Henri de Lubac is just one of the coolest people who ever lived. Alright, so that is not the most perspicacious thing to say, but it is truth nonetheless. That grand French Jesuit who passed on into the glory of Christ’s grandeur in 1991, is one of the heroes of Catholic thought in the twentieth century. He helped bring about and shape the thought behind the Second Vatican Council. He was one of the foundational thinkers for the Resourcement movement and its mission to bring us back to something of the spirit of Ancient and Medieval theology. He was a giant of a man if only physically small.
All of that having been said, it is still true that de Lubac is not the easiest man to read. This is not so much his fault as it is the fault of our collectively impoverished educations. De Lubac, along with many of his confreres and contemporaries, was the quintessential European scholar. He was a man who’s wide breadth of knowledge, interest and skill made him, almost by necessity, a tad bit out of reach; out of reach to we who are used to our single language of communication, our struggles with remembering the dates of our own history, our preoccupation with discussions on football drafts and reality shows, our oh-too-keen opinions about Oprah, Lady Gaga, and the top ten of anything. Still, thanks to the work of translators, we can dive into de Lubac with abandon and absorb what we can.
Ignatius Press published in 1987 one of his works titled Paradoxes of Faith. The original came out in 1945 with an addition, it seems, in 1958. We’re blessed to have it, if for no other reason than that it is a collection of fragmented statements on various subjects. There are no long, Ciceronian sentences to deconstruct. It is all much more accessible to the common man. For this reason, I wish to reproduce some of these paradoxical fragments from the chapter titled “Socialization.”
I should note that the translator is an Ernest Beaumont. Do say a prayer for him, wherever he is. And I should also provide the last bit from the introduction where de Lubac writes, as if to assuage our fears about the meaning of the word “paradox”:
Remember, after all, that the Gospel is full of paradoxes, that man is himself a living paradox, and that according to the Fathers of the Church, the Incarnation is the supreme Paradox.
Alright, so here is just one of the many gems in this chapter which you should meditate on. Consider it, particularly in light of what passes today for The Social Teaching of the Church:
The social order is not only a flowering out into society of Christianity lived within souls. It is also a safeguard against that paganism which always persists inside of us. It is not the sign of the triumph of the new man, but it is rather one of the necessary aspects of the eternal war against the old man.
Enjoy and digest.