The HIDDEN LIFE
Table of Contents
The Spring, 2004 issue of Communio opens with the latest annual installment of our ongoing series on the Mysteries of the Life of Jesus. This year’s theme is The Hidden Life.
Peter Henrici’s “The Mystery of the Everyday” places the discussion in the broadest theological horizon. The hidden life of Jesus, Henrici says, is God’s revealing himself also and precisely where he seems to be absent—the inconspicuous everydayness of the “condition humaine.”
In “The Ordinary Made Extraordinary: The Hidden Life of Jesus Through the Lens of the Lucan Infancy Narratives,” Bruno Maggioni shows how Luke’s infancy narratives underscore the extraordinary unextraordinariness of the hidden life of Jesus: only the Son of God could have performed the miraculous feat of abiding unreservedly within the unmiraculous everydayness of Nazareth.
Finally, Gisbert Greshake’s “The Spiritual Charism of Nazareth” draws on exem plary figures like Charles de Foucauld to present the outlines of the spirituality that flows from contemplation of the hidden life of Jesus. By “Nazareth,” Greshake means, not (only) a “sanctification of the everyday” through pious practices or intentions, but a whole way of being, whose content is participation in the incarnate Son’s mission ary obedience. To live the hidden life is to be an unstinting bodily presence for God in the sequela Christi.
With that, we pass to our second major theme: Evangelical Catholicism? A Symposium on the Prospects of Catholic Theology in America. The five articles gathered under this title all attempt, in different ways, to chart a course for American Catholic theology beyond the stale Left-Right dichotomy that has largely filtered (and distorted) the true “program” of the Second Vatican Council: the program of ressourcement, of creative return to, and retrieval of, the sources; the program of realized ecclesial communio as the concrete and (therefore) universal content and method of the Church’s “public” presence in the world.
William L. Portier’s “Here Come the Evangelical Catholics” opens the discussion by identifying a group of younger Catholics whose joyful discovery of Catholic identity is, in some sense, already a form of ressourcement. Portier’s thesis: these “evangelical Catholics,” formed outside the “immigrant Catholic subculture” whose dissolution set the immediate context for the reception of Vatican II in this country, should force the American Church to start thinking much more radically about what it means to be the (truly C/catholic) Church than the immigrant subculture, at once insular and assimilationist, could allow it to do. Portier ends with a call for a “retheologized theology.”
In “Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic: Five Theses Related to Theological Anthro pology,” Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt takes up this call, sketching the portrait of a Catholicism that is indeed “evangelical,” not in the sense of a (particularly American) religious movement, but precisely in the sense of the Gospel as carried in the tradition of the universal Church. What emerges is the picture of a Church whose “public” proposal is nothing other than Christ as the “concrete norm for all discussions of human nature.”
David M. McCarthy, writing in “Shifting Settings from Subculture to Pluralism: Catholic Moral Theology in an Evangelical Key,” strikes a similar note. Showing that the dominant “Liberal” and “Conservative” accounts of moral reasoning in post-conciliar American theology are both beholden to an abstract understanding of human nature, McCarthy makes the case for a theologically informed vision of nature that is universally significant because it is concretely embodied in ecclesial practice.
David L. Schindler’s “The Significance of World and Culture for Moral Theology: Veritatis Splendor and the ‘Nuptial-Sacramental’ Nature of the Body” also deals with the question of nature. Schindler both exposes the a-theological understanding of nature in terms of which many contemporary Catholics, debtors to the ambient liberalism of the larger culture, understand their public engagement—and, at the same time, shows positively that concern for culture, and for the worldview carried in culture, must lie at the heart of any retrieval of human nature as a “norm” for human freedom. Just as the “nuptial body” is internal to freedom—and vice versa—so, too, is the extension of the body into the world through culture internal to freedom—and vice versa—all within the over-arching order of creation and redemption anchored in Jesus Christ.
Finally, Adrian J. Walker, in “On ‘Rephilosophizing’ Theology,” also takes up the theme of the body within the context of showing that what Portier calls a “retheologized theology” must be a “rephilosophized” one as well: concern for philosophy, Walker argues, grows out of the very heart of theology as an enfleshed presentation of the truth of the Gospel. The kind of philosophy at stake here is, in turn, an embodied one, too, the lived experience of wonder as the content and meaning of a whole life of martyrium to the Truth.
Notes and Comments concludes the Spring issue with Jonah Lynch’s “Community and Dialogue: A Reading of Bach’s Solo Violin Works.” By means of a careful analysis of the polyphonic structuring of four pieces for solo violin, Lynch shows that Bach’s music reflects the very communional, indeed, trinitarian, structure of being itself.
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