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Christ The Light of The Nations

Part 1

The device shown above and on the front cover has been used by CRUX since 1970. It Is based upon a photograph, printed in Cardinal Daniéliou's '
Primitive Christian Symbols', of part of a mosaic floor, dating from the 4th Century. It represents the Cross combined with the Tree of Life.


The Cross stands, while the world turns. It is the defining centre of the Church's life. Traditionally, a crucifix (meaning literally 'the Crucified One') is positioned as the focal point of Catholic churches of both the Latin and Eastern rites. This implies no neglect or forgetfulness of the Resurrection. The Church knows that, if Christ has not been raised from the dead, her faith is in vain (cf 1 Cor. 15. 17). However, she also recognizes that she cannot know the power of her Lord's Resurrection without sharing His sufferings (cf Phil. 3. 10), that the disciple must take up his own cross and follow the Master (cf Matt. 16. 24). There can be no by-passing of the Cross; it is the highway, the only way, to Heaven, While the world turns, the Cross stands.

In 1985 the bishops of the Catholic Church, convoked by Peter's successor to '
celebrate, verify and promote' Vatican II on the twentieth anniversary of its conclusion. caine together round the Cross. [1] They began their work on the feast of Christ the crucified King of glory, and they finished it on the feast of the Cross's first fruit, the Immaculate Conception, that first moment of Our Lady's existence when she was preserved from all stain of Original Sin through the anticipated power of her Son's death. The Cross is the key to everything. 'Everything is manifested on the cross', said St. Bonaventure, the meaning of life and death, of holiness and sin, of God and man. [2] The 1985 Extraordinary Synod presented the Cross as the key to understanding and implementing Vatican II. 'The Church', it said, makes herself more credible if she speaks less of herself and ever more preaches Christ Crucified and witnesses with her own life. [3]

In the first part of this booklet, I shall consider the principles outlined by the Synod for understanding and appropriating the real teaching of Vatican II. In the second part, I shall discuss what the Synod isolated as the central concept in the Council's ecclesiology: the Church as a Christ-centred, Cross-centred, mystery.


Theology and the Magisterium

Since I shall be engaged in theological reflection, I think it will be useful if I begin with what the Synod had to say about the task of theologians in the Church. The Fathers applauded the positive work of Catholic scholars in elaborating and faithfully interpreting the documents of Vatican II, but they also expressed regret at the confusion which their discussions have sometimes caused, and they called for '
communication and a reciprocal dialogue' between the bishops and theologians. [4] Now if that dialogue is to be fruitful, it is essential that theologians remember their proper place. It is the Pope and the bishops with and under him who are the primary teachers in the Church; by Christ's will and authority they have the task of protecting, expounding and proclaiming divinely revealed truth. The teaching of the theologian is subordinate to this Magisterium and is only authentic when exercised in humble fidelity to it. As the Holy' Father said in 1979 to a gathering of theological teachers and students:

The sensus Ecclesiae, . . . which humility makes alive and vigilant in him, keeps (the theologian) in a constant attitude of listening to the voice of the Magisterium. which he accepts willingly as the guarantor. by the will of Christ, of the truth of salvation. [5]

In succession to the Apostles. the bishops with and under the Pope act sacramentally in the person of Christ and so share in a special way in His office as teacher or prophet. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father's true Word incarnate, speaks through them, His Spirit guides them into all truth, so that he who hears them hears Christ (cf Luke 10.16). For the theologian, as for every other Catholic, faith in Christ inescapably implies faithfulness to the Magisterium of His Church. To imagine otherwise would be to rend Head and Body, Bridegroom and Bride, asunder. [6]

Theology, to be authentically Catholic, must be practised humbly and faithfully in the heart of the Church, within the '
vital circle', as the Holy Father has called it, of Scripture, tradition and Magisterium. [7] It is the Church herself who is the primary believer (as St. Thomas says, the profession of faith is made, as it were, in the person of the whole Church), [8] and it is the Church who is the primary theologian, ever seeking to understand more deeply the deposit of revelation given her by her divine Head. The work of the theologian will be mere vanity unless, in all things, he thinks with the Church. His job is not to be 'creative' or 'original' or 'exciting' but to serve the Church in her proclamation of divinely revealed truth. The theologian should be ready, like St. Ignatius Loyola, to put away entirely his own opinion and 'give his entire obedience to our holy' Mother the hierarchical Church, Christ Our Lord's undoubted Spouse'. [9] This is not any kind of servitude, for Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, and who lives and teaches in His Church, sets men free from what really enslaves them - the ideologies and fantasies of worldly wisdom and the arrogance of their own concupiscent minds. Confidence in the Church's God-given infallibility protects us from that seductive infallibility of our own opinions. As Chesterton perceived, there is no one less liberated than the liberal, tossed to and fro by the winds of fashion and by his own personal whims; it is the certainty of Catholic Orthodoxy which can alone open up the glorious liberty of the children of God. [10] In other words, to quote the Holy Father once more, fidelity to the Magisterium 'is not a limitation for theologians, but a liberation: for it preserves them from subservience to changing fashions and binds them securely to the unchanging truth of Christ, the truth which makes us free (John 7.32)'. [11]

Theology, as defined splendidly by the Synod, following St. Anselm, is faith seeking understanding. Now the Catholic faith, which theology tries to understand more deeply, is the faith in its fulness, a true and splendid whole. The very word 'Catholic' implies wholeness, St. Cyril of Jerusalem says that the Church is called Catholic not just because she is culturally' and socially' universal but because she '
teaches universally and completely all the dogmas which ought to come to men's knowledge'. [12] To be a Catholic means to say Yes to the whole.

In the lovely words of the French poet, Paul Claudel: '
O Credo, full of things visible and invisible, I accept you with a Catholic heart!' [13] Heresy, by contrast, is the choice (that is what the word means in Greek) of a part to the neglect or denial of the whole. 'Obviously', says St. Thomas, 'one who holds fast to Church teaching as to an infallible rule of faith gives assent to all that the Church teaches. Conversely, anyone who from among the many things taught by the Church picks some and not others as he chooses no longer holds fast to Church teaching as an infallible rule, but to his own will.' [14] Catholic truth is the whole truth, a symphony composed and orchestrated by God Himself; heresy is the discord that results from man's wilful removal of selected parts.

According to Vatican I, one of the jobs of theology is to connect the mysteries of the faith with one another, to show, in other words, how everything fits together as a wonderful whole.
[15] By doing this, theology conforms itself to the Church's creeds, which all present her faith, in summary form, as a whole, and which, by their tripartite structure, demonstrate that the wholeness of the faith is Trinitarian. What connects the individual mysteries of the Faith is their common source, through Christ, in the Triune God. Thus in the Apostles' Creed, as its earliest versions and the expositions of the Fathers and Scholastics testify, all that follows the mention of the Holy Spirit ('the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins, the Resurrection of the Body, and the Life Everlasting') is not an external appendage but an integral part of the section devoted to the Spirit; these things are all the fruit of His sanctifying work. The Roman Catechism, following St Thomas's commentary on the Apostles' Creed, says that the article about the Church 'hinges upon' the preceding one about the Third Person of the Trinity. 'For, it having been already shown that the Holy Ghost is the source and giver of all holiness, we here profess our belief that the Church has been endowed by Him with sanctity'. [16] The Church, her sacraments and her hope are thereby firmly planted in the Trinity. Needless to say, there is nothing exclusive about this appropriation to the Holy Spirit, for all divine actions ad extra are the work of the whole Trinity. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, inseparable from them, consubstantial with them, proceeding from the Father and the Son as their mutual love and gift. Towards us, too, as the Pope has shown very beautifully in his encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, He is Person-Love, Person-Gift [17] The Holy Spirit, in the evocative words of St. Irenaeus, is 'the communication of Christ'; 'the gift the Father gives to men through the Son'. [18] By the working of the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins, the Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting, the Father's eternal Son communicates to us what He has established by His Incarnation, Cross and Resurrection.

Father Hans Urs von Balthasar frequently reminded us of this Trinitarian and Christological wholeness of our faith and of theology's duty to reflect it by demonstrating the links between the mysteries. In the final volume of his
Theodramatik (the second part of his great trilogy, the part concerned with divine revelation as dramatic action) he says that theology must be built on the interlocking articles of the faith (and not the other way round), that is to say, 'on the Trinity, the Incarnation of the Son, His substitution for us on the Cross and in the Resurrection, His sending of the Spirit upon us in the apostolic Church and the Communio Sanctorum' [19]

The 1985 Synod set an excellent example to theologians in the way in which, along the lines suggested by Father von Balthasar, it based its theology on the wholeness of the Creed and weaved together all the individual doctrines it discussed. First and most importantly, it grounded everything, especially the mystery of the Church, in the Trinity and the Incarnation. Then again, it did not separate its Christology from the Cross, and the Cross was shown as presupposing the doctrine of Creation. Finally, it made the timely proposal that 'a catechism of all Catholic doctrine' be composed. [20] The 'all' in that phrase was significant: the Catechism is intended to present the divinely given faith of the Church in its Catholic integrity and unity.

To conclude my discussion of this first and most fundamental principle, I would like to suggest a model, a patron saint, for theologians to imitate. I am thinking of St. John, the Evangelist and Beloved Disciple of the Lord, who, for the Fathers of the Church, was the theologian
par excellence. St. John shows us what the theologian is meant to be; the disciple who faithfully bears witness to the truth of the incarnate Word and abides in His love; the friend who leans on Jesus' heart in the Eucharist and from that heart, as St. Augustine says, 'imbibes the mysteries of heaven'; [21] the man of the Church who lovingly accepts Mary as his Mother and humbly follows Peter as shepherd. St. John the Theologian's filial relationship to Our Lady should be a particular inspiration to us, for from her he learns what faith really is:
unreserved, wholehearted consent and surrender, a total unqualified
Yes, to the Father's eternal Word. Once we have learnt, as John did, the secret of Marian consent, we can see that there can be no room in true faith, nor in theology as faith seeking understanding, for that calculating mentality, so much in vogue at present, which insists, almost as theology's first right, on the freedom to question or dissent from the authentic Magisterium of the Church. As Father von Balthasar has said, when we consider the glorious liberty of the children of God, which the eternal Son won by his surrender to the Father 'unto the most godforsaken death', how can we even dream of replacing it with 'the watered-down, tasteless freedom to question precisely this most precious gift?' [22]

The Post-Conciliar Crisis

The first principle offered by the Synod for appropriating Vatican II, takes account of the tragic crisis within the Church since the Council. At the Synod the official 'relator', Cardinal Daneels, stated it as follows:

In the post-conciliar period there have been problems and travails, but it would be a fundamental error of logic to affirm "after the Council, therefore because of the Council" [23]

In other words, Vatican II preceded but did not cause the doctrinal, moral and spiritual troubles of recent times. In fact one can go further: as Cardinal Ratzinger said ten years ago, 'what devastated the Church during the last decade was not the Council, but the refusal to receive it'. [24] It is not that Vatican II has been tried and found wanting; it has still not been properly ried. Cardinal Ratzinger has constantly returned to this theme: the authentic reception of the authentic Vatican II has not yet begun. The Synod Fathers, acknowledgmg the shadows as well as the light in the present situation of the Church, suggest that, at least in part, these are due to 'an incomplete understanding and application of the Council'.[25] The cause of the tragedy of recent years - the propagation of heresy by theologians claiming the name 'Catholic', the 'anti-Roman complex', the decline in vocations, what Cardinal Ratzinger has called the 'shattering' of Catechesis, the loss of the transcendent in the liturgy - the cause of all this is not the teaching of Vatican II but the travesty, the monstrous distortion 0f it, so vociferously propagated by pressure groups and parties.

Shortly after the Council, Jacques Maritain spoke of a '
neo-Modernist fever.... compared to which the Modernism of Pius X's time was only a modest hay-fever'. While thanking God for Vatican II, he described with alarm an 'imminent apostasy' falsely identified with the 'spirit of the Council' or the 'spirit of John XXIII'.[26] Thirty years later we know that Maritain's words were accurately prophetic. The real Vatican II in all its Catholic richness and grandeur has become increasingly submerged beneath a tidal wave of neo-Modernist misrepresentation. The Synod Fathers themselves recognize the need to ask and answer the question, 'Will the real Vatican II please stand up?', when they mention, among the 'internal causes' of the present shadows in the Church, 'a partial and selective reading of the Council, as well as a superficial interpretation of its doctrine in one sense or another'.

In addition to these internal problems, the Church since Vatican II has been under increasing pressure from the external negative influences of the modern world.
The Synod Report mentions some of them: 'consumerism', 'immanentism', 'blindness to spiritual realities and values'. It also affirms the reality and activity of the Devil. There are greatly influential forces in society, it says, hostile to the Church. 'All of these manifest the work of the "prince of this world" and of the "mystery of iniquity" even in our day'. Cardinal Ratzinger has analysed the anti-Christian pressures in modern society in great detail. In 1975 he expressed himself as follows:

The post-conciliar crisis of the Catholic Church coincides with a global spiritual crisis of mankind, at least in the western world; it is not right to present all that has convulsed the Church in recent years as if it had been produced by the Council.[27]

Returning to the subject in The Ratzznger Report, the Cardinal points out the harmful influence of the 'liberal-radical ideology of individualistic, rationalistic and hedonistic stamp' of the modern western bourgeoise. [28] It is this which prevails in every western nation, whether its government be of the right or the left. It is the self-destructive rationalist scepticism that denies the dignity of the human intellect, its capacity to apprehend realities outside itself, and thus the very possibility of unchanging, objective truth. According to the central tradition of Christian philosophy, truth is the ad.aequatio rei et intellectus, the conformity between the intellect and reality, what is really there.[29] In our modern western culture this is widely, at least theoretically, rejected. I say 'theoretically" because, as Etienne Gilson showed a long time ago, whatever fantasies post-Enlightenment western man has espoused in his philosophies, every human being by nature is a realist, in the strict sense, if he thinks rationally at all. [30] Still, we are all familiar with the kind of subjectivism that professes to be interested only in 'what is true for me'. In the sphere of conduct this flight from the truth leads to moral relativism, which denies that there are any absolute moral principles, behaviour being evaluated in entirely hedonistic or utilitarian terms. (This has opened the way to the assaults on human life with which we are now so sadly familiar: genocide, terrorism, abortion, the vivisection of human embryos, infanticide, euthanasia). This destructive ideology, this devilish worldly wisdom, is a practical atheism. Its godlessness is less systematic than that of Marxism, but just as harmful, and in fact shares a common source with Marxism in the corrupt philosophy of Hegel. It rejects belief in God, the author and end of all things, and thereby destroys the foundation of human nature's dignity, its creation in the image of God, its elevation to a dignity beyond compare through its assumption by the only-begotten Son. The modern mentality claims to be humanistic, but, as Henri de Lubac, C.S. Lewis and Jacques Maritain have shown, indeed, as the history of this century has proved, atheistic humanism is destructive of man, for man is great only because God is greater, and inevitably the absolutization of man leads to his abolition.

Atheist humanism was bound to end in bankruptcy. Man is himself only because his face is illumined by a divine ray If the fire disappears, the reflected gleam immediately dies out..... If man takes himself as god, he can, for a time. cherish the illusion that he has raised and freed himself. But it is a fleeting exaltation! In reality, he has merely abased God, and it is not long before he finds that in doing so he has abased himself.[31]

Once God is denied and Man in the grandiose abstract becomes an end to himself, the individual human person rapidly finds himself sacrificed as a mere means.

While it is true that it is these external pressures, not the influence of the real Council, which caused our present troubles, it must be frankly admitted that, despite the validity and excellence of Vatican II's teaching, a naive optimism was abroad at the time of the Council, which led many Catholics into a posture of accommodation with respect to the modern world and its values.
The Final Report of the 1985 Synod speaks of a lack of spiritual discernment. A 'failure to distinguish correctly between a legitimate openness of the Council to the world and the acceptance of a secularised world's mentality and order of values'. The world in a negative sense, as understood by St. John and St. Paul, that is to say, the world of sinful men organised its opposition to God under the influence of Satan, 'the prince of this world', has been frequently lost sight of, and so the urgency of evangelical non-conformity to the present age has been forgotten. We have spurned the folly of the cross, which is of course the wisdom and power of God, and adhered instead to the false vision of this world (cf 1 Cor. 1. 118ff). We have conformed ourselves to the age we live in and not to the image of God's Son (cf Rom. 8.29; 12.2). The Council's documents themselves are never guilty of false optimism. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World is sometimes accused of that, yet its opening words speak not only of the 'joy and hope' of the men in our time but also of their 'grief and anguish'. It speaks in several places about the Devil and about 'the monumental struggles against the powers of darkness (which) pervades the whole history of man'. Then again it points to the many dimensions of 'the world': 'created and sustained by its Maker's love, fallen indeed into the bondage of sin, yet emancipated now by Christ'.[32]

Although the Council itself never lost sight of the need for non-conformity to the world, many theologians did. One of the saddest ironies of the last thirty years is that the so-called '
progressives' in the Church have been guilty of sheer cultural conformism. For example, one could be forgiven for thinking that the 'radical' agenda of some moral theologians was no more than a complacent sacralization of the anti-life and anti-family forces of modern western society. Most disturbing of all is the capitulation of some theologians to those falsely man-centred ideologies mentioned above. The effects of this have been felt most acutely in Christology. The Church's doctrine of the incarnate Word, with its essentially descendant dynamism and its inseparable connection with the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, is now constantly under attack and is being replaced by a purely humanistic Christology. This can be seen in Liberation Theology, in the writings of Schillebeeckx and Kung, and nearer to home in Purnell's Our Faith Story, which is Unitarian in its doctrine of God and therefore Adoptionist in its Christology. The most subtle and therefore the most dangerous form of this tendency is Karl Rahner's evolutionary Christology, which, as Father von Balthasar has shown, simply baptizes Gennan Idealism and replaces divine revelation from above with human aspiration from below. [33] These modern errors, like others in the history of the Church, are all attempts to adjust the faith to the predilections of the worldling, the fads and delusions of the present age. Catholic orthodoxy, by contrast, saves us from them. As Chesterton said, 'the Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age'.

How to Read the Documents of Vatican II

The second principle by which we can appropriate the Council concerns the way we read its documents. We must know and apply their teaching, said the Synod Fathers, '
both in letter and in spirit'. Moreover, we must pay attention to all the documents, in themselves and in their inter-relationship, so that the 'integral meaning of the Council's affirmations - often very complex - might be understood and expressed'.[35] Of course, among the documents, the four major Constitutions - on the Church, on the Sacred Liturgy, on Divine Revelation, and on the Church in the Modern World - have a special place; they provide the key to the other documents. Nonetheless, we must at all costs avoid that selective reading of the documents which plays one against the other or applies the scissors and paste method. The Catholic faith, as we have said already, is the faith in its fulness, in its wholeness, in contrast to the selectivity of heresy which 'chooses' a part to the neglect of the whole. That principle applies, in the first place, to the wholeness of divine revelation as guarded and expounded by the Church, but it holds true of what we are dealing with here - the documents of Vatican II as a legitimate interpretation of the deposit of faith. So then, it is essential that, in Cardinal Ratzinger's words, we 'return to the authentic texts of the original Vatican I1'.[36] What we need to do is 'not suppress the Council, but discover the real Council and investigate at depth what its true will was'.[37] When we do, more often than not, we shall be surprised. We shall discover that much that has been loudly trumpeted as 'conciliar' has no foundation in the documents at all.

The Principle of Continuity

The third principle for guiding our appropriation of Vatican II is the principle of continuity: '
the Council must be understood in continuity with the great tradition of the Church, and at the same time we must receive light from the Council's own doctrine for today's Church and the men of our time. The Church is one and the same throughout all the Councils'. [38] Cardinal Ratzinger made the same invaluable point in his 'Report'. We must avoid, he says, a 'before and after' mentality where Vatican II is concerned. You cannot be 'for' Vatican II and 'against' Trent and Vatican I, nor for that matter, can you be 'for' Trent and Vatican I and 'against' Vatican II. [39] Sadly, though, there have been many' who have thought in these terms. Mgr. Philippe Delhaye has said that round about 1968 a sinister 'mesa-Council' first made its appearance, though it had been in the shadows since 1962, with the express intention of suppressing Trent and Vatican [40]

Tradition, Scripture, and the Magisterium are inseparably inter-connected, and so when the bishops, with and under Peter's successor, exercise their magisterium at an ecumenical council, they take care to show the continuity of their teaching with earlier tradition. It is the faith that comes to us from the apostles that they are reaffirming. The Chalcedonian Definition of Faith in the Incarnate Word begins with the phrase '
following the holy Fathers' and concludes with the words 'as formerly the prophets and later Jesus Christ Himself have taught us about Him and as has been handed down to us by the Symbol of the Fathers'. [41] Similar formulae can be found in the acts of all the Church's ecumenical councils. For example, the Tridentine decree on original sin begins with the statement that the Council is here 'following the witness of Holy Scripture, of the Holy Fathers and of the approved Councils, and the judgement and consensus of the Church herself'. [42]

The Fathers of Vatican II made equally vigorous declarations of continuity. The preface to
Dei Verbum explicitly affirms the continuity of its teaching on Divine Revelation with that of Trent and Vatican [43] Lumen Gentium explains in its first paragraph that its exposition of the mystery of the Church is based on 'the tradition laid down by earlier Councils', and at the beginning of its chapter on the hierarchical constitution of the Church we are told that the sacred synod intends to 'follow in the steps of the First Vatican Council'.[44]

Vatican II was a Council of tradition. Its debt to the Church's living past can be seen in the copious footnotes to its documents. In
Lumen Gentium there are well over one hundred and thirty references to the Fathers of the Church. Then again there is its use of the ordinary teaching of the Popes of the twentieth century. Over the last thirty years, we have constantly heard superficial contrasts made between the teaching of Pius XII and that of the Council. It is salutary, therefore, to discover that Pope Pius is quoted more frequently in the conciliar texts than any other single source apart from Sacred Scriptures.[45]

Prayer and Penance

The fifth principle by which we can rediscover Vatican II is a spiritual one. The 1985 Synod Fathers tell us that if there is to be a deeper reception of the Council, not only must it be known more profoundly and extensively, it must also be '
inwardly assimilated', and that in turn can only take place, as the Holy Father said in his address to the Synod on 7 December, through, 'prayer and penance, which are indispensable if we are to make true progress along the way of the spirit'. [46] This leads me immediately to the Synod's providential restatement, in the second part of its report, of Vatican II's teaching on the universal call to holiness. For the renewal of the Church, for the authentic implementation of Vatican II, we need, not new committees or courses, but new saints.

Men and women saints have always been founts and origins of renewal in the most difficult circumstances throughout the Church's history. Today we have a tremendous need of saints, for whom we must assiduously implore God.... Popular devotion, rightly understood and practised, is very useful in nourishing holiness in people. It therefore merits greater attention on the part of pastors. The Blessed Virgin Mary, who is our Mother in the order of grace, is an example for all Christians of holiness and of total response to God's call.

In the thirteenth century renewal came to the Church largely through the penance and prayer, the cross-centred preaching and poverty, of SS. Dominic and Francis and their sons. Both in their different ways fulfilled Pope Innocent III's dream of a poor little man holding up the collapsing edifice of the Church. We are told that St. Dominic would often pray with his eyes fixed on the Crucifix, genuflecting over and over again, sometimes for hours on end, all the time saying, '
Lord, do not hold this sin against them!' 'And a great confidence would grow in our holy Father Dominic, confidence in God's mercy for himself and for all sinners ... '[48] In the fourteenth century Almighty God revealed to St. Catherine of Siena the horrifying extent of corruption among the clergy. He did so out of the richness of His mercy, in order to arouse sorrow and love in Catherine's heart and to encourage her to prayer and penance for her brethren, for it was by these means that He willed to give the grace of renewal to His Church. Like St. Paul in his dealings with the Church in Corinth, St. Catherine realized she was called to be a channel of the mercy that comes from 'the Father of mercies' through the sufferings of His Son, so that whether she was comforted or afflicted, it was for the comfort and salvation of her fellow Christians (2 Cor. 1.3ff).[49]

The example of the saints is a challenge to us. Our primary response to the chaos and confusion of these post-conciliar years, the first stop in our reception of the real Vatican II, must be renewed prayer and re-dedication to the practice of penance (both mortification voluntarily undertaken and the afflictions of life borne with patience and love) in order to make reparation, in union with Christ Crucified and by His grace, for our own faults and those of our brethren, for the needs of the Church and the whole of suffering mankind.
[50] Of course, if we are to understand this apostolate of reparation, to which we are all called, we need urgently to recapture a deep sense of our interconnection in Christ, in His Mystical Body, in the Communion of Saints. In St. Paul's phrase, taken up by St. lrenaeus, the Son of God, in becoming man, 'recapitulated' us, summed us all up under Himself as Head in order, on the Cross, to bear our sins and thus to bear them away, thereby reconciling us to the Father and to one another; the sinless Lamb, who bore the monstrous burden of the whole world's guilt on the cross, empowers us by His Holy Spirit to bear one another's burdens by' prayer and the sacrifices of love, [51] This mystery of the Communio Sanctorum is the foundation of the Church's doctrine and practice of Indulgences, as Pope Paul VI teaches so beautifully in a much neglected document, the Apostolic Constitution, Indulgentiarum Doctrina. [52] Needless to say, the apostolate of mutual reparation, substitution and satisfaction in the Mystical Body is not something we exercise by our own unaided powers; that would be the Pelagian heresy. No, the satisfaction we perform, as St. Thomas says, derived all its efficacy from the satisfaction of Christ. [53] In the words of the Council of Trent's Decree on Penance:

This satisfaction which we make for our sins is not ours in such a way that it be not through Christ Jesus. For while we can do nothing of ourselves as of ourselves, we can do everything with the co-operation of Him who strengthens us. [54]

It is the incarnate Son who gives us the grace of the Holy Spirit to unite our sufferings with His self-offering to the Father and thus to co-operate in His work of reconciling men to the Father and to one another, of repairing and transfiguring this broken world. The co-redemptive activity of the Body is completely subordinate to, and utterly dependent upon, the redemptive work of its divine Head. It stems not from any defect in His merits but from their superabundance. The Marian chapter of Lumen Gentium explains this with the utmost lucidity with regard to Our Lady's handmaidenly and maternal mediation of grace.

It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it . . . The unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to manifold co-operation which is but a sharing in this one source.[55]

This can be seen in the gospels when Jesus gives his healing grace to one person because of the petition of another: life to the dead through the tears of a mother or father or sister; health to a paralytic through the bold faith of his friends; wine for the wedding at the bidding 0f His Mother. While still in the womb, He communicates His joy, through the mediation of Our Blessed Lady, to the Baptist in his mother's womb. The grace comes from Christ, but He allows it to flow from one person to another, precisely because He has become man in order to knit men together in the holy fellowship of His Mystical Body.

The Church is only able to suffer with Christ in the way we have been describing, only able, in union with her Head, to offer up her sufferings to the Father in the Holy Spirit, because daily, on her altars, in the Mass, the Lord places His Sacrifice, His Body and Blood, into her hands for her to offer together with Him through the ministry of priests. Adrienne von Speyr explains:

The Eucharistic Body gives the Church access to participation in the cross. For me to be able to suffer for the Lord He must already live in me. If I do not accept His Sacrifice, if I do not receive His Communion, then I stand outside and cannot suffer for Him.[56]

At the end of the first century the martyr bishop St. Ignatius of Antioch, perceived the same truth, He could describe his own coming suffering in Eucharistic terms, not because he equated martyrdom with the Eucharist, but because martyrdom, as the definitive holy Christian death, was the living out of what is realized sacramentally in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Victim-Lamb, whom he offered and received at the altar, gave Ignatius the grace to offer his own life, to suffer with and for the Lord. Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Ltturgy sums it all up:

Offering the immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him [the faithful] should learn to offer themselves. Through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and each other, so that finally God may be all in all. [57]

I began by speaking of the interior assimilation of Vatican II by prayer and penance in lives of holiness. This led me to speak of the vocation of reparation and of the mystery of our participation in Christ, our co-operation by His grace with His redemptive work. Already, of course, I am speaking about the Cross, about which the Synod Fathers spoke so forcefully:

It seems to us that in the present-day difficulties God wishes to teach us more deeply the value, the importance and the centrality of the Cross of Jesus Christ.... The Church makes herself more credible if she speaks less of herself and ever more preaches Christ Crucified (cf 1 Cor. 2.2) and witnesses with her own life. [58]

These are the two most important sentences in the Synod documents. We must thank God for them. God forbid that the Church should glory save in the cross of her Lord (cf Gal. 6.14).

If we are to understand the mystery of the Cross more deeply, we must not separate it from the Church's Trinitarian and Christological doctrine, especially the teachings of the Councils of Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople II and III. These last two are important because they both applied the Chalcedonian Definition to the Passion of the Lord. Constantinople II (553) explained the orthodox meaning of the phrase '
One of the Trinity suffered for us'. The person who suffers on the cross is a divine person, God and Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity; it is in His human nature, not in His impassible divine nature, that He suffers, but He who suffers in that human nature is God. It is because their subject is divine that His truly human sufferings have an infinite saving power. Only God, the sinless Son of the Father, could go so deep into the abyss of our agony, desolation, Godforsakenness, embracing every kind of suffering possible to man. All this God the Son does 'for
' (pro nobis), not just for our benefit, but in our place. In His love for us, to bring us the mercy of the Father, the Son has taken the vast load of our sin and pain on Himself. His heart's love for us is Eucharistic, effecting what the Fathers and the Liturgy call a 'wonderful exchange': He takes what is ours so He can give us what is His: He descends into our infernal misery so we can ascend, in and through Him, to the heavenly joy of the Father. Constantinople III (680-681), against the Monothelite heresy, proclaimed the two natural wills of Christ, and so enabled the Church to appreciate more profoundly the salvific role of the human will, the human freedom, the human heart, of the divine person of the incarnate Son. Without this dogmatic truth, we cannot understand Our Lord's obedience to the Father unto death, even death on the Cross, that obedience which is the expression in His human nature of His eternal love of the Father: 'I do what the Father commands so that the world may know that I love the Father' (John 14.31)

The centrality of the Cross must not only be preached; it must also be lived, witnessed so, as the Final Report says, '
with our lives'. What the Synod issaying is this: there can be no real implementation of Vatican II without interior assimilation, without holiness, and there is no holiness without the cross, as the saints all show us. To be holy, in words St. Bonaventure uses in his life of St. Francis, is 'to be completely conformed to Christ crucified and to lose oneself in charity', a conformity and charity crowned for Francis by the stigmata. [59] The grace that sanctifies us is the grace of our crucified Head. The Synod Fathers define the call to holiness as 'an invitation to an intimate conversion of heart and to participation in the life of God, One and Triune', but that means the cross. [60] The only way to the Father, in the Holy Spirit, is the incarnate Son and His cross. 'Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple' (Luke 14.27). When we recall, says St. John of the Cross, that the incarnate Son brought about the reconciliation of the human race to God at the moment of His own abandonment by the Father, then we can begin to appreciate that the union of the soul with God cannot be accomplished without 'the living, sensory and spiritual, exterior and interior death of the cross'.[61] The Fathers of Vatican II sum up the Trinitarian and cruciform character of Christian holiness by defining it in ch. 5 of Lumen Gentium as 'act[ing] under God's Spirit and, obeying the Father's voice and adoring God the Father in spirit and in truth, followfing] Christ, poor, humble and cross-bearing.'[62]

If we are to respond to the Synod's call to rediscover the centrality of the Cross, we can be helped, I believe, by knowing something of the life and writings of one of the most remarkable mystics of recent times, indeed of any time: Adrienne von Speyr, the Swiss woman doctor who was received into the Church by Father von Balthasar in 1940 and thereafter worked in close association with him until her death in 1967. Our Blessed Lord gave her the extraordinary grace of a mystical share in His passion at both the physical and spiritual level. I should like to quote something she says about Our Blessed Lady's compassion at the foot of the Cross. It will serve as a commentary on what the Synod, following Vatican II, said about the Immaculate Virgin as the supreme model of holiness, faith, and union with Christ, and thus of union with Him in His sufferings.

Because the Son suffers for everyone and because Mary's co-suffering - the physical as well as the spiritual - is a part of the Son's suffering, her suffering is accomplished for everyone and is usable by everyone ... Into the space between her and the Son she admits everyone for whom He will suffer ... Even saints, whose sanctity and mission had been hidden from them until a certain point in time, grasped their mission when they saw the Mother suffer .. . No one wants to disappoint the Mother or leave her alone, In her suffering one suddenly understands the urgency of the divine call to suffer..... The Mother's suffering is like a stairway up the Cross, which before seemed inaccessible. Face to face with the Mother there are no more excuses. She suffers as a human being, but she suffers in the Son. She does not suffer her own suffering but, exclusively, the suffering imposed on the Son. In her it becomes evident that there really exists the Christian possibility of participation in the divine, redemptive suffering. [63]


[Note - dates below are given using the UK format - dd/mm/year]

1. Pope John Paul II, Homily at the close of the Extraordinary Synod. (
L'Osservatore Romano (=OR) (English Edition) 16/12/85, p.2).

De Tripl. Via 3,3. Quaracchi ed III 14A.

Final Report (=FR) II. B, a, 3. OR, 16/12/85, p.7. henceforth all reference to the FR will be to the section numbers only).

Ibid., II, D, 2.

The Pope Teaches (1979), p. 481.

6. Cf
Lumen Gentium (=LG), n. 20. In the preparation of these lectures I have consulted the official Latin text of the documents of Vatican II; Sacrosanctum Oecumenicum Concilium Vaticanum, Constitutiones, Decreta, Declarationes (Vatican City, 1966). The English translations are taken from either A. Flannery OP Vatican II The Cone/liar and Post-Cone/liar Documents (Dublin, 1975) or W. M. Abbott SJ The Documents of Vatican II (London, 1967).

7. Discourse of Pope John Paul II at the presentation of the Paul VI International Prize to Hans LIrs von Balthasar
OR, 23/7/84, p.7)

8. Summa Theologiae (= ST)
2a2ae 1, 1.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, N. 353. English Translation ( = ET) by T. Corbishley SJ (London. 1965), p. 120.

10. G.K.Chesterton,
Orthodoxy, (London. 1908), passim.

The Pope Teaches (1979), p. 419.

12. Catechetical Lecture 18, 23. Migne,
Patrologia Graeca (=PG) 33. 1044Af.

13. Paul Claude, 'L'Esprit et l'Eau',
Oeuvre Poetique (Paris, 1957), p. 240.

ST 2a 2ae 5, 3.

Denzinger-Schonmetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum (=DS), 36th ed. (Rome, 1976), n. 3016.

Catechism of the Council of Trent for Parish Priests, 2nd revised ed., ET (New York & London, 1934), p.96.

17 See
Dominium, et Vivificantem passim

18. St Irenaeus,
Adversus Haereses 3. 24, 1; ed. & tr. F. Sagnard, Sources Chretiennes 34.

Theodramatik IV (Einsiedein, 1983), p.12.

FR 11, B, a, 4

21 St. Augustine,
Enr in Ps 144, 9

A Short Primer for Unsettled Laymen, ET (San Francisco, 1983), p. 61.

23. Reported in
OR, 2/12/85, p.4.

Principes de Theologie Catholique (=Principes) (Paris, 1983), p. 437.

FR 1, 3

26 The Peasant of the Garonne, ET (London, 1968), p.6.

27. Principes. p 414

28. The Ratzinger Report (=Report) ET (San Francisco, 1985), p. 30.

29. Cf St Thomas Aquinas, ST 1a, 2, 2.

30. Cf E. Gilson, Le Realisme Methodique (Paris nd.), pp. 87ff.

31. H. de Lubac,
The Drama of Atheistic Humanism, ET London 1949), p.31f. Cf C.S. Lewis, 23:26:37 The Abolition of Man (Oxford 1943); J. Maritain, True Humanism, ET (London 1930),

Gaudium et Spes (=GS), nfl. 1, 2. 37. We must be deeply grateful to the Holy Father for continually reminding us of our need to renounce the 'spirit of the world' and for his restatement of the Church's teaching about the personal reality of Satan and the other fallen angels, who were created good by God but became evil by their own free action. Satan has been definitively defeated by the Son of God, who became man, suffered, died and rose again in order to destroy the works of the devil, but he and his demons remain active and constantly tempt man to join their rebellion against God. In the power of Christ, with the weapons and armour He provides, we must constantly struggle against these invisible enemies (cf Eph. 6.12ff). The Holy Father, in his catechetical address for 13 August 1986, spoke of Satan's presence 'in the history of humanity' and his infernally clever strategy of inducing people to deny his existence so that he can get on with his wickedness undetected. The Pope concluded with a prayer: '0 Lord, let us not fall into the infidelity to which we are seduced by the one who has been unfaithful from the beginning' (OR, 18/8/86. P.2).

33. Cf Cordula Oder Der Ernstfall (Einsiedeln, 1966), ch. 3. See also Father von Balshasar's 'postface' to the French edition (Paris, 1968), pp. 115ff.

The Catholic Church and Conversion, new ed. (London, 1960).

FR I, 5.

Report, p. 31.

Principes, p.437.

FR 1. 5.

Report, pp. 28 & 35.

40. Cited in H. De Lubac.
Entrerien Autour de Vatican II (Paris, 19851, p. 77.

41. DS 301.

42. 1510

Dei Verbum, n. 1.

LG 1 & 18.

45. For example, there are eleven references to his teaching in the first two chapters of LG alone.

OR, 16/12/85. P.4.

FR II, a, 4.

48. St. Dominic's 'Fourth Way of Prayer' in
Early Dominicans: Selected Writings, ET S. Tugwell OP (London, 1982), p. 96.

49. Ch. 134, ET A Thorold (London, 1925).

50. '
Penance and Prayer': Our Lady's message whenever she has appeared in the last century and a half.

51. One of the most useful summaries of St. Irenaeus' doctrine of recapitulation is to be found in the classic wotk of Father Emile Mersch SJ,
The Whole Christ, ET (London, 1936)

52. Text in Flannery,
op. cit., pp. 62-79.

ST 3a, 2, ad 2.

54. DS 1691.

LG 60 & 62.

54. DS 1691.

LG 60 & 62.

Passion von Innen (Einsiedeln, 1981), p. 25.

57. Sacrosanctum Concilium (= SC). n. 48.

FR II, d, 2.

59. Legenda Maior 9, 2.

60. FR II, a, 4.

61. The Ascent of Mount Carmel II, 7, 11; ET K. Kavanagh & O. Rodrigues (Washington, 1979), 125

62. LG 41.

Handmaid of the Lord, ET (San Francisco, 1985). pp. 78ff

The above article originally appeared as a booklet published by CRUX Publications Limited and is reproduced with permission.

Copyright © John Saward 1996 and 2001

This version: 7th February 2003

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