Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Even more about dialogue: Jacques Maritain part 2

Continued from yesterday's post.

Jacques Maritain summarises what he sees as the fundamental renewal in the Christian attitude towards non-Christians that should follow Vatican II in the following way:

... the absolute primacy of agape, of brotherly love fully liberated in the soul; in sucha way that the great renewal of attitude of Christians towards non-Christians with which we are concerned here may be described as a kind of epiphany of evangelical love.

But what takes place in the depth of the soul also involves a certain external behaviour and is translated into action, and this leads Jacques Maritain to identify three "zones of behaviour" that follow.

1. In the first zone, the Christian bears witness to his love before men by his life. The Christian can, responding to a call that has been newly perceived in the Gospel, go and hide himself in the midst of the non-Christians that he loves. He has no other purpose than to love them and understand them with love, living among them to share their poverty and suffering. There need not be the least intention to convert them, not even by any sort of "pre-apostolate". One can think here of Madeleine Delbrel's choice to live with her companions in a Communist suburb of Paris. In the language of phases of evangelisation, this might now be called "presence in charity"; it is a kind of Christian presence in which to evangelise explicitly might bring a justifiable charge of "proselytism".

2. In the second zone, the Christian bears witness to his love by action. Jacques Maritain is here thinking of brotherly charity in the areas of, say, relief of poverty, aid to the sick, social and economic aid to underdeveloped countries. He extends this work to include that of intellectuals, who attempt to understand and appreciate the culture and religions typical of non-Christian lands; and argues that, in a reciprocal way, non-Christian scholars could also study Christian topics. It is not that Chrstians would agree with the interpretations offered by non-Christian scholars, but that it would provide a chance for them to widen their horizons. This might be the zone of behaviour that is most readily recognised by the term "dialogue", though I do not think dialogue should be a concept limited to this zone only.

3. The third zone of behaviour is that of the apostolate and of missionary activity. This is "the highest conceivable work of charity", and accords with the command of the Lord to teach all nations. Jacques Maritain points out that, though this is the highest in the order of activity, it does not displace the centrality of agape, of self-giving love which is at the heart of all three zones of behaviour.

It is interesting to see this third zone included. It removes the temptation to replace missionary activity with presence or activity in charity. They each have their respective places in the life of the Christian, but the latter does not replace the former without distorting the content of Christian faith and mission.


Anonymous said...

zero degrees says do you realize it's 33 degrees in Toronto?II can't even concentrate on Jacques Maritain!!

Joe said...

I think I will leave the jacket behind, and just take the smart shirt and tie ... And some swimming gear?

We can do an online check-in, too, but probably can't do it until Friday morning because of the timing of our connecting flight. Would save hassle at Heathrow.

Anonymous said...

Zero says she has just checked the 10 day forecast -there is alot of "sprinkles" forecast and Sat is 75 deg. but apart from that 65s which makes me feel a lot better so put in the jacket. I would have put the swim gear in at 33.
Would i be capable of on line booking?