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Benedict’s Interview Speaks to Our Times (FULL TEXT)

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Robert Moynihan - published on 03/17/16

a) the contrast between the Father, who insists in an absolute way on justice, and the Son who obeys the Father and, obedient, accepts the cruel demands of justice, is not only incomprehensible today, but, from the point of view of Trinitarian theology, is in itself all wrong.

The Father and the Son are one and therefore their will is intrinsically one.

When the Son, in the Garden of Olives, struggles with the will of the Father, it is not a matter of accepting for himself a cruel disposition of God, but rather of attracting humanity into the very will of God. We will have to come back again, later, to the relationship of the two wills of the Father and of the Son.

b) So why would the cross and the atonement? Somehow today, in the contortions of modern thought we mentioned above, the answer to these questions can be formulated in a new way.

Let’s place ourselves in front of the incredible amount of evil, violence, falsehood, hatred, cruelty and arrogance that infect and destroy the whole world. This mass of evil cannot simply be declared non-existent, not even by God. It must be cleansed, reworked and overcome.

Ancient Israel was convinced that the daily sacrifice for sins and above all the great liturgy of the Day of Atonement (Yom-Kippur) were necessary as a counterweight to the mass of evil in the world and that only through such rebalancing the world could, as it were, remain bearable. Once the sacrifices in the temple disappeared, it had to be asked what could be opposed to the higher powers of evil, how to find somehow a counterweight.

The Christians knew that the temple destroyed was replaced by the resurrected body of the crucified Lord and in his radical and incommensurable love was created a counterweight to the immeasurable presence of evil. Indeed, they knew that the offers presented up until then could only be conceived of as a gesture of longing for a genuine counterweight.

They also knew that in front of the excessive power of evil only an infinite love was enough, only an infinite atonement. They knew that the crucified and risen Christ is a power that can counter the power of evil and save the world.

And on this basis they could even understand the meaning of their own sufferings as inserted into the suffering love of Christ, and included as part of the redemptive power of such love.

Above I quoted the theologian for whom God had to suffer for his sins in regard to the world. Now, due to this reversal of perspective, the following truths emerge: God simply cannot leave “as is” the mass of evil that comes from the freedom that he himself has granted. Only He, coming to share in the world’s suffering, can redeem the world.

c) On this basis, the relationship between the Father and the Son becomes more comprehensible.

I will reproduce here on this subject a passage from the book by Henri de Lubac on Origen which I feel is very clear:

“The Redeemer came into the world out of compassion for mankind. He took upon himself our passions even before being crucified, indeed even before descending to assume our flesh: if he had not experienced them beforehand, he would not have come to partake of our human life. “But what was this suffering that he endured in advance for us? “It was the passion of love. But the Father himself, the God of the universe, he who is overflowing with long-suffering, patience, mercy and compassion, does he also not suffer in a certain sense? ‘The Lord your God, in fact, has taken upon himself your ways as the one who takes upon himself his son’ (Deuteronomy 1, 31). God thus takes upon himself our customs as the Son of God took upon himself our sufferings. The Father himself is not without passion! If He is invoked, then He knows mercy and compassion. He perceives a suffering of love (Homilies on Ezekiel 6:6).”

In some parts of Germany there was a very moving devotion that contemplated the Not Gottes (“poverty of God”). For my part, that makes pass before my eyes an impressive image representing the suffering Father, who, as Father, shares inwardly the sufferings of the Son.

And also the image of the “throne of grace” is part of this devotion: the Father supports the cross and the crucified, bends lovingly over him and the two are, as it were, together on the cross.

So in a grand and pure way, one perceives there what God’s mercy means, what the participation of God in man’s suffering means. It is not a mater of a cruel justice, not a matter of the Father’s fanaticism, but rather of the truth and the reality of creation: the true intimate overcoming of evil that ultimately can be realized only in the suffering of love.

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