Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
May 11th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Book Announcement: de Lubac’s “Vatican Council Notebooks” @ignatiuspress

Even for Protestants, Vatican II is important. Indeed, I’d say it is one of the most important things in the West in the last 100 years (ecumenically speaking, of course).

“Surprising news!” With these words, Fr. Henri de Lubac, S.J., whose orthodoxy had been so vigorously attacked, responded to the announcement of his selection to participate in the Second Vatican Council. His participation as a theologian and expert would make a lasting impact on the Council, and his insights and comments are recorded in this long-awaited volume, Vatican Council Notebooks: Volume One.

These Notebooks trace the two years of preparation, the four conciliar sessions, and the three periods between sessions. They give us the opportunity to assist at the discussion of the schemas (initial drafts of conciliar texts), but also, during the meetings of the theological commission and the sub-commissions, at the elaboration and correction of the texts submitted to the Council fathers. The eminent theologian de Lubac is a sure guide for the reader, introducing us to the theological ferment of the Council and helping us to grasp what was at stake in the often animated debates.

De Lubac does not hesitate to express clearly what he thinks of the theologians around him, of the new concepts appearing because of the Council, or of the problems he judges to be most serious for the Christian faith. These Notebooks invite us to a greater historical and theological understanding of the Council.

Besides information about the numerous aspects of the conciliar assembly, what makes the testimony of these notebooks so captivating is the strongly rendered presence of men and their psychology. De Lubac excels in sketching the portrait of the participants with only a few words. Among the many interesting encounters, he tells of deepening his acquaintance with Josef Ratzinger, whom he describes as a “theologian as peaceable and kindly as he is competent”. In the same way, during the long discussion over the drafting of the constitution Gaudium et Spes, he observed the assertiveness of Karol Wojtyła, whose interventions struck him because of the seriousness, the rigor, and the solidity of his faith, which created in him a lively sense of spiritual friendship, which was reciprocated.

In the preface to the Vatican Council Notebooks, Jacques Prevotat, Professor of Modern History at the University of Lille-III, writes, “These Notebooks bear witness to the difficulties Fr. de Lubac experienced in the years following the publication of Surnaturel (Supernatural, 1946), very much in evidence within the Theological Commission, in the preparatory period during which the theologian, just recently named to the commission by John XXIII, was confronted with future conciliar schemas prepared by his adversaries. Nevertheless, it was his theology that prevailed in Lumen Gentium and also in Dei Verbum.”

Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., Editor of Ignatius Press, says, “Fr. de Lubac has a historian’s keen eye as well as a theologian’s familiarity with the issues. As a participant at the Council, he described what really happened in the corridors and trattorie at Vatican II.”

About the Author:
Henri Cardinal de Lubac was a French Jesuit priest, theologian and expert at Vatican II. He wrote numerous theological and spiritual works including Splendor of the Church, Catholicism, Motherhood of the Church, and The Drama of Atheist Humanism.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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