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 Some Quotations from His Books

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God and the World

On Christmas: "As a mere exchange of material goods, Christmas is coming under the power of wanting-for-oneself; it is becoming the instrument of an insatiable egoism and has fallen under the sway of possessions and of power––whereas this event in fact brings us exactly the opposite message. Pruning back Christmas so that it is once again simple would be an enormous achievement."

The Wrath of God: "The wrath of God is a way of saying that I have been living in a way that is contrary to the love that is God. Anyone who begins to live and grow away from God, who lives away from what is good, is turning his life toward wrath."

On True Love: "Love, in the true sense, is not always a matter of giving way, being soft, and just acting nice. In that sense, a sugar-coated Jesus or a God who agrees to everything and is never anything but nice and friendly is no more than a caricature of real love. Because God loves us, because he wants us to grow into truth, he must necessarily make demands on us and must also correct us."

The Feminine: "It is theologically and anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of Christianity. Through Mary, and the other holy women, the feminine element stand at the heart of the Christian religion. And this is not in competition with Christ. To think of Christ and Mary as being in competition means ignoring the essential distinctions between these two figures. . . . That is not a competition, but a more profound kind of intimacy. The Mother and Virgin forms an essential part of the Christian picture of man."

On Liturgy: "We do at least need a new liturgical consciousness, to be rid of this spirit of arbitrary fabrication. Things have gone so far that Sunday liturgy groups are cobbling together the liturgy for themselves. . . . The most important thing today is that we should regain respect for the liturgy and for the fact that it is not to be manipulated."

The Spirit of the Liturgy

The Christian faith can never be separated from the soil of sacred events, from the choice made by God, who wanted to speak to us, to become man, to die and rise again, in a particular place and at a particular time. . . . The Church does not pray in some kind of mythical omni-temporality. She cannot forsake her roots. She recognizes the true utterance of God precisely in the concreteness of its history, in time and place: to these God ties us, and by these we are all tied together. The diachronic aspect, praying with the Fathers and the apostles, is part of what we mean by rite, but it also includes a local aspect, extending from Jerusalem to Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Rites are not, therefore, just the products of inculturation, however much they may have incorporated elements from different cultures. They are forms of the apostolic Tradition and of its unfolding in the great places of the Tradition.

Unspontaneity is of their essence. In these rites I discover that something is approaching me here that I did not produce myself, that I am entering into something greater than myself, which ultimately derives from divine revelation. This is why the Christian East calls the liturgy the "Divine Liturgy", expressing thereby the liturgy's independence from human control.

Dancing is not a form of expression for the Christian liturgy. In about the third century, there was an attempt in certain Gnostic-Docetic circles to introduce it into the liturgy. For these people, the Crucifixion was only an appearance. . . . Dancing could take the place of the liturgy of the Cross, because, after all, the Cross was only an appearance. The cultic dances of the different religions have different purposes - incantation, imitative magic, mystical ecstasy - none of which is compatible with the essential purpose of the liturgy as the "reasonable sacrifice". It is totally absurd to try to make the liturgy "attractive" by introducing dancing pantomimes (wherever possible performed by professional dance troupes), which frequently (and rightly, from the professionals' point of view) end with applause. Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attraction fades quickly - it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation.

This action of God, which takes place through human speech, is the real "action" for which all creation is in expectation. The elements of the earth are transubstantiated, pulled, so to speak, from their creaturely anchorage, grasped at the deepest ground of their being, and changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord. The New Heaven and the New Earth are anticipated. The real "action" in the liturgy in which we are all supposed to participate is the action of God himself. This is what is new and distinctive about the Christian liturgy: God himself acts and does what is essential.

The Cross is the approbation of our existence, not in words, but in an act so completely radical that it caused God to become flesh and pierced this flesh to the quick; that, to God, it was worth the death of his incarnate Son. One who is so loved that the other identifies his life with this love and no longer desires to live if he is deprived of it; one who is loved even unto death – such a one knows that he is truly loved. But if God so loves us, then we are loved in truth. Then love is truth, and truth is love. Then life is worth living. This is the evangelium. This is why, even as the message of the Cross, it is glad tidings for one who believes; the only glad tidings that destroy the ambiguity of all other joys and make them worthy to be joy.  Christianity is, by its very nature, joy – the ability to be joyful.

Principles of Catholic Theology

Jesus dies because there are forces hostile to truth; his obedience is fidelity to truth in conflict with the tangled web of untruth. But it is precisely by obeying truth that he obeys both the Father and the Scripture that he interprets by virtue of his immediate relationship to God, that he thereby opens anew to his inmost foundation, filling it with a new reality by his living of its word. His relationship to the fundamental ground of being is a relationship of real union with the fundamental truth – that is, “Sonship”: in this relationship to God, the very letter becomes flesh.

Introduction to Christianity

In Jesus’ life from the Father, in the immediacy and closeness of his association with him in prayer and indeed face to face, he is God’s witness, through whom the intangible has become tangible, the distant has drawn near.  And further: he is not simply the witness whose evidence we trust when he tells us what he had seen in an existence which had already made the about-turn from a false concentration on the foreground of life to the depths of the whole truth; he is the presence of the eternal itself in this world  

God is Near Us: The Eucharist the Heart of Life 

But that means that the Eucharist is far more than just a meal; it has cost a death to provide it, and the majesty of death is present in it. Whenever we hold it, we should be filled with reverence in the face of this mystery, with awe in the face of this mysterious death the becomes a present reality in our midst.

The Christian feast, the Eucharist, plumbs the very depths of death. It is not just a matter of pious discourse and entertainment, of some kind of religious beautification, spreading a pious gloss on the world; it plumbs the very depths of existence, which it call death . . . . what the tradition sums up in the sentence: The Eucharist is a sacrifice, the presentation of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.

The Eucharist is not itself the sacrament of reconciliation, but in fact it presupposes that sacrament.  It is the sacrament of the reconciled, to which the Lord invites all those who have become one with him; who certainly still remain weak sinners, but yet have give their hand to him and have become part of his family.  That is why, from the beginning, the Eucharist has been preceded by a discernment.

Thus he makes his word come true: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32).  That is why we do not need to harbor the fear that motivated Luther to protest against the Catholic idea of Mass as sacrifice, that thereby the glory of Christ might be diminished, or that the “sacrifice was not enough and that we ought to, or could, add something to it."  Such mistaken ideas may well have been current, but they have nothing to do with the real meaning of the concept of the sacrificial character of the Mass.

God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald

Man was not just thrown up into the world by some quirk of evolution.  The underlying truth is that each person is meant to exist. Each person is God’s own idea. Within everything that just for the moment exist factually, a plan and an idea are at work, and this gives meaning to my search for my own ideal self and to my coexistence with the world and with the onward path of history.

There is one thing we must not forget: it has always been the Mother who reached people in missionary situations and made Christ accessible to them.  That is especially true of Latin America.  Here, to some extent, Christianity arrived by way of Spanish swords, with deadly heralds.  In Mexico, at first, absolutely nothing could be done about missionary work – until the occurrence for the phenomenon at Guadalupe, and then the Son was suddenly near by way of his Mother.

You can never predict in advance how things will turn out. Anyone who is extrapolating the decline of the church in academic, statistical fashion from the situation in Europe, is failing to recognize the unpredictable nature of human history in general – and in particular, God’s power to take the initiative by intervening, as he is always able to do.

Initially, it was possible for people to think, with respect to Lourdes, that this little girl had fantasized something.  And then it turned out after all the she herself was really there, the Mother Mary.  It is certainly not by chance that people are nowadays turning again to Mary, in whom Christianity becomes loveable again and close to us, and we really do find the door again through the Mother.

The Church does not invent sins but recognizes the will of God and has to declare it. Of course, the great thing . . . is that upon the Church, which has to declare the will of God in its full magnitude, in its unconditional rigor, so that man should know his true measure, is bestowed as a gift, at the same time, the task of forgiving.

Salt of the Earth: Christianity and the Catholic Church at the End of the Millennium: An Interview With Peter Seewald

When you are studying theology, your intention is not to learn a trade but to understand the faith, and this presupposes, as we said a while ago, using the words of Augustine, that the faith is true, that, in other words, it opens the door to a correct understanding of your own life, of the world and of men.

For me [becoming Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith] the cost was that I couldn’t do full time what I hand envisaged for myself, namely really contributing my thinking and speaking to the great intellectual conversation of our time, by developing an opus of my own. I had to descend to the little and various things pertaining to factual conflicts and events. I had to leave aside a great part of what would interest me and simply serve and to accept that as my task.  And I had to free myself from the idea that I absolutely have to write or read this or that, I had to acknowledge that my task is here.

These citations are used with the permission of the publisher, Ignatius Press. Most Ignatius Press titles are available through EWTN Religious Catalogue (1-800-854-6316).






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