Friday, April 19, 2013

A Patristic TOB? Talking Points

I had a discussion with +Karee Santos on the issue of TOB, and I said the following, which she found interesting, and hoped I would elaborate on:

"My whole take with TOB is.....  The fathers of the Church did this back in the Early Church.  People need to stop treating this as something new.  Blessed John Paul II didn't, and neither should we."

While I won't write (yet at least) a full column on this, I think we can give a few "talking points" for why I think this is the case.

-  When Blessed John Paul did the work that became his Wednesday audiences, he wasn't pulling something out of thin air.  He was applying the ancient wisdom of the Church to present difficulties.

- The renewed emphasis on new scholarship that many philosophers took during the 1940's and later was brought about due to a renewed emphasis on the scholarship of the Church Fathers.  One could say his "Man and Woman He Created Them" was based in this line of research.

Now for the brief data points:

As +Taylor Marshall demonstrates in his excellent post on St. Irenaeus of Lyons, his statement that "The Glory of God is man fully alive" from Adversus Haeresesis is a statement that God receives the highest honor when man partakes of the beatific vision, or heaven.

When Christ came to Earth, it was to glorify the Father.  "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, but a body thou has fitted me.... Behold I come to do your will."  (Psalm 39:7-10)

This occurs through the Incarnation.  As Gaudium Et Spes noted, in the Incarnation, "he, the son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man."  (GS 1:22)  Everyone tends to forget that all the council is doing here is quoting the masterpiece of St. Athanasius De Incarnatione Verbi Dei (On the Incarnation of the Word of God, para 41) where he states:

If, then, the Word of God is in the Universe, which is a body, and has united Himself with the whole and with all its parts, what is there surprising or absurd if we say that He has united Himself with man also. For if it were absurd for Him to have been in a body at all, it would be absurd for Him to be united with the whole either, and to be giving light and movement to all things by His providence. For the whole also is a body.  But if it beseems Him to unite Himself with the universe, and to be made known in the whole, it must beseem Him also to appear in a human body, and that by Him it should be illumined and work.
 Now here's where we make the connection:

1.)  Through the Incarnation, Christ makes it possible to live a life not only pleasing to God, but a life we were originally called to live, but lost through the Fall.  Though we are limited by concupiscence, as we become conformed to the image of Christ (primarily through the sacraments), we become less and less attached to sin, and more and more able to live this calling.

2.)  Christ was "fully alive" and united with us in the Incarnation to show us the way to glorify the Father.  He was never bound by sin or concupiscence. He used his body on earth in self-denial on the Holy Cross to be truly alive, and hence give God the greatest glory.

3.) We obtain the fullness of this calling in heaven, where we are "fully alive", completely free from any bond of sin.  The way to heaven is, through our bodies, to "take up our cross" and glorify God.

4.)  This is why celibacy is such a great gift:  those who choose celibacy are living, in a certain way, as they are in heaven, their self-denial a sign of their being "fully alive" in heaven.

5.)  This has profound ramifications for every aspect of our lives, including (but certainly not limited to!) our sexuality and the bedroom.

6.)  Blessed John Paul II, himself one with a huge devotion to the Incarnation (his first encyclical was devoted entirely to the Incarnation) applied this basic principle of the Incarnation (also referenced by St. Basil the Great in his work On the Holy Spirit) to modern questions to defend Humanae Vitae.

More or less, this is how (in the Cliff notes version!) you link TOB with the Church Fathers.


1 comment:

  1. From what I know of the Church Fathers, it makes sense that their ideas underpin TOB. St. Iranaeus preached against Gnosticism, the idea that spirit is good and flesh is bad. St. Athanasius preached against Aryanism, the idea that Christ was human and not divine. Both saints were defending the truth that Christ is true God and true Man, fully human and fully divine. The mystery of the Incarnation is essentially the mystery of how God came to have a human body.

    But the Fathers seemed to focus more on the nature of Christ, whereas JPII seems to focus on the nature of man. Stated otherwise, the Fathers asked the question of what it means for Christ to have a human body and JPII asked what it means for man to have a human body.


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