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)
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, Sermon at St. Mary’s in Oxford (31 May, 1840)
I want a laity,
not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well, that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.
From: John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England (1851)
Of words and Christians
A pastoral letter might be full of truth, a homily bearable. Ultimately, that impresses no one. And even if the Christians possessed the wisdom of the dear Lord, it would be nothing to write home about, if what they are saying cannot also be seen.
That's why the worst thing that can happen to the Church is not just a heresy, but the lack of life lived according to the gospel. The worst heresy is to claim to know the truth, but then to not do it. What are people supposed to think of such a truth that only exists in books?
Günther Krasnitzky (1939–1987), cited in: Gerhard Lohfink, Rudolf Pesch, Ludwig Weimer (Ed.), Die Feier des Sonntags A
More than calories
For as long as we can remember people have resolved conflicts during meals. The shared meal is able to achieve what a conversation alone often cannot: Create trust, bring about peace.
Nowadays historians and sociologists, cultural scientists and psychologists are getting to the bottom of the power of a shared meal. They analyze the order of courses and investigate its effects on diplomacy; they test eaters psychologically and eavesdrop on families at the dinner table. The researchers’ results show how important this age-old cultural technology is – and how worthy of preservation. “If we do not eat together, we lose security and protection”, says the psychologist Marshall Duke. “The shared meal is the backbone of human relations.”
Translated from: DIE ZEIT, Nr. 23, August 1, 2019
What's wrong with the world
Self-awareness is being aware of the discrepancy between idea and reality in oneself, but a far cry from being aware of sin. For with sin the issue is not this discrepancy.
In self-awareness man measures himself with a human standard because the idea is something human. In the awareness of sin his reality of existence and life is confronted with Jesus’ and thus is measured with a divine standard.
The more awareness moves deeper, away from the surface of the mathematical, the more it turns into the knowledge that everything in this world and this life is far from all right, into the knowledge of the lost paradise; but really only into knowledge of the one standing outside in front of the closed gates – the knowing ones are always outsiders of life. And precisely through this deepening it exacts its last turn: from the objective that still exists, even with the knowledge of lost paradise, to the subjective, where the reason why paradise was lost is realized. The one who knows stands on the mountain like Moses and sees the Promised Land in front of him – but he is denied entrance. Only love and the word can save man from his loneliness.
Translated from: Ferdinand Ebner, Das Wort und die geistigen Realitäten (1919) – The Word and the Spiritual Realities
that so many commonplace miracles happen.
An ordinary miracle:
in the dead of night
the barking of invisible dogs.
One miracle out of many:
a small, airy cloud
yet it can block a large and heavy moon.
Several miracles in one:
an alder tree reflected in the water,
and that it's backwards left to right
and that it grows there, crown down
and never reaches the bottom,
even though the water is shallow.
An everyday miracle:
winds weak to moderate
turning gusty in storms.
First among equal miracles:
cows are cows.
Second to none:
just this orchard
from just that seed.
A miracle without a cape and top hat:
scattering white doves.
A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.
A miracle, less surprising than it should be:
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers,
it still has more than fourr.
A miracle, just take a look around:
the world is everywhere.
An additional miracle, as everything is additional:
Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), translated by Joanna Trzeciak (https://bookpeopleblog.com/2011/04/07/2633/)
To the Pilgrim People of God in Germany
“Without new life and an authentic evangelical spirit, without the Church’s “fidelity to her own calling”, any new structure will soon prove ineffective.“ (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 26).
That is why the imminent process of change cannot respond exclusively by reacting to external facts and necessities, which are for example the strong decrease in birthrates and the aging of parishes, that prevent us from envisioning a normal change of generations. Objective and valid causes would however, if they are regarded separately from the mystery of the Church, promote and encourage a – positive as well as negative – merely reactive approach. A true process of change gives answers, but at the same time it presents challenges that stem from our Christian life and the very own dynamic of the evangelization of the Church; such a process requires a pastoral conversion. We are called to take up a stance that has the goal to live the gospel and make it transparent by breaking with “the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness” (Evangelii gaudium, 83). Pastoral conversion reminds us that evangelization has to be our most important guiding principle. Evangelization lived like this is not a tactic of the Church to reposition herself in today’s world, nor an act of conquest, of dominance or territorial expansion; it is not a “retouching” that brings the Church in line with the zeitgeist, but makes her lose her originality and her prophetic mission. Neither does evangelization refer to the attempt to retrieve habits and practices that made sense in other cultural contexts. No, evangelization is a path of the discipleship as an answer to His love, who has loved us first (cf. 1 Joh 4:19).
I want to stand by your side and accompany you with the assurance that if the Lord finds us worthy to live this hour, he has not done that to humiliate or paralyze us in the face of challenges. On the contrary, He wants His word to challenge and ignite our heart once more, as He did for your fathers, so that your sons and daughters could prophesy and your old men dream prophetic dreams again (cf. Joel 3:1).
Translated from Pope Francis’ Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Germany, June 29, 2019
Where does the Church stand?
As far as we can even think Him, God is at one place in Christ, in the Church. Through rationalism and mysticism, God’s placelessness was inherited to us. His placelessness is expression of modern religiousness. On one side, the new situation is characterized by the placelessness of our Church.
She wants to be everywhere and so she is nowhere. Never and nowhere is she completely herself. She only exists in disguises. She became world without the world becoming Church. Fleeing from herself, the Church today has become subject of profound contempt. Sects are taken more seriously than the Church because they stand at a specific place. Thus, nature and claim gain clarity. As the Church, so also her conception of God is without claim and place, everywhere and nowhere. The Church could not bear the feeling of loneliness in her specific place anymore. She has lost the criterion for her place. Today’s Church is widely a celebrating Christianity. With that she stands at the outskirts and not at the center of life. But she wants to be at the center and so she comments judgingly and condemningly on central questions of life from the outskirts. Thus she makes herself contemptible and hated. What is the actual place of the Church within Christianity? The entire reality of the world’s everyday life. But the entire reality of everyday life has to be seen in the way it comes to stand under God’s judgment. Church, community is there where God’s word is heard throughout all reality, is believed and adhered to. That Church is the center of the world.
Translated from: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Das Wesen der Kirche (The nature of the Church), 1932
The good opinion
The biggest obstacle that keeps people from believing, and thus from attaining knowledge and the forgiveness of sin, is the good opinion they have of themselves –
in fact, this “belief in yourself” that in the end is nothing other than the true perversion of faith. When Rousseau says that man is naturally good, then that is just wrong, Nature is neither good nor bad (and it is in no way a measure for good and evil, only for the useful and harmful, the pleasant and unpleasant).
But this is true: Everybody “naturally” has a good opinion of themselves that they do not want to give up for anything in the world and that is also the cause of the feeling, which remains unfamiliar to no one, that the life they are leading might not be the right one. At the same time, precisely because they naturally have that good opinion of themselves, everyone tends to live their life, contrary to said feeling, as a life where everything is absolutely fine and in apple-pie order. And if ever there is something not quite right, then the mess obviously comes from outside.
Translated from: Ferdinand Ebner, Das Wort und die geistigen Realitäten (1919)