A theology done on its knees

«We thank God for having given us Benedict XVI: with his word and his testimony he taught us that with reflection, thought, study, listening, dialogue and above all prayer it is possible to serve the Church and do good to all mankind”. Francis writes it in the preface – which we publish in its entirety – to the collection of spiritual thoughts of the emeritus Pontiff God is always new (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, pp. 144, 13 euros). Edited by Luca Caruso, the volume comes out on January 14th.

I am glad that the reader can have in his hands this text of spiritual thoughts of the late Pope Benedict XVI. The title already expresses one of the most characteristic aspects of the magisterium and of my predecessor’s vision of the faith: yes, God is always new because He is the source and reason for beauty, grace and truth. God is never repetitive, God surprises us, God brings novelty. The spiritual freshness that emerges from these pages confirms this with intensity.

Benedict xvi did theology on his knees. His argument for faith was accomplished with the devotion of a man who has abandoned all of himself to God and who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, sought an ever greater understanding of the mystery of that Jesus who had fascinated him since he was young.

The collection of spiritual thoughts that is presented in these pages shows the creative ability of Benedict xvi in ​​knowing how to investigate the various aspects of Christianity with a fruitfulness of images, language and perspectives that become a continuous stimulus to cultivate the precious gift of welcoming God in your life. The way in which Benedict XVI was able to make heart and reason, thought and affection, rationality and emotion interact constitutes a fruitful model on how to be able to tell everyone about the explosive force of the Gospel.

The reader will see it confirmed in these pages, which represent – also thanks to the expertise of the Editor, to whom we extend our heartfelt thanks – a sort of “spiritual synthesis” of the writings of Benedict xvi: here shines his ability to always show new depth of the Christian faith. A small anthology is enough. “God is an event of love”, an expression which alone does full justice to a theology that is always harmonious between reason and affection. “What could possibly save us but love?” he asked the young people at the prayer vigil in Cologne in 2005, a meditation appropriately recalled here, posing a question that echoes Fyodor Dostoevsky. And when he talks about the Church, ecclesial passion makes him utter words that are deeply imbued with belonging and affection: “We are not a production center, we are not a profit-making company, we are the Church”.

The depth of Joseph Ratzinger’s thought, which was based on Sacred Scripture and on the Fathers of the Church, is still of help to us today. These pages address a range of spiritual issues and there are stimulus to remain open to the horizon of eternity that Christianity has in its DNA. That of Benedict xvi is and will always remain a fruitful thought and magisterium over time, because he was able to concentrate on the fundamental references of our Christian life: above all, the person and word of Jesus Christ, furthermore the theological virtues, i.e. charity, hope, faith. And for this the whole Church will be grateful to him. Forever.

In Benedict XVI unceasing devotion and an enlightened magisterium are welded in a harmonious alliance. How many times has he spoken of beauty with touching words! Benedict has always considered beauty as a privileged way to open men and women to the transcendent and thus be able to encounter God, which for him was the highest task and the most urgent mission of the Church. In particular, music was for him a close art with which to elevate the spirit and interiority. But this did not make him divert attention, as a true man of faith, to the great and thorny questions of our time, observed and analyzed with conscious judgment and a courageous critical spirit. From listening to Scripture, read in the ever-living tradition of the Church, he was able from a young age to draw on that useful and indispensable wisdom to establish a dialogue with the culture of his own time, as these pages confirm.

We thank God for having given us Pope Benedict xvi: with his word and his testimony he taught us that with reflection, thought, study, listening, dialogue and above all prayer it is possible to serve the Church and do good to all mankind; he offered us lively intellectual tools to allow every believer to give an account of his hope by resorting to a way of thinking and communicating that could be understood by his contemporaries. His intention was constant: to enter into dialogue with everyone to seek together the ways by which to meet God.

This search for dialogue with the culture of his time has always been a burning desire of Joseph Ratzinger: he, first as a theologian and then as a pastor, has never confined himself to a purely intellectual culture, disembodied by the history of men and of the world. With his example of an intellectual full of love and enthusiasm (which etymologically means be in God) has shown us the possibility that seeking the truth is possible, and that letting oneself be possessed by it is the highest the human spirit can reach. In this journey all the dimensions of the human being, reason and faith, intelligence and spirituality, have their own role and their own specificity.

The fullness of our existence, Benedict XVI reminded us with word and example, is found only in the personal encounter with Jesus Christ, the Living One, the incarnate Logos, the full and definitive revelation of God, who is manifested in Him Love to the end.

This is my wish to the reader: may he find in these pages crossed by the passionate and meek voice of a teacher of faith and hope the grace of a new and life-giving encounter with Jesus.

A theology done on its knees – L’Osservatore Romano