So where is …
the usually nicely fashioned box, the tabernacle, with the red light that always makes the churches seem a little alive? This I ask myself as I walk into a church in Southern Bavaria.
In a displayed description I read curiously: “Whoever enters this church for the first time and looks for the tabernacle might need some time before they discover it. And sometimes they might need people to point it out to them: the tabernacle is held by a dove hanging above the altar.” “This search”, so it continues, “might also be a symbol: Where is ‘the innermost part’ within ourselves, where we find strength and support? This is not easy to find either. And for this, too, we need time and sometimes people, who support us in the search.”
The way I look for the box in the church, so I should search for “strength and support” deep within myself. I ask my inner self: How do we find comparisons that get to the heart of the matter, a language that conveys the rationality of the Jewish-Christian faith? pez
The pleading of ten
When they were gone, I opened the prayer book and tried to say a prayer, but it didn’t come out. There had to be ten.
The voice of ten, the pleading of ten, the unity of ten; because the main goal was that those who were praying had compassion for each other. But there have to be at least ten for the prayer of words to unite us; there has to be the mutual understanding, that we feel the shared nature of our fate, our weakness, our frailty – our loneliness.
Translated from: Henryk Gryberg, Kalifornisches Kaddisch (1993)
Clerical project management
The Church should “reinvent” herself, is a piece of high-profile advice, a demand in view of the turbulences.
To that I can only say: No, the Church does not need to reinvent herself, the Church is not even capable of reinventing herself because she did not invent herself in the first place. The Church is not an invention of man, but God’s project, which he started – also because of our sinfulness – and which he carries through the times in spite of it!
Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer, January 27, 2019, in the Regensburg Cathedral
Theology of drought or dry swimming in the zeitgeist-desert
The newest flyer of the catholic publishing house lands in my mailbox. It lists all “the current topics in theology”:
climate change, responsibility for creation, post-growth economics, social justice through sustainability. The prophet Jeremiah, more than 2600 years earlier, already writes of drought, expansion of the desert and heat waves. If the people of God do not count solely on God and His guidance anymore, they are like a dried-out forest. If they rely on diplomatic skills for their survival and growth and if they comfortably fall in line with the zeitgeist, they live as on sour ground. If they trust only in him, their leaves stay green. Looking at it that way, maybe the newly published titles are “the current topics” after all. acb
Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a barren bush in the wasteland that enjoys no change of season, but stands in lava beds in the wilderness, a land, salty and uninhabited. Blessed are those who trust in the LORD; the LORD will be their trust. They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.
The other person sees something different than me.
When I look at myself, I see from the inside out,
can’t disregard myself.
The other person looks at me from the outside in,
Sees what is and what was.
And what depressed me for years,
What always had me thinking “if I’d only…”,
“I should’ve…” turns into:
It was the necessary source of friction,
through which all of today’s possibilities could ignite.
The other person sees more than me.
Put out into the deep water
Sometimes it happens: meeting a person changes everything.
Simon knows Jesus from the synagogue in Capharnaum. He has even received him as a guest in his house and witnessed that through him the mother of his wife regained her strength. Now Jesus is sitting in his boat and Simon listens to him with the people. Then, unexpectedly, he is addressed directly. It is the advice of a non-expert to lower the nets again after an unsuccessful night of work. Simon trusts in the word and acts accordingly. Otherwise, nothing would have happened. This way however, they make a copious catch that the nets and boats can barely hold. The only way they can retrieve the catch is with the companions’ cooperation; and thus, and abundance is given to many. Through this process Simon turns into Peter because his eyes are opened. And from this moment on he offers more than his boat: his life. hak
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
You can furnish your upper story however you like. That is even easier today than it used to be. You can build dream worlds up there, or nightmare worlds, according to personal preference.
If you want to be big and stand above everything, then you will stand on the tops of mountains and look down at everything. If you want to be small and lost, the darkest, bottomless depths will open up around you. If you call out into the future or the past, an echo will call back that is either hopeful or desperate, just as you like. If you want to put all blame on everyone else, then all evidence will support this. If you want to put all blame on yourself, it won’t be any different. You can dream what you like, as long as you like. That is quite pleasant, as a whole.
Then Michel Houellebecq publishes a new book. This time it is called “Serotonin”. And suddenly an icy wind blows. Houellebecq has no interest in dream worlds in upper stories. He declutters the upper story, throws out the dream worlds. The upper story is very bleak afterwards. And when you think that it’s over, Houellebecq shows you the door and throws you out of your own upper story. Then you come down somewhere. It’s a very hard impact. It could be that this is reality, your point of impact. It could be that for Houellebecq it’s just about what he observes about himself and everybody else day after day: A miserable, devastating, seemingly forlorn reality. Then the desire for your own upper story grows great. Climbing back up there to your own dream worlds, that would seem natural. saw
On the Christian Europe
This so-called Christian Europe for almost four hundred years has become the birthplace of a new paganism, which is growing steadily in the heart of the Church, and threatens to undermine her from within.
The outward shape of the modern Church is determined essentially by the fact that, in a totally new way, she has become the Church of pagans, and is constantly becoming even more so. She is no longer, as she once was, a Church composed of pagans who have become Christians, but a Church of pagans, who still call themselves Christians, but actually have become pagans. Paganism resides today in the Church herself. In the long run, the Church cannot avoid the need to get rid of, part by part, the appearance of her identity with the world, and once again to become what she is: the community of the faithful. Actually, her missionary power can only increase through such external losses. Only when she ceases to be a cheap, foregone conclusion, only when she begins again to show herself as she really is, will she be able to reach the ear of the new pagans with her good news.
Translated from Joseph Ratzinger, Die neuen Heiden und die Kirche (1958) by Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J.: https://www.hprweb.com/2017/01/the-new-pagans-and-the-church/
Don’t be terrified!
Jeremiah could have despaired of his mission.
He had to warn his contemporaries of putting their faith in dubious political promises. The thread running through his prophetic book is that it is more important to live a just life than conform to the zeitgeist. The identity as the people of God is more important than political alignment and tactical considerations. The Church still struggles with that to this day. Jeremiah is supposed to talk about this identity in front of the people with no prospect of success. Will they not conquer him? Whoever speaks the thoughts of God, endures like a fortified city, for someone else holds him. This promise is still true today. ruk
In the days of Josiah, king of Judah, the word of the LORD came to me: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. But you, prepare yourself; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Do not be terrified on account of them, or I will terrify you before them; for I am the one who today makes you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of bronze, against the whole land: Against Judah’s kings and princes, its priests and the people of the land.They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you—oracle of the LORD.
The only chance
We can oversee a good three thousand years of history of the people of God. Most of the time they were only partially on task or not at all. And yet they survived. If only barely. How is that?
Today’s loss of faith has no equal. But the situation has probably always been similar, even in biblical Israel, as the texts prove. Nehemiah laments the catastrophic breach of the covenant Israel has committed against God. This had led to the Babylonian exile in the 5th century BC. But the actual destruction is not the outer grinding of the city and the temple, but the loss of what is most precious: the knowledge that they are the people in God’s possession, yes, even his bride. In tears the people realize what was lost, hear God’s word and ask for His will anew. bek
On the first day of the seventh month, therefore, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand. In the square in front of the Water Gate, Ezra read out of the book from daybreak till midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand; and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the occasion. Ezra opened the scroll so that all the people might see it, for he was standing higher than any of the people. When he opened it, all the people stood. Ezra read clearly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read. Then Nehemiah, that is, the governor, and Ezra the priest-scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people: “Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not lament, do not weep!”—for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He continued: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD is your strength!”
For January 27
Only the names were left to me. I entered them into the questionnaires and wrote down what roughly I knew about them.
Jeschije, Schije in the diminutive form, derived from Jehoschua, which means Josue or Jesus. Place and date of birth unknown. The greater part of his life he spent in East Masovia at an outlying estate in Nowa Wies. He was over sixty when he went to his death as a martyr, with no resistance, with the conviction that this was exactly how our Father expected him to act. Nailed to the invisible cross with invisible gas in a chamber jammed full of martyrs in September or October at a Golgotha called Treblinka in the memorable year of martyrdom 1942 or 5702/3.
Raschkje, derived from Raschi or Rasche, date of birth unknown, from Makowiec. She spent the greater part of her pious life, which lasted about sixty years, with Jeschije-Jesus in Nowa Wies, a few kilometers from Makowiec (the distances were as small as in Judea and Galilee). She walked all stations of suffering with him, the cattle car, the gas chamber. They were inseparable – in life, in death and after death –, and no one ever lifted them off the cross.
Translated from: Henryk Gryberg, Kalifornisches Kaddisch (1993)
The story of the foundling
Every Sunday at mass we hear texts from the bible. Every time they read us the riot act properly. And yet we like to go, yet we always like to listen to the old texts, always newly curious and attentive. Why is that?
They speak of a place of longing that is closed off to us, we hear of a world of longing that we have no access to.
The place of longing came into the world “when Israel came forth from Egypt”. The people around Moses wanted leave the land of meat kettles of drudgery and bondage, they fled to the desert with the dream of their patriarch Jacob; and during the 40 years of their life in the desert they sweat out a new order of life; and Moses brought it down on tablets from the mountain of the Lord, of the God of their father Jacob. In the Torah, their new principle of life, and in their life God proved Himself their savior. And Israel swears: “We will do it!”
For over a thousand years they lead this life with their new God, who saves and envies. For the religions court, Israel gives in, lies on the ground, repents, gets up, swears, courts further. And then they build Him a temple, with the Torah in the Holy of Holies and with a high priest.
Israel is doing poorly. Foreign powers alternate in their reign of drudgery on the country. During the reign of the Romans one of the sons of Israel gets up: Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up! “But he was speaking about the temple of his body”, the community of his discipleship, the rest of Israel that fully listens to the word of God in the flesh, with the entire entirety of life, and the entire intellectual capacity of thought, and entirely out of pure joy. The gospels tell us of this revolution of Jews and Gentiles. “The kingdom of God is among you.”
The Church grows, grows, grows rampant, becomes temple, becomes the world religion. Over the course of a thousand years and more its highly differentiated theology grows along with the temple-church-religion. It grows along with a theology of the kingdom of God, of the place of longing in the world beyond and our meek earthly vale of tears.
The gods return in other powerful places of longing in this world. The communist religion of salvation spreads brutally over half the world, the brown canopy stretches over Germany, and in this Reich the “salvation of the Jews” was unbearable for the Heil Hitler. The world witnesses the inconceivable genocide of the people of God in the midst of Christianity.
Today “after everything is over forever”, today we live in a materialistic, capitalistic, global lap of luxury, addicted to places of longing, with a little bit of pleasure for the day and a little bit of pleasure for the night. We want to dance, in a boundless pleasure-world-place-of-longing, and we are dancing on a volcano. Because our exact world of science shows us the consequence of such dancing. A moment of materialistic, capitalistic, global fraternity? A possible solidary look outside the box of our goings-on? In the world we are like little bacteria in a round Petri dish in a super nutrient solution. The bacteria thrive, multiply, multiply on and on until the entire dish is filled. “Have dominion over the Petri dish!” Then the super nutrient solution is used up and the bacteria die. That’s how it goes, even with the big animals. Empty churches, empty world. Where can help come from? Our help is in the name of the Lord! Lord? Address unknown? rus
The Church does not need to adjust Christianity to the world, it does not even need to adjust the world to Christianity; rather it must preserve a counterworld within the world.
Nothing is left of Christianity if the Christian tries not to seem foolish to the world.
When it believes in a truth the large crowd stops being a large crowd.
Translated from: Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913–1994), Aufzeichnungen des Besiegten (1994)
With greetings from a snow-covered cabin after construction days in Urfeld by the Walchensee
Snow falls softly,
still and frozen lies – “hold on!”
the lake is seething and billowing,
Christmas? Lights, decorations – yes.
Other than that, old, gray walls – inhospitable.
In the hearts ... – what exactly?
Unremarkable, unspectacular, mundane
as with the shepherds out in the fields – transformation.
Wall, by closet, by lamp, by stitch,
life enters into house and heart.
Faith is not an irrational agreement to a claim; it is the perception of a special order of reality.
There are certain congruencies between skepticism and faith: both undermine the human presumptiveness.
A society is secularized when it has lost the awareness for its dependence.
Translated from: Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913–1994), Aufzeichnungen des Besiegten (1994)
Expectation and reality
The Jews have learned to see the world completely differently. The book of Genesis, the first book of Moses, starts with God, who creates man “in his image and likeness.”
This sentence has become so familiar to us that we forget how paradox it really is – in the Hebrew Bible God has no image or likeness. But in the following tale it quickly becomes clear what humans have in common with God: freedom and responsibility. This creates a difficult theological dilemma. How can we reconcile the great hopes that God puts in humanity with the shabby and thin file of our moral history? The answer is: forgiveness. God wrote forgiveness into the script. He always gives us a second chance, and then another and another. All we have to do is recognize our wrongdoing, ask for forgiveness, make up for it and decide to do better – and God forgives. We can uphold the highest expectations, if at the same time we honestly admit our most hidden weaknesses.
Translated from: Jonathan Sacks, Vom Schicksal zum Glauben, Jüdische Allgemeine, 9. September 2018
Not mission, but dialogue
The task Christ left to his disciples is the mission among all peoples and cultures. The goal is to introduce people to the “unknown God” (Acts 17,23). Man has the right to know God because only he who knows God is able to live the human existence properly. That is why the missionary mandate is universal – with one exception:
Missionizing the Jews was simply not intended and not necessary because they alone among the peoples knew the “unknown God”. Therefore, it is not mission that applied and applies to Israel, but dialogue about whether Jesus of Nazareth is “the Son of God, the Logos” for whom, according to the promises made to his people, Israel and, without knowing it, humanity waits. Taking up this dialogue anew is the task set for us in this hour.
Translated from: Joseph Ratzinger/Benedikt XVI., Nicht Mission, sondern Dialog, Herder Korrespondenz 12/2018
A Word on Statistics
Out of every hundred people,
those who always know better:
Unsure of every step:
almost all the rest.
Ready to help,
if it doesn't take long:
because they cannot be otherwise:
four -- well, maybe five.
Able to admire without envy:
Led to error
by youth (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.
Those not to be messed with:
Living in constant fear
of someone or something:
Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure.
when forced by circumstances:
it's better not to know,
not even approximately.
Wise in hindsight:
not many more
than wise in foresight.
Getting nothing out of life except things:
(though I would like to be wrong).
Balled up in pain
and without a flashlight in the dark:
eighty-three, sooner or later.
Those who are just:
quite a few, thirty-five.
But if it takes effort to understand:
Worthy of empathy:
one hundred out of one hundred --
a figure that has never varied yet.
Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak
From: The Atlantic Monthly; May 1997; A Word on Statistics; Volume 279, No. 5; page 68.
New Year’s Wish
If people were animals, everything would be better and easier.
It would be better because animals do not wage wars. Because animals do no wrong. Because animals especially do not harm the environment – except maybe the bark beetle, but I guess he’s just a bad apple. Everything would be easier because the life of an animal is so ideal, so simple and clear. An animal does not have to plan in advance. It does not have to be ashamed of its desires. Neither does it ask about the sense and nonsense of the world and about what actually holds the world together at its core. Essentially, everything indicates that humans should stop being humans and, if possible, start being animals. It need not bother us Europeans that some people might have opposing views to this. Judaism, for example, hardly exists in Europe anymore. So it is easy to ignore its views. Anyway, an engagement with such a worldview would present an indissoluble contradiction to the targeted harmonious, clear, simple, perfectly instinctive way of life. Therefore, engaging with it is out of the question. Instead, we should all choose an animal for New Year’s (preferably a plant-eating one), adopt its way of life and spend the rest of our days strolling along this way. Completely harmonious, simple and clear. The world would be a better place and I have already decided: The hippopotamus is what it’s going to be. saw
In the Jewish ‘Old Testament’, the book of divine justice, there are men, things, and sayings on such an immense scale, that Greek and Indian literature has nothing to compare with it. One stands with fear and reverence before those stupendous remains of what man was formerly.
All honor to the Old Testament! In that I find great men, a heroic landscape and something of the rarest of all elements on earth, the incomparable naiveté of the strong heart. Even more—I find a people.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)
The science of God
Child: “But he does exist.”
What does the mother say? She only believes what she can see.
And what does the child say? But he does exist.
What do we say?
We agree with both, the mother and the child. Also with the mother?
The child is probably right with its faith, but so is the mother with her faithlessness. If we do not manage to make her see God, then we have no right to agree with the child’s “but”.
We cannot take atheism seriously enough. Deifying nature and spirits only leads us off the track. God is not something else, also not the sense of something else, God is God or – nothing. Only on the brink of atheism do have to learn to fly. But why does God’s existence have to be so uncertain? Because it has to be the origin of all other existence. We feel that at any rate God’s existence has to be on a different level than our existence, the existence of the world. We only want to believe in what we can see. But neither the outer eye, with which we see the world, nor the inner eye, with which we see men, lead us closer to the distance of God.
Through which eye can we see him?
Through the inner eye, says the pantheist …
Through the outer eye, says the spiritualist …
Only with both eyes, the inner and the outer, closed, – says the mystic.
But what does the pantheist see? Nothing but nature.
And what does the spiritualist see? Nothing but spirit.
And what does the mystic see? Nothing but - nothingness.
So which organ is left? None, if we were really just composed of senses and spirit?
But – senses and spirit unite the soul. Is there an organ of this complete, united human?
Translated from: Franz Rosenzweig (1886–1929), Zweistromland, Gesammelte Schriften Bd. III (1984)
I believe in the harmony within the universe and
That the Jew Jesus was an example of the new
Gentle man and
That the spirit blows everywhere (except in Rome)
And that therefore we don’t need a Church. Amen.
In celebration of her confirmation on May 1, 1981, through Cardinal Johannes Joachim Degenhardt in Paderborn, Hedvig Fornander, musician and lyricist, described her path up to that point. From 1962 on, she had been a founding member of the group from which the Catholic Integrated Community grew in 1968.
Born in Sweden I got to know Christianity in the local protestant-Lutheran Church. As my parents increasingly lost their faith and growing up I did not find a place anywhere where I could live the faith, the question of faith turned into a nagging problem for me. For a long time I experienced the world as completely ‘autonomous’, but I could not ‘rest’ on that. Everywhere I saw traces of something that should be real and I should commit myself to as well, but an impenetrable wall made it impossible to experience this reality and respond to it.
At twenty-two, after I had begun studying linguistics and later music, I came to Germany. Why? To me Germany was the land of music and the country where Martin Luther was born. Here I began searching, driven by rootlessness in every way, and – it was 1962 – I got to know the former “Goergen Circle”, from which later on the Catholic Integrated Community evolved. Here, for the first time, I found a place where even I could learn faith. In 1966 I converted to the Catholic faith; in the following year I completed my music studies.
I had now found my ‘new family’ and my home here in Munich; meaning, I found the Church, the place that was an unknown island to me, a locked gate, as it may generally be for most people in my home country.
I clearly realized again how real this estrangement within my home country has already become during my trip there in fall one and a half years ago when I visited Stockholm. I was walking through the streets not far from central station. A woman had taken up her post in the pedestrian area. Dolled up, already older, with bright red hair, she blaringly sang songs of the sweet Jesus and the jeweled gates of heaven into the loudspeaker in a Swedish-American way, accompanied by an electronic organ she played herself. The people strolled by – and maybe they were not even offended by the degrading ugliness of the performance, by the selling off of the name of Christ. Because – that is what it seems like to me – where the faith is no longer experienced as a reality, where the ‘world’ governs itself; also where the sense that it is something worth protecting, that something like a highest beauty exists, disappears more and more.
Today I know about the reality of the Church and how faith is actively passed on from person to person. I have been allowed to learn what tradition is. That there is a ‘community of faithful’ for me today, an entire people, whom I can actually embrace with my pride and my love, and where the meaning of the word ‘faith’ transforms itself into something very palpable, that is completely unfathomable to me.
A poem by Hedvig Fornander
with worry the world greets you,
But we were called away from fear,
we, who live in the time of wonders.
It is not important
that you searched
or that you didn’t search at all.
Cause for trembling is what you found.
Thus, the globe is not globe
but place of discovery.
Not the oil billionaires are to be envied
but solely the shepherds.
* * *
The letter with the unheard-of new message
came in an envelope without address
this is not meant for us
we then opened the letter
* * *
at the meeting of blow drier
rush hour traffic
there is not much one can do
at the meeting of petroleum
there will be no cake
at the meeting of you, you and me
– not much in it
we however were called together
* * *
What was left
everything that was there
not even the best
now it was called
* * *
At first we came along with full sails
with waving flags, with heavy luggage –
You let us shrink.
Maybe at the end of each of us
only a grain will be left –
a grain of wheat
that falls to the ground.