Friday, 11 November 2011

Jean Borella

“Having set out in search of the secret of Charity, one day I ‘encountered’ Trinitarian theology… I went back to ancient doctrines like a delighted child going from discovery to discovery, from treasure to treasure, from marvel to marvel…. Drinking in the freshness of the ages, I felt my Christian soul revive. Henceforth it was impossible to repudiate the source of our faith, impossible not to offer it to drink.” (Jean Borella, The Secret of the Christian Way, p. 3.)
An important reference-point for today's revival of metaphysical Christianity is the work of Jean Borella, a Catholic Traditionalist who has in recent years distanced himself from Frithjof Schuon, having concluded that both Schuon and Guénon had failed to understand some crucial elements of the Christian tradition (as
crucial, indeed, as the sacraments and the Trinity). His book The Sense of the Supernatural, building on the analysis of de Lubac, is an attempt to wrestle with the question of what went wrong in the Church that led to the modern loss of the sense of the sacred, and to formulate a valid ontology and epistemology that will be acceptable within present-day Catholicism. He recognized the “new evangelization” initiated by John Paul II as “a project of vast proportions”, undermining the tension with the Catholic Traditionalists. “By calling them to the task of recovery in which he has been involved, he is showing that henceforth it is not absurd to carry on this struggle from within the Church”.

Borella is particularly concerned, in the last part of his book, with the concept of “deification” and its implications. He argues that the loss of the sense of the sacred and the supernatural in the modern world (and among the Modernists in the Church) is linked, as de Lubac showed in the 1940s, with the loss of a sense of human transcendence – the possibility of “transformation into God” as taught by Scripture, the Church Fathers, and the great mystics. Once again, he insists on the tripartite nature of the human being, with the spirit or “soul of the soul” as the actual place of our union with God. It is in the heart and centre of the soul that “the divine Essence unites with created being and becomes the very act of its intellect”; in other words, where the knowledge and will of the creature become one, in perfect receptivity to the actus purus which is God. Borella adds:
“Does all this involve the literal identification of the creature’s substantial being with God? Certainly not. The created being as such remains a created being, and never ‘becomes’ the Creator.... Far from effacing the creature, deification alone makes it possible for it to exist in its integral truth. If deification were equivalent to a negation of the creature, it would be a sheer contradiction, since to negate the creature is to negate the creative Will of God and therefore God himself. Deification is, to the contrary, the only possible affirmation of the creature.”
It is, in fact, the completion of that process which the Christian tradition calls “creation”. The final paragraph of Jean Borella’s book is full of significance for us:
“The grace of the active assumption of finiteness is conferred on us by the Passion of Christ’s dying on the Cross. ‘Abandoned’ of God, he renounces the ‘God’ of his natural will and goes, with a single loving rush, right to the end, right to the exhaustion of created being. In him the human will, espousing in a mortal and crucifying union the creative Will of divine Love, accepts being only what it is; it wills its own ontological finiteness, it accomplishes the infinite Will of the Father.”

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