Saturday, June 9, 2012

"We may firmly believe what we might conceivably doubt; and may hold to be true what might conceivably be false."

     Michael Polanyi, Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy, pt. 3, chap. 10, sec. 5 ((London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962 [1958]), 312).

Not all those who "wander" are lost

"Columbus sailed out to find a Western route to the Indies; he failed and after repeating his voyage three times to prove that he had reached the Indies, he died in shame.  Still, Columbus did not merely blunder into America."

     Michael Polanyi, Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy, pt. 3, chap. 10, sec. 5 ((London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962 [1958]), 310).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

pro vobis et pro multis

"according to Matthew and Mark, Jesus said 'for many', while according to Luke and Paul he said 'for you', which seems to narrow the focus even further. Yet it is precisely this that points towards the solution. The disciples know that Jesus’ mission extends beyond them and their circle, they know that he came to gather together the scattered children of God from all over the world (Jn 11:52). Yet this 'for you' makes Jesus’ mission quite concrete for those present. They are not simply anonymous elements within some vast whole: each one of them knows that the Lord died precisely for me, for us. 'For you' covers the past and the future, it means me, personally; we, who are assembled here, are known and loved by Jesus for ourselves. So this 'for you' is not a narrowing down, but a making concrete, and it applies to every eucharistic community, concretely uniting it to the love of Jesus. In the words of consecration, the Roman Canon combined the two biblical formulae, and so it says 'for you and for many'. This formula was then adopted for all the Eucharistic Prayers at the time of the liturgical reform.
"Once again, though, we ask: why 'for many'? Did the Lord not die for all? The fact that Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, is the man for all men, the new Adam, is one of the fundamental convictions of our faith. Let me recall just three Scriptural texts on the subject: God 'did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all', as Paul says in the Letter to the Romans (8:32). 'One has died for all,' as he says in the Second Letter to the Corinthians concerning Jesus’ death (5:14). Jesus 'gave himself as a ransom for all,' as we read in the First Letter to Timothy (2:6). So the question arises once more: if this is so clear, why do we say 'for many' in the Eucharistic Prayer? Well, the Church has taken this formula from the institution narratives of the New Testament. She says these words out of deference for Jesus’ own words, in order to remain literally faithful to him. Respect for the words of Jesus himself is the reason for the formulation of the Eucharistic Prayer. But then we ask: why did Jesus say this? The reason is that in this way Jesus enables people to recognize him as the Suffering Servant of Is 53, he reveals himself as the figure to whom the prophecy refers. The Church’s respect for the words of Jesus, Jesus’ fidelity to the words of 'Scripture': this double fidelity is the concrete reason for the formulation 'for many'. In this chain of respectful fidelity, we too take our place with a literal translation of the words of Scripture.
"Just as we saw earlier that the 'for you' of the Luke-Paul tradition does not restrict but rather makes concrete, so now we recognize that the dialectic 'many' – 'all' has a meaning of its own. 'All' concerns the ontological plane – the life and ministry of Jesus embraces the whole of humanity: past, present and future. But specifically, historically, in the concrete community of those who celebrate the Eucharist, he comes only to 'many'. So here we see a threefold meaning of the relationship between 'many' and 'all'. Firstly, for us who are invited to sit at his table, it means surprise, joy and thankfulness that he has called me, that I can be with him and come to know him. 'Thank the Lord that in his grace he has called me into his Church.' Secondly, this brings with it a certain responsibility. How the Lord in his own way reaches the others – 'all' – ultimately remains his mystery. But without doubt it is a responsibility to be directly called to his table, so that I hear the words 'for you' – he suffered for me. The many bear responsibility for all. The community of the many must be the lamp on the lamp-stand, a city on the hilltop, yeast for all. This is a vocation that affects each one of us individually, quite personally. The many, that is to say, we ourselves, must be conscious of our mission of responsibility towards the whole. Finally, a third aspect comes into play. In today’s society we often feel that we are not 'many', but rather few – a small remnant becoming smaller all the time. But no – we are 'many': 'After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues', as we read in the Revelation of Saint John (7:9). We are many and we stand for all. So the words 'many' and 'all' go together and are intertwined with responsibility and promise."