Thursday, July 03, 2008

Professor Papa Ratzinger at work!

In yesterday's Wednesday Catechesis, the Holy Father inaugurates a new cycle, focused on St. Paul. He starts with an overview (informative, succinct and easy to follow) illustration of the Mediterranean world that St. Paul inhabited: Jewish, Gentile, the nature of pagan religion, Stoicism and the philosophers, and touching briefly upon the "mystery religions."
The universalistic vision typical of St. Paul's personality, at least of the Christian Paul after the event on the road to Damascus, certainly owes its basic impetus to faith in Jesus Christ, inasmuch as the figure of the Risen One goes beyond that of any particularistic restriction. In fact, for the apostle "there is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free man, no longer male or female, but all are only one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Yet, the historical-cultural situation of his time and environment also influenced his choices and commitment. Paul has been described as a "man of three cultures," taking into account his Jewish origin, Greek language, and his prerogative of "civis romanus," as attested also by his name of Latin origin.
In this very brief paragraph, the Holy Father is illustrating again the importance of historical analysis, understood as an aid to a better comprehension of the Scriptures, and the life of the early Church. He has argued eloquently elsewhere of the damaging effects the grandiose claims this method has had, but, at the same time, underscores its importance, even its necessity, once it is purified of the erroneous philosophical assumptions that have undergirded much of its operation in the past. (See especially the masterful essay, Biblical Interpretation in Crisis from 1988.)

At the end of the talk, he gives us, very briefly, his hopes for this Pauline year: "This is the objective of the Pauline Year: to learn the faith from him, to learn from him who Christ is, to learn, in the end, the path for an upright life."

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