The turning point
Transformation of transportation, energy revolution, climate reversal. As battle cries of moral re-armament the slogans focus on a coming time that it seems imperative to upend.
The letter to the community of Christians in Colossae confronts this only prospectively better world with the messianic turning point, that has already taken place: “You have died with Christ. You are raised with Christ. ”With the language of the second reading baptism is described, the acceptance and entrance into the community of the disciples of Jesus. The perspective is revolutionized, turned upside down. The world’s decisive turning point has already happened. The place exists, where the ancient divisions seen as insurmountable between Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free people are obsolete, and where the disciple can live in a way that he can offer others knowledge, ability and success, without losing anything. Usually people want to thwart it with all their might, life in its inalterable limitations – in Jesus’ community it turns into the time of today, where everything is decided and the new creation has already begun. acb
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.
Where does the Church stand?
As far as we can even think Him, God is at one place in Christ, in the Church. Through rationalism and mysticism, God’s placelessness was inherited to us. His placelessness is expression of modern religiousness. On one side, the new situation is characterized by the placelessness of our Church.
She wants to be everywhere and so she is nowhere. Never and nowhere is she completely herself. She only exists in disguises. She became world without the world becoming Church. Fleeing from herself, the Church today has become subject of profound contempt. Sects are taken more seriously than the Church because they stand at a specific place. Thus, nature and claim gain clarity. As the Church, so also her conception of God is without claim and place, everywhere and nowhere. The Church could not bear the feeling of loneliness in her specific place anymore. She has lost the criterion for her place. Today’s Church is widely a celebrating Christianity. With that she stands at the outskirts and not at the center of life. But she wants to be at the center and so she comments judgingly and condemningly on central questions of life from the outskirts. Thus she makes herself contemptible and hated. What is the actual place of the Church within Christianity? The entire reality of the world’s everyday life. But the entire reality of everyday life has to be seen in the way it comes to stand under God’s judgment. Church, community is there where God’s word is heard throughout all reality, is believed and adhered to. That Church is the center of the world.
Translated from: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Das Wesen der Kirche (The nature of the Church), 1932
A crushing record or keeping the balance?
Many see our world as already on the path to ruin; it will fare as Sodom and Gomorra fared. The two cities have become a cypher for humanity’s endangerment, given the threat it is to itself. Abraham advocates for the corrupt city:
Maybe there are 50 righteous, maybe only 45, but maybe only 40, only 30. In the end he knocks the required minimum down to 10. He does not go down any further. The scene reminiscent of the haggling at an oriental bazaar shows that Abraham has an understanding of the Other’s heart. He is familiar with His thoughts: One person alone is not enough; there have to be at least ten, a minority, who are entrusted with the care of keeping the world from overturning. hak
So the LORD said: The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down to see whether or not their actions are as bad as the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out. As the men turned and walked on toward Sodom, Abraham remained standing before the LORD. Then Abraham drew near and said: “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous people in the city; would you really sweep away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from you! Should not the judge of all the world do what is just?” The LORD replied: If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake. Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am only dust and ashes! What if there are five less than fifty righteous people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?” I will not destroy it, he answered, if I find forty-five there. But Abraham persisted, saying, “What if only forty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it for the sake of the forty. Then he said, “Do not let my Lord be angry if I go on. What if only thirty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it if I can find thirty there. Abraham went on, “Since I have thus presumed to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?” I will not destroy it, he answered, for the sake of the twenty. But he persisted: “Please, do not let my Lord be angry if I speak up this last time. What if ten are found there?” For the sake of the ten, he replied, I will not destroy it.
The good opinion
The biggest obstacle that keeps people from believing, and thus from attaining knowledge and the forgiveness of sin, is the good opinion they have of themselves –
in fact, this “belief in yourself” that in the end is nothing other than the true perversion of faith. When Rousseau says that man is naturally good, then that is just wrong, Nature is neither good nor bad (and it is in no way a measure for good and evil, only for the useful and harmful, the pleasant and unpleasant).
But this is true: Everybody “naturally” has a good opinion of themselves that they do not want to give up for anything in the world and that is also the cause of the feeling, which remains unfamiliar to no one, that the life they are leading might not be the right one. At the same time, precisely because they naturally have that good opinion of themselves, everyone tends to live their life, contrary to said feeling, as a life where everything is absolutely fine and in apple-pie order. And if ever there is something not quite right, then the mess obviously comes from outside.
Translated from: Ferdinand Ebner, Das Wort und die geistigen Realitäten (1919)
New – Theologica No. 7: Ebrei e Cristiani
That is the sentence written on the advertising banner of the book “Ebrei e Cristiani” because Pope em. Benedict’s contribution in the periodical Communio last year spurred the Judeo-Christian dialogue unexpectedly.
The book was presented at an event on May 16, 2019, hosted by the Chair for the Theology of the People of God at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. The speakers were Rabbi Arje Folger, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the Prefect of the Papal Household and Benedict XVI’s secretary, and Elio Guerriero, the editor of the book. Theologica No. 7 gives an account of the speeches at the event in German.
You can find further information on content and ordering details here.
Synapses of history
Between: “Behold, I make all things new” and “You do not support the root, the root supports you” lies the revolutionary potential of thought in the tradition of scripture.
A dovecote of the mind, where the best thinkers and thoughts always collected; and in their silent conversation through the centuries, at the moment of realization, the usually so relevant questions suddenly disappeared: who was orthodox, who a communist, who a deconstructivist, who an artist, scientist, rabbi, philosopher, theologian or even just a journalist.
It is not even such a bad thing that we are intellectual dwarfs, if we realize on what giants’ shoulders we can stand. ses
Wake-up calls from 1983/84
A “migrating people of God?” – yes, a people emigrating from the Church.
Our concordat gives freedom to both sides: the state the freedom to harness the Church, and the Church the freedom to unharness from the gospel.
One day the Churches will con-fuse out of weakness. The only hope for ecumenism.
At the prompt “Let us offer each other the sign of peace”, we politely shake each other off.
The Sunday homily is a free adventure holiday: How he steers through the torrent of the gospel without hurting anyone or himself!
Nowadays there are two miracles from the Acts of the Apostles missing in the Church: We are not in unison, nor do we speak boldly. However a new miracle has occurred: And yet she has survived.
The name of the god of our time is raef. He twists everything. That is why his name is spelt backwards.
If you do nothing, you also do something wrong: everything.
The aphorisms are one-sided, exaggerated, and skip over the good in Christianity? Exactly, what else should they be, but annoying wake-up calls?
Why man is tempted at times
A rabbinic legend tells the tale of a river in a faraway land that is so pious that it stops flowing on the Sabbath.
But God does not give such signs. Obviously, he shudders at the inevitable result: that then precisely the least free, the most fearful and the weakest would be the “most pious.” And God obviously wants only those who are free for his own. But, in order to discern between free men and slavish souls, the mere invisibility of his rule is hardly sufficient. For the fearful ones are fearful enough to prefer, when in doubt, to take the path which “in any case” does not hurt and will even possibly – with a fifty-fifty chance – be useful. Therefore, in order to separate the wheat from the chaff, God must not only be advantageous, he must be absolutely damaging. So he has no choice: he must tempt man; not only must he hide his ruling from him, he must even deceive him about it; he must make it difficult for him and even impossible to see it, so that man may have the opportunity to believe in him and to trust in him truly, that is, in freedom. And so man must know that at times he is tempted in the name of his freedom.
From: Franz Rosenzweig (1886–1929), The Star of Redemption (1921), in Translation by Barbara Ellen
Coagulated from experience
Part of the act of faith, from its fundamental structure, is the inclusion into the Church, into that which commonly unites and binds us.
To enter into the community of faith means to enter into the community of life and vice versa. The Church’s degree of reality goes beyond what is definable through literature. To be sure, what the Church believes and lives can be attested to in the book, and so it is. But it does not merge into the book; instead the book itself only retains its function if it points to the community, where the word lives. You cannot replace or overhaul this community though historical exegesis; in its inner hierarchy it precedes the book. The word of faith inherently presupposes the community that lives it, binds itself to it and holds fast to its bindingness for man. In so far as revelation goes beyond literature, it also goes beyond the borders of the mere scientificity of historical reason.
Translated from: Joseph Ratzinger, Theologische Prinzipienlehre (1982)
The contemporary historian and Hitler-biographer Joachim Fest reflected the apparent collapse of the socialist model in the Soviet Union as “The shattered dream: The end of the Utopian decade”, which culminated in the declaration “that life without utopia is part of the price of modernity”. On the occasion of Chaim Seeligmann’s 90th birthday his autobiographical notes, also on the history of the kibbutz, were published under the title Es war nicht nur ein Traum (It was not just a dream). Was he one of the last utopians?
When he died in his kibbutz Givat Brenner in 2009, his death went unnoticed by the German press. On the first anniversary of his death ha.Galil.com – Jewish life online dedicated an obituary to him: and described his unusual “career” from a rich son to a kibbutznik: born in Karlsruhe in 1912 as Heinz Alfred, son of an assimilated family of bankers, he joined the Zionist-oriented youth movement Kadima as a 15-year-old high school student. At 23 he left Nazi Germany and went to Palestine on a ship called the Gallilee, where he joined Kibbutz Givat Brenner. He never saw his parents again.
What induced him to “sell everything and leave everything behind”, his books, his property, the personal dreams of his life? Manès Sperber (1905–1984), his Jewish contemporary, once put it this way: “I have never encountered an idea that has overwhelmed me so much and has influenced the choice of my path so much as the idea that the world cannot stay as it is, that it can become completely different and that it will.” That was also the idea that decided everything for Chaim Seeligmann. He found the place of realization at the Kibbutz, according to Sperber, “the only form of community that has united the idea of socialism with the practice of community in this century of pseudo-communist despotism. The kibbutz furnishes clear proof that, without believing in God and the Messiah He sent, people can come together to form a lasting union according to the fundamental rules of life of prophetic Judaism, where nobody is an object of the other, but always remains everyone’s companion” (Mein Jude-Sein 42.44).
Like all other Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews that entered the country, he adopted a new name: Chaim. We know this as well. When a cardinal becomes pope, he is called John XXIII. When somebody enters a religious order they take the name Brother Raphael or Sister Martha. Did it change his identity? He offers to take on a calling. Chaim Seeligmann, like most Zionists, saw himself as a secular Jew. That makes his self-conception similar to that of orthodox rabbis, who have just recently started seeing God’s calling handed down to Israel as the calling to develop a just society, in the words of Emmanuel Levinas: “to sanctify the land”.
In the year 1985 he came in contact with the Catholic Integrated Community and a respectful friendship developed. Of the unexpected encounter and growing connection for both sides, only two details:
Once he said to young people from the CIC: “I can draw up entire compendia full of ideas, as many as you want. Of Hegel and of Schopenhauer, of Nietzsche and of Marx and also of our Jewish thinkers. But the question is: How and in what way can we realize and give shape to certain ideas? That isn’t easy; it depends on people, who are up to identify themselves with a specific idea. Identification is not a theoretical, but a practical matter.”
In 1993 he witnessed an ordination to priesthood of community members celebrated by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. During the introduction of the candidates he heard them say, according to the liturgy of ordination, “adsum” – “Here I am”. During the feast later he rose to speak: “This made me think of Abraham’s words from the 22nd chapter bereschit (Genesis) – the offering of his son Isaac – where it says: Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test and said to him: ‘Abraham!’, ‘Here I am!’ he replied. The answer of all those who work together and think together is: Here I am – here we are!”
According to a Talmud tradition there are thirty-six righteous holding the world together; maybe he was one of them.