Notícias

11.01.2017 9:00

Francesco Lorenzi, autor do livro “A estrada do sol” https://goo.gl/xWZ4DL, recebeu no fim de dezembro a Medalha do Pontificado, atribuída pelo papa Francisco no âmbito do prémio das Academias Pontifícias.

A distinção foi entregue em Roma pelo Secretário de Estado da Santa Sé, cardeal Pietro Parolin, e pelo presidente do Conselho Pontifício da Cultura, cardeal Gianfranco Ravasi, que também assina o prefácio da obra, centrada no grupo de rock “The Sun”, liderada pelo vocalista Francesco Lorenzi, recém-convertido.

Entregue na presença de toda a banda pela Academia Pontifícia de Belas Artes e Letras dos Virtuosos do Panteão, o prémio salienta «o contributo dado ao desenvolvimento do humanismo cristão e das suas expressões artísticas no mundo» por parte de Lorenzi.

«Sinto este reconhecimento como uma amorosa carícia de Deus que confirma o muito trabalho realizado nestes anos ao serviço dos jovens da minha parte e de toda a minha equipa», comentou o vocalista.

«Sabemos que somos rapazes afortunados e a caminho. A vida deu-nos uma segunda oportunidade, dando-nos uma alegria que é construída sobre a rocha: recebemos muito e desejamos continuar a fazer a nossa parte o melhor que pudermos para o bem comum», acrescentou.

A distinção coroa um ano de 2016 memorável para a banda, que se envolveu em várias frentes: tournée, participação nas Jornadas Mundiais da Juventude na cidade polaca de Cracóvia, viagem à Terra Santa, documentário para a televisão católica italiana TV2000, publicação em vários países de “A estrada do sol” e uma nomeação por parte da Amnistia Internacional.

Ao longo dos seus capítulos, “A estrada do sol” começa por contar “A experiência do Bem e do Mal”, com os vários excessos de droga, álcool e sexo, prosseguindo com a reviravolta ocorrida a partir do “Encontro com Jesus”.

«Aquilo que conta de verdade é a decisão que podes tomar agora, o passo que podes dar na direção da tua verdadeira liberdade. Agora podes optar por assumir o controlo da tua vida, por libertá-la das cadeias e confiá-la a Deus sob todos os aspetos. Tu és um ser único e irrepetível, as forças mais extraordinárias da vida unem-se em ti para te dar a oportunidade de estares aqui, agora», escreve Francesco Lorenzi.

Para saber mais:

http://www.thesun.it/2016/12/07/francesco-lorenzi-premiato-papa-francesco/

http://www.repubblica.it/spettacoli/musica/2016/12/29/news/the_sun_e_le_opportunita_che_ho_perso_e_la_nostra_esortazione_per_chi_puo_ancora_scegliere_-155049251/

Source: Paulinas
23.11.2016 9:15

«Perguntas quanto tempo deves rezar?/ a papoila na encosta/ é vermelha sempre»: este é um dos poemas do livro “A noite abre meus olhos”, que valeu a José Tolentino Mendonça, Autor Paulinas https://goo.gl/MyZFga, o Grande Prémio de Poesia Teixeira de Pascoaes, promovido pela Associação Portuguesa de Escritores (APE) com o patrocínio da Câmara Municipal de Amarante.

Editado em 2014 pela Assírio & Alvim, o volume que contém a poesia reunida do padre, ensaísta e biblista foi elogiado pela sua «coerência interna», a par da «construção de linguagem fortemente visual que se sente respirar rente ao coração do mundo».

O júri, composto por Isabel Cristina Mateus, José Carlos Seabra Pereira e José Manuel Mendes, realçou também «o mérito de uma poética discreta da espiritualidade atenta ao rosto e ao olhar do outro, resgatando-o do esquecimento e do desamparo».

Em “A noite abre meus olhos”, prossegue o júri, manifestam-se «as projeções de uma estética que, na aparente simplicidade, exprime o deslumbramento e os sobressaltos de uma evidência da liberdade do corpo, lugar de revelação da realidade sacra do quotidiano, em particular nas relações interpessoais».

A este prémio, no valor de 12 500 euros, junta-se a distinção obtida em maio, na primeira edição do Grande Prémio de Literatura da APE e da Câmara Municipal de Loulé para Crónica e Dispersos Literários, com o volume “Que coisa são as nuvens” (2015), que reúne textos originalmente publicados no semanário “Expresso”.

De “A noite abre meus olhos”, o poema “A fala do rosto”:

«És Tu quem nos espera
Nas esquinas da cidade
E ergue lampiões de aviso
mal o dia se veste
de sombra

Teu é o nome que dizemos
se o vento nos fere de temor
e o nosso olhar oscila
pela solidão dos abismos

Por Ti é que lançamos as sementes
e esperamos o fruto das searas
que se estendem
nas colinas

Por Ti a nossa face se descobre
em alegria
e os nossos olhos parecem feitos
de risos

É verdade que recolhes nossos dias
quando é outono
mas a Tua palavra
é o fio de prata
que guia as folhas
por entre o vento»

Source: Paulinas
28.10.2016 13:50

A Paulinas Editora apoia a exibição em Portugal do filme “Agnus Dei – As inocentes”, da realizadora luxemburguesa Anne Fontaine, que estreia a 3 de novembro em Lisboa, Porto, Oeiras e Cascais.

A película, baseada em factos reais ocorridos em 1945, centra-se na Polónia, quando Matilde, médica francesa, chega a um convento onde as religiosas guardam um segredo: são vítimas de violação por parte dos soldados soviéticos e algumas estão grávidas.

A cineasta narra o relacionamento cada vez mais profundo entre Matilde, ateia e racionalista, e as religiosas, num processo gradual de aproximação mútua que a todas permite reencontrar o caminho da vida e da esperança.

O filme, que recebeu o Prémio RTP, atribuído pelo público, na Festa do Cinema Francês que teve lugar em outubro, pode ser visto nos Cinemas NOS Amoreiras e UCI Cinemas El Corte Inglês (Lisboa), Cinemas NOS Dolce Vita e UCI Arrábida 20 (Porto), Cinemas NOS Oeiras Park e Cinema da Villa (Cascais).

Depois da exibição no grande ecrã, a obra ficará disponível em DVD, com a distribuição assegurada pela Paulinas Editora.

Source: Paulinas
30.08.2016 12:50


A Paulinas Editora vai marcar presença na Festa do Livro em Belém, promovida pelo Presidente da República, com um expositor e várias sessões de autógrafos que decorrerão ao longo dos quatro dias da iniciativa, de quinta-feira a domingo.

Pretendendo ser este um encontro para toda a família, os autores Paulinas Editora presentes são especialistas em áreas diversificadas, que vão desde a Teologia e a Bíblia ao Património, passando pelas histórias para crianças.

A 1 de setembro, desde as 21h00, José Tolentino Mendonça estará disponível para assinar os seus livros e falar com os leitores, repetindo o encontro no dia seguinte, às 18h00.

Na tarde de sábado estarão presentes quatro escritores: Maria Virgínia Cunha (15h00), P. Joaquim Carreira das Neves (16h00), Maria de Lurdes Soares (17h00) e José Fanha (18h00).

No último dia, as sessões de autógrafos começam às 16h00 com Fr. Bento Domingues, seguindo-se Maria do Rosário Barardo (17h00) e Maria Teresa Maia Gonzalez (18h00).

Além das sessões de autógrafos, José Tolentino Mendonça é o protagonista da primeira de três mesas-redondas, debatendo o tema “A sabedoria dos livros”, no dia 2, às 17h00, com o escritor e tradutor Frederico Lourenço, em conversa moderada pela jornalista Anabela Mota Ribeiro.

A Festa do Livro em Belém, com entrada livre e gratuita, conta com a parceria da APEL – Associação Portuguesa de Editores e Livreiros e das Bibliotecas de Lisboa.

Do programa da iniciativa fazem também parte jogos didáticos, histórias contadas, música para bebés, um concerto de Cristina Branco, leituras de poesia (musicadas com os "Poetas do Povo"), sessões de autógrafos e a exibição de "Visita ou memória e confissões", documentário póstumo de Manoel de Oliveira.

 

Festa do Livro em Belém – Programa: http://www.museu.presidencia.pt/downloads/PROGRAMAfestadolivro.pdf

Source:
12.05.2016 10:15

O Regresso de Deus


Reading the signs of the times 

When I reflect on the history of Christianity, three key words stand out for me: incarnation, kenosis and parousia.

Incarnation: the self-revealing God (logos) become “flesh” (sarx) and enters the material of the world, history, humanity. The world, history, humanity and culture become the agent of the logos, the form of God’s self-communication.

In the Hebrew bible, the Creation story (the world and man are a parable and image of God; creation is similar to God) precedes the story of the Fall, which amends the previous one (the world and mankind are dissimilar from God, they are a damaged image). The outcome is the paradox proclaimed by Christian theology: the world and mankind are similar to and dissimilar from God; we now see God in the mirror of the world (in nature, history and humanity) only partially, like in a riddle. We will not see God fully until we see God “face to face” –in eschato: the historical world will not truly reflect God until it is whole, at the moment that history is fulfilled, the moment of parousia (Christ’s second coming), as St Paul taught (1).

Similarly, the New Testament, the Christmas mystery (the incarnation of the Logos) is complemented and “amended” (protected from too naïve a notion of divine and human identity, the Logos and “flesh”) by the Easter message of the cross, the mystery of kenosis, God’s self-emptying, surrender and self-destruction: He who was God’s equal destroyed himself, taking the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death on the cross. (2) The outcome is again a paradox: the message of resurrection and redemption. Defeat means victory. Those who give and sacrifice their lives will obtain them, those who wish to keep their lives for themselves, will lose them. Resurrection is the mysterious answer to the painful question of the dying Jesus: O God, why have you abandoned me? What was the point of it all?

Resurrection isn’t the happy end of the Easter story. Victory over death is not evident to “all people”, it can only be accessed and experienced through faith, love and hope (3). The history of Christianity is the history of a search for the Beloved, who is concealed and surprises (as in the Song of Songs), often appearing in the form of a stranger, like on the road to Emmaus (4), who appears in the anonymity of the “the least of his brethren”, an anonymity  that will only come to an end at the moment of the last judgment (5).

Yes, throughout the history of Christianity, the Christmas mystery of incarnation merges with the Easter mystery of kenosis: Christ is present in the manifest life of the church, in the liturgy, and the proclamation, and indeed in the visible institutions of the church and the “baptised world”. But we must not forget about the other, dim and mysterious form of God that disrupts our notion that we are capable of fully grasping the meaning of incarnation with the tools of our own reason, imagination and previous experience.

Christ is present in his church, and his truth (he himself as the fullness of truth) is present in the proclamations of the church. But at the same time, Christ divinely transcends the historically-conditioned institutions of the church and its verbally-articulated proclamations and teachings at a specific time and in a particular cultural and social space.

The Second Vatican Council accepted a very important truth about the church when it chose the expression “substistit in” to replace the previously proposed word est (the Church of Christ is identical with the Catholic Church), when defining the relationship between the church of Christ (in its eschatological fullness) and the Catholic church in its historical form. (6) This means that the church of Christ “subsists” in the Catholic church, but the fullness of Christ’s church is not entirely exhausted in the Catholic church as we know it from historical experience; it is not fully contained in it, without any remainder. There is space for others beyond the borders of Catholic church institutions. There are many authentic gifts of the Spirit that are part of the fullness of Christ’s church that we find in other churches and Christian communities. That is why the Christian churches and communities should be regarded as “communiones viatorum”, pilgrim communities that should come together and enrich each other on the journey through history by sharing experience and “exchanging gifts”.

I think we can seek an answer to the complex question of the relationship between truth and pluralism by applying the concept of “subsistit in” analogously to the relationship of the Truth that is Christ to the truth as taught by the church. In church doctrine Truth subsists, but it always necessary to add that the culturally and historically conditioned forms of church doctrine do not contain the fullness of truth. There is always scope for further seeking, for questions and interpretations; the door can open for anyone who knocks on it with a sincere desire for the truth, because the Spirit that leads to the fullness of Truth “bloweth where it listeth”. (7)

Likewise church doctrine subsists (sometimes implicitly more than anything else) in the religious consciousness of individual believers, but no single believer “owns” it fully and the religious consciousness of individuals and groups of believers does not contain solely the defined faith of the church. There is room in the hearts and minds of believers for critical questions. Likewise there must be space in the faith of the church for meditative silence, for quiet repose in the cloud of unknowing, for the unending path of seeking, and the humble endurance of questions that remain open, such as the question of the origin and meaning of evil (mysterium iniquitatis). So long as we treat God’s truth with the arrogance of monopolistic owners, we forget that Christ alone is permitted to say “I am the Truth”. At every moment of history we are disciples on the path of following the Lord; we are a pilgrim community (communio viatorum), and fullness of truth is an eschatological objective. The work of Christ’s Spirit, which is our mystagogue on the journey (8), remains an unfinished project. The Spirit of the Lord undoubtedly speaks through the verbally formulated doctrine of the church, but also through “sighs too deep for words”; it is also present in the pain and longing that pervade creation and our hearts. (9) 

 

***

 

Christianity has been embodied in culture, society and history. A dream lies at the foundations of European Christianity. It is said that on the night before a battle the Emperor Constantine had a dream in which he saw the sign of the cross and heard the words: Through this sign you will be victorious! Next morning Constantine ordered Christ’s monogram with the cross to be fixed to the standards of his troops, and he did indeed defeat his enemy in the ensuing battle. So the emperor convinced himself that the God of Christians – the cross as a protective amulet – was a reliable guarantor of a powerful victory, the triumph of power. In gratitude he set Christianity on the path of freedom, and soon afterwards on the path of triumph and power. I ask myself over and over again what would have happened to Christianity, the church, Europe and the world if the emperor had understood his dream differently, if he had had at his disposal more intelligent dream interpreters, who would have offered him a profounder hermeneutic of the sign of the cross.

Fifteen centuries after Emperor Constantine another dream entered European history. A madman carrying a lighted lantern arrived in a marketplace in the full light of day and cried out that he was seeking God. “God is dead! God remains dead!” God was simply a projection of people’s wishes and fears; religion was an illusion. Religion was opium for the people. Didn’t the three great prophets of the 19th century, Nietzsche, Freud and Marx, all express the same experience, just in different words, namely: that God no longer serves as a tool of power nor does Christianity as a triumphalist ideology? Didn’t those three magi from the West bring us the royal gift of a deeper understanding of Emperor Constantine’s dream? A different hermeneutic of the symbol of the cross?

Although many beautiful and profound things have been written about the cross by great theologians, mystics and saints, and although individual Christians and many local churches have endured the burden of the cross, it seems that only now in the period of latter-day modernity has Christianity of the West been able to experience the “Good Friday of history”, when the cry of the abandoned crucified Christ was heard in the darkness of God’s silence. No longer were they individuals who entered the “dark night”; God’s hiddenness gradually became a collective historical experience in many countries with a thousand-year-old Christian culture.

To understand Constantine’s dream one must understand the meaning of the cross: loss can be gain, and gain loss; victory can be defeat, and defeat victory; the cross and suffering can become kairos: the right or opportune moment.

Isn’t what some call “secularisation” and others “the death of God” – that dark night of God’s hiddenness – kairos, the opportune moment? And isn’t it as such a royal gift to the cradle of a new kenotic Christianity, a space for a deeper and more mature faith? Do not faith and the church need, in a certain sense, to endure weakness, suffering and death, in order to experience resurrection and be a believable witness to Victory over death?

If the god who guarantees military victories and is a reliable ally of the powerful is really dead, if the Christianity as Europe’s ideology is dead, need Europe and the church become a “mausoleum of the dead God”, or could they become the Bethlehem of a new understanding of the gospel?

The history of Christianity and the history of the church, faith and theology, have not, are not and will not be a definite one-way highway of progress, but rather a drama of alternate decline and revival, of straying and return, a dynamic current of continual recontextualisations and reinterpretations of the message entrusted to them.

Perhaps the pontificate of Pope Francis will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Christianity, a new reading of the gospel – the promise of an open, ecumenical Christianity for the planetary age. The present transition from one historical form of Christianity to another – like similar transitions in the past – could well involve crises, tension and conflicts, and the “gift of discernment of spirits” will probably be of greater need than ever.

The reforms of the 2nd Vatican Council would have been unthinkable without the efforts of the great theologians of the 20th century. It strikes me that the reforming pontificate of Pope Francis also urgently needs the support of the painstaking work of today’s theologians; it needs a “new theology” of which an essential part will be “kairology” – the art of reading the signs of the times. In other words, a theological hermeneutic, a critical interpretation of contemporary culture, which is the context of our faith life.

 

***

 

One of the evident signs of our times is the “return of religion”, expressed in the title of one popular book as “God is Back”.

But God is back in what form? The religion that is returning has surprised both the proponents of the secularisation theory and the representatives of traditional religions. It is returning in a form that is different from the religion that existed before the era of secularisation. Indeed even present-day fundamentalism, which swears by fidelity to tradition, is far from being “good old time religion”, but is a typically modern phenomenon, a modern reaction to modernity. Psychoanalysis has shown us that the displaced and suppressed content of our minds resurfaces from the subconscious in a different form. Likewise, religion, which was suppressed in modern times by the process of secularisation, is resurfacing in a new form. Rather than a return of religion, it would be more appropriate to speak of a transformation of religion.

At the present time this transformation takes three main forms: the transformation of religion into a political ideology, the transformation of religion into philosophical hermeneutics and phenomenology, and the transformation of religion into spirituality. Whereas the latter two transformations of religion chiefly concern western culture and would seem to vindicate the theory that the post-modern era is a post-secular one, the politicisation of religion is a global phenomenon.

In his 1991 bestseller “La Revanche de Dieu” (God’s Vengeance) Gilles Kepel noted that politicisation is not restricted to Islam but is the reaction of all three major monotheistic religions to the crisis of liberal democracy in the last quarter of the 20th century.

The entire cultural revolution of 1968 and the whole of the “second Enlightenment” of the 1960s were the culmination of the secularisation process in the West and also the end of modernity. The conservative wave of the 1970s coincided with beginning of the “post-modern era” and the deepening of the globalization process. The Czech philosopher Radim Palouš called 1969 (the year that humans landed on the Moon and microprocessors were invented) as the symbolic beginning of the “global age”.

If we study the recent political awakening within Roman Catholic Christianity we discover that it is a multifaceted phenomenon full of contradictions. On the one hand there are the left-wing currents inspired by liberation theology, and on the other, conservative attempts in the spirit of the American evangelical Religious Right. But another aspect of the political involvement of Roman Catholics is the part played by them in human rights movements in communist countries and the important contribution made by the Catholic church to the peaceful transition of both left-wing and right-wing authoritarian regimes to democracy and civil society – in Spain, Chile, Argentina, Poland, the Philippines and many other countries.

Since the Enlightenment the relationship of religion to politics has been perceived chiefly as a relationship between the state and the church; the separation of state and church was regarded as the final ideal solution, protecting the freedom of civil society from the danger of church domination, and the freedom of the churches and religion from absolutist state power. Today’s situation is different, however. The nation states have lost their monopoly of politics and the churches have lost their monopoly of religion. The relationship between religion and politics needs to be considered afresh.

An interesting phenomenon is the use of religious language by secular politicians. It seems that in very dramatic political situations when emotions are extremely powerful, secular language is unable to express them, and politicians instinctively resort to religious concepts: the enemy is the Great Satan, its sphere of influence is “the Empire of Evil”, etc. The secular world underestimates, however, the potential energy that religious symbols conceal; religion can be a force for healing in international relations, but it can also become a weapon that transforms political conflicts into a destructive apocalyptic war between Good and Evil, first in people’s minds and then in political reality.

I ask myself whether the use of religious language for political phenomena and for political conflicts between different ethnic and interest groups is not one of the main reasons for religion’s presence in politics nowadays. That would mean that instead of talking about the politicisation of religion we should be talking about the sacralisation of politics: the radicalisation of political conflicts through the power of religious symbols.

 

***

 

I can only deal briefly with two other forms of the “return of religion”. Whereas up to about the middle of the last century any mention of God in academia was often looked upon rather like the mention of sex in Victorian society, in recent decades there is talk of a “religious turn” in post-modern philosophy. A major step away from traditional philosophy of religion and from theology cultivated within traditional metaphysics was when Paul Ricoeur made a distinction  between first and second naïveté (10): we cannot return, however, to the pre-modern world of a pre-critical relationship to religion; we must pass through the “desert” of rational criticism: “reconstruction”. Only then will a post-critical new relationship to religious symbols present itself to us – by means of interpretation.

In my own books I speak similarly about faith as the courage to enter the cloud of mystery, as a the art of living with mystery, living in the midst of life’s paradoxes and persevering in an open space of questions for which no answers will be found in this world. God often comes to us as a question – and there are questions that are so good that it’s a pity to spoil them with answers. Unlike the impatient and superficial answers of dogmatic atheism, fundamental religion and fanatical religiosity, which amount to ways of “having done with God”, mature faith is patient in the face of mystery.

Let us move on to the third transformation of religion: the increasing emphasis on spirituality, particularly mysticism, as religious experience. The burgeoning interest in spirituality since the 1960s has been a reaction both to the cold rationality of technological civilization and to the spiritually insipid offerings of the Christian churches. The wave of syncretic linking of oriental mysticism and psychology termed “New Age” is on the decline and spirituality is seeking new paths. Among Christian thinkers are the most influential authors of spiritual literature like Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen and Anselm Grün.

A theology drawing on the sources of Christian mysticism is capable of speaking to people beyond the churches’ visible borders. There are many people who could be described as “seekers”, who generally say of themselves that the don’t believe in religion but are spiritual people. Some of that group are former practising Christians who parted ways with churches (either having formally left a church or remaining in passive membership), but have not ceased to be “believers in their own way”. These people now constitute a diffuse church in the West, one that is possibly more numerous than the church of “practising Christians”. Pope Benedict has evidently realised that were church to identify solely with “practising Christians” and were it to concentrate on them alone, it would soon become a sect. That is why he has urged the church to do like the Jews did in the Temple of Jerusalem and open a “court of gentiles” for those who do not fully identify with the teachings and practices of the church, but nevertheless have an “ear for religion”.

Pope Francis’ pontificate would seem to be creating scope not only for “pious pagans” but also for “ex-Catholics”. In a sense the future of the church is the future of western civilisation and it largely depends on whether the church will realise that another task awaits it, in addition to pastoral care for disciplined parishioners who have been termed “dwellers”, and in addition to classical missionary activity, namely: accompanying spiritual seekers in dialogue. This differs from classical missionary activity that seeks to bring “seekers” into the church and squeeze them into the existing institutional and intellectual boundaries of the church. Instead it seeks to extend those boundaries and enrich the treasury of the church with the experience of those “who don’t walk with us”. 

A new ecclesiology should be based on Jesus’s firm response to the disciple’s wish for a monopoly of the truth: “Who is isn’t against us is for us”. A new ecclesiology should be kenotic in character and abandon any nostalgia for a “mass church”; it should abandon notions of the church as a sect creating a counter-culture against contemporary society, and also the model of a church that is uncritically conformist in its attitude to majority society. For the church to have an open door, Christians must have open minds. “New evangelisation” will only be truly new if it is preceded and accompanied by humble silence and attentive listening – the contemplative reading of the “signs of the times”.


Lisboa, Culturgest, 3.5.2016

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(1) Cf. 1 Cor 13.12

(2) Cf. Phil 2.6-8

(3) Cf. Acts 10.41

(4) Cf. Luke 24, 13-24

(5) Cf. Matt 25, 31-46

(6) The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 8

(7) John 16.13; John 3.8

(8) John 16.13

(9) Romans 8.26

(10) Even before Ricoeur, second naïveté was defined by Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911): “If we cannot live the lives of others with the original experience of them, we can, through interpretation, attain a second naïveté. It is through interpretation that we can see and hear again, that we can come to understand others and, thence, ourselves.”


Source: Paulinas
11.05.2016 8:30

The afternoon of Christianity

 

Dear colleagues, esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen!

One of the attempts to interpret the concept of religio derives the word from re-legere: reading anew. Reading anew and in a new way, reaching a deeper understanding of the text. We hear a lot nowadays about “new evangelization”. Ought it not be schooling in the art of reading the book of reality – the “signs of the times” – in a different way: more attentively and in greater depth?

What are the “signs of the times” and how are we to respond to them?

The chief message of my book “Patience with God” (which was the first my book translated in Portuguese) is this: There are moments in the history of humanity, as well as in the history of the church and in our own lives, when we are confronted more than at other times with God’s hiddenness, God’s silence.

In the period of latter-day modernity has Christianity of the West been able to experience the darkness of God’s silence. No longer were the individuals who entered the “dark night”; God’s hiddenness gradually became a collective historical experience in many countries with a thousand-year-old Christian culture.

Silence is not the absence of communication. Silence is communication that can have many meanings and which is therefore subject to many different interpretations.

Atheism interprets God’s silence by the sentence “God doesn’t exist”, or “God is dead”. The traditionalists do not hear the gentle music of God’s silence but instead go on repeating the old formulae. Emotional piety drowns out God’s silence with its ardent alleluias. Agnostics shrug their shoulders uneasily. But a mature faith is capable of enduring God’s silence and hiddenness. Faith as I understand it is the courage to enter the cloud of Mystery and live with mystery. Faith, hope and love are three arts of our patience with the silent God.

Where are we now in the history of Christianity in Europe? It has been said on many occasions in the past that Christianity is on its deathbed. Some have claimed, on the contrary, that it is still only in its childhood. It is my opinion that Christianity at the present time (in a large part of  Europe, at least) is undergoing “noonday fatigue” and faces the decision about what to do in “the afternoon of its history”.

I found some of my inspiration for using the metaphor of the day for the history of Christianity in the work of Carl Gustav Jung.

Jung uses the metaphor of the day to describe the development of the human personality in the course of a lifetime. The morning of life (youth) is a time for building the external structures of personality. Around the mid-point of life there arrives a “noonday crisis”. It can take the form of shock or loss of previous certainties (crisis of marriage or occupation, financial or health problems, etc.), or “burn-out syndrome”. The noontime crisis is also an opportunity for a major “sea change”, a chance to tackle the tasks of “life’s afternoon”, to move from outward considerations to the depths.

Now we are witness to controversy within the church between those who want to preserve those structures in their present form at all costs, and those who want to radically change them, come what may. I fear that both the opposing “camps” think in terms of “morning” categories: they are both concerned chiefly about institutional structures and the manner in which belief is expressed. I fear that both sides risk overlooking a third option. This consists of not concentrating so much on the outward structure, but of “a journey into the depths” – striving for radical spiritual and intellectual renewal.

This journey into the depths that I regard as the way out of the crisis is by no means some pietist escape into the “paradise of the heart” and the garden of private piety. What I have in mind is a substantive spiritual and intellectual deepening of contemporary Christianity.

In my view we must benefit as much as possible from the “cleansing bath” or purgative fire that the critique of religion represents. We must abandon notions of a “banal god”, concealed behind the scenes of nature and history, one that is immediately available to us. Instead we should open ourselves to experience of God as the depth of mystery.

Let us not expect “certainties” from faith, in the sense of simple answers to complex questions, but have the courage and perseverance to live with mystery amidst the paradoxes of life.

At the moment in modern times, starting with Descartes, when reality was separated into subject and object, God was made homeless. It was then logical for atheism to say: there is no God. God is truly not to be found in a world viewed that way, because God is neither an “object”, a things among things, a being among beings, or even part of the human subject; God is not simply our idea, emotion, concept or fantasy. But this form of God’s absence from the object-subject world need not necessarily be interpreted atheistically. There is another possible interpretation, namely, the encounter with God’s hiddenness and intangibility, God’s transcendence.

The encounter with God’s transcendence is only the first word, however; Christian theology always seeks the complementary pole, the experience of God’s immanence, the closeness of God. I don’t believe that what is described nowadays by the phrase “the return of religion” is God’s “second word”, the real resurrection after “the death of God”. But maybe the spiritual thirst that is undoubtedly manifesting itself in these present-day phenomena (for which, however, the strangest beverages are offered on today’s “religious market”) could be perceived as the first glimmer of a new dawn. After all, doesn’t St John of the Cross tell us that in the night thirst itself is the light that leads us to the springs of water?

In a lecture I gave some years ago, I provocatively compared St. Thérèse of Lisieux (called “Little Flower”) to Friedrich Nietzsche and called these two very different spiritual contemporaries “siblings”.

Nietzsche and Thérèse both lived in the self-confident 19th-century world of science and progress, which, though few realized it at the time, was full of illusions and naïveté and would soon be superseded. It was also a time of piety, which was both sweetly sentimental and full of lugubrious moralizing, rigorism, acquisition of merit, and cultivation of virtues (that pious version of the old Pelagian heresy), and of an obsessively neurotic fascination with sin. And Nietzsche and Thérèse both – albeit in very different ways and circumstances – turned their backs on those features of their time and on the subtle temptations within its spiritual climate.

Before her death, the young Carmelite nun experienced great spiritual conflicts and inner darkness. What is therefore most remarkable about Thérèse is the way she accepted and perceived her contest with God, with darkness and forlornness, her experience with the absence of God and the eclipse of her faith. She accepted it as a mark of solidarity with unbelievers.

Thérèse declares that she perceives unbelievers as her brothers, with whom she sits at the same table and eats the same bread – and she begs Jesus not to banish her there from. Such an attitude to unbelievers was alien to the church of her day, which regarded atheism as error, delusion, and above all sin.

In the case of Thérèse, we may assume that she would construe her experience with this abyss traditionally as a sacrifice, aimed at helping bring sinful unbelievers back into the bosom of the church. However, if I am correct in my understanding of Thérèse and of her path through paradox and constant reinterpretation, then her concern was something else: not simply to draw these unbelievers back into the heart of the church, but rather to broaden that heart by including their experience of darkness. Through her solidarity with unbelievers, she conquers new territory (along with its inhabitants) for a church that has previously been too closed.

Hasn’t the time come for Thérèse’s spiritual path, and particularly “solidarity with unbelievers,” to be an inspiration as a hermeneutic key toward new theological reflection on present-day society, its spiritual climate, and the church’s mission at the present time?

To show living faith not as a set of dusty precepts, but as a path of maturation that even includes valleys of “the silence of God”– but which, unlike the purveyors of “certainties,” does not circumvent them or abandon any further search but patiently moves on.

The existential “truth of atheism,” that experience of pain that was previously the “rock of atheism,” is also part of the treasure-house of faith. Faith construed this way and lived authentically and patiently in the depth of night now carries an existential experience within itself. It lacks nothing of what is part of the human condition. It endures people’s night also.

Atheism is a useful antithes is to naïve, vulgar theism – but it is necessary to take a further step toward synthesis and mature belief. Mature belief involves breathing out and breathing in, night and day; atheism is simply a fragment.

But we must not fall prey to triumphalism or pride in these reflections – we must be aware that even “mature belief” remains unfinished business as far as we are concerned (and if we are to complete the task we need to take seriously the experience of atheism), rather than something that we already possess and could consider our “property.” We too have yet to fulfill the challenge of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity... And we shall do this, if only God permits. “ (Hebrews 6.1–3).

Another saint patron for “the afternoon of Christianity” was Mother Theresa of Calcutta. She led an exceptionally active life of ceaseless charitable work. The posthumous publication of her diary provided an insight into her personal spirituality and spiritual life. It was an abyss of almost permanent “dark night”, reminiscent of the mystics from St John of the Cross to Thérèse of Lisieux. That woman possibly endured out of solidarity not only days and years of social distress of the present-day world, but also at night its mental and spiritual distress, depression and the experience of God’s silence. She took during the day the solidarity with those who have suffered in their bodies and during the night with those who have suffered in their night of soul, night of the faith.

How should the church look like in the afternoon of Christianity?

The most promising model in my view is the church as a school – a school in the three basic Christian virtues: faith, love and hope. That trinity needs to be rediscovered, subjected to theological reflection and put into practice in people’s lives. A distinction must be made between faith and mere “religious conviction”, between love and mere emotion, between hope and mere optimism. The “theology of virtues” must be reconsidered as a dialogical encounter between the gift (of grace) and human freedom, openness and responsibility.

Yes, today’s and tomorrow’s church should draw inspiration from one of the most valuable forms of its presence in European culture – the original mediaeval ideal of the university, the university as a community of teaching, life and prayer of masters and pupils, a community governed by freedom of conviction, based on the belief that discussion is essential on the path to truth, and that teaching must be based on prayer and meditation: “Contemplata alliis tradere.”

Let us not fear that we would thereby lose ourselves in the crowd and lose our Christian identity. What will distinguish us from the mass of people around us (but what will unite us at the same time with those with whom we ourselves would not seek an alliance), will be the willingness to “take upon ourselves the form of a servant.” This life orientation of kenosis, self-surrender, means, within a civilisation oriented mainly towards material success, a conspicuously non-conformist attitude. Those who live this way can be a hidden “salt of the earth” and also a highly visible “light of the world”. Only then will the “new evangelisation” be truly new. Only than we will be ready to overcome its “noontime slump” of contemporary Christianity in Europe, only than we will be ready to face the tasks of the afternoon of its history.

Universidade de Coimbra, Capela, 3.5.2016


Source: Paulinas
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