Saturday, January 26, 2008


Pope Benedict's thesis to obtain his "Habilitation". To be re-issued in Italian. Here's the preface by theologian Elio Guerriero from Avvenire, 25 Jan, 2008 (via Papa Ratzinger Forum)
Back in the bookstores after decades is San Bonaventura. La teologia della storia (Edizioni Porziuncola, 256 pp, euro 28.00), one of the fundamental works of Joseph Ratzinger-Benedetto XVI.

The young scholar came to study the Franciscan doctor of the Church at the suggestion of his adviser Gottlieb Soehngen, with the aim of making a clarificatory contribution to the lively debate on theology in Bonaventure's time.

In the encounter between the 'reformed' thought of the first half of the 20th century and the scholastic thought that was prevalent in Catholic circles, there emerged what seemed to be an insurmountable difficulty.

Where the reformers, particularly Karl Barth, underlined the character of revelation as an event which places the believer every time in a position of deciding to adhere, Catholic tradition had become identified with metaphysical thought, which was static and well-defined, and seemed not to require going repeatedly through an act of faith that was increasingly becoming personal.

The solution towards which some scholars, including Catholic theologians, tended was to abandon metaphysics, a dehellenization that seemed antithetical to the original Semitic character of the faith.

In the preface to the Italian edition, Ratzinger - by then a cardinal - continued to underline the actuality of the issue. At the time, he still had notes for a new preface that I expected to find in this re-issue. But obviously, that was not possible.

Ratzinger's starting point was the work Hexameron, on the six days of the creation of the world, one of Bonaventure's last works, in which the saint, one year before his death, confronted the conflicting spiritual currents within the order, indirectly through Joachim of Fiore.

Enthusiastic over the teachings of the Cistercian monk which allowed the Franciscans to see in their founder Francis of Assisi as the one who started a new age of love as against an age of law, the more radical Franciscans - which included even Bonaventure's predecessor as Franciscan superior-general - risked bringing the order out of the Church.

Bonaventure, who had been elected superior precisely to face such a delicate problem, immersed himself in the spirit of Francis during the first few years of his mandate. He wrote a new biography of
Francis and meditated on the significance of his life. Comparing Francis to Joachim - whose theological vision of history he appreciated - he introduced a distinction which would eliminate any equivocation: the monk from Calabria, like Francis, did not start eschatological time, but announced it.

Compared to the simple folk in which Jesus rejoiced, Francis had received the gift of a superior spiritual intelligence from Scriptures. Together with revelatio, however, Francis also received the gift of humilitas which allowed him to establish an essential link between these two gifts of the Spirit.

For Bonaventure, this meant that the Magisterium should not be considered a weight by the individual, but as a guarantee that assures communion with the people of God in the Church. Those who do receive revelations - Bonaventure used the plural - have intimate familiarity with the mystery of God and are in communion with the hierarchical Church as well as the people of God.

Ratzinger's conclusion responded fully to the hypothesis of his research: even in the Catholic Church, the concept of revelation carried in itself a character of personal adhesion and urgency.

This was a fundamental insight that Ratzinger, along with Henri de Lubac, were advocating at the time of framing the Conciliar Constitution on Divine Revelation [Verbum Dei], which has remained present in his theology and writings.

Another detail gained from his encounter with Bonaventure - which became, since then, a distinctive feature of the thought and work of the man who is now the Pope - was the centrality and familiarity with Christ, to which his book JESUS OF NAZARETH, invites the faithful.

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