DEUS CARITAS EST PDF
Deus Caritas Est, First Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, God is love, Caritas, agape. Deus Caritas Est, God is Love, December 25, INTRODUCTION. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, encapsulates in a single phrase what he calls the. Deus Caritas Est — God is love. Benedict XVI's first Encyclical Letter. Love of God and love of neighbour are inseparable. “As you did it to one.
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DEUS CARITAS EST – POPE BENEDICT XVI. 1. Historical Context. Perhaps no Pope in history has come to the office as well known to the Catholic public as. ACTS OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS LOVE NEVER FAILS Perspectives 10 years after the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est ACTS OF THE INTERNATIONAL. Romanus Cessario, O.P. / Saint John's Seminary, Boston. In the United States and Australia, the Encyclical Letter Deus caritas est enjoyed a.
Despite being extended to all mankind, it is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now. The Church has the duty to interpret ever anew this relationship between near and far with regard to the actual daily life of her members.
Lastly, we should especially mention the great parable of the Last Judgement cf. Jesus identifies himself with those in need, with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. Love of God and love of neighbour have become one: Having reflected on the nature of love and its meaning in biblical faith, we are left with two questions concerning our own attitude: And can love be commanded? Against the double commandment of love these questions raise a double objection.
No one has ever seen God, so how could we love him? Moreover, love cannot be commanded; it is ultimately a feeling that is either there or not, nor can it be produced by the will. Scripture seems to reinforce the first objection when it states: But this text hardly excludes the love of God as something impossible.
On the contrary, the whole context of the passage quoted from the First Letter of John shows that such love is explicitly demanded. The unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbour is emphasized. One is so closely connected to the other that to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbour or hate him altogether.
Saint John's words should rather be interpreted to mean that love of neighbour is a path that leads to the encounter with God, and that closing our eyes to our neighbour also blinds us to God. True, no one has ever seen God as he is. And yet God is not totally invisible to us; he does not remain completely inaccessible. God loved us first, says the Letter of John quoted above cf. God has made himself visible: Indeed, God is visible in a number of ways. In the love-story recounted by the Bible, he comes towards us, he seeks to win our hearts, all the way to the Last Supper, to the piercing of his heart on the Cross, to his appearances after the Resurrection and to the great deeds by which, through the activity of the Apostles, he guided the nascent Church along its path.
Nor has the Lord been absent from subsequent Church history: In the Church's Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive his presence and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives.
He has loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love. God does not demand of us a feeling which we ourselves are incapable of producing.
In the gradual unfolding of this encounter, it is clearly revealed that love is not merely a sentiment. Sentiments come and go. A sentiment can be a marvellous first spark, but it is not the fullness of love. Earlier we spoke of the process of purification and maturation by which eros comes fully into its own, becomes love in the full meaning of the word. It is characteristic of mature love that it calls into play all man's potentialities; it engages the whole man, so to speak.
Contact with the visible manifestations of God's love can awaken within us a feeling of joy born of the experience of being loved. But this encounter also engages our will and our intellect. Idem velle atque idem nolle  —to want the same thing, and to reject the same thing—was recognized by antiquity as the authentic content of love: The love-story between God and man consists in the very fact that this communion of will increases in a communion of thought and sentiment, and thus our will and God's will increasingly coincide: God's will is no longer for me an alien will, something imposed on me from without by the commandments, but it is now my own will, based on the realization that God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself.
Ps 73 : Love of neighbour is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ.
His friend is my friend. Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern. This I can offer them not only through the organizations intended for such purposes, accepting it perhaps as a political necessity. Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave. Here we see the necessary interplay between love of God and love of neighbour which the First Letter of John speaks of with such insistence.
If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God. Only my readiness to encounter my neighbour and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. The saints—consider the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta—constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbour from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its real- ism and depth in their service to others.
Love of God and love of neighbour are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment. But both live from the love of God who has loved us first.
Love grows through love.
The Spirit, in fact, is that interior power which harmonizes their hearts with Christ's heart and moves them to love their brethren as Christ loved them, when he bent down to wash the feet of the disciples cf. The Spirit is also the energy which transforms the heart of the ecclesial community, so that it becomes a witness before the world to the love of the Father, who wishes to make humanity a single family in his Son.
The entire activity of the Church is an expression of a love that seeks the integral good of man: Love is therefore the service that the Church carries out in order to attend constantly to man's sufferings and his needs, including material needs.
And this is the aspect, this service of charity , on which I want to focus in the second part of the Encyclical. Love of neighbour, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level: As a community, the Church must practise love. Love thus needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community. The awareness of this responsibility has had a constitutive relevance in the Church from the beginning: Acts 2: As the Church grew, this radical form of material communion could not in fact be preserved.
But its essential core remained: A decisive step in the difficult search for ways of putting this fundamental ecclesial principle into practice is illustrated in the choice of the seven, which marked the origin of the diaconal office cf.
Acts 6: In the early Church, in fact, with regard to the daily distribution to widows, a disparity had arisen between Hebrew speakers and Greek speakers. Nor was this group to carry out a purely mechanical work of distribution: In other words, the social service which they were meant to provide was absolutely concrete, yet at the same time it was also a spiritual service; theirs was a truly spiritual office which carried out an essential responsibility of the Church, namely a well-ordered love of neighbour.
As the years went by and the Church spread further afield, the exercise of charity became established as one of her essential activities, along with the administration of the sacraments and the proclamation of the word: The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word. A few references will suffice to demonstrate this. Those who are able make offerings in accordance with their means, each as he or she wishes; the Bishop in turn makes use of these to support orphans, widows, the sick and those who for other reasons find themselves in need, such as prisoners and foreigners.
Here it might be helpful to allude to the earliest legal structures associated with the service of charity in the Church.
By the sixth century this institution had evolved into a corporation with full juridical standing, which the civil authorities themselves entrusted with part of the grain for public distribution. In Egypt not only each monastery, but each individual Diocese eventually had its own diaconia ; this institution then developed in both East and West.
But charitable activity on behalf of the poor and suffering was naturally an essential part of the Church of Rome from the very beginning, based on the principles of Christian life given in the Acts of the Apostles.
As the one responsible for the care of the poor in Rome, Lawrence had been given a period of time, after the capture of the Pope and of Lawrence's fellow deacons, to collect the treasures of the Church and hand them over to the civil authorities. He distributed to the poor whatever funds were available and then presented to the authorities the poor themselves as the real treasure of the Church. As a child of six years, Julian witnessed the assassination of his father, brother and other family members by the guards of the imperial palace; rightly or wrongly, he blamed this brutal act on the Emperor Constantius, who passed himself off as an outstanding Christian.
The Christian faith was thus definitively discredited in his eyes. Upon becoming emperor, Julian decided to restore paganism, the ancient Roman religion, while reforming it in the hope of making it the driving force behind the empire.
In this project he was amply inspired by Christianity. He established a hierarchy of metropolitans and priests who were to foster love of God and neighbour. In one of his letters,  he wrote that the sole aspect of Christianity which had impressed him was the Church's charitable activity. He thus considered it essential for his new pagan religion that, alongside the system of the Church's charity, an equivalent activity of its own be established.
They needed now to be imitated and outdone. In this way, then, the Emperor confirmed that charity was a decisive feature of the Christian community, the Church. These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable. For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.
In this family no one ought to go without the necessities of life. Yet at the same time caritas- agape extends beyond the frontiers of the Church. Without in any way detracting from this commandment of universal love, the Church also has a specific responsibility: The teaching of the Letter to the Galatians is emphatic: Since the nineteenth century, an objection has been raised to the Church's charitable activity, subsequently developed with particular insistence by Marxism: Works of charity—almsgiving—are in effect a way for the rich to shirk their obligation to work for justice and a means of soothing their consciences, while preserving their own status and robbing the poor of their rights.
Instead of contributing through individual works of charity to maintaining the status quo , we need to build a just social order in which all receive their share of the world's goods and no longer have to depend on charity. There is admittedly some truth to this argument, but also much that is mistaken. It is true that the pursuit of justice must be a fundamental norm of the State and that the aim of a just social order is to guarantee to each person, according to the principle of subsidiarity, his share of the community's goods.
This has always been emphasized by Christian teaching on the State and by the Church's social doctrine. Historically, the issue of the just ordering of the collectivity had taken a new dimension with the industrialization of society in the nineteenth century.
The rise of modern industry caused the old social structures to collapse, while the growth of a class of salaried workers provoked radical changes in the fabric of society. The relationship between capital and labour now became the decisive issue—an issue which in that form was previously unknown. Capital and the means of production were now the new source of power which, concentrated in the hands of a few, led to the suppression of the rights of the working classes, against which they had to rebel.
It must be admitted that the Church's leadership was slow to realize that the issue of the just structuring of society needed to be approached in a new way. Faced with new situations and issues, Catholic social teaching thus gradually developed, and has now found a comprehensive presentation in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church published in by the Pontifical Council Iustitia et Pax.
Marxism had seen world revolution and its preliminaries as the panacea for the social problem: This illusion has vanished. In today's complex situation, not least because of the growth of a globalized economy, the Church's social doctrine has become a set of fundamental guidelines offering approaches that are valid even beyond the confines of the Church: In order to define more accurately the relationship between the necessary commitment to justice and the ministry of charity, two fundamental situations need to be considered:.
As Augustine once said, a State which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves: For her part, the Church, as the social expression of Christian faith, has a proper independence and is structured on the basis of her faith as a community which the State must recognize.
The two spheres are distinct, yet always interrelated. Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: The State must inevitably face the question of how justice can be achieved here and now.
But this presupposes an even more radical question: The problem is one of practical reason; but if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests.
Here politics and faith meet.
Faith by its specific nature is an encounter with the living God—an encounter opening up new horizons extending beyond the sphere of reason. But it is also a purifying force for reason itself. From God's standpoint, faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself.
Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly. This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith.
Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just. The Church's social teaching argues on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being. It recognizes that it is not the Church's responsibility to make this teaching prevail in political life. Rather, the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest.
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Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due, is an essential task which every generation must take up anew.
As a political task, this cannot be the Church's immediate responsibility. Yet, since it is also a most important human responsibility, the Church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically. The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State.
Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church.
Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness.
There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need.
The Church is one of those living forces: This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: We can now determine more precisely, in the life of the Church, the relationship between commitment to the just ordering of the State and society on the one hand, and organized charitable activity on the other.
We have seen that the formation of just structures is not directly the duty of the Church, but belongs to the world of politics, the sphere of the autonomous use of reason. The Church has an indirect duty here, in that she is called to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of those moral forces without which just structures are neither established nor prove effective in the long run.
The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity. The Church's charitable organizations, on the other hand, constitute an opus proprium , a task agreeable to her, in which she does not cooperate collaterally, but acts as a subject with direct responsibility, doing what corresponds to her nature.
The Church can never be exempted from practising charity as an organized activity of believers, and on the other hand, there will never be a situation where the charity of each individual Christian is unnecessary, because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love. The multiple structures of charitable service in the social context of the present day.
Before attempting to define the specific profile of the Church's activities in the service of man, I now wish to consider the overall situation of the struggle for justice and love in the world of today.
Despite the great advances made in science and technology, each day we see how much suffering there is in the world on account of different kinds of poverty, both material and spiritual.
Our times call for a new readiness to assist our neighbours in need. The Second Vatican Council had made this point very clearly: On the other hand—and here we see one of the challenging yet also positive sides of the process of globalization—we now have at our disposal numerous means for offering humanitarian assistance to our brothers and sisters in need, not least modern systems of distributing food and clothing, and of providing housing and care.
Concern for our neighbour transcends the confines of national communities and has increasingly broadened its horizon to the whole world.
The solidarity shown by civil society thus significantly surpasses that shown by individuals. Church agencies, with their transparent operation and their faithfulness to the duty of witnessing to love, are able to give a Christian quality to the civil agencies too, favouring a mutual coordination that can only redound to the effectiveness of charitable service.
Significantly, our time has also seen the growth and spread of different kinds of volunteer work, which assume responsibility for providing a variety of services. For young people, this widespread involvement constitutes a school of life which offers them a formation in solidarity and in readiness to offer others not simply material aid but their very selves.
In the Catholic Church, and also in the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, new forms of charitable activity have arisen, while other, older ones have taken on new life and energy. In these new forms, it is often possible to establish a fruitful link between evangelization and works of charity. Here I would clearly reaffirm what my great predecessor John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis  when he asserted the readiness of the Catholic Church to cooperate with the charitable agencies of these Churches and Communities, since we all have the same fundamental motivation and look towards the same goal: The increase in diversified organizations engaged in meeting various human needs is ultimately due to the fact that the command of love of neighbour is inscribed by the Creator in man's very nature.
It is also a result of the presence of Christianity in the world, since Christianity constantly revives and acts out this imperative, so often profoundly obscured in the course of time. The reform of paganism attempted by the emperor Julian the Apostate is only an initial example of this effect; here we see how the power of Christianity spread well beyond the frontiers of the Christian faith.
For this reason, it is very important that the Church's charitable activity maintains all of its splendour and does not become just another form of social assistance. So what are the essential elements of Christian and ecclesial charity? The Church's charitable organizations, beginning with those of Caritas at diocesan, national and international levels , ought to do everything in their power to provide the resources and above all the personnel needed for this work.
To sacrifice Isaac, the child of the promise? Abraham did not oppose it in any way ; he did not even think of doing so. A certainty haunted him : All that comes from God is good. Abraham obeyed with a perfect love by which he merited to become the ancestor of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus.
Already he was raising his arm when an angel stopped him. A ram would substitute, and the Father made peace with the human race, thanks to the prayer of Abraham, until his own Son would suffer one day for sin, in order to save all men.
It is in this pierced Side that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move. Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduring presence through the institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper. He anticipated His Death and Resurrection by already giving at that Hour to His disciples, in the bread and wine, His very self, His Body and Blood as the new manna cf.
This action and this word signify that Christ is giving His own Body for food. The Eucharist draws us into the act of self-oblation of Jesus. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of His self-giving.
The intention of the Creator was, from all eternity, to give His Flesh to eat, and His Blood to drink. In anticipation of this gift, He created Adam and Eve, making them man and woman.
The communion that He wanted to give us governed the creation of Adam and Eve. God wanted man and woman to find their communion in each other in order to enter into His grace. About marriage or the Eucharist? Both of them! Concerning marriage, St. However great this Sacrament is, it is still only the figure of the Eucharistic communion, which is actually, in its fullness, the circumincession of divine charity into which human beings enter directly, without any symbolism and without any imperfection.
The mode of Communion, that of eating, seems to us both the summit to which love could aspire and yet the impossible action that love would be mad to imagine for a single instant.
As St. Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom He gives Himself. I cannot possess Christ for myself alone ; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, His own.
Communion draws me out of myself towards Him, and at the same time towards unity with all Christians. Love of God and love of neighbour are now truly united : God incarnate draws us all to Himself. The transition that He makes from the Law and the Prophets to the twofold commandment of love of God and of neighbour, and his grounding the whole life of faith on this central precept, is not simply a matter of morality — something that could exist apart from and alongside faith in Christ and its sacramental re-actualisation.
Here the usual contraposition between worship and ethics simply falls apart. A Eucharist that does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.
This principle is the starting-point for understanding the great parables of Jesus. The rich man cf. Lk Jesus takes up this cry for help as a warning to help us return to the right path. This limit is now abolished. Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbour.
Despite being extended to all mankind, it is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now. The Church has the duty to interpret ever anew this relationship between near and far with regard to the actual daily life of her members.
Jesus identifies Himself with those in need, with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. Love of God and love of neighbour have become one : in the least of the brethren we find Jesus Himself, and in Jesus we find God. Having reflected on the essence of love and its meaning in biblical Faith, we are left with two questions concerning our own attitude : is it even possible to love God without seeing Him?
And can love be commanded? To the double commandment of love corresponds a double objection that is echoed in these questions. No one has ever seen God, so how could we love Him? Moreover, love cannot be commanded ; it is ultimately a feeling that is either there or not, nor can it be produced by the will.
This text, however, does certainly not exclude the love of God as something impossible. On the contrary, the whole context of the passage quoted from the First Letter of John shows that such love is explicitly demanded. It is the unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbour that is emphasised. One is so closely connected to the other that to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbour or hate him altogether.
We should rather interpret this Johannine verse to mean that love of neighbour is a path that leads to the encounter with God as well, and that closing our eyes to our neighbour also blinds us to God. True, no one has ever seen God as He is in Himself. Yet God has not remained totally invisible to us nor is He simply inaccessible.
God loved us first, says the Letter of John quoted above cf. God has made Himself visible : in Jesus we are able to see the Father cf. In the love-story recounted by the Bible, He comes towards us, He seeks to win our hearts, all the way to the Last Supper, to the piercing of His Heart on the Cross, to His apparitions after the Resurrection and to the great deeds by which, through the activity of the Apostles, He guided the nascent Church along its path.
In the Liturgy of the Church, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive His presence and we thus learn to recognise that presence in our daily lives.
God does not demand of us a feeling that we ourselves are incapable of producing. He loves us, He makes us see and experience His love, and since He has loved us first, love can also blossom as a response within us. Sentiments come and go. A sentiment can be a marvellous first spark, but it is not the fullness of love. Earlier we spoke of the process of purification and maturation by which eros comes fully into its own, becomes love in the full meaning of the word.
It is characteristic of mature love that it calls into play all the capacities of man ; it engages the whole man, so to speak. This encounter, however, also requires our will and our intellect.
Idem velle atque idem nolle 9 — to want the same thing and to reject the same thing ; this was what the Ancients defined as the authentic content of love : to become similar one to the other, which leads to unity of will and thought.
And to recite the Rosary every day. Ps 73  He quoted it at the end of his memoirs with the commentary of St. The psalm, from the tradition of Wisdom, shows the difficulty of the Faith, which comes from its earthly failure. He who stands alongside God is not necessarily on the side of success : cynics are precisely men on whom everything seems to smile. How can this be understood?
The Psalmist finds the answer by standing before God, with whom he understands the vanity of riches and material success and recognises what is truly necessary and salvific.
Ut jumentum factus sum apud te et ego semper tecum. Yet I was continually before You. Love of neighbour is thus shown to be possible in the sense defined by the Bible, by Jesus.
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It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. Nevertheless, she is a holy nun who must be very pleasing to God ; therefore, not wanting to yield to the natural antipathy that I felt, I said to myself that charity should not consist merely in the feelings but in deeds, so I set myself to do for this sister what I would have done person I love most.
I felt that this was very pleasing to Jesus, for there is no artist who is not gratified when his works are praised, and Jesus, the Artist of souls is pleased when we do not stop at the exterior, but, penetrating to the inner sanctuary He has chosen for His dwelling, admire its beauty. As she was absolutely unaware of the way I felt towards her, she never suspected the reasons for my conduct and remained persuaded that her character was pleasing to me.
What attracted me was Jesus hidden in the depths of her soul… Jesus who makes sweet even that which is most bitter… I replied to her that I smiled because I was happy to see her of course I did not add that it was from a spiritual viewpoint. Part 1 : contemplation of the Love of God. Part 2 : the practice of this charity towards others. Paul, who was borne aloft to Heaven to the most exalted mysteries of God, and hence, having descended once more, he was able to become all things to all men cf.
He also points to the example of Moses, who entered the sacred tabernacle time and again, remaining in dialogue with God, so that he could be at the service of his people before God. We have thus come to an initial, albeit still somewhat generic response to the two questions raised earlier.
Yet when the two dimensions are totally cut off from one another, the result is a caricature or at least an impoverished form of love. This newness of biblical Faith is shown chiefly in two elements, which deserve to be highlighted : the image of God and the image of man. What is liberating with this new Pope, after forty years dedicated to the cult of man, is that he speaks first about God… and then about man.
Because, as Fr. Such is the great newness of Christianity. It shapes first of all the image that we have of God. Above all it is a question of the new image of God. In the cultures that surrounded the world of the Bible, the image of God and of the gods ultimately remained unclear and contradictory. His adornments and garments, in their truth as human objects, were more beautiful and more sparkling, more attractive, than he himself! It was too human to arouse the least enthusiasm, and too inhuman not to alarm, to terrorise, to put off souls, to freeze the hearts of believers themselves.
There is only one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, who is thus the God of all men. Naturally, the notion of creation is also found elsewhere, yet only here does it become absolutely clear that it is not one god among many, but the one true God Himself who is the source of all reality that proceeds from the power of His creative Word.
The second important element now emerges : this God loves man. The divine power that Aristotle at the height of Greek philosophy sought to grasp through reflection, is indeed for every being an object of desire and of love — and as the object of love this divinity moves the world 6 — but in itself it lacks nothing and does not love : it is solely the object of love.
In strict Aristotelianism, man does not love either.
His love, moreover, is an elective love : among all the nations He chooses Israel and loves her — but He does so precisely with a view to healing the whole human race. His heart is moved. He cares for her, washes her and adopts her as a daughter and makes her a princess. This is a prefiguring of the Covenant of God with His people, with sinful humanity. Here we find a specific reference — as we have seen — to the fertility cults and their abuse of eros, but also a description of the relationship of fidelity between Israel and her God.
And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides you… But it is good for me to be near God. The commentary that St. Do you want to know how good He is? This is not only because it is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love that forgives.
How can I hand you over, O Israel!
It is so great that it turns God against Himself, His love against His justice. Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross : so great is the love of God for man that by becoming man He follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and love.
We can thus understand how the reception of the Song of Songs in the canon of Sacred Scripture was soon explained by the idea that these love songs ultimately describe the relation of God to man and of man to God. Thus the Song of Songs became, both in Christian and Jewish literature, a source of mystical knowledge and experience, an expression of the essence of biblical Faith : that man can indeed enter into union with God — the primordial aspiration of man.
To sink into pantheism one only needs to allow oneself to be overcome by the affirmation of being, free from all consideration of the limits wherein it is enclosed, conditioned and therefore subjugated. It is marvellous that being should be there, in front of us, all around us, including ourselves, that it should be there in its one and multiple act, that the aesthetic regard should contemplate its victory over nothingness as an absolute, as an infinite force, as a god!
The first novelty of biblical Faith consists, as we have seen, in its image of God. The second, essentially connected to this, is found in the image of man.
The biblical account of creation speaks of the solitude of Adam, the first man, alongside whom God wills to place a helper. Of all other creatures, not one is capable of being the helper that man needs, even though he has assigned a name to all the wild beasts and birds and thus made them fully a part of his life. So God forms woman from the rib of man. They were then three persons : God, Adam and Eve.
As a punishment for pride, however, he was split in two by Zeus, so that now he longs for his other half, striving with all his being to possess it and thus regain his integrity 8.
The conditions of this union are determined by anatomy and physiology, which are those of the complementarity of organs as functions, that is, of two independent systems that are strictly adjusted to each other, capable of synchronisation and perfectly completed. Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage. Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa.
The way that God loves becomes the measure of human love. This close connection between eros and marriage in the Bible has practically no equivalent in extra-biblical literature. Yet the mission given them to live on earth in mutual love arouses in both these wretched human beings the same movement of deep love for this Creator God who came to visit them in the cool of the day.
Though up to now we have been speaking mainly of the Old Testament, nevertheless the profound compenetration of the two Testaments as the one Scripture of the Christian Faith has already become evident.
The real novelty of the New Testament lies not so much in new ideas as in the figure of Christ Himself, who gives flesh and blood to those concepts — an unprecedented realism. So many transparent figures speak to us in advance of Jesus and Mary, convincing us that God is good.
It suffices to follow the golden thread that leads us to the Cross and its mystery. When Jesus speaks in His parables of the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, of the woman who looks for the lost coin, of the father who goes to meet and embrace his prodigal son, these are no mere words : they constitute an explanation of His very being and acting.
This is love in its most radical form. Like the sacrifice of Iphigenia at Aulis, with all the distance that separates a fiction, inspired by God, from the cruel reality of a historical psychodrama created by the same God, the sacrifice of Isaac bears the revelation of His very good and merciful Heart. By asking Abraham to become part of His plan of mercy, in accordance with the Covenant that unites them one to the other, God revealed His love for His creature, His craving to obtain a similar love from him.
He indeed obtained it. To sacrifice Isaac, the child of the promise? Abraham did not oppose it in any way ; he did not even think of doing so. A certainty haunted him : All that comes from God is good. Abraham obeyed with a perfect love by which he merited to become the ancestor of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. Already he was raising his arm when an angel stopped him.
A ram would substitute, and the Father made peace with the human race, thanks to the prayer of Abraham, until his own Son would suffer one day for sin, in order to save all men. It is in this pierced Side that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin.
In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move. Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduring presence through the institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper. He anticipated His Death and Resurrection by already giving at that Hour to His disciples, in the bread and wine, His very self, His Body and Blood as the new manna cf. This action and this word signify that Christ is giving His own Body for food.
The Eucharist draws us into the act of self-oblation of Jesus. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of His self-giving. The intention of the Creator was, from all eternity, to give His Flesh to eat, and His Blood to drink.
In anticipation of this gift, He created Adam and Eve, making them man and woman. The communion that He wanted to give us governed the creation of Adam and Eve. God wanted man and woman to find their communion in each other in order to enter into His grace.
About marriage or the Eucharist? Both of them! Concerning marriage, St. However great this Sacrament is, it is still only the figure of the Eucharistic communion, which is actually, in its fullness, the circumincession of divine charity into which human beings enter directly, without any symbolism and without any imperfection.The increase in diversified organizations engaged in meeting various human needs is ultimately due to the fact that the command of love of neighbour is inscribed by the Creator in man's very nature.
Of course, this is what grounds the recommendation of Benedict XVI according to which eros without gape is blind, and gape without eros void. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper.
It shapes first of all the image that we have of God. Historically, the issue of the just ordering of the collectivity had taken a new dimension with the industrialization of society in the nineteenth century.