Sunday, June 04, 2006

Then There Appeared To Them Fluffs As Of Fire

For Papal Pentecost and the end of the weeklong meeting of the New Ecclesial Movements, the Pope celebrated Mass in St Peter's Square wearing a newly-made vestment in the style of his earlier ones, but with the notable addition of a pattern resembling tongues of fire.

Not since the (in)famous Midnight Cope in which John Paul II opened the Holy Year has a piece of papal vesture looked so... bizarre.

The House of Marini has made its first slip of the pontificate.

Gratefully, AsiaNews has spared us all from what would've been my lacking translation of the Pope's homily. So here ya go. (Via Amy.)

A snip:
Staying together was the condition imposed by Jesus to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; a prerequisite of their harmony was prolonged prayer. In this, we can trace a formidable lesson for any Christian community. At times, it is thought that effective missionary work depends mainly on careful planning and consequent intelligent implementation through concrete commitment. Certainly, the Lord asks for our collaboration, but before any answer we may give, his initiative is necessary: it is his Spirit that is the true protagonist of the Church. The roots of our being and our actions lie in the knowing silence and providence of God.

The images that St Luke uses to indicate the descent of the Holy Spirit – wind and fire – recall Sinai, where God revealed himself to the people of Israel and conceded a covenant with them. (cfr Ex 19:3ff). The feast of Sinai, that Israel used to celebrate 50 days after Easter, was the feast of the Pact. Talking about tongues of fire (cfr Acts 2:3), St Luke wants to represent Pentecost as a new Sinai, as a feast of the new Pact in which the Covenant with Israel is extended to all the peoples of the Earth. The Church has been Catholic and missionary right from the time it was born. The universality of salvation is significantly highlighted by the list of numerous ethnicities of those who heard the first proclamation of the Apostles (cfr Acts 2:9-11).

The People of God, who found their first configuration on Sinai, have now been enlarged to the extent that they are no longer bound by any borders of race or culture, of space or time. As opposed to what happened with the tower of Babel (cfr Gen. 11:1-9), when men who wanted to build a path to heaven with their own hands, ended up by destroying their own capacity for mutual understanding, in Pentecost, the Spirit, with the gift of tongues, reveals how his presence unites and transforms confusion into communion. The pride and egotism of man always create division and build walls of indifference, of hate and of violence. The Holy Spirit, on the contrary, makes hearts capable of understanding the languages of all, because it re-establishes the bridge of authentic communion between Earth and Heaven. The Holy Spirit is love.
And, lastly for now, a clarification. Nothing gets our American readers more hopped up than when the term "His Fluffiness" is employed on these pages in reference to the Pope. It's always makes for a bonanza in the inbox, and if you didn't know the cause, you'd think the Know-Nothings had returned and declared B16 the antichrist or something.

When the people Back Home (where, you'll be reminded, the moniker originated) are informed of these reactions, it's a scene reminiscent of the day when a group from a certain European country were holding up the schedule of l'amato Giovanni Paolo. In a nearby hallway, Don Stanislaw could be seen fanning himself with a folder, the legendary subwoofer voice overheard muttering repeatedly, "Questi francesi...."

Take "francesi" out and, well, you get the idea.

Bottom line: for the millionth time, the Fluff is an intended term of endearment, a reference to the Ratzingerian shock of hair and, as I'm not terribly creative or smart, I couldn't have made it up if I wanted to. If I were smart enough to have taken bets on election day that the new Pope would be (lovingly) referred to by some in his circles as "Fluffy," I'd be much better off financially than I am right now.

Again, however, I'm not that smart.

So if you're looking for people who eagerly seek to underestimate, even undermine, Benedict XVI's powers of intellect, depth and resolve, it's like shooting fish in a barrel out there. But I ain't one of 'em.

Don't shoot the messenger -- you might just be surprised how many people feel even greater warmth and affection for Ratzi Bear after hearing of the wonder of his Fluffiness. And that's what it's all about, right?

I'm just sayin'.

PHOTO: AP/Pier Paolo Cito