by Vito Sibilio

Mathias Joseph Scheeben was born in Meckenheim in 1835. In 1852 he was sent to study in Rome at the Gregoriana, where he graduated in theology and philosophy studying with Taparelli, Liberatore, Perrone, Kleutgen, Passaglia and Franzelin. Priest in 1858, he returned to Germany and from 1860 taught theology at the seminary in Cologne. Siding in favor of the magisterium following the controversy over the definition of the dogma of the Pope’s infallibility, he became director of the magazine The Ecumenical Council of 1869. From 1873 he published the three volumes of his monumental he Handbook of Catholic Dogmatics, consisting of six treatises. He wrote among other things The mysteries of Christianity. Its production amounts to a thousand titles of theological and pastoral articles. In 1888 Scheeben died prematurely, taking to his grave all the greatness of Catholic theology of the time.

Scheeben placed the supernatural at the center of his research and his system as a center of irradiation of beauty and purity and therefore as a center of attraction. By every means he fought the residues of the rationalism that prevailed in theology as well. In the Mysteries of Christianity Scheeben summarized all the revealed truths in the light of nine fundamental mysteries: the Trinitarian, the Creation, the Sin, the Christological, the Eucharistic, the ecclesiological and sacramental, the soteriological, the eschatological, and the predestination. At the end the author talks about the relationship between faith and reason and the nature of theological science.

Scheeben shows that reason has nothing to fear from the mysteries of faith, of which he lays great praise, stating that they attract us precisely because of their vastness, their greatness and their radiance. The fidei analogy it is a fundamental tool for Scheeben, which he uses to explain every mystery with the others: the Eucharist with the Church, the Church with the Sacraments, Justification with Predestination. Every mystery for our author has two constitutive elements: it is a truth above the understanding of every creature and it is susceptible to an analogical understanding. It concerns a truth whose existence we know but whose nature we ignore. Dogmas are radiant truths, which illuminate the mind and warm the hearts of believers. With this presentation, Scheeben ensures that his work is not only scholarly, but highly contemplative, in the wake of Patristics and Scholastics.

Speaking of theology as a science, Scheeben says that it is a divine and human wisdom, in which these two terms are related as the two natures of Christ in His Incarnation. Theology is a science because it has its own object, that is, the mysteries, alien to the domain of reason, and has its own cognitive organ, the supernatural lumen, that is, faith, which reaches what is above the human intellect. For Scheeben, consistently Thomist in this too, faith and reason are distinct but not separate and perfectly reconcilable when necessary. Deriving from a single source, they only have to separate their objects: the first deals with the supernatural and the second with the natural. With regard to the mysteries of faith, reason performs a function of service. The relationship between the two faculties also follows the Hypostatic Union: reason does not generate by itself the mysteries of God and faith alone cannot develop its content. They are therefore two equal principles, united in an intellectual marriage, in which the form of the new sinolus is faith and matter is reason with its natural environment.