Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Who am I?

I might spend a lifetime trying to find out who I am. But if I simply look inside myself, I am looking in the wrong place.

“By comparison with God, man’s identity is not simply in himself but outside himself, which is why he can only attain it by ‘transcendence’. The Christian believer discovers his true identity in him who, as ‘the firstborn of all creation’, holds all things together (Col. 1:15ff), with the result that we can say that our life is hidden with him in God (Col. 3:3). Through identification with Christ I discover my own entirely personal identity.” –Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith (Ignatius Press, 1986, p. 29).

But then how do I discover Christ? Didn’t he die many years ago and go back to heaven? Do I have to rely on biblical scholars and archaeologists to work out which passages in the Gospels are most authentic? Ratzinger replies: “We cannot reach Christ through historical reconstruction. It may be helpful, but it is not sufficient and, on its own, becomes mere necrophilia. We encounter him as a living Person only in the foretaste of his presence which is called ‘Church’.” 

And this provides an unexpected bridge to the spiritualities of Asia – of Buddhism and Hinduism – that understand God as the “ground of all being”. Ratzinger goes on: “At this point we begin to see how it may be possible to purify and accept the inheritance of Asia. The latter is correct in refusing to see individual identity as an encapsulated ‘I’ over against a similarly encapsulated ‘Thou’ of God, ignoring the existence of other ‘I’s which are themselves related individually and separately to this divine Thou.” This ill-conceived personalism “deprives God of his infinity and excludes each individual ‘I’ from the unity of being.”

Illustration: "The Light of the World", by William Holman Hunt, 1854.

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