Dying So As To Rise


Benedict XVI prostrate before the Cross on Good Friday

The Pope outdid himself in his Easter Vigil homily. The whole thing is beautiful, but here he asks Christianity the same question asked of Islam at Regensberg: what did your prophet bring that was new? (So we see it's not an impertinent question after all.)

What was truly new in what happened on account of Christ? The human soul was created immortal – what exactly did Christ bring that was new? The soul is indeed immortal, because man in a unique way remains in God’s memory and love, even after his fall. But his own powers are insufficient to lift him up to God. We lack the wings needed to carry us to those heights. And yet, nothing else can satisfy man eternally, except being with God. An eternity without this union with God would be a punishment. Man cannot attain those heights on his own, yet he yearns for them. “Out of the depths I cry to you…” Only the Risen Christ can bring us to complete union with God, to the place where our own powers are unable to bring us. Truly Christ puts the lost sheep upon his shoulders and carries it home. Clinging to his Body we have life, and in communion with his Body we reach the very heart of God. Only thus is death conquered, we are set free and our life is hope.

This is the joy of the Easter Vigil: we are free.

I bring up Regensberg for a reason, but first this from the urbe et orbe message, almost too short to excerpt, except it sets up something else:

We may all be tempted by the disbelief of Thomas. Suffering, evil, injustice, death, especially when it strikes the innocent such as children who are victims of war and terrorism, of sickness and hunger, does not all of this put our faith to the test? Paradoxically the disbelief of Thomas is most valuable to us in these cases because it helps to purify all false concepts of God and leads us to discover his true face: the face of a God who, in Christ, has taken upon himself the wounds of injured humanity. Thomas has received from the Lord, and has in turn transmitted to the Church, the gift of a faith put to the test by the passion and death of Jesus and confirmed by meeting him risen. His faith was almost dead but was born again thanks to his touching the wounds of Christ, those wounds that the Risen One did not hide but showed, and continues to point out to us in the trials and sufferings of every human being.

Benedict has the conviction that no matter where we find ourselves on our intellectual and faith "journey," what unites all people of good will is that we are disciples of the Truth. Therefore, he's not afraid of questions, as we've discussed here often. In an early work of his, Introduction to Christianity, he teaches that believer and unbeliever are united in doubt --the believer always harbors some doubt about his faith, and the unbeliever, too, if he's honest, always has to wonder, "what if?" In the aftermath of his Regensberg lecture, we saw the power of incisive questions --and the search for true answers-- both to roil the wilfully blind and to give courage to the honest and pure in heart. More on that here in an Italian context, in the course of a larger post on the timing of the motu proprio we're all expecting. Fr. Z. writes that the Pope:

is hugely popular especially among young people who are beginning to ask questions of their teachers and others about things they are not supposed to question (the left wing agenda). Since the education system in Italy has been run by Communists for decades, this question asking trend is a very bad development. And… it is the Pope’s fault! If John Paul captured the imagination of young people and drew them in, they are now listening to Benedict with rapt attention. He is the only great public figure saying anything new or that makes sense. While the secularists are all shrieking about "thinking outside the box," the Pope is the only one really doing it.

Exactly. The death-knell for the Age of Ideology is being tolled by an 80-year-old man. Curtsy to open book for that link (which you should read in its entirety). And while we're at it, ninme found a wonderful column about that secularist thought-box --in its way quite appropriate for Easter. Christos anesti! Alleluia!