Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Preview of Deus Caritas Est

As we wait with bated breath for the release of Pope Benedict's first encyclical in a few hours, here's the text of his preview given to the Pontifical Council yesterday via Zenit. Here's an excerpt:
I wished to express to our time and to our existence something of what Dante audaciously recapitulated in his vision. He speaks of his "sight" that "was enriched" when looking at it, changing him interiorly [The textual quotation in English is: "But through the sight, that fortified itself in me by looking, one appearance only to me was ever changing as I changed" (cf. "Paradise," XXXIII, verses 112-114)]. It is precisely this: that faith might become a vision-comprehension that transforms us.

I wished to underline the centrality of faith in God, in that God who has assumed a human face and a human heart. Faith is not a theory that one can take up or lay aside. It is something very concrete: It is the criterion that decides our lifestyle. In an age in which hostility and greed have become superpowers, an age in which we witness the abuse of religion to the point of culminating in hatred, neutral rationality on its own is unable to protect us. We are in need of the living God who has loved us unto death.

Thus, in this encyclical, the subjects "God," "Christ" and "Love" are welded, as the central guide of the Christian faith. I wished to show the humanity of faith, of which "eros" forms part, man's "yes" to his corporeal nature created by God, a "yes" that in the indissoluble marriage between man and woman finds its rooting in creation. And in it, "eros" is transformed into "agape," love for the other that no longer seeks itself but that becomes concern for the other, willingness to sacrifice oneself for him and
openness to the gift of a new human life.

The Christian "agape," love for one's neighbor in the following of Christ, is not something foreign, put to one side or something that even goes against the "eros"; on the contrary, with the sacrifice Christ made of himself for man he offered a new dimension, which has developed ever more in the history of the charitable dedication of Christians to the poor and the suffering.

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