485 years after Brexit
It is a macro-historical sensation that after barely half a millennium of separation of England from the Roman Church a successor to the throne from this royal family, Prince Charles, honors the Catholic canonization of his fellow countryman in Rome: John Henry Newman.
After all, Newman is England’s first saint who has not also suffered martyrdom since half a millennium. And over the centuries the English Crown has made no insignificant contribution to the martyrdom of Catholic saints.
With regard to the island’s rapprochement to the continent, Church history is a bit of a half century ahead of the political history, as it was in the history of separation. ses
Fragment on Holy Scripture
According to its form, its rhythm, its cadence: a book from the night of the times. That is true, and at the same time the reader of our times, today, can read his own story in the bible, book by book, unlike in any other book:
he can discover it there, then understand it, then face it. The reader is the tragicomical hero of all the biblical stories; not just of the stories, but also of the love poems, like in the Song of Songs, and of the cries for help, like in the Psalms, over and over again. You, reader, have lived the first moment of color in Eden, and you will witness those black and blacker last moments, your mouth full of vinegar (and worse), where you will cry out with the question, why your so to speak omnipotent Father has abandoned you. Hence for the reader the bible is a terrifying, dangerous book: He is forced to see what his true situation as a mortal is, deep down. Lost son, who feels safe because his Father has forgiven him for once – even prepared a feast for him. But after, on the cross, where is he, my Father and his promised feast? The bible can awaken sheer horror in its reader: ah, this lunatic, who thinks he is God, immortal; that sniveler, who in distress boasts of the omnipotence of his Father to his adversaries, and of how He will come to the rescue at any moment; this so-called Son of God, who dies like a stray dog – I am all of that, I, who am reading this. You, who read the bible today: Beware, danger of death! Or danger of life? Ensouling danger? Inspiring danger, since that night of the times? Healing danger? Danger of salvation?
Translated from: Peter Handke, Langsam im Schatten (1992)
The creature that cannot be helped – that is what the philosopher Volker Gerhardt calls the human being in his new book. Humans constantly become their own problem and fail themselves. Can they ask for help? Whom?
The biblical experiences point to one direction: not gods, not stars, not nature, but God. But how does help come? One person is not enough to pass it on. Humans are able to cooperate and also challenged to do so. Through cooperation, including necessary tools, even if it is a heavy block of stone to sit on, He can act of whom the psalm says: Our help is in his name. hak
Then Amalek came and waged war against Israel in Rephidim.So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” Joshua did as Moses told him: he engaged Amalek in battle while Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of the hill. As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. Moses’ hands, however, grew tired; so they took a rock and put it under him and he sat on it. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady until sunset. And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword.
I want a laity,
not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well, that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.
From: John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England (1851)
Of words and Christians
A pastoral letter might be full of truth, a homily bearable. Ultimately, that impresses no one. And even if the Christians possessed the wisdom of the dear Lord, it would be nothing to write home about, if what they are saying cannot also be seen.
That's why the worst thing that can happen to the Church is not just a heresy, but the lack of life lived according to the gospel. The worst heresy is to claim to know the truth, but then to not do it. What are people supposed to think of such a truth that only exists in books?
Günther Krasnitzky (1939–1987), cited in: Gerhard Lohfink, Rudolf Pesch, Ludwig Weimer (Ed.), Die Feier des Sonntags A
The salutary plunge
Imagine a Syrian general today would say “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel”, out loud. He would risk his neck for that.
It cannot have been much different during biblical times. The Syrian general is sick. Because of a short comment by his Jewish maid he travels a long way that takes him to the Jordan. In spite of disappointed expectations he trusts the prophet and plunges into this river – and with that far into the history of Israel. It is exactly this trust that puts him on firm ground. That is what the earth he takes home with him stands for. Plunging into the history of Israel is salutary. ruk
Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram, was highly esteemed and respected by his master, for through him the LORD had brought victory to Aram. But valiant as he was, the man was a leper. Now the Arameans had captured from the land of Israel in a raid a little girl, who became the servant of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would present himself to the prophet in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
Naaman went and told his master, “This is what the girl from the land of Israel said.” The king of Aram said, “Go. I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman set out, taking along ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments.
He brought the king of Israel the letter, which read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” When he read the letter, the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that this man should send someone for me to cure him of leprosy? Take note! You can see he is only looking for a quarrel with me!” When Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, he sent word to the king: “Why have you torn your garments? Let him come to me and find out that there is a prophet in Israel.”
Naaman came with his horses and chariot and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent him the message: “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.” But Naaman went away angry, saying, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand there to call on the name of the LORD his God, and would move his hand over the place, and thus cure the leprous spot. Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be cleansed?” With this, he turned about in anger and left.
But his servants came up and reasoned with him: “My father, if the prophet told you to do something extraordinary, would you not do it? All the more since he told you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times, according to the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
There never was an age in which the Church contained so many untrue members; that is, so many persons who profess themselves her members, when they know little or nothing about the real meaning of membership, and remain within her pale for some reasons short of religious and right ones.
For instance, to put one question on the subject,—How many supporters of Christ's holy Catholic Church do you think would be left among us, if her cause were found to be, not the cause of order, as it happens to be now, but the cause of disorder, as it was when Christ came and his Apostles preached?
From: Cardinal John Henry Newman, Sermon at St. Mary’s in Oxford (31 May, 1840)
A vague term
Belief can mean all sorts of things: conjecturing, assuming something to be true, a vague opinion, and so forth. The gospel doesn’t give a definition either, but only examples..
When the disciples question whether their faith is enough, Jesus first answers them with a puzzling comparison of faith and a mustard seed; and then he provides a very expressive metaphor from the world of that time. It’s about just doing something, not about thinking or musing. Because you can understand nothing about faith through theory alone. bek
And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
Once again the sweet poison of the Nazi ideology of a life unworthy of living is pervading ethical discourses. And it does not spare pious circles either. As long as they think of Christianity as being about the personal eternal wellness of the soul, life must be a feel-good bath.
How convenient is the old pagan idea instilled into our minds that you can pull the plug at any time before you start to feel chilly. The Netherlands, our liberal neighbor, bluntly mirrors the culture of a good death as a matter of course. The Deutsches Ärzteblatt reports that the parliament of the Netherlands was worried about a slight decrease of euthanasia numbers in 2018. The numbers of the governmental “Regionalen Toetsingscommissies Euthanasie” had shown that in 2018, for the first time since 2006, a drop to merely 6.126 killed people had been recorded. Even so, that is 17 a day. Dutch media suspects that doctors apparently are refusing requests of people with a wish to die more often ever since a doctor was prosecuted for it for the first time. But the chairman of the state commission reassures: He sees no danger for a change of heart amongst Dutch doctors. After all, in the first quarter of 2019 the number of cases has already risen 9% over that of 2018’s first quarter. That is why his impression is that assisted suicide is “implemented correctly”. Apparently, neither was nor is anyone disconcerted about the fact that already in the year 2015, according to official statistics, many hundred people suffering from dementia, namely exactly 431, were killed without an express wish to die.We have the exact numbers thanks to the Netherland’s open way of dealing with the topic. Here in Germany the estimated number of unknown cases is likely higher, considering how widespread the well-meaning ideology of a life no longer worth living is. anm, ses
The prophet Amos’ threat “woe to those who are complacent” fits well into the apocalyptic gut feeling of our time. But Amos does not denounce Israel’s systemic flaws and he does not call for an anticapitalist climate-revolution.
He announces the exile of the people of God because in front of the prophet’s eyes the downfall is already happening: Israel descends into the mass of the people. It is solely thanks to the grace of God and the repentance of the few that exile does not mean the end of Israel after all. tac
Woe to those who are complacent in Zion,
secure on the mount of Samaria,
Those who lie on beds of ivory,
and lounge upon their couches;
Eating lambs taken from the flock,
and calves from the stall;
Who improvise to the music of the harp,
composing on musical instruments like David,
Who drink wine from bowls,
and anoint themselves with the best oils,
but are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph;
Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile,
and the carousing of those who lounged shall cease.
Learn from whom?
The almost two years that Jesus travelled around Israel with the twelve disciples were a kind of wandering house of learning; he tried to impart to them what the closeness of God’s basileia means, for them and in general.
He tells them: do not worry – look at the birds. Do not think that what I am initiating in Israel now is a glamorous success story: look at the woman, who mixes a bit of sourdough in with a lot of flour, it takes time to turn into bread dough. The grain of the mustard seed is tiny, but a tree will grow from it. In today’s gospel there is another lesson: Learn from the gamblers. In his pretty precarious situation – embezzlement, the imminent loss of his job and with the prospect of a shaky pension plan, a steward seeks to break free. He is praised for it. Maybe the twelve looked surprised and suspected: in Jesus’ situation of hardship, later their own situation, audaciously intelligent people are a grace that one can only ask for. ars
Then he also said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’ The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.’
He called in his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’ Then to another he said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.’ And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Finding simplifies the search
We are expected to put up with a lot. This Sunday’s gospel is one of the longest readings of the entire Church year. The reader will need at least seven minutes if he does not rather resort to a short form. All three of Jesus’ short stories take up the issue of “searching and finding”.
It is presented in three approaches. That is how important the theme was to him. It was an experience of his people. What was won or realized once can also be lost again: the land, a sensible way of life, justice, freedom. The search Jesus describes should not be mistaken with a being-on-the-road that is supposed to already be the goal. The shepherd, the woman, the son can search because they know: The flock exists, the treasure exists, the father to whom he can return exists. The searchers of our time also have it easier if something already exists for them to find. It is the job of the listeners of these stories to not let their search come to nothing. acb
The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.
“Or what woman having ten coins* and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Then he said, “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”
More than calories
For as long as we can remember people have resolved conflicts during meals. The shared meal is able to achieve what a conversation alone often cannot: Create trust, bring about peace.
Nowadays historians and sociologists, cultural scientists and psychologists are getting to the bottom of the power of a shared meal. They analyze the order of courses and investigate its effects on diplomacy; they test eaters psychologically and eavesdrop on families at the dinner table. The researchers’ results show how important this age-old cultural technology is – and how worthy of preservation. “If we do not eat together, we lose security and protection”, says the psychologist Marshall Duke. “The shared meal is the backbone of human relations.”
Translated from: DIE ZEIT, Nr. 23, August 1, 2019
What direction can we take? Who can lead us? All societies ask similar questions about the requirements for reigning, leading, judging.
Israel’s Book of Kings frames a surprising answer in Salomon’s prayer for wisdom. The pivotal point is understanding “what the Lord intends”. But the paradox of the biblical answer is also the concession that principally, in the intricacies of life, in their structural limitation, people are unable to understand – and in spite of that they keep aspiring to understand, they learn and are prepared to receive God’s wisdom and spirit as a gift. Through these they can learn reason: what pleases God. This qualifies for the mandate. That, which is no more and no less than the emergency route kept clear through the paradox, was discovered, tested out and experienced throughout Israel’s history. hak
For who knows God’s counsel,
or who can conceive what the Lord intends?
For the deliberations of mortals are timid,
and uncertain our plans.
For the corruptible body burdens the soul
and the earthly tent weighs down the mind with its many concerns.
Scarcely can we guess the things on earth,
and only with difficulty grasp what is at hand;
but things in heaven, who can search them out?
Or who can know your counsel, unless you give Wisdom
and send your holy spirit from on high?
Thus were the paths of those on earth made straight,
and people learned what pleases you,
and were saved by Wisdom.
Climax of the Impossible
Do you believe in paradise?
Because I want to believe in it.
The new controversial film “Climax” by the outrageous Argentinian director Gaspar Noé, where a group of young people, to whom dancing means everything in life, play the main part, begins with interview excerpts showing similar world views. After their last rehearsal together, when they are dancing and celebrating together boisterously, each one by themselves, surrounded by the others in turns, a phenomenon is expressed that the director has observed in societal development since the introduction of the pill: “How people are encouraged to feel lust and not depend on others anymore. But also how people are becoming ever more lonely. They are no longer part of a group, but compete with the rest of the world.” Completely unrestrained the celebration of the dancers, whose drinks were spiked with LSD by an unknown person, ends in chaos. Every form of fear and insecurity of the individual is exponentiated many times over leading to reciprocal brutality. The film closes with the words in capital letters: “Life is a collective impossibility.” The inconceivable is conceivable, what would life be as a collective possibility? heg
You have no cherry tree
you have cherry trees
we have no tree
they don’t belong to us.
The lust to experience the unusual already existed in ancient times. It was connected with the hope that if they trembled people would get yanked out of everyday life and feel closer to the gods. The first communities of Christians also had to deal with this expectation.
Experiencing people, who are trying to shape the world together according to God’s teaching, is comparatively unspectacular. But it is significantly more lasting. And everyone can participate at any time. Suggestions on how to succeed do not just drop from the sky in darkness and storm, but have been tried out and collected for centuries. The Letter to the Hebrews ties the wisdom of those suggestions to a place: Zion. Whoever takes part in that, week for week at a “festal gathering”, can consider themselves lucky. ruk
You have not approached that which could be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm and a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that no message be further addressed to them. No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.
United in a single purpose
Mass, like a piece of music, always starts with an overture: What is it about? What is the topic? Who comes together?
That is exactly how it is on this Sunday in the beginning verses of psalm 86. The entire history of the people of God is summarized there. It is not two partners who are eye to eye with one another. It is one in need of help asking the stronger one to lend an ear: To You I call all day. Whoever misses this basic proportion, misses the God of the Jews and Christians and also his creations. Only where this is taken into consideration does that which saves us appear: “O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose”. This precisely describes the irrepressible power with which all Christian communities have put their mark on the world – and especially Europe. bek
Incline your ear, Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and oppressed.
Preserve my life, for I am devoted;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; be gracious to me, Lord;
to you I call all the day.
O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found.
What's wrong with the world
Self-awareness is being aware of the discrepancy between idea and reality in oneself, but a far cry from being aware of sin. For with sin the issue is not this discrepancy.
In self-awareness man measures himself with a human standard because the idea is something human. In the awareness of sin his reality of existence and life is confronted with Jesus’ and thus is measured with a divine standard.
The more awareness moves deeper, away from the surface of the mathematical, the more it turns into the knowledge that everything in this world and this life is far from all right, into the knowledge of the lost paradise; but really only into knowledge of the one standing outside in front of the closed gates – the knowing ones are always outsiders of life. And precisely through this deepening it exacts its last turn: from the objective that still exists, even with the knowledge of lost paradise, to the subjective, where the reason why paradise was lost is realized. The one who knows stands on the mountain like Moses and sees the Promised Land in front of him – but he is denied entrance. Only love and the word can save man from his loneliness.
Translated from: Ferdinand Ebner, Das Wort und die geistigen Realitäten (1919) – The Word and the Spiritual Realities
that so many commonplace miracles happen.
An ordinary miracle:
in the dead of night
the barking of invisible dogs.
One miracle out of many:
a small, airy cloud
yet it can block a large and heavy moon.
Several miracles in one:
an alder tree reflected in the water,
and that it's backwards left to right
and that it grows there, crown down
and never reaches the bottom,
even though the water is shallow.
An everyday miracle:
winds weak to moderate
turning gusty in storms.
First among equal miracles:
cows are cows.
Second to none:
just this orchard
from just that seed.
A miracle without a cape and top hat:
scattering white doves.
A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.
A miracle, less surprising than it should be:
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers,
it still has more than fourr.
A miracle, just take a look around:
the world is everywhere.
An additional miracle, as everything is additional:
Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), translated by Joanna Trzeciak (https://bookpeopleblog.com/2011/04/07/2633/)
Expanding the cloud
The cloud of witnesses the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of are not the numerous followers of Christ of Church history,
but the numerous forerunners of Christ of Israel’s history, of which some are listed before our reading. They provide sufficient outlook and motivation, that also the weary Christians can plunge themselves into the battle of faith. The goal they keep in mind is not their triumph on the world stage, but the expansion of the cloud of witnesses. tac
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
To the Pilgrim People of God in Germany
“Without new life and an authentic evangelical spirit, without the Church’s “fidelity to her own calling”, any new structure will soon prove ineffective.“ (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 26).
That is why the imminent process of change cannot respond exclusively by reacting to external facts and necessities, which are for example the strong decrease in birthrates and the aging of parishes, that prevent us from envisioning a normal change of generations. Objective and valid causes would however, if they are regarded separately from the mystery of the Church, promote and encourage a – positive as well as negative – merely reactive approach. A true process of change gives answers, but at the same time it presents challenges that stem from our Christian life and the very own dynamic of the evangelization of the Church; such a process requires a pastoral conversion. We are called to take up a stance that has the goal to live the gospel and make it transparent by breaking with “the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness” (Evangelii gaudium, 83). Pastoral conversion reminds us that evangelization has to be our most important guiding principle. Evangelization lived like this is not a tactic of the Church to reposition herself in today’s world, nor an act of conquest, of dominance or territorial expansion; it is not a “retouching” that brings the Church in line with the zeitgeist, but makes her lose her originality and her prophetic mission. Neither does evangelization refer to the attempt to retrieve habits and practices that made sense in other cultural contexts. No, evangelization is a path of the discipleship as an answer to His love, who has loved us first (cf. 1 Joh 4:19).
I want to stand by your side and accompany you with the assurance that if the Lord finds us worthy to live this hour, he has not done that to humiliate or paralyze us in the face of challenges. On the contrary, He wants His word to challenge and ignite our heart once more, as He did for your fathers, so that your sons and daughters could prophesy and your old men dream prophetic dreams again (cf. Joel 3:1).
Translated from Pope Francis’ Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Germany, June 29, 2019
Anything beyond that?
Even the Greek philosophers did not want to accept that the contemporaries are content to just live, to survive, to reproduce, to sit in front of the TV and use up their well-earned pension in Mallorca.
But be honest: What is the most willing person offered by both representatives of political parties and the churches? Plenty of good advice, admonitions, threats in case of disobedience: don’t fly, ride your bike, don’t eat meat, save the bees, save the climate – strategies for (alleged) mere survival. In this situation the gospel has a hard time with its exhortation: Provide a treasure for yourselves in heaven. We also come across this heavenward-gesture in the second reading: The fathers of the faith were on their way to the heavenly home: They saw it ahead of them, far away; but with that they show they are looking for a home. Why else did they leave their land? ars
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God. By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age—and Sarah herself was sterile—for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy. So it was that there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.
Paths out of hardship
The classic Jewish reaction to catastrophe is renewal of life. It is part of the mentality of the people of Israel to preserve the memory of its story of success and suffering, so hope for the future arises from it.
Pointedly one could say: Israel’s looking back brings it forward. Memory is the key for the future of the people of Israel. As the test took place, so also will salvation happen. The past catastrophes have undoubtedly devastated the Jewish community, but in a paradox way also strengthened her. A Russian folk tale expresses this inner-Jewish movement and dynamic well:
When Napoleon came through a small Jewish shtetl during his expedition against Russia, he wished to see the synagogue from the inside. Coincidentally this day was the 9th Av and the Jews sat on the floor in the dark, lamenting and praying. When it had been explained to Napoleon that the reason for their lamentation was the destruction of the temple, he asked: “When did this happen?” “2000 years ago”, they told him. When he heard this, the emperor commented: “A people that is able to preserve the memory of its land for 2000 years will surely find the way to return home there.”
But let us not forget one thing at this point: This is not an automatism. The fasting and remembering of the past alone is not enough. Because hate and strife have lead to the loss of the temple. The fasting must be accompanied by daily interaction of the children of Israel with one another in truth and peace, if it is really supposed to come to a change from sad to renewed happy days.
Translated from: Jüdische Allgemeine, 18.07.2019, arcticle by Rabbi Salomon Almekias-Siegl
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
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.