By the beard of the Feminist!
The scaffold of the Innsbruck cathedral is currently decorated by a 56 square meter large political message: “As long as God has a beard, I’m a feminist!” A female artist from Innsbruck chose the phrase on the cathedral in cooperation with the bishop and vicar general.
The Jew and philosopher Baruch Spinoza realized and wrote that God, if He is God, should on no account ever be described by words of human standards. We humans have human perceptions, which is why any term could only give an incorrect presentation of God’s infinite magnitude and otherness. Of course a Jew has not allowed any pictures of God at all and not even said His name. This clarification is already attributed to Moses. luw
The questions to be answered would seem to be: What would the significance of a church, a community, a homily, a liturgy, a Christian life be in an unreligious world?
How do we speak of God – without religion, meaning without the time-conditioned premises of metaphysics, of subjectivity, etc. etc.? How do we speak – or maybe we cannot even really “speak” of it as before – of “God” in a “worldly” way; how are we Christians in an unreligious- worldly way? How are we called out without seeing ourselves as religiously favored, but rather as fully belonging to the world? Then Christ is no longer the object of religion, but something entirely different, truly Lord of the world.
Translated from: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Widerstand und Ergebung. Briefe aus der Haft (1944)
Food has an expiration date. Also, the time to give your life direction is limited.
It all depends on internalizing what is heard as if, like food, it were a means to life. For the Sunday readings are read aloud to unfold their effectiveness, give the ones celebrating together a new direction at a specific place and at a specific time: The shortly available lifetime opens itself up to something greater. ruk
Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord. And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another (in) psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
The Self and the Other
What is the innermost core of the commandments? This question was posed and discussed as far back as biblical times. The reading from the letter to the Ephesians describes it with the words: “Be imitators of God”.
God’s essence, which is to be imitated then, however, is the way he is oriented towards something opposite. Towards something that is not himself, but completely different. That was His incitement, if one can say that, to create the cosmos, the world, man. Matter is that which is completely different from Him, who is pure spirit. Because of this otherness it is His joy – the world with us humans. To imitate this God would mean for us to orientate ourselves towards that which is different from our self, the foreign. More precisely, not to take exception to the otherness of the neighbor and discount it, but to recognize it as the reason for our joy. bek
And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
The best among the Germans, in most cases, are still of the opinion that, if only the world was nicely symmetrical, then all would be well.
For I believe that the most common virtues and flaws of the Germans are reduced to a quite blinkered domesticity.
The horizon of men broadens and with their daily look at the world, their interest in the world awakens and grows. Only thus do men’s strength and activity grow at all – in precisely that degree in which the circle of life widens, which they feel they share in through work and suffering.
Above all, we want to take in the great word homo sum, nihil humani a me alienum puto [I am a human; nothing human, I think, is foreign to me – a dictum in Terence, Cicero, Seneca, Augustine] with utmost love and seriousness; it is not intended to make us careless, it is only intended to make us true towards ourselves and clear sighted and forbearing towards the world.
Translated from: Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843), Sämtliche Werke und Briefe (1921)
“The things of God deserve haste.”
“God does nothing but provide”, was one of Johannes Joachim Degenhardt’s favorite sentences, which is to say: He does not want to interfere in the course of events himself; he creates constellations; time windows open; occasions arise that are waiting to be recognized and used as ideal points of action. The Jewish philosopher Hans Jonas unfolded a similar thought in his speech about “The Concept of God after Auschwitz”: God forgoes the power of interfering in the course of events; he does not respond “with a strong hand and outstretched arm”, but “with the insistently-wordless courtship of his unfulfilled goal”.
Johannes Joachim Degenhardt was the best man at the wedding of Dr. Herbert Wallbrecher, the friend from his youth, with Gertraud Weiß in 1949; later he became the archbishop of Paderborn; in 1978 he was the bishop who, together with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, recognized the Integrated Community as a part of the Church.
In the spring of 1968 the Integrated Community, whose existence is significantly owed to the initiative of Herbert and Gertraud Wallbrecher, was reported on for the first time by the KNA, the catholic news agency, with an article titled “Avant-Garde or Sect?”. It was not so easy to put into words what had developed there in the twenty years since the end of the war and the catastrophe of the Shoah. At the beginning of the 70s the humanist and agnostic Gerhard Szczesny came in closer contact with the community and a friendly relationship developed. After the first meeting he noted in surprise: “It was the first time that I ever really felt at ease, that is to say unselfconscious and normal, in a community of people, who explicitly want to be understood as Christians.” At a later occasion he said: “Everything is so different here: I can’t imagine that the Catholic Church can accept you as a part of herself.” The same sentiment was expressed by Jewish friends, religious and secular kibbutzniks, with whom the community had been cultivating an active exchange since the mid 80s and later within the context of the Urfeld Circle.
The year 1985 marked a cesura. Gertraud Wallbrecher’s cause reached the center of the Church: For the first time a larger group of the community travelled to Rome for Pentecost. The occasion was Archbishop Friedrich Wetter’s anointment to cardinal, the successor of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in Munich; earlier Joseph Ratzinger had been called to Rome in 1981; for all members of the community the feast of Pentecost 1985 was like the arrival in ‘Rome’. In her Letter to the Eternal City Hedvig Fornander, a converted protestant from Sweden and a poetess of the community with powerful and visually stunning eloquence, specified the rather vague state of mind of many community members as follows:
“We seek the middle and the heart of the world,
that which binds us to what is binding, the norm,
the indispensable that does not come from ourselves,
the larger community,
the necessary outside of our state of mind.”
In celebration of the final recognition as a part of the Church, which Cardinal Friedrich Wetter pronounced in a mass in Rome in St. Paul Outside the Walls a few months later, Joseph Ratzinger expressed his joy that “you have now so visibly been granted integration into the Church of all places and all times”. When Gertraud Wallbrecher returned from her second trip to Israel a few months later she said: “We celebrated the feast in Rome as a celebration of the recognition of the will of God. Now we are challenged for the reality of this recognition and confronted with the fact that it is about the one, single People of God. During this visit to Israel I have experienced the painful history of the Jews up until the holocaust as our history. It is terrible when this is just the history of the Jews and not also of the Christians.”
“God does nothing but provide” and he does not stop “insistently-wordlessly courting his unfulfilled goal”; maybe heaven sometimes has an understanding after all.
Looking back on the turbulent history, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote to Gertraud Wallbrecher on the occasion of her 80th birthday:
“During the difficult time of the Third Reich you looked for the way of faith and after the war you realized that new ways were necessary to answer to our world’s challenges approaching the faith. Thus, slowly, through various sufferings, severances and upheavals, the Integrated Community has grown; within the Community you with your companions try to realize a seminal form of Christian existence within Christianity and the Church. … What I see as essential to your efforts is the fact that you have always stood by Catholicism as the deciding basis for the nature of the Community and thus have always seen the integration into the episcopal constitution of the Church as indispensible. I explicitly wish to thank you for that today.”
As Pope Benedict XVI said in his speech on the feast of Our Lady’s Ascension in Castel Gandolfo, 2011: “The things of God deserve haste. Even further: The only things on earth that deserve haste are those of God because they are urgent for our life.”
The last years of Gertraud Wallbrecher’s “presence in absence” due to old age and sickness were an invitation to all, who had the privilege of her contemporaneity, to assure themselves of the legacy and answer to his insistently-wordless courtship humbly, intelligently, resolutely and with great confidence.
The question of the form of Christian life
Christopher Mwoleka, 1927–2002, Bischop of the Diocese of Rulenge, Tanzania, 1969–1996
“For centuries the life of Christians was divided between this world and the world to come after death. Now the time has come to live the one life, the New Life of man in Christ that begins now and continues after death; we begin eternal life here and now.”
“For centuries the salt stood next to the plate. Now the time has come to scatter the salt on the plate to give flavor to the dish.”
When Christopher Mwoleka was spreading such programmatic theses at the beginning of the 70s – of ten similar ones only two are quoted here – he was known as the “barefoot bishop” and as “Ujamaa-bishop” in Tanzania and beyond, he was much admired and also belittled. In the rhetorical culmination for centuries – now a suspense is depicted that defined his biography, it also characterized the political environment of his country that had only just reached its independence (1961) under President Julius Nyerere, who had been socialized in a catholic environment.
In those days Marxism/Socialism were very popular and undisputed. The pilgrimages – also of German theologians – to South America to the basis communities, to Nicaragua began; Che Guevara, Mao and Ho Chi Minh were icons revered worldwide. The men of the “Prague Spring” (1968) still strove for a “socialism with a human face”. Not until 1974, when Alexander Solschenizyn’s Archipel Gulag was publicized, did a critical assessment slowly begin.
Julius Nyerere was very abreast of contemporary developments when three years after Tanganyika and Zanzibar came together to form the United Republic of Tanzania, he laid down a kind of African Socialism in the Arusha Deklaration (1967) as a path to the construction of a state system (building of the nation): Ujamaa. It was also inspired by Christianity and built on the basis of African traditions (community). He decreed Kiswahili the common language of the over one hundred tribes, who each had their own language; he tried to mitigate the traditional tribalism. He succeeded in pacifying the country. Nyerere preferred Latin American missionaries to European ones. Dom Helger Camara’s manifest “Gospel and Revolution” was circulated by him. Christopher Mwoleka, bishop of Rulenge since 1969, saw an ideational and practical connection in the idea of Ujamaa (Christian ideas realized by Tanzanian way: work together, live together). As a bishop he regularly helped with the work in the Ujamaa-village Nyabihanga, went out on the field barefoot and shared in the life of the villagers.
“Ujamaa-Bishop” and “barefoot bishop” is only half the story. People who went to Nyabihanga with him reported he had yet another name for this Ujamaa-village: Rivo Troto, the name of a deserted shed in the plain near Assisi, where Francis and his companions first found shelter. Ujamaa was his motivation for keeping alive the question of the genuine foundation and form of Christian life beyond the socialist approach. Francis of Assisi offered a reference point, as did theology. Oftentimes he repeated: God’s nature is sharing. He was significantly involved in developing the pastoral concept of the Small Christian Communities that today is realized in all Tanzanian dioceses as subdivision of the parishes.
With this horizon of experiences and questions he encountered the Catholic Integrated Community in 1977. The encounter led to a shared history, finally to a Catholic Integrated Community in Tanzania – one more place where one can strive for the form of Christianity beyond the borders of continents and cultures in his spirit and encourage each other in this endeavor.
The World and the Mask
The features of a woman that had fallen asleep in a public area suddenly seemed wonderfully beautiful in the soft evening light. But it wasn’t the light.
The jaw was not pushed forward anymore, the many conflicting emotions around the mouth region had disappeared, the all too forced self-assertive eye closed. All of the tension of having to grimace at the world had relaxed for one paradisiac moment.
Sleep, a last refuge from the multiperspectivity of the goal shot scenes in the life of the self-optimized individual – bestows serenity even in the position of the observer. ses
For your information
The glut of information also leads to a growing feeling of powerlessness. The news media reports of the problems in the Middle East, we hear of the destruction of the ozone layer and the extinction of the rain forests. Are we now expected to take action ourselves?
Most of us cannot actively help solve such problems and thus a feeling of passiveness and incompetence grows in people, which inevitably leads to an increased interest in oneself. If you cannot accomplish anything in the world, at least you can change yourself. You can lose weight, you can dye your hair differently, you can change the shape of your own nose or the size of your own breasts.
We are aware of and know thousands of things and are not capable of influencing them. This leads to the growth of a peculiar egotism. Even worse: Most people still believe information and still more information is what people need above all; information forms the basis of all our attempts at solving problems.
But our truly serious problems do not arise from people not having sufficient information. When a nuclear catastrophe occurs, then not because of a deficiency of information. Where people starve, the reason is not inadequate information. When families fall apart, when children are abused, when increasing crime rates terrorize a city, when the education system turns out to be powerless, then this is not because of a lack of information, but because we do not develop a sufficient consciousness of what is sensible and relevant.
Translated from: Neil Postman, Wir informieren uns zu Tode (DIE ZEIT, 2.10.1992)
In the Mediterranean there is a species of bright blue jellyfish that floats on the surface of the water and sails with the help of a small upward silvery skin. Since it has no other means of movement except for letting itself drift in the wind, it gets stranded on the beach in huge numbers correlating to the wind conditions, where it then dries out.
Those who are not familiar with this phenomenon first think of pollution through plastic waste at the sight of the blue colored beach. In a time, when people did not have these associations yet and the small natural catastrophe just seemed beautiful the jellyfish got the nickname “Saint-Peter’s-Boat” in the German language. But the name givers back then must have been aware that the human boat of St. Peter’s has an advantage: It does not have to strand fatefully and dry out; this boat can tack into the wind. ses
When Israel can live securely among the nations,
then the promised times will have arrived,
for then and thereby it will be proved
that faith in God has become a living reality.
From: Leo Baeck (1921), The Essence of Judaism
When he is stripped of the Christian tunic and the classical toga, there is nothing left of the European but a pale-skinned barbarian.
There are no stupidities which modern man is not capable of believing, as long as therewith he avoids the faith in Christ.
The greatest modern error is not to proclaim that God has died, but to believe that the devil has died.
One does not have to despair of the atheist, as long as he does not deify man.
The most dangerous idea is not the wrong idea, but the half right one.
Modern theologies tend to be the contortions of theologians who are trying to avoid admitting their unbelief to themselves.
The progressive Christian makes eyes at his enemies so that his faith may be forgiven.
In his apostolic zeal the modern cleric forgets that one has to adapt the way of fighting to the times, however not the message.
Translated from: Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Scholien (2006)
New Old Name
The choice of name surprised many cardinals, who could have bet that Ratzinger would choose the name “John Paul III” to emphasize the continuity with his predecessor. But the new pope replied resolutely to the question provided in the ritual: “Benedict”.
From the new pope’s view, the Benedictine monasticism did not only give Europe solid roots through its balance between reason and faith, between law and love, but offered it a model through which humanism, democracy and the harmony of art and music developed.
Pope Benedict was not a naïve nostalgic, nor a dreamer, who deluded himself into thinking he could restore the conditions that had led to that intellectual movement. But through his life he wanted to show people this equilibrium between reason and faith that stood at the origin of that which had made the culture and thinking of Europe so unique. The 20th century had already sufficiently proven that Europe, when it left this path, forfeited its radiance in the world. There was no reason not to look at one’s own history, at one’s own Christian roots, with love and respect — not to pursue expansionary goals, but to find the old balance again that stands at the origin of knowledge and wisdom.
Translated from: Elio Guerriero, Benedikt XVI. – Die Biografie (2018)
And then we’ll chat for all eternity.
Conspicuous indicators of her upper-class catholic background were pieces of furniture of such dimensions that they would not have fit in any normal apartment; a meter-sized baroque sculpture of the woman in the Apocalypse; particularly: a portrait of her father, a doctor also known as doctor of the poor in Munich – looking out through the heavy frame, bearded and serious –, that she took with her to her first office in Schiller Street near central station. There she continued the treatment of fractures she had learnt from her father: without operation. Many patients came to her for that reason, especially from rural areas. Some stayed the night, paid in kind. One patient left her a car that would not drive, which she did not realize because she never owned a drivers’ license.
A conscious and loyal companion from the first hour on. She took on young doctors in her office and continued it with them as a joint practice. There are no great deeds known of her, except that she had a sound sleep in the mornings. She spent her last years in Urfeld by the Walchensee together with her friend Helene von Ungern-Sternberg. Later on she told of a nightly conversation with her:
One evening, as I was sitting with Helene in her room before going to bed, we started talking about the future and also about death. And Helene said: You know, I do fear dying a little; I think to myself: If I am expected to and must answer for everything I’ve done, then I don’t know… I didn’t always do everything as I was supposed to. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say and think then.
And then I said: You know, I also think about death. But when I do, I always think of the eternal city that comes down from the heavens, adorned like a bride. When God builds the eternal city, then He’ll sit there at the end of days and look at an enormous pile of stones, all of the people that belong to it; and then, first off, He’ll sort the stones. He looks for the precious stones, the semiprecious stones, then also those with slight marks, traces of damage. He says to himself: That doesn’t matter, we can work them in. Then He looks at the others that may be more damaged and says to Himself: There are so many spots in my city where you can’t see everything, they’ll fit there as well and will be beautiful and shine. And then He selects the blocks of marble, the beautiful ones, the grained ones and the ones that have small flaws, then the bricks – He will sort everything. And when He's done He will have a big pile of stones. He’ll say to himself: Pity, they’re living stones, but I’ll have to throw them away. Suddenly it occurs to Him: I still have to make the foundation; a city like the one I am building needs a strong, sturdy foundation. Good, He’ll say, that I still have these stones, they will all go into the foundation and then I’ll add a lot of mortar, that will bind them together so that none of them are alone. That will make for a strong foundation, on which I will build my city.
As I was telling of the stones and the sorting, Helene sat there with big, fearful eyes; when I came to the foundation her eyes sparkled and she said: Yes, you’re right: it’s enough for the foundation. And when, at some point, I’m sitting in the foundation, I’ll call out: Annemarie, are you there, too? And then you’ll say: Yes, I’m also here, sitting in the foundation, really close to you. And then we’ll chat for all eternity.
Before her last wish was fulfilled, she still wanted to travel to Wladiwostok on the Trans Siberian Train. A beatification process has not been initiated.
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, Homily in St. Mary in Oxford, 31st May, 1840