Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

On 3 Lessons From St. Basil

October 7, 2008

“Only If We Are Open to God Can We Build a Just World”

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Aug. 1 at the general audience in Paul VI Hall. The reflection focused on St. Basil, continuing with the Pope’s last catechesis from July 4.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After this three-week break, we are continuing with our Wednesday meetings. Today, I would simply like to resume my last Catechesis, whose subject was the life and writings of St Basil, a Bishop in present-day Turkey, in Asia Minor, in the fourth century A.D. The life and works of this great Saint are full of ideas for reflection and teachings that are also relevant for us today.

First of all is the reference to God’s mystery, which is still the most meaningful and vital reference for human beings. The Father is “the principal of all things and the cause of being of all that exists, the root of the living” (Hom. 15, 2 de fide: PG 31, 465c); above all, he is “the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ” (“Anaphora Sancti Basilii”). Ascending to God through his creatures, we “become aware of his goodness and wisdom” (Basil, “Adversus Eunomium” 1, 14: PG 29, 544b).

The Son is the “image of the Father’s goodness and seal in the same form” (cf. “Anaphora Sancti Basilii”). With his obedience and his Passion, the Incarnate Word carried out his mission as Redeemer of man (cf. Basil, “In Psalmum” 48, 8; PG 29, 452ab; cf. also “De Baptismo” 1, 2: SC 357, 158).

Lastly, he spoke fully of the Holy Spirit, to whom he dedicated a whole book. He reveals to us that the Spirit enlivens the Church, fills her with his gifts and sanctifies her.

The resplendent light of the divine mystery is reflected in man, the image of God, and exalts his dignity. Looking at Christ, one fully understands human dignity.

Basil exclaims: “[Man], be mindful of your greatness, remembering the price paid for you: look at the price of your redemption and comprehend your dignity!” (“In Psalmum” 48, 8: PG 29, 452b). 
Christians in particular, conforming their lives to the Gospel, recognize that all people are brothers and sisters; that life is a stewardship of the goods received from God, which is why each one is responsible for the other, and whoever is rich must be as it were an “executor of the orders of God the Benefactor” (Hom 6 de avaritia: PG 32, 1181-1196). We must all help one another and cooperate as members of one body (Ep 203, 3).

And on this point, he used courageous, strong words in his homilies. Indeed, anyone who desires to love his neighbour as himself, in accordance with God’s commandment, “must possess no more than his neighbour” (“Hom. in divites”: PG 31, 281b).

In times of famine and disaster, the holy Bishop exhorted the faithful with passionate words “not to be more cruel than beasts … by taking over what people possess in common or by grabbing what belongs to all (“Hom. tempore famis”: PG 31, 325a).

Basil’s profound thought stands out in this evocative sentence: “All the destitute look to our hands just as we look to those of God when we are in need”.

Therefore, Gregory of Nazianzus’ praise after Basil’s death was well-deserved. He said: “Basil convinces us that since we are human beings, we must neither despise men nor offend Christ, the common Head of all, with our inhuman behaviour towards people; rather, we ourselves must benefit by learning from the misfortunes of others and must lend God our compassion, for we are in need of mercy” (Gregory Nazianzus, “Orationes” 43, 63; PG 36, 580b).

These words are very timely. We see that St Basil is truly one of the Fathers of the Church’s social doctrine.
Furthermore, Basil reminds us that to keep alive our love for God and for men, we need the Eucharist, the appropriate food for the baptized, which can nourish the new energies that derive from Baptism (cf. “De Baptismo” 1, 3: SC 357, 192).

It is a cause of immense joy to be able to take part in the Eucharist (cf. “Moralia” 21, 3: PG 31, 741a), instituted “to preserve unceasingly the memory of the One who died and rose for us” (“Moralia” 80, 22: PG 31, 869b).

The Eucharist, an immense gift of God, preserves in each one of us the memory of the baptismal seal and makes it possible to live the grace of Baptism to the full and in fidelity.

For this reason, the holy Bishop recommended frequent, even daily, Communion: “Communicating even daily, receiving the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, is good and useful; for he said clearly: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life’ (Jn 6: 54). So who would doubt that communicating continuously with life were not living in fullness?” (Ep. 93: PG 32, 484b).

The Eucharist, in a word, is necessary for us if we are to welcome within us true life, eternal life (cf. “Moralia” 21, 1: PG 31, 737c).

Finally, Basil was of course also concerned with that chosen portion of the People of God, the youth, society’s future. He addressed a Discourse to them on how to benefit from the pagan culture of that time.

He recognized with great balance and openness that examples of virtue can be found in classical Greek and Latin literature. Such examples of upright living can be helpful to young Christians in search of the truth and the correct way of living (cf. “Ad Adolescentes” 3).

Therefore, one must take from the texts by classical authors what is suitable and conforms with the truth: thus, with a critical and open approach — it is a question of true and proper “discernment” — young people grow in freedom.

With the famous image of bees that gather from flowers only what they need to make honey, Basil recommends: “Just as bees can take nectar from flowers, unlike other animals which limit themselves to enjoying their scent and colour, so also from these writings … one can draw some benefit for the spirit. We must use these books, following in all things the example of bees. They do not visit every flower without distinction, nor seek to remove all the nectar from the flowers on which they alight, but only draw from them what they need to make honey, and leave the rest. And if we are wise, we will take from those writings what is appropriate for us, and conform to the truth, ignoring the rest” (“Ad Adolescentes” 4).

Basil recommended above all that young people grow in virtue, in the right way of living: “While the other goods … pass from one to the other as in playing dice, virtue alone is an inalienable good and endures throughout life and after death” (“Ad Adolescentes” 5).

Dear brothers and sisters, I think one can say that this Father from long ago also speaks to us and tells us important things.

In the first place, attentive, critical and creative participation in today’s culture.

Then, social responsibility: this is an age in which, in a globalized world, even people who are physically distant are really our neighbours; therefore, friendship with Christ, the God with the human face.

And, lastly, knowledge and recognition of God the Creator, the Father of us all: only if we are open to this God, the common Father, can we build a more just and fraternal world.

[The Pope then greeted the people in several languages. In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including groups from Iceland, Japan, Canada and the United States of America. I extend a special welcome to the musicians present and to the large group from Cherry Hill, Colorado. May the peace and joy of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and may God bless you all!

I greet the group of European Scouts, who with their presence this morning desire to reaffirm their membership in the Church, after renewing their scout promise which binds them to doing their duty to God and serving others generously. My thoughts also turn to all the scouts and guides in the world who are renewing their promise this very day, the centenary of the Scout movement, founded on 1 August 1907 with the first scout camp in history on Brownsea Island. I warmly hope that this educational movement, which was born from the profound insight of Lord Robert Baden Powell, will continue to bear fruit in the spiritual and civil formation of human beings in all countries in the world.

Lastly, as usual I would like to greet the young people, the sick and the newly-weds, and to express to them the wish that enlivened by Christ’s charity they will lead a life that sets an example for all. May Jesus sustain you in your hope, dear young people, in your suffering, dear sick people, and in your fruitful love, dear newly-weds. 
I impart my Blessing to you all.

[After greeting the faithful, the Holy Father said:]

At the end of the General Audience, I would like to record some good news about Iraq which has sparked an explosion of popular joy throughout the Country. I am referring to the victory of the Iraqi football team, which won the Asian Cup and for the first time has become the football champion of Asia. I was happily impressed by the enthusiasm that infected all the inhabitants, driving them out onto the streets to celebrate the event. Just as I have so often wept with the Iraqis, on this occasion I rejoice with them. This experience of joyful sharing shows a people’s desire to have a normal, quiet life. I hope that the event may help in building in Iraq a future of authentic peace with the contribution of all, in freedom and reciprocal respect. Congratulations!

Advertisements

On War

September 30, 2008

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy, JULY 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus in the Piazza Calvi of Lorenzago di Cadore, near the spot where the Pope is vacationing in northern Italy.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In these days of rest that, thanks be to God, I am passing here in Cadore, I feel all the more intensely the impact of the sorrow of the news that comes to me about bloody altercations and episodes of violence that are occurring in so many parts of the world. This brings me to reflect once again on the drama of human freedom in the world. The beauty of nature reminds us that we have been placed here by God to “cultivate and keep” this “garden” that is the earth (cf. Genesis 2:8-17). 

If men lived in peace with God and with each other, the earth would truly resemble a “paradise.” Unfortunately, sin ruined this divine project, generating divisions and bringing death into the world. This is why men cede to the temptations of the evil one and make war against each other. The result is that in this stupendous “garden” that is the world, there open up circles of hell.

War, with the mourning and destruction it brings, has always been rightly considered a calamity that contrasts with God’s plan. He created everything for existence and, in particular, wants to make a family of the human race. In this moment it is not possible for me to not return to a significant date in history: August 1, 1917 — almost exactly 90 years ago — my venerable predecessor, Benedict XV, published his celebrated “Nota Alle Potenze Belligeranti” (Note to the Warring Powers), asking them to put an end to the First World War (cf. ASS 9 [1917], 417-420). 

As that huge conflict raged, the Pope had the courage to affirm that it was a “useless bloodbath.” This expression of his left a mark on history. It was a justified remark given the concrete situation in that summer of 1917, especially on the front here in this part of northern Italy. But those words, “useless bloodbath,” have a larger, prophetic application to other conflicts that have destroyed countless human lives.

Precisely these very lands in which we presently find ourselves, which in themselves speak of peace and harmony, have been a theatre in the First World War, as many testimonies and some moving songs of the Alps still recall. These are events not to be forgotten! 

It is necessary to make a treasury of the negative experiences that our fathers unfortunately suffered, so that they not be repeated. Benedict XV’s “Nota” did not limit itself to condemning war; it indicated, at a juridical level, the ways to construct an equitable and durable peace: the moral force of law, balanced and regulated disarmament, arbitration in disputes, freedom on the seas, the reciprocal remission of war debts, the restitution of occupied territories, fair negotiations to resolve problems. 

The Holy See’s proposal was oriented toward the future of Europe and of the world, according to a project that was Christian in inspiration but able to be shared by all because it was founded on the law of nations. It is the same program that the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II followed in their memorable speeches at the United Nations, repeating in the name of the Church: “No more war!” 

From this place of peace here in the north of Italy, where one feels even more vitally how unacceptable the “useless bloodbaths” are, I renew the call to follow with tenacity the way of law, to firmly renounce the arms race, to reject in general the temptation to face new situations with old systems.

With these thoughts and wishes in our heart we now offer up a special prayer for peace in the world, entrusting it to Mary Most Holy, Queen of Peace.

On the Freedom of Christ

August 23, 2008

“A Conscious Choice Motivated by Love”

VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Biblical readings of the Mass this Sunday invite us to meditate on a fascinating theme that can summed up thus: freedom and the following of Christ. The evangelist Luke recounts that Jesus, “as the days in which he would be taken from the world were approaching, resolutely turned toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).

With the expression “resolutely” we can glimpse something of the freedom of Christ. He knows in fact that death on the cross is waiting for him in Jerusalem but in obedience to the will of the Father he offers himself up for love. It is in his obedience to the Father that Jesus realizes his freedom as a conscious choice motivated by love. Who is freer than he, who is omnipotent?

He did not live his freedom, however, as license or dominion. He lived it as service. In this way he “filled” with content a freedom that would have otherwise remained an “empty” possibility to do or not do something. As the life itself of man, freedom takes its meaning from love. Who is more free? The one who holds onto all possibilities for fear of losing them, or the one who “resolutely” gives himself in service and thus finds himself full of life because of the love that he has given and received?

The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Galatia, in present day Turkey, says: “You were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love” (Galatians 5:13).

Living according to the flesh means to follow the egoistic tendencies of human nature. Living according to the Spirit, however, means letting oneself be guided in intentions and deeds by the love of God that Christ has given to us. Christian freedom, therefore, is completely different from arbitrariness; it is following Christ in the gift of self, right up to the sacrifice on the cross.

It might seem paradoxical, but the Lord lived the culmination of his freedom on the cross, as the pinnacle of love. When on Calvary they shouted: “If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!” He showed his freedom as Son precisely by remaining on the gibbet to fully accomplish the merciful will of the Father. Many other witnesses to truth have shared this experience: men and woman who remained free even in a prison cell and under the threat of torture. “The truth will set you free.” Those who belong to the truth will never be the slave of any power, but will always know how to freely be the servant of their brothers.

Let us look to Mary Most Holy. Humble handmaiden of the Lord, the Virgin is the model of the spiritual person, totally free because she is immaculate, immune to sin, and completely holy, dedicated to the service of God and neighbor. With her maternal care may she help us to follow Jesus, to know the truth, and to live in the freedom of love.

From Colombia comes the sad news of the barbarous assassination of 11 regional deputies of the department of Valle del Cauca, who were held hostage for more than five years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

As I pray for them, I unite myself with the deep pain of their families and of the beloved Colombian nation which is once again shaken by fratricidal hate. I renew my earnest plea that all kidnapping cease immediately and that those who are victims of such inadmissible forms of violence be returned to the affection of their loved ones.

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today’s Angelus. Today’s Liturgy reminds us that to be a Christian means to follow Jesus. He is the Teacher, we are his disciples. May the Lord give us grace and courage so that our life will always be inspired by the words and actions of Jesus. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday.