Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Significance of the Second Vatican Council

Vatican II finished 43 years ago. It was a bit before I was born, so I tend to regard the Council as part of the unchanging history of the Church. I didn't always feel this way. From my father and mother, I inherited the 'hermeneutic of continuity' although I also discovered progressivism as one avenue for intellectual curiosity in my early college years. I've read the main documents of the Council, but looking at the following passages (with others, in the context of the whole book), I realize that I've never really grappled with the event of Vatican II.

«The Council has undoubtedly made Church matters more difficult. Those who seek mitigations in everything and express delight at the "progress" and the growing "maturity" as each barrier falls do not understand what the Fathers were concerned with. It was to direct into the secular world through the Church, which is a divine mystery, the mysterious ray of trinitarian and crucified love, wholly and completely. Let us add that this image of the Church — the mediation of the whole love of God to the whole world — is what makes possible true love of our neighbor. The barrier must fall that Augustine set up through his concept of a double predestination to heaven and hell. No, on the contrary, I must be able to hope for every brother so much that, in a fictional Ernstfall, if it were a question of whether he or I would enter the Kingdom, I would — with Paul (Rom 9:3) — let him go. But in order to know what that means, one would have to have uppermost in his mind a theology of Holy Saturday — the descent of Christ into hell — or at least a theology of the dark night of the soul of which John of the Cross gave an experimental description.» (The Moment of Christian Witness, 125-126; emphasis mine)

We cannot shrink from this challenge to bear "the whole love of God to the whole world." This means neither being conformed to the world, nor rebuilding the bastions of the preconciliar Church on a personal level — as if Vatican II never happened.

«If one questions the outcome of the Vatican Council II (and what that is depends to a large extent on us), the answer should surely be this [the defenselessness of Cordula]. We have said already that it should be the Church's defenseless exposure of herself to the world, the dismantling of all bastions and the leveling of all bulwarks to boulevards. And it must take place without any mental reservations or secret hopes of triumph, since our discovery that the old kind of triumph is no longer practicable or desirable.» (136-137)

Instead of hiding out in a Catholic enclave or camouflaging one's belonging to Christ by cleverly phrasing everything in terms palatable to the world — we are called to announce the Mystery whom we have met: simple, risky, and yet the only testimony which is credible.


clairity said...

This is an amazing view of the Council and makes so much sense. It's a perfect complement to Fr. Carron's indications in An Original Presence:

"In the present situation where, as we have seen, reacting to others’ provocations is not enough, we
are pushed to rediscover the originality of Christianity. A non-reactive, original presence is required.
'A presence is original when it comes from the consciousness of its own identity and from the
attachment to it. In this, it finds its consistency' (Father Giussani)."

Freder1ck said...

Something else that I noticed (but will not be a post) is that the book is something of a loving Jeremiad on the popularization of the ideas of Karl Rahner SJ. For a Jesuit (even though he left the order in 1950) to criticize another Jesuit so publicly is quite surprising. The conclusion to this book notes that Ignatius of Loyola embraced the martyr's ideal in his own way: It is not necessarily physical death that matters above all else, but rather that we should sacrifice our lives daily for our Lord and our brethren and, in the process, become so completely submerged in the ordinary and the commonplace that even words begin to sound much too loud.

It's a provocative prophetic love letter to the Church and the Jesuits.

Apolonio said...

I love the Council so I have to agree. I think our mission is to make visible the fact that everything belongs to Christ. The Council, then, is simply a revelation of the Church's identity as a sacrament, that we have a reference point for Christ's absolute closeness in the cosmos.

The ernstfall, then, is that moment where we visibly show that death too belongs to Christ.