Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It is Wednesday- So that Means the POPE SPEAKS!!

The Pope At Today's Wednesday Audience

Time for weekly posting of the Pope's Wednesday audience. The Pope is still talking about the mostly dead guys called the Church Fathers and why we Catholics should think they are important. Not only important but Critical to living out all daily Catholic and Christian faith. Thanks again to the Ratzinger forum that has again translated the text in a very quick fashion.
The Pope is doing part II of his talk on St. John Chrysostom. I have part I from last week in my post It is Wednesday So It 's Pope Wednesday Audience Time(WITH PICS) - Benedict talks St. John Chrysostom and Marriage .

I find this talk and the last one on St John Chrysostom one of the best he has done on the Church fathers. I also think his connection between this Father and Catholic Social Doctrine is something to take note of for our lives and also future Church teaching on this subject from him. Anyway I shall post it in full.

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis at the General Audience today in St. Peter's Square:
Dear brothers and sisters!
Today we will continue our reflection on St. John Chrysostom. After his time in Antioch, he was named in 397 Bishop of Constantinople, capital of the eastern Roman empire. From the start, John intended a reform of his Church: the austerity of the bishops' palace should be an example to all - the clergy, monks, widows, persons of the court, the wealthy. Unfortunately, not a few of them, feeling themselves adjudged by him, distanced themselves from him. Much sought after by the poor, John came to be called 'the alms-giver'. A careful administrator, he succeeded to create charitable institutions which were greatly appreciated.

His entrepreneurship in various areas made many consider him as a dangerous rival. But, as a true pastor, he treated everyone cordially and in a fatherly manner. He especially reserved kind tones for women and special attention to marriage and the family. He invited the faithful to take part in liturgical life, which he made splendidly attractive with creative genius. Notwithstanding his good heart, he did not have a tranquil life. Pastor of the imperial capital, he often found himself involved in political questions and intrigues because of his continuing relationships with civil authorities and institutions

. On the ecclesiastical level, having deposed 5 Asian bishops in 401 for having been improperly elected, he was accused of stepping beyond his jurisdiction, thus becoming an easy target for facile accusations. Another matter taken against him was the presence in Constantinople of some Egyptian monks who had been excommunicated by the Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria and who then sought refuge in the Byzantine capital. A lively controversy arose from the Chrysostom's criticisms of the Empress Eudoxia and her courtiers, who reacted by hurling back discredit and insults on him. This led to his dismissal as bishop by a Synod organized by Patriarch Theophilus, which condemned him to his first brief exile.

When he came back, the hostility he had aroused by protesting feasts in honor of the Empress - feasts he thought were pagan and lustful - and the witch hunt against the priests responsible for Baptism in the Easter Vigil of 404 signalled the start of persecution against John and his followers. John then denounced these by letter to the Bishop of Rome, Pope Innocent I. But it was too late. In 406, he was sent into exile again, this time to Cucusa, in Armenia. The Pope was convinced of his blamelessness, but he did not have the power to help him.

He was unable to call together a Council which Rome wanted in order to pacify both parts of the empire and reconcile their churches. An exhausting transfer from Cucusa to Pytius - a destination he never reached - was meant to keep John's supporters from visiting him and wear down their resistance by keeping him in indefinite exile. The exile was virtually a death sentence. The letters John wrote from exile are moving in which he expresses his pastoral concerns in tones of participation and sorrow for the persecutions against his followers. Johm's death march ended in Comana, where the dying John was brought to the chapel of St. Basil martyr. There, he drew his last breath and was buried, a martyr next to another martyr.

It was September 14, 407, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The Chrysostom's rehabilitation took place in 438 under Theodosius II. The remains of the sainted bishop were brought to the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople, from which they were brought to Rome in 1204 and kept in the Constantinian Basilica that preceded the construction of the present Basilica in the 16th century. Now they repose in the Chapel of the Canons of the Basilica. On August 24, 2004, a large part of these remains were turned over by John Paul II to Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. St. John Chrysostom's liturgical commemoration takes place on September 13. Blessed John XXIII named the Chrysostom patron of the Second Vatican Council.

It has been said of John Chrysostom that when he sat on the bishop's throne of the New Rome, Constantinople, God made people see in him the second Paul, a teacher of the Universe. Indeed, the Chrysostom always showed a substantial unity of thought and action, in Antioch as in Constantinople. Only the situations and roles changed. Meditating on the eight labors completed by God during the six days of Creation narrated in Genesis, the Chrysostom wished to shift the attention of the faithful from what was created to the Creator. It is good, he said, "to know who is the creature and who is the Creator." He shows us the beauty of creation and the transparency of God through his creations, which thus becomes almost like a 'stairway' towards God and to knowing him. But to this first step he adds a second: God the Creator is also the God of 'condescension' (synkatabasis).

We are weak in making this 'climb' towards God, and our eyes are weak. So God 'condescends' by sending to fallen man his Worcd - Sacred Scripture - and thus, creation and Scriptures complete each other. In the light of Scripture, the Word God has given us, we can decipher creation. God is called 'tender father' (Philostorgios) (ibid.), healer of souls (Homily 40,3 on Genesis), mother (ibid.) and affectionate friend (On Providence,8,11-12). But to this second step - first, Creation as 'stairway' to God; and then, God coming down to us through his Word, Sacred Scripture - was a third one. God not only sent down his word to us. Finally, he himself comes down to us, becomes flesh, really 'God with us', our brother up to his death on the Cross.

To these three steps - God is visible in creation, God gives us his word, God comes down and becomes one of us - there is a fourth step. Within the life and actions of the Christian, the vital and dynamic principle is the Holy Spirit (Pneuma) who transforms the reality of the world. God enters our personal existence through the Holy Spirit and transforms us from within our own heart.

With this as background, John, in his continuing comments on the Acts of the Apostles, proposed the model of the early Church (Acts 4,32-37) as a model for society to develop a social Utopia (almost an 'ideal city'). In short, to give a Christian face and soul to the city. The Chrysostom understood that it was not enough to give alms or to help the poor now and then, but that it was necessary to create a new structure, a new model of society, one based on the perspective of the New Testament. And the nascent Church showed what the new society could be. Thus, St. John Chrysostom is truly one of the great Fathers of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The old idea of the Greek polis had to be replaced by the new idea of a city inspired by the Christian idea. Chrysostom agreed with Paul (cfr 1 Cor 8,11) on the primacy of the individual Christian, of the person as such, even if he was a slave or a poor man.

This was a change from the Greek vision of the polis or city, in which large parts of the population were excluded from citizenship rights. In the Christian city, all men are brothers and sisters with equal rights. The primacy of the person is also the consequence of the fact that one can build the city, starting with the individual, whereas in the Greek polis, the country was above the individual, who was totally subordinate to the city as a whole. Thus, the vision of a society built on and by the Christian conscience began with the Chrysostom, who tells us that our polis is something else, "our homeland is in the heavens" (Fil 3,20), and in this homeland, even here on earth, we are all equal, brothers and sisters, which obliges us to solidarity.

Towards the end of his life, in exile in far Armenia - 'the most remote place on earth' - John returned to his early preaching in 386 and took up a theme dear to him, God's plan for mankind: it is a plan that is 'inexpressible and incomprehensible' but certainly something carried out with love (On Providence, 2,6). This is our certainty. Even if we cannot decipher the details of the plan in our personal and collective lives, we know that it is always inspired by his love.

Notwithstanding his sufferings, the Chrysostom reaffirmed the discovery of a God who loves each of us with infinite love and wants only the salvation of everyone. For his part, the sainted bishop cooperated generously towards this salvation without sparing himself, throughout his life. Indeed he considered the glory of God to be the ultimate end of his existence, and as he lay dying, his last words were: "Glory to God for everything!" (Palladio, Life 11).

Later, he synthesized the catechesis in English this way:

Today we continue our reflections on Saint John Chrysostom. In 397, when he became Bishop of Constantinople, he set an example to the people of the city by his simplicity of life and his constant concern for the poor. He did not hesitate to speak out against corrupt or pagan practices, even in the Imperial Court, and for this he was sent into exile. In his teaching, he showed how our wonder at the beauty of creation should lead us to give glory to the Creator. Yet God is also a tender father, a healer of souls and an affectionate friend. The Creator of the Universe loved us so much that he did not spare his only Son. The Holy Spirit also features prominently in Saint John’s writings – the life-force that transforms the world and gives wings to those Christians who are docile to the Spirit’s promptings.

This authoritative teaching earned Saint John Chrysostom the title of a second Saint Paul, Teacher of the Universe. The exiled bishop continued until his death to proclaim the infinite love of God, who wants all to be saved. With his last breath he spoke of the ultimate end of human life – the glory of God. Let us learn from Saint John’s example to love Christ in the poor and to bear faithful witness to the truth of the Gospel.

I extend a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including groups from Britain and Ireland, New Zealand, Thailand, and North America. I greet in particular the new students from the Venerable English College and the priests from Ireland who are taking part in a renewal course here in Rome. May the time that you spend in this city deepen your love for Christ and his Church, and may God’s blessings of peace and joy be with you always!

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