The Human Person Created Continuation of the Son of God

Fr. Richard Rohr

Creative Continuation
Thursday, September 22, 2016

 

Daniel Walsh, who was Thomas Merton’s primary philosophy teacher, says he’s not sure if the human person can even legitimately be called a creation, because we are a continuance of, an emanation from, a “subsistent relation” with what we call Trinity. Wow! This is getting very wonderful and also very dangerous. [1] He taught that the human person must see itself in continuity with God, and not a fully separate creation. We are “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (see Ephesians 1:4). How different Christian history would have been if we had believed and taught this to the ordinary beginner.

Mature Christianity is thus an invitation to share in the personal life of God, a dynamic of generated love forever continued in space and time through God’s creatures. Thus, God’s self-knowledge includes knowledge of us, and God’s self-love includes love of us. They are the same knowing, the same loving, and the same freedom.

Yes, in some sense we become an “other” that can be seen as a separate object from God, but from God’s side we are always known and loved subject to subject, just as the persons of the Trinity know and love one another. God and the human person must know (and can know) one another center to center, subject to subject; we will not and cannot know one another if we objectify one another.

This is perhaps the clearest way to describe God’s unconditional acceptance of us, forgiveness of our mistakes, and mercy toward us in all circumstances: We are never an object to God. God cannot not love God’s image in us. This is the eternal covenant.

So a fully Christian theology and philosophy of the human person must say that our personhood originates in the divine Logos, the eternal Christ, as imitations and reflections of God’s relationship to Godself. We are constituted by the same relationship that exists between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

“The end for which the human person is created is to manifest the Truth of Christ in the love God has for himself in his Divine Trinity,” Daniel Walsh says in his lectures to the monks. This is the theology of personhood upon which Thomas Merton builds his monumental worldview, and upon which we can, too.

Divine Personhood and human personhood are reciprocal, mutually-mirroring concepts. God’s nature as relationship creates ours; and our nature is constituted by this same bond, which is infinite openness and capacity to love. We must know that we are in fact objectively loveable to honestly be able to love ourselves. We cannot pretend. Our false self is never fully ready to trust in unconditional love. Maybe forgiveness and forbearance, but not unconditional love—at best a kind of highly conditional love, which is most practical Christianity when people do not go inside of the Living Mystery.

You cannot “get” to such a place; you can only rest and rejoice in such a place.

 

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Daniel Walsh was a life-long educator and one of the most influential professors on Merton’s life. After earning a doctorate at University of Toronto [Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies] alongside Étienne Gilson, Walsh became professor at Manhattanville College in New York from 1934-1960. In addition, he was a visiting professor of philosophy at Columbia from 1936-1955, and afterward serving as an adjunct professor at Columbia. In 1939, Merton had Walsh for a course on St. Thomas Aquinas. At the bar of the Biltmore Hotel in New York in 1939, Merton told Walsh of his interest in religious life. After mentioning difference orders, including that he was impressed by the Trappists at Gethsemani Abbey, Walsh recommended the Franciscans. Merton would later be rejected by the Franciscans, but remember Walsh’s praise of the Trappists. Later, Walsh would join Merton at Gethsemani Abbey in 1960 as a advisor and new professor for the abbey’s philosophy program. He soon became a visiting professor at Bellarmine College in Louisville. Archbishop John Floersh offered to ordain the sixty-year-old Walsh a priest in 1967. A surprised but delighted Walsh was ordained at St. Thomas Seminary, a ceremony attended by Merton. Walsh died in 1975 and is buried near the monastic enclosure at Gethsemani Abbey.

Overcoming the Relativism of Modern Philosophy: Descartes to the Present Day

That which appears below is an extraordinary piece that follows on the phenomenology of Karol Wojtyla and the Epistemological Theology of Joseph Ratzinger. Remember that Wojtyla did his doctoral thesis on the meaning of faith in St. John of the Cross. There he learned the “nondual consciousness” of John of the Cross. That is, faith is not a dualistic, conceptual, propositional way of knowing, but consciousness. And, let it be clear: at root it is the consciousness that the believer has of himself as person by going out of himself and thus becomining “another Christ,” Christ Himself.” 

    This is what Karol Wojtyla understood when he applied the phenomenology of Edmund Hussel to the act of faith with thomistic metaphysics (via Max Scheler). He made a phenomenology of St. John of the Cross’s non-dual consciousness [faith] and he handed reason an ontologically realistic grasp of the subject as “I.” “Experience” of the act of going out of self (faith) was his philosophic vehicle. Descartes had left it camouflaged since he did not realize that the consciousness of the “I” was the result of real-life experiences, and that in experience, the “I” is really experiencing itself (“I”) acting and the “being of whom we become conscious. The being of the “I” tends to be hidden by the consciousness which we perceive, and therefore, the “I” becomes confused with consciousness (throughout all of philosophy after Descartes to the present day).

But what Descarted did not realize, Wojtyla did: that the faith experience of the acting person, “I,” is the real contact reason has with the reality we call “being.” And it takes place here above all because there is no mediation between the “I” and itself. And reason registers this immediacy as identity. We have the intimate contact between “I” and being that had been hidden since the beginning of human thought. The result of the confusion of the “I” with consciousness led the entire philosophic enterprise into the bogus problem of the separation of morality from real being.

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Nondual Consciousness: Richard Rohr

The Meaning of Spiritual Love
Friday, August 19, 2016

When I teach nondual consciousness, I often use the phrase “not one, but not two either.” Nondual consciousness heals our splits and sense of separation. Think of how a truly loving, faithful relationship has helped you be fully and wholly yourself. John of the Cross describes this relationship in his “Spiritual Canticle,” and this is my paraphrase:

When you regarded me

Your eyes imprinted your grace in me,

In this, you loved me again,

And thus my eyes merited

To also love what you see in me. . . .

Let us go forth together to see ourselves in your beauty. [1]

When we read poetry as beautiful and profound as this verse, we can see why John of the Cross was far ahead of his time in the spiritual and psychological understanding of how love works and how true love changes us at a deep level. He consistently speaks of divine love as the template and model for all human love, and human love as the necessary school and preparation for any transcendent encounter. If you have never experienced any human love, it will be very hard for you to access God as Love (although grace overcomes this barrier). If you have never let God love you, you will not know how to love other people or things as they deserve.

In this surely inspired passage, John describes the very process of love at its best: You give a piece of yourself to the other. You see a piece of yourself in the other (usually unconsciously). This allows the other to do the same in return. You do not need or demand anything back from them, because you know that you are both participating in a single, Bigger Gazing and Loving—one that fully satisfies and creates an immense Inner Aliveness. Simply to love is its own reward. You accept being accepted—for no reason and by no criteria whatsoever! This is the key that unlocks everything in me, for others, and toward God, so much so that we call it “salvation.”

To put it another way, what I let God see and accept in me also becomes what I can see and accept in myself. And even more, it becomes that whereby I see everything else. This is why it is crucial to allow God, and at least one other person, to see us in our imperfection and nakedness, as we are—rather than as we ideally wish to be. It is also why we must give others this same experience of being looked upon in their imperfection; otherwise, they will never know the essential and utterly transformative mystery of grace. This is the glue that binds the universe of persons together.

Such utterly free and gratuitous love is the only love that validates, transforms, and changes us at the deepest levels of consciousness. It is what we all desire and what we were created for. Once you allow and accept God’s love for yourself, you will almost naturally become a conduit of the same for others.

Can you let God “look upon you in your lowliness,” as Mary put it (Luke 1:48), without waiting for some future moment when you believe you are worthy? Remember the words of John of the Cross: “Love what God sees in you.” Many of us never go there, because to be loved in this way is to live in the naked now, and it is indeed a quite naked moment.

The Experience of Creation

The significance of Pope Francis’ “Laudato ‘Si” is the over-riding deference to the understanding of Creation ex nihilo as the foundation of reality. If we understand God to be Creator ex nihilo it means that He is His own creating act. He doesn’t create from another or receive from another – whatever. This means that everything we experience as sensed, limited, material, potential, as beginning or ceasing – including, of course ourselves – as to be,  is not Creator. If we can call all we experience through sensation or thought “ A being,” then God is not “A being.”

This was basically St. Anselms’s “proof” of God’s” existence – that is the God of revelation. If you can think Him, He is not God (Creator). Again, inexorably, the Creator is not part of His Creation. and if His creation is what we call “being,” then He is not “being” in that sense. Robert Sokolowski’s book “The God of Faith and Reason “ (UNDP 1982) is a precious and groundbreaking book in this regard. His first chapter is on the pagan gods, where he shows that all that pagan gods (i.e. outside revelation) were part of the world, including, of course, Plato and Aristotle. They were not material but they were intrinsic to the world for the world to be world. Plato’s One (participation) and Aristotle’s Intelligence as prime mover to explain all motion) were integral for the world to be understood as world. The second chapter is “The Christian Distinction” between God and the world where the created world added nothing to the reality of God, and had it not been, God would not be less.

The hidden and drastic mistake is to put God and the world in the same abstract concept as “being.” Point being that we do not really mean the same thing in saying “being” of God and “being” of the world. To make that mistake is to group God under the concept of being created and we mentally conceptualize Him as God-thing, or no-God. This error has been present in the modern mind since Descartes and began in the 14th c. with Duns Scotus and William of Occam and has produced Modern philosophy with the zero sum struggle between faith and reason (science) as competitors. Scholastic philosophy and theology is shot through with it, and it is only with Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, Dei Verbum and the return to the Fathers of the Church that and the subsequent Magisterium that we are emerging from this perhaps innocent and unintentional atheism. A read of the following magisterial text of Pope Francis could be helpful.

 

  1. SACRAMENTAL SIGNS AND THE CELEBRATION OF REST
  2. The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely (without pantheism). Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.[159]The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things. Saint Bonaventure teaches us that “contemplation deepens the more we feel the working of God’s grace within our hearts, and the better we learn to encounter God in creatures outside ourselves”.[160]
  3. Saint John of the Cross taught that all the goodness present in the realities and experiences of this world “is present in God eminently and infinitely, or more properly, in each of these sublime realities is God”.[161]This is not because the finite things of this world are really divine, but because the mystic experiences the intimate connection between God and all beings, and thus feels that “all things are God”.[162]Standing awestruck before a mountain, he or she cannot separate this experience from God, and perceives that the interior awe being lived has to be entrusted to the Lord: “Mountains have heights and they are plentiful, vast, beautiful, graceful, bright and fragrant. These mountains are what my Beloved is to me. Lonely valleys are quiet, pleasant, cool, shady and flowing with fresh water; in the variety of their groves and in the sweet song of the birds, they afford abundant recreation and delight to the senses, and in their solitude and silence, they refresh us and give rest. These valleys are what my Beloved is to me”.[163]

4. The Sacraments are a privileged way in which nature is taken up by God to become a means of mediating supernatural life. Through our worship of God, we are invited to embrace the world on a different plane. Water, oil, fire and colours are taken up in all their symbolic power and incorporated in our act of praise. The hand that blesses is an instrument of God’s love and a reflection of the closeness of Jesus Christ, who came to accompany us on the journey of life. Water poured over the body of a child in Baptism is a sign of new life. Encountering God does not mean fleeing from this world or turning our back on nature. This is especially clear in the spirituality of the Christian East. “Beauty, which in the East is one of the best loved names expressing the divine harmony and the model of humanity transfigured, appears everywhere: in the shape of a church, in the sounds, in the colours, in the lights, in the scents”.[164]For Christians, all the creatures of the material universe find their true meaning in the incarnate Word, for the Son of God has incorporated in his person part of the material world, planting in it a seed of definitive transformation. “Christianity does not reject matter. Rather, bodiliness is considered in all its value in the liturgical act, whereby the human body is disclosed in its inner nature as a temple of the Holy Spirit and is united with the Lord Jesus, who himself took a body for the world’s salvation”.[165]

It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours. In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God. Indeed the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love: “Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world”.[166]The Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation. The world which came forth from God’s hands returns to him in blessed and undivided adoration: in the bread of the Eucharist, “creation is projected towards divinization, towards the holy wedding feast, towards unification with the Creator himself”.[167]Thus, the Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation.

On Sunday, our participation in the Eucharist has special importance. Sunday, like the Jewish Sabbath, is meant to be a day which heals our relationships with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world. Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, the “first day” of the new creation, whose first fruits are the Lord’s risen humanity, the pledge of the final transfiguration of all created reality. It also proclaims “man’s eternal rest in God”.[168]In this way, Christian spirituality incorporates the value of relaxation and festivity. We tend to demean contemplative rest as something unproductive and unnecessary, but this is to do away with the very thing which is most important about work: its meaning. We are called to include in our work a dimension of receptivity and gratuity, which is quite different from mere inactivity. Rather, it is another way of working, which forms part of our very essence. It protects human action from becoming empty activism; it also prevents that unfettered greed and sense of isolation which make us seek personal gain to the detriment of all else. The law of weekly rest forbade work on the seventh day, “so that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your maidservant, and the stranger, may be refreshed” (Ex23:12). Rest opens our eyes to the larger picture and gives us renewed sensitivity to the rights of others. And so the day of rest, centred on the Eucharist, sheds it light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and the poor.

VII. THE TRINITY AND THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CREATURES

  1. The Father is the ultimate source of everything, the loving and self-communicating foundation of all that exists. The Son, his reflection, through whom all things were created, united himself to this earth when he was formed in the womb of Mary. The Spirit, infinite bond of love, is intimately present at the very heart of the universe, inspiring and bringing new pathways. The world was created by the three Persons acting as a single divine principle, but each one of them performed this common work in accordance with his own personal property. Consequently, “when we contemplate with wonder the universe in all its grandeur and beauty, we must praise the whole Trinity”.[169]
  2. For Christians, believing in one God who is trinitarian communion suggests that the Trinity has left its mark on all creation. Saint Bonaventure went so far as to say that human beings, before sin, were able to see how each creature “testifies that God is three”. The reflection of the Trinity was there to be recognized in nature “when that book was open to man and our eyes had not yet become darkened”.[170]The Franciscan saint teaches us thateach creature bears in itself a specifically Trinitarian structure, so real that it could be readily contemplated if only the human gaze were not so partial, dark and fragile. In this way, he points out to us the challenge of trying to read reality in a Trinitarian key.
  3. The divine Persons are subsistent relations, and the world, created according to the divine model, is a web of relationships. Creatures tend towards God, and in turn it is proper to every living being to tend towards other things, so that throughout the universe we can find any number of constant and secretly interwoven relationships.[171]This leads us not only to marvel at the manifold connections existing among creatures, but also to discover a key to our own fulfilment. The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own that trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created. Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity.

 

Creation Ab Nihilo: When Not Understood, God: Domesticated; The World: Disenchanted and Dis-engendered

Creation from nothing: When not understood as a sudden insight, there is a naive atheism (God is dumbed down to a piece of information that we consign to a mental category), and reality is  disenchanted  by objectification to sexless and economic cyphers.

Creation ab nihilo:Creation ab nihilo