04/25/2007, 00.00
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Pope: God’s Word, and thereby the Church, knows no age

In his general audience Benedict XVI reflects on the figure of Origen of Alexandria, of fundamental importance to Christian thought. His unique contribution was to bring a mutli-level dimension to scriptural reading and a great exhortation to coherent living.

Vatican City  (AsiaNews) – The “orated reading” of the Bible,  the catechesis and coherence in “moral” behaviour which mark the life and works of the third century Origen, “one of the greatest fathers of the Church”, have lost none of their relevance in today’s world.  They show that “in the allegorical and spiritual reading of the word of God and in the coherent commitment to life, the Church blossoms and renews itself”, because God’s Word “knows no age”.  In his continued catechesis on the importance of the teachings of the fathers of the Church, today Benedict XVI spoke of Origen to the 25 thousand pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s square for his general audience, defining the Saint as an “essential figure in the development of Christian thought”, in which he brought about an “irreversible turn”. So much so, that pope Ratzinger said he had relied heavily upon him for his “Jesus of Nazareth” and prayed that he remain a model for theologians today. 


A pupil of Clement of Alexandria – of whom the pope spoke last week – Origen projects all that he had learned from him towards the future.  He was not only “a brilliant theologian, but also an essential witness of Church doctrine”, he said that “conduct must correspond to the word of law” and he “led many others to follow him”, yearning to die the martyrs death that his father met.  Benedict XVI notes that while he preached at Caesarea, he said “the best way to honour my father and glorify Christ was by living a good and upright life”. His “nostalgia for the baptism of blood” was in part fulfilled when in 350; he was arrested and tortured, dying soon after.

His works encompass 320 books and 310 homilies, for the most part lost, “but what little remains makes him the most prolific writer of the first three centuries of Christianity”.


The “novelty of his thought”, illustrated by the Pope, substantially corresponds to the foundation of theology in the explanation of the Sacred Scriptures, to explain understanding of the Scriptures, “his is a perfect symbiosis between theology and elucidation” with “an incessant invitation to pass from a reading of the spirit of the Scriptures in order to progress in our knowing God”.


Origen demonstrated how there are three levels of reading the Bible. Firstly he dedicated himself to studying the texts and providing the most trustworthy translation: to this ends he created an edition of the Bible with six parallel columns starting from Hebrew characters, for which he had some contact with contemporary Rabbis.  First of all therefore, “know exactly what is written”.  Then a systematic reading with accompanying comments, verse by verse in order to understand the meaning of what is written.  Lastly Origen “dedicated himself to preaching adapting himself to a varied public”. The is, in short “the literal sense, which however hides great depth of thought which in a first reading often does not emerge.  The second is the moral meaning that is what we must do to live the Word.  And finally the spiritual sense, that is the unity of the Scriptures which in all of its unity speaks to us of Jesus Christ”. “In my boo on Jesus –he added – I too attempted this multi-dimensionality in the Scared Scripture, in today’s terms yet in full respect of its historic sense, which transcends from Christ and shows us the way to live”.


“Let us pray to God – ha concluded - that he gift us philosophers, theologians and thinkers today, capable of finding this multi-level dimension, this permanent actuality in their reading of the Sacred Scriptures.  Let us pray that the Lord help us to read the Scriptures correctly, so it may nurture and feed us with the true bread of life and of his Word”.

Photo: Credit CPP



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