Video – Dr. Goff – Marian Metaphysics of Fr. Peter Fehlner – CONF 305

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Ave Maria!

At the Symposium titled "Sursum Actio" at Notre Dame Univ. from Jun 8-9, 2015, in honor of the life work of Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I.,  Dr. J. Isaac Goff, of Mount Angel Seminary, gives the fourth conference which he titles, "Themes and Soundings in the Marian Metaphysics of Peter Damian Fehlner". It is a summary of the first volume of a proposed ten volume collection of  all of Fr. Peter writings. This first volume is on Fr. Peter's Marian Metaphysics and represents his core Marian principles from which the rest of his works flow. Dr. Goff, thus, gives a summary of fifty years of Fr. Peter's prayerful, scholarly work. As such it is quite dense and even technical but also quite beautiful and well worth the view. There is a glossary below as an aid.

This talk has three parts

  • Part One - Metaphysics and divine charity

    • How Christ is our metaphysics and its mode is Marian

    • How this is related to Bonaventure's teaching on exemplarism and how this points to the meaning of creation and how we are able to know God and return to him.

    • That this is all based on the love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit which is carried over as an example, a blue-print, into God's act of creation with the primary intention of uniting himself in love to human nature through the Incarnation which occurred in Mary

    • How this is key even for natural knowledge since it is the reason for the existence of nature, that is, creation.

    • and key to understanding how Mary can participate in the redemption even if she is herself redeemed or pre-redeemed.

    • And thus how we can participate.

    • How humans as composite of body and spirit reflect this eternal desire of God to unite himself with His creatures, highlighting the fittingness of the Incarnation and Immaculate Conception.

    • The dual procession of Son and Holy Spirit and how this relates the two divine attributes of God's personal nature, knowledge and love, and how this is reflected in creation.

    • That this personal view reconciles knowledge and love, reason and spontaneity.

    • True metaphysics must be rooted in this consideration of the love between divine persons over-flowing into the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception. Thus the personal dimension is key.

    • How Mary Immaculate, the perfect creature, perfectly highlights the purpose for creation and God's redemptive and sanctifying action through Christ and His Church.

    • This creaturely perfection and holiness of Mary leads to the Incarnation and to the redemption and sanctification of humanity, making her the pattern of Biblical revelation and so she has a central place in Christian theology and natural metaphysics.

  • Part Two - The image of God for the sake of the likeness of God and Mary as perfect likeness of God.

    • The many topics this Marian metaphysics relate to.

    • How related theology is to metaphysics and philosophy even if they are distinct.

    • In Mary we can see how the natural image of God within us can be brought to supernatural likeness, there is an infinite potential within our finiteness.

    • This is what makes us different from mere beasts.

    • Since Jesus is a divine person, Mary gives us the most concrete, creaturely example of human perfection.

  • Part Three - Analogy of emphasis and manifestation in the soul as image and similitude of God.

    • Seeming opposites like nature-supernature, intellect-will, reason-faith are reconciled as complimentary pairs by considering Mary's perfect human nature and person, and so seeing the reason why God created the universe as a free result of the love between the three Divine Persons.

    • The human intellect is always ordered toward voluntary acts and is disposed to similitude, to becoming holy.

    • Emphasis should be on the fact that our intellect and will have an infinite mode of operation, the goal is to actualize this mode to ever higher degrees. This is to become like God, to become holy.

    • The fact that we are the image of God is for the sake of becoming the likeness of God.

    • Our natural faith can lead to knowledge of the infinite and this is on the basis of the light of the univocal concept of being which transcends all categories.

    • Knowledge involves humble adoration of God the source of all goodness and truth.

    • But natural knowledge of the infinite is incomplete, indirect.

    • Difference between knowledge versus faith or charity is an emphasis of intellect or will respectively, without leaving the other out.

    • Knowledge can and needs to be perfected by growing in supernatural charity which transforms it into faith.

    • Sin and intellectual error are rooted in short-circuiting intellectual functions by replacing them with mere willfulness, not tracing the light of created being to its divine source.

    • Achieving holiness is never forced, rather God freely wills it and we need to freely respond by becoming like Christ through Mary and so return all to the Father.

    • Today we need to accept, as was once commonly done, the rationality and fittingness of the idea that Mary is our metaphysics by accepting its premise, the absolute primacy of Christ.

  • The talk is followed by a commentary by Fr. Peter

    • Natural metaphysics, without the grace of faith, will have a personal dimension.

    • Presence of the metaphysical dimension of our intellects is the reason why we cannot reduce knowledge to scientific knowledge.

    • Bonaventure in the Collationes in Hexaemeron, covered extensively in study by Pope Benedict XVI.

    • Personal dimension similar to teachings of Bl. John Newman.

    • We get beyond the physical precisely because we are able to get to the personal.

    • Bonaventure’s divine illumination means that Christ is the light of the world even before the Incarnation.

    • This makes metaphysics and the proof of God’s existence possible.

    • These proofs only clarify what we already know, making clear what is divine and infinite vs. what is finite and created.

    • And then makes clear how to grow closer to God, elevate the natural to the supernatural order.

    • All of this is found in Bonaventure and polished up here or there by Scotus.

This symposium, Sursum Actio ("Lift up your Actions" or more loosely "Lift up your Hearts"), was organized in honor of the life work of Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner after he won the Cardinal John J. Wright Marialogical Award of 2015 from the Mariological Society of America for his outstanding contributions to Mariology.

For more a complete list of all fourteen talks from this symposium:


Metaphysics - The study of being as being. It goes beyond the study of just physical beings (thus the name, meta means beyond) and considers such things as mental beings like thoughts, or spiritual beings like the angels and God, but also being in its essence before considering whether it is physical, spiritual or infinite.

Exemplarism - That God is the ultimate example or pattern. From this pattern we are made in His image and we are to use this pattern as the guiding light to bring us to greater holiness, become more like Him. It is also a belief that the light of this pattern is the essential basis to being able to reach certainty regarding human knowledge in general. Closely akin to divine illumination.

Exemplatum - finite creatures that are the product of God's exemplarism.

fontalis plentitudis bonitatis - of the fount of the plenitude of goodness.

Epistemic critical question - The philosophical inquiry of how to explain the ability to reach certainty in our knowledge on a natural level and if this is even possible.

Univocal concept of being - the most basic concept of being, that is so basic that it can be applied to God and creatures in the same sense, and thus provides the means for making analogies between creatures and God.

Hypostatically united - united into one person, that is: two natures of Christ, one human and one divine, united as one divine person.

Intrinsic modes - intrinsic properties of a thing, variation of which do not put the thing into a different category of species. One example of this is finite vs. infinite, see also Prima Diversa

Prima diversa - The first division of being between infinite being, that is God, and finite beings, that is creatures.

Imago Dei - Image of God, as in, we are created as images of God by nature with a certain likeness to God.

Similitudo Dei - Similitude to God, what we strive for in becoming holy, with God's grace building on our nature so that we become even more similar to Him than we are naturally as mere images of God.

Divine Illumination - Championed by St. Bonaventure and others, it is the doctrine that we receive divine assistance in ordinary human learning but also in getting to know God and becoming holy.

Mediatore imago Dei - Mediators of the Image of God, that humans are a composite of body and spirit are mediators of the spiritual world to the physical and so patterned after Christ who does this in a more essential way.

Perichoretic - Having to do with the mutual indwelling of the three distinct persons of the Trinity and the love and unity of which this consists. Also called Circumincession.

Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit - potuit  (God can do it), decuit (it is fitting), ergo fecit (therefore He did it.) This is a term coined by St. Eadmer or St. Anselm, but used by Bl. John Duns Scotus to give a theological argument in favor of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

Deum esse ad trium - God exists in three, the Trinitarian existence of God.

Circumincession - See Perichoretic

Pangia Theotokos - All Holy Mother of God, a term used by the Greek fathers, reflecting the western doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

In fieri – In the process of becoming, not yet completed.

In facto esse – Being in fact, i.e. completed

Eschatological - referring to last things and the final destiny of the world and the day of judgement.

Typology - The study of types and prefigurements in the Bible especially the Old Testament, and how they are fulfilled in the New. e.g. Adam is a type of Jesus fulfilled in Jesus

Absolute Primacy of Christ - That Christ as the incarnate word was the very first or primary reason for God creating the universe. God primarily wanted to unite himself, as an overflowing of His internal love, with a created nature in the person of Christ and this is why He created nature. Sin was only secondary consideration.

Ontologically - Having to do with the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence, or reality, and the basic categories of being and relations therein.

Ad intra -  within God, especially related to the exchanged love between the three persons of the Trinity.

Ad extra -  Outside of God, and thus related to creation, the act of creation and any revelations, providence or salvific action of God in Creation, especial the incarnation and redemption.

Quiddity - Whatness, the nature of something, what it is.

Perfectionis simpliciter simplicis - simply simple perfections referring to the perfections of God.

Contrary disjuncts – Things that seem to be contrary but are not necessarily, for instance: nature v. supernature, intellect v. will, reason v. faith. Seeing how these are compatible and even complimentary is a core endeavor of philosophy and theology.

Concurses - coming together to compete.

Vestige - Non-rational creatures, plants rocks and beasts. These are vestiges of God as opposed to humans who are images of God.

Circumscription - being placed in a category, defined, limited. The univocal concept of being does not fit in any category, not even finite or infinite, so although there is no being or object that is neither finite nor infinite, this concept gives a conceptual common ground for us to know God, to make analogies between created things and the Creator.

Theandric – Having to do with both God and man, as in actions of Jesus Christ the God-man.

Ave Maria!

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