Thursday, 6 December 2007

Benedict XVI: spe salvi

Benedict XVI’s new encyclical on Christian hope is now available online: Spe Salvi (30 November 2007). You gotta like a pope who can quote Kant, Dostoevsky, Adorno, de Lubac, and an obscure Vietnamese martyr – all in a single encyclical! The writer of a recent Telegraph article related this anecdote: “A colleague, staring at the Pope’s latest encyclical, remarked, ‘There’s no news here. It’s all about God’.” One can scarcely imagine a higher compliment for this theologian-pope.

Here are a couple of excerpts on the relation between faith and the future:

“[T]he Christian message was not only ‘informative’ but ‘performative’. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known – it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open [Obscura porta temporis, venturi temporis, aperta est].” (2)

“Faith is not merely a personal reaching out towards things to come that are still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for…. Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a ‘not yet’. The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future.” (7)

And I especially appreciate what Benedict has to say about hell and purgation:

“Christ descended into ‘Hell’ and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light.” (37)

“Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation ‘as through fire’. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God.” (47)

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