The simple theological insight of Joseph Ratzinger: the ascension took place when Our Lady said “Yes” and the humanity of the man Jesus of Nazareth was assumed by the divine Person of the Word (“The… More
“…. For a Christian also, to be able to love is never a fact acquired once and for all. One must begin again every day; we must exercise ourselves so that our love for the brothers and sisters we encounter may become mature and purified of those limits and sins that render it partial, egoistic, sterile and unfaithful. Every day the art of loving must be learnt. Listen to this: every day the art of loving must be learnt; every day Christ’s school of patience must be followed, every day one must forgive and look at Jesus and this with the help of this “Advocate,” of this Consoler that Jesus has sent us who is the Holy Spirit.
May the Virgin Mary, perfect disciple of her Son and Lord, help us to be ever more docile to the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, to learn every day to love one another as Jesus has loved us.” (Pope Francis, May 21, 2017)
On a recent trip to Sacramento, from my home base in the LA area, I flew Southwest Airlines. In an idle moment, I reached for the magazine in the seatback pocket and commenced to leaf through it. I came across an article by a woman named Sarah Menkedick entitled “Unfiltered: How Motherhood Interrupted My Relationship with Social Media.” The piece was not only wittily and engagingly written; it also spoke to some pretty profound truths about our cultural situation today and the generation that has come of age under the influence of the Internet.
She argues that to have swum in the sea of Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube from the time that one was a child was to live one’s life perpetually in front of an audience. Most millenials never simply had experiences; they were conditioned to record, preserve, and present those experiences to a following who were invited to like what they saw, to comment on it, to respond to it. To be sure, she acknowledges, the social media, at their best, are powerful means of communication and connection, but at their worst, they produce this odd distantiation from life and a preoccupation with the self. Here is how Menkendick puts it: “I’ve come of age as a writer at a time when it is no longer enough just to write. A writer must also promote her work and in the process promote herself as a person of interest…I learned the snarky, casually intellectual voice of feminist and pop culture bloggers, the easy outrage, the clubby camaraderie.”
But then something extraordinary happened to the author: she became a mother. On the front porch of her home, nursing her baby, she discovered that she had a visceral aversion to snark and absolutely no desire to share her experience with an audience or curry favor from it. She didn’t want to cultivate any ironic distance from motherhood; rather, she wanted to believe in it with all her heart, to let it wash over her. “Before I had a child, I took it for granted that no intellectual writer-type could ever be taken seriously were she to cave into conventional sentiment. As a mother, I was swept away by these huge, ancient, universal emotions I’d previously dismissed as uncomplicated.” Her baby, in a word, broke through the carapace of her self-regard and let in some real light. Again, granting all that is truly good about social media (which I use massively in my own ministry), they can easily produce the conviction that we are the stars of our own little dramas, always playing for an eager audience. Authentic spirituality always gives rise to the opposite conviction: your life is not about you.
To grasp this distinction more completely, let me propose two scenarios to you. In the first, you are engaged in conversation with someone that you desperately want (or need) to impress, say, a prospective employer or a popular figure whose friendship you crave. In this context, you are indeed speaking, listening, laughing, looking pensive, etc., but more importantly, you are watching yourself perform these moves, and you are exquisitely attentive to the reaction of your interlocutor. Is she laughing at your jokes? Does she look bored? Did your witticism land effectively in her consciousness? The point is that you are not really experiencing reality directly, but rather through a sort of veil. It is as though you are looking at a beautiful landscape, but through a foggy window. Now a second scenario: you are in lively conversation with a friend, and there is no ulterior motive, no egotistic preoccupation. You become quickly lost in the discussion, following the argument where it leads, laughing when you are truly amused, watching your partner, but not in order to see how she’s reacting to you, but just because she’s interesting. In this case, you are immersed in reality; you are looking at the landscape through a clear pane of glass, taking in its colors and textures in all of their vividness.
Now, to use the language of the classical moral and spiritual tradition, the first situation I described is marked, through and through, by pride, and the second by humility. Don’t think of pride, first and foremost, as self-exaltation, which is, in fact, but a face or consequence of pride. In its most proper nature, pride is seeing the world through the distorting lens of the ego and its needs. On the other hand, humility, from the Latin humus (earth), is getting in touch with reality directly, being close to the ground, seeing things as they are. This is why Thomas Aquinas famously says “humilitas est veritas”(humility is truth). What makes the first scenario so painful and cringe-worthy is that it is out of step with the truth of things. What makes the second scenario so exhilarating, so fun, is that it is full of reality.
What Sarah Menkedick intuited was the manner in which the social media environment can be a breeding ground for the unique type of spiritual distortion and dislocation that we traditionally call pride. What made all the difference for her was the arrival of her baby, in all of his densely-textured reality—a reality that she could appropriate only through humility.
Office of readings, Friday – 5th week of Easter:
Isaac of Stella, Cistercian 1170’s. It is interesting to see the struggle in the 12th c. to give a theological account of the identity of the human person with Jesus Christ as Son of God. Read this in the light of the 20th c. experience of St. Josemaria Escriva who heard while travelling in the street: “You are my Son; you are Christ.”
|From a sermon by Blessed Isaac of Stella, abbot|
|Firstborn of many brothers|
Just as the head and body of a man form one single man, so the Son of the Virgin and those he has chosen to be his members form a single man and the one Son of Man. Christ is whole and entire, head and body, say the Scriptures, since all the members form one body, which with its head is one Son of Man, and he with the Son of God is one Son of God, who himself with God is one God. Therefore the whole body with its head is Son of Man, Son of God, and God. This is the explanation of the Lord’s words: Father, I desire that as you and I are one, so they may be one with us.
And so, according to this well-known reading of Scripture, neither the body without the head, nor the head without the body, nor the head and body without God make the whole Christ. When all are united with God they become one God. The Son of God is one with God by nature; the Son of Man is one with him in his person; we, his body, are one with him sacramentally. Consequently those who by faith are spiritual members of Christ can truly say that they are what he is: the Son of God and God himself. But what Christ is by his nature we are as his partners; what he is of himself in all fullness, we are as participants. Finally, what the Son of God is by generation, his members are by adoption, according to the text: As sons you have received the Spirit of adoption, enabling you to cry, Abba, Father.
Through his Spirit, he gave men the power to become sons of God, so that all those he has chosen might be taught by the firstborn among many brothers to say: Our Father, who are in heaven. Again he says elsewhere: I ascend to my Father and to your Father.
By the Spirit, from the womb of the Virgin, was born our head, the Son of Man; and by the same Spirit, in the waters of baptism, we are reborn as his body and as sons of God. And just as he was born without any sin, so we are reborn in the forgiveness of all our sins. As on the cross he bore the sum total of the whole body’s sins in his own physical body, so he gave his members the grace of rebirth in order that no sin might be imputed to his mystical body. It is written: Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt for his sin. The ‘blessed man’ of this text is undoubtedly Christ. Insofar as God is his head, Christ forgives sins. Insofar as the head of the body is one man, there is no sin to forgive; and insofar as the body that belongs to this head consists of many members, there is sin indeed, but it is forgiven and no guilt is imputed.
In himself he is just: it is he who justifies himself. He alone is both Saviour and saved. In his own body on the cross he bore what he had washed from his body by the waters of baptism. Bringing salvation through wood and through water, he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world which he took upon himself. Himself a priest, he offers himself as sacrifice to God, and he himself is God. Thus, through his own self, the Son is reconciled to himself as God, as well as to the Father and to the Holy Spirit
On the occasion of the beatification of St. Josemaria Escriva, Alvaro del Portillo, Escriva’s first successor as Prelate of Opus Dei, wrote two documents: 1) a letter to all the members of Opus Dei in March of 1992, and 2) an article in the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano in May of that same year.
Letter of March 1992: “The beatification our Father also has a special meaning due to the mission that God entrusted to him on the 2nd of October, 1928. He was to remind all men about the divine call to holiness, and to proclaim that professional work, family duties, and all the circumstances of an ordinary life in the midst of the world, can e a means of sanctification and or apostolate. That is, an instrument to inform human society, from within, with the spirit of Christ, and to direct the whole of creation to the glory of God the Father.
There is something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations and it is up to each one of you to discover it. That is what our Father constantly preached: a clear and demanding invitation to discover the divine Wisdom and Love in all creatures and in all the circumstances of human life, and thereby sing a song of glory to the Most Holy Trinity. That is why since the early beginnings of the Work our Father explained the mission God had entrusted to him in this way: We have come to say, with the humility of one who knows himself to be a sinner and of no worth – homo peccator sum (Luke 5, 8), we say with Peter – but with the faith of someone who allows himself to be led by God’s hand, that sanctity is not only for the privileged few. The Lord calls us all, he expects Love from us all; from everyone, wherever he may be; from everyone in whatever situation, profession or job. Because that normal, ordinary, apparently unimportant life can be a way of sanctity.
This doctrine is so transcendental that the Church has wanted to proclaim it solemnly in the last Council and to make it into ‘the most characteristic feature and the ultimate purpose of all the Conciliar teaching.’ Now, with the beatification of our Father, the Holy Church rejoices again in proposing to us the example and the intercession of the one who, by a divine mission, has preached this truth untiringly, and has practiced it up to its last consequences. Our Moth er the Church especially rejoices seeing that the mission is to lead souls to Heaven, and that the message and example of our Father is not only meant for a few, but for millions and millions of women and men until the end of time. The indication I heard from the lips of the Holy Father Paul VI now acquires a special significance. When he received me after I had been appointed the successor of our Father, he said, ‘Collect everything you can recall about Monsignor Escriva, because it is now all a treasure which belongs to the whole Church.’”
Article L’Osservatore Romano 5/27/92
Escriva Not Only Taught It, But Lived It
Having declared all the ways of the earth open to being ways of holiness, Alvaro del Portillo now declares: “Having been able to form a particularly close and profound relationship with im for 40 years reinforces in my memory this characteristic dimension of his human and spiritual physiognomy. I have seen him, so to speak, in his ‘first act’ as founder, that is to say, in the daily and continuous building of Opus Dei, and as a consequence, of the Church, as he affirmed not in vain that the Work exists solely to serve the Church.
“The identification of his very self with his foundational activity implied to Mons. Escriva perfected himself as a subject – up to the point of living the virtues to a heroic degree – in the measure in which he carried out Opus Dei, feeling the need to second God’s plans daily.”
 This is remark of Pope Paul VI from his Motu proprio ‘Sanctitas clarior,’ 19 March 1969, AAS 61 (1969), p. 150.
 Letter from Bl. Alvaro del Port illo to all the faithful of Opus Dei on March 1992.
 L’Osservatore Romano May 27, 1992.
[cn mayo 2001, 34-47]
The bronze image of Christ crucified, sculpted by Pasquale Sciancalepore following the indications of St. Josemaria Escriva, had precise characteristics It would have to be life-size, gilded a la antigua [?], showing Christ suffering joyfully and serenely – because He wanted to – eyes open and looking out at all of us, mouth slightly agape.
The figure was modeled in clay and only two bronze images were made, one for Torreciudad in Spain and the other for Cavabianca in Rome where a chapel had been built specifically for this figure of Christ. Escriva had foreseen that the chapel – the Hermita de la Santa Cruz –would house this bronzed figure of Christ crucified as the locus of the Prelatic Church of Opus Dei.
John Paul II saw it otherwise and designated the much larger chapel of Santa Maria de la Paz in Villa Tevere – where the body of St. Josemaria lies in repose – as the Prelatic Church. All of this was done, St. Josemaria being prescient, before Opus Dei had been erected as a Personal Prelature.
“Faith depends on hearing and hearing depends on the word of Christ” (Romans 10, 17). The Word of the Father must be proclaimed by a person and received by a person such that it can become an action. It always demands that there be two persons involved, one proclaiming, the other receiving – hearing and becoming Word. Proclamation is for revelation and “’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.” Ratzinger concludes, “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 (person), and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.” Reading a text can be done alone.
Pope Francis writes: “we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement of kerygma, which needs to be the center of all evangelizing activity… The fire of the Spirit is given in the form of tongues and leads us to believe in Jesus Christ who, by his death and resurrection, reveals and communicates to us the Father’s infinite mercy. On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: ‘Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’ The first proclamation is called ‘first’ not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment… We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more ‘solid’ formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats. It is the message capable or responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart. The centrality of the kerygma… has to express God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part; it should not impose the truth but appeal to freedom; it should… not reduce preaching to a few doctrines which are at times more philosophical than evangelical.”
– In chapter 3, Postman he quotes from Benjamin Franklin concerning the “Dunkers:” “When we were first drawn together as a society, it has pleased God to enlighten our minds so far as to see that some doctrines which we once esteemed truths, were errors, and that others, which we had esteemed errors, were real truths. From time to time He has been pleased to afford us farther light, and our principles have been improving, and our errors diminishing. Now we are not sure that we are arrived at the end of this progression, and at the perfection of spiritual or theological knowledge; and we fear that, if we should feel ourselves as if bound and confined by it, and perhaps be unwilling to receive further improvement, and our successors still more so, as conceiving what we their elders and founders had done, to be something sacred never to be departed from.”
Where is Postman going? In the long run, he is trying to show that, as the oral culture was transformed by the introduction of the technology of the alphabet into a print and text culture with the institutions and mode of thought derived therefrom, so also, [he writes], “my book is about…how our own tribe is undergoing a vast and trembling shift from the magic of writing to the magic of electronics” and with it the transformation in the way of thinking. “It is my intention in this book to show that a great media-metaphor shift has taken place in America, with the result that the content of much of our public discourse has become dangerous nonsense” (16). In the short run, we may not realize what has taken place and continue to think, in this case, that we are still in a typographic culture with an epistemology based on text and the rationality of concepts, but in reality we are far down another road.
Just to get a feel for what effect such an epistemological change might bring about, consider his suggestions: “typography fostered the modern idea of individuality, but it destroyed the medieval sense of community and integration. Typography created prose but made poetry into an exotic and elitist form of expression. Typography made modern science possible but transformed religious sensibility into mere superstition. Typography assisted in the growth of the nation-state but thereby made patriotism into a sordid if not lethal emotion.”
In another direction, I would suggest that another epistemological paradigm shift has happened in the Church during and after Vatican II with the difference that the epistemological change has been a retrieval of the mind of the early Fathers of the Church which had been lost in the late Middle Ages. I would suggest that this epistemological shift has not been negative but completely positive and more realist. It seems that the Fathers of the Church of East and West were working – for the entire first Christian millennium in a subjective – realist key until the final split of East and West in the 11th century . The knowledge of the Person of Jesus Christ was not grasped in a conceptual, text based epistemology of subject to object, but in an oral-auditory one of subject to subject, person to person, “I” to “thou.” Instead of objectivist-realist, it was subjective-realist in which the goal has been to know Christ objectively as “I” in continuity with Exodus 3, 14’s Yahweh “I Am Who I am.” That is, the theology and philosophy of the first Christian millennium had an experiential and noetic content that was the self – the “I” – going out of self in a living exercise of Christian faith. A Christian consciousness pervaded the culture and gave it Christian meaning. That consciousness was the context that gave “meaning” concerning self and the world as “creation.” Heaven and the world were understood as the uncreated divine and created human co-inhered in the one Person of Christ. It was lost in the thought as reported in John Duns Scotus and his successor William of Occam where God is thought to be the greatest and the most, but a Being (greatest and most) but of the same ontological “stuff” as creation. That is, they are “univocal” and therefore in competition. The more we know of the world, the less we need to know about God. Basically God is first and greatest Being of the world, and therefore is no longer God. We affirm the existence of God, but, as all modern philosophy will say, He is irrelevant. We have “domesticated Him.”
Still dominated by the alphabet/text paradigm of the text, the practioners suspect that the turn to the subject is the turn to subjectivism, relativism and non-truth. Hence, Impass.
And this immediately brought to mind the 4th c. text (suggestion St. Ambrose): “I want you to be well aware of this: the Creed must not be written down… Why not? Because we have received it in a way that was not meant to be written. What then must you do? Remember it. But, you will say, how can we remember it if we do not write it down? You will remember it all the better… When you write something down, in fact, certain that you can reread it, you do not take the trouble to go over it every day, meditating on it. But, when you do not write something down, on the contrary, fearing to forget it, you do take the trouble to go over it every day…. Go over the Creed in your mind; I insist, in your mind. Why? So that you may not fall into the habit, by repeating it aloud to yourself, of starting to repeat it amond the catechumens of the heretics. 
Also, consider John Paul II’s remarks to Andre Frossard in “Be Not Afraid:” “In the words (of Vatican II’s ‘Dei Verbum’: “Man entrusts himself to God by the obedience of faith,’ one must see, if only indirectly, the thought that faith, as response to the revelation by which God “gives himself to man, implies through it internal dynamism a reciprocal gift on the part of man, who in a way also gives himself to God.” This gift of oneself is the profoundest and most personal structure of faith) .
“In the act of faith, man does not respond to God with the gift of a bit of himself (like forming a concept), but the gift of his whole person. Of course, in this reciprocal relationship the disproportion remains.’
So misapprehension is frequent. Those who say, ‘faith is a gift,’ implying that they have not received it, are at the same time both right and wrong. Right, because there really is a gift on the part of God. Wrong, because this gift is not one of those which require only a banal acknowledgement of receipt; it only takes effect when there is reciprocity [of self gift]…”
 J. Ratzinger, “Milestones, Memoirs 1927-1977,” Ignatius (1997) 108-109.
 Pope Francis “Evangelii Gaudium #165.
 Henri de Lubac, The Christian Faith, Ignatius (1986) 23.
 Ibid. “Typographic America” 30-31