Preface of the second volume of Gesammelte Schriften by
The second volume of "Gesammelte
Schriften", the "Opera Omnia" of Joseph Ratzinger, published by Herder,
is a real "editio princeps"
a true first edition. After the "Theologie der Liturgie. Die
christlicher Existenz", which came out in 2008, the integral German text
of the important thesis qualifying the young Ratzinger as a university
teacher has just been published. Its focus is the understanding of
Revelation and the theology of the history of St Bonaventure ("Offenbarungsverständnis
und Geschichtstheologie Bonaventuras"). Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller
of Regensburg together with the Viennese editor, Prof. Marianne
Schlosser, and other members of the Institut Papst Benedikt XVI of
founded by Bishop Miller
presented the book to the author on Sunday, 13 September, at Castel
Gandolfo. The work is dedicated with "gratitude" to his elder brother
Mons. Georg Ratzinger on his 85th birthday, to whom it was presented on
Monday, 14 September, at Regensburg. The following is a translation of
Benedict XVI's preface to his book.
After the publication of my
writings on the liturgy, in the complete edition of my works a book now
follows of studies on the theology of Bonaventure of Fidanza, a great
Franciscan and Doctor of the Church. It was clear from the start that
this book would also contain my studies on the Holy Doctor's concept of
Revelation, conducted from 1953-55, together with the interpretation of
his theology of history, so far unpublished.
In order to finalize this
work, the manuscript needed to be revised and corrected according to
modern editorial standards, something I did not feel capable of doing.
The Viennese Prof. Marianne Schlosser, who has an extensive knowledge of
medieval theology and especially of the works of St Bonaventure,
graciously offered to undertake this noteworthy and far from
straightforward task. She deserves my heartfelt thanks for this. In
discussing the project, we immediately agreed that no attempt should be
made to revise the book's content or to bring the research up to date.
After more than half a century since the text was drafted, this would
have meant, in practice, writing a new book. Rather, I wanted it to be a
"historical" edition which offered as it were a text conceived in a
remote past, leaving to research the possibility of still drawing useful
material from it today.
Prof. Schlosser's foreword
addresses the editorial work carried out. Together with her
collaborators she devoted a great deal of time and effort to the
preparation of a historical edition of the text, confident that it was
theologically and historically worthwhile, making it available in its
entirety to everyone.
In the second part of the
book, The Theology of History in St Bonaventure is presented
anew, just as it was published in 1959. The subsequent essays, with rare
exceptions, are taken from the study of the interpretation of Revelation
and of the theology of history. In certain cases they have been adapted,
in order to make them self-contained texts, with slight modifications
dictated by the context.
For the time being I had to
forego my intention to update the manuscript and present it to the
public as a book, together with my project for a scholarly annotated
commentary of the Hexaëmeron,
because my role as a peritus at the Council and the requirements of
my academic teaching were so demanding as to make medieval research
impossible. In the postconciliar period, the changed theological
situation and the new situation in the German university so completely
absorbed me that the work on Bonaventure had to be postponed until after
my retirement. Meanwhile, the Lord has led me on different paths, so
that the book is now being published in its present form. I hope that
others will undertake the task of commenting on the
At first sight, the
presentation of the theme of this work might seem surprising and indeed
is. After my thesis on the conception of the Church in St Augustine, my
teacher, Gottlieb Söhngen,
suggested that I devote myself to the Middle Ages and in particular to
St Bonaventure, who was the most important representative of the
Augustinian movement in medieval theology.
As regards the content, I
had to face the second important question which is addressed by
fundamental theology: the theme of Revelation. At that time, especially
through Oscar Cullmann's eminent work, Christus und die Zeit
[Christ and Time] (Zurich, 1946), the theological focus shifted to the
theme of salvation history, particularly its relationship with
If neo-scholastic theology
essentially understood Revelation as the divine transmission of
mysteries that remain inaccessible to the human intellect, today
Revelation is viewed as God's manifestation of himself in historical
action, and salvation history is considered a central element of
Revelation. My task was to attempt to discover how Bonaventure
understood Revelation, and whether it gave him an approximative idea of
It was a difficult
undertaking. Medieval theology does not give any treatises de
Revelatione (on Revelation), as is the case with modern theology.
Furthermore, I immediately showed that medieval theology does not even
have a term that expresses, from the perspective of content, our modern
concept of Revelation.
As has been shown, the word
revelatio, which is common in neo-scholastic and medieval
theology, does not have the same meaning in medieval theology as it has
in modern theology. I therefore had to seek the answers to my thesis in
other forms of language and thought, and in the process the form of the
proposition was also modified with regard to my first encounter with
Bonaventure's works. In the first place, challenging research had to be
done on his use of language. Our own concepts had to be set aside in
order to understand what Bonaventure meant by Revelation. In any case,
it has been demonstrated that the conceptual content of Revelation was
adapted to a large number of concepts: revelatio, manifestatio,
doctrina, fides, and so on. It is only these concepts
and their usage viewed as a whole that reveal an image of how
Bonaventure saw "Revelation".
From the outset it was
clear that the doctrine of medieval theology had no concept of
"salvation history" in the modern sense of the term. Nonetheless, there
are two indications that the problem of revelation as a historical
process was present in Bonaventure's writings.
In the first place,
Revelation was presented as the dual figure of the Old and New
Testaments, which posed the question of the harmony between the unity of
truth and the diversity of historical mediation, raised since the
patristic era and then treated again by medieval theologians.
To this classic form of the
problem of the relationship between history and truth, which Bonaventure
shared with the theology of his time and addressed in his own way, he
also added his own new historical point of view, in which history, as
God's far-reaching work, becomes a dramatic challenge.
Joachim of Fiore, who died
1202, had taught a Trinitarian rhythm in history. The age of the Father
(Old Testament) and the age of the Son (New Testament, Church) must be
followed by an age of the Holy Spirit, in which, together with the
observance of the Sermon on the Mount, would be manifest a spirit of
poverty, reconciliation between Greeks and Latins, reconciliation
between Christians and Jews, and a time of peace would come. By means of
a combination of symbolic numbers, the learned Abbot had predicted the
beginning of a new age in 1260. Around 1240 the Franciscan movement came
upon these writings, which had an electrifying effect on many: had this
new age not begun, perhaps, with Francis of Assisi? Thus a dramatic
tension built up within the Order between the "realists," who wanted to
make use of St Francis' legacy, in accordance with the actual
possibilities of the life of the Order as it had been passed down, and
the "spiritualists", who focused instead on the radical novelty of a new
As Minister General of the
Order, Bonaventure had to confront the tremendous challenge this tension
posed, which in his opinion was not an academic question but, rather, a
practical problem of his office as the seventh successor of St Francis.
In this sense, history became suddenly tangibly real, and as such had to
be confronted with practical action and theological reflection. In my
study, I have sought to explain how Bonaventure met this challenge and
the connection he made between "salvation history" and "Revelation".
I had not been able to take the manuscript in my hands
since 1962 so it was exciting to reread it after so long. Clearly, the
form of the enquiry and the language of the book were influenced by the
situation in the 1950s. In the case of linguistic studies in particular,
the technical means we have now did not exist then. This explains by the
work has its limitations, and it is obviously influenced by the
historical period in which it was conceived. Nevertheless, in rereading
it I felt that its answers were well-founded, even if many details have
been superseded, and that it still has something to say to us today.
Above all I realized that the question of the essence of Revelation and
its re-examination, which is the theme of the book, are still urgently
needed today, perhaps even more so than they were in the past.
At the end of this preface,
I would like to thank, in addition to Prof. Schlosser, Bishop Gerhard
of Regensburg. Thanks to the Institut Papst Benedikt XVI he founded, he
has made the publication of this work possible and has actively followed
the editing of my writings. My heartfelt thanks also go to the
co-workers of the Institute, Prof. Rudolf Voderholzer, Christian
Schaller, Franz-Xaver Heibl, and Gabriel Weiten. Last but not least I
thank Herder, the publishing house which worked on the publication of
this book with its characteristic accuracy.
I dedicate the work to my
brother Georg for his 85th birthday, in gratitude for a lifelong
communion of thought and activity.
Rome, Solemnity of the