Tag Archives: Vatican II

22 February. What is Theology Saying? XLVIII: The need for a new world.

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Jesus had said his kingdom was not of this world, he could not establish the kingdom using any kind of force. For the next several centuries there was little chance of Christians being involved in decision-making – they were being constantly persecuted. Then from being objects of persecution they became part of the establishment in Eastern Roman Empire, with the Decree of Constantine [Edict of Milan 313] – Now came the tendency to believe the empire was the kingdom of God. They saw their role as to obey Christian princes; problems only arose when there were clashes between Popes and Emperors.

The Church in Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on The Church in the Modern World, recognised the findings of Teilhard de Chardin but it soon became evident that this document did not solve all the issues – for instance it does not touch on the value of human work in the world – is technology helping or just keeping us busy? What the Bible tells us and tradition has handed on is in symbolic form, and needs interpretation. We do not know the future in the way we know the past. All that we really know is the demand the future makes on the present. We learn not by looking, but by doing, we are not waiting for the next world to come, but we do feel the need for a new world.

For the Bible the world is not just a place but history itself – it is history always moving towards fulfilment of God’s promises. We must be constantly on the move from a comfortable status quo to a universal better future for everyone – no exclusions. It is not action in the world that must go, but our individual and privileged stake in the present: the privilege of being white where black people have to do menial tasks, the fostering of economic development with larger economies crushing the smaller, the exclusion of the poor from places reserved for the privileged – these are the evils in the world that must pass away.

AMcC

We will hear more from Austin in a few weeks’ time. WT.

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17 February: What is Theology saying, XLIII: Unhelpful ‘morality’.

I hope you can forgive me for looking at other chains of thought these last two months. This was only partly due to a computer putting on a hi-vis vest and going on strike. A new hard drive sorted that out. But it is good to have Friar Austin back! I’ve taken the liberty to add a couple of footnotes. Fr Rathe’s book gives something of a flavour of the Church just before the Council, when things were already beginning to change.

Can the inspiration of God ever be in conflict with the law of the Church? The whole prophetic tradition suggests that can happen. How do we test the spirit of an inspiration that suggests breaking the law? We must judge what is in line with spirit of the law. For example, the relaxation of fasting before Communion enables more people to receive the Sacrament.1

Unhelpful are: an over-simplifying notion of moral law; a preoccupation with precise measurements; disproportionate concern with sexuality; judgement of isolated bits of behaviour divorced from the whole person; punishment of sin seen in terms of an angry God; reconciliation seen as a means of shedding guilt; blind obedience praised as good behaviour by those in authority; concentrating on private morality at the expense of the social.

The perspective of Vatican II’s Moral teaching was to reject the blue-print model of the natural law – God’s plan. It presents life as gift, a fruit of the Spirit [Lumen Gentium 7.]2, and stressing personal dignity.

Conscience is not infallible, and it can be dulled by sin. Faith is conversion from sin, not once but continually; nowhere does the Church suggest that Scripture, Teaching… provide ready-made answers; we have to discern in the everyday of life. Moral challenge is not to keep the law in order to get to heaven, but to develop the full potential of what it means for me to be a human being. Gaudium et Spes 28 emphasises human development, even to loving enemies – i.e. involvement of will. [Part 2 of Gaudium et Spes3. is a treatise on values].

AMcC

1Monsignor Landru took us into the house where we enjoyed a glass of cold water before saying Mass. I wonder if the Holy Father ever thought of the tremendous refreshment he would be giving priests like ourselves, when he said: “Water does not break the Eucharistic Fast”. You have to go to the tropics, anyway, to appreciate cold water. From ‘ Mud and Mosaics – a Missionary Journey by Fr Gerard Rathe MAfr, Published 1961, available in full at http://thepelicans.org.uk/histories/history40a6.htm#top

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11 May, What is Theology Saying? VI: What is Revelation?

Have we missed the point? The Church’s teaching can change about some matters but not about the truths God has revealed. These are eternal and remain forever. It may not be immediately evident how much our thinking depends on how we understand Revelation. In the past theologians discussed which particular truths God has revealed, and whether we knew Revelation through Scripture alone or also through the living tradition of the Church. Today’s preoccupation has more to do with what is Revelation?

It is himself that God reveals, showing himself more clearly than he was known before, showing something about himself that was hidden or not noticed before. He shows himself as Saviour, merciful and gracious, making life worthwhile and giving meaning to our existence. Does God do this by speaking words, or by events? If it is words – how does he speak, what language and to whom does he speak? If God uses events and not speech what is the difference between reason and revelation? How important are the words we have in our Creeds?

The Church turned specifically to these questions in Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation. Dei Verbum This document takes us to the Bible to understand Revelation, and refers to the Bible as modern Scripture scholarship has learned to interpret it. It does not claim that all of the Bible is Revelation nor that all Revelation is in the Bible. It claims that the Bible offers us the classic instance from which we can understand how and what God reveals.

The Bible as a rule records events that happened in the history of God’s special people – such as the Exodus; the achievement of a common identity in the journeying in the desert. Sometimes it records the same events in different ways. The purpose of the telling is not to give an accurate chronicle of all events, but to give an interpretation of how clearly God’s mercy and faithfulness and love for his people was clearly manifest.

In the crossing of the Sea of Reeds – Exodus 14 – for example, it is never clear whether the people were able to get through because an easterly wind cleared the waterbed, or whether the waters parted instantaneously when Moses raised his staff, or whether they saw an intervention of an angel. The narrator seems completely unconcerned about giving a factual account, perhaps because what was important to him was that through their escape from slavery the people realised God’s care for them.

AMcC

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10 May: What is theology saying? V: Development of doctrine is a work in process

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Life is always in process, and all possible developments cannot be foreseen; there is a time-lag between the first experience of a new way and the discussions of theologians, and then the new way of formulating a doctrine. This means that the practice of the faithful will be in place before official pronouncements; which means that even when the pronouncements are made, life will again have moved beyond that point and the theologians will be trying to follow life.

However, some seem to think that the developments that happened in the past completed everything, save a few minor points. Before Vatican II this was a widely accepted view; but anyone who has taken care to read the documents of Vatican II will see how development of doctrine is very much a work in process; with any issue being revisited for further discussion. As regards the past we can judge what in fact true development was. For the present and the future we must live with risk, not having access to absolute certainty. This means remaining open to truth, no matter from whom or from what it may come. Just another way of saying – we live by faith and not by sight.

Life and growth of the Church, including the development of her teaching, cannot be without conflict; sometimes conflict is painful, but need not involve bitterness or hostility – exclusions and condemnations are not necessary. Those who have most furthered the doctrine of the Church have usually been persons who acted discreetly and patiently, without fearing the truth of their own experience, insight and learning.

AMcC

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September 19: The reality that is proclaimed

chris-preaching

Austin’s reflections, Constantina’s art, the Zambian Poor Clares’ dance that we saw on St Clare’s Day; these reflections too: all are intended to bear witness to – what exactly? I think we need to remind ourselves often what is the Gospel we proclaim. I was about to throw out a scrap of paper this afternoon, but held off till I’d copied this.

When preaching takes place, the ‘reality’ that is proclaimed, the crucified and risen Christ, is made present for the preacher and the hearer alike and is imparted to those who hear the preaching with faith.

Thus writes Fr Gerald O’Collins.*

He is developing an idea in Ad Gentes 9 the Vatican Council’s Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church.

By the preaching of the word and by the celebration of the sacraments, the centre and summit of which is the most holy Eucharist, He (God) brings about the presence of Christ, the author of salvation. But whatever truth and grace are to be found among the nations, as a sort of secret presence of God, He frees from all taint of evil and restores to Christ its maker.

‘A sort of secret presence of God’ – it sounds almost like Francis Thompson! (see post on August 9th)

car-lights

Tis ye, tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Let’s pray for the wisdom to know how to share the many-splendoured thing, and the humility to perceive Jacob’s ladder pitched on our own pavements – and the unlikely characters shining as they ascend!

MMB.

*Vatican II and the Liturgical Presence of Christ in irish Theological Quarterly, 2/2012.

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September 16. ‘Jesus beyond Dogma’, XIV: True Religion is not Nostalgia.

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Why did Christ have to die, if God afterwards resurrected him? In asking this question the early communities had not yet realised the actual saving character of the death of Jesus, that it is an integral and necessary part of salvation, and not just an unfortunate event. There were many attempts to answer this question. All interpretations were unanimous in saying that Jesus did not die because of his own sins or guilt.

The fact of Christ’s death was determined by hatred and ill-will. But Jesus did not allow himself to be determined by the priorities of others: they hated him, he did not hate them in return. He died alone so that no one else need ever do that again: whenever isolation and injustice is thrust upon people, they are in a place already visited by God, one which is part of God’s experience. If Jesus is to set us free from whatever binds us, he must set us free from death. As he redeemed life by living, so he redeemed death by dying. He died in the manner in which we must die. He chose neither the time nor the circumstances of his death.

Because of the universal rejection of Jesus and the dismissing of the call to become Kingdom, which is meant to have cosmic dimensions, it could only now be realised in a single person, Jesus of Nazareth. This means that a path was opened up for the church, this is when the church became necessary, since the offer brought by Jesus must persist for all time and must be made in the same way, through a quality of presence which matches that of Jesus and, little by little, to universalise the Kingdom. As well as furthering the call of Christ, the church is obliged to make the values of Jesus present wherever the church is present: mission and evangelisation are entirely about experiencing life as abundant.

Above all the Resurrection ensures that true religion is not nostalgia. It celebrates a present emerging from a past enroute to a wonderful future; a future able to be anticipated in many ways in the present. The Resurrection represents the total realisation of human potential: capable, through grace, of intimacy within God.

What will Resurrection mean? Paul answers: the dead will rise up, imperishable, glorious and powerful, in a human reality filled full with the Spirit of God. The human body, as it is now, cannot inherit the Kingdom. It must be changed; “to have what must die taken up into life“. When Paul speaks of “body” he does not mean a corpse, or a physical-chemical combination of cells, he is speaking of the consciousness of human matter, or the spirit manifesting and realising itself within the world. The Resurrection transforms what we mean by our corporal-spiritual “I” into the image of Christ.

Already, in its terrestrial situation the human being-body is a giving and a receiving of giving. It is the body that allows us to be present one to another. But as well as enabling communication it also gets in the way of it. We cannot be in two places at once, and communication uses codes that can often be ambiguous and misleading. All such impediments disappear in the Resurrection, when there will be total communication with persons and things; the human being, now a spiritual body will have a cosmic presence. The object of Resurrection is the human being as body, totally transfigured open to universal communion and communication.

By faith and hope, commitment to Jesus Christ, welcoming and celebrating the sacraments, the seed of Resurrection [the real presence of Christ] is present within the human body, and it is not lost in death: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life“. To be clothed with Christ is to be made new. Being in Christ is the start of Resurrected living, and death is a form of being in Christ. Just as death is a passage to eternity where there is no time, so too complete communication will be realised, with the setting free of all that is fully human. The corpse will stay behind, our true body – characterised by “I” [something much more than physical-chemical matter] will participate in eternal life:

…we do not know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away. But we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth… The expectation of a new earth must not weaken but stimulate our concern for developing this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age… On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower – Gaudium et Spes 39

AMcC  austin

Thank you Austin, I’ve enjoyed revisiting these while preparing them for publication. I shall return to Part II of Jesus Beyond Dogma in a couple of months’ time.

Maurice.

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24 March: Bread and the Word.

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Christ himself told us that he is “the bread of life”, and scripture attests he is the Word who was with God, and who was God. 

These two claims that are the basis of our faith are statements woven throughout scripture and our theological beliefs.  They echo from Advent, when God’s salvation plan for His people is foretold by the prophets with the promise that the Messiah would come from the City of David, and continue through the earthly ministry of Christ from his birth, death, and resurrection.

Christ’s existence as the bread of life and the Word come together, in identical words, twice in scripture.  First in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy (8:3) : “…man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord”, which the Evangelists Matthew (4:4) and Luke (4:4) both tell us Jesus quotes, verbatim, to his tempter after 40 days of fasting in the Judean wilderness.

More significantly, the two synonymic terms for Christ come together in the Holy Eucharist.  In the Blessed Sacrament, proclaimed by Blessed Pope Paul VI and the Council Fathers in Lumen Gentium 11 as “the source and summit of our faith” where through the mystery of transubstantiation, bread becomes the body of Christ, and the faithful receive the Word as this life giving bread.

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Indeed, prophecy was fulfilled with the birth of Christ in the City of David.  Even more amazingly, the Hebrew name of that town where Jesus was born, bêt-leḥem, means House of Bread!

DW.

The Rood at Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge. Note at the feet of Christ the host and chalice of the Eucharist. There are many scripture references in this portrayal, even though it does not show a ‘realistic’ crucifixion in earthly terms. This could be a meditation on Hebrews: notice the pallium on the Lord’s shoulders: a sign that he is the Lamb as well as the Good Shepherd; he is also priest and King … look on, and see more.

A different festive bread to that of Passover, the traditional English harvest loaf expresses thanks for the crops safely gathered in, and the offering of ourselves and all that sustains us in God’s earth. 

MMB.

 

 

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* 26/2 Reflections on Freedom and Responsibility VI.

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The Church speaks about freedom often by using the term ‘free will.’  The Council Fathers of Vatican II teach:

 

It is in accordance with the dignity of all men, because they are persons, that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore bearing personal responsibility, that they are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation  to seek the truth, especially religious truth.  They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they know it, and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of the truth.

 

This passage shows us something of the paradox of our freedom.  To do whatever we want is not really freedom.  It is actually a type of slavery – even addiction is not too strong a word.  In saying that we are ‘impelled by our nature’ to seek the truth, the Council Fathers are saying that because the human person has been created with an intellect, we have an in-built need for that which ‘feeds’ the intellect – knowledge, yes, but above all, truth.  To adhere to that truth, once we’ve found it, and direct one’s whole life in accordance with its demands: this, paradoxically, is freedom.  This is joy.

SJC.

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