Theology of Joseph Ratzinger: Fundamentals (1/2)

As far as the person is concerned, Ratzinger manifests himself from the very first moment to be a fervent supporter of the personalism and existentialism of the beginning of the twentieth century. This personal instance constitutes, in Ratzinger’s judgment, an idea that has a Christian origin, and more concretely, as one which start from the elaboration of the doctrine on the Trinity and the two natures of Christ. A
consequence of this is that the human person—as image and likeness of Christ and the Trinity—has a face: he is not merely a number and he is firmly situated in love and in truth. This Christian idea of God unites unity and multiplicity, so in the human person both instances are combined. At the same time, in Christ we find the incarnation of truth and of love, of reason and of relation: for the Logos that is made dialogos, and is incarnate, dies and resurrects through love. As Christ is a perfect image of God,he is formed as the perfect model for the human person, created in the‘‘image and likeness’’ of God. The mystery of the cross and the resurrection of Christ is a way of explaining more profoundly the enigma of human existence. We thus find ourselves in a trinitarian moment formed by the Us of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; in a christological moment,in which the‘‘me’’ of the person finds the You of Jesus Christ; and an ecclesial moment, in which the ‘‘us’’ of the Church is created.

Ratzinger applies his personalistic principles to the nature of the faith, where the categories of the person, reason and relationship find a profound unity. What is the faith? It is an act that reaches the centre of the person. That is why one can and must call grace a gift, a present from God. This is the main origin. It is there thanks to the other person who comes out to meet me, comes into me and makes me open. His secret is in saying ‘‘you’’ and this truly becomes a ‘‘me.’’ So the faith is a ‘‘yes’’ to God in Jesus Christ. The faith penetrates into what is most personal and intimate—reason and heart, ethics and knowledge—but at the same time it introduces us to the community of Jesus Christ, that is to say, the Church. And just as Saint Paul says in ch. 6 of Romans, the faith is found in relation to baptism. In this way it is easy to see that the sacrament forms part of our faith and this faithful community in which we find Jesus Christ; and we accede to the Church through baptism. The faith is a theological act (God gives us faith), personal and interpersonal (through encountering Jesus Christ), ecclesial and sacramental; we are received into the Church through baptism.

Ratzinger reminds us of the need to have harmony between faith and reason, just as Saint Paul suggested in the speech in the aeropagus of Athens and just as this unity was sought, not without risk, by the first Christian philosophers. However, this is not exclusive to Christianity, since other religions promote the harmony between mystery and rationality, such as ancient Judaism. Nonetheless,
this must not be a pure or mathematical reason, this must be a universal reason, an ‘‘amplified reason’’ that is open to religion, art, ethics or feelings. This is a new reason—more postmodern than antimodern—that has to be shown in harmony with the Christian faith. This is Ratzinger’s great venture. Reason must be open to its own basis: to the logos
that is also person and love, and that makes sense of all things. As a consequence, they are intimately united, logos and agape, reason and relationship, truth and love in Christ, the Logos that is incarnate in love, that
establishes all truth and all rational capacity.

Ratzinger’s denunciation of the ‘‘dictatorship of relativism’’ just before being elected bishop of Rome belongs to a defense of truth that he has been proclaiming for years. Its origins are to be found in Saint Augustine, Newman and Guardini. In this sense, Ratzinger has long been studying the relationship between truth, freedom and different cultures. He found this link between truth and freedom through the concept of conscience at the same time as he defended the right for truth to take shape in different cultures. In this vision, both human intelligence and the Christian faith maintain their relevance for the modern world. This could be a great oppor-
tunity for all of these aspects—faith, reason, cultures—to find light and freedom in Christ, as Ratzinger proposes. Hence his reference to the paschal etsi Deus daretur in a world that is dominated, not only by multiculturalism, but also by agnosticism and relativism.

In the end, Ratzinger insists continuously on the indissoluble union between love and truth. As soon as he reached the See of Peter, Benedict XVI wrote a profound study on the nature of love, both human and Christian, and on the concept of eros and agape, as a way of understanding the main theological affirmation, ‘‘God is love’’ (1 John 4:8). God loves us and that is why we can love. That is why the human eros—which is also present in God and in Christian charity—needs to be purified, to turn into the true agape. It will come to be more and more like divine love, which constitutes the very essence of God. From this point an analysis is made of what Christian charity is, the highest summit of which is holiness. We can reach it through action, prayer and adoration, as is explained in Deus caritas est. True Christian charity is a reflection of the love of God in this world, just as is expressed in the First Epistle of John, to which Ratzinger makes reference right from the very title.

Source: Pablo Blanco (2011) “The Theology of Joseph Ratzinger: Nuclear Ideas” Theology Today 68(2) 153-173


2 thoughts on “Theology of Joseph Ratzinger: Fundamentals (1/2)

  1. Hello. How could I contact you? I am very interested in translating some of your essays into Romanian. Please tell me how to get in touch with you.

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