What Does “To Know” Ultimately Mean?

Truth is to be one with reality. If the ultimate reality is the Person of the Creator-become-man, then truth is to become one with the Person of Christ: He through Whom, by Whom, for Whom all things were created, Himself the first born of all creatures (St. Paul, Colossians 1, 15-19).

               If Christ is the Son of the Father, then, as Triune God, He is nothing in Himself but pure relation to the Father. When He assumed a human nature, the supreme act that He performed as God-man was prayer as Incarnate Relation to the Father. The Gospels always report Christ as being in prayer to the Father.[1] If we go through an ongoing conversion away from self serving others, we enter into the anthropology that is prayer. We begin to morph into “other Christs,” and by experiencing ourselves as “other Christs,” we become truth ourselves and begin to re-cognize it outside ourselves. We begin truly to know.

               Robert Barron comments in the light of this, that as Word of the Father, and therefore Supreme Intelligibility, the relation to the Father that is the Son is “the primordial intelligibility… a being-with-the-other, or better, a being-in-the-other, a co-inherence.” He goes on: “Now it is through this Word (Jesus Christ) that the entire world is made, and hence it is by this Word that all things are intelligibly marked. Therefore relationality, being-for-the-other, must be the form that, at the deepest level, conditions whatever is and the truth that satisfies the hunger of the mind. It is not simply reasonability that characterizes the real, but this type of reasonability[2]. And how congruent is this claim with the narratives concerning Jesus Christ…”[3] Barron continues: “As the rationality of God the Creator, Christ is the physical, mathematical, and metaphysical center of the universe and hence the point of orientation for all of the sciences dealing with those dimensions.

               “In the nineteenth century, John Henry Newman felt compelled to call for the reinsertion of theology in the circle of university disciplines. Following the inner logic of Christian revelation , Newman, like Bonaventure, saw that theology not only should be around the table but must be the entering element in the conversation, precisely because it alone speaks of the Creator God who is metaphysically implicit in all finite existence. Thus the sciences become hyper materialist and reductive when they are severed from their theological ground, and the arts, when celebrated for their own sake, apart  from a theological purpose, become morbid, sentimental , or bizarre; even abstract  mathematics devolves into fussy and self-preoccupied rationalism when its link to sacred geometry is lost… And Newman saw that once theology is displaced, some other discipline necessarily takes its position at the center and thereby disturb the proper harmony among the sciences, for no other discipline has the range or inclusiveness properly to hold the center.[4]

               Blogger: it is most interesting to be reading the exciting book, “The 4%  Universe,” subtitled “Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality.”[5] We know from Colossians 1, 15-19 that Jesus Christ is the absolute center of the material universe, that He is the Alpha and Omega of all created reality (matter and spirit), that His entire Self – enfleshed divine Person – is pure relation to the Father and that He is firstborn of all creatures (His sacred Humanity). That said, in the epistemic order, “the race to discover the rest of reality” has already been run. It should not be surprising to find the thrust of modern physics and astronomy is to tell us that the whole material universe is in motion in a state of expansion (and slowing) from the starting point of a “Big Bang” and that the search is on to find the yet unmeasured mass that keeps the universe from flying apart in one direction or imploding in the other. This observation goes a long way to appealing to Theology to tell us what we are looking for, not to go on wild goose chases, how we should go about it without creating fictitious problems and spending eons of time and money on false problems.

               Robert Barron daringly proclaims:  “I stand in this tradition [of Bonaventure and Newman] as I call for the epistemic primacy of Christ, and I see the same implication for the other intellectual disciplines. Though theology obviously does not determine the particular methods, strategies, and techniques of the individual sciences, it does legitimately name their fundamental orientation as a quest for the intelligibility of co -inherent relationality.[6]

               “If relationality is the basic form of the real, then it follows that the optimal mode of knowing is through relation with the thing or event to be known. If mutual participation is the fundamental form of intelligibility, then the subject’s participation in the object, and the object’s sharing in the subject, is the more correct epistemic method. This insight corresponds to the ancient dictum that like is known by like. How odd all of this sounds to one shaped by the concern for sheer objectivity in knowing. On such a reading, a thing is properly known in the measure that the distorting perspective and prejudice of the subject are eliminated. But such an epistemology assumes just the conflictual and atomistic metaphysics rendered otiose by the claim that mutuality is the ultimately real.[7]

Following the inner logic of Christian revelation, Newman, like Bonaventure, saw that theology not only should be around the table but must be the centering element in the conversation, precisely because it alone speaks of the Creator God who is metaphysically implicit in all finite existence.[8]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 26-28.

[2] I.e. relation. The Son of the Father is Relation. Consider this statement of Benedict XVI: the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our notion that matter, solid things, things we can touch, is the most solid, the most certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one’s life: sand and rock. He who builds on sand only builds on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will vanish. We can see this now with the fall of two large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. Who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is he who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is he who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent” (BXVI Address to the Synod on the Word of God, October 6, 2008).

   Consider further Ratzinger’s description of The Son of the Father: “The Son as Son, and in so far as he is Son, does not proceed in any way from himself and so is completely one with the Father; since he is nothing beside him, claims no special position of his own, confronts the Father with nothing belonging only to him, retains no room for his own individuality, therefore he is completely equal to the Father. The logic is compelling: if there is nothing in which he is just he, no kind of fenced-off private ground, then he coincides with the Father, is ‘one’ with him. It is precisely this totality of interplay that the word ‘Son’ aims at expressing. To John ‘Son’ means being-from-another; thus with this word he defines the being of this man as being from another and for others, as a being that is completely open on both sides, knows no reserved area of the mere ‘I.’ When it thus becomes clear that the being of Jesus as Christ is a completely open being, a being ‘from’ and ‘towards,’ that nowhere clings to itself and nowhere stands on its own, then it is also clear at the same time that this being is pure relation (not substantiality) and, as pure relation, pure unity. This fundamental statement about Christ becomes, as we have seen, at the same time the explanation of Christian existence. To John, being a Christian means being like the Son, becoming a son; that is, not standing on one’s own and in oneself, but living completely open in the ‘from’ and ‘towards.’ In so far as the Christian is a ‘Christian,’ this is true of him. And certainly such utterances will make him aware to how small an extent he is a Christian.[2][2]

[3] R. Barron, “The Priority of Christ – Toward a Postliberal Catholicism,”Brazos Press (2007) 155.

[4] Ibid. 156.

[5] Cf. next ftn.

[6] Ibid. 156

[7] “Pure Objectivity is an absurd abstraction. It is not the uninvolved who comes to knowledge; rather, interest itself is a requirement for the possibility of coming to know” J. Ratzinger, “Biblical Interpretation in Crisis, St. Peter’s Church, New York City, January 22, 1988, in The Essential Pope Benedict XVI, Harper San Francisco, (2007) 247.

[8] John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University.


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