By Fr. David Barrett
The title of Vatican II’s document on the Church – Lumen Gentium – is taken from the first words of the text itself. It is not surprising, therefore, that many people make the mistake of believing that since the document meditates on the nature of the Church so also this title refers to the Church, that the Church is the light of nations. In fact, it refers to Christ Himself: the document begins, “Lumen Gentium cum sit Christus,” which translates as, “Since Christ is the light of the nations.”
This light, it is true, shines out visibly from the Church, as the document goes on to say, but this is only because the Church is “a kind of sacrament in Christ” ,continuing His work of uniting all men to God. This conviction that Christ alone is the light of the nations lies at the heart of so much of what the Council has to say. If we examine its pronouncements on the Liturgy, or on Revelation, or on the present world situation, or on other Christians or other religions, we will find that at the heart of them all is the one Saviour Jesus Christ. This is so much the case that the great pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes makes this dramatic declaration:
The Church believes that the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of man’s history is to be found in its Lord and Master. She also maintains that beneath all that changes there is much that is unchanging, much that has its ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.
This same vision lies at the heart of the work of Fr. Edward Holloway. In the synthesis he attempted to develop, the splendour of revelation and the beauty of creation, the teaching of religion and the knowledge gained through science and philosophy are all shown to arise from the one Wisdom of God, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. For Holloway the whole unity of the cosmos itself pointed to the unity and simplicity in the work of God, whose creative ‘FIAT’ (‘let there BE’) at the beginning of time embraced in its willed purpose and effective power not only the fashioning of the Universe around us, but also the fact of man, and the fulfilment of man in the coming of Christ. This idea of the fulfilment of man in Christ is the key to all of Holloway’s thought and brings into clear relief the Christocentricism of his whole theological project.
Man the peak of creation
In Holloway’s conception of the Universe, man cannot be seen as so unique a being that he has no intrinsic relation to the rest of matter. While it is true that man’s spiritual personality has its origins in a direct intervention by God, this intervention itself was in no way arbitrary or discontinuous with the previous history of the cosmos. Indeed it was part of God’s plan that the poising of matter at the very beginning of creation would lead ultimately to a moment when the potential brain of a creature conceived within the womb of a primate would of necessity demand a new principle of control and direction.
Previously every living being had received its control and direction from its surrounding environment but here in man there would be a creature for whose potential the environment could no longer provide. The creation of the soul for man really is, therefore, in continuity with the whole evolution of matter. The distinction is that the soul itself does not arise from matter, but the need for the soul does: here we have matter at the peak of its evolutionary potential crying out for this new principle of control and direction. God gives this to it as He had always intended He would.
Such a vision does not contradict the essentials of the inspired story (but not precise history) of Genesis: man’s body arising from the slime of the earth, an earth already created, and then imbued by the breath of God with a principle of spirit (cf. Genesis 2:7). In effect, this continuity reveals a beauty of proportion and purpose in the plan of God:
The miracle of man is that the material mutation which is born within nature to be this new form, with this super power of energy in the brain is by its very nature as physical directed to the order of the spiritual principle, to the soul, made in the likeness of God, and which only God can give... The physical ‘formula’ which is the brain of man was in the beginning ordered as the unique and peak achievement of that ‘Unity-Law’ which framed the universe in exactitude, in the moment of the ‘Big Bang’. It is the final and utter achievement of that Law of harmonic ascent of being, and in its very physical reality man’s body calls for and is intelligible only in relation to the personal ‘soul’ which God alone can create.
Man then sums up in himself the finality of matter. This new being however cannot complete himself. His existence and nature is still relative. He must look beyond his own being for the source and end of his life. With his spiritual personality he finds that it is God in Person who is the environment that will fulfil him:
The only measure of the meaning of the spiritual seed that is the created spirit, is the Spirit without peer, which conceived his measure.”
However, unlike the rest of material creation man finds himself in a unique position in that he and his Environment are not inter-defined. Man can have no conditioning effect on this Infinite Environment. He is defined by God and fulfilled by Him.
God’s provision for Man in Himself
To fulfil man as a being, who knows, loves and who seeks to be with others, God will have to reveal Himself to man in a way that makes sense in man’s way of existing. Here we do not have God forced to act by the demand of the creature: rather He acts in accord with His own one Wisdom, His plan that He conceived when He created in the beginning:
Man must have an end in God, and a joy in God, not because man necessitates God, and thereby logically becomes part of God, but because the Divine Wisdom and Will that is evident in man must be true unto Itself.
Revelation is then not an afterthought in the divine plan, but a continuity with the initial poising of energies at the moment of creation. The structure of created being leads us naturally in this direction, but only because it was thus created by God in Wisdom and Love.
Man will be taught and led by God along deepening degrees of knowledge and love of Him. This will be a process that is in no way isolated from the rest of his being but will involve every aspect of who and what man is:
... it will be social and individual, embracing all the potential, the knowledge and experience of man, uniting man the scientist and man the religious seeker. The reality of man cannot be compartmentalized since his very ability to analyse matter flows from the same power that makes him seek God as his fulfilment and joy.
God will fulfil every order. In the process of leading man to ever greater closeness in knowledge and love, the whole of society will need ordering and perfecting in a common worship and doctrine: ... and such an ordering fulfils the very drive of the material cosmos itself as well as the heart of man.
Man’s fulfilment in God will be the bestowal of life according to the full charity and wisdom of God. Here however we have an important leap: this bestowal as planned from the beginning is much more than just the fulfilment of man’s structural potential, but
the filling out of the nature through love in an order of possibility which can never be contained within the limits of a natural potential...This destiny means that God knows and loves the creature in, and by, the same immanent Act of knowing and loving in fulfilment by which He Himself IS: so that we become by charity what God is by nature.”
Christ the Wisdom of God Incarnate
For this to be attained by man as a physical and spiritual creature, who comes to know and love and be close to others in a history of being, in times and places, God will need to reveal Himself to man in a way that man can lay hold of.
The old scholastic maxim – ‘being is received in the mode of the recipient’ - holds good here. For us to come to know, love and be close to God we will need to meet him in a human manner. In the material world a being receives the actualization of its potential only by coming into contact with the thing that initiates and completes its actualization. This is a fundamental law of creation, and so of man as well. Indeed, the Beatific Vision for which God created us in the beginning will not just be a ravishing of the spirit, but an elevation of the whole being of man:
There seems little likelihood that God would have made matter-energy, except that through man it could be swept up into a joy and an asset in the spiritual creation. That is why we have suggested that if it is the gift of God in the creation of the spiritual creature, to bring that creature into the highest union with God that even God can give, then the gift of Christ seems to be an inevitable corollary of the decree for man of the total Sonship of God.
The coming of Christ then is the fullness of the Revelation that God wishes to make of Himself. Here we can know and love God in a way that fits in with our human structure; here we can come close to God not just spiritually but also at a physical level. This economy of divinisation is exactly what is lived out by the Church in her Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, which is the application or the handing on of this unique encounter to all men and women, of all times and places:
The total and supreme manifestation of the active power of God upon man of the Divine, is the Word made flesh, the flesh of the Son of God, conjoined as Christ, the Son of Man, in the One Person of God the Word: this is the full nourishment of life and immortality.
The coming of Christ therefore is part and parcel of the one plan of God. It would be true to say that creation was made for Christ. Therefore, every level of existence, of matter-energy and of life, leading up to and including man himself, finds the answer to the “why” of its existence in the coming of Christ. In man the whole material order is elevated to a form of existence beyond its own structural potential.
Joined to Christ man is made divine, a son of God, a co-heir with Christ. In such a vision the centrality of Jesus Christ shines forth with a majesty and beauty that should make us deeply aware of the holiness of this cosmos. Creation does not mean sheer autonomy but a gift by which what is by definition contingent is made able to share through Christ in the very Fullness of Necessary Existence that is God Himself.
The economy of the Incarnation
Creation is therefore a labour of love and the coming of the Son of God as man is the fullness of this love in action. It is a love that seeks not to make the creature happy, but for the creature to share in the eternal joy - a joy beyond all imagining - of the Source of all existence. Christ is the first Thought of Creation therefore, the first Word and the last Word, its Alpha and Omega, since all things are made through Him and for Him, and in Him all things hold together (cf. Colossians 1:1-15). As Holloway puts it:
The Incarnation would be the perfect culmination of that Salvation of God which extends from the building up of the universe to the mind of man, so that the vocation of man to equal fellowship with the pure spirit in the beatific possession of God, is made manifest through, and anticipated in the patterning of the laws of matter. These pivot around the King of Kings and Heir of the Ages, as the supreme consummation of the Unity-Law of the universe.
Even our bodies are relative to the body of Christ for whom they were made. In a reflection on whether or not the soul remains a full person after death even in the Beatific Vision, since it is no longer joined to its body, and so the one living being of man is ruptured, Holloway writes:
The personality of man is defined through the soul, in an intrinsic relationship to a given configuration (i.e. pattern) of matter-energy. One might be forced to agree with St. Thomas except for one all important thing. This ‘personal’ configuration of energy which is ‘my body’ is defined always through the Body of Jesus Christ. The Body of Christ is the trustee for all our bodies, both before Adam was made, and now, until the resurrection comes. In this special relationship to the person of Christ, God made Man, and trustee for our flesh as Son of Man, the soul in the beatific vision must also be considered a person, and the same person, as when on earth.
It becomes clear how centred on Christ Holloway’s perspective indeed was. Every aspect of existence finds a real and intrinsic fulfilment in Him. Nothing is incidental in the plan of God: everything is centred on Christ.
Science finds its meaning in Christ
This does not diminish or remove the freedom and methodology of the sciences, for example, because if we have rightly understood the structure of the universe unto Christ, we will see that matter in the universe does indeed have a real consistency to be explored, even if its completion will be achieved only on a higher level. So too with the physical sciences: their knowledge is real and should be pursued according to their own principles of action. Yet at the same time science does not live and breathe of itself but, as the development of science has shown, is very often informed and guided by a philosophy which gives it presuppositions and perspectives which by its very structure and methodology it cannot bestow on itself. All things look to another for control and direction. So even science is fulfilled by some wisdom beyond its own structure. That wisdom is Jesus Christ:
the full, total, and utterly consistent manifestation of that relationship of God to mankind, the fullness of the Godhead to whose maturity we are born to grow, and at once the ultimate meaning of the Unity-Law within which the universe is framed in life, and hope, and expectation.”
Such a vision emphasises the full relevance of the humanity of Christ precisely through His Divinity. It is because He is God - our personal environment - that Christ’s humanity becomes of crucial importance for us. Often the clear emphasis laid on Christ’s Divinity becomes a source of strange accusation that Christ’s humanity is being de-valued or relativised.
Given all that we have said, this cannot be the case: it must be a humanity as real as ours. Yet at the same time, “we do not want Our Lord to be ‘just like us’ as if He were merely a very human brother, a kind of superman - an idea found in many a catechetical and theological book since the 1960s. His human nature becomes our Bread of Life, our Saviour, precisely because He is also God: He is the measure of our salvation and more besides.”
Christ the measure of Man
Such a view leads to a number of important developments concerning Christ’s humanity. The first is that Christ is Himself the measure of what it is to be truly human. After all, the whole of creation was made in view of His great Coming: the cosmos is what Christ inherits from the Father, and as a result He is called the “Heir of all things” (cf. Hebrews 1:2) and what He inherits are “His own things” (John 1:11). He is the Son of Man and this means that He is “the King of the very stock of mankind: the man in whom and for whom all other men are found and become wanted.”
The first man, Adam, “in type and prophecy bears the figure of the Christ who is to come,” and this is so because “as Word Incarnate, not just as Word Eternal or Logos, Christ is the source as origin of our physical being.” So who we are, what we should be, is aligned towards Christ: He is the best description of what we are ultimately called to become - in Him adopted as God’s children.
So although in one sense we see how Christ really did become man for us, we also see how we are made for Him too. Indeed the description in Genesis chapter two of the creation of Adam and Eve is a prophecy that applies to Christ and us. From Adam is drawn the rib, the principle of life, by which Eve herself comes to be: she draws her existence from Him.
At the same time this only happens because Adam needs to have a companion since it is not good for him to be alone. Here the relationship between Christ and the human race/the Church is depicted as a type. Adam represents Christ: from Him we come and He is the source of our life. Eve represents the human race called to be the Church: it is her existence that makes possible the full mission of Christ and so He can and does only come on the precondition of her existence - it is not good for man to be alone and it was not planned that he should be.
The meaning of male and female
Indeed, the very division of the sexes, eloquently depicted in Genesis, and a fact of nature as studied by the sciences, was an event that occurred in view of the Christ to come. Only if the sexes are divided is it possible for the Divine person called the Son to become one of us. In normal sexual intercourse the person is conceived by the co-operation of man and woman together.
Without such a division, the conception of a child would be enacted by the will of one parent and at all times this would be a human person. Christ is not a human person: He is a Divine Person. Therefore when He becomes man, it will need a real co-operation from one parent - the woman - since there must be a vehicle of enfleshment to make the Incarnation possible while excluding the determining factor of the male by which the Incarnation would have been an event subject to human will, thus bringing about a human person. It must truly be an action of God and so the male is set aside.
This would only be possible with a division of the sexes; and so, since Christ was destined to come from all eternity, this division was directly willed in view of Him. This event, whenever it happened on the evolutionary tree, was no accident but a real ‘preparatio evangelica.’
Once more Jesus Christ is at the heart of the whole economy of God and the very unfolding of history and evolution. Furthermore, the sacrament of marriage itself should hold a high place in the life of the Church since it is the sacramental expression of the relationship between Christ and the Church with a view to the birth of further sons and daughters for the Kingdom of Christ.
Christ suffers in us as well as for us
The second set of developments concerning Christ’s humanity shows how close to us He really is. He is without sin, it is true, and this includes all the effects of original sin that reverberate throughout our spiritual and physical being- often called concupiscence. Yet because He is our measure, our standard, the choice that God makes to create us in and for Christ, means that already from conception we have an in-built openness towards Christ. It is this that ensures the salvation even of unbaptised babies since:
He is the exemplar and the origin of all flesh, and that which was wronged in Adam does not call to Him in vain.”
Each of us is created in our utter uniqueness and wanted as such: this election of every human person into being and into a promise of divine life means that our behaviour towards other human beings does not just affect them as individuals, but it affects the whole stock of mankind and even Christ Himself.
In his explanation of the Agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Fr Holloway follows a path of explanation once pursued by Cardinal Newman and Romano Guardini. The intense suffering and sweat of blood endured by Jesus was caused by Him seeing in an instant all the suffering and chaos caused by sin throughout history: the full horror of this vision was strengthened by His sight not just of the whole panorama of the history of sin, but also of the sins of each human being who ever was and would be.
All of this He saw and felt as a real experience since we are flesh of His flesh and bone of His bones. In response Christ grieved for His brethren and made apology to the Father: but the strength of such grief and apology came partially from His real closeness to us:
There would be for Christ in the experience of being conjoined in the vocation of His very being and Headship unto mankind and unto every man the individual, the grief and the pain of His rejected personal love, of the ruin of His splendid Kingship, upon which the foundations of the universe were based.
Furthermore, Christ not only suffered because of our sin and our own personal griefs, but He also suffered with us in His immediate presence to us from Gethsemane, so that the consolation in grace that we may experience, and even that we do not experience, finds its root in the love and consolation that Jesus breathes on us even in His suffering:
His consolation for your personal anguish could be part of that saving and redeeming providence of God: your chalice was part of His drinking.
He alone can redeem
The third group of developments concerning the humanity of Christ emphasises the necessity that Jesus Christ be the Redeemer of mankind. It is in His coming that the whole of mankind was destined from the beginning to participate with an unimaginable fullness in the Life and Being of God. On this basis Jesus is our Saviour, the one who comes to give us life to the full.
However, in this world, damaged by the disaster of sin, only the same Saviour can become our Redeemer: He alone is sufficient to represent us who is also the Head of all, the measure of all, the one through, in and for whom all are made and fulfilled. To Him it will belong to repair the damage of sin and this He does in His whole life, suffering, death and resurrection. He alone is what we should be and He knows the measure of Himself and of all of us: no-one else who is part of our stock and so able to work from within us and in common with us could possibly restore our damaged selves.
In a world damaged by sin, opposing His very presence, as well as His wisdom and love, this will require a monumental fidelity to the Father’s plan for the fullness of time and a healing of the wounds that affect us at an ontological level. The cross becomes a real necessity and a further demonstration of Christ’s unconquerable love. The criticism that the so-called Scotist vision of the reason for the Incarnation makes the cross into something incidental is fully answered in Holloway’s synthesis.
Instead of being something arbitrary, which it was even in the thought of Aquinas, it becomes central to the fulfilment of the plan of God in a sinful world: this is not just a moral redemption but “a work in the dynamic order of being itself” , a work in the ontological order, by which He must restore and heal all the damage that has afflicted our being. By this He became:
the living apology for us all, and in that case the yearning of His soul, and the power of His Divinity through His humanity was the active principle of intercession for us, and the principle of merit and power, which through the sacraments, in time and the order of created potentiality, is applied to us, as we say ‘through the merit of His passion and death ...
The Church alive in Jesus Christ
Holloway was clear that Christ is the centre of the life and work of the Church such that “the Church is a life in Jesus Christ, not a static imputation, she extends His personality and His salvific work through time.”
The Church in her teaching is in fact teaching with an authority guaranteed by Christ in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Church lives the full life of Christ in mind as well as in heart, and possesses the full and certain truth of Christ, and the authority to assert and to define it when a crisis arises:
If the Christ of Israel was in very fact the Word who is God in Person, then we must be able to show the continuity in this Church of the life, the action, the authority of very God, ever living to make intercession for us, ever operating with divine efficacy, ever teaching with divine authority: otherwise the Incarnation is an irrelevance of human history.
Head and Heart of the Church
In the Magisterium of the Church we find the living Mind of Jesus Christ teaching clearly and infallibly and evoking further developments in our doctrine of the Faith. In the sacraments Jesus Christ intervenes directly through physical and personal elements to give His divine life, a gift that was won for us at great cost and that is applied to us - given the very structure of our nature – in a sacramental manner.
Especially in the Eucharist, which is fully and completely the Body and Blood of Christ, is the finality of Christ’s human nature achieved: to be the Food of our salvation, our Bread of Life. This means that the living Christ is still with us in the Blessed sacrament and should be adored as such: the Tabernacle itself should signify the absolute centrality of Jesus for us personally and for the whole Church by being placed in a central position in the church building, and not relegated to a side position.
From this it seems abundantly clear that even at a personal level, it will be Jesus Christ living in His Church who will be at the heart of all we think, say or do - indeed all that we are. Our consciences will be formed and fulfilled by the truth that sets us free, taught by Christ in His Church.
Once we see this whole thrilling vision of Christ as the Master Key to every aspect of existence we will find all our lives find their true integration only in a relationship of love and communion with Christ. Due to sin this will indeed be painful, and nowhere is this seen so dramatically as at the level of personal chastity. Only in the giving of self to the truth and love that Christ gives can we find true peace, a fruit of communion with Christ.
This is a vocation not just for us individually but also for society as a whole:
Christ is the King of the whole of Crea¬tion, and whatever we might say about legitimate demarcations of spheres of activity on the part of the Church and State, originally they were intended to be partners in the unity of God’s great plan. The divisions are the fruit of sin: only in Christ can the ills of the world be healed - and this will not be until the end of time.
Theology: Contemplating the Mystery
There is so much more that could be, and perhaps should be, written about the place of Christ in the thought of Edward Holloway, but already it will be clear from our brief overview that a vision of Christ as the Head and Heart of all things was deeply woven into his whole theological system. His writings are profound and rich in detail and he makes a multitude of suggestions for possible future theological development.
His was a vision that embraced not just Christology, but many other theological disciplines. A vision, the sheer coherence and beauty of which will, we hope, have an impact not just in the revival of the study of theology, but also in the spiritual life.
For in theology the student must be more than a master of method or someone who articulates or speculates on new theories. As Holloway himself frequently said, theology is no arid discipline, but a meditation and contemplation of the fullness of the Mystery of God revealed most fully in Jesus Christ and living among us in the Church.