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A Contemplation of John 14:6 in the Patristic, Theological, and Spiritual Tradition

By Sr. Kathryn James Hermes, FSP with Sr. Mary Elizabeth Tebo, FSP December 25, 2004


Jesus is the Teacher; he is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. For our sanctity to be complete it must lead us to follow Jesus completely: in his way, in his truth and in his life. Bl. James Alberione,SSP Unpublished meditation, December 22, 1933



Contents Prelude from the Spiritual Canticle of St. John of the Cross / 9

TO THE READER BEGINNING CONSIDERATIONS The Word, the World, and the Gethsemane / 13 Introduction / 19

PART ONE MEDITATION “…and the Word Became Flesh…” / 27 In John / 27 In Augustine / 30  God So Loved Us / 30  Life and Light / 31  There Is Little Required of Us, and Yet… / 32  We Behold the Truth / 34  Jesus Continues His Lowliness / 34 In Origen / 35  The Senses of Our Soul / 35  The Logic of the Incarnation / 36  Union with God / 37  To Be Completely Unified in Christ / 38 In our Post-Modern Context / 39 “…Full of Grace and Truth…” / 45 In John / 45 In Augustine / 47  Deification / 47  Exchange of Natures / 48  Rebirth / 49  Christ—Exemplar of Grace / 50  Grace Is Inescapable / 51  Charity Is the Heart of Grace / 53  All of God’s Action Is Grace / 55


In The Theology of Christian Perfection / 57  Grace as Participation / 58  Grace as Adoption / 60  Grace as Inheritance / 61  Grace as Supernatural Life / 62  Grace as Intimacy or Friendship / 63  Grace as Christ in Us / 63  Grace as Divine Indwelling / 64  Grace as Humility / 66  Final Purpose of Grace: Transformation in God / 67  The End of the Christian Life / 68 In Contemporary Theology / 70  Historical Considerations / 70 th  Renewal of the Early 20 Century / 72  The Contribution of Vatican II / 77  Continuing Development of the Theology of Grace / 78 “…And We Have Seen His Glory, the Glory of an Only Son Coming from the Father…” / 81 In John / 81 In Gregory of Nyssa / 85  The Radiance of God’s Glory / 86  Transformed from Glory to Glory / 89 In The Theology of Christian Perfection / 93  Defining “Glory of God” / 93  Seeking the Glory of God / 94  Configuration with Christ / 95 o I. Jesus Christ, Way / 96 o II. Jesus Christ, Truth / 98 o III. Jesus Christ, Life / 100  Through, With, and In Christ, to the Glory of the Father / 101 o I. Through Christ / 101 o II. With Christ / 103 o III. In Christ / 104 In Contemporary Theology / 107  The Form of Glory / 107  Christ’s Innermost Self-Understanding / 108  The Spirit Glorifies the Son / 110  Imprinted by Glory / 113  Becoming a “Christological Actor” / 116



CONTEMPLATION Let your feet wear out the threshold of his door / 121 Jesus came into the world to a marriage / 135 The Way itself has come to you / 153 Being-in-One-Another / 169 Jesus continues to reveal himself / 187

Works cited / 193




“Besides the outline of faith there is another outline in the soul of the lover, which is love, and this is according to the will; wherein the image of the Beloved is outlined in such manner, and so completely and vividly pictured, when there is union with love, that it is true to say that the Beloved lives in the lover and the lover in the Beloved; and such manner of likeness does love make in the transformation of the two that are in love that it may be said that each is the other and both are one. The reason for this is that in the union and the transformation of love the one gives possession of itself to the others, and each one gives and abandons itself for the other. Thus each lives in the

In the union and the transformation of love the one gives possession of itself to the others, and each one gives and abandons itself for the other.

other, and the one is the other, and both are one through the transformation of love. It is this that Saint Paul meant when he said I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me. For in saying, ‘I live, yet not I,’ he meant that, although he lived, his life was not his own, because he was transformed in Christ and his life was divine rather than human. Wherefore he says that it was not he that lived but Christ that lived in him. “So that, according to this likeness of transformation, we can say that his life and the life of Christ were one life through union of love, which in heaven will be perfectly accomplished in the divine life in all those who shall merit being in God; for, being transformed in God, they will live the life of God, and not their own life. And then they will say in truth, We live, yet not we, for God lives in us. This may come to pass in this life,


as in the case of St. Paul—not, however, in a complete and perfect way, although the soul may reach such a transformation of love as the Spiritual Marriage, which is the highest estate that can be attained in this life; for everything may be called an outline that can be attained in this life by comparison with that perfect image of transformation in glory. But when this outline of transformation is attained in this life, it is a great and good happiness, because the Beloved is greatly pleased with it. For this reason, desiring that the Bride should grave Him upon her soul as an outline, he said to her in the Song of Songs: ‘Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm.” The heart here signifies the soul, whereupon God is set in this life as the seal of an outline of faith, even as was said above; and the arm signifies the strong will, wherein it is as the seal of an outline of love, as we have just now said.” John of the Cross Spiritual Canticle, Stanza XI







I begin this paper with a piece of art to transition the reader from an intellectual or informational stance to one of contemplation. I am always amazed at what color does for us, at least for someone who spends her life, as I do, amidst the black and white world of words. The world of words is black and white in two senses: first, black and white in the sense that, even if one has a color printer, words are usually printed in black and white; second, black and white in the sense that words are usually meant to convey a concept as precisely as possible. Color, or art, however, is not about preciseness, persuasion, domination. Art is about love. We abandon ourselves to a good piece of art, as we abandon ourselves to love. In fact, we can abandon ourselves to art without even understanding it. It evokes feelings, convictions, responses, wonder, mystery. We could say about art what Hans Urs von Balthasar has Consummata say of love: “Love is something so beautiful, so sweet, and which so surpasses me that I abandon myself to it without understanding it. And not to understand is but an added bliss, because you feel that the source is inexhaustible and that it can intoxicate you indefinitely without ever drying up. You sense that the abyss is unfathomable and that you can lose yourself in it eternally without ever


touching bottom.”1 Jan van Ruysbroeck comments similarly, “Where the exhausted intellect remains without, love states: “I shall go in!”2 This painting by Bob Guilroy, SJ, entitled, “The Word, The World, and the Gethsemane,” is such an inexhaustible entrance into the mystery of the “Word made flesh” as sung by the Johannine witnesses. As such it is in miniature a contemplation of this entire study. As a brief introduction I wish to share with you my contemplation on this picture, which can encapsulate the next 80 pages within its colors, shapes and textures.

I used as a guide for contemplation, the steps provided by Guilroy which include contemplation of the picture and contemplation of one’s feelings aroused by the what is noticed in the picture. What first became apparent to me, as I contemplated the painting, was the color yellow. Yellow danced from corner to corner, in an almost ethereal presence. The yellow represented light, perhaps because it seemed to me as though the yellow had the form of flames. It was most pronounced in the “flames” which seemed to drop from the top left corner. The flames were warm and “friendly.” It seemed at first as though the rest of the colors in the picture resisted the yellow. The rest of the picture was untouched by this yellow light, although the light pervaded everything. I felt sad and blocked as I contemplated the picture. I wondered why I felt this way. As I investigated what the sadness was about, I realized I felt alone and isolated. As I dug deeper into the "blocked" feelings, I felt that I myself felt cut off from these eager flames.


Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Grain of Wheat: Aphorisms (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 8. 2 Quoted in front matter of Blaise Arminjon, The Cantata of Love (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988).


It was then that I noticed the color orange. The orange color also reminded me of flames, but these were hot, destructive flames. Orange, in fact, is more predominant in the picture than yellow. It completely encircles Jesus who is in the center of a circle slightly off the center toward the right. The orange flames had some connection to Jesus. Taking my cue from the title of the painting, "The Word, The World, and the Gethsemane," I began to see that Jesus was the only one, from "inside us," that is, "from within humanity, within the world," who completely responded to God's light. We were utterly unable to do so of ourselves. I felt initially that Jesus' “Gethsemane” presence was a criticism of us for our obstinancy in not responding with joy to the flames of Light. But gradually it became clearer and clearer that Jesus was happy to do this for us. For me. In the art piece, a circular pattern swirls out from Jesus at the center. Just so I feel Jesus, in my center, happy to be the perfect response to the Father in place of mine. Happy to be the perfect human response to the Father. The orange flames represented the tremendous risk at which Jesus became our response to God’s love. God had given his creatures genuine freedom, a freedom with which we could destroy ourselves. How could God have taken such a risk with us? God could do so only if he threw himself into the balance, in a sense assuming the risk himself, to save us from ourselves. Thus our God is “God with us,” “God on our side!” It implies, in von Balthasar’s words, “a coming over to our side in order to open up a way for us from within our helplessness and hopelessness—yet without in any way overplaying that situation with his omnipotence; without, that is, impugning our freedom in any manner…. Dying freely and obediently, he turns death,


the sigh of our guilt, into a monument of love.”3 God’s word is sent bodily into our world and commits himself obediently to the task he has been given so that he is in his whole being God’s irrevocable final statement to us of God’s love.

Just as the circular pattern swirls out from Jesus as the center, I feel Jesus in my center happy to be the perfect response to the Father in place of mine. Slowly, I realize that maybe I want to throw myself in the fire with my own irrevocable YES at the heart of creation. This means to jump into the orange flames—to respond to the Light by burning in myself everything but Light itself and what is a response to that Light. Jesus says, “Burn it all to be like me, obedient love.” I was afraid. In that crevice of fear we so often find ourselves, until we discover that what we will find is of greater joy than what we lose. In the crevice of fear, where we ponder the stakes of giving ourselves entirely to Love, we work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Only by throwing ourselves into the Center will we discover with St. John that “Love will come to perfection in us when we can face the day of Judgment without fear; because even in this world we have become as he is” (1 Jn 4.17).

Thus it is not a matter of understanding, it is a matter of daring to entrust yourself, daring to believe.

If it helps you to abandon yourself to the meditations and contemplations on the gospel of John which you will find in this paper, you may wish to do one or two of the following before proceeding. It is not necessary to use paints and markers. You could even just doodle on a piece of paper. 3

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Elucidations (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 66. 1. Make a self-portrait, asking “How do I see myself inside and outside?” 2. What would I create if no one could see it? 16 3. Portray memories, good and bad, asking Jesus to be in the scene with you. 4. Draw how you think others perceive you, especially God.



INTRODUCTION For a long time I have been preoccupied with the realization that in the United States we do not have a theological foundation for our spirituality. We are learning more and more about our Founder and the charism, but the lens through which we are receiving this information remains a catechetical one. It lacks the depth, breadth, and nuance necessary to understand accurately and authentically the thought of the Founder. The Superior General of the Society of St. Paul has said on numerous occasions in public meetings, that we need to re-read our Founder with the theological categories of Vatican II. This “mandate” (as I have felt it to be) was a mystery to me, until I was privileged to be able to work through this material contained in this paper. I see this paper as the beginning, just a simple beginning, of a conversation on an accessible level that aims at creating a theologically renewed understanding of the charism that will be robust enough to enter into the struggles of inculturation in the United States. The scope of this paper is to look at the charismatic phrase, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” within the scriptural context of the gospel of John in which it first appears. This paper intends to “reboot” our understanding of this important trinomial in the gospel of John, asking the questions: What did it mean to John? What is revealed about this phrase by looking at the rest of the gospel of John? Because the Founder also insisted that we return to the sources of the Fathers of the Church, Augustine, Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa also help us investigate the wealth of this self-definition on the part of Jesus. In fact, their words provide the intoxication and revelry characteristic of persons completely overtaken by the Mystery. Finally contemporary theology is called forth to assist us in looking at this charismatic-spiritual touchstone in a manner by which it can speak realistically and meaningfully to the people of our times.


When we are asked on the spur of the moment about who Jesus is for us, we speak of Jesus as the way to be followed, the truth to be believed and the life to be lived (which is, by the way, a quote from the Imitation of Christ). That is, we speak of Jesus in isolation from the Trinity, from Salvation History, from Redemption, from the Incarnation, from Eschatology, from the Eucharist, from Pneumatology—all of which are present in the gospel of John and form the context for understanding who the Johannine Jesus is. We can ask ourselves, “Why did Alberione not choose a quote from Luke, or Matthew, or Mark?” “Why didn’t he give us the image of the Prodigal Father?” “Why specifically did he use John’s gospel?” “What was the Founder trying to tell us about Jesus, by giving us Jn 14.6 as the core of our spirituality?” I am personally not prepared to answer these questions from the perspective of the charism. This paper is not offered as a critique or updating of the Founder. It is, however, a response to the Introduction of Abundantes

“Then there is a theological and ascetical wealth to be found in the ‘way, truth and life’ devotion and method that allows a person to assume the whole Christ in an integral way.”

Divitiae Gratiae Suae, in which, on page 23 of the English Critical Edition, A. Colacrai and E. Sgarbossa state: “Then there is a theological and ascetical wealth to be found in the ‘way, truth and life’ devotion and method that allows a person to assume the whole Christ in an integral way.” I have found there to be an immense wealth here which, if penetrated to the core, would permeate us and our communities with the spirit of the Master. Much, which we try to resolve pragmatically and practically, would resolve itself if the radicality of our Baptism were unleashed and we became Christ. Part One offers a study of the Prologue under three themes: flesh, grace, and glory. One could call it a meditation on Christological dogma in a new key. Beginning


with the gospel of John, each theme proceeds through a Father of the Church, through the Thomist approach, and finally includes a contemporary theological witness. This approach reveals the development of the dogma, as well as the variety of insight into it. A wonderful explanation of this approach is given by Raniero Cantalamessa in Jesus Christ: the Holy One of God which I quote below: Dogmas are “open structures,” ready to accept whatever new and genuine discovery in the word of God each age makes, which has bearing on those truths they are intended to define, though not to close. They are open to development from within, though always, “in the same sense and in the same direction.” That is to say, in such a way, that the interpretation given in one age does not contradict that of a previous age…. Once restored to its original function, dogma, today as always, constitutes the surest way to take if we are to discover the true Jesus. Not only is it the surest, but also the loveliest, the freshest, the richest in promise, like all those things that have not been improvised from one day to the next in accordance with its latest fashionable theory but that have slowly matured as it were in the sun and rain of history, each generation having added its own contribution. “The dogmatic terminology of the primitive Church,” writes Kierkegaard, “is like an enchanted castle where, locked in slumber, lie the handsomest of princes and the loveliest of princesses. They only need to be aroused, for them to leap to their feet in all their glory.” So, approaching Christ by way of dogma does not mean we have to resign ourselves wearily to repeating the same things about him over and over again, merely changing the words. It means reading the Scripture in the Tradition, with the eyes of the Church; that is to say, reading it in a way ever old and ever new…. Furthermore, in these words St. Irenaeus tells us what the condition, or rather the principal agent, of this perennial youth and freshness is: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides the Church to accept the ever-new stimuli constantly arising from history and human thought (the so-called “signs of the times”) and, under this impulse, to read the word of God in manner ever new and more profound.4


Raneiro Cantalamessa, Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1991), 2-5.


Part Two includes five contemplations on various scenes in the gospel of John. Each contemplation includes a section that specifically outlines the wealth that can be gleaned in order to enrich our understanding of Jesus as “way, truth, and life.” Several housekeeping notes: There are extensive footnotes throughout the text. In these footnotes you will find not only citations for quoted material, but further quotations from Fathers of the Church or various theologians. Reading through the footnotes would be like holding up a glass of wine and looking at it from all angles as one sips, savoring the sweetness of its taste. The footnotes also provide biographical and other information regarding the major persons quoted in the paper. Not all quotations from the Fathers of the Church are from the latest translations. Therefore, I took the liberty of changing words such as “thee” and “hast” to their more modern counterparts. However, I did not try to rework their quotes for inclusivity of language. Not all instances of “man” or “men” can accurately be rendered “men and women.” Doing so often changes the sense, especially when “man” was used to denote “creature” or “those-who-are-not-God.” It has a distinctively different philosophical sense which “men and women” is to weak to carry. Trying to “update” all these instances would have been a mammoth undertaking open to countless errors. All citations are correct as printed herein. Those footnotes that say simply “Tractate #” are citations from Augustine’s Commentary on the Gospel of John as obtained from the following internet site:








In John The prologue of the gospel of John is the story of the Word coming into the world. The words “in the beginning,” link it to the first verses of Genesis: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” (Gen 1.1-2). In these two “creation narratives,” God intervenes in the chaos and steps into the emptiness, creating (or re-creating) humankind. Genesis and John reveal a God who is for us, a God who is “opening all the stops” for creation. In Genesis, we see, hear, touch, and experience the glories of creation which are given as a gift to humankind designated as its stewards. In the gospel of John, we see, hear, touch, and experience the Word become flesh, as is stated at the opening of the first letter

We see, hear, touch, and experience the Word become flesh.

of John: “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life….” (1 Jn 1.1). The “in the beginning” of the gospel of John, however, has a broader meaning than the “in the beginning” of Genesis. It refers to something behind Genesis, so to speak. The Word, pre-existent before creation, was with God and was God. He was in the beginning with God, and it was through him that everything came into being. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him” (Jn 1.1-3). This becomes a major Johannine theme: “He said to them, ‘You are from below, I am from


above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he’" (Jn 8.23). One must believe that Jesus is the One sent from the Father. Belief in his divinity is salvation and eternal life. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1.12). The enunciation: “And the Word became flesh” (Jn 1.14) is calculated to shock. The reader is brought from the transcendent, cosmological realm of the Word who was with God in the beginning and through whom all things were made, to the Word who became flesh. The Word takes on a new form in a dramatic way. The Word is fully God (Jn 1.1c) and is now completely flesh (Jn 1.14). The Word become flesh reveals something about the Word, but it also reveals something about “flesh.” Flesh, like the world, is not evil. Flesh is compatible with the divine.5 Flesh could not

The Incarnation of the Word is the ultimate gift of God.

reach up to become compatible with the divine. Incredibly, however, the gap has been bridged by God who reached down to become one with the human. The “bridge,” furthermore, makes it possible for man to become sons of God and to participate in the divine life. Again the opening verses of the first letter of John reiterate the reality of the Word become flesh, “and living among us,” and the wondrous exchange made possible by the incredible nature of this new turn of events: “this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 Jn 1.3).


Raymond Brown, ed., The Jerome Biblical Commentary. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968), 832.


The Word among us, therefore, is not an intellectual reality appreciated by theological circles. He is One who has been touched and seen and heard. He is the One who has saved us, making a vital difference in our reality before God. It is not through an abstract contemplation of theological statements but through concrete encounters that we become children of God. The incarnation of the Word is the ultimate gift of God, and on our acceptance of the revelation of the Word depends our eternal salvation.


In Augustine6 God So Loved Us The Word become flesh is the subject of continued reflection for Augustine in his Commentary on the Gospel of John, and, even more, admiration, gratitude, and contemplation. The Word became flesh

The Word consented to be created by the mother he himself had created.

because the Word loves us. He through whom all things were made, consented to being made in time. Though older than the

world itself, he consented to be less in age than those he had made. He who had made humankind, became human. He consented to be created by the mother he himself had created. He was carried in the hands of Mary, hands he himself had once formed. He,


Augustine was born on November 13, 354, at Tagaste in Numidia, North Africa. His mother, Monica, was a Christian. His father a pagan until his death bed. His parents scraped together enough funds for his education. At the age of eighteen he took a concubine, and their son Adeodatus was born around the year 373. Augustine is certainly known by most Catholics for his famous conversion through the prayers and tears of Monica. His “conversion” was a complex affair—not just an acceptance of baptism and the regularization of his sexual liaisons. At 19, Augustine had a conversion to philosophy or wisdom. Later he joined the Manichees who considered themselves as followers of Christ, but who themselves relied on reason not authority and whose philosophy was characterized by cosmic dualism. Augustine became a teacher of rhetoric and drifted toward a circle of Christian Neoplatonists in Milan, the most prominent being St. Ambrose. He also read stories of the monks and nuns in Italy and Egypt. He was baptized in 387 by Ambrose. He turned his family’s estates into a quasi-monastic community of educated laymen, but was forced to agree to ordination when he visited Hippo in 391. In 195 he was consecrated bishop. Augustine played a crucial role in three major controversies: with the Manichees, the Donatists, and the Pelagians. Augustine of Hippo’s primary theological focus was on the interaction of God’s grace and human freedom, and the call to salvation. “Perhaps the last word, however, should rest with the Confessions. In their psychological realism amounting almost to a phenomenology of subjectivity, they are a foundation stone for Western culture. Yet in their moving evocation of the absolute freedom and benevolence of God’s grace, working through but ultimately independent from every cultural form and historical person, they present that grace to each generation as a question mark, challenging all particular cultural forms and projects to resist the idolatry of self-deification. As such, the last word of Augustine’s influence has yet to be spoken.” Richard McBrien, Encyclopedia of Catholicism (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994), 114-118.


the Word of God, cried without words, unable to speak his needs or desires, his wisdom utterly mute. God so loved us.7 The Maker of man was made man, that the Ruler of the stars mjght suck at the breast; that the Bread might hunger; the Fountain, thirst; the Light, sleep; the Way, be wearied by the journey; the Truth, be accused by false witnesses; the Judge of the living and the dead, be judged by a mortal judge; the Chastener, be chastised with whips; the Vine, be crowned with thorns; the Foundation, be hung upon the tree; Strength, be made weak; Health, be wounded; Life, die.... 8

Life and Light The Word came that we might have “light and life.” He gave us gifts of “grace and truth” (Jn 1.14). We are light by participation in the Light. We have life by participation in the Life. There is a dependent nature to our light and our life. Jesus is the Light out of which others who believed should have life while they lived.9 “His life was the light of men” (Jn 1.4). From this very life are we enlightened. Others seeing our light should be led to glorify not us but God.10 Using another Scriptural image, Augustine speaks of us as lamps. The oil of these lamps is the free grace of God. It is through the mercy of God and the gift of strength that servants of God remain good lamps. When lamps are wise they shine and glow with the Spirit. If they are put out they stink.11 Christ alone is not a lamp, because he is not lit and extinguished by another. Rather he has Light and Life in himself. He does not need life from elsewhere, but is the plenitude of life.12 Our lamps are illuminated through faith13 and can be extinguished by the wind of pride.14 Paul gives


Cf. Serm CLXXXVIII, ii, 2. Quoted in Erich Przywara, An Augustine Synthesis (London: Sheed and Ward, 1936), 182. 8 Serm. CSCI, i. 1. Quoted in Przywara,180-181. 9 Tractate 22. 10 Tractate 23. 11 Tractate 23. 12 Tractate 22. 13 Tractate 54. 14 Tractate 23.


evidence that he realized he did not burn by his own strength: “but the grace of God in me,” “Christ lives in me” (1 Cor. 15.10; Gal. 2.20).15

There Is Little Required of Us, And Yet… As Adam was invited to drink from the cup of his own pride, we are invited to put our mouth to the fountain of living water (Jn 4.14). The Word came as Light to guide us to Life, a life that will never die. Augustine marvels that we can be so sluggish and lukewarm about obtaining this eternal life, which is ours if we wish it, and when we have it will last forever.16 There is little required of us by this Light, but still we can be slowwitted and unable to receive the Light because we are weighed down with our sins.17 The eyes of our heart are sick.18 Our light cannot be seen because we have fallen.19 Our feet hurt because they have been walking over rough places at the bidding of iniquity. Augustine, as would be expected from

When will it be that with strong eyes I shall see what with sore and weak eyes I cannot?

his own life experience, urges his listeners to beg the Physician for healing. “When will it be that with strong eyes I shall see what with sore and weak eyes I cannot?”20 He urges his listeners to confess their sins, openly acknowledging them, and quit the old refuges of darkness. Confession and humility is effected by God, but is embraced by us, as we begin to know ourselves and thus to come to the truth. Confession of sins cures pride. When pride is cured there will be no more iniquity, for all iniquity, for Augustine, comes from pride.


Tractate 14. Tractate 49. 17 Tractate 1. 18 Tractate 14. 19 Tractate 2. 20 Tractate 18. 16


He, being God, for this cause became man, that man might acknowledge himself to be but man.… Being God he is made man; and man does not acknowledge himself to be man, that is, does not acknowledge himself to be mortal, does not acknowledge himself to be frail, does not acknowledge himself to be a sinner, does not acknowledge himself to be sick, that as sick he may at least seek a physician; and what is still more perilous, he fancies himself to be in good health.21

Jesus cures with bitter and sharp medicines. It is with pain that we are drawn away from old habits: “This is what bites, but yet heals.”22 Through the healing of our pride, we are able to drink from the fountain of living water, which we discover is within ourselves.23 The waters of this fountain give us access to eternal life which alone can truly be called life.24 It is in this life that we are truly in the light of the Day which is Christ. If we give up the healing, we will love the darkness.25 “Soul, what of thee? You lost life. Arise take to thee life.”26


Serm (de Script. NT) LXXVII, vii, 11. Quoted in Przywara, 187. Tractate 18. 23 Tractate 24. 24 Tractate 22. 25 Tractate 18. 26 Tractate 19. 22


We Behold the Truth We now live in the Day because Christ is here. The Day of Christ’s presence extends to the end of the world.27 Because we live in the Light we are children of the Day. With the healed eyes of our heart we behold the truth.28 By believing Jesus who is the Truth, we esteem him highly. We go into him and are incorporated into his members.29 And that we might be made fit to understand this, he, the equal of the Father in the form of God, and made in the form of a servant like to us, remakes us to the likeness of God; and he, the unique Son of God, made the Son of man, makes the sons of men sons of God, and the servants whom he nourished through the visible form of a servant, he perfects in freedom that they may see the form of God.30

Jesus Continues His Lowliness In us, today, Jesus continues his lowliness. As members of his body, when we learn, Jesus himself in a certain sense learns. Jesus is taught and enlightened.31 Every day we sin, and every day it is he who intercedes on our behalf, washing our feet.32 If we seek the truth, there is only one place in which to find it, the way of lowliness. Augustine states: “If you seek truth, keep the way, for the way and the truth are the same.”33


Tractate 44. Tractate 7. 29 Tractate 29. 30 Serm CXCIV, iii,; iv, 4 Przywara, 188. 31 Tractate 21 32 Tractate 55. 33 Tractate 13. 28


In Origen34 The Senses of Our Soul Origen, along with the whole great mystical tradition that follows him, sees in the Word become flesh an invitation not only for us to see, hear, and touch the Word in the flesh, but to see, hear, and touch him with the senses of our soul. Origen, in his commentary on the Song of Songs, noticed that along with our bodily senses there are corresponding spiritual senses. Through these senses we have a type of experiential knowledge of divine things. Thus, Origen stated that the soul has a sense of sight by which we contemplate supernatural objects, a type of hearing that can hear more than the voices of those around us, a taste that can seek the goodness of the Lord and be delighted with the eucharistic bread from heaven, and even a smell, since Paul speaks of the perfume of Jesus, and a touch, since John told us that he had touched with his


Origen was born was born around 185 and died around 254 in Alexandria. Origen was deeply affected by the martyrdom of his father in 201 during the persecution of Severus. It was only his mother who kept him from running off to follow in his father’s footsteps. Origen is considered the greatest teacher of Christian doctrine of his time, and he has exercised an enduring influence as an interpreter of the Bible for Christianity in East and West. While still in his late teens, Origen was appointed catechist by Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria. He divided his students into beginners, whom we entrusted to his assistant, and advanced, whom he led through a program of Christian instruction that reflected the advanced studies of the Alexandria academia of his time. He introduced his students to the major philosophical currents, teaching them to apply Christian discernment in retaining the truth compatible with the Bible. He shared with his students a semi-monastic lifestyle with the possibility of martyrdom ever in mind. His fame as a catechist spread far beyond Alexandria, and he was ordained a priest around 230 by Theoctistus of Caesarea and Alexander of Jerusalem. Demetrius banished him from Alexandria and Origen moved to Caesar where he started a new teaching career, in addition to intensive preaching in the local churches. He was invited as theological advisor to a synod in Arabia and traveled to Cappadocia and to Athens before suffering imprisonment in the persecution of the Roman emperor Decius (250-51). Broken in health, Origen died soon after his release. Origen was the most prolific commentator on Holy Scripture in the ancient Church. Origen acquired an uncommon familiarity with the Scriptures because he was attempting to correct the Septuagint version of the Scriptures of errors which had crept into the version by generations of copyists. In an immense volume he lined up in six columns the original Hebrew, a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew, Greek version of Aquila, Symmachus, the Septuagine and Theodotion. In the Septuagint column he made corrections after examining the various copies of the Scriptures that were in circulation in that day, in order to secure a corrected text. From this familiarity with the Scriptures he produced commentaries on various books of the Bible, homilies, a theological articulation of the most basic Christian beliefs. Letters and framents of his other works are still extant. Jerome could count over 100 titles that had not been lost, and many more have been lost to history.


own hands the Word of God.35 These senses of the soul correspond to the sense of the body but they are interiorized, purified, unified, and, spiritualized.36 Blaise Arminjon, author of The Cantata of Love, believes that we find the notion of spiritual senses foreign, because we practice a prayer that is far too cerebral and abstract. Origen’s belief that we approach God through the senses of the soul does not ring true with our own experience of prayer. But, Arminjon states, if Christ became flesh, then it was in order to be reached also by the senses of the soul. The Logic of the Incarnation Father Donatien Mollat, a French spiritual author, wrote: The Word made himself visible, audible, tangible. It is through the senses that revelation came to men, that divine life was communicated to them, and it is in this way that they receive and welcome it.... The use of sensory language to Christ becomes the object of each express the experience of communion sense of the soul. with God in Christ, is one of the characteristic features of Johannine spirituality. It is within the logic of the Incarnation.37 Origen himself states with great clarity: "Christ becomes the object of each sense of the soul. He calls himself the true light, to enlighten the eyes of the soul; the Word, to be heard; the Bread of life, to be tasted; he is also called oil of anointing and nard because the soul is delighted by the perfume of the Logos. He became the Word made flesh, tangible, substantial, so that the inner man would be able to grasp the Word of Life.�38 Saint Augustine might have known these lines of Origen when he wrote, in his commentary on the gospel of John, "If the senses of the body have their pleasure, does 35

Cf. Origen, In Canticum Canticorum, 96, quoted in Blaise Arminjon, The Cantata of Love (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988), 146. 36 Cf. Arminjon, 147. 37 Donaien Mollat, "Jean L'Evangeliste", Dictionnaire de spiritualite, vol 8 (Paris: Beauchesne, 1974), c. 217-224), quoted in Arminjon, 148. 38 Origen, In Canticum Canticorum, 142. Quoted in Arminjon, 148.


not the soul also have pleasures?"39 St. Ignatius has retreatants who were meditating on the mystery of the Incarnation sense and taste and small the infinite sweetness and gentleness of the Divinity.40 Union with God The senses of the soul work together to unite us to God. Augustine prays, “there is a light, a voice, a perfume, a food, an embrace that I love when I love my God. It is the light, the voice, the perfume, the embrace of the inner man in me, where there shines in my soul a light that is not limited by space, where melodies are heard that time does not drive away, where perfumes are wafting that are not scattered by the wind, where one tastes a food that cannot be devoured by any voracity and embraces that are never sated. This is what I love when I love my God.41 The senses of the soul lift us beyond mere carnal seductions and even beyond the emotional movements of the exterior self, uniting us directly with God. Origen explains: The eye, if it reaches the contemplation of the glory of the Word, the glory of the only Son coming from the Father, will not We to the roots of our want to see anything else; and the ear will not want to hear anything but the Word of unconscious, in every aspect of life that saves; and he whose hand has our affectivity, must be touched the Word of life will not want to evangelized by the Word. touch anything fragile and perishable; and he whose taste has savored the Word of life, his flesh and the bread come down from heaven, will thereafter be incapable of tasting anything else; and later he will not want any other food, for, for in this bread capable of having all tastes, he will find all the desirable savors. 42

To Be Completely Unified in Christ


Augustine, In Joannem, 26, 3; PL 35, 26, c. 1608. Quoted in Arminjon, 148. Ignatius, Exercices spirituals, 77, no. 124. Quoted in Arminjon, 148. 41 Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine (New York: Penquin Books, 1963), Book 40

X, 6(9).


Origen In Canticum Canticorum, 95; quoted in Arminjon, 150.


Why is all this important for us? The Word became flesh. Thus we, in our flesh, to the roots of our unconscious, in every aspect of our affectivity, must be evangelized by the Word, that is, allow the Word incarnation in our flesh. We must allow this evangelization to occur. We must second it, yearn for it, surrender to it. This evangelization is far more efficacious than simple discipline or restriction or mortification. This evangelization which changes us, literally, from the inside out will only occur if we apply the senses of our soul to the things of God. Our love of God cannot remain solely in our head. If we want our personality to be completely unified in Christ, we must follow the Word who descended into our flesh, and descend ourselves, after him, into the “fleshly” reality we are, and not seek to escape it even through religious abstractions. If our prayer remains cerebral, Arminjon maintains, “we would inevitably live a sort of inner divorce, the head belonging to the Lord while the heart would necessarily go to other objects with the disasters that this could provoke both on the psychological plane and on the spiritual one.” 43 Only through the devel-opment of the spiritual senses can we achieve true purification of our sensitivity.

In Our Post-Modern Context Beautiful as a bridegroom strong as a giant, lovable and terrible, severe and serene, beautiful to the good, harsh to the wicked, remaining in the bosom of the Father, [the Word] made pregnant the womb of the Mother.44

We believe that the gospel … mediates the person of Jesus Christ to us in our own context.

In order to be creatively faithful to the Word himself and creatively faithful to our spirituality rooted in the gospel of John, we also need to look at the world into which the

43 44

Arminjon, 150. Ser CXCV, 3. Quoted in Przywara, 180.


Word came, or, rather, the world into which the Word comes today. We believe that the gospel does not record the history of what Jesus did and said 2000 years ago, as much as it mediates the person of Jesus Christ to us in our own context. As Light he still comes into the world, to his own. As Light he still confronts the darkness. As Truth he elicites our response that we too might be children of God by believing in him. As Way he encounters us, mediating our reconciliation with the Father. As Life he rescues us from death. Jesus is still becoming flesh in this world. In the gospel of John Jesus shows us how to find meaning in a post-modern world. He surprises us with his presence—we who live in a world of globalization and terror. He invites us to come and see where he lives, even though we are not meeting him on the shores of Galilee but in the Silicon Valley or behind computers with iPods in our hands. We cannot read the gospel and not be humbled by an encounter that answers all our questions, gives us the direction we desire, and embraces us with the compassion we need to share. God’s final Word to the world didn’t die out 2,000 years ago. It is as fresh and as vital as when the Word was first spoken in God’s eternity. Love is what God gives the world to heal its wounds, a love that is many-faceted as we will see in the coming chapters, as we watch Jesus enticing people into intimacy with him. To provide a more concrete and yet synthetic and manageable “snapshot” of our post-modern context, I am using the final paper from the 2004 World Congress for Consecrated Life held in Rome in November of that year.45 With each characteristic of our times I will pair an element of the gospel of John that might be explored and contemplated in order to find the light the Word is offering us today.


The paper is available on the website:


According to the World Congress on Consecrated Life, we see in humanity today the following characteristics: 

Thirst for well-being in a world of consumption of goods and of poverty (Wedding at Cana; Jn 2)

Thirst for love in the midst of chaos and disordered love (Samaritan woman; Jn 4)

Thirst for transcendence in the midst of political and existential discord (Peter—“I will die for you!”; Jn 13.36-38)

The need for great wells to quench our thirst (“I am the fountain of living water”; Jn 4 and Jn 7.37-39)

The desire to know and develop knowledge and technology (2 disciples who asked Jesus where he lived; Jn 2)

The need to establish institutions to fulfill our transcendent needs (Farewell Discourses; Jn 14—17)

The deconstruction of prejudices about race, religion, and gender (Vine and the Branches; Jn 15)

The experience of ourselves as wounded, in the midst of death (Mary and Martha at the death of Lazarus; Jn 11)

The universal experience of homelessness (the Word became flesh; Jn 1.9-14)

Living in the midst of violence and insecurity (“I do always what the Father wills.”; Jn 11.1—12.36)

Living in the midst of violence, wars, and terrorism (Farewell Discourses; Jn 14.1-7)

At the mercy of the concentration of power and arbitrary injustice (Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion; Jn 18—19)

At the mercy of perverse economic systems and uncontrolled egoism (“If the world hates you….”; Jn 15.18—16.4)

We look at the Church and religious life and we see: 

Ecclesiastical institutions far from the poor and from the sorrows of humanity (Woman who Anointed Jesus before his death; Jn 12.1-11)

Religious who have made all kinds of alliances of convenience—which at the Congress were named the “husbands” that we must leave in order to follow Jesus (The Samaritan Woman; Jn 4)

We are in a transition time that is marked by: 

Great advances in science and technology that are still incapable of resolving the great problems of humanity (Nicodemus; Jn 3)


Powerful means of communication that sometimes “colonize the spirit” (Jesus Gives the Spirit; Jn 20.19-29)

Globalization that makes us interdependent on each other and yet at the same time undermines particular identities (Vine and Branches; Jn 15)

Kairos moments in which we are surprised and realize that the God who speaks to us is the Lord of history even today (Jesus Cures the Man Born Blind; Jn 9)

A thirst for and crisis of meaning that holds out to us a thousand proposals and promises (Good Shepherd; Jn 10)

We look at our context through these four lenses: 

The thirst for meaning; (Nicodemus; Jn 3)

The suffering of humanity; (Wedding at Cana; Jn 2)

Passion for Jesus Christ, mediator of our Covenant with God; (the Samaritan Woman; Jn 4)

Compassion, called forth by the sorrows and needs of humanity. (The Good Shepherd; Jn 10)

Jesus leads us to discover in our world and in ourselves:    

The ambiguities The limitations The fragility And the influences of evil.

At the same time, the gospel helps us see that passion for Jesus and compassion for the needs of humanity give meaning to our mission, animate our spirituality, and impart quality to our community life. We cannot see the future, but we can identify the “newness” that has already sprouted among us. Characteristics of this newness that can be watered by lectio divina on the gospel of John are: 

The desire to be born anew (Nicodemus and Mary in the Garden after the resurrection; Jn 3 and Jn 20)


The consistent asking of the Holy Spirit for the grace of re-foundation (the statements and questions of the Apostles at the Last Supper and in the Farewell Discourses; Jn 13-17)

The fascination of the person of Jesus exerted over consecrated life today (The First Disciples; Jn 2)

The centrality of lectio divina in which we proclaim, meditate on, share, and pray in obedience to the Word of God (“I have food of which you do not know”; Jn 4.31-42)

The fundamental importance of our mission, a mission that excites our imagination and impels us to undertake bold and prophetic new initiatives, to go beyond our own frontiers to proclaim Jesus Christ through inculturation, inter-religious and inter-confessional dialogue; to express our option for the lowly and excluded ones in society; to explore new means of communication; a mission and an option for the poor (poverty) (Prologue; Jn 1)

The search for communion and community, based on deep and inclusive relationships; the progressive extension of community living to the parish, diocese, and city, to society and to humanity (Cure of the man at Bethesda; Jn 5)

The need for a new spirituality that integrates the spiritual and the corporal, the feminine and the masculine, the personal and the communal, the natural and the cultural, the temporal and eschatological, and is with us in all our living and doing (Jesus provides both food that goes bad and food that endures for eternal life; Jesus comes to the apostles on the lake; Jn 6)

The transition from a consecrated life that separates us from the world to a consecrated life that is incarnate and a witness to transcendence. (The Shepherd is with his Sheep; Jn 10)


Attitudes that are called forth in us at this time in the following of Jesus:       

Depth: Good discernment and authenticity Hospitality and gratitude Non-violence and meekness Liberty of spirit Boldness and creativity Tolerance and dialogue Simplicity: valuing the resources of the poor and despised.

 If we were to contemplate Jesus—who is the way, the truth, and the life—in the gospel of John,  If we were to allow the Word to reveal himself to us without, on our part, any preconceived notions of the way, the truth, or the life,

 If we were to contemplate the Word who seeks his Father’s will for himself (in his members) today,

 Unprecedented newness would emerge in our lives!


“…FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH…” In John In the New Testament, grace signifies the love of God for God’s people. This love is characterized by freedom, benevolence and mercy. This love is not simply an attitude or intention, but reveals itself in history as a redeeming and liberating event. Grace is a new possibility for living. “Grace is a new life and a new way given by God in Jesus Christ and made accessible in history.”46 Jesus referred to himself as this new way, this new life. Belief, in the gospel of John, is the way to this

For the Christian Scriptures, “the way” signifies the life of Jesus with God, expressed in his concern for others.

life. As an oriental expression, “the way” indicates “a special viewpoint and praxis which lead to full humanity.”47 For the Christian Scriptures, “the way” signifies the life of Jesus with God, expressed in his concern for others.48 Through Jesus Christ, “grace and truth” have been made accessible to us (John 1.17). Limiting ourselves to the Johannine theology of grace, the word grace or “charis” appears four times in the Prologue: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. …From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. The Law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1.14,16,17). Though this is the only place that the word grace appears in John, all the Johannine writings are concerned with grace.49 All of John’s characteristic motifs have to


Stephen J. Duffy, The Dynamics of Grace (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1993), 27. Duffy, 27; italics mine. 48 Cf. Duffy, 27. 49 Duffy, 37. 47


do with grace, that is, with God’s gracious gifts to us in Jesus and his Spirit. The motifs of light (and darkness), life (and death), truth (and falsehood) are not only God’s gifts to us, but God’s self-communication to us. God does not only give knowledge through Jesus Christ. God gives life, God’s life to us. To Nicodemus Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn 3.5-6). And again, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3.16). To the Samaritan woman Jesus promised: “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty” (Jn 4.14). This divine self-communication of God happens through dynamic movement. It is an event. A continuous happening. Jesus is himself the active communication of God’s divine life. “Because of him people can enter a new life and become the children of God.”50 Grace is therefore the gift of God’s self-communication shared with us in Jesus and his Spirit which transforms the human person into a newborn being.51 “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he [the Word] gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” (Jn 1.13).

50 51

Duffy, 37. Duffy, 38.


In Augustine Deification The key passage for Augustine’s theology of grace is Jn 1.14: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” Over and over again, Augustine explains the mysteries in the gospel of John by returning to this phrase. For Augustine, “grace” meant God’s self-bestowal and God’s loving kindness given to us through the coming of the Word who was made flesh (Jn 1.14). He wrote: “[The Word] came down that we might rise up; and remaining in his own nature, he was made a sharer in our nature, so that we, while remaining in our nature, should be made sharers

God gives to the person what the person was incapable of having on his or her own: “Arise, take to you life.”

in his nature.”52 For Augustine, grace brings about a real change in the person: rebirth, justification, adoption, divinization, participation in the divine life.53 God gives to the person what the person was incapable of having on his or her own: “Arise, take to you life, that in him who has life in himself you may receive the life which is not in you. He that gives you life, then, is the Father and the Son.”54 Reflecting on the Prologue he wrote:

“He came unto his own,” that is, he came to those things which belong to him. “And his own received him not.” What hope is there then, except that “as many as received him he gave them power to be made the sons of God”? If they are made sons, they are born. If they are born, how are they born? Not of flesh, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; but they were born of 52

Duffy, 78. Duffy, 79; Also “Those who believe in Christ are freed from sin and through their faith in Christ attain to the grace of divine adoption: ‘The medicine for all the wounds of the soul, and the one way of atoning for all human delinquency, is to believe in Christ... By believing in [Christ], they become children of God, because they are born of God adoptively by the grace which consists of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.’” Serm 143.1.1 quoted in Basil Studer, The Grace of Christ and the Grace of God in Augustine of Hippo (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1996), 49. 54 Tractate 19. 53


God.” Let them rejoice then, that they were born of God. Let them have confidence that they belong to God. Let them receive proof that they were born of God. “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” If the Word was not ashamed to be born of man, are man ashamed to be born of God? Now because he did this, he cured [us]; because he cured [us], we see. For this, namely that “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” became a medicine for us, so that since we were blinded by earth, we might be healed by earth. And once healed, what might we see? “And he saw,” it says, “his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth.” 55

Exchange of Natures Augustine defines participation more profoundly as the mystery of the exchange of natures. “Make the exchange; become spirit and dwell in him who became flesh and dwelt among you. No longer need we despair of becoming children of God by participation in the Word, because by participation in the flesh the divine Son became a human son.”56

Do not wonder, then, O man, that you are made a son through grace, that you are born of God according to his Word. The Word himself wished first to be born of man, that you might be born safely of God, and that you might say to yourself, “it was not without reason that God willed to be born of man, but because he thought me of some importance, so that he should make me immortal and should himself be born into mortal life from me.” So when [the gospel] had said, “of God were born,” in order that, as it were, we might not be astonished and terrified at a grace so great that it might seem unbelievable to us that men were born of God, as if relieving you of anxiety, [the gospel] says, “and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Why then are you astonished that men are born of God? Notice that God himself was born of men: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”57


Tractate 3. Duffy, 79. 57 Tractate 2. 56


Rebirth When one comes to know God Augustine believes that one experiences a rebirth by God’s grace. This spiritual birth is also called adoption. We become something that we were not before. We become a new reality as children of God. Often Augustine associates to this theme of rebirth the lowliness or weakness of Jesus Christ. “The strength of Christ created you, the weakness of Christ created you anew. The strength of Christ caused that to be which was not; the weakness of Christ caused that what was should not perish. He fashioned us by his strength, he sought us by his weakness.”58 Even though Augustine struggled with the ethical life in a public and profound way, when he speaks of what God works in us through grace he sings a hymn not to moralism, but to beauty: What manner of love is this, that transforms the lover into beauty! God is ever beautiful, never ugly, never changing. He that is ever beautiful, he first loved us-and loved us that were ugly and misshapen. Yet the end of his love was not to leave us ugly, but to transform us, creating beauty in place of deformity. And how shall we win this beauty, but through loving him who is ever beautiful? Beauty grows in you with the growth of love, for charity itself is the soul’s beauty. 59

Christ—Exemplar of Grace Augustine’s theology of grace was strictly tied to the Word taking flesh and living among us. Christ became the exemplar of grace, not in the sense that we must strive to imitate Christ, but in the sense that it became clear through the incarnation that grace is a completely free gift of God’s love. 60 “As regards that [human being] taken up by the Word, it’s all grace, it’s unique grace, it’s perfect grace. It is the supreme example of the


Tractate 15. Thomas Finan, Scriptural Interpretation of the Fathers (London: Four Courts Pr Ltd, 1995), 212. 60 Studer, 61. 59


graciousness of grace.”61 We are justified by the same grace by which Jesus became the Son of God and a completely righteous person. By believing in him we too are justified.62 As Christ was born of the Spirit, so we are born of the same Spirit.63 Augustine wrote: We may rightly say that while human nature belongs not to the nature of God, yet such human nature does by grace belong to the person of the only-Begotten Son of God; and that by grace so great, that there is none greater, yea, none that even approaches equality. For there were no merits that preceded that assumption of humanity, but all his merits began with that very assumption. The Son, therefore, abides in the love wherewith the Father has loved him, and so has kept his commandments. For what are we to think of him even as man, but that God is his lifter up? For the Word was God, the only-begotten, co-eternal with him that begat; but that he might be given to us as Mediator, by grace ineffable, the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.64 Augustine felt very strongly that the gift of Jesus Christ to us is not his example, but the grace with which he floods our lives through the Spirit.65 It is the Spirit’s grace that makes it possible to imitate Jesus Christ. For if the life of Jesus Christ was about imitating a righteous person, there were plenty of righteous persons we could have imitated. We had been unable to imitate those who had lived righteous lives. It is Jesus’ grace that makes righteous living possible for us. “If, then, righteousness comes through imitation of righteous persons, Christ died for no reason, since even before him there were righteous persons who could be imitated by those who wanted to be righteous.”66


Studer, 61. “It is faith itself then that God exacts from us; and he finds not that which he exacts, unless he has bestowed what he may find.” Tractate 28. 63 Studer, 60. 64 Tractate 55. 65 “...when anyone thinks that he can fulfill the Law by his own strength and not through the grace of his Savior, this presumption does him no good. Rather it so harms him that he is both seized by a stronger desire to sin, and by his sins is made a transgressor.... Therefore, let the man lying low, when he realizes that he cannot rise by himself, implore the aid of the Liberator. For then comes grace, which pardons earlier sins and aids the struggling one....” (Prop on Rom 13-18 quoted in Kermit Scott, Augustine: His Thought in Context (New York: Paulist Press, 1995), 198.) 66 C. Ius. imp. 2.14.6: quoted in Studer, 188, footnote 134; Also “Consequently, a simple 62


Grace Is Inescapable Even though his conversion was a tremendous moment of grace for Augustine, he saw grace as an ambience that reached through every instant of his life. This ambient was God’s intent to bring him to fulfillment in Christ. At his conversion, Augustine was able to truly read and understand the mystery of the preceding years of his life. “Wherever he meets himself, God is there before him. …Grace is inescapable, wholly prevenient. Every movement of his heart, every initiative of his will is preceded by God who calls and sustains his holy restlessness. The relentless undertow in his life was the emptiness God had set within him, which only God could fill up, and the unfathomable Providence of God, which drew him, yet rescued him from being swallowed by the emptiness.” 67 It is the grace of Christ, the Word made flesh, who took on weakness, that he might raise us up “in our low estate, who, feeble and crawling on the ground, were not able to reach unto God.”68 Augustine’s Commentary on the Gospel of John is a hymn to Christ who enables us to live righteously. In Augustine’s theology we are not able to obey God’s law. It is not in our power to live as

It is not in our power to live as God desires.

God desires. Having received the Law we knew what God desired of us, but were unable to overcome the desires of the flesh which desired otherwise. It is only with the aid of God’s grace that we can have the strength to do God’s will, fighting off the snares of this world.69

imitation of Christ is not enough. The danger of the Pelagian heresy consisted precisely in this, that it saw the grace of Christ as consisting in imitation of him and not in the giving of the Spirit whereby this imitation first becomes possible. In other words, if justification comes simply from imitation, then Christ died in vain. In the incarnation, therefore, Christ became both an example of living and an example of grace.” Studer, 54. 67 Duffy, 82. 68 Tractate 23. 69 Scott, 198. Also “This [grace] was not in the Old Testament because the Law threatened, it did not succour; it ordered, it did not cure; it exposed weakness, it did not take it


Do but examine the nature of man: man is born and grows, he learns the customs of men. What does he know but earth, of earth? He speaks the things of men, knows the things of men, minds the things of men; carnal, he judges carnally, conjectures carnally: lo! it is man all over. Let the grace of God come, and enlighten his darkness, as it is said, “You will enlighten my candle, O Lord; my God, enlighten my darkness”; let it take the mind of man, and turn it to its own light; immediately he begins to say, as the Apostle says, “Yet not I, but the grace of God that is in me;” and, “Now I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” 70 While we do not have it in our power to do what we want, we do have the capacity to want to obey God and to cry out for God’s help.71 Striving on our own power to do God’s will ends in pride and pretension. Augustine believed that only by surrendering to God’s will and ceasing human striving will happiness be found. “Any created will will surely be lost unless it receives the wholly undeserved grace that renders it able to turn to God in pure love or (if it is created already good) to persevere in that love.”72

away. But it made ready for that physician who was to come with grace and truth. Just as a physician first may send his servant to someone whom he wishes to heal that he may find him bound. He was not healthy, he was unwilling to be cured; and that he might not be cured, he kept insisting that he was healthy. The Law was sent; it bound him. He finds himself guilty and now he shouts out from his bonds. “The Lord comes; he cures with rather bitter and sharp medicines. For he says to the sick man, ‘Bear it.’ He says, ‘Endure it.’ He says, ‘Do not love the world. Have patience. Let the fire of continence heal you. Let your wounds suffer the sword of perseverance.’ You were trembling in fear even though bound; he was free, that once, and unbound, he drank what he gave to you. He suffered first that he might comfort you, as if saying, ‘What you fear to suffer for yourself, I first suffer for you.’ This is grace, and a great grace. Who praises it worthily?” Tractate 3. 70 Tractate 14. 71 Note: “St. Augustine's teaching [on our fallen nature] was conditioned by the historical context of the Pelagian controversy, leading him to go so far as to say that human nature is ‘wounded, hurt, damaged, destroyed’ by sin's disobedience. Nevertheless, when isolated statements of his are seen within the immense corpus of his works we are unjustified in taking these extreme positions typical of the Jansenist and Lutheran positions. It remains obvious that St. Augustine's intention was to defend the primacy of grace, and with his position the Council of Trent was able to defend itself against erroneous attitudes that attempted to find support in the same Doctor of Grace. The point St. Augustine emphasizes is the necessity of healing so that the will might accomplish the good it is incapable of fulfilling through obedience to the law when unaccompanied by grace.” Charles Carpenter, Theology as the Road to Holiness in St. Bonaventure (New York: Paulist Press, 1999), 40. 72 Scott, 226. Also “Our life, as ours, that is, of our own personal will, will be only evil, sinful, unrighteous; but the life in us that is good is from God, not from ourselves; it is given to us by God, not by ourselves. But Christ has life in himself, as the Father has, because he is the Word of God. ... He who is living ill, was in his own life; he who is living well, is passed to the life


Charity Is the Heart of Grace The heart of grace, for Augustine, is the Spirit’s gift of charity. Grace animates the personal life of love. Our charity is an exchange of love for Love, of gift for Gift. This charity is shown not only to God but also to our neighbor. Our love for God must include our neighbor, “for if we deny humanity to a neighbor, God will deny us divinity, i.e., the immortality by which God makes us gods.”73

Grace heals our love, ordering it rightly. Grace enables us to replace choices for sin with salvific choices. Grace restores us to our capacity to use our free will for freedom in love. Through grace we are able to choose the supreme good in all our choices. God even most tenderly disposes situations according to what will move us most freely to choose what God desires.74 Oh that our hearts were in some measure aspiring after that ineffable glory! Oh that we were passing our pilgrimage in sighs, and loving not the world, and continually pushing onwards with pious minds to him who has called us! Longing is the very bosom of the heart. We shall attain, if with all our power we give way to our longing. ...Love with me. He who loves God is not much in love with money. Oh, were we loving God worthily, we should have no love at all for money! Money then will be your means of Oh that we were passing our pilgrimage, not the stimulation of lust; pilgrimage in sighs, and something to use of necessity, not to joy loving not the world, and over as a means of delight. Love God, if he was wrought in you somewhat of that which continually pushing onwards you hear and praise. Use the world: let not with pious minds to him who the world hold you captive. You are passing has called us! on the journey you have begun; you have come, again to depart, not to abide. You are passing on your journey, and this life is but a wayside inn. Use money as the traveller of Christ. You are made a partaker of life; you were not that which you have received.” Tractate 22. 73 Duffy, 82. 74 Duffy, 99.


at an inn uses table, cup, pitcher and couch, with the purpose not of remaining, but of leaving them behind. If such you would be, you, who can stir up your hearts and hear me; if such you would be, you will attain to his promises. It is not too much for your strength, for mighty is the hand of him who has called you. He has called you. Call upon him, say to him, you have called us, we call upon you; see, we have heard you calling us, hear us calling upon you: lead us whither you have promised; perfect what you have begun; forsake not your own gifts; leave not your own field; let your tender shoots yet be gathered into your barn. Temptations abound in the world, but greater is he who made the world. Temptations abound, but he fails not whose hope reposes in him in whom there is no deficiency.75 All of God’s Action Is Grace God acts continuously in our world. All of this action of God is grace, all is gift. God creates, sustains, redeems out of spontaneous love for us and the desire to spread goodness. Our creation, our continued existence and our salvation is God’s gratuitous and loving gift.76 God’s will is always triumphant and never evil. ... In relation to the world, then, all of God’s action is grace. God creates, sustains, redeems and consummates, not of necessity or because of human merit, but out of spontaneous love

Our very being is a work of grace and our salvation is God’s gratuitous gift.

and goodness. Our very being is a work of grace and our salvation is God’s gratuitous gift. Augustine


Tractate 40; Also “And certainly to love God is the gift of God. He it was that gave the grace to love him, who loved while still unloved. Even when displeasing him we were loved, that there might be that in us whereby we should become pleasing in his sight…. The Father loves us, because we love the Son; seeing it is of the Father and Son we have received [the power] to love both the Father and the Son: for love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit of both, by which Spirit we love both the Father and the Son, and whom we love along with the Father and the Son. God, therefore, it was that wrought this religious love of ours whereby we worship God; and he saw that it is good, and on that account he himself loved that which he had made.” Tractate 102. 76 Roy Battenhouse, ed., A Companion to the Study of St. Augustine (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1955), 359.


wrote: “Then let man understand that he has received; and when he would call that his own which is not his, let him decrease: for it is good for him that God be glorified in him.”77 Augustine’s works are full of gratitude. One can almost sense the profound gratitude he had to God for his conversion. Grace in his eyes is a glorious and awesome mercy received, a mercy we have not merited, quite the contrary. Augustine emphasizes wonder, love, and praise that this gift has bestowed upon us. “Now, my

Let all sighings be after Christ. Let that fairest One alone be all our desire.

brethren, let our joy be in hope: let none rejoice as in a present thing, lest he stick fast in the way. Let joy be wholly of hope to come, desire be wholly of eternal life. Let all sighings breathe after Christ. Let that fairest One alone, who loved the foul to make them fair, be all our desire; after him alone let us run, for him alone pant and sigh; ‘and let them say always, The Lord be magnified, that wish the peace of his servant.’” 78 And again, “Let us rejoice, then, and give thanks that we are made not only Christians, but Christ. Do you understand, brethren, and apprehend the grace of God upon us? Marvel, be glad, we are made Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members: the whole man is he and we.”79


Tractate 14. Tractate 10. 79 Tractate 21. 78


In The Theology of Christian Perfection In 1965, the Daughters of St. Paul in the United States printed the small hardbound book: Theology of Christian Perfection. The book was a summary of the much larger volume of the same title written by Rev. Antonio Royo, O. P. (published in 1962 and reprinted in 1987). The small Pauline edition included an introductory sermon by Rev. Primo Maestro James Alberione, as well as a Concluding Pauline Application. The second paragraph of the introduction states that the Founder himself had this summary printed. He states, “This abstract mirrors substantially our spirituality. Therefore, it is well that it be read by all and that it be applied to life. Such is Pauline spirituality.”80 And in fact, the opening two paragraphs written by the Founder under the subheading “Purpose of the Summary” show how closely Royo’s work and the Founder’s thought come together. He quotes Royo, attributing to him words every Pauline knows by heart. Father Royo writes: We shall be saints only in the measure that we live the life of Christ, or rather, in the measure that Christ lives his life in us. The process of sanctification is a process of ‘Christification….’ We can summarize the application of Christology to the Christian life by taking the words which Christ spoke of himself when he states, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14.6).81

The Founder goes on to state that in order for us to be saints we must seek only the glory of God and our own sanctification. Among the ways or methods of giving glory to God and achieving our sanctification the first means—the means which the Congregation has always taught, “the most profound and theological way which is rooted 80

No author listed, Theology of Christian Perfection (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1965), 9. The summary is made of pages 23-46, 104-115, 196-211 of Royo’s volume, although pages 54115 appear in part Three of Donec Formetur and are a help to understanding the Founder’s theology of the Holy Spirit. Henceforth this book is referred to as “Summary” since it has no author listed. 81 Summary, 22.


in the very sources of revelation”82—is the way of living in Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life. Taking my cue from the content of this summary, with a look also at the original volume by Marin and at Donec Formetur, any theological foundation for understanding the wealth of the “way, truth, and life devotion and method” must include a theological

Any theological foundation for understanding the wealth of the “way, truth, and life devotion and method” must include a theological exploration of grace.

exploration of grace. In fact it is interesting to note that this summary given to the members of the Pauline Family to nourish their spirituality looks at the topic of grace entirely through the lens of the mystery of Christ: Jesus Christ, as Way, Truth and Life.

Grace as Participation In The Theology of Christian Pefection, as in most spiritual and mystical theologies written in its period (i.e., Tanquerey, LaGrange), grace is treated with the categories of St. Thomas. According to Thomas then, what is grace? Grace is a participation in the very nature of God. We may find it difficult to penetrate what it means to participate in the very nature of God. In fact, it may slip from being reality to simply a metaphor describing our friendship with God. So let’s take some time to meditate on what it means to be, as Paul states “the offspring of God” (Acts 17.29). We can remember also Peter’s expression of the same reality: “Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1.4). 82

Ibid, 11.


The word participation means that as inferiors we assimilate and express inadequately a perfection of something or someone superior to us. We note that we really and truly physically have this perfection, although to a lesser degree than the One who is this perfection. It is not a fanciful mystical expression. It is not the conjured up fruit of self-consciousness or self-actualization. It is reality. In this way we participate in the divine nature, as is clearly stated in revelation: Sanctifying grace enables us to physically and formally participate in the nature of God.83 That which exists in God in an infinite manner is participated in by the soul who possesses sanctifying grace in a limited and finite manner. Participation in the life of God does not make us gods. We do not participate in God’s life in the same way in which God transmits the divine nature to the Son. Instead we participate in a real but analogous way in God’s nature. Only God can give us grace since we are inferior to God and it is beyond our nature. “Only God can make gods of us, sharing his nature and living like him in some way.”84 Actual union with God, in this life as in the life of glory, is

We are irrevocably accepted and loved by a self-giving God.

always unowed. God doesn’t owe us anything. Participation in God’s very life is a totally gratuitous gift that only God can bestow.

Grace as Adoption We participate in the divine nature as adopted sons of God. To be adopted means to be freely welcomed into a family that is not one’s own, to be considered as a child of that family, equally inheritors of the family fortune as the rest of the children. 83

Antonio Royo, O. P., The Theology of Christian Perfection (Dubuque: The Priory Press,

1962), 33. 84

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae—A Concise Translation. (Westminster: Christian Classics, 1989), 316.


Adoption into a human family is really a “legal fiction,”85 since it confers on the adoptee the rights of inheritance without actually infusing into the adopted child the blood of the family. No intrinsic change happens to the one being adopted. But when God adopts us as his child, God infuses sanctifying grace in us which gives us a real participation in the divine nature itself. “It is an intrinsic adoption which places in our souls, physically and formally, a divine reality which makes the blood of God circulate in our souls. (We speak metaphorically of a sublime truth.) In virtue of this divine infusion, the soul shares in the very life of God.”86 Sanctifying grace does not just give us the right to be called children of God, it makes us so in fact. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are” (1 Jn 3.1). That we might be children of God was the purpose of Jesus’ coming on earth: “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1.12). We are irrevocably accepted and loved by a self-giving God.

Grace as Inheritance Grace make us heirs of God, co-heirs with Jesus Christ. A child adopted into a human family must share the inheritance with the other children. The more children there are, the less each inherits. As adopted children of God, our inheritance is not divided but is forever infinite as God is infinite. What do we inherit? We inherit God himself. Our inheritance is the beatific vision and the enjoyment of God, all the riches of divinity, all that constitutes the happiness of God, his honor, his glory, his dominion. St. Thomas states that “grace is nothing other than the beginning of glory in us.”87 As participants in the divine life which Christ possesses in its fullness, we are automatically co-heirs with Jesus Christ. He is our elder brother, our Head, the cause of 85

Royo, 37. Royo, 38. 87 St. Thomas, Summa II-II, q. 24, a. 3 ad 2. Quoted in Royo, 38 86


our salvation. For this reason the Father looks upon us as if we were one thing with Christ. God loves us as God loves his Son. Christ has accepted us into this divine life, praying: “That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (Jn 17.21-23).

Grace as Supernatural Life Sanctifying grace, which is the participation in God’s life, transcends any of our human powers. There is nothing we can do to arrive at what grace makes us able to be or do.88 Through the power of sanctifying grace we can begin to live in a divine manner. What does it mean to “live in a divine manner?” To live in a divine manner is more than doing works that are good on a natural level, even if they are heroic. To live in a divine manner is to live, work, suffer, and pray through Christ, with Christ and in Christ to the glory of God the Father in the Holy Spirit.89 To live and work only for the glory of God is


“Let us recall that any actual relationship with God is a matter of grace, whether this is explicitely realized or not. It follows that it takes the divine gift of charity to turn natural acts and habits into acts and habits of virtue.” Frans Jozef van Beeck, God Encountered Volume Two/4 (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2001), 58. Also: “The thesis that grace is necessary for the accomplishment of any good work that would have salvific significance is the constant teaching of Augustine, especially in his writings against Pelagius (if not without some exaggeration). Van Beeck, 58 footnote [a]. 89 For full discussion of this, see page 92. Also, “I have long felt that Christians who leave the church nowadays do so to a significant extent out of boredom. In Church, you can count on finding some pretty good people and ditto friendship, and some fine initiatives on behalf of the growing multitude of the disadvantaged, but no amplitude of purview, no ecstasy, no theoria—in sum, no sense of participation in God, no mysticism. The inner affinity with the Mystery in whom we are alive and move and have being—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—can grow on us only in the experience of God as “the ALL”; the God of each of us at the expense of none of us, the God who never comes alone but always with the entire cosmos and all of humanity. This experience is the heart of common worship, with its cosmic and universalistic dimensions, its significant silence and significant speech, its significant gesture and significant motionlessness, its interplay of the seen and the unseen—in sum, its doxology made tangible. Prayerlessness and presencelessness are the bane of Christian churches today, it appears to me; “praying-for-this-and-that-and-the-other,”


to live in a divine manner, a prerequisite for the Pact: “I promise and commit myself to do everything only and always for the glory of God.”

Grace as Intimacy or Friendship God is present everywhere through God’s essence, presence and power. Through sanctifying grace, however, God is present to the just person as a friend. God establishes a mutual exchange of love and friendship, a type of mutual transfusion of life.90 “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 Jn 4.16). There is no more intimate union with God possible, other than the hypostatic union exclusive to Christ. We are God’s friends, a relationship that is built on and grows in a reciprocally offered love. Love in turn deepens the intimacy and commitment of this friendship. In John’s gospel, the evangelist writes: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and will make our abode with him” (Jn 14.23).

Grace as Christ In Us The divinity of Christ is permanently present and dwells in the person who’s in the state of grace. In his Last Discourse, Jesus could not have made this clearer, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from you can do nothing” (Jn 15.4-5).

professions of the human need for “salvation,” and homilizing masked as prayer have largely eclipsed prayer and thanksgiving….” Van Beeck, 50. 90 Cf. Royo, 40.


For this reason we are always with Christ, and Christ is always with us. The short prayer we used to say when greeting each other—“Jesus is with us. We are with Jesus”—was not a mere wish, or a supernatural way of speaking. It was the expression of a reality that was so because we had received the gift of sanctifying grace, a reality greater than any natural reality. In Donec Formetur, Blessed James Alberione, reflects on the “life” of which Jesus speaks in this passage of John’s gospel. Guido Gandolfo, SSP, elaborating on the Founder’s thought, asks, “What life are we speaking about? Supernatural life, the Founder says clearly. He then adds: life-grace, so as to reach his central point: Jesus is grace! It is precisely this personalized aspect that interests Fr. Alberione. Jesus is grace; he is ‘full of grace.’ He is the true Vine, through which lymph passes to the branches. Consequently, the life of grace in the believer can be correctly understood as “the life of Jesus,” that is to say, Jesus living in the individual.”91

Grace as Divine Indwelling Sanctifying grace makes us temples of the holy Trinity. What does God do in this temple? God continuously imparts to the person supernatural life, as a child in her mother’s womb receives life continuously from her mother. Without a mother the child dies. We are in God and God is in us, in a much more mysterious and profound way than an unborn child is in her mother and her mother is in her child. At the core of our being we participate in the divine life, as Jan van Ruysbroec, a Flemish mystical writer in the 14th century, writes: …the being and the life that we are in God, in our eternal image, is immediately and indivisibly one with the being and life which we have and which we are in ourselves, in regard to essential being. And therefore, in the most interior, most 91

Guido Gandolfo, Retreat Donec Formetur (unpublished retreat notes, English translation, 2004), Day 16.


sublime part of itself, the spirit receives without intermission, in [its] bare nature, the imprint of its eternal image and of divine resplendence; and [it] is an eternal dwelling-place of God, which God occupies with eternal indwelling, and which he visits constantly by coming anew and by illuminating [it] anew with new resplendence of His eternal birth…. and in whatever thing he is, it is in him, for he does not go outside of Himself. And this is why the spirit essentially possesses God in [its] bare nature, and God [possesses] the spirit, for it lives in God and God in it. And by virtue of the higher part of itself, it is capable of receiving, without intermediary, God’s resplendence and all that God can accomplish.92 Thus, we are in the life of the Trinity, which is the life of God, and God dwells in us and communicates his divine life to us. Grace is relational and grows only through God’s power. This means that grace is given to us by a divine gift or infusion and cannot increase unless God gives us more grace.93 We receive grace in our souls at Baptism like a seed. It is meant to grow in us. However, we cannot increase grace in ourselves, no matter how good we try to be. Only from God can we receive new degrees and infusions of grace. Through

We cannot increase grace in ourselves, no matter how good we try to be. Only from God can we receive new degrees and infusions of grace.

abandoning ourselves completely in full responsiveness to God we remain rooted in God’s constant presence at the core of our being.

Grace as Humility In Donec Formetur, Blessed James Alberione directs the Pauline to measure herself against the three degrees of humility. These degrees of humility enrich our reflection on grace. The first degree of humility is the fact that we have received 92

Cf. Die geestelike brulocht, pp. 468-75 (The Spiritual Espousals and Other Works, pp. 116-18). Quoted in Van Beeck, 8-9. 93 This is the opposite of the natural order. When we are born we grow and develop as human beings throughout our life. Grace, however, is static. It does not grow and develop through our own powers. It is only by more divine infusions of grace that grace is multiplied in us.


everything in the natural order from God. We have been created in the love of God who is our Father and Provident Ruler, and who mercifully regenerates us after we have fallen. We are totally dependent on God for everything in the natural order. We have nothing to boast of as our own. Yesterday we did not exist, but then God created us. “It is he that made us, and we are his.” God made us so that we would give him glory on earth. He made us so that by thus glorifying him, we would become partakers of his happiness in heaven.”94 The second degree of humility: we are sinners unable to make adequate satisfaction for even the smallest of our sins. Only Christ has been able to make adequate satisfaction for sin, and it is from the overabundance of grace which he merited by his death on the cross that we are able to obtain pardon for our sins. We are totally dependent on God in Christ for salvation and reconciliation with God. The third degree of humility: we are unable to live a Christian life, a religious life Without the Holy Spirit. We can look at our dependence on God from another perspective by reflecting on the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Only God can infuse the theological virtues—faith, hope, and love. They are operative principles by which we are directed and ordained directly and immediately to God as our supernatural end. They are infused with the gift of sanctifying grace. Through these three virtues immediate union with God is realized. “Faith enables us to know and unites us with God as First Truth; hope makes us desire him as the Supreme Good for us; charity unites us to him by the love of friendship, so far as he is infinite goodness in himself.”95 The gifts of the Holy Spirit are supernatural realities which completely transcend reason. They dispose us to promptly and joyfully follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit

94 95

James Alberione, Until Christ Be Formed in You (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1983), 21. Royo, 62.


in a way that is superior to what is natural to us, and for a purpose which is above our nature. In short, we are totally incapable in every way of attaining on our own the goal of our life which is the glory of God and our own sanctification.

Final Purpose of the Life of Grace: Transformation in God Blessed James Alberione clearly states in Donec Formetur, as pointed out by Don Guido Gandolfo96, that our final goal is transformation in God, or, to use another word, our divinization. The strategy Alberione lays out for the Pauline is simple: rejection of a selfish mentality so as to allow Jesus Christ to

The strategy is simple: rejection of a selfish mentality…until we have become divinized.

grow in us until we have become divinized. Then, and only then, will we truly be apostles. The Founder states in the Introduction of the Summary: “When we have established ourselves in the thoughts, desires, and intentions of God alone, this is the state of sanctity.”97 The means for doing this is conformation to the thoughts, desires, actions, and intentions of the God-man Jesus Christ—the Word made flesh. When we have become like Christ, we have become like God.

The End of the Christian Life The glory of God is the beginning and the end of the Christian life. Our sanctification, becoming Christ, reaching the “Christ lives in me,” all must be sought only for God’s glory. Seeking

96 97

Gandolfo, Day 2. Summary, 17.


Seeking our own perfection and the happiness of heaven needs to take second place. God’s glory, not our sanctification, is our ultimate end.

our own perfection and the happiness of heaven needs to take second place. God’s glory, not our sanctification, is our ultimate end. We must desire it and work unceasingly to obtain God’s glory. God has so arranged things that we are truly happy only when we seek God’s glory. Paul states in this regard: “And when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the One who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15.28). The life of Jesus himself is directed to the glory of God, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you” (Jn 17.1). And we, too, have been caught up in this hymn of all created things to the glory of God: “He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved…. The seal of the promised Holy Spirit…is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1.7, 14). The summary of The Theology of Christian Perfection states how seriously the Christian should take this: Although this truth is so evident for those who admit the divine transcendence, in practice it does not appear to dominate the lives of the saints until rather late, when their souls are consumed by love in the unity of God. Only at the apex of the transforming union, fully identified with God, do their thoughts and desires proceed in unison with the mind and will of God…. Nothing should so preoccupy the soul which aspires to sanctity as constant forgetfulness of self and the sincere seeking after the glory of God. “In the heaven of my soul,” said Elizabeth of the Trinity, “there dwells the glory of God, nothing else but the glory of God.”98


Summary, page 30-31; Also “The plan of the Creator, who formed man to his own image and likeness, will be realized at last when all who share one human nature, regenerated in Christ through the Holy Spirit and beholding together the glory of God (see 2 Cor 3:18), will be able to say ‘Our Father.’” Conciliar Document on the Church’s Missionary Activity, Ad Gentes, 7, 3.


In Contemporary Theology Historical Considerations Throughout the fifteenth through the twentieth centuries, Thomas’s subtle distinctions in the theology of grace were often misunderstood and much of the patristic wealth was lost.99 We can get a “snapshot” of the pre-conciliar theology of grace, as it was understood on the popular level, by looking at the Baltimore Catechism with which many of us would be familiar—if we didn’t memorize its questions and answers, we at least were schooled in its thought. According to the Baltimore Catechism, the chief effect of Christ’s redemption was “the gaining of grace for men”; grace was “a supernatural gift of God bestowed on us, through the merits of Jesus Christ, for our salvation.” “There are two kinds of grace, sanctifying grace and actual grace.” Sanctifying grace, or “habitual grace,” “is that grace which makes the soul holy and pleasing to God.” Actual grace “is that help of God which enlightens our mind and moves our will to shun evil and to do good.” “Grace is necessary for salvation, because without grace we can do nothing to merit heaven.” “We can, and unfortunately often do, resist the grace of God.” “Mortal sin deprives us of spiritual life, which is sanctifying grace, and brings death and damnation on the soul.” …”The sacraments have power of giving grace from the merits of Jesus Christ.” “Another means of obtaining grace…is prayer.”100 These answers from the Baltimore Catechism give one the idea that grace is something that exists between the soul and God. From this popular idea of grace comes 99

Theologians, in an attempt to emphasize that grace was a free gift, began to speak of a “pure nature” that had its own “natural end” as opposed to a higher “supernatural destiny.” Grace came to be considered a passing impulse necessary for salvation that could be increased by good works and prayer, but which was always elusive, temporary, and fragile. Teachings about predestination and the sovereignty of God led to fear of God’s arbitrary will and absolute power. Luther, himself disturbed by the thought of God’s arbitrary power, turned to Paul and taught that God imputes the redemptive work of Christ to believers, but that they remain sinners, “God’s enemies.” The Catholic response to Luther in the Council of Trent was that justification not only obtained the forgiveness of sins but also the radical transformation of the baptized person. The human soul was renovated by sanctifying grace so that one moves from being an enemy of God to being God’s friend. In other words, contrary to Luther, something happens to us. Grace changes us into God’s friends. After the Council of Trent, theology focused on a variety of disputes over created grace. Summary based on McBrien, 579-580. 100 Joseph Komonchak, ed., The New Dictionary of Theology (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1993), 443.


the notion of “making merits”—buying one’s way into heaven by amassing more and more “amounts” of grace. Whatever happened to the New Testament sense of grace as God’s self-communication of love to us in Jesus and his Spirit? Grace had slipped from love and inclusion in the divine life of the Trinity to a thing that one accumulated and tried not to lose. Even the relationship of grace to salvation is hardly evident at this point. This notion of grace affected our theology of the Incarnation and the Redemption, the sacraments, and original sin. “Many Catholics did not see how the doctrine of grace had any connection with a lasting, sovereign love of God or with their human experience.”101 The process by which the theology of grace had become so transfigured that it no longer signified the life of God communicated in love, would be the subject of a theological “detective story,” far beyond the scope of our study.102 But this snapshot allows us to appreciate the work of theologians and the Council in attempting to restore the central focus of the theology of grace to the mystery of God’s self-communication in love.103 This work was rooted in the biblical, patristic, and liturgical renewal of the early twentieth century leading up to the Council.

Renewal of the Early 20th Century Henri De Lubac’s104 contribution to the conversation was to bring together the natural desire for grace in the human heart and the utterly free offer of grace on the part of God. He retrieved what St. Thomas had taught “that there is a natural human desire



Richard McBrien, Encyclopedia of Catholicism (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994),


See footnote 94 above. McBrien, 580, 104 1896-1991, French Jesuit theologian and cardinal. De Lubac sought to revitalize and expand Catholic theology by studying patristic theology, where he found the diversity he considered essential to Catholicism. One of his main contributions was his attack on theologies which misinterpreted patristic and Scholastic thought, separating Christianity from secular concerns. Participated in Vatican II as a peritus. 103


for the vision of God.”105 This friendship or communication of life on the part of God is not owed to us. Far from being an object passing between the hands of God and the soul, grace now was deeply rooted in the life of God and in our lives.106 Karl Rahner107 agreed that humans have a fundamental orientation that makes us desire God (either consciously or unconsciously). This very desire is, in his thought, a totally gratuitous, free gift of God. God did not have to give us this desire for him. Rahner did much to restore the Catholic theology of grace by reemphasizing “the Trinitarian presence of God’s self-communication and by drawing together human nature and divine grace.”108 He defined grace as “the free, unmerited and forgiving self-communication of God” and considered grace to be the doctrine that is most distinctive of the Christian message.109 The New Dictionary of Theology summarizes his definition of grace in this way: The essence of the Christian message is that that holy mystery, God, communicates God’s self to every human being in a free, absolute, unmerited, forgiving self-communication, which is for every human being an existential reality. God has already communicated The mystery is experienced as a God’s self as an innermost constitutive element of every human being. Every hidden closeness, a forgiving human being has already, here and now intimacy, as a love which in his or her own personal life, accepted

shares itself….


Komonchak, 444. McBrien, 581. 107 th 1904-1984, probably the most prominent and influential Catholic theologian of the 20 century. He fashioned a new style of theology out of the approaches of Thomist, transcendental, and existentialist philosophies. His writings were an example of how Catholic theology need not flee originality and development in order to remain true to Catholic tradition. One can see in Rahnerian thought three areas of focus: the analysis of the human person; the selfcommunication of God as the ground of revelation and grace; and the history of self and of culture. The human person become the place where revelation occurs. Human structures of knowing and of ordinary life make possible the reception of divine revelation and grace. Rahner didn’t want to write for scholars but for all religious people. He wanted to explain what was basic in the gospel, the reality of the mystery of the special presence of God in each individual life and in the history of humanity. He also partipated in Vatican II. 108 McBrien, 581. 109 Komonchak, 446. 106


or rejected the invitation to intimacy extended by the living God. Those who have accepted the invitation have already experienced the mystery not only as an infinitely distant horizon, a remote judgment on themselves and their world, but also as a hidden closeness, a forgiving intimacy, their real home, as a love which shares itself, something familiar which they can approach and turn to from the estrangement of their own perilous and empty life.110 The Belgian theologian Piet Fransen111 described how grace touched human consciousness: “God’s grace promotes an interior harmony by transforming, deepening, and healing freedom with all of its powers, hopes, and impulses.” 112 Bernard Lonergan113 added to the historical research in the text of Thomas,114 and through his work provides the structure for a reformed, truly systematic treatise on grace. In Insight, he lays out the dogmas of the Church in the area of grace: “1. the goal of human life is personal union with God in beatific vision; 2. to attain or even to make serious progress toward the beatitude God has promised is possible only with God’s help; 3. God gives that help in a way out of proportion to all created nature, granting human beings a share in God’s own nature, God’s knowledge, God’s love.”115


Komonchak, 446. 1913-1983. Flemish Jesuit theologian. Served on the faculty at the University of Louvain and is known for his work in the theology of grace, ecumenism, and ecclesiology. 112 McBrien, 581. 113 1904-1984. Jesuit philosopher and theologian. Lonergan’s work was dedicated to an ever more adequate understanding of both human intelligence and the mysteries of Christian faith. His book Grace and Freedom, traced the developments of speculative theology on grace from Augustine to Aquinas, set out the terms and relations in the notion of operative and cooperative grace, and presented an as yet unsurpassed analysis of Aquinas’s theories of causation, operation, divine transcendence, and human liberty. Through his study of Augustine and Aquinas, Lonergan developed his three-fold conversions: intellectual conversion to the truth, moral conversion to goodness, and religious conversion to God revealed in Jesus Christ. These become the basis for the intellectual, moral, and theological virtues in Aquinas. In his book Insight, he transposes the cognitional theory learned from Aquinas into contemporary contexts. Today there are ten Lonergan research centers worldwide. 114 “Lonergan shows how the confusing differences in Aquinas’ many statements on grace can be integrated and understood by reading Aquinas historically, as a thinker gradually broadening his synthesis of the philosophical and scientific insights of his own time. Only gradually does Thomas succeed in bringing those new insights to bear on the traditional psychological questions about grace.” Komonchak, 445. 115 Komonchak, 445. 111


Edward Schillebeeckx116 contributed to the social and political dimensions of grace stating that “the Christian experience of God’s saving presence has to be rethought in a world of secularization and excessive, senseless human suffering. Grace and salvation are to be found in fragmentary experiences where the flourishing of humanity is encouraged and nurtured and in human efforts to protest and resist evil as well as to stand in solidarity with those who suffer.”117 Hans Urs Von Balthasar118 wrote that “Grace is a challenge to one’s total existence: the truth of one’s faith hangs on whether a person loves God in deed more than the world and

Grace is a challenge to one’s total existence.

whether he seeks the Kingdom of God first (Homilies 48. 1ff.).119 The alternating experience of consolation and desolation, alternating spirits and moods, played a pivotal role in his theology of grace. The following quote of Macarius


Born 1914. World-renowned Dominican theologian and a major theological influence on the renewal of Catholic life and thought during and since the Second Vatican Council. From his mentor M.-D Chenu, he learned the importance of interpreting theological positions in their historical context and of the theologian’s active involvement with political and social movements of the day. He has been committed to relate the Christian tradition to human experience. His later writings focus more critically on Christian claims that Jesus is the universal Savior in the face of the radical suffering in the world; crises of ministry and authority in the Church, and the liberating power of Christian faith. 117 McBrien, 581. 118 1905-1988. Swiss Catholic theologian and cardinal. One of the persons who had a decisive impact on von Balthasar’s theology was de Lubac. With de Lubac, Balthasar said, he found his “theological home”; here he discovered the spirituality-theology of the Church Fathers; the sense of the paradox of the human, according to which the human person is constitutively oriented to grace (the God of Jesus Christ), even as this grace remains absolutely undeserved; and the sense of the catholicity of the Church, and of the Church as communio. In 1940, given the choice of going to the Gregorian as a Professor or to Basel as a chaplain to students, Balthasar chose the chaplaincy. At the heart of his theology lay an insistence on the Church’s instrinsic openness to the world, and on the role of the laity in realizing the presence of the Church in the world. His major works of his second creative period are his trilogy: The Glory of the Lord, Theo-Drama, and Theo-Logic. The trilogy is organized according to the transcendentals as he explains: “A being appears, it has an epiphany: in that it is beautiful and makes us marvel. In appearing it gives itself, it delivers itself to us: it is good. And in giving itself up, it speaks itself, it unveils itself: it is true (in itself, but in the other to which it reveals itself.” 119 Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord, A theological aesthetics, I: Seeing the Form (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 273.


(fourth century theologian) included by von Balthasar in his chapter on the Experience of Faith (in The Glory of the Lord, I) is worth quoting in full. The souls who are

considered worthy only of a little grace and who receive only a little drop from the abyssal ocean, perceive that they…are astonished at God’s unexpected and strange manner of acting…. Grace illuminates them and brings them peace…. After a short time, however, everything changes in such a way that [the same person] really views himself as the greatest sinner among all men. Then again at other moments he appears to himself to be a powerful ruler or a mighty friend of the King. And yet again at other times he has the impression of being weak and poor as a beggar. Then your reason is totally nonplussed as to why things are now this way and now that…. Trust God as your guide. Let your soul continue in communion with God, just as a bride enjoys communion with her bridegroom (Homilies 38, 4f.).120

In this quote we see that grace sometimes permits the person to be touched in the deepest part of their sensibility by the temptation and insinuations of the devil, often suffering the humiliation of failure and sin. If the person is then obedient to grace, in the struggle to arise, and in unceasing prayer, “the fire of grace extends outwards to the external senses,” and a

It is only when a person becomes thoroughly poor that grace illuminates his whole nature.

person experiences the life of grace in a powerful way and temptations can no longer penetrate “to the center of the person.” It is only when the person becomes thoroughly poor that “grace illuminates his whole nature by a perception of the depths.” 121

The Contribution of Vatican II The Council’s incorporation of this theology of grace which retrieved the wealth of scripture and the best in theology (in particular Augustine and Aquinas), has borne fruit 120 121

Von Balthasar, 274. Von Balthasar, 281.


in much transformation in Catholic life. In her ecumenical teaching the presumption is general that every human being is on the way to salvation unless it is deliberately rejected. The Council set the truths of faith in a context in which their importance for every day Christian life would be clear. The emphasis was on the experiential, tying theory to life. Grace, thus, brings us to thankfulness. Grace is a gift to be used, not the measure of a reward to be received in the future. Holiness is explained in terms of perfect charity, not in quantities of grace. In the sacraments one notices a strong effort to surround the celebration of the sacrament with the reading of Scripture, preaching, gathering the community, the promotion of conversion. Although we still believe that the sacraments bestow grace when celebrated rightly, we have moved away from anything which suggests automatism. Works which were formerly

Holiness is explained in terms of perfect charity, not in quantities of grace.

preached as valuable to increase one’s store of grace and merits have been restructured. Hence in general the focus is on living a Christian life by doing Christian deeds. Prayer is now the awareness of living in God’s presence, completely dependent on God and hoping in God for everything. Grace signifies all of God’s interaction with humanity in accord with the divine purposes for it. Accordingly, the coming of Jesus as the anticipation of God’s reign in the world is the central concretization of God’s grace in history. Jesus is the human face of God and in his deeds and words the gracious design of God can be read.

Continuing Development of the Theology of Grace Liberation theologians, Gustavo Gutierrez,122 Leonardo Boff,123 Jon Sobrino,124 and others explore the meaning of grace as “the liberating power and presence of God


Born 1928. Peruvain Catholic theologian often credited with the founding of the Latin American liberation theology. Gutierrez received a diploma in medicine, and studied philosophy,


in the context of the social and political ‘disgrace’ of Central and South America.” They challenge an overly individualistic approach to grace and emphasize the importance of cooperation in social and political terms.125 Theologians dialoguing with the natural sciences and the growing ecological movement have begun to think of grace also in terms which “include God’s relationship with all forms of life in this universe and beyond. The mystery of God’s love and presence extends beyond human experience or the history of salvation…to the mystery of God’s creation.126

psychology and theology, receiving his Ph.D. in theology. He was ordained a priest in 1959. Returning to Lima in 1960 he served as a pastor while teaching at the Catholic University of Lima. He was theological advisor in 1968 at the CELAM II in Medellín. Author of A Theology of Liberation. 123 Born 1938, a leading exponent of Latin American liberation theology. Boff is a native of Brazil and a former Franciscan priest, and has long been concerned with developing an ecclesiology and a Christology for the Latin American Church. His theology is permeated by a sacramental view of creation. After publishing in 1981 Church, Charism and Power, in which he outlined an ecclesiology based on gifts rather than on hierarchical structures, he was silenced by Rome for a year. Exasperated by the restrictions being placed on his work, he decided in 1992 to leave the Franciscan order and the priesthood. 124 Born 1938. Jesuit theologian of El Salvador. Born in Barcelona, Spain, he is professor of theology at the Universidad José Siméon Cañas of Central America in San Salvador and a leading figure in Latin American liberation theology. On November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests were murdered by the Salvadoran military on the campus of the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador, El Salvador. Jon Sobrino had been away at the time. His entire community had been assassinated. Sobrino writes from the reality of faith, as set in motion by the event of Jesus Christ, and from the situation of the victims—the “Crucified People” of history— particularly the poor of El Salvador, with whom he works. 125 McBrien, 581. 126 McBrien, 582.



“…AND WE HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY, THE GLORY OF AN ONLY SON COMING FROM THE FATHER…” In John In the New Testament, glory expresses the wondrous and awesome mystery of God, as well as God’s plan to draw everyone into this mystery of giving glory to God, “God’s measureless glory and boundless mercy, in which all of creation, and human beings in particular, are called to share.”127 The glory of God in the New Testament acknowledges the notion of God’s glory in the Old Testament: the power, majesty, honor and

The saving, self-revelation of God is now visible in the person of Christ.

radiance which belongs to God alone.128 What is new in the New Testament, however, is that the glory of God now appears in Jesus Christ. The saving, self-revelation of God is now visible in the person of Christ. “In him we see just what the godliness of God is.”129 In the Old Testament, to speak of God’s glory was to speak of God’s power. In the New Testament, God’s glory is revealed, instead, in humiliation—infinite love has replaced infinite power as the definition of God’s glory. Both Paul and John make it clear that central to the experience of God’s glory is the paschal mystery of Christ. It is on the cross that the true glory of God is revealed. “It is precisely God’s glory that God, while remaining God and Lord of all, is powerful enough to enter into the sin and death which has disfigured God’s creation and from


Van Beeck, 39. Komonchak, 418. 129 Komonchak, 418. 128


within, in loving solidarity, to save God’s beloved world.”130 To reveal his glory God sent his Son to the world. One of John’s specific contributions to the theme of glory is to contrast God’s glory with human vainglory. Almost always the word “glory” (doxa), as used by Jesus, has the sense of “honor, praise, repute,”131 and is given by God. It contrasts with the glory humans give to one another. Humans seek to gain glory for themselves or to give glory to others for the purpose of protecting, defending, or asserting themselves. In chapter 17, however, John describes an alternative glory: one which derives from complete surrender to the will of

John describes a glory which derives from complete surrender to the will of the One who sent him.

the One who sent him. Because Jesus never fails to give glory to God, God glorifies him.132 This glory is incomprehensible to the world that has not accepted Jesus Christ. We are invited into this glory, but it cannot be bought or grabbed as a personal adornment. This glory is a gift of the Father. Jesus prays that his disciples will receive this gift as he himself has: “The glory that you have given to me I have given to them…” (Jn 17.22a). The glory of God in Jesus is manifested, in the gospel of John, in miracles, the first of which is performed at the marriage feast of Cana: “He manifested his glory and his disciples believed in him” (Jn 2.11). There is a three-stage element to these miracles: 1) a manifestation or light; 2) the seeing of the manifestation; 3) the witnesses’ faith and praise.133 The faith of the followers gives Jesus glory because they recognize him to be truly the Son of God. The miracles, then, are a form of self-manifestation on the part of Jesus. 130

Komonchak, 418. Ceslas Spicq, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament—Vol I (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 373. 132 Cf. Spicq, 373, 133 Cf. Spicq, 375. 131


Divine glory is a continuous exchange of gifts. The Trinity is defined as complete self-gift continuously renewed out of love. The glory of God does not come about by selfassertion, but through unity brought about by self-surrender. Jesus showed us the way in which humans can enter into this unity and glory of the Father: “that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become

The glory of God does not come about by self-assertion, but through unity brought about by self-surrender.

perfectly one…” (Jn 17.22b-23a). The unity of the disciples with the Father and Jesus, and their unity among themselves through self-surrendered continuous giving to each other is the sign by which the world will recognize that they follow Jesus. Jesus prays to the Father that “they will be transported into a new sphere of existence—to be where he is—and to receive the gift of a new vision—to behold his glory (17.24a).” In this new sphere the disciples’ outlook will be determined by the Father’s love for him, not by the conditions and categories of the world.134 In the death and resurrection of Christ, his followers will discover what is the key of his life: his union with God “in the beginning” (Jn 1.1). The Father’s love holds together his life and all of history itself. By leaving them, Jesus relocates them. “They live now in the heavenly realm of life and communion, the Father’s house of many dwelling places (Jn .14.23).”135 Through his priestly prayer, his followers indeed accompany him into the Father’s presence. “The Father’s love for the Son overflows into those who believe in him; and


Anthony J Kelly, C.SS.R. Experiencing God in the Gospel of John (New York: Paulist Press, 2003), 348. 135 Kelly, 349; Also “This participation in the divine nature and thus in eternal life, this communion in Christ, imparts to all members the same life that belongs to him; obtained through Christ’s passion and his Eucharist it is the principle that unites all Christians with each other and with the three divine persons. Believers are ushered into the presence of the Holy Trinity, receive its splendor, and share in its glory.” Spicq, 376.


his love for them will be enacted in their love for one another (Jn 13.34-35; 15.12, 17).”136 In John’s gospel, Jesus’ death on the cross is the manifestation of God present and active, saving the world. The hour of death is, indeed, already the hour of

Jesus’ death is the manifestation of God present and active.

glory, because it manifests the love of the Father and the Son for the world, as well as the obedience and love of Jesus for his Father. Thus for John, God’s glory is the origin, end, and heart of all creation (Jn 17.5, 24). The Father is glorified in the Son, the Son is glorified in his followers, and thus the divine form of glory—which comes about through self-surrendering love and unity—will be made known to the world.137 The faith and fruitful ministry of Jesus’ followers continues to glorify him. The Father is glorified by his followers’ bearing much fruit (Jn 15.8). And the Spirit glorifies Christ by continuing to make Christ’s teachings better known, re-announcing them, reproclaiming them until the end of the world. Jesus promises to do anything his own ask of him, so that the Father will be glorified in the Son (Jn 14.13). Thus, Jesus Christ continues to give the Father glory even now, as he did while he was on earth.

In Gregory of Nyssa138


Kelly, 349. Kelly, 350. 138 Gregory was born in Cappadocia, around the year 330, into a Christian family. His youthful years coincided with the last revival of pagan culture. So even though he was destined for the priesthood, it seems, he married and became a teacher of rhetoric. When his brother Basil became bishop in 370, the new bishop wanted to surround himself with men he could trust (the emperor Valens was persecuting those who held to the doctrines of the Council of Nicea). Basil had his friend, Nazianzus, elected to the see of Sasima and appointed his brother to the see of Nyssa. (Neither men particularly wanted to be bishops of these sees.) Between the years 374 and 378 Gregory was won over to Basil’s ideas of religious reform and began to help in the establishment of monasticism in Cappadocia. In 379 Basil died and his younger brother Gregory fell full heir to all his brother’s activity and dreams—in the areas of theology, monasticism, and the development of the Church. Suddenly Gregory seemed to understand the full weight of his responsibility and in the following years revealed his true greatness. Basil had been a great 137


The key to Gregory’s theology of glory is in his commentary on the life and experience of Moses: The Life of Moses. Moses’ experience at the burning bush began a life-long yearning in this prophet for an ever growing friendship with God. The illumination the youthful Moses received at the burning bush on the day he received his vocation as the liberator of God’s Chosen People,

eventually over time gave way to his more mature relationship with God who led the fleeing Israelites through the dark as a pillar of fire, and who revealed himself on Mt. Sinai, shrouded in darkness. The development of God’s revelation of himself as glory and Moses’ personal and spiritual maturation open two fascinating perspectives on the theology of glory. First, Jesus, the radiance of God’s glory, brings about in all of humankind a change in our very nature and does so by a simple coming of life, by the presence of light. Second, communion with God is a constant ascent from “glory to glory.” Below we take up each of these perspectives in turn.

organizer, a man of action. Basil had gone into many topics, but not deeply. Gregory added theological depth to the projects begun by his brother. Gregory was immensely active and became one of the leading personalities of the Eastern Church. He worked tirelessly combating heresy, writing, and playing important roles in ecclesiastical affairs throughout Asia Minor. As an example of his “schedule,” within the first year of his ordination he took part in the Synod of Antioch; when he arrived back in Nyssa he found his diocese invaded by men from Galatia spreading the heresy Eunomianism; he was called to Iboria for the election of a new bishop; was approached by a delegation from Sebaste to assist with their own local conflict over an episcopal election; found himself in the middle of a veritable religious war between Arians (a heresy), Niceans, and Sabellians (a heresy); and attended the Council of Constantinople, at which he played an important role. It was at this council that the doctrine of Jesus Christ’s equality with God was reiterated, the full humanity of Jesus Christ was recognized, and the divinity of the Holy Spirit was declared. For the next five years, Gregory ceaselessly continued his work. As John Chrysostom’s star ascended, however, Gregory’s influence declined. After 387, freed from administrative burdens and the heat of theological controversy, Gregory now turned himself wholly to the spiritual life. His writings from this period show a tremendous originality with a depth of mastery of the subject that is uncommon. His Commentary on the Canticle of Canticles and The Life of Moses date from this time. By 394 there is little mention of Gregory and he probably died soon after.


The Radiance of God’s Glory Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up." When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." He said further, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God (Ex 3.1-6). For Gregory, the flames burning in this “thorny” bush were more than just a curious spectacle. God manifested himself in the burning bush, for the text states “Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God.” Gregory uses this as an allegory for the one striving for perfection. Such a one must,

The radiance shining from the bush and the radiance shining in our heart, is God.

like Moses, leave the riotousness and noise of idolatry, licentiousness, injustice, and arrogance, in order to experience quiet and peace as Moses did in leaving the court of Pharaoh and withdrawing to the life of a shepherd in the desert. It is only then that the person will experience within their soul the truth that shines upon us, “illuminating the eyes of the soul with its rays.”139 “This truth, which was then manifested by the ineffable and mysterious illumination which came to Moses, is God.”140 The radiance shining from the bush and the radiance shining in our heart, is God. Truth is God and truth is light.

139 140

Malherbe, 59. Malherbe, 59; italics mine.


Gregory notes that truth and light are names the gospel of John gives to God who made himself visible to us in the flesh: Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh. With these words the gospel describes the incarnation of God in the flesh. Light has reached down to human nature.141 Gregory calls Jesus the “Radiance which shines upon us through this thorny flesh and which is (as the gospel says) the true light and the truth itself.”142 Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory born of the virgin Mary. This birth of Jesus does not proceed from passion, but rather he “jumps” from on high in order to bring us the integrity of our nature. It is a “new birth,” a “new order of nature,” a “new creation,” “the beginning of a world.” In the words of von Balthasar, reflecting on the theological contribution of Gregory of Nyssa, the incarnation of Christ is “the day ‘when the true man is created…, he who is in the image and likeness of God.’”143 In Gregory’s words: We are thus aware of a twofold creation of our nature, the first, by which we were formed, and a second, by which we were reformed…. Of old God fashioned man…, now he clothes himself with him; of old he created, at present he is created. Of old the Word made flesh, now he is made flesh.144

In Gregory’s thought, it is only the “true” and

The Word…, in taking on flesh, involved himself with man and took on himself our nature in its entirety.

pure man who can bring about in all of humankind as a whole a “change in our very nature,” and that “by a simple and incomprehensible coming of life, by the presence of light.”145 In his Incarnation, Jesus takes possession of all of humanity. Gregory states: “The Word…, in taking on flesh, involved himself with man and took on himself our

141 142

Malherbe, 60. Malherbe, 60.


nature in its entirety, so that the human might be divinized by this involvement with God, the stuff of our nature being cosanctified in its entirety by these first fruits.”146 At the end of time, when good will be spread everywhere and evil will be no more in evidence, vivifying power will electrify the whole mass of creation. The entire body of Christ will be submitted to the authority of the Father and the Son himself will be in submission because the Son can only be “one” with his body. Then all of creation will be one single body.147 “Divinity empties itself so as to be graspable by human nature. Human nature, in its turn, is rejuvenated, divinized by its mingling with the divine.” 148

Transformed from Glory to Glory Returning to the image of Moses we can see another perspective on the term “glory.” In the 33rd chapter of Exodus, Moses asks God to show him God’s glory. Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory." And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD , in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen" (Ex 33.18-21). (NIV)


Hans Urs von Balthasar, Presence and Thought (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 136. 144 C. Eunom. 4; II, 637 AB. Quoted in Balthasar, 136. 145 Balthasar, 137. 146 C. Apollin., II, 1152 C; cf. C. Eunom 4; II, 637: “co-sanctifying the whole mass.” Quoted in Balthasar, 140. 147 Cf. Balthasar, 140. 148 C. Eunom. 5; II, 705 D—708A. Quoted in Balthasar, 178.


Gregory interprets the rock as Christ.149 All good things are believed to be in Christ. Moses is shielded by Christ from seeing the Radiance of God’s face, which no one can see and live, and instead sees the back of God. By seeing God’s back, Moses, who eagerly wanted to see God, is taught how to behold God, by following God wherever God might lead. God’s “passing by” means that God leads whoever might wish to follow him. God is the guide who can safely be followed to reach the destination desired.150 This perspective on glory also initiates us into a primary focus of Gregory’s spirituality, a focus that makes us think of the use of “glory” in Jesus last discourse.151 Whenever Moses spoke to God his face shown with such “glory” and radiance that the people asked him to hide his face with a veil, until the brightness faded. Although Moses continuously had experiences of great

Although Moses had experiences of great intimacy with God, he always yearned for more.

intimacy with God, Moses remained always unsatisfied and yearned for more. He asks God to give him his friendship as if he had received no gifts at all from his divine Friend. He longed not just to see images of God, he wanted to be “filled with the very stamp of the archetype.”152 Moses’ yearning is satisfied by the very things which leave his desires unsatisfied. The vision of God Gregory defines is this: “never to be satisfied in the desire to see him.”153 Gregory wrote of this passage in Exodus in The Life of Moses,


Melherbe, 118; Gregory cites Paul as the authority on which he interprets the rock to

be Christ.


Cf. Melherbe, 118-119. See above: Jesus prays to the Father that “they will be transported into a new sphere of existence—to be where he is—and to receive the gift of a new vision—to behold his glory (17:24a).” 152 Malherbe, 114. 153 Malherbe, 116. 151


Indeed he [God] would not have shown himself to his servant if the vision would have been such as to terminate Moses’ desire; for the true vision of God consists rather in this, that the soul that looks up to God never ceases to desire him…. He set no limit to his rise to the stars. But once he had put his foot upon the ladder on which the Lord had leaned, as Jacob tells us; he constantly kept going to the next step; and he continued to go ever higher because he always found another step that lay beyond the highest one he had reached.”154 In the last paragraph before the conclusion, Gregory sums up this spirituality: This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because like slaves we servilely fear punishment, nor to do good because we hope for rewards, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by some business-like and contractual agreement. On the contrary, disregarding all those things for which we hope and which have been reserved by promise, we regard falling from God’s friendship as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God’s friend the only thing worthy of honor and desire. This, as I have said, is the perfection of life.155 In his work, On Perfection, Gregory again remarks on this central theme of his life and spiritual writing: Let us change in such a way that we may constantly evolve towards what is better, being transformed from glory to glory (2 Cor 3.18), and thus always improving and ever becoming more perfect by daily growth, and never arriving at any limit of perfection. For that perfection consists in our never stopping in our growth in good, never circumscribing our perfection by any limitation.156 Meyendorff comments in his introduction to Gregory of Nyssa, that communion with God is a constant ascent from “glory to glory.” With each step we joyously expect something more. God remains more than anything we could know of him, no matter how much we come to know. God gives himself to us without setting any limits because of his inexhaustibility. “Thus, in meeting God, there is never frustration, or satiety, but only the


Jean Danielou, From Glory to Glory, (New York: Scribner and Sons, 1961), 57-58; in this respect, Danielou states that sin is ultimately a refusal to grow. See Danielou, 60. 155 Malherbe, 137. 156 Danielou, 84.


discovery of true Love.”157 Perfection is progress. The perfect person makes progress daily. Gregory points out that Moses first heard God’s voice when he saw the brightness of the burning bush during the day. God’s presence became more tangible when God led and protected the Israelites in a pillar of fire. But Moses saw God only in the darkness that shrouded the mountain. Thus Gregory shatters our capacity to “figure God out,” by insisting that we can see God’s glory only in the dark, as in the gospel of John God reveals

Gregory shatters our capacity to “figure God out,” by insisting that we can see God’s glory only in the dark.

God’s glory on the cross. In the words of Catherine LaCugna: we are led “into the presence of the God who surpasses thoughts and words and even the desire for God.”158 For Patristic writers, and in a particular way for Gregory of Nyssa, Moses’ vision of God on top of Mt. Sinai describes, despite the darkness, “the utter brilliance of God, the effulgence of God’s glory, that can appear to us only as darkness.”159 Moses had grown enormously from his first encounter with YHWH (Ex 3.14), where he had asked YHWH to reveal to him God’s holy name as a sign of his authority, a sign Moses could use to bolster his own credentials and honor before the Israelites so that they would follow him as YHWH was requesting. God revealed his name as “I will be there with you,” as one translation renders it. God’s name reveals his promise of fidelity to Israel and that he is the Lord of history. Now, alone on a mountain shrouded with a terrifying darkness, in his more mature friendship with God, Moses asks only to see God’s glory, only to be God’s friend.


Malherbe, xiii-xiv. Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God for Us (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1973), 326. 159 LaCugna, 326. 158


In The Theology of Christian Perfection Defining “Glory of God” The very first page of The Theology of Christian Perfection deals with glory. There is a double glory in God: intrinsic (glory which springs from God’s intimate divine life) and extrinsic (glory given to God by creatures). Intrinsic glory comes about through the eternal praise God showers upon himself in his interior life, “in the bosom of the Trinity.” This is defined by a statement about the life of the Trinity: The Father, by way of an intellectual generation, conceives a most perfect idea of himself: his divine Son or his Word, in which is reflected his life, his beauty, his immensity, his eternity and all his infinite perfections. As a result of their mutual contemplation, there is established between these two divine Persons—by way of procession—a current of indescribable love, an impetuous torrent of fire, which is the Holy Ghost.160 The intrinsic glory of God is the mystery of God’s own inner life to which no creature can contribute anything. However God, out of love, created, sharing his goodness, communicating his infinite perfection to creatures, intending his extrinsic glory. The glorification of God by creatures is the end of all creation. God, in his own marvelous ways, has arranged everything so that creatures find their own happiness when they are glorifying God. God communicates to us his own overflowing happiness. Seeking the Glory of God In the Introduction to the Summary of the Theology of Christian Perfection, the Founder wrote:


Royo, 23.


Now let us dwell awhile on the first point, seeking the glory of God, the ideal of all Christian life, the goal of perfection, the condition necessary if the soul is to be ready for entrance into heaven. When is a soul prepared to enter heaven? When her only thought is for the glory of God. For heaven consists in glorifying God, and we shall find happiness only in praising, admiring and glorifying God. God himself, the three divine Persons, are happy in admiring, praising, and loving each other.161 The Founder outlines the process of arriving at this point of seeking only the glory of God, something that we promise to do every time we renew the Pauline Pact with the Lord. He states that to be perfect we need to have the same thoughts and desires as God. Since, as we saw above in the explanation of God’s intrinsic glory, God in the inner life of the Trinity seeks his glory, we, to be perfect, must also seek God’s glory. Only

Since God in the inner life of the Trinity seeks his glory, we, to be perfect, must also seek God’s glory.

then do we have the thoughts and desires of God. Seeking God’s glory we are conformed to God himself “and our soul will live ‘unto the praise of the glory of his grace’ (Eph 1.6).”162 The Founder’s next step is to state that Jesus Christ is the one who gave God the most praise. By uniting ourselves to Jesus—by thinking, willing, and acting after the manner of Jesus Christ—we are conformed to him in seeking the glory of God. The one who succeeds in achieving this ideal will have reached the heights of asceticism and mysticism, the peak of sanctity in the transforming union with God.163 The Founder states that it is not the ordinary thing for a person to reach this point. We can’t “slip” by accident into seeking the glory of God with our whole being. Why? If that is the reason for which we were created, why is it so hard? Alberione’s explanation is that “even in our piety, in our good desires, in our resolutions, there is a 161

Summary, 12. Summary, 15. 163 Summary, 12. 162


little self-love still. We act and we resolve, often, in order to avoid Purgatory, to escape Hell, to reach a greater bliss in Heaven…. But the Lord wants us to aim directly for his glory, and the greatest saints reach this point—only after much spiritual work, however…. When we have established ourselves in the thoughts, desires, and intentions of God alone, this is the state of sanctity.”164

Configuration with Christ Configuration with Christ is the means of giving the greatest glory to God. It is the means chosen by the Founder for the spirituality and ascesis of the Pauline Family. A famous quotation of the Founder is actually found in The Theology of Christian Perfection: “We shall be saints only in the measure that we live the life of Christ, or even better in the measure that Christ lives his life in us. The process of sanctification is a process of Christification. The Christian must become another Christ. Only when he can say in truth, ‘I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me’ (Gal 2.20) can he be sure that he has reached Christian perfection.”165 The glory of the Trinity is realized, in the actual economy of divine providence, through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ. “Everything … must be reduced to incorporating ourselves ever more in Christ in order to do all


Christ is the only possible form of sanctity given to us by God.

Summary, 13, 17. Summary, 34. Also “The Founder, in other passages, tries to explain this reality by going back to the image of the olive that is grafted onto the vine…. [In some way, we can also think of the Johannine image of the Vine and the Branches.] What happens in the incarnation of Christ is a process that can be compared to grafting. In fact, the grafting of the good shoot or one more valued onto the wild plant allows that the two plants grow together and the bud develops on the part that was old. The new sap substitutes for the old, to the point that the fruit is no longer wild, but that of the new engrafting. In the same way, the progressive growth of the person of Jesus incarnate in a soul, in virtue of the conformation, tends to make up a new person. The egotistical and sinful elements are reduced; the circulation of divine nourishment increases; the person begins to think, to desire, to love as Jesus. Fruit grows from this, fruit that is good, Christian, and apostolic. Gandolfo, Day 10. Also: this explains the Founder’s insistence on the importance of Holy Communion for becoming Christ, even over one’s moral efforts. 165


things through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of the Father.�166


Jesus Christ, Way

Jesus, as the unique way to the Father, accomplished the divine plan of our predestination. Through grace, God calls us to a participation in the divine life through supernatural adoption. God sent his Son into this world for this purpose—that we may live through him (cf. 1 Jn 4.9). Without Jesus we can do absolutely nothing (cf. Jn 15.5). In fact, the reason the Father loves us is that we love Jesus and believe that he came from the Father (cf. Jn 16.27). Hence our entire concern must be to abide on the Vine, to stay connected to the life-giving Sap which assures us of our divine parentage. Everything about our Christian life must be intimately connected with Christ. Even further, Christ is the only possible form of sanctity given to us by God. The Father will accept our love and glory only if it is offered through Christ. Persons such as Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity had the sole great desire to be dissolved in Christ, replaced by Christ so that he could live his own life in her. Thus her prayer: O my God, Trinity whom I adore; help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May O my God, Trinity whom I nothing trouble my peace or make me leave adore; help me to forget myself You, O my Unchanging One, but may each entirely. minute carry me further into the depths of Your mystery. Give peace to my soul; make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place. May I never leave You there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative Action.


Summary, 71.


O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart; I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You...even unto death! But I feel my weakness, and I ask You to "clothe me with Yourself," to identify my soul with all the movements of Your Soul, to overwhelm me, to possess me, to substitute yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your Life. Come into me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior. O Eternal Word, Word of my God, I want to spend my life in listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You. Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light. O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may not withdraw from Your radiance. O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, "come upon me," and create in my soul a kind of incarnation of the Word: that I may be another humanity for Him in which He can renew His whole Mystery. And You, O Father, bend lovingly over Your poor little crature; "cover her with Your shadow," seeing in her only the "Beloved in whom You are well pleased." O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey. Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness.167


Jesus Christ, Truth

Jesus Christ is the Truth, the absolute Truth. He communicated the uncreated wisdom of

Jesus is the Truth of who we are, of who God is. Jesus reveals to us our own truth.

the Word to his sacred humanity and through it to us. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are truly ours because of Christ, in Christ. Lest we should think this is but an intellectual reality, Dom Marmion is quoted by Royo regarding this doctrine, making it clear that Jesus is Truth not in the sense of intellectual information or philosophical proposals.


Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, November 21, 1904..


Jesus is the Truth of who we are, of who God is. Jesus reveals to us our own truth. Contemplating Jesus we discover God’s perception of us. The divine sonship of Christ is the type of our supernatural sonship; his condition, his “being” the Son of God is the exemplar of the state in which we must be established by sanctifying grace. Christ is the Son of God by nature and by right, in virtue of the union of the Eternal Word with human nature; we are so by adoption and grace, but we are so really and truly. Christ has, moreover, sanctifying grace; he possesses the fullness of it. From this fullness it flows into us more or less abundantly, but, in its substance, it is the same grace that both fills the created soul of Jesus and deifies us. St. Thomas says that our divine filiation is a resemblance of the eternal filiation: quaedam similitude filiationis aeternae. Such is the primordial and supereminent manner in which Christ is first of all our example: in the Incarnation he is constituted, by right, the Son of God; we should become so by being partakers of the grace derived from him which, deifying the substance of our souls, constitutes us in the state of children of God. This is the first and essential characteristic of the likeness we must have to Christ Jesus; it is the condition of all our supernatural activity.168 Christianity consists fundamentally in being the sons and daughters of God in Christ. Our entire preoccupation as Christians must be to form the attitude of a son before the heavenly Father, a quality or state given us by grace. But this is so lofty a reality, that reason, and even faith itself, could not reach it. For that reason [the Word] came down: he became man, a child, a slave. He wished to know the obscurity, silence, hunger, thirst, suffering and death. Of all our miseries there is only one which he did not experience and could not experience: sin, and certain moral disorders which derive from sin. Not being able to assume this weakness he took upon himself its likeness and carried its punishment. Hence I need not rise to heaven to seek the thought of God in my


Dom Columba Marmion, O.S.B., The Life of the Soul (St. Louis: Herder), pp. 39f. quoted in Royo, 199.


regard; I need only, O my Jesus, contemplate you. You are the perfect ideal in which I find my own.169 Jesus communicates his infinite wisdom to us through his doctrine. Jesus possesses all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, but did not wish to reserve them for himself alone. With the Father’s blessing, he communicates these treasures to his followers who have become his brothers and sisters. Jesus stated: “the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me” (Jn 17.8). Jesus’ words are a divine knowledge for those who seek the way to the Father. “Never has anyone spoken like this!” (Jn 7.46)


Jesus Christ, Life

There are three ways in which Christ is our Life: 1)

Christ merited grace for us, which is the life of the soul;


Supernatural life springs from him;


Christ communicates this life to us.

This Life is intimately connected with Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice. As St. Thomas teaches, we were unable to make satisfaction to God for the sin of Adam, due to the infinite distance between God as creator and us as creatures. Only a God-man could make complete satisfaction, thus the incarnation of the Word was necessary for the redemption of the human race. Thus the Word became flesh (cf. Jn 1.14). Christ united in himself the divine and human nature, thus all his action had an infinite divine value. Through the Father’s plan, Christ merited our redemption through his death on the cross. The efficacy of his satisfaction is infinite and inexhaustible. His merits are ours and are at our disposition. In heaven he continues to intercede for us. Now he is our only 169

Cf. Charles Sauve, Jesus Inteme, elev 5, n 5; quoted in Royo, 200.


mediator with God, and it gives God great glory when we turn to the infinite mercy and merits of Jesus Christ in our weakness and poverty. From the sacred humanity of Christ united to the person of the Word flows all the riches of the heart of Christ. He is an inexhaustible fountain of grace, of living water. He is the head of the Mystical Body, the Church. Through the sacraments and faith he exercises his influence on his Body, those who live in him through grace and charity.

Through, With, and In Christ, to the Glory of the Father170 I. Through Christ In Jn 14.6, Jesus states that he is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one goes to the Father but through him. To place oneself as the means by which or through which one can arrive at something is to make oneself THE W AY. In the case of Jesus, moreover, he claims to be the unique, one and only means through which one can arrive at the Father. He is therefore the only way. Why can Jesus make this claim? He can make this claim because he alone knows the Father and only those can know the Father to whom Jesus reveals him (cf. Mt 11.27). Revelation insists that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved (cf. Acts 4.12). The Father predestined us to be his adopted sons and daughters through Jesus Christ (cf. Eph 1.5).


Here we follow the order laid down in The Theology of Christian Perfection. In Donec Formetur Alberione begins with Truth and in his reflection on the Doxology begins with “in” Christ. The reason for this is explained by Guido Gandolfo: “Here is the secret: "to do everything"—and we can add: "with one's entire being"—in Jesus, with Jesus and through Jesus…. Thus we are called to place ourselves completely in the hands of Christ the Master, so as to live and act "in him, with him and through him." Let us note that the terms of this formula, taken from the doxology of the Eucharistic Celebration, are inverted because Fr. AIberione wants the Paulines to take as their starting point Jesus Christ, who is also their point of arrival! In fact, "everything acquires supernatural power": for this reason, our work becomes apostolate and its fruits are apostolic and salvific. Gandolfo, Day 17.


The love of God has been shown to us in this way: God sent his Son into this world for this purpose—that we may live through him (cf. 1 Jn 4.9). Without Jesus we can do absolutely nothing (cf. Jn 15.5). In fact, the reason the Father loves us is that we love Jesus and believe that he came from the Father (cf. Jn 16.27). Since Jesus is the only way of arriving at the Father, the only means by which we can give glory to God and by doing so achieve our own happiness, our entire preoccupation must be to incorporate ourselves into Christ so that every detail of our lives is offered to the Father through Jesus Christ. Christ is the obsession of the Father, one could say. His entire delight is to love the Word. It is only by imitating the Father in this love of Christ that we will be pleasing to the Father. “We will be saints in Jesus Christ, or we will not be saints at all.”171 This is all that the Father asks of us: that we live in and through Christ, that we live by the holiness of Jesus Christ. This holiness does not exist in creation: it is obtained only by a supremely free gift of God. “Only through [Christ], with him, and in him can we attain the ideal intended by God in the creation, redemption and sanctification of the human race: the praise of his glory.”172

Our incorporation in Christ is the basis of Christian salvation and sanctification. Only by living more and more the life of Christ will we become saints and glorify the Father.

171 172

Summary, 37. Summary, 38.


The Founder further clarifies how we go to the Father through Christ: by modeling ourselves on Jesus who is the way. “Conformity to Christ is the only suitable response we can make to the invitation of the Father who…showed us his love by predestining us ‘to be conformed to the image of his Son’ (Rm 8.29).”173 Alberione delineates two levels of this conformity. In the first the person makes the

It is Christ himself, who repeats his own life choices in the individual.

effort to learn from Jesus and behave as Jesus, making the concrete choices he made during his life. The second level, “involves something much higher: it follows the line of the Incarnation. At this point, it is Christ himself, living and working in the human being, who repeats his own life choices in that individual.”174 The means by which the Founder sees this conformation gradually taking place is primarily immersing ourselves in the contemplation of the entire life of the Master, “to contemplate at length the life of Jesus, reflecting on his example and teachings,”175 in order to obtain his perfect interior and exterior dispositions.


With Christ

The divinity of Christ is present in every soul that possesses the supernatural life of grace. Christ, God-man, is the source and fountain of grace. According to St. Thomas, “The personal grace by which the soul of Christ is sanctified is essentially the same as that by which he justifies others as Head of the Church.”176 As long as we are in the state of grace, “Christ is within us, physically in his divinity and virtually in his sacred


Gandolfo, Day 13. Gandolfo, Day 13; italics mine. 175 Gandolfo, Day 13. 176 Royo, 204. 174


humanity.”177 Hence, it is more than a pious desire that we should do things with Christ. We are always with Christ. Christ is within us. Christ is with us. According to Thomas, the humanity of Christ in glory possesses the same physical causality that it possessed here on earth. Christ still heals, touches, forgives, raises to life. Christ’s presence is in all places and through all the centuries. Christ continues to pass through the world, doing good and healing all (Acts 10.38).178 Christ communicates his divine grace through the sacraments. It is through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, that Christ exercises his vital influence on us. Nothing can replace the sacraments as channels of grace. All of a Christian’s actions should be done with Christ, in union with him. This is possible if we make it our preoccupation to grow in greater union with Christ through the sacraments, prayer, and faith. Gradually, we

We come to the point at which everything we do is done side-byside with Christ and within Christ.

come to the point at which everything we do is done side-by-side with Christ and within Christ, our hand in his, his desires in our heart. A union of lovers—intention and will.


In Christ

Our actions are increased infinitely in value by doing them through and with Christ. But what so seized our Founder’s interest was even greater: to think, desire, pray, and act in Christ. Life in Christ is not attained as the result of struggling. It is a mystery. In Christ signifies identification with Christ, identifying our being with his being, our works with his. We are incorporated in Christ through our Baptism. By reason of this incorporation, we are truly part of Christ. St. Augustine stated that the whole Christ is

177 178

Royo, 209. Cf. Royo, 208.


Christ plus ourselves. “The Christian in grace forms one thing with Christ.”179 Jesus Christ is not complete without us. At the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples that they were branches that lived off the divine Sap from the Vine. “The supreme desire of Christ is that we should be one with him (Jn 17.21), and to such a degree that we are perfect in union in the bosom of the Father (Jn

Jesus Christ has transformed us into something of his own.

17.23).”180 There is no doubt that we are incorporated in him and are truly his body. We not only belong to Christ, we are Christ. Jesus Christ has transformed us into something of his own.181 The Summary states with a characteristic Pauline twist: Wanting to fulfill all our actions in Christ, identified with his, is, therefore, not an illusory aspiration. On the contrary, it is a divine reality whose always more intense and more frequent actuation will elevate the Christian to the heights of sanctity, to the point of feeling himself dominated and possessed by Christ, so as to exclaim with St. Paul: “Mihi vivere Christus est: For me to live is Christ” (Phil 1.21), for “It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2.20). The Christian has then reached his fullness in Christ: “…until we all attain to…perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4.13); he has arrived at his complete and total Christification; he finds himself at the apex of perfection and sanctity.182 The means to living totally in Christ is faith, awareness, silence, the mystical life. Again, the Summary cites Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. Her prayer was: “’Do not see in me anything but your beloved Son, in whom you have placed all your pleasure.’ And in order to realize this sublime goal, she begged Christ to substitute himself for her, and she asked the Holy Spirit to effect in her soul a ‘new Incarnation of the Word.’ Thus she


Summary, 76; italics mine. Royo, 210. 181 Summary, 78. 182 Summary, 80. 180


could be converted through him into a prolongation of humanity in which he could renew all of his mystery.�183


Summary, 79.


In Contemporary Theology Our representative from contemporary theology will be Hans Urs von Balthasar because his theological project has revolved around an exploration of divine glory (doxa) reflected on the face of Christ especially in his death and resurrection. “’Glory’ for von Balthasar refers to divine beauty. Glory…is…used to express the appearance of divine splendor in and through the forms of the world. Since reality is always charged with divine presence, it is always possible for graced eyes to find in worldly forms the reflection of the absolute. The decisive appearance of divine beauty, glory in earthly form, is reserved for the Christ-form….. Christ is himself absolute truth, goodness, and beauty in concrete form.”184 In particular, in Volume VII of The Glory of the Lord, von Balthasar devotes numerous pages to the discussion of the Johannine concept of glory.

The Form of Glory The flesh which the Son of God assumed is the instrument through which God wills to glorify himself in the world.185 By assuming flesh, by becoming man, God humbled himself. God empties himself out of the form of God, concealing his divinity. At the same time he brings near to us and makes visible to us

Jesus brings near to us and makes visible to us his divinity on the cross.

his divinity on the cross, for it is this—through the humiliation and submission—that is the visible human manifestation of the divine dispositions of the Son of God. This is the most glorious aspect of God’s glory, visible only to believing love. Von Balthasar almost sings, in the tradition of the Song of Songs: Unheard-of balancing of corporeal love: in the face of the Cross, love is sobered to its very marrow before God’s agapē, which clothes itself in the language of the 184

Christopher Steck, The Ethical Thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar (New York: Crossroad, 1991), 8-9. 185 Vol Balthasar, Vol I, 670.


body; and, in the face of this intoxicating language of flesh and blood that gives itself by being poured out, love is lifted above itself and elevated into the eternal, in order there, as creaturely eros, to be the tent and dwelling-place of the divine Love! Love is dispossessed in order to become the expression of something higher. What is involved is a double, reciprocal dispossession: of God into the human form and of man into the divine form, and this double dispossession contains the most concrete possible life: the life of man, which attains its form by letting itself be shattered to become the form of God; the life of God, that gains man for itself by renouncing its own form and, obedient unto death, pouring itself into the form of existence unto death. As the point of intersection of these two self-surrendering lives, Christ on the Cross and in glory is the ultimate form in which God and the world meet.186

Christ’s Innermost Self-Understanding Jesus states to the Pharisees: “I do not seek my own glory” (Jn 8.50). This statement does not express one value or belief among others that Jesus has about himself. This statement is the core of Jesus innermost self-understanding. Jesus is the “one who in his entire existence seeks only the doxa of the Father, the one who identifies himself with the execution of the mission, of the ‘commandment,’ of the ‘commission,’ of the Father (10.18; 12.49, 50), with ‘hearing’ (8.47) and ‘keeping the word’ (8.55), to such an extent that the entire ‘majesty’ of the Father can appear localized in him.187 Jesus does not grasp “his hour.” He does not force it. He awaits it. The difference between Jesus and sinful men and women consists in this: sinful human beings seek to dispose of their lives, to have control of them, to be masters of their reality and even to dispose of God. Jesus, on the other hand, whose life is centered in surrender to the Father, lets himself be disposed of. He is perfectly at the disposal of the Father but he equally lets himself be disposed of by others.188


Von Balthasar, Vol I, 671. Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord, A Theological Aesthetics—Vol VII Theology: The New Covenant (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989), page 246-247. 188 John O’Donnel, S, J, Hans Urs von Balthasar, (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1992), 42. 187


In Jesus coincide the authority of the Father and the poor obedience of not seeking one’s own glory. Thus, Jesus did not offer himself heroically for a commission that was given to him by the Father. Instead, he was always and only the one in whom “the Father does his works” (cf. Jn 14.10). In this way, through his obedience, Christ was the revelation of the Father’s glory. The Father

It is in the obedience of the Son and the Son’s love for the Father that the Father is made visible.

wills salvation and is united in the work of salvation with the obedience of the Son. It is in the obedience of the Son and the Son’s love for the Father that the Father is made visible to his disciples. That obedience is the sole and sufficient proof of love, as Jesus continuously impresses on his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14.15); “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them” (Jn 14.21); “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me” (Jn 14.23-24); “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love” (Jn 15.10). Through their obedience in imitation of Jesus, the Father’s sovereignty is broadened out into the world, and this broadening— finally to be universal—is the goal of Jesus’ work of obedience.189


Von Balthasar, Vol VII, 250.


The Spirit Glorifies the Son Jesus asks the Father to send the Spirit as both comforter and counselor of his disciples in the world. The Spirit had been in Jesus’ life while he was on earth, was breathed back to the Father in his death, and is sent by the Father into the world. “The Spirit of love is set free for the world where the love of the Father in the handing-over of the Son for the world has become free, where the love of the Son in his ‘selfconsecration’ (Jn 17.19) as ‘sin-offering’ (1 Jn 2.2; 4.10) has reached its completion in the opening of his heart.”190 The Spirit discloses the inner depth of Jesus’ words and deeds to the disciples. That depth is the love that lies in obedience. This is the truth into which the Spirit will lead the disciples (cf. Jn 16.13). Outside this truth there can be no truth for John.191 In the Spirit Jesus returns to the disciples together with his Father (Jn 14.18; 14.23), for he is in the Father (Jn 14.20). Through his disciples the Spirit interprets Christ for the world—the world that is turned away from God and unreasonably hates the love of God (Jn 15.25), and as the world that despite everything is destined for faith and knowledge (Jn 17.21, 23) through the shining of the light in the darkness (Jn 1.5).192


Von Balthasar, Vol VII, 252. Cf. Von Balthasar, Vol VII, 253. 192 Cf. Von Balthasar, Vol VII, 255. Also: I found an excellent synthesis of the meaning of the word “world” or “cosmos” in Johannine literature in the presentation of Sandra Schneiders to the World Conference of Religious Life, Rome, November 25, 2004 which I think would be helpful here. “The first concerns the meaning of the term ‘world,’ a concept that must be carefully parsed today lest Christians continue policies of domination and exploitation of nature or rejection of creation in the name of religion. Perhaps our best New Testament source for a nuanced theology of world is the Gospel of John which uses the term more frequently than the rest of the New Testament combined. Four meanings of the term kosmos can be distinguished in the Gospel. First, world can mean the whole of creation which John’s Gospel, echoing the first chapter of Genesis, declares came into existence through the Word of God (cf. Jn 1:9-11), the creator God who declared it very good (cf. Gen.1:31). Second, the world can be seen as the theater of human history. Jesus spoke of his own coming into the world as light to save all (cf. Jn 12:46) and prayed at the last supper not that God take his disciples out of the world, i.e., out of human history, but that God preserve them from evil as they lived and acted in the world (cf. Jn 17:15). Third, the world is the human race in its entirety. God ‘so loved the world’ as to give the only Son that all who believe in him may have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:16). All three of these meanings of ‘world’ are 191


The Spirit, faced with the darkness of the world, makes his case in the lawsuit brought by the world—and wins. The world is convicted of its sin by the Spirit. God’s righteousness is victorious and the ruler of this world is condemned (Jn 16.8-11). The Spirit’s victory is not dependent on whether or not the world allows itself to be

In them the darkness of the world has begun to be lifted.

persuaded. Yet the advocacy of the Spirit is done with the world in view, for the sake of the world, that it may be brought from sin to repentance. Twelve apostles, his mother, and a larger group of disciples have been brought to a certain degree of faith in Jesus. In them the darkness of the world has begun to be lifted. The light has begun to shine. It is in this barely visible shaft of light shining in the darkness that the Spirit begins the Spirit’s work. In this Church now lives the fruit of God in the Spirit. The fraternal love commandment to which these disciples are to be obedient is not a moral imperative or ideal. The fruit of love in the Christian community is the form of Jesus’ own love

essentially positive. The world created by God, especially the human race in its journey through and creation of history, is the handiwork of God, redeemed in Christ, and destined to glory. “But the fourth meaning of ‘world’ in the Fourth Gospel, used much more frequently than the preceding three, is distinctly negative. Jesus refers to a world that is a synonym for evil, that is in the grip of Satan (cf. Jn 13:27), the devil, the ‘Prince of this World.’ Jesus is not of this evil world nor are his disciples (cf. Jn 17:16). The minions of the Evil One will persecute and even kill them, but they are to have confidence because Jesus has overcome the world (Jn 16:33). Against Jesus the Prince of this World is powerless (cf. Jn 14:30) and will finally be judged (cf. Jn 16:11). But until the consum-mation, the struggle against the evil world and its Ruler continues. “This evil world, then, is not a place nor a group of people; it is a construction of reality according to principles or coordinates that are the polar opposite of the central values of the Gospel. These opposing reality constructions, the Reign of God and the Kingdom of Satan, are produced by the moral choices of human beings under the influence of the Spirit of God or of the Devil and they come to expression not only in the personal behaviour of individuals but in the political, economic, social, cultural, and religious institutions of society. The Gospel project of selftranscendence toward God in Christ for the sake of the world, is directly opposed to the selfenclosed and divisive dynamics of oppression and domination inspired by Satan. All Christians at their Baptism are called to renounce ‘Satan and all his works,’ to disaffiliate from the reality construction of the Evil One” ( accessed November 26, 2004).


continuing to bear fruit on the earth. It is Jesus’ obedience to the Father bringing about a greater and greater harvest. The love of the disciples for each other, in obedience to their Master, is not separate from the Master—it is the Master continuing to live and bear fruit, continuing to glorify the Father and manifest his majesty. The Spirit can lead to and teach us only one thing: love. We as Christians don’t have the “duty” to love, we have the “glorious permission to love” (Rom 8.21).193 Indeed, we have been given this very capacity of loving. Jesus expects his followers, in the power of the Spirit whom they will receive, to cross over from compulsion to freedom, from slavery to sonship (Jn 8.33f.). They will be able to do this by accepting his obedience, by taking on them this sweet yoke and allowing the Father to rule their life. This obedience is a love for love, not a regulation or duty or prerequisite for anything else. It is a divine necessity, because Jesus himself has loved us unto death. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and so we too must lay down our lives for our brethren” (1 Jn 3.16). The washing of the feet (symbolically) and the death on the cross (concretely) show us how far this love must extend. The Spirit stirs up in the disciples Jesus’ own disposition for sacrifice. In opening our hearts to our fellow disciples, we attempt total self-renunciation, a dying to all self-will.194 This is what it is to abide in the Lord—in his being and in his thinking and attitudes. Only Christological obedience makes our deeds fruitful. When the disciples lay down their lives, they “bring to full effect in the world the love of the Father that consumes [Jesus].” The divine love takes root on the earth.195 Thus, glory is the eternal Trinitarian love that has come into the world.196


Von Balthasar, Vol VII, 255. Von Balthasar, Vol VII, 257. 195 Von Balthasar, Vol VII, 259. 196 Von Balthasar, Vol VII 259. 194


Imprinted by Glory Those who catch sight of the wonder of God—God as light, truth, way, life, love, mercy—are caught up in faith. The experience of faith is a type of “rapture” which is not the act of the one who sees, but an act of the one who “is seen.”197 It is God who illuminates us, and who ultimately determines who it is that we see. What is seen—the Word of the Father, the perfect image of God, light and life, Truth—imprints itself on us and determines who and how we will be in the deepest levels of our existence. The Word of God gives us form and configures us to himself. The unique Way, Truth, and Life transforms us into himself, laying complete hold to every aspect of our existence. As we turn away from this “present world” to the glory of Christ we are shaped in Christ, according to his form. We are renewed until we are configured entirely to the archetype Christ, and we are new creation

The Word imprints itself on us and determines who and how we will be in the deepest levels of our existence.

(2 Cor 5.17; Gal 6.15). This transformation is not the result primarily of our own endeavors. It is the result of permitting the actively shaping power of God in Christ to work. It is a letting oneself be renewed.198 This “permitting God to work in us” is the same as allowing ourselves to be taught by God. “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (Jn 6.45). It results from being turned around by Jesus in a believing love, as Mary Magdalene in the garden of the empty tomb. “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher)” (Jn 20.16). It is not possible to imitate Christ, but

197 198

Von Balthasar, Vol VII 287. Von Balthasar, Vol. VII, 294.


configuration to him is possible “by making oneself empty of oneself in order to be filled by the active ‘image’ of the love of God in Christ which imprints itself on one.”199 Our eye must rest contemplatively on the one who shows himself to us, the one who is the glory of God manifest to us. Here Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity speaks eloquently again: “We shall not be purified by looking at our miseries, but by gazing on Him who is all purity and holiness.”200 For Von Balthasar, faith is the creature’s doxological response to the glory of God in Christ.201 The experience of faith is that of recognizing the claim of the beauty of God on us. The glory of God “enraptures” and

The experience of faith is that of recognizing the claim of the beauty of God on us.

totally engages the person who is drawn into a committed response. It is a response of adoration and praise, of faith, receptive wonder, self-giving gratitude, and trusting acceptance of events and happenings beyond our control, even when these are painful and disappointing. Our response is not the response to a duty but is drawn forth in the


Von Balthasar, Vol. VII, 294. “Elizabeth liked to dwell upon God finding rest in her soul. ‘I have found my heaven on earth,’ she said, ‘since heaven is God, and God is in my soul.’ She encourages us to reflect on that part of Mary's life between the annunciation and the nativity. This gives us concrete evidence in our understanding of the indwelling presence of God. Elizabeth's concept of God was eminently personal. He gently led her to an honest acceptance of herself. She loved and trusted God because she had the ability to love and trust herself and others. Her warmth and attentiveness to the joys and sufferings of people she met assisted her in experiencing the wonder of God within herself and within others. Her personal concept of God was contrary to the Jansenistic belief in God that was popular at the time. Elizabeth was neither overly concerned with the state of her soul, nor saw God as harsh and severely judgmental. When writing about God, her language was simple and affectionate. Love was experienced as a childlike, humble growing in God: ‘We shall not be purified by looking at our miseries, but by gazing on him who is all purity and holiness,’ she wrote. Her focus was quiet attention to an intimate God within her soul, rather than concentration on a distant God who is far away in heaven. She envisioned each incident and circumstance of life as a sacrament, which brought God to an individual and assisted an individual to become more aware of God's indwelling presence. ‘Every happening, every event, every suffering as also every joy, is a sacrament that gives God to the soul,’ she tells us. Without visions or miracles, in unsung daily activities, she located the pearl of great price.” Carlyn Humphreys, “Elizabeth of the Trinity,” at; accessed December 19, 2004. 201 Steck, 150. 200


very act of seeing.202 God reveals his glory and seeks to have that glory returned by creatures who freely offer God adoration and worship, in self-surrender according to the form of Christ who surrendered himself on the cross. Obedience is the creaturely response to divine love and is also a sharing in Christ’s mission. We are allowed to share in the Trinity’s life and are re-formed so that we share the Father’s desires. The Father progressively attunes us to Jesus Christ so that we see the world as he does.

Becoming a “Christological Actor” This being sent-forth into the world as Christ-persons leads us not simply to do Christlike deeds. Our being missioned grows out of the every day events of our lives— the goods and values at stake in situations in which we are involved, how we respond to unjust events and the suffering of the marginalized, how we conduct ourselves in the world of information and entertainment technologies, the hope we bring to broken people, the way in which we are able to address the crises of a world facing a future of terrorism, violence, and the precariousness of futility. Pondering these situations and discovering in them the presence and activity of the Spirit is the path to solidifying a “Christed” existence—or becoming a truly “christological actor.”203 Who God calls the Christian to be is given through the role he or she is given to play in the drama of existence. “The drama that the Christian occupies has been given a sovereign meaning, and that meaning is found in the cross. To it the Christian must submit. But creative room remains as to how the inner workings of this drama will embody its final and guaranteed meaning. God is moved by our response, not out of a weakness in the divine nature, but out of strength: triune love allowing in ‘reciprocity’ ‘that which is not God to

202 203

Steck, 150. Steck, 153.


participate in all the treasures of his love.’”204 God wants us to share in divine glory by entering into the self-surrendering love of the Trinity.205 We are actors in a drama. However we can play our part in the play only because we have surrendered—through a complete self-effacing desire to have the will of God accomplished—to the rule of Christ and the Spirit, committing ourselves to the Christian story. Without this surrender the play will end in disarray. At the judgment we each will be alone—not with divine majesty—but with the One who became man for us. In this solitary encounter, von Balthasar suggests, we will suddenly come to realize what we have

Some part of us will join with the Judge in “tearing itself to pieces” for not having abandoned ourselves entirely to the glory of God.

done to Christ our neighbor, and to what extent we have accepted to take on the Christ-form. The endless rationalizations and intellectualizations that fill our

wranglings with each other over rights and turf will be silenced. We will discover that we have only one Neighbor with which to settle our disputes. That Neighbor hangs on the cross, giving up all rights and every inch of turf. “He is the universal neighbour with whom I must fight out every dispute: Christ, my crucified Neighbour.”206 Our neighbor is the sacrament of Christ, where Christ can be found and encountered. Some part of us will join with the Judge in “tearing itself to pieces” for not having wanted to transcend itself, for not having allowed itself to be lifted and imprinted, transformed and configured completely to Christ; for not having given in and given up, abandoning ourselves entirely to the glory of God. As the earth convulsed at the death and resurrection of Christ, we too will find ourselves utterly horrified as we see in ourselves what Christ sees, until we stand completely on the side of love, in the new Kingdom he is. 204

Steck, 154. Steck, 158. 206 Von Balthasar, Vol I, 682. 205







Let your feet wear out the threshold of his door The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon (Jn 1.35-39). “They remained with him that day” (Jn 1.39). The narrative of the first two disciples following Jesus to see and know where he stayed, to present themselves and to discover if they would be accepted, is so simple, yet riddled with intense emotion. Excitement, fear, desire, tentative trust, hope that risked disappointment, curiosity, and a myriad other motivations were tangled up with the decision to walk after the man John the Baptist had called the Lamb of God. The intense emotions are juxtaposed with the yawning stretch of the afternoon they spent together. “It was about four in the afternoon” (Jn 1.39). The gospel leaves no record of what occurred that afternoon. What did they discover when they found where Jesus lived? Was it a physical dwelling that Jesus showed them? Did he talk about himself, his dreams, his Father? Did he ask them questions about themselves? The psychological intensity of the reader of the gospel is, like that of the two disciples, swallowed up in the measured response of the Master: Come and see. The effect of the gospel narrative is to focus the eyes of our soul inward, to a vast, unending, path that leads progressively deeper into the “yawning stretches” of


our inner self. In a word, the effect of the narrative is to create a space in which to remain, to abide, an abiding which has less a sense of cohabitation as it does of inhabitation. Inhabitation, in the thought of Augustine, presumes the direct action of God upon the person, the raising of the human creature into a supra-human world. Inhabitation means incorporation into Jesus, being inhabited by the

Inhabitation presumes the direct action of God upon the person.

Holy Spirit.207 On this journey inward, we discover not ourselves, at least not at first, but the One we are following. Jesus has vital information to give us about himself, and any selfidentity without this revelation of Jesus would be ill founded. How is this so? First, Augustine states again and again: Jesus was born of God that we might be made through him; he was born of a woman that we might be remade through him.208 Jesus’ relationship to us is that of Creator and Savior, which defines us as “created” and “saved,” or at least in need of salvation. Jesus raises us and leads us to God.209 Our Lord God is the Lofty One, the Powerful One who made us, in Jesus God is the Humble One who has come to make us anew.210 The chain of sin no longer has power over us because the temporal death of Jesus Christ has killed eternal death: this is grace and truth (cf. Jn 1.17).


"If we contemplate most of our fellow-men, we have to agree that they seldom if ever take into account the direct action of God upon them, let alone that action as raising them to an altogether super-human plane. Even Catholics are apt to see themselves just as beings who are taught what to do and what not to do, though no doubt helped by God to do the former. But how very few attach a conscious habitual meaning to a phrase like: ‘incorporation into Christ’; ‘inhabitation of the Holy Spirit’! On this elevation of the human creature into a super-human world, Augustine without cease insists." Przywara, vi. 208 Tractate 2; Also: “Beautiful as a bridegroom, strong as a giant, lovable and terrible, severe and serene, beautiful to the good, harsh to the wicked, remaining in the bosom of the Father, he made pregnant the womb of the Mother.” Ser CXCV, 3. Quoted in Przywara, 180. 209 “He who was God was made man, by taking what he was not, not by losing what he was: thus was God made man.... Let Christ, therefore, lift you up by that which is man, let him lead you by that which is God-man, let him guide you through to that which is God.” In Joan Evang. XXIII, 6. Quoted in Przywara, 196. 210 Tractate 10.


Second, Jesus gave himself as the Vine to us the branches. Without him we have no life (Jn 15.5).211 If Jesus is the cause of life, then without him we are dead. We are utterly dependent on him for everything, since the gift of life is the basic foundation upon which all other gifts are laid. Jesus had no need of us in order to work out our salvation. We, however, had infinite need of him for without him we can do nothing.212 In the 15th chapter of John, Jesus tells us

Jesus tells us not to separate ourselves from him only after he has shown us that he will not separate himself from us.

not to separate ourselves from him, but this is only after he has shown us that he will not separate himself from us. He attached himself to us, and asks us not to separate ourselves from him who has grafted us into his life. Third, Jesus was ready to be made low in order to come to us—to leave behind greatness and glory, to humble himself in order to come down to our level. So that pride would be cured, the Son of God came down and was made low.213 Since the beginning, in the gift of the garden, we have sought to erase the distinction between ourselves and God (Gen. 3). Jesus instead has emphasized that distinction in lowering himself. The Son of God made himself the son of a creature that he might make creatures sons and daughters of God214 and in order to cure our pride (Phil 2.6-12).215 “I teach humility,


Tractate 84. Tractate 84; Also: “In order that we might receive that love whereby we should love, we were ourselves loved, while as yet we had it not....For we would not have had the wherewithal to love Him, unless we received it from him by his first loving us.” De grat. Christi xxvi, 27. Quoted in Przywara, 345-346. 213 Tractate 24. 214 “He, being God, for this cause became man, that man might acknowledge himself to be but man... Being God he is made man; and man does not acknowledge himself to be man, that is, does not acknowledge himself to be mortal, does not acknowledge himself to be frail, does not acknowledge himself to be a sinner, does not acknowledge himself to be sick, that as sick he may at least seek a physician; and what is still more perilous, he fancies himself to be in good health.” Serm (de Script. NT) LXXVII, vii, 11. Quoted in Przywara, 187. 215 Tractate 54. 212


none but the humble can come to me” (cf. Mt 11.29).216 In the end only those who are willing to hold fast to the lowliness of Jesus will remain with him.217 Fourth, in Jesus who has sought us and saved us, we are safe from all judgment. Augustine states: Jesus will not cast us out, because we are his members, because he willed to be our Head by teaching us humility. Even though the Father hated what we had done to ourselves and our relationship with him, he loves us inasmuch as we are members of his Son whom he loves.218 He who loves his only-begotten Son certainly also loves the members of his Son’s Body219 which are engrafted into him by adoption. God loves us because God loves what he has done in us. In fact, the divine love is not a reward for our good behavior in responding to Jesus’ work of redemption. There is no other reason necessary for the Father loving the members of Jesus’ Body than that the Father loves himself.220 So entirely have we been mystically brought into the living circle of Trinitarian love.221 Jesus overcame the world and told us to listen, to believe, to hope, to desire this abiding in two senses. First, Jesus wants us to abide with him in his glory: Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world (Jn 17.24); and Second, Jesus wants us to be the sanctuary in which he and the Father would abide: “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with


Tractate 24. “But the Teacher of humility, the partaker of our infirmity, giving us to partake of his own divinity, coming down for the purpose that he might teach the way and become the way (cf. John xiv, 6), deigned to recommend chiefly his own humility to us.” In Ps. LVIII, Serm. i, 7. Quoted in Przywara, 203. 218 Tractate 110. 219 Tractate 110. 220 Tractate 110. 221 “For it was not enough for God to give as his Son one who should show the way. He made him the Way, so that walking by him you might go under his governance.” In Ps. CIX, 2. Quoted in Przywara, 204. 217


which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (Jn 17.26). Jesus comforted the apostles at his departure by infusing himself into the hearts of those who believed.222 The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit spiritually remain with the disciples of Jesus. Augustine suggests that the Johannine writer is stating that the human soul and mind is invigorated, enlightened and made happy in no other way than by the very substance of God223 which Jesus has made the “spiritual marrow” of our being.224 He states that our faith in Jesus is Jesus himself in our heart. Jesus dwells in the innermost sanctuary of our being225 and in that hidden place we are renewed after the image of God.226 Jesus himself present within us supplies us with wisdom, godliness, righteousness and charity.227 Augustine suggests that we go with the disciples as they follow Jesus, go with them into this space of intimate conversation and

Descend into yourself, go to your secret place —your mind— and hear what I have to say.

revelation. “Let your foot wear out the threshold of his door; arise to come to him continually, and be instructed in his precepts.”228 And again, “Let us come to him, enter into him, be engrafted into him, that we may not be doing our own will, but the will of God.”229


“He that believes on me goes into me; and he that goes in me has me.” In Joan Evang. XXXVI, 10. Quoted in Przywara, 42. 223 Tractate 23. 224 Thus to reiterate that created being is participated being. Our being is “borrowed” from God’s Being. 225 Augustine also refers to this: that God is more inmost to us than we are to ourselves. Thus we have access to ourselves only through God. God is the foundation of our being. Our self-identity is derivative from our relation to God. We recollect ourselves to the extent that we put God as the foundation of our being. God is what is most primary to our existence. This differs from a religiosity which is primarily a leisure time experience, and in which I exist in my own right, quite apart from God. 226 Tractate 18. 227 Tractate 19. 228 Tractate 7. 229 Tractate 24.


It is difficult in a crowd to see Jesus. Our mind demands a certain solitude.230 It is as if Jesus were to invite us: Leave outside your coat and yourself, descend into yourself, go to your secret place—your mind—and hear what I have to say.231 For many of us this will require that we return to our inner self, for in the frenetic fragmentation of post-modern life we have wandered abroad, an exile from our inner homeland. When we again hear the “noiseless speaking” of Jesus’ voice, we will rejoice and hunger for more. “Let him draw near,” Augustine invites, “draw near, believe, be embodied, and made to live. Cleave to the Body. Live for God by God.”232 The invitation exerts a gentle but irresistible pressure: “There is nowhere you can go but to me. You have no way to go, but by me.”233 To abide is, therefore, to live in the Body of Jesus by the power of his Spirit. Drawn to him we delight in truth, in blessedness, in righteousness, in everlasting life: all of which Jesus is.234 Abiding in the Body of Jesus, cleaving to God in this mystical incorporation brought about by our inhabitation by the Spirit we abide in an inheritance which does not decay or die.235 Jesus has enlightened us and we have believed in him. Thus we have already passed from death to life. We are made a partaker of life. We were not what we have received. This incomprehensible ecstasy into which we are drawn by the strength of Jesus’ love allows us to abide in his house forever as servants who have entered into the joy of the Lord. We have no fear of being cast out. We serve as sons and daughters who belong forever where Jesus desires that we see his glory given him because the Father loved him before the foundation of the world (Jn 17.24).


Tractate 17. Tractate 23. 232 Tractate 26. 233 Tractate 28. 234 Tractate 26. 235 Tractate 85; Also: “If you build your own self, you build a ruin.” Serm. (de Script. N.T.) CLXIX, ix, 11. Quoted in Przywara, 374. 231


The two disciples who asked Jesus where he lived were drawn into the fascination of God’s hunger for God’s creatures’ love and surrender. But the experience of God’s presence is acquired by daily growth. It is by walking with Jesus that we grow.236

I am the way, the truth, and the life The narrative of the first two disciples who followed Jesus is a unique lens through which we can understand Jesus’ self-definition as the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is to be followed. This following is an intensely emotional-psychological experience as the would-be disciple sorts through the numerous often conflicting motivations and desires involved in following Jesus. This following leads to a decision— will I or will I not follow Jesus. One cannot remain neutral with regard to Jesus and be authentically at peace. One must decide. But the decision is not entirely one’s own.

The disciples ask a question: Where do you live? They have taken a step toward getting to know Jesus and seeing if they will be accepted as disciples and companions. The intense personal struggle to present oneself for possible acceptance by the Master is juxtaposed to the endless calm of Jesus’ response: Come and see. Come and remain with me. The gospel does not state where Jesus took them. It

The gospel leaves Jesus absolutely free to take each disciple to a place known only to them.

leaves him absolutely free to take each disciple to a place known only to them. It also raises the stakes for the disciple. Is she ready to let herself be led? Is she ready to go where she doesn’t have control? 236

Tractate 54.


For the disciple this place is within themselves where Jesus already abides and waits for them. Spiritual writers have always spoken of this journey which is at the same time a journey outward to God and inward to one’s own reality—where both God and ones own demons live. Jesus is not satisfied with cohabiting the disciple’s inner space. God wants to act directly upon the person, to inhabit her, to raise her above herself, to incorporate her into Jesus. In order to inhabit them Jesus begins to reveal himself to his disciples. He has come to “remake” them, and in order for them to be remade into authentic images of God, their self-identity needs to be rooted in truth. Jesus reveals the truth to his disciples. The truth is that God is Creator and Savior; we are not our own creators and saviors. In fact, we are nothing: “a vagabond, straying through wooded places, through rough places, torn in all your limbs.” The truth is that we are nothing and that Jesus came to raise us to God. The truth is that the power of sin and

In order for them to be remade into authentic images of God, their self-identity needs to be rooted in truth.

death have been destroyed by the death of Jesus. Much of our spiritual and psychological problems root themselves in the reality that we unconsciously think of ourselves as equals to God, or at least having the rights of God—a problem that began in the primordial garden (cf. Genesis 1-3).

Jesus attached his life and his fate to us and he asks us not to separate ourselves from him. We have been grafted on to him. We could make the choice to break away from the Vine, but without him we are dead. How do we know that we are grafted onto him as a branch on the Vine? Experientially we feel nourished, strengthened, and growth only when we are in consistent and continual contact with the


means of giving life that he established: sacraments, prayer, the Word, our neighbor. When we distance ourselves from any one of these, we experience desolation, loneliness, and isolation. The prominence of the image of the Vine is counterbalanced with the image of a baby. We are only able to nourish ourselves on the Vine—to be rescued from eternal nothingness—because the Life became the son of

The Vine at one time was dependent on a branch for his very existence.

Mary, small, helpless, frail. The Vine at one time was dependent on a branch for his very existence. God risked allowing a creature to have total power over him, that we might learn that it is safe to let God exercise his power over us.

God’s involvement with the lives of God’s creatures and their history is not a distant sanitary relationship. It is not the relationship of a Teacher in front of a classroom. It is not the relationship of Lawgiver and Judge to citizen-subjects. It is a relationship of blood and water, two elements that represent birth and death. It is the relationship of woman laboring to give birth, so that there might be no more death. It is the relationship of God submitting to a violent death, that we might have a new birth. St. Paul recognized this relationship when he took it upon himself with respect to his Galatian converts: “My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4.19). We have been judged already, and have been given life at God’s own expense. Without God’s mercy, we would be dead in our sins, with no hope of eternal life with God. God chose never to separate himself from us, and hopes that we might not separate ourselves from God by choosing something else before him.


Jesus became our Way in a particular method—by being made low, by leaving behind his greatness and glory (Phil 2.6-12). What delicacy and tenderness accompanies the descent of God to us for our salvation. God did not come in this manner in order to humiliate us, but to reveal to us the dignity of our humble condition. We try to escape our vulnerability and dependence, hide from ourselves and others our ignorance and sin. God gently picked up what

What delicacy and tenderness accompanies the descent of God to us for our salvation.

we try to leave behind: our humanity. Jesus displayed for us what authentic humanity is called to be, urging us to let go of our grasping for power and security in order to discover that we are held and loved and safe in God’s love. Henceforth the Way is defined as the way of humanity. The Way of lowliness. The Way of humility. The Way of vulnerability. The Way of silence. The Way of defenselessness. It is only in walking this way that we abide in the One who is the Love-Way. This Way is the proof to us that we will never be judged, cast out, or punished. We have been already judged, and God has taken upon himself the consequences of our darkness and sin. Now there is only one Way left—even for God. The only Way is Love. God loves his Son and also loves the members of his Son’s Body. God has signed the papers of adoption: God has written his name beside ours and given us his name. We are Jesus in God’s eyes. We are God’s dearly beloved one. Jesus is now all God can see when God looks upon God’s creation. We have been made Jesus Christ.


Following Jesus as Way, Truth and Life is for Augustine the farthest thing from personal moral achievement or victory that one could find. He states this using different phrases: “Jesus present within us supplies us”; “Let us come to him…be engrafted into him, that we may not be doing our own will”; “Let him draw near…and be made to live”; “You have nowhere you can go but to me”; “You are not what you have received.” Living Jesus as Way, Truth, and Life is gift, something that is accomplished in us and for us because we are loved, because we let ourselves be drawn into a life-giving circuit of endless Trinitarian love. We are made a partaker of Life. We do not

Living Jesus as Way, Truth, and Life is gift, something that is accomplished in us and for us because we are loved.

give ourselves life. We receive a revelation. We do not figure out the truth. We are supplied with righteousness and charity. We do not practice virtue on our own power. How does this come about? “Let your foot wear out the threshold of his doors,” St. Augustine states. This is not a metaphor on the part of Augustine, but a highly practical statement of how to approach discipleship and take one’s first steps in abiding in Jesus. Is the wax on the floor of the center aisle of the chapel showing the wear and tear of the footsteps of those constantly going in and out for intimate conversation with Jesus in the Eucharist? Are the kneelers becoming threadbare? Is one’s room arranged around the most important thing of one’s life? Is the gold edge of one’s bible wearing off?

Intimate conversation with Jesus is not meant to deepen one’s inner harmony and psychic peace. It is to be “instructed in his precepts.” Conversation with Jesus is


about change, finding the new, admitting one’s ignorance, surrendering in obedience and humility, struggling with one’s demons, yielding to God. To enter into this conversation with Jesus one must “leave outside your coat.” A coat protects us from outside elements that threaten us: rain, snow, cold, wind. To leave it behind is to leave behind our defenses. Leave behind also “yourself.” Only in this way are we open to going deep within ourselves to receive the gift of Jesus’ revelation of God. Abiding is a prerequisite, then, for receiving the truth: long pauses and spaces of time set apart simply to abide: abiding through art and music, abiding through doing nothing and watching the grass grow, abiding by gazing at God present in oneself, abiding by studying Scripture or through spiritual reading, abiding by time spent in developing relationships. Abiding comes in many shapes and sizes, and gives us the capacity of hearing the noiseless speaking of Jesus’ voice.



Jesus came into the world to a marriage On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him (Jn 2.1-11).

Augustine paints the narrative of the wedding feast of Cana into the larger horizons of eternity and redemptive love: "What wonder he [Jesus] came to that marriage, having come into the world to a marriage."237 Cana's festive wedding party becomes in Augustine's eyes a symbol of Jesus' spousal desire for us, his love that blindly gives itself over to union whatever the cost, the beginning of a love-affair born in eternity and to be consummated on the marriage bed of the cross, raised in glory to the


Tractate 8; See also: “When you took on flesh, Lord Jesus, you made a marriage of mankind with God. Help us to be faithful to your word and endure our exile bravely, until we are called to the heavenly marriage feast, to which the Virgin Mary, exemplar of the Church, has preceded us” (Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours, Week One, Evening Prayer, page 699); “Through your Son, Jesus our Lord, you bound yourself even more closely to the human family by a bond that can never be broken” (Vatican II Sunday Missal Millennium Edition, Eucharistic Prayer for Masses of Reconciliation I, page 633).


right hand of the Father. Jesus' longing to be one with his creatures is symbolized by the water turned wine: "the water is turned into wine that we may taste of Christ."238 For all eternity we were the cause of great joy to God. God chose us before the foundation of the world (Eph 1.4). We were created by the strength of Christ: "He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being" (Jn 1.2-3). Though we were unable to reach God, God did not abandon us.239 "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory" (Jn 1.14). "He emptied himself and became man" (Phil 2.7). " He was in the world, and the world came into being through him…. He came to what was his own" (Jn 1.1011; italics mine). Putting on the flesh, Augustine states, Jesus became the way.240 Augustine's understanding of Jesus who is the way to the God we long to know is tied to this vision of Jesus as Word made flesh, and Jesus who emptied himself in lowliness, to seek us who in our incurable pride refused to be creature. In order for us to have a way to reach God, Jesus, who is ever truth and life, came from God to whom we desired to go.241 "The way has come to you, roused you from sleep, up now and walk."242 “While the strength of Christ created us, it was the weakness of Christ that created us anew."243 “No one has


Tractate 9. “He who, being great, for our sakes became small, gives us hope and confidence. For if we were not encouraged by him, and invited to understand him; if he abandoned us as contemptible, since we were not able to partake his divinity if he did not partake our mortality and come to us to speak his gospel to us; if he had not willed to partake with us what in us is abject and most small—then we might think that he who took on himself our smallness, had not been willing to bestow on us his own greatness.” Tractate 21. 240 “The Son of God who in the Father is ever the truth and the life, became by taking upon himself man's nature, the way... By him you go, to him you go. Seek not to come to him by any other way than him. For if he had not willed to be the way, we should ever stray.” Serm CXLI, i, 1; iv, 4. Quoted in Przywara, 169. 239


“Lo, you are far from God, O man, and God is far above man. Between them the Godman placed himself. Acknowledge Christ, and through him as Man ascend to God.” Serm (de Script NT) LXXXI, 6. Quoted in Przywara,187. 242 Tractate 34. 243 Tractate 15.


ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known" (Jn 1.18). Thus, as people linger at a wedding reception, the Word of God lingers with us in order to, as it were, dwell with our infirmities.244 The gospel of John recounts no less than 8 stories in which Jesus interacted with those suffering from physical illness, possession by an unclean spirit, or sin. In each of these stories there is some sort of physical contact. The One who dwells in inaccessible light permitted

As people linger at a wedding reception, the Word of God lingers with us.

himself to be touched by us, that the touch itself might heal.245


Tractate 23. Tractate 7; Also: “The Word of the Father, by whom all the cycles of time were made, when he was made flesh, caused the day of his birth to take place in time; and in this human genesis willed to have one day, when no day opens without his divine command. With the Father he precedes all the ages of the world, by the Mother he set himself on this day in the courses of the years. The Maker of man was made man, that the Ruler of the stars might suck at the breast; that the Bread might hunger; the Fountain, thirst; the Light, sleep; the Way, be wearied by the journey; the Truth, be accused by false witnesses; the Judge of the living and the dead, be judged by a mortal Judge; the Chastener, be chastised with whips; the Vine, be crowned with thorns; the Foundation, be hung upon the tree; Strength, be made weak; Health, be wounded; Life, die....� Serm. CSCI, i. 1. Quoted in Przywara, 180-181. 245


The cure of the man born blind gives us a typical Augustinian perspective on this physical contact between Jesus and someone suffering from infirmity. Jesus and his apostles encounter a man blind from birth (Jn 9.1-7). Jesus spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the blind man's eyes, and said to him, "Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam (the name means the One who has been Sent)." So the blind man went, washed his eyes, and returned able to see. Augustine states, "The blind man washed his face in Jesus the One Sent—the meaning of Siloam."246 Blindness is portrayed by darkness and night. Jesus is the Light. Jesus himself is the Day. "Wash your eyes in the Day that you may be able to behold the day."247 After being questioned by the Pharisees and ejected from the synagogue, Jesus finds the man now able to see. "Do you believe in the Son of man?" he asked him. "Tell me who he is that I may believe in him," the man responded. Jesus stated: "You have seen him. He is speaking with you now." The man responded with an act of faith: "Lord, I believe" (cf. Jn 9.35-39). Jesus not only healed the eyes of the blind man, but now sought to heal his heart. "Do you believe on the Son of God? Now

We were water, and the Word has made us wine. Before we were foolish, now we have been made wise.

[Jesus] washes the face of his heart."248 What greater honor to be sought after by the only-begotten Son of God. We were water, and the Word has made us wine. Before we were foolish, now we have been made wise. We have been made not only Christians, but Christ—another spousal image, “that the two become one flesh” (cf. Gen 2:24). "Marvel, be glad, we are made Christ!"249 Where do we have life? Where had Paul life?


Tractate 44. Tractate 44. 248 Tractate 44. 249 Tractate 21. 247


Not in himself, but in Christ. What more could we want than to be made a partaker of eternity?250 Happiness cannot be realized in us except through a participation in the everliving life which is God. This participation can only bring about ecstasy, the point of contact out of which arises glorification. "Because the Word became flesh and lived among us, we have seen his glory, the glory he has from the Father as only Son" (cf. Jn 1.14). "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him" (Jn 17.1-2). The soul is happy by participation in God. Our joy arises from our fellowship with Jesus: " Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one…. I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselvesl" (Jn 17.11, 13) Jesus draws his disciples into the intimacy of the loving bond that unites him with the Father: Jesus is pleased to be able to bring us into this ever-living unending love. The Trinity is in us as God in his temple. Augustine puts it in these words: "To have everlasting joy, cleave to him who is everlasting."251 "From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace…grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (Jn 1.16-17). Jesus' joy over us is proven by the grace he has bestowed on us, and this grace is also our joy.252 We do not have, however, the fullness of this joy. Perhaps because we have not yet poured out the essence of our being at the feet of the One who has sought our hand


Tractate 51. Tractate 14. 252 Tractate 83; Also: “...when the soul has been freed from all corruption and washed from every stain, then at length it holds itself in utmost joy within itself; it has no manner of fear for itself, and suffers no anxiety concerning itself at all. ... On this step the soul in every way forms a conception of how great it is, and having conceived this, it proceeds with incredibly powerful confidence towards God, that is, to the real contemplation of truth, and to that most high and secret reward which was the goal of all its pains.” Quoted in Przywara, 27. 251


in marriage.

In a prayer from Augustine's homilies we pray: "We seek you because we were sought; we wish to find you because we have been found."253 Christ does not desire to own us along with other owners. He desires to possess alone what he has purchased. "Let us know the Lamb, then, brethren, let us know our price."254

I am the way, the truth, and the life Augustine repeatedly cites Jesus’ self-definition: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14.6). 255 However he does so in a dynamic sense. Movement, progress, change, development—as so many varied seasons of the year, these dynamically express the soul’s seasons as it loves and trysts with the One who came into the world to a marriage.256 St. John of the Cross wrote a series of Romances on the Prologue of St. John that also contain this dynamic sense—from the heart of the Trinity, to the heart of Bethlehem. Though it includes 9 poems, I quote here the verses most pertinent to our exploration of the theme of marriage. Far away in the beginning Dwelt the Word in God Most High And in God his bliss eternal Had he everlastingly. 253

Tractate 7; Also: “And that we might be made fit to understand this, He, the equal of the Father in the form of God, and made in the form of a servant like to us, remakes us to the likeness of God; and He, the unique Son of God, made the Son of man, makes the sons of men sons of God, and the servants whom he nourished through the visible form of a servant, He perfects in freedom that they may see the form of God.” Serm CXCIV, iii,; iv, 4. Quoted in Przywara, 188. 254 Tractate 7. 255 Studer, 45 256 Tractate 8.


That same Word was God almighty, And Beginning was his name, For he dwelt in the beginning, Out of no beginning came. He himself was that beginning Wherefore he himself had none. He that sprang from that beginning Was the Word, called also Son. … As Beloved dwells in Lover Each in other did reside, And that same love that unites them Did in both of them abide. … One such word alone is told us Which he utter’d lovingly: ‘Son, in naught can I take pleasure If thou be not here with me. ‘When in aught I find contentment, That I seek alone in Thee. Who resembles thee most nearly, He most truly pleases me. … ‘Gift of gifts on him that loves thee, Mine own self will I bestow. All the love that binds me to thee In him will I cause to grow. Since he loves my own Beloved I this grace to him will show.’ … ‘Son of mine, I fain would give thee For thyself a loving bride, One that should be wholly worthy With us ever to abide. Bread with us and at our table Would she eat in such a wise


That the worth of my beloved She would learn to recognize, Joying in the grace and beauty That my Son has in mine eyes.’ ‘Thanks to thee for this, my Father,’ Answer made to him the Son. ‘Then shall I bestow my brightness On my Father’s chosen one, ‘So that through it she may realize All my Father is to me, Learning that my heavenly being Comes, my Father, all from thee. ‘She in love of thee shall kindle, On my bosom shall recline, Know eternally of gladness, Magnify thy love divine.’ … ‘Be it done, then,’ said the Father, ‘For thy love’s exceeding worth,’ And, the sentence having spoken, He created this our earth. For the Bride he built a palace Which his wisdom vast did show… … Man shall be as God hereafter; God shall be as human kind; He shall eat and drink with mortals; And commune with mortal mind. … Tenderly, with fond embraces, He will take to himself the Bride, Drawing near unto the Father With his dear one at his side.


Then the bride shall have fruition Like the Father and the Son And the Holy Ghost eternal Who proceeds from either one. Each of these lives in the other; Even so shall be the bride. She shall be absorb’d within Him Live his life, in him abide. … When the interval of waiting For his birth its course had run, Straight from out his bridal chamber Came the bridegroom, God the Son. Once on earth, with arms extended He embrac’d his heavenly bride, And the gracious Mother laid him In the manger, at her side. All around the helpless baby Animals were standing by; Men sang songs of glad rejoicing; Angels join’d their songs on high, Celebrating the betrothal ‘Twixt the Bridegroom and the bride, While the Almighty, in the manger, As an infant, wept and cried. So the bride those tears as jewels Brought to the betrothal-rite, And the Maid was lost in wonder As she saw so rare a sight. Man was full of joy and gladness; God was shedding tears as man. Ne’er was such a strange mutation


Since the ages first began. FINIS.257

Paul Claudel, with his typical poetic mysticism, helps us move from the dynamism of the betrothal between God and humankind in the God-Man Jesus Christ, to the dynamism of the betrothal between God and the soul, the individual person: “The time has come now for possession. In this embrace of the Bridegroom between the arms of the bride, I see someone lying or huddling or, in the ancient fashion, reclining at table. This is how he takes possession of a soul; this is how he seizes his prey created by his own hands to teach her love through his touch.”258 Wherever

This is how he takes possession of a soul…to teach her love through his touch.

the bride goes, she is always wrapped in the protective tenderness of the Bridegroom’s embrace and is totally surrendered to him: “My life, myself, all that I have, silently and lovingly poured like perfume, spilling out of a broken vase, like the woman who anointed you in the Gospel of Luke. What other response can I give you?” Paul Claudel speaks further of this trysting between the soul and Jesus: “In this embrace, under this strong, patient, penetrating intelligent demand, the soul feels itself surrendering and dilating little by little, and its intimate essence, so long repressed, compressed and hardened, is unfolded and breathed out. Here I am, in the arms of the One I love.”259

Blessed James Alberione believed that we are all called to this mystical espousal


E. Allison Peers, trans. The Complete Works of Saint John of the Cross. (Westminster: The Newman Press, 1953), 433-442. 258 Paul Claudel, Paul Claudel interroge le Cantique des Contiques (Paris: NRFGallimard, 1948), 41; quoted in Arminjon,115. 259 Claudel, Paul Claudel, 42; quoted in Arminjon, 117.


with Jesus, “The Holy Spirit works in the soul, and the soul, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, places itself simply and totally in communication with God…. The soul enters into direct communication with her God, who speaks with her, enlightens her, draws her with the fragrance of his virtues and the attraction of his beauty, showers his love on her and completely penetrates her being…. The soul feels entirely pervaded by God, illumined, drawn and comforted by him, and can even attain a most close union with God, to the point of the spiritual espousal and the spiritual marriage.”260

The soul feels entirely pervaded by God, illumined, drawn and comforted by him.

We mature on all levels throughout our life: intellectual, psycho-sexual, emotional, physical, spiritual. These levels are not parallel layers within our being. They intertwine, brought together by the gift we make of ourselves to the Divine. Surrender happens on all these levels for one purpose: to speed our ascent to God. Gregory of Nyssa expresses it thus in his Commentary on the Song of Songs: “After removing her old tunic and divesting herself of all further clothing, [the Spouse of the Canticle] became much purer than she was. And yet, in comparison with this newly acquired purity, she does not seem to have removed her headdress. Even after that complete stripping of herself she still finds something further to remove. So it is with our ascent to God: each stage that we reach always reveals something heavy weighing on our soul.”261 The person had, indeed, surrendered “everything,” but this new surrendered state in its turn becomes a kind of covering in comparison with the growing transparency and simplicity growing within it. The person had no way of knowing that this was so. She had every reason to believe she had stripped herself of all that she was clinging to. She had no idea that there was a possibility for a greater surrender and a greater love. The 260

James Alberione, Practices of Piety and Interior Life (Boston: St. Paul Editions, no year given), 253-254. 261 Arminjon, 248.


image of the successive removal of tunics expresses the gradually greater penetration into our interior life by God. This happens through a succession of deaths and resurrections which bring the person into intimate contact with God who dwells in the center of her being. This progressive penetration through the layers of our being on all levels of our personality and existence is a perpetual discovery of the embrace of our Bridegroom.

How does this happen “practically,” if you could call it such? St. John of the Cross, a master psychologist and an undisputed doctor of the spiritual life, wrote four books on “how it happens”: The Ascent to Mt. Carmel, The Dark Night of the Soul, The Spiritual Canticle, and The Living Flame of Love. In these volumes he reflects on the work of God in the soul. In The Living Flame of Love John describes the transition through which the soul passes, as it moves from working on a natural level to working on a supernatural level. Beginners in the spiritual life need to exercise themselves in meditation, and prayer that is constituted predominantly by their own acts. They possess God through grace, but they do not possess God through union. They have yet to work to attune their senses and desires to God. They have not received the choicest “ointments” that prepare a soul for union with God. They have not experienced the delicate anointings of the Spirit. They still walk where they think they should go, indeed, they go only where they can walk on their own. They have not begun to be led where they are not capable of going by themselves. Little by little God weans beginners from their natural state into the state of contemplation.

As the person leaves behind the natural state for


…a simple advertence, an openness to God’s glance, a still solitude becomes the rule of prayer.

a more direct contact with God, a loving and simple knowledge begins to replace meditation. God communes with the soul by means of loving and simple knowledge, so the soul must commune with God by receiving with a loving and simple knowledge. Instead of discursive reasoning, a simple advertence, an openness to God’s glance, a still solitude becomes more and more the rule of prayer. This is important because the supernatural cannot be received in a natural way. John states that the philosophers say that anything that is received is in the recipient according to the manner of acting of the recipient. Thus the one praying must receive the communication of God in the manner in which it is communicated, not in the natural and ponderous way in which it has been proceeding up to that point. He states: “If, as I say, and as in truth is the case, the soul receives this loving knowledge passively and after the supernatural manner of God, and not after the manner of the natural soul, it follows that, in order to receive them, this soul must be quite annihilated in its natural operations, disencumbered, at ease, quiet, peaceful, serene, and adapted to the manner of God; exactly like the air, which receives the greater clarification and heat from the sun when it is pure and cleansed from vapours and at rest. Therefore the soul must be attached to nothing—to no exercise of meditation or reasoning; to no kind of sweetness, whether it be of sense or of spirit; and to no other kind of apprehension. For the spirit needs to be so free and so completely annihilated that any kind of thought or meditation or pleasure to which the soul in this state may conceive an attachment would impede and disturb it and would introduce noise into the deep silence which it is meet that the soul should observe, according both to sense and to spirit, so that it may hear the deep and delicate voice in which God speaks to the heart in this secret place.262

The smallest part of this that God brings about in a soul is the greatest of blessings, “for they are the most secret and therefore the most delicate anointings of the Holy Spirit, which secretly fill the soul with spiritual riches and graces…. These anointings, then, and these touches, are the delicate and sublime acts of the Holy Spirit, 262

Peers, 161-162.


which, on account of their delicate and subtle purity, can be understood neither by the soul nor by [the director].”263

Silence, in the exterior and interior senses, becomes most valuable because God transcends our understanding and our will and thus these cannot know what God is. Eliminating the “noise” of certainty and thinking, the person walks forward in faith, in the darkness, without even the desire to know. For since God cannot be caught by thoughts and concepts and images, whatever is known is not God. Faith is the surest way to know. God works to order love within the soul. The person feels herself inflamed with tenderness and love without knowing anything more distinctly than before. She did not rouse an emotional response by making an act of love for God, but received a glance from God which inflamed her. “God performs [these acts of love] within it, inebriating it secretly in infused love…; and these

If the soul remains in this pool of silence, it will make sure progress toward union with God.

acts are as much more delectable and meritorious than those made by the soul as the mover and infuser of this love—namely, God—is better than the soul.”264 If the soul remains in this pool of silence, this emptiness and solitude, it will make sure progress toward union with God. The faculties of memory, understanding, and will need to be detached and withdrawn from every distraction, possession, security so that by means of them and in them the soul will have a deep perception and experience of the grandeurs of the wisdom and the excellences of God. 263 264

Peers, 162. Peers, 170.


I have found a poem (although I do not remember its source) that expresses well the experience of a person thus embraced by God: I walked along the quiet mountain road The full moon laughed with joy While the rest of nature slept. I entered into a crevice Of a rock near a stream. There was peace But then I felt God’s presence Slowly come upon me. Faster and faster he pursued me. I wasn’t running from him. I was entering into Him. Deeper and deeper I plunged! I knew that somehow When I left this place I would always remain in that crevice. So full of God’s peace and joy. I had touched God. I had found heaven on earth! God’s Spirit had come upon me In that moonlit evening As I hid in the arms of God, my beloved! Oh, what healing love flows into my darkness! All healing comes from God in the desert cave When I, in brokenness, Call out to you, Divine Physician. I will never be the same Since you touched me and I hid in your healing arms. New powers awake. Locked-in petals of a bedewed rose Gently let go


To unveil a new harmony of many things captured In the union of one flower Of exquisite beauty. The chaotic past, dried bones of yester-years Receive the soft breath Of Spirit and Love And they become enfleshed into a living being. I come out of the past: “Have mercy!” Like butterfly bursting Forth in melted gold With wet, tightly packed wings, I stretch upward. Dry wings strengthen And lift me aloft To new, dizzying heights Of union with God. “Go to your broken brothers and sisters Stretch out your hands on their pain-ridden bodies.”



The Way itself has come to you Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God" (Jn 3.1-2). A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink.” …The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jn 4.7-9) Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward." Peter said to him, "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you" (Jn 13.36-37). Jesus is well aware of our insecurity, of our desperate need to build ourselves on our own foundation—Jesus knows well the results of the fall of our first parents. In the words of von Balthasar: Man wants to soar up, but the Word wants to descend. Thus will the two meet half-way, in the middle, in the place of the Mediator. But they will cross like swords cross; their wills are opposed to one another. …But, if, rather, they were really to encounter one another, what road had to be followed? The darkness had to become brighter; blind urge had to pass over into a love that sees; and the clever will to possess and develop had to be transfigured into the foolish wisdom that pours itself out. And then a new instruction was issued: instead of going past God’s Word in its descent and pursuing the rash ascent to the Father, we are now to turn around and, along with the Word, go back down the steps we have climbed, find God on the road to the world, on no road other than that by which the Son journeys on towards the Father. For only love redeems. …But how is man to grasp this? For the impulse and drive and yearning of his nature have long since hardened into sin, and the illness of the will-to-ego has eaten away the tissues of his soul like a cancer…. The Word, then, came into the world—came


to what was his, but those who were his did not receive him. He beamed into the gloom, but the darkness turned away.265 To accomplish his mission Jesus comes quietly in the still of the night. He receives the night-time visit of the timid Nicodemus who didn’t quite want to embrace the process of belief; he sits beside the well—that place of romantic memories and intimate conversations—and seduces a Samaritan woman into more than giving him a drink; and he quietly respects the preposterous boast of Peter who still, on the night before his Master’s death, believed in himself. Jesus knows well our anxious hearts, anxious because they lack the simplicity of complete surrender. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me” (Jn 14.1). According to Raniera Cantalamessa, belief here means: have faith in, entrust yourself to the person you believe in, build your own life on that person. It indicates a total and unconditional trust that is to replace all human insecurity. A trust in consequence of which the heart can never again be troubled by anything.266

Jesus knows well our anxious hearts, which lack the simplicity of complete surrender.

This absolute security that Jesus wants to give, is ours to the extent that we believe that he is the revelation of the Father. Jesus is the divine revealing itself to the creature. He does not offer us a complex set of statements to believe but an encounter with himself.



Hans Urs von Balthasar, Heart of the World (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1979), 39-41. Raniero Cantalamessa, Jesus Christ the Holy One of God (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990), 63. 266


Nicodemus approaches Jesus with the words: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.” This “we know” is a statement of superiority—as if to say, “We have chosen to accept your teaching as legitimate.” “We know.” There is for Nicodemus—as for all humanity—a need to make the revelation of God stand up to our own criteria. We need to be in charge, because the revelation is a gift, certainly, but it also a threat. Jesus Christ must measure up (or is it down?) to our prerequisities, to what we will accept, or he is not acceptable. The Light must conform sufficiently to our darkness for us to accept it. “The light came to those who were his own, and his own people did not accept him” (cf. Jn 1.11). Indeed, this is John’s definition of the “world” when he uses it in a negative sense. Again von Balthasar expresses this in his poetic flair: If you have a fire in the house, guard it well in a fireproof hearth. Cover it up, for if only one spark escapes and you fail to see it, you and everything that is yours will fall prey to the flames. If you have the Lord of the World in you, in your fireproof heart, fence him in well, be careful as you carry him about, lest he begin to make demands and you no longer know whither he pushes you. Hold the reigns tightly in your hand. Don’t let go of the rudder. God is dangerous. God is a consuming fire. …Take care: he invites you to lose your soul in order to gain it back. He means love. He demands the impossible.267 According to Carlos Cardinal Martini, in the book The Ignatian Exercises in the Light of St. John, Nicodemus’ difficulty can be further described in this way: Nicodemus is a teacher of the law who has the wisdom of years. He knows something. He has fallen into the temptation of “reducing the mystery to doctrine.”268 He believes that he can “find out” what he needs to know and then teach it to others, claiming possession of a bit of knowledge that is his own. He can secure knowledge by ordinary, efficient methods—so he “goes to the horse’s mouth” and asks Jesus what he wants to know.


Von Balthasar, Heart of the World, 117-118. Carlo Cardinal Martini, The Ignatian Exercises in the Light of St. John (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1981), 10. 268


Jesus’ response to Nicodemus threatens this picture: “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (Jn 3.3). Nicodemus’ alarmed response--How can a grown man like myself start over and be born again!—reveals his great fear. Jesus is

Nicodemus has to start over, give up the pretense of being “one who knows,” and learn to know in a new way.

insinuating that he has to start over, give up the pretense of being “one who knows,” and learn to know in a new way, a non-intellectual way. Take the risk of breaking out of “what is done and what is not done” in your religious circle, your community, your circle of relationships. Why? Because Jesus doesn’t fit into those narrow, rigid, defensive confines.“The Word can ask us to begin all over again, and this terrifies us.”269 Nicodemus is experienced in “church affairs.” He knows how to work the system. He has settled in—a characteristic of the human condition—and he knows the things you do and the things you don’t do in order to fit in. Jesus is shaking the system because the Word was born of a woman precisely that we might be “born again,” “re-born,” “start over,” safely in God. Augustine states, “It is not without reason that God willed to be born of man, but because he thought me of some importance, so that he should make me immortal and should himself be born into mortal life for me.”270 Nicodemus admitted that Jesus came from God for his works were far beyond what any mortal could do. He did not understand, though, the purpose of Jesus’ appearing on the earth—that by assuming our human nature, he had become the way to God for which Nicodemus was seeking. What was important was no longer religious

269 270

Martini, 11. Tractate 2.


What was important was no longer religious knowledge, but a belief that involved walking in the way of truth in order to come to God.

knowledge, but a belief that involved walking in the way of truth in order to come to God. The goal was no longer right belief, but arriving at the Father. And to arrive at the Father one must begin over again.271 Augustine states, “Walk by him the Man, and you come to God. By him you go…. I do not say, ‘seek the way.’ The way itself has come to you; arise and walk.”272 What is this re-birth? Is it simply an improvement on what was before? Rudolph Bultmann defines re-birth as receiving a new origin, something which we cannot give ourselves, something we are unable to set in motion ourselves, something that is in no sense a natural process.273 We cannot procure our salvation for ourselves. Our whole being from its very origin must be changed into an “other-worldly being.” To his revelation, Jesus demands faith. He states that he comes from outside our sphere of existence. He makes radical claims about God which cannot be checked on the internet or by an expert. We have no way of absolutely certifying that he is reliable or not. Yet he speaks an authoritative word binding his hearers to obedience. And to make matters worse, “the world rejects the word which is alien to it.”274 However, for those who do believe, they have eternal life. The saving event of the raising of Jesus on the cross makes rebirth possible. The one who overcomes the scandal of the humiliation of the Christ and who perceives his glorification in his death, can see in Jesus the Son sent by the Father.275 This belief is not our own doing. In every way we are dependent. In this dependence Augustine prays, “Behold man is everywhere poor, everywhere in need of help…. While you lead me I shall not err, if you let go of me, I 271

People can beat each other over the head with religious truths; but humility, selfsurrender and obedience is required to walk the way of Christ to arrive at the Father. 272 Serm (de Script. Nov Test) CXLI, I, 1; iv, 4. Quoted in Przywara 198. 273 Cf. Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John—A Commentary. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971), 136-137. Bultmann is considered the single most influential NT th scholar of the 20 century, whose writings still have great impact. Catholic scholars have been working for some decades with insights of Bultmann’s historical-critical work, though they tend to be skeptical of his sharp disjunction between faith and historical reason. 274 Bultmann, 146. 275 Cf. Bultmann, 153.


shall err. Pray therefore that he not let go of you, but lead you to the end…. For you who lead in the way and the truth, where do you lead me, but to life?”276

The Samaritan Woman The Samaritan woman’s response to Jesus’ request for a drink is recorded in John: "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" The woman has come at high noon to get water from the well to bring back for her needs. She was not expecting to meet anyone there, least of all a Jew who, breaking the taboos of the time, asked her to help him out. The Samaritan woman came to the well expecting water. Jesus came to the well yearning for her belief and love. Jesus' initial thirst was for more than water. He thirsted—longed for—her faith, that is, "to work faith in her, and to drink of her faith."277 Augustine insightfully states, that Jesus both longs to receive from her and to satisfy her desires. "He longs as one about to receive. He abounds as one about to satisfy."278 The well is a place of romance in the Scriptures and it is in this place that he sought her commitment to him. Step by step in this verbal dance, Jesus arouses her interest and then her love. Augustine states of this longing of Jesus: “Give me one that longs, give me one that hungers, give me one that is wandering in this wilderness and thirsting and panting for the fountain of his eternal home;

Step by step in this verbal dance, Jesus arouses her interest and then her love.

give me such a one, and he will know what I would say.”279


(Ps. lxxxv 11) In Ps LXXV, 15; quoted in Przywara, 199 Tractate 15. 278 Tractate 15. 279 In Joan Evang. XXVI, 2., 4; quoted in Przywara, 57. 277


However, it is often Jesus himself who must convince us that we do indeed long, who must awaken us from our lazy sleep that has made us content with well water when he wishes us to slake our thirst from the Fountain of Life. Jesus doesn’t take a second glance at our moral resumé. His only concern is to come to us and offer us himself as the Way. Again Augustine captures the sentiments of Jesus exactly: You were walking in your own ways a vagabond; straying through wooded places, through rough places, torn in all your limbs. You were seeking a home, that is, a sort of settlement of your spirit, where you might say, it is well; and might say this to your security, at rest from uneasiness, from every trial, in a word from every captivity; and you did not find it. What shall I say? Did one come to you to show you the way? There came to you the Way itself, and you were set therein by no preceding merits of your own.280

The Samaritan woman is propelled into the town after this encounter in order to tell others what she had found. She invited others to an experience, she did not tell them what she had learned. “Come and see.” The revelation is, according to Bultmann, “an event which determines one’s existence.” It is impossible to forget about the person of Jesus and concentrate, instead, on what has been revealed by him as if one had acquired new knowledge. It’s always about Jesus, who has revealed God to us through a personal encounter which has set us singing and running on a new road.281 The encounter with the Way reveals us to ourselves. It is not in our human possibility to grasp the definitive

The encounter with the Way reveals us to ourselves.

illumination of our existence. It is always a divine gift.282 But the gift must be bought and the price is always ourselves. By giving


In Ps. LXX, Serm. ii, 3.; quoted in Przywara 199. Cf. Bultmann, 344. 282 Cf. Bultmann, 43. 281


ourselves in faith we become good.283 In Jesus Christ we have the gift of life. When we decide to yield to the Word, we let go and allow God to grant us Life, he who alone can grant us authentic life. Acceptance of the Word is not a rational process, it takes place solely and uniquely in obedient faith. The revelation is life and the revelation gives life. It is a divine event, a divine occurrence. To accept the revelation is to accept life. The word of revelation is not a complex of ideas but an address fulfilled in complete encounter with the Other, and thus cannot be separated from the person of Jesus. Encounter

Acceptance of the Word is not a rational process. It takes place solely and uniquely in obedient faith.

with the person of Jesus Christ is the sole guarantee of life.284 Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman and the others in the gospel of John was a sacred meeting that challenged each person at the most sacred place of their hopes and failures, their joys and fears, their happiness and pain. In the words of Athanasius: Christ Jesus is more than a teacher of wisdom, more than an example: he is the presence and the gift of God’s salvation. He is the Savior “communicating his own person to humankind.”285 If we thirst we can come to the fountain of living water which is Jesus. We come, however, not, as the Samaritan woman, by foot, but by our affections, by loving. And as she brought her fellow townspeople out to meet Jesus, and they begged Jesus to stay with them, Augustine encourages us also to build in our heart a house where Jesus may

Also: “Buy eternal life too, if you will. The price of [eternal life] is yourself. Give yourself and then you shall have it. Why are you troubled? Why disquieted? Are you going to seek for your own self or to buy yourself? Behold, give yourself as you are, such as you are, to [eternal life], and you shall have it. 'But I am wicked,' you will say, 'and perhaps [eternal life] will not accept me.' By giving yourself to it you will be good. The giving of yourself to this faith and promise, that is to be good.” Serm (de Script. N.T.) CXXVII, iii, 3. Quoted in Przywara, 370. 284 These last two paragraphs from notes of class by Stanley Morrow in the class Johannine Themes, 2002, Weston Jesuit School of Theology. 285 Quoted in Tillard, 133, footnote 93. 283


come and teach us and converse with us.286 If we persevere in loving we shall see God:287 purified of our sins, we shall truly worship in spirit and truth (cf. Jn 4.24). Jesus gives to each person what he or she loves, what he or she hopes for. We shall see what we have believed, drink what we have thirsted for, eat what we have hungered for. “What else, then, I ask, have we to do but first to love with complete charity him whom we desire to know?” 288

Peter Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Augustine, in an exquisite contemplation of this passage, puts in the mouth of Jesus a response to Peter’s boast: The weak man boasted for his willingness, but the Physician had an eye on the state of his health; the one promised, the Other foreknew; the ignorant was bold, he that foreknew all, condescended to teach. How much had Peter taken upon himself, by looking only at what he wished, and having no knowledge of what he was able! How much had he taken upon himself, that, when the Lord had come to lay down his life for his friends, and so for him also, he should have the assurance to offer to do the same for the Lord; and while as yet Christ’s life was not laid down for himself, he should promise to lay down his own life for Christ! “Jesus,” therefore “answered him, ‘Will you lay down your life for my sake? Will you do for me what I have not yet done for you? Will you lay down your life for my sake? Can you go before, you who are unable to follow? Why do you presume so far? What do you think of yourself? What do you imagine yourself to be?’” 289


Tractate 7. Give me one that longs, give me one that hungers, give me one that is wandering in this wilderness and thirsting and panting for the fountain of his eternal home; give me such a one, and he will know what I would say. In Joan Evang. XXVI, 2., 4. Quoted in Przywara, 57. 288 What else, then, I ask, have we to do but first to love with complete charity him whom we desire to know? De mor. Eccl. I, xxv, 47. Quoted in Przywara, 30. 289 Tractate 66. 287


In this brief snippet of conversation between Jesus and his chosen apostle, we enter into the kernel of Augustine’s understanding of the gospel of John: the Word became flesh. This phrase is woven like a golden thread through Augustine’s commentary on John’s gospel. This phrase from the Prologue is illustrated by the Washing of the Feet and the Last Discourse as recorded by the Johannine writer, both of which include key interactions with Peter which are difficult to penetrate in their full significance. Jesus asked Peter why he thought he could go before his Master, since he was unable to follow his Master. Follow him how? Follow him where? Christ Jesus, being God, became man so that we might recognize that we are “man,” creature.290 A symptom of our refusal of creaturehood can be seen in Peter’s attempt to convince Jesus that the way of humiliation painted by his prediction of death in the city of Jerusalem was certainly not the way things should be. Or conversely in the above citation from the gospel of John, Peter turns the humiliation of failure into a type of “selfglorification”: “I will give my life for you!” Peter advised Jesus to take the way of glory. But in the way of Jesus, loftiness is preceded by humiliation. Elevation is prepared by humility.291 We must hold fast to the lowliness of Christ.292 For the Word of God in the beginning is our Maker. He who was born of the Virgin Mary is our brother.293 The Word of God was not ashamed to be born of a human being. He whom we listened to as our Maker, now we must listen to as our brother, as one who came to live among us. In Jesus we see the flesh, for “the Word was made flesh.” His


Tractate 24. Tractate 28. 292 Tractate 2. 293 Tractate 21. 291


The Word laid aside his power, and published abroad his mercy. God became one of us to heal us.

majesty, however, was concealed. Augustine asks, “Why art you proud, Man? God, for you, became low. Imitate the lowly God.”294 What we were afraid to do ourselves, the Word came to do first for us. “What you fear to suffer for yourself, I first suffer for you.”295 The Word laid aside his power, and published abroad his mercy. God became one of us to heal us. We have been blinded by dust, and we are now healed by dust. Flesh, in Adam, has blinded us. Flesh, in Christ Jesus, now heals us.296 Because he cured us, we now see. We have learned humility and lowliness from the Highest. “What darkness will be yours if your belief in Jesus does not admit his humiliation in death.” 297 Peter does not know that he cannot enter the field “for” Jesus, but only Jesus for him! Bultmann states, “It is therefore clear that the following of Jesus is not an act of heroism. Whoever should think that—this is the meaning of the prophecy of the denial— will come to grief; the world will very quickly become lord over him, as it was really lord over Peter already, in his thinking that the following of Jesus was a heroic deed.298 Peter claimed to “know,” just as Nicodemus claimed “we know,” though for different reasons and to accomplish different ends. The Samaritan woman also challenged Jesus in her questions. Ultimately, if we are to believe, we need to renounce the world—the world that seeks to judge Jesus by measuring him against its own criteria. To believe in Jesus is to renounce the world. Why? The world keeps turning away to find its own solutions. To believe is to realize that we cannot turn anywhere else but to the person of Jesus if we wish to find Truth. We must set aside all previous standards and judgments. We must turn aside from ourselves in order to accept Jesus. Self-surrender. The reason people do not believe in Jesus is because they receive honor 294

Tractate 24. Tractate 3. 296 Tractate 2. 297 Tractate 51. 298 Bultmann, 598. 295


from one another (cf. Jn 5.43). And the world knows this. And the world offers us all of this, if we will turn away from Jesus. It pretends to give us what Jesus gives, but the world can’t. Thus, faith takes place in the world as something utterly miraculous. 299

I am the way, the truth and the Life Jesus is the One who makes God visible. In Jesus’ actions and words, God’s words and actions are played out, thus making God really visible and accessible. This, however, implies that only in Jesus is God visible and accessible. Thus our relationship to Jesus is decisive for our fate. “I have come as light for the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (cf. Jn 8.12). Jesus is the access to God that we are looking for. Jesus comes among us and speaks of nothing else than that the Father has sent him, that he has come, that he will go away again, and that he must be raised up. For this he demands faith, and to such faith he promises life.300

On the other side of the encounter is humankind--painfully aware of its nothingness, the inauthenticity of its existence, and its exclusion from the sphere of God and salvation. We have the illusion that we can grasp and claim life. But in the gospel of John, the revelation itself is the only source of life. The revelation of Truth is the source of

We have the illusion that we can grasp and claim life.

genuine life for our existence. We constantly seek life in the light of a definitive self-understanding. In the gospel of John, however, the reception of truth is a miraculous and wondrous gift 299

This paragraph from notes of class by Stanley Morrow in the class Johannine Themes, 2002, Weston Jesuit School of Theology. 300 Bultmann, 145


which grows out of obedient submission to the revelation, and therefore from the fact that we will to live in a spirit of self-surrender—not in alleged independence, but as creature.301 Those who are unwilling to give themselves up, commit themselves to their lost condition.302 They remain in the dark, for to come to the light is not to accept a theoretical perception of truths, but to recognize. Recognition is only possible when one abandons one’s own chosen, false self-understanding and receives the gift of a proper understanding of oneself in relation to the Creator.303

Jesus, the Revealer of God’s reality, makes it possible for us to know and to live in the light of our reality as creatures. When God confronts our life, God makes it possible for us to receive a new origin through rebirth (John 3.3)—an origin we cannot give ourselves. If we abandon our false self-understanding and embrace the selfsurrender proper to our creaturehood, we walk in freedom, for we live of the truth and truth becomes the ground of our existence. It is this level of security that we must abandon; as long as we persist in it we remain blind to the revelation.304

By knowing the Revealer, we know the One he reveals. Jesus alone gives us the access to God that we seek. Jesus is the Way for he is the divine reality who bestows the life which allows humankind to find its

Jesus is the Way for he bestows the life which allows us to find our proper relation to the Creator.

proper relation to the Creator. Jesus 301

Cf. Bultmann, 435. Cf. Bultmann, 433. 303 Cf. Bultmann, 55. 304 Cf. Bultmann, 230. Also “Faith becomes possible when one abandons ones own security, and to abandon one’s security is nothing else than to let oneself be drawn by the Father.” Bultmann, 231. 302


bestows grace and truth (John 1.17), that we might share in the fullness of God’s divine being. If we believe that God meets us in the Revealer, we walk on the way. Only on the way does the truth disclose itself as light and life. By walking on the way we arrive at our goal for Jesus is the way and the goal.


Being-in-One-Another Jesus prayed: "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (Jn 19.20-26).

The gospel of John, for all its billing as a mystical gospel, is a thoroughly intimate gospel, and, I believe, the most intimate of the four gospels. Throughout the gospel of John, Jesus engages with individuals, one-on-one, offering them a vision into a greater reality than they have hitherto known, thirsting for their belief. In Chapter 3, Jesus speaks with Nicodemus. “Are you a teacher of Israel,” he asks, “and yet you do not know these things?” To seek the kingdom of God one must be born from above, born of water and the Spirit—the one born of Spirit is spirit (cf. Jn 3.3, 5-6). Jesus was revealing to Nicodemus “heavenly things” while Nicodemus was able to understand only earthly things.


Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman about living water, springs of water gushing up to eternal life, worshiping the Father in spirit and truth (cf. Jn 4.10, 14, 23). To the paralytic by the pool of Siloam Jesus offered healing and forgiveness of sins (cf. Jn 5.14). The woman caught in adultery, as recounted in chapter 8, meets intimately with the Lord in the midst of the callous light shown on her through the publicizing of her intimate affairs (cf. Jn 8.1-12). Jesus searches out the man blind from birth after he had healed him, eliciting from him an act of belief (cf. Jn 9.35-38). Martha and Mary encounter the Lord in the pain of their grief, moving him to tears and to action. His decision to resuscitate their brother sealed Jesus’ own fate (cf. Jn 11.17-44). Later, as Mary perfumed his feet in an act of “anointing him for burial,” realizing that the ominous clouds gathering on the horizon meant her

Jesus invited the apostles to a closeness that far transcended anything he had spoken of to the others.

friend was going to die for having resuscitated her brother at her request, Jesus could not have helped but feel the human closeness at that moment of vulnerability. Physical and emotional connection wove Jesus even more deeply into the human fabric of all of our lives. But now, in the Farewell Discourses, Jesus was speaking directly to his disciples, and, for the first time, explicitly inviting them into a closeness that far transcended anything he had spoken of to the others. He prepares the disciples, then and now, to “inhabit” a new creation: his body, in the Spirit. In the Farewell Discourses Jesus is not conveying information, he is making something happen. The intimacy of the conversation underlies his invitation to these men to surrender themselves to be acted upon by Love. If we compare the intimacy of the Farewell Discourses to that of the Song of Songs, we see that the Farewell Discourses far outstrip the intimacy of the lovers in this


Old Testament Canticle of Love. It is true that the Song of Songs opens with the line “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” (Sg 1.1). As Paul Claudel states: “The Song of Songs starts with a kiss,”305 and the entire book relates the Brides’ ardent desire for the Bridegroom and their intimate and mutual possession of each other. It is true that in the Song of Songs the Bridegroom speaks to the Bride about the marvelous appearance of spring “in our land,” signifying a shared fatherland between the Bridegroom and the Bride. The intimacy of the Bride and Bridegroom is a foreshadowing of the intimacy of Jesus and the Church, of Jesus and the soul. Thus, Bernard’s commentary on the Song of Songs actually sees in this claiming of our land as the Bridegroom’s own a connection with the Incarnation of the Word: with his incarnation, the Word has made our land his. It is now in a new sense a land belonging to God and us. It now is his fatherland. We share the same country. Bernard states: This is the second time that the heavenly Bridegroom speaks about the land. And he speaks so tenderly that you might think he were a creature of this earth,… It is very sweet to hear the God of Heaven say ‘our land’…. ‘In our land’—this does not have the ring of sovereign words, but of companionship and friendship…. He claims our earth not as his fief but as his motherland. And why not? He received from it his Bride and his very body…. As Lord he rules over it; as Creator, he rules over it; as Bridegroom, he shares it.306 It is true that the abundant names of affection in the Song of Songs poured out on the Bride by her Beloved signify the immense love he has for her. And Paul Claudel in his own Commentary actually hears these names of tenderness given to we ourselves. We are Jesus’ perfect one, his immaculate one who has been washed and sanctified in his blood. This list of titles, tumbling one on top of another, makes us selfconscious as we hear them spoken, “one after another, full of tenderness, but we cannot


Paul Claudel, Paul Claudel interroge le Cantique des Cantiques (Paris: NRFGallimard, 1948), 32. Quoted in Blaise Arminjon, The Cantata of Love (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988), 52. 306 Saint Bernard, Sermons, Sermon 59, 610ff.; quoted in Arminjon, 175.


move as we slowly realize with astonishment: my sister, my love, my dove, my immaculate. What? Is he really talking to us? To us?”307 In the Farewell Discourses, however, Jesus astonishes us with an even greater intimacy. “Believe in me” (14.1); “love me” (14.15); “abide in me” (15.4, 5, 6, 7, 9); “abide in my love” (15.9, 10, 11); “I chose you” (15.16). And in his prayer to the Father (chapter 17) he says of his disciples: “they are yours” (17.9); “all mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I have been glorified in them” (17.10); “that they may have my joy made complete in themselves” (17.13); “they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world” (17. 6); “as you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (17.18); “as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us” (17.21); “the glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one” (17.2223); “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (17.26). What is this new intimacy of which Jesus is speaking? In the Song of Songs, Bridegroom and Bride possessed each other, giving themselves to each other in a love that fulfilled the two of them. In the Farewell Discourses Jesus is inviting us to get lost in a love that is greater than ourselves, greater even than Jesus and ourselves. Through Jesus we have the possibility of entering into a totally Other-centered

In the farewell discourses, Jesus is inviting us to get lost in a love that is greater than ourselves.

love—admiration, glorification, adoration, self-giving— the Other-centered love that is completely fulfilling though completely received: the love of the Trinity: “God to us, we to God, we to each other.”308


Paul Claude, Paul Claudel interroge le Cantique des Cantiques (Paris: NRF-Gallimar, 1948), 192; quoted in Arminjon, 243. 308

Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God for Us (San Francisco: Harper, 1973), 243.


Though the Trinity often gets skipped over as too hard to explain and talk about (how many really good homilies have you heard on the Feast of the Holy Trinity?), the Trinity is about us! As Catherine LaCugna puts it: The Trinity is about God and us. God for us.309 God is not some cosmic substance or force field. God has a voice and a face that we can hear and see. God has revealed himself from the days he walked with Adam and Even in the garden in the cool of the day, to the days Jesus walked on the shores of Galilee. God is a person as real as we ourselves are persons. Person. Philosophically, what does it mean to be a person? Philosophers have different definitions of personhood. As Christians, however, we want to contemplate a philosophy of person that is consistent with revelation. The philosophy of John MacMurray would be an example. For MacMurray, personal existence is authentically understood in the context of relationship. Personal existence is constituted by relationship

This orientation to the other overcomes egoism and leads to communion.

with other persons.310 311 The persons united in community form “fellowship” with each other. Each person realizes its freedom as an agent in the other. It is a universal community of persons in which each cares for all the others and no one for himself.312 Theologically, what does it mean to be a person? Again theologians will describe person in different ways. One theologian whose understanding of person is rooted both in John’s gospel and in the Fathers of the Church is John Zizioulas, a contemporary Greek Orthodox theologian. According to Zizioulas, a person is not understood by


For the material in this section I am grateful to Catherine LaCugna and the material in her book God for Us. 310 John MacMurray, Self as Agent (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957); Persons in Relation (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961); quoted in LaCugna, 256. 311 Persons in Relation, 122; quoted in LaCugna, 257. 312 Persons in Relation, 159; quoted in LaCugna, 259.


looking at his or her self-existence with the boundaries a person places around him or herself. A person, rather, is “a being which in its ekstasis breaks through these boundaries [of self-interest] in a movement of communion.”313 Ecstasy is a wonderful word. It defines the love through which two lovers burst out of themselves and give themselves to another, open to the conception of another, a child, to which they will devote their entire lives in love. Ecstasy also identifies a mystical event in a person who is being approached by the divine. Through ecstasy we break out of the confines of our selfishness and open ourselves to receive completely the divine Other. God himself exists as toward another.314 In freedom and ecstasy, God creates communion by giving himself to others. Only in giving himself does God exist at all. God’s “beyond self”315 is Jesus Christ, and it is in Jesus Christ that everything else has been created and is now being restored to communion with God.316 God can only exist if God loves. Love is constitutive of God’s being. In the Farewell Discourse Jesus is saying to us that we are loved. In Jesus, we also are God’s “beyond selfs.” From God all has originated and is only in existence because of love. If God ceased to love, we would no longer exist. “Love causes God to be who God is…. Love

In freedom and ecstasy, God creates communion by giving himself to others.

constitutes God’s being.”317


John Zizoulas, “Human Capacity and Human Incapacity: A Theological Exploration of Personhood,” SJth 28 (1975), 401-408; quoted in LaCugna, 260, italics mine. 314 The Father out of love freely begets the Son and brings forth the Spirit. In this communion of persons each person retains his or her own uniqueness: a person with an absolute identity, name, and face. The Father’s identity is convergent with his self-gift to the Son. The Son’s identity is his receptivity and his gaze on the Father. The Persons are directed to the other in the Trinity and toward us. The life and love of God is personal, an expression of free communion and love. Deification of humanity means participation not in the substance of God, but God’s personal existence. The goal is that the personal life of God be realized in humanity’s existence. 315 Term used by LaCugna, 260. 316 Cf. LaCugna, 260. 317 LaCugna, 261.


Mary Ann Fatula brings this image to the affective level in her book The Triune God of Christian Faith: “The love of the triune God is continually creating and sustaining us at every second, for our own creation shares in the unending birth of the Word and breathing forth of the Spirit in God. Thus the Trinity is continually knitting together the body and heart and soul, the unique, irreplaceable identity of each one of us with such care that the psalmist’s cry is meant to well up from our own depths: “I thank you, Lord, for I am wonderful!” (Ps 139:14).318

At the Last Supper, however, Jesus is also accomplishing something more. On this last evening of his life, he left us a memorial of his death in the bread and wine over which he said the words, “This is my body….. This is my blood” (cf. Lk 22.19-20). In the Eucharist Jesus extends this “beyond self” in a new way. Jesus goes beyond himself— giving himself in the bread and wine to all those who will eat and drink until the end of time. Jesus has given himself away. What risk! What trust! What vulnerability characterizes this night. The celebration of the Eucharist also makes us go beyond ourselves. It establishes a network of relationships319 beyond us and Jesus, between us and each other. This network allows his

The celebration of the Eucharist also makes us go beyond ourselves.

disciples to exist only as God exists: in, from, and for the others. We exist only as persons, agents of communion, who burst

beyond the boundaries of our isolation as individuals existing in, from, and for ourselves. In the Farewell Discourses, Jesus talks about the ending of his life in the context of returning, of an eternal life. The threat of death is in reality no threat. He also speaks to the disciples about returning to take them where he is going. He speaks of their life in his Father’s house, their eternal life (which also is in the context of persecution and 318

Mary Ann Fatula, The Triune God of Christian Faith (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990), 104. 319 Term is from Zizioulas.


death). Salvation is this destiny for eternal life, eternal communion with God through communion with other persons. Thus his disciples, already on the earth in the Church, actually become through their communion with him and with each other, an icon of God’s own mystery of communion. It is the Spirit who achieves this communion, which is the work of Jesus, why Jesus came to us: to bring us into the very being of God, to reveal to us a God that is intent on union with us, a God who is intent on the ecstasy of intimate love. That God should be this way is beyond our explanation. In fact, it is so beyond that much of the world is oblivious of God’s desire in Christ to make love with us and to make it possible for us to love one another.

I am the way, the truth, and the life320 Since we are branches on the vine, we live of Christ’s very life. Through our veins their circulates the divinizing lymph of Jesus’ divine love. “Jesus is not complete without us.”321 Consequently, there can be no doubt that Christ has incorporated us in himself, made us his members, transformed us into something of his own; we are truly his body. We depend entirely on Christ. We are not only Christ’s but we are Christ.”322 “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.” (Jn 6.56-57).


For material in this section, I am grateful to J.-M.-R. Tillard’s wonderful book Flesh of the church, flesh of Christ: at the source of the ecclesiology of Communion (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2001). 321 Summary, 76-77. 322 Summary, 78.


Thus the result of the Word being made flesh, of the Word taking up the human personality of Jesus of Nazareth, is “one human being” which encompasses all those who are in communion with Jesus: Head and members. Jesus assumed everything of our human condition by taking it on himself. He continues to live in us the human condition with all its pathos and tragedy, in all its truth and reality. Jesus still lives in his Body. He is our contemporary. He is us, for we are in him. He is not an historical figure like George Washington or Moses, great men who lived and died. Jesus is even now for us what he was for us at his incarnation. This not a continuous incarnation, but “the fulfillment of the work of the incarnation, in the power of the Spirit.”323 This Body of Christ is not a mystical, imaginative, collective, entity. It is still the person of Jesus. He has lost none of his attributes. It is still he himself, in his own “I,” with his unique and unchangeable relationship with his Father. It is between Jesus and ourselves that there is now this bond of reciprocal inclusion: we are now one living reality. This bond is so intimate that

It is between Jesus and ourselves that there is now this bond: we are now one living reality.

nothing on earth can explain it. The only way we can begin to describe what Jesus has brought about by abiding in us and causing us to abide in him, is to look at the bond of agapē that exists between Jesus and the Father.324

The Johannine image of the vine and the branches is an image of Jesus’ life in us, our life in Jesus’; Jesus’ life in the Father and the Father’s living in Jesus; the Father’s love for us because of our love for Jesus. Jesus has accomplished just what the 323

Tillard, 54; Also from St. Augustine: “And then, here you are, singing in him and exulting in him because he himself toils in you, thirsts in you, is hungry and in tribulation in you. He again dies in you and you, in him, are already risen. For if he did not die in you, he would not ask that the persecutor spare him in you by saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’(Acts 9.4).” En in Ps 100 [101].3, in PL 37:1284-1285 and CCL 39:1408. Quoted in Tillard, 55. 324 Cf. Tillard, 14.


Father wanted: we have been reconciled with the Father, we are now “sons in the Son.” The Father can embrace us with all the joy of the prodigal’s Father, and can wash our wounds with the compassion of the Samaritan. What had been so quickly spoilt in the Garden of Eden was now re-established on the tree of Calvary and the Garden of the empty tomb. Abiding in the vine is now the definition of the Christian way of life. Apart from the vine we have no life, we are isolated and cut off from the Father’s overflowing agapē, and unable to bear the fruit the Father expects. Hilary of Poitiers states: “None will dwell in him except those in whom he himself dwells because the only flesh he has taken on is the flesh of those who have taken his…. He lives through the Father, and as he lives through the Father, we, in like manner, live through his flesh,”325 and through [him] we obtain communion with the divine nature.326 The life of the risen Lord passes into the life of the believer and the life of the believer passes into the life of the risen Lord. These are the two inseparable sides of the work of the Spirit. For the faithful “pass” into Christ with their cries of pain and of “suffering for the faith,” which become Christ’s; their human roots and their solidarities which become Christ’s; their joys and their victories, which become Christ’s; their hopes and their failures, which become Christ’s. And Christ “passes” into the faithful with his cross, which becomes his members’; his victory and his resurrection, which become his members’; his work of reconciliation, which becomes his members’; his communion with the Father, which becomes his members.’ The result is that the faithful are but one body of Christ and one body in Christ, in a concrete unity which is not of sociological order—since it is due to their being seized by the Spirit of God—but which nevertheless assumes the density and variety of all that is human. Here is the church of God, in its innermost depth.327


Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity 8.8, 15-16, in Schaff and Wace, 9:139-40. Quoted in

Tillard, 38.

326 327

Theodore of Mopsuestia, Homily 2 on the Mass (Hom. 16.13). Quoted in Tillard 81. Tillard, 61.


The Christian “quality of life” can be measured only as a quality of living that springs forth from the Father, flowing in Christ and in all those who with him are one body.328 This divine indwelling is the deepest secret of the nature of the Church. There is a mysterious correspondence between the body given at the Eucharistic table and the ecclesial body of the Lord: “One is ‘in Christ’ only by being a member of the body, a branch of the vine, a living stone of the ‘priestly house,’ a believer active in the charity of ‘works’; one is all this in solidarity with others.”329 The members of Christ’s body experience a unity founded in God—not merely a psychology unity, external unanimity, human feeling of fellowship—because it is a unity created by Christ having taken on our flesh. The principal effect of the Eucharist is insertion into Christ’s Body, whose head is the risen Christ and whose members are the baptized, a Body vivified by the Spirit. From the Eucharist the baptized draw their new life. Believers, in the eucharist, become so one with Christ that they should reach the point of making their own the suffering and the joys of the whole body, for when one is a member of Christ’s body, one can no longer be a self-centered subject. The self has been absorbed in Christ, who gathers his Church through his sacrifice.330

Augustine was a main figure who explicitly expressed the link between the Eucharistic body of the Christ and the ecclesial body of Christ—between the Eucharist and the Church. We can quote from his Sermon 227, a homily probably given on Easter morning to those baptized during the night of the paschal vigil:


Cf. Tillard, 25. Tillard, 33. 330 Tillard, 83. 329


That bread which you see on the altar, sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That cup, or rather what the cup contains, sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ. It was by means of these things that the Lord Christ wished to present us with his body and blood, which he shed for our sake for the forgiveness of sins. If you receive them well, you are yourselves what you receive..331 You are on the table and

you are in the chalice, you along with us are this.

In another sermon he states:

So if it’s you that are the body of Christ and its members, it’s the mystery meaning you that has been placed on the Lord’s table; what you receive is the mystery that means you. It is to what you are that you reply Amen and by so replying you express your assent. What you hear, you see, is the body of Christ, and you answer, Amen. So be a member of the body of Christ, in order for that Amen to be true.332 In even more realistic language he stated: “You are on the table and you are in the chalice, you along with us are this. We are this together. We are drinking this together because we are living it together.”333

Augustine refuses to separate the sacramental body of the Lord which is the eucharistic table from the ecclesial body of the Lord (Head and members). “The eucharistic bread is the body of Christ. Since Christians are members of the body of Christ through baptism, they truly are this bread. They receive what they are. …It is the gift, not of a Christ isolated from the Church, but of the head joined to the body. And this


Augustine, Sermon 227, in Hill, 6:254-55. Quoted in Tillard, 39-40. Augustine, Sermon 272, in ibid., 7:300-1. Quoted in Tillard, 42. 333 Sermon Denis 6, whose authenticity is sometimes questioned, but whose spirit is certainly Augustinian, in PL 46:834-36; Aug. Misc., 1:29-32. 332


body of Christ is inseparably made up of the personal body of the risen Christ and the members, that is, Christians bonded by the Spirit into a living communion.”334 The two are united into one. The personal body of Christ surrounds the ecclesial body and “irrigates it with its own life through the gift of its Spirit and in which the latter lets itself be seized by the former in order to become, in it, a living sacrifice to the glory of the Father.”335 This reveals to us the deepest nature of the Church. The Church is not the total number of her baptized members. The Church is the “common life” of the members, their communion in the Spirit of Christ brought about by the Eucharist. Augustine states: “He wanted this food and drink to be understood as the community of his body and members, which is the holy church.”336 The Eucharist, in celebrating and giving the body and blood of Christ, actually celebrates and gives the Church. They are inseparable. The Church is the salvation actualized by the Spirit in those whom the Spirit introduces into the body of Christ crucified and risen. The hierarchical structure of the Church belongs to the Church’s journey, but it is subordinated, nevertheless, to this mystery of communion. The nature of the Church is to be communion.

The Church becomes the “center of mutual gift between genuinely alive members of Christ, therefore it makes of the church a sacrifice of agapē.”337 We not only live in Christ, but we have the power to live from Christ. In other words we have the grace to break away from an autonomous existence, from egoistic individualism, from


We have the grace to break away from an autonomous existence, from egoistic individualism, from individual survival….

Tillard, 43-44. Tillard, 49. 336 Augustine, Homilies on John, 26.15, Schaff 2:173. Quoted in Tillard, 50. 337 Tillard, 93. 335


individual survival, from a life uniquely centered on self. Christians are, in essence, beings-who-are-with, persons-in-communion. Relationship with others is the definition of what it means to be a Christian. “The Eucharist rescues the person from the fundamental corruption which is the rupture of the relationship with God and with others in the suffocating imprisonment within oneself.”338 Instead the life of the community is characterized by self-emptying in the reconciliation effected by Christ. This is a new mode of existence defined by the paschal sacrifice of the Lord “giving himself” to the Father and to others.339 This giving ourselves to others is defined by Anglican theologian John Macquarrie as “letting-be,” or enabling the other to be, empowering them so that they enjoy the maximal range of being possible, so that they may realize their full potentialities for being at the cost of spending oneself, even of giving another freedom at the cost of one’s own desire for relationship.340 Christians live no longer for themselves. The subject of their existence is no longer their own ego. They empty their selves for others, letting go of their selves “in Christ” even in their most personal action. They live, in truth, the life of Christ who lives in them

They become the flesh of the church because they are the flesh of Christ.

the new way of life he has established on earth—the divine agapē. They become the flesh of the church because they are flesh of Christ. The sacrifice of the Lord—the great letting go of self—was and continues to be in his members, his branches, his priestly house. In the church, Christ communicates himself in his sacrifice of reconciliation and communion. The eucharist becomes our own flesh. Jesus—the only way, truth, and life


Tillard, 94. Cf. Tillard, 94. 340 nd John Macquarrie develops this concept in Principles of Christian Theology, 2 ed. (New York: Scribner’s, 1977), 348-349. 339


through whom we go to the Father—continues to accomplish his mission today because it is truly he who lives today. “Augustine’s Christ can say of his members: ‘…They are I myself (cum et ipsi sunt ego).’”341 “This, according to the Bishop of Hippo, is the grace of the new covenant: the attachment of our inner being to the loving kindness of God and a joyful delight in the ambience of God’s self-bestowal, a new being and a new love. The grace of the new dispensation is an energy of love recognized as pure gift.”342 To quote Augustine one last time: This joy is within; there the sound of praise is sung and heard. Thus God is praised and is to be freely (gratis) loved with all one’s heart, soul, and mind, the God who enkindles a lover for Godself by the grace of the Holy Spirit.343 It is not a spiritual notion that Jesus lives in us. Indeed we live only because Jesus lives, we live only as Jesus, inseparable, united, one.


Sermons on John 17; Quoted in Duffy 79. Duffy, 79. 343 Letter of Augustine 140; quoted in Duffy, 79. 342



Jesus continues to reveal himself The spirituality of the Daughters of St. Paul is centered on Jesus Master, the Way, Truth and Life (Jn 14.6). As a consequence, there is little talk among us of the role of the Spirit in our life and our mission. Using Constitutions article 12 as a frame, this paper seeks to explore the presence and power of the Spirit in the theology that underlies our spirituality and mission. Article 12 of the Constitutions of the Daughters of St. Paul begins with a reference to Christ “sent by the Father to proclaim to the poor the joyful message of the Kingdom.”344 Jesus’ ministry was filled with displays of power in healings (Mk 8.22-26; 10.46-52 and parallels; Lk 6.19), exorcisms (Mk 7.24-37; 9.14-29, and parallels), raising of the dead (Jn 11.1-44), and also, perhaps to our surprise, in his proclamation of the good news to the poor (Lk 4.42-44). This power was not some mysterious force, but the eschatological, or “end-time,” Spirit, operating in and through Jesus, bringing the Lord’s favor, the good news of God’s forgiveness, acceptance and healing (Lk 4.18-21).345 Jesus regarded his deeds and words—the climax of which was the proclamation of the gospel to the poor—as signs that he was the one anointed by the end-time Spirit (Mt 11.5f. and Lk 10.23f. and parallels346). Those who experienced this power in the ministry of Jesus already shared in the kingdom of God.


Pious Society of the Daughters of St. Paul, Constitutions and Directory (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1984), 29, italics mine. 345 See James D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1975), 61. 346 This fulfilled the prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit in the eschatological age which would bring to an end the centuries in which the Spirit had been silent, see Jl 3.1-2.


The same Constitutions article states that we too “communicate the mystery of Christ to all peoples” by “placing ourselves at the service of the Word…”347 How? We place ourselves at the service of the Word in two ways: 1) through the shape of our existence and 2) by our witness. 1) The shape of our existence. The Spirit is the power of the presence of the Risen Jesus given [at Jesus’ request] to the community, a power which shapes the entire existence of the believer so that she is one who lives out of the salvific event that burst into the world in Jesus.348 The Daughter of St. Paul is not a person who has reached a moral perfection that allows her to be sufficiently satisfied with her behavior to say, “Finally, now, Christ lives in me.” Rather, one possessed by the Spirit’s power progressively relinquishes all that is humanly attainable or possible in order to live by God’s promise of freely offered grace, to live in the

The Spirit is the power which shapes the entire existence of the believer so that she is one who lives out of the salvific event that burst into the world in Jesus.

“force field” of God’s saving work, to accept the power of God which directs her life and makes her renounce all submission to human criteria.349 The Spirit is the power of Jesus shaping the believer’s entire existence (Rom 8.4-11; 8.29f.) into a perfect conformation to Jesus: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2.20). The Daughter of St. Paul’s daily submission to the Spirit of Jesus who shapes her according to the Spirit’s norm of love (Gal 5.22f.), places her entire existence at the service of the Word.350

347 348


349 350

Dunn, 29. My principal sources are my notes on pneuma/sarx from the class of November 12, Dunn, 29. Daughters of St. Paul, Constitutions and Directory, 29.


2) By our witness. To bear witness is to continue the proclamation of the revelation that is Jesus. “Jesus is the supreme revelation of God to man.” 351 God has revealed himself through the event of Jesus, not simply through Jesus’ words and/or his deeds. Therefore there can be no other witness than to bring Jesus’ witness to the world.352 In his Farewell address, Jesus lays out the parameters of this witness. He promised to send the Spirit to his disciples alone (Jn 14.16f.). The world cannot receive the Spirit because there is an essential difference between the world and the community of Jesus’ disciples. To receive the Spirit, the world would have to give up its

The world deifies its own nature, and clings to itself in the face of Jesus, rejecting him and his revelation.

essential nature.353 The world deifies its own nature, and clings to itself in the face of Jesus, rejecting him and his revelation.354 The world sits in judgment of all revelation other than its own (see Jn 16.8-11). This deliberate rejection of truth355 (Jn 3.20; 17.14) continues to be the world’s reaction to the proclamation of the revelation. The existence and preaching of the community of Jesus’ disciples is itself the world’s conviction.356 Jesus told his disciples that as the world met his revelation with hatred and rejection, so the disciples will share a like destiny (Jn 15.18—16.4; Mk 13.11f.). The word of revelation, however, lays a claim on all who hear it, and the hearers can never be the


Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John—A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971), 559. 352 Bultmann, 559. 353 Bultmann, 617. 354 My principal sources for this are my notes of December 10, 2002. 355 Bultmann, The Gospel of John, 711. 356 See Bultmann, 562.


same again.357 While the world rejects all who do not submit to its standards, the real sin is to shut oneself off from the revelation of Jesus (Jn 16.8-9). The believer’s future, however, is in the world. The Daughter of St. Paul has not been taken from the world (Jn 17.15). The disciples are ready for their encounter with the world, not because they have a body of knowledge and possess the “truth,” but because the word itself shows the disciples its meaning and power each time the Christian community comes face to face with the world and with the future (Mk 13.9-13; Mt 24.9-14; Lk 21.12-19; Jn 17.11). The community is called prophetically to interpret the word afresh in each “today” of history (Jn 15.18-21; 17.14, 18-19).358 Communicating the mystery of Christ is to stand as witness of everything contrary to the world’s values, a witness to a life beyond its life (Jn 17.16).

357 358

See Bultmann, 565-566. See Bultmann, 561.


In his Farewell address, Jesus states that he is leaving his disciples, but instead of telling them to continue his work, he tells them that he will send the Spirit to continue his revelatory work (Jn 15.26; 16.13ff.), which is not a transmission of ideas, memories, or stories, but the work of God who, because he loves the world, reveals himself for the purpose of being able to love all who accept this revelation with the same love with which he loves his Son (Jn 3.16; 17.26). Salvation history is the saga of the Father who wants to lavish his love, emptying himself in complete vulnerability that we, his creatures, might be the object of a love so selfless, so intense, and so complete that nothing is held back by this divine Lover. It is actually Jesus who continues to reveal this Lover to the world. Through the Spirit the revelation of Jesus is bestowed afresh in every generation.359

The word must be spoken into the situations of the world.

It is through the word spoken by the community itself that the Paraclete continues to bear witness to Jesus (Mt 24.9-14; Mk 13.11-13).

The evidence of the work of the Paraclete can be seen in the activity of the disciples. The Spirit is “the power of the proclamation of the word in the community.”360 The word the community contemplates and by which it is evangelized is the same word the community itself preaches. Only when the community realizes its responsibility for the proclamation of the word “does it experience the power of the word as the word of revelation.”361 The word does not exist in a vacuum. Like the Word made flesh, it must be spoken into the situations of the world. Thus for a Daughter of St. Paul to speak of Jesus apart from his Spirit is to empty our spirituality and our apostolate of the very means by which Jesus continues to reveal himself to us and through us anew in the world today. Our witness is dependent on the 359

Bultmann, 626. Bultmann, 615. 361 Bultmann, 615. 360


witness and power of his Spirit. Through our proclamation of the word at work within the community of Jesus’ disciples, a word which we have received and contemplated, the Spirit himself continues the mission of bearing witness to Jesus (Jn 15.26; Mt. 10.20; Acts 5.32; 6.10; 15.28).


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Arminjon, Blaise. The Cantata of Love. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988. C. K. Barrett. The Gospel According to John. London: SPCK, 1978. Babcock, William S., ed., The Ethics of St. Augustine. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991. Banner, William Augustus. The Path of St. Augustine. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1996. Battenhouse, Roy W., ed. A Companion to the Study of St. Augustine. Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1955. Brown, Raymond. The Gospel According to John, XIII-XXI (2nd Volume). New York: Doubleday and Company, 1970. Bultmann, Rudolf. The Gospel of John—A Commentary. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971. Cantalamessa, Raniero. Jesus Christ—The Holy One of God. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1991. Carpenter, Charles. Theology as the Road to Holiness in St. Bonaventure. New York: Paulist Press, 1999. Congar, Yves. I Believe in the Holy Spirit. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997. Danielou, Jean. From Glory to Glory. New York: Scribner and Sons, 1961. Duffy, Stephen J. The Dynamics of Grace. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1993. Dunn, James D. G. Jesus and the Spirit. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmanns, 1975.


Fatula, Mary Ann. The Triune God of Christian Faith. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990. Finan, Thomas, and Twomey, Vincent, ed. Scriptural Interpretation in the Fathers: Letter and Spirit. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Gandolfo, Guido, SSP. Retreat Donec Former. Unpublished retreat notes, English translation, 2004. Hardy, Edward R, ed., Christology of the Later Fathers. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1994. International Commission on English in the Liturgy. Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours. Boston, Pauline Books and Media, 1976. Kelly, Anthony J, C.SS.R. Experiencing God in the Gospel of John. New York: Paulist Press, 2003. Komonchak, Joseph, ed., The New Dictionary of Theology. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1993. LaCugna, Catherine Mowry. God for Us. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1973. Malherbe, Abraham J., and Everett Ferguson. Gregory of Nyssa—The Life of Moses. New York: Paulist Press, 1978. Martini, Carlo Cardinal. The Ignatian Exercises in the Light of St. John. Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1981. Moloney, Francis. The Gospel of John. Sacra Pagina Series, vol. 4, ed. Daniel J. Harrington, SJ. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1998. McBrien, Richard. Encyclopedia of Catholicism. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994. Neil, William. Harpers Bible Commentary, “John.” New York: Harper and Row, 1962. Nestle-Aland. Greek-English New Testament. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1981. O’Donnel, John S, J. Hans Urs von Balthasar. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1992. Przywara, Erich. An Augustine Synthesis. London: Sheed and Ward, 1936. Royo, Antonio, O. P., The Theology of Christian Perfection Dubuque: The Priory Press, 1962. Scott, T. Kermit. Augustine: His Thought in Context. New York: Paulist Press, 1995. Spicq, Ceslas. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament—Vol I. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994. Steck, Christopher. The Ethical Thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar. New York: Crossroad, 1991.


Studer, Basil. The Grace of Christ and the Grace of God in Augustine of Hippo. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1996. Tillard, J.-M.-R. (Jean-Marie-Roger). Flesh of the church, flesh of Christ : at the source of the ecclesiology of Communion. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2001. van Beeck, Frans Jozef. God Encountered. Volume Two/4. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2001. Von Balthasar, Hans Urs. Elucidations. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998. ______________. The Glory of the Lord, A Theological Aesthetics—Vol. I: Seeing the Form, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989. ______________. The Glory of the Lord, A Theological Aesthetics—Vol VII: Theology: The New Covenant. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989. ______________. The Grain of Wheat: Aphorisms. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995. ______________. Heart of the World. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1979. ______________. Presence and Thought. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995. Zizioulas, John D. Being As Communion. New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985.


Even in this world we have become as he is  

This paper looks at Jesus' definition of himself as Way, Truth, and Life through the filter of St. Augustine's homilies on the gospel of St....

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