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A Fractured Relationship

Faith and the Crisis of Culture

Author(s): Thomas J. Norris

ISBN13: 9781853909641

ISBN10: 1853909645

Publisher: Veritas Publications (30 April 2007)

Extent: 216 pages

Binding: Paperback

Size: 20.9 x 14.4 x 2.1 cm

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  • This book recognises that Christian faith must speak to each culture it encounters and attempts a philosophical, theological and spiritual dialogue with the culture of the west. Through an examination of the philosophy of three seminal thinkers, Cardinal Newman, Eric Voegelin and Bernard Lonergan, this book identifies hitherto unnoticed dimensions of faith and proposes an Art of Loving to show how the world would be if the Gospel were put into practice.
  • Thomas J. Norris

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    This book is one of the most stimulating works of Irish theology in recent times. It poses a stirring question, asking about that Europe where the first great inculturation of the gospel took place: how did it, in the age of the Enlightenment, come to reject its great heritage of faith and leave us with the great divide between faith and culture which is such a striking feature of Europe today? The author speaks of the "schizophrenia" that separates Church from society, revelation from history and faith from reason.

    The answer to the authors question is both philosophical and theological. Philosophically, the author focuses especially on the sense of the autonomy of the human spirit which emerged partly as a result of the loss of the synthesis of faith and reason which had been taken for granted right up to the high middle ages. The recent article by Andre Cloots in Milltown Studies 61 (Summer 2008) on the work of Marcel Gauchet provides a helpful expansion of some of these notions. One result of this story of decline is that reason comes to be seen as an alternative to faith. In the language of Cardinal Newman, "strong reason" is commonly seen to be on the side of the natural and human sciences, whereas, if reason is conceded a place at all on the side of faith, it is a "weak reason." In response to this situation the author outlines in his second chapter the position of three believing thinkers seeking to restore the place of reason within faith, Newman, Voegelin and Lonergan.

    The greater part of this book, however, is theological. In these chapters the author tackles the question of a remedy for the situation, and for this he looks to proposing the faith in a fresh way. Two aspects of revelation are picked out by him for special emphasis. The first is our doctrine of Jesus crucified and abandoned on the cross. This is proposed in the light of the loss of God in our culture as well as in the light of the appalling impact of this loss on recent history.

    The second doctrine to be emphasised is that of the Trinity. With Karl Rahner and others, the author regrets how this doctrine has had little concrete impact on the faith and spirituality of ordinary Christians over the centuries. Linking this doctrine to the emphasis in Vatican II on life as communion, the author seeks to put an end to what he calls "the exile" of this dogma from the minds and hearts of Christians. With this in view he devotes several pages to Augustines approach to the Trinity (216-225); but more impressive still is his treatment of the teaching of the Johannine writings on the doctrine of communion as grounded in the Trinity (191-198).

    One of the features of this book worthy of mention is its combination of theological depth with a sense of spirituality. In this respect it is a helpful antidote to the ever-present tendency to separate spirituality from theology or to reduce spirituality to a kind of `hand-me-down Buddhism. Fr Norriss work is an object-lesson in how the revitalized theology of the post-Vatican II era is in itself the best apologia for the faith. As the author puts it, "The Fathers from St Justin onwards were convinced that the splendour and attractiveness of the content of the faith are the best evidence for the truth of the faith" (210). Plainly the author has steeped himself in the theology of that post-conciliar era as well as in that of the classical masters of the past. This is a book for every Irish theological library.


     - Raymond Moloney, Milltown Studies, No 64, Winter 2009


    With books such as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens high on the best seller lists in many countries and a more hostile approach evident from governments and media to traditional Christian mores and culture, it seems possible that Christianity in Europe in general and lreland in particular faces new, and at the same time very ancient, challenges to its authenticity, if not its very existence. A recent theological response espouses an Art of Loving as a means of restoring fresh faith in the gospel and the gospels community. The primary goal of A Fractured Relationship , Faith and the Censors of Culture, according to the author Thomas Norris, is to address the serious questions posed to believer and non-believer alike by Europes rejection of its Christian roots and lapse into atheism and nihilism. Pope Benedict XVI described the phenomenon early his papacy as this strange forgetfulness of God. ln two sections, the first dealing with the underlying principles of thinking and reasoning today and the lengthier second section which proposes a radical and loving response to the present spiritual malaise, Dr Norris marshals the intellectual power and radicalism of seminal thinkers such as Cardinal Newman, Eric Voegelin and Bernard Lonergan to serve his thesis on the concrete art of loving. This is a complex yet accessible work that amply repays concentration and attention and demonstrates the mind of a theologian clearly not ensconced in an ivory tower but instead alive with the newness and freshness of the gospel at its heart.

    - Fr Paul Clayton-Lea, Intercom

    Thomas Norris, an Irish secular priest and member of the International Theological Commission, addresses what (following John Paul II) he describes as the modern Wests `epochal dark night of the soul: `It is as if the sun had set imperceptibly upon our culture, and the resulting darkness had overcome the light (John 1: 7) (pp. 24-25). Europe, where for centuries Christianity had been faithfully passed from generation to generation, is now rife with atheism, indifference, nihilism and relativism. These are, moreover, not `foreign imports to Europe; rather, they have arisen from within the very heart of Christendom itself. In the first third of his book, Norris narrates how and why this came about, focusing especially on the modern divorce of `Faith and `Reason, for which the year 1680 serves as a symbolic watershed. Quoting Bernard Lonergan (who, along with Eric Voegelin and John Henry Newman, is a key influence on Norris account): `Then it was that Herbert Butterfield placed the origins of modern science, then that Paul Hazard placed the beginning of the Enlightenment, then that Yves Congar placed the beginning of dogmatic theology (p.52).

    This latter development was especially damaging. As theology withdrew into itself, it abandoned its connection to, and dialogue with, the emerging culture: `Faith had jettisoned Reason, then. And having lost Reason, faith had also lost its reasonableness .... Reason for its part gradually lost interest in Faith .... (p.54) This is, Norris cogently argues, the ultimate foundation of the current `fractured relationship between faith and culture.

    Generally speaking, the rest of the book is devoted to how this gaping wound might be healed. Not surprisingly, John Paul IIs 1998 encyclical Fides et ratio takes centre stage. Norris notes, for example, as a telling example of `the epochal dark night, the irony of a Pope berating the modern West for its mistrust and abandonment of reason. Of particular interest here is Norris elaboration on the appeal to Mary in the final article of Fides et ratio. Marys treasuring and pondering in her heart of the angelic revelations to the shepherds (Luke 2:19) is rightly identified as `a living paradigm for the subject matter of Pope John Pauls encyclical (p.84). There is also much of value elsewhere in the book, as for example in a later chapter on trinitarian theology. The undoubted highlight, however, is Norris sustained meditation on the centrality of Christs God-forsakenness on the cross.

    Atheism of whatever kind either forgets or deliberately abandons God. But in the reality of Jesus Crucified and Forsaken we have the fact of a God abandoned by God for the sake of those who are without God. And in that great moment on Calvary, Jesus no longer senses the presence of the Loving
    Father. Is not this Jesus Forsaken, the God for the atheists? (p.174)

    As Norris powerfully states in the books closing paragraphs: `Only if we understand this do we understand that "God is love". Otherwise the summit of New Testament revelation becomes a pious platitude. (p.253)
    A Fractured Relationship is a rich and wide-ranging book. At times, however, it feels more like a series of (related) essays than the focused monograph that one might have expected. And indeed, attentive reading (or, rather, inattentive editing) confirms such suspicions regarding the chapters original incarnations: `The purpose of this article ... (p. 162); `We began this paper ... (p. 100). However, these, along with the occasional repetition, only slightly mar an interesting and timely text.

    - Stephen Bullivant, The Way, January 2009


    TALKING ABOUT GOD IS DANGEROUS disturbs us and continually upsets the too beautiful balance of our mental conceptions and our social structures. Bursting into a world that perpetually tends to close in upon itself, God brings it the possibility of a harmony that is certainly superior but is to be attained only at the cost of a series of cleavages and struggles coextensive with time itself. I came not to bring peace, but a sword. (1)

    One of those heroic converts to Christian faith during the later Soviet era in Russia was a certain Tatjana Goritschewa. A lecturer in electronics at the University of Leningrad, as the city was then named, Tatiana wrote up the story of her exceptional discovery and conversion, in particular, how she abandoned the Marxism-?¡Leninism of her youth and education upon the discovery of the existence of God and his self-revelation in Jesus the Christ and his Church. Costing her not less than the loss of her university career and then internment in a work camp in Kazakhstan before deportation to the outside because of the threat posed by her powerful witness of faith and love, Tatianas ardent hope gave her a zest for living. Her life, in fact, radiated the new life received in Baptism, sealed in Confirmation and nourished by the divine Eucharist. Movingly, she describes in her autobiography the essential practical difference made by the arrival of faith in the Christ who had given himself up for her. My aim was to be cleverer, more capable, stronger than the others. But no one had told me that the supreme thing in life is not to overtake and to get the better of others, but to love. (2)

    Tatianas experience, typical of others such as her great co-national and contemporary, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (3), points towards the experience of another convert who lived in the Roman Empire - ?¡Augustine of Hippo. In particular, Tatianas discovery that faith is both radically practical and frequently counter-cultural was an insight that had engaged the learned and passionate North-African all his life long. In fact, it inspired one of his greatest books in reflection on the meaning of the history of humankind, The City of God. There, Augustine proposes the view that the core struggle of humankind is the struggle to love, or rather, to welcome the God who is love even ifthat costs nothing less than everything (T.S. Eliot). Augustine perceives in biblical history and in world history the struggle between two kinds of love. There is the love for God which goes as far as despising oneself, and there is the love for self which goes as far as despising God. St Augustine was particularly aware, however, that the movement of conversion from love of self to the love of God and of the neighbour is a struggle, a struggle in fact that cannot be won without the energy of grace as the free gift of God, changing the heart of stone into a heart of flesh!

    Different worlds
    The religious, historical and social contexts represented by the Russian woman and the North African bishop could not be more different. While Augustine lived in a world where the existence of God was taken for granted, Tatiana lived in an Empire that was the first in history to teach and to inculcate atheism, even antitheism. The nineteenth century had seen a series of thinkers who systematically denied the existence of the Absolute! In the next century, the Soviet Empire translated this antitheism into all its programmes. That Empire collapsed in 1989, as gently as its beginning had been violent. However, the cruelty of its persecutions, the vista of its Gulags and the systematic violation of elementary human rights on a vast scale did not impact Western Europe. They did not gain the attention of those living beyond the wall in the West. The popular imagination did not dwell much on the horrors of the communist Gulags, nor upon the genocides of Mao Tse Tung nor the national genocide perpetrated by Pol Pot in Cambodia only two decades ago. Solzhenitsyns voice remained isolated, even after deportation to the West in 1970, becoming a cry in the wilderness of his beloved Russia. Why did this happen?

    The answer is not easy. Perhaps the collective horror and shame over hatred on such a vast scale dictated silence. It becomes even more difficult when one reflects on the further fact of the Second Vatican Council. The Council was surely the single most significant spiritual event of the twentieth century. The wall of communism fell twenty years after the Council, revealing a vacuum in society and in souls. Was this not providence providing the room for a new entry of the Gospel, an invitation to evangelise? Not only, but the Council wanted to endow Christianity once more with the power to shape history.. . Now, following the Council, it was supposed to become evident that the faith of Christians embraces all of life, that it stands in the midst of history and in time and has relevance beyond the realm of subjective notions (4). With the collapse of state-sponsored atheism, it was the hope of many that a new opportunity for the Gospel and the Church had arrived. The demise of communism seemed to open the door to the programme the Council had elaborated only two decades previously.

    Shaping history: the gospel or Marx?
    The Council had indeed engendered a great religious ferment. It had raised expectations among many that the prayer of good Pope John XXIII for a new Pentecost in the Church would be answered. The Council, in fact, gave voice to a renewed vision of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Its sixteen texts present a competitive Christianity, more rooted in divine revelation, more thoughtful in its self-understanding, and, above all, more vigorous and open in its manifold relations to other Christians, the great religions and to the men and women of goodwill. It very defmitely wanted to overcome the ghettoisation of the Church brought on by the pressures and struggles of the Counter?¡Reformation, as well as by the aftermath of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. The Second Vatican Council wanted a Church more plain-spoken, a Church of disciples who would be open to the joys and the hope, the sorrows and the struggles (5) of all humankind.

    With such fermentation in progress, many read the texts of the Council as centrally preoccupied with the search for a new relationship to the world. They took the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World as the overture to the conciliar symphony, and since that text addresses in a particular way the modern world and the Churchs mission to and in that world, dialogue became the catchword. Things distinctively Catholic and Christian, which thinkers such as Romano Guardini and scripture scholars such as Heinrich Schlier had been highlighting, were now sidelined, not because they were false, but because they were inappropriate in the new religious climate. The core of the Gospel lay, not in its revelation of the humble merciful love of the triune God for sinful suffering humankind, but in the capacity to alter the structures of society that kept peoples in the humiliation of a crushing poverty. The Sermon on the Mount became the touchstone for a revolt against the existing cultural and social order.

    In the student revolts of 1968, and still more spectacularly in the phenomenon of Liberation Theology in South America, the ideal way to make Christianity socially triumphant seemed to present itself. Marx could work with the Gospel to shape the world for the better! Christ has the message and Marx has the method! Marx could do this in spite of the fact that his thought had inspired those political structures that had systematically attacked the very idea of God and the reality of the Church from Peking to Berlin. The truth that Marx had appropriated in his thought the categories of the Old Testament, all of them except the God of Israel, (6) did not seem to present a problem! The theology of the Council had the power to assimilate and to baptise even Marxism.

    However, economics and politics, and not the Cross and the love exhibited thereon, are the instruments of Marxism. It took time, in fact, to perceive that the agents of salvation in Marxism as employed in Liberation Theology were not always those of Jesus Christ. Jesus set out to change hearts and minds before everything else. Having challenged this overdependence, the Church approved an authentic liberation theology. It is only Christ who can usher in the Kingdom of God: the Way of the Lamb in fact is a straight and narrow way between two titanisms, that of a social programme hijacking the Gospel of love exclusively for its own use, and that of a clerical theocracy attempting to control the whole of reality according to its plans. The way of the Gospel moves to the beat of another kind: it moves, in fact, in rhythm with the heartbeat of the God-Man who brought another kind of culture into history, the culture of mutual love and of self-gift even unto death (Mk 10:45; Jn 13:34; 15:12). His Gospel may be the long way around, but it is the short way home! The time has come, the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel! (Mk 1:15).

    Re-finding the first freshness
    I have been using the great short word, love. Friends tell me that the great words of the faith, even the greatest of all, love (l Cor 13:13), are so frequently used, and abused, that they fail to speak! They slip, slide and decay into imprecision. They generally let down what was intended by the writer. Thats why we will always need new language, or at least renewed discourse. Otherwise what is most sublime will pass by undetected, and the stunningly beautiful go unrecognised. It was of this that Emmanuel Levinas, Jew and philosopher, was thinking when he wrote of the other and concern for the other in these striking terms, Ethics is the recognition of

    saintliness. Plants, animals, all living things hang onto their lives. For each one, its a struggle for survival. And then comes the human, with the possible advent of an ontological absurdity: concern for others is greater than concern for oneself. This is what I call saintliness. Our humanity consists in being able to recognise the priority of the other(7). The highest goal has to consist in recognising this other and in then loving the other - with deeds!

    The genius of a philosopher such as Levinas lies in the ability to awaken us to the riches of familiar words, to the wonder of the other person, and to the even greater wonder of the event of living out concern for the other by means of the concrete deed. Now this is most helpful in realising what is great in life, and, a fortiori, in Christianity, where, as the Council stressed, the Other out of the abundance of his love speaks to us as friends (see Ex 33: 11; Jn 15: 14?¡-15) and lives among us (see Bar 3:38), so that he may invite and take us into fellowship. with himself (8). The central message of Christianity, then, consists in the fact that the God of Jesus Christ recognised our humanity to the point of emptying himself in order to take on this very humanity and the human condition even to death, yes, death on the cross (Phil 2:6-8). The truth of every other person is to be read from the fact that each is the brother or sister for whom Christ died (1 Cor 8:11).

    The glory of so great a love reflects its light over each and every person. O man, why do you think so little of yourself, when God shows how much he thinks of you?, is a recurring question among the Fathers of the Church. A triangle comes into view, namely, God, the other person and I. Pope Benedict puts it in these vivid terms, For someone who has no rapport with God, the other will never be anything more than an other (9) Over a millennium after the Fathers, their thinking re-echoes in Dostoievskis claim that in Christian times there was an idea stronger than any calamity (10).

    The Third Death of God (11)
    The title of a French philosophers recent book simply shocks. How could it be that the very Europe, where the first extensive inculturation of the Gospel occurred, now wants to throw off its Christian credentials? The new constitution of the European Union does not want to mention God or Christ or the fact of the Christian roots of Europe. If Europe, so saturated historically in the Gospel and so marked in its culture by the inspiration of that same Gospel, refuses to welcome the message of Christs death and resurrection, what will happen to it? Nor should the depth of the drama be underestimated. Addressing the Fifth Symposium of the Bishops of Europe in 1982, Pope John Paul II stressed the Christian implication of the European drama in these words, The crises of European man are the crises of Christian man. The crises of European culture are the crises of Christian culture. .. In an even more radical sense, we can affirm that these trials, these temptations and this outcome of the European drama not only challenge Christianity and the Church as a difficulty or an external obstacle coming from the outside, they are within Christianity and the Church in a certain true sense (12). It is not appropriate, therefore, to read the religious and cultural landscape of contemporary Europe as if atheism and nihilism were positions that had come trom outside of Christian Europe. Rather they are realities that arise from within that very religious and cultural space! We must try to understand them and address the serious questions they pose to believer and non-believer alike! This will be a primary goal of this book.

    An Italian philosopher comments that much modern thought has become the defender of the human being against God (13). The plain meaning of the statement is perplexing, even dismaying. If God is love in himself (1 Jn 4:8; 16), how could he be a threat to Man? It is obvious from the event of the eternal Trinity that the Divine Persons are their very relationships of love, of infinite self-giving: each divine Person is a nothingness of love for the Other Persons. Why would we need to be defended against such a God? How could this state of affairs have emerged? Or perhaps we have to ask with Bruno Forte if the God of Christians is Christian. It is no exaggeration to claim that we are confronted by an exile of the Trinity from both the theory and the practice of Christians (14). And as Karl Barth saw; many decades ago, it is only the Trinity that makes God beautiful and so attractive!

    If the central mystery of the Christian faith has fallen out of view, if what is revealed by God and worked out over the early Councils of the Church no longer enjoys presence and vigour in the minds and the lives of many believers, namely, that the one God is a communion of infinite Persons, then the core of faith has slipped out of sight like a sun setting without notice in a good month of June. As the spiritual heirs of Israel the first Christians announced the one true God, but they did so in a remarkable fashion. They proclaimed this God as a One who is Three. He was both infinite unity and infinite communion. He was neither unity without plurality, nor plurality without unity. And not only: One of the Three had become man, bringing the culture of mutual self-giving

    from heaven to earth. As the only Son turned towards the bosom of the Father (Jn 1:18), the Son brought with him a total newness in the reality of mutual love among believers. I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you (Jn 13:34). The One opened out to humankind in a trinity of infinite Persons as the Event of Love where humankind was invited to enter. Father, I want those you have given me to be where I am, so that they may see the glory you have given me, because you loved me before the creation of the world (Jn 17:24). Now if this newness has evaporated, then we have to fall back upon our own ideas of God and of accessing him! We will have to lose what is revealed. Voltaires comment will be fulfilled to the letter, God made man in his image and likeness, and man has paid him back (15).

    The outline of the book in your hands

    Part I: Thinking and reasoning today
    The book has two sections which are interdependent. The first section is an encounter with contemporary culture, in particular with the phenomenon of the loss of faith. Here we describe the religious crises of Christians in the Western world. We consider the alienation of recent centuries that has now produced the phenomenon of modernity and post-modernity. The first chapter in this section describes the gradual weakening of the synthesis of faith and reason worked out by geniuses such as St Thomas in the thirteenth century, as well as the progressive unravelling of this synthesis. Our world is largely the product of science and its child, technology. The advent of this science is an event that outshines in importance all the events of the past millennium.

    From the point of view of faith, the culture we live in reduces doctrine to probable opinions at most, and revelation to religious experience and intuition. Only science is rigorous in its methods: so runs the argument. Faith has but a tenuous connection to rigorous reason; it prefers intuition and the dubious signs of miracles and holiness.

    The second chapter deals with the charge that faith is grounded upon such weak reason, and not upon strong reason which is the prerogative of science. This chapter expounds the wisdom of three seminal thinkers who respond to this state of affairs. They are John Henry Newman, Eric Voegelin, and Bernard Lonergan representing Anglican, Lutheran and Catholic worlds, respectively. They recover the more inclusive sense of reason and its methods for the human, ethical and theological realms of inquiry. However, they do so in dialogue with the unfolding wonder of a science and technology advancing on all fronts.

    The third chapter considers the relationships that divine revelation sets up with our humanity, particularly in respect of human rationality and its quest for first principles. Far from being a red light to thinking, this revelation stimulates thought. The result is theology: faith and hope and love all seek understanding. Not only, but such seeking corresponds to an earlier seeking that archaeology, anthropology and the history of thought show to lie at the core of our very humanity. All the ancient religions and cultures in fact witness to this search. Taking our cue from John Pauls encyclical, Fides et ratio, we outline the access to truth, both that provided by revelation and that attained by the natural light of reason, as well as their fascinating intersection. After all, does not the Christ who reveals the Father to men and women (Mt 11 :27) not also reveal human beings to themselves? (16) There is no authentic theology without philosophy, and no authentic philosophy without openness to the possibility of encounter with divinity.

    Part Two: Dont presuppose faith, propose it afresh!
    The second section of this theological dialogue sets out to tell the faith in the context and the circumstances of our times. It is never enough to presuppose the faith, it is always necessary to propose it afresh. Perhaps the new challenges we have been describing are measures allowed by Christ, the Lord and Omega point of history, to stimulate us to unpack the riches of revelation, which are unfathomable (Eph 3:8). This is in any case a primary concern of this work: to listen with sympathy to the concerns of our contemporaries in order to initiate the dialogue of salvation (Pope John Paul II). But what is this faith? What is the good news? It is the wonder of humankind risen in and with the resurrection of Christ as the victory of God without which our preaching is in vain ... and we are the most unfortunate of all people (l Cor 15:14, 19) (17). In the words of Leo the Great, In whatever part of the world a man is regenerated in Christ, with his ancient sinfulness destroyed, he passes over into a new man by a rebirth ..: (See Brev; 31 Jan). The author of First Timothy puts it like this:

    Christ was made visible in the flesh,
    attested by the Spirit,
    seen by angels,
    proclaimed to the pagans,
    believed in by the world,
    taken up in glory. (l Tim 3:16)

    Christianity is a large thing: you cannot take it up in a teacup.

    The first chapter here presents the revelation which God made to Israel. In a history which is both scenic and almost supernatural, God begins to tell us who he is by showing us what he does! There results the unfolding history of Israel, word and deed combining. It is the history of Gods search for humankind. In it one sees both the commitment of God to the way of history as well as the forging of the categories of promise for humanitys future with God. The emerging categories, however, are not capable of easy harmonisation. How can one harmonise, to take but one example, the category of the Messiah with that of the Suffering Servant? The first must live, the second has to die. Of course the movements played out in the course of Israels exceptional history are not the only preparation for the new and eternal covenant that is coming. In the words of S?©ren Kierkegaard, Preparation for becoming attentive to Christianity does not consist in reading books or in making surveys of world history, but in deeper immersion in existence (18). This in fact was the primary purpose of the last chapter that focused on the intersection of divine and human search in the drama of human existence. No one finds who has not first been seeking.

    Hidden in the First Covenant, the New Covenant becomes manifest as the Mystery of Christ, to borrow St Pauls language. However, that manifestation is not obvious. How could it be? That the Infmite should bond with the finite, that the Eternal should unite with the temporal, pulverises all our categories. It is the utterly Unexpected that enters in Jesus of Nazareth. What do we see in him? Heaven on earth, earth in heaven; man in God, God in man; heaven on earth and earth in heaven; and him whom the whole universe cannot contain, confined in a tiny body. (19) This fifth chapter focuses on Jesus bringing of the Kingdom of God as the very life of his homeland in the Trinity. At the core of the Kingdom is the art shown in the deeds and words of Jesus.

    This art is an art of loving, together with its subtle, albeit incisive, movements. The chapter takes us into the practical import of the gospel of Jesus person, words and deeds. The revelation occurring in him is above all else practical. St Bonaventure in the thirteenth century saw Jesus as the very art of the Blessed Three brought into history. Jesus manifests this art of his homeland on earth. His task in fact was to radiate in the world the splendour of the love of his homeland. Later the Apostle to the Gentiles will exhort the new believers at Ephesus, Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, having first reminded them of their deepest identity as Gods work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it (Eph 5:1; 2:10).

    There follows the sixth chapter on the summit moment of Jesus passion, the experience of his crucifixion and forsakenness by his Father (Mk 15:34; Mt 27:46). The history of the last century is a history of suffering on a scale unprecedented in previous history. This fact made Christians in the decades after World War II read these primary texts of revelation with new eyes. In particular, their eyes turned towards the cry of abandonment on the Cross. The fact that both Mark and Matthew place only one logion on the lips of the suffering Christ (Mk 15:34; Mt 27:46) should have alerted Christians much earlier to the central emphasis of these evangelists. The Jesus of St Mark in fact seems to marginalise the role of his miracles and teaching (Mk 2) as he sets his face towards Jerusalem and rejection and crucifixion in spite of the remonstrations of Peter (8:27-33). The world will always want to live and rise without dying, but this Jesus chooses to die so that all of us can live beyond death in the space he opens up between himself and his eternal Father. Jesus as the Son of God made man, reaches men and women in their greatest distance from God, yes, in their very God-forsakenness.

    Had not the Old Testament already perceived the real meaning of death by crucifIxion when it announced, Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree (Dt 21:23)? In spite of this principle the Son of God sets his face from the beginning towards Jerusalem and the cross (Mk 8:27?¡-33). ... now God speaks his final word: his Son takes over in suffering the role of those who say "no" and carries it through to his inconceivable abandonment by God... Whoever removes himself even an inch from this self-interpretation of God... is no longer a Christian (20). In Jesus forsaken one sees a distance from God which the Son himself had to experience, who, being Love that is beyond all knowing (Eph 3:19), becomes one with us to the point of the cry of our God-forsakenness. In Jesus forsaken we glimpse in God the greatest deprivation of his own being God, to the point of being the "last" human being, of even becoming "sin and accursed". Because of this becoming one with us, every suffering face of humanity is his own, every face of sacrificed innocence is his. (21)

    The experience behind the whole of the New Testament begins to peep out. This is the theme of the seventh chapter. The texts composing the New Testament, in fact, are the articulation of the primitive communities experience of the in-breaking of absolute love into the world (l Jn 1:1). It is with this engendering experience that this chapter grapples. It notices that the three great building blocks of the New Testament, namely, the synoptic gospels, the Pauline literature and the Johannine, each ask themselves one and the same great question, who is this Jesus who dies and is alive? Progressively more differentiated answers emerge. These answers move from the categories of the Old Testament being applied to Jesus in the synoptics to the Pauline insight that God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ while Jesus is the Son of this Father. As for John, the differentiation is most explicit: God is the Father and Jesus is the Son. The philology leads to the theology: God is the Father and the same One is the Son and the same One is also the Spirit. The challenge is to expand our minds to the measure of revelation! In doing so we learn that Trinity is the only hypothesis that covers the data of the New Testament.

    Not only our minds, but also our hearts need expansion, for, as we have been stressing, revelation is eminently practical. As Newman loved to stress, the whole duty and work of a Christian is made up of these two parts, faith and obedience; looking unto Jesus", the divine object as well as author of our faith, and acting according to his will (22). The Son enfleshed in our flesh teaches men how God really is and since he is himself a man, astonishingly he teaches them to imitate this God (23). It begins to dawn on us that the crucified and raised Son has re-located us human beings where no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of any person imagined (l Cor 2:9; Is 64:3; Jer 3:16). Relationship is the first key even to an elementary reading of our place. On that day, you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you (Jn 14:20). The three relations that constitute the mystery of faith stand out in this one verse. They are the relationships of the Son to the Father, of Christ to us, and of Christian to fellow-Christian. The paschal Christ is speaking in order to tell us where we are in the drama of what the God of Jesus Christ is showing, giving and communicating!

    The seventh chapter sets out the key relationships among believers resulting from this wonderful locating brought about by the self?¡-communication of the Blessed Trinity. This is what the eyes of the heart (Eph 1:18) must begin to see. Christ has re-located us! The result, that there is, in fact, an entirely new way of saying I, You, S/He and We. Each time one utters a particular pronoun, one thinks of the other-in?¡-relationship, since each pronoun involves relationship. The apartness of the person understood as individual substance (Boethius) is corrected and enriched by the dimension of communion that overcomes aloneness while protecting irreducibility. Our amazing re-location through Christ, however, must include not only the being of substance but also the being of consciousness (Lonergan). As Percy Walker has noted, consciousness involves two relations, that of knowing and the relation of with. To live the truth of their dignity, Christians must find both relations. 24 Otherwise the revelation given in Christ is not appropriated by believers. The realisation of our presence in the milieu trinitaire can inspire our lives and pre-empt a certain subtle islamisation of the faith given once for all to the saints (Jude 3).

    And yet in spite of a revelation so extraordinary, many Christians seem not to view the life of faith in a manner radically different to that of other monotheistic religions. Tragically, there has been an exile of the blessed Trinity, not that we would refuse to confess our access to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:18), but that this has little practical meaning and so little relevance to everyday living. The gravity of this loss consists in the fact that we may be quite unable to appreciate that the Blessed Trinity is the form of our life with God and with one another. Along with such practical nominalism, flattening out as it does the revealed order of divinity, there is perhaps no realisation at all that the Trinity is the infinite source of communion and so of society or a world reconciled. Chapter eight studies this exiling of the Trinity. However, it also points towards its remarkable return, particularly since the Council, to the extent that it is now the very grammar of theology. For the Council defined the Church, following the Fathers, as a people made up from the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (25). The Church becomes the created home of the Trinity while the Trinity stands forth as the uncreated home of the Church (26).
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A Fractured Relationship