Audiences 2005-2013 13067
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the history of early Christianity there is a fundamental distinction between the first three centuries and those that followed the Council of Nicaea in 325, the first Ecumenical Council. Like a "hinge" between the two periods are the so-called "conversion of Constantine" and the peace of the Church, as well as the figure of Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine. He was the most highly qualified exponent of the Christian culture of his time in very varied contexts, from theology to exegesis, from history to erudition. Eusebius is known above all as the first historian of Christianity, but he was also the greatest philologist of the ancient Church.
It was to Caesarea, where Eusebius was born probably in about the year 260 A.D., that Origen had fled from Alexandria. And in Caesarea, Origen founded a school and a huge library. A few decades later, the young Eusebius educated himself with these books. In 325, as Bishop of Caesarea, he played a lead role at the Council of Nicaea. He signed the Creed and the affirmation of the full divinity of the Son of God, who is consequently defined as "one in being with the Father" (homooúsios tõ Patrí). The Creed we recite every Sunday in the Holy Liturgy is practically the same.
A sincere admirer of Constantine who had given peace to the Church, Eusebius in turn was esteemed and respected by Constantine. As well as with his works, Eusebius also celebrated the Emperor with panegyrics which he delivered on the 20th and 30th anniversary of his ascendance to the throne, and upon his death in the year 337. Two or three years later, Eusebius died too.
Eusebius was an indefatigable scholar. In his numerous writings he resolved to reflect and to give an up-to-date report on the three centuries of Christianity, three centuries lived under persecution, drawing abundantly on the Christian and pagan sources preserved in particular in the great library of Caesarea.
Thus, despite the objective importance of his apologetic, exegetic and doctrinal works, the imperishable fame of Eusebius is still mainly associated with the 10 books of his Ecclesiastical History. He was the first person to write a history of the Church which continues to be of fundamental importance, thanks to the sources which Eusebius made available to us for ever.
With this Chronicle, he succeeded in saving from the doom of oblivion numerous events, important figures and literary works of the ancient Church. Thus, his work is a primary source of knowledge of the early centuries of Christianity.
We might wonder how he structured this new work and what his intentions were in compiling it. At the beginning of his first book, the historian lists in detail the topics he intends to treat in his work: "It is my purpose to write an account of the succession of the holy Apostles, as well as of the times which have elapsed from the days of our Saviour to our own; and to relate the many important events which are said to have occurred in the history of the Church; and to mention those who have governed and presided over the Church in the most prominent dioceses, and those who in each generation have proclaimed the divine Word either orally or in writing.
"It is my purpose also to give the names and number and times of those who through love of innovation have run into the greatest errors, and, proclaiming themselves interpreters and promoters of a false doctrine have, like fierce wolves, unmercifully devastated the flock of Christ... and to record the ways and the times in which the divine word has been attacked by the Gentiles, and to describe the character of the great men who in various periods have defended it in the face of blood and of tortures... and finally, the mercy and benevolence which Our Saviour has afforded them all" (cf. I, 1, 1-3).
Thus, Eusebius embraced different spheres: the succession of the Apostles as the backbone of the Church, the dissemination of the Message, the errors and then persecutions on the part of the pagans, and the important testimonies which are the light in this Chronicle.
In all this Eusebius saw the Saviour's mercy and benevolence. So it was that he inaugurated, as it were, ecclesiastical historiography, extending his account to 324, the year in which Constantine, after defeating Licinius, was acclaimed as the one Emperor of Rome. This was the year before the important Council of Nicaea, which subsequently offered the "summa" of all that the Church - doctrinally, morally and also juridically - had learned in the previous 300 years.
The citation we have just quoted from the First Book of the Ecclesiastical History contains a repetition that is certainly intentional. The Christological title Saviour recurs three times in the space of a few lines with an explicit reference to "his mercy" and "his benevolence".
Thus, we can grasp the fundamental perspective of Eusebian historiography: his is a "Christocentric" history, in which the mystery of God's love for humankind is gradually revealed.
Eusebius recognized with genuine amazement that: "Jesus alone of all those who have ever existed is even to the present day called Christ [that is Messiah and Saviour of the world] by all men throughout the world, and is confessed and witnessed to under this name, and is commemorated both by Greeks and Barbarians and even to this day is honoured as a King by his followers throughout the world, and is admired as more than a prophet, and is glorified as the true and only High Priest of God. And besides all this, as the pre-existent Logos of God, called into being before all ages, he has received august honour from the Father, and is worshipped and adored as God. But most wonderful of all is the fact that we who have consecrated ourselves to him, honour him not only with our voices and with the sound of words, but also with complete elevation of soul, so that we choose to give testimony unto him rather than to preserve our own lives" (cf. I, 3, 19-20).
Another feature thus springs to the fore which was to remain a constant in ancient ecclesiastical historiography: it is the "moral intention" that presides in the account. Historical analysis is never an end in itself; it is not made solely with a view to knowing the past; rather, it focuses decisively on conversion and on an authentic witness of Christian life on the part of the faithful. It is a guide for us, too.
Thus, Eusebius strongly challenges believers of all times on their approach to the events of history and of the Church in particular. He also challenges us: what is our attitude with regard to the Church's experiences? Is it the attitude of those who are interested in it merely out of curiosity, or even in search of something sensational or shocking at all costs? Or is it an attitude full of love and open to the mystery of those who know - through faith - that they can trace in the history of the Church those signs of God's love and the great works of salvation wrought by him?
If this is our attitude, we can only feel stimulated to a more coherent and generous response, to a more Christian witness of life, in order to bequeath the signs of God's love also to the generations to come.
"There is a mystery", Cardinal Jean Daniélou, an eminent Patristics scholar, never tired of saying:
"History has a hidden content.... The mystery is that of God's works which constitute in time the authentic reality concealed behind the appearances.... However, this history which he brings about for man, God does not bring about without him.
"Pausing to contemplate the "great things' worked by God would mean seeing only one aspect of things. The human response lies before them" (Saggio sul mistero della storia, Italian edition, Brescia, 1963, p. 182).
Today, too, so many centuries later, Eusebius of Caesarea invites believers, invites us, to wonder, to contemplate in history the great works of God for the salvation of humankind. And just as energetically, he invites us to conversion of life. Indeed, we cannot remain inert before a God who has so deeply loved us. The specific demand of love is that our entire life should be oriented to the imitation of the Beloved. Let us therefore spare no effort to leave a transparent trace of God's love in our life.
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To special groups
I welcome the participants in the leadership course organized by the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services. My greetings also go to the Buddhist members of Rissho Kosei-kai and the representatives of the Apostolate for Family Consecration. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Nigeria, Japan and the United States, I invoke God's abundant Blessings.
Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and newly-weds. Dear young people, for many of your peers the holidays have begun, while for others it is exam time. May the Lord help you to live this period with serenity and to experience his protection. I invite you, dear sick people, to find comfort in the Lord who illumines your suffering with his redeeming love. To you, dear newly-weds, I express the hope that you will discover the mystery of God who gives himself for the salvation of all, so that your love may be ever truer and more enduring.
Paul VI Audience Hall
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Continuing our revisitation of the great Teachers of the ancient Church, let us focus our attention today on St Athanasius of Alexandria.
Only a few years after his death, this authentic protagonist of the Christian tradition was already hailed as "the pillar of the Church" by Gregory of Nazianzus, the great theologian and Bishop of Constantinople (Orationes, 21, 26), and he has always been considered a model of orthodoxy in both East and West.
As a result, it was not by chance that Gian Lorenzo Bernini placed his statue among those of the four holy Doctors of the Eastern and Western Churches - together with the images of Ambrose, John Chrysostom and Augustine - which surround the Chair of St Peter in the marvellous apse of the Vatican Basilica.
Athanasius was undoubtedly one of the most important and revered early Church Fathers. But this great Saint was above all the impassioned theologian of the Incarnation of the Logos, the Word of God who - as the Prologue of the fourth Gospel says - "became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1,14).
For this very reason Athanasius was also the most important and tenacious adversary of the Arian heresy, which at that time threatened faith in Christ, reduced to a creature "halfway" between God and man, according to a recurring tendency in history which we also see manifested today in various forms.
In all likelihood Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in about the year 300 A.D. He received a good education before becoming a deacon and secretary to the Bishop of Alexandria, the great Egyptian metropolis. As a close collaborator of his Bishop, the young cleric took part with him in the Council of Nicaea, the first Ecumenical Council, convoked by the Emperor Constantine in May 325 A.D. to ensure Church unity. The Nicene Fathers were thus able to address various issues and primarily the serious problem that had arisen a few years earlier from the preaching of the Alexandrian priest, Arius.
With his theory, Arius threatened authentic faith in Christ, declaring that the Logos was not a true God but a created God, a creature "halfway" between God and man who hence remained for ever inaccessible to us. The Bishops gathered in Nicaea responded by developing and establishing the "Symbol of faith" ["Creed"] which, completed later at the First Council of Constantinople, has endured in the traditions of various Christian denominations and in the liturgy as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.
In this fundamental text - which expresses the faith of the undivided Church and which we also recite today, every Sunday, in the Eucharistic celebration - the Greek term homooúsios is featured, in Latin consubstantialis: it means that the Son, the Logos, is "of the same substance" as the Father, he is God of God, he is his substance. Thus, the full divinity of the Son, which was denied by the Arians, was brought into the limelight.
In 328 A.D., when Bishop Alexander died, Athanasius succeeded him as Bishop of Alexandria. He showed straightaway that he was determined to reject any compromise with regard to the Arian theories condemned by the Council of Nicaea.
His intransigence - tenacious and, if necessary, at times harsh - against those who opposed his episcopal appointment and especially against adversaries of the Nicene Creed, provoked the implacable hostility of the Arians and philo-Arians.
Despite the unequivocal outcome of the Council, which clearly affirmed that the Son is of the same substance as the Father, these erroneous ideas shortly thereafter once again began to prevail - in this situation even Arius was rehabilitated -, and they were upheld for political reasons by the Emperor Constantine himself and then by his son Constantius II.
Moreover, Constantine was not so much concerned with theological truth but rather with the unity of the Empire and its political problems; he wished to politicize the faith, making it more accessible - in his opinion - to all his subjects throughout the Empire.
Thus, the Arian crisis, believed to have been resolved at Nicaea, persisted for decades with complicated events and painful divisions in the Church. At least five times - during the 30 years between 336 and 366 A.D. - Athanasius was obliged to abandon his city, spending 17 years in exile and suffering for the faith. But during his forced absences from Alexandria, the Bishop was able to sustain and to spread in the West, first at Trier and then in Rome, the Nicene faith as well as the ideals of monasticism, embraced in Egypt by the great hermit, Anthony, with a choice of life to which Athanasius was always close.
St Anthony, with his spiritual strength, was the most important champion of St Athanasius' faith. Reinstated in his See once and for all, the Bishop of Alexandria was able to devote himself to religious pacification and the reorganization of the Christian communities. He died on 2 May 373, the day when we celebrate his liturgical Memorial.
The most famous doctrinal work of the holy Alexandrian Bishop is his treatise: De Incarnatione, On the Incarnation of the Word, the divine Logos who was made flesh, becoming like one of us for our salvation.
In this work Athanasius says with an affirmation that has rightly become famous that the Word of God "was made man so that we might be made God; and he manifested himself through a body so that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and he endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality" (54, 3). With his Resurrection, in fact, the Lord banished death from us like "straw from the fire" (8, 4).
The fundamental idea of Athanasius' entire theological battle was precisely that God is accessible. He is not a secondary God, he is the true God and it is through our communion with Christ that we can truly be united to God. He has really become "God-with-us".
Among the other works of this great Father of the Church - which remain largely associated with the events of the Arian crisis - let us remember the four epistles he addressed to his friend Serapion, Bishop of Thmuis, on the divinity of the Holy Spirit which he clearly affirmed, and approximately 30 "Festal" Letters addressed at the beginning of each year to the Churches and monasteries of Egypt to inform them of the date of the Easter celebration, but above all to guarantee the links between the faithful, reinforcing their faith and preparing them for this great Solemnity.
Lastly, Athanasius also wrote meditational texts on the Psalms, subsequently circulated widely, and in particular, a work that constitutes the bestseller of early Christian literature: The Life of Anthony, that is, the biography of St Anthony Abbot. It was written shortly after this Saint's death precisely while the exiled Bishop of Alexandria was staying with monks in the Egyptian desert.
Athanasius was such a close friend of the great hermit that he received one of the two sheepskins which Anthony left as his legacy, together with the mantle that the Bishop of Alexandria himself had given to him.
The exemplary biography of this figure dear to Christian tradition soon became very popular, almost immediately translated into Latin, in two editions, and then into various Oriental languages; it made an important contribution to the spread of monasticism in the East and in the West.
It was not by chance that the interpretation of this text, in Trier, was at the centre of a moving tale of the conversion of two imperial officials which Augustine incorporated into his Confessions (cf. VIII, 6, 15) as the preamble to his own conversion.
Moreover, Athanasius himself showed he was clearly aware of the influence that Anthony's fine example could have on Christian people. Indeed, he wrote at the end of this work: "The fact that his fame has been blazoned everywhere, that all regard him with wonder, and that those who have never seen him long for him, is clear proof of his virtue and God's love of his soul. For not from writings, nor from worldly wisdom, nor through any art, was Anthony renowned, but solely from his piety towards God. That this was the gift of God no one will deny.
"For from whence into Spain and into Gaul, how into Rome and Africa, was the man heard of who dwelt hidden in a mountain, unless it was God who makes his own known everywhere, who also pro-mised this to Anthony at the beginning? For even if they work secretly, even if they wish to remain in obscurity, yet the Lord shows them as lamps to lighten all, that those who hear may thus know that the precepts of God are able to make men prosper and thus be zealous in the path of virtue" (Life of Anthony, 93, 5-6).
Yes, brothers and sisters! We have many causes for which to be grateful to St Athanasius. His life, like that of Anthony and of countless other saints, shows us that "those who draw near to God do not withdraw from men, but rather become truly close to them" (Deus Caritas est ).
To special groups
Greetings to the pilgrims gathered in the Vatican Basilica
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims to this Basilica. May your visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul strengthen your faith in Christ and renew your love of his Church. Commending you to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, I assure you of my prayers for each one of you, your relatives and your friends.
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Greetings to the pilgrims gathered at Paul VI Audience Hall
I welcome the participants in the course organized by Foyer Unitas Lay Center. My greetings also go to the Brothers of the Poor of St Francis Seraphicus. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Australia and the United States, I invoke God's abundant Blessings.
I also greet the young people, sick and newly-weds. Tomorrow, we will celebrate the liturgical Memorial of St Aloysius Gonzaga, a wonderful example of austerity and Gospel purity. Call on him, dear young people, so that he may help you build an intimate friendship with Jesus that will enable you to face your life seriously. May this young Saint be for you, dear sick people, a support in transforming your daily suffering and trials into privileged opportunities to cooperate in the salvation of souls; and may it make you, dear newly-weds, witnesses of a chaste and generous love.
Paul VI Audience Hall
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our attention today is focused on St Cyril of Jerusalem. His life is woven of two dimensions: on the one hand, pastoral care, and on the other, his involvement, in spite of himself, in the heated controversies that were then tormenting the Church of the East.
Cyril was born at or near Jerusalem in 315 A.D. He received an excellent literary education which formed the basis of his ecclesiastical culture, centred on study of the Bible. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Maximus.
When this Bishop died or was deposed in 348, Cyril was ordained a Bishop by Acacius, the influential Metropolitan of Caesarea in Palestine, a philo-Arian who must have been under the impression that in Cyril he had an ally; so as a result Cyril was suspected of having obtained his episcopal appointment by making concessions to Arianism.
Actually, Cyril very soon came into conflict with Acacius, not only in the field of doctrine but also in that of jurisdiction, because he claimed his own See to be autonomous from the Metropolitan See of Caesarea.
Cyril was exiled three times within the course of approximately 20 years: the first time was in 357, after being deposed by a Synod of Jerusalem; followed by a second exile in 360, instigated by Acacius; and finally, in 367, by a third exile - his longest, which lasted 11 years - by the philo-Arian Emperor Valens.
It was only in 378, after the Emperor's death, that Cyril could definitively resume possession of his See and restore unity and peace to his faithful.
Some sources of that time cast doubt on his orthodoxy, whereas other equally ancient sources come out strongly in his favour. The most authoritative of them is the Synodal Letter of 382 that followed the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381), in which Cyril had played an important part.
In this Letter addressed to the Roman Pontiff, the Eastern Bishops officially recognized Cyril's flawless orthodoxy, the legitimacy of his episcopal ordination and the merits of his pastoral service, which ended with his death in 387.
Of Cyril's writings, 24 famous catecheses have been preserved, which he delivered as Bishop in about 350.
Introduced by a Procatechesis of welcome, the first 18 of these are addressed to catechumens or candidates for illumination (photizomenoi) [candidates for Baptism]; they were delivered in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Each of the first ones (nn. 1-5) respectively treat the prerequisites for Baptism, conversion from pagan morals, the Sacrament of Baptism, the 10 dogmatic truths contained in the Creed or Symbol of the faith.
The next catecheses (nn. 6-18) form an "ongoing catechesis" on the Jerusalem Creed in anti-Arian tones.
Of the last five so-called "mystagogical catecheses", the first two develop a commentary on the rites of Baptism and the last three focus on the Chrism, the Body and Blood of Christ and the Eucharistic Liturgy. They include an explanation of the Our Father (Oratio dominica).
This forms the basis of a process of initiation to prayer which develops on a par with the initiation to the three Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.
The basis of his instruction on the Christian faith also served to play a polemic role against pagans, Judaeo Christians and Manicheans. The argument was based on the fulfilment of the Old Testament promises, in a language rich in imagery.
Catechesis marked an important moment in the broader context of the whole life - particularly liturgical - of the Christian community, in whose maternal womb the gestation of the future faithful took place, accompanied by prayer and the witness of the brethren.
Taken as a whole, Cyril's homilies form a systematic catechesis on the Christian's rebirth through Baptism.
He tells the catechumen: "You have been caught in the nets of the Church (cf. Mt 13,47). Be taken alive, therefore; do not escape for it is Jesus who is fishing for you, not in order to kill you but to resurrect you after death. Indeed, you must die and rise again (cf. Rm 6,11).... Die to your sins and live to righteousness from this very day" (Procatechesis, 5).
From the doctrinal viewpoint, Cyril commented on the Jerusalem Creed with recourse to the typology of the Scriptures in a "symphonic" relationship between the two Testaments, arriving at Christ, the centre of the universe.
The typology was to be described decisively by Augustine of Hippo: "In the Old Testament there is a veiling of the New, and in the New Testament there is a revealing of the Old" (De catechizandis rudibus 4, 8).
As for the moral catechesis, it is anchored in deep unity to the doctrinal catechesis: the dogma progressively descends in souls who are thus urged to transform their pagan behaviour on the basis of new life in Christ, a gift of Baptism.
The "mystagogical" catechesis, lastly, marked the summit of the instruction that Cyril imparted, no longer to catechumens but to the newly baptized or neophytes during Easter week. He led them to discover the mysteries still hidden in the baptismal rites of the Easter Vigil.
Enlightened by the light of a deeper faith by virtue of Baptism, the neophytes were at last able to understand these mysteries better, having celebrated their rites.
Especially with neophytes of Greek origin, Cyril made use of the faculty of sight which they found congenial. It was the passage from the rite to the mystery that made the most of the psychological effect of amazement, as well as the experience of Easter night.
Here is a text that explains the mystery of Baptism: "You descended three times into the water, and ascended again, suggesting by a symbol the three days burial of Christ, imitating Our Saviour who spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (cf. Mt 12,40). Celebrating the first emersion in water you recall the first day passed by Christ in the sepulchre; with the first immersion you confessed the first night passed in the sepulchre: for as he who is in the night no longer sees, but he who is in the day remains in the light, so in the descent, as in the night, you saw nothing, but in ascending again you were as in the day. And at the self-same moment you were both dying and being born; and that water of salvation was at once your grave and your mother.... For you... the time to die goes hand in hand with the time to be born: one and the same time effected both of these events" (cf. Second Mystagogical Catechesis, n. 4).
The mystery to be understood is God's plan, which is brought about through Christ's saving actions in the Church.
In turn, the mystagogical dimension is accompanied by the dimension of symbols which express the spiritual experience they "explode". Thus, Cyril's catechesis, on the basis of the three elements described - doctrinal, moral and lastly, mystagogical - proves to be a global catechesis in the Spirit.
The mystagogical dimension brings about the synthesis of the two former dimensions, orienting them to the sacramental celebration in which the salvation of the whole human person takes place.
In short, this is an integral catechesis which, involving body, soul and spirit - remains emblematic for the catechetical formation of Christians today.
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Greetings to the pilgrims gathered in the Vatican Basilica
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today. May your visit here to the Basilica and your time in Rome be filled with joy, and strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ and deepen your love of the universal Church. I assure you of my prayers for your families at home, particularly those who may be ill or suffering in any way. God bless you all!
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Greetings to the pilgrims gathered at Paul VI Audience Hall
I extend a special welcome to the English-speaking visitors here today, including pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Kampala in Uganda, led by Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga. I also greet the group of supporters of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, and participants in the Jewish-Christian dialogue symposium organized by the Focolari Movement, as well as various groups from Wales, Norway, Malawi, Australia, India and the United States. Upon you all and your families at home, I invoke God's Blessings of joy and peace.
Lastly, my thoughts go to young people, the sick and newly-weds. We have now entered the summer season, for many people a period of holidays and rest. For you, dear young people, may it be an occasion for useful social and religious experience; for you, dear newly-weds, may it be an opportune period to consolidate your union and to deepen your mission in the Church and in society. I also hope, dear sick people, that your loved ones will not fail to be near you in these summer months.
Paul VI Audience Hall
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Let us remember today one of the great Fathers of the Church, St Basil, described by Byzantine liturgical texts as "a luminary of the Church".
He was an important Bishop in the fourth century to whom the entire Church of the East, and likewise the Church of the West, looks with admiration because of the holiness of his life, the excellence of his teaching and the harmonious synthesis of his speculative and practical gifts.
He was born in about 330 A.D. into a family of saints, "a true domestic Church", immersed in an atmosphere of deep faith. He studied with the best teachers in Athens and Constantinople.
Unsatisfied with his worldly success and realizing that he had frivolously wasted much time on vanities, he himself confessed: "One day, like a man roused from deep sleep, I turned my eyes to the marvellous light of the truth of the Gospel..., and I wept many tears over my miserable life" (cf. Letter 223: PG 32, 824a).
Attracted by Christ, Basil began to look and listen to him alone (cf. Moralia, 80, 1: PG 31, 860bc). He devoted himself with determination to the monastic life through prayer, meditation on the Sacred Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers of the Church, and the practice of charity (cf. Letters 2, 22), also following the example of his sister, St Macrina, who was already living the ascetic life of a nun. He was then ordained a priest and finally, in the year 370, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia in present-day Turkey.
Through his preaching and writings, he carried out immensely busy pastoral, theological and literary activities.
With a wise balance, he was able to combine service to souls with dedication to prayer and meditation in solitude. Availing himself of his personal experience, he encouraged the foundation of numerous "fraternities", in other words, communities of Christians consecrated to God, which he visited frequently (cf. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 43, 29, in laudem Basilii: PG 36, 536b).
He urged them with his words and his writings, many of which have come down to us (cf. Regulae brevius tractatae, Proemio: PG 31, 1080ab), to live and to advance in perfection.
Various legislators of ancient monasticism drew on his works, including St Benedict, who considered Basil his teacher (cf. Rule RB 73,5).
Indeed, Basil created a very special monasticism: it was not closed to the community of the local Church but instead was open to it. His monks belonged to the particular Church; they were her life-giving nucleus and, going before the other faithful in the following of Christ and not only in faith, showed a strong attachment to him - love for him - especially through charitable acts. These monks, who ran schools and hospitals, were at the service of the poor and thus demonstrated the integrity of Christian life.
In speaking of monasticism, the Servant of God John Paul II wrote: "For this reason many people think that the essential structure of the life of the Church, monasticism, was established, for all time, mainly by St Basil; or that, at least, it was not defined in its more specific nature without his decisive contribution" (Apostolic Letter Patres Ecclesiae, n. 2, January 1980; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 25 February, p. 6).
As the Bishop and Pastor of his vast Diocese Basil was constantly concerned with the difficult material conditions in which his faithful lived; he firmly denounced the evils; he did all he could on behalf of the poorest and most marginalized people; he also intervened with rulers to alleviate the sufferings of the population, especially in times of disaster; he watched over the Church's freedom, opposing even the powerful in order to defend the right to profess the true faith (cf. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 43, 48-51 in laudem Basilii: PG 36, 557c-561c).
Basil bore an effective witness to God, who is love and charity, by building for the needy various institutions (cf. Basil, Letter 94: PG 32, 488bc), virtually a "city" of mercy, called "Basiliade" after him (cf. Sozomeno, Historia Eccl. 6, 34: PG 67, 1397a). This was the origin of the modern hospital structures where the sick are admitted for treatment.
Aware that "the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed", and "also the fount from which all her power flows" (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 10), and in spite of his constant concern to do charitable acts which is the hallmark of faith, Basil was also a wise "liturgical reformer" (cf. Gregory Nazianzus, Oratio 43, 34 in laudem Basilii: PG 36, 541c).
Indeed, he has bequeathed to us a great Eucharistic Prayer [or anaphora] which takes its name from him and has given a fundamental order to prayer and psalmody: at his prompting, the people learned to know and love the Psalms and even went to pray them during the night (cf. Basil, In Psalmum 1, 1-2: PG 29, 212a-213c). And we thus see how liturgy, worship, prayer with the Church and charity go hand in hand and condition one another.
With zeal and courage Basil opposed the heretics who denied that Jesus Christ was God as Father (cf. Basil, Letter 9, 3: PG 32, 272a; Letter 52, 1-3: PG 32, 392b-396a; Adv. Eunomium 1, 20: PG 29, 556c). Likewise, against those who would not accept the divinity of the Holy Spirit, he maintained that the Spirit is also God and "must be equated and glorified with the Father and with the Son (cf. De Spiritu Sancto: SC 17ff., 348). For this reason Basil was one of the great Fathers who formulated the doctrine on the Trinity: the one God, precisely because he is love, is a God in three Persons who form the most profound unity that exists: divine unity.
In his love for Christ and for his Gospel, the great Cappadocian also strove to mend divisions within the Church (cf. Letters, 70, 243), doing his utmost to bring all to convert to Christ and to his word (cf. De Iudicio 4: PG 31, 660b-661a), a unifying force which all believers were bound to obey (cf. ibid. 1-3: PG 31, 653a-656c).
To conclude, Basil spent himself without reserve in faithful service to the Church and in the multiform exercise of the episcopal ministry. In accordance with the programme that he himself drafted, he became an "apostle and minister of Christ, steward of God's mysteries, herald of the Kingdom, a model and rule of piety, an eye of the Body of the Church, a Pastor of Christ's sheep, a loving doctor, father and nurse, a cooperator of God, a farmer of God, a builder of God's temple" (cf. Moralia 80, 11-20: PG 31, 864b-868b).
This is the programme which the holy Bishop consigns to preachers of the Word - in the past as in the present -, a programme which he himself was generously committed to putting into practice. In 379 A.D. Basil, who was not yet 50, returned to God "in the hope of eternal life, through Jesus Christ Our Lord" (De Baptismo, 1, 2, 9).
He was a man who truly lived with his gaze fixed on Christ. He was a man of love for his neighbour. Full of the hope and joy of faith, Basil shows us how to be true Christians.
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Greetings to the pilgrims
gathered in the Vatican Basilica
I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today. May your visit to this Basilica and to the city of Rome inspire you to imitate the apostles in following Christ and serving the Church. I assure you of my prayers for your families and friends at home, especially those afflicted by illness or suffering of any kind. God bless you all!
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Greetings to the pilgrims
gathered at Paul VI Audience Hall
I extend a cordial greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience, especially the athletes and organizers of the European Maccabi Games. May God bestow abundant Blessings upon all of you.
Lastly, I turn my thoughts to the young people, the sick and newly-weds. Today, we are celebrating the liturgical Memorial of Piergiorgio Frassati. May his example strengthen you, dear young people, in witnessing to the Gospel in every circumstance of life; may it help you, dear sick people, in offering your daily sufferings so that in the world the civilization of love may be brought into being; and may it sustain you, dear newly-weds, as you build your family on the solid foundations of intimate union with God.
APPEAL FOR THE 23rd WORLD YOUTH DAY
My thought now turns to World Youth Day, which will be held in Sydney in approximately one year. To the young people present here and to the youth of the world who are preparing for this joyful faith event, I address a word of warm greeting and of lively encouragement in the English language:
Dear Young People,
One year from now we will meet at World Youth Day in Sydney! I want to encourage you to prepare well for this marvellous celebration of the faith, which will be spent in the company of your bishops, priests, Religious, youth leaders and one another. Enter fully into the life of your parishes and participate enthusiastically in diocesan events! In this way you will be equipped spiritually to experience new depths of understanding of all that we believe when we gather in Sydney next July.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth” (Ac 1,8). As you know, these words of Jesus form the theme of World Youth Day 2008. How the Apostles felt upon hearing these words, we can only imagine, but their confusion was no doubt tempered with a sense of awe and of eager anticipation for the coming of the Spirit. United in prayer with Mary and the others gathered in the Upper Room (cf Ac 1,14), they experienced the true power of the Spirit, whose presence transforms uncertainty, fear, and division into purpose, hope and communion.
A sense of awe and eager anticipation also describes how we feel as we make preparations to meet in Sydney. For many of us, this will be a long journey. Yet Australia and its people evoke images of a warm welcome and wondrous beauty, of an ancient aboriginal history and a multitude of vibrant cities and communities. I know that already the ecclesial and government authorities, together with numerous young Australians, are working very hard to ensure an exceptional experience for us all. I offer them my heartfelt thanks.
World Youth Day is much more than an event. It is a time of deep spiritual renewal, the fruits of which benefit the whole of society. Young pilgrims are filled with the desire to pray, to be nourished by Word and Sacrament, to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, who illuminates the wonder of the human soul and shows the way to be “the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ” (Deus Caritas est ).
It is this love – Christ’s love – for which the world yearns. Thus you are called by so many to “be his witnesses”. Some of you have friends with little real purpose in their lives, perhaps caught up in a futile search for endless new experiences. Bring them to World Youth Day too! In fact, I have noticed that against the tide of secularism many young people are rediscovering the satisfying quest for authentic beauty, goodness and truth. Through your witness you help them in their search for the Spirit of God. Be courageous in that witness! Strive to spread Christ’s guiding light, which gives purpose to all life, making lasting joy and happiness possible for everyone.
My dear young people, until we meet in Sydney, may the Lord protect you all. Let us entrust these preparations to Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Help of Christians. With her, let us pray: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love”.
Paul VI Audience Hall
Audiences 2005-2013 13067