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Soundings in the History of a Hope
The Soteriology of Thomas Aquinas
in Transcendental Theological Reflection:
Notes on the Tertia pars of the Summa Theologiae
Richard Schenk OP
Lecture Six: "Unica vera Religio": Religions and the Self-Understanding of Christianity
Contemporary Problems, Prominent and Othewise
Of the three groups of issues which we have identified as the "material objects" of soteriology, Christology, sacramentality, and eschatology, the area of sacramentality has up until now received little direct attention. Readers of the Tertia pars often overlook that the discussion from Question 60 onwards is not just of individual Christian sacraments, but also of the cultic practices of non-Christian religions as well. This discussion was well established before Thomas began writing. Peter Lombard began the fourth book of Sentences, dealing with sacraments and "last things", with a tract on "sacraments in general", trying to differentiate Christian sacraments from the rites of other religions. Some commentators on the Sentences, such as Thomas' later Dominican critic, Robert Kilwardby, made their questions on the fourth book into works devoted exclusively to the theology of religions. The relation of Christianity to what until the Council of Trent were generally called the "sacraments" of the First Covenant (de lege scripta) and of natural religions (de lege naturali) was discussed in detail. Although it is not as obvious as in the titles of his questions in the I-IIae on the cult of the older covenant (the longest articles in the Summa) or in the II-IIae on the virtue of religion (focusing there, however, on its realization in different "religions" or Christian orders of "religious"), Thomas deals with interreligious issues in our sense of the term not only in the tract on sacraments in general (Questions 60-65), but also in the context of the individual sacraments, for example in regards to the relation of the Eucharist to pre-biblical (as Melchisedech is pictured) and First Testament (paschal lamb, scape-goat) sacrifices of plants and animals.
These interreligious issues have become a central topic in our day in three, ever-widening circles of dialogue, whose interconnections are not always obvious: inner-Catholic, inner-Christian, and interreligious.
1. The Inner-Catholic Discussion of Religious Tolerance and Religious Liberty.
The Second Vatican Council extended its initial plan of a decree on Judaism to include in Nostra aetate positive comments on other religions as well, and it added the decree on the necessity of religious liberty, Dignitatis humanae. As with all conciliar documents of every age, the decrees do not reflect a perfect unanimity among the council fathers, but rather show where the outer boundaries of consensus are to be found. Precisely the decree on religious liberty reiterated the term "unica vera Religio", while insisting that coercion of any kind was unsuited to this religion. Beyond agreement on this negative limit, rejecting coercion for tolerance, it remained unclear what the good of religious freedom implied about the legitimacy of other religions. Were they merely to be tolerated so as not to force persons to sin against their consciences, as proponents of the exclusive claims of Christianity to truth (now called "exclusivists") argued, or were they in themselves valuable ways to truth in their own right, as others maintained?
Consensus on the description "unica vera Religio" was made possible by the fact that most non-exclusivists were convinced that Christianity implicitly included, rather than excluded, most of the truth claims of other religions (a position now called "inclusivism"). The most convincing advocate of this position was arguably Karl Rahner. His theory of "anonymous Christianity" was not meant to apply only and not primarily to religiosity or religions, but to every human activity of thinking, willing, and hoping; but it meant, too, that it was now easier to imagine that the truth explicitly claimed by non-Christian religions was an implicit and less adequate affirmation of what was more clearly confessed by Christian belief. Christianity could thus be the "unica vera Religio" without denying other religions a participation in this truth.
Inclusivism, even in variations other than Rahner's, seems to have become the predominant view of Catholic theologians in the 20 years following the council. Today, in spite of new doubts and challenges which we shall discuss below, inclusivism still has a wide following, even in the magisterium. At the time of his invitation to religions to come to an assembly of prayer in Assisi, Pope John Paul II did not yet articulate the theology of religions behind his action; the event was officially described and carried out as parallel but distinct prayer groups next to one another, not as common prayer. But in the encyclical Redemptoris missio, nr. 29, the pope stated: "The meeting between religions at Assisi was meant to reaffirm unmistakably my conviction that every authentic prayer is awakened by the Holy Spirit, who is present in mysterious ways in the heart of every human." This conviction seems to correspond most easily to the inclusivist view (the authenticity of the prayer of non-Christian religions as coming from the Spirit of Jesus Christ), but it does not rule out a moderate exclusivist view, arguing that the Spirit is in those praying not by mediation of their religions as such; although, on the other hand, it should then be asked why the Spirit is suspected precisely in the prayer forms defined by these religions, and not elsewhere. The ambiguity is clearly present in the new Roman catechism as well, where with reference to the Council the now less common phrase unica vera religio is repeated alongside the affirmation of the value of other religions and the undisputed necessity of tolerance. For reasons to be discussed below, it should not be ruled out apriori that this ambiguity, far from indicating mere confusion or division of opinion, is the most appropriate attitude possible, and one which has a longer tradition than is commonly recognized.
One such ambiguous position was the paradigm of pre-Christian religions' being related to Christianity as foreshadowing to truth, sicut figura ad veritatem, which was initiated by the New Testament, expanded by Augustine, and accepted (along with other models) by Thomas Aquinas and most other medieval thinkers. The figura-veritas-model can stress either the (inclusivistic) continuity, that there was indeed always the same faith (eadem fides) common to both the figurae and the open veritas, or it can stress the (exclusivistic) discontinuity, that only with Christ is the open and effective truth of sacraments given, especially once Christ has appeared (raising the problem of the cessatio rituum legis naturalis vel scriptae). It is the very identity of faith in pre-Christian and Christian religion which is the source of the critique of non-Christian sacraments: in contrast to Christian sacraments, not the rites themselves, but that faith in Christ which was implicit or explicit in them justified; and thus the value of the figurative rites was abolished, as soon as the truth they were pointing to appeared. Their merit was in their imperfect identity with Christian faith, but only there; their otherness had no merit in its own right. Thomas radicalized his defence of this view in the Tertia pars, noting twice (!) that he had changed his mind on an important point regarding the sacraments of the older covenant (Sth III 62, 6 ad 3; 70, 1). He now denied that circumcision as the sacrament of initiation into the first covenant was effective of itself; only by its implicit or explicit Christological faith did circumcision remove original sin and bestow the fullness of grace. Thomas still admits, with most of his contemporaries, that the same graces were given in circumcision as in baptism; yet not by circumcision itself, as by baptism, ex opere operato. The ambiguity is evident. The figura-veritas-model behind Thomas' view was not the only medieval theology of religions, nor can it be viewed as adequately grasping the whole problem (in Thomas' version, it does not distinguish the religion of the first covenant sufficiently from natural religions); but its structural ambivalence on non-Christian religions should not be overlooked by historical research and need not be totally rejected in new systematic alternatives.
2. The Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue on Justification and Sacraments and the Question of the Analogous Meaning of Sacrament.
An important new phase of discussion between the two confessions began after a Lutheran initiative on the occasion of the pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II to Germany in 1980 (Albertus Magnus anniversary, Ü 1280). The commission formed has since then presented a document which several Catholic and especially Lutheran theologians (including the faculty at Gˆttingen) has criticized as too dominated by an ecumenism of convergence or consensus. Taking the canons and chapters of Trent and the 16th century Confessional Documents of Lutheranism as a point of departure, the commission came to the judgement (and in some cases began from the judgement) that no serious difference had ever existed, but rather misunderstanding; and that where differences had existed, they had been fully or largely overcome in the time between the 16th century and now. The commission recommended that the two churches rescind their condemnations of the other's positions and declare that no doctrinal obstacles to the reunion of the churches remain.
It is impossible in the time and space allowed here to go into argued detail about this discussion. Suffice it to say that the discussions have shown that the method of convergent ecumenism, applied here almost exclusively, is one essential method, but only one, which for reasons both of historical accuracy and systematic imagination needs to be complemented by other partial methods. One such complementary method, which we might call "an ecumenism of warning", would involve self-examination on the basis of the abiding accusations made by the other confession, with a view towards each side's asking if they have not become even more "guilty" of what they were accused of in the 16th century; say, subjectivism on the one hand or neo-Pelagianism on the other. The irony of the discussion is that the two confessions are never so near to each other and to the classical form of Christian faith as when they are embarrassed by their disagreements: the majority of Catholic theologians is willing then and only then in cases of doubt to stay closer to Augustine, to accept the foundation by Christ of all Christian sacraments, to stress the need for special grace over and against factical human nature, etc.; while the Lutheran theologians stress here more than elsewhere that they, too, believe in Christ's real presence in the Eucharist, that Christianity consists not in social action but in justification by exclusive faith in Christ etc. The controversies with Roman-Catholics strengthens the hand of doctrinally interested Protestants, such as those in the Faith and Order commission of the World Council of Churches, against other Protestants, including the leadership of that same Council, who would stress the given communio of world-wide social, political, and environmental concern among all peoples and religions over any doctrinal divisions within Christianity. At this present moment of history, it seems that theologians on both sides are never so close to each other and to classical positions as when confronted with the accusations of the other. Should the declaration of non-contradiction between the confessions and the introduction of intercommunion and interchangeable ministers reduce the pressure of meeting such accusations, there is the danger that the groups will again drift further apart from each other and certainly away from this classically formulated heart of Christian faith.
Given the stress placed by the commission on convergence, it is notable that in one point an abiding difference is admitted: the Catholic insistence on an analogous sense of sacrament preceding and accompanying the sacraments instituted by Christ. As with the inclusivism mentioned above, the most influential proponent of this position was Karl Rahner. In 1955 and 1960 Rahner presented the argument that the church is the basic sacrament instituted immediately by Christ, and the individual sacraments flow from Christ (himself the originary sacrament) by mediation of this basic foundational sacrament, the Church. The idea had the advantage of not needing to read into Scripture an institution of all seven sacraments (or even the primary two) by Jesus of Nazareth; the post-resurrectional context for instituting the new Trinitarian baptism takes on new ecclesiastical meaning. Just as with the now widespread view that Scripture came out of individual ecclesial communities and needed the united ecclesial community to bring it to unity, so, too, the origin of sacraments in the church seemed to confirm Catholic rather than Protestant ecclesiology; thus, the abiding divergence. The question of the precise number of sacraments was no longer seen by Catholics as a crucial issue, since they felt that analogy allowed a hierarchy of more and less important sacraments. The idea of analogous sacrament also opens up the continuity of sacraments with more general symbols of hope in human life in general. All this has with good reason (though sometimes also for less adequate reasons) found widespread acceptance in the Catholic community, but only there. Less accepted even in Catholic circles was the unique colouring given to the idea by Rahner's particular system of the supernatural existential and anonymous Christianity, where a transcendental Christology and ecclesiology would imply that the root sacrament is not just the historical Church but factical human existence as such, of which the individual sacraments are (mere) thematizations. Such a view could not avoid stressing the continuity between the cultic practices of non-Christian religions and Christian sacraments. Drawing on their own traditional contrast between Christian faith and all religions ("non-religious faith"), many Protestants see their suspicions confirmed that Catholicism is more an expression of general, i.e. heathen and sinful religiosity than it is genuinely Christian, i. e. oriented to solus Christus und sola Scriptura. It shows as a practical problem of Catholic dialogue the danger that, the more consensus which is found by Catholic theologians between themselves and other religions, the more they risk losing the consensus gained in inner-Christian ecumenism.
If we apply the method of ecumenical "warning", we might ask whether the analogous meaning of sacrament could be radicalized in such a way as to be more open for the uniqueness of the small number of sacraments instituted by Christ in a special sense of that term. Those students of Catholic theology who would not ready to accept a finite number of sacraments instituted by Christ on the basis of the authority of Trent are often willing to entertain the idea, once they realize that their denial threatens approaching unity with the Lutheran community. One of the misapplications of the idea of analogous sacramentality has been to make the empirical Church community the true subject of sacramental action, rather than Christ in his divinity or the Father. Newer Catholic theories of the sacraments as the communicative action of the community have interpreted the liturgy e. g. as the performative speech-act of the church itself constituting itself as a united community. Such views seem to push Catholicism nearer to Zwinglianism than to Christocentric Lutheranism (sacraments as Christ's own word of promise) or even to pneumatic Calvinism (sacraments effective when the Spirit touches the recipient): a point, by the way, which also shows the necessity of complementing bilateral methods of ecumenism with multilateral ones. The systematic question here for Catholic theology is: Can the analogous meaning of sacrament make room for Christ's institution of special sacraments in his Church which are effective only as including the primacy of his activity and the activity of the triune God?
It is here that a close re-examination of Thomas Aquinas could be of significance. Since the time and space allowed here permit only a few indications of Thomas' theology of religions, only one key thought will be noted as regards this circle of discussion and each of the two to follow. Along with most other medieval theologians, Thomas was convinced that God's grace was saving humans in every age before Christ. Thomas, stressing more forcefully than most other theologians the strict identity of justifying faith in each age as being faith in Christ crucified, develops an idea of analogous sacraments of the cross: "...sine fide passionis Christi nunquam potuit esse salus secundum illud, Rom 3<, 25>: Quem proposuit Deus propitiatorem per fidem in sanguine eius; et ideo oportuit omni tempore apud homines esse aliquod repraesentativum Dominicae passionis" (Sth III 73, 5 co). "Aliquod repraesentativum Dominicae passionis" need not be cultic. It could be found in matters more personal or familial, such as sickness or death; but it is certainly imaginable in religious worship as well, which always involved these areas of concern. What Thomas has to say about salvation and Christ's own crucifixion, including its salvific efficacy only by divine power, was discussed in the previous lecture. The main points are repeated in the tract on the sacraments with reference to the meaning of the cross for the sacraments. The merit and efficacy of Christ's humanity in the sacraments is again merely instrumental: an instrument joined to the divinity in the humanity of Christ itself; an instrumentality separate from this divinity in the case of the sacraments. In both cases, however, as regards the humanity of Christ crucified and risen and the mediation of the Church's liturgy, the efficacy of grace is imaginable only by virtue of the divinity as principle, non-instrumental cause. This decisive, divine efficacy is the ontological side of what corresponds in transcendental reflection to the abiding horizon of the antinomy regarding the gift of grace, its non-evidence.
The cross in this sense is not only the efficient cause but also the formal cause of the sacraments, a Realsymbol not only of the presence of grace (as is usually implied in current Catholic theories) but also of the uncertainty and distance of grace, where self-experience reveals the need for but not the assured facticity of a grace, which must come from an Other, if at all. The cross is present as a formal cause in each of the Christian sacraments: in baptism, as being emerged into Christ's death for a new life more resistant to death than natural powers could be; in the Eucharist, which provides access to the present risen and living Lord only by recalling and representing his crucifixion; in confirmation, reconciliation, and the anointing of the sick by recalling the situations of weakness in the life of Christians; in matrimony, by blessing a human love which knows it cannot fulfil and protect those loved as it would want to; and in orders, by sending humans to preach something which they cannot prove or make evident, to anoint the dying and to bury the dead whom they would rather give back in health to their families, and to lead toward unity and perfection a church which will always remain in the discord and sin which the anointed ministers find in themselves as well (the status perfectionis of religious being an obligation to, but not a realization of perfection).
It is the cross in this sense that is present in every religious cult which shares in the unica vera Religio and confesses that faith in the Crucified which justifies. Analogous and Christocentric views of the sacraments need not contradict one another. The differences between participations are in a central way the differences by which the sacraments of different religions are capable of believing in and hoping for this non-evident gift of salvation from an Other. That will become more understandable in the third circle of discussion.
3. The Interreligious Problematic in (Christian) Theologies of Religion
The last ten years have seen the appearance of a school of thought on the theology of religions hardly known at the time of the Council. In calling itself pluralistic, it wants to distinguish itself not only from exclusivism (which it considers the traditional position of the churches), but also from inclusivism, which it claims, not without good reason, to be simply a modified form of exclusivism: Salvation in both older schools is in Christ alone. Most popular in England and North America, the movement has been treated until now with reserve by Continental theologians. Pluralists such as John Hick claim, however, to be simply drawing the consequence implied not only by Continental hermeneutics or even postmodernism, but to be following the logic of Continental Christologies, which avoid the Chalcedonic formulation of faith. The pluralists argue that, without this formulation, the person of Jesus Christ is too relativized to be the sole mediator of salvation; thus Christianity cannot be the unica vera Religio, even in its inclusivistic sense. No one religion is definitive over and against, or anonymously "behind", the others. The significance of works like the new Christology of Peter H¸nermann, cited in the first lecture, rests in the attempt by European theologians to revise Continental Christology to a point, where the acceptance of a pluralism of soteriological and religious ideas can be avoided.
It would take more a whole lecture to do justice just to this discussion alone. Let it be said that each of the terms mentioned, exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism refer to groups of theories, often contradicting other theories in their own group. A first task would be to distinguish among the species of each genus and identify some of the dynamics at play. It would soon become evident that many arguments, such as the figura-veritas-model mentioned above, are ambivalent, combining in themselves a potential for exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism, depending on the context and accentuation. Furthermore, it would become clear that no one type of argumentation is without deficiencies, and no one type without some merit, at least in its critique of the alternatives. John Hick's pluralism e. g. affirms two senses of the unica vera Religio phrase: as the non-empirical, non-historical truth hinted at by all concrete religions (similar to Lessing's theory of religions), and as the more genuine (as opposed to the conventional, say fundamentalist) realizations of concrete religions, of which his own religious theory is meant to be an example. The theological task is to confront all these theories with their own inner ambivalences and variations, in order to say what is true or false about each.
What is least known in the discussion is the pre-modern phase of the theology of religion, which is generally thought to be simply exclusivistic; it is also thought that exclusivism itself is easily grasped and described; finally, it is thought that exclusivism has nothing to offer but a continuation of that kind of religious intolerance and persecution it was often involved in. All three of these assumptions are false. Another task of theology is therefore to examine pre-modern Christian theologies of religion in order not only to reveal the variety of arguments and the conflicts between groups of theologians (say, the followers of Peter Lombard, critical of religions, and the more sympathetic followers of Hugo of St. Victor), but also to see where and why each individual theologian came into an internal conflict with his own presuppositions and goals (as Thomas regarding circumcision).
One such conflict is hinted at by Thomas, but dealt with more fully by other of his contemporaries. It is the widespread view that, as good as pre-biblical religions were, they needed to be superseded by biblical religion due to the growing danger of idolatry. It is left unclear how and why idolatry should have grown up, if the religious faith in the saviour, inspired by God himself, was at work in these religions, as is maintained. It is the widespread view that, as good as the cult of the first covenant was, it needed to be superseded by Christian religion due to the growing danger of venality and exclusiveness(!). It is left unclear how and why venality or pride or exclusiveness should have grown up, if the religious faith in the saviour, inspired and even expressly revealed by God himself, was at work in the older covenant. An examination of these themes, or of the Old Testament category of idolatry, suggests that it was not the so much the growing need which brought forth a new phase of religion, but the new hope given was a source of dissatisfaction with the previous attitude. The paschal feast of Israel was less self-understood than the nomadic paschal feast from which it sprang, celebrated with immediate reference to the care for the flocks involved: as a recollection of the believed exodus and above all as the expectation of future liberation into a Messianic era it involved a greater risk, a lesser evidence, a goal which made the goal of the old feast seem trite, even idolatrous. The Christian celebration of Easter or the Eucharist is based on a new hope, which makes the earlier concern for future generations seem more trite than it was. From "before and below", each hope can be inclusive, a symbol for all; from "after and above", this is no longer possible. The worship of local gods for primarily local reasons is idolatrous only when monotheism and Messianic hope have been believed; but the belief is directed to what is less evident, to what is all the more "aliquid repraesentativum Dominicae passionis". Exclusivism becomes necessary, only for those who are faced with an alternative, not for those who still exist with an undifferentiated, holistic hope. In Prophecy and Inspiration, Pierre Benoit used the Tertia pars and its arguments on instrumental causality to show the mediating role played by the self-understood historical context of each prophet. This model could be extended to show that religions vary not just according to their atemporal claims, but by the historical presuppositions of their adherents. Certain asymmetrical relations are to be expected, including why Christianity's self-understanding needs to grasp Judaism more than conversely, or why Judaism must see itself in the context of a struggle against idolatry. It becomes clear, too, that if a religion cannot even conceivably be wrong, or its hopes false, it cannot be especially right. Pluralism, but also an analogous understanding of sacrament which would make all religiosity self-confirming, is a denigration of religions, not their acknowledgement.
On the Theology of Religions
Richard Schenk OP
State: June 1999
Robert Kilwardby, Quaestiones in librum quartum Sententiarum (Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Veroeffentlichungen der Kommission fuer die Herausgabe ungedruckter Texte aus der mittelalterlichen Geisteswelt 17) Muenchen (Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften) 1993.
On today's problematic in the theology of religions:
Die Suche nach einer widerspruchsfaehigen Ambivalenz. Wahrheitsparadigmen als ein Unterscheidungsmerkmal von Religionstheologien christlicher Provenienz, in: P. Koslowski (Ed.), Die spekulative Philosophie der Weltreligionen. Ein Beitrag zum Gespraech der Weltreligionen, Vienna (Passagen) 1997, pg. 59 - 90.
Keine Ñunica vera religioì? Die Wahrheitsproblematik pluralistischer Religionstheologien, in: Th. Eggensperger u. a. (Ed.), Veritas. Festschrift der Dominikanerprovinz Teutonia, Mainz (Gruenewald) 1995, pg. 167 - 185.
Goetzendienst oder Gottesdienst? Gegenwart und Abwesenheit Gottes in den Religionen im Lichte des Ersten Gebots, in: R. Schenk u.a. (Ed.), Jahrbuch fuer Philosophie des Forschungsinstituts fuer Philosophie Hannover, Band 6, 1995, Wien (Passagen) 1994, pg. 169 - 181.
Heilige Sehnsucht. Das geweihte Leben in der Oekumene, KNA Oekumenische Information, Nr. 38 (15. September 1993) pg. 22 - 24, und Nr. 39 (22. September 1993) pg. 20 - 22.
Die Suche nach dem Bruder Abel. Zum Streit um das analoge Sakramentsverstaendnis, in: R. Schenk u.a. (Ed.), Jahrbuch fuer Philosophie des Forschungsinstituts fuer Philosophie Hannover, Band 5, 1994, Wien (Passagen) 1993, pg. 69 - 87.
Evangelisierung und Religionstoleranz: Thomas von Aquin und die Gewissenslehre des II. Vatikanums, in: Forum Katholische Theologie 8 (1992) pg. 1 - 17.
Auferstehung oder Reinkarnation? Zum Wesen der christlichen Hoffnung, in: F. Breid (Ed.), Die letzten Dinge (Steyr 1992) pg. 189 - 220.
ÑCarl Gustav Jungì (zusammen mit A. Moreno-Elosqui), in: R. Baeumer und L. Scheffczyk (Ed.), Marienlexikon III (St. Ottilien 1991) pg. 461 - 465.
In universum mundum. Das Zeugnis des Evangeliums im Zeitalter pluralistischer Religionstheorien, in: W. Schreer und G. Steins (Ed.), Auf neue Art Kirche sein. Wirklichkeiten ñ Herausforderungen ñ Wandlungen (Festschrift Josef Homeyer), Muenchen (Don Bosco) 1999, pg. 507 - 523.
Towards a history of the Christian theology of non-Christian religions
"Divina simulatio irae et dissimulatio pietatis". Divine Providence and Natural Religion in Robert Kilwardby's Quaestiones in librum IV Sententiarum, in: A. Zimmermann (Ed.), Mensch und Natur im Mittelalter (Miscellanea Mediaevalia 21,1) Berlin/New York 1991, pg. 431 - 455.
Covenant Initiation. Thomas Aquinas and Robert Kilwardby on the Sacrament of Circumcision, in: Carlos-Josaphat Pinto de Oliveira (Ed.), Ordo sapientiae et amoris. Hommage au Professeur J.-P. Torrell, Fribourg (...ditions Universitaires Fribourg Suisse) 1993, pg. 555 - 593.
Christ, Christianity, and Non-Christian Religions. Their Relationship in the Thought of Robert Kilwardby, in: K. Emery, Jr. und J. Wawrykow (Ed.), Christ among the Medieval Dominicans: Representations of Christ in the Texts and Images of the Order of Preachers, Notre Dame, Indiana (University of Notre Dame) 1988, pg. 344 ñ 363.
Opfer und Opferkritik aus der Sicht roemisch-katholischer Theologie, in: R. Schenk (Ed.), Zur Theorie des Opfers (Collegium Philosophicum 1) Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt (Frommann-Holzboog) 1995, pg. 193 - 250.
Robert Grosseteste und die Hypothese einer koeniglichen Konversionspolitik. Ueberlegungen zur Frage nach dem praktischen Kontext mittelalterlicher Religionstheorien, in: F. Niewoehner und F. Raedle (Ed.), Konversion im Mittelalter und in der Fruehneuzeit, Hildesheim (Olms) 1999, pg. 25 ñ 42.
Soundings in the History of a Hope
The Soteriology of Thomas Aquinas
in Transcendental Theological Reflection:
Notes on the Tertia pars of the Summa Theologiae
Richard Schenk OP
Lecture Five: The Death and Resurrection of Jesus as the Measure of our Experience and Faith
Please recall the context of the theodicy question, the question of justifying both the goodness of God and the dignity of his creation in the face of suffering. Recall that we argued, with and against both Leibniz and Kant, that without faith the theodicy question would tend towards the so-called "solution" of resignation, masked as (stoic) optimism or the "best-possible-world" thesis. This thesis makes humans just a minor part of the cosmos: "humans deserve no more than what they experience; that is their place in the good and varied cosmos"; so the thesis, minimizing the negativity of experience and so "solving" the theodicy question. Recall that we argued that such resignation is a premature "solution" and a loss of the niveau of problem based on mere prima facie plausibilties drawn from painful experience. However, there is something true and of lasting validity about this cosmological solution, something which Thomas will keep despite his rejection of Stoicism: namely the refusal to accept the functionalization of evil and its suggestion that suffering is allowed in order to cause new goods of mercy or justice for individual. Suffering is more the result of the condition of the possibility of the limited goods of a varied cosmos than the agent of their production. With regards to the individual, suffering is rarely more than the occasio of new goods, not even always that, most rarely its purposeful cause. Recall that Thomas holds that, while God would be free to make other ever better worlds (but no best world), this world of ours could not be freed from all suffering without becoming a different world. This world cannot be essentially different. But because of God's freedom to make better ordered worlds; and because this or that suffering could be prevented without destroying this world as such; further, because suffering reflects non-instrumental negativity; and finally because Thomas believes by faith that each person is called by grace to beatitude, whereby each person is an end and an ultima ratio unto itself, the question of theodicy remains open. But it remains open only for faith, not for the general tendency of philosophy, which will follow the prima facie plausibilties (Leibniz over Kant). Jewish-Christian belief preserves hope in a special destiny of humans, which means it also preserves the theodicy question from premature solutions (pace Kant). Faith is more than evidence; faith begins, where evidence ends.
Please recall finally that this basic thesis, "faith begins, where evidence ends", was also seen to be Thomas' point about the axiom, omnis Christi actio nostra est instructio. What the historical Jesus said and did, gives our faith content and encouragement, but is not sufficient for full understanding or for the act of faith confirming what is understood. For that, the Spirit is necessary. We experience our experience as insufficient for a decision about theological hope, as caught in the antinomy and the insolubility of the theodicy question. Precisely this awareness of self-deficiency is therefore the legitimate starting point for faith. Transcendental soteriology has the task of reflecting on this starting point. This will be shown today with reference to the treatment of the resurrection and the cross in the Tertia pars.
The Manifestation of Christ's Resurrection
The first parts of the tract on Jesus' deeds and sufferings follow that threefold division of Christ's earthly life into ingressus - progressus - egressus, which Thomas first presented in his commentary on Matthew, possibly completed around 1263(1), developing thoughts suggested by the patristic studies he pursued at the papal court in Orvieto2. As the resurrection belongs to the fourth section on the exaltation of Christ "post hanc vitam"3, it would seem from the start that no immediate consequences could be inferred for the meaning of his earthly life.
This impression seems at first glance to be confirmed by the content of Question 55: De manifestatione resurrectionis. Asking why the resurrection should not be manifest in a way evident to all humankind, Thomas replies that our future glory along with Christ's risen glory exceeds the power of common human knowledge4. It does not result from any natural power of human nature, as did Christ's mortality, which thus was and remains accessible to common historical reason; by contrast, the resurrection comes "from the glory of the Father" (Rom 6, 4)5. The quotes Thomas brings from Is 64, 4 and I Cor 2, 10 are especially significant: "No eye has seen what you have prepared for those who love you"; and: "God has revealed it to us through his Spirit"6. As to why not even the disciples were present to witness the event of the resurrection, Thomas points to the fact that the new life into which Christ rose was not the life commonly known to all, but a life conformed to God7. As such it transcends what general knowledge and experience could grasp not only as calling life from death (quantum ad terminum a quo), but as leading to a life of glory (quantum ad terminum ad quem)8. This distinguishes Christ's resurrection from Lazarus' revival9. Thus it was at least fitting that a proclamation by word should precede any apparitions, which could only be less adequate in grasping the mystery10. The disciples would become eye-witnesses11 of the apparitions only after they had come to believe the verbal proclamation they had at first only heard12. The risen Christ's remaining estranged from his disciples and the probably small number of apparitions were themselves meant as an instruction as to how very different the life of glory was from the earthly life familiar to common experience13. The disciples are called to faith, not to experience. The kind of experience or proof they had in regard to the apparitions was not of the sort which could eliminate their need for faith; the apparitions were only signs (signa) of the resurrection, not proof or evidence in the strong sense of the word as contrasting to faith, which remained even for them an "argumentum non apparentium" (Hebr 11,1)14; thus the merit of their faith remained, for they believed what they did not see, even if aided by visible signs15. No one apparition, no one sign, would have sufficed to engender faith, much less to replace it16. Even the culminative effect of all such signs taken together remained subordinated to the evocative power of the verbal proclamation; for they made manifest the resurrection "maxime propter Scripturae testimonium, et angelorum dicta, et ipsius Christi assertionem miraculis confirmatam"17. The Lord did not prove his resurrection to the disciples from naturally known principles of experience: "...si autem essent eis nota, non transcenderent rationem humanam, et ideo non essent efficacia ad fidem resurrectionis adstruendam, quae rationem humanam excedit; oportet enim principia ex eodem genere assumi"18. The new faith sought rather to build on the old: "Probavit autem eis resurrectionem suam per auctoritatem sacrae Scripturae, quae est fidei fundamentum"19. The Lord did not manifest his true glorified body in the apparitions, since he wished to convince the disciples that he was the same one who had lived with them and been crucified20. Whether they were quick or slow to recognize him in the apparitions depended on their faith; those with a less developed faith had apparitions which were less obviously of Jesus21.
The radical otherness of this resurrected life determines much of what Thomas says here about the primacy of the proclaimed message over visible manifestations and about the insufficiency of what is seen or heard to demonstrate that of which it is but a "sign"22. And yet these themes on the resurrected Christ do relate back to the earthly life of Jesus and forward to the proclamation of Christ to those who did not experience the apparitions. For Thomas faith is directed toward the promise of a fulfillment, which by nature is somehow desired but uncertain, and which thus cannot be deduced from self-knowledge or self-reflection. By faith we are directed toward a goal we know to be "supernatural" in its attainment, though at least partially natural in our desire23. The human has by nature reason to hope and to doubt; the decision about which of these two movements finally should carry the day is not a consequence of that nature itself. The proclamation of the gospel comes to a humanity unable to solve of itself the antinomy of hope and despair. Desired and doubted at once, this fulfillment of human life would be precisely our share in the life of glory of the risen Lord, which is, however, less evident now than even in the qualified apparitions reported by the disciples. The "signs" of the beginnings of this glory, whether in the experience of grace or of charity, one's own or that of other Christians, remain too vague, too ambiguous, too similar to the conceivable history of a freedom not destined for glory to provide a sufficient basis for belief without the inner help of the Holy Spirit24. All grace, especially as given in this life, presupposes nature and does not destroy it or the limitations proper to it25. These include the unavoidable antinomy of desire and doubt, moving us at once toward hope and despair. Theological faith and hope transcend this basic antinomy of experience without destroying it, without replacing this common human uncertainty based on the experience of nature and history with new evidence of their own26. It is understandable why Thomas thought so highly of the description of faith in Hebr 11, 1 ("completissima fidei definitio"), the verse, which according to Thomas opened the second half of the Letter to the Hebrews27: "Est autem fides sperandarum substantia rerum, argumentum non apparentium"28.
Thomas' treatise on the risen Lord casts new light on the general relation of faith and insufficient evidence, articulated beforehand in the context of the theological virtues. This is all the more significant, as recently there has been a tendency for prominent representatives of Protestant and Catholic soteriologies to drift ever farther apart, where they might have provided a corrective for each other in the three interrelated questions of theological method, the centrality of either Christ's death or his resurrection, and the theology of death in general, articulated respectively as primarily loss or gain29. Following Luther's demand for a theologia crucis30, leading Protestant thinkers have tended to put their emphasis on the conflict between faith and reason (or evidence), on the meaning of the cross viewed in its negativity, and in an understanding of death as judgement and negation. Rudolf Bultmann is representative of this, seeing historical science as dialectically opposed to faith31, while at the same time reducing the resurrection in its unfathomability to a call to embrace the cross in all its negativity, criticizing (with his so-called "Sachkritik") even St. Paul for attempting to conceive of resurrection as a fact and a conceivable, future possibility of his Christian listeners32; rather, the proclamation of the resurrection precisely as inconceivable is meant to lead us back to the experience of the cross, in which alone faith is possible33. These three interrelated emphases, a methodology cautious of too ambitious a theology, an orientation on the cross rather than on the resurrection, and a negative view of Christian death, are evident in varied ways in such different theologians as K. Barth34, E. Juengel35, J. Moltmann36 and D. Soelle37.
Many prominent Catholic theologians have tended to the opposite extreme. Rightly enough, they have seen the resurrection as the true center of faith and soteriology, insofar as this stress on the resurrection has not been anticipated by an incarnational approach of human quasi-divinization. At the same time, they have tended to over-emphasize the contribution of experience to faith (a kind of theologia gloriae) and to minimize the negativity of factical death. As we have seen, Karl Rahner is a paradigm of these tendencies, viewing soteriology on the model of a kind of initial glorification and cosmic incarnation, the apriori elevation of humanity by God's coming to be himself in others. The negativity of human death is minimalized, understood at first as the gain of an all-cosmic relationship or later as a resurrection-in-death, a "liberation from the prison of time", the maturation and fulfillment of life, the act of freedom. Just as knowledge generally is rooted in that self-transcendence which ultimately is a share in glory close to the hypostastic union itself (literally a "Self-communication of God"), so, too, are faith and theology explications of general experience and philosophy38. In different ways, this threefold emphasis on the experiential evidence of faith, the elevating glory of Christ's resurrection or incarnation, and the factical advantages of death recurs in the theologies of L. Boff39 and G. Greshake40.
The study of Thomas could help to recall an older tradition of new, ecumenical importance, recognizing the resurrection as the center of our faith41, a desire known to us and central to us, but without minimalizing the negativity of death or falling into the extremes of relating faith and experience by contradiction or identity. That becomes clearer with Thomas' understanding of the cross.
The Sign of the Cross
In the context of the present problematic, the question must be: Is the cross according to Thomas a revelation, perhaps the effective revelation of God's/Christ's redemptive love, or is the cross only a signum sub contrario, the ultimate "dark night of the soul", where God's redemptive purpose is least manifest? Can it be both? An answer is made all the more difficult by two factors: first of all, the Christological section dealing with the passion and cross42 presupposes a number of insights, some articulated in previous or following sections, some never articulated; the principal presupposition is (and was already in sacred Scripture) the redemptive character of the cross, as viewed in light of belief in Christ's resurrection. Secondly, Thomas tends to discuss the passion and death of Jesus within categories related closely to the concept of redemption, not revelation, just as Pelagius conversely had minimized the discussion of redemption in order to highlight Christ's revelation43. Some of Thomas' positions on the revelatory value of the cross are explicit; others can only be assumed by an analogy to his statements on effective redemption.
In recent times, an attempt has been made by E. Schillebeeckx to discern three phases in New Testament reflection on the death of Jesus44: at first, a stark contrast between the cross and resurrection, the work of sinners and of the Father respectively, such as at I Cor 15, 3s. and Acts 2, 23s.; then, the cross as foreseen and permitted or tolerated as part of God's salvific plan, but not yet as a direct cause of the fulfillment of this plan, nor as directly desired by God, such as occasionally in Luke's concept of Jesus' "way" (Lc 22, 22 with regard to his betrayal) or in Matthew's interpretation of the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews as a prerequisite for its proclamation to the Gentiles (culminating at Mt 28, 19); finally, the cross as somehow contributing to the attainment of salvation and as such somehow desired by Jesus and/or the Father, such as in concrete interpretations of the Cross as service, obedience, propitiatory sacrifice, or reconciliation, but also in the more general and widely attested expression of his death as "for us" (the so-called hyper-formulae), where the transition from the second to the third phase occurs, probably with the earthly Jesus himself.
The distinction of these three phases within the New Testament has a certain plausibility of itself, but it should be articulated by considerations, which here can only be hinted at in five theses:
The development is necessary and genuine, so much so that these phases cannot have been separate for long. The reflection would progress quickly: Since God would not have been surprised by the rejection of Jesus, and since his providence is not a struggle with the world on the latter's terms, the negativity of the cross (phase 1) must have been foreseen and accepted (phase 2); but given the goodness, mercy and omnipotence of God he would not have accepted such an horrific death of his Son, were it not somehow productive of a good (phase 3).
Each phase is the prerequisite of the following, i.e. it is not really a "phase" at all, but a "moment", which remains valid and present in further reflection. Only where the negativity of Jesus' death (and every human death) is perceived, only where the indirect nature of Jesus' and his Father's acceptance of the cross is not forgotten, can a model of the salvific efficiency of the cross be considered seriously. Interpretations of the cross such as (freely chosen servile) service, sacrifice, representation in punishment or difficult merit, redemption, or satisfaction all preserve this note of the cross' negativity. Too direct a causality with too little attention to this negativity would corrupt an interpretation, e.g. a gnostic or neo-gnostic view of death as positive in itself, freeing the soul from the bonds of matter, the spirit's self-transcendence from the prison of temporality.
There is a connection between the necessity of this development and the progression of the general theodicy problematic. Within the setting of desire and doubt mentioned above, that apriori "antinomy" of movement towards both hope and despair, the question arises, why God allows humans to suffer if he intends to perfect them in happiness. The question of Luke's gospel, why the Messiah had to suffer so as to enter his glory in this way (e.g. 24, 26), is the pattern of all gospel writing, all later soteriological reflection and general theodicy. Martin Kaehler's famous definition of the gospel form as a passion narrative with an extensive introduction45 needs a twofold explication: the passion narratives seem never to have existed in a literary form lacking a narrative (nor certainly the faith) of the resurrection; and the introduction is nothing less than a search in Jesus' words and deeds for an answer to the question, why the Lord, destined for glory, had to die this death. This remains the leading soteriological question and corresponds to the general question of theodicy: why glory and suffering?
The gospel question never receives an answer which would make further theological inquiry superfluous. One sign of the still outstanding completion of the "perfect answer" is the variety of good but partial answers, those interpretations of Jesus' death mentioned above. Not only is faith in the (non-evident) resurrection or glory necessary to even enter into the question, but the question so begun never receives an answer in this life which leads to a self-evidence of faith's own logic. A sign of this is the need in later theology for the variety of answers suggested by the New Testament: Merit by representation and solidarity46, satisfaction47, sacrifice48, redemption49. Soteriology remains, precisely where faith in salvation is alive, a searching soteriology.
The character of soteriology as not yet evident even within the logic of faith is connected with the inconclusive search for an answer to the general question of theodicy. A final answer to the question of why the Messias suffered as a prerequisite of his glory would provide a final answer to the question of why humans suffer seriously if destined for happiness. It is not a fluke of fate nor lack of historical progress that no such finality has been attained, but a preservation of the apriori horizon of human thought mentioned above. Perfective grace does not destroy nature, not even the limits and horizons of its quests. Revelation of the via veritatis does not bring an evidence which would abruptly end the status viatoris.
After recounting the leading New Testament models for expressing the salvific dimension of the cross (merit by representation, satisfaction, sacrifice, redemption), Thomas mentions a further category, which is more formal in character than the others and implicit in all of them: efficientia50. Here Thomas presents the doctrine of the humanity of Christ as the instrumentally perfective (no longer simply the instrumentally dispositive) effective cause of salvation51. On the one hand, this doctrine claims for Christ's humanity aggreater share in the full causality of salvation than was clear in Thomas' early works: Omnes actiones et passiones Christi instrumentaliter operantur in virtute divinitatis ad salutem humanam. Et secundum hoc passio Christi efficienter causat salutem humanam52. On the other hand, the important role of the principal, divine causality (only "in virtute divinitatis") must not be forgotten, especially when extending by analogy the explicit doctrine on the effective cause of salvation to a thesis about the effective cause of revelation: Passio Christi, relata ad Christi carnem, congruit infirmitati assumptae; relata vero ad divinitatem, consequitur ex ea infinitam virtutem..., quia scilicet ipsa infirmitas Christi inquantum est Dei habet virtutem excedentem omnem virtutem humanam53. Thomas indicates here that this doctrine will be central to the tract on the causality of the sacraments, but he mentions too that it is significant for faith itself: "Passio Christi, licet sit corporalis, habet tamen spiritualem virtutem ex divinitate unita. Et ideo per spiritualem contactum efficaciam sortitur:sscilicet per fidem et fidei sacramenta, secundum illud Apostoli: Quem proposuit propitiatorem per fidem in sanguine eius"54. If it is possible to consider the actions and sufferings of Jesus, especially his death on the cross, as instrumentally perfective, efficient causes of revelation, it would seem likely that the necessity of the principal, divine cause, whose effectiveness is not experienced, would correspond to the necessity of a distinct inner grace in order to believe the spiritual meaning intended by what is seen. As instrumentally perfective, the sayings and words of Jesus have more than an accidental contribution; they are more than chance occasions of revelation. Not principally perfective, they do, however, demand a belief in the non-evident presence of God working salvifically in the human life and fate of Jesus.
The passages where Thomas explicitly mentions the instruction intended by the passion confirm the plausibility of such an analogy. In STh III 46, 3 Thomas says that, apart from the main aim of the cross, our liberation from sin, a number of further goods pertaining to human salvation was gained. Most of these have to do with our instruction: in seeing how much he loves us, we are moved to love him in turn; we are taught by the cross an example of the virtues, especially those for right conduct under duress55; we see in humankind a new and greater dignity and a corresponding motive to avoid or overcome sin. Many of these themes were already touched upon in the first Question of the Tertia pars. It is clear, however, that this instruction depends on understanding the cross in light of the belief in the divinity of the one who accepted this death and in the resurrection to which it leads. Without the belief in what cannot be seen, this understanding of the passion narrative would be impossible.
Such belief affects even what is "seen": That Christ suffered with a pain more intense than other conceivable pains is deduced from belief in his perfect humanity and thus his perfect body with its perfect tactile perception; the ideal of human perfection is notable56. That he did not suffer every kind of pain is deduced from the belief that he suffered with perfect charity, which is decisive for the satisfaction, which we believe came with this death: non satisfactio efficax...nisi ex caritate57; but for Thomas neither charity nor satisfaction nor that this death was truly "for us" is accessible to our certain experience. The imperfections of body and of soul which Christ assumed in principle at birth and perfected actually on the cross help us to "see" his true humanity, but we would never even have looked for it, did we not believe in his true divinity58. The negativity of Jesus' death, which we visualize mostly on the basis of the passion narratives, underscores for Thomas the remaining negativity of death even for Christians; this instruction, aimed at correcting the Stoic ideal of acceptance and impassibility, is meant to be communicated by reports of Jesus' laudable sorrow, fear, puzzlement and anger in the face of death59; and yet such reports take on their full significance only as a corrective to dubious conclusions about the alleged harmlessness of Christian death deduced from a valid belief in the resurrection. This, too, is the context of Thomas' greater stress on the insightful "natural" will of Christ to avoid death, which helps Thomas to "hear" better the Gospel narrative of Gethsemani60. Thomas "sees" the importance of this dimension of the humanity of Christ in light of his unusually detailed knowledge of the patristic and conciliar controversies on the humanity of Christ, which had become virulent only after the divinity of Christ was believed clearly. Thomas acknowledges the true and visible negativity of the cross, even (or rather especially) for believers; but their belief that this cross was carried by a divine person and with divine purpose means that it can be understood in faith as a revelation of love, solidarity, and promise.
With his typically theocentric view of the cause of Christ's resurrection, Thomas underscores the fact that Christ's humanity could not of its own power have restored itself to life: "Si autem consideremus corpus et animam Christi mortui secundum virtutem naturae creatae, sic non potuerunt sibi invicem reuniri, sed oportuit Christum resuscitari a Deo"; only secundum unitae divinitatis virtutem was the humanity instrumentally causative in overcoming death61. Indeed, even to continue to talk of his humanity or his body after death depends on the believed relation of these to his divinity; for were the divinity not united to the body of Christ in the tomb, it would not have been the true body of Christ at all, but only his corpse62. This dimension in the doctrine of instrumental causality means that only the unseen divinity of the Crucified justifies the belief in the salvific effect of the cross: Mors Christi est operata salutem nostram ex virtute divinitatis unitae et non ex sola ratione mortis63. This is true not only of the dead Jesus, whose being dead, as a sharing in human fate, was salvifically effective but not meritorious, but even of the dying Jesus, where the merit by love and freedom can be supposed: even here the salvation comes from the humanity only as joined to the divinity64. On the other hand, to have saved humanity in another way than by this sharing of humanity and mortality, would have been an all too exclusive theocentricity. Thomas agrees with Augustine that God did not wish to redeem humankind without human cooperation. This dimension to the cross, salvific by means of the humanity but non nisi ex virtute divinitatis, reflects a dimension of the whole earthly ministry. The theocentricity corresponds on the epistemological level to the non-manifest character of the claim posed by Jesus' deeds and doctrine. The realization of what Jesus' claim meant, not apriori accessible to humankind, was only possible by power of these words and deeds, thus corresponding on the level of revelation to perfective instrumental causality: Christus per humanitatem suam voluit manifestare divinitatem. Et ideo, conversando cum oominibus, quod est proprium hominis, manifestavit omnibus suam divinitatem, praedicando et miracula faciendo et innocenter et iuste inter homines conversando65. But in order to cause an acceptance of the non-evident truth of this claim, the deeds and doctrine of Jesus had to be accompanied by divine power, that illumination by the Holy Spirit, of which Thomas spoke in the Commentary on John: "non nisi ex divina virtute."
Greshake praises Pelagius for stressing the continuity of the new and old law, both carried by the self-experience of the power and positive possibilities of human freedom. Thomas does indeed reject from the time of his inception onwards the opposite hope of the Joachimites, that a time of the Spirit would come in this life, which would dispense us from the imperfections of the law of Christ, including the mediation of his doctrine and sacraments by the church and by a non-evident faith66. Thomas admits these imperfections of the new law and sees in them a parallel or continuity with the imperfections of the old law: Hic status (legis novae) est figuralis et imperfectus respectu status patriae, quo veniente iste status evacuatur67. If there is a continuity of experience between the old and new law, it is that under both an experience of sin and powerlessness deepens insight into the need for redemption: Unde eo modo erat homo liberandus, ut humiliatus recognosceret se liberatore indigere68. If no new share in the Spirit were given by Christ, the continuity of old and new law would have been as absolute as Pelagius maintained; and, Thomas adds, as much an experience of our mere mortality and powerlessness: Ad legem Evangelii duo pertinent. Unum quidem principaliter: scilicet ipsa gratia Spiritus sancti interius data. Et quantum ad hoc nova lex iustificat... Aliud pertinet ad legem Evangelii secundario: scilicet documenta fidei et praecepta ordinantia affectum humanum et humanos actus. Et quantum ad hoc lex nova non iustificat... Unde etiam littera Evangelii occideret, nisi adesset interius gratia fidei sanans69.
1 Cf. Michael Arges: "New Evidence concerning the date of Thomas Aquinas' Lectura on Matthew", in: MedSt 49 (1987) 517-523.
2 Cf. Scheffczyk, "Mysteria vitae Christi", op. cit. 54-58.
3 STh III, 27, in principio.
4 STh III 55, 1, co.
5 Ibid. ad 1.
6 Ibid. co.
7 STh III 55, 2 co.
8 Ibid. ad 2.
9 Ibid. ad 3.
10 Ibid. co.
11 Thomas uses the term fide oculata here for eye-witness. The expression is found only three times in Thomas' writings, all from around the end of his life, and has led to some uncertainty on the part of his translators. In the Gilby-edition of 1971, Samuel Parsons and Albert Pinheiro translated fide oculata inspexit as Dionysius' "having witnessed with eyes of faith" a solar eclipse (STh III 44, 2 ad 2 in Vol. 53, 130s.), while Heinrich M. Christmann (Deutsche Thomas-Ausgabe, Bd. 28, 233) interpreted in 1956 the above passage on the disciples' eye-witness of the apparitions to mean: "Denn mit einem Glauben, der Augen hat, sahen sie...", which seemed to fit well enough to Thomas' insistence on the primacy of faith before apparitions (mit einem Glauben, der Augen gewonnen hat). In fact, however, a careful consideration of the context makes clear that at both passages from the Summa no play on words is intended; rather, Thomas follows the general meaning of the term as it had developed in the middle ages, above all in visitation regulations and reports, confirming rumors by "eye-witness". Once, however, Thomas does play on the words of the expression, namely in his very last writing, the only one we know to exist from after the experience of St. Nicolaus' Day 1273: his letter to Bernard, abbot of Monte Cassino. Here he tells the monks that rational reflection on the nature of God's immutability would help them to a more enlightened belief in the certain foreknowledge of his providence: "quasi fide oculata", i.e. with a faith which has come to see (by reason): Ed. Leonina, T. XLII (1979) 414, l. 85.
12 Ibid. Ad 1.
13 STh III 55, 3.
14 STh III, 55, 5.
15 Ibid. ad 2 et 3.
16 STh III 55, 6 ad 1: Singula argumentorum non sufficerent ad manifestandam Christi resurrectionem.
18 STh III 55, 5 co.
20 STh III 55, 6 ad 4.
21 STh III 55, 4.
22 Thomas often contrasts signs and proofs. The human desire for eternal life and beatitude is for Thomas a "sign" of immortality, without which this desire would seem to be vain; and yet such a sign falls short of being a conclusive proof; cf. L.A. Kennedy: "A New Disputed Question of St. Thomas Aquinas on the Immortality of the Soul", in: AHDL 45 (1978) 205-223, co. et ad 4.
23 Apart from the familiar texts on the reasonableness of believing more than reason alone (e.g. SCG I 5-8; IV 1) cf. the texts on the naturalness and unnaturalness of death and the natural and supernatural quality of the resurrection (e.g. SCG IV 52; 79; 81).
24 Cf. STh I-II 112, 5 et par.; and: Leo Scheffczyk: "Die Frage nach der 'Erfahrung' als theologischem Verifikationsprinzip", in: W. Ernst et al. (Ed.): Dienst der Vermittlung (EThSt 37) Leipzig 1977, 353-373; id. "Struktur und Ereignis als theologische Kategorien", in: N.A. Luyten (Ed.): Wege zum Wirklichkeitsverstaendnis (Grenzfragen 11) Freiburg 1981, 187-220; id. "Glaube und Glaubenserfahrung. Zur kategorialen Unterscheidung", in: MThZ 34 (1983) 129-145.
25 On Thomas' unique reception of the axiom, grace presupposes nature, cf. Schenk: Die Gnade vollendeter Endlichkeit, 288-442.
26 For Thomas doctrine that faith achieves less rest in an act of intellectus than even investigative science cf. QD de Ver 14, 1 et 2; et In Hebr 11, 1.
27 It is likely that Thomas commented on these two halves of Hebr at different times, leading occasionally to a separate textual tradition of the longer part; cf. James A. Weisheipl: Friar Thomas D'Aquino. His Life, thought, and work (Garden City, N.Y. 1974) 373.
28 Cf. also QD de Ver 14, 2 and STh II-II 4, 1.
29 A similar correspondence between the formal light of a science (its formale quo) and its formal object (formale quod) is evident in other sciences as well. In soteriology, it is the light of a theologia crucis or theologia gloriae which corresponds to the consideration of Jesus' death and resurrection in their relations to our suffering and salvation.
30 Luther's general methodological principle, "Crux sola est nostra theologia" (WA 5, 176), which he articulated from 1518 onwards, implies the direction of his soteriology as well. He goes beyond Anselm in seeing Christ's death not only as representative but also as penal. With reference to Gal 3, 13, Luther maintains that Christ became in death our curse and even our sin (WA 40/1, 433). Only in this, not in his merit, is his death transparent to ours. This confirms in turn both the meaning of our death and the method of the theologia crucis meant here.
31 Bultmann sees the "verbum crucis" of I Cor 1, 18 as a confirmation, "...that all human willing and striving, all human standards and values mean nothing before God, that they have been handed over into nothing, into death" (Exegetica, ed. by E. Dinkler, Tuebingen 1967, 225). This corresponds in turn to Bultmann's understanding of theological methodology and of our own death.
32 R. Bultmann: "Karl Barth, 'Die Auferstehung der Toten'", first in: Theologische Blaetter 5 (1926) 1-14, now in: Glauben und Verstehen I 38-64.
33 Ibid. 42, 53, 56, 58ss.
35 Gott als Geheimnis der Welt. Zur Begruendung der Theologie des Gekreuzigten im Streit zwischen Theismus und Atheismus (Tuebingen 21977), where the Crucified appears as the only legitimate analogy for God. The consequences for an understanding of our own death ("Angst" in the face of death and hatred of death, seen as the loss of relatedness, as obligations of the faith) are drawn out more expressly in: Tod (Themen der Theologie 8) Stuttgart/Berlin 1971; id. "Der Tod als Geheimnis des Lebens", in: Entsprechungen (Muenchen 1980).
36 Der gekreuzigte Gott. Das Kreuz Christi als Grund und Kritik christlicher Theologie (Muenchen 41981). Moltmann maintains that the cross ended the validity of general theology (e.g. the impassivity of God) and began properly Christian theology, which remains a response to the death cry of Christ. This cry, greater than the greatest theological response, is both origin and critique of theology, including the theology of the Trinity, to which Moltmann gave such anthropomorphic dimensions, as to have drawn the critique of Soelle and others.
37 Soelle aims at what might be termed (with some reservation) a "practical theology", seeking primarily to incite her readers to a solidarity with the sufferings of others, with the ongoing cross of Christ. While her appropriation of Th. Muentzer's critique of Luther occasionally leads her toward a mystical, almost positive understanding of suffering, her basic tendency remains the identification with the fight against death and suffering in general and against injustice in particular. It is in this context that the sentence must be understood: " 'Resurrection' - that only happens on the cross": Atheistisch an Gott glauben, Muenchen 21986, 99; cf.id. Leiden (Stuttgart 1973); id. Stellvertretung. Ein Kapitel Theologie nach dem "Tode Gottes" (Stuttgart 1965). W. Pannenberg's work, Grundzuege der Christologie (Guetersloh 51976), must be viewed as the exception which confirms the rule: its stress on the resurrection of Jesus as the basis for his unity with God (47-112) and as accessible to historical reason was guided by Pannenberg's primary theological aim of overcoming the pietistic tradition in Protestantism by accentuating the rationality of Christian faith. The Protestant heritage is more evident in Pannenberg's caution against viewing the death of Jesus (ibid. 251-290) or our death too positively: "Tod und Auferstehung in der Sicht christlicher Dogmatik", in: KuD 20 (1974) 167-180 (cf. the criticism of Rahner's theology of death, 175ss.).
38 Cf. Karl Rahner: Grundkurs des Glaubens (Freiburg 1976), esp. 35-96, 122-312, 414-429. For the development of Rahner's theology of death cf. the third lecture and Schenk, Die Gnade vollendeter Endlichkeit, 458-477.
39 In his work on Jesus Christ, the Liberator (German translation Freiburg 21987), Boff abandons his initial caution against a too positive interpretation of the cross (225s.) and begins to seek positive meaning in death. Jesus' anxiety in the face of death was only in regard to possible doubt among his followers (276, 281), since he knew that the resurrection was the true sense of this death (293), in which God and the meaning of human life were fully present (340ss.). The third part of the book, on the "Resurrection of Christ - Our Resurrection in Death", begins by appropriating a hymn to death as a motto for his own thoughts, where the speaker waits "for death as for her lover" (the refrain). Boff accepts both of those two positive theories of death, which Rahner still saw as alternative to each other: first, death as the gain of an all-cosmic relationship ("death perfects the human"; it is "the genesis of genuine and perfect willing" and of "unlimited freedom"; it is "the moment of a deep intuitive insight into the center of the universe and the total presence of the world", the "completion of human birth": 421-424); but also secondly, the theory of resurrection in death (426ss.). In his work on the Experience of Grace (German version: Duesseldorf 1978), Boff sees death as "the truly universal sacrament of grace par excellence", "total liberation from all ties to what is earthly", "the chance, that Spirit can come to Light", "the realization of freedom and the human project" (179s.), while repeatedly criticizing Platonism as too dualistic for Christian tastes. Given the difficulty of justifying the fight against injustice and death from this vantage point, it would be hard to object to Karl Lehmann's judgement of Boff's work: "Because the systematic dimension of the work is so very incomplete and betrays a certain haste, the separate parts of the work are all too obviously just pieced together. Alongside severe social accusations, one finds thoroughly old-fashioned schoolbook theology in very non-political language" (in: Gegenwart des Geistes. Aspekte der Pneumatologie, QD 85, ed. Walter Kasper, 192).
40 Cf. the previous lecture.
41 E.g. STh III 53, 1 ad 3: Passio Christi operata est nostram salutem, proprie loquendo, quantum ad remotionem malorum; resurrectio autem quantum ad inchoationem et exemplar bonorum.
42 STh III 46-52.
43 Greshake unterscheidet between redemptive grace ("Erloesungsgnade") and salvific grace ("Heilsgnade"): Gnade als konkrete Freiheit, 101-115.
44 E. Schillebeeckx: Jesus. Die Geschichte von einem Lebenden (Freiburg 1975) II 2, 1 (242ss.).
45 Der sogenannte historische Jesus und der geschichtliche, biblische Christus (Muenchen 21956) 60.
46 STh III 48, 1.
47 Ibid. Art. 2.
48 Ibid. Art. 3.
49 Ibid. Art. 4 et 5.
50 STh III 48, 6. This "presence" of efficacy in the other categories is clear from the context, even though Thomas (ibid. ad 3) attempts a one-dimensional division of the categories for convenience sake.
51 For the development in Thomas' thinking, the influence of Greek patristic (esp. Cyril of Alexandria) and conciliar documents (notably the sixth ecumenical council of Constantinople in 680/1), and for the doctrine of (perfective) instrumental causality from the mid-1260's on, cf. Theophil Tschipke: Die Menschheit Christi als Heilsorgan der Gottheit unter besonderer Beruecksichtigung der Lehre des hl. Thomas von Aquin (Freiburg 1940).
52 Ibid. co.
53 Ibid. ad 1.
54 Ibid. ad 2, citing Rom 3, 25.
55 Cf. also STh III 46, 4.
56 STh III 46, 6.
57 STh III 14, 1 ad 1; cf. Art. 4.
58 STh III 14 et 15.
59 STh III 15, 6-9; 46, 6.
60 STh III 18, 3 et 5.
61 STh III 53, 4 co.
62 STh III 52, 3.
63 STh III 50, 6 ad 1.
64 Ibid. co. et ad 2.
65 STh III 40, 1 ad 1.
66 Cf. Weisheipl: vriar Thomas, 84-110. Both Contra impugnantes, with its derivation of a preaching order from the ancient structure of the church and not from any new age of the Spirit or unique charism, and the possible "resumptio" of his inception, based on the words of Baruch 4, 1 ("Hic est liber mandatorum Dei et lex quae est in aeternum") can be seen as counter-arguments to the kind of thinking exemplified in the Introductorius in Evangelium aeternum by Gerard de Borgo San Donnino. In any event, the case against Joachimism is one which Thomas will continue to argue throughout his life; cf. the literature (less so the explanations) in: Winfried H. J. Schachten: Ordo salutis. Das Gesetz als Weise der Heilsvermittlung. Zur Kritik des hl. Thomas von Aquin an Joachimvvon Fiore (BGPhThMA, NF 20) Muenster 1980.
67 STh III 106, 4.
68 STh III 1, 5 co.
69 STh I-II 106, 2 co.; cf. ad 1 et 3.
Soundings in the History of a Hope
The Soteriology of Thomas Aquinas
in Transcendental Theological Reflection:
Notes on the Tertia pars of the Summa Theologiae
Richard Schenk OP
Experience and Faith: The Axiom "Omnis Christi actio nostra est instructio"[more]
Soundings in the History of a Hope
The Soteriology of Thomas Aquinas
in Transcendental Theological Reflection
Notes on the Tertia pars of the Summa Theologiae
Richard Schenk OP
Lecture Three Eschatology: "Last Things" or "First Things"?
The Death of Christ as Criterion for Differences between Transcendental Soteriologies
Karl Rahner's Theology of Death
Of the three "material objects" of soteriology, Christology, sacraments, and eschatology, the treatment of the first two in Rahner's thought has been briefly addressed. The basic theses on Christology have been mentioned; sacramentality will be dealt with thematically in the fifth lecture. Let us therefore turn to Rahner's theology of death.
In the course of his thought, Rahner changed his position on the precise meaning of death, but he maintained the general tendency or, as he put it, the "positive sense" of the earlier view throughout. He began with a suggestion that humans are constituted not only by soul and body, but by person and nature, corresponding to freedom or act on the one hand and passivity and suffering on the other. The definition of death as separation of body and soul seems to say too little and too much: too little, in that the soul as nature also "suffers" death, too much, because the soul never is without some relationship to matter. Rahner suggests that the soul in death gains more than it loses: it gains a relationship to the whole cosmos. By including the passivity in an affirmation of its own freedom and act, death can be personalized, made into a deeper opening of the self and self-perfection. As taken over into an act of personal freedom, death becomes birth and ripening, the removal of all that is not person. This possibility of personalized dying, as the gift of a self-perfecting conquest of passivity by freedom, is what the whole of earthly life is about. Encouraged by the earliest spirituality of the Society of Jesus, Rahner sees the death of Christ and, closely related, the death of the martyrs as examples of what death means generally.
Later Rahner would see that the theory of gaining an all-cosmic relationship did not solve one of the problems he had identified. The soul, as the form of the body, could truly not be without some relationship to matter; but, since the soul did not become the form of the cosmos, this new relationship did not fully solve the problem posed; the post-mortal soul is not related to the cosmos as its form. Rahner gradually took up the position that had come to be known as "resurrection in death", which owed its beginnings to several suggestions Rahner himself had made earlier, notably, as we will see in the final lecture, in his Mariology. Although the terminology of a nature/person duality becomes less frequent, the basic tension between passivity and freedom becomes more extensive. So, too, does the positive description of death as self-perfection, the birth of eternity from time, liberation from the prison of time, final validity, the exemplary and highest act of freedom. Within the dialectical unity of salvation from God and self-salvation, death is the zenith of divinely empowered self-transcendence. Death-in-resurrection says more than that the negativity of death becomes merely hypothetical with the end of earthly life. The reason why death corresponds of itself to resurrection lies in the self-perfective character of death itself, which gives birth to the final validity of one's own history. Rahner interprets the death of Jesus in this way as well, reinforcing the general structure of self-perfective death: "The death of Jesus is such, that it ends and completes itself (sich aufhebt) into the resurrection, into which it dies."1 Even in the early work, the resurrection of Christ is nothing more than "the epiphany of what has happened in his death"2.
This position has been criticized by theologians stressing against Rahner's theologia gloriae a theologia crucis, where the negativity of the cross would be given more weight to accentuate the darkness of faith vis-a-vis experience. Not surprisingly, this includes both Protestant theologians and Catholic theologians interested in ecumenical discussion. Criticism has also come from political theologians, including Rahner's co-worker and close friend, J.-B. Metz, who sees in this ability to overcome the negativity of death both an excessive expectation for individual freedom and the danger of a spiritualizing indifference over and against the forces of death and what is like death. It clearly does not correspond to the context, in which a soteriology after Auschwitz would want consider death. The face of death today (though not only today) does not look like the visage of self-perfecting freedom. And yet not only the context, but also the text of the Tertia pars and the texts which prepared its uncompleted eschatological section will give a view of death, including the death of Christ, which is quite different from Rahner's.
Mourning the Negativity of Death and Resisting Injustice: The Conditions of Hope in Thomas Aquinas
A. The Death of Christ
Thomas' thoughts on human mortality and death, especially in their philosophical presuppositions, are often commented upon. That is not surprising, since his position in this particular question raised eyebrows in his own day, and since it was interconnected with other notable positions which Thomas held on human knowledge (finite transcendence) and freedom (conditioned intellectualism). Unfortunately, the theological dimension, especially the question of Christ's death, is often overlooked. Thomas distinguishes between Jesus' facing death and the fate of Christ during the three days in the tomb.
With regard to the first, Thomas gives extended attention to the mourning of Jesus over the past or future death of his friends and disciples, but also his own death. Both in the Tertia pars and in his commentary on John (cf. in a concordance the places where the word tar·sso, turbatio occurs), Thomas stresses not only the fact of Jesus' mourning, but gives five kinds of reasons for it: ontological (death is destructive of full human being), moral (mourning is due in justice to the friend), Christological (to prove his true humanity), soteriological (to convince us of his solidarity with us) and exemplary (so that we would not be misled by the teaching of the Stoics, who claim that the wise do not mourn). Thomas speaks of tristitia aliqua laudabilis, a certain praiseworthy sadness, precisely when proceeding from reason. Thomas takes pains to show the rationality not only of Christ's "voluntas ut ratio" (a willingness to accept death "by reason of" further considerations, "for certain reasons" such as solidarity), but also Christ's "voluntas ut natura", the primal abhorrence of death: indeed, this second will is not only the necessary, but also the reasonable basis of the first. Thomas also defends Christ's aversion to death with an extreme example, comparing it to the aversion a family feels to having one of its members, convicted of theft, condemned to death by a judge. We are meant to will not what God or the whole universe wills, but what God wills that we will: again, an anti-Stoic position; and, in this case, avview Thomas shared with many contemporaries. Whereas Rahner objects against the Anselmian idea of satisfaction that, for Anselm, who did not recognize the self-perfective character of death in itself, any deed of Christ might have been the basis for satisfaction, given that God must choose to accept it anyway, Thomas stresses that "Christ's death caused our salvation not by the very essence of death, but only due to the divinity associated with it." The humanity cooperated more by its love than by the death itself or the death-pains in themselves: non satisfactio... nisi ex caritate. Thus Christ suffered only those pains and accepted in the incarnation only those defects which were com-patible with his being able to continue to love. The models by which Thomas tries to express what Christ's enduring death contributed to our salvation all presuppose this negativity of death: satisfaction, sacrifice, redemption as buying back at a price, even efficacy (as by divine virtue) underline this. We will come to these models in the next lecture, but for now let it be said: Christ's solidarity with us in death is not salvific because it is a mutual experience of self-perfection and self-transcendence. This was clear already from the first question of the Tertia pars on, especially in article 2: the incarnation and the cross, perceived in their negativity as the exinanitio of one who did not need to be born or to die, are motives of hope and counter-love, the source of a new sense of human dignity not based on presumption. As in the case of causality, so, too, here in the line of our perception: the bearing of this negativity is only liberating, when the bearer is more than human; without this, his solidarity is of little importance: "The death of Christ effects our salvation by virtue of his united divinity, and not by the mere meaning of death"3.
Thomas also speaks of Christ in death. The triduum mortis and the decent into hell were meant to show the reality of this death. Death itself moved Christ not into resurrection, but into the realm of the dead. The overcoming of death did not occur by reason of any principles of his humanity, but ex virtute divintatis.4 Because of this, Christ's being dead could only be co-productive of salvation by the divinity still associated with it, but not by human merit. Being dead, even for the humanity of Christ, was of no merit.5 The focus of hope is thus Christ's overcoming of death by a resurrection opposed to it. The hope, to which Christ gives cause, is a hope against death, the hope for a resurrection which is not the fullness of death, but its contradiction.
B. The Anthropological Meaning of Death in Thomas' Thought
Before we can draw out the general soteriological significance of this basic difference between Rahner and our text, especially in light of the context we have defined, we must ask about the general anthropological meaning of Thomas' text.
Thomas' theology of death was called into question in his own day with reference to Christ's triduum mortis. If Thomas' general anthropology of body-soul-unity was correct, it would seem generally that the corpse no longer belonged to the dead person. Indeed, Thomas held, with the sententia communis of his contemporaries (but in marked contrast to Rahner's view of death as perfected personalization), that the anima separata is not the full person at all (and, even as imperfect subjectivity, is less spontaneously active than on earth). It seemed to Thomas' contemporaries that his view on the loss of the corpse's identity was meant to apply to Christ's body in the sepulcher as well; and it certainly applied to relics, whose significance for medieval piety, architecture, and political symbolism had been intense, if not excessive. The condemnations of 1277 raised this point. As Thomas' yet unknown Tertia pars would point out, Christ's divinity made him an exception to the rule. Only by the presence of his divinity to both soul and body was he spared this dissolution of personal identity in death. This exception by reason of the divinity, apart from showing the necessity of Christological for soteriological faith, highlights all the more the destructive side of death for humans in and of themselves. We must therefore turn to the anthropological dimension of Thomas' reading of death.
1. Death and Life
In the view of Thomas' contemporaries, the controversial implications of his thought as a whole lay in his anthropology. The questions about the range of reason, the basis of praxis, and the future of hope always came together in the question about human being itself. Kant would later say that philosophy itself is summed up in the questions, What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? These three questions, taken together, make up the basic question of life: What is the human? That a final answer to this question is not possible by evidence or introspection is the meaning of the antinomies, but also the meaning of that call to a hope in one who is "the Truth, the Way, and the Life". It was in his anthropology that Thomas' earliest positions on the necessary and necessarily spontaneous genesis of knowledge were given an ontical basis, which in turn was challenged and tested in the question of death. In contrast both to those who made choice the prerogative of a free will unbound by knowledge and to those who bound choice to the immediacy of understanding, Thomas grounded human freedom in the very imperfection of knowledge. The controversies surrounding these issues during Thomas' lifetime continued after his death. Thomas' contention that the human soul was intellective as the substantial form of the body, or conversely, that the substantial form of the body was truly intellective, brought him opponents on both sides: those who denied the corporeal bonds of soul, intellect, and will, as well as others who denied that corporeally existing life could ever become the proper subject of truth and intellective identity. Thomas' position meant that the human identity of personal individuation was only given with bodiliness, a dimension transcending the limits of self-consciousness, but a bodiliness which self-consciousness needs as its own to become or remain fully itself. The anima separata remains the identical, incomplete principle of the former whole only by its abiding (subsistent) relation to its own lost matter, i. e. by its abiding, unfulfilled need and desire. In an historicizing interpretation not entirely free of "violence", Thomas identified the two groups of his contemporary opponents respectively as "Platonists" and "Averroists" (the latter a polemical term he seems to have coined himself). By compartmentalizing spirit and body, both groups of opponents could claim simpler identities for human being than Thomas, who despite the attempt to appear harmonious thematized the ambiguity and tension of human existence more explicitly than his critics.
The "Platonists" were largely theologians, who would themselves be transformed unwittingly by their opposition to Thomas and the "Averroists". As F. Van Steenberghen described it, "Neo-Augustinianism" (which, like every "Neo-", was a novelty over and against its patron) had its inspirer in Bonaventure, its founder in John Pecham, and its first systematician in William de la Mare.6 Although these were all Franciscans, the movement was not simply a matter of one religious order against the other. Pecham would renew and sharpen the prohibition of his predecessor as archbishop of Canterbury, the Dominican Robert Kilwardby, who in 1277, with the support of the professors of philosophy and theology at Oxford, forbade teachers or students to decisively affirm the central Thomistic positions. In an open letter to one of Thomas' defenders at the papal curia, Kilwardby drew on local Dominican help to expand his criticism of Thomas' teaching on the question of the unicity of the substantial form.7 The Dominican reaction against Kilwardby and his local Dominican supporters, nicknamed the "Cantuarienses" by Gilles of Lessines, succeeded in England only after the intervention of a Dominican general chapter, and it was here that a clear idea of what "Thomism" could mean emerged for the first time.8 Without his opponents, Thomas might have been forgotten. His defenders wrote not only against Kilwardby and Pecham, but especially against William de la Mare, who in the meantime had published the first long systematic treatise against Thomas. His "Correctorium fratris Thomae" referred back to the condemnations of 1277, especially the one in Paris pronounced on the 7th of March of that year by the local bishop after consultation and support from the faculty of theology. While Thomistic theses were only several among the many positions criticized and the doctrine of forms remained in the background of this particular document, there followed a few weeks later a condemnation by the same forces of one of Thomas students, Aegidius Romanus. Of the 51 theses condemned, some 30 represented Thomistic positions, including the thesis that composites have but one substantial form.9 An intended posthumous censure of Thomas' own thought at Paris was prevented at the last minute by sympathetic forces in the papal curia, who had gained a freer hand with the death of John XXI. The Paris controversies on the question of the unicity of forms had already persuaded theologians such as Henry of Gent to join the "Platonic" side of the anti-Thomistic camp.10
The "Averroistic" thinkers, including philosophers and theologians less unified in one single school than the Neo-Augustinians, were also critical of the Thomistic position. The sensible, corporeal form of human beings seem to preclude them as subjects of truth, which needed to be less subject to the realm of temporality, imagination, merely vital interests, and individuality; all of which was true of human beings, who were thus separated from absolute truth. Any contact with the truth could be little more than a transitory approximation; at best, an ecstatic transcendence beyond individual personality to the realm of intelligence and unity. Philosophy provides some access to the small realm of self-evidence available to us, while criticizing all that is transitory, historical and irreducible to self-evidence as the realm of individual fantasy, falling short of the truth. Were the Neo-Augustinians proponents of individual identity, here was the self-dissatisfied critique of human claims to truth, a disillusioned insistence on the illusory character of most human reflection, the multiplication of diverse fantasies, which do not, however, deserve fully the name of knowledge. The best available approximation to perfection is in the reflection on that separate transcendent identity of truth behind and beyond the diversity of human rationality and historicity.
The eschatological implications of Thomas' position on the unicity of form were controversial. In his remarkable study of the Paris condemnation of 1277, R. Hissette sees the criticism of Thomas most clearly in the thesis that death is the most extreme evil to befall a human being.11 Although all thinkers of the time were agreed that the soul separated from matter should not be called a human person in the full sense, Thomas' position on the unicity of form forbade him to follow any easy "Platonic" reading of death as the liberation of the soul from matter or at least as the immunity of human subjectivity to the loss of body.12 As the body has always been demanded by the otherwise "empty", "vague" and "vacuous" subjectivity of human spirit, so its loss is an incomparable impoverishment, leaving subjectivity with few social or cognitive resources of its own.13 Its deficiency calls out for a resurrection of body and full personhood, but it cannot provide itself with what it desires; it must look to another for its restitution and, short of that, for solace. Resurrection is desired by human nature, but human nature cannot fulfill this desire; and without such fulfillment, human nature would remain unfulfilled. "Resurrection is natural if one considers its purpose, for it is natural that the soul be united to the body. But the principle of resurrection is not natural. It is caused by the divine power alone".14 The dialectic of the natural/supernatural character of resurrection is the reverse side of the unnatural/natural character of death: although there is reason to perceive in human nature a dignity which makes death seem especially unfitting, final preservation or salvation from death is not within the power of human nature; death can therefore be seen as a punishment which does not deprive humans of anything they have by nature, but which simply leaves them to their own resources.15 Fulfillment is only conceivable as "salvation", restoring the lost whole of which the separated soul is but an incomplete part. What is stated here in ontological terms corresponds in transcendental terms to the practical antinomy, the antinomy of the heart, the insolubility of the inner debate between vague hope and well-founded doubt. The final outcome of human destinies cannot be determined by introspection; their ultimate end depends on something more like history than like nature.16
Prior to any conceivable reconstitution of the person through resurrection, any conceivably "beatific" vision would have to retain a moment of the harsher reality of the "beatitudes". St. Peter is prayed to under this name because of historical memory and future hope, not because of the current ontological status of that subjectivity17, whose remaining individuality stems from the relation to its own unique, lost matter. The separated soul is less an image of God than incarnated spirit. That is why Christ's attitude to his own and others' death was meant to teach us the legitimacy, indeed the obligation of mourning.18 This call to mourning, which addresses the loss suffered in death, would be rendered impossible not only by the "Platonic" independence of subjectivity from bodiliness, but also by that other simple reading of death: the "Averroist" position of the total death of the individual. By its very survival, the deprived and incomplete remainder of a lost whole cries out against death and makes possible a hope for salvation based on mourning.19 Death remains a state of privation, and thus the opposite tendency to sanction death as simply the normal and expected or even as the normative and perfectible state of affairs must be resisted. This resistance must apply, as well, to whatever is like death: the privation of possibilities of human life, including their corporeal dimensions, through culpability or nature itself: resurrectio - causa exemplaris iustificationis.
Whatever "post-metaphysical" thought might be able to make of the details of the Thomistic thesis of the separated soul, the basic direction of this thesis illustrates a necessary attitude towards death and what is all too like death, the suffered or even forced loss of human possibilities of life, sociability, and the personally unique integrity of body-soul. Without hope, mourning (and accusation) will shrivel; without mourning, hope will become superficial. Both are related to the dignity of vulnerability. The insurmountable practical antinomy of undecided hope and doubt, which remains the transcendental basis for the possibility of any decisive act of theological faith in or con-fident, theological hope for grace, also provides the "discretion" necessary for love: breaking open the banal present into a remembrance of the history of neediness and into the concern about the uncertain future of fulfillment. Without self-identity, however, the "discretion" of hope and mourning is impossible, while, conversely, self-identity never comes to itself without an openness to that which is different from itself. This "distentio animi" or self-stretching of the human spirit is only possible as a unified extending of itself toward an Other.
2. Mortality and Epistemology
While admitting that the "Platonic" and "Averroistic" positions on death are simpler views20, Thomas insists on preserving the tension of his view not only for the interpretation of death and resurrection, but for the understanding of life: in order to preserve the complexity and ambivalence of human existence itself.21
This insistence on complexity dominates Thomas' epistemology in particular and demonstrates the ties he sees between his theories of mortality and cognition22; a simplification of the one would demand the simplification of the other. Thomas refuses on the one hand the simpler models of receptivity by divine illumination or passive abstraction from the sensible, nor does he see on the other hand the principle of spontaneity as more important than the knowledge it produces. His steady conviction from the time of his studies in Naples before joining the friars seems to be that knowledge "begins" in the senses (without "ending" there), to which it must again return, especially to know the object most congenial to it: the sensible singular. Knowledge is not simply "received" in a finished form from the start or in the course of history (innate or divinely infused ideas), nor does it receive its knowledge passively from sensation. Because sensation is too similar to the objects it mirrors, it is not itself a place of truth and falsity. Only where the mind produces in distance to the image something foreign to what is received, is there the possibility of truth.23 Truth is produced only when the intellect is more active than passive.24 What is true is not known to the human as it is in God's truth (the thing in itself), but as it is projected by us, known in the mode of the human knower.25 "The nature of truth is first found in the intellect when the intellect begins to possess something proper to itself, not possessed by the thing outside the soul, yet responding to it, so that between the two - intellect and thing - a conformity may be found".26 Truth involves the intellect relating itself to the thing, not the reverse. Such correspondence or ad-equation presupposes an initial freedom from correspondence, identity, or adequation which is lacking in sensation; the achievement of distance is the prerequisite of veritative approximation. This distance is given when the knower turns toward itself as other than its object; only then can the object appear as other than the self. Despite the claims of many transcendental Thomists, who in contrast to Thomas apply the full weight of a famous phrase of the Liber de causis not to angels but to humans, human knowers know themselves (by contrast with an ideal projected from self-experience) as imperfect knowers, whose imperfection is shown by their not "returning completely to themselves" or "to their essence" ("reditione completa in seipsum/ad essentiam suam"); the human knows itself only in its acts of relation and not in its essence.27 Perfect self-identification is impossible for the human subject, but openness to others demands this minimum of imperfect self-identity. Similarly inadequate for Thomas (criticized repeated for his view by William de la Mare) is the sought after knowledge of the singular, which can be known only through the universals applied to it in the return to its image. Singulars are approached by universals of distance seeking a nearness they can never perfectly achieve; despite sensation, the singular is mediated by the vague and clumsy universal. The human can know of an insurmountable finitude implied in the re-interpretation of Boethius' axiom, whatever is received, is received in the mode of the knower; unlike the argument in the Consolation of Philosophy, Thomas applies the principle less to God's creative, elevating knowledge of the world but to the restrictive knowledge humans have of God; and even as a generalization "transcending" the limitations of singulars, human "reception" (even and precisely as a product of spontaneity) provides but a crude tool for coming to know the singular adequately. Self-identity and the recognition of difference remain goals which are sought together and, in each case, with only partial success. The greater or lesser realization of identity and difference corresponds to the their greater or lesser tension to each other. The experience of this finitude of self is the source for understanding act and potency in general. The self's experience of its own active powers (and the limits or impotence revealed in their sometimes frustrated desire to act) is the basis for the self's experience of its own passive powers (and the limits or impotence revealed in their sometimes unrealized desires or fears of being acted upon). These two kinds of self-experience taken together provide the basis for knowing the act and potency, agency and passivity in beings other than the self.28 The finitude slowly discovered in the self and the world reveal that the model perfections our intellect had posited in knowing, notably in the transcendental perfections of being, unity etc., were implicitly limited, even before the limits of these grasped modes of perfection became explicit to us. As with time the limits of its potencies becomes clear in principle, the self must begin to ask a question it cannot answer: how the fullness of such now explicitly limited perfections can be conceived. It must seek a fullness which appears as a mystery beyond itself; and yet, the thought of this unknown but sought after "other", precisely as the fullness of what the intellect knows itself and world must be, reveals a previously unrecognized mysteriousness about ourselves and our world as well. Analogy means not only that the mode of the transcendentals as they are God is unknown to us, but also that ultimate meaning of ourselves and our world is unknown to us. This structure of analogy is again a "discrete" dynamic of self-identity and difference; without the tense unity of their discretion, both selfhood and otherness would be reduced.
A disputed question from an anonymous Thomist of the early 14th century, perhaps in the circle of Hervaeus Natalis, looks back on the controversies in which Thomas' epistemology had been involved.29 The "Platonist" opponents tended to deny the necessity of human spontaneity and an intellectus agens, because knowledge consists in receptivity over and against God and the world; whatever human spontaneity could possibly produce could not satisfy this ideal of knowledge. An opposite set of critics accepted the need for an intellectus agens, but were impressed by its god-like nobility and unitive spontaneity more than by that which it produced; the former alone deserves the name of truth and alone could be the locus of beatitude and fulfillment. Thomas subordinates the intellectus agens to the finite truths it projects; the fulfilled possible intellect perfected by such self-relation to the other is more important than the projective activity in itself. Fulfillment or beatitude could not be realized in the intellectus agens. For Thomas, cognitive spontaneity is both the condition of all humanly possible knowledge and a sign of its finitude. The perfected imperfection of human knowledge involves a relatedness towards others by the finite relation to self, the openness to difference through a non-self-sufficient identity.30
3. Mortality and Freedom
A similar structure is evident in the theories of basic freedom and of conscience. The condemnations in Paris in 1270 and 1277 seemed to have included Thomas in the criticism of an intellectualist foundation of freedom. Whereas the theological majority sought a freedom of will independent of the way in which things were viewed by various classes or elites of finite subjects, the criticized minority let will follow closely the appearance of the good. In basing liberty in a vague and merely habitual horizon of the good31, Thomas avoided the deterministic consequences feared by the majority. The incapability of satisfying the desire for the good is at the root of the very motivation to choose reflectively among goods constituting partial aspects of human perfection. Beatitude is present and active by its very allusiveness. God can be sought because he is not yet experienced as the good of all goods. The relativization of attainable goods implies a distance from and an attentiveness towards them; every good desired is a reflection of the fulfillment of one's own identity, but its possession should bring a kind of dis-illusionment and new sense of distance and desire.32 As individualized in a common species, humans have by nature a communality of obligations to one another, but the details of these obligations are not immediately evident. Because the conscience must follow the appearance of the obligatory good, a false appearance of what binds or excuses will lead to tragedy or guilt; erring conscience places freedom in a conditionally perplex situation. The self-identity of conscience is the necessary but not the sufficient condition of its being-towards-others33; conscience is neither heteronomously determined nor purely self-referential. The self of conscience is more temporal and historical than its factical, presently actualized self-understanding would indicate. The call of conscience towards instigation, remorse and thus gradual self-accusation reveals (in both their perverse and their valid forms) an ecstatic temporality beyond the immediate business of present obligations and excuses; these quieter functions of conscience, though less often a topic of moral theory, reveal a self less present, the self in its past and future. This intrinsic relationship to what is other, the ecstatic temporality of conscience, makes possible a moral development from within and preserves the human from the ignominy of perpetrating the worst of crimes with the best of consciences.
4. Antinomian Self-Experience and Openness to an Other
These three questions of philosophy, What may I hope for? What can I know? What must I do? were answered by Thomas in a way which wove a good deal of metaphysics into anthropology. What exactly can be appropriated today from the pre-modern reflection on the basic question, What is human being? is a more difficult question to resolve than a frequent apriori division of world history into pre- and postmetaphysical compartments would suggest. Perhaps the question would be better posed aposteriori, i. e. after re-reading the texts in light of contemporary problems. What is angeology and what an ideal revealing the finitude of human thought and freedom; what is the real state of the post-mortal soul (or the soul as such) and what the necessary conditions for preserving the perception of injustice in mourning or accusation; what minimum of system is necessary to preserve the possibility of critique; what possibilities of public truth are necessary to make even the ìprivacies' of selfhood sensible: these are questions touching upon pre-modern thoughts to which few could claim to know the exact answers in advance. It remains to be seen what, intersecting a metaphysics of being in the indicative mood and a metaphysics of possibility in the subjunctive mood, an "optative metaphysics", a "metaphysics of desire" might look like: directed above all by the uncertain antinomian desire that the hope for human dignity, including the capacity for significant truth, not be in vain.34 Until the analyses are finished, it is conceivcble that a request for temporary "dispensation" from the prohibition of systematic dialogue with metaphysical sources could be submitted to those authorities who consider themselves responsible for pragmatically, performatively defining the ideals of the ideal community of philosophical communication. Some "discreet" role35 for metaphysical research might be tolerated as part of the attempt to show the obligatory nature and the urgency of distributive or dispensatory justice (iustitia dispensativa).
Thomas' answers to some of the problems raised by the three-fold anthropological question involve another kind of "dis-pensation": a thinking (pensatio) in discretion (dis- as dual, double, two-fold). Identity and difference are so far from being contradictions, that only their interrelatedness can do justice to both. This "discretion" avoids the self-referential autism of identity-philosophies. In recognition of one's own need for but uncertainty about the other, it opens us to a history which is more than the consequence of our factical nature; it leads beyond introspection and the experiences which have become a second nature. Thomas had learned from Dionysius a related sense in which "unitive" and "discrete" reason complement each other.36 Here, as well as in principle, identity and difference remain related to one another as contraries, and their ideal unity is one of intrinsically opposed tension, a kind of "distentio animi", as Augustine called temporality. Metaphysics begins with the "separation" from provisional but illusive view of the self as self-sufficient.37 The finitude now made evident in myself and in what is essentially bound up with myself needs a foundation it cannot provide itself; but the degree to which this foundation will be offered remains unclear. The needy certainty of such uncertainty (the antinomy) in all that can be experienced demands that the self stretch in itself beyond itself to ask about what is other than itself. The outcome of a transcendental reflection on Thomistic texts is a metaphysics of need, which is not the harmony of a final answer, but the fruitful tension of an abiding question. That this tension between self and other is not easily maintained became clear already in medieval times with various options for compartmentalizing the non-identical; but that the tension raised by unresolved need is something which is still felt in today's context seems no less evident. It can be the beginning of a wisdom of a larger order, the basis of our hope for a continued capacity to hope, to mourn, and to work for justice and the fullness of life.
1 GG 262.
2 SzTh IV 165 f.; cf. contra, Pannenberg.
3 Sth III 50, 6 ad 1.
4 "Si autem consideremus corpus et animam Christi mortui secundum virtutem naturae creatae, sic non potuerunt sibi invicem reuniri, sed oportuit Christum resuscitari a Deo" (Sth III 53, 4 co.).
5 Cf. Sth III 50, 6: "Hoc autem modo mors Christi non potest esse causa salutis nostrae per modum meriti, sed solum per modum efficientiae, inquantum scilicet nec per mortem divinitassseparata est a carne Christi; et ideo quidquid contigit circa carnem Christi, etiam anima separata, fuit nobis salutiferam virtute divinitatis unitae."
6 La philosophie au treiziËme siËcle (Philosophes mÈdiÈvaux 9) Louvain et al. 1966).
7 "Epistola ad Petrum de Confleto", in: Fr. Ehrle: Gesammelte Aufsaetze zur englischen Scholastik, ed. Fr. Pelster (Storia e Letteratura 50) Rome 1970, 18-54.
8 F. J. Roensch, Early Thomistic School (Dubuque 1964).
9 Aegidius Romanus, Apologia (Opera omnia III.1) ed. R. Wielockx (Florence 1985) 59, Nr. 48.
10 Cf. Th. Schneider, Die Einheit des Menschen (BGPhThMA, NF 8) Muenster 1973.
11 R. Hissette: Enqu'te sur les 219 Articles condamnÈs ‡ Paris le 7 Mars 1277 (Lˆwen/Paris 1977) 304-307.
12 Cf. SCG IV 79; Comp. Theol. I 151; Sth I 29, 1 ad 5; 75, 4 ad 2.
13 Thomas describes the soul deprived of its factical bodiliness as "in quadam universalitate et confusione": QD De anima XX co; cf. Sth I 89, 4; and Bernard of Trilia, Quaestiones de cognitione animae separatae a corpore (ed. Stuart Martin) Toronto 1965, II (68).
14 SCG IV 81 ad 6.
15 SCG IV 52.
16 Cf. L. Scheffczyk: "'Unsterblichkeit' bei Thomas von Aquin auf dem Hintergrund der neueren Diskussion" (Sitzungsberichte der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-historische Klasse) Munich 1989.
17 Sth II-II 83, 11 obi. 5 et ad 5.
18 In Jo 11, 33 (Marietti, nr. 1535); 12, 27 (Marietti, nr. 1653); 13, 21 (Marietti, nr. 1798); 14, 1 (Marietti, nr. 1850); and Sth III 15, 6-9; 18, 3, 6; 46, 6; 50, 4-5 et 6 ad 1 ("Mors Christi est operata salutem nostram ex virtute divinitatis unitae, et non ex sola ratione mortis) as well as 53, 4 ("Si autem consideremus corpus et animam Christi mortui secundum virtutem naturae creatae, sic non potuerunt sibi invicem reuniri, sed oportuit Christum resuscitari a Deo").
19 Cf. Schenk, Die Gnade vollendeter Endlichkeit, esp. Chapter 4, 443-516; id., "Tod und Theodizee. Ansaetze zu einer Theologie der Trauer bei Thomas von Aquin", in: Forum Katholische Theologie 10 (1994) 161-176; also F.J. Illhardt: Trauer. Eine moraltheologische und anthropologische Untersuchung (Duesseldorf 1982); H.J. Siebert: Freude und Trauer bei Thomas von Aquin. Ihr Wesen und ihre Einordnung in eine philosophische Ethik (Diss.), Bonn 1973.
20 Cf. Q.D. De anima XV co.; and Leonard A. Kennedy: "A New Disputed Question of St. Thomas Aquinas on the Immortality of the Soul", in: AHDL 45 (1978) 205 - 223.
21 Cf. A. C. Pegis: "Soul and body are intelligible realities only within the context of the unity of the human composite. This composite controls not only the relations of soul and body but also the relations of immortality and death. Given the unity of man, we cannot simply identify immortality with the separation of the soul from the body, nor can we think of death as an event that takes place in physical nature. The result is certainly a mystery, not to say several mysteries. But it is, in St. Thomas's teaching at least, no more and no less a mystery than man himself" ("Between Immortality and Death: Some Further Reflections on the 'Summa Contra Gentiles'", in: The Monist 58, 1974, 1-15, here 15); id., St. Thomas and the Problem of the Soul in the Thirteenth Century, Toronto 21976; id., "The Separated Soul and its Nature in St. Thomas", in: A.A. Maurer u. a. (ed.): St. Thomas Aquinas 1274 - 1974. Commemorative Studies (Toronto 1974) I 131-158; id., "St. Thomas and the Meaning of Human Existence", in: A. Parel (ed.): Calgary Aquinas Studies (Toronto 1978) 49-64. A similar view is expressed by N.A. Luyten, "Todesverstaendnis und Menschenverstaendnis.zZum Todesverstaendnis von K. Rahner und L. Boros", in: id. (ed.), Tod - Ende oder Vollendung? (Grenzfragen 10) Freiburg u. a. 1980, 193. Cf. also M.F. Rousseau, who, however, suspects a conflict here between the negative philosophy of death and the greater optimism of Thomas' theology: "The Natural Meaning of Death in the Summa theologiae", in G.F. McLean (ed.): Immateriality (PACPA 52) Washington D.C. 1978, 87-95; id., "Elements of a Thomistic Philosophy of Death", in: The Thomist 43 (1979) 581-602.
22 _ Cf. Q.D. De anima II co.: "Cum enim anima humana sit quaedam forma unita corpori, ita tamen quod non sit a corpore totaliter comprehensa quasi ei immersa sicut aliae formae materiales, sed excedat capacitatem totius materiae corporalis, quantum ad hoc in quo excedit materiam corporalem inest ei esse in potentia ad intelligibilia, quod pertinet ad intellectum possibilem."
23 _ De ver 1, 9-12.
24 _ De ver 1, 10 co.
25 _ De ver 1, 8 et 10.
26 _ De ver 1, 3 co.
27 _ De ver 1, 9.
28 _ Cf. Thomas' remarkablerreinterpretation of Aristotle's text: In Metap. IX, lc. I (Marietti Nr. 1770, 1772, 1779), as well as the following three lectiones (nr. 1789, 180, 1819); cf. Schenk, Die Gnade vollendeter Endlichkeit, op. cit., 338 sq., n. 147.
29 _ M. Grabmann, "Mittelalterliche Deutung und Umbildung der aristotelischen Lehre vom Nous poietikos" (SBAW. PH 1936, 4) Munich 1934, now in: id. Gesammelte Akademie Abhandlungen I (Paderborn et al., 1979) 1021-1122.
30 _ R. Schenk, Die Gnade vollendeter Endlichkeit,oop. cit., chapter 5, 517-568.
31 _ Cf. note 4 above.
32 _ R. Schenk, Die Gnade vollendeter Endlichkeit, op. cit., chapter 6, 582-602.
33 R. Schenk, "Perplexus supposito quodam. Notizen zu einem vergessenen Schluesselbegriff thomanischer Gewissenslehre", in: RTAM 57 (1990) 62-95.
34 Cf. R. Schenk, "Praktische Unwahrheit und Metaphysik", in: id. et al. (ed.), Jahrbuch des Forschungsinstituts fuer Philosophie Hannover 1992/1993 (Hildesheim 1993) 11-44.
35 Discretion here in the pragmatic sense as the "mother, guardian and 'moderator' of virtues" (In III Sent. 33, 2, 5 co.), including the reconsideration of metaphysical discourse.
36 For an example of the contrast between "unitio" and "discretio" ("diakrisis") cf. Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in librum beati Dionysii De divinis nominibus II 2 sq. (Marietti nr. 128-170 on Dionysius, ßß 4-6, nr. 38-53).
37 Cf. "separatio" as the basic metaphysical judgement in Thomas Aquinas, Expositio super librum Boethii De trinitate V 3 co. ed. Decker, Leiden 1965, 179-190; and the introduction by A. Maurer to St. Thomas Aquinas, Division and Method of the Sciences (Toronto 1963) vii-xl. Again, the sort of separation suggested in the reflections proposed above is of what lies between real and possible difference: the hoped-for difference of what might be the foundation for a dimension of unconditional dignity in the human.
Soundings in the History of a Hope
The Soteriology of Thomas Aquinas
in Transcendental Theological Reflection
Notes on the Tertia pars of the Summa Theologiae
Richard Schenk OP
Karl Rahner and Thomas Aquinas
Transcendentality as Uncertain Hope: Between Rahner and Kant, or: Searching for a transcendental point of departure for soteriology, which is not indifferent to the historical experience of negativity nor closed to the non-experiential or even contrafactical dimension of faith and hope.
The following lectures will all, in one way or another, explicate the thought of Thomas over and against the thought of Karl Rahner. This very fact demands some explanation, so as to avoid the unfounded suspicions of a simply pro-Rahnerian hermeneutic or a simply anti-Rahnerian polemic; I intend neither. I would like to define the situation of theology at the moment as "post-Rahnerian". I must ask for your patience, since this is the third "post-something" I have mentioned: there was talk of postmodernism, and earlier even the barbarism, "post-postconciliar". It is a sign of our times that we are more agreed about what we don't want from the past than about what we do want for the future. Postmodernism wants to flee out of the constraints, the violence, and the hypocrisy of modernism, but it isn't sure what it can put in its place which would be much different. Post-postconciliar theology is ready to go its own way, but it isn't at all clear or unanimous about the direction the new path could or should take. And in both these cases, the critique of what went just before is more convincing than the new synthetic suggestions of what should follow it; in many points, its new constructs are far less convincing than what it criticizes. This means that there is truth and falsity on both sides; we cannot be for just one side and against the other.
This is the case with our post-Rahnerian era of theology as well. Karl Rahner, who, as you know, died 10 years ago, was arguably the most prominent and proto-typical Roman-Catholic theologian of the post-conciliar period. Contemporary theologians now tend to define their positions as being different from Rahner's. Rahner remains a point of departure, and so we are not just "after Rahner", but "post-Rahner", that is to say, still with constant reference to his thought. "Political theology" wants to give more weight to culpable negativity than did Rahner. The theology of religions, even if it does not want to become pluralistic in a way which relativizes Christianity and Christ himself (though some do also argue explicitly for that kind of self-relativizing), tends to admit that Rahner's theory of "anonymous Christianity" did not adequately appreciate the otherness of other religions or world-views. In contrast to twenty years ago, no theologian today could find a consensus by simply repeating Rahner's theses of anonymous Christianity. "Ecumenical theology" shies away from Rahner's claim that self-redemption and redemption through the Other are one. And yet, as convincing as certain points of critique might be, there are reasons to feel almost nostalgic about Rahner's theology, because in retrospect we can see how profoundly rooted in classic traditions of faith Rahner's theology and spirituality were. At the center of his thought was the second person of the Trinity, incarnated as a human, and decisive for the future of all humankind. That is not so clearly the case with many of his critics' own counter-proposals, despite the legitimacy of several of their criticisms.
"Quid faciendum?" What I would like to suggest as an alternative, is that we continue to explore the possibilities opened up by Karl Rahner's general idea of a transcendental soteriology, but that we take the criticisms against Rahner seriously enough to suggest an alternative form of transcendental method, which might seem closer to Kant than to his idealistic critics. My thesis is that this emendated transcendental method will allow us to come closer both to the text of St. Thomas and to the contemporary context of a greater attentiveness to negativity.
Rahner's transcendental method can be understood as a single process in three movements: a philosophical phase, directed against Kant and Heidegger for apologetic reasons which no longer seem necessary; a theological movement, attempting to disclose common and heroic experiences as implicit moments of grace, especially uncreated grace closely connected to the hypostatic union; and finally another theological movement, but more per viam negationis, which tends to reabsorb dogma and cult back into everyday experiences. Each of these movements was stressed more at one time of Rahner's life than the others, but all are meant to complement each other in a kind of continuing dialectic.
B. The Philosophical Phase of Rahner's Thought
Immanuel Kant knew the terms transcendent and transcendental from the Protestant reception of scholasticism, where they could mean concepts common to all knowable objects (as the "transcendentalia" being, the one, the good, etc.) or as the intellectual movement opposed to sensible experience. Kant coined the term transcendental philosophy, which as "transcendental analytic" stressed the spontaneous role of knowledge in knowing sensible objects, while the "transcendental dialectic" claimed that spontaneity, lacking receptivity or sensibility with regard to final truths, could not get beyond posing certain necessary questions. Here transcendentality, legitimately posing unanswerable but necessary questions, was the opposite of transcendence, as a proud attempt to answer more than it could. In one way Kant marked the beginning of the end of the Enlightenment, proving by reason that reason had limits. Yet in another way Kant was typical of the Enlightenment: he felt he could insist on the unanswerabilty of these "antinomies" of theoretical reason (regarding God, the soul, and an infinitely extended or infinitely divisible world), without endangering the moral or political confidence of practical reason. Kant thought that the "antinomies" of practical reason resolved themselves and thus strictly speaking were not antinomies for practical reason itself. The conviction that moral action makes sense implies a practical affirmation of God, freedom, and the likelihood of final happiness. What Kant did not foresee, Fichte and Hegel did: that if left to stand, these antinomies of non-absolute reason would undermine the conviction that moral obligation did make sense. Their attempts to root limited reason in absolute reason failed to prove convincing for long. Heidegger can be seen as drawing the consequence out of Kant's position: once self-doubt about the obligation and meaningfulness of moral action has arisen, as it did with the First World War, the practical antinomies cannot be ignored. Doubt about God, freedom and final beatitude becomes self-doubt about the supposed dignity of the human person and the supposed obligation of "moral" standards.
Rahner's philosophical answer to this situation was an attempt to revive Fichte's and Hegel's style of argument. While valuing the transcendental analytic and the role of spontaneity in finite transcendence, Rahner tried to show that finite transcendence always implies transcendence to the infinite (Spirit in the World). While valuing historicality, Rahner tried to show that every limited desire was made possible by an affirmation of the absolute good, God (Hearer of the Word). The first editions of these works name the opponents meant: Kant and Heidegger, offering a "transcending/transcendental" interpretation of Thomas Aquinas in reply. Unfortunately, Rahner, while appealing to Thomas, contradicted typically Thomistic positions such as: God is not "per se notum", the proper object of philosophy is "esse commune", that we discover God from the world and not the reverse, that the sense of being is produced in the intellectus possibilis rather than being productive as intellectus agens, etc.
Although we might be getting ahead of ourselves, I would like to note that the alternative to Rahner and Kant sought here will be that the antinomies are insoluble not as regarding God himself, but as regarding the God of grace. All will depend on being able to believe what is not evident: that God is a God of grace, that only therefore are we called to beatitude, that the "suspicion" of unconditioned dignity of the human person is founded not in evidence, but in hope also for the dignity of one's own person and the meaningfulness of one's own liberty, which is corrupted along with the practical denigration of the other. Experience teaches that faith and hope in these matters need not be true (against Rahner), but that their being false would change matters decisively (against Kant).
Please recall what we have seen so far of Karl Rahner's philosophical foundation of his transcendental theological method. Rahner was looking for a way to overcome the theoretical antinomies, those theoretical questions about God, the soul, and the world which Kant thought were neither capable of a solution nor urgently in need of one. The spontaneity or creativity of human knowledge, called transcendentality, was immanent, not transcendent. Humans were left to their own resources, but they could be expected to do well, if they could make universalizable moral judgements on their own and follow them. Kant spoke of practical "antinomies", questions about God, freedom, and beatitude, but he considered these capable of a practical solution. He noted that these doubts were overcome implicitly and pragmatically wherever moral action was seen as meaningful and a self-obligation. Kant had not foreseen that theoretical doubt about these questions would reinforce practical self-doubt about whether purposeful and binding moral judgment was an illusion, once the autonomous subjectivity had been overwhelmed by the destructive results of its actions. This was the experience of the 20th century. A restoration of the now broken self-confidence in meaningful moral aspirations was hindered by the abiding doubts about God, significant human freedom, and immortality. Karl Rahner attempted to restore some of that lost confidence in the meaningfulness of life by arguing that seemingly finite transcendentality was only possible, because it was implicitly transcendent from the start. Every judgment of reason and every choice of the will presupposed, without thematizing it, absolute truth and absolute goodness. Transcendence to the infinite is the condition of the possibility of transcendentality in the finite. That is true of everydayness, from judgements like "There is the newspaper" to choices like "Let me tie my shoe". What is even more apparent in heroic actions, is true here as well: God is always the background and the goal of every act of reason and will. Heidegger's philosophy of human finitude went wrong, argued Rahner, only when it failed to see that finitude was necessarily and always rooted in and aiming at infinitude: immanent transcendence is made possible by a transcendence transcending all limits from the very start.
Rahner works out his transcendental method through a reinterpretation of Thomas Aquinas, but he takes less seriously than Thomas the finite mode of the knower and the finite mode of the transcendentals as what is knowable by us both from the beginning and in reflection. In a more radical way than for Rahner, Thomas sees our own world as the horizon for thinking about God, not God as the horizon of having a world or a self. Even when the world, our selves, and our concepts, which we first assume are self-sufficient, finally reveal their finitude (not their infinity, but their finitude was at first implicit), we can think of the truly self-sufficient only per viam comparationis et negationis vis-a-vis our world. The basic field of orientation remains the implicitly finite positivity of our non-godly mode of knowledge. Our greatest speculative nearness to God comes in the realization of the finitude, not of some infinitude within us.
C. Experience as Grace: The First Theological Movement of Rahner's Transcendental Theology
Although Rahner returned to theological work in 1936, his methodological breakthrough came in the 1950's as part of an attempt to mediate in the dispute between the magisterium and the nouvelle thÈologie. H. de Lubac, E. Delaye and others wanted to point out that the decision not to be a Christian could not be seen simply as the harmless refusal of a superfluous gift, unnecessary for our nature. They thought they saw a conflict, perhaps a paradox in the church fathers and in Thomas (Comp. Theol. I 104): on the one hand, they read the texts to say that, human beings, as God created them, desired the perfection of the visio beatifica so much, that if they did not obtain it, this would imply a kind of damnation. On the other hand, the visio was a free gift of a free God. The paradox was this: once God creates this thirst in humans, it would seem monstrous for him not to offer the means of satisfying it; on the other hand, it is true, that God remains free. But how is this possible? Rahner agreed with the magisterium that the instilled thirst would compromise the freedom of God, if the thirst for the visio were on of pure nature, but not if the thirst itself was a gift of grace. Without meaning to be, Rahner's position was further from the tradition than de Lubac's, because Rahner, in contrast to de Lubac, saw God as having factically bound himself over and against the factical nature, that is, vis-a-vis the universally, supernaturally elevated nature of humanity.
Once Rahner was convinced that human nature had been supernaturally elevated and that the experienced longing for perfection was the result, he drew the consequence: that transcendence, which apriori is at the root and goal of every transcendentality, is itself a supernatural transformation of pure nature. What factically exists in humans, is a supernaturally elevated nature, with "supernatural existentials" or structures of thinking and willing and living. In a series of closely argued steps, which cannot be retraced in detail here, Rahner explicated the dignity of the universal elevation he meant: that basic transcendence to the infinite, which he had worked out philosophically, is now seen as an initial, supernatural elevation of all humans; the supernatural transformation is initial grace; grace is something experienced, even when not recognized as grace; grace is first and foremost uncreated grace, a share in the divine life, thus a proximity to the hypostatic union in "asymptotical" approximation, a "quasi-formal" transformation into a being with the divine life quasi as its own form of existence at the most crucial level; the hypostatic union itself and its approximation not just as the assumption of the human to God (as a real relation only on the part of the human), but as God's very own becoming and change, not in himself but in what is other than himself, and yet with his own self, as his own change; a "self-communication" and a "sharing of himself/a sharing of his self" in a most realistic sense. Behind every concrete or "categorical" thought and choice this "transcendental" process of universal incarnation is at work. Philosophy and anthropology are always implicitly theology. Love of neighbor is always, usually non-thematically, love of God. All humans, at least those who are not damned, if any are damned (which is perhaps possible, but now more difficult than ever to imagine), are anonymously Christian, because they are unavoidably transcending to the absolute in all they are, and say, and do, having received apriori the transcendental revelation as the basis of every intentionality, even if they have not heard or accepted the "categorical" revelation, the revelation in words. They are anonymous Christians, because they are non-thematically an approximation to Christ himself, with God's own self as their own quasi-form, transforming all other operations. The appearance of the historical Christ and the preaching of his incarnation do not come unexpected: they confirm the most basic experience of humanity, the expectation of and demand for unsurpassable fulfillment. The categorical "word revelation" might help us understand what we had felt all along, but our acceptance of the explicit "Christology from above" is prepared for and made possible by the "Christology from below", the dynamic in one's own self. This universal approximative Christologization includes all of creation: As a result of transcendental causality from above, all matter reveals a tendency in itself, from below, to transcend itself, to become ever more than it is, to become spirit, the true actualization of its potency and its own self-transcendent tendency, to become graced and divinely transformed spirit. This infinitely close approximation to Christ is the central dynamic of the whole history of the cosmos. The whole world and especially the whole world of self-experience is the primal sacrament of the transcendental Christological God. It is noteworthy in this context that Rahner does not discuss creatio ex nihilo at any length: not because he would deny it, but because it would tend to force a different theology of grace, and a different Christology. Were the creature's lasting origin in nothingness present as a belief or, even, as an experience, grace could not so easily become quasi-identical with the self, as if sheer self-transcendence, where transcendence is experienced as the basic movement of and by the self through one's own active powers (rather than as passive or "obediential" receptivity). Universal Christology would then be possible only as the history of a doubt, asking itself whether perfection (or even salvation) would come from without, since perfection could not simply develop and grow from within. The lasting presence of nothingness in creation would be too powerful a reminder that grace, even when it becomes a quality of ourselves, remains a gift. Similar reasons lay behind Rahner's exclusion of the second law of thermodynamics from his theory of evolution of matter to spirit or of spirit to quasi-divine spirit. "Becoming" means for Rahner per definitionem "becoming more", although even Hegel, under the impetus of the Aristotelian tradition, granted to the concept of time the primacy of corruptiveness over constructiveness. No serious consideration of the general principle of entropy is included in Rahner's theory of evolution.
D. Grace as Experience: The Second Theological Movement of Rahner's Transcendental Theology
Although the explication of the first theological movement received the most attention in the pre-conciliar, conciliar, and immediately post-conciliar years, another, dialectically contrary movement was always present. This other side of an intended dialectic came to be stressed more and more in post-conciliar years. Both sides are intended programmatically by Rahner, and the failure to note this dialectic has led to one-sided and contradictory interpretations of Rahner, both critical and positive, but equally inadequate. The second movement looks at the same relationship of transcendental and categorical, but from another perspective. Categorical "word-revelation", even the biblical and dogmatic traditions of Christianity, is merely an explication of the universal, apriori revelation in the transcendental self-experience of humanity. Historical, doctrinal, cultic Christianity is only an explication of common religiosity: and it is more difficult (though not impossible) to see the urgency of mission to achieve this explication; mission is no more and no less important than as a categorical thematization of what is already present in existence transcendentally and non-thematically. Similar reflections are possible regarding the practice of the sacraments instituted by Christ, which are explications of the basic sacrament of oneself and one's own world. Theology is only an explication of anthropology and philosophy; interpreters of Rahner's development have spoken of "re-absorbing theology into thinking in general". God is part, albeit a privileged one, of the process and world of becoming. Grace and divinization are so self-understood, so much a matter of a experience, that there is no experience of their being a gift: that is one deduction from categorical revelation which is not prepared for by experience itself. The gratuitous of grace appears stranger than the graced qualities I find in myself; it is as if I am suddenly told that I have only four toes by nature, while the fifth toe, the big one, is an extra gift. I have never known the foot as being other than designed for five toes. Similarly, I have never known the world and humanity except in the experience of its Christologization. The otherness of God, the interpersonal character of hope, the trans-transcendental face of the other is not denied, but becomes more difficult to imagine as an experience. Thus love and service of neighbor is a closer approximation to God than prayer, since prayer addresses the transcendent dimension occupied, at least at present, by my own dynamic goals and plans.
The following lectures will attempt to contrast Rahner's construction of a transcendental theology with an alternative different kind of transcendental reading of Thomas' soteriology, beginning with the question of death and proceeding to deal with the questions of evidence, theodicy, and theological hope (theologia crucis), of general religiosity and Christian sacramentality, and finally of Christian discipleship in similarity and difference to Christ (Mariology). They will all seek a transcendental method nearer to Kant than to Hegel. That means that the antinomies will not be overcome as quickly as in Rahner's work; indeed, the antinomies of practical reason will be taken more seriously than they are in Kant. Against Kant, it will not be assumed that the meaningfulness of moral activity, the unconditioned validity of moral norms resp. human rights, or the dignity of the human person are fully evident truths. They are at first questions, not just theoretical but practical, that is to say they are profound hopes and burning desires. Their answer cannot be reached by introspection, because their final answer depends upon the truth or falsity of whether God chooses to love humans in the intense way preached in the Gospel. The antinomy of whether we have a gracious God is the starting point and challenge for every act of strictly theological faith, hope, and charity. The transcendence of experience is a finite transcendence, ending not just in a question, but in an uncertain hope, the hope for the salvation of vital human values and aspirations. The unresolvable character of the question of theodicy, namely why God allows humans to suffer if he means to perfect them in happiness, will reveal the antinomian structure of uncertain hope, which is the abiding point of departure for strictly theological hope, decided hope in a gracious and salvific God.
The Soteriology of Thomas Aquinas
in Transcendental Theological Reflection
Notes on the Tertia pars of the Summa Theologiae
Richard Schenk OP
Lecture One: Theology of Hope in an Age of Despair?
Soteriology after Auschwitz
Introduction to the Topics and Methodology of the Lectures
It is a well-proven custom of philosophical and theological discourse to begin a discussion of this kind by stating three things: firstly, what different topics are to be addressed; then, what unity is to be sought among these different topics; and finally, how one intends to proceed to find that unity. Post-medieval scholasticism spoke in the first case of the "obiectum materiale" or "materiale quod"; then of the "obiectum formale" or "formale quod"; and finally of the "methodus", the "lumen formale" or "formale quo". Before you feel yourselves uncomfortably reminded of neo-scholastic textbooks, let me recall that 20th century phenomenology speaks in a similar way. In what was arguably the most important philosophical book of the 20th century, Martin Heidegger's Being and Time, as well as in the lectures at Marburg which prepared the book, the question of being is also posed according to this three-fold discretion: firstly, the broad field of study ("das Sachfeld") or the individual items to be investigated ("das Gefragte"); then, the precise issue at stake, what unitary aspect is to be looked for among all the many objects ("die Sachhinsicht" or "das Erfragte"); and finally, the manner of treatment ("die Behandlungsart"), in particular whatsspecific text or being is to be examined or "interrogated" ("das Befragte") as a method of coming to the theme sought. My first obligation is thus to give you some initial orientation on these three points. (Perhaps what is meant with these three points will become clearer as well). Let us begin, in somewhat unorthodox manner, with the final point, explaining in part what method we will follow.
First Approach to the Question of Method: Examining a Certain Text
My methodological task has been made simpler by the fact that, if I might use military terminology, I have already received my "marching orders" from the organizers of this series: I am to conclude a lecture series on the Summa theologiae of Thomas Aquinas by talking about its shortest and uncompleted third part. The text chosen for interrogation seems therefore clear enough, at least at first, although the method is complicated by an addition to my "instructions": the text is to be viewed in the con-text of contemporary problems. Formal methods are always determined by the formal aspects they are meant to reveal, and any revelations which can possibly be expected in the course of an investigation are in turn co-determined from the start by the method applied. In our case, soteriology, which, as we shall see, is the aspect of theology which Thomas talks about in the text of the Tertia pars, could never be appreciated fully apart from the context of our own need for salvation. This necessary addition in my "marching orders" of a contemporary context to a medieval text makes our method more sensible and more sensitive, as will become clearer when we look more closely at the formal concern of our discussions; but it also makes our method more complicated and less capable of comprehensive application within the six hours allotted for this series of talks. Even for these reasons of method, our presentation can address only fragments of what could be talked about. The method of interrogating Thomas Aquinas' text would appear even more complicated, were we to articulate some of the other contexts necessary for this text, for example: the more or less contemporary opponents of Thomas; the changes he makes over and against his own earlier opinions; the earlier Jewish-Christian traditions of texts and belief to which Thomas refers; the common human nature underlying historical epochs; and those differences between the epochs (say, between the 13th and 20th centuries), which individuate, qualify, and transform or re-form human nature and Christian belief. But let us return for the moment to the text itself, lest these many contexts become our main text and theme from the start.
The Multiplicity of Material Objects
The necessarily fragmentary character of our discussions should also be apparent from the numerous fields investigated by Thomas (the material objects) in the text of the Tertia pars. Most generally speaking, the topics Thomas wanted to cover here belong to Christology, sacramental theology, and eschatology. Thomas seems to have begun this final section of the Summa during his last weeks at Paris in the early spring of 1272, and he continued the text probably during his journey to Naples and certainly during his stay there for the next year and a half, breaking off work on all his writing projects in the middle of the treatise on sacraments four months before his early death in March of 1274; Thomas was not yet 50 years of age. The medievals did not mind publishing completed major sections of works, say, a commentary on the third book of the Sentences or the Prima pars of a Summa, but they had an abhorrence of uncompleted sections, of fragments. If the unfinished section of some work was worth publishing at all, it was worth a "continuatio", a supplement prepared by others, preferably made for the occasion after consulting the works of the author himself; at worst, by tacking on an independent work of another author. In this case, the preferable mode was chosen. Thus we have about half of the Tertia pars from Thomas himself, 548 articles grouped into 90 questions on Christ and the sacraments, then a supplementum prepared after his death, comprising 448 articles organized into 101 questions on individual sacraments and eschatology.
Thomas had finished the Christological section, subdivided roughly into, first, the traditional tract of questions on the personal union of two natures and the consequences of that union (Questions 1-26) and then, second, a new kind of tract which Thomas developed for the first time, dealing with the birth, life, death and exaltation of Jesus Christ (Questions 27-59). He then dealt with the sacraments, beginning, as was usual at the time, with a general treatise on sacramentality in general (Questions 60-65).
This section was shorter than we would expect today. Post-Vatican II theology would have developed here more explicitly than Thomas did the treatise on the church as a whole, the main topic of the Council and of Catholic theology in the 20 years following the Council. A "post-post Vatican II theology", if you will forgive the term, now seems to be replacing the post-conciliar period. It can be characterized per modum negationis as no longer feeling itself particularly obliged to justify its main concerns by an appeal to the letter or even the spirit of the Council. Per modum affirmationis, this "post-post Vatican II theology" would develop at this point of soteriology an explicit Christian theology of non-Christian religions. A good example of this shift is the newest book on Christology by the T¸bingen theologian, Peter H¸nermann: Jesus Christus. Gottes Wort in der Zeit (M¸nster 1994). Although the work ends with the ecclesial dimensions of Christology and sacramental communication, including a few references back to the II Vatican Council, it begins with the problems of modernism/postmodernism, the claims of Christ and Christianity over and against other religions and their founders, and the older problem of faith vis-a-vis the historical-critical method. These non-conciliar issues provide the systematic background for the bulk of the book, a review of the history of Christological reflection.
Thomas Aquinas, after dealing briefly (all too briefly) with these topics of sacramentality in general, the church, and the cultic practice of non-Christian religions, goes quickly onto his treatise on the individual sacraments, completing the sections on the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, and eucharist, Questions 66-83), before breaking off his work in the middle of the treatise on reconciliation (at Question 90). Abandoning his writing projects, Thomas never finished the parts on the remaining sacraments or the crucial section on eschatology.
Now, you might think that, as I have already mentioned the necessity of accepting the fragmentary nature of our discussion, I might be satisfied to deal with the smaller sum of a mere 548 articles. Your suspicion would increase, if you knew of my opinion that our own age, in contrast to Thomas', prefers fragments to total systems. We tend to like ancient, ruined temples more than new Mormon ones; we prefer half-restored, "conserved" churches to totally repristinized ones; we find unfinished art-works a relief over and against total vision. At least in Western Europe and the United States, we are willing to pay more money for new blue jeans made to look tattered and torn from the start. We don't trust order without a perceptible degree of chaos, which means that there might be hope yet for the future of the Dominican order. Whereas Hegel belonged to the older world in saying that truth is found only in the totality of the whole, our times are more summed up in Adorno's response that totality will always be false. So we should choose Thomas' authentic fragment over the artificial whole, right? Well, not quite. It is true that I will not be dealing with any of the articles from the supplement, just with Thomas' own work, but in presenting the Tertia pars I will be doing a bit of supplementing on my own, re-doing in a sense what the medieval Dominicans had already done; and that, for three reasons:
The least important reason involves the value of the history of the reception of an idea for evaluating the idea itself. If you want to find out what a thinker chiefly thought, it is best to start with what was new about his thought. If you want to find out what was new about his thought, you should look for places where he states or at least reveals that he has changed his mind or where others state that this thought is new, perhaps even new and shocking. What is new need not be true, but it will usually be intended by the author. Some of the most controversial and thus most intentional positions which Thomas Aquinas maintained during the roughly 20 year span of his teaching career had to do with the problem of death, the dark side of the mystery of the resurrection. This topic was near the center of the controversies in which Thomas' teaching was opposed in 1277 by the bishops and theological faculties of Paris and Oxford, including the Dominican primate of England, Robert Kilwardby, and, from about the same time on, by the Franciscon William de la Mare, whose work Correctorium fratris Thomae is the first sytematic compendium written entirely against Thomas. These condemnations and works, which were responsible for awaking Dominicans from their usual indifference to their own theologians, led indirectly to the first serious school of Thomism. As with most thinkers, Thomas owes his initial fame more to his opponents than to his supporters. This controversial theme of death and resurrection was meant to be the final topic of the Tertia pars and the Summa, the climax of the work, and since Thomas had rather unique views on the subject, it would hardly be possible to due justice to the intention of the Tertia pars without reflecting on what Thomas had planned for this climax to his work. Conversely, the authentic part of the Tertia pars appeared too late to become a central part of the controversies. It is not included among the works criticized by William de la Mare or defended against him by the early Thomists.
The Unity of the Tertia pars (its formal object): Soteriology
That leads us to a second and more important reason for including eschatology in the topics to be discussed here, one which also marks the transition from our consideration of the individual themes (obiecta materialia) of our general field of interest (das Sachfeld) to a consideration of the common aspect (obiectum formale), under which all the topics of the Tertia pars should be viewed: soteriology. The prologue to the Tertia pars unites the general fields of interest under the common aspect denoted by the related words salvator, salvus, salus (corresponding to the Greek soter, soterion, soteria), which occur seven times in the short text. The prologues to the three major parts of the Summa, just as the short introductions at the transitions between the subsections of these parts, are like hinges or cornerstones, showing the true angle and alignment of what follows. Because of the importance of this introduction for understanding the unity of the Tertia pars, I would like to have it read to you in full. Please notice the unitive soteriological (salvator noster, populum suum salvum faciens, salus nostra) motive running through all three general themes, Christ, sacraments, and the ultimate fulfillment of human life:
Sth III, prologus:
Because our savior (salvator noster), the Lord Jesus Christ, in the words and witness of the angel, ěsaved (salvum faciens) his people from their sins' (Mt 1: 21), he made clear to us in his own self the path of truth by which we are enabled to attain the perfection and bliss of immortal life by resurrection. It is necessary, therefore, if we are to complete the whole project of theology, after our initial reflection upon the final goal of human life, with all its virtues and vices, that our reflection now turn to this very savior of all (de ipso omnium salvatore) and to the gifts he uniquely bestowed upon the human race. This theme touches three topics: first, the savior himself (de ipso salvatore); then, his sacraments, by which we attain salvation (salutem); and finally, the goal of immortal life which we attain by resurrection in him. On the first of these three sub-topics, a two-fold reflection is presented: first, on the very mystery of the incarnation itself, according to which God became a human for our salvation (pro nostra salute); and then, on those things which were done or suffered by our savior himself (per ipsum salvatorem nostrum), God incarnate.
Salvation has a special, technical meaning for Thomas, closer to "salvaging", to rescue and reparation, than to perfection in general. It is a meaning which Thomas explicates in the six articles of Question 1, which belong to the tract on the hypostatic union, but also serve as a fundamental preface to the whole of the Tertia pars. Special attention should be paid to article three, where Thomas, arguing against a position made famous by Robert Grosseteste, insists that it is not fitting to portray the incarnation as an expected part of a plan for a perfect universe, but rather as a response to severe imperfections stemming not as much from divine command as from human culpability; were it not for sin and injustice, there might never have been this kind of union between God and humankind. The union is not just for our perfection towards the best, but this union is initially and most urgently, "first and foremost", for our salvation from dangers posed to our limited and imperfect, but vital and eminently lovable goods. It is not meant immediately to augment but to save finite goods, especially the three goods which will be spoken of in the second lecture: knowledge, freedom, and personal dignity. The point is one of accentuation: for Robert Grosseteste, the imperfection of the world cries out most loudly for final perfection; for Thomas, the imperfection of the world, because it is good, cries out most urgently for the salvation of its imperfect goodness.
In a later lecture, we will discuss the ecumenical status of Thomas' soteriology, defended here by Protestants such as W. Mostert. Thomas' opposition to Grosseteste suggests, however, another possible connection, which, although not certain, is plausible. It has to do with the suggestion made in 1939 by M.-D. Chenu about the plan of the Summa. Chenu suggested that the first two parts of the Summa reflected the static metaphysical schematic exitus/reditus familiar from Neoplatonism, whereas the third part of the Summa broke through the strictly hierarchical ordo of beings with an event of salvific history. The next 25 years after Chenu's suggestion saw a vigorous debate with no conclusive winner on whether the Summa was more a work of metaphysical theology or one of a salvific history (cf. the recent review by A. Metz). The general and not unreasonable consensus was that it had both elements in all three parts; e.g. covenant and race in the second part and the sensual constitution of human knowing in the third. A new footnote to the debate has now been added by Jean-Pierre Torrell, whose book Initiation ‡ saint Thomas d'Aquin (Fribourg/Paris 1993) is arguably the most reliable compendium on Thomas available today. Torrell compares the exitus/reditus structure of the Summa, including occasional remarks made there to Christ as the way we are returned to God (reditus per Christum), with an image employed by Thomas in the Sentences-Commentary (III 2, 1, 1) and the Compendium theologiae (201) that the hypostatic union, as it were, closes a circle, rejoining what had gone forth from God in creation with God again in the hypostatic union. Torrell's references reinforce the argument that the exitus/reditus scheme itself was in part meant as a salvifically historical model.1 At roughly the same time as Torrell's book, Joseph Goering in Toronto edited a disputed question by Robert Grosseteste, De universi complecione. There Grosseteste uses that very image of the closed circle to show the necessity of the incarnation: else the world would remain imperfect, a still open and unclosed circle. Thomas initially used this image of the line made into a circle by the hypostatic union despite his opposition to the idea it was meant to illustrate.
I would suggest that, although Thomas thus found the image attractive, he avoided using it in the Summa in order to underscore the possibility that God could well have left the world in its natural but imperfect state or restored it to the same, not needing to connect his creation immediately to his own intimate life; and that our first and foremost desire for Christ is situated not so much in the desire for perfection but for salvation, answering the pain and danger involved in the culpable loss of natural but imperfect goods and not just in the perception of their imperfection, however much certain conceivably greater goods might also seem desirable. This is the main argument of Question 1, article 3, that God need not fulfill our every capacity and desire. Whether vague desire ever becomes a burning need depends on several conditions, e.g. whether we perceive that such conceivable goods have become factually possible due to God's choice to offer us such goods over and beyond the necessity of our nature. By way of contrast, the reign of death and what is like death touches areas of our life which are evidently possible: goods which are admittedly imperfect but vitally necessary, the object of unconditional desire, which, when deprived, can call forth the true yearning of Advent. If, again with Heidegger, we can define death as "the becoming impossible of human possibilities", then the relation of death to sin and injustice as noted especially by St. Paul becomes clear: as certain ways in which vital human possibilities are rendered impossible, sin and injustice are historical powers of death. According to Thomas, it is first and foremost against this kind of historically culpable deprivation that the hope for salvation is directed.
Grosseteste's image of the circle is as timeless as geometry itself, an apriori necessity, looking too quickly beyond the limited perfection in this world's goods for them to appear as a sacrament of ultimate concern. Thomas stresses in article 5 of the first Question of the Tertia pars the important historical experience of waiting for an as yet uncertain salvation, of experiencing over time the need for salvation from the results of human sin without being sure by evidence that such salvation will ever appear. Article 6, while arguing conversely that the basis of salvation in Christ should not, therefore, have been postponed until all time had passed, repeats the stress placed on the historical dimension by Thomas: "Such postponement would not have suitably manifested divine power, which saved (salvavit) humans in several ways, not only by faith in the future, but also by faith in the present and the past". Why our faith manifests God's power, is a question to which we will return later. Although Thomas acknowledges the implicit desire for that beatific vision which is attainable only by union with God and which, if not fulfilled, would leave something to be desired, article three insists that the best is not necessary for a divinely created world. What seems more necessary for us, are the matters of life and their salvation from death. Thus the prologue mentions resurrection twice, which involves not only unsurpassable perfection but more basically the overcoming of the powers of death. This is the focus which weaves Christology, sacramental faith, and eschatology into a unified soteriology of hope: the hope of coming to the fulfilled goal of human life by resurrection, by overcoming the reign of death in the world.
The exact meaning of this soteriological focus is the topic of the next two weeks. For now, we have said little more than that the combination of Christology, sacramentality, and eschatology is neither an accident nor dispensable. There is no adequate Christology without eschatology, and eschatology is a part of historical anthropology. Human need is the locus and focus of Christological hope and belief, and thus Christology arises from soteriology. This thesis has often been abused or misunderstood, and thus a clarification is necessary even at this early stage. The book by Peter H¸nermann cited already is trying in its own way to escape the framework of traditional Christology, but that does not mean that its analysis of all other post-traditional Christologies is favorable. Just as its consciousness of the challenge posed by other religions is typical of current trends, so, too, is its critique of a simply moralistic Christology. H¸nermann criticizes the Christologies of Hans K¸ng, K.-J. Kuschel, and Karl-Heinz Ohlig for trying to perpetuate a 19th century view of Jesus Christ as a social reformer and ethicist, representative of Jewish Messianickkingdom of God soteriology. It is in this context that H¸nermann criticizes Ohlig's statement: "Christology is a function and specification of Soteriology" (14). H¸nermann refers with approval to Josef Blank's view this derivation contradicts a close reading of the New Testament and would amount to nothing more than a superficial "projection-Christology". "With that (dependence of Christology on soteriology - R.S.) even soteriology itself would be paralyzed, because beginning from this starting point no more 'objective basis' (no 'extra nos') for the salvific certainty of faith could be shown" (ibid.) Leaving aside the question of whether the talk of a "salvific certainty of faith" ("Heilsgewi_heit des Glaubens") is helpful, it is certainly a welcome development that post-Bultmannian New Testament studies are now convinced that we can justifiably claim that the historical Jesus of Nazareth was never considered simply a social reformer or simply as the preacher of a free state of Israel. It is also to be granted that, if systematic attention to the soteriological context of the Christological development were meant to make the Christological dogma itself superfluous and dispensable, then that would obviously be a quite different project than the one Thomas Aquinss was involved in. Thomas thought that the Christological development was and is necessary to meet and maintain soteriological hope. The basic dispute is not whether the Christological development occurred, perhaps not even if it preceded or followed the soteriological development, or both alternately, but whether it was necessary, irreversible, and "genuine". If this question can be answered positively, there is not the same danger of reductionism involved in the priority of soteriology before Christology within the hermeneutical circle which joins them with each other inseparably. Thomas' stress in the Prologue to the Tertia pars that the "very mystery of the incarnation, according to which God became a human, (is) for our salvation". Here he echoes the creed itself.
Soteriology after Auschwitz: The lumen formale of the Idea of Salvation and the Darkness of our Times
Until now we have not yet made explicit what its title suggests. Please recall that we have argued two major points. First: The three major groups of topics belonging to the plan of the Tertia pars, Christology, sacramentality, and eschatology, belong there not just due to the weight of tradition but because of their inner unity; without the problem of death and resurrection, the problems of Christology and sacramentality could not be posed adequately. The three groups of individual themes are not just a loose, unconnected series; they are interrelated. Second: The unity by which these individual themes are interconnected is the common aspect of salvation, understood less immediately as the greatest possible perfection than as the urgent salvaging of vital and finite goods. The text itself insists upon an experience as the point of departure for faith: namely the experience of the need for the salvation of vital but imperfect goods; an experienced need, the fulfillment of which is experientially uncertain. We can be experientially certain of the need for salvation, but we cannot be experientially certain of the fact of salvation. This final section of our first approach to the Tertia pars wants to return to the question of method and show that the context of our times casts a unique but not a foreign light onto the text. The lumen formale which is qualified by the darkness of our times brings the idea salvation into its proper relief. What is the situation of our times?
It is surely not what Poland wanted to give to our times, but there is a Polish name which has marked the whole age of European-dominated thought: Auschwitz. "Auschwitz" is the short formula for the self-experience of mass murder in the 20th century which may well have ended the modernist age. It has become less a geographical and more a chronological signpost, marking the end of modern times in the sense of the Enlightenment. It remains a word which cannot be dealt with comfortably. The call from Adorno, Horkheimer and others for a new kind of "thinking after Auschwitz" raises new problems of its own. If the catastrophe or Shoa is incommensurable with all previous history, will it not become isolated and meaningless, a mere episode? If, on the other hand, it is to be the source of a new and less inadequate kind of thinking, isn't there the danger of instrumentalizing it, maybe moralizing it, using it all too often to introduce lectures of this kind, etc.? And yet the alternative, which is silence leading to forgetfulness, seems even less appropriate a response. Justice and rationality demand that account be taken of this particular self-experience of injustice and irrationality in our now ending century and millennium. What has changed in our world in light of, or better, in the shadow of Auschwitz?
"Our" century (who's will be the next?) is to a large degree a history of its world wars. A certain process in three stages has repeated itself more than once: the dynamic, first, of an initial self-confidence (say before World War I); followed secondly by the despair of self-confidence (say after the first, "Great War"); and then finally by the despair of despair (in the face of all that happened during World War II and its aftermath). If the first war brought disillusionment with cultural and social claims to great self-achievement, the events of 1933-1945 showed the biting necessity for more than mere disillusionment. Let me note a few examples. After a nearly exclusive dedication to critical theory, Th. W. Adorno and M. Horkheimer sought during the second war to articulate the paradoxes immanent in enlightenment-style critique itself. Their reflections were first summed up in their joint work, The Dialectic of the Enlightenment, and the kind of dialectic meant is of the unresolved kind, the bright and the shadow side of the Enlightenment. They realized that something other than the desire for critique was necessary, if critique were to remain a possible force of liberation. Recalling the work of Bloch, Benjamin, Scholem and other writers rooted in Jewish traditions, they pointed to contrafactical visions of justice, that is to say, visions of a justice which had never been fully realized and never would be, as the necessary precondition for identifying, comparing, criticizing, and mourning crimes of injustice. Without such visions of justice, there is no way to identify injustice. Even for the sake of critique, more than just critique is needed; critique alone will trivialize itself.2 Another example: In 1919 under the impact of the first war, Karl Barth dismissed his own beginnings in a liberal theology and social Christianity for dialectical theology's critique of human knowledge and freedom. Again it was the unresolved dialectic, the no of God to every yes of human production. Under the impact of the National Socialist government in Germany, Barth returned in 1934 to an insistence on the social and doctrinal missions of Christianity, a defense of humanity from the conviction of God's solidarity with it. A final example: In his essentially dual or twofold hermeneutics, P. Ricúur attempts both to foster a suspicion towards historical documents and to recollect their sense, giving further testimony to the course of the century. Ricúur, like Barth, draws on the older, Calvinistic, dual scheme of extrinsic justification (self-suspicion) and sanctification (affirmation of a new gathering of meaning) to do so. In none of these thinkers, however, was there an attempt to simply carry on, as if radical self-doubt were unfounded, but they all came to realize that doubt alone was no match for injustice.
Today there is a debate going on which seems for the moment more extreme, a debate still very much in the shadow of Auschwitz, a debate about how badly the foundations of a self-reliant and self-confident modernity have been shaken. On the one hand, there is a "post-modern" denial that any new universal counter-ideals are possible. Opposed to this, there is a "neo-modernistic" claim that the older ideals of the Enlightenment, if slightly adjusted, would still work. The reception of Friedrich Nietzsche by postmodern writers like Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault seems convincing on at least one point: that the "death of God" proclaimed by Nietzsche would in fact lead to the death of the human, the anthropological standpoint, to the death of an unconditional human ideal with universal standards. They are convincing in their unmasking the intolerance behind an easy rhetoric of tolerance, showing the self-serving side of many would-be liberalisms, pointing out the dogmatisms of the Enlightenment, and identifying the historicality and subjectivity behind many modern claims to judge what are acceptable and universal standards. The protests against this development of thought found in the neo-modernistic reaction of J¸rgen Habermas appear by contrast as a futile attempt at the restoration of "the good old days". Habermas speaks for an idealized community of discourse, excluding not only metaphysics and religion, but also severe new doubts about his style of critique. An ideal community is to be re-formed through pragmatic or performative rhetoric to insist upon a return to the project of autonomous social progress, but of a kind without the radical postmodernist criticism of modernist critique. The self-confidence of the Enlightenment is to be saved by simply shifting responsibility from the individual autonomous subject to the collective autonomous subject. Kant had been confident that even without - or precisely without - metaphysical or religious dogma the political and moral order could be upheld. After two hundred years of experience, Kant's political innocence about personal and public morality without metaphysics or dogma can no longer be regained by the pragmatic appeal to a Neo-Kantian intersubjectivity of supposedly presuppositionless discourse. But it is also true that direct access to comprehensive metaphysical truths or undoubted dogmatic ones (if such a salvific certainty of faith was ever possible) can no longer relieve the self-doubts which have arisen in regard to the validity and value of human subjectivity. As observers of the Foucault-Habermas debate put it: "While the insistence of anti-thinkers on frivolity makes them immature and not yet of responsible age (in Kant's sense of the antipode of enlightenment -R.S.), Habermas' refusal to admit his dependence upon interpretation makes his position professorial"3, academic.
Even less likely of success than Habermas' pragmatism is the pragmatic appeal for social justice based chiefly on the hope of financial stability for all or for most. The resources of the world have proven too fragile and finite to extend or even maintain Western European living standards. And yet, at the same time, the alternative attempt to simply accept with Foucault the death of universal, human ideals or the successive births of unique, radically separate historical epochs could facilitate, through the inability to identify the accepted injustices of the age, new forms of human abuse. Against this trend, the very pain of abuse inflicted and suffered in the 20th century keeps alive the desire for at least enough of a belief in human dignity that injustice could be identified as such. Foucault's supporters have argued that no conviction about universal, unconditional human values is necessary, that culturally conditioned paradigms of justice would do just as well, just as T. Kuhn's historically conditioned paradigms serve the immediate purposes of science.4 Yet such communally accepted, but still non-universal and non-rational social paradigms would need fail as a standard for distinguishing liberation from subjugation as soon as acute self-doubt would articulate the arbitrary character of the paradigms and thus put them at the center of the question. Kant was right to see moral self-understanding as being tied to at least the subjective conviction of a certain universality and transcendence over the merely subjective.
An identity must be sought, founded at least on the hope for human dignity, which could provide a new critical basis for recognizing the difference between justice and injustice, for acknowledging what and who is other than my/our subjectivity. Postmodernity makes this task more urgent, but also more difficult than in modernity, which had continued to build upon the foundation of the Jewish-Christian ethos whose basis it was undermining. These modern constructs collapsed at Auschwitz, without restoring the ancient foundations. Postmodernity might be willing to live in the ruins of modernity without major building projects of its own, but such ruined cities are notoriously vulnerable to epidemic disease, that is, new, rampant injustice. It seems to me that our age is most united in its wanting to critique and to expose injustice, while less consensus exists on whether there are any well-founded, universalizable standards of justice, by which to identify injustice. The question is: can the hope for a sufficient belief in human dignity (and the dignity of creation) be saved, which would give us good reason to mourn and oppose the atrocities perpetrated by humans and all else that is suffered by them and the world around them?
A contextual reading of the text of the Tertia pars must try to map out what a "soteriology after Auschwitz" might look like. This context of our times demands that we include a greater attention to the darkness of existence within the lumen formale of our method, including an awareness that there is no possibility of remaining comfortably in that darkness or organizing it simply by moral and political consensus or by private, existentialist heroism. The context of death in our century, including the anticipation of death in all forms of injustice, is the third reason why eschatology should not be eliminated from the list of topics included in soteriology. What might seem inopportune in light of the "unsaved" experiences of our century, namely to entertain the possibility of salvation, is in fact the only way to do justice to the experiences of injustice and annihilation and to save the horizon, within which injustice can be identified as such. At the same time, we must learn to articulate better the abiding uncertainty of individual salvation and the abiding negativity of death and injustice. We must seek a sense of salvation which will cor-respond to, not simply pass over or minimize the "unsaved" experiences of nature and history. The belief in salvation must make us more and not less sensitive to "unsaved" experiences. The central thesis of the coming lectures is precisely that this contextually qualified lumen formale, which is even more sensitive to abiding negativity than even Thomas' text, corresponds to the obiectum formale of soteriology, the hope for salvation. Because Thomas' text was already more sensitive in this regard than most of its contemporaries, the historical text and the systematic context will support each other in this case. Our context will be able to highlight this text without violating it, at least not beyond the minimum violence implied by every interpretation. Our hope for salvation must be prepared for by "dis-illusionment", including the liberation from the illusion that disillusionment would suffice: that was the lesson which the Second World War added to the First. The problem is: how to move beyond mere disillusionment without falling back into the attitudes which eventually must give cause for it?
1 Torrell, op. cit. 211-228, esp. 226, n. 36.
2 Thomas Schaefer, "Aufklaerung und Kritik", in: A. Honneth et al. (ed.), Ethos der Moderne, op. cit., 70-86, while pointing to the differences between Foucault and The Dialectic of the Enlightenment gives little weight to what drove Adorno/Horkheimer out of the privileged sanctuary of exclusive critique.
3 H.L. Dreyfus and P. Rabinow, "Was ist Muendigkeit? Habermas und Foucault ueber 'Was ist Aufklaerung?'", in: A. Honneth et al. (ed.): Ethos der Moderne, op. cit. 55- 69, here 68.
4 Cf. H.L. Dreyfus and P. Rabinow: "If Thomas Kuhn and his followers are right, ordinary science is a practice where scientists argue with each other on the basis of shared paradigms. Indeed, agreement is only possible because no attempt is undertaken to call into question these paradigms as a series of shared presuppositions, i. e. to make the paradigm itself part of the intended content of the claims investigated. In such cases the inattentiveness to rational procedure makes rational communication about this matter possible" (op. cit., 68).
From the Promoter of Social Justice
Words of Wisdom and Counsel on Social Justice
from Pope John Paul II
Below you will find in part or whole:
Ecclesia In America (The Church in America)
Homily of the Holy Father from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
ECCLESIA IN AMERICA
OF THE HOLY FATHER
JOHN PAUL II
TO THE BISHOPS,
PRIESTS AND DEACONS,
MEN AND WOMEN RELIGIOUS,
AND ALL THE LAY FAITHFUL
ON THE ENCOUNTER WITH THE LIVING JESUS CHRIST:
THE WAY TO CONVERSION,
COMMUNION AND SOLIDARITY
1. Rejoicing in the faith received and praising Christ for this immense gift, the Church in America has recently celebrated the fifth centenary of the first preaching of the Gospel on its soil. The commemoration made all American Catholics more deeply aware of Christ's desire to meet the inhabitants of the so-called New World so that, gathering them into his Church, he might be present in the continent's history. The evangelization of America is not only a gift from the Lord; it is also a source of new responsibilities. Thanks to the work of those who preached the Gospel through the length and breadth of the continent, countless sons and daughters have been generated by the Church and the Holy Spirit.(1) Now, no less than in the past, the words of the Apostle echo in their hearts: "If I preach the Gospel, I have no reason to boast. It is my duty: woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16). This duty is founded on the Risen Lord's command to the Apostles before he ascended into heaven: "Preach the Gospel to all creation" (Mk 16:15).
This command applies to the whole Church; and, in this moment of her history, the Church in America is called to take it up and respond with loving generosity to the fundamental task of evangelization. This was what my Predecessor Paul VI, the first Pope to visit America, stressed at Bogotà: "It will be our task, [Lord Jesus], as your representatives and stewards of your divine mysteries (cf. 1 Cor 4:1; 1 Pt 4:10), to spread among men the treasures of your word, your grace, your example".(2) For the disciple of Christ the duty to evangelize is an obligation of love. "The love of Christ impels us" (2 Cor 5:14), declares the Apostle Paul, recalling all that the Son of God did for us in his redeeming sacrifice: "One man has died for all . . . that those who live may live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for their sake" (2 Cor 5:14-15).
The celebration of anniversaries which evoke in a particular way Christ's love for us stirs in our soul not only a sense of gratitude but also a sense of the need to "proclaim the wonders of God", to evangelize. Thus, the recent celebration of the five hundredth anniversary of the coming of the Gospel to America — the moment, that is, when Christ first called America to faith — and the approaching Jubilee, when the Church will celebrate the two thousandth anniversary of the Incarnation of the Son of God, are special times when our hearts spontaneously ring out in gratitude to the Lord. Realizing the greatness of the gifts received, the pilgrim Church in America wishes to bring the whole of society and every man and woman to share in the riches of faith and communion in Christ. More ....
Homily of the Holy Father from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
[Official Vatican text]
May the Continent of Hope also be the Continent of Life! Life with dignity for all!
The focal point of the Holy Father's Pastoral Visit to America was the Mass he celebrated at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Mexico, on Saturday morning, 23 January, to conclude the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, held in the Vatican from 16 November to 12 December 1997. Concelebrating with the Pope were approximately 500 Bishops and 5,000 priests from all of America. The Holy Father preached the homily and at the end of the liturgy he gave copies of his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America to various Church representatives. Here is a translation of the Pope's homily, which he preached in Spanish, Portuguese, French and English.
Beloved Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
1. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman ... " (Gal 4:4). What is the fullness of time? From the standpoint of human history, the fullness of time is a concrete fact. It is the night when the Son of God came into the world in Bethlehem, as foretold by the prophets and as we have heard in the first reading: "The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call his name Emmanuel" (Is 7:14). These words, spoken many centuries ago, were fulfilled on the night when the Son conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary entered the world.
Christ's birth was preceded by the message of the angel Gabriel. Afterwards, Mary went to the home of her cousin Elizabeth to be of service to her. We were reminded of this by the Gospel of Luke, which puts before us Elizabeth's unusual, prophetic greeting and Mary's splendid response: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour" (1:46-47). These are the events referred to in today's liturgy.
God's revelation fulfils all human longings
2. The reading from the Letter to the Galatians, for its part, reveals to us the divine dimension of this fullness of time. The words of the Apostle Paul sum up the whole theology of Jesus' birth, at the same time explaining the meaning of this frailness. It is something extraordinary: God has entered human history. God, who in himself is the unfathomable mystery of life; God, who is Father and is himself reflected from all eternity in the Son, consubstantial with him and through whom all things were made (cf. Jn 1: 1, 3); God, who is the unity of the Father and the Son in the flow of eternal love which is the Holy Spirit.
Despite the poverty of our words for expressing the ineffable mystery of the Trinity, the truth is that man, in his temporal condition, has been called to share in this divine life. The Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary to obtain this divine adoption for us. The Father has poured out in our hearts the Spirit of his Son, through whom we can say "Abba, Father!" (cf. Gal 4:4). Here, then, is the fullness of time which fulfils all the yearnings of history and of humanity: the revelation of God's mystery, given to human beings through the gift of divine adoption.
3. The frailness of time to which the Apostle refers is related to human history. By becoming man, God in a certain way has entered our time and has transformed our history into the history of salvation, A history that includes all the vicissitudes of the world and of mankind, from creation to their conclusion, but advances through important moments and dates. One of them is the 2,000th year, now close at hand, since the birth of Jesus, the year of the Great Jubilee, for which the Church has also been preparing by holding Extraordinary Synods dedicated to each continent, such as the one held in the Vatican at the end of 1997.
4. Today in this Basilica of Guadalupe, the Marian heart of America, we thank God for the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops - a true Upper Room of ecclesial communion and collegial affection among all the Pastors from the north, centre and south of the continent - shared with the Bishop of Rome as a fraternal experience of encounter with the risen Lord, the way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America.
Now, one year after the celebration of that Synod Assembly, and in conjunction with the centenary of the Plenary Council of Latin America held in Rome, I have come here to place at the feet of the mestiza Virgin of Tepeyac, Star of the New World, the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, which incorporates the contributions and pastoral suggestions of that Synod, entrusting to the Mother and Queen of this continent the future of its evangelization.
Blessed are you, America, for believing, hoping and loving
5. I wish to express my gratitude to those whose work and prayer enabled that Synod Assembly to reflect the vitality of the Catholic faith in America. I also thank this Primatial Archdiocese of Mexico City and its Archbishop, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, for their cordial welcome and generous cooperation. I affectionately greet the large group of Cardinals and Bishops who have come from every part of the continent and the great many priests and seminarians present here, who fill the Pope's heart with joy and hope. My greeting also extends beyond the walls of this basilica to embrace those who are following the celebration from outside, as well as to all the men and women of various cultures, ethnic groups and nations which form the rich and multifaceted reality of America.
6. "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord' (Lk 1:45). Elizabeth's words to Mary, who is carrying Christ in her womb, can also be applied to the Church on this continent. Blessed are you, Church in America, for you have welcomed the Good News of the Gospel and given birth in faith to numerous peoples! Blessed are you for believing, blessed are you for hoping, blessed are you for loving, because the Lord's promise will be fulfilled! The heroic missionary efforts and the wonderful evangelization of these five centuries were not in vain. Today we can say that, as a result, the Church in America is the Church of Hope. We need only look at the vigour of her many young people, the exceptional value put on the family, the blossoming of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life and, above all, the deep piety of her peoples. Let us not forget that in the next millennium, now close at hand, America will be the continent with the largest number of Catholics.
7. However, as the Synod Fathers stressed, if the Church in America has many reasons to rejoice, she also faces serious problems and important challenges. Should we be discouraged by all that? Not at all: "Jesus Christ is Lord!" (Phil 2:11). He has conquered the world and sent his Holy Spirit to make all things new. Would it be too ambitious to hope that after this Synod Assembly - the first American Synod in history - a more evangelical way of living and sharing would grow on this continent where Christians are the majority? There are many areas where the Christian communities of North, Central and South America can demonstrate their fraternal ties, practise real solidarity and with each one contributing the spiritual and material wealth at its disposal.
Greeting in English
8. The Apostle Paul teaches us that in the fullness of time God sent his Son, born of a woman, to redeem us from sin and to make us his sons and daughters. Accordingly, we are no longer servants but children and heirs of God (cf. Gal 4:4-7). Therefore, the Church must proclaim the Gospel of life and speak out with prophetic force against the culture of death. May the Continent of Hope also be the Continent of Life! This is our cry: life with dignity for all! For all who have been conceived in their mother's womb, for street children, for indigenous peoples and Afro-Americans, for immigrants and refugees, for the young deprived of opportunity, for the old, for those who suffer any kind of poverty or marginalization.
Dear brothers and sisters, the time has come to banish once and for all from the continent every attack against life. No more violence, terrorism and drug-trafficking! No more torture or other forms of abuse! There must be an end to the unnecessary recourse to the death penalty! No more exploitation of the weak, racial discrimination or ghettoes of poverty! Never again! These are intolerable evils which cry out to heaven and call Christians to a different way of living, to a social commitment more in keeping with their faith. We must rouse the consciences of men and women with the Gospel, in order to highlight their sublime vocation as children of God. This will inspire them to build a better America. As a matter of urgency, we must stir up a new springtime of holiness on the continent so that action and contemplation will go hand in hand.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, look with mercy on the peoples of America
9. I wish to entrust and offer the future of the continent to Blessed Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church. For this reason, I have the joy now of announcing that I have declared that on 12 December Our Lady of Guadalupe will be celebrated throughout America with the liturgical rank of feast.
O Mother! You know the paths followed by the first evangelizers of the New World, from Guanahani Island and Hispaniola to the Amazon forests and the Andean peaks, reaching to Tierra del Fuego in the south and to the Great Lakes and mountains of the north. Accompany the Church which is working in the nations of America, so that she may always preach the Gospel and renew her missionary spirit. Encourage all who devote their lives to the cause of Jesus and the spread of his kingdom.
O gentle Lady of Tepeyac, Mother of Guadalupe! To you we present this countless multitude of the faithful praying to God in America. You who have penetrated their hearts, visit and comfort the homes, parishes and Dioceses of the whole continent. Grant that Christian families may exemplarily raise their children in the Church's faith and in love of the Gospel, so that they will be the seed of apostolic vocations. Turn your gaze today upon young people and encourage them to walk with Jesus Christ.
O Lady and Mother of America! Strengthen the faith of our brothers and sisters, so that in all areas of social, professional, cultural and political life they may act in accord with the truth and the new law which Jesus brought to humanity. Look with mercy on the distress of those suffering from hunger, loneliness, rejection or ignorance. Make us recognize them as your favourite children and give us the fervent charity to help them in their needs.
Holy Virgin of Guadalupe, Queen of Peace! Save the nations and peoples of this continent. Teach everyone, political leaders and citizens, to live in true freedom and to act according to the requirements of justice and respect for human rights, so that peace may thus be established once and for all.
To you, O Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, belong all the love, honour, glory and endless praise of your American sons and daughters!
At the end of Mass the Holy Father said in Spanish:
Thank you for this splendid gift which I will take with me. I had the joy once again of celebrating in this basilica which is loved so much by all Mexicans, all Americans, children of peace. I thank you for the prayers you offer each day for me and for my Petrine ministry. I know that you will always continue to do so. Thank you.
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