04/29/2009, 00.00
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Pope: seeing the beauty of God in the Church, not only the sins of men

To the faithful present at the general audience, Benedict XVI illustrates the figure of Germanus of Constantinople, an important patriarch during the period of the controversy of iconoclasm, and in Mariology. His teaching continues to invite people to follow Christ in order to become again the image of God, and love for the Church and for the beauty of the liturgy.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Asking God to "teach us to see in the Church his beauty and his hope," to learn to love the Church, because in it, beyond the sins of man, the divine light is present. This is the place where "God speaks with us," where "we receive the forgiveness of God and learn to forgive." This is the exhortation that Benedict XVI addressed today to the 35,000 people present in St. Peter's Square for the general audience, during which, continuing with the illustration of the figures of the early Church, he talked about Germanus of Constantinople, who, although "he is not one of the most significant figures of Eastern Christianity," was nonetheless important during the controversy of iconoclasm, and for his thinking in the field of Mariology.

Born in 635, and elected patriarch of Constantinople in 715, in that year the capital of the Byzantine Empire underwent "an extremely dangerous siege" by the Saracens, during which Germanus led a procession with numerous icons to invoke the defense of the city. In fact, Constantinople was liberated from the siege. "Gratitude for the divine assistance was extremely great among the people," and Germanus "became convinced that the help had been due to the veneration people had shown to the sacred icons." The emperor Leo III was of a different opinion, "convinced that the consolidation of the empire had to begin with a readjustment of the faith," which had to be safeguarded from the risk of idolatry, precisely because of excessive devotion to icons.

The opposition of Germanus achieved nothing, and in 730 the emperor took an open stance against the veneration of images. Germanus did not want to give in to the orders of the Emperor. As a result, he was forced to resign as patriarch, exiling himself to a monastery, where he died in 733.

"Although from the theological point of view Germanus cannot be called a great thinker," some of his works are "important for some of his intuitions on Mariology." "Some of these have profoundly marked the piety of entire generations." "His splendid homilies on the presentation of Mary in the temple" are "extremely precious texts of spirituality," and he composed "astonishing" Mariological texts for the homilies he gave at celebrations corresponding to our feast of the Assumption. One of these, Benedict XVI recalled, is cited by Pius XII in the constitution with which he proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption.

"In the end, there remains the question of what this saint has left for us." The pope indicated three elements. The first is that "there is a certain visibility of God in the world and in the Church, which we must learn to see." "Man has been created in the image of God," but this "is covered by so much filth that the image of God almost does not appear anymore." "Christ invites us to become like him in such a way that in every man, the face of God may shine through again."

The second is "the beauty and dignity of the liturgy," which must be celebrated "with the awareness of the presence of God."

The third element indicated by the pope is "to love the Church." "It may be," he explained, "that we see more the sin of man and the negative, but with the light of faith that makes us capable of seeing the good, still today and always we can rediscover in the Church the divine beauty. In the Church, God talks with us, God walks with us, Germanus writes. it is in the Church that God makes himself present, and remains present in adoration, it is in the Church that he speaks with us, it is in the Church that we receive the forgiveness of God, we learn to forgive." "Let us pray to God," he concluded, "that he may teach us to see in the Church his beauty and his hope in the world, and help us as well to be transparent for his light."

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