viewed from a perspective higher than himself. He cannot be understood as one object among many or surveyed blandly by a disinterested observer. If such perspectives were possible, then he could not be the all-grounding Word or the criterion that which no more final can be thought. If we sought to know him in this way we would not only come to incorrect conclusions but also involve ourselves in a sort of operational contradiction. To be consistent with these accounts, we must say that Jesus determines not only what there is to be known (since he is the organizing principle finite being) but also how we are to know what is to be known (since the mind itself is a creature, made and determined through him

“A Christ-illumined mind in search of Christ-determined forms seems to be the epistemology implicit in Colossians and the Johannine prologue. Further, as Bruce Marshall has argued, this primacy implies that the narratives concerning Jesus must, for Christians, be an epistemic trump, that is to say, an articulation of reality that must hold sway over and against all rival articulations, be they scientific, psychological, sociological, philosophical, or religious. To hold to Colossians and the prologue to John is to have a clear negative criterion concerning all claims to ultimate truth: whatever runs contrary to the basic claims entailed in the naratives concerning Jesus must certainly be false” (R. Barron, “The Priority of Christ” Brazos (2007) 134-135.

Remarks of Pope Francis at the Conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod (2015) – Preparatory to Writing “Amoris Laetitia.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

– The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro(with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

And now he speaks about himself his mission as pope:

 “We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of  their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

[The hymn Te Deum was sung, and Benediction given.]

Thank you, and rest well, eh?

The teaching authority of ‘Amoris Laetitia’

Repeat of Cardinal Schoenborn’s Take on AL and its authority and light for unity in the Church. Therefore, Re-read!

Posted on July 7, 2016 by Cindy Wooden

 

VATICAN CITY — Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the journal La Civilta Cattolica, interviewed Cardinal Christoph Schonborn about Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” and reaction to it.

 

The journal provided Catholic News Service with an English translation of the interview and its website — www.laciviltacattolica.it — was scheduled to post selections in English from the interview at 3 p.m. Rome time today.

Here are two of the questions and answers:

Father Spadaro: Some have spoken of AL as a minor document, a personal opinion of the pope (so to speak) without full magisterial value. What value does this exhortation possess? Is it an act of the magisterium? This seems obvious, but it is good to specify it in these times, in order to prevent some voices from creating confusion among the faithful when they assert that this is not the case …

Cardinal Schonborn: It is obvious that this is an act of the magisterium: It is an apostolic exhortation. It is clear that the pope is exercising here his role of pastor, of master and teacher of the faith, after having benefited from the consultation of the two synods. I have no doubt that it must be said that this is a pontifical document of great quality, an authentic teaching of sacra doctrina, which leads us back to the contemporary relevance of the Word of God.

Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna arriving at a 2014 session of the Synod of Bishops on the family. (CNS/Paul Haring)

I have read it many times, and each time I note the delicacy of its composition and an ever greater quantity of details that contain a rich teaching. There is no lack of passages in the exhortation that affirm their doctrinal value strongly and decisively. This can be recognized from the tone and the content of what is said, when we relate these to the intention of the text — for example, when the pope writes: “I urgently ask …”, “It is no longer possible to say …”, “I have wanted to present to the entire church …”, and so on. AL is an act of the magisterium that makes the teaching of the church present and relevant today. Just as we read the Council of Nicaea in the light of the Council of Constantinople, and Vatican I in the light of Vatican II, so now we must read the previous statements of the magisterium about the family in the light of the contribution made by AL. We are led in a living manner to draw a distinction between the continuity of the doctrinal principles and the discontinuity of perspectives or of historically conditioned expressions. This is the function that belongs to the living magisterium: to interpret authentically the Word of God, whether written or handed down.

Father Spadaro: I have the impression, therefore, that this stage is an evolution in the understanding of the doctrine …

Cardinal Schonborn: The complexity of family situations, which goes far beyond what was customary in our Western societies even a few decades ago, has made it necessary to look in a more nuanced way at the complexity of these situations. To a greater degree than in the past, the objective situation of a person does not tell us everything about that person in relation to God and in relation to the church. This evolution compels us urgently to rethink what we meant when we spoke of objective situations of sin. And this implicitly entails a homogeneous evolution in the understanding and in the expression of the doctrine.

Francis has taken an important step by obliging us to clarify something that had remained implicit in “Familiaris consortio” [St. John Paul II’s 1981 exhortation on the family] about the link between the objectivity of a situation of sin and the life of grace in relation to God and to his church, and –- as a logical consequence –- about the concrete imputability of sin. Cardinal Ratzinger had explained in the 1990s that we no longer speak automatically of a situation of mortal sin in the case of new marital unions. I remember asking Cardinal Ratzinger in 1994, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had published its document about divorced and remarried persons: “Is it possible that the old praxis that was taken for granted, and that I knew before the [Second Vatican] Council, is still valid? This envisaged the possibility, in the internal forum with one’s confessor, of receiving the sacraments, provided that no scandal was given.” His reply was very clear, just like what Pope Francis affirms: There is no general norm that can cover all the particular cases. The general norm is very clear; and it is equally clear that it cannot cover all the cases exhaustively.

 

 

 

 

Where Francis’ Statesmanship Trumps Burke’s Doubt: Easier to Forgive Weakness Than Pride

PUBLISHED ON February 5, 2018

Mattias A. Caro – Editor of Ethica Politica

 

The touchstone of the Petrine office is unity. Above all other things Peter’s successor is the rock upon which the Church is built. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church because, thanks to the Holy Spirit, the pope as the visible head shall remain faithful to her invisible head, Jesus Christ. Popes can be weak. Popes can also be immoral. But above all they cannot fail to keep the Church—as much of the Church as possible—united.

Unity is a tricky thing. How exactly is it measured? While we can point to teachings and practices that place someone outside the bounds of the Church, heterodoxy and heteropraxy don’t always lead to separation. Take the liturgical upheavals of the 60s and 70s. I heard stories of priests celebrating masses with pizza and Coke. I saw the remnants of women aspiring to be priests through monthly homilies at my campus ministry. Though extreme, these are among many anecdotes and examples that show so-called Catholics practicing and acting in ways that violate the church’s law.

Yet, curiously enough, none of the pizza-mass priests were formally expelled from the Church. Rather, it was traditionalists, the Lefebvrites, who found themselves on the outside looking in. They were branded separatists. They were the ones whose unity with the Church was ruptured. Ultimately, I’m not certain we got it right. But the observation is worth noting for effect: Today you rarely hear of pizza-celebrating priests. But the extraordinary form has found a secure home in the Church for the foreseeable future.

Could it be that schism and separation, rather than being salutary for schismatics, has the effect of simply galvanizing the exiled? That is, had the pizza-mass priests been expelled in the 70s and 80s, might we today see separatist churches devolving toward some sort of non-liturgical protestant sect? It’s too curious a phenomenon to ignore, one that suggests the best way to deal with heterodoxy and heteropraxy is simply to let it die a slow, natural death within the safe harbor of the Church.

In that light, Holy Father Francis’ flirtation with communion for the divorce and remarried might make sense under his duty to the Petrine office.

Don’t mistake, I am saying this as a casual observer, not one studied or stooped in curial and episcopal politics. But it seems we have two competing claims. On the one hand, the teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage and the consequence that has for sacramental admittance for the divorce and remarried. On the other hand, a group of prelates (mainly German) who seem intent to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion. The former is an unchanging position; the latter is heterodox.

So Francis has concluded, better to keep the dissenters within the walls of the Church than risk, half a millennium later, another schism out of Germany. The judgment is one of a statesman. It is a risky and hard decision. But the reality is that in the long-run the Church outlives the lineage of any heresy that crops up within her. The Holy Father knows that the house always wins.

This leaves the likes of Cardinal Burke on the outside looking in. He, too, like Francis wants unity for the Church, but he believes the ultimate move against heterodoxy is expulsion, if there is no amendment. If the lesson of the 60s and 70s is any guide, though, Francis is making the right move. He is marginalizing Cardinal Burke by ignoring his dubia and keeping the heterodox at arm’s length. He is guaranteeing that Cardinal Burke’s vision for an orthodox and faithful Church lives on and that the German bishops’ quest for change dies a slow, natural, but ultimately unfruitful death. The disagreement between Francis and Burke is not one of vision but one of strategy. This, of course, forces us to ask:

What if Cardinal Burke and Pope Francis are really on the same side?

      Although the above remarks of Matthias Caro are announced to be those of a casual observer,  nevertheless, I would like to give them a modicum of ontological and epistemological density and weight. From the experience of recent history, he makes the excellent point that we are all familiar with: the pizza priests who had thrown off the modified liturgical constraints of the Novus Ordo of Paul VI and every sense of sacred gravitas. Yet they have continued on in the Church for better or worse, but still validly consecrating. And the  traditionalists and the Lefebvrites on the other hand, have left the Church and are on the outside looking in (or has that changed recently?).

    My mind immediately goes to the struggle of the Church in the beginning of the 4th c. having to give a rational account of the Trinity for the sake of unifying the Empire over the conceptual formulation that was insisted upon by Arius and later Eunomius. Their logic was unassailable: If Christ is the Son of God, then He cannot be equal to God as unengendered [if genatos, then it is impossible that He be aggenatos]. And the empire in its rationality had gone arian until the Council of Nicea in 325 which transcended conceptual rationality by insisting that Christ was one-in-being with the Father as Christ said: “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10, 30); and yet, Christ also said: “The Father is greater then I” (Jn. 18, 28). This paradoxial state of being different from the Father and yet one with the Father transcended the level of conceptual rationality which the Church affirmed in the Nicene formula. The conceptualization wasn’t clear. We conceptualize by naming created things. How could it be? The Church  was experiencing the Creator in the Person of Jesus Christ and named Him simul “engenedered and “unengendered” in the Nicene Creed. The Church grew in unity with this foray into mystical knowing of its most profound and rector truth of faith.

    Consider Joseph Ratzinger’s remarks in “Introduction to Christianity” concerning the conceptual graveyard of truths that lay about this dogma of the Trinity.

        “When one looks at the history of the dogma of the Trinity as it is reflected in a present-day manual of theology, it looks like a graveyard of heresies, whose emblems theology still carries round with it like trophies from battles fought and won. But such a view does not represent a proper understanding of the matter, for all the attempted solutions which in the course of a long struggle were finally thrown out as dead-ends and hence heresies are not just mere gravestones to the vanity of human endeavor, monuments which confirm how often thinking has come to grief and at which we can now look back in retrospective – and in the last analysis fruitless – curiosity. On the contrary, every heresy is at the same time the cipher for an abiding truth, a cipher which we must now preserve with other simultaneously valid statements, separated from which it produces a truth, a false impression. In other words, all these statements are not so much gravestones as the bricks of cathedral, which are of course only useful when they do not remain alone but a inserted in something bigger, just as even the positively accepted formulas are only valid if they are at the same time aware of their own inadequacy.”[2]

  Guardini’s “Caveat”

“As soon as a religious consciousness that preaches ‘pure doctrine’ comes into being, and with it an authority ready to spring to its defense, the danger of orthodoxy becomes acute. For what is orthodoxy but that attitude which considers obedience to the Law already salvation, and which would preserve the purity of the Law at all costs – even at the price of violence to the conscience? The moment rules of salvation, cult and communal pattern are fixed, one is tempted to believe that their strict observance is already holiness in the sight of God. The moment there is a hierarchy of offices, and powers, of tradition and law, there is also the danger of confusing authority and obedience with the kingdom of God. The moment human norms are applied to holiness, inflexible barriers drawn between right and wrong, the danger of laying hand on divine freedom, of entangling in rules and regulations that which falls from God’s grace alone becomes considerable. No matter how noble a thought may be, once it enters the human heart it stimulates contradiction, untruth and evil. The same fate awaits that which comes from God. Order in faith and prayer, in office and discipline, tradition and practice is of genuine value; but it opens up negative possibilities. Wherever a decisive either-or is demanded in the realm of sacred truth; where the objective forms of cult, order and authority are all that count, there you may be sure, is also danger of ‘the Pharisee’ and his ‘Law.’ Danger of accepting outer values for intrinsic; danger of contradicting attitude and word; danger of judging God’s freedom by legal standards – in short, danger of all the sins of which Christ accuses the Pharisees.

“The history of the Mosaic Law is a terrible warning. What had come, a holy thing, from God, was turned into an instrument of disaster. The moment definite revelation, the positive ordering of existence by God is believed, this possibility presents itself. It is good for the believer to know this, that, as a member of the second covenant, he may be spared the fate of the first.”[3]

Conclusion   I am obviously talking about the epistemological sea-change that took place in Vatican II from object to subject. Karol Wojtyla explicitly set up the architecture of the two epistemologies as complementary and necessary for an integral understanding of the human person and his action. But, for him, as Caro, subjectivity trumps the reductionist objectification of reality. Wojtyla writes: “given the variety of circumstances of the real existence of human beings, we must always leave the greater space in this cognitive effort for the irreducible; we must, as it were, give the irreducible the upper hand when thinking about the human being, both in theory and in practice. For the irreducible also refers to everything in human being that is invisible and wholly internal and whereby each human being, myself included, is an ‘eyewitness’ of his or her own self – of his or her own humanity and person” [K. Wojtyla: “Subjectivity and the Irreducible in the Human Person” in Person and Community Lang (1993) 214].

Matthias Caro said above: “better to keep the dissenters within the walls of the Church than risk, half a millennium later, another schism out of Germany….  The Holy Father knows that the house always wins.” And the house always wins because it is the Body of Christ with ontological density and the Spirit is present not only in the orthdoxy of clear ideas, but in the praxis of sinful but struggling christs. Something greater than orthodoxy is the orthopraxis of sanctity.

 

[1] A line that continually approaches a given curve but does not meet it at any finite distance.

[2] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity” Ignatius (2004)

[3] Romano Guardini, “The Lord,” Henry Regnery (1954) 171.

If all of the above doesn’t come out intelligible for you, keep reading on your own and I will try again. But let me finish off with the minds of Wojtyla and Ratzinger. affirm that in all knowing of reality, there is something of the world and something of the self. Wojtyla writes [The Acting Person,  that in every experience of what is outside of us, there is an experience of the self who is doing the experiencing (“Man’s experience of anything outsdie of himself is always associated with the experience of himself, and he never experiences anything external without having at the same time the experience of himself” The Acting Person 1979 Reidel Pub. p. 3

Ratzinger writes in “Introduction to Christipanity” (Ignatius [1990] 122-125: “We know today 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 there is no such thing as pure objectivity even in physics, that even here the result of the experi

ment, 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… There is not such thing as pure objectivity.”

Re: “Amoris Laetitia” The moral truth of Irregular situations cannot be unilaterally determined by objective moral principles but by the complementary truths of the object and the subject.

Repeat Conclusion:

Therefore, as there are two physics to explain the same created physical reality, Newtonian and Quantum (and they are complementary depending on the number of physical particles involved), there are two  moral theologies of matrimony, one objective and the other subjective, and they are also complementary and necessary to each other. The objective will say that divorce-remarriage-Eucharist are incompatible because the context is the state of sin. The other will agree, but the objective evil of the sin in the persons can be trumped by a gradual growth in goodness and holiness by the giving of the self in the context of the second marriage. Matthias Caro suggests that the dissenters will demand a doctrinal denunciation to releave the scandal by separating from the Pope, Rome, the Church, etc. In a word, “something has to be done. This is a very slippery slope into chaos.”

In the meanwhile, the divorced-remarried, objectively in sin but struggling to live a human/Christian life, continue on in the Church. I repeat Caro’s point as conclusion: “So Francis has concluded, better to keep the dissenters within the walls of the Church than risk, half a millennium later, another schism out of Germany. The judgment is one of a statesman. It is a risky and hard decision. But the reality is that in the long-run the Church outlives the lineage of any heresy that crops up within her. The Holy Father knows that the house always wins.”