Wednesday, May 02, 2007
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
~translated by Teresa Benedetta of Papa Ratzinger Forum
Dear brothers and sisters,
The catechesis last week was dedicated to the great figure of Origen, Alexandrian doctor of the Church who lived in the second-third century.
We considered the life and the literary output of the great Alexandrian teacher, identifying his 'triple reading' of the Bible as the inspiratory nucleus of all his work.
I left aside, in order to talk about it today, two aspects of Origenian doctrine, which I consider to be among the most important and relevant. I wish to speak about his teachings on prayer and on the Church.
Origen, author of an important and always actually relevant treatise on prayer, constantly wove together his exegetic and theological production with experiences and suggestions concerning prayer.
Notwithstanding all its wealth of theological thought, his work was never purely academic. It was always based on his experience of prayer, of contact with God.
Indeed, he believed that to get to know Scriptures requires, even more than study, an intimacy with Christ and prayer. He was convinced that the favored way to know God was through love, and that there could be no authentic scientia Christi, knowledge of Christ, unless one was 'in love' with Him.
In the Letter to Gregory, Origen recommends:
"Dedicate yourself to reading divine Scriptures, and apply yourself to this end with perseverance. Be engaged in reading with the intention of believing in God and pleasing Him. If, during your reading, you find yourself before a closed door, knock and it will be opened to you as Jesus said: 'The guardian will open it to you.'
"In applying yourself this way to lectio divina, seek with unshakeable loyalty and faith in God the sense of divine Scriptures which they contain in great breadth. But you should not be content simply with knocking and searching: in order to understand about God, prayer is absolutely necessary. And it was precisely to exhort us to pray that the Savior said not only 'Seek and you will find' and 'Knock and it shall be opened to you', but he added 'Ask and you will receive.'" (Ep. Gr. 4).
So the 'primordial role' that Origen played in the history of lectio divina leaps to the eye. Bishop Ambrose of Milan - who would learn to read Scriptures from the works of Origen - then introduced it in the West, passing it on to Augustine and to the monastic tradition that followed.
As we have said, the highest level of kowing God, according to Origen, comes through love. And that's how it is among men, as well: one truly knows another deeply only through love, with hearts open to each other.
To demonstrate this, he cited a meaning that was often given to the Hebrew verb 'to know' - when it is used to express the act of human love: "Adam knew Eve, his wife, who then conceived." (Gn 4,1). Thus it is suggested that union in love brings the most authentic knowldge. Just as man and woman are "two in one flesh", so also God and the believer become "two in one spirit."