Monday, January 23, 2006

DEUS CARITAS EST: Another Sneak Preview

Word around town -- i.e. Roma town -- last week was that the text of Benedict XVI's first encyclical, to be released publicly in 48 hours, would probably be floating around the meeting of episcopal conference presidents and others on issues of charity. The conference, organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, runs from today into tomorrow.

While no text has dropped of yet, Archbishop Paul-Josef Cordes, president of Cor Unum and, so it's said, the ghostwriter of this document from its early stages as an encyclical intended for John Paul II, spoke this morning of its contents in his opening address. The Pope then followed up on the topic in an audience to the meeting's participants which took place within the last couple hours.

As it bears his signature, His Fluffiness' words take precedence. This is the Whispers translation of segments of the papal remarks -- it's obviously not in English yet anywhere else.

Benedict began his address by referencing Dante, and how in the Divine Comedy, the poet's "cosmic excursion" ended "before the never-ending Light who is God himself, before the Light that in the meantime is 'the love that moves the sun and the stars.'"

"Light and love are one and the same thing," the Pope continued....
They are the original creative powers that move the universe. If these words of [Dante] can make clearer the thought of Aristotle, who saw in eros the power to move the world, the vision of Dante still distinguishes itself as a completely new and unimaginable thing from the Greek philosphy.... Infinite light, that incomparable mystery which Greek philosophy had touched upon, [in Jesus] God has a human will, and -- we can add -- a human heart. In this vision of Dante is shown, on one part, the continuity between the Christian faith in God and the further ties developed by science and the world of the religions; at the same time, however, also remains the novelty which surpasses all human searching -- the novelty that only God can reveal himself to us: the novelty of a love which spurred God to take on human form, taking flesh and blood, the whole of a human being. The eros of God isn't only a primordial cosmic force; it is the love which made man and draws him closer to Himself, as the Good Samaritan was drawn toward the injured and robbed man, thrown to the side of the road which went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.

The word "love" is so damaged today, so consumed and abused with things you're afraid to let loose from your lips. And yet it's a primordial word, an expression of the primordial reality; we can't simply abandon it, but we must reclaim it, purify it and restore it to its original splendor, because it can illumine our life and return us to the right course. It was this awareness which led me to choose love as the theme of my first Encyclical. I wanted to try and express for our time and for our existence that which, in his vision, Dante recast in a daring way.... Faith is not a theory which one can make real and then put on a shelf. It's a very concrete thing: it is the criteria which decides our way of living. In an age in which hostility and fanaticism have become omnipotent, an age in which we stand by as the abuse of religion has become the apotheosis of hatred, and being neutral won't protect us. We need the living God, who loved us even to death.
I could go on, and I'd love to, but I really don't want to get sued. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, check this.

Stay tuned.