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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Called to Communion

St. Thomas Aquinas is known for having written the Summa Theologica,  (among other works!) which was never finished.  He had a vision of Heaven and afterwards found it impossible to write anything further, and said of his Magnum Opus, "It is as straw!"  

Taken out of context, some would think his comment rendered the work useless;  this is far from the truth!  What he was stating was that in comparison to the Beatific Vision, nothing can compare. He had not yet written on Heaven, and found it impossible to address in writing what "eye has not seen, ear has not heard".  

I'm actually having a similar moment right now...

For our Ecclesiology course this semester, we are reading "Called to Communion" by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The chapter, "A Company in Constant Renewal" is so amazing that it's almost COMPLETELY marked up at this point. I've dog-eared the pages at top and bottom to note passages for class or for personal edification, things to write about, things to re-read, etc. 

He says everything I want to say, but says it better, with a lot more knowledge and wisdom, and informs me where I'm lacking. Which is exactly what he SHOULD have been doing as a Cardinal, and now Pope!  

My is as straw!  I'm not sure I can ever write again after reading this book!  

It was interesting to see how he used a Thomistic format in his writing, at least to my untrained eye.  Throughout the chapter, he addressed first the objections and misunderstandings and summarized the answers of those who think the Church is a political organization.  After making a few such points, he responded with the "On the Contrary"(although not in those words) and gave the answer as to what the Church IS and why, revealing Truth, pointing out the divinity of the Church in a world that wants to make it human.  He clearly answered each objection.

It is only by allowing the Church to be divine, as she truly is, that we will ever, and the Church herself, can ever become fully human.  

I'm going to let the Pope speak for himself: 

"A church based on human resolutions becomes a merely human church. It is reduced to the level of the makeable, of the obvious, of opinion. Opinion replaces faith. And in fact, in the sself-made formulas of faith with which I am acquainted, the meaning of the words 'I believe' never signifies anything beyond 'we opine'. Ultimately, the self-made church savors of the 'self', which always has a bitter taste to the other self and just as soon reveals its petty insignificance. A self-made church is reduced to the empirical domain and thus, precisely as a dream, comes to nothing." 
 ~ (p. 139-140)


I can think of a few examples that exemplify that perfectly.  

Now, for a little Christian Anthropology compliments of the Pope:  

Michelangelo considered the proper activity of the artist to be an act of uncovering, of releasing - not of making. 

The same conception, applied to anthropology in general, is found in St. Bonaventure, who explains the path by which man truly becomes himself with the help of the likeness of the sculptor. The sculptor...does not make anything, rather his work is "ablatio" - the removal of what is not really part of the sculpture.  In the same way, continues Bonaventure, man, in order that God's image may shine radiantly in him, must first and foremost receive the purification whereby the divine Sculptor frees him from that dross that conceals the authentic figure of his being.
~ (p. 141-142)  

And I'm seeing more of our foundation showing up now...last semester we read, in Spiritual Theology, Bonaventure's "Journey to the Mind of God", and this is what is being referenced in the above passage.  However, I don't think one must be familiar with that work in order to understand the above passage.  

There's so much here, so I'll leave you to ponder the two passages above.   Our Pope is a man of great wisdom who sees the world as it truly is, and is giving of himself in every way that he can in order to help us all understand the ends to which we are directed through the ministry of Christ through His Church. 

Pray for the Pope...he's leading us into the future, and needs us all to help him do this work. 


ignorant redneck said...


When ever I read His Holiness' books, I just want to either blog nothing but his books, or stop blogging all together because of his erudition (is that a word?).

But I really like reading your blog, so keep on spinning the straw!

Rachel said...

Thanks for those quotes!

When I get depressed about our political leaders, I should remember our pope. :) :)

Adoro said...

IR ~ Thanks, I wasn't serious about When I consider the great works available to us, I realize how my own explanations are comparison. But we are all called upon to speak, so I do. Not to be remembered...but to serve God in whatever small way He calls.

Rachel ~ You SO have to read this book! It'll remind you of what's really important, and it'll give you all the hope and understanding you need!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

You are right. I should read this. Maybe I'll try and find it to add to my Lenten pile, er reading. But, it is a pile!