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)
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)
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)
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)
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
Of the freedom of being
A fine quotation from Mahatma Ghandi: Fish live in the sea, and they are silent. Animals on earth below, bark and bray. But the birds who inhabit the heavens sing.
Silence is proper to the sea, braying is proper to the earth, and singing belongs to heaven. But man has a share in all three, for within himself he bears the depths of the sea, the burden of the earth and the heights of heaven. Hence he possesses all three properties: silence, bellowing and singing.
Today, I would like to add, we see that for man deprived of transcendence there remains only braying, because he desires to be earth arid nothing more, indeed tries to make the heavens and the ocean deep to be his earth. True liturgy, the liturgy of the communion of saints, gives man once again his completeness. It instructs him once again in silence and in singing by opening for him the depths of the sea and by teaching him to fly—the existence of the angels. True liturgy sings with the angels, and true liturgy is silent with the expectant depths of the universe. And thus true liturgy redeems the earth.
From: Joseph Ratzinger (1985). Liturgy and church music
The bells rang,
As if they were clanging for joy
Over the empty grave
Over that which once
and that has sustained astonishment for 2000 years
However even though the bells
hammered so forcefully against the midnight –
nothing in the darkness changed.
Translated from: Reiner Kunze, eines jeden einziges leben. gedichte (1986)
Manifest about the great deed
Human work, the world-changing work, takes place in three steps. These are:
1. The great idea
2. The application of the great idea, its dissolution into small ideas
3. The single acts.
In short: The great idea, the small ideas, the small deeds. These three steps are supposed to form the whole? They do form the whole, they are everything. – What about the great deed then? Is that supposed to mean that the great deed follows on its own? No. It has already been done.
Translated from: Ludwig Hohl (1981). Die Notizen oder Von der voreiligen Versöhnung