And Now I See . . .

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And Now I See

And Now I See . . .

A Theology of Transformation

Humans yearn for communion with the sacred but are also plagued by sickness of the soul. Award-winning author Robert Barron examines literature and liturgy to guide readers towards healing and transformation by encouraging surrender to the playful, unpredictable, and relentless love of God.

Robert Barron shares the work and insight of spiritual leaders and literary masters to guide us towards a deeper identification with the teachings and vision of Christ.

Discussion of Dante helps us understand the need to acknowledge and wrestle with our Sin; Balthasar, Schleiermacher, and Tillich uncover the fear and dependency inherent in mortal life and reveal how our unlikely existence necessitates our origin in God; Merton opens our minds to trust; and Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and doctrines of the church as well as scripture reveal the path of Love and the paradigm of the new humanity.

Barron calls us to come to consciousness, and to God, and celebrates the unique ability of the Christian tradition to awaken our spirits and free our souls.

"Christianity is, above all, a way of seeing . . . What unites figures as diverse as James Joyce, Caravaggio, John Milton, the architect of Chartres, Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the later Bob Dylan is a peculiar and distinctive take on things, a style, a way, which flows finally from Jesus of Nazareth. Origen remarked that holiness is seeing with the eyes of Christ. Teihard de Chardin said, with great passion, that his mission as a Christian thinker was to help people see. And Thomas Aquinas said that the ultimate goal of the Christian life is a ‘beatific vision,’ an act of seeing. This book is about coming to vision through Christ.”
—from And Now I See

Reviews and endorsements

"Barron, professor of systematic theology at Mundelein Seminary, near Chicago, offers an accessible exploration of Christian theological concepts. He divides his book into three sections as he examines Christianity as a source of human transformation. In his first section, Barron argues that human nature is alienated from itself and thus humans are in need of a mediator who can draw them back to God and self. The second section takes up a renewed understanding of God in light of the alienated nature of humanity. In his final section, Barron contends that Christ is a healer and reconciler who seeks to draw humanity back into relationship with God. Along the way, Barron draws on sources as diverse as Dante, Paul Tillich, Thomas Merton and Flannery O'Connor."
Publishers Weekly


"I have reviewed many books over the past thirty years. I have learned from most, admired many, and deeply appreciated some. But of relatively few was I moved to think, 'This is a book I'd love to have written.' Well, Robert Barron's And Now I See . . . is a book I would love to have written. It is a splendid and enchanting work.

Many today trumpet the need, in the post-Vatican II church, for a new integration of theology and spirituality, one that is pastorally sensitive and illuminating. Barron has actually produced such a work. It brings together in a perceptive and deeply pondered way material from the Bible and from the church's dogmatic and theological traditions. But by imaginatively discerning truths of the tradition reflected in the rich and affective literary forms of Dante, Faulkner, and Flannery O'Connor, Barron has sculpted these truths into new and relevant relief. By so doing he has furthered the pastoral task envisioned by Cardinal Newman: to help the merely notional become real and concretely actual for a particular audience and situation.

Crucial to Barron's undertaking is his persuasion that the doctrines of the church are, of their nature, mystagogic and transformative. By articulating the truth about God and the human person, they stretch the soul, salving its wounds. The implication, pressed home in diverse ways (to offset our stubborn penchant for denial), is that we stand in desperate need of healing. For, as Trent teaches, by propagation and predilection we dwell in a realm of spiritual blindness and must at last cry out with Bartimaeus: 'Lord, let me see.'

A singular merit of the book, therefore, is the depth of its depiction of our common human needfulness. The book's first part, 'the Riven Self' unveils the plight of the pusilla anima: that self, ever intent on self-preservation and aggrandizement. To this end Barron offers a masterful exegesis of Dante's Inferno, as a journey into the heart of darkness, to help us see the deadly power of human evil and of our complicity in it.

Only by realizing the true scope of our predicament can the call to conversion that is at the heart of the gospel take on for us real substance. For this metanoia entails much more than moral repentance. It initiates a new way of seeing, a new consciousness, indeed a new self, in every way counter to the false self of the pusilla anima. Barron calls this new self the magna anima, whose spacious hospitality images the infinite generosity of God.

The book proceeds to reflect upon the Christian understanding of this God who summons and supports us on the way of transformation. Its second part, entitled 'the Uncanny God,' expounds the Christian understanding of God, in a spirit at once deeply biblical and traditional and impressively original. A major methodological theme in this section is the refusal to lapse into one-sided depictions of God's Mystery. For these all too often only camouflage the desire to control and manipulate the Mystery. Rather, in a series of variations, Barron skillfully orchestrates the both/and of the Catholic symphony: God's serenity and creativity, self-sufficiency and covenant-fidelity, lordliness and lowliness.

But, once again, Barron elaborates this comprehensive vision of God's awesome intimacy not for the sake of detached, if appreciative, beholding, but for the sake of soul-doctoring of salvation. For living the creative tension of these irreducible polarities and refusing the temptation to sunder them expands the fear-ridden pusilla anima into closer configuration with God's Trinitarian Plenitude. What begins to come to birth is a new magnanimous self, whose only measure is the infinite God.

Only in Christ, however, does the terrifying cost and scope of transformation become truly manifest. Hence the book's third part 'the Healing,' presents the Christological heart of the matter: Jesus the Anointed One, physician and healer of our souls. The Jesus, whose portrait is here movingly sketched, is far from the 'warm fuzzy' of New Age piety. He appears as one whose compassionate medicine can, at first, taste bitter and thus is as apt to be spit up as swallowed. The cost of transformation is revealed in the light of the cross to be no less than everything, and the soul intent on self-preservation may understandably deem the price far too high.

To restore the original 'shock therapy' of the overly familiar gospel narratives, Barron retells a Flannery O'Connor story disclosing a human condition 'worse than we have imagined' and 'better than we could have hoped.' With our defensive battlements thus lowered, the figure of Jesus passes as through barred doors. The Risen One is the true measure of the magna anima, the revealer and restorer of god’s image in us. But the very unity of divinity and humanity in Jesus exemplifies to an unsurpassable degree the tension of seeming opposites that alone truly works human transformation. 'He is the transfiguration of our frail humanity and he is the manifestation of God's frail divinity,' writes Barron. This manifestation and transfiguration find their consummation in the paschal mystery of Jesus' death and resurrection.

In a contemporary theological context where the cross of Christ often seems marginalized, it is bracing to see Barron's robust confession of the soteriological centrality of the paschal mystery: 'If God has spoken in Christ, it is from the cross; if there was a 'reason' for his coming, it was the paschal mystery of his dying and rising.' But as befits a theologian, he is not content only to confess the church's faith; he seeks to provide some understanding of that faith. And he does so by offering one final sounding of the chaos that threatens the pusilla anima in order to appreciate fully the sole remedy commensurate with the need.

Barron expresses this so well that I cannot forbear quoting him at length:

'What most besets us, what stands most awfully between ourselves and God, what practically compels the curving in on self that is the essence of sin, is the fear of death. And hence it is into that fear that the Word of God journeys. All of Christ's sallyings forth into sickness, alienation, self-righteousness, and poverty are but preliminaries to the final assault on the stronghold of death itself. It is as though he moves first through the outer defenses, that is the myriad effects of sin, before coming to the citadel: the origin of all sin which is the terror of dying.' (p. 207)

The full scope of transformation thus embraces death itself and makes of it the way to glory, transfiguring our most radical alienation into full communion. Of course, this is what we joyfully celebrate in the Eucharist. In the last analysis, then, Robert Barron has given us a pastoral theology that is rooted in eucharistic celebration and, in turn, enriches that celebration. What more could one desire?"
Reverend Robert P. Imbelli, associate professor of systematic theology at Boston College

"This book is thoroughly contemplative given the movement to “Theoria” meaning vision or seeing. This book is a theological examination of this contemplative process. For our spiritual practice is a means whereby we begin to see. As Robert says “Christianity is, above all, a way of seeing.” The author draws on great literary figures from our heritage, theologians Catholic and Protestant, and even folk singers like Bob Dylan. This is not a trivial book or light reading by any stretch of the imagination. It is however well worth the effort."
Fr. Robert Patrick, professor of systematic theology at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago


“Robert Barron, an inspired writer, illuminates the teachings of ‘the great tradition,' showing how they coalesce with the best literary witnesses to liberate us to our true selves. His reflections range from the philosophical to the poetic, themselves inspired by the riches of the tradition they unearth."
David B. Burrell, CSC, Hesburgh professor of philosophy and theology, University of Notre Dame


“The reading of this book is like a guided visit to some vast treasure house where we are invited to explore the rich heritage of Christian thought. With the eyes of artists and the insights of poets, we walk with saints, philosophers, and theologians, challenged to move from blindness and fear to freedom and vision through Christ. At the end of the visit, we realized that we have actually begun, with renewed energy and enthusiam, a journey—a pilgrimage—along the path of faith and conversation, trust and love. This is a book 'for all seasons'!"
Agnes Cunningham, SSCM, professor emeritus of historical and systematic theology at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago


"With this book Robert Barron enters the front ranks of contemporary American Catholic theologians."
Andrew M. Greeley

Paperback / 296 pages
Dimensions: 5 1/2 x 8 1/4