Buffon Giuseppe ,
Antonianum, 87/1 (2012) p. 5-9
On the occasion of the publication of this first issue of Antonianum to be put together by the new editorial team, it is a welcome task to express, first of all, heartfelt thanks to the predecessor team, and in particular to former Editor David-Maria A. Jaeger. It is his example that I am following, in loyally continuing the tradition he instituted of opening every issue of this journal with a brief presentation ad lectores. I have often admired Fr. Jaeger’s versatility and open-mindedness, as well as the pleasure he always took, not only in the international character of our review, but also in that universitas studiorum, that “catholicity” of interests and pursuits, which is the distinguishing mark of the scholarly mind. I dare not say I hope to become his equal, but I do hope to be able at least to follow in his footsteps, according as I may be able to do so at my own pace. On this occasion, too, let me say a word of welcome to my closest coworkers, Professors Maksym Adam Kopiec, the new Deputy Editor – formerly the Secretary, on the previous editorial team - and Otto Harsanyi, the new Secretary. Prof. Jaeger’s presentation of both of them in the previous issue renders it no longer necessary for me to do this here. I wish, though, to underline the diversity and complementarity of their cultural contribution to this review, both in terms of their countries of origin, Poland and Hungary, respectively, and in terms of their cultural formation and scholarly research, with Fr. Kopiec’s grounding in the human and theological disciplines and Fr. Harsanyi’s background in the sciences and his specialized study of ethics. With their presence, this review, while showing a prevalently European face, can still take pride in doing so on a vast scale, reflecting Europe in the broadest sense, or as it is often put: “from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural mountains,” Europe as breathing“with both lungs,” as Pope John Paul II defined it. The membership of the Editorial Council taken as a whole enlarges further our collective perspective to beyond the Atlantic Ocean, indeed all the way to the Pacific. I am grateful as of now to the Faculty Deans who are the members of the Council, and am looking forward to working together fruitfully. A final yet assuredly no less important expression of “inaugural” good wishes let me address to all the professors and faculty members whose research and contributions constitute, as it were, the engine driving forward this review, which is honored to be assigned the particular task of making publicly known the fruits of the labors of this“school” inspired by the values of the long, rich and multifaceted Franciscan tradition. In this issue we have the opportunity to enrich our reflection with a lectio biblica, something that has always characterized the Franciscan theological perspective. Prof. Mario Cifrak offers us here insight into the following of Jesus, according to the Synoptic tradition as it takes up the Elijah-Elisha cycle. This subject, the sequela Christi is very dear to Franciscans, as it was most particularly to St. Francis himself who often refers to “following in the footsteps” of the Lord. In so doing, St. Francis prefers this dynamic approach to Christological discourse, rather than the static one of “imitation” or conformation. The concept of “following” has acquired a prominent significance in the history of spirituality, especially since the renewed emphasis placed upon it in the discussions of the Second Vatican Council, the fifty year mark from whose inception we celebrate this year. Cifrak, with reference to the Q Source and to the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, puts it in high relief that the call addressed by Jesus to his disciples does not admit of any hesitation, indeed that the urgency of the Master’s call to follow him does not allow for any justification for delayed response, overriding as it does even the duty of filial piety to bury one’s departed parents. The “inhumanity” of such a call to follow Jesus, which ostensibly is a demand to transgress the commandment “thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother,” is a mark of the radical nature of the call, and as such is not new or unknown to Franciscan sensibility, which requires following the Lord to announce his reign. The two successive articles, by Prof. Tobias Hoffmann, of the Catholic University of America, and by Prof. Girolamo Pica of our own Pontifical University“Antonianum”, respectively, do not simply track Franciscan sensibility but take up its very contents. In fact, both treat of aspects of the thought of the Subtle Doctor, John Duns Scotus. Hoffmann, in particular, studies a question of great relevance in our time, that of freedom, bringing together its metaphysical, psychological and moral aspects. Freedom, according to Scotus, is not to be considered solely as a “natural potency.” If it were just that, it would have been necessary to admit that it was governed by an exclusively deterministic dynamics. Rather, freedom, in the psychological perspective, cannot be considered as if it were a “potency” or force completely determined by its object, but rather as an agent that acts sponte propria, namely on its own initiative, autonomously. Morally, this too according to Scotus, it is necessary to admit that freedom acts for motives that go beyond the simple search for “felicity.” This acknowledgement calls for revising any hedonistic and individualistic ethic, such as that which today dominates the economy, politics, and our very living together in society, including even the sphere of the family and affective relationships. According to a number of scholars, it was precisely Scotus who, together with Peter of John Olivi, another Franciscan master, who more than anyone else have the merit of laying the theoretical foundations for the concept of the common good. Following in the wake of Hoffmann’s proposed reasoning, Pica insists on conceiving of the salvation achieved for us by Christ as not being exclusively for the sake of redemption from sin, as if the saving action were “quasi-determined” by sin. The latter perspective, that of a so to speak “sin-centrism”, spread in Western theology beginning with the theological reflections of Anselm of Canterbury. Scotus distanced himself from it, preferring to it the monastic theology inaugurated by Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the most dedicated proponents of the “gratuitousness” of the Christ’s Passion, namely of the view that Christ’s Incarnation and Passion were not due to “necessity.” In other words, Pica tells us “in theology” what Hoffmann has just shared with us in terms of its root “in philosophy.” The initiative the Word takes in the Incarnation, giving over his life even unto death on the Cross, has the primary purpose, according to Scotus, of revealing to human beings the fullness of Love. Love then moves the human being to love. There is here an ethic of “gift” that goes well beyond that of “duty,” an ethic founded on love that does away with the fear that avoids all risk of dependence. Prof. Kopiec deals, as a Franciscan, with a subject that, while not belonging to the explicit contents of the tradition of the Friars Minor, amounts to a proposal for an hermeneutic framework and structure for it. He enquires as to the language that is the most adequate for expressing transcendent reality, God, while not giving up its communicative property and its possible persuasive force. “Revelation” being by its very nature meta-historical, how could its“contents” be expressed in historical, positive, terms? What would be the models, the functions, the ends of such language? The author takes care to bring to light the special characteristics of religious or rather, theological language. He endeavors to propose criteria for freeing the word from excessively deterministic reason, one that is rooted in a concept of “nature” that is deprived of any openings to gratuitousness, to a freedom that is moved by a “loving inspiration, a “passionately” loving one. Yes, indeed, loving and passionate in a deep sense, that which brought about the Incarnation and the Self-offering on the Cross. Prof. Kopiec reminds us, in concluding his article, of the importance of overcoming the various kinds of reductionism, and of the advantages of broadening the concept of reason, namely the benefits of, so to speak, a “believing reason”; he particularly reminds us that language succeeds in going beyond its own semantic limits when it approaches the experience of Revelation, thus becoming testimony. Language, as it reaches this level of expressiveness, transcends signs and becomes gift. It is therefore possible to speak of a theology of language. The grammar of gift, the syntax of love, endow language with that added value that, as Scotus would say, confers upon it the freedom to flee excessively rationalistic and “scientistic” deteminism. The freedom that is in going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, place of the Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, comes through in Prof. Klimas’s article. “The Christian who is on his way to the Holy Places,” he writes, “goes there the better to decipher the signs of the Redemption gifted us by Christ. Once he has reached his destination, the pilgrim desires to see and touch that given place that is a ‘memory’ attesting a spiritual reality. ‘If only I could but touch the hem of his garment,’ the poor sick woman said to herself as she was nearing Christ. The pilgrim, in continuity with that feeling she experienced, wishes to put his own feet down right there where Christ left his own footprints, to walk in his footsteps. It is indeed in the Holy Places that the prilgrim learns to read the Gospel in a more vivid and more personal manner. There the sacred book opens itself up before his eyes in its unique geographic and historical frame; which grips the Christian reader and keeps him enthralled.” Such pilgrimage, in touch with the land of the Gospel, of the Word, becomes sequela, a following of Jesus, a spiritual journey., Thanks to the geography and the archaeology of the Holy Places, the pilgrim who is accompanied and taught by the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land acquires that freedom of spirit that allows him to review his own life plan, and to choose conversion to the Gift. The stronger medicine needed in case of unfaithfulness to the Gift is provided instead by the “sanctions,” dealt with in the closing article by Prof. Jose Ignacio Alonso Perez. The reference is to the sanctions established by the Code of Canon Law (mostly in canons 694-695; 746; 1394-1395) for perpetually professed religious, likewise for priests, who attempt marriage or whose conduct is otherwise in violation of the vow of chastity or contrary to celibacy. This examination of the specific kinds of cases contemplated by the Code of Canon Law clearly shows the importance that the Catholic Church attributes to celibacy and the vow of chastity as distinctive signs of radical Gospel-living. Celibacy, no less than chastity, receives thereby confirmation as a principal element of the oblative dimension that characterizes ordained ministry and religious life in the Church. Celibacy, and even more so chastity, a sign of the gift of one’s own life to God and to the brethren, constitute moreover a representation of Christ the Spouse. Understandably, therefore, scandal at an instance of counter-testimony to these values is the dominant element to be taken into consideration for the purpose of applying the available sanctions. This, highlights the importance attributed to this “sign” par excellence of sponsal eschatology. At this point, all that is left to me is to wish all our readers profitable perusal, in the hope that we may travel a long stretch of road, walking together the ways of Franciscan knowledge, or better still, wisdom.