Summer 2009

Introduction: Paternity

The Summer, 2009 issue of Communio is dedicated to the theme of “Paternity.” “Everything comes from the Father,” writes M.-J. le Guillou, “and everything must return to him in the mystery of Christ. That is why human thought, whether it likes it or not, bears the mystery of the divine Fatherhood.” Proceeding from the central mystery of God the Father, the present issue reflects on the nature of human fatherhood and of the priestly sacramental fatherhood, on the wealth of the Church fathers’ reflection on the Trinity and the Filioque, and on the eclipse of fatherhood that is perhaps the deepest source of our current cultural crisis.

In an editorial titled, “Caritas in veritate and ‘Integral Human Development,’” Stratford Caldecott introduces the third encyclical of Benedict XVI. “Everything has its origin in God’s love,” Benedict writes, “everything is shaped by it, everything is directed toward it.” Accordingly, love is “the principle not only of microrelationships (with friends, with family members, or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic, and political ones).” Human development, which involves “the whole man and every man,” depends on our “rising above a materialistic vision of human events” to include an openness to the mystery of God. In other words, Caldecott concludes, Caritas in veritate requires that we “become aware of our constitutive relation to the transcendent, our ‘calling’ toward God for the common good of all, in love and truth.”

José Granados, in “Priesthood: A Sacrament of the Father,” begins with the human experience of fatherhood, which, if taken in all its breadth, changes our vision of the human person: “Fatherhood implies man’s generous openness to another ‘I’ who, while belonging to the father’s existence . . . , is different from him with an irreducible novelty.” The mystery of human fatherhood is transformed in Jesus Christ: “By identifying fatherhood with the surrender of his own life, Christ . . . breaks definitively the link that ties fatherhood with mortality, that is, he assures a communication of life able to overcome the threshold of death by bestowing the new gift of the Spirit.” The sacrament of priesthood, by identifying the priest with Christ the head, allows the priest to participate in Christ’s communication of divine life. Priests are called to make visible the countenance of the divine father, the hidden source of all love.

Antonio López, in “God the Father: A Beginning Without Beginning,” extends the reflection on God the Father by exploring what it means to identify the Father as the permanent origin of the divine triune communion. “To be ‘father,’” Lopez argues, “is to reveal oneself, to let one’s own beauty shine through another. The Father’s allowing another to participate fully in his own glory is coincident with his pouring out of himself to the end in another, in order that this other one might exist.” López contrasts this vision of the Father as generous origin with Hegel’s system, wherein “absolute spirit is an absolute circle of negativity whose ontological poverty makes God move from original abstract universality to being
absolute, concrete subject.”

Peter Gilbert, in “Not an Anthologist: John Bekkos as a Reader of the Fathers,” offers a fresh look at the theologian who served as Patriarch of Constantinople from 1275-1282. “John Bekkos was not a juggler of texts or an anthologist,” Gilbert argues, “but a man who was concerned to state the logical coherence of traditional Christian belief in the Trinity, and to state it in such a way as to show that the insights of the Latin and Greek Christian traditions are ultimately harmonious. He saw . . . correctly, that the Filioque debate had deep historical roots; this debate arose out of earlier misunderstandings concerning person and substance in God.”