More than a
philosophy Christianity is a way of life
On Monday morning, 5
October , after the Hour of Terce inaugurating the First General
Congregation of the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for
Africa, the Holy Father gave an extemporaneous Reflection to the Synod
Fathers in Italian. The following is a translation.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With the invocation of the
Holy Spirit we have now begun our Synodal Meeting, knowing full well
that we cannot do at this moment what needs to be done for the Church
and for the world: only with the power of the Holy Spirit can we
discover what is right and put it into practice.
And every day we shall
start by invoking the Holy Spirit with the prayer of the Hour of Terce:
"Nunc, sancte, nobis Spiritus". I would therefore like to
meditate with you briefly on this hymn with which we shall begin our
work each day, now, during the Synod, and also afterwards in our daily
"Nunc, sancte, nobis
Spiritus". We pray that
Pentecost may not only be an event of the past, at the very beginning of
the Church, but that it may be today, indeed now, "nunc, sancte,
nobis Spiritus". Let us pray that the Lord may bring about the
outpouring of his Spirit now and recreate his Church and the world. Let
us remember that after the Ascension the Apostles did not begin
as might perhaps have been expected
to organize, to create the Church of the future. They waited for God to
act. They waited for the Holy Spirit. They understood that the Church
cannot be made, that she is not the product of our organization: the
Church must be born of the Holy Spirit.
Just as the Lord himself
was conceived and born of the Holy Spirit so the Church must also be
conceived and born of the Holy Spirit. Only through this creative act of
God can we enter into God's activity, into the divine action, and
cooperate with him. In this regard, all our work at the Synod also
consists in collaborating with the Holy Spirit, with the power of God
that precedes us. And we must always implore, over and over again, the
fulfilment of this divine initiative in which we can become
collaborators of God and contribute to ensuring that his Church is
reborn and grows.
The second verse of this
hymn: "Os, lingua, mens, sensus, vigor, / Confessionem, personent: /
Flammescat igne caritas, / accendat ardor proximos"
is the heart of this prayer. We ask of God three gifts, the
essential gifts of Pentecost, of the Holy Spirit: confessio, caritas,
proximos. Confessio: it is the tongue of fire that is "reasonable",
that gives the right word and calls to mind the conquest of Babylon on
the Feast of Pentecost.
The confusion born from
human egoism and pride, whose effect is the inability to understand each
other, must be overcome by the power of the Spirit which unites without
standardizing, which gives unity in plurality. Each one can understand
the other, despite the diversity of languages.
the word, the tongue of fire that the Lord
gives us, the common word in which we are all united, the City of God,
Holy Church, in which all the wealth of our different cultures is
Flammescat igne caritas.
This confession is not a theory
but life, love. The heart of Holy Church is love, God is love and
communicates himself to us by communicating love to us. And lastly, our
neighbour. The Church is never a closed group which lives for
itself like so many of the groups that exist in the world; rather, she
is distinguished by the universality of charity, of responsibility for
Let us consider these three
gifts one by one. Confessio: in the language of the Bible and of
the ancient Church, this word has two essential meanings, apparently in
opposition but in fact constitute a single reality. Confessio is
first of all the confession of sins: it means recognizing our guilt and
knowing that before God we are found wanting, we are in a state of sin,
we are not in the right relationship with him. This is the first point:
knowing ourselves in the light of God. Only in this light can we know
ourselves, can we also understand what is evil in us and thus perceive
all that must be renewed, transformed. Only in the light of God do we
recognize one another and truly see the whole of reality.
It seems to me that we
should bear all this in mind in our analyses of reconciliation, justice
and peace. Empirical analysis is important, it is important to know the
reality of this world exactly. Yet these horizontal analyses, made with
such precision and skill, are insufficient. They do not identify the
real problems because they do not place them in the light of God.
If we do not see that they
are rooted in the Mystery of God, worldly things go wrong because the
relationship with God is not properly in order. And if the first, basic
relationship is off course, all the other relationships, however good
they may be, fundamentally do not function.
Therefore, all our analyses
of the world are insufficient if we do not reach this point, if we do
not consider the world in the light of God, if we do not discover that
at the root of injustices, of corruption, is a heart that is not
upright, there is closure to God and, consequently, a falsification of
the essential relationship on which all the others are founded.
to understand in God's light the realities
of the world, the primacy of God and finally the whole human being and
the human realities that are oriented to our relationship with God. And
if this relationship has gone wrong it does not reach the point God
wanted, it does not enter his truth, nor can anything else be corrected
because, once again, all the vices that destroy the social network and
peace in the world spring up.
to see reality in God's light, to
understand that basically our realities depend on our relationship with
our Creator and Redeemer, and thus lead to the truth, to the truth that
saves. St Augustine, referring to Chapter three of the Gospel according
to St John, defines the act of Christian confession as "he who makes
truth comes to the light".
Only by seeing in the light
of God our faults, our sins, the insufficiency of our relationship with
him do we walk in the light of the truth. And it is only the truth that
saves. At last, let us work in truth: making truth is truly confessing
in this depth of God's light.
This is the first meaning
of the word confessio, the confession of sins, the recognition of
the guilt that results from our defective relationship with God.
However, a second meaning of confession is that of thanking God,
glorifying God, witnessing to God.
We can recognize the truth
of our being because there is a divine response. God did not leave us
alone with our sins; even when our relationship with his majesty is
impeded, he does not withdraw but comes and takes us by the hand.
Confessio therefore is the witness of God's goodness, it is
evangelization. We could say that the second dimension of the word
confessio is identical to evangelization.
We see this on the Day of
Pentecost when St Peter, in his discourse, on the one hand accuses
people for their sins
you have killed the holy and the just
but, at the same time he says: this Saint is risen and loves you,
embraces you, calls you to be his followers in repentance and in
Baptism, as well as in communion with his Body. In the light of God
confessing necessarily becomes proclaiming God, evangelizing and thereby
renewing the world.
However the word
confessio reminds us of yet another element. In Chapter 10 of his
Letter to the Romans St Paul interprets the confession of Chapter 30 of
Deuteronomy. In the latter text it would seem that in the Holy Land,
upon entering into the definitive form of the Covenant, the Jews were
afraid and could not really respond to God as they ought.
The Lord says to them: do
not be afraid, God is not far away. To reach God, a voyage across an
unknown ocean is not required, nor is space travel through the sky,
complicated or impossible ventures. God is not far away, he is not on
the other side of the ocean or in these immense spaces of the universe.
He is near. He is in your heart and on your lips, with the words of the
Torah he enters your heart and is proclaimed by your lips. God is in you
and with you, he is close.
In his interpretation, St
Paul replaces the word "Torah" with the words "confession" and "faith".
He says: God is close by, no complicated expeditions are necessary to
reach him, nor spiritual or material adventures. God is close with
faith, he is in your heart and with confession he is on your lips. He is
within you and with you. With his presence, Jesus Christ really gives us
the words of life.
Thus, in faith, he enters
our hearts. He dwells in our heart and in confession we bring the
realties of the Lord to the world, to this time of ours. This seems to
me a very important element: the close God. The things of science, of
technology, entail great investments: spiritual and material ventures
are expensive and difficult; but God gives himself freely. The most
important things in life
God, love and truth
are free. God gives himself in our hearts. I would say that we should
meditate often on God's free giving: to be close to God there is no need
for great material or even intellectual gifts.
God gives himself freely in
his love, he is in me, in my heart and on my lips. This is the courage,
the joy of our life. It is also the courage present at this Synod, for
God is not distant: he is with us in the words of faith.
I think this duality is
also important: words in the heart and on the lips. This depth of
personal faith which truly connects me closely with God must then be
confessed. Faith and confession, interiority in communion with God and
the witness to faith that is expressed on my lips and thus becomes
tangible and present in the world. These are two important things that
always go together.
Then the hymn of which we
are speaking also points to the places where confession is found: "os,
lingua, mens, sensus, vigor". All our capacities for thinking,
speaking, feeling, and acting must resound
the Latin uses the verb "personent"
with the word of God. Our being, in all its dimensions, must be
filled with this word, which thereby becomes really tangible in the
world which, through our existence resonates in the world: the word of
the Holy Spirit.
And then, briefly, another
two gifts. Charity: it is important that Christianity should not be the
sum of ideas, a philosophy or a theology, but rather a way of life,
Christianity is charity, it is love. Only in this way do we become
Christian: if faith is transformed into charity, if it is charity. We
could also say that lógos
and caritas go together.
Our God is on the one hand
eternal reason. But this reason is also love; it is not cold
mathematics that constructs the universe, it is not a demiurge; eternal
reason is fire, it is charity. This union of reason and charity, of
faith and charity, must be brought into being within us and thus,
transformed into charity to become, as the Greek Fathers said,
I would say that in the
development of the world we have this uphill road, leading from the
first created realities to the creature, man. But the ascent has not yet
been completed. Man must be divinized and thus fulfilled.
The unity of the creature
and of the Creator: this is the true development, arriving with God's
grace at this openness. Our essence is transformed by charity. If we
speak of this development, we always think of the final goal, where God
wants to arrive with us.
Lastly, our neighbour.
Charity is not something individual but universal and practical. Today,
at Mass, we proclaimed the Gospel passage of the Good Samaritan, in
which we see the twofold reality of Christian charity, which is both
universal and practical. The Samaritan meets a Jew who is therefore
outside the boundaries of his tribe and his religion. But charity is
universal so this stranger is in every sense a neighbour to him.
Universality does away with the limits that close the world in and
create differences and conflicts. At the same time, the fact that some
practical action should be taken for universality, not only philosophy.
We must strive for this
unification of universality and practical action, we must really open
these boundaries between tribes, ethnic groups and religions to the
universality of God's love. And this must not be in theory but in the
places where we live and with all the necessary visibility.
Let us pray the Lord to
give us all this through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ultimately, the hymn is a
glorification of the Triune God and a prayer to know and to believe.
Thus the end returns to the beginning.
Let us also pray that we
may know, that knowing may become believing and that believing may
become loving, action. Let us pray the Lord to give us the Holy Spirit,
that he may inspire a new Pentecost and help us to be his servants in
the world at this time. Amen.