Struggles of the beginning

How Moses had to begin at the beginning and teach them beginnings, that is to be deduced from the simple precepts with which he started to work and chisel and blast. Not to their comfort, certainly, for the stone does not take sides with the master but against him; to the stone the first stroke struck to form it appears as a most unnatural action.

Moses was always in their midst, here, there, in this and that encampment. Shaking his broad-wristed fists, he jogged, censored, chided, and churned their existence; he reproved, chastised and cleansed, using as his touchstone the invisibility of the God JHWH who had led them out of Egypt in order to choose them as his people..

From: Thomas Mann, The Tables of the Law (1944)

The Church is searching ...

for a new language. For example in a current conference program:

“Varieties of Discursive Representation of the Absolute”

“Dissolution of Meaning – for an Auto-deconstructive Dynamic in Christianity and (Un-)Representability of the Absolute”

“Speaking through Depiction. Perspectives of Art History’s Reflective Dealing with the Absolute”

“Concreativity and ‘Analogical Imagination’ ­­– the Production of Reality in Art and Theology”

“Negativity and Transgression. About the Productivity of the Inaccessible”

“Wittgenstein and the Mystical: Can Nonsense Make Sense?”

Dear miss universe, behind such academic fogs you disappear. And if the fogs should lift someday – will you still be detectable? pez

Intertwined till the end of time

“I believe God himself intervened in the history of this insignificant planet, through a covenant with an even more obscure tribe, the Jews, through his son, a Jew who actually lived as a man on this earth, him and no other, through founding a church, the Catholic Church based on a very mediocre, intemperate Catholic, Peter, also a Jew; that he, God, is somehow inextricably and permanently, even hopelessly, involved with the two, the Jews and the Catholic Church, until the end of earth time. 

I am both Jew and Catholic, whether Jew or Catholic like it or not, and generally they do not, usually have no use for each other, in fact, and even less use for me.  The Jews think I have apostasized, and the Catholics think I am a Jew. They don't think of Jesus and Mary as Jewish. But me? I'm still a Jew. And they're right. I am. Catholics are a queer lot – I've never really gotten used to them.  But the two, Jew and Catholic, are inextricably attached to each other, like Siamese twins at the umbilicus, whether they like it or not, and they both detest it, until the end of earth time.”

From: Walker Percy, Lost In The Cosmos. The Last Self-Help Book (1983)

Wrong tracks – 500 years ago – and today?

What was true for the Church during Luther’s time is also true today: she is in need of reform. On November 25th, 1522, Pope Hadrian VI gave the following message to the papal diplomat Francesco Chieregati to be delivered to the Diet of Nuremberg, a confession of guilt for the deplorable state of affairs within the Church:

“Besides that, you shall also say that we confess with all our heart that the reason God is allowing this persecution of His Church lies in the sin of the people, especially of the priests and prelates [prelati] of the Church. We know that there have been many dreadful abuses in spiritual matters and offences against God’s commands at the Holy See for several years, yes, that really everything has been perverted. Thus, it is no wonder that the sickness has spread from the head to the members, meaning from the popes to the lower church leaders. All of us, meaning us church leaders and priests [prelati et ecclesiastici] have strayed; each of was following his own way (Is 53:6); and for a long time there has been no one, who does what is good, not even one (Ps 14:3). Hence we should all give God the glory and humble ourselves before him; each of us must understand his own case and discern himself before he is judged by God with the rod of His wrath (1Cor 11:31). Insofar as we are involved ourselves, you may promise that we will make every effort to first reform [reformetur] this curia, from which all this evil seems to have come, so that, as it led to the doom of all its subordinates, it can now also lead to their reconvalescence and reform [reformatio]. We feel all the more obliged to do so because we see that the entire world ardently longs for such a reform.”

Translated from: Heiko A. Oberman, Die Kirche im Zeitalter der Reformation (2004)

Worldly or Otherworldly

Only theology as the speaking about God could tell the world and the people what reality is. Theology preserved the memory. The world forgot that it was a world only due to God and it was happy to just be world.

The Church and theology knew a lot about their God, but soon forgot to link Him to reality: they hid Him in the other world. ars

In its infancy

“I am deeply convinced that the revelations of the Old and the New Testaments, and therewith the Church itself, are the supreme event of the whole human history up to the present day.

I must, however, admit to myself that this story, after all, is still in its infancy.”

From: Franz Werfel (1940). Embezzled Heaven

Desire and reality

The Church shouldn't primarily declare a teaching system to the world, but the way,  truth and life of our Lord, that is:

Faith, translated into life and way of life, is the invitation and the claim, the sometimes annoying but always challenging claim to tell people the truth about their lives, to interpret their lives as they really are, and to set out with them for how the truth can be lived today.

The parish should therefore be more like a family of brothers and sisters than a “station platform community”, where you are only together for a short time, without closer relationship, and then move on with different trains.

It is desirable that our communities seek a unity of “cult-, culture-, and life-community”.

From: Archbishop Johannes Joachim Cardinal Degenhardt (1986). Our parishes – today and tomorrow

The primary scandal and the secondary scandals

There is one thing however which we can say, and that is that an orientation of the Church towards the world which would mean a turning away from the Cross would lead not to a renewal of the Church but to its decline and eventual decay.

The purpose of such an orientation on the part of the Church can never be the removal of the scandal of the Cross but the revealing of it in all its naked truth, shorn of all secondary scandals which obscure it and which often conceal the folly of God's love behind the folly of man's own self-love. The Christian faith is a scandal for men of all ages: to believe that the eternal God knows us and has a loving care for us; that He Whom it is beyond our comprehension to understand has presented Himself to our minds in the person of the man Jesus; that the immortal God has suffered on the Cross and that we mortals have been promised resurrection and everlasting life – all this is something which makes tremendous demands on our human faith. The Council could not remove this Christian scandal and had no intention of trying to do so.

At the same time, we must recognise that this primary scandal, has often during the course of history been overshadowed by the secondary scandal of the teachers of the faith. It is a secondary scandal, all the more culpable for being self-perpetrated, when under the pretence of defending God's interests, we perpetuate a certain social set-up and retain with a vice-like grip the positions of power which we have acquired within this set-up; likewise when, under the pretence of safeguarding the immutability of the Faith, we strive might and main to defend our own outmoded ideas. It is not the Faith itself which is being defended but the form which it acquired as a result of commendable efforts to adapt it to the requirements of its time; when that time is past, the form has outlived its use and become outmoded and there is no reason why it should be allowed to linger on for ever. It is also a secondary scandal, all the more culpable for being self-perpetrated, when, under the pretence of securing the integrity of the truth, we perpetuate and set up as Gospel-learned opinions which were adequate in their day, where it is clear that there is need for revision, for the questions to be posed afresh and answered in a way which will meet the demands of the age in which we live.

From: Joseph Ratzinger, Catholicism after the Council, The Furrow 18 (1967)

Notes from someone, who discovered them

“To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1845). An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine


“Living movements do not come out of committees.”
John Henry Kardinal Newman (1864). Apologia pro Vita Sua


“Primitive doctrine has been explored for us in every direction, and the original principles of the Gospel and the Church patiently brought to light. But one thing is still wanting: (…) To put them into action: a living Church, made of flesh and blood, with voice, complexion, and motion and action, and a will of its own.”
John Henry Kardinal Newman (1864). Apologia pro Vita Sua

Where we think to know the church well, we are finished with it

It is remarkable that the persons we love most are those we can least describe. We simply love them. And that is exactly what love is, and what is so wonderful about it: that it keeps us in a state of suspense, prepared to follow a person in all his possible manifestations.

We know that every person who is loved feels transformed, unfolded, and he unfolds everything, the most intimate as well as the most familiar, to the one who loves him as well as to himself. That is the exciting, the unpredictable, the truly gripping thing about love: that we never come to the end of the person we love: because we love them; and as long as we love them.

Once we feel we know the other, love is at an end every time, but the cause of that, and the consequence of it, are perhaps not quite as we have always imagined. It is not because we know the other that we cease to love, but vice versa: because our love has come to an end, because its power is expended, that person is finished for us. He must be. We can do no more. We withdraw from him our willingness to participate in further manifestations. We refuse him the right that belongs to all living things to remain ungraspable, and then we are both surprised and disappointed that the relationship has ceased to exist.

„You are not,“ says he or she who has been disappointed, „what I took you for.“ And what was that? For a mystery – which after all is what a human being is – for an exciting puzzle of which one has become tired. And so one creates for oneself an image. That is the loveless act, the betrayal.

From: Max Frisch, Sketchbook 1946-1949