Immediately’s providing in our Timeless Essay collection affords our readers the chance to hitch Stratford Caldecott as he considers the divine nature of giving as defined by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. —W. Winston Elliott III, Writer
My matter is a theological appreciation of the notion of “gift”, and how this throws mild on what one thing is, which to our typical mind-set would appear to be a matter for philosophy or science moderately than theology. The sense of being as “gift” and ourselves as primarily “receivers” of this present of existence, which carries with it—by advantage of its very gratuity—a wierd type of obligation to reciprocate, is implied by Pope Benedict in Caritas in Veritate, in phrases that some have discovered obscure.
In part 34 of that encyclical he writes: “Charity in truth places man before the astonishing experience of gift. Gratuitousness is present in our lives in many different forms, which often go unrecognized because of a purely consumerist and utilitarian view of life. The human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension.”
He goes on to argue that the “logic of gift” which is an expression of communion with others should be allowed a spot even inside financial methods and business enterprises, since no human exercise exists in a sphere aside from God or separate from ethics. And in part 53 he provides: “Thinking of this kind requires a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation. This is a task that cannot be undertaken by the social sciences alone, insofar as the contribution of disciplines such as metaphysics and theology is needed if man’s transcendent dignity is to be properly understood.”
We will higher recognize what he’s saying right here by reference to a piece that Ratzinger wrote again on the finish of the 1960s, referred to as Introduction to Christianity. In it he described how Christianity moved decisively past the classical Arisotelian metaphysics by defining the individuals of the Trinity as “substantial relations”. For Aristotle, relation belonged among the many “accidents”, the incidentals or circumstances of being (and in God there are not any accidents), whereas substance was the actual factor itself. However for Christianity, the “dialogue” in God between the Individuals, the relatio, “stands beside the substance as an equally primordial form of being.” He calls this a “revolution in man’s view of the world: the sole dominion of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality.” On this discovery of considerable relations he sees the start of the idea of “person”, as distinct from the “individual”. It’s this that lies on the root of the theology of present, as a result of if God is love the relations have to be interpreted as modes of self-giving.
In all this, Pope Benedict is in step with John Paul II, who had spoken of a brand new hermeneutics of present or a dimension of present “at the very heart of the mystery of creation”. My very own try and make clear what may be meant right here begins not with Aristotle, nor with summary notions of being and substance – since I settle for the “revolution” in metaphysics which Ratzinger describes as a fait accompli – however with what we all know of affection, and with a phenomenological account of gift-giving. There’s a appreciable literature on which I may need drawn, through which the names Gabriel Marcel and Jean-Luc Marion are outstanding, however the strategy I’ve discovered most useful is that provided by Kenneth L. Schmitz in his Aquinas Lecture of 1982, The Present: Creation. A former scholar of Marcel, Schmitz like Marion can also be an editor of the journal Communio, of which Pope Benedict together with Hans Urs von Balthasar was a founder, and the theology of present has been a specific theme of this faculty or motion in theology. In truth it lies behind Pope Benedict’s statements in his encyclical.
In line with the First Letter of John, “God is love” (1 John four: eight). That’s to say, the divine fullness of existence, or the pure and everlasting “act” of present, esse subsistens, is an act of loving. It isn’t merely that God is worthy of affection, nor simply that he calls for love or evokes it, however that love is what he’s, in himself. The doctrine of the Trinity might be described because the unfolding of that central perception.
But when love means something in human expertise, it’s a in search of to develop into one, which may solely happen by the use of an entrusting of oneself to a different, and a receiving of the opposite by the self. Thus humanly talking, love means self-giving and receiving. We have to be extraordinarily cautious if we’re to make this the start of a theology of present. God is already one, and doesn’t search to turn out to be so. Neither is there one other with whom he might unite. All we will say right here is that, as a result of we all know that God is love, the giving and receiving of the self in human expertise should bear some analogy to the best way by which God is all the time already one in himself. I hope it will grow to be barely clearer as we proceed.
In reality, I feel we will even argue that the extra good an act of giving, the extra we will see it possesses a sort of “threefoldness”, a faint reflection of the Trinity. Not that we will deduce the Trinity from the human expertise of affection, however we discover that the doctrine of the Trinity and human expertise do mutually illuminate one another. The Trinity supplies us with a hermeneutical key, a cause for in search of to know the character of creaturely being when it comes to love and present, which proves to be slightly fruitful.
Schmitz tries to make clear what precisely we imply by a “gift” – distinguishing it from different phenomena that is perhaps stated to occupy the identical spectrum, resembling an trade of presents undertaken out of social obligation, a bribe meant to elicit a sure behaviour, or a business transaction. He highlights the dimension of gratuity and shock that makes one thing a pure present. As he says, what raises even a well-known ritual such because the giving of presents at Christmas or birthdays to the extent of present is the “personal attentiveness” that goes into it. That is what evokes our sense of shock and pleasure. I’d illustrate this by Galadriel’s handing out of presents to the members of the Fellowship once they depart Lothlorien in The Lord of the Rings. It’s a typical act of benevolence, anticipated of a number in such a quasi-feudal society, however the truth that the presents are rigorously chosen based on the exact wants and character of the recipients makes them “gifts” in a fuller sense of the time period – in reality, inside the story they appear to characterize one thing very like divine grace.
There convey us to a different facet to the present which is extraordinarily necessary. A present isn’t merely gratuitous, unforced, or sudden. Neither is it merely a factor whose possession has modified. There’s a deeper involvement of the giver himself, which can be evidenced by the eye with which it has been chosen or packaged. A present, we’d say, participates within the giver, or carries the giver with it. We acknowledge that reality in on a regular basis life by recognizing our want to provide thanks for what’s given, to ensure that the present to have been correctly acquired. If we merely grunt or sigh and shove the wretched factor in a nook, we aren’t treating it as a present, and the giver might understandably really feel like taking it again. It appears that evidently to simply accept a present correctly opens the self of the receiver to the self of the giver, making a oneness between them that didn’t essentially exist earlier than. It establishes a communion between the giver and the receiver. Thus a real present is one thing that may ever afterwards remind us of the giver’s affection. Each present, in a way, “has strings attached”, and to a big extent human society is held collectively by these strings.
The reciprocity concerned in pure giving, nevertheless, is of a special type from that in buying or bartering, the place we merely trade issues which might be perceived as being of roughly equal worth or desirability. In a pure present, we really feel an obligation, and but it’s paradoxically an obligation that doesn’t “oblige” within the strict sense, as a result of if it did we might not be free. Many so-called presents, it needs to be stated, are usually not pure presents on this sense, however makes an attempt to put one other in a single’s debt and thus deliver concerning the behaviour desired by the giver. (Little question we will all consider examples of this in our personal lives.) In a pure present, as I discussed, there’s first an obligation to return thanks – not a cost for the present however its completion. A present just isn’t absolutely given till it’s accepted, and it can’t be accepted with out the act of thanking, which in a way “makes room for” the present. However there’s additionally an obligation to provide one thing greater than thanks in return, and this reality deserves some shut consideration.
To the diploma a present was freely given, the duty is to provide one thing freely in return; a present, in different phrases, of the identical pure sort. That is the place we’d find the standard of superabundance, or artistic innovation, related to giving, which Michael Black refers to as “abduction”. The peculiar sort of obligation concerned right here resembles what Aquinas phrases “fittingness” (convenientia) somewhat than necessity. It’s a mild obligation, as a result of it doesn’t compel – and certainly we frequently don’t reciprocate in any respect, with out feeling any ill-effects or producing any resentment. Typically, direct reciprocation is both unimaginable or inappropriate. In such instances, we might merely really feel obliged to behave in a means that proves us “worthy” of the present, or that passes it on to others – as, for instance a toddler might not be capable of repay its personal mother and father for all the things it has acquired from them, besides by passing on the identical like to its personal youngsters sooner or later. Actually Schmitz concludes that human life is “impossible without the web of non-reciprocal, unique but mostly anonymous giving and receiving” that we frequently take as a right and that “communicates the indispensable generosity of life itself.”
Giving in God
So, in any case this, what’s a present? To “give” means deliberately to separate one thing from myself as a way to make it another person’s. I separate it from what belongs to me, I select it with the recipient in thoughts, I maybe wrap it up properly, and I hand it over. It’s not mine, as quickly as the opposite has accepted it. On the similar time, as I’ve simply defined, there’s one other sense by which the present isn’t “separate” from me in any respect, even after it has been handed over. It carries me with it, because of the spirit of affection during which it was provided and accepted. Each are true. I need to interiorly detach myself from the present with a view to give it – I need to give it with out remorse, I need to not cling to it – and at one and the identical time I need to put myself into the present.
We will apply this notion of present first to God, and then to created being. Within the case of God, who’s self-giving love, we might describe Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as respectively the Giver, Receiver,  and the Present (or the Given). However as a result of that is self-giving love, and as a result of God is the one divine Essence, we all know that what’s given and acquired in every Individual is that this very Essence. Giving and receiving is just one other means of describing the inside relationships that represent the Individuals, every distinct from one another although not from the Essence – the Son being “from” the Father (era), the Spirit “from” the Father and Son as from a single precept (spiration).
So it’s the Father not the Essence who provides, however the Father is the Essence, and what’s given is also the (similar) Essence. The Father is the supply of the Son and the Spirit, however he additionally receives, because the love he provides is reciprocated, and if it weren’t completely reciprocated it might not have been completely given. The Son receives the Father’s love and, as the right picture of the Father, freely provides all that he has acquired, specifically the one and undivided divine Essence, in like to the one from whom he receives it. In doing so he exhibits himself to be simply as a lot the divine Essence because the Father is. Lastly the Holy Spirit can also be the Essence, one and the identical Essence eternally already given and acquired. As a present for and from the Son, and as present from and for the Father, the Spirit is known as “Person-Gift” by Blessed John Paul II: 
“It can be said that in the Holy Spirit the intimate life of the Triune God becomes totally gift, an exchange of mutual love between the divine Persons and that through the Holy Spirit God exists in the mode of gift. It is the Holy Spirit who is the personal expression of this selfgiving, of this being-love. He is Person-Love. He is Person-Gift. Here we have an inexhaustible treasure of the reality and an inexpressible deepening of the concept of person in God, which only divine Revelation makes known to us.” 
In fact, the “Gift” is definitely not the Holy Spirit however the divine Essence, the substance of God. The Essence itself is the substance of the Present, one may say. However, we’re right here speaking of the Individuals in relation to one another slightly than of the Essence, and on this context the Spirit is distinguished as Present, relatively than as Giver or Receiver. Equally, God or the Essence of God might be referred to as “love”, and but the Holy Spirit could also be recognized as “love” in a specific method. As John Paul says instantly earlier than the quoted passage, “God ‘is love’, the essential love shared by the three divine Persons,” however nonetheless “personal love is the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the Father and the Son,” or “uncreated Love-Gift”. And naturally we all know how typically in Holy Scripture we hear of the Spirit being “given”.
Cardinal Ratzinger sums all this up in an article for Communio. He writes: “Spirit is the unity which God gives himself. In this unity, he himself gives himself. In this unity, the Father and the Son give themselves back to one another.” Thus the subsistent relations in God are the supply and archetype of affection, which is an everlasting act of self-giving and receiving. The Father and Son don’t “cling” to their very own nature however pour it out in an effort to beget and to be begotten. However on the similar time, as I defined, there isn’t any actual separation as a result of the Giver stays within the Present, which is exactly the present of self. It’s as Ratzinger says in Introduction to Christianity: the Father “is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth” – and so in a way we’d do even higher to say that the Father is just not a lot the “Giver” because the act of giving, simply because the Son isn’t a lot the “Receiver” because the act of receiving, and the Spirit is just not the “Gift” because the act of being given.
In fact, all of this has implications for our understanding of created nature – and right here we transfer from theology to ontology. On the idea of a theology of relations, of affection, and of present, we will assemble a relational ontology, during which the being of issues is a thriller rooted within the self-giving love of the Trinity. Creation is an act of the Trinity, and existence is a participation within the Trinity – a participation within the Trinitarian act of giving, receiving, and being given. Every creature referred to as into existence by God receives its personal life as a present. That sounds as if the entity is sitting round ready to obtain its act of being, however this isn’t the case. Somewhat as one may say of somebody that he “hit the ground running”, one can say that the entity got here into existence receiving. It’s all a part of the best way during which the creature bears a faint resemblance to God. The Son doesn’t need to exist previous to his era from the Father with a view to “be there” in readiness to obtain the Father’s self-gift. Quite, his being is itself a receiving, as we’ve seen.
Right here is the deepest foundation for the spiritual sense, which involves its good expression within the ritual of the Mass, in loving gratitude to God (eucharistia). The world isn’t merely an meeting of elements having exterior relations to one another, like a watch, or a steam engine. There’s an inside relation, a “constitutive” relation, of every and each factor to God. The level is explored by David L. Schindler in a current Communio essay, “The Given as Gift”. Thus Schindler writes:
What the creature most principally is, is a being-given. This being-given that’s constitutive of the creature implies a receiving on the a part of the creature that’s simply up to now additionally constitutive. What’s it that’s being-given to, and being-received by, the creature? The reply is, a participation within the self-diffusive generosity of God nearly as good. As Aquinas says, bonum est diffusivum sui: it’s the nature of the great to diffuse or give itself. The primary fact concerning the creature, subsequently, is its goodness.
It receives “a share in the giving characteristic of God’s creative act”. This makes it not solely good, however true and lovely, as a result of all of the transcendentals are rooted on this givingness (because the mutually immanent qualities of being as such). The incontrovertible fact that creatures are constituted in relation to God signifies that they’re open interiorly in the direction of an infinite thriller – in order that the invention of being (which is being-given) in a acutely aware creature akin to ourselves takes the type of marvel.
I don’t assume we mirror sufficient on the truth that each created factor begins and ends in God – that point is enclosed by eternity. That actual fact is sufficient to resolve the previous query of the connection of nature and grace, nature and the supernatural. It signifies that all the things has a telos or objective, from the second of its first creation. This telos, as Adrian Walker argues, is the reason for causes, the unity of the 4 causes which fold again into it after rendering the cosmos intelligible. It’s the radiant “wholeness” which accompanies the creature like a star, reflecting inside the specific limits of creaturehood “the inexhaustibility of the divine goodness as always more”.
The metaphysics and theology of present thus restores a dimension to nature lengthy since stripped away by Nominalism and its successors. It re-establishes the precedence of relationship over object, of individual over factor, and subsequently a way of pure interiority, of true metaphysical depth, and the marvel that’s the root of philosophy. 
Economics and Present
I need to convey us again to earth with the query of what all this does to economics, as a means of describing the exchanges of property and modifications of worth that play such an essential position within the social world. Does it actually make any distinction?
Right here let me wheel out one other of the Communio huge weapons, specifically Cardinal Angelo Scola, who in a current speak in Venice refers us as soon as once more to the theological dimension of Caritas in Veritate. One of many “most original and yet least understood aspects” of the encyclical, Scola says, is that “the integral development of man must be based on an adequate anthropology in which person and society are seen from their origin, from that which precedes pure doing. Beginning with birth, there is no reality, activity, action, or human initiative whose roots are not sunk deep into an origin that precedes it, or into the ‘astonishing experience of gift’ (Caritas in Veritate 34), whose logic ‘as an expression of fraternity’ is not merely invoked to correct a posteriori the potential distortions produced by economics, but is ‘also demanded by economic logic’ (Caritas in Veritate 36).”
The theology and ontology of present, utilized to economics, overturns utterly the mannequin of homo economicus that we inherit from the Enlightenment, which is predicated on man understood as a person slightly than as a “person” within the relational sense. That is the radicalism of the encyclical. That mannequin turns man right into a solitary and conflictual actor out there, an remoted and docile topic of the state, pursuing his personal survival, pleasure, and energy. The various provided by Pope Benedict acknowledges man as “originally in-relation”, an “I-in-relation”, whose wants and subsequently self-interest contain social items based on present and particularly self-gift – belief, generosity, altruism, friendship, cooperation, and charity. Echoing Aristotle within the Politics, Cardinal Scola provides,
lets say that there isn’t any human private good that isn’t an excellent acquired as a present from others and in flip given responsibly. It’s on this compelling idea of Koinonìa that Aristotle founds the town, whose purpose just isn’t mere survival (as Hobbes claims, thereby exactly proscribing the horizon of cause), however the good life: and it’s no accident that the great life for Aristotle is at one and the identical time that of the person and that of all, in any other case there’s merely no such factor.
The Christian theology of present, actually, helps us by way of contemplation of the Trinity and its relation to the world to rediscover a relational perspective that’s each historic and common. Man is a relational creature, whose being is acquired somewhat than self-made, and whose achievement comes via loving his neighbour as himself. This doesn’t imply that we aren’t additionally egocentric and damaged and corrupt, or that we might not lose sight of this achievement in a myriad methods, and search it elsewhere.
In a now basic work referred to as The Present: How the Artistic Spirit Transforms the World, the poet Lewis Hyde attracts consideration to, amongst different issues, the historical past of present trade and the notion of usury. Lending is a half-way home between promoting and giving, as a result of the person who lends one thing expects to get it again. Charging curiosity on a mortgage produces yet one more type of indebtedness, one based mostly much less on religion than on worry. Hyde traces the best way during which the prohibition on usury was relaxed in a collection of levels because the notion of brotherhood was eroded. Lending at curiosity was not one thing you can do in a group the place relationships have been constituted primarily by present – so to discover a money-lender you needed to go outdoors the group. However with the rise of individualism and the decline of a standard religion, the circle of the group shrank to at least one’s circle of relatives, and even the boundaries of 1’s personal pores and skin. In these circumstances, lending at the very least at fairness fee turned virtually common – and the temptation to demand a lot greater charges of curiosity virtually irresistible. The drawback is that “market relationships and capital let out at interest do not bear the increase-of-the-whole that gift exchange will bear. Equitable trade is not an agent of transformation, not of spiritual and social cohesion. With the vector of increase reversed, interest is self-interest: it does not join man to man except in the paper connections of contract.” The additional drawback is one which we have now seen within the acceleration of mutual indebtedness and the escalation of unrepayable loans.
It’s simpler to diagnose these issues than to resolve them, however what the Pope is suggesting in Caritatis in Veritate is that financial buildings – regardless of how gigantic and culturally dominant they seem like – are artifacts, the merchandise of a sure mind-set and imagining. They are often modified by individuals who begin to assume and think about in another way. The extra we take into consideration the centrality of present in our personal lives and within the creation of human society, the extra we understand that the assumptions of recent financial thought have to be re-examined from the bottom up.
We should always not underestimate the intransigence of establishments that presently dominate the world. However it might be that a second resembling the current – of financial decline and uncertainty, and even the collapse of sure ideological methods – is exactly a time when new financial paradigms emerge and start to flourish. The Pope in Caritas in Veritate was most involved not solely to talk at a theoretical degree about things like “love” and “gift” (a language that doesn’t simply discover its means into the boardroom, as a number of individuals have noticed), but in addition to direct consideration to some very particular examples of “alternative economic practice”, together with shopper cooperatives, microfinance, and the Financial system of Communion (which I’ve mentioned additional in my weblog, “The Economy Project”). He writes that we’d like a brand new means of understanding enterprise enterprise. “Old models are disappearing, but promising new ones are taking shape on the horizon.” It has been the suggestion of this paper that this “new way” – in no matter language it involves be expressed – may have its roots within the theology and metaphysics of present. However, it should solely achieve traction within the so-called “real world” if the enterprise group begins to note and to see profitable enterprises which embody these concepts. Such enterprises, such new kinds of enterprise, do exist, and the Pope has begun to attract consideration to them. We have to do the identical.
Additional studying: Second Spring and The Financial system Challenge (see particularly the commentary on Caritas in Veritate within the latter).
This essay in our collection of “Timeless Essays” was first revealed right here in April 2013 with the gracious permission of Second Spring: A Journal of Religion and Tradition.
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1. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004).
2. Ibid., 183.
three. Ibid., 184.
four. Basic Viewers 2 January 1980. See Man and Lady He Created Them (ed Michael Waldstein, 2006), 179.
5. Marion appears to need a “God without being”, a God of pure grace, however it appears to me that a present should have content material, and it will make extra sense to comply with Aquinas in distinguishing the self-subsistent Being of God from the dependent Being of creation (esse non subsistens). Maybe, as Joseph S. O’Leary suggests in Ian Leask and Eoin Cassidy, Givenness and God: Questions of Jean-Luc Marion (Fordham, 2005), Marion’s strategy leads extra within the course of Buddhism.
6. Kenneth L. Schmitz, The Present: Creation (Marquette College Press, 1982), 56.
7. It ought to turn into clear that the Son is just not merely “Receiver” with out additionally being a “Giver”. It is perhaps extra correct, although it’s extra cumbersome, to say that the Father is “Giver-Receiver” and the Son is “Receiver-Giver”.
eight. To broaden this barely: the Son and Spirit proceed from the Father, the one by era and the opposite by spiration. Every is nothing aside from the divine essence, none of them is aside from God, and every can solely be distinguished by his relations to the others. They don’t seem to be three people, as a result of that may suggest the potential of lining them as much as rely, positing an exterior relation to them that can’t exist. The particulars of this account are in Augustine and Aquinas and are presupposed by Eckhart.
9. I’d add that the required separation of present from giver so as to be given corresponds within the logic of the Trinity to the Spirit’s “otherness” as Individual from the Father and the Son – that’s, to his being “another Person”. The “superabundance” of true present is rooted within the ever-greater infinity of God’s Essence and the otherness inside the Essence of the three Individuals. Thus Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr dare to speak of gratitude and even “surprise” in God – God surprises himself.
10. Dominum et Vivificantem, 1986, 10.
11. Joseph Ratzinger, “The Holy Spirit as Communio: Concerning the Relationship of Pneumatology and Spirituality in Augustine”, Communio, Summer time 1998, 327. See additionally www.communio-icr.com/articles/PDF/ratzinger25-2.pdf.
12. It’s value noting that this theology is controversial in Thomist circles, not least due to the notion that there’s “receptivity” in God. However as David L. Schindler and Norris Clark have proven, receptivity right here is just not an imperfection, and to not be confused with passivity or potentiality. It’s in reality a type of exercise. See, e.g., W. Norris Clarke SJ, “Reply to Steven Long”, The Thomist 61 (1997), 617-24, the place he cites the scriptural sources: “All that I have I have received from my Father” (or, “I have from my Father”); “All that the Father has he has given me.”
13. Op. cit., 184.
14. David L. Schindler, “The Given as Gift: Creation and Disciplinary Abstraction in Science”, Communio 38 (Spring 2011), 52-102. The citation that follows is from p. 82. See additionally the identical writer’s “The Embodied Person as Gift and the Cultural task in America: Status Quaestionis”, Communio 35 (Fall 2008), 397-431.
15. Adrian Walker, “Original Wholeness: Reflections on the Unity of the Living Being” (unpublished paper, 2011).
16. Heidegger’s influential critique of medieval “onto-theology” is mostly a critique of the separation of nature and grace, nature and the supernatural, that occurred in late Scholasticism in response to nominalism and voluntarism and laid the foundations for the disenchanted, graceless cosmos of modernity. The strategy I’m making an attempt to explain reintegrates nature and the supernatural by permitting theology to light up and reveal the true nature of the “God of the philosophers”, avoiding the misinterpretations of Plato and Aquinas which have turn into all too widespread within the literature of postmodernism.
17. “Good Reasons for a Broader Reason”, given to the ASSET Summer time Faculty, Venice, September 2011.
18. Lewis Hyde, The Present: How the Artistic Spirit Transforms the World (Random Home, 1979), 139.
19. If modernity in its destructive facet is related to a bent to favour an lively and aggressive angle over a receptive and contemplative one, then the theology of present has implications in all of the areas the place we understand the fruits of that tendency, and not simply in economics. This consists of setting and conservation, sexuality and bioethics. It even helps us reply to the challenges of secularism and inter-religious dialogue, and the modern disaster in schooling. It does all this by restoring our imaginative and prescient of nature (together with our personal nature) as a present to be appreciated, cultivated, and revered. The theology of present signifies openness to being, to the entire of actuality. This openness lies on the coronary heart of spiritual expertise. Variously interpreted, it’s expressed within the many cultural traditions we try and transmit to future generations. If we’re certainly creatures of present, who discover ourselves solely by striving to like, then our political and financial buildings, our ethics and philosophy, have a single objective: solidarity via communion, the widespread good of humanity in concord with nature.
20. Caritas in Veritate, part 40.
Editor’s word: the featured picture is “The Adoration of the Three Kings” (1525-30) by Girolamo da Santacroce, courtesy of Wikipedia.