"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Sunday, 4 May 2014

THE HOLY TRINITY AND BEING AND REFLECTED IN THE CHURCH by Carl Olsen on the Theology of Jean Danielou, and John Behr on JOhn Zizioulas

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on the Catholic Exchange website.

"Without a doubt the master-key to Christian theology, which distinguishes it utterly from all rational theodicy," the French Jesuit Jean Daniélou (1905-74) wrote in God and the Ways of Knowing, "is contained in the statement that the Trinity of Persons constitutes the structure of Being, and that love is therefore as primary as existence." This "master-key" was the object of study and love for Daniélou, whose scholarly and popular writings contemplated the depths of Trinitarian love and its salvific work in human history.

 Although not as well-known today as his fellow Jesuit Henri de Lubac and theological contemporary Hans Urs von Balthasar, Jean Daniélou occupies a key place (no pun intended) in twentieth-century Catholic theology, recognized for his dialogue with other world religions, his writings on the Church Fathers and Scripture, and his insights into the nature of divine revelation and Tradition. Trained in philology––the study of classical languages––and theology, Daniélou was a professor at the Institut Catholique in Paris and a vital member of the controversial "New Theology", or ressourcement, movement. His first works were scholarly studies of the theologies of St. Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, and the Jewish thinker Philo. His History of Early Christian Doctrine before the Council of Nicaea is considered a classic in patristic scholarship. 

Daniélou's work with de Lubac included collaboration on Sources Chrétiennes, a collection of patristic texts translated into French, which were first published in the 1940s and have since reached four hundred in number. The series sought to recover the riches of the patristic tradition, especially in the areas of Biblical interpretation and spirituality. The first volume published was Daniélou's translation of St. Gregory of Nyssa's spiritual classic, The Life of Moses. 

Recognized for his balanced and insightful examinations of world religions--especially Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism--and for his penetrating analysis of modern culture, Danielou was called to be a theological expert at the Second Vatican Council. There he was consulted on Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, a work that Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, also worked on. In 1969 Daniélou was made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI.

For all of his scholarly brilliance, Daniélou was equally impressive in his ability to convey complex and subtle theological truths to a wide readership through a number of popular works. These included books on liturgy, patristics, prayer, creation, revelation, Scripture and tradition, and the theology of history. In God And The Ways of Knowing he examines the relationship between pagan beliefs, philosophy, and Christian theology. The Advent of Salvation is a comparative study of non-Christian religions and Christianity, similar to his Holy Pagans of the Old Testament. The Scriptural roots of the liturgy and sacraments, especially as developed by the Church Fathers, are masterfully explored in The Bible and The Liturgy, while the inner life of prayer and its cosmic consequences are taken up in Prayer: The Mission of the Church.

Cardinal Avery Dulles has written that "Daniélou was a Jesuit of broad culture, keenly sensitive to the contemporary cultural and philosophical trends. . . . Fundamental to Daniélou's theology is the idea that God is essentially personal; he is sovereign subjectivity." Always focused on the master-key of Trinitarian love, Daniélou often wrote about two essential facets of that divine life: the progressive revelation, or self-giving, of God within salvation history, and the continuity of that redemptive history. In The Advent of Salvation he writes, "The mystery of history is summed up in God's design of giving His spiritual creatures a share in the life of the Trinity." God, who is love, continually reaches out to man, an activity that culminates in the mystery of the Incarnation, a mystery continued on in the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. The Christian faith is not a system, a philosophy, or one religion among many, but a unique and supernatural encounter with the living God-man. Daniélou wrote, in The Lord of History:

"The mystery of the Holy Trinity, known to us through the Word made flesh, and the mystery of the deification of man in him––that is the whole of our religion, summed up in one person, the person of Jesus Christ, God made man, in whom is everything we need to know."

Because of his study of the Church Fathers, Daniélou largely avoided the neo-Thomistic terminology and approach and instead embraced a more relational and dynamic vocabulary. He emphasized that faith is more than an assent to intellectual propositions, being a covenantal act in which man gives himself to the God who first gives Himself to man. "[Man] is thrown, as a creature of flesh and blood, into the abyss of Trinitarian life, to which all life and all eternity will have no other object than to accustom him. . . . Thus man goes on from glory to glory, and the whole history of salvation may be considered as a gradual unveiling of the ineffable Trinity" (God and the Ways of Knowing). This emphasis on the personal, relational nature of Christianity was also championed by de Lubac, von Balthasar, Karl Adam, Romano Guardini, and Yves Congar and had an obvious influence on the documents of the Second Vatican Council. 

Keenly aware of the damage done by gnosticism in the early Church, Daniélou stressed the continuity of salvation history over against dualistic, fragmented concepts of human history, including Marxism, pantheism, and pseudo-Christian philosophies. "What characterizes Christianity is a certain wholeness; in it there is the fullness of truth," he wrote, "In the order of continuity it marks a more advanced stage of evolution, the highest point of that evolution. I believe this idea to be absolutely essential if we are to understand how Christianity completes other religions and other civilizations, and to see as a result that everlasting newness, which Saint Augustine and so many others have proclaimed. Christianity is and always will be 'the newest thing out'." (The Advent of Salvation). Scripture is not simply a book filled with truth-claims, but is a continuous story of Truth: the Old Testament is filled with the work of divine education preparing for the "fullness of time", the Incarnation, and the Gospels, which, in turn, resulted in the mission of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in the New Testament and carried on in the Church.

None of this, of course, was new with Daniélou and the "New Theology" movement. He and his colleagues simply sought to rediscover and appreciate these truth, and to appropriate them for a modern generation hungry to draw spiritual nourishment from the sources of the Faith. In doing so, Daniélou articulated Catholic doctrine and theology with a striking clarity and beauty, always drawing upon the language of Scripture and the Church Fathers. In all that he did, this great French theologian and cardinal sought to use the master-key in exploring the dynamic, intimate love of the Triune God for man.


The actions of God are differentiated but not divided: it is the one God, the Father, who calls the Church into being as the body of Christ indwelt by the Holy Spirit; and, in return, the Church is conceived in terms of communion, but communion with God, as the body of his Son, anointed with his Spirit, and so calling upon God as Abba, Father.
The relationship between Trinitarian theology and ecclesiology has been much discussed in recent decades. It is an intriguing subject, and perhaps an odd juxtaposition. It has often been noted that although a confession of faith in “one Church” is included in most ancient creeds along with “one baptism,” the Church herself is seldom directly reflected upon; the person of Jesus Christ, his relation to the Father and the Spirit, was endlessly discussed, and the subject of a great many conciliar statements, but not the Church or ecclesiology more generally.

The question of ecclesiology, it is often said, is our modern problem, one (at least for the Orthodox) provoked by the ecumenical encounter of the twentieth century. One fruit of this encounter is the realization of the Trinitarian dimensions of the Church herself, so providing continuity with the theological reflection of earlier ages and grounding the Church in the Trinity.

Following in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, ecumenical dialogue in recent decades has emphasized the connection between the Trinity and the Church largely through the exploration of what is commonly referred to as “communion ecclesiology.”Koinonia, “communion,” was the theme of the Canberra Assembly of the WCC in 1991, and also at the Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order in Santiago de Compostela in 1993. In this approach, the koinonia of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, the very being of God, is taken as the paradigm of the koinonia that constitutes the being of the ecclesial body, the Church.

As Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) put it in his address to the meeting at Santiago de Compostela: “The Church as a communion reflects God’s being as communion in the way this communion will be revealed fully in the Kingdom.” [Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, "The Church as Communion," SVTQ 38.1 (1994): 3-16, at p.8] Such communion ecclesiology readily dovetails with the “Eucharistic” ecclesiology espoused by many Orthodox during the twentieth century: it is in the sacrament of the Eucharist, the event of communion par excellence, that the Church realizes her true being, manifesting already, here and now, the Kingdom which is yet to come. Although, as Metropolitan John continues, “Koinonia is an eschatological gift,” the fullness of this eschatological gift is nevertheless already given, received, or tasted, in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Painted in these admittedly rather broad strokes, the oddity of juxtaposing the Trinity and the Church can be seen. What is said of the Church is certainly based upon what is said of the Trinity, but the effect of speaking in this manner, paradoxically, is that the Church is separated from God, as a distinct entity reflecting the divine being. Another way of putting this, using terms which are themselves problematic, would be to say that communion ecclesiology sees the Church as parallel to the “immanent Trinity”: it is the three Persons in communion, the one God as a relational being, that the Church is said to “reflect.” This results in a horizontal notion of communion, or perhaps better parallel “communions,” without being clear about how the two intersect.

Metropolitan John is very careful to specify that the koinonia in question “derives not from sociological experience, nor from ethics, but from faith.[ "The Church as Communion," p.5] We do not, that is, start from our notions of what “communion” might mean in our human experience of relating to others, and then project this upon the Trinity. Rather, we must begin from faith, for “we believe in a God who is in his very being koinonia … God is Trinitarian; he is a relational being by definition; a non-Trinitarian God is not koinonia in his very being. Ecclesiology must be based on Trinitarian theology if it is to be an ecclesiology of communion.” .["The Church as Communion," p.6]

However, only after stating the principles of Trinitarian koinonia does Metropolitan John affirm, as a second point, that “koinonia is decisive also in our understanding of the person of Christ. Here the right synthesis between Christology and Pneumatology becomes extremely important.”  He rightly emphasizes (correcting V. Lossky) that the `economy of the Son” cannot be separated from “the economy of the Spirit,” that is, both that the work of (or the “relation to”) the Spirit is constitutive for the person of Christ and that there is no work of the Spirit distinct from that of Christ. [Cf. J. Zizioulas, Ijeingas Communion (Cresrwood, NY: SVS Press, 1985), 124-25. A point already noted by Lossky, who observes that "In speaking of three hypostases we are already making an improper abstraction: if we wanted to generalize and make a concept of the ‘divine hypostasis,' we would have to say that the only common definition possible would be the impossibility of any common definition of the three hypostases." (In the Image and Likeness of God [Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1975], 113);]

Nevertheless, besides the very serious question concerning the appropriateness of characterizing the Trinity as a communion of three Persons, this approach does not adequately take into account the “economic” reality in which all Trinitarian theology is grounded and in terms of which the Scriptures describe the Church. Christology and Pneumatology may have been synthesized, but Trinitarian theology is still considered as a realm apart. Although Metropolitan John emphasizes that “the Church is not a sort of Platonic `image’ of the Trinity; she is communion in the sense of being the people of God, Israel, and the `Body of Christ,” this is followed, in the next sentence but one, with the affirmation that “the Church as communion reflects God’s being as communion.” [Metropolitan John, "Church as Communion," p8, my emphasis]

Despite the tantalizing mention of the Church as the “Body of Christ,” we are left with a communion of three divine Persons and the image of this in the communion that is the Church, whose structure, authority, mission, tradition and sacraments (especially, of course, the Eucharist, [Cf. Metropolitan John, "Church as Communion. p15: "Baptism, Chrismation or Confirmation, and the rest of the sacramental life, are all given in view of the Eucharist. Communion in these sacraments may be described as 'partial' or anticipatory communion, calling for its fulfillment in the Eucharist."] a point to which I will return) are correspondingly “relational.”

We have the Trinity and the Church, the three primary scriptural images for the Church — that is, the Church as the people of God, the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit – offer us, as suggested by Bruce Marshall, a way of looking at the Trinitarian being of the Church in a way that integrates the Church directly and intimately to the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. [Bruce D. Marshall, "The Holy Trinity and the Mystery of the Church: Toward a Lutheran/Orthodox Common Statement," paper presented to the North American Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue, May 2002.]

Moreover, each of these images links the Church in a particular way to one member of the Holy Trinity without undermining the basic Cappadocian point, that the actions of God are differentiated but not divided: it is the one God, the Father, who calls the Church into being as the body of Christ indwelt by the Holy Spirit; and, in return, the Church is conceived in terms of communion, but communion with God, as the body of his Son, anointed with his Spirit, and so calling upon God as Abba, Father.

I would like to begin with the basic content of these images, and then continue by suggesting how Trinitarian theology, as expounded in the fourth century and beyond, directs us to combine these various images, as different aspects of the single mystery that is the Church.

Following this I will offer some further considerations regarding the calling of the Church and her eschatological perfection, and concerning baptism (with which the Church is invariably connected in creedal formulations) as the foundational sacrament of the Church, and the implications this has for the question of the boundaries of the Church, and lastly how, as the place where the human being is born again through baptism, the Church can also be considered as our mother, in which each Christian puts on the identity of Christ.

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