Monday, August 29, 2005

On Holiday

Yours truly will be off on holiday now, till 18 September. Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Dresden, and back to Berlin. "There was and is another Germany."

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Sheltering Love

“The sheltering gaze that love casts upon being & essence, and its insight into the true nature of spousal love and the genuine love of children in the hearth of the triune fire of the family, its insight into genuine friendship, and genuine love of country, in the danger of its exposure and trials, in its fragmentation into hatred, betrayal, and death, and in its mysterious transfiguration beyond all conceivable success, preserves what we also find sheltered in the golden core of myths and mythical religions, and what remains present even in our ostensibly demythologized world!”

--from Hans Urs von Balthasar's Love Alone is Credible

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Augustine & Monica at Ostia

As the day now approached on which she was to depart this life (which day Thou knewest, we did not), it fell out--Thou, as I believe, by Thy secret ways arranging it--that she and I stood alone, leaning in a certain window, from which the garden of the house we occupied at Ostia could be seen; at which place, removed from the crowd, we were resting ourselves for the voyage, after the fatigues of a long journey. We then were conversing alone very pleasantly; and, "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before," we were seeking between ourselves in the presence of the Truth, which Thou art, of what nature the eternal life of the saints would be, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man. But yet we opened wide the mouth of our heart, after those supernal streams of Thy fountain, "the fountain of life," which is "with Thee; " that being sprinkled with it according to our capacity, we might in some measure weigh so high a mystery.

And when our conversation had arrived at that point, that the very highest pleasure of the carnal senses, and that in the very brightest material light, seemed by reason of the sweetness of that life not only not worthy of comparison, but not even of mention, we, lifting ourselves with a more ardent affection towards "the Selfsame," did gradually pass through all corporeal things, and even the heaven itself, whence sun, and moon, and stars shine upon the earth; tea, we soared higher yet by inward musing, and discoursing, and admiring Thy works; and we came to our own minds, and went beyond them, that we might advance as high as that region of unfailing plenty, where Thou feedest Israel for ever with the food of truth, and where life is that Wisdom by whom all these things are made, both which have been, and which are to come; and she is not made, but is as she hath been, and so shall ever be; yea, rather, to "haVe been," and "to be hereafter," are not in her, but only "to be," seeing she is eternal, for to "have been" and "to be hereafter" are not eternal. And while we were thus speaking, and straining after her, we slightly touched her with the whole effort of our heart; and we sighed, and there left bound "the first-fruits of the Spirit;" and returned to the noise of our own mouth, where the word uttered has both beginning and end. And what is like unto Thy Word, our Lord, who remaineth in Himself without becoming old, and "maketh all things new"?

We were saying, then, If to any man the tumult of the flesh were silenced,--silenced the phantasies of earth, waters, and air, --silenced, too, the poles; yea, the very soul be silenced to herself, and go beyond herself by not think ing of herself,--silenced fancies and imaginary revelations, every tongue, and every sign, and whatsoever exists by passing away, since, if any could hearken, all these say, "We created not ourselves, but were created by Him who abideth for ever:" If, having uttered this, they now should be silenced, having only quickened our ears to Him who created them, and He alone speak not by them, but by Himself, that we may hear His word, not by fleshly tongue, nor angelic voice, nor sound of thunder, nor the obscurity of a similitude, but might hear Him--Him whom in these we love--without these, like as we two now strained ourselves, and with rapid thought touched on that Eternal Wisdom which remaineth over all. If this could be sustained, and other visions of a far different kind be withdrawn, and this one ravish, and absorb, and envelope its beholder amid these inward joys, so that his life might be eternally like that one moment of knowledge which we now sighed after, were not this "Enter thou into the joy of Thy Lord"? And when shall that be? When we shall all rise again; but all shall not be changed?

--from St Augustine's Confessions, Book IX

Friday, August 26, 2005

On Augustine

The then Cardinal Ratzinger, somewhere, recommended St Augustine's Confessions, because in that book Augustine had somehow captured not only his own personal story but also the general outline of of what it means to be ont he Christian journey. We should all pick it up and read it again:

"Too late have I loved Thee, O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new! Too late did I love Thee: For behold, Thou wert within, and I without, and there did I seek Thee; I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty Thou madest. Thou were with me, but I was not with Thee. Those things kept me far from Thee, which, unless they were in Thee, were not. Thou calledst, and criedst aloud, and forcedst open my deafness. Thou didst gleam and shine, and chase away my blindness. Thou didst exhale odours, and I drew in my breath and do pant after Thee. I tasted, and do hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

On Germany

From his farewell address:
"These days spent together have given many young men and women from the whole world the opportunity to become better acquainted with Germany. We are all well aware of the evil that emerged from our Homeland during the 20th century, and we acknowledge it with shame and suffering.

"During these days, thanks be to God, it has become quite evident that there was and is another Germany, a Land of singular human, cultural and spiritual resources. I hope and pray that these resources, thanks, not least, to the events of recent days, may once more spread throughout the world!"

Which echoes his address at his arrival:
"Along this interior journey we can be guided by the many signs with which a long and rich Christian tradition has indelibly marked this Land of Germany: from great historical monuments to countless works of art found throughout the Country, from documents preserved in libraries to lively popular traditions, from philosophical inquiry to the theological reflection of her many great thinkers, from the spiritual traditions to the mystical experience of a vast array of saints."

Which is again summarized in his address at yesterday's audience:
"Here we find a very rich cultural and spiritual heritage which even today, in the heart of Europe, testifies to the fruitfulness of the Christian faith and tradition which we must rekindle, because it has within it new strength for the future.
Jesus makes himself our travel companion in the Eucharist, and, in the Eucharist -- as I said in the homily of the concluding celebration, borrowing a well-known image from physics -- effects a "nuclear fission" in the depth of the being. Only this profound explosion of goodness that overcomes evil can give life to the other transformations necessary to change the world. Let us pray therefore so that the young people of Cologne will bear with them the light of Christ, who is truth and love and will spread it everywhere. In this way we will be able to witness a springtime of hope in Germany, Europe and the whole world."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Let Us Go Forward Together

"I know that you as young people have great aspirations, that you want to pledge yourselves to build a better world. Let others see this, let the world see it, since this is exactly the witness that the world expects from the disciples of Jesus Christ; in this way, and through your love above all, the world will be able to discover the star that we follow as believers.

"Let us go forward with Christ and let us live our lives as true worshippers of God! Amen."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Transformation in Christ

"Since this act transmutes death into love, death as such is already conquered from within, the Resurrection is already present in it. Death is, so to speak, mortally wounded, so that it can no longer have the last word. To use an image well known to us today, this is like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being -- the victory of love over hatred, the victory of love over death. Only this intimate explosion of good conquering evil can then trigger off the series of transformations that little by little will change the world. All other changes remain superficial and cannot save. For this reason we speak of redemption: What had to happen at the most intimate level has indeed happened, and we can enter into its dynamic. Jesus can distribute his Body, because he truly gives himself."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Could Every Day Be Like This?

Could every day be like this? People from all over the world, side by side, all offering their love and adoration to God? A symphony of diversity in communion? The sentiments of the Schiller Ode to Joy, as set by Beethoven, actually taking place? Peace on earth, almost heaven on earth? All real, historical, visible, because God has become Man in the person of Jesus Christ and has gathered His people to Himself? All with us, because Jesus Christ has called His Church from all the nations, and He has given us the visible symbol of witness and unity in the person of St Peter? All still with us, because Pope Benedict XVI, the holder of that Petrine office, still gives such witness and still brings us all together, diversity in unity, this symphony of praise, this union in communion?

How beautiful to live in this Springtime of the Church!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Vision of Beauty

One of the most beautiful visions I have ever seen--Pope Benedict XVI greeting the Youth of the World from a boat on the Rhine!

That They All Might Be One

And he said to an ecumenical gathering of non-Cathoics:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our common Lord!"

"It is a pleasure for me to meet you, the representatives of other Churches and ecclesial Communities, during my visit to Germany. I greet you all most cordially! As a native of this country, I am quite aware of the painful situation which the rupture of unity in the profession of the faith has entailed for so many individuals and families. This was one of the reasons why, immediately following my election as Bishop of Rome, I declared, as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, my firm commitment to making the recovery of full and visible Christian unity a priority of my Pontificate.

"Among Christians, fraternity is not just a vague sentiment, nor is it a sign of indifference to truth. It is grounded in the supernatural reality of the one Baptism which makes us members of the one Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:28; Col 2:12). Together we confess that Jesus Christ is God and Lord; together we acknowledge him as the one mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tim 2:5) and we emphasize that together we are members of his Body (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, 22; Ut Unum Sint, 42).

"It is obvious that, in the end, this dialogue can develop only in a context of sincere and committed spirituality. We cannot “bring about” unity by our powers alone. We can only obtain unity as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, spiritual ecumenism – prayer, conversion and the sanctification of life – constitute the heart of the ecumenical movement (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, 8; Ut Unum Sint, 15ff., 21, etc.). It could be said that the best form of ecumenism consists in living in accordance with the Gospel.

"I see good reason for optimism in the fact that today a kind of “network” of spiritual links is developing between Catholics and Christians from the different Churches and ecclesial Communities: each individual commits himself to prayer, to the examination of his own life, to the purification of memory, to the openness of charity. The father of spiritual ecumenism, Paul Couturier, spoke in this regard of an “invisible cloister” which unites within its walls those souls inflamed with love for Christ and his Church. I am convinced that if more and more people unite themselves to the Lord’s prayer “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21), then this prayer, made in the name of Jesus, will not go unheard (cf. Jn 14:13; 15:7, 16, etc.). With the help that comes from on high, we will also find practical solutions to the different questions which remain open, and in the end our desire for unity will come to fulfilment, whenever and however the Lord wills. I invite all of you to join me in following this path."

Gifts Between Brothers

And he said to the Jewish community in Cologne:

"Shalom lechem! It has been my deep desire, during my first visit to Germany since my election as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, to meet the Jewish community of Cologne and the representatives of Judaism in Germany.

"Together we must remember God and his wise plan for the world which he created. As we read in the Book of Wisdom, he is the “lover of life” (11:26).

"We must come to know one another much more and much better. Consequently I would encourage sincere and trustful dialogue between Jews and Christians, for only in this way will it be possible to arrive at a shared interpretation of disputed historical questions, and, above all, to make progress towards a theological evaluation of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. This dialogue, if it is to be sincere, must not gloss over or underestimate the existing differences: in those areas in which, due to our profound convictions in faith, we diverge, and indeed precisely in those areas, we need to show respect for one another.

"Finally, our gaze should not only be directed to the past, but should also look forward to the tasks that await us today and tomorrow. Our rich common heritage and our fraternal and more trusting relations call upon us to join in giving an ever more harmonious witness and to work together on the practical level for the defence and promotion of human rights and the sacredness of human life, for family values, for social justice and for peace in the world. The Decalogue (cf. Ex 20; Dt 5) is for us a shared legacy and commitment. The Ten Commandments are not a burden, but a sign-post showing the path leading to a successful life. This is particularly the case for the young people whom I am meeting in these days and who are so dear to me. My wish is that they may be able to recognize in the Decalogue a lamp for their steps, a light for their path (cf. Ps 119:105). Adults have the responsibility of handing down to young people the torch of hope that God has given to Jews and to Christians, so that “never again” will the forces of evil come to power, and that future generations, with God’s help, may be able to build a more just and peaceful world, in which all people have equal rights and are equally at home."

The Beauty of Friendship With Christ Jesus

Stressing the beauty of friendship with Jesus Christ, Pope Benedict told enthusiastic seminarians;

"It is only when a young man has had a personal experience of Christ that he can truly understand the Lord’s will and consequently his own vocation. The better you know Jesus the more his mystery attracts you. The more you discover him, the more you are moved to seek him. This is a movement of the spirit which lasts throughout life, and which makes the seminary a time of immense promise, a true "springtime"."

From the Rhine

Fliegt heim, ihr Raben!
Raunt es eurem Herren,
was hier am Rhein ihr gehoert!

Fly home, you Ravens!
Give your lord the tidings
of what you heard at the Rhine!

What could be more exciting, more wonderful, more spectacular, more beautiful, than the vision of the Pope standing on a boat on the Rhine, greeting the Youth of the world in these words?

"With great joy I welcome you, dear young people. You have come here from near and far, walking the streets of the world and the pathways of life. My particular greeting goes to those who, like the Magi, have come from the East. You are the representatives of so many of our brothers and sisters who are waiting, without realizing it, for the star to rise in their skies and lead them to Christ, Light of the Nations, in whom they will find the fullest response to their hearts’ deepest desires."

"Dear young people, the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist. Only he gives the fullness of life to humanity! With Mary, say your own "yes" to God, for he wishes to give himself to you. I repeat today what I said at the beginning of my Pontificate: "If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation" (Homily at the Mass of Inauguration, 24 April 2005). Be completely convinced of this: Christ takes from you nothing that is beautiful and great, but brings everything to perfection for the glory of God, the happiness of men and women, and the salvation of the world."

How wonderful it is to be living in the new Springtime of the Church!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Pope Benedict on Brother Roger

Pope Benedict, long a friend of Brother Roger, responded to the great ecuminist's martyrdom:
"We have spoken at the same time of sadness and joy. In fact, this morning I received very sad, tragic news.

"During vespers yesterday afternoon, our beloved Frère Roger Schutz, founder of the Taizé Community, was stabbed and killed, probably by a mentally disturbed woman.

"This news has affected me even more because precisely yesterday I received a very moving, affectionate letter from Frère Roger. In it he wrote that from the depth of his heart he wanted to tell me that "we are in communion with you and with those who have gathered in Cologne."

"Then he wrote that, because of his state of health, unfortunately he would not be able to come personally to Cologne, but that he would be present spiritually with his brothers.

"At the end, he wrote in this letter that he hopes to come as soon as possible to Rome to meet with me and to tell me that "our Community of Taizé wants to go forward in communion with the Holy Father." Then he wrote by hand: "Holy Father, I assure you of my sentiments of profound communion. Frère Roger of Taizé."

"At this moment of sadness, we can only commend to the Lord's goodness the soul of this faithful servant of his. We know that from sadness, as we just heard in the psalm, joy will be reborn.

"Frère Schutz is in the hands of eternal goodness, of eternal love; he has attained eternal joy. He invites and exhorts us to be faithful laborers in the Lord's vineyard, also in sad situations, certain that the Lord accompanies us and gives us his joy."

Give God the Top Place in Your Lives

John Paul the Great, inviting the world's youth to Cologne, warned them of the spiritual warfare they must undertake:

"Be worshippers of the only true God, giving Him pride of place in your lives! Idolatry is an ever-present temptation. Sadly, there are those who seek the solution to their problems in religious practices that are incompatible with the Christian faith. There is a strong urge to believe in the facile myths of success and power; it is dangerous to accept the fleeting ideas of the sacred which present God in the form of cosmic energy, or in any other manner that is inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

"My dear young people, do not yield to false illusions and passing fads which so frequently leave behind a tragic spiritual vacuum! Reject the seduction of wealth, consumerism and the subtle violence sometimes used by the mass media.

"Worshipping the true God is an authentic act of resistance to all forms of idolatry. Worship Christ: He is the Rock on which to build your future and a world of greater justice and solidarity. Jesus is the Prince of peace: the source of forgiveness and reconciliation, who can make brothers and sisters of all the members of the human family.

""And they departed to their own country by another way" (Mt 2:12). The Gospel tells us that after their meeting with Christ, the Magi returned home "by another way". This change of route can symbolise the conversion to which all those who encounter Jesus are called, in order to become the true worshippers that He desires (cf Jn 4: 23-24). This entails imitating the way He acted by becoming, as the apostle Paul writes, "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God". The apostle then adds that we must not be conformed to the mentality of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of our minds, to "prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (cf Rm 12: 1-2).

"Listening to Christ and worshipping Him leads us to make courageous choices, to take what are sometimes heroic decisions. Jesus is demanding, because He wishes our genuine happiness. He calls some to give up everything to follow Him in the priestly or consecrated life. Those who hear this invitation must not be afraid to say "yes" and to generously set about following Him as His disciples. But in addition to vocations to special forms of consecration there is also the specific vocation of all baptised Christians: that is also a vocation to that "high standard" of ordinary Christian living which is expressed in holiness (cf Novo Millennio Ineunte, 31). When we meet Christ and accept His Gospel, life changes and we are driven to communicate our experience to others.

"There are so many of our contemporaries who do not yet know the love of God or who are seeking to fill their hearts with trifling substitutes. It is therefore urgently necessary for us to be witnesses to love contemplated in Christ. The invitation to take part in World Youth Day is also extended to you, dear friends, who are not baptised or who do not identify with the Church. Are you not perhaps yearning for the Absolute and in search of "something" to give a meaning to your lives? Turn to Christ and you will not be let down.

"Dear young people, the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new evangelisation: men and women whose lives have been transformed by meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating this experience to others. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. Many have gone before us along this path of Gospel heroism, and I urge you to turn often to them to pray for their intercession. By meeting in Cologne you will learn to become better acquainted with some of them, such as St Boniface, the apostle of Germany, the Saints of Cologne, and in particular Ursula, Albert the Great, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and Blessed Adolph Kolping. Of these I would like to specifically mention St Albert and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross who, with the same interior attitude as the Magi, were passionate seekers after the truth. They had no hesitation in placing their intellectual abilities at the service of the faith, thereby demonstrating that faith and reason are linked and seek each other.

"My dear young people as you move forward in spirit towards Cologne, the pope will accompany you with his prayers. May Mary, "Eucharistic woman" and Mother of Wisdom, support you along the way, enlighten your decisions, and teach you to love what is true, good and beautiful. May she lead you all to her Son, who alone can satisfy the innermost yearnings of the human mind and heart."

Go with my blessing!

Castel Gandolfo, 6 August 2004


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

We Have Come to Worship Him

A year ago, Pope John Paul the Great describe the Magi to the Youth of the world and compared the Journey of the Magi to the pilgrimage of the world's Youth to Cologne:

""And the star... went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was" (Mt 2:9). The Magi reached Bethlehem because they had obediently allowed themselves to be guided by the star. Indeed, "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy" (Mt 2:10). It is important, my dear friends, to learn to observe the signs with which God is calling us and guiding us. When we are conscious of being led by Him, our heart experiences authentic and deep joy as well as a powerful desire to meet Him and a persevering strength to follow Him obediently.

""And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother" (Mt 2:11). There is nothing extraordinary about this at first sight. Yet that Child was different from any other: He is the only Son of God, yet He emptied Himself of His glory (cf Phil 2:7) and came to earth to die on the Cross. He came down among us and became poor in order to reveal to us His divine glory, which we shall contemplate fully in heaven, our blessed home.

"Who could have invented a greater sign of love? We are left in awe before the mystery of a God who lowered himself to take on our human condition, to the point of giving His life for us on the Cross (cf Phil 2:6-8). In His poverty, - as Saint Paul reminds us - "though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Cor 8:9), and came to offer salvation to sinners. How can we give thanks to God for such magnanimous goodness?

"The Magi found Jesus at "Bêth-lehem" which means "house of bread". In the humble stable in Bethlehem on some straw lay the "grain of wheat" who, by dying, would bring forth "much fruit" (cf Jn 12:24). When speaking of Himself and His saving mission in the course of His public life, Jesus would later use the image of bread. He would say "I am the bread of life", "I am the bread which came down from heaven", "the bread that I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh". (Jn 6: 35.41.51).

"Faithfully pursuing the path of our Redeemer from the poverty of the Crib to His abandonment on the Cross we can better understand the mystery of His love which redeems humanity. The Child, laid by Mary in the manger, is the Man-God we shall see nailed to the Cross. The same Redeemer is present in the sacrament of the Eucharist. In the stable at Bethlehem He allowed himself to be worshipped under the humble outward appearances of a newborn baby, by Mary, by Joseph and by the shepherds; in the consecrated Host we adore Him sacramentally present in his body, blood, soul and godhead, and He offers himself to us as the food of eternal life. The Mass then becomes a truly loving encounter with the One who gave himself wholly for us. Do not hesitate, my dear young friends, to respond to Him when He invites you "to the wedding feast of the Lamb (cf Rev 19:9). Listen to him, prepare yourselves properly and draw close to the Sacrament of the Altar, particularly in this Year of the Eucharist (October 2004-2005) which I have proclaimed for the whole Church.

""They fell down and worshipped Him" (Mt 2:11). While the Magi acknowledged and worshipped the baby that Mary cradled in her arms as the One awaited by the nations and foretold by prophets, today we can also worship Him in the Eucharist, and acknowledge Him as our Creator, our only Lord and Saviour.

""Opening their treasures they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh" (Mt 2:11). The gifts that the Magi offered the Messiah symbolised true worship. With gold, they emphasised His Royal Godhead; with incense, they acknowledged Him as the priest of the New Covenant; by offering Him myrrh, they celebrated the prophet who would shed His own blood to reconcile humanity with the Father.

"My dear young people, you too offer to the Lord the gold of your lives, namely, your freedom to follow Him out of love, responding faithfully to His call; let the incense of your fervent prayer rise up to him, in praise of His glory; offer Him your myrrh, that is your affection of total gratitude to Him, true Man, who loved us to the point of dying as a criminal on Golgotha."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Pope John Paul the Great on World Youth Day

Just a year ago, Pope John Paul the Great called the youth of the world to Cologne for World Youth Day 2005:

"This year we have celebrated the 19th World Youth Day, meditating on the desire expressed by some Greeks who had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover: "We wish to see Jesus" (Jn 12:21). And here we are now, making our way to Cologne where, in August 2005, the 20th World Youth Day is to be celebrated.

" "We have come to worship him" (Mt 2:2): this is the theme of the next World Youth Day. It is a theme that enables young people from every continent to follow in spirit the path taken by the Magi whose relics, according to a pious tradition, are venerated in this very city, and to meet, as they did, the Messiah of all nations.

"It is true to say that the light of Christ had already opened the minds and the hearts of the Magi. "They went their way" (Mt 2:9), says the Evangelist, setting out boldly along unknown paths on a long, and by no means easy, journey. They did not hesitate to leave everything behind in order to follow the star that they had seen in the East (cf Mt 2:2). Imitating the Magi, you young people are also making preparations to set out on a "journey" from every region of the world to go to Cologne. It is important for you not only to concern yourselves with the practical arrangements for World Youth Day, but first of all you must carefully prepare yourselves spiritually, in an atmosphere of faith and listening to the Word of God."

The Pope's inspiring call is akin to the call from Our Lord to all of us--that we come out on a journey, that we come to worship Him, that we do this with our whole lives, that we do this every day. This is our daily call.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Pope Benedict on World Youth Day

“ Holy Father, can you tell me what you would like to transmit to the youth of the world? What is the main issue you would like to “bring about”?"

"Yes – I would like to show them how beautiful it is to be Christian, because the widespread idea which continues to exist is that Christianity is composed of laws and bans which one has to keep and, hence, is something toilsome and burdensome – that one is freer without such a burden. I want to make clear that it not a burden to be carried by a great love and realization, but it is like having wings. It is wonderful to be a Christian with this knowledge that it gives us a great breadth, a large community: As Christians we are never alone – in the sense that God is always with us, but also in the sense that we are always standing together in a large community, a community for The Way, that we have a project for the future - and in this way a Being which is worth believing in. This is the joy of being a Christian and is the beauty of believing."

from an interview on Vatican Radio

Mary's Yes to God

It is Our Lady's Yes to God that is the inspiration and exemplar of our lives! As Hans Urs Von Balthasar says in his beautiful The Threefold Garland:

"Those who have wholly put themselves in the hands of God are also wholly accepted by God and wholly perfected by Him. Mary's total submission was such that, along with her whole sould, she also offered up her whole body, and thuis precisely what God needed in order to realize His plan of salvation. It is just this which is termed Mary's 'anticipated redemption': that already in eternity (when the Son offered Himself to the Father, when the Father accepted His offer and sent Him, and when the Spirit was ready to mediate between heaven and earth) God included Mary's word of assent as an indispensable part of His plan. In order for the Son to be able to take on a genuinely human body, He had for a time to be, inseperably, 'one flesh' with His Mother, but the assumption of this flesh from the Mother's body required nothing less than this word of assent. In a certain sense, within God's plan Mary's word of assent pre-exists even her; to be sure, she will utter it on earth and realize it through her life; but her word of assent will draw her back up into heaven in her totality."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Prayer for World Youth Day

"In less than a month, I will also go as a pilgrim to an historical European cathedral, that of Cologne, where young people have made an appointment for their 20th World Day. Let us pray that the new generations, drawing their vital sap from Christ, will be able to be in European society the leaven of a renewed humanism, in which faith and reason cooperate in fruitful dialogue in the promotion of man and the making of authentic peace. We pray for this to God, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, who, as Mother and Queen, watches over the path of all nations."

Pope Benedict XVI, on 24 July 2005

Titian's Assumption

Friday, August 12, 2005

Balthasar on the Focus of Worship

"Perhaps there is an allusion to an Old Testament notion: the plan of the temple as the seat of the presence of God recognized degrees of sanctity. Only the high priest, once yearly at the feast of atonement, went into the innermost sanctuary, into the holy of holies. Since the incarnation the temple of God, in whom the fullness of the Godhead is pleased to dwell, has become the physical person of Jesus; in the saying 'Tear this temple down and I will build it again in three days' Jesus shows himself conscious of this change. He becomes the place of God's presence and of the worship of God. 'Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know: for salvation comes from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is already here, when those who truly worship the Father will worship him in spirit and in truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him' (John 4.2I-3).

"And Jesus is not a worshipper among others, he is the supreme worshipper in whom all worship in spirit and truth is concentrated, is made perfect in truth as it is purified, is transformed in the Spirit; in him everything which strives towards the holiness of God, which desires to participate in it, is drawn into and set alight by the fire of the holy of holies. But why not reserve the phrase 'holy of holies' for God the Father in heaven, why use it to refer to the Eucharist of the Son of God?

"Because it is here that the two flames fall upon each other: the holiness of heaven falling down like fire on the earth, devouring the earthly prayers and sacrifices, and the holiness rising up to heaven of the man who obeys and offers himself and is devoured for the sake of all men, on whom God's pleasure rests and whom God transfigures on the mountain into his uncreated light. It is not possible to conceive of anything more intensive, more devouring, more compelling than this encounter of the two fires which fuse into one."

Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Elucidations

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ratzinger on the Beauty of Christ, part nine

True beauty of Christ who loves us to the end

"In this way, we return to the "two trumpets" of the Bible with which we started, to the paradox of being able to say of Christ: "You are the fairest of the children of men", and: "He had no beauty, no majesty to draw our eyes, no grace to make us delight in him". In the Passion of Christ the Greek aesthetic that deserves admiration for its perceived contact with the Divine but which remained inexpressible for it, in Christ's passion is not removed but overcome. The experience of the beautiful has received new depth and new realism. The One who is the Beauty itself let himself be slapped in the face, spat upon, crowned with thorns; the Shroud of Turin can help us imagine this in a realistic way. However, in his Face that is so disfigured, there appears the genuine, extreme beauty: the beauty of love that goes "to the very end"; for this reason it is revealed as greater than falsehood and violence. Whoever has perceived this beauty knows that truth, and not falsehood, is the real aspiration of the world. It is not the false that is "true", but indeed, the Truth. It is, as it were, a new trick of what is false to present itself as "truth" and to say to us: over and above me there is basically nothing, stop seeking or even loving the truth; in doing so you are on the wrong track. The icon of the crucified Christ sets us free from this deception that is so widespread today. However it imposes a condition: that we let ourselves be wounded by him, and that we believe in the Love who can risk setting aside his external beauty to proclaim, in this way, the truth of the beautiful."

Manipulation by presenting a false and deceptive beauty

"Falsehood however has another stratagem. A beauty that is deceptive and false, a dazzling beauty that does not bring human beings out of themselves to open them to the ecstasy of rising to the heights, but indeed locks them entirely into themselves. Such beauty does not reawaken a longing for the Ineffable, readiness for sacrifice, the abandonment of self, but instead stirs up the desire, the will for power, possession and pleasure. It is that type of experience of beauty of which Genesis speaks in the account of the Original Sin. Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was "beautiful" to eat and was "delightful to the eyes". The beautiful, as she experienced it, aroused in her a desire for possession, making her, as it were, turn in upon herself. Who would not recognize, for example, in advertising, the images made with supreme skill that are created to tempt the human being irresistibly, to make him want to grab everything and seek the passing satisfaction rather than be open to others."

Avoid cult of the ugly or fear of deception with the redeeming beauty of Christ in the saints, Christian art

"So it is that Christian art today is caught between two fires (as perhaps it always has been): it must oppose the cult of the ugly, which says that everything beautiful is a deception and only the representation of what is crude, low and vulgar is the truth, the true illumination of knowledge. Or it has to counter the deceptive beauty that makes the human being seem diminished instead of making him great, and for this reason is false."

"Is there anyone who does not know Dostoyevsky's often quoted sentence'. "The Beautiful will save us"? However, people usually forget that Dostoyevsky is referring here to the redeeming Beauty of Christ. We must learn to see Him. If we know Him, not only in words, but if we are struck by the arrow of his paradoxical beauty, then we will truly know him, and know him not only because we have heard others speak about him. Then we will have found the beauty of Truth, of the Truth that redeems. Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ himself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom his own light becomes visible."

L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
6 November 2002, page 6

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

St Lorenzo's Day

"Turn me over, I'm done on this side!"

Ratzinger on the Beauty of Christ, part eight

"Now however, we still have to respond to an objection. We have already rejected the assumption which claims that what has just been said is a flight into the irrational, into mere aestheticism. Rather, it is the opposite that is true: this is the very way in which reason is freed from dullness and made ready to act."

Counterfeit of beauty: falsehood, seduction, evil

"Today another objection has even greater weight: the message of beauty is thrown into complete doubt by the power of falsehood, seduction, violence and evil. Can the beautiful be genuine, or, in the end, is it only an illusion? Isn't reality perhaps basically evil? The fear that in the end it is not the arrow of the beautiful that leads us to the truth, but that falsehood, all that is ugly and vulgar, may constitute the true "reality" has at all times caused people anguish. At present this has been expressed in the assertion that after Auschwitz it was no longer possible to write poetry; after Auschwitz it is no longer possible to speak of a God who is good. People wondered: where was God when the gas chambers were operating? This objection, which seemed reasonable enough before Auschwitz when one realized all the atrocities of history, shows that in any case a purely harmonious concept of beauty is not enough. It cannot stand up to the confrontation with the gravity of the questioning about God, truth and beauty. Apollo, who for Plato's Socrates was "the God" and the guarantor of unruffled beauty as "the truly divine" is absolutely no longer sufficient."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Ratzinger on the Beauty of Christ, part seven

Beauty of the icon: fasting of sight

"In a rich way Pavel Evdokimov has brought to light the interior pathway that an icon establishes. An icon does not simply reproduce what can be perceived by the senses, but rather it presupposes, as he says, "a fasting of sight". Inner perception must free itself from the impression of the merely sensible, and in prayer and ascetical effort acquire a new and deeper capacity to see, to perform the passage from what is merely external to the profundity of reality, in such a way that the artist can see what the senses as such do not see, and what actually appears in what can be perceived: the splendour of the glory of God, the "glory of God shining on the face of Christ " (II Cor 4,6). To admire the icons and the great masterpieces of Christian art in general, leads us on an inner way, a way of overcoming ourselves; thus in this purification of vision that is a purification of the heart, it reveals the beautiful to us, or at least a ray of it. In this way we are brought into contact with the power of the truth. I have often affirmed my conviction that the true apology of Christian faith, the most convincing demonstration of its truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated. Today, for faith to grow, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to enter into contact with the Beautiful."

Monday, August 08, 2005

Ratzinger on the Beauty of Christ, part six

The arrow of the beautiful can guide the mind to the truth: Bach, Rublëv
"The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes, so that later, from this experience, we take the criteria for judgement and can correctly evaluate the arguments. For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: "Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true". The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer's inspiration. Isn't the same thing evident when we allow ourselves to be moved by the icon of the Trinity of Rublëv? In the art of the icons, as in the great Western paintings of the Romanesque and Gothic period, the experience described by Cabasilas, starting with interiority, is visibly portrayed and can be shared."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Ratzinger on the Beauty of Christ, part five

Pastoral need of Theological Aesthetics

"Starting with this concept, Hans Urs von Balthasar built his Opus magnum of Theological Aesthetics. Many of its details have passed into theological work, while his fundamental approach, in truth the essential element of the whole work, has not been so readily accepted. Of course, this is not just, or principally, a theological problem, but a problem of pastoral life, that has to foster the human person's encounter with the beauty of faith. All too often arguments fall on deaf ears because in our world too many contradictory arguments compete with one another, so much so that we are spontaneously reminded of the medieval theologians' description of reason, that it 'has a wax nose': in other words, it can be pointed in any direction, if one is clever enough. Everything makes sense, is so convincing, whom should we trust?"

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Ratzinger on the Beauty of Christ, part four

Nicholas Cabasilas: the wound of the beauty of the Spouse

"In the 14th century, in the book, "The Life in Christ" by the Byzantine theologian, Nicholas Cabasilas, we rediscover Plato's experience in which the ultimate object of nostalgia, transformed by the new Christian experience, continues to be nameless. Cabasilas says: "When men have a longing so great that it surpasses human nature and eagerly desire and are able to accomplish things beyond human thought, it is the Bridegroom who has smitten them with this longing. It is he who has sent a ray of his beauty into their eyes. The greatness of the wound already shows the arrow which has struck home, the longing indicates who has inflicted the wound" (cf. The Life in Christ, the Second Book, § 15).

"The beautiful wounds, but this is exactly how it summons man to his final destiny. What Plato said, and, more than 1,500 years later, Cabasilas, has nothing to do with superficial aestheticism and irrationalism or with the flight from clarity and the importance of reason. The beautiful is knowledge certainly, but, in a superior form, since it arouses man to the real greatness of the truth. Here Cabasilas has remained entirely Greek, since he puts knowledge first when he says, "In fact it is knowing that causes love and gives birth to it.... Since this knowledge is sometimes very ample and complete and at other times imperfect, it follows that the love potion has the same effect" (cf. ibid.). He is not content to leave this assertion in general terms. In his characteristically rigorous thought, he distinguishes between two kinds of knowledge: knowledge through instruction which remains, so to speak, "second hand" and does not imply any direct contact with reality itself. The second type of knowledge, on the other hand, is knowledge through personal experience, through a direct relationship with the reality. "Therefore we do not love it to the extent that it is a worthy object of love, and since we have not perceived the very form itself we do not experience its proper effect". True knowledge is being struck by the arrow of Beauty that wounds man, moved by reality, "how it is Christ himself who is present and in an ineffable way disposes and forms the souls of men" (cf. ibid.).

"Being struck and overcome by the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction. Of course we must not underrate the importance of theological reflection, of exact and precise theological thought; it remains absolutely necessary. But to move from here to disdain or to reject the impact produced by the response of the heart in the encounter with beauty as a true form of knowledge would impoverish us and dry up our faith and our theology. We must rediscover this form of knowledge; it is a pressing need of our time."

Friday, August 05, 2005

Ratzinger on the Beauty of Christ, part three

Plato shows that beauty entails the pain of discontent

"Certainly, the consciousness that beauty has something to do with pain was also present in the Greek world. For example, let us take Plato's Phaedrus. Plato contemplates the encounter with beauty as the salutary emotional shock that makes man leave his shell and sparks his "enthusiasm" by attracting him to what is other than himself. Man, says Plato, has lost the original perfection that was conceived for him. He is now perennially searching for the healing primitive form. Nostalgia and longing impel him to pursue the quest; beauty prevents him from being content with just daily life. It causes him to suffer. In a Platonic sense, we could say that the arrow of nostalgia pierces man, wounds him and in this way gives him wings, lifts him upwards towards the transcendent. In his discourse in the Symposium, Aristophanes says that lovers do not know what they really want from each other. From the search for what is more than their pleasure, it is obvious that the souls of both are thirsting for something other than amorous pleasure. But the heart cannot express this "other" thing, "it has only a vague perception of what it truly wants and wonders about it as an enigma"."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Ratzinger on the Beauty of Christ, part two

Two trumpets of the same Spirit

"Augustine, who in his youth wrote a book on the Beautiful and the Harmonious [De pulchro et apto] and who appreciated beauty in words, in music, in the figurative arts, had a keen appreciation of this paradox and realized that in this regard, the great Greek philosophy of the beautiful was not simply rejected but rather, dramatically called into question and what the beautiful might be, what beauty might mean, would have to be debated anew and suffered. Referring to the paradox contained in these texts, he spoke of the contrasting blasts of "two trumpets", produced by the same breath, the same Spirit. He knew that a paradox is contrast and not contradiction. Both quotes come from the same Spirit who inspires all Scripture, but sounds different notes in it. It is in this way that he sets us before the totality of true Beauty, of Truth itself."

The beauty of truth embraces a love that is faithful to the end

"In the first place, the text of Isaiah supplies the question that interested the Fathers of the Church, whether or not Christ was beautiful. Implicit here is the more radical question of whether beauty is true or whether it is not ugliness that leads us to the deepest truth of reality. Whoever believes in God, in the God who manifested himself, precisely in the altered appearance of Christ crucified as love "to the end" (Jn 13,1), knows that beauty is truth and truth beauty; but in the suffering Christ he also learns that the beauty of truth also embraces offence, pain, and even the dark mystery of death, and that this can only be found in accepting suffering, not in ignoring it."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ratzinger on the Beauty of Christ

Truth of Christ: beautiful among men, the man of sorrows

"Every year, in the Liturgy of the Hours for the Season of Lent, I am struck anew by a paradox in Vespers for Monday of the Second Week of the Psalter. Here, side by side, are two antiphons, one for the Season of Lent, the other for Holy Week. Both introduce Psalm 44 [45], but they present strikingly contradictory interpretations. The Psalm describes the wedding of the King, his beauty, his virtues, his mission, and then becomes an exaltation of his bride. In the Season of Lent, Psalm 44 is framed by the same antiphon used for the rest of the year. The third verse of the Psalm says: "You are the fairest of the children of men and grace is poured upon your lips". Naturally, the Church reads this psalm as a poetic-prophetic representation of Christ's spousal relationship with his Church. She recognizes Christ as the fairest of men, the grace poured upon his lips points to the inner beauty of his words, the glory of his proclamation. So it is not merely the external beauty of the Redeemer's appearance that is glorified: rather, the beauty of Truth appears in him, the beauty of God himself who draws us to himself and, at the same time captures us with the wound of Love, the holy passion (eros), that enables us to go forth together, with and in the Church his Bride, to meet the Love who calls us."

"On Monday of Holy Week, however, the Church changes the antiphon and invites us to interpret the Psalm in the light of Is 53,2: "He had neither beauty, no majesty, nothing to attract our eyes, no grace to make us delight in him". How can we reconcile this? The appearance of the "fairest of the children of men" is so wretched that no one desires to look at him. Pilate presented him to the crowd saying: "Behold the man!", to rouse sympathy for the crushed and battered Man, in whom no external beauty remained."