Archive for the ‘Pope Benedict XVI’ Category

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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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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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Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance – Benedict XVI

February 26, 2014
The Cardinal and Theological Virtues is a fresco by Raphael as part of his Stanza della Segnatura in the Palazzi Vaticani in Vatican City. It is 6.6m wide at the base. The cardinal virtues are personified as three women in a bucolic landscape, and the theological virtues by cupids. It was painted in 1511 as the fourth part, after the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament, The School of Athens and The Parnassus, of Raphael's commission to decorate with frescoes the rooms that are now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. It is located in the Stanza della segnatura and allegorically presents fortitude, prudence and temperance.

The Cardinal and Theological Virtues is a fresco by Raphael as part of his Stanza della Segnatura in the Palazzi Vaticani in Vatican City. It is 6.6m wide at the base. The cardinal virtues are personified as three women in a bucolic landscape, and the theological virtues by cupids. It was painted in 1511 as the fourth part, after the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament, The School of Athens and The Parnassus, of Raphael’s commission to decorate with frescoes the rooms that are now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. It is located in the Stanza della segnatura and allegorically presents fortitude, prudence and temperance.

Four virtues play a pivotal role in or lives and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. “If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom's] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage” (Wisdom 8:7). These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture.
(CCC 1805)

The human virtues are stable dispositions of the intellect and the will that govern our acts, order our passions, and guide our conduct in accordance with reason and faith. They can be grouped around the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
(CCC 1834)

And if any one loves righteousness, her [Wisdom's] labors are virtues; for she teaches self-control and prudence, justice and courage.”
(Wisdom 8:7)

Human Virtues
Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.

The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.

CCCX804 The Cardinal Virtues
Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going” (Proverbs 14:15). “Keep sane and sober for your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 47, 2). It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15). “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1).

Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song” (Ps 118:14). “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart” (Sirach 5:2; cf. 37:27-3 1). Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites” (Sirach 18:30). In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world” (Titus 2:12).

To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only (God) (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).
(St. Augustine, De moribus eccl. 1, 25, 46: PL 32, 1330-1331)

CCC 1806-1809
The Virtues and Grace
Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God’s help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them.
It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ’s gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil.
CCC 1810-1811

The Wealth Of The People Of God
The person who has recognized Christ as Wisdom Incarnate and for his sake has left everything else becomes a “peacemaker,” both in the Christian community and in the world. In other words, he becomes a seed of the Kingdom of God that is already present and growing towards its full manifestation.

Therefore, in the perspective of the two words, “Wisdom-Christ,” the Word of God offers us a complete vision of man in history: fascinated by Wisdom, he seeks it and finds it in Christ, leaving everything for him and receiving in exchange the priceless gift of the Kingdom of God; and clothed in temperance, prudence, justice, and strength – the “cardinal” virtues — he lives the witness of charity in the Church.

One might wonder whether this perception of the human being can also constitute an ideal of life for the people of our time, especially for the young. That this is possible is shown by countless personal and community testimonies of Christian life which still constitute the wealth of the People of God, pilgrims through history.
Benedict XVI, Homily, May 6, 2006

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Communion With God Mediated By Communion With Christ

August 16, 2013
The National Library of France. Gratio Ut Motio is not a phrase that we come upon everyday, but it is a particular grace that God has given every one of us so that we can believe in him and grow closer to him. The reason we need this grace is simple: our reason is not enough. When Saint Thomas Aquinas describes the beginning of faith in an individual, he points out all the many truths that people encounter in the world that might point to God. There is beauty in the world, there is order, there is progression and maturity.  However, none of these experiences can bring us to the conclusion of who God is.  For that, we need faith, and for faith we need grace.

The National Library of France. Gratio Ut Motio is not a phrase that we come upon everyday, but it is a particular grace that God has given every one of us so that we can believe in him and grow closer to him. The reason we need this grace is simple: our reason is not enough. When Saint Thomas Aquinas describes the beginning of faith in an individual, he points out all the many truths that people encounter in the world that might point to God. There is beauty in the world, there is order, there is progression and maturity. However, none of these experiences can bring us to the conclusion of who God is. For that, we need faith, and for faith we need grace.

Sing To God In Jubilation
Praise the Lord with the lyre, make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song. Rid yourself of what is old and worn out, for you know a new song. A new man, a new covenant; a new song.

This new song does not belong to the old man. Only the new man learns it: the man restored from his fallen condition through the grace of God, and now sharing in the new covenant, that is, the kingdom of heaven. To it all our love now aspires and sings a new song. Let us sing a new song not with our lips but with our lives.

Sing to him a new song, sing to him with joyful melody. Every one of us tries to discover how to sing to God. You must sing to him, but you must sing well. He does not want your voice to come harshly to his ears, so sing well, brothers!

If you were asked, “Sing to please this musician,” you would not like to do so without having taken some instruction in music, because you would not like to offend an expert in the art. An untrained listener does not notice the faults a musician would point out to you. Who, then, will offer to sing well for God, the great artist whose discrimination is faultless, whose attention is on the minutest detail, whose ear nothing escapes? When will you be able to offer him a perfect performance that you will in no way displease such a supremely discerning listener?

See how he himself provides you with a way of singing. Do not search for words, as if you could find a lyric which would give God pleasure. Sing to him “with songs of joy.” This is singing well to God, just singing with songs of joy.

But how is this done? You must first understand that words cannot express the things that are sung by the heart. Take the case of people singing while harvesting in the fields or in the vineyards or when any other strenuous work is in progress. Although they begin by giving expression to their happiness in sung words, yet shortly there is a change. As if so happy that words can no longer express what they feel, they discard the restricting syllables. They burst out into a simple sound of joy, of jubilation. Such a cry of joy is a sound signifying that the heart is bringing to birth what it cannot utter in words.

Now, who is more worthy of such a cry of jubilation than God himself, whom all words fail to describe? If words will not serve, and yet you must not remain silent, what else can you do but cry out for joy? Your heart must rejoice beyond words, soaring into an immensity of gladness, unrestrained by syllabic bonds. Sing to him with jubilation.
St Augustine, A Commentary Of St Augustine On Psalm 32

Faith
Faith is an Orientation of our existence as a whole.  It is a fundamental option that affects every domain of our existence. Nor can it be realized unless all the energies of our existence go into maintaining it. Faith is not a merely intellectual, or merely volitional, or merely emotional activity– it is all of these things together. It is an act of the whole self, of the whole person in his concentrated unity. The Bible describes faith in this sense as an act of the “heart” (Romans 10:9).

Faith is a supremely personal act. But precisely because it is supremely personal, it transcends the self, the limits of the individual….Any act that involves the whole man also involves, not just the self, but the we- dimension, indeed, the wholly other “Thou,” God, together with the self. But this also means that such an act transcends the reach of what I can do alone.

Since man is a created being, the deepest truth about him is never just action but always passion as well; man is not only a giver but also a receiver…Faith is a perishing of the mere self and precisely thus a resurrection of the true self. To believe is to become oneself through liberation from the mere self, a liberation that brings us into communion with God mediated by communion with Christ.
-Pope Benedict XVI

Waiting for Judas…
There is an old legend that after his death Judas found himself at the bottom of a deep and slimy pit. For thousands of years he wept his repentance, and when the tears were finally spent he looked up and saw way, way up a tiny glimmer of light. After he had contemplated it for another thousand years or so, he began to climb up towards it. The walls of the pit were dank and slimy, and he kept slipping back down. Finally, after great effort, he neared the top, and then he slipped and fell all the way back down.

It took him many years to recover, all the time weeping bitter tears of grief and repentance, and then he started to climb up again. After many more falls and efforts and failures he reached the top and dragged himself into an Upper Room with twelve people seated around a table. “We’ve been waiting for you, Judas,” Jesus said. “We couldn’t begin till you came.”

No matter our failings, Jesus is ready to forgive us and welcome us to his table. That is something for which we can truly be thankful.
Madeleine L’Engle

Gratia Ut Motio
“Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.”
St. Thomas Aquinas

Gratio Ut Motio is not a phrase that we come upon everyday, but it is a particular grace that God has given every one of us so that we can believe in him and grow closer to him. The reason we need this grace is simple: our reason is not enough.

When Saint Thomas Aquinas describes the beginning of faith in an individual, he points out all the many truths that people encounter in the world that might point to God. There is beauty in the world, there is order, there is progression and maturity. However, none of these experiences can bring us to the conclusion of who God is.  For that, we need faith, and for faith we need grace.

It is particularly this gratia ut motio which the Lord gives us that helps us to make that free assent of intellect and will in order to believe. This “grace for movement” moves our will to command our intellect to say, “I believe.” We need to think about things and we need to desire them too.  In the act of faith, we do both, and we think about and desire the greatest of all things: God Himself.
Fr. James M. Sullivan, O.P.

Psalm 17 (18)

Thanksgiving

As for God, his ways are perfect;
the word of the Lord, purest gold.
He indeed is the shield
of all who make him their refuge.

For who is God but the Lord?
Who is a rock but our God?
the God who girds me with strength
and makes the path safe before me.

The word of the Lord is a shield for all who make him their refuge.

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Paul And The “Intermediate State” Between Death and Resurrection – Benedict XVI

April 19, 2013
For Paul, life in this world is "Christ," but death is gain, since in the "dissolution" of all that is earthly, death means "being with Christ." An inner freedom springs from this knowledge, a fearless openness in death's regard and also an uncomplaining -- no, more -- a joyful readiness for further service. Raphael’s Paul Preaching in Athens, ca 1515 pictured above.

For Paul, life in this world is “Christ,” but death is gain, since in the “dissolution” of all that is earthly, death means “being with Christ.” An inner freedom springs from this knowledge, a fearless openness in death’s regard and also an uncomplaining — no, more — a joyful readiness for further service. Raphael’s Paul Preaching in Athens, ca 1515 pictured above.

Taken from his 1988 classic, Eschatology, which remains a leading text on the “last things” — heaven and hell, purgatory and judgment, death and the immortality of the soul.

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Let us move on to the Pauline writings. It has become customary to distinguish two phases in the development of Paul’s eschatological thought: an early phase, in which he expects to experience the resurrection and the parousia personally, and a later phase, in which such expectations are gradually eliminated while the question of the intermediate state becomes all the more urgent and meaningful. There is much to be said in favor of such an evolution in Paul’s thinking.

However, Hoffmann has shown that Paul’s ideas about the intermediate state and the resurrection were not affected by it, but remained the same throughout. Because the image of sleep which appears in these texts crops up time and again from Luther to the Dutch Catechism, Hoff man’s analysis of the semantic field of the language of sleep is especially important. Sleep was a euphemism for dying, and for being dead.

Found in both the Jewish and the Hellenistic sphere, it was capacious enough a metaphor to find room for a variety of somewhat different contents. It comprised the idea of unconsciousness, as well as the more positive notion of the peace enjoyed by the just as distinct from sinners. So far as Paul is concerned, Hoffmann shows that his use of the word is uncommitted as between those various contents. So no inferences can be drawn about his views of the condition of the dead.

In his correspondence with the church at Thessalonica, the only eschatological issue Paul addresses is that of the future resurrection. In writing to Philippi, on the other hand, Paul, faced with imminent danger of death, looks steadily at his own destiny and at what will follow death. Yet Philippians is familiar with the same mode of thinking as that in First Thessalonians and, most importantly, both letters argue from the same foundational premise, namely, from Christ, who guarantees the life of those who belong to him.

A careful examination of the formula “the dead in Christ,” found in First Thessalonians 4, 16, leads Hoffman to the following judgment:

To me it seems by no means improbable that the idea of communion with Christ as the determining factor in the death of Christians, found in Philippians 1, 23, is already adumbrated here. Neither in Philippians nor in First Thessalonians are resurrection and intermediate state mutually exclusive. Judaism had bound both firmly together.”

 It seems to me that the profound link between these two Pauline letters in this regard is even clearer in First Thessalonians 5, 10 where the apostle refers to Christ as he who died for us so that “whether we wake or sleep we might live with him.” Evidently, then, it is not “waking” or “sleeping,” earthly “life” or “death” which make the decisive difference but life in communion with Christ or in separation from him.

The hardest nut to crack among the texts debated in this context is 2 Corinthians 5: 1-10:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith not by sight. We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.

None of the numerous interpretations can be called satisfactory in every respect. However, although a number of detailed points will probably always remain controversial, the meticulous textual analysis found in both Hoffmann’s work” and in Bultmann’s commentary on this Letter, agreeing as they do in all essentials, seems to offer a reliable guide to the general thrust of the text. These writers hold that Paul is not offering an express judgment of either a positive or a negative kind about the intermediate state. Rather is he emphasizing the Christian hope for salvation as such, a hope which lies in the Lord and has its focus in our own resurrection?

The foil to Paul’s remarks must be located in the “afflictions” suffered by the disciples and listed in chapter 4 of the Letter. What this means is that the text has nothing of direct relevance to contribute to our discussion. However, the scholars we are following also arrive at a second conclusion which is of indirect importance for us. Despite what a number of exegetes allege, Paul does not say that he is afraid of dying — afraid dying, that is, before the Parousia. It is true that he rejects the Gnostic idea that “nakedness” of soul is a salvific good, pushing it aside without a word of discussion as inhuman and untrue. But fear of the intermediate state as a time of nakedness is notable by its absence. As Bultmann puts it:

Tharrein means we face death with confidence, and eudokomen mallon that we even welcome it! Nothing better could happen, us! … The intrepid zeal to serve the Lord not only knows more fear of death; there is even a touch of longing for death.”

How can such an attitude be explained without invoking Paul’s certitude, expressed in Philippians 1, 23, that even now, to die means to “be with Christ.” A profound isomorphism unites Second Corinthians 5, 6–10 to Philippians 1, 21-26, something especially clear if one concentrates in particular on v. 8 of the Corinthian text and v. 21 of the Philippian. In both cases, the truly desirable thing is being at home with the Lord: already, now, as soon as possible.

Yet in both cases, to speak in the accents of Bultmann, it is also clear that faith banishes not just fear of death, but its opposite, the growing yearning for death, as well. For faith can give even to the burden of “wasting away … daily” the radiance that belongs to being allowed to “please him.”

What makes all these texts, but notably Second Corinthians, so opaque from our viewpoint today is the fact that Paul makes no attempt to develop an anthropology which might clarify this hope in its diverse stages but simply argues from the side of references to Christ. It is Christ who is life: both now and at any point in the future. In the presence of such a certainty, the anthropological “substrate” of Paul’s thinking lies necessarily outside his focus of attention, in shadow. To Paul this must have been unproblematic, since he shared the common presuppositions of his fellow Jews. His task was simply that of formulating the novel element, the reality of Christ and relationship with him, in all its dramatic importance.

In consequence of these reflections, we can afford to be brief in dealing with Philippians 1, 23. For Paul, life in this world is “Christ,” but death is gain, since in the “dissolution” of all that is earthly, death means “being with Christ.” An inner freedom springs from this knowledge, a fearless openness in death’s regard and also an uncomplaining — no, more — a joyful readiness for further service.

In an earlier generation of scholars, it was believed that this text was inexplicable save by the intrusion of “Hellenisation” into the apostle’s thought processes. Today we understand that there is no break whatsoever vis-a-vis Paul’s earlier affirmations.

What he says in Philippians 1 he could already have proclaimed in First Thessalonians, had he seen an opportunity for doing so.’

What is happening before our very eyes is not that Hebrew “monism” is yielding to Greek “dualism,” but that a preexistent Jewish heritage is receiving its proper Christological center. The transformation went so far that it already reached the idea which John would express so graphically: “I am the resurrection and the life.”

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The “Intermediate State” Between Death and Resurrection – Benedict XVI

April 18, 2013
The disciple who is to become the type of all faithful discipleship rests on the bosom of Jesus. The Christian, in his faith and love, finds shelter on the breast of Jesus and so, in the end, on the breast of the Father. "I am the resurrection": what these words mean emerges here from a new angle.

The disciple who is to become the type of all faithful discipleship rests on the bosom of Jesus. The Christian, in his faith and love, finds shelter on the breast of Jesus and so, in the end, on the breast of the Father. “I am the resurrection”: what these words mean emerges here from a new angle.

Taken from his 1988 classic, Eschatology, which remains a leading text on the “last things” — heaven and hell, purgatory and judgment, death and the immortality of the soul.

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If the “Last Day” is not to be identified with the moment of individual death but is accepted as what it really is, the shared ending of all history, then the question naturally arises as to what happens “in-between.” In Catholic theology, as that received its systematic form in the high Middle Ages, this question received its answer in terms of the immortality of the soul.

To Luther, such a solution was unacceptable. For him it was a result of the infiltration of faith by philosophy. Yet his own enquiry into the matter produced an ambiguous report. In great majority, the relevant texts of Luther take up the biblical term for death, “sleep,” seeing in it a description of the content of the intermediate state. The soul sleeps in the peace of Christ. It is awakened, along with the body, on the last day.

Elsewhere one finds Luther in a different state of mind, for instance in his comments on the story of Lazarus. There he remarks that the distinction between body and soul whereby hitherto people had tried to explain Lazarus’ life “in the bosom of Abraham” was ein Dreck, “a load of rubbish.” As he explains: “We must say, totus Abraham, the whole man, is to live….”

The impression one takes away from this is that Luther’s concern was not so much with the denial of the life of the dead, but with an attack on the body-soul distinction. Luther does not succeed in replacing that distinction by any clear or even recognizable new conception. In our survey of the status quaestionis, we discovered that recent theology rules out an “intermediate state.” By doing so, it gives systematic expression to a point of view first developed by Luther.

1.  Early Judaism
What does the Bible have to say? In the light of our investigation into the ideas of the New Testament about the resurrection we can already make one fairly general statement. To posit an interruption of life between death and the end of the world would not be in accord with Scripture. In fact, the texts permit a much more precise set of assertions than this, as the exemplary work of P. Hoffmann in particular has shown in careful detail.

The first point to notice is that both the primitive community and St. Paul belonged with the Jewish tradition of their time, just as had Jesus himself. Naturally, they situated themselves vis-a-vis the internal debate within that tradition by reference to the fundamental criterion found in Jesus’ own image of God. This produced in time a gradual transformation of the preexisting tradition, by way of its thorough-going assimilation to the demands of Christology. Our first task, therefore, is to get acquainted with the data of intertestamental Judaism — a complicated affair for which I must rely on Hoffmann’s study.

Let us look at some characteristic documents. The book of Enoch in its Ethiopian recension, datable to c. 150 B.C., offers in its twenty-second chapter an account of the abode of the spirits or souls of the departed. Here the ancient idea of Sheol, earlier taken as the realm of shadow-life, receives more articulated and differentiated description. Its “space” is characterized in greater detail. The world in which the dead are kept until the final judgment is no longer located simply in the earth’s interior, but, more specifically, in the West, the land of the setting sun, in a mountain where it occupies four different regions (pictured as caves). The just and the unjust are now separated.

The unjust await the judgment in darkness whereas the just, among whom the martyrs occupy a special position, dwell in light, being assembled around a life-giving spring of water. We already get a glimpse of how such “early Jewish” notions lived on in unbroken fashion in the early Church. The memento of the departed in the Roman Canon (now the “First Eucharistic Prayer”) prays that God may grant to those who have died marked with the sign of faith and now “sleep the sleep of peace” a place of light, “fresh water” (refrigerium) and repose.

The prayer thus identifies the three conditions which inhabitants of the Mediterranean world consider the proper expression of all good living. Patently, the idea coincides in all respects with the destiny of the just as described in Enoch.

A further stage of development can be observed in the Fourth Book of Ezra, written somewhere around the year 100 A.D. Here too the dead dwell in various “chambers,” their “souls” the bearers of a continuing life. As in Enoch, the just have already entered upon their reward. But whereas the author of Enoch defers the start of the punishment of sinners until the final judgment, in Ezra the pains of the Godless begin in the intermediate state, with the result that at a number of points their position seems to be that of a definitive Hell.

In Rabbinic Judaism, the dividing line between two kinds of human destiny is even more consistently observed. From the moment of judgment, which follows immediately upon death, two paths open up. One leads into the paradise garden of Eden, conceived either as lying in the East or as preserved in heaven. The other goes to the alley of Gehenna, the place of damnation.

But, besides the idea of paradise, the destiny of the just is represented by other images and motifs as well. Thus we hear of the “treasury of souls,” of waiting “beneath the throne of God,” and of the just — and especially martyrs — being received into Abraham’s bosom. Here again the continuity between Jewish and early Christian conceptions is striking. The idea of paradise, the image of the bosom of Abraham;’ the thought of the tarrying of souls beneath the throne of God: all these are present in the New Testament tradition.

But before we turn to the New Testament itself, something should be said about the writings bequeathed to us from Qumran. So long as the community represented under this name, the Essenes, were known only from Josephus, scholars were obliged to regard them as belonging to the Hellenizing strand within early Judaism, at any rate where our question in this present section was concerned. Josephus had summed up their views in the following words:

For their doctrine is this: that bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue forever, and that they come out of the most subtile air, and are united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticements but that when they are set free from the bands of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward.

But with the discovery of the original Qumran manuscripts, our image of the Covenanters has necessarily undergone revision. As K. Schubert, in his study of the Dead Sea community, commented on the text just cited:

In all probability, this description is nothing more than a concession by Josephus to his Greek readership…. The Essenes were not a Hellenistic-syncretistic group, but a Jewish apocalyptic movement.

However, we are dealing here with ideas of the afterlife conceived in markedly material terms, so much so that this same writer can say that the Essenes of Qumran “believed in a continuation of bodiliness, even though they accepted the passing-away of their bodies in the first instance. To this extent, Josephus’ description is perhaps not too far removed from the truth. He too ascribes to the sect a materialist understanding of the soul of the kind common in Stoic philosophy.

This shows how complex in this period the reciprocal interpenetration of the Hellenistic and Jewish worlds could be. The much favored dichotomy between “Greek” and “Hebrew” simply does not stand up to historical examination. The discussion of the Qumran texts also indicates that the mere maintaining of strictly material notions about the life to come does not in itself guarantee fidelity to the spiritual inheritance of the Old Testament. The heart of that option which entered history in Abraham’s faith cannot be grasped without finer differentiation than this. In this perspective, a number of contemporary contributions seem to belong to a continuing “Essene” tradition, in that the issue of materiality has overshadowed every other consideration.

2.  The New Testament
It should be clear by now that the New Testament belongs to that Jewish world whose fundamental contours have been sketched in the preceding section. As a general methodological assumption, it is legitimate to suppose that Jesus and the earliest Church shared Israel’s faith in its (then) contemporary form. The acceptance of Jesus’ awareness of his own mission simply gave to this faith a new center, a nucleus by whose power the individual elements of the tradition were step by step transformed: first and foremost, the concept of God, but then following it, and in a graduated order of urgency, all the rest.

The Synoptic tradition preserved two sayings of Jesus the topic of the “intermediate state.” These are Luke 16:19-31 and Luke 23, 43, and they were briefly touched above. So far as the first, the story of Lazarus, is concerned, we may admit that the parable’s doctrinal content lies its moral, a warning against the dangers of wealth, rather than in the descriptions of Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom and Dives in Hell.

And yet, manifestly, the teller of the parable does regard these evocations of the afterlife as appropriate images of the real future of man. In this, the text clearly testifies to the fact that the earliest Christianity shared in the faith of contemporary Judaism about the beyond. So much we can say without even entering into the (quite independent) question of whether in the parable we are overhearing the ipsissima vox of Jesus himself.

Something along the same lines must be said about the second text, the dialogue of the Crucified with the good thief. Here too the Jewish background is palpable. Paradise is the place where the Messiah, concealed, awaits his hour, and whither he will return. But it is in this selfsame text that we begin to see the Christian transformation of the inherited Jewish tradition at work. That destiny reserved by Jewish tradition to the martyrs and the privileged “righteous ones” is now promised by the Condemned Man on the Cross to a fellow condemnee.

He possesses the authority to open wide the doors of paradise to the lost. His word is the key which unlocks them. And so the phrase “with me” takes on a transformative significance. It means that paradise is no longer seen as a place standing in permanent readiness for occupation and which happens to contain the Messiah along with a lot of other people. Instead, paradise opens in Jesus. It depends on his person. Joachim Jeremias was right, therefore, to find a connection between the prayer of the good thief and the petition of the dying Stephen: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

With impressive unanimity, the New Testament presents the communion with Christ after death as the specifically Christian view of the inter-mediate state.

Here is the dawning realization that Jesus himself is paradise, light, fresh water, the secure peace toward which human longing and hope are directed. Perhaps we may remind ourselves in this connection of the new use of the image of “bosom” which we find in John’s Gospel. Jesus does not come from the bosom of Abraham, but from that of the Father himself.” The disciple who is to become the type of all faithful discipleship rests on the bosom of Jesus. The Christian, in his faith and love, finds shelter on the breast of Jesus and so, in the end, on the breast of the Father. “I am the resurrection”: what these words mean emerges here from a new angle.

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The New Testament’s Teaching On Resurrection And Immortality – Benedict XVI

April 17, 2013
Faith in the resurrection is a central expression of the Christological confession of God. It follows, indeed, from the concept of God. Its emphasis is placed not on a particular anthropology, whether anti-Platonic or Platonic, but on a theology. This is why we may reasonably expect it to have the capacity to make a variety of anthropologies its own and find appropriate expression by means of them. Picture is the Basilica of San Francesco. The Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor -- commonly known as the Franciscan Order -- in Assisi, Italy, the city where St. Francis was born and died. A view of its Bacci Chapel, with fresco cycle Legend of the True Cross by our favorite Piero della Francesca

Faith in the resurrection is a central expression of the Christological confession of God. It follows, indeed, from the concept of God. Its emphasis is placed not on a particular anthropology, whether anti-Platonic or Platonic, but on a theology. This is why we may reasonably expect it to have the capacity to make a variety of anthropologies its own and find appropriate expression by means of them. Picture is the Basilica of San Francesco. The Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor — commonly known as the Franciscan Order — in Assisi, Italy, the city where St. Francis was born and died. A view of its Bacci Chapel, with fresco cycle Legend of the True Cross by our favorite Piero della Francesca

Taken from his 1988 book Eschatology, which remains a leading text on the “last things” — heaven and hell, purgatory and judgment, death and the immortality of the soul.

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The Resurrection from the Dead
In our reflections on the theology of death we have already considered the approach of Old Testament faith to the idea of resurrection. So we can begin here with the witness of the New Testament. The doctrine of the resurrection had not been generally accepted in intertestamental Judaism.

If we are looking for an explanation of why it became the fundamental confession of Christians we shall find it easily enough in the fact of Jesus’ resurrection as experienced and communicated by the witnesses. The risen Lord became, so to speak, the canon within the canon: the criterion in whose light tradition must be read. In the illumination which he brought, the internal struggles of the Old Testament were read as a single movement towards the One who suffered, was crucified and rose again. The travail of Old Testament faith became itself a testimony to the resurrection.

This new fact, which brought about the passage from the Old Testament to the New, was prepared for by the words of Jesus which interpreted it before it took place. Only because its intelligibility was prepared beforehand would the resurrection of Jesus gain any historical significance at all. Mere facts without words, without meaning, fall into nothingness as fully as do mere words to which no reality corresponds.

To this extent we can say with complete certainty that the origin of the Easter proclamation is unthinkable without some corresponding announcement by Jesus himself. In this context, the crucial text is Jesus’ discussion with the Sadducees about the resurrection as given in the gospel according to Mark.

In his debate with the Sadducees who argued in fundamentalistic fashion that only the Pentateuch might be acknowledged as Scripture, and took it as the exclusive rule of faith, Sola scriptura, Jesus is obliged to prove his thesis on the basis of the books of Moses. He does so in a way which is both exciting and wonderfully simple.

He points to the Mosaic concept of God, or more precisely to the divine self-presentation in the burning bush as reported by Moses: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” That means: those who have been called by God are themselves part of the concept of God. One would turn God into a God of the dead and thus stand the Old Testament concept of God on its head if one declared that those who belong to him who is Life are themselves dead.

This text shows that, in principle, Jesus adopted the Pharisaic over against the Sadduccean, variety of Jewish teaching which included, then, the confession of the resurrection. However, there is also something new in Jesus’ presentation. The resurrection moves into a central position in the expression of faith. It is no longer one tenet of faith among many others, but rather is identified with the concept of God itself.

Resurrection faith is contained in faith in God. The massive simplicity of Israel’s early faith is not obscured by the addition of other obligatory items but is deepened by a more acute seeing. Faith remains simple. It is simply faith in God. Yet it becomes both purer and richer by being thus deepened. All that business of demythologization is taken care of from the outset. Cosmological, anthropological, speculative, psychological and chronological aspects of religion: all these are set aside. What is affirmed is that God himself, and the communion he offers, are life. To belong to him, to be called him is to be rooted in life indestructible.

The nascent Church had the task of rethinking the earlier Pharisaic tradition, as applied to the words and actions of Jesus, in the light of the new fact of the Lord’s resurrection. On the basis of the original insights, this process would flow on in the stream of the Church’s faith through all succeeding generations. Within the limits of this book it would be impossible to catalogue every relevant text. We shall consider simply the two main witnesseses within the New Testament corpus, namely Paul and and John. In what follows we shall be looking at some characteristic texts in which the further development of the doctrine of the resurrection is already indicated.

Two Pauline texts especially important for our enquiry are Romans 6:1-14  and First Corinthians 15.  In the letter to the Romans, baptism is interpreted as being engrafted onto the death of Christ. By baptism we enter on a common destiny with that of Jesus and so with the death which was his fate. But that death is ordered intrinsically to the resurrection. Of necessity, then, suffering and dying with Christ means at the same time a participation in the hope of the resurrection. One permits oneself to be inserted into the passion of Christ since that is the place at which resurrection breaks forth.

The theological concept of resurrection which we discovered in Mark 12 suddenly becomes quite concrete. It becomes, in fact, Theo-Christological in a suitable correspondence with the Christological extension of the concept of God which had taken place in the period between the historical ministry and Paul’s calling to the apostolate. Communion with God, which is the native place of life indestructible, finds its concrete form in sharing in the body of Christ. Through the sacramental dimension of this idea, the Church’s Liturgy and the Church herself as the bearer of the Liturgy become part of the same doctrine.

Theo-Christology also possesses an ecclesiological aspect. In comparison with the simple grandeur of the words of Jesus things may seem to have become rather complicated. It is more correct to say that they have become, rather, more concrete. What is now described in more detail is how the belonging to God that Jesus spoke of actually takes place. The fundamental structure of the doctrine is not impaired but remains fully intact. Faith in the resurrection is not part of some speculation in cosmology or the theology of history but is bound up with a person, with God in Christ. Thus the theologizing of resurrection faith is also its personalization.

In the other Pauline text, First Corinthians 15, we find the apostle engaged in controversy with spiritualizing re-interpretations of faith in the resurrection. In such re-interpretation, resurrection as a future bodily event touching both the cosmos and our own destiny is called into serious question. What precisely was being put in its place the text hardly permits us to say. But some light is thrown thereon by Second Timothy 2:18 where the author mentions a view of the Gospel for which “the resurrection has already happened.” Here the sacramental foretaste of the resurrection hope has been misconceived. The resurrection event is robbed of its futurist character, and identified with the event of becoming or being a Christian.

Resurrection thus undergoes a “mystical” or “existential” reduction. It is probably ideas of this kind which lie behind the Corinthian denial of the resurrection as well. In opposing them, the apostle has to emphasize that the resurrection is not simply a mystical or existential assurance to the Christian in the present. In the last analysis, this would mean nothing: your faith would be vain. Rather is the resurrection a pledge to the future of man and the cosmos, and in this sense a pledge to space, time and matter. History and cosmos are not realities alongside spirit, running on into a meaningless eternity or sinking down into an equally meaningless nothingness.

In the resurrection, God proves himself to be the God also of the cosmos and of history. To this extent, the temporal and cosmic elements in the Jewish belief in the resurrection take their places within Christian confession. Yet they are strictly related to the new theological and Christological structure, and in this way the inner simplicity of that structure remains untouched. The point is still the same. If the dead do not rise, then Christ has not arisen. The resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of the dead are not two discrete realities but one single reality which in the end is simply the verification of faith in God before the eyes of history.

We should look as well at two monuments to Johannine theology: John 6 and John 11. The story of Lazarus in John 11 leads up to the affirmation, “I am the resurrection and the life.” The Theo-Christological conception of the resurrection met with in Paul finds here its purest and most consistent form.

The evangelist has found his way back to the utter simplicity of that vision in Mark 12. He has translated its theology into Christology in a systematic fashion. “He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” The bond with Jesus is, even now, resurrection. Where there is communion with him, the boundary of death is overshot here and now. It is in this perspective that we must understand the Discourse on the Eucharist

In John 6, feeding on Jesus’ word and on his flesh, that is, receiving him by both faith and sacrament, is described as bring nourished with the bread of immortality. The resurrection does not appear as a distant apocalyptic event but as an occurrence which takes place in the immediate present.

Whenever someone enters into the ‘I’ of Christ, he has entered straight away into the space of unconditional life. The evangelist does not raise the question of an intermediate state between death and resurrection, a rupture in life, precisely because Jesus is himself the resurrection.

Faith, which is the contact between Jesus and myself, vouchsafes here and now the crossing of death’s frontier. the entire Old Testament inheritance is thus presented in the new mode of Christological transformation. In the Old Testament, it had become clear that death is the absence of communication in the midst of life. Similarly, it had become evident that love is a promise of life. But now it becomes manifest that a love stronger than death actually exists. The borderline between Sheol and life runs through our very midst, and those who are in Christ are situated on the side of life, and that everlastingly.

Bultmann took this Johannine theology to be the perfect expression of authentic Christianity. As we know, this means for him that resurrection is to be interpreted exclusively and without remainder in an “existential” sense. He is obliged to treat St. John’s references to the Last Day” as the interpolations of a later ecclesiastical redactor, whose effect is to drag down the lofty insights of the evangelist to the crude level of the Church populace.

Yet in reality, when the work of the evangelist is thus snapped in two fragments, not even the aspect which Bultmann favors can survive. If the passage into the Christological sphere be not an entry into that unconditional life that abides even beyond earthly dying, then it is not a real passover at all. It is nothing more than a gyration in the inescapable futility of a private existence whose fundamental nothingness is not overcome but rather reconfirmed.

Just one more comment on the biblical data as a whole will be in order here. For the New Testament, the resurrection is a positive event, a message full of hope. By contras we know from the Old Testament, with its phenomenological analysis of “life” and “death,” that when human existence issues in opposition to God, in the nothingness of spiritual shipwreck, it cannot itself be called “life.”

On the contrary, such a fate is really the definitive presence of “death.” Even for resurrection faith this possibility-which of course must not be confused with the sheer annihilation of the human existent — still remains open. We will have to look at it in greater detail somewhat later.

Meanwhile, let us try to formulate a conclusion. Faith in the resurrection is a central expression of the Christological confession of God. It follows, indeed, from the concept of God. Its emphasis is placed not on a particular anthropology, whether anti-Platonic or Platonic, but on a theology. This is why we may reasonably expect it to have the capacity to make a variety of anthropologies its own and find appropriate expression by means of them.

But at the same , and equally, we must expect that this theology will confront all anthropologies with its own critical measuring rod. From its thought of God it draws forth a number of affirmations about man. On the one hand, the new life already begun and will nevermore be snuffed out. On the other hand, that vita nuova is ordered to the transformation of all life, to a future wholeness for man and for the world.

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The Immortality of the Soul and the Resurrection of the Dead – Benedict XVI

April 16, 2013
In the long run, theology and preaching cannot tolerate such a quirky theological patchwork, full of logical leaps and ruptures. As quickly as possible we should bid farewell to this way of thinking which deprives Christian proclamation of an appropriate discourse and thus cancels its own claim to be taken seriously as a form of Christian understanding. Victor-Louis Mottez (13 February 1809 – 7 June 1897) was a French fresco painter, painter and portraitist. His “Resurrection of the Dead” was painted in 1870.

In the long run, theology and preaching cannot tolerate such a quirky theological patchwork, full of logical leaps and ruptures. As quickly as possible we should bid farewell to this way of thinking which deprives Christian proclamation of an appropriate discourse and thus cancels its own claim to be taken seriously as a form of Christian understanding. Victor-Louis Mottez (13 February 1809 – 7 June 1897) was a French fresco painter, painter and portraitist. His “Resurrection of the Dead” was painted in 1870.

Benedict XVI begins his consideration of the issue with a survey of recent literature on the issue. This and the following posts are taken from his 1988 book Eschatology, which remains a leading text on the “last things” — heaven and hell, purgatory and judgment, death and the immortality of the soul.

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The State Of The Question
In the last few decades, a basic question has arisen about the immortality of the soul and resurrection. The ensuing discussion has increasingly transformed the panorama of theology and devotion. Oscar Cullmann put it cursorily, it dramatically:

If today one asks an average Christian, no matter whether Protestant or Catholic, whether intellectually inclined or not, what the New Testament teaches about the destiny of the individual human being after death, in almost every case one will receive the answer, ‘The immortality of the soul’. In this form, this opinion is one of the greatest misunderstandings of Christianity there can be.
Oscar Cullmann, Unsterblichkeit der Seele oder Auferstehung gische Literature Zeitung

Today, few would venture to offer the answer that was earlier a matter of course, since the idea that this answer was based upon a misunderstanding has spread with astonishing speed among the congregations of Christendom. How ever, no new answer of any concreteness has taken its place. The way to this change of attitudes was paved by two men: the Protestant theologians Carl Stange (1870­1959) and Adolf Schlatter (1852-1938), to some extent aided and abetted by Paul Althaus whose eschatology was first published in 1922.

Appealing to the Bible and to Luther, these men rejected as Platonic dualism the notion of a separation of body and soul in death such as the doctrine of the immortality of the soul presupposes. The only truly biblical doctrine is that which holds that when man dies “he perishes, body and soul.” Only in this fashion can one, preserve the idea of death as a judgment, of which Scripture speaks in such unmistakable accents.

The proper Christian thing, therefore, is to speak, not of the soul’s immortality, but of the resurrection of the complete human being and of that alone. The piety currently surrounding death, impregnated as it is with an eschatology of going to heaven must be eliminated in favor of the only true form of Christian hope: expectation of the Last Day. In 1950, which had meanwhile gained so much ground. He pointed out that the Bible was perfectly familiar with the “dualistic scheme.” It too knew not only the expectation of the Last Day, but a form of individual hope for heaven. Althaus also tried to show that the same was true for Luther. And so he reformulated his position in the following words:

Christian eschatology must not fight against immortality as such. The scandal which in recent times we have frequently given by this fight is not the skandalon that the Gospel speaks of.
P. Althaus, Retraktionen zur Eschatologie

Though the discussion which followed Althaus’ article produced a broad consensus in his favor, his retractions had no impact on the continuing debate as a whole. The idea that to speak of the soul is unbiblical was accepted to such an extent that even the new Roman Missal suppressed the term anima in its liturgy for the dead. It also disappeared from the ritual for burial.

How was it possible to overthrow so quickly a tradition firmly rooted since the age of the early Church and always considered central? In itself, the apparent evidence of the biblical data would surely not have sufficed. Essentially the potency of the new position stemmed from the parallel between, on the one hand, the allegedly biblical idea of the absolute indivisibility of man and, on the other, a modern anthropology, worked out on the basis of natural science, and identifying the human being with his or her body, without any remainder that might admit a soul distinct from that body. It may be conceded that the elimination of the immortality of the soul removes a possible source of conflict between faith and contemporary thought.

However, this scarcely saves the Bible, since the biblical view of things is even more remote by modern-day standards. Acceptance of the unity of the human being may be well and good but who, on the basis of the current tenets of the natural sciences, could imagine a resurrection of the body? That resurrection would presuppose a completely different kind of matter, a fundamentally transformed cosmos which lies completely outside of what we can conceive.

Again, the question of what, in this case, would happen to the dead person until the “end of time” cannot simply be pushed aside. Luther’s idea of the “sleep of the soul” certainly does not solve this problem. If there is no soul, and so no proper subject of such a “sleep,” who is this person that is going to be really raised? How can there be an identity between the human being who existed at some point in the past and the counterpart that has to be re-created from nothing? The irritated refusal of such questions as “philosophical” does not contribute to a more meaningful discussion.

In other words, it soon becomes obvious that pure Biblicism does not take us very far. One cannot get anywhere without “hermeneutics,” that is, without a rational rethinking of the biblical data which may itself go beyond these data in its language and its systematic linkage of ideas. If we leave aside those radical solutions which try to solve the problem by forbidding all “objectifying” statements and permitting only “existential” interpretations, we find ourselves confronted with a twofold attempt to take the matter further. This twofold attempt turns on a new concept of time, and a fresh understanding of the body.

The first set of ideas is related to the reflections we glanced at above in the context of the question of imminent expectation. There we saw that some writers tried to solve the problem of the imminently expected Kingdom by noting that the end of time is itself no longer time. It is not a date which happens to come extremely late in the calendar but rather non-time, something which, since it is outside of time, is equally close to every time.

This idea was easily combined with the notion that death itself leads out of time into the timeless. In Catholic circles, these suggestions received some support in the discussion about the dogma of Mary’s assumption into glory. The scandal attaching to the assertion that a human being, Mary, has already risen in the body was a challenge to rethink more generally the relation between death and time as well as to reflect on the nature of human corporeality.

If it is possible to regard the Marian dogma as offering a model of human destiny at large, then two problems at once evaporate. On the one hand, the ecumenical and speculative scandal of the dogma disappears, while on the other the dogma itself helps to correct the traditional view of immortality and resurrection in favor of a picture at once more biblical and more modern. Although this new approach received no very clear or consistent elaboration, it became generally accepted that time should be considered a form of bodily existence.

Death signifies leaving time for eternity with its single “today.” Here the problem of the “intermediate state” between death and resurrection turns out to be a problem only in seeming. The “between” exists only in our perspective. In reality, the “end of time” is timeless. The person who dies steps into the presence of the Last Day and of judgment, the Lord’s resurrection and parousia. As one author put it, “The resurrection can thus be situated in death and not the ‘Last Day’.” Meanwhile, the view that resurrection takes place at the moment of death has gained such widespread acceptance that it is even incorporated, with some qualifications, into the Dutch Catechism, where we read:

Existence after death is already something like the resurrection of the new body.

This means that what the dogma of the assumption tells us about Mary is true of every human being. Owing to the timelessness which reigns beyond death, every death is an entering into the new heaven and the new earth, the parousia and the resurrection.

And here two questions suggest themselves. First, is this not merely a camouflaged return to the doctrine of immortality on philosophically somewhat more adventurous  presuppositions? Resurrection is now being claimed for the person still lying on his deathbed or on the journey to his grave. The indivisibility of man and his boundness to the body, even when dead, suddenly to play no further role, even though it was the point of departure of this whole construction. Indeed, the Dutch Catechism asserts:

Our Lord means that there is something of man, that v most properly himself, which can be saved after death. This ‘something’ is not the body which is left behind.”

G. Greshake formulates the claim even more incisively:

Matter as such (as atom, molecule, organ …) cannot be perfected … This being so, then if human freedom is finalized in death, the body, the world and the history of this freedom are permanently preserved in the definitive concrete form which that freedom has taken.

Such ideas may be meaningful. The only question is by what right one still speaks of “corporeality” if all connection with matter is explicitly denied and matter left with a share in the final perfection only insofar as it was “an ecstatic aspect of the human act of freedom.”

Be this as it may, in this model the body is in fact left to death, while at the same time an afterlife of the human being is asserted. Just why the concept of the soul is still disowned now ceases to be intelligible. What we have here is a covert assumption of the continuing authentic reality of the person in separation from his or her body. The idea of the soul meant to convey nothing other than this. In this amalgam of notions of corporeality and soulhood we have a strange mishmash of ideas which can hardly count as a definitive solution of our problem.

The second component in the characteristic modern approach to the idea of death and immortality is the philosophy of time and of history which constitutes its true lever. Are we really confronted with a choice between the stark, exclusive alternatives of physical time on the one hand, and, on the other, a timelessness to be identified with eternity itself? Is it even logically possible to conceive of man, whose existence is achieved decisively in the temporal, being transposed into sheer eternity?

And in any case, can an eternity which has a beginning be eternity at all? Is it not necessarily non-eternal, and so temporal, precisely because it had a beginning? Yet how can one deny that the resurrection of a human being has a beginning, namely, after death? If, coerced by the logic of the position, one chose to deny this, then surely one would have to suppose that man has always existed in the risen state, in an eternity without beginning.

But this view would abolish all serious anthropology. It would fall, in fact, into a caricature of that Platonism which is supposed to be its principal enemy. G. Lohfink, an advocate of the thesis that resurrection is already achieved in death, has noticed these difficulties. He tries to deal with them by invoking the mediaeval concept of the aevum, an attempt to describe a special mode of time proper to spiritual creatures on the basis of an analysis of angelic existence.

Lohfink sees that death leads not into pure timelessness but into a new kind of time proper to created spirits. The purpose of his argument is primarily to give a defensible sense to biblical imminent expectation which he takes to be the central theme of the message of Jesus. His concern is not with the body-soul problematic from which such speculation emerged but with the necessity, at least as he reads the Gospels, of a discourse that would throw light on the permanent temporal closeness of the Parousia.

Such imminence is feasible, according to Lohfink, if the human person may be said to enter through death into the peculiar time of spirits and so into the fulfillment of history. The idea of the aevum thus becomes the hermeneutically respectable way of saying that the parousia and resurrection take place for each person in the moment of death. Imminent expectation can now be identified with the expectation of death itself, and so warranted for everybody.

… we have now seen that a reflective concept of time, which eschews the naive assumption that time in the beyond is commensurable with earthly time, necessarily leads to our locating the last things — and not simply those concerning the individual, but the end of the world itself — in the moment of death. The last things have thereby become infinitely close to us. Every human being lives in the ‘last age’….”
Greshake & Lohfink, Naherwartung-Augerstehung-Unsterblichkeit

This proposal for a differentiated concept of time entails genuine progress. Yet the queries listed above are in no way rendered redundant by it. Looking more closely, one discovers that this concept of the aevum has simply been added on, in somewhat external fashion, to a predetermined conceptual construct. The point of this construct is the claim that on the other side of death history is already complete. The end of history is ever waiting for the one who dies.

But this is just what can hardly be reconciled with the continuation of history. History is viewed as simultaneously completed and still continuing. What remains unexplained is the relationship between, on the one hand, the ever new beginnings of human life in history, both present and future, and, on the other, the state of fulfillment not only of the individual but of the historical process itself, a state said to be already realized in the world beyond death.

The idea of the aevum is helpful when we are considering the condition of the individual person who enters into perfection while remaining a creature of time. In this domain the concept has a precise meaning. But it says nothing at all which could justify the statement that history as a whole, from whatever point of view, can be seen as already fulfilled.

It is odd that an exegete should appeal in support of this speculation to the “primitive Christian view” for which, in the case of Jesus, “resurrection from the dead follows immediately upon death,” a view which supposedly supplies the “real model of Christian eschatology” which the early Church somehow forgot to apply more widely.” For, to begin with, one can hardly ignore the fact that the message of resurrection “on the third day” posits a clear interim period between the death of the Lord and his rising again. And, more importantly, it is evident that early Christian proclamation never identified the destiny of those who die before the Parousia with the quite special event of the resurrection of Jesus.

That special event depended on Jesus’ unique and irreducible position in the history of salvation. Moreover, there are two respects in which one must bring the charge that all this is a case of aggravated Platonism. First, in such models the body is definitively excluded from the hope for salvation. Secondly the concept of the aevum as here employed hypostatises history in a way which only falls short of Plato’s doctrine of the Ideas by virtue of its logical inconsistencies

Perhaps we have lingered overlong on these theses. That seemed necessary because at the present time they have been almost universally received into the general theological consciousness. Such a consensus, it should now be clear, rests on an extremely fragile foundation.

In the long run, theology and preaching cannot tolerate such a quirky theological patchwork, full of logical leaps and ruptures. As quickly as possible we should bid farewell to this way of thinking which deprives Christian proclamation of an appropriate discourse and thus cancels its own claim to be taken seriously as a form of Christian understanding.

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God the Creator 2 –Benedict XVI

April 5, 2013
Staring across interstellar space, the Cat's Eye Nebula lies three thousand light-years from Earth. One of the most famous planetary nebulae, NGC 6543 is over half a light-year across and represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star... “We must not in our own day conceal our faith in creation. We may not conceal it, for only if it is true that the universe comes from freedom, love, and reason, and that these are the real underlying powers, can we trust one another, go forward into the future, and live as human beings. God is the Lord of all things because he is their creator, and only therefore can we pray to him. For this means that freedom and love are not ineffectual ideas but rather that they are sustaining forces of reality.”

Staring across interstellar space, the Cat’s Eye Nebula lies three thousand light-years from Earth. One of the most famous planetary nebulae, NGC 6543 is over half a light-year across and represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star… “We must not in our own day conceal our faith in creation. We may not conceal it, for only if it is true that the universe comes from freedom, love, and reason, and that these are the real underlying powers, can we trust one another, go forward into the future, and live as human beings. God is the Lord of all things because he is their creator, and only therefore can we pray to him. For this means that freedom and love are not ineffectual ideas but rather that they are sustaining forces of reality.”

The Unity of the Bible as a Criterion for Its Interpretation
[Continued from previous post...] So now we still have to ask: Is the distinction between the image and what is intended to be expressed only an evasion, because we can no longer rely on the text even though we still want to make something of it, or are there criteria from the Bible itself that attest to this distinction? Does it give us access to indications of this sort, and did the faith of the church know of these indications in the past and acknowledge them?

Let us look at Holy Scripture anew with these questions in mind. There we can determine first of all that the creation account in Genesis 1, which we have just heard, is not, from its very beginning, something that is closed in on itself. Indeed, Holy Scripture in its entirety was not written from beginning to end like a novel or a textbook.

It is, rather, the echo of God’s history with his people. It arose out of the struggles and the vagaries of this history, and all through it we can catch a glimpse of the rises and falls, the sufferings and hopes, and the greatness and failures of this history. The Bible is thus the story of God’s struggle with human beings to make himself understandable to them over the course of time; but it is also the story of their struggle to seize hold of God over the course of time.

Hence the theme of creation is not set down once for all in one place; rather, it accompanies Israel throughout its history, and, indeed, the whole Old Testament is a journeying with the Word of God. Only in the process of this journeying was the Bible’s real way of declaring itself formed, step by step.

Consequently we ourselves can only discover where this way is leading if we follow it to the end. In this respect — as a way — the Old and New Testaments belong together. For the Christian the Old Testament represents, in its totality, an advance toward Christ; only when it attains to him does its real meaning, which was gradually hinted at, become clear.

Thus every individual part derives its meaning from the whole, and the whole derives its meaning from its end — from Christ. Hence we only interpret an individual text theologically correctly (as the fathers of the church recognized and as the faith of the church in every age has recognized) when we see it as a way that is leading us ever forward, when we see in the text where this way is tending and what its inner direction is .

What significance, now, does this insight have for the understanding of the creation account? The first thing to be said is this: Israel always believed in the Creator God, and this faith it shared with all the great civilizations of the ancient world. For, even in the moments when monotheism was eclipsed, all the great civilizations always knew of the Creator of heaven and earth.

There is a surprising commonality here even between civilizations that could never have been in touch with one another. In this commonality we can get a good grasp of the profound and never altogether lost contact that human beings had with God’s truth. In Israel itself the creation theme went through several different stages. It was never completely absent, but it was not always equally important.

There were times when Israel was so preoccupied with the sufferings or the hopes of its own history, so fastened upon the here and now, that there was hardly any use in its looking back at creation; indeed, it hardly could. The moment when creation became a dominant theme occurred during the Babylonian Exile. It was then that the account that we have just heard — based, to be sure, on very ancient traditions — assumed its present form. Israel had lost its land and its temple.

According to the mentality of the time this was something incomprehensible, for it meant that the God of Israel was vanquished a God whose people, whose land, and whose worshipers could be snatched away from him. A God who could not defend his worshipers and his worship was seen to be, at the time, a weak God. Indeed, he was no God at all; he had abandoned his divinity. And so, being driven out of their own land and being erased from the map was for Israel a terrible trial: Has our God been vanquished, and is our faith void?

At this moment the prophets opened a new page and taught Israel that it was only then that the true face of God appeared and that he was not restricted to that particular piece of land. He had never been: He had promised this piece of land to Abraham before he settled there, and he had been able to bring his people out of Egypt. He could do both things because he was not the God of one place but had power over heaven and earth.

Therefore he could drive his faithless people into another land in order to make himself known there. And so it came to be understood that this God of Israel was not a God like the other gods, but that he was the God who held sway over every land and people. He could do this, however, because he himself had created everything in heaven and on earth. It was in exile and in the seeming defeat of Israel that there occurred an opening to the awareness of the God who holds every people and all of history in his hands, who holds everything because he is the creator of everything and the source of all power.

This faith now had to find its own contours, and it had to do so precisely vis-a-vis the seemingly victorious religion of Babylon, which was displayed in splendid liturgies, like that of the New Year, in which the re-creation of the world was celebrated and brought to its fulfillment. It had to find its contours vis-a-vis the great Babylonian creation account of Enuma Elish, which depicted the origin of the world in its own fashion.

There it is said that the world was produced out of a struggle between opposing powers and that it assumed its form when Marduk, the god of light, appeared and split in two the body of the primordial dragon. From this sundered body heaven and earth came to be. Thus the firmament and the earth were produced from the sundered body of the dead dragon, but from its blood Marduk fashioned human beings.

It is a foreboding picture of the world and of humankind that we encounter here: The world is a dragon’s body, and human beings have dragon’s blood in them. At the very origin of the world lurks something sinister, and in the deepest part of humankind there lies something rebellious, demonic, and evil. In this view of things only a dictator, the king of Babylon, who is the representative of Marduk, can repress the demonic and restore the world to order.

Such views were not simply fairy tales. They expressed the discomfiting realities that human beings experienced in the world and among themselves. For often enough it looks as if the world is a dragon’s lair and human blood is dragon’s blood. But despite all oppressive experiences the scriptural account says that it was not so. The whole tale of these sinister powers melts away in a few words: “The earth was without form and void.”

Behind these Hebrew words lie the dragon and the demonic powers that are spoken of elsewhere. Now it is the void that alone remains and that stands as the sole power over against God. And in the face of any fear of these demonic forces we are told that God alone, who is the eternal Reason that is eternal love, created the world, and that it rests in his hands. Only with this in mind can we appreciate the dramatic confrontation implicit in this biblical text, in which all these confused myths were rejected and the world was given its origin in God’s Reason and in his Word.

This could be shown almost word for word in the present text — as, for example, when the sun and the moon are referred to as lamps that God has hung in the sky for the measurement of time. To the people of that age it must have seemed a terrible sacrilege to designate the great gods sun and moon as lamps for measuring time. Here we see the audacity and the temperateness of the faith that, in confronting the pagan myths, made the light of truth appear by showing that the world was not a demonic contest but that it arose from God’s Reason and reposes on God’s Word.

Hence this creation account may be seen as the decisive “enlightenment” of history and as a breakthrough out of the fears that had oppressed humankind. It placed the world in the context of reason and recognized the world’s reasonableness and freedom. But it may also be seen as the true enlightenment from the fact that it put human reason firmly on the primordial basis of God’s creating Reason, in order to establish it in truth and in love, without which an “enlightenment” would be exorbitant and ultimately foolish.

To this something further must be added. I just said how, gradually, in confronting its pagan environment and its own heart, the people of Israel experienced what “creation” was. Implicit here is the fact that the classic creation account is not the only creation text of sacred Scripture. Immediately after it there follows another one, composed earlier and containing other imagery.

In the Psalms there are still others, and there the movement to clarify the faith concerning creation is carried further: In its confrontation with Hellenistic civilization, Wisdom literature reworks the theme without sticking to the old images such as the seven days. Thus we can see how the Bible itself constantly readapts its images to a continually developing way of thinking, how it changes time and again in order to bear witness, time and again, to the one thing that has come to it, in truth, from God’s Word, which is the message of his creating act.

In the Bible itself the images are free and they correct themselves ongoingly. In this way they show, by means of a gradual and interactive process, that they are only images, which reveal something deeper and greater.

Christology as a Criterion
One decisive fact must still be mentioned at this point: The Old Testament is not the end of the road. What is worked out in the so-called Wisdom literature is the final bridge on a long road that leads to the message of Jesus Christ and to the New Testament. Only there do we find the conclusive and normative scriptural creation account, which reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1, 3).

John quite consciously took up here once again the first words of the Bible and read the creation account anew, with Christ, in order to tell us definitively what the Word is which appears throughout the Bible and with which God desires to shake our hearts. Thus it becomes clear to us that we Christians do not read the Old Testament for its own sake but always with Christ and through Christ. Consequently the law of Moses, the rituals of purification, the regulations concerning food, and all other such things are not to be carried out by us; otherwise the biblical Word would be senseless and meaningless.

We read all of this not as if it were something complete in itself. We read it with him in whom all things have been fulfilled and in whom all of its validity and truth are revealed. Therefore we read the law, like the creation account, with him; and from him (and not from some subsequently discovered trick) we know what God wished over the course of centuries to have gradually penetrate the human heart and soul. Christ frees us from the slavery of the letter, and precisely thus does he give back to us, renewed, the truth of the images.

The ancient church and the church of the Middle Ages also knew this. They knew that the Bible is a whole and that we only understand its truth when we understand it with Christ in mind — with the freedom that he bestowed on us and with the profundity whereby he reveals what is enduring through images.

Only at the beginning of the modern era was this dynamic forgotten — this dynamic that is the living unity of Scripture, which we can only understand with Christ in the freedom that he gives us and in the certitude that comes from that freedom. The new historical thinking wanted to read every text in itself, in its bare literalness. Its interest lay only in the exact explanation of particulars, but meanwhile it forgot the Bible as a whole.

In a word, it no longer read the texts forward but backward — that is, with a view not to Christ but to the probable origins of those texts. People were no longer concerned with understanding what a text said or what a thing was from the aspect of its fulfillment, but from that of its beginning, its source.

As a result of this isolation from the whole and of this literal-mindedness with respect to particulars, which contradicts the entire inner nature of the Bible but which was now considered to be the truly scientific approach, there arose that conflict between the natural sciences and theology which has been, up to our own day, a burden for the faith.

This did not have to be the case, because the faith was, from its very beginnings, greater, broader, and deeper. Even today faith in creation is not unreal; even today it is reasonable; even from the perspective of the data of the natural sciences it is the “better hypothesis,” offering a fuller and better explanation than any of the other theories. Faith is reasonable. The reasonableness of creation derives from God’s Reason, and there is no other really convincing explanation. What the pagan Aristotle said four hundred years before Christ — when he opposed those who asserted that everything has come to exist through chance, even though he said what he did without the knowledge that our faith in creation gives us — is still valid today.

The reasonableness of the universe provides us with access to God’s Reason, and the Bible is and continues to be the true “enlightenment,” which has given the world over to human reason and not to exploitation by human beings, because it opened reason to God’s truth and love. Therefore we must not in our own day conceal our faith in creation. We may not conceal it, for only if it is true that the universe comes from freedom, love, and reason, and that these are the real underlying powers, can we trust one another, go forward into the future, and live as human beings. God is the Lord of all things because he is their creator, and only therefore can we pray to him. For this means that freedom and love are not ineffectual ideas but rather that they are sustaining forces of reality.

And so we wish to cite today, in thankfulness and joy, the church’s creed: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” Amen.

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