Why man is tempted at times
A rabbinic legend tells the tale of a river in a faraway land that is so pious that it stops flowing on the Sabbath.
But God does not give such signs. Obviously, he shudders at the inevitable result: that then precisely the least free, the most fearful and the weakest would be the “most pious.” And God obviously wants only those who are free for his own. But, in order to discern between free men and slavish souls, the mere invisibility of his rule is hardly sufficient. For the fearful ones are fearful enough to prefer, when in doubt, to take the path which “in any case” does not hurt and will even possibly – with a fifty-fifty chance – be useful. Therefore, in order to separate the wheat from the chaff, God must not only be advantageous, he must be absolutely damaging. So he has no choice: he must tempt man; not only must he hide his ruling from him, he must even deceive him about it; he must make it difficult for him and even impossible to see it, so that man may have the opportunity to believe in him and to trust in him truly, that is, in freedom. And so man must know that at times he is tempted in the name of his freedom.
From: Franz Rosenzweig (1886–1929), The Star of Redemption (1921), in Translation by Barbara Ellen
Reform and Renewal
One of the most significant differences between true renewal and reform. The reformer makes demands of others, especially of authorities;
in his fervent arguments you can always discern a quiet ultimatum: if you do not finally set the Church straight according to my suggestions, then at some point you will have to do without me!
The admonition of someone dedicated to renewal can also be serious and imploring, but essentially and chiefly it is directed toward himself; toward others it is not a demand, but an appeal. His hopes are based neither on the abilities of the others or his own, but on the Spirit of God, who is the spirit of renewal. It is from Him that he expects renewal, not from people, their institutions and methods; he sees being open to Him as his actual contribution. He waits and prays impatiently because the kingdom of heaven suffers violence. But deeper than his impatience is his patience because to him the things of God are not linked to his own achievement and consequently the duration of his own life.
Translated from: Walter Dirks, Die geistige Aufgabe des deutschen Katholizismus, in: Frankfurter Hefte (Nr. 2, Mai 1946, 1. Jahrgang)
Zeitgeisty – 1930
Noticeable about the attitude of the two national churches is their lolling tongue. Breathlessly panting they are chasing the spirit of the times, lest someone gets away. “Us too! Us too!”, no more “Us”, as in centuries prior.
Socialism? Us too. Youth movement? Us too. Sports? Us too. These churches create nothing, they change what others have created, what others have developed, into elements that can be useful to them. The church has given in; she hasn’t changed herself, she has been changed.
Translated from: Kurt Tucholsky, Braut- und Sport-Unterricht (1930)
Pope Francis warned of the temptation to want to “clean up” the Church. “That would mean taming things, taming the young people, taming the heart of people.”
It is not about “cleaning up”, the Pope says. “Nowadays we are called to bear the imbalance. We can do no good, nothing gospel-like, if we are afraid of imbalance.” The gospel itself is an “unbalanced teaching”, says the Pope: “Just take the beatitudes, they deserve the Nobel Prize for imbalance.”
Francis illustrated his train of thought with the example of a highly functionally equipped diocese, where many specialists neatly sit in offices and work on problems. The diocese in question, Francis did not name it, has “more employees than the Vatican”, but it moves further away “from Jesus Christ every day because it worships harmony, the harmony of functional worldliness. In these cases we have fallen into the dictatorship of functionalism.” From the Pope’s perspective the problem with this is that the gospel turns into “a wise saying, a teaching”, but not proclamation. The invention of synods and counter-synods also shows a departure from proclamation: they show attempts to “clean up” things. True synods need the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit gives the table a kick, throws it over and starts from the beginning.”
Francis also called the priests, religious and lay people to overcome their own interests. The good shepherd in the gospel, who searches for that one lost sheep, has but one interest: that not one of them is lost. “Often times we are obsessed with thinking of the few sheep that are still in the fold. And many give up on being shepherds of sheep and become barbers of exquisite sheep.”
From the words of Pope Francis to priests, religious and lay people of the Roman diocese, May 9th, 2019, in the Lateran Basilica; translated from Vatican News.
On ecology of man
The importance of ecology is no longer disputed. We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly.
Yet I would like to underline a point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.
From the address of Benedict XVI at the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, Berlin; the complete address you will find here.
A comment on the state of Christianity in Germany
Christianity – and this is its fairest merit – subdued to a certain extent the brutal warrior ardor of the Germans, but it could not entirely quench it;
and when the cross, that restraining talisman, falls to pieces, then the ferocity of the old combatants, the frantic Berserker rage whereof Northern poets say and sing so much, will break forth again. The talisman has become rotten, and the day will come when it will crumble to dust pitifully. The old stone gods will then arise from the forgotten ruins and wipe the thousand-year-old dust from their eyes. And Thor with his giant hammer will arise again, and he will shatter the Gothic cathedrals. … And when you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world’s history, then know that at last the German thunderbolt has fallen. … A drama will be played in Germany, compared to which the French Revolution will seem but an innocent idyll.
Translated from: Heinrich Heine, Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland (1835)
What can withstand death
he world is too small for man, even when he can fly to the moon or maybe one day to Mars.
He longs for the other, the completely other, that he cannot give himself. Behind this stands the desire to overcome death. In all their feasts people have always searched for the life that is bigger than death. Ultimately, man is striving for joy, fumbling, wandering from one place to the next. This joy is only true if it withstands the question of death. Eucharist means that the resurrection of the Lord gifts us the empowerment to joy, which no one else can give. It has cost the death of the Lord, and only because of this can it be the gift of the resurrection.
Translated from: Joseph Ratzinger, Das Fest des Glaubens (1981)
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)
On Death, without Exaggeration
Whoever claims that it’s omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it’s not.
There’s no life
that couldn’t be immortal
if only for a moment.
always arrives by that very moment too late.
In vain it tugs at the knob of the invisible door.
And as far as you’ve come
can’t be undone.
From: Wisława Szymborska 1923–2012, On death without exaggeration (https://genius.com/Wislawa-szymborska-on-death-without-exaggeration-annotated)
Everyone who leaves
teaches us a little
Most valuable lesson
on the deathbeds.
All mirrors as clear,
as a lake after great rain
before the hazy day
blurs the pictures again.
They only die for us once,
What would we ever know
Without the safe scales
we are placed on
when we are left behind.
These scales, without which nothing
We, whose words miss,
we forget it.
They cannot repeat
Your death or mine
the next lesson:
So bright, so clear,
that it darkens quickly.
Translated from: Hilde Domin (1909–2006), Nur eine Rose als Stütze (1959)