Fr. Neuhaus on "Listening to Benedict"
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who will be co-hosting EWTN's coverage of Pope Benedicts apostolic journey to the U.S., writes at the First Things blog On the Square:
... Visits by John Paul II were typically grand public extravaganzas and, since any pope is, after all, the pope, there will no doubt be extravagances in the week ahead. In Rome it is commonly said that crowds came to see John Paul, while they come to hear Benedict. There is a modicum of truth in that, although it underplays the way in which people beyond numbering listened with rapt attention as John Paul set forth in great detail such complex subjects as the “theology of the body” in his Wednesday audiences.
And yet there is no doubt about the contrast. Benedict is a soft-spoken teacher less given to dramatic gestures and inviting an intellectual attentiveness appropriate to his precision of expression. In a message given prior to his visit, he announced the theme of the visit: “Christ Our Hope.” The entirety of his being is animated by the desire to propose to the Church and to the world that Jesus Christ is, as he said of himself, “the way, the truth, and the life.”
A few weeks before he was elected pope, Joseph Ratzinger said at the funeral of Luigi Giussani, founder of the renewal movement known as Communion and Liberation, “Christianity is not an intellectual system, a collection of dogmas, or a moralism. Christianity is instead an encounter, a love story, an event.” Of course Christianity is also a rich intellectual tradition, some of us would say the richest in the history of the world, and Benedict is a master teacher of that tradition. And Christianity also entails dogmas and doctrines, vigorously defended and articulated by Benedict. It is also and very importantly a way of living in the truth, including the moral truth. But all of that is ancillary to and dependent on the fact that Christianity is a love story, an encounter with “the human face of God,” Jesus Christ.
The phrase the human face of God is much favored by Benedict. In my homily at Columbia University last Sunday, I told the students to watch for the appearance of the phrase during this visit. And, sure enough, there it is already in his preparatory statement setting out the theme of “Christ Our Hope.” This is closely related to an important fact about Ratzinger/Benedict: He is an Augustinian.
In the Church’s theological and philosophical tradition, there are two great luminaries around whom most schools of thought gravitate: the fifth-century St. Augustine and the thirteenth-century St. Thomas Aquinas. Some say Benedict is an Augustinian Thomist and others say he is a Thomist Augustinian. I would say he is an Augustinian who is in sympathetic conversation with Thomas. The great guide in this connection is Aidan Nichols’ The Theology of Joseph Ratzinger, even though that study is now twenty years old...