In his address to the Roman Curia today in the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings Benedict XVI made an articulate reflection on the Spirit; an opportunity Popes have used to reflect upon the life of the Church in the past year.
In Benedict XVI’s analysis, which focused on World Youth Day, not “as some kind of Church-styled rock festival” starring the Pope, on the Synod of Bishops and on the Pauline Year, the main thrust was on the Spirit, the main theme addressed in the Sydney meeting. It was also but in a less obvious way the main theme in the Synod on the Word and in the discussions on Saint Paul’s teachings.
The Pontiff also mentioned his trips, one to the United States and the other to France, in which “the Church made itself visible to the world and for the world as a spiritual force that shows the paths of life by bearing witness to the faith and bringing light to the world.”
The year that is ending, said the Pope, reminded us of the 50 years since the death of Pope Pius XII and the election of John XXIII, the 40 years since the encyclical Humanae Vitae and the 30 years since the passing of its author, Pope Paul VI. And in remembering we have been able to go further back in time.
“On the evening of 28 June, in the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and of representatives of many other Churches and ecclesial communities” the Pauline Year was inaugurated, “a year of pilgrimage not only in the sense of travelling to Pauline places, but above all, a pilgrimage of the heart, with Paul, towards Jesus Christ.”
At the Synod of Bishops “again we realised that God in His Word addresses everyone’s heart. If our heart is roused and our inner voice can hear, then each one of us can learn to listen to the word addressed to us. But because we do hear God speak so personally to each one of us, we understand that his Word is present so that we can we reach out to one another and find how to go beyond that which is solely personal. The Word has authored a common story and wants to continue doing so. Again we realise that” because the Word is so personal, “we can understand correctly and totally only in the “us’ which is the community instituted by God.”
As for the Synod the Holy Father mentioned the “special contribution” made by a “rabbi about the Holy Scriptures of Israel, which are indeed our Holy Scriptures. An important moment for the Synod and for the Church’s journey as a whole [also] came when Patriarch Bartholomew opened a door to the Word of God in a penetrating analysis from an Orthodox perspective.”
World Youth Day “was a celebration of joy, a joy that also attracted the reluctant.” But what happens at World Youth Day? “What forces are at work? According to popular ideas these days are a variant of modern youth culture, some kind of Church-styled rock festival, starring the Pope. Whether faith is involved or not, these festivals are treated as one and all one so that God can be removed from them. [Even] some Catholics share this view.” But in doing so, “their specificity, their joy’s particular character and their creative strength in communion, go unexplained.”
Let us keep in mind that if we want to understand them we must remember that World Youth Days require a long preparation; “the solemn days are only the culmination of a long journey through which we meet each other and together we meet Christ. It is no accident that in Australia the long Via Crucis through the city was the high point of those days.”
The notion of “joy as the fruit of the Holy Spirit” led Benedict XVI to talk about the “dimensions” of the “Holy Spirit,” starting with creation. The fact that nature’s “intelligent structure” comes “from the same Creator Spirit that also gave us the spirit, entails a duty and a responsibility. In our faith regarding creation we encounter the ultimate foundation of our responsibility toward the earth. It is not simply our property to be exploited according to our interests and desires. Rather it is a gift of the Creator who designed the intrinsic arrangements and with them has given us signs to orient ourselves and follow as keepers of his creation.”
“The Spirit that shaped them is much more than math; it is what is good for people, which through the language of creation tells us the right way.”
And since “faith in the Creator Spirit is an essential content of the Christian Creed, the Church cannot and should not limit itself to just pass on the message of salvation to its faithful. It is responsible for creation and must exert this responsibility in public as well. And in doing so it must not only defend the earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to all; it must also “protect man from self-destruction. It is necessary to have something like some kind of ecology of mankind, understood in a proper manner. It is not outdated metaphysics when the Church talks about the nature of human beings as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected. It is about faith in the Creator and listening to the language of creation; otherwise it would mean man’s self-destruction and the destruction of God’s work itself if they were held in contempt. What is often referred to by the notion of ‘gender’ is resolved all in all by man’s self-emancipation from creation and the Creator. Man wants to be alone in making himself,—he wants to be able to dispose by himself, without interference, of what pertains to him. But this way he lives against truth and the Creator Spirit.”
“We should re-read the encyclical Humanae Vitae starting from such a perspective. In it Pope Paul VI’s intention was to defend love against a utilitarian view of sexuality, the future against the exclusive claim of the present, and man’s nature against its manipulation.”
Secondly, “if in the first place the Creator Spirit manifest itself in the silent greatness of the universe and its intelligent structure, then faith gives us something more than that, something unexpected, namely that the Spirit can speak, so to speak, through human words and so enter into history. As a history-shaping force, it is a vocal Spirit; indeed it is the Word found in the Writings of the Old and New Testament coming towards us.”
“In reading the Scripture with Christ we learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in human words and discover the Bible’s unity.”
Thus, the “third dimension” of pneumatology, said the Pope is the “the inseparability of Christ and the Holy Spirit. [. . .] The Holy Spirit is the breath of Christ. In the same way that the breath of God transformed on the morning of Creation the dust on the ground into a living man, so does the breath of Christ welcome us into ontological communion with the Son, making us a new creation.”
Thus, the “fourth dimension,” he said, “emerges spontaneously as the connection between the Spirit and the Church,” the body of Christ.
Thus, “the theme of ‘the Holy Spirit’” which guided our days in Australia, and in a less obvious way the weeks of the Synod, “makes visible the entire breadth of the Christian faith. It is a breadth, which from the responsibility for creation and the existence of man in harmony with creation, leads through Scriptural themes and the history of salvation to Christ. From Christ, it goes onto the living community of the Church, its orders and responsibilities as well as its vastness and liberty, which are expressed as much in the multiplicity of charisms as in the Pentecostal image of a multitude of languages and cultures.”
PHOTO: Credit CPP