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MASTER OF THE HOUSEBOOK
WASHING OF THE
John Christman, SSS
Many years ago, an art professor of mine told a humorous story about a classmate of his in art school. Apparently, his classmate enjoyed signing paintings with a very elaborate and eye-catching signature. During a critique one day, the other students commented upon the fanciful signature, thinking it somewhat distracting. Instead of reducing the size of the signature or working to make the autograph subtler, the young artist increased its size! Much to the consternation of the other students, this repartee continued. They would comment negatively about the increasing prominence of the signature, and the student would enlarge it. Eventually, the signature took over the entire canvas and became the subject of the painting itself.
Although humorous this story is ― perhaps not surprising given the art trajectory of the nineteenth, twentieth, and now twenty-first centuries ― from the beginning of Modernity to Contemporary Art, there has been a deliberate focus on the unique contribution of the individual artist. Originality of style and uniqueness of artistic vision became prerequisites for success.
This perhaps reached its post-modern pinnacle when the French artist Marcel Duchamp argued that a work of art was a valid work of art based solely on the artist proclaiming it to be so. He famously purchased everyday objects from hardware or furniture stores and placed them in an art gallery setting, proclaiming them to be his works of art. Duchamp called them “ready-mades.” This greatly challenged the audiences and critics of his day. However, his art and ideas eventually revolutionized the art world and dramatically changed how we perceive art today.
Travel back in time to the late 1400s and the world was very different despite the Renaissance trend of placing greater emphasis upon individual artists. In fact, we don’t even know the name of the artist whose images grace the cover of this issue of Emmanuel. Art historians have developed a method of naming artists whose work is of tremendous quality but whose names are lost to history. Often they are named after a body of work, a particular cycle of paintings or etchings for example. The title “master” is given them along with their body of work. Thus, the artist who created these images is known as the “Master of the Housebook.”
Of course, we don’t know why this artist’s name was lost to history. Nor can we propose some virtuous humility that motivated the artist to not sign the work. It was likely simply not the convention of the time to do so. However, art such as this, so focused on the Eucharist, does give a contemporary religiously-minded person the opportunity to step back and question what all of the obsession with identity and individual recognition is worth. Can the joy of making something beautiful for others be rewarding in itself? Is the knowledge that your artwork is well received and meaningful to those who view it sufficiently fulfilling?
Saint Peter Julian Eymard, who spent a lifetime pondering the great mystery of Christ’s gift of self in the Eucharist, found himself frequently drawn to two scripture passages that spoke to him of how he should live a Eucharistic life: from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” and John 3:30: “He must increase, I must decrease.” For Father Eymard, both passages emphasize making Christ’s mission our own. Both emphasize God’s primary role in all good things. Moreover, they emphasize directing attention to Christ and not to self.
Gaze upon Jesus insisting upon washing Peter’s feet in this painting, and you see a similar message. The humility of Christ and his complete self-giving in the Eucharist portrayed in these paintings challenge the egocentric tendencies of our times. They also challenge the notion that fulfillment comes from recognition or prestige. It is an uncommon message in our world today, but one that history should not forget.
Compassionate and loving Jesus,
incarnate Word of God,
you humbled yourself . . .
assuming our human nature;
becoming one with us in Eucharist,
sharing your divine life.
Help us, the people of God,
to become incarnations
of your compassionate love,
through the healing power of Eucharist ―
your life given to us . . .
our life given for others.
We pray this in your name, Jesus,
in the renewing power
of your Holy Spirit:
the Glory of God within us!
Jeanette Martino Land
The authors are ecumenists and serve on the International and U.S. National Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue and other dialogues. Wood, a theologian, specializes in ecclesiology and sacramentology. Wengert, a historian, has published special studies on Luther and Melanchthon and other sixteenth-century leaders in the Reformation. Wood teaches at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Wengert is emeritus Ministerium of Pennsylvania Professor of Reformation History at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. Christopher M. Bellitto, editor for Paulist Press, New York City and Mahwah, New Jersey, suggested the publication of the book and worked with the authors throughout its production. This book marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, “a watershed event in the lives of Western Christians.”
This work is truly a joint venture. Wengert wrote Chapter One focusing on the history of the Reformation and Martin Luther’s role in its origin. Chapter Three explains the importance of Scripture and its interpretation in the history and life of both Lutherans and Catholics. He also coauthored with Wood in the writing of Chapter Seven about the past and future of ecumenism. They both exchanged ideas and editorial improvements of each other’s texts ― a truly ecumenical approach.
Among the issues clarified is the different world which existed in the sixteenth century from the world today. This is especially true of Christianity. Throughout the presentation, there is an emphasis on the changes in theology, scripture study, and the life of the Church. The importance of reevaluating historic documents is stressed in the book. “Reconciled diversity” has been presented as a methodology that is required both by theology and history as well as in the search for truth about the 500 years since the beginning of the Reformation and the progress of ecumenism in the last century. The topics treated in this work include the Catholic Church and the Reformation, Martin Luther’s role, Scripture and Tradition, baptism, Eucharist, and ministry, historic documents and their reevaluation, reconciled diversity, apostolic succession, the priesthood of the laity, and the ordained ministry.
The Sixteenth Century
Wengert’s contribution of the first chapter is especially valuable. The more one reads it, the more one realizes how different the culture was. He describes how the Reformation was an unexpected development. Church and state were completely united and essentially Christian. The Protestant world did not exist until Martin Luther posted his challenge to an academic debate on the matter of indulgences in the Catholic Church as a means of paying for the construction of what we know as Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The rulers in the Christian countries believed it was their duty to protect the orthodoxy of Christian teaching. They generally sided with the pope and the Roman emperor elected by German princes. Heresy was condemned as undermining the authority of the realm as well as the Church. And the Protestant uprising challenged the teaching of the Church on indulgences and other practices which did not exist for centuries and provided fodder for a fight on these matters.
Historians tend to see Martin Luther as either a hero and a defender of Scripture for the Reformation or a heretic and the founder of Protestantism and the churches of the Reformation. Churches began to divide according to their reading and understanding of the Scriptures and their interpretation of Tradition and history. (This issue is treated in Wengert’s third chapter.) All the princes in Germany were not behind the pope or the Catholic side. Several, including the prince elector of Mainz, where Luther’s monastery was located, were willing to protect Luther for political reasons and for conscience. Freedom of religion was not a prime concern of the sixteenth century. However, given the humanist movement championed by Erasmus, it did have an influence.
The battleground took place at the Diet of Worms when Luther appealed to conscience saying he would not recant what he had written in his controversial 95 theses posted for the historic debate which reportedly started the Reformation of the Church. Then and since the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement, the appeal to freedom of conscience has inevitably been an issue. “Here I am, and here I stand,” Luther declared.
Scripture and Tradition
Martin Luther was an outstanding scripture scholar, respected by the academic world of his time. He was charismatic, a master of German, Latin, and biblical languages. He was a great religious leader. This view began to be articulated by historians who specialized in the Reformation, especially due to the more accurate reevaluation of the history of the time and the circumstances surrounding the rise of the Protestant movement.
In recent years, Catholic historians have been more positive in their evaluation of Martin Luther and his role in the Reformation. Lutheran theology gives a predominant role to Scripture in its articulation of faith. It is called “norma normans,” i.e., not only the norm but the rule by which the norm is to be evaluated. Tradition is also important, but it is not seen as a separate criterion, This view is also expressed by Vatican II, clarifying 500 years of Tridentine teaching on the subject of Scripture and Tradition.
The Second Vatican Council
Wood begins her presentation in Chapter Two with the background to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (October 31, 1999). The trajectory to this declaration begins with the Second Vatican Council together with its antecedents in the modern ecumenical movement, generally dated from the Edinburgh Mission Congress in Scotland in 1910. At Vatican II, the Catholic Church recognized the ecumenical movement as the work of the Holy Spirit in modern times and urged all Catholics to pray, work, and be open to this grace of God which will realize the prayer of Jesus to the Father: “That all may be one, so that the world may believe that the Father sent his Son for the salvation of the world” (Jn 17:20ff).
The JDDJ is a clear example of reconciled diversity and ecumenical forward movement toward unity. It expresses Catholic and Lutheran teaching on the subject and what has become the common ground of the two ecclesial communions as a result of years of dialogue.
The Present and Future of the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue
Throughout the work, the authors explain the common ground achieved over 50 years of dialogue since Vatican II, the gains of common understanding and the removal of mutual “anathemas,” and the obstacles to reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics. It is clear from this reading that full communion is not imminent. Nevertheless, the book expresses the hope that the theological work done and the consensus achieved augur well for the future.
Unity and full communion are not something that human beings create. It is God’s gift to be received. The timeline is not determined by God’s will in this matter, but by human sinfulness that is the greatest obstacle to its reception. The Second Vatican Council says such a process will require a genuine conversion and an ecumenical spirituality. The way forward is to draw closer to God in Jesus Christ. The truth is something we all must work to find and follow with God’s help and mercy.
Ernest Falardeau, SSS
Ecumenist and Senior Associate
Saint Jean Baptiste Church
New York, New York
AND THE CALL TO CATHOLIC LEARNING:
EXPLORING A WAY FOR CONTEMPORARY ECUMENISM
Paul D. Murray, ed. with Luca Badini Confalonieri
Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2010
570 pp., $52.00; Kindle Edition: $49.00
Though the idea of receptive ecumenism did not begin with Paul Murray, his creation of a program at the University of Durham, England, to explore the potential of receptive ecumenism for promoting Christian unity and Catholic learning from other churches, has helped to connect his name with the concept in recent years. He has promoted the program in the United Kingdom, the United States, and worldwide.
This book gathers a large number of essays by such well-known ecumenists as Mary Tanner, Rowan Williams, Cardinal Walter Kasper, Margaret O’Gara, Ladislaus Orsy, SJ, Keith Pecklers, SJ, Hervé Legrand, OP, and many others. Authors from other disciplines also contribute critical insights on the subject in helpful ways.
The Concept of Receptive Ecumenism
The word reception has a long history in the implementation of the decisions and teachings of ecumenical councils. Since Vatican II, the reception of ecumenical documents developed the idea of the reception of documents emanating from bilateral and multilateral dialogues. From this concept, receptive ecumenism was born, especially through programs such as the Lutheran Institute in Strasbourg, France, and in Durham, England. The latter is described in detail in Murray’s book.
By including the pragmatic aspects of receptive reading, which can help or hinder the reception of teachings from churches other than one’s own, the importance of dialogue is underscored as well as the need for openness. Murray includes a number of chapters in the book from authors in the social sciences, journalism, and psychology which highlight obstacles to learning from dialogues and other churches.
Murray’s Receptive Ecumenism begins with the vision and principles of this approach and includes his chapter on establishing an agenda. It includes O’Gara’s reflections on gift exchange and Kasper’s cautions about text and context and hermeneutics. Part II focuses on what Catholics, in particular, can learn from a receptive ecumenism and dialogue. This part deals especially with national and international bilateral and multinational dialogues. Part III studies the question of order/ministry and ordination in the Anglican, Lutheran, and Orthodox bilateral dialogues.
Part IV focuses on the pragmatics of receptive ecumenical learning. Mary Tanner introduces this section of the book with a summary of receptive ecumenism in recent initiatives in the dialogues between the Catholic Church and the Anglican and Methodist international communions. Also included are learning opportunities with Eastern Christians, managing the change in the Irish Civil Service, and its implications for transformative ecclesial learning (Tuohy and Conway). Peter McGrail considers social factors inhibiting receptive Catholic learning in the Church of England and Wales. Thomas Reese, SJ, deals with organizational factors inhibiting receptive Catholic learning. Finally, Part V is a retrospect and prospect considering, among other topics, an Orthodox view of Catholic learning and receptive ecumenism (Legrand), a response to Cardinal Kasper (Sagovsky), a dialogue with Yves Congar and B. C. Butler (Flynn), the promise of comparative ecclesiology (Mannion), and receiving the experience of Eucharistic celebration (Philips).
A promotional flyer for the book states: “The essential principle behind Receptive Ecumenism is that the primary ecumenical responsibility is to ask not “What do the other traditions first need to learn from us?” but “What do we need to learn from them?” The assumption is that if all were asking this question seriously and acting upon it, then all would be moving in ways that would both deepen our authentic respective identities and draw us into more intimate relationship.”
This essential principle follows the principle of Vatican II’s Unitatis Redintegratio, namely, that the ecumenical process involves a conversion and a spirituality that draws everyone to Christ and through him to one another. Ecumenism is not a contest in which one Church or group wins and another loses. It is a gift from God that enriches all who, in good conscience, focus on being drawn through Christ to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and thus into the circle of grace and salvation that enriches all who so share a common goal, namely, unity in Christ.
Ernest Falardeau, SSS
Ecumenist and Senior Associate
Saint Jean Baptiste Church
New York, New York
In this book, the author, Dr. Peter C. Phan, offers up a wealth of reflections on issues facing Roman Catholics and Asian Christians in the postmodern society. Moved by the serious problems of the society concerning interreligious dialogue, Phan divides his work into three major parts. In the first part, he discusses at length issues and challenges pertaining to doing theology interreligously, especially in the postmodern age. Moving further, in the second part, he develops particular themes of Christian theology, especially in dialogue with Confucianism and Judaism. Finally, in the third part, he elaborates on how prayer and worship should be practiced in the postmodern, multicultural, and multi-religious age.
Convinced by the fundamental imperative that to be religious is to be interreligious, Phan engages himself in a project of explaining different ways and models in which one should be engaged in being interreligious. He is convinced that interreligious dialogue today is no longer a historical accident but a theological imperative required by religion itself. His point is that through globalization and migration, people are exposed very much to different religions and that people have no option but to live interreligously.
What I appreciate most in Phan’s presentation is his simplest yet in-depth deliberations on the challenges and opportunities of being a religious person today and the necessity of interreligious dialogue for the faithfulness of one’s spiritual life. His presentation tries to answer the following questions: What are the theological issues posed by being interreligious? Is there the possibility of “multi-religious belonging”? What will “religion” look like if this being interreligious is taken seriously? How is religious identity formed? What is the point of “mission” and conversion?
With extensive footnotes, copious bibliographical references, and a detailed index, it is clear that this book is targeted toward professional theologians, academic scholars, and graduate students. Nevertheless, Phan’s clear and convincing writing style renders the book accessible even to a general audience. From this perspective, one can easily be motivated by his own conviction that the most difficult yet most enriching and transformative way to promote interreligious dialogue is through interreligious sharing.
Finally, I must say that this book is laudable, not only by those interested in Asian theology in particular, but also anyone who is interested in researching on wider topics concerning the interplay between postmodernism, religious pluralism, and interreligious dialogue.
Justin Chawkan, SSS
National Seminary of Sri Lanka
Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, Sri Lanka
Philip Kolin, a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Southern Mississippi and editor of the Southern Quarterly, has written or edited over 40 books. Benedict’s Daughter is his eighth book of poetry. This inspiring collection of 41 poems contains a variety of forms and styles. Kolin’s rhythmic verses in simple language create memorable images that rouse the heart to the deeper mysteries of life.
A prologue of five poems corresponding to the hours of the day in the Divine Office celebrates this sacred practice of prayer in Benedictine life. In “Day Opens,” “It’s time to shake off / the mortality of sleep; / the tomb of night / is cracked, step out / and feel the infinity of light. . . . God fills daybreak with himself.” Kolin is known for weaving together spiritual and secular themes. He begins this volume based on his knowledge and appreciation of Benedictine spirituality which is lived out in the life of a daughter of Benedict. He intersperses several other poems reflecting the Benedictine way of life throughout the book.
In the heart of the book, we meet Midge, an extraordinary woman of faith. Kolin’s had developed a deep spiritual bond over the 30 years she served as his spiritual director. As a novice in a Benedictine community, she had flourished spiritually, but regretfully, prior to her profession, the community sent her home. It was feared that her slight stature and weak constitution would not allow her to endure the life. She had already absorbed the essence of Benedictine life which she faithfully continued to live out as a Benedictine Oblate.
On her return to secular life, a priest advised her. In “Father Luke, OSB,” a simple poem of couplets with striking images, “He taught her to open to God’s outdoor lectionary / and read the messages written there / to see the sky as his canvas, / each rainbow a stroke of quiet color / . . . / hoping for a new birth / she strived to be a small light / for others on their journey from self to salvation.”
She spent her ordinary life as a loving wife to Mr. Al, mother, teacher, and spiritual guide who integrated prayer and work. Her brothers had earlier nicknamed her Midged; though small in size, she was large in compassion. In “Midge,” we read, “curled up in her Bible / she birthed prayers for those who sought her / after Mass or at the school in which she taught. / Souls rang her doorbell, called her name / in the small hours of their mourning. . . .” When a young man from El Salvador showed up at her door looking for work, she took him in and made him part of her family. She fed the poor and homeless and welcomed every guest as Christ, to her table.
In “She Taught Her Classes Proverbs,” Kolin captures her insight in the true heart of teaching. “She taught her classes proverbs / helping students grow holy / from the inside out. / first they had to befriend / the skeletons they wore / under their flesh. . . .”
After her long and fruitful life, we are privileged to share Kolin’s description of her suffering and death in “A Hospice Crucifixion.” Its final lines recall the biblical images, “The ancient gates open / and martyrs receive her rejoicing / leading her into the Holy City.” Then we read, “A Holy Woman’s Obituary,” which summarizes her life, “Her house was a bakery for souls / seeking rest from restlessness, lives fleeing the flurry and fault of self. / She baked bread for the homeless / and fed a table full of envelopes / begging for her rich mites.”
Kolin’s heartfelt tribute to Midge and the Benedictine charism encourages the reader to recognize and appreciate the possibilities of human existence when lived with great purpose. His poems give us a glimpse of this woman who dedicated her life to serving God by caring for others in an extraordinary way. At the same time, we are challenged to review our own life and discern how purposeful it is.
This book should hold a permanent place on our bookshelf so that we can return to it frequently for inspiration.
Ann Kelly, OSU, PhD
Pepper Pike, Ohio