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JPII and St. Nicholas

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Newman on the Incarnation

John Henry Cardinal Newman was a profoundly comprehensive thinker.  Some have attributed to him a degree of inspiration behind Vatican II, and certainly, he has been credited with most University parishes throughout the United States--in name if not in teaching.  JPII declared that John Henry Newman had lived all of the Christian virtues in a heroic degree and was thus henceforth to be called by the title “Venerable” on 1/22/91. 

I just want to cite a simple statement he makes about Christianity, not so as to limit his teaching on it, but to show his prioritization of truth:

For the convenience of arrangement, I will consider the Incarnation the central truth of the gospel, and the source whence we are to draw out its principles.
 
1. The principle of dogma, that is, supernatural truths irrevocably committed to human language, imperfect because it is human, but definitive and necessary because given from above.
2. The principal of faith, which is the correlative of dogma, being the absolute acceptance of the divine Word with an internal assent, in opposition to the informations, if such, of sight and reason.
3. Faith, being an act of the intellect, opens a way for inquiry, comparison and inference, that is, for science in religion, in subservience to itself; this is the principle of theology.
4. The doctrine of the Incarnation is the announcement of a divine gift conveyed in a material and visible medium, it being thus that heaven and earth are in the Incarnation united. That is, it establishes in the very idea of Christianity the sacramental principle as its characteristic.
5. Another principle involved in the doctrine of the Incarnation, viewed as taught or as dogmatic, is the necessary use of language, e.g. of the text of Scripture, in a second or mystical sense. Words must be made to express new ideas, and are invested with a sacramental office.
6. It is our Lord's intention in His Incarnation to make us what He is Himself; this is the principle of grace, which is not only holy but sanctifying.
7. It cannot elevate and change us without mortifying our lower nature:—here is the principle of asceticism. {326}
8. And, involved in this death of the natural man, is necessarily a revelation of the malignity of sin, in corroboration of the forebodings of conscience.
9. Also by the fact of an Incarnation we are taught that matter is an essential part of us, and, as well as mind, is capable of sanctification.

In connection with a quote I selected from Gaudium et Spes, "By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man" (22:2).

Together, these truths communicate to me that both March 25th and December 25th of each year are awesome feasts to celebrate our Lord, because they focus our attention on him, "pitching his tent/tabernacle among us"!  That is to say that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (the Angelus), and Newman does well to choose this as central to Christianity.  He goes even further by nearly locating the Incarnation today in large part with the Magisterium's Infallibility (in matters of faith and morals):

The doctrine of the Incarnation is a fact, and cannot be paralleled by anything in nature...We have no reason to suppose that there is so great a distinction of dispensation between ourselves and the first generation of Christians, as that they had a living infallible guidance, and we have not...As creation argues continual governance, so are Apostles harbingers of Popes.

In other words, the first Apostles had an Infallible teacher in Christ--and we too, have an Infallible teacher in Christ via his Church. 

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