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Ratzinger on Christ as Word

Sorry, but I feel compelled to continue the onslaught of Ratzinger. I've finished the book now finally, so it can't continue forever. This, in keeping with my typical laziness, will essentially be a copy-and-paste from something I already typed up for someone:

Why is Christ the perfect self-revelation of God? How do we know that in Christ, we're getting the real
thing, the authentic revelation of God? How can we be sure that the Christ about whom we learn is really how
Christ was? In other words, how can we be sure that "Jesus" and "Christ" are completely equatable?
Ratzinger says it is because, for Christ, being and word, being and action, are merged, in a way that they
are for ordinary fallen men:
"with Jesus, it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, the differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office; the office is the person. . . . there is no private area reserved for an 'I' that remains in the background
behind the deeds and actions."
"To understand him as the Christ means to be convinced that he has put himself into his word. Here there is no 'I' (as there is with all of us) that utters words; he has identified himself so closely with his word that 'I' and word are indistinguishable: he is word."
I shall attempt to unpack the significance of all this. See, the dilemma is that for any of us, who we are as a person always eludes grasp to some degree; it cannot be defined or confined in what our various positions in life are, what our actions are, what our words are. It can be glimpsed, but discovering the true authentic person is so very difficult. When people seek to get to know each other, how do they do it? Well, largely through words--through conversation. But how authentic is this? I can be deceptive in what I choose to say, and you can't always tell the difference. I may not be intentionally deceptive, but I may be selective in what I choose to say, so that my words are not always an accurate representation of my thoughts. People have habitual ways of expressing themselves (known as social skills) that put somewhat of a disconnect between the way they come across to others and the way they really are. How authentic then, are words? With humans, we can never really be sure we know who someone really is merely by their words. So we have the benefit of actions, right? You know someone partly by the things they do. But again, how can one be sure these are not just part of a self-scripted drama? Or, again, if not deceptive, actions only make public a small sliver of me. Or, again, my actions could be tailored to fit certain circumstances, so that they come to represent more what I am expected to do than who I really am. There is again a disconnect--how do we get at the authentic person behind the mask of words and deeds? To some degree, we never can, in this life, at least.

But Jesus Christ transcends that disconnect--for him, his words, his teachings, are inseparable from his being; he is incarnate Word. At the same time, his deeds are inseparable from his being; his role as prophet, priest, and king, is the authentic full revelation of his being from all eternity. He is the divine essence in pure, unimpeded action. At the same time, he is the perfection of humanity, because, as the first human who is fully, authentically himself, he satisfies at last the human thirst to truly know one another, to commune with one another, and he prefigures for us the perfect transparency we will
enjoy in our glorified state.

A couple long quotes showing how Ratzinger starts to apply this:
"His crucifixion is his coronation; his kingship is his surrender of himself to men, the identification of word, mission, and existence in the yielding up of this very existence. His existence is thus his word. he is word because he is love. From the Cross faith understands in increasing measure that this Jesus did not just do and say something; that in him message and
person are identical, that he is all along what he says. John needed only to draw the final straightforward inference: if that is so--and this is the Christological basis of his Gospel--then this Jesus Christ is 'word'; but a person who not only has
words but is his word and his work, who is the logos ('the Word', meaning, mind) itself; that person has always existed and will always exist; he is the ground on which the world stands--if we ever meet such a person, then he is the meaning that comprises us all and by which we are all sustained."

"For anyone who recognizes the Christ in Jesus, and only in him, and who recognizes Jesus as the Christ, anyone who grasps the total oneness of person and work as the decisive factor, has abandoned the exclusiveness of faith and its antithesis to love; he has combined both in one and made their mutual separation unthinkable. The hyphen between Jesus and Christ, the inseparability of person and work, the identity of one man with the act of sacrifice--these also signify the hyphen between love and faith. For the peculiarity of Jesus's 'I', of his person, which now certainly moves right into the center of the stage, lies in the fact that this 'I' is not at all something exclusive and independent but rather is Being completely derived from the 'Thou' of the Father and lived for the 'You' of men. It is identity of logos (truth) and thus makes love into the logos, the
truth of human existence. The essnence of the faith demanded by a Christology so understood is consequently entry into the universal openness of unconditional love. For to believe in a Christ so understood means simply to make love the content of faith, so that from this angle one can perfectly well say, love is faith."

By Grace Alone

So Father Newman, the vicar of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville, said in his sermon yesterday, "We are justified, that is, made right with God, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone."

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Ratzinger on the Trinity

Ok, so, as an intermission between barrages of Cavanaugh, I have another Catholic to bring to you--namely, the Pope.

In his Introduction to Christianity, he has a positively amazing section on the Trinity. I have here a whole bunch of quotes from it, selected mainly because I've already typed them up for other arenas--though you can be sure they represent some of the best selections:

"We can only speak rightly about Him if we renounce the attempt to comprehend and let him be the uncomprehended. Any doctrine of the Trinity, therefore, cannot aim at being a perfect comprehension of God. It is a frontier notice, a discouraging gesture pointing over to unchartable territory. It is not a definition that confines a thing to the pigeonholes of human knowledge, nor is it a concept that would put the thing within the grasp of the human mind."

"In other words, all these statements [of heresy] are not so much gravestones as the bricks of a cathedral, which are, of course, only useful when they do not remain alone but are inserted into something bigger, just as even the positively accepted formulas are valid only if they are at the same time aware of their own inadequacy."

"Faith consists of a series of contradictions held together by grace."

"He who tries to be a mere observer experiences nothing. Even the reality 'God' can only impinge on the vision of him who enters into the experiment with God--the experiment that we call faith. Only by entering does one experience; only by cooperating in the experiment does one ask at all; and only he who asks receives an answer. . . . Indeed, we must go a step farther: that we put any questions or make any experiments at all is due to the fact that God for his part has agreed to the experiment, has entered into it himself as man. Through the human refraction of this one man we can thus come to know more than the mere man; in him who is both man and God, God has demonstrated his humanity and in the man has let himself be experienced."


“God as substance, as ‘being’, is absolutely one. If we nevertheless have to speak of him in the category of triplicity, this does not imply any multiplication of substances but means that in the one and indivisible God there exists the phenomenon of dialogue, the reciprocal exchange of word and love in their attachment to each other.

They are not substances, personalities in the modern sense, but the relatedness whose pure actuality (‘parcels of waves’!) does not impair the unity of the highest being but fills it out. St. Augustine once enshrined this idea in the following formula: ‘He is not called Father with reference to himself but only in relation to the Son; seen by himself he is simply God.’

Here the decisive point comes beautifully to light. ‘Father’ is purely a concept of relationship. Only in being for the other is he Father; in his own being in himself he is simply God. Person is the pure relation of being related, nothing else. Relationship is not something extra added to the person, as it is with us; it only exists at all as relatedness.

“Expressed in the imagery of Christian tradition, this means that the first Person does not beget the Son as if the act of begetting were subsequent to the finished Person; it is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of self-giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver but the act of giving.

In this idea of relatedness in word and love, independent of the concept of substance and not to be classified among the ‘accidents’, Christian thought discovered the kernel of the concept of person, which describes something other and infinitely more than the mere idea of the ‘individual.’ Let us listen once again to St. Augustine:

‘In God there are no accidents, only substance and relation.’ Therein lies concealed a revolution in man’s view of the world: the sole dominion of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality. It becomes possible to surmount what we call today ‘objectifying thought’; a new plane of being comes into view.

It is probably true to say that the task imposed on philosophy as a result of these facts is far from being completed—so much does modern thought depend on the possibilities thus disclosed, without which it would be inconceivable.”

Relational ontology, man!

Cavanaugh Chapter 5 (at last)

Ok, so, I'm finally posting some Cavanaugh. This is going to be a monumental task, so I'm starting with the most important chapter, Chapter 5. This is just the first installment, of what will hopefully be many such posts, just from chapter five.
This is basically a walking through the chapter, mostly by means of key quotes (the bold headings are Cavanaugh's). (Note: I'm going to have to go back through here soon and italicize all the italicized words)

Eucharist is the church’s “counter-politics” to the politics of torture

The Eucharist makes real the presence of Christ in the Church; resists the disappearance of the Body.
“Where torture is an anti-liturgy for the realization of the state’s power on the bodies of others, Eucharist is the liturgical realization of Christ’s suffering and redemptive body in the bodies of His followers. Torture creates fearful and isolated bodies, bodies docile to the purposes of the regime; the Eucharist effects the body of Christ, a body marked by resistance to worldly power. Torture creates victims; Eucharist creates witnesses, martyrs. Isolation is overcome in the Eucharist by the building of a communal body which resists the state’s attempts to disappear it.”

“Whereas New Christendom ecclesiology would cordon off the Kingdom of God into a space outside of time, in the Eucharist the Kingdom irrupts into time and ‘confuses’ the spiritual and the temporal. The Eucharist thus realizes a body which is neither purely ‘mystical’ nor simply analogous to the modern state: the true body of Christ.”

“In the Eucharist the church is always called to become what it eschatologically is. The Eucharist does make the church ex opere operato, but the effects are not always visible due to human sin. Christians are called to conform their parctic to the Eucharistic imagination. . . . the Eucharistic imagination is a vision of what is really real, the Kingdom of God, as it disrupts the imagination of violence.”

1: The Mystical and the True
The Church, with the coming of modernity, can no longer be seen as political institution of its own, but as consisting more in the invisible communion with believers.
Henri de Lubac pointed out that a dichotomy was created between the external institutional church and the invisible interior church. “In the term ‘mystical body,’ the adjective had swamped the noun.”

For this dichotomy,
“The church does not constitute a social body. Its visibility and unity rather consists in the external bonds of sharing the same profession of faith, the same rites, the same church laws, and above all the same allegiance to the Pope’s guidance.”

Beginning in the twelfth century, there begins to be an inversion of corpus mysticum and corpus verum. Corpus mysticum is now applied to the Church, corpus verum to the elements of the Eucharist.

“In the older understanding, according to de Lubac, the sacramental body and the church body are closely linked, and there is a ‘gap’ between this pair and the history body. The Eucharist and the church, both of which are understood by the term communio, are together the contemporary performance of the historical body, the unique historical event of Jesus. Christians are the real body of Christ, and the Eucharist is where the church mystically comes to be. The church and the Eucharist form the liturgical pair of visible community (corpus verum) and invisible action or mystery (corpus mysticum) which together re-present and re-member Christ’s historical body. The gap is a temporal one. The link between past event and the present church is formed by the invisible action of the sacrament. The ‘mystical,’ then, is that which ‘insures the unity between two times’ and brings the Christ event into present historical time in the church body, the corpus verum.”

In the inversion, “The Eucharistic host has become corpus verum, and has now taken on a ‘thingly realism,’ a visible and available sign in the here and now which produces reverence and awe. Eucharist is increasingly described in terms not of action but of object, such that the scholastic concentration is on the miracle produced in the elements, and not on the edification of the church by the presence of Christ in the sacrament. At the same time, the church is identified as corpus mysticum, whose essence is hidden. The visibility of the church in the communal performance of the sacrament is replaced by the visibility of the Eucharistic object. Signified and signifier have exhanged places, such that the sacramental body is the visible signifier of the hidden signified, which is the social body of Christ. . . . The real life of the church is relegated to the ‘mystical,’ the hidden, that which will only be realized outside of time in the eschaton. Rather than linking the present with Jesus’ first – and, we should add, second –coming, the mystical is now cordoned off from historical space and time. At this point in Christian history the temporal is beginning to be construed not as the time between the times, but as an increasingly autonomous space which is distinct from a spiritual space.”

Cavanaugh pauses here to clarify that this is not intended to undermine the doctrine of transubstantiation, only to guard against misguided emphases. He clarifies that de Lubac “thought that the best way to emphasize ‘eucharistic realism’ was precisely through an ‘ecclesial realism’ which sees Christ’s real presence in the elements as dynamic, working toward the edification of the church. What concerned de Lubac about the inversion of verum and mysticum was its tendency to reduce the Eucharist to a mere spectacle for the laity. The growth of the cult of the host itself in the later medieval period…was not necessarily an advance for Eucharistic practice. As Sarah Beckwith puts it, ‘the emphasis was increasingly on watching Christ’s body rather than being incorporated in it.’ ”

This discussion is of particular relevance for Protestants. And indeed, Cavanaugh goes on to critique the late medieval practice of the Eucharist (which Protestantism was a reaction to) in terms that are no less applicable to the modern Protestant practice:
“Laypeople were increasingly left to silent contemplation of the awesome spectacle, and this corresponded with a diminishing of the communal nature of the Eucharist and an individualizing of Eucharistic piety. Dom Gregory Dix describes this period in these terms: ‘The old corporate worship of the eucharist is declining into a mere focus for the subjective devotion of each separate worshipper in the isolation of his own mind. And it is the latter which is beginning to seem to him more important than the corporate act.’ . . . The individual Christian relates not to other Christians but directly to Christ as to the center of the circle, instead of incorporation with one’s fellow Christians into the body of Christ, which has a head, but no center.”

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