Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A More Comprehensive Ecclesiology of the Laity

"The new ecclesiology of the laity assumes two diametrically opposed forms, which are in effect not finally incompatible in their basic tendency.

On the one hand, one could emphasize the postulate of a clear distinction and separation of the 'two lives,' one eschatologically taken out of the world for the service of the Church (state of the counsels and state of the priesthood), the other rooted in the world and taking its Christian stance within the world situation (the vocation in the world as envisioned by Ernst Michel, Karl Rahner, and also Bernanos in his own way).

On the other hand, following the example of Guardini, one could seek above all to win back the spiritual values of the evangelical counsels for the lay state in the world, for the development of the full Christian personality, with a consequent deemphasizing of the separation of the states."

Balthasar, Explorations in Theology II: Spouse of the World, p 430 (this book was originally published in German in 1961). As usual, linebreaks inserted.
The advantage of reading Balthasar is that he is familiar with both forms of understanding the laity whereas too many authors on the laity (taking their cue from Michel and/or Rahner), overlook the second approach entirely. I wonder what proponents of the eschatological view would make of the current text for School of Community in Communion and Liberation: what could lay people, or married people, possibly gain from meditating on poverty, obedience, and virginity? Do the Evangelical counsels hold any value for lay people, does the promised hundredfold? Balthasar was well aware that to be a Christian is to have died to the world in Baptism and yet be sent back out into the world: so eschatology (and martyrdom) is not just for the clergy but for all the faithful. And what happens to the universal call to holiness (proclaimed at Vatican II, and for which Fr. John Hugo was criticized by fellow priests before it received official status)? Without the counsels, what does holiness for laity mean? Obeying the natural and social laws of the world but with an interior piety and intention to sanctify the world?
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