Friday, October 26, 2018

Light of Christ by Thomas White OP and Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man by Henri de Lubac SJ. A Comparative Review by Frederick Blonigen

If Satan is the great divider then one indispensable weapon for battling him is a clear and comprehensive understanding of the whole. Two priests from two different eras have given us such wide canvas presentations of Catholicism.

Fr. Thomas White’s In the Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (2017) and Fr. Henri de Lubac’s Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man (1947) are two comprehensive expositions of the narrative, the dogma, the characters, and the practices of the Catholic religion.

Archbishop Charles Chaput compared  Fr.White’s new book to Fr. Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity of fifty years ago: “(White) combines scholarly depth with an engaging style to present the what and why of Catholic belief with exceptional clarity and grace.” Bishop Robert Barron called Fr. White “one of the brightest and most articulate theologians writing today”.  His new work is “an intelligent and spiritually alert introduction to the principal themes of Catholic theology. Both beginners and serious academics will find much to savor in its pages.” Philosopher and Catholic convert, Edward Feser says “Fr. Thomas Joseph White articulates the Catholic faith in a way that lays bare its harmony with reason. He is a superb teacher. Skeptics and believers, academics and laymen alike, will learn much from this fine book.”

Fr. White, a Dominican friar and an associate professor of systematic theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington , D.C., has authored several other important Thomistic works, especially his 2009 book, Wisdom in the Face of Modernity. Fr. White’s new book has all the qualities of a Catholic classic. It can be favorably compared to such venerated expositions of the Catholic faith as Frank Sheed’s Theology and Sanity, Fr. Ronald Knox’s The Belief of Catholics, Fr. Karl Adam’s The Spirit of Catholicism, and Msgr. A.N. Gilbey’s We Believe. 

In the Light of Christ has eight main chapters : 1. Revelation and Reason 2. God and Trinity 3. Creation and the Human Person 4. Incarnation and Atonement 5. The Church 6. Social Doctrine 7. The Last Things and 8. Epilogue: On Prayer.

In his introduction, Fr. White argues that human beings are innately conditioned to raise basic metaphysical questions.  “The spiritual quest of the human person for truth, goodness, and beauty can be deferred and even denied for a time. It can be stunted and stymied by lack of education, corrupt social influences, and subservience to the idols of money, status and other forms of worldly success. But it cannot be eradicated. Our souls will not be satisfied with mere information, as if our hunger for knowledge could be quelled by uploading data. Google provides endless facts, available in an instant. But we want understanding, insight, and wisdom. We want to know why and what for. We wish to perceive all in the unending light of what is and cannot not be. Our hearts are restless with the desire to know the truth.”

Fr. White then articulates the major purpose of In the Light of Christ : “My goal is to make explicit in a few broad strokes the shape of Catholicism. I hope to outline its inherent intelligibility or form as a mystery that is at once visible and invisible, ancient and contemporary, mystical and reasonable. Throughout I do not seek primarily to present my own individual ideas, but to represent the wisdom of the Catholic Church. For she has been for us what Christ himself promised she would be: the trustworthy teacher of truths both human and divine.”

In the first chapter of his book, Fr. White discusses the critical interplay between Revelation and reason. The starting point of Christianity is based on an appeal to the truth of God “uncovering” or “unveiling” Himself to mankind. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14).” The foundational principle of Christianity is not a philosophical idea or an intellectual abstraction. It is the reality of a Personal God showing Himself to mankind in and through a Chosen People, the Israelites, and most fully manifesting Himself in the Divine Person of Jesus Christ. God takes the initiative revealing Himself as the Creator of all that exists Who out of love designed human beings for a life of love in this world and in the next. Faith is the supernatural gift from God, a theological virtue, by which a human being responds to Divine Revelation. Or as the new Catechism says, “Faith is a personal act—the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself ” (CCC 166). God can be known through reason and faith. Even without Divine Revelation all men, by nature, can know something about God but because God is infinite and human beings are finite, human reason alone is radically insufficient when it comes to knowing God. However, God has revealed knowledge of Himself in a way that far exceeds anything unaided human reason could know. Faith is not a leap in the dark, a substitute for knowing. Faith is a deeper way of knowing a reality more profound than that clasped in the grasp of reason. The Unveiling of God took place in three “Trinitarian” steps: 1. God revealed Himself to Israel, the Chosen People. 2. God revealed Himself through the Incarnation of His Eternal Son, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, and the fullness of Revelation. 3. God revealed Himself through the Holy Spirit and Christ’s Body, the Church, to carry on His work until the end of the world.

In his discussion of ways of knowing God, Fr. White emphasizes the harmony between faith and reason. Right reason never opposes or contradicts faith. They are allies not enemies. And, of course, no philosopher or theologian ever demonstrated this harmonious relationship between faith and reason more persuasively than St. Thomas Aquinas, the master of Scholasticism. In a penetrating passage, Fr. White writes as a true disciple of Aquinas:

“The real opposition, then is not between faith and reason, but between a skeptical reason that is reductive and a magnanimous, studious reason that engages in faith. Expansive desire for the truth breaks away from conventions, and awakens human beings to our true nobility, against temptations to self-diminishment. The Christian vocation of ‘faith seeking understanding’ is both dynamic and restful. It gives us something greater than ourselves to ponder, and takes us out of ourselves toward God as our teacher. But it also allows us to know ourselves as rational beings, able to truly ask and even answer the deeper religious questions. Faith therefore creates a learning community. The Church is a place where human beings have the conviction to patiently seek the truth together, in shared life of charity, one that is both cosmopolitan and personal, both reasonable and religious, both philosophical and theological. This communion in the truth is made possible, however, only because people have first accepted to be apprenticed to revelation through a common effort of learning the truth from Another (i.e., God), who is the author of truth, and from one another.”

In the second chapter of The Light of Christ, Fr. White writes magnificently about the greatest of all mysteries of the faith: the Trinity. The lucidity and sheer beauty of his prose reminds one of Frank Sheed’s exposition of the Trinity in his greatest apologetic work, Theology and Sanity. According to Fr. White there are two ways we can think about the Trinity: First, we can start with a personal, affective relationship with God Whom we know in faith, through a prayerful encounter, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He calls this an “intuitive” knowledge of the triune God. Second, we can acquire a speculative understanding of God as we analyze the mystery of three Persons in one God. “The great works of reflection on the Trinity in the early Church—those of Irenaeus, Gregory of Nazianzus , Augustine, and others—are living meditations that spring from the inner life of faith, and from reflection on Scripture and Church doctrine. They are profound intellectual works, but they are also grounded in a deeper mystical life and spiritual aspiration.” For the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the study of the deepest of all mysteries, the Trinity, was not a mere academic exercise; it was an attempt to understand with a prayerful heart the Trinitarian God whom we worship and adore. It is what the renowned theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar calls “a kneeling theology.” It begins every classroom lesson and every writing session with the Sign of the Cross.

As Fr. White explains, the Trinity is a communion of divine persons, co-equal and co-eternal. “That is to say, each person is a subsistent relation. The Son is utterly relational by being from the Father by virtue of his eternal generation. But the Son is also the subsistent being of God. He is God from God, Who has in Himself all that is in the Father and the Spirit. The Father likewise is entirely relational, as the paternal origin of the Son and the Spirit, and has in Himself the plenitude of the deity, and thus possesses all that is in the Son and the Spirit. The Spirit is entirely relative to the Father and the Son from whom He proceeds as love, but He has in Himself the plentitude of the divine essence, and thus all that is in the Father and the Son.”

This Trinitarian doctrine is the central mystery of the faith, the source and summit of everything we believe as Christians. It is the theological vantage point from which we interpret all of reality. And our decision to believe this greatest of all revealed truths is determined by how we understand the person of Jesus. If Jesus Christ truly is the Son of God, if He truly rose from the dead, if He truly founded His Church on the apostles, then the mystery of the Trinity is real. We cannot believe in the Trinity without believing in Christ and we cannot believe in Christ unless we believe in the Trinity. St. Teresa of Avila, the great 16th Carmelite mystic, always emphasized the importance of going to God the Father through the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ. As Fr. White explains,” The study of the Trinity is meant to help us understand more deeply the mystery of the life of Jesus itself, to see his unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in his actions of healing, forgiving sins, and bearing witness to the truth, but also in the mystery of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ. The paschal mystery of Jesus reveals to us the identity of Christ as the Son of God, but also as the wisdom and power of the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead, and the gift of love that is the Holy Spirit, poured out upon the Church from the Cross.”

Chapter Three, entitled “Creation and the Human Person”, is one the most insightful sections of Fr. White’s book. The author argues that Genesis provides us with six major teachings regarding the nature of reality: 1. All that exists receives its being from God and creation itself has a temporal beginning. 2. God not only created all that exists but He is the universal governor of the hierarchial order of the universe. 3.The human being because he is made in God ‘s image and likeness is the pinnacle of all visible creatures. Man is one being composed of a material body and an immaterial soul. 4. The human being was created in original justice, in the grace and friendship of God. 5. The human being fell from God’s grace through a personal sin that took place at the beginning of human history. 6. The human beings who sinned in the beginning transmitted to all their descendents original sin - human life deprived of God’s grace and friendship. The state of sin is not a stain but a separation. While all of these teachings about creation and the human person are not meant to be “scientific”, they are in no way in conflict with what science has been able to tell us about the universe and man’s place in it. True science and true theology never contradict each other. In an exquisite passage, Fr. White explains beautifully how the Catholic Church’s understanding of the Trinity and its vision of creation present us with a profound view of reality and the human person’s role in the cosmic scheme of things:

“We said that God in his inmost identity is a mystery of relational persons, the communion of love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus the ultimate foundation of all of reality is both personal and interrelational. If this is the primary truth behind all other truths, then it casts a theological light upon all else that exists. We can see in the light of the Holy Trinity that the physical cosmos ultimately exists for spiritual persons and relational love. The human community is a community of persons, of personal, spiritual animals, who can choose to live in the truth, and to love one another authentically, or to live in falsehood and selfishness. This ‘calling to truth and love’ that is proper to the human person is inscribed in our very being as spiritual persons. It is also meant to be lived out or enacted in our bodies, as the bodies of persons. Here then we can see a fundamental truth of the cosmos: there is a relational character to the hierarchy of being....The human being is the ‘bridge’ between the spiritual and the physical world in a twofold way. In the ascendant direction, the physical world mounts up toward God, or ‘returns’ to God through human actions of knowledge and love. This is especially true in corporate worship, or liturgy, in which the human visible world is made wholly relative and turned toward God in adoration. In the descending direction, man is the ‘place’ that the spiritual world is made visible or manifest in the cosmos. The human community is a kind of icon of spiritual life manifesting itself in bodily, visible form. When human beings are turned toward the truth of God, this icon can become a sign of the transcendent mystery of God, a visible church. But when the human being turns in on itself in pride and rejection of God, it can also become a spiritually empty image covered over by spiritual melancholy, lust, violent frustration, and self–destruction. Ultimately, then, the human being is meant to be a special ‘location’ of grace in the cosmos, where the spiritual gifts of God descend through human freedom into the preservation and construction of a beautiful physical world: a human common life based upon truth, moral goodness, and beauty. The human body can serve the spirit of man so as to acknowledge God in and through human actions. In the bodily life of the human being the physical cosmos can glorify God.”

Fr. White’s eloquence and insight regarding the relational nature and dignity of the human person continues in Chapter Four where the author writes about the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. In the ancient Church there were two answers to the question “why did God become human?” One answer came from St. Athansius and the other came from St. Anselm of Canterbury. St. Athanasius, the great defender of Christ’s divinity, argued that Christ became man so that man might “become God”, that is, that man might become more and more Godlike through a grace-filled union with God. This view of the Incarnation is technically known as “divinization,” or among Eastern Christians as “theosis”. St. Anselm offers a different but complementary view of the Incarnation. Because of the Fall and the reality of man’s sinfulness and man’s consequent alienation from God, a chasm opened up between God and man that only God Himself could bridge. The great St. Catherine of Siena, in fact, in her famous work The Dialogue refers to Christ as the Bridge between heaven and earth. To quote the words of Fr. White, “Christ atones for human sin by being himself humanly loving, and obedient in our stead, as our sinless representative before God. Because Christ is God, his self-offering on our behalf is one of infinite holiness, reconciling us with God’s absolute righteousness. His atonement acts as a compensation for human sin that is more than sufficient for all the sins of the human race. Consequently, even in the face of our own sinfulness we should not live in alienation from God, but in confidence and friendship with God by faith.”

Through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection Christ has redeemed mankind, atoned for man’s sins, and reopened the gates of heaven. The Church He established upon the apostles is, in fact, a continuation of the Incarnate Christ and His saving work in space and time. As the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church has received the divine mandate to preach the Gospel to every corner of the world. “The mission of the Holy Spirit is to accompany the work of the visible, apostolic Church, acting in the preaching and sacramental life of her members, sanctifying them by works of love, and leading them into the fullness of truths.”

In the remaining chapters, Fr. White deepens and develops his reflections by interweaving enlightening discussions of the Church, Mary, the seven sacraments, the social doctrine of the Church, the last things, and prayer. It is difficult to do justice to Fr. White's book even in a long review. He presents the Catholic faith in all of its truth, goodness and beauty. His exposition of Catholicism is a work of great erudition. Just as obvious, it is a work of great faith and love. Fr. White concludes In the Light of Christ: “ It is this mysterious love of Christ for humanity that sustains the Catholic Church in being down through the ages, and that inspires her saints. His love reaches out from the Cross to all of creation, and remains hidden at the center of the world as its living heart. The grace of Christ crucified is the source of the Church’s life, her devotion to the truth and her freedom to love. Therein lies the essence of Catholicism: at the heart of the Church is the life of Christ. It is this life that God invites us to, and that He wants to give us, if we open our minds and hearts to Him in prayer.”
A Nov, 2017 interview with Fr White on his book.

In the Light of Christ has all the qualities of a book destined to a Catholic classic. Fr. Henri de Lubac’s masterpiece Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man is already there. De Lubac’s book was published shortly after World War II in 1947. After a controversial initial reception, it is now recognized by theologians and scholars as one of the most important expositions of Catholicism of the 20th century. Pope Benedict XVI has said of de Lubac ‘s Catholicism , “For me, the encounter with this book{in 1949} became an essential milestone on my theological journey. For in it de Lubac does not treat merely isolated questions. He makes visible to us in a new way the fundamental intuition of Christian faith so that from this inner core all the particular elements appear in a new light. He shows how the idea of community and universality rooted in the Trinitarian concept of God, permeates and shapes all the individual elements of Faith’s content. The idea of the Catholic, the all-embracing, the inner unity of I and Thou and We does not constitute one chapter of theology among others. It is the key that opens the door to the proper understanding of the whole.”

This “deLubacian sensibility of the interpersonal whole” is likewise a major theme of Pope Francis.
Henri Cardinal de Lubac, born into the French nobility, joined the Jesuits while still in his teens. He served with distinction in the First World War and suffered a severe head injury that would result in health problems for the rest of his life. Despite his ill health, de Lubac was determined to finish his Jesuit formation and in 1927 was ordained to the priesthood. In the inter-war years, de Lubac taught fundamental theology at the Catholic University in Lyon. During the Second World War, he was a member of the French Resistance. But de Lubac is chiefly remembered as a major figure in what was called the “new theology," an effort by some of the brightest theological minds in Europe to renew Catholic theology by returning to the sources: Scripture and the Church Fathers. De Lubac’s theological works were to have a significant impact on Vatican II, especially his contribution to three of the sixteen documents of the Council, the Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation (“Dei Verbum”) , the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (“Lumen Gentium”), and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World ("Gaudium et Spes"). During Vatican II, de Lubac would forge an important friendship with the young archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla. He would write an introduction to the French edition of Wojtyla’s book Love and Responsibility, a work that would have a great influence on St. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. 

Vatican II made it clear that there was not a monolithic theological approach within the Catholic Church. The two major poles toward which theologians gravitated centered on two theological journals: Concilium and Communio. Before the Council, theologians of both journals were often lumped together as "the new theology". They were friends and certainly read each other's work with appreciation. After the Council, though, fundamental differences appeared. The former journal stood for those theologians who promoted the “spirit of Vatican II” and what Joseph Ratzinger would call “the hermeneutic of rupture”: namely the idea that Vatican II represented a decisive break from the pre-Vatican II Church. The principal theologians of the Concilium camp included Karl Rahner, Hans Kung, and Edward Schillebeeckx. The theologians who began Communio in 1972 represented what Ratzinger would call the “the hermeneutic of continuity.” They believed Vatican II was, indeed, a council of needed reform in the Church: but it was most definitely not a council whose ultimate goal was to revolutionize the Church and change settled dogmatic teaching.  Theologians of the Communio camp included Henri de Lubac and his two former students Jean Danielou and Hans Urs von Balthasar, as well as Joseph Ratzinger. Australian theologian, Tracey Rowland, has explained this best in her  Catholic Theology(2017). She calls her book "a guide for a young Catholic theology student through the Catholic academic zoo."  She distinguishes the Communio and Concilium theologians, “The typical Communio scholar wants to read the Second Vatican Council as an event that emphasized the importance of Christocentrism and therefore the renewal of theological anthropology and Trinitarian theology. The typical Concilium scholar wants to read the Second Vatican Council as an event that exhorted Catholics to be aware of the signs of the times and to enter into dialogue with the world on the world’s terms.”

While Henri de Lubac was not opposed to dialogue with the modern world, he was very aware of the danger to the faith when that dialogue took place on the world’s terms. De Lubac spent his entire life understanding and then fighting the modern ideologies that the Concilium theologians were too eager to find common ground with: liberalism, relativism, Marxism, and secularism. The mission of the Catholic Church, as de Lubac understood, is to convert the world to Christ and not to have Christians converted to the world. He believed that the best way to present the saving Gospel of Christ to an ever more secular world was not through syllogisms and hair-splitting logic and an impersonal theology but through the beauty and spiritual richness of Scripture, Patristic writings, and theological personalism. De Lubac became one of the most prominent members of what is called the “resourcement “ school of theology: those theologians who returned to the ancient sources of Catholic theology. Hans von Balthasar, his former student , once referred to his teacher, De Lubac, as a young David doing battle against “the Goliath of modern rationalization and the reduction of the Christian mystery to logic.”

Henri de Lubac, during his long and fruitful academic career, authored many influential books including The Splendor of the Church, The Christian Faith ,The Discovery of God, and The Drama of Atheistic Humanism. He appreciated the audacious sweep of secular ideologies. In Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man he answered those noble tales with the magnus opus of the Catholic narrative. This was the work that set him apart as a Catholic theologian who wanted the Church to present Christ in the richer grammar of biblical personalism and Patristic narrative.
In the introduction to Catholicism, de Lubac captures the central thesis of his book: “Fundamentally the Gospel is obsessed with the idea of the unity of human society. This shows the full extent of the misunderstanding. We are accused of being individualists even in spite of ourselves, by the logic of our faith, whereas in reality Catholicism is essentially social. It is social in the deepest sense of the word: not merely in its applications in the field of natural institutions but first and foremost in itself, in the heart of its mystery, in the essence of its dogma. It is social in the sense that should have made ‘social Catholicism’ pleonastic.”

De Lubac divides Catholicism into three major sections: the first part demonstrates how the Catholic religion in its creed, its ecclesiology, its sacraments, and its eschatological hope has an eminently social character; the second part discusses Christianity and history, the question of Scripture and its spiritual interpretation, the salvation of humanity through the Church, the predestination of the Church, and the spirit of Catholicism manifested through the missions; and in the third and shortest part of de Lubac’s book the author writes about the present situation for the Church, the person and society, and transcendence.

In the first chapter of Catholicism entitled “Dogma” de Lubac opens:

“The supernatural dignity of one who has been baptized rests, we know, on the natural dignity of man, though it surpasses it in an infinite measure....Thus the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, a supernatural unity, supposes a previous natural unity, the unity of the human race. So the Fathers of the Church in their treatment of grace and salvation, kept constantly before them this Body of Christ, and in dealing with the creation were not content to only mention the formation of individuals, the first man and the first woman, but delighted to contemplate God creating humanity as a whole.” For the Fathers of the Church including Irenaeus, Origen, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa , Cyril of Alexandria, Maximus, Hilary and others “the lost sheep of the Gospel that the Good Shepherd brings back to the fold is no other than the whole of human nature; its sorry state so moves the Word of God He leaves the great flock of the angels, as it were to their own devices, in order to go to its help.”

De Lubac, a scholar who has immersed himself in the study of Patristics, argues persuasively that the Fathers of the Church, in their understanding of human nature, see the fundamental principle of humanity’s unity as Genesis makes so clear. In all human persons the divine image is the same. “The same mysterious participation in God which causes the soul to exist effects at one and the same time the unity of spirits among themselves. Whence comes the notion, so beloved of Augustinianism, of one spiritual family intended to form the one city of God.” For the Fathers of the Church to believe in the God of Revelation was to believe in a common Father of all. The prayer taught by Jesus, the Our Father, makes clear that the Fatherhood of God implies the brotherhood of all men.

Into this original unity of mankind enters sin, the great disrupter of man’s primal oneness. Beginning with original sin, division and separation become a persistent reality for the human race. Even though sin cannot completely destroy the original unity of mankind, there abides a great wound. The Father sends His Son as mankind’s Redeemer to restore and, indeed, to elevate the supernatural unity of God with man and the unity of men among themselves.

 St. Augustine saw the whole as well.

"Divine Mercy gathered up the fragments from every side, forged them in the fire of love, and welded into one what had been broken....He who remade was himself the Maker, and who refashioned was himself the Fashioner.” The Incarnate Christ from the first moment of his existence bears all of humanity within Himself. “For the Word did not merely take a human body.... He incorporated himself in our humanity, and incorporated it in himself....In making a human nature, it is human nature that he united to himself, that he enclosed in himself, and it is the latter, whole and entire that in some sort he uses as a body....Whole and entire he will bear it then to Calvary, whole and entire he will raise it from the dead, whole and entire he will save it. Christ the Redeemer does not offer salvation merely to each one; he effects it, he himself is the salvation of the whole, and for each one salvation consists in a personal ratification of his original ‘belonging ‘ to Christ, so that he be not cast out, cut off from this Whole.”

For the Church Fathers, as de Lubac emphasizes, the work of redemption is both vertical and horizontal. Christ through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection reunites man to God the Father but He also reunites men to one another as a sacred species. Christ came to bring peace and unity. He is in Himself the Peace of God. “Raised up on the Cross, his arms outstretched, he is to gather together the disunited portions of creation....It is by his blood that ‘those who for some time were afar off are made nigh’.... Through his one sacrifice he will make but one kingdom out of all nations.”

In many ways de Lubac’s Catholicism is primarily a work of ecclesiology as a synthesis of God’s original design, Christ’s identity, and mankind’s destiny. The book returns again and again to the nature and purpose of the Church as established by Christ for humanity.  “The Church which is ‘Jesus Christ spread abroad and communicated’ completes—so far as it can be completed here below—the work of spiritual reunion{of God and mankind} which was made necessary by sin; that work that was begun at the Incarnation and was carried on up to Calvary. In one sense the Church is herself this reunion, for that is what is meant by the name Catholic... for fundamentally Catholicity has nothing to do with geography or statistics. If is true that it should be displayed over all the earth and be manifest to all, yet its nature is not material but spiritual. Like sanctity, Catholicity is primarily an intrinsic feature of the Church.” Humanity is one by virtue of its divinely created nature; it is the mission of the Catholic Church, in a fallen world redeemed by Christ, to help restore and complete this unity.
On June 29, 1943, Pope Pius XII promulgated his monumental encyclical “Mystici Corporis Christi" , arguably the most important papal document on the Church in the modern era. Four years later, De Lubac published his ecclesiological masterpiece Catholicism. His work can be understood as a book length commentary on Pope Pius XII’s magnificent encyclical. De Lubac provides these powerful words on the true nature of the Catholic Church:

“{The} Church, the only real Church, the Church which is the Body of Christ, is not merely that strongly hierarchical and disciplined society whose divine origin has to be maintained, whose organization has to be upheld against all denial and revolt. This is an incomplete notion and but a partial cure for the separatist, individualist tendency to the notion to which it is opposed: a partial cure because it works only from without by way of authority, instead of effective union. If Christ is the sacrament of God, the Church is for us the sacrament of Christ; she represents him, in the full and ancient meaning of the term; she really makes him present. She not only carries on his work, she is his very continuation, in a sense far more real than that in which it can be said that any human institution is its founder’s continuation.”

Above all it is the sacramental character of the Church which allows this Christic representation. Because the sacraments are the principal means of grace, they are as well the principal instrument of unity in the Church. And the sacrament of sacraments and the greatest source of grace and unity is the Eucharist: Christ Himself, Really Present under the appearances of bread and wine. De Lubac is keenly aware, as the Fathers of the Church were, that the Eucharist is the heart of the Church. In fact, without the Eucharist there is no Church. De Lubac is also aware that true Eucharistic piety is not simply a devout individualism. Rather devotion to the Eucharist embraces the whole world: all of creation and humanity is gathered together at the altar of sacrifice to be offered with Christ to God the Father in the sacramental representation of Calvary. At the center of this greatest prayer to God the Father is the Holy Spirit through whose power and presence the miracle of transubstantiation takes place. At the epiclesis of the Mass, the priest calls upon the Holy Spirit to come down upon the altar and transform bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood. It is this same Holy Spirit, fifty days after Easter, Who came down upon the Apostles in tongues of fire and transformed these once cowardly men into courageous earthly leaders of the Church Militant. As de Lubac so aptly says,” Our churches are the ‘ upper room’ where not only is the Last Supper renewed but Pentecost also.”

Like Fr. White’s In the Light of Christ, Henri de Lubac’s Catholicism is a book whose theological depth, Christocentric anthropology, and Patristic learning seems inexhaustible. For de Lubac Catholicism is not just one of many world religions. “Catholicism is religion itself. It is the form that humanity must put on in order finally to be itself.” God’s progressive Revelation in the Old Testament and His covenant with the Israelites finds its fulfillment in Christ Who shows us the face of the Father. In a central theme at Vatican Council II, a theme clearly influenced by de Lubac, the Council Fathers will remind the Church and the world that not only does Jesus fully reveal to man Who the Trinitarian God is but He likewise reveals to every one of us what it truly means to be a human being. De Lubac exposed the delusion of modern atheism that only a rejection of God could lead to human flourishing. In Catholicism he  showed the only true humanism is Christocentric humanism. Only in Christ could man discover he is created and destined for eternal communion with the triune God. But there is no cheap grace. The original unity of God and humanity is only restored through the mystery of Christ's Cross and Resurrection. DeLubac agreed with the Apostolic Father, Irenaeus, “By the wood of the Cross the work of the Word of God was made manifest to all: his hands are stretched out to gather all men together. Two hands outstretched, for there are two peoples scattered over the whole earth. One sole head in the midst, for there is but one God over all, among all and in all.”

Two books a half century apart by two faithful sons of the Church  counter diabolos who is forever separating and scattering. Enter into these beautiful "works of the whole".  Be not confused!

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