Our Spring 2009 issue begins with a brief statement regarding the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to receive an honorary law degree and give the commencement address at the university’s graduation in May. In his editorial, “President Obama, Notre Dame, and a Dialogue That Witnesses: A Question for Father Jenkins,” David L. Schindler uses the occasion to raise more general questions about a truly Catholic engagement with the culture. Noting Fr. Jenkins’ desire to open a “dialogue” with the president about abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, Schindler asks whether the conventional understanding of “dialogue” is in fact able to avoid proportionalism, and whether there might exist some issue whose weight exceeds the capacity of the proportionalist dialogue suggested by Notre Dame’s action, calling rather for an embodied witness to the issue’s gravity. This embodied witness, he argues, is not opposed to reason; rather, it represents reason’s fullest realization.
The question of the relationship between the political and the religious, raised in Schindler’s editorial, receives illumination from a different angle in the event of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, which is the next installment of our Spring series on the “Mysteries of the Life of Jesus.” This event, which comes at the end of Jesus’ public ministry and which we commemorate liturgically on Palm Sunday, is filled with paradoxes: Jesus allows himself for the first time to be called “king,” and yet he approaches the holy city on the back
José Granados begins our treatment of this event with “The New Hosanna in the New Temple: Jesus’ Entry Into Jerusalem,” which gives an account of the Old Testament background to the event of the entrance into the holy city, and then goes on to show that “it is not so much Jerusalem Jesus enters, as the Temple.” The destruction and rebuilding of the Temple of his body entails a new conception of the body and of reason: as the incarnate logos, Jesus is “reason made flesh.” Granados shows that this notion of embodied reason, in fact, allows a true, Christian separation of the political and religious spheres, and helps to illuminate the presence of Christians within society.
Gary A. Anderson, in “To See Where God Dwells: The Tabernacle, the Temple, and the Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition,” examines the role of the Temple and its furniture in the Second Temple Period (520 BC to 70 AD), in order to show how, from the beginning, the house of God was not clearly separable from the being of God. In this respect, the Tabernacle in the Temple of Jerusalem foreshadows the “appearance of God in the flesh” of the man, Jesus, and becomes a central topos of early Christian mystical contemplation.
Peter M. Candler, Jr.’s article “The Logic of Christian Humanism,” expands the discussion of the Temple in a study of, first, Christianity’s aesthetic and architectural “transformative preservation” of paganism, in which Christianity both preserves the “greatness of humanity” contained in antiquity and paganism, and adds to the deposit of humanity in a way no other religious, philosophical, or political culture is able to do. Candler then holds up modernity’s self-conscious “liberation from tradition,” next to Christianity’s approval of cultural “borrowings”: the approval springs from seeing that providence has left a community among all natures through the fact of their being created by God. An “intimation of the glory of God still subsists in the stones” of pagan cultures as a preparation for the Incarnation, and the ability of a true Christian humanism to keep, rather than destroy, the “spoils of Egypt” is an index, too, of the Incarnation, since “whatever is not assumed is not healed.”
David M. McCarthy, in “Scripture and Ethics: Bearings From Balthasar,” takes the theme of modernity and Christian humanism in a different direction: his article shows how modernity’s fragmentation takes form in moral theology and scriptural studies, which, he says, are characterized by a tendency to avoid theories of atonement, on the one hand, and attention to the Old Testament, on the other. McCarthy’s proposal takes Balthasar’s theo-drama and theological aesthetics as a way of correcting the “fragmentation of practical reason and the breaking up of the Bible into discrete texts,” by overcoming christologically the modern divorce between subject and object, and by approaching the times and places of Scripture on their own terms.
Rodrigo Polanco picks up the theme of the Incarnation sounded in our articles on the Entrance Into Jerusalem in an essay on the role that Irenaeus plays in the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar. In “Balthasar and Irenaeus: The Total Glorification of God and of Man in God,” Polanco shows how the theological centers of these two thinkers converge. Balthasar develops the thought of Irenaeus in part with the help of modern concepts—especially Goethe’s notion of Gestalt—and in relation to contemporary concerns, but according to Polanco he does so in a way that is surprisingly true to Irenaeus’ own self-understanding. The heart of the matter is a christological interpretation of the analogy of being as the ultimate answer to gnosticisms both ancient and modern: the Incarnation has implications for the meaning, not only of human nature, but of all nature and indeed of all time and space. And yet, in this mystery, God crosses the infinite abyss that separates him from the world without for all that eliminating the difference.
Martin Rhonheimer returns to the question of the relationship between the religious and the political in his “Response to David Crawford,” in which he replies to a critical assessment of an article of his that Crawford offered in the Fall 2007 issue of Communio. Rhonheimer argues that Crawford failed to realize that Rawls’ later work took a distance from the “pure liberal proceduralism” that some read as a “comprehensive doctrine” in his original Theory of Justice. The “second Rawls” presents public reason “as a way of reasoning about political values shared by free and equal citizens that does not trespass on citizens’ comprehensive doctrines, so long as those doctrines are consistent with a democratic polity.” Rhonheimer believes that such a notion of reason is the very one implied by the natural law tradition embraced by Catholic teaching, and claims that Crawford abandons this tradition insofar as his approach, by contrast, “is essentially theological, founded in a trinitarian-christological doctrine, and thus based on Christian revelation.” Crawford will answer Rhonheimer’s charges in an upcoming issue.
Finally, Notes and Comments closes the issue with Andrew Hofer’s “Amalek and the Early Christian Battle for Scriptural Interpretation,” which takes up again our opening theme of the relation between the Old and New Testaments. Hofer gives examples of three early authors, Marcion, the author of Barnabas, and Justin Martyr, to show how their commentaries on the battle with Amalek in Exodus 17 presuppose and argue for a christological reading of Israel’s scriptures.