By Fr Serafino M. Lanzetta

The testimonies of tradition

From the Gospels we have a few historical data about Jesus’ birth, necessary and indeed sufficient to hold firmly to the mystery. From St Matthew and St Luke, we learn that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Juda (cf. Mt 2:1; Lk 2:4). From St Luke we learn only that there was no room “at the inn”, and that for this reason, the child was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger (cf. Lk 2:4-7). The traditional view holds that Jesus was born in a cave. The only literal biblical reference to this is the fact that Our Lord was laid in a “manger” (cf. Lk 2:7: phátne). However, there are historical witnesses among the early Church Fathers who attest to Jesus’ being born in a cave: St Justin Martyr (150 A.D.), according to whom Jesus was born in a cave that was used as a stable, though not the typical stone and wooden stable so commonplace in our Christian art; then there is Origen (250 A.D.), followed by St Jerome (325 A.D.). In 335 A.D, Emperor Constantine built the Basilica of the Nativity on the spot where the cave of Jesus’ nativity had been identified in Bethlehem, thanks to the historical testimonies of these early Church Fathers.

Let’s now consider the following hypothesis: if the very grotto of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, upon which the Basilica of the Nativity was built, should no longer be considered the birthplace of Our Lord, in light of a new exegetical interpretation, could this new position simply call into question the now centuries-old belief in the historical authenticity of such an ancient site? Indeed, the site of the grotto had ironically been preserved by the emperor Adrian in his attempt to desecrate the Jewish and Christian holy places in Palestine shortly after 130.  The crux of the matter, upon which the whole affair would appear to be hanging, is a different translation of one single word. Is this sufficient grounds for dismissing the traditional belief?

No room in the guest room?

Why do I suppose that this question hinges upon one single word? In recent decades, starting especially with the studies of Kenneth Bailey (1930-2016, Presbyterian minister, prolific author, and lecturer in Middle Eastern New Testament studies), in particular his work entitled Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Cultural Studies in the Gospel (2008), this classical view has been called into question and a new theory has been favoured: Jesus would have been born in an ordinary house. Bailey follows the interpretation of Alfred Plummer (1841-1926, Church of England clergyman and Biblical Scholar), in Gospel According to St Luke, 5th ed., International Critical Commentary (1922). There are several arguments supporting this theory. First, there is the fact that it would have been nearly impossible for Joseph, being of the house of David and finding himself in Bethlehem, his own city, not to find a place where his wife could give birth. It would have been unthinkable to imagine him knocking at any door, reciting his royal genealogy, and not being welcomed for the night. This apparent incongruity leads to a second and more important exegetical argument. The word used by Luke to indicate the inn, in which there was no room for the Holy Family, is katáluma (from katá lúo), meaning to unloose or untie, that is, to unsaddle one’s horses and untie one’s pack, which can mean a lodging place for men and cattle. In fact, there are authors, such as Joseph Fitzmeyer SJ, in The Gospel according to Luke I-IX (1970), who translate katáluma with “lodge”, a sort of caravansary or khan. For Raymond E. Brown, in The Birth of the Messiah (1977), Luke seems more interested in telling his audience where Mary laid the new-born baby. The fact that the details about the swaddling clothes and the manger are repeated three times (Lk 2:7.12.16) must be of significance, setting this unique scene against the lack of space at the various lodgings. The mention of the lodgings is of minor importance. It is not the focus, although for Brown, who reduces the text to a mere historical-critical analysis, “if the manger was pre-Lucan in the tradition, the lack of place in the lodgings may have been Luke’s vague surmise, in order to explain the use of the manger.”[1] What if it was instead the historical account of what truly happened? Why exclude it a priori? There is a very manifest attempt to explain the birth of Our Lord with its various suggestive details as a Midrash (interpreting or commenting on a word or an event in the Old Testament as reproduced in the New, by considering it to be a theological interpretation of the evangelist, with no historical foundation). And yet, one should recall that the birth of Our Lord, as related in the Gospels, is unique in its own genre. What Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch say of Matthew’s Gospel can also be applied to Luke’s:

Unlike midrash, the evangelist’s story of Jesus is not founded on an Old Testament text. Whereas midrash seeks to mine deeper meanings of the Old Testament, Matthew does not seek to interpret the Old Testament for its own sake. More to the point, Matthew is not retelling Old Testament episodes but is telling an entirely new story! It is a story with new characters and events; it is a story that could stand on its own apart from his Old Testament citations. Matthew employs the Old Testament to illuminate the significance of Jesus’ birth, not to determine in advance its plot and outcome.[2]

It is true, however, that when Luke does mention a proper ‘inn’, in the parable of the man who fell among thieves (Luke 10.34), he uses the more general term pandocheîon, meaning a commercial inn, where travellers and guests were typically welcomed. Katáluma, more specifically, is the word for the private ‘upper’ room where Jesus and the disciples ate the ‘last supper’ (Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11; Matthew does not mention the room). This is clearly a reception/guest room in a private home. The reading of katáluma as guest room is here preferred for the fact that in the Gospel of Luke two elements – already encountered – are placed one against the other: phátne and katáluma, designating the latter as a space in various types of structures. Hence, the conclusion is that it is likely that Mary and Joseph were hosted in the family living room, where there was also enough room for the animals, with a feeding trough, either carved in the floor or built as a free-standing element, since there was no available guest room. Mary then would give birth to Jesus in a crowded house, in the midst of guests and family members, despite the fact that only women were allowed to be present at the moment of childbirth. The shepherds would arrive and find such a festive atmosphere that they could announce the good news to all the people there gathered. Bailey concludes his analyses thusly:

Our Christmas crèche sets remain as they are because “ox and ass before him bow, / for he is in the manger now”. But the manger was in a warm and friendly home, not in a cold and lonely stable. Looking at the story in this light strips away layers of interpretative mythology that have built up around it. Jesus was born in a simple two-room village home such as the Middle East has known for at least three thousand years. Yes, we must rewrite our Christmas plays, but in rewriting them, the story is enriched, not cheapened.[3]

Some tenets of faith easily overlooked

In truth, by following this apparently convincing theory, aiming above all at comforting Jesus and the Holy Spouses by delivering them from such a cold scenario of isolation as depicted by Tradition, one risks – though in a veiled manner – calling into question some basic truths of the faith. This should be of import to all Christians.[4] First, what would constitute the “sign” of the miraculous birth of the Messiah, true God and true Man, if the environment was that of a normal family home, where the joyful and festive atmosphere would have been caused by the gathering of relatives more than the birth of the Messiah? Would Jesus have been the protagonist in that crowded house?

The sign was a “baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger” (cf. Lk 2: 11). If Jesus had been laid in a manger inside a house, this would rather have represented a normal place where animals were fed, and would not have pointed to anything special, beyond its immediate, tangible, meaning. But what is more extraordinary is the fact that when the shepherds arrived, they did not find a crowd, but simply those who are the protagonists of the mystery of Christmas. “They came with haste,” the Gospel notes, “and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger” (Lk 2: 16). There was indeed silence and solitude, as is conducive to the mystery.

Moreover, if the shepherds, in order to adore the child, had come upon a family environment, in the middle of the city of Bethlehem, would they have been welcomed, since their social status, due to their unclean profession, excluded them from civic life? Unless we are tempted to deny the historicity of the shepherds coming to the manger, we should also remember that these humble and rejected people were inscribed on a list of those ineligible to be judges or witnesses since they grazed their flocks on other people’s land. Besides being held as unclean, they were also labelled as dishonest. How can one reconcile, therefore, their social exclusion, with the probability of their being welcomed into a private home? Their evangelising activity, telling everyone about the baby, leaving the people who heard their message in a state of wonder (cf. Lk 2:17-18), begins only after the encounter with Christ and by the effective means of his grace. They arrived, the Gospel recounts, saw the sign as foretold them by the Angel, and understood the word spoken to them concerning the child (cf. Lk 2:17). Would they have seen and immediately understood if that living room had been occupied by a large crowd? What would have been so special about the encounter, moreover, if all the people to whom the shepherds announced the great tidings had been in the house where Mary and Joseph were? Would there have been a need to evangelize those relatives and guests, if they were already aware of the presence of the Holy Family?

The focus is on the sign of the manger, thanks to which the environment, somehow, also shares in being a sign of the uniqueness of the new-born Messiah. The singularity of that birth had to be grasped by extraordinary exterior elements, leading to an interior reality, easily understandable by those simple people. They, indeed, came straight to the following conclusion: this child is Christ the Saviour. We may well suppose that the shepherds were the first to be called, for the fact that they, in some way, experienced the same condition as the new-born Messiah, that of the anawim, to which Mary and Joseph belonged. But they were also the only people to remain awake at night, keeping watch over their flocks. They were vigilant in the night of that world, and ready, in their humility, for God’s coming. Once they had arrived at the place of the Messiah’s birth, at their first glance, these humble shepherds believed in the word of the angel because they found everything according to description. With simplicity and trust, they welcomed the word of the angel and set out on their journey of faith towards the new-born Saviour. The Gospel says: “seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child” (Lk 2:17). The word spoken to them meant the sign, and the sign now points back to the word and reassures them. Word and sign are one in the flesh assumed by the Logos at his incarnation, and express the sacramental unity of the invisible and visible reality, in the sacrament par excellence: the Word incarnate.

But what is even more important to ponder is the fact that if Our Lady had given birth in a normal house, with people around and women assisting her, the logical conclusion would have been that the childbirth was not virginal. An ordinary familial context evokes immediately an ordinary childbirth. An external condition appropriate to the virginal childbirth was needed so that it might be wrapped up by silence, privacy and the intimacy between the Mother and the Son. Even Joseph’s presence is not required in that solemn moment. The virginity in partu of the Mother is a miraculous, extraordinary birth of the Son, of the One who comes through the womb of the Blessed Virgin without touching it, with neither rupture nor birth pangs. That moment preludes Jesus’ resurrection, when his glorious body came through the linen cloths, leaving them lying as they had enveloped his body, which was truly astonishing for John and Peter. John saw this sign and believed in the resurrection (cf. Jn 20:4-8); it also preludes Our Lord’s entering the upper room, again after his resurrection, passing through a closed door (cf. Jn 20:19). The way Jesus came into the world is reflected in these solemn later moments of his life, with the experience of silence and seclusion from profane eyes. The mystery is sacred, necessarily set apart from profanity, otherwise it is easily denied. The birth in a normal home environment, in spite of a traditional and constant belief, conveys the idea of a “normal” moment in the life of Joseph and Mary, where, in fact, the mystery is obscured by the noise and profanity of life. Furthermore, the theory of a “living room” as Jesus’ birthplace seems to favour the idea of a joyful Christmas, where no isolation and sadness were experienced by the Infant Jesus, immersed rather in a festal atmosphere. And yet it seems to spoil, in addition to the very tenants of the faith, the very meaning of joy.

Joy is brought about by the nativity of Christ, by the fact of his birth and not by the external situation of a warm familial environment. It is the virginal childbirth of Mary, painless, joyful, and peaceful, that cried out an immense joy to be announced to the world. The shepherds were the first to become messengers of this joy because they experienced it: a joy beyond human expectation. Now, all those who heard the humble shepherds speak of the child wondered at the good tidings they were spreading all around: Christ the Lord was born. And Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the one who was fully aware of the virginal mystery of the Incarnation and Birth of the Emmanuel, “kept all these words, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Mary keeps the words of the shepherds, their faith in the mystery of God’s incarnation as echoing the word of the celestial messenger. Her Immaculate Heart is the holy place where all the mysteries of faith, as well as the wonder and awe of the first believers, are kept secure. One last argument to refute the hypothesis of a living room as Jesus’ birthplace is offered precisely in this: Mary’s interior and highly spiritual attitude, inciting her to meditate and ponder on those words, points rather to an atmosphere of recollection, silence and solitude. Only Mary was with the child at the very moment of his coming into this world, and the child was with Mary. Mother and Son, Son and Mother, are one and remain in that virginal oneness.

The Child with Mary his Mother

To be convinced of this virginal unity between the Child and his Mother, necessarily to be echoed by a suitable exterior environment, one can also make reference to St Matthew’s Gospel. Here, the virginity of Mary serves as a golden thread uniting in a special manner the Son with the Mother. Matthew, in chapter 2, repeats five times the same expression, that the Child Jesus is with Mary his Mother. The context is the visit of the Magi and the flight into Egypt, followed by the return of the Holy Family to Nazareth.  Let us compare these formulations:

2:11: And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him.

2:13: And after they were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt.

2:14 Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt: the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph in Egypt.

2:20: Saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel.

2:21: Who arose, and took the child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

It is clear that the Child is indissolubly united with Mary, his mother and that the bond of unity between them is the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. Jesus is the only Son of Mary as He is the only Son of the Father in heaven, true God and true Man. We can summarize it all with the famous motto by St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort: ad Jesum per Mariam.  In the seclusion of Mary as ever virgin, we also find the true cradle of Jesus’ holy birth, which reflects, on its part, the physical cradle within a cave at Jesus’ birth. Either the mystery is a unity of sign and reality, or it simply no longer exists.


[1] R.E.Brown, The Birth of the Messiah. A Commentary on the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1977) Reprinted 1978, 419.

[2] S. Hahn-C. Mitch, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010) 10.

[3] K. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Cultural Studies in the Gospel (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008) 36.

[4] Unfortunately even some Catholic Bibles, such as the CTS New Catholic Bible, 2007, appear to adopt the thesis of a large family room with animals and manger where Jesus would have been born.

By Karen Darantiere

The Door of Faith by Fr Serafino Lanzetta, a timely and timeless remedy to our Church’s woes

Having read Father Serafino Lanzetta’s new book, The Door of Faith, against the backdrop of Pope Francis’s recent words regarding the Communion of Saints, I cannot help penning my praise of this book without making reference to the pope’s troubling teaching. For the two are linked.  One is a sign of the apostasy in which the Church is submerged, the other a diagnosis of our ailing faith as well as a remedy so it may shine anew in all its truth and beauty.

Unbelievably, the Holy Father actually uttered these words: “The communion of saints is precisely the Church… No one can exclude himself from the Church… those who have denied the faith, who are apostates, who are the persecutors of the Church, who have denied their baptism: are these also at home? Yes, even these, even the blasphemers, all of them. We are brothers: this is the communion of saints. The communion of saints holds together the community of believers on earth and in heaven… in Christ no one can ever truly separate us from those we love because the bond is an existential bond, a strong bond that is in our very nature… nothing and no one can break this bond.”

We might merely resort to sarcasm, derisively laughing“Blessed be the blasphemers!” Or, we might pause to ponder over the fathomless falsehood of this catechesis.  Without claiming to judge the heart of the pope, we can, nonetheless, express dismay when hearing words so shocking to pious ears and clearly contradicting Church teaching.   Personally, my greatest dismay was caused by the resounding silence on the part of our shepherds, and, worse still, by favorable reviews published in reputedly reliable French Catholic journals, including one by a monk from a traditional monastery, who speaks in glowing terms while remaining silent on the shocking passage, and another whose title even dares to claim that this catechesis ‘sets the record straight’.  Is not only faith but also reason in total eclipse? 

Where are blasphemy and apostasy “at home” if not in the pits of hell from whence they come?  What is this communion of saints if not the cacophony of the damned, where heaven becomes hell, good evil, and truth falsehood?One cannot help thinking of Bishop Fulton Sheen’s prescient warning in 1947 when, speaking of Satan’s perversely seductive logic, he stated“…if there is no hell, then there is no sin; if there is no sin, then there is no judge, and if there is no judgement then evil is good and good is evil.”  And he foresaw the setting up of a counter-Church “which will be the ape of the Church because, he the devil, is the ape of God. It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content. It will be a mystical body of the anti-Christ that will in all externals resemble the mystical body of Christ… the anti-Christ “will have one great secret which he will tell to no one: he will not believe in God. Because his religion will be brotherhood without the fatherhood of God…” Far be it from me to suggest that the Pope is the Antichrist or that the gates of hell will prevail against our Holy Mother Church!  Undeniably, however, these words do ring somewhat true and should serve as a wake-up call to faithful Catholics.

Where are our shepherds warding off the wolves? If a well-catechized child can recognize this teaching for what it is, then what of our bishops? Have they utterly renounced their faith?  Have they no care for their flock? Why have they fled, leaving us bereft of pastors? If apostates are part of the communion of saints, why believe?  If nothing we do can separate us from the Church, why belong to it? Why profess our faith? Why receive the sacraments? Why pray? Why lead a moral life? Are apostates really part of the community of believers?  What is believing if disbelief and belief are one and the sameWhat is faith? If the bond uniting us in the communion of saints is an existential bond, one belonging to our very nature, then what of grace? Is grace absorbed into nature, rendering it useless? 

Happily, we find in Fr Serafino Lanzetta a faithful pastor, who has spoken with charity and clarity on this very topicThankfully, the answers to the above questions are found in The Door of Faith, hence its timeliness and timelessness.  

“Faith is the door that opens the mystery of God to us and through which God gives us our raison d’être.” (XIII)

Providentially, The Door of Faith begins with the word ‘Faith’ and ends with the word ‘God’.  Reading this book means embarking on a challenging and rewarding journey, the journey of faith to our final goal, God.  But what is faith?  We are confronted nowadays with diverging notions of faith, between which we must clearly distinguish, so as to choose the right door that will lead us in the right direction.  The door of faith has as its threshold our ability to think rationally, to seek and find the truth: it is essential to set out on a journey well-prepared… On must start at the foundation: reason.” (XIII)

The wrong door will lead us elsewhere, or rather nowhere: “a blind wandering around the streets of the world, believing that you can see something when in reality you only see darkness.” (XIII)  This aimless wandering is caused by a rejection of reason, making of faith nothing more than an embrace of the irrational.  However, faith is real, not a mere ideal” (XIX)not a mere vain pursuit, but the embrace of the whole of reality, grounded in our natural capacity for reason and love, and granted through the supernatural gift of faith and charity.  “Faith and charity work together like reason and love although the two pairs are on different levels… one natural and the other supernatural – in harmony, so that with reason and love, faith and charity, we can truly embrace the whole of reality and give a definitive response to our life.” (XIV)  The problem we are confronted with in the Church, as in society at large, is a pitting of love against reason, charity against faith, whereas “reason and love cannot be set against each other, just as you cannot choose either faith or charity.” (XXIII)

The journey we embark on by reading this book is an ascent to ever-greater heights, starting with nature, elevated by grace, allowing us to see the face of truth and love incarnate in the Good Shepherd and to be nourished by this selfsame Logos-Love in the Holy Eucharist.  Along the way, we perceive the natural to be in harmony with the supernatural, nature with grace, creation with redemption, the indissolubly wedded couple of reason-love in harmony with that of faith-charity.  We understand faith as the divine seed growing into a tree whose roots in reason run deep and whose branches bear the beautiful fruit of charity.  We see faith and charity not as opposing forces but as two wings of our Christian soul allowing us to soar heavenward.  The whole is summed up in the paradigm: a love in truth for a truth of love, which becomes incarnate in the Word made flesh, in whom truth and life are one.  We gaze upon the beautiful face of the Good Shepherd, whose eyes mirror a soul made of Love and Truth, who looks back upon his creatures made in His image, capable of knowing and loving in return He who knew and loved them first.  We understand that his Body given for us in the Holy Eucharist is the truth of his self-giving love for humanity which nourishes us with Truth and Love throughout our journey until we reach our final destination in heaven.  

Fr Lanzetta, while restoring to reason its natural dignity, also sheds light on the need to include the role of love in apologetic discourse.  He firstly highlights the indissoluble knot uniting reason and faith, while warding off the danger to the faith caused by the loss of reason, before examining in depth the circular and harmonious relationship between reason and love, as the natural foundation on which rests supernatural faith and charity, all of this relying on his vast scholarship, particularly on the wisdom of Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Deus Caritas Est.  At the start of the journey, we look through the false door, leading to the oblivion of faith, and peer down the path to a distant darkness, at an irrational landscape where truth is unknowable, where faith is a mere ideal without reality, where God is void of truth, that is, void of Himself.

What is the cause of the present oblivion of faith?

In response to this question we all wish to see answered, we learn that: “this crisis is generated largely by setting aside the question of God … When the thoughts of men and women are no longer capable of understanding God, they become non-thoughts and they head toward decline.  Along with thought goes faith.”(p. 3).  We grapple with nihilism, this logical haven of relativism, in which nothing is explained with God or without Him, where there is no true knowledge, nothing but radical agnosticism, and we see its two prevalent forms, one a nihilist-theist relativism, the other a nihilistic atheism, the former having seeped its poison rather deeply into the lifeblood of the Church, causing a fatal divide between faith and reason. God is no longer perceivable as the foundation of being, so faith is torn between the natural longing for goodness and the thought seeking for truth in vain. This skepticismcommonplace in society, has made its way into the minds of Catholics, who “due to systematic doubt must suspect the very principle of reasoning and therefore of faith,” to the point where many “see in Christ the teacher of a believing atheism and of a faith continually threatened by denial of God”(p. 22-23)However, “a philosophy or even a theology of doubt, which in the final analysis proves the possibility of being atheistic believers or believers continually threatened by atheism, is simply a rejection of thought.” (p. 33)

We have assimilated a weak idea of God, “in the image of a thought that has renounced being to focus on desire and then resigned itself to evil” (p. 84). We desire forgiveness but renounce truth, whereas “if mercy, as is sometimes hoped, cancelled justice, it would destroy itself; it would have no further raison d’être because there would no longer be any sin to pardon.  The actions of men and women would be irrelevant, and God would simply be an empty and useless hope for forgiveness.” (p. 95) Ultimately, however, the cancellation of God’s punishment following sin results sooner or later in ascribing the origin of the wound of human nature not to original sin [but] to God alone,  [so that] if we wanted God not to punish us, we would have paved the road to atheism.” (p. 104)

“Help me to see You with reason, to desire You with love, to believe with faith, to unite myself forever with You in charity.” (p. 36)

What is the solution to the problem?  We must once again: unite reason and love to know God.  He is the fullness.  He Himself is Reason and Love.  The only true religion is the one where God is the fullness of reason and love, to which must correspond faith and charity.” (p. 7)  Fr Lanzetta presents the beautiful teaching of William of Saint Thierry, a disciple of Saint Bernard’s, who identifies charity with the vision possessed by the soul to see Godtruth and charity are linked because one illuminates the other.  They are so linked that charity itself, love in truth and the truth of love, has two eyes: reason and love, which must not work separately, just as two eyes of natural sight: When one of them tries to see without the other it has little success, but when they work together they can achieve great things.” (p. 110-111)  

We are led to see that the God of reason and the God of Revelation are one and the same: “In reality, the uncaused Cause, reason of everything including my own being, is a Person with an intellect and a will, with a heart. The God-cause is Reason and Love.” (p. 114)  This pairing of reason and love is like the fertile ground in which a supernatural seed may be planted:  “The pairing of reason-love… is the foundation on which another pairing rests: the union of faith and charity.” (p. 114) These theological virtues enable us to know and unite with God:  “Faith purifies in order to ‘see’ God, charity is the possession of God, namely, being in Him.  Faith and charity find their unity in the mystery of God believed and loved.” (p. 117)

“Will there be a living Jesus opposed to the faith which He Himself taught? (p. 77)

The divorce between reason and love has engendered an unnatural divide between faith and charity.  What is faith? “To believe is to welcome God’s Revelation, namely the truth introduced by God for my salvation.  To believe is an act of obedience to God, moved by His Grace … There is not, nor should there be, a divide between faith understood as concepts to learn and faith lived in a personal encounter with the Lord… We must recover… the harmonious relationship between the two … Faith, in fact, is an intellectual and loving assent to supernatural truth…” (p. 23-24)   In reality, in Christ we see the unity between the noetic and dynamic aspects of the Word, through Him we can see that assent to revealed truth is not opposed to a loving encounter. (p. 62) 

The false dichotomy between faith as an encounter with Christ and faith as the loving assent to His truth has resulted in such ambiguous proclamations as that of the Synod of Bishops (May 2012) on the transmission of the faith: “…referring to the Gospel, we must not think of it only as a book or a set of teachings…. It is not so much a system of articles of faith and moral precepts… but a person: Jesus Christ…” (p. 77) How tiresome are such semi-negations which, without outright denying that the Gospel contains doctrinehint that what truly counts is a person who apparently has little concern for faith or morals, as if in Christ truth and life were not one!  In reality, “the two aspects are mutually implicit, so the dynamism would be empty without a content to be realized” (p. 77)  There can be “no catechesis which rejects the truths of faith, or the transmission of concepts and dogma which those truths express, to make room solely for a living encounter with Christ, for an experience of the Risen One.” (p. 77)

To set aside doctrine to make room for pastoral care is not only contradictory, but hides an explicit rejection of Christ.” (p. 129)  

The unnatural divide between truth and love, faith and charity, has given rise to a false division between doctrinal teaching and pastoral care:  If pastoral is conceived as opposed to doctrinal, “we would also have eliminated its meaning of love, which begins from truth and bestows truth.” (p. 126) However, doctrinal truth is in harmony with pastoral care, as faith, once assented to, can be acted upon. “ Doctrine is the faith of the Church… understood and believed… while pastoral care is charity which sees and realizes the believed doctrinal principles, transforming them into food for the faithful.  Thus, faith becomes operational.” (p. 124) There is an “intimate relationship between doctrine and life, teaching and salvation.” (p. 124) Ultimately, “to set aside doctrine to make room for pastoral care is not only contradictory, but hides an explicit rejection of Christ.” (p. 129) On the contrary, pastors must base their care of their flock on the familial relationship between the Good Shepherd who knows his flock and whose flock knows Him: “This knowledge is therefore an intimate, intellectual, and affective relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep… At the center of this life-giving relationship… is the eternal Logos become the Good Shepherd in His incarnation, which has its salvific fulfilment in redemption through His death on the Cross… Contained in the Eucharist is the food for the sheep, which is doctrine and life, truth and love, tied together for ever in the unique person of the Savior Word..” (p. 127-128)

Drawing close to Christ, in the beauty of His gaze, we are enchanted by the goodness of truth and by the truth of goodness” (p. 203)

Truth and love unite in one mystery: the Word incarnate, the Good Shepherd, the incarnate Logos-Agape:  “In God reason and love are one. In Christ reason and love become flesh.  In Him, the Good Shepherd, as in a magnificent canvas, the Logos and Agape, reason and charity, harmonize in the perceptibility of the flesh… In Him, man, who was made in His image and likeness, is reborn in the truth of the unity of reason and love, a reason which is the foundation of love and a love which is the fullness of reason.  What is more, in the incarnate God, Logos and Agape are united in a harmony which unifies everything: beauty… The face of the Good Shepherd is the face of beauty… Drawing close to Christ, in the beauty of His gaze, we are enchanted by the goodness of truth and by the truth of goodness…” (p. 202-203)

Gazing at the Good Shepherd can allow us to disentangle ourselves from the post-modern thought incapable not only of truthbut also of beauty, as, deprived of truth, “the aesthetic perception, too, is nihilistic.” (p. 173) Contemplating the beauty of His face, humanity can embrace true love and regain its thought of love (agape) and of its love of thought (logos).” (p. 203)  This same Good Shepherd nourishes us with his truth and love in the Holy Eucharist: “With the Eucharistic mystery, the discourse about a personal circularity of truth and love is brought to completion.” (p. 208) In a word, “the Eucharist is the truth of God who is love, and in the Eucharist is the gift of the truth of love.”” (p. 210-211)

“Why not begin with love to tell men and women, who only want to hear about love, that the truth about themselves, about reality, about God, is realized precisely in love?” (p. 134)

Humanity today is inebriated with a false idea of love: “the word of the day is love, but its true meaning is euphoric and undisciplined eros.” (p. 227)  This love, so often claimed as our unique good, as it is deprived of truth, has become its contrary, to the point of defending abortion and euthanasiaHence the need to engage in the defense of love, the restoration of its true face … [as] to be and to love are one in God” (p. 130).  With this in mind, FLanzetta invites us to renew with apologetic discourse as a proposal of the truth of love, for a love in truth and a love of the Truth.” (p. 131) This harmonious pairing of truth and love necessitates speaking of love in truth:  “It is necessary to denounce error to love the errant, without pretending to love them by keeping silent about the truth and thus choosing falsehood.  Silence is kept in the belief that one is loving, but instead the other person is offended because they are being offered falsehood.  The first and greatest charity is to give the truth.”  (p. 145)  

This renewal of apologetic discourse, based upon the circularity of truth and love, will restore our vision, enabling us to see Christ truly and, in His eyes, to see our true selves, for “truth and love coincide in Christ.… Love without truth would be blind” (p. 152)  In this case, “humanity would believe in a non-living God, and religion would deteriorate into praying to a God it does not know.” (p. 159)   Unveiled before our mind’s eye is a false discord between Christ’s human and divine natures, whereas we must perceive once again his Life as one with his Word: “the eternal Logos… without any division or confusion is Truth and Charity.” (p. 129) We will thus be able to encounter Christ, holding fast to His truth and uniting in his Love, healing thereby the false division posited within our own souls between knowing and loving. The correct perception of the circularity of truth and love will restore full rights to the love of the truth about God and humanity, to “a love of the logos, to finally find the logos of love. (p. 161) This will lead to a sapiential love whereGod and humanity meet in reason and in love… [in] the unity of nature with grace, of reason-love with faith.” (p. 161)  

Moreover, wwill perceive God truthfully in his Trinitarian Being, and ourselves as His mirror image in our capacity for loving and truthful communion“In God there is the inter-twining of truth and love.  Truth, being One, is the foundation of the love of the being Three, and being Three is the perfection of being One.  In God love remains in truth, and His truth is love: the Trinity in Unity and Unity in the Trinity.  Every multiple needs to become one, and every unity is fulfilled in multiplicity. Therefore, you cannot simply get rid of metaphysics without getting rid of God, of His being in love, and in the end getting rid of humanity, or being man.” (p. 151)

Humanity will be capable of looking at reality with real eyes, with the truth of love, with the Logos of Love, through Mary, the handmaid of the Lord.” (p. 194)

Perceiving once again the natural and indissoluble bond between truth and love will restore God to humanity and humanity to itself, for“reason and love either go hand in hand or both failThe paradigm of reason and love becomes personal in Christ.  Truth and love meet definitively in the Person of the Word incarnate, in whom we share by faith and charity, and of whom we are partakers in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.  Truth and love are one Person, Christ… By correctly coordinating the relationship between reason and love, we can indeed address the whole of reality: all that is thinkable and an object of love.  This is why reason and love together can do great things, especially in restoring to a post-Christian society the possibility of addressing the core of all problems: God.” (p. 239-240)

By way of conclusion, it is appropriate to end with these words of Fr Lanzetta who, true to his Marian Franciscan heartcannot help but present to us the Virgin Mary as the golden standard of the indissoluble harmonious pairing of reason and love, on the one hand, and faith and charity, on the other: “Is it not perhaps because we have got rid of the Madonna – minimizing, redefining, whittling away here and there at her unique presence in the mystery of Christ and the Church – that faith has got rid of an important ally such as reason?  The Virgin is a sign of the truth which opens itself to faith, of the reason which seeks to understand with the Logos of God… The Virgin gives us Christ, the Logos of incarnate love which gives to humanity the true face of God: the face of Being always identical in an infinite love… Humanity will be capable of looking at reality with real eyes, with the truth of love, with the Logos of Love, through Mary, the handmaid of the Lord.” (p. 194)

By Fr Serafino M. Lanzetta

Let me introduce this topic with a question: did Jesus reveal to St Joseph his desire to institute the Holy Eucharist? Perhaps during the years of his hidden life in Nazareth? Or before the beginning of his public life, e.g., before Joseph fell asleep in God? It is not easy to answer this question, nor is it easy to get some clues from the Gospel accounts. Let us try, however, to investigate the issue with a reason that is open to the central theological element of fittingness. It was certainly fitting for Jesus to reveal to the one who after Mary his Mother was closest to him the secret of secrets, the love of his Heart, the desire of all desires: the Holy Eucharist. Jesus will say in the Gospel of Luke (22,15) with a truly singular and paradigmatic construct: “Desiderio desideravi hoc pascha manducare vobiscum antequam patiar”. Literally, recalling also the original Greek form that follows the same construction, where the verb “to desire” and the noun “desire” are linked to reinforce each other, we have: “I have desired with great desire to eat this passover with you before suffering.”

We can well imagine that this great desire animated Jesus from his earliest years and that he, therefore, did not hold back his heart from confiding it to Mary his mother and then to Joseph his father. It must have been this “Eucharistic desire” confided to Joseph that motivated the holy Carpenter in a very special way to make himself one with his Son and his Bride. Especially in being always generous in the offering of himself – an offering of desire and love – so that all men might be saved. If according to St. Augustine, desire is the “thirst of the soul”, and according to St. Thomas Aquinas, “desiderium ex amore” – to desire one must love, hence “amor praecedit desiderium” – love precedes desire. Therefore, St. Joseph must have – at the very least – grasped by virtue of his love that thirst of his Son’s Heart and with him desired what he desired. But it is also very fitting to suppose that Jesus revealed to him his intention of instituting the Blessed Sacrament, the Love that precedes all desire.

Joseph indeed wanted to become Eucharist with Jesus and Mary. Like his Bride, he conformed himself to that mystery with his desire, even before it was instituted. His was a communion of love and desire, of love that being the soul of desire sets love on fire. A spiritual communion lived with Jesus throughout his life that was intertwined with Mary’s spiritual communion so as to become a desire for oblation in Jesus. Joseph, like Mary, made the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist his own. His life was a daily preparation for the sacrifice of Calvary, at which he was absent, but after having already arranged everything: he handed over to his Bride his oblative contribution, his fatherly price, asking her to carry it in his name on the mountain of the Crucifixion. Joseph entrusted to Mary all his desire to be one with Jesus in her and through her, so as to become one host with Jesus. There is a passage in John Paul II’s encyclical on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (no. 56), which could apply not only to Mary but also to Joseph. Here it is:

“Mary, throughout her life at Christ’s side and not only on Calvary, made her own the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist. When she brought the child Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem ‘to present him to the Lord’ (Lk 2:22), she heard the aged Simeon announce that the child would be a ‘sign of contradiction’ and that a sword would also pierce her own heart (cf. Lk 2:34-35). The tragedy of her Son’s crucifixion was thus foretold, and in some sense Mary’s Stabat Mater at the foot of the Cross was foreshadowed. In her daily preparation for Calvary, Mary experienced a kind of ‘anticipated Eucharist’ – one might say a ‘spiritual communion’ – of desire and of oblation, which would culminate in her union with her Son in his passion, and then find expression after Easter by her partaking in the Eucharist which the Apostles celebrated as the memorial of that passion”.

It would be enough to exchange in this quote the name “Mary” with that of “Joseph” to have the same result with the exception of Joseph’s participation in the Holy Mass celebrated by the Apostles. Joseph made the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist his own through Mary. In the temple he is next to his Bride and hears Simeon’s words that become a sword also to his heart. Those prophetic words:

“He is here for the ruin and resurrection of many in Israel and as a sign of contradiction – and to you also a sword will pierce your very soul – so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34-35),

cannot but pierce his soul as well, seeing himself above all defenceless at the culminating moment of the “ruin and resurrection of many”, but completely resigned to the Father’s will. He prepares himself day after day for Calvary. He knows that he will not be there physically, but with the desire he is always there where the Son and his Bride are. The more love grows, the more the desire grows. Joseph experiences Calvary throughout his life as a preparation for his final spiritual oblation – for the Eucharist which he receives as a spiritual gift of a love consummated until his death. Joseph glimpses at the Eucharist, lives it out day after day, adores it and conforms himself to it in what is most proper to it: its sacrificial dimension. Desire and offering go always together and are one in the life of our Holy Patriarch.

Father Tarcisio Stramare adds another Eucharistic pearl to the mystery of St. Joseph. His reflection begins with Joseph being sold by his brothers, who providentially, in times of famine in Israel, became prime minister of the Pharaoh of Egypt and was able to provide bread for his brothers. When the famine was also felt in Egypt, Pharaoh ordered the Egyptians: “Go to Joseph; do what he tells you” (Genesis 41: 55). The famine then raged throughout the world, but Joseph, as a good minister, was able to provide not only for Egypt but also for all the people of the earth. The text adds:

“The famine raged over all the earth. So Joseph opened all the storehouses where there was grain and sold it to the Egyptians. The famine grew worse in Egypt, but from every country they came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was raging throughout the land” (Gen 41:56).

Joseph of Egypt is just one figure of our Joseph, true minister of the Son of God and dispenser of the true grain, the true bread – Jesus himself. Father Stramare reflects on the gesture of “breaking bread” to put on the table, performed many times by Joseph at home and in front of Jesus. The bread that Joseph broke was “for” Jesus. But Jesus was also aware that that “broken bread” was him. Father Stramare writes:

“Joseph was aware of this in his heart, although he did not know how much or how. He had sensed it in the words addressed to Mary on the occasion of the presentation of Jesus in the temple: “A sword will pierce your soul too” (Lk 2:35). He had feared it in his hasty flight to Egypt to avoid Herod’s murderers. He had suffered it in the anguished (v. 48) search for Jesus who had remained in the temple, where the twelve-year-old had replied: “Why are you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” […] What about St Joseph’s feelings of adoration towards the divine Presence, which were already revealed in his decision to leave his wife, who was recognised as being “with child by the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:18), and then expressed at the moment of Jesus’ birth, he who was the first to hold him in his arms, making him the sacrifice of his entire existence with paternal love?” [San Giuseppe. Fatto religioso e Teologia, (Ancona: Shalom: 2018) 512-514].

This enlightening thought, which finds support in the preference for the thesis of St Joseph’s humility before the mystery of the incarnation, is also expressed by the Eucharistic saint, St Peter Julian Eymard, who describes it as follows:

Joseph “penetrated, so to speak, the coarse garment of Jesus: his faith penetrated the Sacred Heart and, illuminated by the divine light, he saw in advance all the states through which Jesus would pass, and he adored them and united himself to the grace of those mysteries. He worshipped Jesus in his hidden life; he worshipped him in his passion and death; he worshipped him even then in the holy Tabernacle. Could Our Lord have hidden anything from Saint Joseph? The holy Patriarch therefore received the grace of all the states of Jesus, including that of adoring the Blessed Sacrament, ours” (quoted in Ibid., p. 514).

The Holy Carpenter is therefore a “minister of the Eucharist” because he prepared Jesus to “break bread”, to break himself, his body for us, offering him the example of his daily and indomitable sacrifice. In his offering, Joseph worshipped his Son’s offering, all united with it. He was, with Mary and through Mary, one with it, one heart with it. With his heart, in desiderio, Joseph worshipped Jesus, the “broken bread”, and already “saw” that mystery which the Son would establish on the night he was betrayed. Thus he is our model of adoration of the Holy Eucharist. That Ite ad Ioseph – Go to Joseph has in this manner its proper foundation.

Ritorniamo sul tema della salvezza e ora lo affrontiamo dal punto di vista delle parole di Gesù sul calice del Sangue, versato “per molti” (pollon, nell’originale, cf. Mt 26,28). Per ragioni di misericordia e per essere più inclusivi traduciamo e vogliamo tenere il “per tutti”, non accorgendoci però che in tal modo rendiamo la salvezza non solo automatica ma irrilevante; escludiamo chi combatte per salvarsi e includiamo necessariamente chi non si dà pena di rispondere all’appello del Sangue di Cristo. Il “per molti” non esclude nessuno, ma neppure include tutti.

Meditiamo sul mistero della Passione di Gesù iscritto per sempre nel segno della Croce. Un segno indistruttibile che interroga ogni uomo, credente o meno, soprattutto quando chiede di essere abbracciata e portata. La si può rifiutare, la si prova a distruggere, ma proprio ciò manifesta il suo carattere permanente e una domanda che non si può eludere: “Dove sei o uomo, dove vorrai essere?”. Tutti dovranno comparire davanti alla Croce, dolce patibolo che redime il male e il peccato, trono da cui regna il Signore. T’adoriamo o Croce Santa. Amen.

di P. Serafino M. Lanzetta

Si è riacceso di recente il dibattito sulla corretta interpretazione del Concilio Vaticano II. È vero che ogni concilio porta con sé problemi interpretativi e molto spesso ne apre di nuovi anziché risolvere quelli prefissatisi. Il mistero porta sempre con sé una tensione tra il detto e l’indicibile. Basti rammentare che il problema della consustanzialità del Figlio con il Padre del Concilio di Nicea (325) contro Ario fu stabilita in modo inconcusso solo sessant’anni dopo con il I Concilio di Costantinopoli (385), quando fu definita anche la divinità dello Spirito Santo. Venendo a noi, dopo circa sessant’anni dal Concilio Vaticano II abbiamo non la chiarificazione di qualche dottrina di fede ma un ulteriore obnubilamento. La Dichiarazione di Abu Dhabi (4 febbraio 2019) stabilisce con tutta sicurezza che Dio vuole la pluralità delle religioni come vuole la diversità di colore, di sesso, di razza e di lingua. Al dire di Papa Francesco, sul volo di ritorno dopo la firma del documento, «dal punto di vista cattolico il documento non è andato di un millimetro oltre il Concilio Vaticano II». Certo si tratta più di un legame simbolico con lo spirito del Concilio che echeggia nel testo della Dichiarazione sulla Fratellanza Umana. Eppure un legame c’è e non è certamente l’unico con l’oggi ecclesiale. Segno che tra il Concilio di Nicea a il Vaticano II c’è una differenza che bisogna tener in considerazione.

L’ermeneutica della continuità e della riforma ci ha dato la speranza di poter leggere le dottrine nuove del Vaticano II in continuità con il magistero precedente in nome del principio secondo cui, un concilio, se celebrato con i dovuti crismi canonici, è assistito dallo Spirito Santo. E se l’ortodossia non la si vede la si ricerca. Intanto però già qui si pone un problema non secondario.

Affidarsi all’ermeneutica per risolvere il problema della continuità è già un problema in se stesso. In claris non fit interpretatio, recita un noto adagio, per cui se la continuità non dovesse essere dimostrata con l’interpretazione non ci sarebbe bisogno dell’ermeneutica come tale. La continuità non è evidente, ma va dimostrata o piuttosto interpretata. Dal momento che si fa ricorso all’ermeneutica, ci si immette in un processo crescente di interpretazione della continuità, un processo coinvolgente che non si arresta. Finché ci saranno degli interpreti ci sarà anche il processo interpretativo e ci sarà la possibilità che tale interpretazione sia avvalorata o smentita perché adeguata o pregiudiziale agli occhi dell’interprete successivo.

L’ermeneutica è un processo, è il processo della modernità che pone l’uomo come esistente e lo coglie nel raggio dell’esserci qui ed ora. Eco di ciò è il problema del Concilio che prova a dialogare con la modernità che a sua volta è un processo esistenziale non facilmente risolvibile nei circoli ermeneutici. Se ci si affida solo all’ermeneutica per risolvere il problema della continuità si rischia di avvilupparsi in un sistema che pone la continuità come esistente (o da parte opposta la rottura), ma di fatto non la raggiunge. E non sembra che l’abbiamo raggiunta tutt’oggi, a quasi sessant’anni dal Vaticano II. C’è bisogno non di un’ermeneutica che ci dia la garanzia della continuità, ma di un principio primo che ci dica se l’ermeneutica utilizzata è valida o meno: la fede della Chiesa. Non meraviglia che a tanta distanza dal Vaticano II stiamo ancora disputando sull’ermeneutica della continuità di un concilio rispetto ai precedenti e rispetto alla fede della Chiesa, quando la stessa fede ci ha lasciato da molti anni a questa parte e non accenna per ora a ritornare.

L’ermeneutica della continuità lasciò avvertire qualche scricchiolio sin dall’inizio; più di recente sembra che lo stesso Joseph Ratzinger se ne sia alquanto distanziato. Infatti negli appunti di costui relativi alle radici degli abusi sessuali nella Chiesa (pubblicati in esclusiva per l’Italia dal Corriere della Sera, l’11 aprile 2019), si chiama in causa ripetute volte il Concilio Vaticano II. Con più libertà teologica e non in veste ufficiale, Benedetto XVI addita in una sorta di biblicismo promanante da Dei Verbum la radice dottrinale principale della crisi morale della Chiesa. Nella lotta ingaggiata al Concilio, si provò a liberarsi del fondamento naturale della morale per fondare quest’ultima esclusivamente sulla Bibbia. L’impianto della Costituzione sulla Divina Rivelazione – che non volle far cenno al ruolo della Traditio constitutiva, seppur imperato da Paolo VI – si rifletté nel dettato di Optatam totius 16, che di fatto venne poi declinato con il sospetto nei confronti di una morale presto definita “preconciliare”, spregiativamente identificata come manualistica perché giusnaturalista. Gli effetti negativi di tale riposizionamento non tardarono a farsi sentire e sono ancora sotto i nostri occhi attoniti. Nei medesimi appunti di Ratzinger si legge anche una denuncia della cosiddetta “conciliarità” ertasi come discrimen di ciò che era veramente accettabile e proponibile, fino a portare alcuni vescovi a rifiutare la tradizione cattolica. Nei vari documenti post-conciliari che hanno cercato di correggere il tiro, dando la giusta interpretazione della dottrina, non si è mai preso in seria considerazione questo problema teologico-fondamentale inaugurato dalla “conciliarità”, che difatti apre a tutti gli altri problemi e soprattutto diventa uno spirito libero che si aggira e che sporge sempre rispetto al testo e soprattutto rispetto alla Chiesa. Se ne parlò durante il Sinodo dei Vescovi del 1985, ma non si è mai concretizzato in una chiara presa di distanza.

Il problema ermeneutico del Vaticano II è destinato a non finire se non affrontiamo un punto centrale e radicale da cui dipende la chiara comprensione delle dottrine e la loro valutazione magisteriale. Il Vaticano II si pone come concilio con un fine squisitamente pastorale. Tutti i concili precedenti sono stati pastorali nella misura in cui hanno affermato la verità della fede e hanno combattuto gli errori. Il Vaticano II per un fine pastorale sceglie un metodo nuovo, il metodo appunto pastorale che diventa un vero programma d’azione. Dichiarandolo a più riprese, ma senza mai dare una definizione di cosa intendesse per “pastorale”, il Vaticano II si pone così in modo nuovo rispetto agli altri concili. È il concilio pastorale che più di ogni altro ha proposto nuove dottrine, ma avendo scelto di non definire nuovi dogmi, né di reiterare in modo definitivo alcunché (forse la sacramentalità dell’Episcopato, ma non c’è unanimità). La pastoralità prevedeva un’assenza di condanne e una non definizione della fede, ma solo un modo nuovo di insegnarla per il tempo di oggi. Un modo nuovo che influì sulla formazione di dottrine nuove e viceversa. Un problema che avvertiamo con tutta la sua virulenza oggi, quando si preferisce lasciare la dottrina da parte per motivi pastorali, senza però poter fare a meno di insegnare un’altra dottrina.

Il metodo pastorale (si trattò di metodo) svolge un ruolo di prim’ordine in Concilio. Dirige l’agenda conciliare. Stabilisce ciò che è da essere discusso e di rifare alcuni schemi centrali perché poco pastorali; di tralasciare dottrine comuni (come ad esempio il limbo e l’insufficienza materiale delle Scritture, reiterata dal magistero ordinario dei catechismi) perché ancora disputate e di abbracciare e di insegnare dottrine nuovissime che non godevano di nessuna disputa teologica (come ad esempio la collegialità episcopale e la restaurazione del diaconato permanente uxorato). Addirittura la pastorale viene ad assurgere al rango di costituzione con Gaudium et spes (si era abituati a una costituzione che fosse tale in relazione alla fede), un documento così malmesso da far rizzare i capelli anche a K. Rahner, il quale consiglierà al Card. Döpfner di far dichiarare al testo fin dall’inizio la sua imperfezione. Ciò soprattutto per il fatto che l’ordine creato non appariva finalizzato a Dio. Eppure Rahner era il promotore di una pastorale trascendentale.

Così il Concilio poneva il problema di se stesso, della sua interpretazione, e ciò non a partire dalla fase ricettiva, ma sin dalle discussioni in aula conciliare. Capire il grado di qualificazione teologica delle dottrine conciliari fu impresa non facile agli stessi Padri che ripetutamente ne fecero richiesta alla Segreteria del Concilio. La pastoralità poi entra anche nella redazione del nuovo schema sulla Chiesa. Per molti Padri il mistero della Chiesa (aspetto invisibile) era più ampio del suo manifestarsi storico e gerarchico (aspetto visibile), e ciò fino al punto di ritenere una non co-estensività del Corpo mistico di Cristo con la Chiesa Cattolica Romana. Due Chiese giustapposte? Una Chiesa di Cristo da un lato e la Chiesa Cattolica dall’altro? Questo rischio derivò non dal cambio verbale con il “subsistit in”, ma fondamentalmente dall’aver rinunciato alla dottrina dei membri della Chiesa (si passò dal de membris al de populo) per non offendere i protestanti, membri imperfetti. Oggi sembra che tutti più o meno appartengono alla Chiesa. Se formulassimo una domanda: «I Padri ritengono che il Corpo mistico di Cristo è la Chiesa Cattolica?», molti cosa risponderebbero? Diversi Padri conciliari risposero di no, per questo siamo dove siamo.

Lo spirito del Concilio nasce dunque nel Concilio. Si libra per mezzo del Vaticano II e dei suo testi; è riflesso spesso di un spirito pastorale non chiaramente identificabile, che costruisce o demolisce in nome della conciliarità, cioè spesso del sentire teologico del momento che aveva più presa perché più forte la voce di chi parlava, non tanto attraverso i media, ma in aula e in Commissione dottrinale. Un’ermeneutica che non appura ciò finisce col prestare il fianco a un problema che si aggira tutt’oggi irrisolto: il Vaticano II come assoluto della fede, come identità del cristiano, come passe-partout nella Chiesa “post-conciliare”. La Chiesa è divisa perché dipende dal Concilio e non viceversa. Questo può generare poi un altro problema.

Prima il concilio come assoluto della fede e poi il papa come assoluto della Chiesa difatti sono due facce della stessa medaglia, dello stesso problema di assolutizzare ora l’uno ora l’altro, ma dimenticando che prima c’è la Chiesa, poi il papa con il suo magistero pontificio e poi un concilio con il suo magistero conciliare. Il problema di questi giorni di un papa visto come un assoluto nasce quale eco del concilio come ab-solutus e ciò per il fatto che uno spirito del concilio, cioè l’evento superiore ai testi e soprattutto al contesto, viene enfatizzato come criterio di misura chiave. È un caso che chi cerca di blindare il magistero di Francesco faccia continuo appello al Vaticano II, vedendo le ragioni delle critiche in un rifiuto del Vaticano II? Sta di fatto però che tra Francesco e il Vaticano II c’è piuttosto un legame simbolico e quasi mai testuale. I papi del Concilio e del post-concilio sono santi (o lo saranno presto) mentre la Chiesa langue, piombata in un silente deserto. Questo non ci dice niente?

Quanto poi alle ultime prese di posizione, paradossalmente, non mi sembra che le ragioni di Sua Mons. Viganò e del Card. Brandmüller siano poi così lontane. Viganò preferisce dimenticare il Vaticano II; non pensa che la correzione delle sue dottrine ambigue sia una soluzione perché a suo modo di vedere nel Vaticano II c’è un problema embrionale, un colpo di mano modernista iniziale che ne ha pregiudicato non la validità ma la cattolicità. Brandmüller invece preferisce adottare il metodo della lettura storica dei documenti del Concilio, specialmente per quelle dottrine più difficili da leggere in linea con la Tradizione. Questo gli permette di affermare che documenti come Nostra Aetate, a cui si potrebbe aggiungere anche Unitatis redintegratio e Dignitatis humanae, abbiano ormai solo un interesse storico, anche perché la corretta interpretazione del loro valore teologico è stata data dal magistero successivo, specialmente da Dominus Iesus. Se Viganò preferisce dimenticare il Concilio e Brandmüller suggerisce di storicizzarlo e così di superarlo senza colpo ferire, evitando una correzione magisteriale ad hoc e che si tralasci l’ermeneutica della continuità, sembra che la distanza sia sulle modalità. Tuttavia si potrebbe obiettare che sarà difficile che con la sola ermeneutica storicizzante, quantunque necessaria, in un nuovo Enchiridion dei Concili, aggiornato a questa recente discussione storico-teologica, il Vaticano II appia solo come un concilio dall’interesse storico. E nulla vieterà a un’Abu Dhabi 2.0 di riferirsi esplicitamente a Nostra Aetate, ignorando di nuovo Dominus Iesus, o ad Amoris laetitia di agganciarsi a Gaudium et spes bypassando Humanae vitae. Non si dimentichi che la Scuola di Bologna ha provato a fare qualcosa del genere con il Concilio di Trento, ritenendolo ormai solo un Concilio Generale e non più Ecumenico, di rango inferiore dal punto di vista teologico. Il Vaticano II certo non è Trento, ma ciò solo dal punto di vista teologico e non storico.

Bisogna anche essere consapevoli del fatto che l’ermeneutica storica, che lascia il testo nel suo contesto e alle idee del redattore, si adatta bene al Vaticano II in quanto concilio pastorale pienamente immerso nel suo tempo. La medesima ermeneutica però non funziona con il Concilio di Trento, ad esempio. Se infatti provassimo a storicizzare la dottrina e i canoni del Santo Sacrificio della Messa, ci troveremmo a fare il medesimo lavoro di Lutero rispetto alla tradizione dottrinale e favoriremmo l’opera dei neo-protestanti che vedono nella Messa niente di più che una cena.

Tra queste due posizioni si colloca quella di Mons. Schneider che sembra più percorribile: correggere le espressioni e le dottrine ambigue presenti nei testi conciliari che hanno dato occasione ad innumerevoli errori accumulatisi nel corso di questi anni, non ignorando i tanti insegnamenti virtuosi e profetici, come la santità laicale e il sacerdozio comune dei fedeli. Mons. Schneider indica come “quadratura del cerchio” l’operazione di chi vede tutto in continuità in nome dell’ermeneutica giusta.

Bisognerebbe partire da un sincero atto di umiltà proposto da Mons. Viganò, riconoscendo che ci siamo lasciati ingannare dalla presunzione di risolvere tutti i problemi in nome dell’autorità, sia in buona che in cattiva fede. O l’autorità poggia sulla verità o non sta in piedi. Non si tratta di ripudiare o di cancellare il Vaticano II, che rimane un concilio della Santa Chiesa, ma tutte le storpiature, sia per eccesso che per difetto. Non si tratta neppure di darla vinta ai tradizionalisti, ma di riconoscere la verità. Quando il Vaticano II sarà liberato da tutta la politica che lo circonda allora saremo su una buona strada.

Fonte: Duc in altum, Blog di Aldo Maria Valli

Video-catechesi di P. Serafino M. Lanzetta sul diavolo in relazione al problema del male.

Se il male è una privazione di bene, allora il diavolo cos’è? Oppure, con Sant’Agostino, se il diavolo è l’autore del male, da dove viene il diavolo? Ammettere il male come entità in sé, conduce o a ritenere che il diavolo sia un Dio malvagio ed eterno, nemico del Dio buono, oppure che, quantunque entità creata e finita, sia comunque voluta da Dio. Quindi in ultima analisi Dio sarebbe l’autore del male. Il male in sé non esiste, ma è solo un’assenza di bene. Il diavolo è una creatura buona che si è ribellata a Dio e perciò è divenuta malvagia. Il peccato è la radice di questa perversione della libertà, sia nel diavolo che nell’uomo. È rassicurante tuttavia il fatto che satana è un essere finito, perciò un problema limitato. Se viviamo in Dio, la sua insidia diabolica diventa un aiuto spirituale: ci spinge a vivere da veri cristiani, armati di fede, speranza e carità. Cioè ad essere santi.

Buona visione!

The shepherds were given a “sign” by the Angel in order to know that the Saviour, Christ the Lord, was born. “You shall find the Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes who lays in a manger” (Lk 2:12), said the Angel. The Evangelist says also that when the shepherds arrived to Bethlehem found “Mary and Joseph and the Infant laying in the manger” (Lk 2:16). Only seeing through the presence of Mary and Joseph the revelation of the Baby becomes clear. The shepherds ‘saw’ first of all the virginity of Mary and the way Joseph was adoring the Baby. Then they were able to understand the sign and adore themselves Jesus the Lord.

Listen to Fr Serafino M. Lanzetta’s podcast on this topic:

By Fr Serafino M. Lanzetta

The key-concept to explain the mystery of the Immaculate Conception is fittingness. To it authors have made reference, even centuries before the dogma was proclaimed in 1854 by Bl. Pius IX. It is well known how Duns Scotus was able to prove his arguments in favour of the Immaculate Conception during his public debate at the Sorbonne University, summarizing it this way: “potuit, decuit ergo fecit”; God could make his Mother Immaculate, it was fitting and so did He. Fittingness is the bond that unites possibility to actuality. Because it was supremely convenient that a woman was exempted from original sin in order to become the Mother of the Saviour, God granted Her such a privilege.

Fittingness is linked with God’s goodness and love. In His providential plan of salvation for mankind, the Father foresaw in Christ – to be incarnate even if Adam had not sinned, says the Franciscan School, since Christ is not dependent on Adam’s sin but on the Father’s love for us as the first born of all creation – the existence of a Lady who had to be made ever pure, all holy, to be the worth dwelling place of God on earth. The convenience that such a privilege could enrich Our Lady is understandable because ultimately God’s love is poured out over all creation and over all men. If God had not wanted to save mankind, He would not have even created it, and if He had not wanted to send His Son to be incarnate in the fullness of time, He would not have made all things that were made. All has been planned and created in view of Christ. Together with Him and immediately after Him there is Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception.

Beside this fittingness there is also another important concept to consider: Our Lady’s freedom from sin. Here we come to the very core of the mystery. If She is free from original sin and from actual sin, therefore Her freedom is perfect. However, in considering this perfection of freedom – Her Yes to God, several objections might easily be raised. Our Lady may easily be seen as a person in whom everything is to happen as it turned out. Hence, in Her there would be no place for true freedom. For us freedom is above all choosing what we hold as good. Our Lady seems not to have had this freedom, then She would no longer be a creature, but what Catholics love to do, a sort of “divine creature”. But central here is the question: what is then freedom?

For us mortal creatures, freedom is normally the capacity of doing something, of choosing what we wish to have, etc. Some examples to simplify. Freedom is for instance to choose how many sugars I want in my tea, or the fact that I must have a wireless connection everywhere I go, although recent studies say that people start to panic when there isn’t any. Not always this only way to understand freedom is healthy. More than considering freedom as the power of, we should consider freedom as being free from something, the liberty from coercion in order to exercise my freedom. This is first of all an interior freedom, especially from sin and disordered passions that drive a person away from the right path of freedom. Jesus says clearly in the Gospel that the one who “commits sin is the servant of sin” (cf. John 8:34).

With the “freedom from” there is also another aspect of freedom to consider – its purpose in being free. This is a “freedom for”. Only if we are free to act when nothing is constraining us (spiritual or material), we are able to choose. “Freedom for” is not only the capacity to choose a cup of tea or a cup of coffee – the indeterminacy of my will – but the ability to choose what is the good that morally can enhance my life. “Freedom for” is the completion of my freedom in choosing good and rejecting evil. This is also the responsibility of my being free. My freedom can never harm another person, but has necessarily to meet the needs of my neighbour or those of the community or society in which I live. Freedom can never be capricious, but it is rather a responsibility for the good of many, all those people that my freedom encounters.

In order to understand more Our Lady’s perfect freedom, we can propose two questions:
a) Was Our Lady free in responding to the Angel at the moment of the Annunciation? We would definitely say yes.
b) But, was Our Lady free to say no to the Angel? Here we normally would also answer yes, because in our human experience of freedom, Our Lady could say also “no” in order to be truly free. This is because we forget the “freedom from” and generally understand freedom only as a “freedom for”, or better a “freedom of” doing or choosing. To say yes to God is freedom in full. Outside this freedom for good and for God there is no true freedom but its indeterminacy.

Let us ask this again: can a person be truly free renouncing good, saying no to God, the supreme good? A sinful person can say also no to God – this is our daily experience. But Our Lady is the Immaculate Conception. In Her there is of course the possibility to choose, but in no way She could choose against God. At the Annunciation, She had already made a great choice: She preferred virginity – a superior and grater good in relation to marriage – to even becoming the Mother of the Saviour, if that was meant to happen in an ordinary way. Only once reassured by the Angel that the conception of the Messiah would be virginal, She pronounced her Fiat to God (cf. Lk 1:30-38). Her whole being is a ‘Yes’ to God. She was created to make our own freedom true and lasting by setting for us an admirable example of being truly free in God. She is that Eden that was never violated by man’s sin and disobedience.

We should admit that in looking at Our Blessed Mother we are sometimes caught up in jealousy. We have lost the gift to use our freedom properly, while Mary has kept it by God’s unique grace. More than the problem of mediation – that in a protestant context would exclude radically Mary from holding a privileged role beside Christ, being one with Him in our Redemption – the rejection of Mary and Mariology seems to lie in a diabolic jealousy of Her perfect freedom. The response of Luther was the denial of freedom us such. Dreaming of a lost paradisiac condition, without accepting the remedy offered to us by the Redeemer, leads us to engage a battle against God and His Masterpiece of freedom, the Immaculate Conception.

Yet, in Mary’s perfect freedom, God shows us what He intended to make when the world was created. Despite Adam’s sin, God has won in Mary: his creation is inviolate, immaculate. In Mary we know what we were meant to be and what we can become. In Her, God gave us the sign of what will be at the end of time, when the whole creation will be delivered from corruption and will shine immaculate as a Bride ready for the Bridegroom. Our Lady is indeed a sign of God’s goodness and love.

The Book of a Marian Conference, held at Buckfast Abbey on 12-13 October 2017, during the Centenary of Our Lady of Fatima, has now been published. The book, edited by Fr Serafino Lanzetta, collect the essays of important scholars, such as Fr Manfred Hauke, Roberto de Mattei, Fr Thomas Crean, Dr Caroline Farey, Fr John Hunwicke, and others.

The key-note speech was given by His Eminence Card. Raymond Burke.

What follows is part of the Presentation by Fr S. Lanzetta:
In 2017 the Church was particularly blessed for the celebration of the Centenary of the Fatima apparitions. The ‘White Lady’ came to speak – from May to October 1917 on the thirteenth of each month – to three little shepherds, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. The last two were canonised last 13th May by Pope Francis, while the process for the canonization of Lucia is progressing. Of all the private revelations approved by the Church, Fatima is one of particular significance give its theological vision of history. Our Lady not only delivered a supernatural message – a call to penance and prayer for rescuing sinners from eternal perdition in hell, but also foretold what would happen if her call were unheeded. As a celestial appeal, Fatima is not something belonging to the past, but a prophecy for the Church today.

It is extremely interesting to revisit what Pope Benedict XVI said at Fatima in his homily during the Mass on 13th May 2010, which sounded to many like a ‘correction’ of what he had previously said as a Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith, when, in giving the official theological explication of the third part of the Secret (revealed in the year 2000), he declared that the vision of a city half in ruins with corpses of bishops, priests, religious and lay people laying on the ground was something referred to the great persecution of the Church in the 20th century. Therefore, something already accomplished. As a pope, Benedict put forth a new scenario stating:

“We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. […] In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: ‘Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?’ (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162)”.

Fatima tells us that it is God who guides the course of history; his Divine Providence leads all events to a salvific end, though the personal judgement is different: eternal happiness for those who accept to do God’s Will, but perdition for those who freely choose to reject God and remain in the state of mortal sin. The history of mankind is not a place where conflicting human interests and powers of all kinds meet and fight each other, but the place of human events guided by God’s love. If He is cast out of society – as it is nowadays – the history can be but a very dark scenario: either the occult strength of a fate will determine the will of men or a pessimistic vision of a collective non-sense will take over and be truly overwhelming. Historical events are not pre-fabricated and unavoidable situations. They can change if man changes in them: if he converts and returns to God with all his heart. This opening of one’s heart to God is the beginning of a change that affects more people and finally the whole society. Penance, conversion and prayer are the means of a true revolution in history and properly what Our Lady asked for…

More in the book that can be purchased on any of the on-line bookstores or by requesting it directly to Casa Mariana Editrice:

Here one can watch all talks recorded by EWTN Great Britain.
And here some photos.