Audiences 2005-2013 27059

Wednesday, 27 May 2009 - Saint Theodore the Studite

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Saint we meet today, St Theodore the Studite, brings us to the middle of the medieval Byzantine period, in a somewhat turbulent period from the religious and political perspectives. St Theodore was born in 759 into a devout noble family: his mother Theoctista and an uncle, Plato, Abbot of the Monastery of Saccudium in Bithynia, are venerated as saints. Indeed it was his uncle who guided him towards monastic life, which he embraced at the age of 22. He was ordained a priest by Patriarch Tarasius, but soon ended his relationship with him because of the toleration the Patriarch showed in the case of the adulterous marriage of the Emperor Constantine VI. This led to Theodore's exile in 796 to Thessalonica. He was reconciled with the imperial authority the following year under the Empress Irene, whose benevolence induced Theodore and Plato to transfer to the urban monastery of Studios, together with a large portion of the community of the monks of Saccudium, in order to avoid the Saracen incursions. So it was that the important "Studite Reform" began.

Theodore's personal life, however, continued to be eventful. With his usual energy, he became the leader of the resistance against the iconoclasm of Leo V, the Armenian who once again opposed the existence of images and icons in the Church. The procession of icons organized by the monks of Studios evoked a reaction from the police. Between 815 and 821, Theodore was scourged, imprisoned and exiled to various places in Asia Minor. In the end he was able to return to Constantinople but not to his own monastery. He therefore settled with his monks on the other side of the Bosporus. He is believed to have died in Prinkipo on 11 November 826, the day on which he is commemorated in the Byzantine Calendar. Theodore distinguished himself within Church history as one of the great reformers of monastic life and as a defender of the veneration of sacred images, beside St Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, in the second phase of the iconoclasm.
Theodore had realized that the issue of the veneration of icons was calling into question the truth of the Incarnation itself. In his three books, the Antirretikoi (Confutations), Theodore makes a comparison between eternal intra-Trinitarian relations, in which the existence of each of the divine Persons does not destroy their unity, and the relations between Christ's two natures, which do not jeopardize in him the one Person of the Logos. He also argues: abolishing veneration of the icon of Christ would mean repudiating his redeeming work, given that, in assuming human nature, the invisible eternal Word appeared in visible human flesh and in so doing sanctified the entire visible cosmos.

Theodore and his monks, courageous witnesses in the period of the iconoclastic persecutions, were inseparably bound to the reform of coenobitic life in the Byzantine world. Their importance was notable if only for an external circumstance: their number. Whereas the number of monks in monasteries of that time did not exceed 30 or 40, we know from the Life of Theodore of the existence of more than 1,000 Studite monks overall. Theodore himself tells us of the presence in his monastery of about 300 monks; thus we see the enthusiasm of faith that was born within the context of this man's being truly informed and formed by faith itself. However, more influential than these numbers was the new spirit the Founder impressed on coenobitic life. In his writings, he insists on the urgent need for a conscious return to the teaching of the Fathers, especially to St Basil, the first legislator of monastic life, and to St Dorotheus of Gaza, a famous spiritual Father of the Palestinian desert. Theodore's characteristic contribution consists in insistence on the need for order and submission on the monks' part. During the persecutions they had scattered and each one had grown accustomed to living according to his own judgement. Then, as it was possible to re-establish community life, it was necessary to do the utmost to make the monastery once again an organic community, a true family, or, as St Theodore said, a true "Body of Christ". In such a community the reality of the Church as a whole is realized concretely.

Another of St Theodore's basic convictions was this: monks, differently from lay people, take on the commitment to observe the Christian duties with greater strictness and intensity. For this reason they make a special profession which belongs to the hagiasmata (consecrations), and it is, as it were, a "new Baptism", symbolized by their taking the habit. Characteristic of monks in comparison with lay people, then, is the commitment to poverty, chastity and obedience. In addressing his monks, Theodore spoke in a practical, at times picturesque manner about poverty, but poverty in the following of Christ is from the start an essential element of monasticism and also points out a way for all of us. The renunciation of private property, this freedom from material things, as well as moderation and simplicity apply in a radical form only to monks, but the spirit of this renouncement is equal for all. Indeed, we must not depend on material possessions but instead must learn renunciation, simplicity, austerity and moderation. Only in this way can a supportive society develop and the great problem of poverty in this world be overcome. Therefore, in this regard the monks' radical poverty is essentially also a path for us all. Then when he explains the temptations against chastity, Theodore does not conceal his own experience and indicates the way of inner combat to find self control and hence respect for one's own body and for the body of the other as a temple of God.

However, the most important renunciations in his opinion are those required by obedience, because each one of the monks has his own way of living, and fitting into the large community of 300 monks truly involves a new way of life which he describes as the "martyrdom of submission". Here too the monks' example serves to show us how necessary this is for us, because, after the original sin, man has tended to do what he likes. The first principle is for the life of the world, all the rest must be subjected to it. However, in this way, if each person is self-centred, the social structure cannot function. Only by learning to fit into the common freedom, to share and to submit to it, learning legality, that is, submission and obedience to the rules of the common good and life in common, can society be healed, as well as the self, of the pride of being the centre of the world. Thus St Theodore, with fine introspection, helped his monks and ultimately also helps us to understand true life, to resist the temptation to set up our own will as the supreme rule of life and to preserve our true personal identity which is always an identity shared with others and peace of heart.

For Theodore the Studite an important virtue on a par with obedience and humility is philergia, that is, the love of work, in which he sees a criterion by which to judge the quality of personal devotion: the person who is fervent and works hard in material concerns, he argues, will be the same in those of the spirit. Therefore he does not permit the monk to dispense with work, including manual work, under the pretext of prayer and contemplation; for work to his mind and in the whole monastic tradition is actually a means of finding God. Theodore is not afraid to speak of work as the "sacrifice of the monk", as his "liturgy", even as a sort of Mass through which monastic life becomes angelic life. And it is precisely in this way that the world of work must be humanized and man, through work, becomes more himself and closer to God. One consequence of this unusual vision is worth remembering: precisely because it is the fruit of a form of "liturgy", the riches obtained from common work must not serve for the monks' comfort but must be earmarked for assistance to the poor. Here we can all understand the need for the proceeds of work to be a good for all. Obviously the "Studites'" work was not only manual: they had great importance in the religious and cultural development of the Byzantine civilization as calligraphers, painters, poets, educators of youth, school teachers and librarians.

Although he exercised external activities on a truly vast scale, Theodore did not let himself be distracted from what he considered closely relevant to his role as superior: being the spiritual father of his monks. He knew what a crucial influence both his good mother and his holy uncle Plato whom he described with the significant title "father" had had on his life. Thus he himself provided spiritual direction for the monks. Every day, his biographer says, after evening prayer he would place himself in front of the iconostasis to listen to the confidences of all. He also gave spiritual advice to many people outside the monastery. The Spiritual Testament and the Letters highlight his open and affectionate character, and show that true spiritual friendships were born from his fatherhood both in the monastic context and outside it.

The Rule, known by the name of Hypotyposis, codified shortly after Theodore's death, was adopted, with a few modifications, on Mount Athos when in 962 St Athanasius Anthonite founded the Great Laura there, and in the Kievan Rus', when at the beginning of the second millennium St Theodosius introduced it into the Laura of the Grottos. Understood in its genuine meaning, the Rule has proven to be unusually up to date. Numerous trends today threaten the unity of the common faith and impel people towards a sort of dangerous spiritual individualism and spiritual pride. It is necessary to strive to defend and to increase the perfect unity of the Body of Christ, in which the peace of order and sincere personal relations in the Spirit can be harmoniously composed.

It may be useful to return at the end to some of the main elements of Theodore's spiritual doctrine: love for the Lord incarnate and for his visibility in the Liturgy and in icons; fidelity to Baptism and the commitment to live in communion with the Body of Christ, also understood as the communion of Christians with each other; a spirit of poverty, moderation and renunciation; chastity, self-control, humility and obedience against the primacy of one's own will that destroys the social fabric and the peace of souls; love for physical and spiritual work; spiritual love born from the purification of one's own conscience, one's own soul, one's own life. Let us seek to comply with these teachings that really do show us the path of true life.

To special groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I warmly greet all the English-speaking pilgrims. In a special way, I welcome members of the Schola Cantorum of Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, Texas; seminarians and priests from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan; and members of the Order of Knights of Saint John from Nigeria. God bless all of you!
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Lastly, I address my greeting to the young people, the sick and the newly weds. Yesterday the Church commemorated St Philip Neri who was distinguished by his cheerfulness and his dedication to the poor and the sick, and especially to young people. Dear young people, learn from this Saint to live your life with evangelical simplicity and joy. Dear sick people, may St Philip Neri help you to make your suffering an offering to the heavenly Father in union with the Crucified Jesus. And may you, dear newlyweds, supported by his intercession, build families illuminated by evangelical wisdom.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - Rabanus Maurus

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to speak of a truly extraordinary figure of the Latin West: Rabanus Maurus, a monk. Together with men such as Isidore of Seville, the Venerable Bede and Ambrose Autpert of whom I have already spoken in previous Catecheses, during the centuries of the so-called "High Middle Ages" he was able to preserve the contact with the great culture of the ancient scholars and of the Christian Fathers. Often remembered as the "praeceptor Germaniae", Rabanus Maurus was extraordinarily prolific. With his absolutely exceptional capacity for work, he perhaps made a greater contribution than anyone else to keeping alive that theological, exegetic and spiritual culture on which successive centuries were to draw. He was referred to by great figures belonging to the monastic world such as Peter Damian, Peter the Venerable and Bernard of Clairvaux, as well as by an ever increasing number of "clerics" of the secular clergy who gave life to one of the most beautiful periods of the fruitful flourishing of human thought in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Born in Mainz in about 780, Rabanus entered the monastery at a very early age. He was nicknamed "Maurus" after the young St Maur who, according to Book II of the Dialogues of St Gregory the Great, was entrusted by his parents, Roman nobles, to the Abbot Benedict of Norcia. Alone this precocious insertion of Rabanus as "puer oblatus" in the Benedictine monastic world and the benefits he drew from it for his own human, cultural and spiritual growth, were to provide an interesting glimpse not only of the life of monks and of the Church, but also of the whole of society of his time, usually described as "Carolingian". About them or perhaps about himself, Rabanus Maurus wrote: "There are some who have had the good fortune to be introduced to the knowledge of Scripture from a tender age ("a cunabulis suis") and who were so well-nourished with the food offered to them by Holy Church as to be fit for promotion, with the appropriate training, to the highest of sacred Orders" (PL 107,
Col 419 BC).

The extraordinary culture for which Rabanus Maurus was distinguished soon brought him to the attention of the great of his time. He became the advisor of princes. He strove to guarantee the unity of the Empire and, at a broader cultural level, never refused to give those who questioned him a carefully considered reply, which he found preferably in the Bible or in the texts of the Holy Fathers. First elected Abbot of the famous Monastery of Fulda and then appointed Archbishop of Mainz, his native city, this did not stop him from pursuing his studies, showing by the example of his life that it is possible to be at the same time available to others without depriving oneself of the appropriate time for reflection, study and meditation. Thus Rabanus Maurus was exegete, philosopher, poet, pastor and man of God. The Dioceses of Fulda, Mainz, Limburg and Breslau (Wroclaw) venerate him as a saint or blessed. His works fill at least six volumes of Migne's Patrologia Latina. It is likely that we are indebted to him for one of the most beautiful hymns known to the Latin Church, the "Veni Creator Spiritus", an extraordinary synthesis of Christian pneumatology. In fact, Rabanus' first theological work is expressed in the form of poetry and had as its subject the mystery of the Holy Cross in a book entitled: "De laudibus Sanctae Crucis", conceived in such a way as to suggest not only a conceptual content but also more exquisitely artistic stimuli, by the use of both poetic and pictorial forms within the same manuscript codex. Suggesting the image of the Crucified Christ between the lines of his writing, he says, for example: "This is the image of the Saviour who, with the position of his limbs, makes sacred for us the most salubrious, gentle and loving form of the Cross, so that by believing in his Name and obeying his commandments we may obtain eternal life thanks to his Passion. However, every time we raise our eyes to the Cross, let us remember the one who died for us to save us from the powers of darkness, accepting death to make us heirs to eternal life" (Lib. 1, fig. 1, PL 107 Col 151 C).

This method of combining all the arts, the intellect, the heart and the senses, which came from the East, was to experience a great development in the West, reaching unparalleled heights in the miniature codices of the Bible and in other works of faith and art that flourished in Europe until the invention of printing and beyond. In Rabanus Maurus, in any case, is shown an extraordinary awareness of the need to involve, in the experience of faith, not only the mind and the heart, but also the senses through those other aspects of aesthetic taste and human sensitivity that lead man to benefit from the truth with his whole self, "mind, soul and body". This is important: faith is not only thought but also touches the whole of our being. Since God became Man in flesh and blood, since he entered the tangible world, we must seek and encounter God in all the dimensions of our being. Thus the reality of God, through faith, penetrates our being and transforms it. This is why Rabanus Maurus focused his attention above all on the Liturgy as a synthesis of all the dimensions of our perception of reality. This intuition of Rabanus Maurus makes it extraordinarily up to date. Also famous among his opus are the "Hymns", suggested for use especially in liturgical celebrations. In fact, since Rabanus was primarily a monk, his interest in the liturgical celebration was taken for granted. However, he did not devote himself to the art of poetry as an end in itself but, rather, used art and every other form of erudition as a means for deepening knowledge of the word of God. He therefore sought with great application and rigour to introduce his contemporaries, especially ministers (Bishops, priests and deacons), to an understanding of the profoundly theological and spiritual meaning of all the elements of the liturgical celebration.

He thus sought to understand and to present to others the theological meanings concealed in the rites, drawing from the Bible and from the tradition of the Fathers. For the sake of honesty and to give greater weight to his explanations, he did not hesitate to indicate the Patristic sources to which he owed his knowledge. Nevertheless he used them with freedom and with careful discernment, continuing the development of patristic thought. At the end of the "Epistola prima", addressed to a "chorbishop" of the Diocese of Mainz, for example, after answering the requests for clarification concerning the behaviour to adopt in the exercise of pastoral responsibility, he continues, "We have written all these things for you as we deduced them from the Sacred Scriptures and the canons of the Fathers. Yet, most holy man, may you take your decisions as you think best, case by case, seeking to temper your evaluation in such a way as to guarantee discretion in all things because it is the mother of all the virtues" (Epistulae, I, PL 112, Col 1510 C). Thus the continuity of the Christian faith which originates in the word of God becomes visible; yet it is always alive, develops and is expressed in new ways, ever consistent with the whole construction, with the whole edifice of faith.

Since an integral part of liturgical celebration is the word of God Rabanus Maurus dedicated himself to it with the greatest commitment throughout his life. He produced appropriate exegetic explanations for almost all the biblical books of the Old and New Testament, with clearly pastoral intentions that he justified with words such as these: "I have written these things... summing up the explanations and suggestions of many others, not only in order to offer a service to the poor reader, who may not have many books at his disposal, but also to make it easier for those who in many things do not succeed in entering in depth into an understanding of the meanings discovered by the Fathers" (Commentariorum in Matthaeum praefatio, PL 107, Col 727 D). In fact, in commenting on the biblical texts he drew amply from the ancient Fathers, with special preference for Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great.

His outstanding pastoral sensitivity later led him to occupy himself above all with one of the problems most acutely felt by the faithful and sacred ministers of his time: that of Penance. Indeed, he compiled the "Penitenziari" this is what he called them in which, according to the sensibility of his day, sins and the corresponding punishments were listed, using as far as possible reasons found in the Bible, in the decisions of the Councils and in Papal Decretals. The "Carolingians" also used these texts in their attempt to reform the Church and society. Corresponding with the same pastoral intentions, were works such as "De disciplina ecclesiastica" and "De institutione clericorum", in which, drawing above all from Augustine, Rabanus explained to the simple and to the clergy of his diocese the basic elements of the Christian faith: they were like little catechisms.

I would like to end the presentation of this great "churchman" by quoting some of his words in which his basic conviction is clearly reflected: "Those who are negligent in contemplation ("qui vacare Deo negligit"), deprive themselves of the vision of God's light; then those who let themselves be indiscreetly invaded by worries and allow their thoughts to be overwhelmed by the tumult of worldly things condemn themselves to the absolute impossibility of penetrating the secrets of the invisible God" (Lib I, PL 112, Col 1263 A). I think that Rabanus Maurus is also addressing these words to us today: in periods of work, with its frenetic pace, and in holiday periods we must reserve moments for God. We must open our lives to him, addressing to him a thought, a reflection, a brief prayer, and above all we must not forget Sunday as the Lord's Day, the day of the Liturgy, in order to perceive God's beauty itself in the beauty of our churches, in our sacred music and in the word of God, letting him enter our being. Only in this way does our life become great, become true life.

Greetings to special groups:

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, the Philippines and the United States. My particular greeting goes to the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart. I also greet the many student groups present. Upon all of you I invoke God's Blessings of joy and peace!

I now address an affectionate greeting to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, next Sunday we shall be celebrating the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity. I hope that contemplation of the Trinitarian mystery will introduce you increasingly into Divine Love. Dear sick people, through Baptism the Blessed Trinity is present in your life. May it be a support for you so that you may do the Lord's will in every circumstance. And you, dear newlyweds, may you always find inspiration in Trinitarian communion in order to form a Christian family in which you are granted to experience, in reciprocal love, the joy of prayer and of accepting life.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 10 June 2009 - John Scotus Erigena

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to speak of a noteworthy thinker of the Christian West: John Scotus Erigena, whose origins are nonetheless obscure. He certainly came from Ireland, where he was born at the beginning of the ninth century, but we do not know when he left his Island to cross the Channel and thus fully enter that cultural world which was coming into being around the Carolingians, and in particular around Charles the Bald, in ninth-century France. Just as we are not certain of the date of his birth, likewise we do not know the year of his death but, according to the experts, it must have been in about the year 870.

John Scotus Erigena had a patristic culture, both Greek and Latin, at first hand. Indeed, he had direct knowledge of the writings of both the Latin and the Greek Fathers. He was well acquainted, among others, with the works of Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory the Great and the important Fathers of the Christian West, but he was just as familiar with the thought of Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom and other Christian Fathers of the East who were equally important. He was an exceptional man who in that period had also mastered the Greek language. He devoted very special attention to St Maximus Confessor and above all to Dionysius the Areopagite. This pseudonym conceals a fifth-century ecclesiastical writer, but throughout the Middle Ages people, including John Scotus Erigena, were convinced that this author could be identified with a direct disciple of St Paul who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (
Ac 17,34). Scotus Erigena, convinced of the apostolicity of Dionysius' writings, described him as a "divine author" par excellence; Dionysius' writings were therefore an eminent source of his thought. John Scotus translated his works into Latin. The great medieval theologians, such as St Bonaventure, became acquainted with Dionysius' works through this translation. Throughout his life John Scotus devoted himself to deepening his knowledge and developing his thought, drawing on these writings, to the point that still today it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish where we are dealing with Scotus Erigena's thought and where, instead, he is merely proposing anew the thought of Pseudo-Dionysius.

The theological opus of John Scotus truly did not meet with much favour. Not only did the end of the Carolingian era cause his works to be forgotten; a censure on the part of the Church authorities also cast a shadow over him. In fact, John Scotus represents a radical Platonism that sometimes seems to approach a pantheistic vision, even though his personal subjective intentions were always orthodox. Some of John Scotus Erigena's works have come down to us among which the following in particular deserve mention: the Treatise "On the Division of Nature" and the expositions on "The Heavenly Hierarchy" of St Dionysius. In them he continues to develop stimulating theological and spiritual reflections which could suggest an interesting furthering of knowledge also to contemporary theologians. I refer, for example, to what he wrote on the duty of exercising an appropriate discernment on what is presented as auctoritas vera, or on the commitment to continue the quest for the truth until one achieves some experience of it in the silent adoration of God.

Our author says: "Salus nostra ex fide inchoat: our salvation begins with faith"; in other words we cannot speak of God starting with our own inventions but rather with what God says of himself in the Sacred Scriptures. Since, however, God tells only the truth, Scotus Erigena is convinced that the authority and reason can never contradict each other; he is convinced that true religion and true philosophy coincide. In this perspective he writes: "Any type of authority that is not confirmed by true reason must be considered weak.... Indeed there is no true authority other than that which coincides with the truth, discovered by virtue of reason, even should one be dealing with an authority recommended and handed down for the use of the successors of the holy Fathers" (I, PL 122, Col 513 BC). Consequently, he warns: "Let no authority intimidate you or distract you from what makes you understand the conviction obtained through correct rational contemplation. Indeed, the authentic authority never contradicts right reason, nor can the latter ever contradict a true authority. "The one and the other both come indisputably from the same source, which is divine wisdom" (I PL 122, Col 511 B). We see here a brave affirmation of the value of reason, founded on the certainty that the true authority is reasonable, because God is creative reason.

According to Erigena, Scripture itself does not escape the need to be approached with the same criterion of discernment. In fact, although Scripture comes from God the Irish theologian maintains, proposing anew a reflection made earlier by John Chrysostom it would not be necessary had the human being not sinned. It must therefore be deduced that Scripture was given by God with a pedagogical intention and with indulgence so that man might remember all that had been impressed within his heart from the moment of his creation, "in the image and likeness of God" (cf. Gn Gn 1,26) and that the Fall of man had caused him to forget. Erigena writes in his Expositiones: "It is not man who was created for Scripture, which he would not have needed had he not sinned, but rather it is Scripture, interwoven with doctrine and symbols, which was given to man. Thanks to Scripture, in fact, our rational nature may be introduced to the secrets of authentic and pure contemplation of God" (II, PL 122, Col 146 C). The words of Sacred Scripture purify our somewhat blind reason and help us to recover the memory of what we, as the image of God, carry in our hearts, unfortunately wounded by sin.

From this derive certain hermeneutical consequences concerning the way to interpret Scripture that still today can point out the right approach for a correct reading of Sacred Scripture. In fact it is a question of discovering the hidden meaning in the sacred text and this implies a special inner exercise through which reason is open to the sure road to the truth. This exercise consists in cultivating constant readiness for conversion. Indeed, to acquire an in-depth vision of the text it is necessary to progress at the same time in conversion of the heart and in the conceptual analysis of the biblical passage, whether it is of a cosmic, historical or doctrinal character. Indeed, it is only by means of a constant purification of both the eye of the heart and the eye of the mind that it is possible to arrive at an exact understanding.

This arduous, demanding and exciting journey, that consists of continuous achievements and the relativization of human knowledge, leads the intelligent creature to the threshold of the divine Mystery where all notions admit of their own weakness and inability and thus, with the simple free and sweet power of the truth, make it obligatory ceaselessly to surpass all that is progressively achieved. Worshipful and silent recognition of the Mystery which flows into unifying communion is therefore revealed as the only path to a relationship with the truth that is at the same time the most intimate possible and the most scrupulously respectful of otherness. John Scotus, here too using terminology dear to the Christian tradition of the Greek language, called this experience for which we strive "theosis", or divinization, with such daring affirmations that he might be suspected of heterodox pantheism. Yet, even today one cannot but be strongly moved by texts such as the following in which with recourse to the ancient metaphor of the smelting of iron he writes: "just as all red-hot iron is liquified to the point that it seems nothing but fire and yet the substances remain distinct from one another, so it must be accepted that after the end of this world all nature, both the corporeal and the incorporeal, will show forth God alone and yet remain integral so that God can in a certain way be com-prehended while remaining in-comprehensible and that the creature itself may be transformed, with ineffable wonder, and reunited with God" (V, PL 122, Col 451 B).

In fact, the entire theological thought of John Scotus is the most evident demonstration of the attempt to express the expressible of the inexpressible God, based solely upon the mystery of the Word made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. The numerous metaphors John Scotus used to point out this ineffable reality show how aware he was of the absolute inadequacy of the terms in which we speak of these things. And yet the enchantment and that aura of authentic mystical experience, which every now and then one can feel tangibly in his texts, endures. As proof of this it suffices to cite a passage from De divisione naturae which touches in depth even our mind as believers of the 21st century: "We should desire nothing", he writes, "other than the joy of the truth that is Christ, avoid nothing other than his absence. The greatest torment of a rational creature consists in the deprivation or absence of Christ. Indeed this must be considered the one cause of total and eternal sorrow. Take Christ from me and I am left with no good thing nor will anything terrify me so much as his absence. The greatest torments of a rational creature are the deprivation and absence of him" (V, PL 122, Col 989). These are words that we can make our own, translating them into a prayer to the One for whom our hearts long.

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To special groups:

I warmly greet all the English-speaking visitors present today. In a special way, I welcome seminarians from the United States participating in the The Rome Experience Program, as well as pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Karachi in Pakistan. God Bless you all!

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. The Feast of Corpus Christi which we shall be celebrating tomorrow gives us the opportunity to deepen our faith and our love for the Eucharist. Dear young people especially you, dear boys and girls from Castellaneta who have just received your First Communion may the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ be your daily spiritual food so that you will advance on the path of holiness; for you, dear sick people, may it be a support and comfort in trials and suffering; and for you, dear newlyweds, may it be the profound reason for your love which you express in your daily behaviour.

Saint Peter's Square

Audiences 2005-2013 27059