Tuesday, May 16, 2017

50 Years Hence: Gravitas: Ite ad Joseph!

Some fifty years after the Council of Nicea the Fathers of the Church were ambivalent about the results achieved.

"'To tell the truth, I am convinced that every assembly of bishops is to be avoided, for I have never experienced a happy ending to any council; not even the abolition of abuses..., but only ambition or wrangling about what was taking place.'"  [Saint Gregory of Nazianzus], 368

"[Saint] Basil speaks of the 'shocking disorder  and confusion' of the conciliar disputes, of the 'incessant chatter' that filled the whole Church." 369

"Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil, both of whom spoke from experience, were right in saying that, with the coming together and the inevitable disagreements of many individuals, a council gives rise to unpleasant effects--ambition, strife and the wounds that accompany them."

A council is like an surgical operation, healing (the intended result) is not always the outcome. The results may just as well turn out bad. It depends on the body, the healing comes from within the body, not from the operation itself, which serves merely as a pruning, purgative or corrective force. The healing must come from within the living organism.

"The real content of Christianity is not the discussion of its Christian content and of ways of realizing it: the content of Christianity is the community of word, sacrament and love of neighbor to which justice and truth bear a fundamental relationship." 374

"Whether or not the Council becomes a positive force in the history of the Church depends only indirectly on texts and organization; the crucial question is whether there are individuals--saints--who, by their personal willingness, which cannot be forced, are ready to effect something new and living...individuals prepared to experience in themselves the drama of the separation of the wheat from the cockle and thus to give to the whole a singleness of meaning that it cannot gain from words alone." 377

Principles of Catholic Theology, Joseph Ratzinger, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1987.

N.B. That entire epilogue: 367-393, is a must read (or re-read) for any serious student of theology today. It examines the historical moment of the council and how the Enlightenment made it necessary, and the peculiar situation of Latin America in that historical dynamic. It is no accident that the three Popes of the assessment of these fifty years have been John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis.

Ite ad Joseph [Ratzinger]! to get your bearings within the present confusion, to understand even the position and deepest relevance of Pope Francis. This is a moment of maturity, of great weight, a time for saints!
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