Thursday, February 01, 2007

"Reinstate God as Reality" Experience Him - Benedict XVI

“Reinstate God As Reality” – Benedict XVI[1]

On December 22 last, the Holy Father powerfully presented two topics under a single rubric: 1) the “priestly soul” not only for clerics, but for all the baptized into Christ the Priest; 2) accept the full cognitive capacity of human reason. The single rubric is: to reinstate God as reality.

“Two topics made an impression during the days of my Visit to Bavaria. They were and are linked to the theme of God: "the priesthood" and "dialogue". Paul calls Timothy -- and in him, the Bishop and in general the priest -- "man of God" (I Tm 6: 11). This is the central task of the priest: to bring God to men and women. Of course, he can only do this if he himself comes from God, if he lives with and by God. This is marvelously expressed in a verse of a priestly Psalm that we -- the older generation -- spoke during our admittance to the clerical state: "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, you hold my lot" (Ps 16[15]5). The priest praying in this Psalm interprets his life on the basis of the distribution of territory as established in Deuteronomy (cf. 10: 9). After taking possession of the Land, every tribe obtained by the drawing of lots his portion of the Holy Land and with this took part in the gift promised to the forefather Abraham. The tribe of Levi alone received no land: its land was God himself. This affirmation certainly had an entirely practical significance. Priests did not live like the other tribes by cultivating the earth, but on offerings. However, the affirmation goes deeper. The true foundation of the priest's life, the ground of his existence, the ground of his life, is God himself. The Church in this Old Testament interpretation of the priestly life -- an interpretation that also emerges repeatedly in Psalm 119[118] -- has rightly seen in the following of the Apostles, in communion with Jesus himself, as the explanation of what the priestly mission means. The priest can and must also say today, with the Levite: "Dominus pars hereditatis meae et calicis mei". God himself is my portion of land, the external and internal foundation of my existence. This theocentricity of the priestly existence is truly necessary in our entirely function-oriented world in which everything is based on calculable and ascertainable performance. The priest must truly know God from within and thus bring him to men and women: this is the prime service that contemporary humanity needs. If this centrality of God in a priest's life is lost, little by little the zeal in his actions is lost. In an excess of external things the centre that gives meaning to all things and leads them back to unity is missing. There, the foundation of life, the "earth" upon which all this can stand and prosper, is missing. Celibacy, in force for Bishops throughout the Eastern and Western Church and, according to a tradition that dates back to an epoch close to that of the Apostles, for priests in general in the Latin Church, can only be understood and lived if is based on this basic structure. The solely pragmatic reasons, the reference to greater availability, is not enough: such a greater availability of time could easily become also a form of egoism that saves a person from the sacrifices and efforts demanded by the reciprocal acceptance and forbearance in matrimony; thus, it could lead to a spiritual impoverishment or to hardening of the heart. The true foundation of celibacy can be contained in the phrase: Dominus pars -- You are my land. It can only be theocentric. It cannot mean being deprived of love, but must mean letting oneself be consumed by passion for God and subsequently, thanks to a more intimate way of being with him, to serve men and women, too. Celibacy must be a witness to faith: faith in God materializes in that form of life which only has meaning if it is based on God. Basing one's life on him, renouncing marriage and the family, means that I accept and experience God as a reality and that I can therefore bring him to men and women. Our world, which has become totally positivistic, in which God appears at best as a hypothesis but not as a concrete reality, needs to rest on God in the most concrete and radical way possible. It needs a witness to God that lies in the decision to welcome God as a land where one finds one's own existence. For this reason, celibacy is so important today, in our contemporary world, even if its fulfillment in our age is constantly threatened and questioned. A careful preparation during the journey towards this goal and persevering guidance on the part of the Bishop, priest friends and lay people who sustain this priestly witness together, is essential. We need prayer that invokes God without respite as the Living God and relies on him in times of confusion as well as in times of joy. Consequently, as opposed to the cultural trend that seeks to convince us that we are not capable of making such decisions, this witness can be lived and in this way, in our world, can reinstate God as reality.

The other great subject linked to the theme of God is that of dialogue. The inner circle of the complex dialogue which today requires the common commitment of all Christians to unity became clear in the Ecumenical Vespers in the Regensburg Cathedral, where, in addition to the brothers and sisters of the Catholic Church, I was able to meet many friends of Orthodoxy and Evangelical Christianity. We were all gathered together to recite the Psalms and listen to the Word of God, and it is no small thing that this unity was granted to us. The meeting with the University was dedicated -- as befitted the place -- to the dialogue between faith and reason. On the occasion of my meeting with the philosopher J�rgen Habermas a few years ago in Munich, he said that we would need thinkers who could translate the encoded convictions of the Christian faith into the language of the secularized world to make them newly effective. In fact, the world's urgent need of the dialogue between faith and reason is becoming ever more obvious. Immanual Kant, in his day, saw the essence of illuminism expressed in the so-called "sapere aude": in the courage of thought that does not allow itself to be embarrassed by any prejudice. Well, since then, the cognitive capacity of the human being, his dominion over matter by the power of thought, has made progress that would have been inconceivable at the time. However, the power the human being holds in his hands, which science has increased, is increasingly becoming a danger that threatens the human being himself and the world. Reason oriented totally to taking the world in hand, no longer accepts limits. It is already on the point of dealing with the person merely as matter of its own production and power. Our knowledge is growing but at the same time, a progressive blinding of reason with regard to its own foundations and the criteria that give it direction and meaning is being recorded. Faith in that God, who is in person the creative Reason of the universe, must be accepted by science in a new way as a challenge and a chance. Reciprocally, this faith must recognize anew its intrinsic immensity and its own reasonableness. Reason needs the Logos which was at the beginning and is our light. Faith, for its part, needs the conversation with modern reason to take stock of its own greatness and to correspond to its own responsibilities. And this is what I sought to highlight in my lesson at Regensburg. It is a matter which is certainly not solely academic: it addresses the future of us all. In Regensburg the dialogue between the religions was only marginally touched on and in a twofold perspective. Secularized reason is unable to enter into a true dialogue with the religions. It remains closed to the question of God, and this will end by leading to the clash of cultures.

[1] Address to the Roman Curia, December 22, 2006.

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