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THE TOTAL CHRIST
FOR THE CENTURY OF GLOBAL COMMUNICATION

Acts of the International Seminar
on "Jesus, the Master"
(Ariccia, October 14-24, 1996)

by Silvio Sassi ssp

 

Summary

0. Premise

1. The path of creative fidelity

2. Synthesis of the thought of the Primo Maestro

3. The totality against every particularism

4. The total Christ and Vatican Council II

5. The charism of communion

6. Social and ecclesial communication context

7. Communication as culture

8. To inculturate faith in communication

9. Conclusion

 

0. Premise

It is with humility that we have to approach the heritage which the Primo Maestro has handed down to the Pauline Family: "The various ends converge in a common and general end: to give Jesus Christ to the world, in a complete manner, as He defined himself: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’" (UPS I, 20).

Humility which is, above all, an attentive and grateful listening to the past. In order to understand fully and to be able to relaunch in a renewed manner the title, "Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life" coined by the Primo Maestro, we need to study and meditate upon what the Founder said, wrote, did and tried to achieve on this subject. Some speakers have had the task, in this Seminar, to investigate the broad context which allowed to bring to maturation in the young Giacomo Alberione the aforementioned title. Then, the progressive development of the thought of the Primo Maestro in the vastness of applications and in the diversity of adaptations for the various Institutes of the Pauline Family was pursued. The elaboration which one obtains in this broad complementary research in the whole life of the Primo Maestro and in all the Institutes founded by him is the point of departure of whatever consideration we might make.

Furthermore, humility, which wants to remain in creative fidelity for the sake of the future. We need to avoid two extreme attitudes: a near-sighted and sterile fundamentalism which would want to enclose the Christological title in the past and a superficiality that preclude from this synthesis whatsoever future meaning. Creative fidelity allows a profound assimilation of the past in view of an adequate re-expression in the present that is open to the future. The words of the Primo Maestro should allow us to avoid these errors: "We are grateful to the Providence of God which has given us the immense wealth of understanding better Jesus Christ. Let us accept what is obligatory, that which constitutes the spirit, the soul of the Institute: that is to live the devotion to Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life: a devotion which is not only prayer but includes all that is done in one’s daily life... Now, the will of God, to truly acquire the Pauline spirit, consists in this, which is the soul of the Congregation... It is not a beautiful expression, not a counsel: it is the substance of the Congregation; it means to be or not to be Paulines..." (PrDM 72-73). And again: "Such devotion is not reduced to simple prayer or some hymns, but it clothes the whole person. Practiced well, it renders perfect worship to God: always in Christ and through Jesus Christ... Our devotion to the Divine Master must be learned in order to apply it to spiritual work, study, to the apostolate and to the whole of religious life. It is useful to remember what was meditated upon many times and which is useful to piety, rather, it must begin from piety and extend to one’s entire apostolic life, because the fruit of our apostolate is proportionate to this: to present Jesus Christ Way-Truth-Life. Understood only in this sense, the devotion to Jesus Master shall be of great spiritual advantage to souls and shall meet the needs of man... One will be more of a Pauline by how greatly he lives of this spirit and in this spirit" (PrDM 80). In the Christological title coined by the Primo Maestro one finds synthesized "the substance of the Congregation" and the "Pauline spirit": we cannot therefore be mechanical repeaters of harmful superficialities. (return to summary)

1. The path of creative fidelity

The commitment to creative fidelity is founded, as we have already mentioned, on an attentive and multiple study of the Founder. One starts from this point and moves on to eventually integrate the "Pauline tradition": how much has been done in the various Institutes on the Christological title during the whole life of the Primo Maestro. Pauline men and women, at times by expressed assignment of the Primo Maestro, have tried to understand and explain in detail the Founder’s synthesis. Some papers pointed on the evaluation itself by the Primo Maestro of these researches and on their historical preciousness for us. Then the "Pauline tradition" includes all the activities undertaken on the title after the death of the Founder (writings, university theses, special researches, etc.) till this Seminar. The validity of such studies is proportionate to the documentation and to the meditation on the thought of the Primo Maestro in order to try to better understand a spirituality which becomes a global vision and inspiring criterion of the Pauline Family.

Then, to the study of the Founder and of the Pauline tradition we need a research starting with a conglomerate of disciplines relative to the Christian faith. Exegesis, patristic studies, theology, liturgy, catechesis, pastoral, morals, art, sacred music, etc., applied to one diachronic study of the Christological title "Master" and of the Johannine definition "I am the way, the truth and the life." Naturally the results are not simply summarized inasmuch as the synthesis made by the Primo Maestro cannot be considered a simple addition. The data obtained, instead, can be useful for two distinct operations. The first is a confrontation in order to discover how the Primo Maestro utilized in his own way the listed disciplines to elaborate his vision. From the confrontation, shall appear what he took and what he left aside in the vastness of the disciplines employed. What exegesis, what recourse to the Fathers of the Church, what theology, what liturgy, what spirituality, what art, etc., emerges from the elaboration of the Primo Maestro?

The second operation consists in giving value to the data obtained from the diachronic research in order to relaunch the title coined by the Primo Maestro. The panorama of the updated studies synchronizes the vision of the Founder with the development and up-to-dateness of the ecclesiastical disciplines.

Another composite of disciplines must be given value: anthropology, psychology, sociology, pedagogy, philosophy, hermeneutics, etc. Also of these, we can foresee a double use. Above all to find them in the choices of Primo Maestro and then to have them in reserve to use in the current stand of researches in view of a re-expression of the Christological title.

Finally, we have to take recourse to accurate investigation on communication while including in it the history of the communication technologies, of the ideas and social usage and of the magisterium and ecclesial usage. The results are important either for the study of the thought and of the communication initiatives of the Primo Maestro, either for the discovery of the "model of communication" which exists in the "devotion" to Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life, or, finally, for a relaunching of the Christological title in the communication of the years 2000. (return to summary)

2. Synthesis of the thought of the Primo Maestro

Other papers had the task of studying the content of Jesus Master Way-Truth-Life in Primo Maestro, in the Pauline tradition, in the ecclesiastical disciplines and in the "lay" ones. My contribution is intended to be a series of "pointers" for us to understand and re-express the Christological title starting from communication.

As a starting point for any other development, we could refer to what the Primo Maestro wrote: "In the study of the various spiritualities: Benedictine, Franciscan, Jesuit, Carmelite, Salesian, Dominican and Augustinian, it appeared more and more clear that each has good aspects, but basically there is always Jesus Christ, the Divine Master, of which each considers especially an aspect. Some concentrate more on His truth (St. Dominic and his followers); some, more on His charity (St. Francis and his followers), some, more on His life (St. Benedict and his followers); some consider two aspects... etc. But if then one goes on to study St. Paul, he finds the disciple who knows the Divine Master in His entirety. St. Paul lived the whole Christ; he probed the profound mysteries of His doctrine, of His heart, of His sanctity, of His humanity and divinity. He saw Him as the doctor, the host, the priest; he presents to us the whole Christ as He had already defined Himself: Way, Truth and Life. Religion consists in this vision: dogma, morals and worship; in this vision is the whole Christ; through this devotion man becomes completely taken, completely conquered by Jesus Christ... This devotion includes all the devotions to the person of Jesus Christ the Man-God" (AD 159-160).

The "whole Christ," the "entire Christ" is found in the experience of the apostle Paul; thus the first meaning of "Pauline spirituality" or "Pauline spirit" is to be searched in reference to St. Paul: "he knows the Divine Master in His entirety."

The Founder clarifies: "...not many books on spirituality inasmuch us one only is the spirituality: to live in Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life... Spirituality is one, it is in Christ. ...Beware of spiritual discussions; beware of the various schools of spirituality which are especially 15-16: Dominican spirituality, Franciscan, Carmelite, etc. There is only one spirituality and it is that which the Lord has given you; in Jesus Christ Master, Way, Truth and Life (Alle Pie Discepole del Divin Maestro, 30 May 1963, 238-239).

The warning against whatever discussion on any particular spirituality is justified: "It happens that in various books or preaching, little emphasis is given to the weighty part of the person of Christ in our sanctification. The devotion to Our Lord is at times presented as one of the means. Our devotion and incorporation in Christ is the beginning and the end and the very substance itself of our supernatural life; asceticism and mysticism lie here... One can summarize in its fundamental ideas the Christological doctrine in relation to spiritual life: that is to live Christ according to how He defined himself: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’" (San Paolo, June-July 1963). For the Primo Maestro a spirituality that accentuates only an aspect of Christ is unthinkable and neither it is to sustain that Christ could be considered "one of many means" for sanctification. Christ is the whole of spirituality and Christification is the whole of sanctity: thus the Primo Maestro reacts while referring to Jesus Master Way-Truth-Life.

Furthermore, the Christological title is addressed to the totality of the person: "Jesus Truth works on the mind and confers faith; Jesus Christ is Way and works on the will that it may conform to the will of God; Jesus Christ is Life and works on the sentiment bringing it to a supernatural life. When this grafting is fully seconded by the Christian, he could say: ‘vivit vero in me Christus.’ It is the great teaching of St. Paul" (UPS II, 368). The whole Christ (Way, Truth and Life) offers the totality of faith (morals, doctrine, worship) to the totality of the person (will, mind, sentiment). This spirituality cannot be particular because it is the only one inasmuch as it coincides with the gospel lived by St. Paul.

The Christological title, finally, does not refer only to the "religious" aspect of the Christian and, especially, the Paulines: "The devotion to the Divine Master is not an accessory devotion: it covers the whole of our spiritual life, all our study, all our apostolate, all our external activities: everything" (Prediche del Primo Maestro, 1 Jan. 1955, VI, 5). "Pattern our study, our religious discipline, our piety, our apostolate after this devotion, this spirit: Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life (Predicazione sul Divin Maestro, 1957, 70).

Spirituality is transformed into a manner of life for the whole of Pauline life: piety, study, apostolate, community life, government, etc. The "substance of the Congregation" and the essence of the "Pauline spirit" is: the whole Christ for the whole person for all the aspects of Pauline life. This totality has been made clear with due documentation by other speakers; here it was only briefly recalled as an indispensable entry point. (return to summary)

Continued: The totality against every particularism

 

           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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