March 29, 2010

Fr. Cantalamessa's Book

Read deeply over the weekend from something deep: Cantalamessa's pleasingly oxymoronically titled book The Sober Intoxication of the Spirit. Much to take in, much to ponder in it. A different way of seeing things and I'll be unable to explain the uniqueness of his vision or do it justice in a small post, but the book was worth it to me just in providing a way to reconcile the Scripture passage "the Spirit blows where it wills" and the sacraments, the latter which promise no doubt about where the Spirit blows.  A couple excerpts:
God has established two distinct channels to sanctify the Church or, one could say, two different directions from which the Spirit blows. There is the Spirit who comes from above, so to speak, and who is transmitted through the pope, the bishops and the priests...especially through the sacraments...The Spirit also blows from the opposite direction, "from below," that is, from the foundation or cells of the body, which is the Church. This is truly the wind that Jesus said "blows where it chooses" (John 3:8).

* * *
After the Second Vatican Council everyone acknowledged that in the past there had been a certain diminishment of the sanctifying organism of the Church, especially with regard to the charisms. Everythign was flowing only through the so-called vertical channels constituted by the hierarchy and entrusted to it...It was inevitable that this would cause some kind of inertia among the laity. At the root of this doctrinal impoverishment was a certain conception of the Church that was formed in the modern age and is called, by analogy, the "deist" conception of the Church...It negates, on a practical level, Providence and the actual, ongoing governance of God over the world...In practice this deist conception severely diminished the space in which the charisms are found. With the Second Vatican Council this somewhat static and mechanical image of the Church was changed. The Church came to recognize that it could not do without the immense richness of the grace that is spread through the capillaries of the body of the Church - in all of its members - and that manifests itself in the gifts, the charisms, of each person...The dual movement of the Spirit is reestablished.

* * *

These signs - the laying on of hands, brotherly love and prayer - all point to simplicity...Tertullian writes of baptism: "There is nothing which leaves the minds of men so amazed as the simplicity of the divine actions which they see performed and the magnificence of the effects that follow...Simplicity and power are the prerogatives of God." This is the opposite of what the world does. In the world, the bigger the objectives are, the more complicated are the means. When people wanted to get to the moon, the necessary apparatus was gigantic.

* * *

In its very origin the baptism in the Spirit has an ecumenical value, which is necessary to preserve at all costs. It is a promise and an instrument of unity among Christians, helping us to avoid an excessive "catholicizing" of this shared experience.
Fr. Cantalamessa also dicusses the synergy between grace and free will and how as infants we had no free will with regard to Baptism, so the seeds of faith, hope, love are just that - seeds that will be brought forth only with an active adult faith. (Although Fr. Cantalamessa mercifully mentions that not even our faith is completely independent, for God aids us in that.) Are we rich or poor? Rich in gifts, via our Baptism, but poor in our unsealing of them.

No comments: