SOLEMNITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, THE MOTHER OF GOD (θεοτοκος) – January 1, 2018

LUKE 2:16-21

     “Luke is the interpreter of the Marian mystery. He stresses one particular feature of the picture of Mary which was important to him, and thus became important for the tradition which has come down through him, when he says three times that Mary kept the word in her heart and pondered it (Lk. 1, 29; 2.19; 2, 51). First of all, then, she is portrayed as source of the tradition. The word as kept in her memory; therefore she is a reliable witness for what took place. But memory requires more than a merely external registering of events. We can only receive and hold fast to the uttered word if we are involved inwardly. If something does not touch me, it will not penetrate; it will dissolve in the flux of memorizes and lose its particular face. Above all, it is a fact that understanding and preserving what is understood go together. If I have not really understood a thing, I will not be able to communicate it properly. Only by understanding [Blogger: latin: intel – legerelegere ab intus: read from within] do I receive reality at all, and understanding, in turn, depends on a certain measure of inner identification with what it to be understood.

[It is because of this that one must become Christ in order to “know” Christ. Only he who has made the gift of self “knows” Christ Who is Gift of Self.  Our Lady became θεοτοκος because her faith was the gift of herself. Hence, she engendered the Son of the Father in herself by giving Him her entire humanity – her egg and her total ordinary life (24/7) which was her living faith. And you will engener Christ in you, and become His mother also – if you will give yourself believing and living the gift. And you will know yourself as “other Christ” because you are the only one you experience within yourself because you are the only one who can exercise your freedom believing. And the reason for this is that one only experiences oneself as acting person, as going out of oneself (and Christ as Son is completely Self when He is totally FOR the Father]. The only way to know yourself as you really are – as image and likeness of the Son – is to get out of yourself which means to be “FOR THE OTHER” in the service of others. But, when you do that, you are becoming Christ, that is one step closer to being Christ Himself (Who is the supreme version of yourself). That’s why  Karol Wojtyla wrote his “The Acting Person” which is an action metaphysics that is not trapped in a static conceptual metaphysics [stop-action conceptual frame by frame (as all other attempts at metaphysics have been trapped)].

      Ratzinger contipnures: “It depends on love. I cannot really understand something for which I have no love whatsoever. So the transmission of the message needs more than the kind of memory that stores telephone numbers; what is required is a memory of the heart, in which I invest something of myself. Involvement and faithfulness are not opposites: they are interdependent.

    “In Luke, Mary stands as the embodiment of the Church’s memory. She is alert, taking events in and inwardly pondering them. Thus, Luke says that she ‘kept’ them (lit., ‘preserved them together’) in her heart, she ‘pondered’ them (lit., ‘held on to them’). Mary compares the words and events of faith with the ongoing experience of her life and thus discovers the full human depth of each detail, which gradually fits into the total picture. In this way faith becomes understanding and so can be handed on to others: it is no longer a merely external word but is saturated with the experience of a life, translated into human terms; now it can be translatged, in turn, into the lives of others. Thus Mary becomes a model for the Church’s mission, i.e, that of a being a dwelling place for the Word, preserving it and keeping it safe in times of a confusion, protecting it, as it were, from the elements. Hence she is also the interpretation of the parable of the seed sowed in good soil and yielding fruit a hundredfold. She is not the thin surface earth which cannot accommodate roots; she is not the barren earth which the sparrows have pecked bare nor is she overgrown by the weeds of affluence that inhibit new growth. She is a human being with depth. She lets the word sink deep into her. So the process of fruitful transformation can take place in a twofold direction: she saturates the Word with her life, as it were, putting the sap and energy of her life at the Word’s disposal; but as a result, conversely, her life is permeated, enriched and deepened by the energies of the Word, which gives everything its meaning. First of all it is she who digests the Word, so to speak, transmuting it; but in doing so she herself, with her life, is in turn transmuted into the Word. Her life becomes word and meaning. That is how the gospel is handed on in the Church….” [Joseph Ratzinger “Seek That Which is Above” Ignatius (1986) 100-103]

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Bp. Robert Barron:

LUKE 2:16-21 – Bp. Robert Barron
Friends, on this feast of Mary the mother of God, I would like to emphasize specially the word today’s Gospel associates with her: treasured. “Mary treasured these things and reflected on them in her heart.” She pondered them, turned them over, sought out their causes, saw their implications, allowed them to work their way into the marrow of her bones.

Bl. John Henry Newman said that this treasuring quality of Mary makes her the patroness of theology. He furthermore observed that theology is one of the marks of a healthy Catholicism. Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Dante, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Newman himself, and John Paul II are all Marian figures in this sense.

So when you know your mission, be astonished by what God has done, and neverstop treasuring it.

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A New Year’s Proposal for 2018

Lunching on crossbeam

A new alliance of man and woman would seem not only necessary, but also strategic for the emancipation of peoples from their colonisation by money”, he continued. “This alliance must once again guide politics, the economy and civil coexistence. It decides the habitability of the earth, the transmission of the sentiment of life, and the bonds of memory and hope”.

      “Of this alliance, the matrimonial-familiar community of man and woman is its generative grammar, its ‘golden bond’, so to speak. Faith draws upon knowledge of God’s creation: He entrusted to the family not only the care of intimacy for its own sake, but also the project of making the entire world domestic. It is precisely the family that is at the origin and the base of this worldwide culture that saves us: it saves us from many attacks, many forms of destruction, and many forms of colonisation, for instance by money and ideologies, that so threaten the world. The family is a base from which we defend ourselves”…

        “The promise God makes to man and woman, at the origin of history, includes all human beings, up to the end of history. If we have enough faith, the families of the peoples of the world will recognise themselves in this blessing. In any case, may whoever allows him- or herself to be moved by this vision, regardless of the people, nation, or religion to which he or she belongs, walk with us and become our brother or sister, without proselytism. Let us walk together under this blessing and with God’s aim to make us all brothers and sisters in life in a world that goes ahead and that is born precisely of the family, the union of man and woman”.

Pope Francis – Vatican City, 16 September 2015 (VIS)

Last Day of 2017 – Christ, Sign of Contradiction

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     New Year’s Eve 2017

Jesus Christ: Son of the living God made Flesh

“Sign of Contradiction”

Simeon:

“Behold, he is set for the fall and the rising of many in  Israel, and as a sign of contradiction; and for your part a sword will pierce your soul, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.” (Lk. 2, 34  -35).

                    John Paul II: “The times in which we are living provide particularly strong confirmation of the truth of what Simeon said: Jesus is both the light that shines for man kind and  at the same time a sign of contradiction. If not – on the threshold of the last quarter-century before the second millennium, after the second Vatican Council, and in the face  of the terrible experiences the human family has undergone and is still undergoing – Jesus Christ is once again revealing himself to men as the  light of the world, has he not also become  at tone and the same time that sign  which, more than eer, men are resolved to oppose?”

(…)

                    “In men of today there undoubtedly is one form of contradiction which one may illustrate with the parable of Dives and Lazarus (Cf. Lk. 16, 19-31). Jesus is on the side of Lazarus. His kingdom will come in this world in accordance with the program of the beatitudes (cf. Mt. 5, 3-10), and we know that the poor are the blessed ones (Lk. 6, 20), the poor in spirit (Mt. 5, 3), the meek, those who hunger and thirst for justice and those who weep. Those who take pity, too, are blessed. The great poverty of many peoples, first and foremost the poverty of the peoples of the Third World, hunger, economic exploitation, colonialism – which is not confined to the Third World – all this is a form of opposition to Christ on the part of the powerful, irrespective of political regimes and cultural traditions. This form of contradiction of Christ often goes hand-in-hand with a partial acceptance of religion, of Christianity and the Church, an acceptance of Christ as the element present in culture, morality and even education. Dives appealed to Abraham and turned to him as Father (Lk. 16, 24).

                    “Certainly there is in this world a powerful reserve of faith, and also a considerable margin of freedom for the Church’s mission. But often it is no more than a margin. One need only take not of the principal tendencies governing the means of social communication, one need only pay heed to what is passed over in silence and what is shouted aloud, one need only lend an ear to what encounters most opposition, to perceive that even where Christ is accepted there is at the same time opposition to the full truth of his Person, his mission and his Gospel. There is a desire to ‘re-shape’ him, to adapt him to suit mankind in this era of progress and make him fit in with the programme of modern civilization – which is a program of consumerism and not of transcendental ends. There is opposition to him from those standpoints, and the truth proclaimed and recorded in his name is not tolerated (cf. Acts 4, 10, 12, 18) This opposition to Christ which goes hand-in-hand with paying him lip-service – and it  is to be found also among those who call themselves his disciples – is particularly symptomatic of our own times.

                    “Yet that is not the only form of contradiction of Christ. Alongside what can be called ‘indirect contradiction’ – an incidentally there are many variations on it, many shades and blends – alongside that there  is another form of contradiction probably arising out of the same historical basis as the first one – and therefore more or less a result of that first one. It is a form of direct opposition to Christ, an undisguised rejection of the Gospel, a flat denial of the truth about God, man and the world as proclaimed by the Gospel. This denial sometimes takes on a brutal character. We know that there are still some countries where churches of all denominations are closed, where priests are sentenced to death for having administered baptism. Perhaps in those areas of persecution there are still traces of the ancient Christian catacombs, of the circuses where witnesses to Christ were thrown to the lions. But present-day persecution, the kind typical of these last years of the 20th century, occurs in a context quite different from that of ancient times, and it therefore has a quite different significance.

                    “We are living in an age in  which the whole world proclaims freedom of conscience and religious freedom, and also in an age in  which the battle against religion – defined as ‘the opium of the people’ – is being fought in  such a way as to avoid, as far as possible, making anynew martyrs. And so the programfor today is one of face-saving persecution: persecution is declared non-existent and full religious freedom is declared assured. What is more, this program has succeeded in giving many people the impression that it is on the side of Lazarus against the rich man that it is therefore on the same side as Christ, whereas in fact it is above all against Christ. Can we really say: ‘above all’? We would so much like to be able to affirm the opposite. But unfortunatelythe facts demonstrate clearly that the battle against religion is being fought, and that this battle still constitutes an untouchable point of dogma in the program. It also seems as if, for the attainment of the ‘heaven upon earth,’ it is most of all necessary to deprive man of the strength he draws on in Christ (cf. Rom. 1, 16; 1 Cor. 1, 18; 2 Cor. 13, 4; Phil. 4, 16): this ‘strength’ has indeed been condemned as weakness, unworthy of man. Unworthy … worrisome, rather. The man who is strong with the strength given him by the faith does not easily allow himself be thrust into the anonymity of the collective (cf. 2 Cor. 12, 9).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

                    Reading the “Sign of Contradiction “ that is Christ in the χαϊρος (the significant historical moment of  “now”) 

  1. SOME CHALLENGES OF TODAY’S WORLD : “Evangelii Gaudium” – Pope Francis
  2. In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history, as we can see from the advances being made in so many fields. We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity. This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occuring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power.

No to an economy of exclusion

  1. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

  1. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

No to the new idolatry of money

  1. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
  2. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

No to a financial system which rules rather than serves

  1. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside of the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.[55]
  2. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.

No to the inequality which spawns violence

  1. Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.
  2. Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. This serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.

Some cultural challenges

  1. We also evangelize when we attempt to confront the various challenges which can arise.[56] On occasion these may take the form of veritable attacks on religious freedom or new persecutions directed against Christians; in some countries these have reached alarming levels of hatred and violence. In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideologies which has come about as a reaction to anything which might appear totalitarian. This not only harms the Church but the fabric of society as a whole. We should recognize how in a culture where each person wants to be bearer of his or her own subjective truth, it becomes difficult for citizens to devise a common plan which transcends individual gain and personal ambitions.
  2. In the prevailing culture, priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional. What is real gives way to appearances. In many countries globalization has meant a hastened deterioration of their own cultural roots and the invasion of ways of thinking and acting proper to other cultures which are economically advanced but ethically debilitated. This fact has been brought up by bishops from various continents in different Synods. The African bishops, for example, taking up the Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, pointed out years ago that there have been frequent attempts to make the African countries “parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel. This is often true also in the field of social communications which, being run by centres mostly in the northern hemisphere, do not always give due consideration to the priorities and problems of such countries or respect their cultural make-up”.[57] By the same token, the bishops of Asia “underlined the external influences being brought to bear on Asian cultures. New patterns of behaviour are emerging as a result of over-exposure to the mass media… As a result, the negative aspects of the media and entertainment industries are threatening traditional values, and in particular the sacredness of marriage and the stability of the family”.[58]
  3. The Catholic faith of many peoples is nowadays being challenged by the proliferation of new religious movements, some of which tend to fundamentalism while others seem to propose a spirituality without God. This is, on the one hand, a human reaction to a materialistic, consumerist and individualistic society, but it is also a means of exploiting the weaknesses of people living in poverty and on the fringes of society, people who make ends meet amid great human suffering and are looking for immediate solutions to their needs. These religious movements, not without a certain shrewdness, come to fill, within a predominantly individualistic culture, a vacuum left by secularist rationalism. We must recognize that if part of our baptized people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems, be they simple or complex, in the lives of our people. In many places an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach, as does a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization.
  4. The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal. Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism. These have led to a general sense of disorientation, especially in the periods of adolescence and young adulthood which are so vulnerable to change. As the bishops of the United States of America have rightly pointed out, while the Church insists on the existence of objective moral norms which are valid for everyone, “there are those in our culture who portray this teaching as unjust, that is, as opposed to basic human rights. Such claims usually follow from a form of moral relativism that is joined, not without inconsistency, to a belief in the absolute rights of individuals. In this view, the Church is perceived as promoting a particular prejudice and as interfering with individual freedom”.[59] We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data – all treated as being of equal importance – and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.
  5. Despite the tide of secularism which has swept our societies, in many countries – even those where Christians are a minority – the Catholic Church is considered a credible institution by public opinion, and trusted for her solidarity and concern for those in greatest need. Again and again, the Church has acted as a mediator in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the land, the defence of life, human and civil rights, and so forth. And how much good has been done by Catholic schools and universities around the world! This is a good thing. Yet, we find it difficult to make people see that when we raise other questions less palatable to public opinion, we are doing so out of fidelity to precisely the same convictions about human dignity and the common good.
  6. The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple. As the French bishops have taught, it is not born “of loving sentiment, ephemeral by definition, but from the depth of the obligation assumed by the spouses who accept to enter a total communion of life”.[60]
  7. The individualism of our postmodern and globalized era favours a lifestyle which weakens the development and stability of personal relationships and distorts family bonds. Pastoral activity needs to bring out more clearly the fact that our relationship with the Father demands and encourages a communion which heals, promotes and reinforces interpersonal bonds. In our world, especially in some countries, different forms of war and conflict are re-emerging, yet we Christians remain steadfast in our intention to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2). Today too, various associations for the defence of rights and the pursuit of noble goals are being founded. This is a sign of the desire of many people to contribute to social and cultural progress.

 

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Questions asked by Tommy Riege (6) on Dec. 26, 2017 as related by his mother: “Why did God make the Earth?” “When was God born? Who were his Mom and Dad?? Where was He born? When God was born was there a universe Did he created the universe and how? How was a God first of all born if there wasn’t a universe in the first place? Maybe God was born in heaven?

 

Holy Family/Open House 2017 Southmont

 

Answer: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was made nothing that has been made” (Jn. 1, 1-4)

Tommy! God came from God. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in him were 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.” (Col. 1, 15-19) (Bp. Barron): “Lest we miss the power of these statements, their implications are clearly spelled out: ‘in him all things in heaven and on earth wre created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones of dominions or rulers or powers. In this Jesus, all things have come to be; he is the prototype of all finite existence, even of those great powers that transcend the world and govern human affairs… Jesus is not only the one in whom things were created but also the one in whom they presently exist and through whom they inhere in one another… through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven by making peace through the blood of is cross.” Individuals, societies, cultures, animals, plants, plants and the stars – all will be drawn into an eschatological harmony through him. Mind you, Jesus is not merely the symbol of an intelligibility, coherence, and reconciliation that can exist apart from him; rather, he is the active and indispensable means by which these realities come to be. This Jesus, in short, is the all embracing, all-including, all-reconciling Lord of whatever is to be found in the dimensions of time and space.”[1]

 

And this time and space was the Bethlehem of 2,000 years ago with His Mother and Joseph. That is, He is Salvation itself since He is the God-man, and is found in family.

Texts of Joseph Ratzinger on Family:

The Home: Unique Space of Salvation 


In the Bible, salvation does not take place in the Temple or synagogue. It takes place in the home. The avenging angel in his mission to destroy the first born of man and animal “passed over” the homes of those who had the blood of the paschal lamb sprinkled over the doorposts of their homes.

1) “Israel’s Passover was and is a family celebration. It is celebrated in the home, not in the Temple. In the history of the foundation of the People of Israel, in Exodus (12, 1-14), it is the home which is the locus of salvation and refuge in that night of darkness in which the Angel of Death walked abroad. For Egypt, in contrast, that night spelled the power of death, of destruction, of chaos, things that continually rise up from the deep places of the world and of man, threatening to wreck the good creation and reduce the world to an uninhabitable wilderness. In this situation it is the home, the family, which provides protection; in other words, the world always needs to be defended against chaos, creation always needs shielding and recreating. In the calendar of the nomads from whom Israel adopted the Passover festival, Passover was New Year’s Day, i.e., the day on which the creation was refounded, when it had to be defended once again against the inroads of the void. The home, the family is life’s protective rampart, the place of security, of `shalom,’ of that peace and togetherness which lives and lets live, which holds the world together.

“In the time of Jesus, too, Passover was celebrated in the homes and in families, following the slaughter of the lambs in the Temple. A regulation forbade anyone to leave the city of Jerusalem in the night of the Passover. The entire city was felt to be the locus of salvation over against the chaotic night, its walls the rampart protecting the creation. Israel had to make a pilgrimage, as it were, to the city every year at Passover in order to return to its origins, to be recreated and to experience once again its rescue, liberation and foundation. A very deep insight lies behind this. In the course of a year, a people is always in danger of disintegrating, not only through external causes, but also interiorly, and of losing hold of the inner motivation which sustains it. It needs to return to its fundamental origin. Passover was intended to be this annual event in which Israel returned from the threatening chaos (which lurks in every people) to its sustaining origin; it was meant to be the renewed defense and recreation of Israel in the basis of its origin. And since Israel knew that the star of its election stood in the heavens, it also knew that its fortunes, for good or ill, had consequences of the whole world; it knew that the destiny of the earth and of creation was involved in its response, whether it failed or passed the test.

“Jesus too celebrated the Passover according to these prescriptions, at home with his family; that is to say, with the Apostles, who had become his new family. In doing so he was observing a current rule which permitted pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem to form companies, the so-called habhuroth, who would constitute a family, a Passover unity, for this night. That is how Passover became a Christian feast. We are Christ’s habhura, his family, formed of his pilgrim company, of the friends who accompany him along the path of the gospel through the terrain of history. Companions of his pilgrimage, we constitute Christ’s house; thus, the Church is the new family, the new city, and for us she signifies all that Jerusalem was – that living home which banishes the powers of chaos and makes an area of peace, which upholds both creation and us. The Church is the new city by being the family of Jesus, the living Jerusalem, and her faith is the rampart and wall against the chaotic powers that threaten to bring destruction upon the world. Her ramparts are strengthened by the blood of the true Lamb, Jesus Christ, that is, by love which goes to the very end and which is endless. It is this love which is the true counterforce to chaos: it is the creative power which continually establishes the world afresh, providing new foundations for peoples and families, thus giving us `shalom,’ the realm of peace in which we can live with, for and unto one another. There are many reasons, I believe, why we should take a new look at these factors at this time and allow ourselves to respond to them. For today we are quite tangibly experiencing the power of chaos. We experience the primal, chaotic powers rising up from the very midst of a progressive society – which seems to know everything and be able to do anything – and attacking the very progress of which it is so proud. We see how, in the midst of prosperity, technological achievement and the scientific domination of the world, a nation can be destroyed from within, we see how the creation can be threatened by the chaotic powers which lurk in the depths of the human heart. We realize that neither money nor technology nor organizational ability alone can banish chaos. Only the real protective wall given to us by the Lord, the new family he has created for us, can do this. From this standpoint, it seems to me, this Passover celebration which has come down to us from the nomads, via Israel and through Christ, also has (in the deepest sense) an eminently political significance. We as a nation, we in Europe, need to be back to our spiritual roots, lest we become lost in self-destruction.

“This feast needs to become a family celebration once again, for it is the family that is the real bastion of creation and humanity. Passover is a summons, urgently reminding us that the family is the loving home in which humanity is nurtured, which banishes chaos and futility, that the family can only be this sphere of humanity, this bastion of creation, if it is under the banner of the Lamb, if it is protected by the power of faith which comes from the love of Jesus Christ. The individual family cannot survive; it will disintegrate unless it is kept safe within the larger family which guarantees it and gives it security.” 

This return to Jerusalem for the Haburoth consistutes a conversion away from self to initiate again the gift of onself to God and to each one in the family. St. Josemaria Escriva wrote in a letter to his children in 1974:   “My children, God teaches us to abandon ourselves completely. Look where Christ is born. Everything there bespeaks unconditioned self-giving. Joseph, whose life is a succession of hardships mixed with the joy of being Jesus’ guardian, risks his honor, the serene continuity of his work, his tranquil future: his entire existence is ready availability for whatever God may ask. Mary shows herself to be the handmaid of the Lord (Lk. 1, 38), who by her fiat transforms her entire existence into an acceptance of the divine plan of salvation. And Jesus? Suffice it to say that our God reveals himself to us as a child. The Creator of the universe presents himself to us in an infant’s swaddling clothes, so we may never doubt that he is true God and true Man.

            Simply calling these scenes to mind should fill us with shame and provoke holy and effective resolutions. We must steep ourselves in this new logic brought down to earth by God. In Bethlehem, no one reserves anything for himself. There we hear nothing of my reputation, my time, my work, my ideas, my preferences, my money, [my toys]. There everything is placed at the service of God’s marvelous adventure with humanity, the Redemption. Surrendering our pride, let us tell god with all the love of a child: ego servus tuus, ego servus tuus, et filius ancillae tuae (Ps. 115, 16), I am your servant, I am your servant, the child of your handmaid, Mary: teach me to serve you” Letter – Feb. 1974, #2.

 

            Chesterton: “The old-fashioned Englishman, like my father, sold houses for his living but filled his own house with his life.

Cormac Burke: “It costs money to fill one’s house with things, good things. It costs more to put one’s life there, to fill one’s home with one’s self, not with one’s whims and likes and dislikes but with one’s self-gift, with one’s dedication, with one’s small, silly, love-inspired games and do-it-yourself entertainments. If it is really love that inspires them, they gradually build up the ‘capital’ of experiences of the good that your children can draw on to decisively discern between good and evil and tell the difference for the rest of their lives.

 

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Practical priorities: For husbands and fathers of families: home for dinner. For Children: no travelling teams which eviscerates family time and life. The reality is that we are in a culture of sin where the goal is “the bottom line:” enlightened self-interest and  personal success, advancement

[1] Robert Barron, “The Priority of Christ” Brazos (2007) 134-135.

OPENING THE MIND – Try To Get Straight: THE WHOLE IS IN THE PART, SO THE PART IS TO BECOME THE WHOLE

The Creator enters into his creation. The Word becomes flesh. If we take Creator and creation as distinct realities, then we have two (2) wholes. But if, as we have named them, the Creator is a whole, but Creator and creation are also a whole since you can’t have a creation without a Creator. And if the Creator enters into His creation, then you have the Whole as part of His creation. And so in the case of God becoming man, the whole that is the Creator has become part of His creation. St. Thomas accounted for this metaphysically by calling the Creator Ipsum Esse [the act of being itself] and the creature habens esse [participated being], esse itself being pure unlimited act tending to infinity, and the creature as finite limited act as this and that.

In the case of God, the Whole is in the part (creation) and changes the dynamic because He is creating Person. And so every person takes on the character of being a whole in that every other person has been created in the image and likeness of the Creating Person, Who is the whole of every whole. And so every person totally transcends the entire created order of being that is created thing. But what happens when the Creating Person enters into the creation of imaging persons and things? There has to be a transition in your perception of Him to distinguish Him from everyone and everything else. If your perception is empirical and on the surface, then you will not re-cognize Him and He will not be known. And since, as Creator, He is not “like” any other being, I cannot know Him through other beings. He will have to reveal Himself to me in His Transcendent difference as the Whole in itself. And that he live the ordinary life of His creation, then the way that life is lived will be different with the difference of what being the Whole is like. In fact, Ipsum Esse has revealed itself as Father-act engendering Son. And Son reveals Himself as son-act obeying Father. The Spirit reveals Himself as the personification of the opposing actions of engendering and obeying: Love. And as creatures, this changes the way we must act.

And so the revelation of creation changes our way of perceiving and acting throughout. The first of those ways will be the recognition that the Whole is in the part, and as part I must worship the Creating Whole.He is the reason for my existence and the achievement of myself will consist in orienting everything I am and do to Him.

    The bottom line: since the Whole has become part, all the parts are destined and called to be the Whole.

The Core of the Transformation of the World: Romano Guardini’s “The Lord”

 “Unconverted man lives in the visible world judging all that is or may be by tradition’s experience and by the rules of logic. But when he encounters Christ, he must either accept him and his revolutionary approach to truth or lose him. If he attempts to judge also the Lord by the stands of common experience, he will soon notice that he is dealing with something outside experience. He will have to discard the norms of the past, and take Christ as his new point of departure. When he no longer attempts to subject Christ so immediate reason and experience, he will recognize Him as the supreme measure of all possible reality. The intellect jealous for its own sovereignty rejects such recognition, which would put an end to its world-anchored self-glorification, and surrender it into the hands of the God of Revelation. This is the ‘risk’ any would-be Christian must take. If he takes it, a profound revolution begins. It may take a disquieting, even frightening form; may demand passage through stifling darkness and perplexity. All that until now has seemed certain suddenly becomes questionable. The whole conception of reality, the whole idea of existence is turned upside-down. Only the haunting question persists: Is Christ really so great that he can be the norm of all that is? Does the world really lose itself in him, or is the whole idea only another (magnificent) example of the human tendency to make that which it reveres the measure of all things; another proof of the blindness inherent in all love? Yet the longer the intellect continues to grope, the clearer it becomes that the love Christ is essentially different from every other love. And to the degree that the searching individual experiences such spiritual revolution, he gains an amplitude, a superiority, a synthesizing power of reason that no natural insight can match (“The Lord” [1954] 460-461) – [1993] 538, 540. 

 

Repeat of President’s Christmas Message At Tree Lighting

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 1, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — President Trump gave the following address at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Thursday, November 30, 2017. LifeSiteNews is pleased to bring you his address in full. [blogger: all major reporting has omitted the speech altogether but  report that very few attended].

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Today’s the day that I’ve been looking very much forward to all year long. It’s one that we have heard and we speak about and we dream about and now as the President of the United States, it’s my tremendous honor to finally wish America and the world a very Merry Christmas. 

I want to thank everyone who has come together here right in front of the White House, that beautiful, beautiful White House, and everyone watching from home to see the lighting of this incredible national Christmas tree.

For nearly a century, through good times and bad, every president has taken part in this wonderful tradition, first started by President Coolidge. But I was informed tonight that the weather we have is the best it’s been in 25 years. In fact, I said, ‘Is it always like this?’ And the secretary said, ‘Hasn’t been like this for a long time.’ So, we are very lucky.

Finally, in 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation making Christmas a Federal holiday. And I sort of feel we are doing that again. That’s what’s happening. 

From the earliest days of our nations, Americans have known Christmas as a time for prayer and worship, for gratitude and good will, for peace and renewal. 

Melania and I are full of joy at the start of this very blessed season. We’re thrilled to think of the people across the nation and all across the continent whose spirits are lifted by the miracle of Christmas. 

For Christians, this is a Holy season – the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Christmas story begins 2000 years ago with a mother, a father, their baby son, and the most extraordinary gift of all, the gift of God’s love for all of humanity. 

Whatever our beliefs, we know that the birth of Jesus Christ and the story of this incredible life forever changed the course of human history. There’s hardly an aspect of our lives today that his life has not touched: art, music, culture, law, and our respect for the sacred dignity of every person everywhere in the world. 

Each and every year at Christmas time we recognize that the real spirit of Christmas is not what we have, it’s about who we are – each one of us is a child of God.

That is the true source of joy this time of the year. 

That is what makes every Christmas ‘merry.’ 

And that is what we remember at today’s beautiful ceremony, that we are called to serve one another, to love one another, and to pursue peace in our hearts and all throughout the world. 

And so tonight, I thank the millions of Americans who light our lives and brighten our wonderful communities. I thank those who are serving the needy during the season and throughout the year. I thank our military men and women who are stationed around the world keeping us safe. 

I thank our law enforcement officers who protect our streets and secureour homeland. I thank America’s teachers, pastors, and all those religious, and those people that have taught us so much, for their leadership in our communities and our society. 

And, especially tonight, I thank America’s families. At Christmas, we are reminded more than ever that the family is the bedrock of American life. 

And so, this Christmas we ask for God’s blessings for our family, for our nation. And we pray that our country will be a place where every child knows a home filled with love, a community rich with hope, and a nation blest with faith. 

On behalf of Melania, myself, Barron, all of my children, all of my grandchildren — they’re here with us tonight — I want to thank you. 

God bless you and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. 

Merry Christmas everybody. Merry Christmas. Happy new year. Thank you.

 

Robert Barron’s Erasmus Lecture: Connect this with the Guardini Text on Conversion as the Way to See, And Ratzinger’s “The New Pagans and the Church” (1958). The Conclusion? To Know Christ – Experientially – as the Center

                   Evangelizing the Nones

First Things: The 2017 Erasmus Lecture by Robert Barron

By far the fastest-growing “religious” group in the United States is the “nones,” that is, those who claim no religious affiliation. In the latest Pew Research Center survey, fully 25 percent of the country—80 million people—say that they have no formal religion, and the growth of this cohort is nothing short of startling. In 1970, only 3 percent of the country self-identified as nones. In the last ten years, the number has gone from 16 percent to the current 25 percent. When we focus on young people, the picture is even more bleak. Almost 40 percent of those under thirty are nones, and among Catholics in that age group, the number rises to 50 percent. Of all the Catholic children baptized or confirmed these last thirty years, half no longer participate in the life of the Church.

These statistics are, in many ways, an unnerving commentary on the effectiveness of our evangelical strategies, despite all the encouragement from popes, councils, and encyclicals. They are certainly a wake-up call for teachers, catechists, evangelists, apologists, priests, and bishops. I would like to propose a number of paths that effective evangelization should follow. My suggestions are born not only of theoretical musing, but also of my nearly fifteen years of practical experience evangelizing nones, atheists, agnostics, and seekers who dwell in the shadowy but fascinating space of the virtual world, our version of Paul’s Areopagus.

In his theological triptych, Hans Urs von Balthasar purposely reversed the Kantian arrangement of the transcendentals. Whereas Kant had moved from the true (The Critique of Pure Reason) to the good (The Critique of Practical Reason) to the beautiful (The Critique of Judgment), Balthasar turned it around, commencing with the beautiful (The Glory of the Lord), moving through the good (The Theo-Drama), and ending with the true (The Theo-Logic). As Balthasar demonstrated, the beautiful has been a theme in classical Christian theology at least from the time of the Pseudo-Dionysius, but typically it had been subordinated to the good and especially the true. Balthasar intuited something in the middle of the twentieth century, just as the postmodern critique was getting under way: that initiating the theological project with truth or goodness was a nonstarter, since relativism and skepticism in regard to those transcendentals was powerful indeed. If such subjectivism was strong in the fifties of the last century, it has become overwhelming at the beginning of the twenty-first, with Joseph Ratzinger’s “dictatorship of relativism” now taken for granted. Any claim to know objective truth or attempt to propose objective goodness tends to meet now with incredulity at best and defensiveness at worst: “Who are you to tell me what to think or how to behave?” But there is something less threatening, more winsome, about the beautiful.

Balthasar was deeply influenced by Paul Claudel, who famously underwent a conversion to Catholicism on Christmas Day 1886, while he was standing in Notre Dame Cathedral, gazing at the north rose window and listening to sung vespers. It was not argumentation that brought Claudel to faith, but a visceral experience of the beautiful. We find a similar dynamic in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Charles Ryder, the narrator of the story, is a skeptic, a professed agnostic, convinced that religion is outmoded mythology and a function of “complexes and inhibitions.” But he finds himself drawn in by the physical beauty of his Oxford companion Sebastian, who in turn leads Charles to his family home, a country estate called Brideshead. St. Paul referred to Christ as head of his bride the Church, and thus the manor is evocative of the Church in its various dimensions. Recalling his first summer sojourn at Brideshead, Charles remarks, “It was an aesthetic education to live within those walls.” Many people across the centuries have been led to the gospel along the aesthetic path. As the novel progresses, we see Charles drawn into the moral world of the house and finally, after a long struggle, into acceptance of the truth that it represents. The Balthasar rhythm, from the beautiful to the good to the true, is on display.

Now, why precisely should this work? How does the beautiful evangelize? Following Dietrich von Hildebrand, we should say that the truly beautiful is an objective value, to be distinguished from what is merely subjectively satisfying. This means that the beautiful does not merely entertain; rather, it invades, chooses, and changes the one to whom it deigns to appear. It is not absorbed into subjectivity; it rearranges and redirects subjectivity, sending it on a trajectory toward the open sea of the beautiful itself. I am taking this image, of course, from the Diotima speech in Plato’s Symposium, according to which the particular beautiful thing opens the mind to a consideration of ever higher forms of beauty, conducing finally to the source and ground of all beauty, the form of the beautiful.

In our radically relativistic time, it is advisable to commence the evangelical process with the winsome attractiveness of the beautiful, and thank God, Catholicism has plenty to offer in this regard. As Ewert Cousins pointed out, part of Catholicism’s genius is that it never “threw anything out.” Accordingly, there is a “grandma’s attic” quality to the Church. At our best, from the time of John Damascene onward, we have resisted the iconoclastic temptation, and thus we have Chartres Cathedral, the Sainte-Chapelle, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the haunting icons of the East, Dante, Mozart, and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This last reference is a reminder that evangelically compelling beauty does not exist merely at the rarefied level, but at the popular level as well. John Paul II had a deep appreciation for the finest of the fine arts, but he also had a sure feel for forms of popular devotion and religiosity. The same can be said of Pope Francis, who loves German opera and whose spirituality draws from the wells of the devotional lives and piety of ordinary believers: processions, relics, statues, and images of the saints. Of course, as John Paul in particular realized, the Church is most beautiful in her saints. Just as we might instruct a young person in a given sport by showing examples of the greatest practitioners of that game, so we show the nature of Christianity best, perhaps, in its heroes.

John Henry Newman said that one of the principal indicators that Christianity is properly developing and not falling into corruption is that its representatives are stubbornly thinking about the data of revelation. For the great English convert, Mary, treasuring the events of salvation history in her heart, is the model of a faith that is consistently and seriously quaerens intellectum. At its best, the Catholic tradition has resisted Tertullian’s suggestion that Jerusalem should have nothing to do with Athens. Instead, it has treasured figures, from Irenaeus to Ratzinger, who insisted that the dialogue between faith and reason is indispensable to the evangelizing mission of the Church.

In the middle of the twentieth century, there was an extraordinary renaissance of Catholic intellectual life across a variety of literary disciplines. One thinks of Waugh, Graham Greene, Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, Georges Bernanos, Balthasar, Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and many others. Furthermore, the documents of Vatican II were produced by the cream of the crop of mid-twentieth-century Catholic philosophy and theology: Henri de Lubac, Jean Daniélou, Ratzinger, Yves Congar, and Karl Rahner, to name a few. And yet, in the years following the council, a debilitating anti-intellectualism came to hold sway in the Church, at least in the West. I know this not from books of sociology, but from direct experience, for I came of age in this period. To make the faith accessible through appeals to emotion and common experience was the preferred catechetical method, and within a properly theological context, the experientialism of Schleiermacher and his disciples was all the rage. Accordingly, during this “banners and balloons” period, biblical distinctiveness and theological precision were, to put it mildly, underplayed. Some years ago, the late Francis Cardinal George showed me his fourth-grade religion book from the 1940s. My jaw dropped at the complexity, intellectual rigor, and technical vocabulary on offer, especially in comparison to the texts that my generation had read for religious instruction.

The dumbing down of the faith has been a pastoral disaster, contributing to the mass exodus of two generations from the Church. A childish, intellectually shallow religion cannot stand in the face of the trials of life and the questions of a skeptical mind. One of the most deleterious consequences of this anti-intellectualism was an almost total compromising of the apologetic art in the context of evangelization. My generation was indoctrinated to consider apologetics anti-Protestant, arrogant, hostile to the culture, defensive, rationalistic, and so on, and this indoctrination was accompanied by a naive embrace of the wider culture, as though reading the signs of the times entailed accommodation. “The world sets the agenda for the Church” was the wrongheaded watchword of that time. When significant segments of the culture turned against the faith in the wake of the sex-abuse scandals and the events of September 11, we were left in most cases defenseless against our enemies. For evidence of this, witness the pathetic performance of the vast majority of Christian spokespeople against the sharpest of the New Atheists.

What is desperately needed, if the work of evangelization is to move forward, is a new apologetics. Drawing on years of frontline engagement with a skeptical culture, I would identify five major areas of focus: the doctrine of God, the interpretation of the Bible, theodicy, religion in relation to violence, and religion in relation to science.

I would like to concentrate first on the last issue—for in that Pew study, it was listed as the number one reason why people, especially young people, are leaving the Christian churches. It is sadly becoming axiomatic among many that religious faith is incompatible with a scientific worldview. As philosophy at the university level has degenerated into deconstruction, relativism, and nihilism, and as literary study has devolved into political correctness, trigger warnings, and the uncovering of microaggressions, the hard physical sciences remain, in the minds of many, the sole reliable bearers of truth about the world. And many have bought the critique that religion is, at best, a primitive and outmoded version of science. Read Daniel Dennett, Stephen Hawking, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss, and Richard Dawkins if you want the details. I can testify from direct engagement with the contemporary culture that the disciples of these figures are thick on the ground—and these devotees have not been hugged into atheism; they have been argued into it. We have to argue them back to our position.

The most fundamental problem in this regard is scientism, the reduction of all knowledge to the scientific form. The smashing success of the physical sciences and their attendant technologies has, understandably enough, beguiled the young into thinking that the scientific method is the only legitimate route to truth and that anything lying outside its purview is nonsense or fantasy. As Cardinal George once observed, the effective disappearance of philosophy as a mediating discipline between science and religion has had a deleterious effect on epistemology in general. When philosophy was construed as a legitimate bearer of truth, people saw that a discipline could be nonscientific and yet altogether rational. Given the self-destruction of philosophy, religion seemed, a fortiori, relegated to the shadows of irrationality and superstition. Scientism is, in point of fact, a rather silly position to hold. It is operationally self-refuting: In no way can it be proven through the scientific method that the scientific method is the sole route of access to truth. Moreover, as I have frequently endeavored to show in my apologetic work, people readily, though without assenting to it consciously, accept drama, painting, literature, and philosophy as not only diverting but truth-bearing. Though they are anything but scientific texts, Hamlet, the Symposium, and The Waste Land teach truths about the world, destiny, and human psychology that could not be known in any other way.

I have also found traction demonstrating that the modern physical sciences emerged when and where they did precisely because of a Christian thought-matrix. As a number of theorists have maintained, two assumptions are essential to the development of the sciences: that the world is not divine (and hence can be investigated and analyzed rather than worshipped), and that the universe is intelligible (and hence in correspondence with an inquiring intelligence). Both of these assumptions are corollaries of the properly theological doctrine of creation, which insists that the world is other than God and endowed in every dimension with intelligibility, since it was thought into being by a person. Ratzinger says that this connection is signaled by the word “recognition,” literally re-cognition, implying that every act of knowledge is a re-thinking of what had been antecedently thought by a higher intelligence. If this last point is true, then religion is not only compatible with science; in a real sense, it is the precondition for the possibility of science. I believe that addressing this issue should be priority one for a new apologetics.

N. T. Wright has argued that most of the Christology of the past two hundred years, Protestant and Catholic, has been largely Marcionite in form—that is to say, developed in almost complete abstraction from the Old Testament. Consider Schleiermacher’s presentation of Jesus as the human being with a constantly potent God-consciousness, or Kant’s account of the archetype of the person perfectly pleasing to God, or Bultmann’s paragon of the existential choice, or Tillich’s appearance of the new being under the conditions of estrangement, or Rahner’s insistence that Christology is fully realized anthropology. All of these approaches are intelligible apart from the dense texture of Old Testament revelation and expectation. When Jesus is presented in this manner, he devolves into a sage, an exemplar of moral virtue, or a teacher of timeless truths. But evangelization—the declaration of good news—has precious little to do with any of this. It has to do with the startling announcement that the story of Israel has come to its climax, or to state it a bit differently, that the promises made to Israel have been fulfilled. Not to understand Israel, therefore, is not to understand why Jesus represents such good news.

To develop this idea fully would require many books, but allow me to unfold it according to two simple motifs: priesthood and kingship. On Genesis’s poetic telling, the world comes forth from the Creator in the manner of a liturgical procession, each element following the previous one in stately order. At the close of the procession is the human being, who functions, therefore, as the high priest of the chorus of praise. It is no accident that all the creatures mentioned in the Genesis account—planets, the sun, the moon, the earth itself, the animals that move upon the earth—were, at one time or another, worshipped as deities. By placing them in the liturgical procession and ordering them to the praise of the Creator, the author of Genesis effectively demoted them and gave them their proper orientation. The early Jewish commentators, as well as the Church Fathers who followed them, appreciated Adam prior to the Fall as the first priest and the Garden as a primordial Temple. Walking in easy harmony with God, Adam was naturally in the stance ofadoratio (literally, “mouth to mouth”) vis-à-vis God, all of his energies properly aligned to the Creator. What this right praise produced was order, first within the person of Adam and then in the world around him, cult cultivating the culture. Again, both the intertestamental sages and the Church Fathers understood the divine permission to eat of all of the trees of the Garden save one as an invitation to engage in philosophy, politics, the arts, conversation, science, and so on, the right ordering of these enterprises contingent upon the right praise (orthodoxy) of the one who enters into them.

In light of this reading, we can see that the Fall involved a compromising of the priestly identity of the human race. Grasping at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve arrogated to themselves the prerogatives of godliness, which is to say, the privilege of determining the good, the true, and the beautiful. This will to power amounted to the suspension of right praise and so conduced to the disintegration of the self and society. The antagonism between Adam and Eve (“The woman you put here made me do it”), and between humanity and nature (“The snake made me do it”), suggests that the harmonization of all elements of creation through the rightly ordered priesthood of Adam has been fatally compromised.

Now Adam prior to the Fall was interpreted not only as priest but also as king, specifically a king on the march, for his purpose was not only to cultivate the Garden but also to expand its borders outward, making the whole world a place where God is correctly praised. Under this rubric, we can understand the Fall as a failure in kingship. Compromised in his basic identity, Adam was no longer able to defend the Garden, much less increase its empire. Consequently, he and Eve were expelled from paradise. We should read this not as an arbitrary punishment, but rather as spiritual physics. From the loss of priestly and kingly identity follows, as night follows day, the loss of the Garden. The Fall, of course, is described in the third chapter of Genesis, and it is most instructive to read the ensuing chapters, which proffer a concentrated account of the permutations and combinations of dysfunction that follow from the original disintegration. We find stories of corruption, violence, envy, murder, imperialistic machination, and cruelty. St. Augustine did not miss the Bible’s identification of the fratricide Cain as the founder of cities, seeing in this the skewing of the political order that ought to have followed from right kingship. He practically delighted in the echo of this identification in the story of Rome’s founding by another fratricide.

God’s answer to all of this was a rescue operation, in the form of a holy people who would listen to his voice, learn to praise him correctly, and draw all the nations to right order through the splendor of their way of life. After creation, the Fall, and the consequences of the Fall are described in chapters 1 through 11, chapter 12 of Genesis introduces us to Abraham, the father of Israel, the father of faith. This new Adam figure is the progenitor of a priestly and a kingly people. He and his descendants, from Isaac and Jacob, through Isaiah and Ezekiel, to David and Solomon, would attempt, through the disciplines of Torah, Temple, prophetic speech, kingly rule, and sacred covenant, to restore a properly ordered humanity. The coming together of the priestly and kingly offices is perhaps nowhere better expressed than in the exuberant dance of King David, wearing the ephod of a priest, before the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the tablets of the Law. But the priests of Israel tended to fall into corruption and run after false gods, and the kings of Israel, time and again, betrayed their office. Even the greatest king, David, was an adulterer and murderer. Much of this dissolution is summed up in Ezekiel’s devastating vision, recounted in the tenth chapter of his prophetic book, of the Shekinah, the glory, of Yahweh leaving his Temple and moving toward the east. But the enduring hope of Israel is expressed in that same prophet’s prediction that one day the glory of the Lord would return to his Temple, and on that day water would flow forth from the side of the building for the renewal of creation.

All of this—and I am but touching on highlights—is the necessary background for understanding the good news regarding Jesus Christ. The New Testament writers and kerygmatic preachers of the first century consistently presented Jesus not according to a philosophical system, but kata ta grapha (according to the writings). In a word, they interpreted him against the loamy background of Israel, its identity, its failure, and its aspiration. Accordingly, they saw him as priest and as king and hence, as Paul so clearly stated, as the new Adam. When Matthew arranged the genealogy of Jesus according to three groups of fourteen generations, he was declaring Christ as the new David, for fourteen is the number that corresponds, in the Hebrew custom, to the name Dawid.

All four Gospels compel us to see Jesus through the lens of John the Baptist, and this means the lens of Temple and priesthood, for John was the son of a priest and he was performing the rituals of an alternate Temple in the desert. When Jesus comes, John cries, “Behold the Lamb of God,” signaling that Christ was, above all, the one to be sacrificed. In accord with this hermeneutic, Jesus says, in reference to himself, “You have a greater than the Temple here,” and he performs the great ministries of teaching, healing, and forgiving that were customarily carried out by the Temple priesthood. At the climax of his life, he comes to the Jerusalem Temple and announces that he will tear it down and in three days rebuild it, referring, John tells us, to the temple of his body. The night before he dies, Jesus identifies the Passover bread with his body, which will be “given away,” and the Passover wine with his blood, which will be poured out like the blood of lambs sacrificed in the Temple. This trajectory ends on the cross, properly interpreted not simply as a Roman execution, but as the carrying out of the definitive act of right praise. When the Roman soldier pierces the Lord’s side and blood and water come out, no first-century Jew should have failed to see the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy that when the Shekinah of Yahweh would return to his Temple, water would flow forth from its side for the renewal of a new Garden of Eden. Therefore, to evangelize is to announce that the priestly identity of the holy people Israel has been realized in a manner beyond all expectations, that Mt. Zion, the place of the crucifixion, has indeed finally become the place to where all the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to join together in right praise of the true God.

All of the gospels, moreover, insist that Jesus’s essential message was of a kingdom. In Mark’s version of Christ’s inaugural address, the Lord says, “The time of fulfillment is now. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.” If the kingdom has come, then the king, the new David, must have arrived, and this indeed is what Jesus announces continually regarding himself. And in line with all of Israel’s kings, this ultimate king will fight, and indeed he does, from the moment of his birth: against Herod and all Jerusalem, against the scribes and Pharisees, against those who seek to stone him and destroy him, against the demons themselves. At the climax of his life, the whole panoply of evil comes at him: hatred, cruelty, violence, injustice, stupidity, institutional corruption. On the cross he fights, but not in the worldly manner, meeting fire with fire, but rather swallowing all of it up in the divine mercy. The victory would be complete when the risen Jesus would say to those who had abandoned and betrayed him, “Shalom.” What the first believers came to understand was that God’s love is greater than anything that is in the world, and therefore they were willing to hold up the cross, which was meant to terrify Rome’s enemies into submission, as a sort of taunt. One might distill the earliest kerygmatic preaching as “Caesar killed him, but God raised him up.” This made Pontius Pilate, in a delicious irony, the first evangelist, for he had put over the cross a sign, in the three major languages of that time and place: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Any first-century Jew would have understood that the king of the Jews would be, by extension, the king of all the world, and this is precisely why Rabbi Shaul, once he met the risen Jesus and became the Apostle Paul, conceived the mission to tell the world that it had a new king. Hence his constant message, “Iesous Kyrios,” “Jesus is Lord,” meant as an ironic challenge to the oft-used phrase “Kaiser Kyrios,” “Caesar is Lord,” landed him frequently in jail, for the authorities knew exactly what Paul meant. Once again, this evangelical claim, and its accompanying mission, make not a lick of sense apart from the story of Israel.

A few years ago, the daughter of one of my Word on Fire colleagues came to our office. Her mother said, “Tell Fr. Barron how much you know about Star Wars.” With that, an eight-year-old girl launched into a detailed account of the Star Wars narrative, involving subplots, extremely minor characters, thematic trajectories, and so on. As she was unfolding her tale, I thought of the many educators whom I have heard over the years assuring me that young people cannot possibly take in the complexities, convoluted plot twists, and strange names found in the Scriptures. I don’t know, but I don’t think Methuselah and Habakkuk are really any more puzzling than Obi-Wan Kenobi and Lando Calrissian.

There is nothing new in the arguments of the New Atheists. They are borrowed from Feuerbach, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, and Sartre. And what all the atheists, new and old, have in common is a mistaken notion of God, for to a person they construe God as one being among many, an item within the nexus of conditioned things. The roots of this misconception are deep and tangled, stretching back to antiquity, but I would put a good deal of the blame for the present form of the problem on the transition from an analogical to a univocal conception of being, on display in Duns Scotus and especially William of Occam. On Aquinas’s analogical interpretation, God is not one item, however impressive, in the genus of existing things. Indeed, Thomas insists that God is not an individual and is not to be categorized in any genus, even that most generic of genera, the genus of being. God is not so much ens summum (highest being) as ipsum esse subsistens. But if, as Scotus and Occam would have it, being is a univocal term, then God and creatures can be considered under the same ontological rubric, and they do indeed belong to an identical genus. This means, in consequence, that God, though he might be described as infinite, is one being among many, an individual alongside other individuals. Occam would state the principle with admirable economy of expression: Praeter illas partes absolutas nulla res est (“Outside of these absolute parts, there is nothing real”).

I realize that this might seem the very definition of medieval hairsplitting, but a great deal hinges on this point. On the analogical reading, all of finite reality participates in the fullness of the actus essendi of God, and hence God and creation cannot be construed as rivals, since they don’t compete for space, as it were, on the same ontological grid. But on the univocal reading, God and creation are competitive, and a zero-sum game does obtain. The Reformers were massively shaped by the nominalist view that came up from Occam, and they therefore inherited this competitive understanding of God’s relationship to the world, which is evident in so much of their speculation concerning justification, grace, and providence. If God is to get all of the glory, the world has to be emptied of glory; if grace is to be fully honored, nature has to be denigrated; if salvation is all God’s work, cooperation with grace has to be denied. When this notion of God became widespread in Europe after the Reformation, it provoked a powerful counter-reaction, which one can see in almost all of the major philosophical figures of early modernity. The threatening God must be explained away (as in Spinoza), fundamentally identified with human consciousness (as in Hegel), internalized as the ground of the will (as in Kant), or shunted off to the sidelines (as in most forms of Deism). In time, the God of late medieval nominalism is ushered off the stage by an impatient atheism that sees him (quite correctly) as a menace to human flourishing. Thus, Feuerbach can say, “Das Nein zu Gott ist das Ja zum Menschen,” and every atheist since has followed him. Jean-Paul Sartre, in the twentieth century, captured the exasperation with the competitive God in a syllogism: “If God exists, I cannot be free; but I am free; therefore, God does not exist.” And Christopher Hitchens has restated the Feuerbach view, observing that believing in God is like accepting permanent citizenship in a cosmic version of North Korea.

I find in my work of evangelization that the competitive God still haunts the imaginations of most people today, especially the young, and this is certainly one reason why the New Atheists have found such a receptive audience. We who would evangelize simply have to become better theologians, that is to say, articulators of the truth about who God is. I would suggest that the best biblical image for God is the burning bush—on fire, but not consumed—which appeared to Moses. The closer the true God comes to a creature, the more radiant and beautiful that creature becomes. It is not destroyed, nor is it obligated to give way; rather, it becomes the very best version of itself. This is not just fine poetry; it is accurate metaphysics. We can find this truth in the narratives concerning David, Saul, and Samuel, wherein God definitively acts, but not interruptively. Rather, he works precisely through the ordinary dynamics of psychology and politics. Nowhere is the God of the burning bush more fully on display than in the Incarnation, that event by which God becomes a creature without ceasing to be God or undermining the integrity of the creature he becomes. It is most instructive to note how the formula of the Council of Chalcedon—two natures in one person—held off an extremism of the right (monophysitism), an extremism of the left (Nestorianism), and, if I can put it this way, an extremism of the middle (Arianism). “Fully divine and fully human” is intelligible only within a metaphysical framework of non-competition. Feuerbach felt obligated to say no to the Occamist God, but St. Irenaeus, who had the biblical idea of God in his bones, could say, “Gloria Dei homo vivens.”

Michael Buckley argued many years ago in At the Origins of Modern Atheism that one of the conditions for the emergence of aggressive atheism in these last two centuries has been the ineptitude of Christians at articulating what they mean by the word “God.” My experience on the evangelical frontlines suggests that his observation remains relevant today.

I have spoken so far of the beautiful and the true. I will close by saying a word about the third transcendental, the good. One of the better-known one-liners from the ancient Church is the observation made by Tertullian about the followers of Jesus: “How these Christians love one another.” There is little doubt that one of the principal reasons that the Christian Church grew within the context of the Roman Empire was the witness of its adepts, especially their willingness to care for the suffering of those around them, including those who were not members of their community. So out of step was it with the tribalism and elitism of the time, this practice led many to embrace the faith. We find something very similar in the example of the desert fathers, beginning with Antony. Their lifestyle of simplicity, poverty, and trust in God’s providence brought armies of young men and women to the desert, and The Life of Antony, composed by the great Athanasius of Alexandria, had a galvanizing effect on some of the best and brightest of the fourth and fifth centuries, including Augustine. It is said that the young Gregory Thaumaturgos came to Origen seeking to understand Christian doctrine, and the great teacher said, “First come and share our life, and then you will understand our doctrine.”

In the sixth century, when the order of Rome had definitively collapsed, monastic communities began to form in the West. The best known was that of Benedict and his brothers. Prayer, poverty, simplicity of life, and confidence in providence were, once more, the hallmarks of this form of life. It is commonplace to observe that these communities served not only to evangelize Europe, but to restore its civilization. Something very similar happened in the thirteenth century, during a time of significant clerical and institutional corruption. Both Dominic and Francis opted to return to evangelical basics, and both helped to revitalize the mission of the Church. After the French Revolution, when the Church was threatened with extinction in Western Europe, many great missionary orders arose: the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Congregation of Holy Cross, and the Marianists, to name three. The twentieth century, the time of greatest persecution in the history of the Church, witnessed the rise of Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, and Focolare, as well as the stunning example of St. Teresa of Calcutta.

In light of the recent sex-abuse scandals and the emergence of an aggressive New Atheism, the recovery of a radical form of the Christian life is essential to the task of evangelization. We must regain our moral and spiritual credibility, and this happens, as it always does, through a back-to-basics evangelicalism. We must recover Christian practices—study, fasting, contemplative prayer, the corporal works of mercy—in their intense forms, both as an expression of resistance and as an evangelical witness.

In its most elemental form, Christianity is not a set of ideas, but rather a friendship with the Son of God, a friendship so powerful and transforming that Christians up and down the ages could say, with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” When it is radically internalized in this Pauline way, the friendship with Jesus fills the mind, fires the heart, awakens the will, and changes the body. And then it sends us on mission.

Robert Barron is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Pope’s Amoris Laetitia Guidelines Get an Upgrade

The latest clarification of the proper interpretation of Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) raises new questions, with perhaps unexpected answers.

In September 2016, the bishops of the Buenos Aires pastoral region released guidelines for the interpretation of Chapter VIII of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, which addresses the situation of those in a sacramental marriage but living in conjugal union with someone else, perhaps civilly married.

On the same day the guidelines were released, the Pope wrote a private letter to the Buenos Aires bishops commending their efforts and saying that there were “no other interpretations.” This letter was first leaked to the press and then put on the Vatican website.

Pope Francis has now decreed that both the Buenos Aires guidelines and his letter be included in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Acts of the Apostolic See) as acts of the “authentic magisterium” of the Roman Pontiff. The AAS is like the official gazette of a government where official regulations are published. Not everything in the AAS is an exercise of the magisterium, but magisterial acts are recorded there.

The Buenos Aires guidelines were widely read as permitting, under limited circumstances related to reduced culpability, admission to confession and Holy Communion of those living in conjugal unions outside of a valid marriage.

However, the guidelines themselves could also be read as conforming to the prevailing teaching of the Church as found in St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. So the Buenos Aires text itself did not resolve the ambiguities in Amoris Laetitia. At the time, I examined the guidelines in detail.

As for the “no other interpretations” approval letter of Pope Francis, it was private correspondence. No matter how cleverly leaked to the press, it was not a magisterial act.

It is important to know what the Pope thinks but is not necessarily relevant to what the Pope is officially teaching. The papal letter had no standing. Now it does. What does that mean? There are six considerations that come to mind.

— First, it is a novelty. The letter to the Buenos Aires bishops now appears in the AAS as a formal apostolic letter, for example, like the Holy Father wrote to conclude the Jubilee of Mercy. It never was an apostolic letter before, not when it was written, not when it was received and not when leaked to the press.

An apostolic letter is not private correspondence. Yet what appears in the official record is now something that heretofore did not exist. Nevertheless, its curious retroactive change in status does not impinge on its authority. It now is an apostolic letter, even if it wasn’t when Pope Francis wrote it.

— Second, what the Holy Father meant when he wrote that “there are no other interpretations” is itself in need of further clarification. Does he mean that all interpretations other than the Buenos Aires guidelines are to be ignored, like those of, for example, the Holy Father’s own Diocese of Rome? That can’t possibly be the case.

Indeed, if only the Buenos Aires guidelines are correct, then it would rule out Pope Francis’ own 2014 telephone advice to a divorced-and-civilly-remarried woman in Argentina — without any pastoral accompaniment — to receive Holy Communion in another parish after her pastor advised her otherwise. So it must mean only those guidelines that are in conformity with the Buenos Aires guidelines are accurate reflections of Amoris Laetitia.

— Third, that raises the question of which guidelines could be read as compatible with Buenos Aires.

Though differing in emphasis, the guidelines of Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and the bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories do not contradict Buenos Aires. So they would appear to be valid.

That’s not the case for the bishops of Malta, whose guidelines go much further than Buenos Aires, with a wholly different understanding of conscience. Therefore, it would appear that the upgraded apostolic letter makes room for Philadelphia and Alberta, but rules out Malta. That is counterintuitive, but is a reasonable reading of what “no other interpretations” means.

— Fourth, does the new apostolic letter contradict Amoris Laetitia itself? Perhaps so, for in No. 300, Pope Francis writes that “priests have the duty to ‘accompany [the divorced and remarried] in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop …’”

If the bishop is to establish guidelines, but the Buenos Aires guidelines are the only guidelines possible, what is the point?

Paragraph 300 opens with the observation that “if we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the synod nor this exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases.”

What, then, is the difference between guidelines about which there are “no other interpretations” and general rules that cannot be provided? Are the Buenos Aires guidelines general rules or local rules to be mandated generally?

— Fifth, the Buenos Aires apostolic letter does not address directly the key question that Amoris Laetitia raised, which is how to resolve apparent conflicts between it and previous, clearly expressed magisterial teaching.

For example, Amoris Laetitia No. 303 teaches:

“Naturally, every effort should be made to encourage the development of an enlightened conscience, formed and guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one’s pastor, and to encourage an ever greater trust in God’s grace. Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.”

That appears to conflict with the teaching of St. John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendorwhich says that an intrinsically sinful act, if understood to be so, can never be done, much less be what God himself is asking.

The Buenos Aires guidelines do not address specifically that question, but the thrust of the guidelines actually militates against such a “creative” view of conscience. It is therefore possible that the Buenos Aires guidelines discreetly demur from the teaching of Amoris Laetitia, 303, a demurral that it is now officially endorsed by the Holy Father. That confusion would be dizzying.

— Sixth, and further to the point above, the Buenos Aires guidelines seek to resolve the ambiguities in the Pope’s exhortation by restricting themselves to the grounds of reduced culpability, i.e., that one cannot be guilty of a mortal sin if there is no freedom to act otherwise. That is not in contradiction with previous teaching and is a pastoral principle often applied in matters relating to chastity.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, in a September 2017 address to the Canadian bishops, subsequently published in L’Osservatore Romano, explicitly states that this is only as far as Amoris Laetitia goes:

“The novelty of Amoris Laetitia consists in offering benchmarks to assess extenuating circumstances that diminish the subjective imputability of an objective state of sin and thus lift an obstacle to sacramental life.”

The novelty is not changing the norm nor does it change the role of conscience, but rather clarifies the factors that mitigate culpability.

Should Cardinal Ouellet’s careful address find itself, in future, elevated in the AAS to the status of “authentic magisterium,” it does offer a response — in a footnote, suitably enough! — to the apparent conflict between Amoris Laetitia, 303, and Veritatis Splendor. Cardinal Ouellet flatly concludes that Amoris Laetitia “does not distance itself from Veritatis Splendor with respect to the question of determining the objective morality of human acts and of the fundamental role of conscience as a ‘witness’ to the divine law inscribed in the sacred depths of each person.”

The Buenos Aires guidelines are less explicit, but are easily read in the same vein as Cardinal Ouellet’s address, namely that Amoris Laetitia has to be read in light of Veritatis Splendor. Does the new apostolic letter of Pope Francis implicitly concede that point?

If we assume communications between Curial cardinals are functioning well, it is likely that Cardinal Ouellet knew about the apostolic letter upgrade when he addressed the Canadian bishops in September.

Where does all this leave us? In much of the same place, though with the clarification that the most adventurous interpretations of Amoris Laetitia, like those in Malta, are now definitively ruled out.

Father Raymond J. de Souza is the

editor in chief of Convivium magazine

Short/Clear Presentation of the  Question: Is there any such thing as “A Natural Man”? Or, Is Christ the Meaning of Man?

Christopher West

           “It seems that John Paul cannot stress this point enough. Comparing the testimony of the ‘beginning’ with the testimony of Ephesians, he says that ‘one must deduce that the reality of man’s creation was already imbued with the perennial election of man in Christ…. Man, male and female, shared from the “beginning” in this supernatural gift.’ And again he says that this supernatural endowment in Christ ‘took place before original sin’ (334-335). Rereading the account of creation in light of the New Testament, we realize that man’s destiny in Christ is already implied in his creation in the image of God. For it is Christ who ‘is the image of the invisible God.’ Thus, it is in Christ that we image God right from the beginning (see Col. 1, 15-16).”[1]

 

CCC #280: “Creation is the foundation of ‘all God’s saving plans,’ the ‘beginning of the history of salvation’ that culminates in Christ. Conversely, the mystery of Christ casts conclusive light on the mystery of creation and reveals the end for which ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth:’ from the beginning, God envisaged the glory of the new creation in Christ.”

 

CCC #1701: “Christ… in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation.’ It is in Christ, ‘the image of the invisible God,’ that man has been created ‘in the image and likeness’ of the Creator. It is in Christ, Redeemer and Savior, that the divine image, disfigured in man by the first sin, has been restored to its original beauty and ennobled by the grace of God” (Gaudium et Spes #22).

 

Christopher West continues: “With these statements, the Holy Father appears to be adding his input to a centuries-old theological debate: Would Christ have come had man not sinned? In any case, this pope’s opinion on the matter seems clear. For him, Jesus Christ – the incarnate Christ – ‘is the center of the universe and of history.’ For him, it seems even to entertain the idea of a universe without an incarnate Christ is to miss a central point of the ‘great mystery’ of God’s love for humanity.

 

            Christ is ‘first-born of all creation’ (Col. 1, 15). Everything – especially man in his original unity as male and female – was created for him, through him, and in expectation of him. When we reread man’s beginning in view of the ‘great mystery’ of Ephesians, we can see that Christ’s incarnate communion with the Church is already anticipated and in some sense ‘contained’ in the original incarnate communion of man and woman. And this original unity in ‘one flesh’ was constituted by God before sin. Man and woman’s original unity, therefore, was a beatifying participation in grace (see #20). This grace made original man’ holy and blameless’ before God. Here John Paul reminds us that their primordial (or original) holiness and purity were also expressed in their being naked without shame. The Holy Father then asserts that this original bounty was granted to man in view of Christ, who from eternity was ‘beloved’ as Son, ‘even though – according to the dimensions of time and history – it had preceded the Incarnation.’ (334).”[2]

 

[1] Christopher West, “The Theology of the Body Explained,” Pauline Books and Media (2003) 347.

[2] Ibid 348.