Let Us Make Man in Our Image
Indeed, while there are many ways to fall, one of them is to presume a radical individuality, irrespective of whether or not one "believes" in God, for the more important point is that such a one is failing to "be" -- and three -- like God.
In Ratzinger's essay on The Notion of Person, he suggests that personhood was a Christian discovery or development, however you wish to characterize it.
It was Tertullian who, in the late second or early third century, nailed down the secret formula of "one being in three persons." For Ratzinger, this is when "the word 'person' entered intellectual history for the first time with its full weight." With this in mind, it is possible to understand such otherwise confusing data, such as God speaking in the plural, e.g., "Let us make man in our image and likeness," or "Adam has become like one of us."
And just lately I've been on a bit of a Sophia-Mary kick, and there is no gainsaying the fact that Ms. Wisdom seems to have been there from the start, even if she is created rather than -- like the second person -- begotten. I can't say that I recommend this book, because the author takes 400 pages to say what I just said in a sentence, but he compiles all of the material from the wisdom books of the OT that go to this, such as:
--Wisdom was first of all created things...
--The Lord created me the first of his works long ago, before all else was made.
--Then I was at his side each day, his darling and delight, playing in his presence continually...
So, wisdom is the first creation of the Creator. You might say that he creates creativity for us, which I think is alluded to in that second passage, i.e., playing in his presence continually. In this context, remember the words of our Unknown Friend, that it is all about transforming work into play. Remember too that mysterious word presence. We'll get back to that one, maybe later in the week.
In any event, with this radically new concept of person, we have the idea that personhood is "dialogical," only this is a three-person dialogue and thus a tria-logos. God is substance-in-relation, such that there is nothing beneath, behind, or above his relativity. Can you relate to God? Truly, you cannot not relate and still call yourself a person.
I remind you to keep the whole infancy thingy (discussed yesterday) in the back of your mind as we proceed.
As Ratzinger explains, "person must be understood as relation," whether we are talking about man or about God. With regard to the latter, "the three persons that exist in God are in their nature relations." They are "not substances that stand next to each other, but they are real existing relations and nothing besides."
Note that relation "is not something superadded to the person, but it is the person itself. In its nature, the person exists only as relation" -- which is why the Son cannot be created, because relation with the Son is what the Father is, so to speak (and vice versa).
This obviously brings to bear a novel way to think about oneself. It also goes to everything we have said about "idiom" in bygone posts, because that too goes to the relation(s) we are. You will never find yourself in yourself, rather, only in your relations, both to people and objects (the latter of which are always infused with personhood as well, however attenuated).
Truly, we are never alone, for the ultimate reality is person, and "person is the pure relativity of being turned toward the other."
However, note that it is not the person of Father, nor the person of the Holy Spirit, who incarnates in man. Rather, it is the person of the Son, whose personhood (even though it must be a fractal of the totality) is characterized by receptivity. The Son "receives" from the Father, and if it's good enough for him, it ought to be good enough for us.
Thus we read in John how Jesus says "The Son cannot do anything of himself." As Ratzinger explains, this is because "he does not place himself as a delimited substance next to the Father, but exists in total relativity toward him..."
This same ontological structure "is in turn transferred... to the disciples when Christ says, 'Without me you can do nothing.'" In this way, man "truly comes to himself and into the fullness of his own, because he enters into unity with the one to whom he is related."
You might say that this is how the flower of man's personhood turns toward the light and blooms, for man is "not a substance that closes itself in itself, but the phenomenon of complete relativity." We can only discover the reason for our being in relationship and in mutual giving, since each needs the other to be who he or she is. And Jesus is not the exception, but the rule. For spirit
"not only is," but in reaching "beyond itself, it comes to itself. In transcending itself it has itself; by being with the other it first becomes itself, it comes to itself. Expressed differently again: being with the other is its form of being with itself."
Which all goes to why the helpless infant and child must be prior to the man, not just chronologically but ontologically.