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
From the first line on, the Bible uses ever-new images to express the experience that the otherworldly God is devoted to our world with the affection of a creator.
The book of proverbs depicts this by personifying wisdom. She is with God from the beginning, like a child, plays in front of Him and is His joy. At the same time she plays on earth and delights in being with the people. Thus, wisdom embodies the inner purpose of creation: God wants to be with the people, he wants a history with them. So he gives of himself what brings him joy, grants moderation and order, his wisdom. In the course of this history the eternal wisdom of God, the Logos, takes up residence with the people, in Nazareth. hak
The LORD begot me, the beginning of his works,
the forerunner of his deeds of long ago;
From of old I was formed,
at the first, before the earth.
When there were no deeps I was brought forth,
when there were no fountains or springs of water;
Before the mountains were settled into place,
before the hills, I was brought forth;
When the earth and the fields were not yet made,
nor the first clods of the world.
When he established the heavens, there was I,
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
When he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the springs of the deep;
When he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
When he fixed the foundations of earth,
then was I beside him as artisan;
I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
Playing over the whole of his earth,
having my delight with human beings.
In the same place
In many parishes it is difficult to assemble a choir for Pentecost because almost everyone drives into the country. How differently does the report in the Acts of Apostles sound.
There, many come together in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks. They celebrate that Israel has received the “instruction”, the guide for a good life. Today we can marvel that this center still exists. The joy over this brings us together. In physics this movement would be called centripetal instead of centrifugal. The Acts of Apostles calls the reference point “mighty acts of God”. ruk
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
Reform and Renewal
One of the most significant differences between true renewal and reform. The reformer makes demands of others, especially of authorities;
in his fervent arguments you can always discern a quiet ultimatum: if you do not finally set the Church straight according to my suggestions, then at some point you will have to do without me!
The admonition of someone dedicated to renewal can also be serious and imploring, but essentially and chiefly it is directed toward himself; toward others it is not a demand, but an appeal. His hopes are based neither on the abilities of the others or his own, but on the Spirit of God, who is the spirit of renewal. It is from Him that he expects renewal, not from people, their institutions and methods; he sees being open to Him as his actual contribution. He waits and prays impatiently because the kingdom of heaven suffers violence. But deeper than his impatience is his patience because to him the things of God are not linked to his own achievement and consequently the duration of his own life.
Translated from: Walter Dirks, Die geistige Aufgabe des deutschen Katholizismus, in: Frankfurter Hefte (Nr. 2, Mai 1946, 1. Jahrgang)
„Ebrei e cristiani“
On 16 May, 2019, at the Papal Lateran University in Rome, the Chair for the Theology of the People of God presented the Italian translation of the correspondence between Pope em. Benedict XVI and the Viennese Chief Rabbi Arie Folger to an interested audience.
Prof. Achim Buckenmaier, the director of the Chair, moderated the event. The Viennese Chief Rabbi Arie Folger, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Pontifical House and Private Secretary of Pope em. Benedict XVI, Dr. Elio Guerriero, author of the book, and the director of the Osservatore Romano, Dr. Andrea Monda, presented the book.
You can find additional information and pictures on the homepage of the Chair www.popolodidio.org.
In the Old Testament the word glory describes what is visible about God.
Jesus’ existence and his work uphold this topic – here in the form of a prayer. It summarizes his entire life. Through listening to Him, through unity with Him, the entire possible unity of man with God tangibly becomes a reality. Jesus’ prayer connects his time to all generations of faithful. Thus, it is the mission of the Church to show the glory of God in this continuity and unity. bek
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
Zeitgeisty – 1930
Noticeable about the attitude of the two national churches is their lolling tongue. Breathlessly panting they are chasing the spirit of the times, lest someone gets away. “Us too! Us too!”, no more “Us”, as in centuries prior.
Socialism? Us too. Youth movement? Us too. Sports? Us too. These churches create nothing, they change what others have created, what others have developed, into elements that can be useful to them. The church has given in; she hasn’t changed herself, she has been changed.
Translated from: Kurt Tucholsky, Braut- und Sport-Unterricht (1930)
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)
Pope Francis warned of the temptation to want to “clean up” the Church. “That would mean taming things, taming the young people, taming the heart of people.”
It is not about “cleaning up”, the Pope says. “Nowadays we are called to bear the imbalance. We can do no good, nothing gospel-like, if we are afraid of imbalance.” The gospel itself is an “unbalanced teaching”, says the Pope: “Just take the beatitudes, they deserve the Nobel Prize for imbalance.”
Francis illustrated his train of thought with the example of a highly functionally equipped diocese, where many specialists neatly sit in offices and work on problems. The diocese in question, Francis did not name it, has “more employees than the Vatican”, but it moves further away “from Jesus Christ every day because it worships harmony, the harmony of functional worldliness. In these cases we have fallen into the dictatorship of functionalism.” From the Pope’s perspective the problem with this is that the gospel turns into “a wise saying, a teaching”, but not proclamation. The invention of synods and counter-synods also shows a departure from proclamation: they show attempts to “clean up” things. True synods need the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit gives the table a kick, throws it over and starts from the beginning.”
Francis also called the priests, religious and lay people to overcome their own interests. The good shepherd in the gospel, who searches for that one lost sheep, has but one interest: that not one of them is lost. “Often times we are obsessed with thinking of the few sheep that are still in the fold. And many give up on being shepherds of sheep and become barbers of exquisite sheep.”
From the words of Pope Francis to priests, religious and lay people of the Roman diocese, May 9th, 2019, in the Lateran Basilica; translated from Vatican News.
The construction principle of heavenly Jerusalem
The city from heaven is a vision of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” Church in her ideal form. Her deep, inseparable interwovenness with Israel is part of her essence:
Its name is Jerusalem, and the number twelve appears as the principle of her/its construction plan. The only strange thing is that “the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites” are written on the gates, while “the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” are written on the corner stones. It might be more logical the other way around. Israel as the foundation and above it the apostles. The construction principle of the vision indicates that the history of Israel still remains the sole gateway to the Church. tac
He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal. It had a massive, high wall, with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed and on which names were inscribed, the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. There were three gates facing east, three north, three south, and three west. The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The one who spoke to me held a gold measuring rod to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city was square, its length the same as also its width. He measured the city with the rod and found it fifteen hundred miles in length and width and height. He also measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits according to the standard unit of measurement the angel used. The wall was constructed of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the city wall were decorated with every precious stone; the first course of stones was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl; and the street of the city was of pure gold, transparent as glass.
I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.
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.
On ecology of man
The importance of ecology is no longer disputed. We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly.
Yet I would like to underline a point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.
From the address of Benedict XVI at the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, Berlin; the complete address you will find here.
A comment on the state of Christianity in Germany
Christianity – and this is its fairest merit – subdued to a certain extent the brutal warrior ardor of the Germans, but it could not entirely quench it;
and when the cross, that restraining talisman, falls to pieces, then the ferocity of the old combatants, the frantic Berserker rage whereof Northern poets say and sing so much, will break forth again. The talisman has become rotten, and the day will come when it will crumble to dust pitifully. The old stone gods will then arise from the forgotten ruins and wipe the thousand-year-old dust from their eyes. And Thor with his giant hammer will arise again, and he will shatter the Gothic cathedrals. … And when you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world’s history, then know that at last the German thunderbolt has fallen. … A drama will be played in Germany, compared to which the French Revolution will seem but an innocent idyll.
Translated from: Heinrich Heine, Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland (1835)
Shortage of time enough and to spare
In an evolutionary ridiculously short, but highly dynamic, time span of not even ten generations, we have been able to almost duplicate our life span and have pushed our working time down by much more than a quarter.
In spite of that, the amount of time-pressed contemporaries is ever growing. Maybe this is due to the fact that in the service of time efficiency we have split our time into multiple fragments in every direction, with the highest expectations for each, into time for the family, time for friends, for education, for health, culture, sports and much more. From a clearly much too busy person I heard that his coach had given him an ingenious tip and he is doing much better, now that he has been “sticking to it really consistently: every seventh day I take a break!” ses
were accused of deceit
A small number
obtained menial jobs
as informers and errand boys
we have to make it happen in life”
On life in community
The apple tree wants to copy the pear tree
the potato plant ogles the watermelon
but what do we do with a melon flood?
since our kitchen owes its renown
to the savory potato dishes.
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)
Who will sing the New Song
Israel sang it with Miriam
by the shore of the Red Sea at the edge of the desert
Moses sang it on Mount Nebo
seeing the land but not entering it
David sang it in front of the Arc of the Covenant
Daniel sang it with his friends
in the overheated furnace
Isaiah sang it
when the escaped ones returned
The wisdom teachers sang it
during the encounter with the rationality of the Greeks
The Maccabees sang it
in the face of the inexhaustible oil of the temple lamp
Zachariah the silent one sang it
Mary the pure one visited by God sang it
Old Simeon sang it
Jesus sang it over the small and poor that saw
Paul sang it when he found the future of Israel
The desert fathers sang it
when they turned their backs on the corrupt cities
Benedict’s monasteries sang it
when they cultivated the jungles and swamps
Francis sang it
when he left everything behind to move pope and sultan
It roved around and lent its notes
to the enlighteners and Church critics
Did Nietzsche not sing its melody
Did Marx not hold its sheet music
in his hands upside down
Why were its verses split after Luther
Why did its beauty leave the churches in modern times
Why did it have to ring out as a song of death in Auschwitz
And why almost die
under mountains of concepts and papers
Who sings the New Song today
that is not just melodious not just true
That continues to tell the story