Frans Jozef van Beeck and the “admirabile commercium"
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Patrick Ryan Cooper1
“What admirable exchange!
taking on body and soul
in his kindness, is born from the Virgin:
and, coming forth as man, yet not from
He has lavished upon us His divinity.”
“O admirabile commercium!
Creator generis humani
animatum corpus sumens
de Virgine nasci dignatus est:
et procedens homo sine semine
largitus est nobis suam deitatem.”2
The following proposes to engage with the thought of the late Dutch Jesuit systematic theologian, Frans Jozef van Beeck (†2011), who, I will argue, is a pivotal, constructive interlocutor for the ongoing development of mystical and liturgical theology today. Correcting the separation between mysticism—construed in its modern sense as highly individualized and autonomous—as entirely distinct with liturgical theology as necessarily communal and social. In van Beeck’s writings, not only does he challenge such a false dichotomy both historically, as well as fundamentally. But furthermore, by resituating the unspecified “hierarchy of truth” (Lumen Gentium 10) to Dei Verbum’steaching, life, worship, van Beeck repeatedly argues that “doctrines arise in worship and witness, and must never be allowed to belie their pedigree; their key function is and remains to ensure worship and to enable witness.”3 Hence, by challenging the false distinction between liturgical and mystical theology, we can further speculate that by securing the distinct, theological credibility of these distinct disciplines, the legacy of van Beeck’s work invites us to consider in what ways each of these disciplines can further engage, in a constructive manner, with systematic theology. Such ambition is envisioned in that “pia veritas amounts to vera pietas. [For] at heart, the practice of theology is intellectual worship, not only on account of its divine subject matter, but also on account of the God-given thirst for understanding with which the subject matter is pursued.”4 For it is this thirst—an unrelenting and inexhaustible eros for the “admirable exchange” at the heart of Christian life and enshrined by liturgy itself—which, in response to Christ having “lavished upon us his divinity”, we can thus understand “Christian worship...[as] the act by which it most closely participates in the divine nature.”5 For van Beeck, this includes a rich, theological aesthetics and participative hermeneutical engagement with various liturgical and mystical theological sources, most notably bl. Jan van Ruusbroec (†1381), for whom van Beeck correctly argues, human integrity “turns out to be union with God, and this union turns out to be reunion”. A dynamism, otherwise known as the “admirable exchange” [admirabile commercium], a reference to the antiphon for the Christmas octave Marian feast, Mother of God, the leitmotif of van Beeck’s incomplete, six-volume series, God Encountered.6
Briefly, a few words about the "admirable exchange" itself. Upon its Scriptural basis of "becoming partakers of the divine nature" (2Pt 1, 4), the admirable exchange itself beautifully articulates the fundamental core—in all of its dogmatic, Christological concentration7, as well as the fiat of its Mariological reception—of mystical theology itself. Here, the admirable exchange both epitomizes and preserves none other than the crucial linkage between doxology and soteriology, between the divine exitus and humanity’s and the world’s graced reditus. Doing so, while equally ensuring that such a reditus both deepens and furthers our fundamental human dignity itself. What Leo the Great's well known Nativity sermon attests: "Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God's own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition."8 Appropriately positioned not as a privatized form of autonomous experience, instead van Beeck generously conveys the Tradition’s “endless variations” of this “exchange principle” as a core dimension of revealed, Christian faith as an economy that mediates and fulfills both cosmological and anthropological spheres.9 Such an assertion builds upon the creature's natural openness and “native attunement” to God, as “actualized” or furthered in “likeness” of its deified ends. This point is evident in noting the very contextual basis in which many of the Patristic Fathers made use of this exchange principal, wherein van Beeck argues:
“Christianity entered a world where religion was often associated with trade and where trade was largely carried on by barter, often across the forbidding barriers of race, language, religion, and spheres of influence and power. In such a world, the image of the exchange of goods (along with related images, such as redemption) could furnish the Christian faith with a telling metaphor: God involved the human race in a paradoxical trade-off. The Church Fathers, from Irenaeus on, never tired of repeating, in endless variations, the divinization theme: ‘the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ..., out of his limitless love, became what we are, so that he might make us what he is.’”10
Native Attunement and Mystical Theology
A helpful entry point into the theological synthesis of the Dutch Jesuit Franz Jozef van Beeck is to gauge his specific, theological anthropology as a dynamic, “native attunement to God”.
“It has been repeated again and again in this systematic theology that humanity is ultimately what it is by virtue of the dynamic orientation to God that lies at the core of its being—that is to say, by virtue of final causality. It is true, of course, that humanity remains essentially marked by cosmic heteronomy and by anthropological—that is, distinctively spiritual— autonomy. Yet in the last analysis humanity is essentially and decisively marked by theonomy. Created and sustained by God in everything we are and have and do, we are natively aimed at God.”11
Van Beeck employs this trichotomy in order to account for the very dynamism of humanity’s desirous, thenomous attunement to God. Which in turn, as natively attuned, van Beeck’s approach to Revelation shows forth a dynamic, “anthropological infrastructure”, especially evident in the “mystical form of faith” wherein the transition from nature to grace “meet in perfect harmony, as humanity truly comes into its own, on the strength of total dependence of God.”12 Hence, for van Beeck, theonomy is of a fundamental, natural orientation, one that shows “a new relational self...their deepest identity, filled to overflowing, [which] turns out to have an ability that they barely, if at all suspected: the capacity for total abandon of self.”13 And it is this capacity for ecstasy, or de-centering, which van Beeck interprets as the “person’s deepest identity”. Which, in a participative encounter, van Beeck will himself define as “mysticism”.14 Mysticism, in this sense, is itself 'natural'. That is, it is “natively” rooted in a fundamental, theological anthropology, which in turn, by way of the tradition of Christian humanism, is nourished by a continual vision of man as fundamentally relational, showing human integrity, fulfillment and solidarity with others by way of furthering our union with God.
Instead of situating such claims of religious experience within the wholly modern category of anthropological autonomy, van Beeck instead, time and time again throughout his work, gives a more thick, hermeneutical account of various figures of the Tradition, and the unity in which it attests that “knowledge of God is (1) a matter of ecstatic de-centering, theōria (i.e. contemplative self-abandon), and (2) that it is, paradoxically, both entirely natural and entirely God-given.”15 For van Beeck, a reoccurring, corrective source within the Tradition is none other than Jan van Ruusbroec. Van Beeck draws attention to Ruusbroec’s dynamic exemplarism of being created in the Image of the Son, while equally noting the historical, soteriological and erotic—hence never-ending—dimensions of the creature’s graced action of deepening in likeness with such an Image (the Son, 2nd Person of the Trinity) in whom one is naturally united. van Beeck well describes the dynamism of his 'native attunement' and its implicit reference to Ruusbroec as the:
“[P]aradox of the mystical position. Immanence naturally inspires the search for transcendence; being is natively oriented to ecstasy. In the act of turning away from self- containment [i.e. against neo-Scholastic 'extrincism'] and towardstranscendence, therefore, all creatures, each according to their proper place in the universe, actualize and identify their most authentic selves to the highest attainable degree. The essence of the mystical…is, therefore, that the free, patient, self-abandoning focus on the transcendent, unknowable God involves the recovery, in actuality, of the true, implicit identity of humanity and the world. Becoming de-centered turns out to be the finding of the true Center; becoming selfless in this fashion turns out to be the finding of the self, in God; the encounter, in actuality, with the living God prompts true, experienced, minimally self-conscious, genuinely responsive identity.”16
Here, the dynamic movement of van Beeck's native attunement—wherein "immanence naturally inspires the search for transcendence"—explicitly entails a robust "recovery, in actuality, of the true, implicit identity of humanity and the world". Such a position strongly recalls Ruusbroec's own intuitions via. the 'common life' [ghemeyne leven].17 Here, a basic thrust of openness towards transcendence orients one fundamentally towards a recovery and the potential redemption and transformation of the world. Instead of leading one away from the world, it instead leads humanity and the created world in their respective integrities as locus capax dei.18
It is in this dynamic renewal of Tradition that indeed—for both myself and van Beeck—opens a doorway for a compelling retrieval of the relationality of Ruusbroec's theo-anthropology of mutual indwelling. Namely that human autonomy stems from the primacy of a fundamental, dynamic relational ontology with the world and with God. In terms of a theology of creation, union with God, for Ruusbroec, is primarily ontological and essential [weselijcke] that "renders us neither holy nor blessed without our effort"19. Rather, as created in the Image—that is Christ, our "eternal exemplar"—union with God is both fundamentally natural that upholds the dignity of our human nature wherein such a perichoretic relationality is continuously created anew [creatio continua]. Thus, contra a more two-tiered extrincism, nothing is fundamentally "added" to the human person in such a loving supernatural and gracious union with God. Rather, the life of such grace is found in the native capacity for the "superabounding actualization of aspirations [desiderium naturale] in creation".20
Doxology, the Admirable Exchange, and Liturgical Participation
Speaking on the foundational primacy worship possess to doctrine (Lex orandi, Lex credendi) and in turn, what van Beeck will call “sound theology”, he writes that one of the foundational themes in his God Encountered series is a sustained commitment to liturgy and its relation to theological reflection, of which exists on two levels. First, “proximately, theologians must regard liturgical texts as a principal source of sound doctrine”; while secondly, and “more importantly...they must regard the practice of worship itself as fundamental to doctrine.”21 This argument is not to be seen as a unilateral assertion of “ecclesiastical discipline [nor]...individual piety”.22 Rather, it is intended as a critical renewal, both for the “traditional appreciation of the fundamental significance of worship” while equally noting the disjuncture between the praxis of theological reflection removed from the act of the liturgy. Hence, van Beeck notes that “we can no longer assume” that theological discussions themselves, “even serious ones...are always and everywhere backed up by worship or prayer, and hence, a matter of Christian faith.”23 Centering theological reflection thus upon the primacy of worship as a theologia prima24is indeed the footing wherein both liturgical and mystical theology can thus stake claim in terms of both the originality of its object and manner of reflection, while in clear mutuality with both systematics and theological ethics.
The Dutch Jesuit broadly situates the liturgical and “doxological essence of the Christian faith”—between the corresponding mysteries of the theological and the anthropological—within the cosmological sphere, “in place and time that this essence is being played out, in response to the person of Jesus Christ”.25 Here, van Beeck explores the liturgical within an ongoing fundamental theological discussion of the Creed, one in which mediates the Creed between the theological as “utterly and transcendently gracious”, while equally emphasizing the liturgical as an “invitation to human authenticity in believing, inspired by universal humanity’s God-given capacity for God—a capacity definitively revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”26 Once again, not only do we see van Beeck heavily reliant upon this theological anthropology to which he will return to time and again via the Tradition, but equally important is that the human integrity of such an “invitation” thus involves fundamental theological reflection.
And while such mediation clearly gives way to an ongoing hermeneutics of interpretation, liturgical mediation—contextualized and always concretized in the particularity of the embodied material world—is “far from keeping the worshiping community at a distance from God”.27 Rather, van Beeck will reengage such hermeneutics with his more characteristic, thick aesthetics of participative worship, which he argues is squarely in line with deification and hence, mystical theology’s “admirabile commercium”. Here, bridging the discourses and mutual influence of liturgical and mystical theology upon a firm Christological grounding thus allows for van Beeck—once again, showing a profound resemblance to the inheritance of Ruusbroec—to liturgically characterize both the transcendental and immanent encounter with Christ in more familiar mystical theological categories—those of kataphasis and apophasis.28 Here, van Beeck can thus argue for the tension of both “’saying and unsaying”, not as a suspended dialectic, yet as a dynamic that yields to a “positive result’”.29 Here, the primacy of Christianity as a positive religion, with particular truth claims, over and against any natural religiosity comes to expression. Such a positive result is thus, none other than the liturgical, whereby “Christian worship is the act by which it most closely participates in the divine nature.”30 Here, van Beeck is both recalling us, yet innovating at the same time, a crucial point that has so often been overlooked and compromised in the late-20th Century rediscovery of “negative theology”, whereby he warns us against “the concomitant development of a notion, prepared by nominalism, that apophatic theology and mysticism are free-standing, self-authenticating acts of the human mind in relation to God, and not forms of worship, let alone Christian worship.”31 Not only do we see a certain balance between the kataphatic and the apophatic, which is always to be commended. But furthermore, he roots the via negativa away from an all too common, platitudinous speculation and Derridean indecision32. Instead, he marries it with a robust, participative metaphysics of desire—one in which is equally lacking in Jean-Luc Marion—whereby God’s utter transcendence and greater alterity is performatively approached in liturgy itself. That is to say, as worship. Here, the via negativa is enshrined and enhanced by liturgy itself and likewise, theology, its servant and beneficiary, as the pursuit of “intellectual worship”. For this sense of performativity—“to a positive result”—is continuous in its linkages, both with kataphasis and apophasis. And unlike Marion, it is rooted in the need, urge and proliferation of naming and imagining, as well as unsaying, evidenced by the Roman Rite’s enduring, regional practices of the Lenten veiling of crosses, statues and altarpieces. For van Beeck, the appeal of lex orandi and the liturgical does not stem from a Modernist hostility and opposition towards the law of belief (as in George Tyrrell), nor as a pious refuge of unspeakable, glorious alterity in an attempt to collapse the philosophical and theological rationalities under the idiom of onto-theology—as is the case for Jean Luc Marion.
Rather, for van Beeck, he bridges the strengths of both the mystical and the liturgical in such a way that characterizes worship itself as arising from the erotic; from our “native attunement to God”. What Ruusbroec, in reflecting upon the “way and manner” in which Christ gives himself in the Eucharist” similarly depicts Christ’s minne as both utterly gratuitous, as well as the “voracious lust [ghiereghe ghelost] Christ has for our blessedness”, such that, “no matter how much He consumes of us, He cannot be satisfied, for… His hunger is without measure.”33 Here, worship arises specifically from this inexhaustible eros, one in which does not reflect human subjectivity characterized by a fundamental privation and lack, yet a human desire that fundamentally participates in God’s greater alterity. Here, such a transcendent otherness is deduced neither from early modernity’s take on the remoteness of God “shorn of all immanence”34nor for the Modernist Tyrrell and his plea for “mystery” and its reiteration in an exclusive, rational argument for negative theology. Rather, for van Beeck, such a desire is deeply liturgical and participative in its origins and return that culminate in an “aware[ness] of the limitlessness of our own inner desire for beatitude”, which, as an admirabile commercium, preserves and advances human integrity amid “our total consummation in God.”35
Such a participative desire is in turn Christologically centered and reaffirmed as fundamentally liturgical, as “paradoxically...in proportion as Christians have more emphatically professed that in Christ risen they truly know the God they worship, they have also felt more, not less, deeply compelled to profess God’s utter transcendence.”36 Here, Christ is not merely the object that elicits the liturgical act ‘to God’, yet in a participative move, in God, the Church “appeal[s] to Christ’s perfect worship”.37 Such liturgical participation in Christ’s own kenotic worship, as mystici corporis38 thereby mediates the immediacy in which “Christians truly know the God they worship—a God who becomes more, not less, adorable and ungraspable for being so intimately known.”39
Patrick Ryan CooperAspirant of the Research Foundation-Flanders (FWO), Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Sint-Michielsstraat 4 – bus 3101, 3000 Leuven, Belgium firstname.lastname@example.org
2Antiphon of the first psalm at Evening Prayer I for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. With that said, I would like to furthermore recognize and thank Prof. Rik van Nieuwenhove—with whom I have had a series of “admirable exchanges”—especially for having directed me to the work of van Beeck.
3 Frans Jozef van Beeck S.J., “Trinitarian Theology as Participation”, Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Kendall S.J., Gerald O’Collins S.J. (eds.) The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity (Oxford: University Press, 1999), 295-325, 313.
4 van Beeck, GE, §8, 8, 26. Van Beeck goes on to further exemplify the constructive relevance and interchange that he sees between liturgical and mystical theology in this illustrative, pastoral reflection. “Let me sing an old song. I have long felt that Christians who leave the church nowadays do so to a significant extent out of boredom. In church, you can count on finding some pretty good people and ditto fellowship, and some fine initiatives on behalf of the growing multitude of the disadvantaged, but no amplitude of purview, no ecstasy, no theōria—in sum, no sense of participation in God, no mysticism. The inner affinity with the Mystery in whom we are alive and move and have being—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—can grow on us only in the experience of God as ‘the All’: the God of each of us at the expense of none of us, the God who never comes alone but always with the entire cosmos and all of humanity. This experience is the heart of common worship, with its cosmic and universalistic dimensions, its significant silence and significant speech, its significant gesture and significant motionlessness, its interplay of the seen and the unseen—in sum, its doxology made tangible. Prayerlessness and presencelessness are the bane of Christian churches today, it seems to me; ‘praying-for-this-that-and-the-other’, professions of the human need for ‘salvation’, and homilizing disguished as prayer have largely eclipsed prasise and thanksgiving. Among theologians, overconcern with soteriological and ethical themes has bred, by default, a lack of taste for the mystagogical, liturgical, and mystical traditions as major loci theologici. It is crypto-Pelagian to be too ethical in Church. End of song.” See van Beeck, “Trinitarian Theology as Participation”, 318.
5 van Beeck, GE, §67, 1, 79.
6 See Frans Josef van Beeck, S.J. God Encountered: A Contemporary Catholic Systematic Theology, Volume 1: Understanding the Christian Faith (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1989). See also Frans Jozef van Beeck, S.J. God Encountered: A Contemporary Catholic Systematic Theology, Volumes II/I-II/IVB (Collegeville, MN.: The Liturgical Press, 1993-2001); henceforth: GE). See also Frans Jozef van Beeck S.J., Catholic Identity After Vatican II: Three Types of Faith in the One Church (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1985)
7 On the theme of Revelation and Deification, See Dei verbum, I. 2.: "In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1;15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14-15) and lives among them (see Bar. 3:38), so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself. This plan of revelation is realized by deeds and words having an inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them. By this revelation then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation."
8 See Leo the Great, Sermon 1 on the Nativity of the Lord, 3.
9 See Emile Mersch S.J., The Whole Christ, trans. John R. Kelly S.J., (Milwaukee, Bruce Publishing Company, 1938), 578-580, and his historical retrieval of the “Mystical Body of Christ” as inseperable from Christological dogma, whereby “the divinity of the Saviour and the divinization of the Mystical body...are disclosed together, one within the other. Christ is fully revealed only when the nature of the Church is revealed, for the fullness of Christ is the Church.” (578) And then again: “They [i.e. Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Hilary, Cyril of Alexandria, etc.] teach that the very fact of the Incarnation, which makes Christ the Man-God and the common Saviour of men, has bestowed such abundance of divine life upon His sacred humanity that it becomes the source and principle of all life, possessing in itself sufficient grace to make us all sons of adoption and deified men....[and] in their refutation of the Christological heresies the Greek Fathers...declare that the Mystical Body is constiuted by the union of human nature with eternal Life, just as the union of two natures in the one Person of the Son constitutes Christ.” (579) Surprisingly, van Beeck does not build upon the Leuven Jesuit, Emile Mersch’s theology, with the exception of a single reference to the fact that “in an equally explicit way, Henri de Lubac, in his book, Catholicism, took advantage of Émile Mersch’s marvelous historical and theological studies of the Church as the Body of Christ.” GE, §76, 2, 142. See also the attached footnote (GE, §76, 2, [i], 142-3) wherein van Beeck interestingly notes: “The original theology of Christ’s Mystical Body was universalist as well as spiritual: it consistently set the Church, viewed as the community intimately united in Christ, against the horizon of the unity of the human race. It is regrettable that the more recent theology of Christ’s Mystical Body came to be encumbered, especially at the hands of Roman theologians, with such strongly hierarchical and institutional accretions that by the time Vatican II came together the image of the People of God had to be introduced by way of corrective.”
10 van Beeck, GE, §23, 2, 84.
11 van Beeck, GE, §141, 5, 8.
12 van Beeck, GE, §84, 1, b, 198-9.
15 van Beeck, “Trinitarian Theology as Participation”, 311.
16 van Beeck, GE, §109, 8, 134-5.
17 See generally my reflections upon ghemeyne leven in “'For God is a common food and a common good': Jan van Ruusbroec and Learning How to Desire in the Christian Humanist Tradition".
18 See van Beeck, GE, § 109, 9, 136: “The basic, decisive entry in the mystical life—the life of contemplative union with God—consists in the experiential discovery of that point in ourselves at which we are naturally (or, as Ruusbroec puts it, ‘essentially’) united with God. There we find God as the unmediated Presence, more deep-seated in us than the deepest accessible reaches of our persons; there we simply are our original selves inasmuch as there we find ourselves natively anchored in God; consequently, that is where we are holy regardless of our actual holiness or sinfulness. It is precisely at this ‘fine point of the soul’ that our capacity for actual union with God by grace resides, too.”
19 See Ruusbroec, Die Geestelike Brulocht, b, ll. 47-48: "...ende si en maecht ons sonder ons toedoen noch heylich noch salich."
20 van Beeck, GE, §88, 1, 239.
21 van Beeck, GE, §23,1, 82.
22 van Beeck, GE, §23,1, a, 83.
24 See David W. Fagerberg, Theologia Prima: What is Liturgical Theology (Chicago: Hillebrand Books, 2004).
25 van Beeck, GE, §65, a, 72-3.
26 van Beeck, GE, §65, 2, 73.
27 van Beeck, GE, §66, 1, 75.
28 See Jan van Ruusbroec, Brieven I, Opera Omnia X ll. 62-75, 79-82 (translation modified): “They have a heavenly life, for Christ lives in them, God and man. And therefore they are imaged [gebeeldet] and unimaged [ongebeeldet]. They are imaged with the life of our Lord, with his passion, his death and with all virtue. And in their spirit they are free and idle [ledich] and unimaged of all things. And therefore they are unrepresentable [onverbeeldet] and are transformed in divine clarity. And so they go out and in and find living nourishment always. They go out imaged with the humanity of our Lord in good conduct, holy practice and all virtue. They go in imageless with the Spirit of our Lord where they find and posess eternal clarity, unfathomable wealth, taste and comfort, more than they can grasp or comprehend. They are well enlightened from above and well kept below and they have found the true nature of love [minne], for they love themselves and all creatures in God, to God and for God....These people also love themselves and all creatures to God, that is where they stand united with God and all the saints before the presence of God, in eternal honor, in eternal praise, with all that they are able to acheive.”
29 van Beeck, GE, §69, 1, 93.
31 van Beeck, “Trinitarian Theology as Participation”, 321-322.
32 See the now classic exchanges between Marion and Derrida at Villanova in Jean-Luc Marion, “In the Name: How to Avoid Speaking of ‘Negative Theology’, as well as the following discussion by Marion and Derrida, “On the Gift: A Discussion between Jacques Derrida and Jean-Luc Marion, Moderated by Richard Kearney” in God, The Gift, and Postmodernism, eds. John D. Caputo and Michael J. Scanlon (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1999) 20-53, 54-78. See also Patrick Ryan Cooper 'When Silence Refuses to Keep Quiet' (Unpublished dissertation, 2009) a critical analysis of Jean-Luc Marion, Jacques Derrida and discussions over the 'third way' in mystical theology and its retrieval within contemporary French Phenomenology.
33 See Jan van Ruusbroec, Spieghel der eeuwigher salicheit, Opera Omnia VIII, ed. G. de Baere, trans. A. Lefevere (Tielt: Lannoo, Turnhout: Brepols, 2001), ll. 740, 731-733: “Mochten wi sien de ghiereghe ghelost die Cristus heeft tote onser salecheit”; “”Ende wat hi op ons teert, hi en mach niet vervult werden, want hi heeft den mengerael ende sijn hongher es sonder mate.”
34 See van Beeck, GE, §66, 4, a, 78 for a fascinating note on Pierre Cardinal de Bérulle’s relationship as a spiritual advisor to René Descartes: “The Christian affirmation of God’s incomprehensibility has even less in common with René Descartes’ resolves to prescind from the Christian faith in order to attempt, by dint of sole reason methodologically applied more mathematico, to place God outside the reach of all skeptical and atheistic doubt and denial. The result of his reasoning was an abstract God, whose transcendence in relaiton to the universe was shorn of all immanence, and thus became a matter of mere remoteness. No wonder that this God was to turn out, ultimately, to be nonessential to the world. What makes all of this doubly disquieting is the fact that Descartes’ personal intentions in undertaking this line of argument were entirely pious, and that the spiritual director who encouraged him to pursue it, Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle, had a reputaion for saintliness.”
35 van Beeck, GE, §67, 1, 79.
36 van Beeck, GE, §66, 3, 76.
37 van Beeck, GE, § 34, 2, 154.
38 See van Beeck, GE, §76,2,c, 142 and his interesting reference to Emile Mersch’s work on the “Whole Christ”, in which “De Lubac, in his book Catholicism, took advantage of...in order to explain systematically that Christian doctrine is nothing if not social.” In the corresponding footnote [i], he further elaborates: “The original theology of Christ’s Mystical Body was universalist as well as spiritual: it consistently set the Church, viewed as the community intimately united in Christ, against the horizon of the unity of the human race. It is regrettable that the more recent theology of Christ’s Mystical Body came to be encumbered, especially at the hands of Roman theologians, with such strongly hierarchical and institutional accretions that by the time Vatican II came together the image of the People of God had to be introduced by way of corrective.”