Blog Post 2

by Mar 11, 2024Students

Joseph Ratzinger and Louis Bouyer share a common admiration for Ressourcement Theology. Both theologians share a deep affection and genuine desire to return to the riches of Scriptures, the liturgy and the early Church fathers. In Ratzinger’s article on the sacraments and Bouyer’s Cosmos we see a strong connection to the importance of the sacraments as they relate to God’s salvific plan for humankind. As Ratzinger puts it, “…the holy signs of the sacraments [provide a] guarantee of a divine answer in which the open question of being human arrives at its goal and comes to its fulfillment.”[1] Moreover, our participation in the liturgy, generally, and the sacraments, specifically, “… opens up for [us] the true space of [our] encounter with God’s eternal love.”[2]

Bouyer notes, “By the end of the first chapter of Genesis, it may be said that this narrative of creation has laid the groundwork for this final revelation. Man’s participation in the divine Sabbath, upon completeness of creation, leads us toward the ultimate revelation, by expressing both man’s innate likeness to his creator and the reciprocal assimilation which God is proposing to man.”[3] For both Ratzinger and Bouyer, participation in the liturgy were not spectator events. Active participation in the liturgy is essential. The sacraments in particular are activities that transform us. The sacraments are efficacious, relational and communal.[4] Ratzinger says that man is “… founded through a twofold “with”: communion with things, communion with people; man can exist only in the plural, so to speak.”[5]  The “with” of which both theologians speak also includes an encounter with our Lord and Savior.  The Paschal Mystery is not an abstract thing but a person – Jesus Christ – who we encounter in the liturgy. We participate in His sacrifice.[6] We ingest Him in the breaking of the bread and shedding of His blood. Christ in us transforms us.

The sacraments represent Jesus on the Cross in the salvific act that is absolutely present in the here and now.[7] In the liturgy, Jesus draws us to Himself as He ascends again toward the Father.[8] Indeed, Christ “…assimilates [us] so completely to the temple of His own body…” that we become the real “Temple of the Spirit.”[9] And when this mystical body of Christ “… reaches its cosmic fullness, when the last of the elect have been absorbed and conformed to it, then Christ will have reached maturity in all His members, and His own Parousia, the event toward which this entire growth had been straining, will finally take place.”[10]

Ratzinger and Bouyer agree that the body of Christ forms a supernatural subsistence in Christ through the Incarnation. We are invited to embrace the Paschal Mystery which was created for us so that we might ultimately participate in life everlasting with Him. “Man is known and loved by God in another way than all the other beings below him – known in order to know in return, loved in order to love in return.”[11]  We were created by God and to God.[12]

This is God’s economy of salvation. “[T]his economy is carried forth and completed, in accordance with an eternal predestination, only through the Incarnation of the God within it.”[13] In God’s divine and perfect Wisdom, He was the author of an eschatological plan created for our benefit.[14] By His design, “…Wisdom is thus oriented toward a succession of historical developments, from the Virgin Mary as Mother of the incarnate Son of God down to the eschatological Church, His predestined Bride, descending at the end of time from the side of God to be joined to the Son in the nuptials of the Lamb, which are both at the end of all things and their end, the long-awaited fruit of the eternal immolation of the Lamb, the principle of creation.”[15]

Therefore, by God’s grace, the liturgy and it’s sacraments allow us to continually enter into salvation history if we so desire. Indeed, although we may not fully comprehend the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins, we can encounter God’s love and grace in a special way in liturgical celebration. St. Paul was an important teacher to Bouyer. St. Paul said, “… the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to His holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.”[16] Through the liturgy, we get a foretaste of our eternal hope: unceasing unity with God. Ratzinger puts it this way, “the chain of the horizontal that binds man has become in Christ the guide rope of salvation that pulls us to the shore of God’s eternity.”[17]

Ratzinger and Bouyer believe that the sacraments connect us to the divine through a mechanism which God created for us to be in harmony with Himself. Through the sacraments, the cosmos are restored “…to its eschatological destiny as an instrument of divine praise and saving charity.”[18]

[1] Joseph Ratzinger, Theology of the Liturgy: The Sacramental Foundation of Christian Existence (2014) (“SFCE”), p. 168.

[2] Id.

[3] Louis Bouyer, Cosmos: The World and the Glory of God. (1988) (“Cosmos”), p. 41.

[4] SFCE, p. 156; Cosmos, p. 185.

[5] SFCE, p. 157.

[6] At Mass the priest says, ““Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” The privilege of participating in the Eucharist is that we take part in what we enact. God’s love for us, manifested in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, begs a response from us: love in response to love; sacrifice in response to sacrifice. When we participate in Mass, we offer God our thoughts, prayers, words, deeds, trust, service and charity — our very lives and everything that we are — and we pray that we may be transformed and so be gathered into one in the unity of the body of Christ. As St. Paul says, “…by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:1)

[7] Id. at 160.

[8] Cosmos, p. 230.

[9] Id. at p. 230; citing 1 Cor 6:19 (“Do you not know that your body is a temple* of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”).

[10] Id.: also citing, Eph 4:15 (“Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into Him who is the head,  Christ…”).

[11] SFCE, p. 162. 

[12] Id.

[13] Cosmos, p. 217.

[14] Id. at 190.

[15] Id.

[16] Col 1:27

[17] SFCE, p. 164.

[18] Cosmos, p. 202.