Archive for the ‘Great Men Of the Church’ Category

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The Inspiration and Inerrancy Of Scripture – Karl Rahner

April 14, 2014
Just as by the very nature of the case there is an analogy of faith which is a hermeneutical principle for the correct interpretation of individual statements in the official teaching of the church, so that the individual statement can only be understood correctly within the unity of the church’s total consciousness of the faith, so too and in an analogous sense, or as a particular instance of this principle, there is also an analogia scripturae or an analogy of scripture which is a hermeneutical principle• for interpreting individual texts of scripture.

Just as by the very nature of the case there is an analogy of faith which is a hermeneutical principle for the correct interpretation of individual statements in the official teaching of the church, so that the individual statement can only be understood correctly within the unity of the church’s total consciousness of the faith, so too and in an analogous sense, or as a particular instance of this principle, there is also an analogia scripturae or an analogy of scripture which is a hermeneutical principle for interpreting individual texts of scripture.

A few pages from Rahner’s magisterial work, Foundations of Christian Faith. Which has been called “a brilliant synthesis flowing from an incomparable mastery of Scripture, the Church Fathers, the great medieval theologians, the ‘theology of the schools’, and contemporary thought.”

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In the documents of the church it is said again and again that God is the auctor (author) of the Old and New Testaments as scripture. The school theology, which is at work in the encyclicals of Leo XIII and up to those of Pius XII and tried time and time again to clarify by means of psychological theories how God himself is the literary author or the writer of Holy Scripture.

And it tried to formulate and to clarify the doctrine of inspiration in such a way that it becomes clear that God is the literary author of scripture. This, however, did not deny (and the Second Vatican Council affirmed it explicitly) that this understanding of God’s authorship and of inspiration may not reduce the human authors of these writings merely to God’s secretaries but rather it grants them the character of a genuine literary authorship of their own.

This interpretation of the inspired nature of scripture which we have done no more than sketch can of course be understood in such a way that even today one does not necessarily have to accuse it of being in mythological. We would have to recall in this connection what we said in the fifth chapter about the unity between transcendental revelation and its historical objectification in word and in writing, and about the knowledge of the success of these objectifications.

In any case it cannot be denied in the Catholic Church that God is the author of the Old and New Testament. But he does not therefore have to be understood as the literary author of these writings. He can be understood in a variety of other ways as the author of scripture, and indeed in such a way that in union with grace and the light of faith scripture can truly be called the word of God.

This is true especially because, as we said elsewhere, even if a word about God is caused by God, it would not by this very fact be a word of God in which God offers himself. It would not be such a word of God if this word did not take place as an objectification of God’s self-expression which is effected by God and is borne by grace, and which comes to us without being reduced to our level because the process of hearing it is borne by God’s Spirit.

If the church was founded by God himself through his Spirit and in Jesus Christ, if the original church as the norm for the future church is the object of God’s activity in a qualitatively unique way which is different from his preservation of the church in the course of history, and if scripture is a constitutive element of this original church as the norm for future ages, then this already means quite adequately and in both a positive and an exclusive sense that God is the author of scripture and that he inspired it .  [Yes, you may read that again slowly.]

Nor at this point can some special psychological theory of inspiration be appealed to for help. Rather we can simply take cognizance of the actual origins of scripture which follow for the impartial observer from the very different characteristics of the individual books of scripture. The human authors of Holy Scripture work exactly like other human authors, nor do they have to know anything about their being inspired in reflexive knowledge.

If God wills the original church as an indefectible sign of salvation for all ages, and wills it with an absolute, formally pre-defining and eschatological will within salvation history, and hence if he wills with this quite definite will everything which is constitutive for this church, and this includes in certain circumstances scripture in a preeminent way, then He is the inspirer and the author of scripture, although the inspiration of scripture is “only” a moment within God’s primordial authorship of the Church.

Inerrancy of Scripture
From the doctrine that Holy Scripture is inspired theology and the official doctrine of the church derive the thesis that scripture is inerrant. We can certainly say with the Second Vatican Council (Dei Verbum, art. 11): “Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be considered to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, we must profess of the books of scripture that they teach with certainty, with fidelity and without error the truth which God wanted recorded in the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation.”

But if because of the very nature of scripture as the message of salvation we acknowledge the inerrancy of scripture first of all in this global sense, we are still far from having solved of all of the problems and settled all of the difficulties about the meaning and the limits of this statement which can be raised because of the actual state of the scriptural texts.

The inerrancy of scripture was certainly understood earlier in too narrow a sense, especially when inspiration was interpreted it sense of verbal inspiration, and the sacred writers were only regarded as God’s secretaries and not as independent and also historically conditioned literary authors. That difficulties still exist here in the understanding of and in the exact interpretation of the church’s doctrine on the inerrancy of scripture is shown even by the history of the conciliar text just cited. It follows from this history that the Council evidently wanted to leave open the question whether the phrase about the truth which God wanted to have recorded for the sake of our salvation is supposed to restrict or to explicate the meaning of the sentence.

We cannot of course treat and answer all of these questions and difficulties in detail here, especially since we cannot go into individual scriptural texts which raise special difficulties with regard to their “truth. We shall have to leave them to the introductory disciplines and to exegesis. Nor can we go into the question here whether in the papal encyclicals of the last century and up to Pius XII the doctrine on the inerrancy of scripture was not understood here and there in a too narrow and materialist sense. It is also obvious that much of what was said elsewhere in this book, for example, about the inerrancy of Christ and the inerrancy of real dogmas in the teaching of the church, can have its corresponding validity in this question too.

We only want to say here very briefly: scripture in its unity and totality is the objectification of God’s irreversible and victorious offer of salvation to the world in Jesus Christ, and therefore in its unity and totality it cannot lead one away from God’s truth in some binding way. We must read every individual text within the context of this single whole in order to understand its true meaning correctly. Only then can it be understood it its real meaning, and only then can it really be grasped as “true.”

The very different literary genre of the individual books must be seen more clearly than before and be evaluated in establishing the real meaning of statements. (For example, in the New Testament stories it is not impossible in certain circumstances that we find forms of midrash and that they were originally intended to be such, so that according to scripture’s own meaning the “historical” truth of a story can be relativized without any qualms.) Scriptural statements were expressed within historically and culturally conditioned conceptual horizons, and this must be taken into account if the question of what is “really” being said in a particular text is to be answered correctly.

In certain circumstances it can be completely legitimate to distinguish between the “correctness” and the “truth” of a statement. Nor may we overlook the question whether the really binding meaning of a scriptural statement does not change if a particular book has its origins outside the canon as the work of some individual, and then is taken into the totality of the canonical scriptures.

Just as by the very nature of the case there is an analogy of faith which is a hermeneutical principle for the correct interpretation of individual statements in the official teaching of the church, so that the individual statement can only be understood correctly within the unity of the church’s total consciousness of the faith, so too and in an analogous sense, or as a particular instance of this principle, there is also an analogia scripturae oran analogy of scripture which is a hermeneutical principle for interpreting individual texts of scripture.

If there is a “hierarchy of truths,” that is, if particular statement does not always have the same objective and existential weight which another statement has, then this has to be taken into account in interpreting individual scriptural statements. This does not mean that the statement which is “less important” in relation to another statement has to be qualified as incorrect or as false.

If we grant the validity of and apply these and similar principles, which follow from the very nature of the case and from the nature of human speech and are not the principles of a cheap “arrangement” or a cowardly attempt to cover up difficulties, then we certainly do not inevitably have to get into the difficulty of having to hold that particular statements of scripture are “true” in the meaning which is really intended and is intended in a binding way, although a sober and honest exegesis might declare that they are incorrect and erroneous in the sense of a negation of the “truth.”

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Why I Love You, O Mary ! — Saint Thérèse Of Lisieux

April 2, 2014
With you I’ve suffered and now I want To sing on your lap, Mary, why I love you,

With you I’ve suffered and now I want To sing on your lap, Mary, why I love you,

Biography St Therese of Lisieux — Tejvan Pettinger
From an early age it was Therese’s ambition and desire to be a saint. She was born into a pious and loving Catholic family. She remembers the idyll of her early childhood, spending time with her parents and 5 sisters in the un spoilt French countryside. However this early childhood idyll was broken by the early death of her Mother (from breast cancer). Aged only 4 years old, she felt the pain of separation and instinctively turned to the Virgin Mary for comfort and reassurance.

The next couple of years of St Therese’s’ life was a period of inner turmoil. She was unhappy at school, where her natural precociousness and piety, made other school children jealous. Eventually her father agreed for Therese to return home and be taught by her elder sister, Celine.

She enjoyed being taught at home, however after a while, her eldest sister made a decision to leave to enter the local Carmel Convent at Lisieux. This made Therese feel like she had lost her second mother. Shortly afterwards Therese experienced a painful illness, in which she suffered delusions. The doctors were at a loss as to the cause. For 3 weeks she suffered with a high fever. Eventually Therese felt completely healed after her sister’s placed a statue of the Virgin Mary at the foot of the bed. Therese felt her health and mental state returned to normal very quickly.

Soon after on Christmas Eve 1884, she recounts having a remarkable conversion of spirit. She says she lost her inclination to please herself with her own desires. Instead she felt a burning desire to pray for the souls of others and forget herself. She says that on this day, she lost her childhood immaturity and felt a very strong calling to enter the convent at the unprecedented early age of 15.

St Therese with Pope
Initially the Church authorities refused to allow a girl, who was so young to enter holy orders. They advised her to come back when she was 21 and “grown up”. However Therese’s mind was made up, she couldn’t bear to wait, she felt God was calling her to enter the cloistered life. Therese was so determined she travelled to the Vatican to personally petition the Pope. Breaking protocol she spoke to the Pope asking for permission to enter a convent. Soon after, her heart’s desire was fulfilled, and she was able to join her 2 sisters in the Carmelite convent of Lisieux.

Convent life was not without its hardships; it was cold and accommodation was basic. Not all sisters warmed to this 15-year-old girl. At times she became the subject of gossip, one of her superiors took a very hash attitude to this young “spoilt middle class” girl. However Therese sought always to respond to criticism and gossip with the attitude of love. No matter what others said Therese responded by denying her sense of ego. Eventually the nun who had criticized Therese so much said. “why do you always smile at me, Why are you always so kind, even when I treat you badly”

Love attracts love, mine rushes forth unto Thee, it would fain fill up the abyss which attracts it; but alas! it is not even as one drop of dew lost in the Ocean. To love Thee as Thou lovest me I must borrow Thy very Love – then only, can I find rest.
- St Therese

This was the “little way” which Therese sought to follow. Her philosophy was that; what was important was not doing great works, but doing little things with the power of love. If we can maintain the right attitude then nothing shall remain that can’t be accomplished. St Therese was encouraged by the elder nuns to ask her to write down her way of spiritual practice. She wrote 3 books that explained her “little way” and also included her personal spiritual autobiography.

“The good God does not need years to accomplish His work of love in a soul; one ray from His Heart can, in an instant, make His flower bloom for eternity…”
- St Therese

St Therese died tragically early at the age of 24 from Tuberculosis. However after her death, the writings became avidly read by, first other nuns, and then the wider Catholic community. Although initially intended only for a small audience her books have been frequently republished. In 1997, St Therese was declared one of the only 3 female Doctors of the Catholic Church (there are 33 doctors of the church in total). Thus after her death she was able to achieve her intuitive feeling that she would be able to do something great and help save souls.

St Therese was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925, only 26 years after her death.

 

Oh ! I would like to sing, Mary, why I loveyou,
Whyyour sweet name thrills my heart,
And why the thought of your supreme greatness
Could not bring fear to my soul.
If I gazed on you in your sublime glory,
Surpassing the splendor of all the blessed,
I could not believe that I am your child.
O Mary, before you I would lower my eyes !…

 

If a child is to cherish his mother,
She has to cry with him and share his sorrows.
O my dearest Mother, on this foreign shore
How many tears you shed to draw me to you !…
In pondering your life in the holy Gospels,
I dare look at you and come near you.
It’s not difficult for me to believe I’m your child,
For I see you human and suffering like me…

 

When an angel from Heaven bids you be the Mother
O the God who is to reign for all eternity,
I see you prefer, O Mary, what a mystery !
The ineffable treasure of virginity.
O Immaculate Virgin, I understand how your soul
Is dearer to the Lord than his heavenly dwelling.
I understand how your soul, Humble and Sweet Valley,
Can contain Jesus, the Ocean of Love !…

 

Oh ! I loveyou, Mary, saying you are the servant
Of the God whom you charm by your humility.
This hidden virtue makes you all-powerful.
It attracts the Holy Trinity into your heart.
Then the Spirit of Love covering you with his shadow,
The Son equal to the Father became incarnate in you,
There will be a great many of his sinner brothers,
Since he will be called : Jesus, your first-born !…

 

O beloved Mother, despite my littleness,
Like you I possess The All-Powerful within me.
But I don’t tremble in seeing my weakness ;
The treasures of a mother belong to her child,
And I am your child, O my dearest Mother.
Aren’t your virtues and yourlove mine too ?
So when the white Host comes into my heart,
Jesus, your Sweet Lamb, thinks he is resting in you !…

 

You make me feel that it’s not impossible
To follow in your footsteps, O Queen of the elect.
You made visible the narrow road to Heaven
While always practicing the humblest virtues.
Near you, Mary, I like to stay little.
I see the vanity of greatness here below.
At the home of Saint Elizabeth, receiving your visit,
I learn how to practice ardent charity.

There, Sweet Queen of angels, I listen, delighted,
To the sacred canticle springing forth from your heart.
You teach me to sing divine praises,
To glory in Jesus my Savior.
Your words of love are mystical roses
Destined to perfume the centuries to come.
In you the Almighty has done great things.
I want to ponder them to bless him for them.

When good Saint Joseph did not know of the miracle
That you wanted to hide in your humility,
You let him cry close by the Tabernacle
Veiling the Savior’s divine beauty !…

Oh Mary ! how I loveyour eloquent silence !
For me it is a sweet, melodious concert
That speaks to me of the greatness and power
Of a soul which looks only to Heaven for help…

Later in Bethlehem, O Joseph and Mary !
I see you rejected by all the villagers.
No one wants to take in poor foreigners.
There’s room for the great ones…
There’s room for the great ones, and it’s in a stable
That the Queen of Heaven must give birth to a God.
O my dearest Mother, how lovable I find you,
How great I find you in such a poor place !…

 

When I see the Eternal God wrapped in swaddling clothes,
When I hear the poor cry of the Divine Word,
O my dearest Mother, I no longer envy the angels,
For their Powerful Lord is my dearest Brother !…
How I loveyou, Mary, you who made
This Divine Flower blossom on our shores !…
How I loveyou listening to the shepherds and wisemen
And keeping it all in your heart with care !…

 

I loveyou mingling with the other women
Walking toward the holy temple.
I loveyou presenting the Savior of our souls
To the blessed Old Man who pressed Him to his heart.
At first I smile as I listen to his canticle,
But soon his tone makes me shed tears.
Plunging a prophetic glance into the future,
Simeon presents you with a sword of sorrows.

 

O Queen of martyrs, till the evening of your life
That sorrowful sword will pierce your heart.
Already you must leave your native land
To flee a king’s jealous fury.
Jesus sleeps in peace under the folds of your veil.
Joseph comes begging you to leave at once,
And at once your obedience is revealed.
You leave without delay or reasoning.

 

O Mary, it seems to me that in the land of Egypt
Your heart remains joyful in poverty,
For is not Jesus the fairest Homeland,
What does exile matter to you ? You hold Heaven…
But in Jerusalem a bitter sadness
Comes to flood your heart like a vast ocean.
For three days, Jesus hides from your tenderness.
That is indeed exile in all its harshness !…

 

At last you find him and you are overcome with joy,
You say to the fair Child captivating the doctors :
“O my Son, why have you done this ?
Your father and I have been searching for you in tears.”
And the Child God replies (O what a deep mystery !)
To his dearest Mother holding out her arms to him :
“Why were you searching for me ?
I must be about My Father’s business. Didn’t you know ?”

 

The Gospel tells me that, growing in wisdom,
Jesus remains subject to Joseph and Mary,
And my heart reveals to me with what tenderness
He always obeys his dear parents.
Now I understand the mystery of the temple,
The hidden words of my Lovable King.
Mother, your sweet Child wants you to be the example
Of the soul searching for Him in the night of faith.

 

Since the King of Heaven wanted his Mother
To be plunged into the night, in anguish of heart,
Mary, is it thus a blessing to suffer on earth ?
Yes, to suffer while loving is the purest happiness !…
All that He has given me, Jesus can take back.
Tell him not to bother with me…
He can indeed hide from me, I’m willing to wait for him
Till the day without sunset when my faith will fade away…

 

Mother full of grace, I know that in Nazareth
You live in poverty, wanting nothing more.
No rapture, miracle, or ecstasy
Embellish your life, O Queen of the Elect !…
The number of little ones on earth is truly great.
They can raise their eyes to you without trembling.
It’s by the ordinary way, incomparable Mother,
That you like to walk to guide them to Heaven.

 

While waiting for Heaven, O my dear Mother,
I want to live with you, to follow you each day.
Mother, contemplating you, I joyfully immerse myself,
Discovering in your heart abysses of love.
Your motherly gaze banishes all my fears.
It teaches me to cry, it teaches me to rejoice.
Instead of scorning pure and simple joys,
You want to share in them, you deign to bless them.

 

At Cana, seeing the married couple’s anxiety
Which they cannot hide, for they have run out of wine,
In your concern you tell the Savior,
Hoping for the help of his divine power.
Jesus seems at first to reject your prayer :
« Woman, what does this matter, » he answers, « to you and to me ? »
But in the depths of his heart, He calls you his Mother,
And he works his first miracle for you…

 

One day when sinners are listening to the doctrine
Of Him who would like to welcome them in Heaven,
Mary, I find you with them on the hill.
Someone says to Jesus that you wish to see him.
Then, before the whole multitude, your Divine Son
Shows us the immensity of his love for us.
He says : “Who is my brother and my sister and my Mother,
If not the one who does my will ?”

 

O Immaculate Virgin, most tender of Mothers,
In listening to Jesus, you are not saddened.
But you rejoice that He makes us understand
How our souls become his family here below.
Yes, you rejoice that He gives us his life,
The infinite treasures of his divinity !…
How can we not loveyou, O my dear Mother,
On seeing so much love and so much humility ?

 

Youlove us, Mary, as Jesus loves us,
And for us you accept being separated from Him.
To love is to give everything. It’s to give oneself.
You wanted to prove this by remaining our support.
The Savior knew your immense tenderness.
He knew the secrets of your maternal heart.
Refuge of sinners, He leaves us to you
When He leaves the Cross to wait for us in Heaven.

 

Mary, at the top of Calvary standing beside the Cross
To me you seem like a priest at the altar,
Offering yourbeloved Jesus, the sweet Emmanuel,
To appease the Father’s justice…
A prophet said, O afflicted Mother,
“There is no sorrow like your sorrow !
” O Queen of Martyrs, while remaining in exile
You lavish on us all the blood of your heart !

 

Saint John’s home becomes your only refuge.
Zebedee’s son is to replace Jesus…
That is the last detail the Gospel gives.
It tells me nothing more of the Queen of Heaven.
But, O my dear Mother, doesn’t its profound silence
Reveal that The Eternal Word Himself
Wants to sing the secrets of your life
To charm your children, all the Elect of Heaven ?

 

Soon I’ll hear that sweet harmony.
Soon I’ll go to beautiful Heaven to see you.
You who came to smile at me in the morning of my life,
Come smile at me again … Mother… It’s evening now !…
I no longer fear the splendor of your supreme glory.
With you I’ve suffered and now I want
To sing on your lap, Mary, why I loveyou,
And to go on saying that I am your child !…

 

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Hope 2 – Pope Benedict XVI

April 1, 2014
Lucien Bégule (1848-1935) The Theological virtues : Faith, Charity and Hope Stained-Glass Windows

Lucien Bégule (1848-1935) The Theological virtues : Faith, Charity and Hope Stained-Glass Windows

A second collection of memorable quotes on the second theological virtue from the work of Benedict XVI.

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The Kingdom of God Is A Gift
All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action. This is so first of all in the sense that we thereby strive to realize our lesser and greater hopes, to complete this or that task which is important for our onward journey, or we work towards a brighter and more humane world so as to open doors into the future.

Yet our daily efforts in pursuing our own lives and in working for the world’s future either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless we are enlightened by the radiance of the great hope that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or by a breakdown in matters of historic importance. If we cannot hope for more than is effectively attainable at any given time, or more than is promised by political or economic authorities, our lives will soon be without hope. It is important to know that I can always continue to hope, even if in my own life, or the historical period in which I am living, there seems to be nothing left to hope for.

Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can then give the courage to act and to persevere. Certainly we cannot “build” the Kingdom of God by our own efforts — what we build will always be the kingdom of man with all the limitations proper to our human nature.

The Kingdom of God is a gift, and precisely because of this, it is great and beautiful, and constitutes the response to our hope. And we cannot — to use the classical expression — “merit” Heaven through our works. Heaven is always more than we could merit, just as being loved is never something “merited,” but always a gift. However, even when we are fully aware that Heaven far exceeds what we can merit, it will always be true that our behavior is not indifferent before God and therefore is not indifferent for the unfolding of history. We can open ourselves and the world and allow God to enter: we can open ourselves to truth, to love, to what is good. This is what the saints did, those who, as “God’s fellow workers,” contributed to the world’s salvation (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:2).

We can free our life and the world from the poisons and contaminations that could destroy the present and the future. We can uncover the sources of creation and keep them unsullied, and in this way we can make a right use of creation, which comes to us as a gift, according to its intrinsic requirements and ultimate purpose. This makes sense even if outwardly we achieve nothing or seem powerless in the face of overwhelming hostile forces. So on the one hand, our actions engender hope for us and for others; but at the same time, it is the great hope based upon God’s promises that gives us courage and directs our action in good times and bad.
Encyclical, Spe Salvi, No. 35

Judgment and Grace
The judgment of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together — judgment and grace — that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Philemon 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate,” or parakletos (cf. 1 John 2:1).
Encyclical, Spe Salvi, No. 47

Sign of Hope and Comfort
On the path of Advent shines the star of Mary Immaculate, “a sign of certain hope and comfort” (Lumen Gentium, no. 68). To reach Jesus, the true light, the sun that dispels all the darkness of history, we need light near us, human people who reflect Christ’s light and thus illuminate the path to take. And what person is more luminous than Mary? Who can be a better star of hope for us than she, the dawn that announced the day of salvation? (cf. Spe Salvi, no. 49).

For this reason, the liturgy has us celebrate today, as Christmas approaches, the Solemn Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary: the mystery of God’s grace that enfolded her from the first instant of her existence as the creature destined to be Mother of the Redeemer, preserving her from the stain of original sin. Looking at her, we recognize the loftiness and beauty of God’s plan for everyone: to become holy and immaculate in love (cf. Ephesians 1:4), in the image of our Creator.

What a great gift to have Mary Immaculate as mother! A mother resplendent with beauty, the transparency of God’s love. I am thinking of today’s young people, who grow up in an environment saturated with messages that propose false models of happiness. These young men and women risk losing hope because they often seem orphans of true love, which fills life with true meaning and joy. This was a theme dear to my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II, who so often proposed Mary to the youth of our time as the “Mother of Fair Love.”

Unfortunately, numerous experiences tell us that adolescents, young people, and even children easily fall prey to corrupt love, deceived by unscrupulous adults who, lying to themselves and to them, lure them into the deadends of consumerism; even the most sacred realities, like the human body, a temple of God’s love and of life, thus become objects of consumption and this is happening earlier, even in pre-adolescence. How sad it is when youth lose the wonder, the enchantment of the most beautiful sentiments, the value of respect for the body, the manifestation of the person and his unfathomable mystery!
Angelus, December 8, 2007

The Unjustly Imprisoned
The final peroration of De Consolatione Philosophiae can be considered a synthesis of the entire teaching that Boethius addressed to himself and all who might find themselves in his same conditions. Thus, in prison he wrote: “So combat vices, dedicate yourselves to a virtuous life oriented by hope, which draws the heart upwards until it reaches Heaven with prayers nourished by humility. Should you refuse to lie, the imposition you have suffered can change into the enormous advantage of always having before your eyes the supreme Judge, who sees and knows how things truly are” (Book V, 6: PL 63, cot. 862).

Every prisoner, regardless of the reason why he ended up in prison, senses how burdensome this particular human condition is, especially when it is brutalized, as it was for Boethius, by recourse to torture. Then particularly absurd is the condition of those like Boethius — whom the city of Pavia recognizes and celebrates in the liturgy as a martyr of the faith — who are tortured to death for no other reason than their own ideals and political and religious convictions. Boethius, the symbol of an immense number of people unjustly imprisoned in all ages and on all latitudes, is in fact an objective entrance way that gives access to contemplation of the mysterious Crucified One of Golgotha.
General Audience On Boethius And Cassiodorus, March 12, 2008

Witness The Mystery
Just as the disciples of Emmaus who, hearts warmed by the Word of the Risen and illuminated by His living presence recognized in the breaking of the bread, without pause returned to Jerusalem and became the proclaimers of Christ’s resurrection, we too must take up the path again, animated by the fervent desire to witness the mystery of this love that gives hope to the world.
Synod, The Eucharist: Source And Summit Of The Life And Mission Of The Church, October 23, 2005

Made For Eternity
God has given himself an “image”: in Christ who was made man. In him who was crucified, the denial of false images of God is taken to an extreme. God now reveals his true face in the figure of the sufferer who shares man’s Godforsaken condition by taking it upon himself. This innocent sufferer has attained the certitude of hope: there is a God, and God can create justice in a way that we cannot conceive, yet we can begin to grasp it through faith. Yes, there is a resurrection of the flesh (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 988-1004).

There is justice (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1040). There is an “undoing” of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright. For this reason, faith in the Last Judgment is first and foremost hope — the need for which was made abundantly clear in the upheavals of recent centuries. I am convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favor of faith in eternal life. The purely individual need for a fulfillment that is denied to us in this life, for an everlasting love that we await, is certainly an important motive for believing that man was made for eternity; but only in connection with the impossibility that the injustice of history should be the final word does the necessity for Christ’s return and for new life become fully convincing.

To protest against God in the name of justice is not helpful. A world without God is a world without hope (cf. Ephesians 2:12). Only God can create justice. And faith gives us the certainty that he does so.
Encyclical, Spe Salvi, Nos. 43-44

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Hope 1 – Pope Benedict XVI

March 31, 2014
The Theological Virtues : Faith, Charity, and Hope - Fra Filippo Lippi, Ghirlandaio - Secular painting - Metropolitan Museum of Art. Filippino Lippi (c. 1457 – April 1504) was an Italian painter working during the High Renaissance in Florence, Italy.

The Theological Virtues : Faith, Charity, and Hope – Fra Filippo Lippi, Ghirlandaio – Secular painting – Metropolitan Museum of Art. Filippino Lippi (c. 1457 – April 1504) was an Italian painter working during the High Renaissance in Florence, Italy.

A collection of memorable quotes on the second theological virtue from the writings of Benedict XVI.

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By hope we desire, and with steadfast trust await from God, eternal life and the graces to merit it.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church 1843)

Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12)

In Contact With God
In St. Thomas Aquinas’ last work that remained unfinished, the Compendium Theologiae which he intended to structure simply according to the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, the great Doctor began and partly developed his chapter on hope. In it he identified, so to speak, hope with prayer: the chapter on hope is at the same time the chapter on prayer.

Prayer is hope in action. And in fact, true reason is contained in prayer, which is why it is possible to hope: we can come into contact with the Lord of the world, he listens to us, and we can listen to him. This is what St. Ignatius was alluding to and what I want to remind you of once again — the truly great thing in Christianity, which does not dispense one from small, daily things but must not be concealed by them either, is this ability to come into contact with God.
Address, November 9, 2006

Hope That Sustains Life
In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Ephesians 2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God — God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (cf. John 13:1 and 19:30).

Whoever is moved by love begins to perceive what “life” really is. He begins to perceive the meaning of the word of hope that we encountered in the Baptismal Rite: from faith I await “eternal life” — the true life which, whole and unthreatened, in all its fullness, is simply life. Jesus, who said that he had come so that we might have life and have it in its fullness, in abundance (cf. John 10:10), has also explained to us what “life” means: “this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves: it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live.”
Encyclical, Spe SalviNo. 27

Mary: First Fruit Of Humanity
Mary is indeed the first fruit of the new humanity, the creature in whom the mystery of Christ his Incarnation, death, Resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven – has already fully taken effect, redeeming her from death and conveying her, body and soul, to the Kingdom of immortal life. For this reason, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, the Virgin Mary is a sign of certain hope and comfort to us (cf. Lumen Gentium, no. 68).

Today’s feast impels us to lift our gaze to Heaven; not to a heaven consisting of abstract ideas or even an imaginary heaven created by art, but the Heaven of true reality which is God himself. God is Heaven. He is our destination, the destination and the eternal dwelling place from which we come and for which we are striving.
Homily, August 15, 2008

Trustworthy Hope
Spe Salvi facti sumus — in hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Romans 8:24). According to the Christian faith, “redemption” — salvation — is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.
Encyclical, Spe Salvi, No. 1

God Is The Great Hope
Let us say once again: we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope.

God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us.

His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is “truly” life.
Encyclical, Spe Salvi, No. 31

Love and Life
Yes, true hope is only born from the Blood of Christ and blood poured out for him. There is blood which is the sign of death, but there is also blood that expresses love and life. The Blood of Jesus and the blood of the Martyrs, like that of your own beloved Patron St. Januarius, is a source of new life. I would like to conclude by making my own a saying from your Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter that sounds like this: “The seed of hope may be the tiniest but can give life to a flourishing tree and bear abundant fruit.”

This seed exists and is active in Naples, despite the problems and difficulties. Let us pray to the Lord that he will cause an authentic faith and firm hope to grow in the Christian community that can effectively oppose discouragement and violence. Naples certainly needs appropriate political interventions, but first it needs a profound spiritual renewal; it needs believers who put their full trust back in God and with his help work hard to spread Gospel values in society. Let us ask Mary’s help with this, as well as that of your holy Protectors, especially St. Januarius. Amen!
Homily, October 21, 2007

Star Of Hope
Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by — people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way.

Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. John 1:14).
Encyclical, Spe Salvi, No. 49

Purification Of Purgatory
The souls of the departed can, however, receive “solace and refreshment” through the Eucharist, prayer, and almsgiving. The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death — this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages, and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon?

Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Savior, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do, and achieve.

And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other — my prayer for him — can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God’s time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain.

In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1032). As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.
Encyclical, Spe Salvi, No. 48

True Friendship
The so-called prosperity of the wicked is therefore proven to be false (Bk IV), and the providential nature of adversa fortuna is highlighted. Life’s difficulties not only reveal how transient and short-lived life is, but are even shown to serve for identifying and preserving authentic relations among human beings. Adversa fortuna, in fact, makes it possible to discern false friends from true and makes one realize that nothing is more precious to the human being than a true friendship. The fatalistic acceptance of a condition of suffering is nothing short of perilous, the believer Boethius added, because “it eliminates at its roots the very possibility of prayer and of theological hope, which form the basis of man’s relationship with God” (Book V, 3: PL 63, col. 842).
General Audience On Boethius And Cassiodorus, March 12, 2008  

Learn Hope Through Prayer
A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me anymore, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, Ican always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me (cf. CCC 2657). When I have been plunged into complete solitude…; if I pray I am never totally alone.
Encyclical, Spe Salvi, No. 32    

An Exercise Of Desire
Saint Augustine, in a homily on the First Letter of John, describes very beautifully the intimate relationship between prayer and hope. He defines prayer as an exercise of desire. Man was created for greatness — for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. “By delaying [his gift], God strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul, and by expanding it he increases its capacity [for receiving him].”

Augustine refers to Saint Paul, who speaks of himself as straining forward to the things that are to come (cf. Philemenon 3:13). He then uses a very beautiful image to describe this process of enlargement and preparation of the human heart. “Suppose that God wishes to fill you with honey [a symbol of God's tenderness and goodness]; but if you are full of vinegar, where will you put the honey?” The vessel, that is your heart, must first be enlarged and then cleansed, freed from the vinegar and its taste. This requires hard work and is painful, but in this way alone do we become suited to that for which we are destined (cf. 1 Ioannis 4, 6: PL 35, 2008f).

Even if Augustine speaks directly only of our capacity for God, it is nevertheless clear that through this effort by which we are freed from vinegar and the taste of vinegar, not only are we made free for God, but we also become open to others. It is only by becoming children of God, that we can be with our common Father. To pray is not to step outside history and withdraw to our own private corner of happiness. When we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well. In prayer we must learn what we can truly ask of God what is worthy of God. We must learn that we cannot pray against others. We must learn that we cannot ask for the superficial and comfortable things that we desire at this moment — that meager, misplaced hope that leads us away from God. We must learn to purify our desires and our hopes. We must free ourselves from the hidden lies with which we deceive ourselves.

God sees through them, and when we come before God, we too are forced to recognize them. “But who can discern his errors? Clear thou me from hidden faults” prays the Psalmist (Psalms 19:12 [18:13]). Failure to recognize my guilt, the illusion of my innocence, does not justify me and does not save me, because I am culpable for the numbness of my conscience and my incapacity to recognize the evil in me for what it is.

If God does not exist, perhaps I have to seek refuge in these lies, because there is no one who can forgive me; no one who is the true criterion. Yet my encounter with God awakens my conscience in such a way that it no longer aims at self-justification, and is no longer a mere reflection of me and those of my contemporaries who shape my thinking, but it becomes a capacity for listening to the Good itself.
Encyclical, Spe Salvi, No. 33

Mary’s Gift Of Light And Hope
Mary, in whose virginal womb God was made man, is our Mother! Indeed, from the Cross before bringing his sacrifice to completion, Jesus gave her to us as our Mother and entrusted us to her as her children. This is a mystery of mercy and love, a gift that enriches the Church with fruitful spiritual motherhood.

Let us turn our gaze to her, especially today, dear brothers and sisters, and imploring her help, prepare ourselves to treasure all her maternal teaching. Does not our Heavenly Mother invite us to shun evil and to do good, following with docility the divine law engraved in every Christian’s heart? Does not she, who preserved her hope even at the peak of her trial, ask us not to lose heart when suffering and death come knocking at the door of our homes? Does she not ask us to look confidently to our future? Does not the Immaculate Virgin exhort us to be brothers and sisters to one another, all united by the commitment to build together a world that is more just, supportive, and peaceful?

Yes, dear friends! On this solemn day, the Church once again holds up Mary to the world as a sign of sure hope and of the definitive victory of good over evil. The one whom we invoke as “full of grace” reminds us that we are all brothers and sisters and that God is our Creator and our Father. Without him, or even worse, against him, we human beings will never be able to find the way that leads to love, we will never be able to defeat the power of hatred and violence, we will never be able to build a lasting peace.

May the people of every nation and culture welcome this message of light and hope: may they accept it as a gift from the hands of Mary, Mother of all humanity. If life is a journey and this journey is often dark, difficult, and exhausting, what star can illuminate it? In my Encyclical Spe Salvi, published at the beginning of Advent, I wrote that the Church looks to Mary and calls on her as a “star of hope” (no. 49).

During our common voyage on the sea of history, we stand in need of “lights of hope,” that is, of people who shine with Christ’s light and “so guide us along our way” (ibid.). And who could be a better “Star of Hope” for us than Mary? With her “yes,” with the generous offering of freedom received from the Creator, she enabled the hope of the millennia to become reality, to enter this world and its history. ‘Through her God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us.

Thus, inspired by filial trust, we say to her: “Teach us, Mary, to believe, to hope, to love with you; show us the way that leads to peace, the way to the Kingdom of Jesus. You, Star of Hope, who wait for us anxiously in the everlasting light of the eternal Homeland, shine upon us and guide us through daily events, now and at the hour of our death. Amen!”
Address, December 8, 2007

Witnesses of Hope
Certainly, in our many different sufferings and trials we always need the lesser and greater hopes too — a kind visit, the healing of internal and external wounds, a favorable resolution of a crisis, and so on. In our lesser trials these kinds of hope may even be sufficient. But in truly great trials, where I must make a definitive decision to place the truth before my own welfare, career, and possessions, I need the certitude of that true, great hope of which we have spoken here. For this too we need witnesses — martyrs — who have given themselves totally, so as to show us the way — day after day.

We need them if we are to prefer goodness to comfort, even in the little choices we face each day — knowing that this is how we live life to the full. Let us say it once again: the capacity to suffer for the sake of the truth is the measure of humanity. Yet this capacity to suffer depends on the type and extent of the hope that we bear within us and build upon. The saints were able to make the great journey of human existence in the way that Christ had done before them, because they were brimming with great hope.
Encyclical, Spe Salvi. NO. 39

In The Service of Peace
God is the unfailing source of the hope which gives meaning to personal and community life. God, and God alone, brings to fulfillment every work of good and of peace. History has amply demonstrated that declaring war on God in order to eradicate him from human hearts only leads a fearful and impoverished humanity toward decisions which are ultimately futile. This realization must impel believers in Christ to become convincing witnesses of the God who is inseparably truth and love, placing themselves at the service of peace in broad cooperation with other Christians, the followers of other religions and with all men and women of good will.
World Day Of Peace Message, January 1, 2006

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The Enduring Negative Proof – Hans Urs von Balthazar

March 25, 2014
Pietro lorenzetti, compianto (dettaglio) basilica inferiore di assisi  (1310-1329)

Pietro lorenzetti, compianto (dettaglio) basilica inferiore di assisi (1310-1329)

In the first section of this book, we took as our starting point the involvement of God. And we saw that in the world of the Bible, God, in moving out to meet us, stimulates in us the urge, deep-rooted in our being, to burst out beyond the bonds of earthly finitude toward him. In pagan religions, such longings after God have always something of a dreamlike quality and the images used to express them are clearly projections of the human imaginations.

But man knows the problems inherent in his use of imagination; and he is therefore in mystical and negative theology fully prepared to see these dream images as having only relative significance, to inquire into what lies beneath them and ultimately to get rid of them altogether. For neither fantasy nor concept can express the true object of man’s real longing. Nor can he know this of himself; for only God can reveal it to him.

In the world of the Bible, this is different. Here God is represented in the act of setting out in front of man on a journey into a future, unknown and yet assured. And man advances toward him, who himself is this unknown future. As God goes before man, as on the journey through the wilderness, he makes man live in a state of perpetual setting out toward that future which alone will bring him fulfillment.

For there is no longer any question of man’s psychosomatic unity being separated out into its constituent elements (as in pagan religions) by his agonizing longing for transcendence (here an immortal soul, there a discarded mortal body, neither of which is any longer “man”). It is a question rather of man being led by the God who goes before toward a genuinely human fulfillment — to a land “flowing with milk and honey”.

The prospect of this land he enters, however, fills him with disappointment. For new pictures of new lands and of this land transformed and altered are projected by the prophets for the future (most strongly by the Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah); and their vision is of an earthly Jerusalem, shining with the power and glory of God for all to see, which is to be the center of the world that will finally come.

Once more the fulfillment of his hopes eludes him, and the images of the promises to come fade away into nothingness; or, to put this better: the eschatological pathos, alive in Israel from the beginning, became more and more accentuated so that the visions of the prophets lapsed into being but symbols of their transcending dynamic for the future, as Israel’s real feeling for the eschatological emerged in late Jewish apocalyptic in its purest form.

Here man’s future, which hitherto had been thought of in terms of the horizontal prolongation of his history, is now seen clearly as breaking in from above into the old world, fallen and beyond redemption, which cannot transform itself from within, but needs recasting in her new and final shape by some power from on high.

In the Old Testament, then, a rift opens up more and more clearly that was at least latently present when God first made the promise, but which had widened to almost intolerable proportions by the time of late Judaism. One can see this in the writings of the Qumran community, which in the plans for the final battle at the end of the age, when the promised Kingdom of God will finally break in, depict a violent scene in which man’s final efforts toward this end (in the carefully drawn-up plan of battle, which in its attention to detail foreshadow the plans that Marxism designs for its campaigns) converge with the mighty acts of God, who intervenes in this very battle with his two Messiahs, and brings about the final victory.

Any idea, however, that the plans of men coincide exactly with the action prepared by God or rather that the divine involvement will draw all human striving into the sphere of its own operation belongs to the sphere of the Utopian and belongs to a dimension outside time (if one looks at this in the perspective of this-worldly history). For neither the place nor the time of God’s inbreaking can be calculated in advance.

The dialectical processes of the Old Covenant go yet further. On the one hand, it becomes continually more clear that the sorrows of our mortal condition are closely associated with a state of subservience to the law (which in this sense means being the servants of an omnipotent God who imposes this law on man). Already in the Book of Job we find that such a situation leads to a fundamental kind of rebellion. Job appeals to a higher court of justice superior to either him or the Lord God, basically for the removal of the heteronomy that expresses itself as much in that kind of suffering that ends in death as in the imposition of the law.

In Judaism, as late as the works of Kafka, this kind of rebellion against a heteronomous guilt pronounced against a man from without and against an incomprehensible Lord who conceals Himself recurs in many different forms. But is not perhaps this heteronomy [vocab: Subordination or subjection to the law of another; political subjection of a community or state; - opposed to autonomy] presented together with the irremovable difference between man who is finite and creaturely and the God who is infinite and the Creator?

The only alternative therefore (if we look at this from the perspectives of the Old Covenant) is to inquire behind the law (which after all, as St. Paul says, only came afterward; see Romans 5:20), and return to Abraham’s Utopian faith in the resurrection of the dead (see Romans 4:17-25), for this first driving force of the Old Covenant was already pregnant with the final result, it is at work in the background of all prophetic activity (see Ezekiel 37; Isaiah 26:19), and at the same time its final aim is the removal of the heteronomy we have been talking about, because God’s law is to be instilled into human hearts so that men may obey it freely (see Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel: 11:19), and man will relate to God, not as a servant to his master but as a friend to his friend or as a child to his parents (see John 15:15; 8:35).

Under the Old Covenant, however, such an outlook is altogether excessive; and when it is combined with those tendencies always latent in man to rebel against the Lord his God, the result in modern Judaism is man being represented as by origin an autonomous being who has given himself a heteronomous law (perhaps he had to do this, as Freud and the later Scheler suggest, in order to reach civilization), who, however, is able to see through the limitations he has imposed upon himself (cf. not only Freud but also Bergson and Simmel) and must loose his inhibitions (Marcuse) in order to reach the source of his inner drives and of his power.

In this kind of Judaism, where the law is criticized out of existence as being something that merely “came afterwards”, and in “negative thinking”, freedom has the last and perhaps most puzzling word (Horkheimer, Adorno) and there the hopes of man and his history thrust them out into the sphere of the merely Utopian (Ernst Bloch), completely overturning all existing situations for the sake of the absolutely new, which exists only then. (Ludwig Rubiner: “Dasein itself does not exist, that which subsists does not exist, we ourselves are the first to make everything” [Der Mensch in der Mitte, 1920, p. 142.1)

Alternatively one can, instead of pointing to the thinking without rules of primitive man (Levy-Bruhl), manipulate the law system from the standpoint of one's own freedom (Wiener) or even equate law and nature as being primitively a structure without subject (Levi-Strauss).

Such is the dialectic of Judaism (as Hegel saw it), the contradiction in human nature becoming seething and virulent through the coming of God, a nature that has been created for a purpose, and now realizes that it has been set in motion toward that end, which by its own powers it could not attain.

The end toward which the whole world is orientated is that unity of divine and human freedom in Jesus Christ, which God alone can effect, for in Christ man finds his own self and is taken up whole and entire into God, in him the urge of Jewish messianic hopes is set at rest, provided that it is agreed to accept the synthesis as being God's grace, and not the goal that Israel is able to reach by dint of its own messianic power.

For that driving force innate in the chosen people leads horizontally into the historical future, but it also leads to the transcendence of this horizontal line. Israel, however, cannot herself resolve this difference, for it is the hollow space in which the figure of the God-man is to be inscribed, who has fulfilled the destiny of all men, even to death and the hopelessness of hell, and transcends this destiny by his resurrection from the dead.

For this reason, Jewish ideology in its brisance [vocab: The shattering effect of the sudden release of energy in an explosion.] as in its dialectic remains the enduring negative proof for the necessity of the Christ event. Jewish thought presses for a change in the structure of the world and of society, because their present structures are so closely allied in principle with the laws of aggression and death. It is always, however, only the structures of this world and this society that Judaism feels must be changed, because the messianic promise is directed toward a temporal future. Should Judaism succeed in changing the structures from the roots upward and lifting the law imposed from above from its hinges, then by this it would in fact bring about a change of heart. The heteronomy of servitude would lie behind us; we would have passed into a realm of freedom, a world of the positively human (Marx).

It is impossible, however, to imagine such a step being taken; it belongs to the sphere of the Utopian, because it implies the removal of that which is to be changed. Judaism, above all religions, ought to have known how to wait in expectation for God to act.

But instead of having the faith to wait for God, she took the management of the messianic kingdom into her own hands and either transformed the meaning of the law promulgated by God as the way to freedom, so that it became a “work” involving the taxing and burdensome labors of man’s own resources (whereas, in fact, it is only by love in its fullness, as St. Paul shows, that the law can truly be fulfilled), or else in the light of the prophecies of Utopia, she has totally excluded all God’s part from the law and, taking prophecy into her own hands, has made it into an enormous human achievement.

We can now begin to see the originality of Christianity in what it brings with it, what it demands and in what in itself alone promises.

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God of My Life – Karl Rahner

March 20, 2014
Karl Rahner (de Lubac's fellow Jesuit), took a lesson from de Lubac's experince and posited "that nature was a 'remainder concept.'" What Rahner meant by "remainder concept," according to Mackey, is "that God had from the beginning of creation destined humanity for a supernatural destiny, a return to a union with God called the beatific vision, and for no other goal." Here is where we encounter Rahner's distinctive existential Thomism. The necessity for even grace to be existential, that is, part and parcel of the world human beings inhabit, is a sure sign of Rahner once sitting under the tutelage of Heidegger. Hence, the "supernatural existential," as Mackey puts it, is "the inmost thing in concrete human existence in all of its concrete history." In other words, positing a "nature" over and against "supernature" is what is superfluous, or remaindered.

Karl Rahner (de Lubac’s fellow Jesuit), took a lesson from de Lubac’s experince and posited “that nature was a ‘remainder concept.’” What Rahner meant by “remainder concept,” according to Mackey, is “that God had from the beginning of creation destined humanity for a supernatural destiny, a return to a union with God called the beatific vision, and for no other goal.” Here is where we encounter Rahner’s distinctive existential Thomism. The necessity for even grace to be existential, that is, part and parcel of the world human beings inhabit, is a sure sign of Rahner once sitting under the tutelage of Heidegger. Hence, the “supernatural existential,” as Mackey puts it, is “the inmost thing in concrete human existence in all of its concrete history.” In other words, positing a “nature” over and against “supernature” is what is superfluous, or remaindered.

From Encounters with Silence

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I should like to speak with You, my God, and yet what else can I speak of but You? Indeed, could anything at all exist which had not been present with You from all eternity, which didn’t have its true home and most intimate explanation in Your mind and heart? Isn’t everything I ever say really a statement about You?

On the other hand, if I try, shyly and hesitantly, to speak to You about Yourself, You will still be hearing about me. For what could I say about You except that You are my God, the God of my beginning and end, God of my joy and my need, God of my life?

Of course You are endlessly more than merely the God of my life — if that’s all You were, You wouldn’t really be God at all. But even when I think of Your towering majesty, even when I acknowledge You as someone Who has no need of me, Who is infinitely far exalted above the lowly valleys through which I drag out the paths of my life — even then I have called You once again by the same name, God of my life.

And when I give praise to You as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, when I confess the thrice holy mystery of Your life, so eternally hidden in the abysses of Your Infinity that it leaves behind in creation no sign that we could make out by ourselves, am I not still praising You as the God of my life? Even granting that You had revealed to me this secret of Your own inner life, would I be able to accept and realize this mystery if Your life had not become my life through grace? Would I be able to acknowledge and love You, Father, and You, Eternal Word of the Father’s Heart, and You, Spirit of the Father and the Son, if You had not deigned to become through grace the triune God of my life?

But what am I really saying, when I call You my God, the God of my life? That You are the meaning of my life? the goal of my wanderings? the consecration of my actions? the judgment of my sins? the bitterness of my bitter hours and my most secret joy? my strength, which turns my own strength into weakness? Creator, Sustainer, Pardoner, the One both far and near? Incomprehensible? God of my brethren? God of my fathers?

Are there any titles which I needn’t give You? And when I have listed them all, what have I said? If I should take my stand on the shore of Your Endlessness and shout into the trackless reaches of Your Being all the words I have ever learned in the poor prison of my little existence, what should I have said? I should never have spoken the last word about You.

Then why do I even begin to speak of You? Why do You torment me with Your Infinity, if I can never really measure it? Why do You constrain me to walk along

Your paths, if they lead only to the awful darkness of Your night, where only You can see? For us, only the finite and tangible is real and near enough to touch: can You be real and near to me, when I must confess You as Infinite?

Why have You burnt Your mark in my soul in Baptism? Why have You kindled in me the flame of faith, this dark light which lures us out of the bright security of our little huts into Your night? And why have You made me Your priest, one whose vocation it is to be with You on behalf of men, when my finiteness makes me gasp for breath in Your presence?

Look at the vast majority of men, Lord — and excuse me if I presume to pass judgment on them — but do they often think of You? Are You the First Beginning and Last End for them, the One without whom their minds and hearts can find no rest? Don’t they manage to get along perfectly well without You? Don’t they feel quite at home in this world which they know so well, where they can be sure of just what they have to reckon with? Are You anything more for them than the One who sees to it that the world stays on its hinges, so that they won’t have to call on You? Tell me, are You the God of their life?

I don’t really know, Lord, if my complaint is just or not — who knows the heart of another man? You alone are the reader of hearts, O God, and how can I expect to understand the heart of another when I don’t even understand my own? It’s just that I can’t help thinking of those others, because — as You well know, since You see into the depths of my heart, O Hidden God from whom nothing is hidden — often enough I feel in myself a secret longing to be like them or, at least, to be as they seem to be.

O Lord, how helpless I am when I try to talk to You about Yourself! How can I call You anything but the God of my life? And what have I said with that title, when no name is really adequate? I’m constantly tempted to creep away from You in utter discouragement, back to the things that are more comprehensible, to things with which my heart feels so much more at home than it does with Your mysteriousness.

And yet, where shall I go? If the narrow hut of this earthly life with its dear, familiar trivialities, its joys and sorrows both great and small — if this were my real home, wouldn’t it still be surrounded by Your distant Endlessness? Could the earth be my home without Your far-away heaven above it?

Suppose I tried to be satisfied with what so many today profess to be the purpose of their lives. Suppose I defiantly determined to admit my finiteness, and glory in it alone. I could only begin to recognize this finiteness and accept it as my sole destiny, because I had previously so often stared out into the vast reaches of limitless space, to those hazy horizons where Your Endless Life is just beginning.

Without You, I should founder helplessly in my own dull and groping narrowness. I could never feel the pain of longing, not even deliberately resign myself to being content with this world, had not my mind again and again soared out over its own limitations into the hushed reaches which are filled by You alone, the Silent Infinite. Where should I flee before You, when all my yearning for the unbounded, even my bold trust in my littleness, is really a confession of You?

What else is there that I can tell You about Yourself, except that You are the One without whom I cannot exist, the Eternal God from whom alone I, a creature of time, can draw the strength to live, the Infinity who gives meaning to my finiteness? And when I tell You all this, then I have given myself my true name, the name I ever repeat when I pray in David’s Psalter, “Tuus sum ego.” I am the one who belongs not to himself, but to You. I know no more than this about myself, nor about You, O God of my life, Infinity of my finiteness.

What a poor creature You have made me, O God! All I know about You and about myself is that You are the eternal mystery of my life. Lord, what a frightful puzzle man is! He belongs to You, and You are the Incomprehensible — Incomprehensible in Your Being, and even more-so in Your ways and judgments. For if all Your dealings with me are acts of Your freedom, quite unmerited gifts of Your grace which knows no “why,” if my creation and my whole life hang absolutely on Your free decision, if all my paths are, after all, Your paths and, therefore, unscarchable, then, Lord, no amount of questioning will ever fathom Your depths — You will still be the Incomprehensible, even when I see You face to face.

But if You were not incomprehensible, You would be inferior to me, for my mind could grasp and assimilate You. You would belong to me, instead of I to You. And that would truly be hell, if I should belong only to myself I It would be the fate of the damned, to be doomed to pace up and down for all eternity in the cramped and confining prison of my own finiteness.

But can it be that You are my true home? Are You the One who will release me from my narrow little dungeon? Or are You merely adding another torment to my life, when You throw open the gates leading out upon Your broad and endless plain? Are You anything more than my own great insufficiency, if all my knowledge leads only to Your Incomprehensibility? Are You merely eternal unrest for the restless soul? Must every question fall dumb before You, unanswered? Is Your only response the mute “I will have it so,” that so coldly smothers my burning desire to understand?

But I am rambling on like a fool — excuse me, O God. You have told me through Your Son that You are the God of my love, and You have commanded me to love You. Your commands are often hard because they enjoin the opposite of what my own inclinations would lead me to do, but when You bid me love You, You are ordering something that my own inclinations would never even dare to suggest: to love You, to come intimately close to You, to love Your very life. You ask me to lose myself in You, knowing that You will take me to Your Heart, where I may speak on loving, familiar terms with You, the incomprehensible mystery of my life. And all this be­cause You are Love Itself.

Only in love can I find You, my God. In love the gates of my soul spring open, allowing me to breathe a new air of freedom and forget my own petty self. In love my whole being streams forth out of the rigid confines ofnarrowness and anxious self-assertion, which make me a prisoner of my own poverty and emptiness. In love all the powers of my soul flow out toward You, wanting never more to return, but to lose themselves completely in You, since by Your love You are the inmost center of my heart, closer to me than I am to myself.

But when I love You, when I manage to break out of the narrow circle of self and leave behind the restless agony of unanswered questions, when my blinded eyes no longer look merely from afar and from the outside upon Your unapproachable brightness, and much more when You Yourself, O Incomprehensible One, have become through love the inmost center of my life, then I can bury myself entirely in You, O mysterious God, and with myself all my questions.

Love such as this wills to possess You as You are — how could it desire otherwise? It wants You Yourself, not Your reflection in the mirror of its own spirit. It wants to be united with You alone, so that in the very instant in which it gives up possession of itself, it will have not just Your image, but Your very Self.

Love wants You as You are, and just as love knows that it itself is right and good and needs no further justifica­tion, so You are right and good for it, and it embraces You without asking for any explanation of why You are as You are. Your “I will have it so” is love’s greatest bliss. In this state of joy my mind no longer tries to bring You forcibly down to its level, in order to wrest from You Your eternal secret, but rather love seizes me and carries me up to Your level, into You.

When I abandon myself in love, then You are my very life, and Your Incomprehensibility is swallowed up in love’s unity. When I am allowed to love You, the grasp of Your very mystery becomes a positive source of bliss. Then the farther Your Infinity is removed from my nothingness, the greater is the challenge to my love. The more complete the dependence of my fragile existence upon Your unsearchable counsels, the more unconditional must be the surrender of my whole being to You, beloved God. The more annihilating the incomprehensibility of Your ways and judgments, the greater must be the holy defiance of my love. And my love is all the greater and more blessed, the less my poor spirit understands of You.

God of my life, Incomprehensible, be my life. God of my faith, who lead me into Your darkness — God of my love, who turn Your darkness into the sweet light of my life, be now the God of my hope, so that You will one day be the God of my life, the life of eternal love.

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The Meaning Of The New Covenant 3 – Hans Urs von Balthasar

March 12, 2014
The Jesus of the Johannine writings demands that we love him, since the whole essence of the faith is simply that we should understand that the love that characterizes the life of the Trinity has been manifested in him, and in him has been abundantly proved.

The Jesus of the Johannine writings demands that we love him, since the whole essence of the faith is simply that we should understand that the love that characterizes the life of the Trinity has been manifested in him, and in him has been abundantly proved.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, a Swiss theologian, is widely considered one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century. He wrote over 60 works of theology, spirituality and philosophy, including his great trilogy: the 7 volume work The Glory of the Lord, the five volume work Theo-Drama, and the three volume work Theo-Logic. His most famous individual works include Prayer, Heart of the World, Mysterium Paschale and Cosmic Liturgy. “Just as Love Alone Is Credible captures the essence of the seven-volume The Glory of the Lord, so does Engagement with God explain his five-volume Theo-Drama. But in Engagement with God von Balthasar does more: by setting his account of the drama of Christian discipleship against the anti-Christian ideologies of the 1960s von Balthasar brings his theology to bear on the highest cost of discipleship — martyrdom — by seeing the martyr as the mirror of God’s own involvement in the human race through his own martyred Son. One can hardly read a more sober, and yet exhilarating, account of what it means to live committed to God’s own commitment to the world.

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The Encounter Between the Chooser and the Chosen
We have perhaps moved too swiftly in our argument and not taken sufficient notice of the yawning chasms that open up all around us and obstruct the easy road to the synthesis into which we have been attempting to resolve the involvement of God and the involvement of Christ. We must retrace our steps a little and ponder the whole difficulty inherent in such a synthesis. Christ is the instrument of God’s saving action on our behalf, how, therefore, is it possible that we too should ourselves be sharers with God in this saving work?

This will be a really difficult question to answer if we consider that God began his decisive work for us in the earthly life of Jesus, which, however, ended in disaster; and that the crucial steps in this work of redemption were taken when Christ underwent his atoning death on the Cross, suffered the agony of God-abandonment, descended into hell, and rose again on the third day. This last and most important sequence of events would seem to be impatient of any copying or imitation by us. For as long as we live, we ourselves can only perform finite acts against which the death and Resurrection of Christ, which clearly are not finite but eternal in character, stand out in sharp contrast.

Let us look first at the pattern of Christ’s saving work. His earthly life runs a horizontal course from his Incarnation and his birth to the moment of his death. Then comes a sharp break, a drop: “He descended into Hell.” He arrives in the realm where time and space are nonexistent, whereas for us (on Holy Saturday), chronological or surface time continues.

Then from the timeless, spaceless darkness of hell, the power and the glory of the Father resurrects him “on the third day” and raises him vertically to the horizontal plane he had left, lifting him whole and entire, body and soul into the eternal life of the Godhead.

Such a pattern of life (if we may call it this) embraces a compass infinitely and incomprehensibly vaster than that normally reckoned to be the scope of an ordinary human existence. It spans the whole of time and extends beyond this into an eternity of two kinds. The first of these is the timelessness of the underworld, where all dimensions of time are lost and where all is reduced to a timeless “point of death”; and the second is what we may call “time which has no end”, where the doors are flung open on to an expanse of eternity that stretches endlessly in every direction (a difficult notion indeed to describe adequately).

Now according to St. Paul, the whole of this extended pattern of life is to be taken as the measure of our life as Christians here on earth. If, according to him, we have already died with the dying Christ — sacramentally in baptism and existentially through our being crucified with Christ (see Galatians 6:14) — but at the same time have been raised with him and given a place in heaven with him, in Christ Jesus (see Ephesians 2:6), we therefore live within a horizon and from sources that lie beyond the limits of our mortality.

How, therefore, is this to be possible? How does God’s involvement in Christ impinge upon our involvement as Christians? Is this divine/human encounter so wholly beyond our scrutiny that we can only argue that somehow, though in our mortal condition sinful and fallen, we are at the same time justified by God through Christ, which we may find difficult to appreciate but which we nonetheless accept in faith? Or is there a point where the divine intersects with the human, perceptible to our conscious minds, that we can realize as Christians?

Under the Old Covenant, we saw that Israel’s response to God when he first called her by his grace was a response of total compliancy to the will of God and a corresponding willingness to be led into freedom by him. At least ideally this ought to have been so, for Israel never really succeeded in living up to her calling. Under the New Covenant, it is in the attitude of the Word-Made-Man, Jesus of Nazareth, that we can perceive the full realization of this total and unconditional willingness to submit to the guidance of the Father’s will. For only when in all seriousness a man declares in advance his willingness to agree to every divine decree, even should the decree be hidden and incalculable, can it be said that, in making this kind of response, his will is in perfect harmony with the will of God.

The gift of God’s grace alone, of course, makes this possible; but no violence is done to human nature in making such an act of submission. When a man says Yes to God, it is possible that God has destined him to suffering, darkness, and dereliction, a prospect sufficient to strike terror into the hearts of finite and mortal beings, and to cause them to draw back in fright because this is far more than the ordinary man can demand of himself, even when stretched to the limit. Hence there arises a conflict (like that on the Mount of Olives) between “my will” and “thy will”; yet it is the pact with God, made at the beginning, that finally triumphs over the promptings of his own will, because in the last resort his deepest inclination is to say Yes to the will of God.

Only thus can a proper balance be achieved between the divine commandment and human consent. For under these circumstances, this allowing God to have his way is by no means the same as resigning oneself to fate or to the dominion of some superior being; it is rather a childlike surrender in trust of all that we have or are to the love of God, which we may indeed no longer feel, but which still, nonetheless, attracts our love in return. This is consent in its purest form as we find it in the New Testament.

It is, after all, the action on which the whole of Jesus’ existence is founded, who as God and man brought this aspect of unceasing self-surrender from the sphere of the divine into the midst of human existence. It is similarly the action fundamental to the life of his Mother, Mary, who signifies by her Ecce ancilla that she too has totally and unconditionally surrendered to the divine will; for she is purely womb, purely Matrix and Materia and Mater from which God may fashion whatever he will.

She is thus a figure of the Church that, unlike the Synagogue of old, does not hang back reluctantly while her leader goes forward obediently, but corresponds in all things to her Head. In Mary heaven and earth finally converge, here the finite encounters the infinite. Heaven, being masculine, takes the initiative and bestows its infinity on the earth; the earth, endowed with the quality of infinity, responds accordingly and brings forth her fruit. In the same spirit Mary (and in her, the holy Church), without knowing what would happen, accompanied her Son through all the foreordained events of his life, through the God-abandonment on the Cross, through the darkness of death to the Resurrection. Thus we can see that the whole of God’s action in Jesus Christ by grace can become the model for our involvement with God: in the work of liberating the world.

We now also understand why Jesus promised his disciples that they would “accomplish greater works” than he had done on earth. For the things he accomplished during his earthly ministry were but parables of his coming Passion and Resurrection. For example, he healed the sick, changed few loaves into many, walked on the water; and these are all stages on the way toward a reality that he describes as finishing his course (see Luke 13:32). Christians, however, through participating in his perfection now accomplished, derive from this the power to be effective in the world, aided as they are by the Holy Spirit, who himself proceeds from the perfected work of God.

This affords us another important insight. God acted in Christ, painstakingly and tirelessly for the sake of the poor, the sick, the stranger, the hungry, and the naked, for all those in fact imprisoned in the “Egyptian bondage” of this world of alienation, until eventually he took upon himself all our fallenness in the person of his Son. For Jesus expressly identified himself with all the poor of this world (see Matthew 25:35ff.), in order that the Father might be able to recognize them all in him and therefore see him in all of them. If, however, we are to see the involvement of men as being harnessed at source with the divine involvement, then to be a Christian cannot simply mean to attempt to imitate God’s involvement in our ethical, social, and political involvements by equally declaring our solidarity with the poor, the oppressed, the captive, and those who endure torture.

Rather the significant factor in being a Christian is that he does all with reference to and in dependence on the ultimate source of his actions, through loving first and above all things, the God who loves us in Christ in order that he may then, by means of and together with love, turn his attention to the needs of those who are the object of the love of God. Only if we start from this “Alpha” will our involvement lead us to the “Omega” of the man who is loved, only thus will we succeed in caring for him inwardly in order that he may find his true destiny, only thus will we achieve that solidarity with him which is only possible in God.

In the process of all this, however, we encounter the primary object of the love of God, namely, Jesus Christ, the God-man, who is at once the fullest expression of the divine activity as he is its consummation and who, being the focus of divine and human love, can never be disregarded nor bypassed. He is no mere transitory intermediary who will eventually be no longer required; he is in his role as mediator the everlasting midpoint in whom the love of God for us shines brightly and in whom our love for God and for our neighbor is gathered together into a unit.

We can understand therefore why Paul, after the long labor of dictating the first letter to the Corinthians, finally takes the pen in his own hand to sign it and adds a last sentence (which presumably comes from a liturgy with which the Corinthians were familiar). “If anyone has no love for the Lord [Jesus],” he writes, “let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22).

Because if he does not love the Lord, he does not belong to the Christian community; he has no part in the table of the Lord, where Christ gives himself in love; he has not even understood the very heart of the Christian faith. Similarly, the Jesus of the Johannine writings demands that we love him, since the whole essence of the faith is simply that we should understand that the love that characterizes the life of the Trinity has been manifested in him, and in him has been abundantly proved (see John 8:42; 14:15, 21, 23-24, 28; 15:21, 23-24; 16:27; 21:15ff; 1 John 2:15; 4:20; 5:iff.).

To say that love is the communion of Christians is not simply to enunciate an abstract principle; rather in the Christian communion of love we share in a personal act of God himself, the tip of which may be seen shining in the person of Christ, but which in its depths contains the interpersonal life of the Blessed Trinity and in its breadth embraces the love of God for the whole world.

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The Meaning Of The New Covenant 2 – Hans Urs von Balthasar

March 11, 2014
“But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”  Genesis 33:4 This has long struck me as one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible.  I can’t read it without being moved.  But we all feel the power of it.  When we see ex-friends reconciling, so removing every barrier that they run and embrace and fall on one another’s necks — I love that expression — and weep, the beauty of it gets to us.  Not a negotiated settlement.  No face-saving baloney.  The real thing.  Honest.  Unforced.  Deeply felt.  I think we all perceive true reconciliation with awe.  It is of God.

“But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” Genesis 33:4 This has long struck me as one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible. I can’t read it without being moved. But we all feel the power of it. When we see ex-friends reconciling, so removing every barrier that they run and embrace and fall on one another’s necks — I love that expression — and weep, the beauty of it gets to us. Not a negotiated settlement. No face-saving baloney. The real thing. Honest. Unforced. Deeply felt. I think we all perceive true reconciliation with awe. It is of God.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, a Swiss theologian, is widely considered one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century. He wrote over 60 works of theology, spirituality and philosophy, including his great trilogy: the 7 volume work The Glory of the Lord, the five volume work Theo-Drama, and the three volume work Theo-Logic. His most famous individual works include Prayer, Heart of the World, Mysterium Paschale and Cosmic Liturgy. “Just as Love Alone Is Credible captures the essence of the seven-volume The Glory of the Lord, so does Engagement with God explain his five-volume Theo-Drama. But in Engagement with God von Balthasar does more: by setting his account of the drama of Christian discipleship against the anti-Christian ideologies of the 1960s von Balthasar brings his theology to bear on the highest cost of discipleship — martyrdom — by seeing the martyr as the mirror of God’s own involvement in the human race through his own martyred Son. One can hardly read a more sober, and yet exhilarating, account of what it means to live committed to God’s own commitment to the world.

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Through the Incarnation of the Son, however, a member of this heavenly society becomes a human being. This marks the beginning of human society being fashioned according to the spirit and form of the heavenly society. True, psychological and sociological principles of community living are not thereby excluded, but they are given a final point of reference that lies beyond their somewhat uncertain and precarious doctrines in God himself.

In fact all earthly ordinances concerning personal life and interpersonal relationships have been objectively transcended since God in Christ totally involved himself, for the sake of the whole of humanity, in the sphere of the life of the Trinity. Saying that this in itself is objectively true does not yet mean that men acknowledge the subjective implications of this truth.

For on the one hand, through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14ff.), men will have to be confronted with this objective truth; yet on the other hand, when thus confronted they will have to ratify it in freedom or remain free to reject it out of hand. It is at this point, when we begin to see something of the dramatic nature of the history of our liberation, that the role of the Church becomes apparent.

Taking all things into consideration we see that the Church’s role in the scheme of our salvation can only be a mediatorial yet dynamic one. She reenacts on a higher and universal level the part played by God’s personal representatives among the people of Israel, that is, that of being the representative of God to the people and of the people to God. Under the New Covenant, this “people” is the whole of humanity.

Hence the role of the Church in the world is not to be a kind of alternative society, shut off and enclosed, a community or society preoccupied with its own internal affairs, a spiritual “society of the perfect” that exists side by side with the secular order. The whole justification for her existence lies in her communicating to the rest of mankind the universally valid truths concerning God’s liberating and redeeming work with fundamental openness, which in itself is but the continuation of God’s involvement in Christ for the sake of the world.

For this purpose, the Church only needs such visible structure as is necessary to permit her message and her genuineness to be proclaimed convincingly in the world. The question is, however, in what does this structure consist? It is built principally of men who have solidly affirmed their faith in God’s total involvement in the work of liberating the world and have given it their full assent; in the act of believing, they lay hold of the reality of their liberation and seek to realize this in their own lives. Their faith leads them to submit to incorporation (by baptism) into that society offered by God to the world.

This done, they take part in the mystery of the Eucharist, which mystery is itself but the total involvement of God himself. Here the Father offers to us his Son under the form of his supreme action on our behalf, giving us his flesh and hisblood outpoured for our sustenance. They share, too, in a forgiveness of sins that is constantly renewed by the sacrament of conversion (or penance); they partake of the Holy Spirit, which fills the divine society. There is a ministry in the Church that exists to exercise a stewardship of these mysteries of God’s gift of himself to the faithful.

It is a service rendered to those who serve, a ministry of reconciliation toward those whose task it is to reconcile. It is in fact no more than this, nor should it be accorded any greater importance. It does, however, serve the function (as the Pauline Epistles show) of training people in that kind of obedience demanded by the Church and without which the Church would not be able to proclaim and witness convincingly to the obedience of Jesus to the Father. This obedience which the Church requires is a necessary factor, too, because the Church of necessity has, for the sake of the world, to reflect something of that absolute unity which characterizes the society of the divine Persons, in which nothing is private, where there are no divisions and no rivalries, but where the principle of unity is a love that encompasses and overrides all individuality.

In the Church, therefore, each member is a person insofar as he assumes the unique role to which God by his grace has called him, in order that he may be truly a person, through serving the interests of the community as a whole. St. Paul’s image of the Body and its many members illustrates this principle and has to stand the test of the most difficult situations (cf. Acts 21:17-30) and to hold good in the face of the almost disastrous tensions that arise from time to time between the “stronger” and the “weaker” brethren (see Romans 14-15; 1 Corinthians 8).

The Church, therefore, is Christ’s fellow servant in his task of liberating the world. She shares with God in his work of sharing himself in Christ with the world. Hence the act of sharing must be at the very center of the Church’s life and being. She can only be truly herself insofar as she accepts the fact that she is the means of God’s sharing and imparting himself, and she can only fulfill her true nature in the process of distributing what she herself has been privileged to share in.

St. Paul describes her as the Body of Christ, that Body which is actualized at the very place where Christ shares himself with those who share with him in the sacrificial meal (see 1 Corinthians 10:16ff.) and charges those who receive him to imitate his own disposition and willingness to share and to give (see 2 Corinthians 8-9). St. John draws the most obvious conclusion when he says that Christ “laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

In the Church, therefore, there exists no other difference between the celebration of the sacraments and our everyday existence, save that between the source and its issue. Here, in the dynamic life of the Church and nowhere else, all the mysteries of our faith — the Trinity, the doctrine of the Person of Christ, the doctrines about the Church, the sacraments, the mystery of Christian living — come to be seen as nothing less than God’s imparting of his life-giving love to us; and this love flows through the Church and out into the world.

Since God was made man there is no shorter way of answering the question as to who it is that under the New Covenant is the object of God’s choosing than by stating the whole sequence — Christ, the Church, mankind; and we include under mankind, of course, the whole cosmos. All interpolations into this sequence must be regarded as purely relative or provisional; they are related to the final goal for which God has risked the whole of his involvement, that is, the world as a whole. “For God so loved the world …” (John 3:16, emphasis added).

Indeed, from the Christian point of view, the world is no longer an anonymous collection of individuals; for in proportion as the light of heaven penetrates through Christ and the Church into the darkness of the world, so it visibly gives personality to the whole human community. Each man encountering this light receives a call and a commission; to him is given the task of living for others, and he becomes one of those who have begun to grasp the meaning of communion and sharing.

We are back once more to the parable of the leaven. The dough that is as yet unleavened is a shapeless mass of private existences that, because they are under the dominion of the powers of this world, are pushed together into a collective lump. The leavening promises two things that cannot be seen in isolation: on the one hand, a release from merely private existence in order that men may become fully individual, and on the other hand, a release from collective existence for the sake of a genuine communion and sharing.

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The Meaning Of The New Covenant 1 – Hans Urs von Balthasar

March 10, 2014
The brilliant theologian and philosopher Hans Urs von Balthasar writes about God's involvement with man and man's involvement with God in the Old and the New Testaments. He shows how that interaction of the divine with the human reveals the meaning of true freedom that man is always hungering for but often strives after in wrong and dangerous ways. He shows that God's free revelation of himself in Christ is an invitation to enter into the realm of absolute and divine freedom, in which alone human freedom can be fully realized.  The true Christian manifests the kind of freedom that is constantly being sought after by the non-Christian. In modern times, the freedom of man is a theme that preoccupies everyone. Atheistic philosophies are wholly taken up with this preoccupation. The Enlightenment was concerned with the freeing of reason from the "fetters of faith': Marx wrote about freeing man economically, and Freud wrote of freeing man from the bondage of a past as yet unmastered. As opposed to those whose search for freedom urges them onward into a barren void, the Christian stands as the messenger of freedom accomplished and a freedom attainable by all. A true freedom of the sons and daughters of God, something of the dramatic nature of the history of our liberation, that the role of the Church becomes apparent.

The brilliant theologian and philosopher Hans Urs von Balthasar writes about God’s involvement with man and man’s involvement with God in the Old and the New Testaments. He shows how that interaction of the divine with the human reveals the meaning of true freedom that man is always hungering for but often strives after in wrong and dangerous ways. He shows that God’s free revelation of himself in Christ is an invitation to enter into the realm of absolute and divine freedom, in which alone human freedom can be fully realized. The true Christian manifests the kind of freedom that is constantly being sought after by the non-Christian. In modern times, the freedom of man is a theme that preoccupies everyone. Atheistic philosophies are wholly taken up with this preoccupation. The Enlightenment was concerned with the freeing of reason from the “fetters of faith’: Marx wrote about freeing man economically, and Freud wrote of freeing man from the bondage of a past as yet unmastered. As opposed to those whose search for freedom urges them onward into a barren void, the Christian stands as the messenger of freedom accomplished and a freedom attainable by all. A true freedom of the sons and daughters of God, something of the dramatic nature of the history of our liberation, that the role of the Church becomes apparent.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, a Swiss theologian, is widely considered one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century. He wrote over 60 works of theology, spirituality and philosophy, including his great trilogy: the 7 volume work The Glory of the Lord, the five volume work Theo-Drama, and the three volume work Theo-Logic. His most famous individual works include Prayer, Heart of the World, Mysterium Paschale and Cosmic Liturgy. “Just as Love Alone Is Credible captures the essence of the seven-volume The Glory of the Lord, so does Engagement with God explain his five-volume Theo-Drama. But in Engagement with God von Balthasar does more: by setting his account of the drama of Christian discipleship against the anti-Christian ideologies of the 1960s von Balthasar brings his theology to bear on the highest cost of discipleship — martyrdom — by seeing the martyr as the mirror of God’s own involvement in the human race through his own martyred Son. One can hardly read a more sober, and yet exhilarating, account of what it means to live committed to God’s own commitment to the world.

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Jesus as God’s Involvement
The Old Covenant afforded us a superlatively clear picture of the God who chooses freely and of man, chosen that he might be free. It showed us their meeting and engaging with one another in a relationship of grace and obedience, of love given and love returned; and that this return of love determines the whole man in his religious, ethical, devotional, and secular existence. If we look now at the New Testament and say that the divine involvement reaches its consummation in the man, Jesus of Nazareth, does not then the whole scheme we have just outlined threaten to concertina?

For in Jesus of Nazareth, God’s word to us becomes simultaneously man’s response to him, the God who chooses becomes mingled with man who is the object of this choice, and it is reasonable to fear that the ordered relationship of distance and proximity between God and man might become confused, that God might finally become totally absorbed in manhood and that man might then be able to consider himself endowed with the dignity of Godhood. It is a foolhardy risk that God takes in allowing his Word to “be made man” in Jesus, and it is because God is prepared to risk even the cross and the state of God-abandonment that Paul can speak of “the foolishness of God”.

The fact that Jesus is the ultimate expression of the divine involvement is evident in a doctrine, central to primitive and, indeed, pre-Pauline Christianity and summed up in the phrase pro nobis — “on our behalf”. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” [sharing our lost condition] (Romans 8:32).

And the Son is not content to submit passively or unwillingly, for he takes on the Father’s attitude of self-giving. “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [and] … he was buried” (1Corinthians 15:3-4); “the Son of God … loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The Son’s devotion expressed the Father’s condescension, which proves his overflowing love for the world (see John 3:16). One can next see this gesture simply as a radical expression of God’s action in choosing that we saw in the Old Testament.

Then this choosing was basically the means by which Israel was liberated from the “slavery of Egypt”, and through which she became for the first time a real people. A people, however, possesses at least an element of freedom and autonomy; and by declaring Israel to be his own peculiar possession, God thus in advance liberates her from all other rulers, whether they be the kings of this world or angelic powers (see Deuteronomy 32:8).

And in proportion as Israel denied the fact that she was God’s own possession, so she forfeited this at the expense of her unique kind of freedom and became subject to some foreign power, suffering even the exile to Babylon and later in her history, subjection to Hellenistic princes and Roman emperors. God’s final involvement in Jesus, however, results in effecting in man that final freedom which is described by both Paul (see Galatians 5:2) and John (see John 8:32).

This is freedom not only from political oppression, but from every kind of cosmic power: from fate, from the compelling lure of sin, from a state of estrangement from God, from the instinctive urge toward self-defense, aggression, and murder, from dissipation among all that is vain and futile, and finally from death itself. The effective working of all these forces is thereby crippled, rendered impotent, and destroyed (see 1 Corinthians 15:24-26).

This, however, is only possible because these forces are conquered not from outside or from above, but from within by the process of God’s “self-emptying” in the person of his Son, by his becoming obedient “even unto death”, and (as the sign of Jonah prefigures) by his descending into the depths of the abyss, in order that man may not be left with any anti-divine experience that God himself has not undergone, which he might count as peculiarly his own and use as a means of “getting back” at his Maker.

It is necessary that all cosmic forces should be completely disarmed by God himself, in order that he may bring man, now liberated, back home to the open spaces of the divine freedom. Had Jesus in fact been merely a man, he would never have been able to have been himself the very embodiment of God’s mighty act of liberation.

The fact that those freed by the divine action still live in the world does not mean that they belong to the world, as though possessed by the world and incorporated into its structure. They are indeed in themselves finite individuals, but are no longer in slavery for — through the process of dying and rising with Christ — they have broken through into the infinity and freedom of God himself. “

But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10). In these words Paul describes the essential freedom of the Christian, in the middle of his continuing solidarity with humanity that has fallen prey to death. For as Christ of his free love yielded himself willingly to be bound under obedience to fate, death, and dereliction, thereby breaking their compelling hold, so the Christian preserves a deep and inward freedom while continuing to live among these earthly powers and ordinances (see Matthew 1.7:26; Galatians 4:5; 2 Peter 2:16).

This mighty and quite unexpected act of God, who involved himself for the sake of mankind to the extent of his Word being made man and Jesus dying and being raised from the dead, signifies man’s vocation to become what in truth he really is. He is called thereby to realize his own freedom, for man (in the final analysis) is simply what he chooses to be. For as Israel was “no people” before being called and liberated from Egypt (she was “no people” 1 Peter 2:10, and as though she was a thing that did not exist — see Romans 4:17) and only constituted a living entity in the eyes of God after being called by him — so too the Christian, in his personal as in his social life, is not truly himself until he is within God’s involvement in Jesus, by which he is rescued from his state of alienation where his “understanding lay darkened”, and, being delivered from the “power of darkness”, is brought into the clear light of self-knowledge that reveals to him his true identity, shows him his true vocation, and enlightens him as to the real meaning of his existence.

God’s involvement of himself “on our behalf”, therefore, does not consist of his making some external pronouncement of forgiveness (to use a forensic image) of which we are either unaware or only subsequently find applied to us (for so many would understand the process of justification). God’s action impinges on us at a much deeper level, at the very heart of our being. For the grace of God is fundamentally a call; it is being enlisted in God’s service; it is being commissioned with a special task; and through all this there is bestowed upon us a unique personal dignity in the eyes of God. We have yet to explain how this is so.

Suffice to say here that our being chosen by God means (in a negative sense) being rescued from the clutches of the powers of this world and (in a positive sense) being appointed to a service, unique as it is personal, and being endowed with a spark of God’s own uniqueness. Thereby, God enlists us as the agents of his activity in the world, takes us for his own, and gives us “a new name … which no one knows except him who receives it” (Revelations 2:17). For in proportion as God makes us free in ourselves, so we are correspondingly free and at his disposal for his activity in the world. St. Paul sees the Christian’s freedom and his service in God’s free work as two sides of the same coin (see Romans 6:15-23). And it is in the living out of this paradox of freedom and service that man comes to be most truly himself.

The Chosen
Under the Old Covenant Israel was the elect of God, chosen, however, not as a mere anonymous collection of people but given personal quality through its great representatives, in whose persons God looked upon the people as a whole, and whose duty it was to represent the people to God. Under the New Covenant, the individual/community tension is alleviated in two ways.

To begin with, the many representatives of the people of old were all forerunners of the one, final, and effective representative of men to God. For Jesus Himself is the elect of God; it is he who was promised, it is he who is Messiah, the anointed One, the Christ. Alone and unique, he is both Son of God and Son of Man; on both counts, his dignity and the task he is commissioned to fulfill are of universal significance, concerned with not just one people, but with all mankind. All men indeed live under the dominion of the powers of this world and are subject to death; but Jesus suffers in his own person our common bondage and fallenness and therefore represents all men to God.

Henceforward each individual is looked upon by his heavenly Father in the light of the redeeming work of the Son. And it is precisely on account of this that the whole of humanity, seen by God in the Son, constitutes a unit. In Christ men find a common destiny; in him they constitute a new and universal Israel whose common bond is the Son’s destiny that is decisive for every man.

We have, however, by no means exhausted this theme. In the Son’s work, we see the Father’s involvement of himself in love (see John 3:16; Romans 8:32) and the Son never ceases to remind us that he and his Father share in a common task, which itself is the revelation par excellence that the Godhead in fact is a community of Persons. It remains a unity no less when the distinction is made between the Father (who sends) and the Son (who is sent), a unity so absolute, however, that this unity in itself constitutes a third focus in the Godhead, namely, the Spirit, who comes at the very moment that the Son departs (see John 16:7), who is the Spirit of the Father (see Romans 8:11) as he is the Spirit of the Son (see Romans 8:9), whom the Father sends in the name of the Son (see John 14:26), and whom the Son sends from the Father (see John 15:26).

It is in this sense that the involvement of this unique, free, and personal God is at the same time the involvement of the community of Persons that constitutes the divine society, and if we look at the structures of their involvement, we shall see that, in the realm of the Absolute, the principles of individuality and community are at work together simultaneously, so that the Person makes demands and imposes conditions on the community, and the community does likewise in respect of the Persons. For only in this sense can God in fact be “Love”, without reference to any object of his love in this world.

In the Godhead, therefore, individuality and community have a common origin, for here there exists so intimate a community that the Persons coinhere perfectly in one another; they constitute in fact a communion of the purest kind and are only distinct in order that the one may live for the sake of the other. Thus here the principle of individuality — the inviolable prerequisite for any full communion — totally excludes any idea of what we in a world of finite beings would call “private”.

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Tertullian — Benedict XVI

March 5, 2014
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus was born in c. 160 into a pagan Roman family in Carthage, Africa (modern day Tunisia). After being trained in rhetoric and law, Tertullian become a Christian sometime before the year 197. The first important Christian to write in Latin, he is commonly called the “father of Latin (or Western) theology.” His books were so wonderfully crafted that pagans would read them for the sheer enjoyment of his prose. As a fifth century writer put it, “Almost every word he uttered was an epigram and every sentence was a victory.”

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus was born in c. 160 into a pagan Roman family in Carthage, Africa (modern day Tunisia). After being trained in rhetoric and law, Tertullian become a Christian sometime before the year 197. The first important Christian to write in Latin, he is commonly called the “father of Latin (or Western) theology.” His books were so wonderfully crafted that pagans would read them for the sheer enjoyment of his prose. As a fifth century writer put it, “Almost every word he uttered was an epigram and every sentence was a victory.”

You can never go wrong with a book that deals with Tertullian. So many wonderful quotes:

“The usual complaint is, ‘I have no other way of earning a living.’ The harsh reply can be, ‘Do you have to live?’”
Tertullian

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I wish to discuss now an African, Tertullian, who from the end of the second and beginning of the third century inaugurated Christian literature in the Latin language. He started the use of theology in Latin. His work brought decisive benefits that it would be unforgivable to underestimate. His influence covered different areas: linguistically, from the use of language and the recovery of classical culture, to singling out a common “Christian soul” in the world and in the formulation of new proposals of human coexistence.

We do not know the exact dates of Tertullian’s birth and death. Instead, we know that at Carthage, toward the end of the second century, he received a solid education in rhetoric, philosophy, history, and law from his pagan parents and tutors. He then converted to Christianity, attracted, so it seems, by the example of the Christian martyrs.

He began to publish his most famous writings in 197. But a too-individualistic search for the truth, together with his intransigent character — he was a rigorous man — gradually led him away from communion with the Church to belong to the Montanist sect.

[Montanism was an early Christian movement of the late 2nd century, later referred to by the name of its founder, Montanus, but originally known by its adherents as the New Prophecy. It originated in Phrygia, a province of Asia Minor, and flourished throughout the region, leading to the movement being referred to elsewhere as "Cataphrygian" (meaning it was "from Phrygia") or simply as "Phrygian".

It spread rapidly to other regions in the Roman Empire at a time before Christianity was generally tolerated or legal. It persisted in some isolated places into the 6th century. Although it came to be labeled a heresy, the movement held similar views about the basic tenets of Christian doctrine to those of the wider Christian Church. It was a prophetic movement that called for a reliance on the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit and a more conservative personal ethic. Parallels have been drawn between Montanism and modern-day movements such as Pentecostalism, the charismatic movement, and the New Apostolic Reformation.]

The originality of his thought, however, together with an incisive efficacy of language, assured him a high position in ancient Christian literature.

Tertullian’s apologetic writings are above all the most famous. They manifest two key intentions: to refute the grave accusations that pagans directed against the new religion; and, more proactive and missionary, to proclaim the gospel message in dialogue with the culture of the time.

His most famous work, Apologeticus, denounces the unjust behavior of political authorities toward the Church; explains and defends the teachings and customs of Christians; spells out differences between the new religion and the main philosophical currents of the time; and manifests the triumph of the Spirit that counters its persecutors with the blood, suffering, and patience of the martyrs: “Refined as it is,” the African writes, “your cruelty serves no purpose. On the contrary, for our community, it is an invitation. We multiply every time one of us is mowed down. The blood of Christians is effective seed” (semen est sanguis christianorum! Apologeticus 50, 13).

Martyrdom, suffering for the truth, is in the end victorious and more efficient than the cruelty and violence of totalitarian regimes.

But Tertullian, as every good apologist, at the same time sensed the need to communicate the essence of Christianity positively. This is why he adopted the speculative method to illustrate the rational foundations of Christian dogma. He developed it in a systematic way, beginning with the description of “the God of the Christians”: “He whom we adore,” the Apologist wrote, “is the one, only God.” And he continued, using antitheses and paradoxes characteristic of his language: “He is invisible even if you see him; difficult to grasp even if he is present through grace; inconceivable even if the human senses can perceive him; therefore, he is true and great!” (cf. ibid., 17, 1-2).

Furthermore, Tertullian takes an enormous step in the development of Trinitarian dogma. He has given us an appropriate way to express this great mystery in Latin by introducing the terms “one substance” and “Three persons.” In a similar way, he also greatly developed the correct language to express the mystery of Christ, Son of God and true Man.

The Holy Spirit is also considered in the African’s writings, demonstrating his personal and divine character: “We believe that, according to his promise, Jesus Christ sent, by means of his Father, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the sanctifier of the faith of all those who believe in the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit” (ibid., 2, 1).

Again, there are in Tertullian’s writings numerous texts on the Church, whom he always recognizes as “mother.” Even after his acceptance of Montanism, he did not forget that the Church is the mother of our faith and Christian life.

He even considers the moral conduct of Christians and the future life. His writings are important, as they also show the practical trends in the Christian community regarding Mary most holy, the sacraments of the Eucharist, matrimony, and reconciliation, Petrine primacy, prayer… In a special way, in those times of persecution when Christians seemed to be a lost minority, the Apologist exhorted them to hope, which in his his treatises is not simply a virtue in itself but something that involves every aspect of Christian existence.

We have the hope that the future is ours because the future is God’s. Therefore, the Lord’s Resurrection is presented as the foundation of our future resurrection and represents the main object of the Christian’s confidence: “And so the flesh shall rise again,” the African categorically affirms, “wholly in every man, in its own identity, in its absolute integrity. Wherever it may be, it is in safe keeping in God’s presence, through that most faithful Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, who shall reconcile both God to man and man to God” (Concerning the Resurrection of the Flesh, 63, 1).

From the human viewpoint, one can undoubtedly speak of Tertullian’s own drama. With the passing of years he became increasingly exigent [vocab: pressing; demanding. "the exigent demands of the music took a toll on her voice"] in regard to the Christians. He demanded heroic behavior from them in every circumstance, above all under persecution. Rigid in his positions, he did not withhold blunt criticism, and he inevitably ended by finding himself isolated.

Many questions still remain open today, not only on Tertullian’s theological and philosophical thought, but also on his attitude in regard to political institutions and pagan society. This great moral and intellectual personality, this man who made such a great contribution to Christian thought, makes me think deeply. One sees that in the end he lacked the simplicity, the humility to integrate himself with the Church, to accept his weaknesses, to be forbearing with others and himself.

When one only sees his thought in all its greatness, in the end, it is precisely this greatness that is lost. The essential characteristic of a great theologian is the humility to remain with the Church, to accept his own and others’ weaknesses, because actually only God is all holy. We, instead, always need forgiveness.

Finally, the African remains an interesting witness of the early times of the Church, when Christians found they were the authentic protagonists of a “new culture” in the critical confrontation between the classical heritage and the gospel message.

In his famous affirmation according to which our soul “is naturally Christian” (Apologeticus 17, 6), Tertullian evokes the perennial continuity between authentic human values and Christian ones. Also in his other reflection borrowed directly from the gospel, according to which “the Christian cannot hate, not even his enemies” (cf. Apologeticus 37), is found the unavoidable moral resolve, the choice of faith which proposes “nonviolence” as the rule of life. Indeed, no one can escape the dramatic aptness of this teaching, also in light of the heated debate on religions.

In summary, the treatises of this African trace many themes that we are still called to face today. They involve us in a fruitful interior examination to which I exhort all the faithful, so that they may know how to express in an always more convincing manner the rule of faith, which — again, referring to Tertullian — “prescribes the belief that there is only one God and that he is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through his own Word, generated before all things” (cf. Concerning the Prescription of Heretics 13, 1).

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