The ecumenism of faith and the ecumenism of unbelief


Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa
Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa

The divinity of Jesus Christ was at the center of Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa’s sermon for the Pope and the Roman Curia on Friday of the third week of Lent. These reflections, the papal house preacher explained, are intended to respond to the widespread tendency to speak of the Church as if Christ does not exist, as if one can understand everything about it without mentioning Jesus Christ. However, this answer is not intended to convince the world and the media that they are wrong: this answer is to renew and strengthen our own faith in Christ, that is, in a discourse about the divinity of Christ, not in an apological, but in a spiritual way.

Olga Sakun – Vatican City

The most correct way to think about Christ is the way of dogma, the cardinal explained: Christ is the true man, Christ is the true God, Christ is the one hypostasis. It is necessary to “awaken” these dogmas, revive them, the preacher explained.

Faith in the divinity of Christ was born with the birth of the Church, but what happens to that faith now? It took almost a century before this truth was accepted, in all its radicalism, by the entire Christian world.

The Protestant Reformation, Cantalamessa continued, left this dogma intact and even increased its significance; however, she introduced an element into it that later led to negative consequences: Christ “for me” becomes more important than Christ “as such.”

Illuminism and rationalism found in this fertile ground for the destruction of dogma. According to Kant, the moral ideal proposed by Christ is more important than His person. Nineteenth-century liberal theology reduced Christianity to one ethical aspect, and especially to the experience of the fatherhood of God. Cantalamessa also mentioned Gandhi, who, unfortunately, “got acquainted with Christianity in this reduced version of it.” Gandhi wrote: “Nothing would change for me even if it was proved to me that Jesus never really lived and that what we read in the Gospels is nothing more than a figment of the author’s imagination. The Sermon on the Mount would always be true in my eyes. “

The closest version of such a reduced Christianity to us was popularized by Bultmann – in the name of demythologization. The preacher of the Papal House summarized this version with the following words: “Christ is not God, but in Christ there is (and acts) God.” Here we are dealing with an attempt to interpret the ancient dogma in modern categories, and as a result, this attempt turns out to be a return to old decisions that have already been evaluated and rejected by the church consciousness.

Today, the Capuchin emphasized, we are called to awaken our faith in the divinity of Christ. When Jesus asks: “Who do you think I am?” He is not interested in the opinion of the people, but in what the disciples will say. In the synoptic Gospels, the deity of Christ is never explicitly asserted, but constantly implied; while in the Gospel of John the divinity of Christ is presented as the primary goal, the unifying theme. Father Cantalamessa drew the prelates’ attention to those pages where Jesus says the phrase “I AM” – ἐγώ εἰμι, calling Himself by the name that God stands for for Himself alone (Is 43.10). Only the highest awareness in Himself of the power, power of God and His Spirit could lead to such a conclusion: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30).

After these considerations, Father Cantalamessa returned to the subjective and personal aspect of the dogma about the divinity of Christ, that is, to the very “Christ for me” that was discussed in connection with the Reformation. The preacher noted that this is important for understanding the “reconciled differences” between Christian denominations.

The first act of faith is always personal; it is performed only in private with God. In the Gospel of John, we constantly hear the question of Jesus: “Do you believe?” – and each time the answer comes from a specific person. In the Creed, we also say “I believe”, not “We believe”. Each of us must pass this test and answer this question. If we answer the question “Do you believe” right away, without hesitation, and we are also surprised that it is being asked to a priest or bishop, we probably do not yet know what it means to truly believe. The pinnacle of faith is the divinity of Christ, this is the “Everest of Faith,” emphasized Cantalamessa. Believing in a God who was born in a stable and died on the Cross is a very demanding act; it is not at all like believing in a distant God, whom everyone can imagine according to their own preferences.

Kanatalamessa made a digression, mentioning the confession of faith and the oath required of teachers of theology in the Catholic Church. First of all, the preacher believes, it is important to make sure that the theology teacher firmly believes in the divinity of Christ, and this should be determined not so much with the help of an oath as with the help of fraternal and sincere discernment. The oath did not lead to anything good, Cantalamessa believes, and a whole generation of priests after the Second Vatican Council left the seminary with very confused and vague ideas about who Jesus is, whom they should proclaim to people and whose presence they should have shown on the altar during Mass. Many priests have experienced a crisis for this very reason.

Cantalamessa again devoted the final part of his sermon to ecumenism, noting that there are two possible ecumenisms: the ecumenism of faith and the ecumenism of unbelief. The first unites those who believe in Jesus – the Son of God, and in God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The second unites those who are limited to “interpretations” of these truths, each in its own way. In this case, everyone believes the same, because no one truly believes, in the true sense of the word “believe.”

The main difference between Christians is not the same as the difference between Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants. The main difference is the difference between those who believe in Christ, the Son of God, and those who do not.

Faith in divinity is important primarily for evangelism, the priest emphasized: “Everyone believes that Jesus is a man, but the difference between believers and unbelievers is the belief that He is also God. The faith of Christians is the divinity of Christ! “

“Whoever believes in Christ,” said Raniero Cantalamessa, concluding his sermon, “has the ability to resist the great temptation of the meaninglessness of life, which often leads to suicide. The believer in Christ does not walk in darkness: he knows where he came from, knows where he is going and what he must do between these points. But first of all, he knows that someone loves him and that this Someone gave his life for him as a proof! “

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *