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Dogma and Contemplation | Charles Cardinal Journet | From
What Is Dogma? | Ignatius Insight
Dogma and Mystery
The dogmas—the Trinitarian dogma, the dogma of the utterly free and
gratuitous creation of the universe, the dogmas of the Incarnation, of the
redemptive sacrifice, of transubstantiation, the sacramental dogmas, the Marian
dogma—are the great declarations which the Church has made known against
rationalization of the wonderful revelations of Holy Scripture. Far from
weakening the mystery, they mark its outlines in order that the spirit may enter
further into its darkness and lose itself in its depths.
The Church is divinely assisted by the prophetic light of infallibility in
order to present them to us. But it is not on its created authority that we
believe—the presentation which the Church offers conditions
our assent to their truth, it does not provide the basis for the assent; it is on the uncreated and direct
authority of God, revealing himself to us and revealing to us his work, that we
believe. Faith, theological faith, is the inward, personal light by which God
comes to the understanding and will of each man, so as, if no obstacle is met
with, to raise them to himself. "He who believes in the Son of God has the
testimony in himself, habet testimonium Dei in se" (1 Jn 5:10); "Who is it that overcomes
the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (5:5).
The Knowledge of Simple Faith
At the first moment when it is received in the soul, the light of Christianity
bestows both the prophetic gifts of divine revelation and also the power to
recognize them, that is, the sanctifying light of theological faith that causes
us to assent to their mysterious depths and that is thus seen to be the root of
the whole work of justification.  The believer is encompassed by ideas,
revealed statements, in which is expressed his Creed, what he believes about God
and God's work, creation, redemption, salvation, the last ends. His faith makes
use of these statements in an intuitive, not a discursive, way. It is concerned
to make the whole human person assent to the truth of what they contain.
Let us pass on to the second moment. Let us suppose that the divine light in
the believer attains its supreme intensity. Let us suppose that theological
faith, fostered by love, and not content to adapt the soul to the truth of
revealed statements, begins to show that there is, in the truth of these revealed
statements, still more truth than they can express. "The light
of faith", says St. Thomas, "makes us see the mysteries which are
believed";  it encounters them, it touches them in some sense in the
darkness; it is on the path which divine faith opens out by means of revealed
notions that God's love draws the understanding of faith to go beyond these
notions. Then it rises upon the wings of love and of the gifts of the Holy
Ghost toward those things eye has not seen nor ear heard (1 Cor 2:9); it
plunges into a silent contemplation in which all concepts are hushed; it is
swallowed up in the mystery of "the depth of the riches and wisdom and
knowledge of God" (Rom 11:33). Here, in this supreme act, is the realm of
But—and this is the point which must be emphasized at the end of these
few pages—conceptual knowledge of revealed truths is not in any way laid
aside, or in any way got rid of, it is
merely for the moment covered over, transcended. All the dogmas thus subsist in the faith of the
contemplative, but like the stars in the midday sunlight. In fact they are
never so necessarily, so effectively present. The passing light which throws
them into the shade strengthens them to a wonderful degree. When it withdraws, they
reappear like stars in the evening sky, but invested with, and illuminated by,
a little of its brightness.
When St. John of the Cross was engulfed in the "midday" of God, which
is "midnight" for faith, how was it possible for him to think
distinctly and successively of each of the mysteries of the childhood or of the
Passion of the Savior? It was a silent contemplation which he was sent to teach
the world. But as soon as the dazzling light of unity allowed him some respite,
he found again distinctly each of these Christian mysteries and was, as it
were, inebriated with them. At Baeza he carried in his arms the Child from the
cradle, at Avila he sketched out his vision of the Crucified, he was on fire
with love as he touched the Blessed Sacrament.  A mystical contemplation that,
at the moment when it began and ceased, was not ready to allow each of the
Gospel mysteries to appear, contained in it like petals in the rose, would not
be Christian contemplation. 
 Council of Trent, Session 6, chap. 8; Denz. 801.
 IIa-IIae, Q. I, art. 4, ad 3.
 Bruno de Jésus-Marie, Saint Jean de la Croix (Paris: Desclée De Brouwer, 1961), pp. 163, 259, 309; English trans. St
John of the Cross (London, 1936), pp.
 Cf. my Introduction à la Théologie, pp. 312-13.
What Is Dogma?
by Cardinal Charles Journet
What Is Dogma? (Electronic Book Download)
Dogma is one of those words. Many people see dogma as a bad thing-as the unreasonable, unthinking adherence to a belief, even in the face of contrary evidence. But when the Catholic
Church presents some of her teachings as dogmas, she does not mean that these tenets are irrational or to be thoughtlessly embraced. Dogma is the bedrock of truth, an inexhaustible
feast for the mind, not an impediment to thinking. Why? Because dogmas rest on the Word of God, Truth Himself, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, and who wants his Word to be known.
The great theologian Charles Journet explores the meaning of dogma in his classic work What is Dogma? In what sense are dogmas an object of faith? How do reason and faith relate to
dogmas? How are dogmas both essentially unchangeable and yet open to development? Are dogmas accessible only in learned theological language or are there common-sense ways of understanding
them? Journet addresses these and other important questions. He also discusses examples of dogmatic development: the dogmas of the Trinity, of Christology, and of Mariology. And he explores
the relationship of dogma and mystical contemplation. In short, Journet shows why "dogma" is a subject of which Catholics need not be afraid.
Charles Cardinal Journet (1891-1975) was a well-known and highly respected 20th Century theologian. He greatly contributed to theology before and after the Second Vatican Council, for
which he was a theological consultant. Pope Paul VI named him a cardinal in 1965. Among his most famous works is his multi-volume The Church of the Word Incarnate, a single-volume,
updated edition which is available in his Theology of the Church.
Related Ignatius Insight Articles:
The Decline of Dogma and the Decline of Church Membership | Ronald Knox
A Summary of Christian Doctrine | Paul Claudel
Understanding The Hierarchy of Truths | Douglas Bushman, S.T.L.
What Is the Magisterium? | Thomas Storck
Authority and Dissent in the Catholic Church | Dr. William E. May
Introduction to The Gift of Infallibility | Rev. James T. O'Connor
Contemplation | Dietrich von Hildebrand
Contemplation and the Liturgy | Hans Urs von Balthasar
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