Henri de Lubac on Paradox and Tradition

Henri de Lubac was a French Jesuit priest who eventually became the oldest living cardinal before his death in 1991. He was instrumental in shaping the Second Vatican Council and composed many valuable theological works, including Paradoxes of Faith and The Splendor of the Church.

Here are three quotations from those books, which are included in a five-volume collection on sale for a short time.

On paradox

“The very word paradox is paradoxical. Let the paradox be. Remember, after all, the gospel is full of paradoxes, that man is himself a living paradox, and that according to the Fathers of the Church, the Incarnation is the supreme Paradox.”

– from “Paradoxes of Faith,” Preface

“The Church is at once visible and invisible, a mysterious reality and a society made up of people. Born and founded. A living organism and an edifice that has been constructed. It is useless to seek to eliminate one of these two aspects in favor of the other; it is impossible to reduce the complexity of the reality and dismiss the paradox. The whole endeavor to conceive of the Church according to any human model whatever is pointless. In her origins as in her present reality, she is always other, unique.”

– from “More Paradoxes,” p. 24

On Tradition

“More than one man has noted that the most tradition-minded centuries did the least talking about Tradition. Rather, they lived it. They were soaked through with it. It was through the eyes of Tradition that they read the Scriptures themselves. Then, men were not in the habit of questioning themselves about Tradition, for to them it was the present rather than the past and less an object of study than the very form of their thinking.

To them, the monuments of Tradition were not things to be examined minutely with all the resources of scholarship and the critical method; they were handled with a sense of possession and interpreted with a freedom that, far from being opposed to a deep faithfulness to their spirit, was, on the contrary, inclusive of it.

Possessed as these men were of the thing-in-itself, they were to some extent freed from the need for conceptualizing it. All the richness of Tradition was theirs; they brought it to flower and handed it on without very much conscious reflection on what they were doing.”

— from “The Splendor of the Church,” p. 15


Learn more about Henri de Lubac and this collection of his works, on sale for a short time.

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Verbum, part of the Logos family, empowers Catholics to study Scripture and explore Church tradition.

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