Vol 37 No 4
CONSCIENCE OUR GUIDE
THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN THE FORMATION OF CHRISTIAN CONSCIENCE
Philip Malone MSC
THE COMPLETE IDIOTíS GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING MORAL THEOLOGY
Liz Hepburn IBVM
THE CULTIVATION OF CONSCIENCE
Tom Ryan SM
IN GODíS IMAGE: TOWARDS A THEOLOGY OF OUR EMOTIONS
JUNG AND THE MORAL SELF
Bruce Duncan CSsR
A SCHIZOPHRENIC PROCESS IN THE CHURCH? THE CONSERVATIVE RETREAT FROM THE
SOCIAL DIMENSION OF THE GOSPEL
PRAYER - ANSWERED?
NEW RELIGIOUS BOOKS BY AUSTRALASIAN AUTHORS
Godís image: Towards a theology of our emotions
TOM RYAN SM
It is with the heart that one sees rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.
The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
EMOTIONS ARE bewildering. We relish joy and wonder, craving
more of the same. Others like fear and guilt can so upset us that we want
them to just go away. Culturally, too, we are expected to approach everything
unemotionally, since feelings can overwhelm thinking and discussion,
distorting our judgments and our dealings with others. In other words,
objectivity, maturity, reasonableness are best exercised without our feelings.
The reality is that we cannot live and develop as rational beings or Christians
without the obbligato of our emotions. There is a growing awareness how
much our feelings and emotional health bring insight and attunement that
are indispensable to us psychologically and morally. The New Catechism
describes emotions (passions) as the passageway between spirit
and body. Emotions anchor us in the world as embodied beings. But what
is their significance theologically? How do we image God in our emotional
life? We will explore this through four questions.
What Are Our Emotions?
Common to every emotion is being moved or affected. When I experience
delight or pleasure, I am attracted towards some object or person and
want to share something of its goodness. Alternatively, when I am afraid
my instinct is to run, or when I am angry I just want to fight. Our emotions
make us feel comfortable or uncomfortable about things or people or situations
we perceive as agreeable or disagreeable, good or bad in some way.
Further, our emotions start and end with our lives being in a network
of relationships. With each emotion I respond within a setting where I
interact with a specific something or someone else. An emotion is, in
simple terms, an interactive response to value or disvalue.
Vacek sums the four moments in the structure of an emotion
a complex activity: the self (1) as an openness-to-good
(2) becomes conscious of the value of a specific object, (3) is affected
by that valuable object, and (4) responds to the objects value
Through emotions we become attached to those great goods that inspire
our lives (Vacek, 1994, 6). Without emotions, where and who would
we be? Basically, we would be unresponsive and isolated beings dead
to the value of the world and of God (Vacek, 1994, 6). The signals
and fine tunings with others would be muted, even silent. Often, we would
not know what to do or when and how to react. Lonergan observes that feelings
understood as specific responses to apprehended values give intentional
consciousness its mass, momentum, drive, power and that without
them our knowing and deciding would be paper thin (Lonergan,
1972, 53-4). Taylor remarks that without emotions we become incapable
of understanding any moral argument at all (1996, 73).
Having given a basic understanding of an emotion, we come to our second
What Can We Learn From Gods Inner
The entire created world reflects the goodness of God (God saw all
he had made, and indeed it was very good). Our concern here is the
creation of humankind.
Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves
created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them (Gen. 1: 26-7).
It is the human person, especially as an embodied relational being, who
is, in a unique manner, made in the divine image and is called to manifest
and share in the divine life. How is this true of our emotions? How are
our emotions an example of what Norris Clarke refers to as affinities
resonating at the various levels of being, of veiled intimations
of the higher in the lower? (1995, iii). What do Gods affective
life and responses tell us about our emotional responses and our affective
life? That leads us to the theology of the Trinity.
There has been a recent retrieval of an approach to the mystery of the
Trinity found in the Greek Fathers namely, Saints Gregory Nazienzen, Basil
the Great, and Gregory of Nyssa. They develop what is known as the Bestowal
Model of the Trinity. What are its key ideas?
God is primarily a community of love. The Father (lover) bestows through
love all that He has and is on the Son (beloved). The Son as Word [Logos]
is the affirmation of the truth and goodness of the Father. The Son receives
and responds by bestowing on the Father what he has received from the
Father in gratitude and love. The love that binds Father and Son is again
personalizedthe person of the Spirit. The dynamo of divine life
is giving and receiving of love, the becoming and being a person through
ekstasisself-giving, self-transcending love, in which each person
is a self-toward-other.
The Trinitarian life towards-other overflows to generate other
beings. Eckhart describes the super-abundance of divine love and goodness
as ebullitio, a boiling over through the Spirit from which
emerges the created cosmos. For persons, in their freedom, the gift further
becomes an offer of intimacy in Gods life to which we are called
to respond in love. Gods creative and loving presence in the world
is further personalized and realized in the incarnate Word and continued
through the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.
Two conclusions flow from this. Firstly, what is true of God is true of
Gods image, namely humankind. In concrete existential reality what
comes first is not the subjectivity of the person but the intersubjectivity
of persons. Bernard Lonergan wrote that the person is not the primordial
fact. What is primordial is the community. It is within community through
the intersubjective relations that are the life of community that there
arises the differentiation of the individual person (1973, 58-9).
Secondly, the Greek Fathers stressed the idea of the person who comes
to be a self through another. Here, what makes us persons is that each
of us is essentially someone toward another. God and the divine life is
not turned on itself and confined to its own inner world. Downey points
out that Trinitarian life is not about propositions. It is about prepositions
which express sheer relation: from, towards, for, with, in (2000, 56-7).
How Does Jesus Emotional Life Reveal
What It Means To Be The Image Of God?
How is the God of self-transcending love, of prepositions
revealed in Jesus who is the image of God? The central mystery disclosed
in Jesus as the incarnate Word of God is the Christian view of salvation
and of realizing that our personhood entails ever-fuller participation
in communion with God and with others (La Cugna & Downey, 1993,
973). Jesus has been given the Spirit without reserve. Jesus
reveals definitively in himself the divine life as love and its offer
as a gift to humankind. At the same time Jesus realizes in himself the
human response to Gods gift of love. We can tease out this action
of the Spirit in Jesus.
Firstly, we see developing in the Hebrew Scriptures an understanding of
God that is far removed from one who is detached and withdrawn from human
history. The Jewish God is a God who is affected, moved by human suffering,
by the tragedies and triumphs of human history. This is a God who is for
us, a God of mercy and compassion.
Secondly, we see the God of the Hebrew Scriptures revealed in embodied
form in Jesus. Jesus is the human face of Gods empathy and Love.
In the Incarnation, God empties godself in self-giving love. In Jesus
Passion and Death, he empties himself through loving unto death that we
may have life (resurrection). In his ministry, Jesus is moved with
compassion, so that he heals and forgives in an inclusive manner.
Jesus emotions, both positive (compassion, joy) or negative (anger,
anxiety, fear, hatred, grief), expose his attitudes and values.
Hence, Jesus in the Gospels reveals a God of love who moves outwards,
takes initiative, invites and responds to need. Jesus reveals the inner
life of the Trinity: the mutual interdependence, giving and receiving
of love of the three persons who can only each have their own identity
because they are in relationship with each other. They respond to each
others self-gift. As Jesus says in Johns Gospel of his Father
I always do what pleases Him.
How does Jesus show mature humanity (reveal that He is Gods image)
in his dark, uncomfortable emotions? Amongst Jesus many emotional
responses in the Gospels, Gethsemane is paradigmatic of Jesus learning
to obey through suffering and being made perfect by that process. But
it can also be viewed as a case-study in Jesus handling of his emotional
life. Emotions of anguish, distress, sorrow embody his agony [in Greek
agon] or struggle, similar to that of a moral athlete. His coming to maturity
demands that he be driven to the point of totally surrendering to God,
in the Garden and in death, in the conscious re-embracing of childhood
trust, but at the end and at the apex of his life.
Gethsemane presents the contrast in two groups handling dark emotions.
Jesus claims his emotions, allows himself to feel them, praying to his
Abba for the strength of being loved enough to transcend those conflicting
emotions. He responds and obeys, not as a victim, nor out of control
nor subject to irrational passion (Karris, 1990, 717). Jesus allows
his emotions to guide and teach him so that with his mind, heart, will
and body he can move ahead with energy and determination. The disciples,
on the other hand, succumb to paralyzing fear, loss of strength, despondency
Thirdly, Jesus sums up in himself and his teaching the Hebrew understanding
of the heart. In Hebrew and Christian Scriptures the heart
is a symbol of the whole person. Scripture does not use modern psychological
terms, with thinking or knowledge in the intellect and love and decision
in the will. Heart embraces all that. As a symbol for the inside
of a person it embraces feelings, memories, ideas, plans, decisions
(Léon-Dufour, 1988, 228). In the global and concrete anthropology
of the Bible, the heart is the principle of morality, the centre of ones
freedom, of decisive choices and the place where one enters to be in dialogue
with oneself and where one opens oneself or closes oneself to God (Léon-Dufour,
To have a heart is to possess the ability and inclination to be in relationship.
It is not just privately personal: it is essentially oriented
to the Other and others. As La Cugna & Downey note:
Heart is the word for affectus, or affectivity, which is
the openness of the human being to be touched by another, by others and
by God. It names the human capacity to be toward the other. As such it
is inclusive of communal and social realities
the heart described
the human beings openness to relate to the real, that is, to the
claim of the other upon oneself (1993, 973).
Jesus captures this perspective in his analogy of the tree and its fruit.
He expands this into the metaphor of the heart as the core
of the deepest self and the source of ones attitudes, responses
A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart;
a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness. For a mans
words flow out of what fills his heart [Lk. 6: 45].
Later, in the same Gospel, we see the Good Samaritan as the embodied expression
of someone who acts from what fills his heart, namely his core attitudes
and values. For Jesus, the central question is not who is my neighbour?
but who has a neighbours heart? (i.e., one open and
sensitive to all the real, open to embracing the real and people in an
inclusive way). The neighbours heart is transparent in this outsider
who, by the fruits of his life, shows he shares in the divine life.
In Our Emotions How Do We Reflect Gods
We are created in the image of a God who is inherently relational. Relationship
involves not just responsibility (accountability) but response-ability.
Without responsiveness, relationships are lifeless. We come into being
through and for others and realize our personhood not in autonomy
or self-sufficiency or isolation but in self-donation; we come to ourselves
through others (La Cugna & Downey, 1993, 971). We do this through
our freedom, in our capacity to be moral through self-direction which
is the brightest reflection of the divine image in us. Most importantly,
through the gift of grace, as Kelly notes, our morality participates in
the moral awareness of the Trinity since we share the life of the divine
persons which transforms and conforms the graced person to them
as the sources of... [our]
loving and knowing (Kelly, 2001,
250). Our responsiveness for others moves to a higher register,
namely as embodying a shared life of friendship with God.
This anthropology of God and of the human person is revealed in the person
of Jesus Christ. Emotions are the thumbprints of the dynamic of bestowal
and response that is at the very heart of God and personalized in the
Holy Spirit. We express and nourish our capacity for relationships through
bodily interaction, responsiveness and responsibility. Emotions are crucial
in this process. Lonergan considers that our emotions, as properly ordered
intentional responses to what is truly good, are integral to personal
development. They are the apex of existential intentionality in that they
engage the whole person and ones freedom in a movement of affective
and moral self-transcendence. Let us pursue this from another angle.
The Christian vision is that we are made for God and will only be happy
in God. We cannot achieve this from outside, namely we cannot be forced
to be happy. It must somehow come from within, from an inner thrust to
fulfillment or happiness. If we check our deepest selves we find this
yearning for happiness. We are beings of desire not only in our will but
at deepest, instinctual level of the emotions.
We move towards what is good for us through love, desire and find pleasure
and joy in resting in the goods possessed, or feel hatred, aversion, sadness
when we dont have them. We move away from what hinders achieving
those values through fear, anger, guilt, shame, despair and have to overcome
these emotions to achieve what will satisfy us.
Emotions, then, are concerned with what promotes or prevents well-being,
namely our happiness. However, the person pursues happiness as a subject
of consciousness and interiority properly understood, namely as a relational,
dialogical being who responds and is responsible (M Buber, H R Niebuhr).
Emotions, like the mind, will and body are integral to the person who
is made in Gods image and grows in Gods likeness as a self-in-relationship
who receives and responds. Like Jesus, we are called to find happiness
and fulfillment through self-transcendence in self-giving love.
God is essentially a community. We share in Gods image principally
through our intersubjectivity, as relational, responsive beings who can
only mature and grow from and in community with others. It is through
the Spirit that we have our first experience of God, often experienced
in significant human relationships where we feel love, trust, pain etc.
Thus we have the primordial self-esteem that arises from the bestowal
of love from parents to the infant and the corresponding reciprocal trust
and love from the child consolidates in the sense of being a self. From
this emerges basic empathy on which moral response is built. This, then,
is the emotive bedrock of self-consciousness that constitutes the
(moral) self (Callahan, 1991, 95).
Sharing in the life of God means that we are in a matrix of dynamic Spirit-animated
relationships which involves inescapably that we are responsive and responding
beings, either at the conscious level or the instinctual level of emotions
which can be consciously engaged. Jesus shows us how to engage with and
embrace our emotions so that they collaborate with mind and will and enable
us to respond to others, especially through compassion, mercy, anger,
fear, joy. We are called to imitate and identify with Him in this as in
other areas of human life.
My emotions have moral significance, are part of responsible living, in
linking us to God, world, people. They hence require attentiveness to
discern their significance and to transform their, at times, destructive
power into constructive energy. This is facilitated by good habits or
the affective virtues (Fortitude and Temperance) that shape and guide
our emotions so that we respond [in anger, fear, wonder, joy, guilt, love]
to what is true and good to the right degree and at the right times. Virtues
transform and tutor instinctual responses and so are morally significant
for character and personal integration. We have responsibility for the
shape of our emotional life and this is exercised in on-going conversion.
Finally, our affective capacities are further transformed by the Gifts
of the Holy Spirit. The action of the Spirit through grace impels a person
towards a mode of operation that is beyond the limits of reason (our knowing,
willing and emotional responding) to one that is connatural,
namely, as if it were second nature to know, evaluate and respond as spontaneously
God does. In the Spirit, we share a taste for the things that are Gods.
Some emotions (as, too, a maturing life) become increasingly other-directed
and have a special mark of the Spirit of God. Certain emotions clearly
have a transcendent quality about them, e.g., courage, compassion, love,
mercy, anger. They continue the divine boiling over, carrying
us out of ourselves, to stretch and go beyond who and where we are. We
see these revealed and embodied in Jesus in the other-directed
momentum of his affective life through which Jesus reveals the texture
and shape of the affective life of the triune God.
These considerations return us to our main argument: our emotions reveal
Gods image in us as manifestations of our self-in-relationship exercised
through our freedom. Kelly (2001, 248) contends that the moral life
is, in its origins, form and finality, radically theological (and
trinitarian). Here it has been argued that this is true also of our emotions
and affective life.
Daniel Goleman tells the story of Gary and Mary Jane Chaunceys eleven
year old daughter Andrea, confined to a wheelchair by cerebral palsy.
Passengers on a train that crashed in a river in Louisiana, the Chaunceys
first concern was for Andrea. As waters engulfed the train, they managed
to push Andrea through a window to rescuers. They then perished.
Goleman sees such acts of altruistic love, overriding the powerful impulse
for personal survival, as testimonies to the purpose and potency of emotions
in human life (1995, 3f). These acts are exceptional yet build on a daily
pattern of good living. While they are instantaneous reactions at certain
key moments, often without deliberation, they are still moral statements-about
ones character, values, basic attitudes, the shape and quality of
ones emotional life. Who cannot be inspired or moved to admire,
praise even imitate them? Such self-transcending emotional responses to
the truly good, defining a person and engaging ones deepest freedom,
are arguably the most profoundly human acts one can perform. It is especially
through these (symbolized in Christ crucified) that Gods Spirit
is reassuringly active and the image of God shines most brightly in our
Tom Ryan is a Marist Priest who teaches in the College of Theology,
University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle WA.
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Clarke, W Norris, SJ in the Foreword to Kevin OShea (1995), Person
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