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 Ecc.za 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The perpetual Virginity of Mary is a dogma of Faith, unfortunately put into discussion so many times in these recent years. The catastrophic effect of this attempt to obscure it in order to also overcome the modern taboo of chastity is a general identity crisis that affects the whole Church. Mary’s Virginity is the form of Christianity because She has moulded in her womb Christ and with Him also the Mystical Body. There is a hierarchy to respect: first Christ’s virginity with Mary’s, then religious consecrated life, celibacy and widowhood, and finally marriage. Mary’s Virginity set the example of sponsality with the Lord and of martyrdom – two key aspects of early Christianity.
Listen to Fr Serafino M. Lanzetta’s podcast on this topic:
A thematic book review by Fr George M. Roth
In the book In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart, The Journal of a Priest at Prayer we find the teachings of Jesus to a Benedictine Priest at adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in the form of interior locutions. His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke in his comments on the back cover of the book says: “In Sinu Jesu recounts the graces experienced in the life of one priest through the healing and strengthening power of the Eucharistic adoration.” The Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon S. J. tells that what is true adoration: “The act of religion by which God is recognized as alone worthy of supreme honour because he is infinitely perfect, has supreme domination over humans and the right to human total dependence on the Creator. It is at once an act of the mind and will, expressing itself in appropriate prayers, postures of praise, and acts of reverence and sacrifice. (p. 13 John A. Hardon, S. J., Modern Catholic Dictionary) Our Catholic priests and laypeople need to adore Our Blessed Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in these days of crisis. Those who have read this book know this truth so well as so many readers have promoted this book by word of mouth and by buying books for their bishops, priests and friends.
Sadly, so many today do not believe in the Holy Eucharist and are like the Jews and many of Jesus’ disciples who walked away from Him at Capharnaum, when in Chapter 6 of St. John’s gospel on the day after He had multiplied the loaves and fishes for five thousand men, not counting the women and children, He said I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.” Jn. 6: 51-52 They murmured and said: “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” Jn. 6:61 So, today, according to In Sinu Jesu (On the Bosom of Jesus), the single most important means of transforming and restoring the crisis in the Catholic Church today is the adoration of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Everyone in the Church today, priests and laypeople, need to learn how to adore Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
The dialogue between Jesus and the Benedictine priest at prayer is a good way to learn about adoration. Jesus shows us that adoration given to Him is nothing else than every act of praise, honour, trust, confidence, glory, thanksgiving and all other acknowledgements of His infinite goodness and power is adoration. Jesus, by speaking to the heart of the Benedictine priest at prayer tells him and all the faithful: “I will speak to your heart as I spoke to the heart of My beloved disciple John, the friend of My Heart, the priest of My open Heart.” (p. 5)
What is most important in this book is the means by which we can adore Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Jesus tells us to come to Him in His Divine Presence in every tabernacle: “Adore Jesus at every moment: Never miss an opportunity to greet Me, to adore Me, to remain with Me, even if only for a moment, in the Sacrament of My love. In eternity you will see the inestimable value of every moment spent in My Eucharistic presence.” (Ibid, p. 32) We are to adore the face of Jesus which represents His divine person: “To adore Me is to see My Face and to approach My heart, full of wonder and of holy fear, and above all, full of love, Adoration is the wordless confession of My divinity. Adoration proclaims that I am all and that all else is nought. …. When St. Francis repeated during the hours of the night, ‘my God and my all!’ he was offering Me the adoration in spirit and in truth that My Father desires.” (p. 40) Sadly, so many priests today do not adore Jesus and seek their consolations in creatures and useless pursuits: “So many of My priests have never really heard and understood the invitation to an exclusive and all-fulfilling friendship with Me. And so, they feel alone in life. They are driven to seek out in other places and in creatures unworthy of the undivided love of their consecrated hearts, the fullness of happiness and hope and peace that only I can give them. So many go forward in bitterness and disappointment. They seek to fill the emptiness within with vain pursuits, with lust, with possessions, with food and drink. They have Me, very often, near to them in the Sacrament of My love, and they leave Me there alone, day after day and night after night.” (p. 27)
Only Jesus Can Help Us
On many occasions, Jesus reminds that He alone can help us and that without Him we can do nothing. “Did I not say to My Apostles on the night before I suffered, “Without Me, you can do nothing”? (cf. Jn. 15:5) Why is this word of Mine so often forgotten? It is a word of immense power for the healing and liberation of souls because, understood rightly, it obliges them to run to Me in every necessity of body, mind, or spirit, and to allow Me to be their Saviour, their Physician, and their God. (p. 163)
Jesus spells out that the renewal of His Church will only begin with the renewal of the priest in adoration: “Every priest is called to be a priest adorer. Every priest is invited to experience the most fruitful hours of his ministry in the radiance of My Eucharistic Face. For every priest My Heart remains open, a refuge ready to welcome him, in the Sacrament of My love. This is part of the message that I am giving you for My priests. It is time for My priests to return to the Sacrament of My divine friendship for them, and through them, for all believers. The priestly Pentecost of which I have already spoken to you will begin when priests return to My Eucharistic presence, when they return to the cenacle wherein I will bless them with a holy intimacy with My Sacred Heart, and with a chaste and fruitful union among themselves. (p. 67)
The Priest as Victim
Jesus calls all His priests to imitate Him in His sufferings: “The holiness to which I call My priests, the holiness to which I am calling you, consists in a total configuration to Me as I stand before My Father in the heavenly sanctuary, beyond the veil. Every priest of Mine is to be with Me both priest and victim in the presence of My Father. Every priest is called to stand before the altar with pierced hands and feet, with his side wounded, and with his head crowned as My head was crowned in My Passion. You need not fear this configuration to Me; it will bring you only peace of heart, joy in the presence of My Father, and that unique intimacy with Me that I have, from the night before I suffered, reserved for My priests, My chosen ones, the friends of My Heart. Say “yes” to Me. Tell Me that you want for yourself only what I want for you. Tell Me that you desire what I desire for your life, and nothing else.” (p. 64-5)
Jesus Waits for us
As Jesus says so often in this book, He wants us to come to Him as He anxiously waits for us: “In this Sacrament I wait for you. So many emphasize that they must wait for Me, and yet I am already present, close to them, and disposed to reveal to them the secrets of My Heart. They forget that it is I who wait for them to come to Me. How often did I say to My disciples, “Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.” (cf. Mt. 11:28-30) They understood, at least most of them did, the intensity of My longing for the company of souls. I would have all souls come to Me and remain with Me.” (p. 94).
The Need for Reparation
Adoration includes reparation for the sins of the world. “A priest at adoration should also be a priest who is making reparation for his own sins and the sins of the world. “This is where reparation begins: in the identification of your soul with all My interests, with all My sorrows, with all that offends Me; and in the union of your soul with My burning zeal for the glory of My Father and for the holiness of all people.” (p. 53)
Jesus proposes several teachings to help us to adore Him. First there is the intercession and mediation of His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary: “Speak often of My Immaculate Mother’s mediation. For you and for many souls, this doctrine is the secret of holiness. Trust in the goodness of My Mother’s Heart. Know that her gaze is ever upon you. Her mantle surrounds you like a protecting shield. She is attentive to every detail of your life. Nothing of what you need or suffer is insignificant to her, and this because I have given her a Heart capable of mothering My entire Mystical Body and each of its members from the greatest to the least.” (p. 21) Of special importance to obtain the virtues needed in these critical days of the lack of holiness in the priesthood is the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock in Ireland. In one of his interior – now Marian – locutions, the Benedictine priest reports this in his Journal: “Here at Knock I want to reveal myself to priests as Virgin Bride and Mother. This is a secret that I have held in my heart for this time of trial for the Church. To every priest who desires it and asks me for it, I will give the grace of living in my presence as Virgin Bride—this was the vocation given to Saint Joseph—and of living in my presence as Mother—this was the vocation given to Saint John when, from the Cross, my Son entrusted me to him, and him to me.” (p. 35)
“I want priests to begin to come to Knock. I want them to come with their bishops. The desire of my merciful and Immaculate Heart is that Knock should become a wellspring of purity, holiness, and renewal for all priests, beginning with those of Ireland. I have waited until now to reveal this project of my Heart. The time is short. Let priests come to me here at Knock. I wait for them as Virgin Bride and as Mother. Let them come to wash themselves in the Blood of the Lamb, my Son, and to be united to Him, Priest and Victim, in the Mystery of His Sacrifice.” (p. 35) Jesus reveals how much His Mother Mary and devotion to her is important for overcoming evil in these days of darkness: “Love My Mother, love My Mother more and more. You will never approach the love of My own Heart for her by yourself, but I, by My free gift, can and will unite you to the love of My Sacred Heart for her. Thus will you come to experience the ineffable union of our two Hearts in your own heart. Be faithful to her Rosary. It is the shield and sword of spiritual combat. It assures your victory over the powers of darkness. Why? Because it is a humble prayer, a prayer that binds the soul who prays it to the victory of My Mother over the ancient serpent. (cf. Gen. 3:15) ‘I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.’ (Gen. 3:15) And yes, pray the Ave Maris Stella for all your brother priests, daily if you can. My Mother loves that hymn and responds to it as often as she hears it, with an abundance of graces poured out on those for whom it is offered. (p. 59)
Other Heavenly Intercessors
Although most of us are familiar with union of the souls in the Mystical Body, few realize the powerful intercession of those in the Church Triumphant in heaven for those in the Church Militant on earth. Jesus reminds our Benedictine priest and us that He has special intercessors for all of us here on earth: “Mother Yvonne-Aimée is very close to you. It is she who obtained for you great graces from My Heart. It is she who obtained that you should come back to France again. She will never forsake you. You are for her a beloved son. Dom Marmion also intervenes on your behalf, as well as a multitude of saints whom you know and love. Saint Peter Julian Eymard recognizes you as one of his own. He will communicate to you a share in his spirit. You will live from this and you will cause others to live from it.” (p. 7) Jesus tells our anonymous Benedictine priest of one of his special intercessors. “How have you won the love of My Heart? you ask. By learning to say sincerely and with confidence, ‘O Jesus, King of Love, I put My trust in Thy merciful goodness.’ (Mother Yvonne-Aimee de Jesus—Yvonne Beausvaism 1901-1951) That little invocation expresses all that a soul needs to say to win My Heart’s tenderness and favour. (p. 116)
One of the many revelations that has been overlooked in the Church is the need for intercessory prayer. In the book In Sinu Jesu, Jesus tells us that He wants us to pray for others by praying that they would do the will of God in their lives. “There is no form of intercessory prayer more efficacious than that of the soul who approaches My Eucharistic presence, certain of finding Me and certain of being heard. I am not distant from souls in need. I have made Myself close to them, as close as the nearest tabernacle. Would that My people understood this! My churches would be filled to overflowing at every hour of the day and night. I would never be left alone in the Sacrament of My love. (p. 213-4)
Union of Jesus and Mary
Jesus reveals a most important teaching about His Co-Redemptive relationship with His beloved Mother: “She is the Coredemptrix. Just as My Sacrifice is renewed mystically in every Mass, her offering, her participation in My offering, is also renewed. The priest who knows this and allows it to penetrate his heart will be graced with a holy fervour in every Mass he celebrates.” (p. 44) Although it is not a defined dogma of the Church, Jesus reveals how this little understood teaching of His union with Our Lady in the offering of the sacrifice on the Cross was so important for the Redemption: “I offered myself to the Father from the altar of My Mother’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. She accepted, consenting to bear the full weight of My sacrifice, to be the very place from which My holocaust of love blazed up. She, in turn, offered herself with Me to the Father from the altar of My Sacred Heart. There she immolated herself, becoming one victim with Me for the redemption of the world. Her offering was set ablaze in My holocaust by the descent of the Holy Spirit. Thus, from our two hearts become two altars, there rose the sweet fragrance of one single offering: My oblation upon the altar of her heart, and her oblation upon the altar of Mine. This, in effect, is what is meant when, using another language, you speak of My Mother as Co-Redemptrix. Our two hearts formed but a single holocaust of love in the Holy Spirit.” (p. 168)
Keep the Churches Opened
One of the major reasons for the lack of adoration in Church today is that churches are closed. “How I desire to see My churches open! Open the doors of My consecrated houses and trust Me to fill them with adorers in spirit and in truth! Come to Me in the Sacrament of My love and I will fill you with the sweetness of My friendship. Know that there is no companionship on earth that can be compared with Mine. For this too did I institute the Sacrament and Sacrifice of My Body and Blood: so that souls might find Me present in My churches and, by remaining in My presence, learn from Me all that I have heard from My Father. For this reason, do I call you friends.” (p. 55) Jesus reminds us of the inestimable treasure of Holy Eucharist, “the pearl of great price”: “The emptiness of My churches apart from the hours of the liturgical offices is an indictment, first of all, of My priests, and then, of My faithful. My Eucharistic presence meets with coldness, with indifference, and with a chilling ingratitude, even on the part of My priests and of consecrated souls. They fail to recognize in the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist the pearl of great price, the treasure once hidden in the field but now offered freely to all who would partake of its inexhaustible riches. (p. 215)
Gift of the Eucharist
Jesus continues to remind us of the treasure of the Holy Eucharist: “My intention was threefold. It was first to perpetuate My one Sacrifice through all ages and even to the close of the age. It was to nourish souls with My Body and Blood for their healing, their sanctification, their union with Me and with all the members of My Mystical Body, in view of My return in glory when all will be one in Me, and I will be in them, and the sacrifice of our praise to the Father in the Holy Spirit will be unending. But I had a third reason as well: it was to offer souls—and especially My priests—the companionship and light and warmth of My Real Presence.” (p. 85) Sadly, Jesus reminds us what this loss of faith in Holy Eucharist causes in His priesthood: “The loss of faith that afflicts so many souls is incompatible with a life of adoration. Souls do not stop adoring because they have lost their faith; they lose their faith because they have stopped adoring Me. This is why I would have you hold fast even to the outward forms of adoration.” (p. 87)
Transformation into Christ
One of the most important effects of adoration is transformation of the priest into Jesus Christ: “The work of transformation into Me is My work. My priests have only to expose themselves to My Eucharistic Face. Little by little, the radiance of My Face will cause the indelible character of My priesthood in them to emerge from the sin that has obscured it and defaced it. It will begin to shine, and this will draw souls to Me through My priests. (p. 112)
Spousal Love in Christ
This transformation into Christ comes about by spousal union of Christ with the priest: “This is why I so insist on adoration for all My priests. It is the crucible of their priestly perfection. It is the furnace of love in which I purify them like gold in the fire. It is the nuptial chamber in which I draw them to My Heart, and speak to them face-to-face, as a bridegroom to his bride, and as a man to his friend. (Song 2:4) The nuptial bond of the priest with Me pertains to the relationship between My divinity and the priest’s soul. My humanity offers the priest a divine friendship, but that friendship leads to the union of the soul with My divinity and to a fruitfulness that surpasses every action and work of the priest acting of his own initiative. Consent to My friendship and I will espouse your soul. Espousal means the most intimate union in love; it is in this sense that the soul is espoused by the Persons of the Adorable Trinity. The Father nonetheless unites Himself to the soul as a Father; the Son unites Himself to the soul as Bridegroom and as the Father’s only begotten Son; the Holy Spirit unites Himself to the soul as the fruition and completion of love. This is why I so insist on adoration for all My priests. It is the crucible of their priestly perfection. It is the furnace of love in which I purify them like gold in the fire. It is the nuptial chamber in which I draw them to My Heart, and speak to them face-to-face, as a bridegroom to his bride, and as a man to his friend. (p. 133)
An important teaching about Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament is the radiating effect of the sacrament. Jesus told St. Faustina that when a soul trusts in Him, she will radiate grace to all those around him. How much more will it be for the Holy Eucharist where Jesus Himself is present: “Where there is faith in My real presence, there will be adoration; and where there is adoration, there will also be an efficacious radiance of My presence, drawing souls to My Eucharistic Heart and surrounding them, even at a distance, with the healing influence of My Eucharistic Face. In those places where I am exposed upon the altar to receive the adoration, the reparation, and the companionship of My friends—and, first of all, of My priests—My radiance is powerful and strong. Faith, adoration, and love act as receptors; thus, is My power drawn out and made effective, invisibly but really, in space and in time. (p.169)
The Source of Priestly Holiness.
Another important teaching about the Holy Eucharist is the altar of sacrifice: “The altar is the source of priestly holiness. The kiss given to the altar at the beginning and end of Holy Mass means that the priest recognizes this. By kissing the altar, he makes himself vulnerable to My piercing love. By kissing the altar, he opens himself unreservedly to all that I would give him and to all that I hold in the designs of My Heart for his life. The kiss to the altar signifies total abandonment to the priestly holiness that I desire and to the fulfilment of My desires in the soul of My priest.” (p. 64)
Jesus Inspires Our Prayers
Many people think that they initiate their prayers. Jesus reveals that it is He who inspires all of our prayers: “See, you have prayed according to the inspirations I gave you through My Holy Spirit. There is no better way to pray. One who listens to my Eucharistic Heart will pray rightly. His petition will be heard by My Father. It is I who will tell you how to pray. (cf. Lk. 11:1-4) I will make known to you those things for which I want you to ask. And I will grant the graces that I will have caused you to desire and for which I will have inspired you to pray. This is what My Apostle meant when he wrote that ‘the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness, for we know not how to pray as we ought.’” (Rom 8:26) Ibid. , p. 73-4
When you pray, there is no need to worry about what you will say or for what things you ought to ask. (cf. Mt. 6:7-8) It is enough to come humbly into My presence and to pray as My Holy Spirit gives you to pray. Such prayer will always be fruitful. Such prayer is always efficacious because it springs not from you, but from Me, not from what you may desire, but from what I desire to give you. (p. 74)
Jesus Shows Himself to Adorers
There is nothing more important than time spent in adoration: “The more time you dedicate to Me alone in the Sacrament of My love, the more will I bless you in all that you are called to do. Resist every temptation to cut short the time dedicated to adoration. You are set apart for that work of reparation and of love, and nothing can take its place in your life.” (p. 97) “What matters is that you have come into My presence, seeking My Face and offering Me all the love of your heart. This is enough. With this little act of adoration and love, I will do great things. I do not ask for things beyond your strength. I am not a harsh and demanding taskmaster; I am the most loving and grateful of friends. No moment spent in My sacramental presence goes unrewarded, for I love those who love Me. I show My Face to those who seek Me, and I give My Heart to those who yearn for My friendship.” (p. 217-8)
The Boundlessness of Our Lady’s Annunciation<
Our Lady reveals one of most startling revelation of this book by expressing the hidden depths of Her joy in the Annunciation by which God becomes incarnate. “I am happy to have spoken to you on this feast of the Annunciation that filled me with divine joy so many years ago in Nazareth. That divine joy remains. No one will ever make it decrease. In eternity it multiplies itself to infinity; it is an ocean of joy having no boundaries, and its depth cannot be measured. This is the joy that I would share with you and with all my priest sons today.” (p. 111)
Purity of Heart
Another important revelation concerns the importance of purity. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus extolled the importance of purity: “Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God.” (Mt. 5: 8) Here the Benedictine priest comments on the single most serious problem of the priesthood today: “I call you to newness of life in purity of heart and in faithful adoration. Purity of heart is the effect of persevering adoration, and its fruit. One cannot abide before My Eucharistic Face day after day without being changed from one degree of purity—that is, of brightness—to another. Those who adore My Eucharistic Face will be like mirrors in the Church, reflecting My holiness, My majesty, and My boundless pity for all to see. (p. 111) Every time a priest sins, he sins directly against Me and against the Most Holy Eucharist toward which his whole being is ordered. When a priest approaches My altar laden with sins that have not been confessed or for which he has not repented, My angels look on in horror, My Mother grieves, and I am again wounded in My hands and My feet, and in My Heart. I am again struck on My mouth and treated with a terrible ignominy. This is why I call My priests to purity of heart and to frequent confession. This is why I ask you to confess your sins weekly and to let the adoration of My Eucharistic Face purify your heart and make you less unworthy of offering My Holy Sacrifice. The sins of My priests are a grievous affront to My own priesthood and immaculate victimhood.” (p. 115)
The Father’s Goodness
Another valuable teaching that is not understood nor taught concerns the importance of the God the Father in the spiritual life: “My Father’s goodness and love remain hidden from so many souls. They have not understood that I came into the world to reveal My Father who is all love, and to draw souls to Him in filial confidence and in the joy of abandonment to His goodness. Love our Father. Trust our Father. Depend upon our Father in every weakness. This revelation of God as a Father who cherishes His children, and so loves them that He sent Me, His only-begotten Son, into the world to suffer and to die, lies at the very heart of My Gospel. (“For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” (Jn. 3:16) Love My Father and open your heart to the immensity of His love for you. Thus will you become for Him, in Me, a beloved son in whom He takes delight.” (p. 174)
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
One of the most important aspects in the faithfulness of the priest today is the misunderstanding of the of Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Jesus points out the importance of His Sacrifice of the Cross in the Mass for every priest. “Every moment of your life is a preparation for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, just as every moment of My life was a preparation for, and slow ascent to, the Sacrifice of the Cross. Understand this and you will see that nothing in your life is foreign to My plan for you: everything you have done, every place you have ever been, every person with whom have been or are connected, is part of My design for your life. All of your life moves towards the altar, just as all of My life moved toward the Cross. Even the things you have suffered are part of My preparation of your priesthood, part of the things by which I fit you to stand in My place as victim and priest.” (p. 257)
Priest as Victim for Christ
Jesus teaches how important it is to accept the sufferings in our lives when we united them to Him on the Cross. “When I find a priest who suffers—and who suffers with Me—becoming a victim with Me in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in every moment of his life, I embrace that priest with all the divine tenderness of My Heart, and I draw him to the wound in My side, there to drink deeply of the refreshing torrent that every flows from My Heart.” (p. 262)
The Words of Jesus for Our Time
The book, In Sinu Jesus, is a great blessing for our Church and our world in this critical time which Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, calls one of “the four greatest crises in the history of the Church.” This book is a call, as Jesus tells us, for His “Priestly Pentecost” at a time when the priests of the Church have abandoned their true vocation which is to be “the praise and glory of God” at the Eucharistic altar of Sacrifice. Nothing the Church can do with its various programs, conferences or synods will be as effective as the renewal of the priesthood through prayer and adoration as In Sinu Jesu reminds us continually. All who will read this book will recognize the truth of Jesus’ spiritual teaching to the Benedictine monk as sole means of renewal of the priesthood and the Church. Every priest, bishop and Catholic should read “In Sinu Jesu.”
by Fr Serafino M. Lanzetta
“Love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.” (John 13:34)
This teaching of the Holy Gospel focuses on the importance of love. This is the new commandment given by Christ before entering into His Passion and Death – a commandment that sums up all others, not superseding them, but bringing all of them (including the Ten Commandments) to their completion. Jesus in fact did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.
The love we show towards other people – to our brethren in faith first, and then all others – is the way by which we are known as disciples of the Lord. In fact, we can never love God if we do not love our neighbour. St John, in his first Epistle, says thus: “If any man say: I love God, and hateth his brother; he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother whom he seeth, how can he love God whom he seeth not?” (1 John 4:16) Love towards God must then be visible – concrete – in our every interaction with other people.
However, it is also true that if we do not love God, our love for one another will never be a proper act of charity – will never be a perfect, that is, self-giving love. Love needs a measure; it cannot be the measure of itself. It can never be itself the reason why we love; the reason must be discovered elsewhere – behind it – otherwise we always run the risk of loving as we wish, as we understand love. We need a measure by which to love, and that measure is God, because God is love.
It is therefore opportune to reflect on the nature of love. Love is a great word, but today it is much misused, especially when it is put against moral law (both natural and positive), for the fact that love would have no law. Hence freedom becomes an antagonist of the law. What is then love? It is a relation between two persons, and has its foundation in our will. In order to love, we have to will. When our will – that is, our soul – is not loving wholeheartedly and with no other interest than to love for its own sake, that relation is faulty; it is selfish.
We can distinguish three levels of love. First, there is the lowest one: eros, according to the Greeks. Eros is a love that is more inclined to self-satisfaction. It is to love another for the sake of oneself. Love, in this sense, is something I do for me, to please myself. Second, there is the love of friendship: filia. This is about loving another person for the sake of that person. In true friendship, there is no selfishness. This form of love, although more perfect, is not the one Jesus is asking of us when He instructs us to love each other. We must strive to attain the third level of love: agape. Agape is a love of communion – a sharing of one’s life with another person, to the point of even giving it up for the sake of that person. “God is agape.” (1John 4:16) The new commandment of Christ is right about this request of love. It is a communion. In agape there is no selfishness, nor even the simple consideration that my neighbour is a person worthy to be loved; rather, it is a truly unconditional love, the offer of a divine measure – the love of Christ for us unto the end. What is this end?
So we understand why Jesus adds to His commandment a second part: “…as I have loved you, you also must love one another.” In Christ we have the model of love – how to love – and also its definitive truth. “As I have loved you” is now the imperative for all Christians to conform their lives to this love. How did Jesus love us? We should again make reference to the Gospel of St John to find out. In the same chapter, at the beginning, we find these words: “…having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” (John 13:1) This end is the Cross. Let us remember that Jesus is pronouncing these teachings before His Passover. While nailed to the Cross, stretching wide His arms as to embrace mankind, Jesus said, “It is finished” – “It is consummated,” (John 19:30) and breathed His last.
The sacrifice of the Cross was thereby accomplished. The love of Christ unto the end is therefore a reference to the completion of the sacrifice of the Cross. Jesus, our divine Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, was slain, was immolated. In His death, we have been saved. Dear brothers and sisters, this is to love – to die for the sake of another. Jesus died for us. Are we able to die to ourselves in order to love as Jesus did, and give our life to another as an exchange of divine charity? Christian love is not a social work, or mere human compassion. It is giving ourselves to another person as Christ did for us, and for the sake of His love for us.
Love requires sacrifice up to the Cross. Love, if it is not sacrificial, might easily become another way to merely display our skills, our philanthropy. We not only give to others part of our time, our money, or share with them our food – we give them our hearts. We not only help a person in need – we see in that person Jesus Christ, our divine Saviour. Love needs God; conversely, God wishes to be loved in a free exchange of love for love.
“Love unto the end” is finally also the manifestation of the Holy Eucharist as the sacrifice of the Cross unto death. Christ loved us to such an extent that He immolated His life for us. Again, in the Gospel of St John, the beloved disciple of the Lord, we read: “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
In the Blessed Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood, we have the infinite love of God, but abased. God became man and died for us, so as to be ground in His death as the grain of wheat fallen to the earth (cf. John 12:24) in order to become bread – the Bread of Life. If we do not adore the Holy Eucharist, we have no strength to serve the poor and the most in need with unconditional – divine – love. Love can never put the sacraments aside and say: Better to do something than waste my time in worship and prayer! Let us always begin with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, so as to love in truth, according to that divine measure – a love with no measure, that is eternal, and which transforms us from egocentric persons into Christ-centered faithful. So may we love with enduring charity. Amen.