Monday, February 14, 2011

Pseudo-Dionysius and Pope Gregory the Great

Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite

Pseudo-Dionysius shows that in the end the journey to God is God himself, who makes himself close to us in Jesus Christ. Thus, a great and mysterious theology also becomes very concrete, both in the interpretation of the liturgy and in the discourse on Jesus Christ: with all this, Dionysius the Areopagite exerted a strong influence on all medieval theology and on all mystical theology, both in the East and in the West. . . .

Where the light of love shines, the shadows of reason are dispelled; love sees; love is an eye, the experience gives us more than reflection. Bonaventure saw in Saint Francis what this experience is: it is the experience of a very humble, very realistic journey, day by day; it is walking with Christ, accepting his Cross. In this poverty and in this humility, in the humility that is also lived in ecclesiality, is an experience of God which is loftier than that attained by reflection. In it we really touch God's Heart. (Church Fathers and Teachers; Page 29, 30)

Pope Gregory the Great

He was a man immersed in God: his desire for God was always alive in the depths of his soul, and precisely because of this he was always close to his neighbor, to the needy people of his time. Indeed, during a desperate period of havoc, he was able to create peace and give hope. This man of God shows us the true sources of peace, from which true hope comes. Thus, he becomes a guide also for us today. (Church Fathers and Teachers; Page 42)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Taking a Turn on the Benedict Highway

For Christmas, my son, Quanah, gave me Pope Benedict XVI's book, '>Church Fathers and Teachers from Saint Leo the Great to Peter Lombard. By exploring both the lives and the ideas of the great popes, abbots, scholars and missionaries who lived during the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christendom, Pope Benedict XVI highlights the key elements of catholic dogma and practice that remain the foundation stones not only of the Roman Catholic Church but of Christian society itself. This book is a wonderful way to get to know these later Church Fathers and Teachers and the tremendous, spiritually rich patrimony they have bequeathed to us.

I started reading this book yesterday and it has been hard to put down. It is so rich, so filled with depth of thought, that I decided that for the time being, I would share selections from the book here. They won't be long selections, more like paragraphs that make a profound statement. The first is from his reflections on Boethius and Cassiodorus, ecclesiastical writers from the 5th Century.

From prison, Boethius tells us through his work, De Consolatione Philosophiae,

" . . . he sought consolation, enlightenment, and wisdom in prison. And he said that precisely in this situation he knew how to distinguish between apparent goods, which disappear in prison, and true goods, such as genuine friendship, which even in prison do not disappear. The loftiest good is God: Boethius -- and he teaches us this -- learned not to sink into a fatalism that extinguishes hope. He teaches us that it is not the event but Providence that governs, and Providence has a face. It is possible to speak to Providence because Providence is God.

. . . Life's difficulties not only reveal how transient and short-lived life is, but are even shown to serve for identifying and preserving authentic relations among human beings. [In his Adversa Fortuna he shows how life's difficulties] makes it possible to discern false friends from true and makes one realize that nothing is more precious to the human being than a true friendship. The fatalistic acceptance of a condition of suffering is nothing short of perilous, the believer Boethius added, because 'it eliminates at its roots the very possibility of prayer and of theological hope, which form the basis of man's relationship with God' " (page 13, 14)

Benedict himself writes at the end of this address - " . . . we live in a time of intercultural encounter, of the danger of violence that destroys cultures, and of the necessary commitment to pass on important values and to teach the new generations the path of reconciliation and peace. We find this path by turning to the God with the human Face, the God who revealed himself to us in Christ." (page 18)