Henri de Lubac was a Jesuit theologian, educated at Jesuit centers in France and England before the First World War.1 (Unlike some of his confrères, he received no other formal academic training.) In that war he suffered a serious wound in the head, a wound which affected him somewhat throughout his long life. In the inter-war years, he was the central but sometimes shadowy figure of a diverse new theological movement in France which called for a rejection of neo-scholasticism and for a tempering of the scholastic stress upon speculation with a renewed interest in history, biblical exegesis, typology, art, literature, and mysticism. (Other important names are Jean Daniélou, M.-D. Chenu, Henry Bouillard, Yves Congar, and Gaston Fessard.) The initial aim was ressourcement — a recovery of the riches of Christian tradition, especially prior to 1300. The eventual aim though, was a renewal of speculative theology in a new mode that would restore its closeness to the exegetical, mystical, and liturgical reading of revealed signs. With the publication of Catholicisme in 1938, de Lubac produced one of the key texts of this movement: the book stressed the social character of the Church as the true universal community in embryo, rather than as a mere external machinery for the saving of individual souls.2 Accordingly it encouraged an open yet critical engagement with the world. Already here, one of the ‘paradoxical’ axes of de Lubac’s thought was apparent: “Catholic” expresses a reach of divine grace that is all-encompassing — to the entire past and future and all of space, worldly and cosmic, extending beyond the explicit profession of Christianity. Yet at the same time, “Catholic” means a universality whose grammar is only fully spelled out in the life of the incarnate Logos. Within this harmonious tension, the sway of de Lubac’s first and last master — Origen of Alexandria — is always apparent. Likewise evident is the practical missionary concern fused with intellectual rigor and unwillingness to compromise on essentials of a Jesuit father.
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