Sunday, 21 July 2013

Reforming Theology, the way to go #1

Some young people, having a general intuitive idea of what Theology might entail, decide to learn Theology. They join a Theology Faculty, or just try some elective courses. After a semester or a year of experience, are their expectations met? Is it a life changing experience for them? Are they bored? Disappointed? What happens in their lives? Or Is there any change to their lives? To their faith? Or to their future career?

What is theology? What is its function in the Church's life? Is it supposed to make any difference in the life of a younger man, younger woman, studying at university? Is it supposed to make any difference in the life of the plain, lay person?
What happened to Theology and its practice through the ages? Is it alive today and in good shape?
Dame Theology is obviously in need of deep-seated reform.
You would be amazed: theology commands and controls many things in the Catholic Church. It commands even the Pope – unconsciously at least. So we need to be very attentive about the way we choose to do theology (or if you prefer: to Theologise). Because if it lacks certain important aspects/ingredients, the orientation, quality, and efficiency of what we do will be compromised?

Vatican II was able to change the things that were ready to be changed. There is no magic in the life of the Church. You reap what you sow. During the decades preceding 1962, serious rifts were developing in different areas of the Church's life: Liturgy, Literal exegesis, Ecclesiology, Fathers of the Church,...
Some areas failed to be renewed: Canon Law, Spiritual Theology,... Yes, even if there had been mammoth attempts during the 1920s-1940s, Spiritual Theology failed to achieve the long awaited renewal.

Theology wasn't in itself a subject of interest. What it is and the way we do it, emphasise the need for reform. Certainly the way we do theology in the Catholic Church today, compared to the 1930’s is very different, but it doesn't mean that we were really aiming directly for a change. It happened spontaneously. But still, central issues in the way we do theology remain blocked. I will name only one: theology is alienated from Spiritual life. (of course the recent Magisterium (Benedict XVI) tried to fill that gap)
In the early centuries, for the Greek Fathers, Theology meant: contemplating God, being in God (you may contemplate God from afar, from outside of Him, but this is not what they meant). It infers that one is first on a journey that will take one, through purification and illumination, and lead one finally to the Port: to the Trinity. He is placed in and united to the Son, facing the Father, and contemplating and loving Him, through the Holy Spirit.
This is why, from early times, only one person initially had the title of “Theologian” and it was St. John. How often have you heard of a Church called: “John the Divine”? This is it. The Divine is an English translation of an early expression “The Theologian”. Not a perfect translation though, but this is it.
Why John was called “THE Theologian”? Why was only John called “The Theologian”? (only later did some others receive that privilege)
Through intuitive perception from early times, Christians perceived in this Gospel, in St. John himself, author of this Gospel, that he was writing as a real witness, as somebody placed already in the depth of the Side of Jesus, and writing from that perspective. You intuitively know, when you read John's Gospel, that "he knows that whole thing", that before writing "he went (and remained) very high" (God himself: “In the Beginning was/is the Word”). His symbol is the Eagle. He is able to fly high. He is able to reach the height of God, his width, his depth...

Don't ask me why only John had that privilege. Maybe we should just remain intuitive and say exactly what we feel when we come across his Gospel: oh this Gospel is the most beautiful, the most spiritual, I love it. Does it mean that the great St. Paul didn't reach these heights? Certainly not. The same applies to all the others writers of the New Testament and to all the others who only wrote the Gospel with their Blood. So let us keep it there if you don't mind, and focus on “what is Theology” according to St. John The Theologian.

John writes his Gospel for a clear purpose: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have Life in his Name.” (John 20:30-31) Please do go to that post where I studied the structure of St. John's Gospel (please click here). But now, please, re-read it and meditate it whilst thinking: this is the way to go for Theology, this is the original way of doing Theology.

I will summarise your reading and meditation of this previous post in a few words: The goal of St. John's Gospel (at least the first goal, since we have another conclusion at the end of chapter 21), is to help his reader be united with Jesus, reach the deepest part of Jesus (his Divinity) and, by doing that, his reader receives the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Life), so that the stream of this Holy “Water” will flow out of his belly to the world.

Now, concluding this post I have a serious question for the whole Church: Are we today able to accept a return to that definition of Theology and of its function? Theology is not there to speak about God (the best bet we would have today). Theology, as practised by John The Theologian, is there to lead you and me to Union with Jesus (to believe fully in Him as John says), through a path of 6 signs (see John 1-11 and the post I mentioned earlier on). Theology leads you and me to the Open Side of Jesus on the Cross, so that we can finally access it with no obstacles and draw from it the New Wine, and go and give it to the World (that is "becoming a Theologian"). Theology is initially a journey of Purification, through 6 steps. Because, for John, we can't see Jesus if we are not transformed in Him, if we haven't become similar to Him: "In your light we can see your light." So we need to be “in Him” in order to see Him, and be witnesses (seers) of Him.

Would you ever get bored if Theology was like that today?
(To be continued...)

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