Tuesday, May 11, 2021

There are many rooms in my Father’s House

I am not sure how the “unrepeatability of the human person” fits the theme of Karol turning to phenomenology, at least from this week's readings.  More so, I found these quotes of Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka and Roger Duncan’s paper curious: ”Wojtyla came to phenomenology, contrary to a popular assumption, entirely on his own” and “[The Acting Person] manifests an independent and ingenious reflection of the author’s own, expanding the issues of personal and social ethics, grounding them in an analysis evidencing a strong kinship with the methods of the phenomenological school” (Anna-Teresa Tynieniecka and Roger Duncan, Karol Wojtyla, Between Phenomenology and Scholasticism, page 487).  I know that Wojtyla studied Scheler in the early 1950s; is it possible that he was already practicing something akin to the “method” of phenomenology?

I am led down this path as I think about the idea that Wojtyla appeared to experience people in an unusually intense and present way, apparently deriving the “meaning” of the people he met intentionally.  Did he practice “something akin” to the method of phenomenology simply as part of whom he was?  Weigel speaks of “. . . ongoing pastoral concern and his sense of priestly ministry as a matter of ‘meeting someone wisely.’  Wojtyla’s openness in his encounter with others was a way to ‘see’ into his philosophy . . . Other philosophers remembered texts.  Karol Wojtyla always remembered persons”.  (George Weigel, Witness to Hope, page 129).

I think that Wojtyla’s style of relationship--developed in the quarry with other workers, in the Rhapsodic Theater with other actors, in the underground seminary with other seminarians, and at St. Florians with the Srodowisko—was quintessentially phenomenological as his subjectivity richly perceived and described the people he met and knew.  He then used his metaphysical training to provide meaning to their lives through the context of his intellect.  In a strange way I think he contextualized each person he met as “unrepeatable” and unique and, then, gave them the dignity of their personhood by receiving them, each and every one of them, as a gift.  He provided the drama of who-they-could be from his metaphysical perspective of who-they-were, allowing the best of each person to appear in receiving them as a gift.

Deep calls To Deep At The Thunder of Your Cataracts

So, why a triangle [the SanJuanist triangle]?  The three vertices are three major spiritual communities in the life of Karol Wojtyla: the Living Rosary mentored by Jan Tyranowski, Srodowisko where he fell in love with love, and Vatican II where he helped distill a meaning of love for the whole Church.  From these communities he developed three major understandings of love: the Trinity as the exemplar of love (and gift), the spousal love of man and woman, and love as the give of one’s self.  Michael Waldstein ties them together using the form of a triangle in part, I think, to highlight this distinctive connection that Wojtyla made between the three.

While I found Christopher West’s introduction to the Theology of the Body exciting (Christopher West, Naked Without Shame, 1999), it was my encounter with Dr. Waldstein’s analysis many years later that illuminated this foundational understanding that the love between man and woman could somehow reveal something about the love of the Trinity.  Moreso, that the telos of theosis was somehow revealed in conjugal love as well as the poetry of Saint John of the Cross.  For me it was a dramatic connection between my understanding of marital love from working with marriage and family clients and the goal of theosis.  Here was a new faith, a way of communing with God beyond the intellectual concepts that had formed my religious practice.  I still marvel at the concept, not only in its strangeness to my early catechesis but as a way to address a better way than the “peace and love” of the Sixties that was rooted in a sincere desire to love authentically yet provides a sound base from which to practice that love rather than devolving into simple carnal lust and hedonism.

All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray

In my reading of contemporary articles, I recently came across a clear example of historicism.  This article by Eduardo Eccheveria examined the proclamation from the “Fundamental Text of the German Synodal Way” (Eduardo J. Echeverria, “The Faith Once for All Delivered”, https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2021/03/13/the-faith-once-for-all-delivered/).  Dr. Echeverria reported that the text states that revelation is limited to the encounter between a person and God : “The experience is revelatory, and not the content of faith, doctrines, creeds, confessions of faith, catechisms, and the like.” (Ibid.). Thus, anything beyond the encounter with God is not revelation: “St. Paul affirmed that ‘Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.’ (Rom 10:17). What, then, has been revealed by His word? Nothing at all, according to the Text, because there is no revealed data, that is, no propositional revelation, mediating determinate knowledge of God, man, and the world, in other words, no revealed truth.” (Ibid.).

As John Paul II writes, “The fundamental claim of historicism, however, is that the truth of a philosophy is determined on the basis of its appropriateness to a certain period and a certain historical purpose.” (John Paul II, , Section 87).  Thus, according to Dr. Echeverria, the above “Fundamental Text” shows an underlying  historicism in its isolation of Revelation to the experience of any particular person, denying the capability to communicate Revelation between persons much less across historical periods.  This variant of Modernism highlights the cost of absolutizing subjectivity—that Truth can not be communicated beyond a particular person’s consciousness—and exemplifies John Paul II’s point  that ”the history of thought becomes little more than an archeological resource useful for illustrating positions once held, but for the most part outmoded and meaningless now.”.  This philosophical narrowness limits access to the Truth and any hope for communicating it.

Thus, historicism denies the communication of Wisdom either across the ages or even between persons, since each person’s historical context is not identical.  In the end “this form of modernism shows itself incapable of satisfying the demands of truth to which theology is called to respond.” (Ibid.)


Therefore The Child To Be Born Will Be Called Holy, The Son of God

I centered on the quote from Pseudo-Epiphanius when reading this last section of Fides et Ratio: “the literal translation of the text [“He noera tes pisteos trapeza”] describes Mary as ‘the intellectual table of faith which furnished the bread of life to the world’." (Sr. Prudence Allen, R.S.M., Mary and the Vocation of Philosophers, page 54).  Somehow the image of Mary as “table” (or “altar”, from the Latin) brings to mind the icon “Platytera”--“an icon of the Theotokos, facing the viewer directly, usually depicted full length with her hands in the "orans" position, and with the image of Christ as a child in front of her chest, also facing the viewer directly . . . Poetically, by containing the Creator of the Universe in her womb, Mary has become Platytera ton ouranon, which means: "More spacious than the heavens.” (“Panagia Platytera”, Orthodox Wiki, https://orthodoxwiki.org/Panagia_Platytera).  The theme is of Mary as the place, the platform from which Jesus is brought to the world.  This is a very sapiential image, the framework that connects the person to the Creator and the Creation.

This sapiential service of Mary orders our interaction with God by giving us the structure of the table.  As in the Platytera icon, we are called first to receive Jesus from the table: “David Meconi, S.J. observes that: “Mary exemplifies philosophy’s initial task to receive reality and not manipulate it.’” (Sr. Prudence Allen, R.S.M., Mary and the Vocation of Philosophers, page 54).  Mary does not analyze or reduce the reality of Jesus; rather she ponders Him as a mother gazing at her child and leads us to do so as well.  Her vocation was simply to allow herself to present the Divine Mystery: “Just as the Virgin was called to offer herself entirely as human being and as woman that God's Word might take flesh and come among us, so too philosophy is called to offer its rational and critical resources that theology, as the understanding of faith, may be fruitful and creative. (John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, Section 108).  She invites the philosopher to focus on fecundity as well as analysis in his thought.  Also, she gave herself to this simple vocation of being a platform from which God emerges to the world ”in giving her assent to Gabriel's word, Mary lost nothing of her true humanity and freedom, so too when philosophy heeds the summons of the Gospel's truth its autonomy is in no way impaired” (Ibid.), inviting philosophers to the freedom of littleness by which God can be offered to the world.