December 2016 Editorial

From the Editor’s Desk

As the year comes to a close, the church recalls and reflects upon the mystery that defies human reckoning. Denise Levertov captures the humility it stirs in one of her best-known poems:

It’s when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.1

The Incarnation stirs the imagination as well as the heart of faith. This issue of Theological Studies opens, then, with an essay by Neil Ormerod (Australian Catholic University, Sydney) on the trinitarian depths of the Incarnation as unfolded in the thought of Bernard Lonergan. This is the latest installment in the “Four Point Hypothesis” project being undertaken by an international group of Lonergan scholars, and offers new insights into traditional doctrine. Yet, as we know, Lonergan provides but one philosophical framework for the pursuit of theology, and theologians continue to search for a grounding, a metaphysics if you will, for theological claims. Joseph Rivera (Dublin City University) proposes a corrective to so-called post-metaphysical projects that have rejected an onto-theology, using the thought of French theoretician Jean-Yves Lacoste to propose a metaphysics rooted in concrete experience—an approach appropriate to a theology rooted in a faith that takes the Incarnation as one of its foundational starting points.


Turning to the concrete, we consider that the one who embodied the Word, Jesus, was a migrant on planet Earth. The Christmas season urges a deeper theological consideration of how we might understand the migratory experience, and the suffering of refugees. Peter Phan (Georgetown) illumines how we can understand not only Christian faith and the church itself, but Jesus, in light of an understanding of God as Deus migrator, whose kenosis resulted in a divine solidarity with the migrants of his- tory. Jesus emerges as the “paradigmatic migrant” for us all. And that encompasses all human beings, including non-Christians, thus inviting a consideration of what Christians can learn from non-Christians about the understanding of their own faith. Catherine Cornille (Boston College) suggests several ways the church as community can be understood in light of Hinduism, an exercise approached through different models and understandings of comparative theology.

Finally, we turn to some of the ethical implications of an incarnational faith. Michael Northcott (Edinburgh) reflects upon two aspects of the encyclical Laudato Si’ (to which we devoted our June 2016 issue) that urge us to a deeper reverence for all of creation, and the place of the human within it. And, if the Incarnation is the enflesh- ment of divine love, then the much-discussed post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“On the Joy of Love”) calls for special attention. Gerald O’Collins, SJ (Australian Catholic University, Melbourne), situates Amoris within the context of prior church teaching, and Conor Kelly (Marquette) argues that Amoris opens wide a new canvas for the work of moral theologians. For those interested in seeing what Theological Studies has published on topics covered by Amoris in previous issues (marriage, divorce, indissolubility, etc.), we are happy to introduce a new feature on our publisher’s website, Simply hit the “Virtual Special Issues” tab and those past articles will appear, free of charge.

As we enter 2017, we are mindful that this year will mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the beginning of which is traditionally pegged to the day Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the church door in Wittenberg. Throughout the coming year we will be marking this anniversary with occasional articles that will engage the Reformation and, more broadly, contemporary ecumenism.

Finally, I am happy to announce the appointment of a new associate editor, Susan Ross. Professor of Theology at Loyola University Chicago and past-president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, Professor Ross has served more recently as vice president and member of the board of editors of Concilium, a distinguished international journal of theology. She is the first layperson to hold this position, and joins John R. Sachs, SJ, and Thomas J. Massaro, SJ. The author of numerous books and articles, an expert in feminist theology, and fully conversant with the Jesuit tradition, Professor Ross brings to the team a level of accomplishment and a global knowledge of Catholic theology that will significantly advance the contemporary mission of the journal. I am honored to welcome her to the editorial team.

Paul G. Crowley, SJ


1. Denise Levertov, “On the Mystery of the Incarnation,” in A Door in the Hive (New York: New Directions, 1984) 50.

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Theological Studies 2016, Vol. 77(4) 801–802

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