Audiences 2005-2013 11119

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 - The Cluniac Reform

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning I would like to speak to you about a monastic movement that was very important in the Middle Ages and which I have already mentioned in previous Catecheses. It is the Order of Cluny which at the beginning of the 12th century, at the height of its expansion, had almost 1,200 monasteries: a truly impressive figure! A monastery was founded at Cluny in 910, precisely 1,100 years ago, and subsequent to the donation of William the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine, was placed under the guidance of Abbot Berno. At that time Western monasticism, which had flourished several centuries earlier with St Benedict, was experiencing a severe decline for various reasons: unstable political and social conditions due to the continuous invasions and sacking by peoples who were not integrated into the fabric of Europe, widespread poverty and, especially, the dependence of abbeys on the local nobles who controlled all that belonged to the territories under their jurisdiction. In this context, Cluny was the heart and soul of a profound renewal of monastic life that led it back to its original inspiration.

At Cluny the Rule of St Benedict was restored with several adaptations which had already been introduced by other reformers. The main objective was to guarantee the central role that the Liturgy must have in Christian life. The Cluniac monks devoted themselves with love and great care to the celebration of the Liturgical Hours, to the singing of the Psalms, to processions as devout as they were solemn, and above all, to the celebration of Holy Mass. They promoted sacred music, they wanted architecture and art to contribute to the beauty and solemnity of the rites; they enriched the liturgical calendar with special celebrations such as, for example, at the beginning of November, the Commemoration of All Souls, which we too have just celebrated; and they intensified the devotion to the Virgin Mary. Great importance was given to the Liturgy because the monks of Cluny were convinced that it was participation in the liturgy of Heaven. And the monks felt responsible for interceding at the altar of God for the living and the dead, given large numbers of the faithful were insistently asking them to be remembered in prayer. Moreover, it was with this same aim that William the Pious had desired the foundation of the Abbey of Cluny. In the ancient document that testifies to the foundation we read: "With this gift I establish that a monastery of regulars be built at Cluny in honour of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, where monks who live according to the Rule of St Benedict shall gather... so that a venerable sanctuary of prayer with vows and supplications may be visited there, and the heavenly life be sought after and yearned for with every desire and with deep ardour, and that assiduous prayers, invocations and supplications be addressed to the Lord". To preserve and foster this atmosphere of prayer, the Cluniac Rule emphasized the importance of silence, to which discipline the monks willingly submitted, convinced that the purity of the virtues to which they aspired demanded deep and constant recollection. It is not surprising that before long the Monastery of Cluny gained a reputation for holiness and that many other monastic communities decided to follow its discipline. Numerous princes and Popes asked the abbots of Cluny to extend their reform so that in a short time a dense network of monasteries developed that were linked to Cluny, either by true and proper juridical bonds or by a sort of charismatic affiliation. Thus a spiritual Europe gradually took shape in the various regions of France and in Italy, Spain, Germany and Hungary.

Cluny's success was assured primarily not only by the lofty spirituality cultivated there but also by several other conditions that ensured its development. In comparison with what had happened until then, the Monastery of Cluny and the communities dependent upon it were recognized as exempt from the jurisdiction of the local Bishops and were directly subject to that of the Roman Pontiff. This meant that Cluny had a special bond with the See of Peter and, precisely because of the protection and encouragement of the Pontiffs the ideals of purity and fidelity proposed by the Cluniac Reform spread rapidly. Furthermore, the abbots were elected without any interference from the civil authorities, unlike what happened in other places. Truly worthy people succeeded one another at the helm of Cluny and of the numerous monastic communities dependent upon it: Abbot Odo of Cluny, of whom I spoke in a Catechesis two months ago, and other great figures such as Eymard, Majolus, Odilo and especially Hugh the Great, who served for long periods, thereby assuring stability and the spread of the reform embarked upon. As well as Odo, Majolus, Odilo and Hugh are venerated as Saints.

Not only did the Cluniac Reform have positive effects in the purification and reawakening of monastic life but also in the life of the universal Church. In fact, the aspiration to evangelical perfection was an incentive to fight two great abuses that afflicted the Church in that period: simony, that is the acquisition of pastoral offices for money, and immorality among the secular clergy. The abbots of Cluny with their spiritual authority, the Cluniac monks who became Bishops and some of them even Popes, took the lead in this impressive action of spiritual renewal. And it yielded abundant fruit: celibacy was once again esteemed and practised by priests and more transparent procedures were introduced in the designation of ecclesiastical offices.

Also significant were the benefits that monasteries inspired by the Cluniac Reform contributed to society. At a time when Church institutions alone provided for the poor, charity was practised with dedication. In all the houses, the almoner was bound to offer hospitality to needy wayfarers and pilgrims, travelling priests and religious and especially the poor, who came asking for food and a roof over their heads for a few days. Equally important were two other institutions promoted by Cluny that were characteristic of medieval civilization: the "Truce of God" and the "Peace of God". In an epoch heavily marked by violence and the spirit of revenge, with the "Truces of God" long periods of non-belligerence were guaranteed, especially on the occasion of specific religious feasts and certain days of the week. With "the Peace of God", on pain of a canonical reprimand, respect was requested for defenceless people and for sacred places.

In this way, in the conscience of the peoples of Europe during that long process of gestation, which was to lead to their ever clearer recognition two fundamental elements for the construction of society matured, namely, the value of the human person and the primary good of peace. Furthermore, as happened for other monastic foundations, the Cluniac monasteries had likewise at their disposal extensive properties which, diligently put to good use, helped to develop the economy. Alongside the manual work there was no lack of the typical cultural activities of medieval monasticism such as schools for children, the foundation of libraries and scriptoria for the transcription of books.

In this way, 1,000 years ago when the development of the European identity had gathered momentum, the experience of Cluny, which had spread across vast regions of the European continent, made its important and precious contribution. It recalled the primacy of spiritual benefits; it kept alive the aspiration to the things of God; it inspired and encouraged initiatives and institutions for the promotion of human values; it taught a spirit of peace. Dear brothers and sisters let us pray that all those who have at heart an authentic humanism and the future of Europe may be able to rediscover, appreciate and defend the rich cultural and religious heritage of these centuries.

To special groups

I cordially welcome the English-speaking visitors in attendance at today's Audience. I particularly greet pilgrims from the Diocese of Fort Worth, students and staff from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Diocesan Directors of Communications from England and Wales, as well as priests from Japan. Upon all of you I invoke God's Blessings of joy and peace!

I now extend my greeting to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, especially you, beloved students of the "Santa Teresa del Bambino Gesù" School at Santa Marinella, follow the example of St Martin, whose feast we are celebrating today, for a generous commitment of Gospel witness. May you, dear sick people, trust in the Lord who does not abandon us in moments of trial. And may you, dear newlyweds, enlivened by the faith that distinguished St Martin, always be able to respect and serve life, which is a gift of God.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 - The Cathedral from the Romanesque to the Gothic Architecture: The Theological Background

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Catecheses of the past few weeks I have presented several aspects of medieval theology. The Christian faith, however, deeply rooted in the men and women of those centuries, did not only give rise to masterpieces of theological literature, thought and faith. It also inspired one of the loftiest expressions of universal civilization: the cathedral, the true glory of the Christian Middle Ages. Indeed, for about three centuries, from the beginning of the 11th century Europe experienced extraordinary artistic creativity and fervour. An ancient chronicler described the enthusiasm and the hard-working spirit of those times in these words: "It happens that throughout the world, but especially in Italy and in Gaul, people began rebuilding churches although many had no need of such restoration because they were still in good condition. "It was like a competition between one people and another; one might have believed that the world, shaking off its rags and tatters, wanted to be reclad throughout in the white mantle of new churches. In short, all these cathedral churches, a large number of monastic churches and even village oratories, were restored by the faithful at that time" (Rodolphus Glaber, Historiarum, libri quinque, 3, 4).

Various factors contributed to this rebirth of religious architecture. First of all more favourable historical conditions, such as greater political stability, accompanied by a constant increase in the population and the gradual development of the cities, trade and wealth. Furthermore, architects found increasingly complicated technical solutions to increase the size of buildings, at the same time guaranteeing them both soundness and majesty. It was mainly thanks to the enthusiasm and spiritual zeal of monasticism, at the height of its expansion, that abbey churches were built in which the Liturgy might be celebrated with dignity and solemnity. They became the destination of continuous pilgrimages where the faithful, attracted by the veneration of saints' relics, could pause in prayer. So it was that the Romanesque churches and cathedrals came into being. They were characterized by the longitudinal development, in length, of the aisles, in order to accommodate numerous faithful. They were very solid churches with thick walls, stone vaults and simple, spare lines. An innovation was the introduction of sculptures. Because Romanesque churches were places for monastic prayer and for the worship of the faithful, rather than being concerned with technical perfection the sculptors turned their attention in particular to the educational dimension. Since it was necessary to inspire in souls strong impressions, sentiments that could persuade them to shun vice and evil and to practise virtue and goodness, the recurrent theme was the portrayal of Christ as Universal Judge surrounded by figures of the Apocalypse. It was usually the portals of the Romanesque churches which displayed these figures, to emphasize that Christ is the Door that leads to Heaven. On crossing the threshold of the sacred building, the faithful entered a space and time different from that of their ordinary life. Within the church, believers in a sovereign, just and merciful Christ in the artists' intention could enjoy in anticipation eternal beatitude in the celebration of the liturgy and of devotional acts carried out in the sacred building.

In the 12th and 13th centuries another kind of architecture for sacred buildings spread from the north of France: the Gothic. It had two new characteristics in comparison with the Romanesque, a soaring upward movement and luminosity. Gothic cathedrals show a synthesis of faith and art harmoniously expressed in the fascinating universal language of beauty which still elicits wonder today. By the introduction of vaults with pointed arches supported by robust pillars, it was possible to increase their height considerably. The upward thrust was intended as an invitation to prayer and at the same time was itself a prayer. Thus the Gothic cathedral intended to express in its architectural lines the soul's longing for God. In addition, by employing the new technical solutions, it was possible to make openings in the outer walls and to embellish them with stained-glass windows. In other words the windows became great luminous images, very suitable for instructing the people in faith. In them scene by scene the life of a saint, a parable or some other biblical event were recounted. A cascade of light poured through the stained-glass upon the faithful to tell them the story of salvation and to involve them in this story.

Another merit of Gothic cathedrals is that the whole Christian and civil community participated in their building and decoration in harmonious and complementary ways. The lowly and the powerful, the illiterate and the learned; all participated because in this common house all believers were instructed in the faith. Gothic sculpture in fact has made cathedrals into "stone Bibles", depicting Gospel episodes and illustrating the content of the liturgical year, from the Nativity to the glorification of the Lord. In those centuries too, the perception of the Lord's humanity became ever more widespread and the sufferings of his Passion were represented realistically: the suffering Christ (Christus patiens) an image beloved by all and apt to inspire devotion and repentance for sins. Nor were Old Testament figures lacking; thus to the faithful who went to the cathedral their histories became familiar as part of the one common history of salvation. With faces full of beauty, gentleness and intelligence, Gothic sculpture of the 13th century reveals a happy and serene religious sense, glad to show a heartfelt filial devotion to the Mother of God, sometimes seen as a young woman, smiling and motherly, but mainly portrayed as the Queen of Heaven and earth, powerful and merciful. The faithful who thronged the Gothic cathedrals also liked to find there, expressed in works of art, saints, models of Christian life and intercessors with God. And there was no shortage of the "secular" scenes of life, thus, here and there, there are depictions of work in the fields, of the sciences and arts. All was oriented and offered to God in the place in which the Liturgy was celebrated. We may understand better the meaning attributed to a Gothic cathedral by reflecting on the text of the inscription engraved on the central portal of Saint-Denis in Paris: "Passerby, who is stirred to praise the beauty of these doors, do not let yourself be dazzled by the gold or by the magnificence, but rather by the painstaking work. Here a famous work shines out, but may Heaven deign that this famous work that shines make spirits resplendent so that, with the luminous truth, they may walk toward the true light, where Christ is the true door".

Dear brothers and sisters, I would now like to emphasize two elements of Romanesque and Gothic art that are also helpful to us. The first: the masterpieces of art created in Europe in past centuries are incomprehensible unless one takes into account the religious spirit that inspired them. Marc Chagall, an artist who has always witnessed to the encounter between aesthetics and faith, wrote that "For centuries painters dipped their brushes into that colourful alphabet which was the Bible". When faith, celebrated in the Liturgy in a special way, encounters art, it creates a profound harmony because each can and wishes to speak of God, making the Invisible visible. I would like to share this encounter with artists on 21 November, renewing to them the proposal of friendship between Christian spirituality and art that my venerable Predecessors hoped for, especially the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II. The second element: the strength of the Romanesque style and the splendour of the Gothic cathedrals remind us that the via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, is a privileged and fascinating path on which to approach the Mystery of God. What is the beauty that writers, poets, musicians, and artists contemplate and express in their language other than the reflection of the splendour of the eternal Word made flesh? Then St Augustine says: "Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air, amply spread around everywhere, question the beauty of the sky, question the serried ranks of the stars, question the sun making the day glorious with its bright beams, question the moon tempering the darkness of the following night with its shining rays, question the animals that move in the waters, that amble about on dry land, that fly in the air; their souls hidden, their bodies evident; the visible bodies needing to be controlled, the invisible souls controlling them. Question all these things. They all answer you, "Here we are, look; we're beautiful!' Their beauty is their confession. Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not one who is beautiful and unchangeable?" (Sermo CCXLI, 2: PL 38, 1134).

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord help us to rediscover the way of beauty as one of the itineraries, perhaps the most attractive and fascinating, on which to succeed in encountering and loving God.

To special groups

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims at today's Audience, especially the board members of the World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations. Upon you all I cordially invoke God's abundant Blessings!

I now address a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I am pleased to welcome the Cardinals, Bishops and all the members of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, headed by Cardinal Ivan Dias. Your presence gives me the opportunity to renew to each one the expression of my deep gratitude for the generous commitment with which you work to spread the Gospel message. I entrust your Plenary Assembly to the protection of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Apostles, invoking her maternal help upon all who are involved in missionary action in every corner of the earth.

Lastly I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. In today's Liturgy, we are celebrating the Dedication of St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and that of St Paul on the Ostian Way. This celebration offers us the opportunity to shed light on the significance and value of the Church. Dear young people, love the Church and cooperate enthusiastically in building her up.

Dear sick people, live out the offering of your suffering as a precious contribution to the spiritual growth of the Christian communities. And may you, dear newlyweds, be a living sign of Christ's love in the world.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 - Hugh and Richard of Saint-Victor

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At these Wednesday Audiences I am presenting several exemplary figures of believers who were dedicated to showing the harmony between reason and faith and to witnessing with their lives to the proclamation of the Gospel. I intend to speak today about Hugh and Richard of Saint-Victor. Both were among those philosophers and theologians known as "Victorines" because they lived and taught at the Abbey of Saint-Victor in Paris, founded at the beginning of the 12th century by William of Champeaux. William himself was a well-known teacher who succeeded in giving his abbey a solid cultural identity. Indeed, a school for the formation of the monks, also open to external students, was founded at Saint-Victor, where a felicitous synthesis was achieved between the two theological models of which I have spoken in previous Catecheses. These are monastic theology, primarily oriented to contemplation of the mysteries of the faith in Scripture; and scholastic theology, which aimed to use reason to scrutinize these mysteries with innovative methods in order to create a theological system.

We have little information about the life of Hugh of Saint-Victor. The date and place of his birth are uncertain; he may have been born in Saxony or in Flanders. It is known that having arrived in Paris the European cultural capital at that time he spent the rest of his days at the Abbey of Saint-Victor, where he was first a disciple and subsequently a teacher. Even before his death in 1141, he earned great fame and esteem, to the point that he was called a "second St Augustine". Like Augustine, in fact, he meditated deeply on the relationship between faith and reason, between the secular sciences and theology. According to Hugh of Saint-Victor, in addition to being useful for understanding the Scriptures, all the branches of knowledge have intrinsic value and must be cultivated in order to broaden human knowledge, as well as to answer the human longing to know the truth. This healthy intellectual curiosity led him to counsel students always to give free reign to their desire to learn. In his treatise on the methodology of knowledge and pedagogy, entitled significantly Didascalicon (On Teaching) his recommendation was: "Learn willingly what you do not know from everyone. The person who has sought to learn something from everyone will be wiser than them all. The person who receives something from everyone ends by becoming the richest of all" (Eruditiones Didascalicae, 3, 14; PL 176, 774).

The knowledge with which the philosophers and theologians known as Victorines were concerned in particular was theology, which requires first and foremost the loving study of Sacred Scripture. In fact, in order to know God one cannot but begin with what God himself has chosen to reveal of himself in the Scriptures. In this regard Hugh of Saint-Victor is a typical representative of monastic theology, based entirely on biblical exegesis. To interpret Scripture he suggests the traditional patristic and medieval structure, namely, the literal and historical sense first of all, then the allegorical and anagogical and, lastly, the moral. These are four dimensions of the meaning of Scripture that are being rediscovered even today. For this reason one sees that in the text and in the proposed narrative a more profound meaning is concealed: the thread of faith that leads us heavenwards and guides us on this earth, teaching us how to live. Yet, while respecting these four dimensions of the meaning of Scripture, in an original way in comparison with his contemporaries, Hugh of Saint-Victor insists and this is something new on the importance of the historical and literal meaning. In other words before discovering the symbolic value, the deeper dimensions of the biblical text, it is necessary to know and to examine the meaning of the event as it is told in Scripture. Otherwise, he warns, using an effective comparison, one risks being like grammarians who do not know the elementary rules. To those who know the meaning of history as described in the Bible, human events appear marked by divine Providence, in accordance with a clearly ordained plan. Thus, for Hugh of Saint-Victor, history is neither the outcome of a blind destiny nor as meaningless as it might seem. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit is at work in human history and inspires the marvellous dialogue of human beings with God, their friend. This theological view of history highlights the astonishing and salvific intervention of God who truly enters and acts in history. It is almost as if he takes part in our history, while ever preserving and respecting the human being's freedom and responsibility.

Our author considered that the study of Sacred Scripture and its historical and literal meaning makes possible true and proper theology, that is, the systematic illustration of truths, knowledge of their structure, the illustration of the dogmas of the faith. He presents these in a solid synthesis in his Treatise De Sacramentis Christianae Fidei (The Sacraments of the Christian Faith). Among other things, he provides a definition of "sacrament" which, further perfected by other theologians, contains ideas that are still very interesting today. "The sacrament is a corporeal or material element proposed in an external and tangible way", he writes, "which by its likeness makes present an invisible and spiritual grace; it signifies it, because it was instituted to this end, and contains it, because it is capable of sanctifying" (9,2: PL 176, 317). On the one hand is the visibility in the symbol, the "corporeity" of the gift of God. On the other hand, however, in him is concealed the divine grace that comes from the history of Jesus Christ, who himself created the fundamental symbols. Therefore, there are three elements that contribute to the definition of a sacrament, according to Hugh of Saint-Victor: the institution by Christ; the communication of grace; and the analogy between the visible or material element and the invisible element: the divine gifts. This vision is very close to our contemporary understanding, because the sacraments are presented with a language interwoven with symbols and images capable of speaking directly to the human heart. Today too it is important that liturgical animators, and priests in particular, with pastoral wisdom, give due weight to the signs proper to sacramental rites to this visibility and tangibility of Grace. They should pay special attention to catechesis, to ensure that all the faithful experience every celebration of the sacraments with devotion, intensity and spiritual joy.

Richard, who came from Scotland, was Hugh of Saint-Victor's worthy disciple. He was prior of the Abbey of Saint-Victor from 1162 to 1173, the year of his death. Richard too, of course, assigned a fundamental role to the study of the Bible but, unlike his master, gave priority to the allegorical sense, the symbolic meaning of Scripture. This is what he uses, for example, in his interpretation of the Old Testament figure of Benjamin, the son of Jacob, as a model of contemplation and the epitome of the spiritual life. Richard addresses this topic in two texts, Benjamin Minor and Benjamin Maior. In these he proposes to the faithful a spiritual journey which is primarily an invitation to exercise the various virtues, learning to discipline and to control with reason the sentiments and the inner affective and emotional impulses. Only when the human being has attained balance and human maturity in this area is he or she ready to approach contemplation, which Richard defines as "a profound and pure gaze of the soul, fixed on the marvels of wisdom, combined with an ecstatic sense of wonder and admiration" (Benjamin Maior 1,4: PL 196, 67).

Contemplation is therefore the destination, the result of an arduous journey that involves dialogue between faith and reason, that is once again a theological discourse. Theology stems from truths that are the subject of faith but seeks to deepen knowledge of them by the use of reason, taking into account the gift of faith. This application of reason to the comprehension of faith is presented convincingly in Richard's masterpiece, one of the great books of history, the De Trinitate (The Trinity). In the six volumes of which it is composed he reflects perspicaciously on the Mystery of the Triune God. According to our author, since God is love the one divine substance includes communication, oblation and love between the two Persons, the Father and the Son, who are placed in a reciprocal, eternal exchange of love. However the perfection of happiness and goodness admits of no exclusivism or closure. On the contrary, it requires the eternal presence of a third Person, the Holy Spirit. Trinitarian love is participatory, harmonious and includes a superabundance of delight, enjoyment and ceaseless joy. Richard, in other words, supposes that God is love, analyzes the essence of love of what the reality love entails and thereby arrives at the Trinity of the Persons, which really is the logical expression of the fact that God is love.

Yet Richard is aware that love, although it reveals to us the essence of God, although it makes us "understand" the Mystery of the Trinity, is nevertheless always an analogy that serves to speak of a Mystery that surpasses the human mind. Being the poet and mystic that he is, Richard also has recourse to other images. For example, he compares divinity to a river, to a loving wave which originates in the Father and ebbs and flows in the Son, to be subsequently spread with joy through the Holy Spirit.

Dear friends, authors such as Hugh and Richard of Saint-Victor raise our minds to contemplation of the divine realities. At the same time, the immense joy we feel at the thought, admiration and praise of the Blessed Trinity supports and sustains the practical commitment to be inspired by this perfect model of communion in love in order to build our daily human relationships. The Trinity is truly perfect communion! How the world would change if relations were always lived in families, in parishes and in every other community by following the example of the three divine Persons in whom each lives not only with the other, but for the other and in the other! A few months ago at the Angelus I recalled: "Love alone makes us happy because we live in a relationship, and we live to love and to be loved" (Angelus, Trinity Sunday, 7 June 2009). It is love that works this ceaseless miracle. As in the life of the Blessed Trinity, plurality is recomposed in unity, where all is kindness and joy. With St Augustine, held in great honour by the Victorines, we too may exclaim: "Vides Trinitatem, si caritatem vides you contemplate the Trinity, if you see charity" (De Trinitate VIII, 8, 12).

To special groups

I offer a warm welcome to the pilgrimage of Bishops and faithful from Japan celebrating the first anniversary of the Beatification of Blessed Peter Kibe and Companions. My cordial greeting also goes to the groups from Denmark and the United States of America. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience, I invoke God's Blessings of joy and peace!

I would also like to address a warm greeting to the directors and operators of Télé Lumière Noursat of Lebanon, as well as to their President, Bishop Aboujaoudé. Dear friends, I encourage you to persevere generously in your mission at the service of Gospel proclamation, peace and reconciliation in Leban and throughout the region. I impart to you all and to all the viewers of Noursat a special Apostolic Blessing.

Lastly, I address the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. The Season of Advent begins next Sunday. I urge you, young people, to live this "strong time" with vigilant prayer and generous evangelical commitment. I encourage you, sick people, to sustain with the offering of your suffering, the process of preparation for Holy Christmas of the Christian people. I hope that you, newlyweds, may be witnesses of the Spirit of love who enlivens and supports the entire Family of God.

Saint Peter's Square

Audiences 2005-2013 11119