“Christianity is possible in every moment yet.” F. Nietzsche

 

 

 

Where the spirit blows

March 29th, 2020, Fifth Sunday in Lent, Cycle A

In everyday language the word “spirit” is highly opalescent. It ranges from the white ghost to an intellectual wit on to something vaguely palpable. In the current context of the Church it is consequently often seen as something free, intangible, ultimately something placeless.

The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel has a completely different idea. When he speaks to his people that God will breathe His spirit into them, then he means the return of the scattered people to their land. The spirit is effective when the faithful set out and let Him bring them together in their land. God does not revive his people just anywhere, but in a specific place. The same goes for Christians. The spirit of God can work among them if they break through their isolation and come together as the people of God. ruk

Ez 37;12b-14

Thus says the Lord GOD: Look! I am going to open your graves; I will make you come up out of your graves, my people, and bring you back to the land of Israel. You shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and make you come up out of them, my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life, and I will settle you in your land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. I have spoken; I will do it—oracle of the LORD.

Turnabout

by Benedikt XVI.

To be converted is not a work for self-fulfillment because the human being is not the architect of his own eternal destiny.

We did not make ourselves. Therefore, self-fulfillment is a contradiction and is also too little for us. We have a loftier destination. We might say that conversion consists precisely in not considering ourselves as our own "creators" and thereby discovering the truth, for we are not the authors of ourselves.

 

Benedikt XVI., General Audience, February 21, 2007; you can find the full text of his speech here.

The first addressee

by L. Baeck

If the Prophets spoke primarily, and often exclusively, of Israel, it was assuredly a wise limitation.

They knew and felt that true religion had first to be securely established in Israel, before it could be promulgated and presented to the world. It proves the power of the words of Jesus, and not the narrow- ness of his outlook, if he limits his teaching to Israel, and enjoins the same limitation upon his disciples. The Prophets speak of the world and its salvation, but they speak to Israel: it is only their later and colourless imitators who constantly summon all mankind to listen and admire.

 

From: Leo Baeck (1873-1956), The Essence of Judaism (1905)

Knowledge – Faith – Facts

March 22, 2020, Fourth Sunday in Lent, Cycle A

If we understand the healing of the blind man as a spell or a magical act, we’re on the wrong track – and remain as blind as Jesus indirectly says of the self-righteous ones at the end of the story. Because in this case, seeing is another word for believing.

The disciples and Pharisees think they know everything about the correlations between sickness, guiltiness and healing. The healed man, however, knows nothing, his parents even less. He does not know who opened his eyes – he assumes, maybe a prophet. He only knows the facts: he was blind and now he can see, and how the healing was discernable outwardly. But it wasn’t the clay that made him see, but only trusting in the person of Jesus. He did what Jesus said, trustingly faithful. And that is so easy that anyone could do it – and so, without knowing much, could heal. bek

Joh 9;1-41

As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “So how were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a Sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for him self.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Messiah, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”

So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

Never despair

by E. Fackenheim

We are, first, commanded to survive as Jews, lest the Jewish people perish. 

We are commanded, secondly, to remember in our very guts and bones the martyrs of the Holocaust, lest their memory perish.

We are forbidden, thirdly, to deny or despair of God, however much we may have to contend with him or with belief in him, lest Judaism perish.

We are forbidden, finally, to despair of the world as the place which is to become the kingdom of God, lest we help make it a meaningless place in which God is dead or irrelevant and everything is permitted.

 

Emil Fackenheim (1916-2003, Jewish philosopher of religion and reform rabbi), From: To Mend the World. Foundation of Jewish Thought (1994)

Atrophy

by O. Marquard

For the people, these are their stories. But stories have to be told. That is what the liberal arts do:

they compensate for the damages of modernization by telling stories; the more the world is objectified, the more stories have to be told, to compensate: otherwise people will die of narrative atrophy. The more modern the modern world becomes, the more unavoidable the arts become, as storytelling sciences.

 

Translated from: Odo Marquard, Über die Unvermeidlichkeit der Geisteswissenschaften. Vortrag vor der Westdeutschen Rektorenkonferenz; in: Apologie des Zufälligen (1986)

The moment

by S. Kierkegaard

There came a moment when, overcome with blessedness, I dared to say to myself: I have understood the highest.

In truth, that is not given to many in any generation. But almost at the same time something new rushed upon me: the highest of all is not to understand the highest but to act upon it.

 

From: Sören Kierkegaard, Journals X 4A (1852)

Thirst

March 15, 2020, Third Sunday in Lent, Cycle A

The books of Moses paint an unadorned picture of the Israelites between Egypt and the Holy Land. Like a non-desert-people in the desert they are constantly dissatisfied, discontent and irritable. This time they are thirsty.

If it were only about water, Egypt would truly be a better place. But the people lacked more. There is also a deeper desire than the one for drink and nourishment: namely for the word that comes from God. It is not a coincidence that the rock, from which the water flows, is by the Horeb. That is the mountain on which Moses will receive the vital words. The staff that helped free the people is also needed. The deliverance is decided in the question: “Is the Lord in our midst, or not?” tac

Ex 17;3-7

Here, then, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why then did you bring us up out of Egypt? To have us die of thirst with our children and our livestock?” So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!” The LORD answered Moses: Go on ahead of the people, and take along with you some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the Nile. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink. Moses did this, in the sight of the elders of Israel. The place was named Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?”

Reminiscere – Remember Your mercy

March 8th, 2020, Second Sunday in Lent, Cycle A

The protestant churches retained the name of this second Lenten Sunday after the reformation. Most of the time the God of Israel speaks:

In the first reading to Abraham, “go forth.” And in the gospel to the three disciples on the mountain of the transfiguration, “listen to him.” In the introductory verse from Psalm 25 we have a different situation. The God of Israel is challenged. He should remember what he did in the years before and do the same again. Joseph Ratzinger often indicated how the biblical concept of God discerns: It’s His addressability; He listens, He can be called. How can we understand this reciprocity? In the fourth century, an early monk, born into slavery, Abbas Mios, said it like this: “Obedience stands for obedience. If a person listens to God, God also listens to him.” ars

Ps 25;6.2.22

Remember your compassion and your mercy, O LORD, for they are ages old.

Do not let my enemies gloat over me.

Redeem Israel, O God, from all its distress!

Notes towards understanding the present age

by G. Steiner

Art, intellectual pursuits, the development of the natural sciences, many branches of scholarship flourished in close spatial, temporal proximity to massacre and the death camps. It is the structure and meaning of that proximity which must be looked at. Hitler's jibe that "conscience is a Jewish invention" provides a clue.

We hate most those who hold out to us a goal, an ideal, a visionary promise which, even though we have stretched our muscles to the utmost, we cannot reach, which slips, again and again, just out of range of our racked fingers - yet, and this is crucial, which remains profoundly desirable, which we cannot reject because we fully acknowledge its supreme value.

Using theological metaphors, and there is no need to apologize for them in an essay on culture, the holocaust may be said to mark a second Fall. We can interpret it as a voluntary exit from the Garden and a programmatic attempt to burn the Garden behind us. Lest its remembrance continue to infect the health of barbarism with debilitating dreams or with remorse.

 

From: George Steiner (1929-2020) In Bluebeard’s Castle, Some Notes towards the Redefinition of Culture, 1971

Lone protest

Belief is not demonstrable, Joseph Ratzinger wrote once. What happens when in his new movie “A Hidden Life” the American director Terrence Malick takes a shot at showing how a simple Catholic farmer follows his conscience and is killed for it by the Nazis?

While restoring the frescos of the village church, a craftsman says to this farmer: “We create admirers. We don’t create followers. Men won’t fight the truth, so, just ignore it. I paint their comfortable Christ, with a halo over his head. How can I show what I haven’t lived?” It seems like a translation into today’s world when the head of the “Competence Center for Democracy and Human Dignity of the Archdiocese of Munich” calls for civil courage as the essence of the film in her introduction in front of the movie theater audience. With this silencer the farmer Franz Jägerstetter, whom Pope Benedict beatified 2007, remains a silent lone warrior, then as now. The Church is not necessary for trite lip service against racism and for tolerance. It becomes clearer to me: The turnaround of one's existence, as Ratzinger calls faith, is hardly possible alone. heg

“… that we make progress in understanding Christ’s Arcanum…

March 1, 2020, First Sunday in Lent, Cycle A

… and that we draw the right consequences from it.” That is what the Church asks for on this first Sunday in Lent. And with that she describes the program for the next forty days until Easter.

The readings concentrate less on the consequences; they circle around the Arcanum, the mystery of Christ: over the first human, Adam, he is raised to the position of the new, last Adam. But not just like that. He is tempted, he is tried. He is lead down a dangerous path before the “old Adam” can become a new human. What the first people in the Garden Eden wanted to achieve, being like God, is granted to the latter – through his obedience. ars

Rom 5;12-19

Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned — for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.

But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many. And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.

For appearances’ sake

by J. Ratzinger

It lies in the nature of the medium that it prefers what is exciting and thrilling. And with that the ordinary things holding the world together can barely make an appearance. Thus, the weight between the significant and insignificant things is shifted.

People are not personally present at the event, but they see the report on the event, which is inevitably already an interpretation and selection of the event. Eventually the report becomes more important than the event itself. Meaning, we start to depend on shine and appearance more and more, and thus also produce for the appearance. There is also risk for politicians and church leaders, that they stop asking what the right thing is, but instead: How will this come across? How will it be reported on? How will it be accepted? This means that actions are no longer determined by reality and the standards that conscience would dictate, but by the appearance one wants to create. This subjugation that public figures, politicians, as well as men of the church can easily be caught up in, would be disastrous: When you no longer act according to what is actually recognizable as good, but according to the question of what comes across well, how do I appear, and thus you become a servant of your own appearance.

 

Joseph Ratzinger in a conversation with August Everding (1998), transcribed from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7RH0ZyqCZQ

Walls in heads

When a German bishop travels to the Middle East and, at the sight of the protective wall between the Palestinian and Israeli territories, a comparison to the Berlin wall occurs to him and, on top of that, the missionary thought that people in Germany have experience with overcoming walls – that gives rise to questions.

What gives a German bishop such a high feeling of moral superiority? How forgetful of history and politically blind can a German bishop be? Bishops are expected to have studied theology after all, and not history or politics. Can it still be lost on an academically trained German man of the Church that the phrase “The German way shall heal the world!” is not part of moral theology, but of history, and there of its darker chapters? The Berlin wall is also part of the darker chapters of our history. Whoever compares the Berlin wall with the Israeli protective wall has no clue what they are talking about, historically and politically: The Berlin wall separated one nation with one language and one shared history. The Israeli protective wall cannot be compared to that. Palestinians who want to carry out attacks in Israel are so ideologically deluded that they do not want to accept Israel’s right to exist – as the majority of the Arab world, by the way, against which Israel has to likewise protect herself. This protective wall is not pretty. Maybe it is even a weapon of war, but a very peaceful one. Because it has put an end to most of the Palestinian terror in Israel and saved lives this way. When it comes to Germany, there is talk about the wall in people’s heads. Maybe a first step might be disarmament of the high feeling of moral superiority. That is what the East Germans were so sick about us “Western know-it-alls” after all. ses

Progress in the Church – from the “Hymns to the Church”

by G. v. le Fort

From a distance they are clarion-calls, but drawing close they turn to an idle tinkle.

They advance with banners and pennants but when the wind rises their pageantry disintegrates.

Listen, you loud and foolhardy ones, you opportunistic escapees of the spirit and you children of your capriciousness:

We died of thirst at your springs; we starved by your food;

we went blind by your lamps!

You are like a street that never reaches its end; you are like many small steps circling yourselves!

You are like running water; constantly your own rushing is in your mouth!

Today you are your truth’s cradle; and tomorrow you will also be its grave!

 

Translated from: Gertrud von le Fort, Hymnen an die Kirche (1924)

A letter to the editor from Rome to a big German daily paper

I enjoy and profit from reading the sports pages, the economic news, the technology and motor section in this newspaper. Only what I read in the comments, but also in “reports” on the Catholic Church, spoils any fun in reading. And not just that: it damages my trust in serious journalism. Here the campaign being conducted within the Church against the pope emeritus finds its propagandistic loudspeaker.

Not only does it have little to do with the truth, but it also differs from the opinion of many more alert minds world-wide, Catholics as well as non-Catholics. Maybe it is a kind of petty German comeuppance for Ratzinger’s incorruptibility and foresight for over 60 years. The facts speak a different language than these campaigns, whether they are about Joseph Ratzinger’s effective contribution as cardinal and pope against the crimes of sexual abuse since the 90s, or about how, to this day, he spends his “retirement” with absolute intellectual vigilance and obedience to the current pope. It is certainly noticeable that numerous snares lurk in the era of lightning communication and glitches happen easily. But the ruling motto here seems to be: Don’t touch me with the facts. The genie being let out of the bottle over and over again is not the spirit of Church schism, but one of the authors’ personal vendettas against their own Church. Even if some reflexively want to give Benedict a whipping and others want to use him under the guise of adoration, the constellation of the current pope and a pope emeritus, with all its breaks and weaknesses, remains an unprecedented stroke of luck for the Church.

 

Prof. Achim Buckenmaier, Rome

Unity of this world and the world beyond

by L. Baeck

Das Judentum hat seine Freiheit von dem Zwiespalt, den die verschiedenen Begriffe von Gott bringen. Dem Widerstreit zwischen Transzendenz und Immanenz fehlt hier der Boden. Die Frömmigkeit lebt hier in der Paradoxie, in der Polarität, mit all ihrer Spannung und Geschlossenheit.  

For piety, there is no such thing as this world without any beyond, nor a beyond without this world; no world to come without the present world, and no human world without that which transcends it. Everything from this world is rooted in the world beyond; everything from the world beyond demands something worldly from humans. The infinite emerges through the finite; and everything finite shall prove its infiniteness. Human life leads from God to man and from man to God.

Translated from: Leo Baeck, Geheimnis und Gebot, in: Der Leuchter – Weltanschauung und Lebensgestaltung (1921/1922)

Rest as Renaissance

by L. Baeck

All the love of the “law”, nourishing and cherishing, was directed towards one thing, the Sabbath. As the day of rest, it gives life its balance, its rhythm; it sustains the week. Rest is something entirely different than a recess, an interruption of work, entirely different from not working.

A mere recess is something essentially physical, worldly and ordinary. Rest is something essentially religious, part of the atmosphere of the divine. It leads towards the mystery, towards the reason from where every commandment comes. It recreates and reconciles; it is the rest through which the soul reclaims itself, the soul drawing breath – the sabbatical part of life. The Sabbath is the image of the messianic. It speaks of creation and of the future; it is the great symbol, as the bible says: “a sign between God and the Israelites”, or as in a quote from the Talmud: “the parable of eternity”. In the Sabbath lies life’s great opposition to the end, the continual renaissance.

Translated from: Aus: Leo Baeck, Geheimnis und Gebot, in: Der Leuchter – Weltanschauung und Lebensgestaltung (1921/1922)

Thoughts from a cluster of cells

 

Zoological theology is coming: No religion has the absolute truth; God’s image is just a cluster of cells.

 

Had Adam been content with one of the animals as a helper, – world history would have directly landed where it is today.

 

The historical Jesus was delivered to the gentiles; the Christ of faith to the scholars.

 

Freedom means that I may harm myself. Salvation means l live in such a way that others do not want to harm themselves.

 

Faith is always the thanks of someone who escaped.

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Who truly understands Jesus?

by L. Baeck

Jesus and his gospel can only be fully understood through Jewish thought and feeling, for this reason maybe only by a Jew. Similarly, his words in their entire capacity and sound are only heard if they are reverted to the language he spoke.

A commandment that was completely fulfilled would be merely a human charter. God’s commandment is a commandment leading out towards the future that has its mission “for all generations”, as the bible says. There is its promise, its life that becomes life; there is something messianic in it. All of creation has its future, as an old Jewish parable says: “The idea of the Messiah was already present in the creation of the world.”

 

Translated from: Leo Baeck, Geheimnis und Gebot, in: Der Leuchter – Weltanschauung und Lebensgestaltung (1921/1922)

Thoughts from the hammock

The bible exegetes detect an “excess of promise” between the expectations of the Jewish prophets and the reality in Christianity. They find great words. But through omission they evade the question whose fault it is, God’s or our laziness.

 

Nowadays all statements and solutions from the past are relativized: they are all transitory and subjective. As if the monkey that became man had only been capable of using reason since 2019 and only taken his responsibility seriously since Greta.

 

We, like misanthropes, discover the selfishness and thirst for glory in and behind the actions of our contemporaries. Jesus too saw through people and read their hearts. But he loved them anyway.

 

luw

The foundling

Ever since we’ve had two legs and came out of the thicket of the jungle, since we explored the wide horizons in the savannah and the starlit sky stood open for us, probably early on in our sapiens-history, we did not want to be dead after death.

So, very early on we searched for religion, and gods, and a place beyond, an eternally beautiful home after our often short, arduous life, accompanied by violence. The afterworld became our solace, priests emerged and took on the task of guiding the way to eternal life.

A pipsqueak on earth, Israel, quits this circus of religion. Heaven is astonished. God grows fond of Israel; he wants to live among the people. “He comes down.” Israel receives the Tora. It turns the earth into paradise, people become neighbors.

Over a thousand years Israel grumbled: “The burden is too heavy.” “We too must be like all the nations.” And they build the most beautiful of dwellings for their God, the temple. God’s people live in captivity, under occupation. Israel prays, screams, hopes for a Messiah who saves.

Yes, and once again God descends, becomes man, becomes a Jew. The Israel of the twelve is coming. “Divided tongues as of fire … on each one of them (Acts 2.3).” God’s spirit descends, stays with the twelve.

The Church grows, becomes large, bears fruit, becomes powerful. The Christian power conquers the world of religions. Priests become the guide towards eternal life. So, like we used to, we have a religion directed towards the beyond.

The centuries of the European enlightenment also clarify our Christian religion. We are rid of God again. The conversation about God is dead. Dumb, deaf, blind, it doesn’t survive the murder of God’s people of this world, the Jews.

“Everything was over forever.”

The testaments are still down. And modern biblical studies are helping. There is new talk about the people of God in secular communities: “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”

rus

In the bleak midwinter…

At the end of November 2019, a public debate took place in Trieste’s town council on whether the distinguished holocaust survivor Liliana Segre, also “Senator for Life” in Rome, should be awarded honorary citizenship. One member of the council vigorously opposed this because “Segre has said that Jesus was a Jew and that offends me as a catholic.” Jesus is the Son of God after all, he adds.

Christmas is not the right time to be offended. Maybe then Paul’s realization with all its consequences will seep through, that God sent His Son, “born of a woman, born under the law“ (Gal 4;4). ruk

Talent for freedom

by T. Schmid

“Modern society is an abstract society that constantly requires us to act rationally” – at the expense of our emotional primeval needs. But that is the price for humanity.

What Karl Marx denies categorically, Karl Popper defends passionately: Politics are possible. The process can only be the never-ending chain of trial and error and new trail. On account of his Jewish heritage, among other things, he had a wide-awake sense for the dangerous political tendencies of the time. Already in 1927, six years prior to Hitler’s successful grasp for power, he is convinced “that the democratic bastions of Central Europe will fall and a totalitarian Germany will start a new world war.” A realization as clear as glass. Three years before his death Karl Popper concluded his lecture on “Freedom and Intellectual Responsibility” with these words: “We have to search for the objective truth in all modesty, critically feeling our way like the beetles do. We can no longer try to act like the omniscient prophets. But that means: We have to change.”

 

Translated from: Thomas Schmid in Die Welt (German Newspaper) from September 17, 2019 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the death of Karl Popper, Der Mensch hat die Begabung zur Freiheit

Change of direction

by J. Ratzinger

In other words, belief signifies the decision that at the very core of human existence there is a point that cannot be nourished and supported on the visible and tangible, that encounters and comes into contact with what cannot be seen and finds that it is a necessity for its own existence.

Such an attitude is certainly to be attained only by what the language of the Bible calls “turning back”, “con-version”. Man’s natural inclination draws him to the visible, to what he can take in his hand and hold as his own. He has to turn around inwardly in order to see how badly he is neglecting his own interest by letting himself be drawn along in this way by his natural inclination. He must turn around to recognize how blind he is if he trusts only what he sees with his eyes. Without this change of direction, without this resistance to the natural inclination, there can be no belief. Indeed belief is the conversion in which man discovers that he is following an illusion if he devotes himself only to the tangible. This is at the same time the fundamental reason why belief is not demonstrable: it is an about-turn; only he who turns about is receptive to it; and because our inclination does not cease to point us in another direction, it remains a turn that is new every day; only in a lifelong conversion can we become aware of what it means to say “I believe”.

 

From: Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity (1968)

Joy to the world

Recently, in an exam in her catholic religious education class, my daughter had to answer the question under which circumstances Jesus would be born today.

I assumed that a birth in a refugee camp was suggested with eventually a successful appearance as advocate for the disenfranchised and disinherited. Like other students, who attend mass more or less regularly, my daughter lacked the imagination for an elaborate answer. The grade was bad and I didn’t know any better either. Maybe I should have just asked the teacher what he meant. Either way, I couldn’t get the issue off my mind. Later the story of Jesus’ appearance before the high inquisitor came to mind, as told by Dostojewski: Jesus surprisingly comes to 15th century Seville during the time of the inquisition. He is identified and the high inquisitor detains him. During a long speech he explains to Jesus why his renewed coming disturbs the operations of the Church. fls

What’s the deal with all this drama? – with video clip

One might think that the theater has become redundant: Why exchange the comfort of your own four walls for a hard chair, sandwiched between the theater audience?

Why let yourself in for a performance, when thousands wait behind the screens at home? Whatever for “boards that mean the world”, when hosts of thinkers and researchers have accumulated an amount of knowledge over millennia that is hard to grasp? At least by today, don’t we know what the world means anyway? To all those who, following such considerations, no longer have need for a visit to the theater: congratulations, one less hardship! To all others the following may be recommended: The prologue to an evening of theater from the summer of 2019 in the park of the Günter-Stöhr-Gymnasium – with the participation of many associated with the school and the Integrated Community. Viewable anytime, quite conveniently, perfectly fit for the screen, whenever, wherever, just as you like. saw

Video clip “Prologue to Midsummer Night’s Dream”

New – Theologica No. 7: Ebrei e Cristiani

»… A decisive turning point in the Judeo-Catholic dialogue«

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.

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Image loss and description lust

by L. Weimer

Plato’s allegory of the cave criticized the confusion of the things our senses discern with reality: We are chained up in our cave and do not see real life, but only its shadow on the wall.

Peter Handke commented on the conundrum as follows: “For many only what is broken can be called reality” (translated from “The Weight of the World, Journal 1977). Unabatedly he described the universal image loss of modern times: forgetting and confusing standards, overloading instead of beholding. The things and traditions cannot speak through that anymore. To him it was about salvation, and in “Crossing the Sierra de Gredos” (in German titled “Image Loss”) he called it “the comet’s tail of the world’s survival, sweeping over the entire earth”. The language of world-images is more than a moral religion; it is creation’s answer to the question of what can save us. “Theology is physical, too”, Handke once said in an interview.

 

Translated from (German): https://zettelsraum.blogspot.com/2019/10/peter-handkes-beschreibungslust.html

Cave canem – Careful, it might bite!

Vital vigilance in the face of the enemy, which in the Catholic Church is consistently directed inwards as well, sometimes hits the righteous wrongfully and sometimes the wrong ones righteously. John Henry Newman, who was canonized October 13, 2019, was regarded as highly dangerous by well-meaning servants of the catholic cause.

Monsignore Talbot, Pope Pius XI.’s secretary, warned Cardinal Manning, the Archbishop of Westminster, in a letter: “Dr. Newman is the most dangerous man in England.” Maybe Talbot sensed an even bigger threat than Newman’s intellectual independence. The current canonization has rehabilitated Newman somewhat, but the papal secretary’s assessment of him ennobles him to this day. If you take Newman seriously you understand the secretary’s fear when Newman says, for example, that faith is “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“. ses

Living in community – Letters to the Oratory

by J. H. Newman

Consider what is implied in the word “community”. To live in community is not to be simply in one house; else the guests of a hotel form a community.

Nor is it to live and board together; else a boarding-house is a community. Priests living in a chapel-house or presbytery, with each his own room, and a common table, and common duties in one church and parish, do not therefore live in community. To live in community is to form one body, in such sense as to admit of acting and being acted upon as one. An Oratory is an individuality. It has one will and one action, and in that sense it is one community. But it is obvious that such a union of wills and minds and opinions and conduct cannot be attained without considerable concessions of private judgment on the part of every individual so united. It is a conformity, then, not of accident or of nature, but of supernatural purpose. It is not everyone who has the gift of living with others. Not every holy soul, not every good secular priest, can live in community. Perhaps very few men can do so. 

 

From: John Henry Cardinal Newman, Letters to the Oratory about the call to the Oratory of St. Philipp Neri (1856)

Gerhard Szczesny

„... so different“

Foto: Dr. Gerhard Szczesny (1918–2002) in July 1976

 

One weekend in the mid-eighties the Süddeutsche Zeitung (a German newspaper) was only published as a skeleton edition due to strike. In it a longer statement by the publicist, well-known humanist and agnostic Dr. Gerhard Szczesny was printed, about his exit from the SPD (social democratic party), which he had been a member of for a long time. Due to the special circumstances this step found little recognition.

That was completely different thirty years earlier. In 1958, during the time of restoration through the Adenauer-era, he published a polemic, “The Future of Unbelief. Contemporary Reflections of a non-Christian”. He protested against the restrictive and forced minority role of non-Christians in a Christian-dominated society; against Christianity’s monopoly and power claims to the truth: “To us it seems unbearable that in a civilization claiming to be the home of true intellectual freedom the non-Christian has to act like a thief in the night” (Future of Disbelief). Sharp-sightedly he diagnosed Christianity’s insupportable monopoly and power claims to the truth. He lost his job at the Bayerischer Rundfunk (a Bavarian radio station). In 1961, together with Fritz  Bauer and Alexander Mitscherlich among others, he founded the “Humanist Union” and one year later his publishing house ”Club Voltaire – Yearbook for the Critical Enlightenment”. In 1968 he wrote the preface to Joachim Kahl’s “The Misery of Christianity: A Place for Humanity without God”.

 

In the same year of 1958, in which he made public his position as a post-Christian agnostic, who wanted to establish a humanism on the basis of the achievements of the enlightenment, Josef Ratzinger wrote in the Catholic journal Hochland: “Since the Middle Ages in the West the Church has more or less been identified with the world” – a state Szczesny found to still be dominating everything – “today, this identity is only an appearance, which hides the true essence of the Church and the world” (The new Pagans and the Church) . This appearance Szczesny criticized and in that respect they both agreed. Which consequence did Ratzinger draw from this analysis? In 1968 he published his lecture series on the Apostolic Creed, which he delivered in Tübingen in front of an audience made up of all faculties, titled “Introduction to Christianity”.

 

At the beginning of the 70’s the Integrated Community came into contact with Gerhard Szczesny. He had been made aware of them through Peter M. Bode, who had reported on an exhibition put on by the Community in Munich and at the end had invited people like Gerhard Szczesny and Heinrich Böll to engage with these apparently unusual Catholics. He accepted. After the first meeting he wrote: “It was the first time I had really felt comfortable, that is easy and normal, in a community of people who explicitly want themselves to be understood as Christians.” One time he commented: “I know how the coffee in church houses tastes – with you everything is so different.”

 

In 1977 a few people from the Community – a number of secondary school teachers were among them – made the decision to open a private secondary school. They were looking for encouragement because the ministry of education was not exactly thrilled with the idea given the conditions in Munich at that time. Gladly and out of conviction they both agreed to be named next to each other as friends of the Community in the initial brochure. Inspired by these two very different persons, people from the Community wrote up the following as guide line of the school project and the community: “In the Community two traditions that seem to exclude each other have merged into one way of life: Christian tradition and modern criticism of religion and society:”

 

During the funeral service for Gerhard Szczesny at the cemetery in Grünwald – the relatives had asked the Integrated Community to arrange it – Gertraud Wallbrecher said: “To us Gerhard Szczesny was a teacher because he challenged us relentlessly to be what we always wanted to be: a community that acts like and treats each other like those that once wrote the New Testament 1900 years ago.”

Fragment on Holy Scripture

by P. Handke

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)