This morning, Pope Benedict gave his annual address to the group of international ambassadors and representatives to the Holy See. The full address was quickly translated and released by Vatican Radio. Some of his more urgent or important points:
His general theme is that of peace:
Gospel of Luke recounts that on Christmas night the shepherds heard
choirs of angels who gave glory to God and invoked peace on mankind.
The Evangelist thus emphasizes the close relationship between God and
the ardent desire of the men and women of every age to know the truth,
to practice justice and to live in peace (cf. Blessed John XXIII, Pacem
in Terris: AAS 55 , 257). These days, we are sometimes led to
think that truth, justice and peace are utopian ideals, and mutually
exclusive. To know the truth seems impossible, and efforts to affirm it
appear often to lead to violence. On the other hand, according to a
now widespread way of thinking, peacemaking consists solely in the
pursuit of compromises capable of ensuring peaceful coexistence between
different peoples or between citizens within a single nation. Yet from
the Christian point of view, the glorification of God and human peace on
earth are closely linked, with the result that peace is not simply the
fruit of human effort, but a participation in the very love of God. It
is precisely man’s forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him
glory, which gives rise to violence. ... The consequences of forgetfulness of
God cannot be separated from those resulting from ignorance of his true
countenance, the root of a baneful religious fanaticism which, again in
2012, reaped victims in some countries represented here. As I have
often observed, this is a falsification of religion itself, since
religion aims instead at reconciling men and women with God, at
illuminating and purifying consciences, and at making it clear that each
human being is the image of the Creator.
He lists a number of places in the world where various sorts of violence are now taking place, without casting any particular blame. Then he goes on:
building of peace always comes about by the protection of human beings
and their fundamental rights. This task, even if carried out in many
ways and with varying degrees of intensity, challenges all countries and
must constantly be inspired by the transcendent dignity of the human
person and the principles inscribed in human nature. Foremost among
these is respect for human life at every stage.
I am inspired by such clarity of thought! He talks again about particular examples, such as changes in particular countries' laws regarding euthanasia or abortion. He talks about proper understanding of human rights versus falsely-understood autonomy (license), and discusses things like education as platforms for the development of peace. Then he hits hard at another constant theme:
would like to add that peace in society is also put at risk by certain
threats to religious liberty: it is a question sometimes of the
marginalization of religion in social life; sometimes of intolerance or
even of violence towards individuals, symbols of religious identity and
religious institutions. It even happens that believers, and Christians
in particular, are prevented from contributing to the common good by
their educational and charitable institutions. In order effectively to
safeguard the exercise of religious liberty it is essential to respect
the right of conscientious objection. This “frontier” of liberty
touches upon principles of great importance of an ethical and religious
character, rooted in the very dignity of the human person. They are, as
it were, the “bearing walls” of any society that wishes to be truly
free and democratic.
Great analogy of our common "edifice" in society. Without these "[weight-]bearing walls" of proper defense of religious liberty, especially in pluralistic democracies such as we know today, the edifice threatens to collapse. Pray for our Pope!
Monday, January 7, 2013
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
|St. Basil the Great, from Orthodoxwiki.org|
But this faith also contains the great mysteries. As we continue in this Christmas season, we are face to face with the deepest mysteries of the Incarnation and of the Trinity. These two great mysteries are at the heart of our faith, and they always seem to give the greatest opportunity for falling into error.
In the fourth century, the biggest crisis in the Church was the crisis of Arianism. Now the Arians, you'll remember, claimed that God the Son was not God in the same way that God the Father is God; that he was basically a creature. Every time we say in the Creed that Jesus Christ is "consubstantial" with the Father, we're saying that the Son and the Father share the very same divine essence, that they are both divine in the very same way. We're rebuking the ideas of the Arians.
The two saints whose memorial we celebrate today, Basil and Gregory, did so much in the fourth century to defend the faith of the Apostles. As bishops and preachers and theologians, Basil and Gregory taught with great power and compassion the true meanings of these mysteries of the Incarnation and the Trinity. They rejected the ideas of the Arians, and they both suffered for it, at a time when political authorities were choosing sides in the theological debates of the Church.
Let me offer just one example of how they taught. St. Basil wrote a treatise called "On the Holy Spirit," a powerful, influential work. (If you just think for a moment of the differences between the Nicene Creed's paragraph on the Holy Spirit, and the Apostles' Creed, all of what's added about the Holy Spirit, what the Church believes and knows about Him, is clearly stated in this little book.) But his treatise was also an argument against the Arians, and his basic argument went like this:
When we think about the relationship of the Son to the Father, our thinking is muddied by the fact of the Incarnation, of Jesus's humanity. So let's look at it in terms of the Holy Spirit. Does it make any sense, in terms of the apostolic faith, or in terms of Scripture, to say about the Holy Spirit what the Arians say about the Son, that he's not of the same substance as the Father? No, it doesn't. How can we say that the Holy Spirit is Lord and Giver of Life, if he is not fully and equally divine with the Father? But if that's true of the Holy Spirit, it must be true of the Son also, or else there's no Trinity.
|St. Gregory Nazianzen, from ewtn.com|
[I can't remember how I said it, but I finished with a very brief and positive exhortation to hold and believe the fullness of the apostolic, Catholic faith - it is, after all, the Year of Faith (though I neglected to mention it this time).]