Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"These ideologies that dominate, that impose themselves forcefully, are divinities"

It's been a long time since I have given props to my old friend Rocco Palmo, over at Whispers. So, it is with deep gratitude that I post some words of the Holy Father delivered yesterday at the opening session of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, a gathering for which I am offering both prayer and fasting over the course of its days. In keeping with his tradition of addressing the various synods convened at the Vatican by making some extemporaneous remarks, Pope Benedict delivered an unvarnished address that brings home the urgency of what the bishops are called upon to judge in these days. You can read Pope Benedict's entire address over at Whispers.

Indeed, the ancient Christian communities of the Middle East, both Catholic and Orthodox, as well as Syriacs and Copts, are experiencing something deeply painful and disturbing, something that is costing blood, making martyrs, that is, witnesses of many Christians in our own day. Among the His Holiness' remarks were these words that express well the evils we face:-

"right at the time of the rising Church, where we can see how the blood of the martyrs takes the power away from the [pagan] divinities, starting with the divine emperor, from all these divinities. It is the blood of the martyrs, the suffering, the cry of the Mother Church that makes them fall and thus transforms the world.

"This fall is not only the knowledge that they are not God; it is the process of transformation of the world, which costs blood, costs the suffering of the witnesses of Christ. And, if we look closely, we can see that this process never ends. It is achieved in various periods of history in ever new ways; even today, at this moment, in which Christ, the only Son of God, must be born for the world with the fall of the gods, with pain, the martyrdom of witnesses. Let us remember all the great powers of today’s history, let us remember the anonymous capital that enslaves man, which is no longer in man’s possession, but is an anonymous power served by men, by which men are tormented and even killed. It is a destructive power, that threatens the world. And then the power of the terroristic ideologies. Violent acts are apparently made in the name of God, but this is not God: they are false divinities that must be unmasked; they are not God. And then drugs, this power that, like a voracious beast, extends its claws to all parts of the world and destroys it: it is a divinity, but it is a false divinity that must fall. Or even the way of living proclaimed by public opinion: today we must do things like this, marriage no longer counts, chastity is no longer a virtue, and so on.



"These ideologies that dominate, that impose themselves forcefully, are divinities. And in the pain of the Saints, in the suffering of believers, of the Mother Church which we are a part of, these divinities must fall, what is said in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians must be done: the domin[ion]s, the powers fall and become subjects of the one Lord Jesus Christ. On this battle we find ourselves in, of this taking power away from God, of this fall of false gods, that fall because they are not deities, but powers that can destroy the world, chapter 12 of Revelations mentions these, even if with a mysterious image, for which, I believe, there are many different and beautiful interpretations. It has been said that the dragon places a large river of water before the fleeing woman to overcome her. And it would seem inevitable that the woman will drown in this river. But the good earth absorbs this river and it cannot be harmful. I think that the river is easily interpreted: these are the currents that dominate all and wish to make faith in the Church disappear, the Church that does not have a place anymore in front of the force of these currents that impose themselves as the only rationality, as the only way to live. And the earth that absorbs these currents is the faith of the simple at heart, that does not allow itself to be overcome by these rivers and saves the Mother and saves the Son."

It is possible in light of this to return to the beginning of the Holy Father's remarks, which were about the import of 11 October, the date on which this synod began and also the date that in our day we rightfully revere the opening the Second Vatican Council. However, Pope Benedict reminds us that his predecessor, Bl. John XXIII, chose 11 October as the starting date of the council because it is the day that "the feast... of the Divine Motherhood of Mary was celebrated and, with this gesture, with this date, Pope John wished to entrust the whole Council into the motherly hands and maternal heart of the Madonna." Indeed, the Holy Father goes on to say, "Theotokos is a courageous title. A woman is the Mother of God. One could say: how is this possible? God is eternal, he is the Creator. We are creatures, we are in time: how could a human being be the Mother of God, of the Eternal, since we are all in time, we are all creatures?" Nonetheless, he continues, "[n]ot only was a man born that had something to do with God, but in [Jesus Christ] was born God on earth. God came from himself. But we could also say the opposite: God drew us to Himself, so that we are not outside of God, but we are within the intimate, the intimacy of God Himself."

Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam

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