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Manual The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI: The Christocentric Shift

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Bibliographic Information

Log In Sign Up. A symphonic synthesis. Journal of the European Society for Catholic Theology , Pablo Blanco. Blanco Sarto. The purpose of this paper is to offer a systematic over- view of the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, the emeritus pope. Thereafter, the theological and ontological keystones of his thought are addressed, including the human person and the complementary dimensions of love and truth, beauty and hope.

As regards the proclamation of the Christian message, Ratzinger attrib- utes as much significance to faith as to reason. On the other hand, the interrelation between his ideas on theology, catechesis, preaching and mission gives an especial concretion to his theological thought. Ministry and the Eucharist, creation and the relationship between the Church and other religions and the world in particular are also studied.

All rights reserved. The methodology used is systematic, positive and descriptive; its end, just a summary, is a synthesis of his ideas, leaving criticism of his theology for another occasion. For concision, we will give here only quotations from the biblio- graphy, where Ratzingerian quotations and secondary literature can be found. Murphy , Centre His theological — or, more precisely, the theandric — principles comprise the first point of discussion. Boeve , Indeed, his theological thinking may be described as Christocentric at heart.

Since Christ is present in the Word and the sacraments in a special way, in the Eucharist , Ratzinger pays particular attention to the liturgy and scripture. However, Ratzinger also sets out to underscore the unbreakable bond between Christ and the Church, and between the Church and Mary. Hence, Ratzinger offers a unified vision of Christology, ecclesiology and Mari- ology that allows of neither confusion nor division. There can be no distinction between being and mission in the person of Christ: he is true God and true man, and he became flesh, died and rose from the dead to save us and free us from sin.

Thus, the history of salvation encompasses both the theologia crucis and the theologia gloriae, which rests on the doctrine of the Incarnation of the Son of God. In this way, we are in a dialectic that engages exclusively with the theology of the cross and ignores the theology of glory. Rather, a deeper and more wide-ranging vision of the mystery of the Son of God made man is required.

Nevertheless, the most emblematic dichotomy in this regard is the division posited between the Christ of faith and the Jesus of history Bultmann. The Christological faith of the first centuries professed belief in Christ, true God and true man. This identity of the divine person of Jesus Christ may serve as the cornerstone of further theological perspectives. In Jesus of Nazareth , Ratzinger returns again and again to consideration of the divine nature of Jesus Christ, bringing it into focus as the main concern of that book.

This profession of faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ and the central role of his salvation may also play a significant part in ecumenical engagement. Ratzinger goes on to say that ecumenical dialogue requires that the division between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith be overcome, prompting a return to homousios and the divinity of Jesus Christ as defined at Nicea and Constantinople III — The Christology articulated at Chalcedon is also of key significance in this context: the defence of the unity of substance or person and the distinction between persons. This terminology is still relevant and useful, and strikes a careful balance between the two natures.

Only he saves, because he is God; if he were not God, he could neither save nor divinize us. It may even have begun before: he himself recalled that in addition to reason, liturgy too was to offer him a refuge from Nazi persecution — two paths leading to God: reason and the beauty of celebration. However, the liturgy is not merely a nostalgic evocation of the past. Moreover, Ratzinger holds that any understanding of the Church itself must be rooted in the liturgy. If Jesus Christ becomes truly present in the celebration of the Eucharist, the Eucharist is the origin of the Church.

Therefore, Ratzinger believes that the Eucharist makes the Church. The liturgy comes first. It is the centre, the heart. It re-enacts the passion of the Lord. The sacrificial and memorial dimensions of the passion of the Christ are key to any understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Thus, the Eucharist is both feast and sacrifice at the same time.


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In The Spirit of the Liturgy , Ratzinger offers an in-depth account of the cosmic scope of the liturgy, not simply its historical range, as well as its Christological and Trinitarian dimensions. The liturgy springs from God himself, but it is accessible to human beings, bound up with history and the world. Hence, it is also the centre of creation and the universe.

In fact, Christian existence is to be regarded as the endeavour to play the roles of Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, at the same time: to work like Martha, and to pray and contemplate like Mary. However, Ratzinger was soon to note inconsistencies in the application of the liturgical reforms proposed by the Council. He felt that there was, at times, a lack of in-depth understand- ing of what is being celebrated in the liturgy — the meaning of the mystery enacted in Eastern liturgies, for instance.

The liturgy ought to reflect the mystery it contains in a transparent way, and the profundity and dignity of what happens in every liturgical celebration should be acknowledged. Christ and the Paschal mystery must truly be the heart of the life of the Church. Ratzinger refuses to accept false contradictions, such as the supposed conflict between the active participation of the laity and the ars celebrandi to be effected by the celebrant. Liturgical celebration is not an occasion for the celebrant to display his talent for improvisation.

Christ, not the priest, is the centre of the celebration. Scripture is another constant, required and irrevocable reference 4 Cf. Educated in history and the historical-critical method, Ratzinger insists on the need for a hermeneutical context, rooted in the faith of the Church, which enables a clearer understanding of the biblical text as a whole. He also emphasizes the unity between the word of God and the people of God, between Bible and Church. They are concentric spaces: the Church is the place, the habitat, the hermeneutic environment in which the Word lives and is understood in all its fullness see DV Ratzinger also argues in favour of the nexus of interrelations between exegesis and theology, Word and dogma, the Old Testament and the New, revelation, scripture and tradition.

Rather, it extends outwards to encompass the totality of revealed truth. In addition to contemporary exegesis and criticism, therefore, Ratzinger also ventures a close reading of the fathers of the Church and of the saints, who, to his mind, are the best interpreters of scripture. This amounts to a plural reading, in which a range of different dimensions play a part, albeit all are bound by a single score: sacred scripture. Every reading of the Bible must encompass such singularity and plurality. The validity of an interpretation is assured provided that it is in tune with scripture as a whole Old and New Testaments and with the faith of the Church throughout the years.

Thus, the Lutheran dogma of sola scriptura is to be set aside. Scripture is complemented by the Church. However, this text of revelation is shared by all interpreters. In other words, scripture has a certain priority over the Church: the Church is subordinate to and at the service of scripture.

Not only does he endeavour to give contemporary exegesis validity and authority, but also a vision of the whole. Ratzinger who would go on to be President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission argued the need for faith and reason to round out the view provided by purely historical and philological exegesis. On the one hand, the hermeneutic method itself must be called into question, and the philosophical principles underlying it laid bare: a critique of the method, the need to criticize the criticism. Both the historical-critical method and the Bultmannean school of thought should be reflexively analysed.

The type of criticism advanced in Jesus of Nazareth, which re unites the Jesus of history with the Christ of faith — in short, faith with reason and history — is significant in this regard. Of course, the Church as such is a concentric reality, which centres on Christ. The fathers of the Church described Christ as the sun and the Church as the moon, reflecting the light of the sun. Hence, Christ and the Church are mutually complementary; the action of Christ continues in the Church. The Church is nothing other than the body and spouse of Christ.

As in Vatican II see Lumen gentium, chapter I , the vertical and super- natural dimension is emphasized first. The Church is the people of God, as stated and taught in Vatican II, but the divine origin of the Church cannot be overlooked. Thus, the Church is first and foremost and above all the people of God. The Church is the people of God, which lives through the body and word of Christ.

Hence, the Church is also the mystical body of Christ. In addition to the sociological and sacramental contexts of the Church, Ratzinger also attends to its theological and Christological dimensions. The Christological and pneumatological dimensions of the Church Christ is the founder and foundation; the Spirit is the soul are disclosed at the same time as the sacramental and charismatic, human and divine domains — in the Eucharist itself: the body and blood of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine.

This is the horizontal dimension, coterminous in time and rooted in the vertical dimension. Thus, the Church too is apostolic, and may draw on the complementary authority and collegiality of the universal Church and particularly of local Churches. The Church is both local and global. The Eucharist does not depend on the bishop alone; it belongs to the universal Church.

Moreover, in addition to the Word and the sacraments, the priestly ministry is also a constituent aspect of unity. Such ministry also rests on a Christological and pneumatological foundation, and is inseparable from the episcopal and apostolic nature of the Church. So his later, in-depth engagement with this field is also of special interest. Given its Christological implications, Mariology continues to be a controversial field and Ratzinger sought to approach it from a biblical and theological perspective.

For him Mariology is part of Christology, Ecclesiology and Anthropology. His first objective was to strike a balance between the Christo- centrism of the liturgical movement and the Marian devotionalism still reflected in the religious culture of the time, that is, to mediate the christotypical and ecclesiological models that came up against one another during Vatican II. If Christ and the Church are inseparable, it makes no sense to draw artificial distinctions in the field of Mariology between Jesus, the Church and his Mother.

Hence, the figure of Mary is inseparable from the Church of Christ: she holds a preeminent place in the most important part of the Church, Ecclesia in patria. Mary is also part of the people of Israel, giving it continuity in the history of salvation, as well as the first member of the new people of God, the Church. The unity between Old and New Testaments, between Israel and the Church, is also crucial at this juncture. Ratzinger discerns a line of continuity between such Marian titles and the unique media- tion of Christ.

By linking Mary to Christology, Mary is also given a role in the history of salvation: a secondary and subordinate part in soteriology. In line with its own divine origin, the person is at its heart intimately and intrinsically bound up with love and truth, beauty and hope. Ratzinger also focuses on eschatology, which he regards as a field in which theological and anthropological knowledge may be put to the test.

The concept of the person is not merely a linguistic or intellectual construction. Ratzinger draws on it as a structuring principle of his thought. The idea is not merely an invention of modern philosophy, which in fact took the notion from a preceding genealogy of thought: theology.

God is both one and other at the same time: plurality is also part of the Trinity. As a result, the human person also comprises both dimensions: the one and the multiple. Such pluralism and acknowledge- ment of a legitimate diversity are also Christian in origin. A further effect of the personal conception of God is that the human person — the image and like- ness of God Gen — has a face and a name: s he is not merely a number, s he is firmly rooted in love and truth.

Jesus Christ is the incarnate, eternal Logos, who died and was raised from the dead through love; hence, the human person is profoundly shaped by the principles of love and truth. The human person has ontological depth, an original bond with love and truth. Hence, Jesus Christ is the incarnation of reason and relation; the Logos becomes dia-logos, incarnated, died and raised from the dead through love.

The mystery of the cross and the res- urrection of Christ comprise a more profound explanation of the enigma of human existence. Identification with Christ is a new dimen- sion of the human person. At the same time, throughout his theological career, he has insisted on the inextricable bond between love and truth. So as to grow, love must find its logos; this was an early lesson Ratzinger learned through his reading of his masters: Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Guardini…. However, the theme of love recurs through- out his intellectual career, during which Ratzinger writing as Benedict XVI in his first encyclical letter sets out to explain the possibility of love in a cruel world.

One of the first effects of this conviction is the pre-eminence of the love of God: God loves us, therefore we are capable of love. However, this need not mean that there is an unbridgeable divide between eros and agape, between human love and divine love, as the Lutheran theologian Nygren once asserted. Love, affection, warmth are not merely human phenomena, distinct from and outside the realm of the divine.

Love is possible in this cruel world, but — he goes on to say — eros must be purified and rendered true agape. All traces of selfishness and impurity are to be removed from our hearts. Not all forms of love are of the same value: love is to be better, greater. Thus, human life may gradually come to resemble divine love more closely. Mary is the greatest example of such love. Christianity is the religion of love and truth because love and truth are inextricably bound up with one another in God. The truth sets people free see Jn ; lies strip people of their roots in being.

Absolute freedom does not set us free if it is not oriented towards the truth.

At the same time, the sermon on relativism was also a prophetic discourse on the primary values required to ensure that the world may be truly free. The link between truth and freedom is a key premise of this argu- ment. On the one hand, freedom requires roots — that is, a firm anchor that prevents it from drifting away into random chance. The human being may be compared to a tree: its branches wave in the four winds, so its roots must run deep into being and reality.

Ratzinger traces the link between truth and freedom to the concept of conscience: conscience may discern this difficult but possible truth. In this regard, Ratzinger is an optimist, arguing the case for a truth that may take on different forms in different cultures, which may in turn attain the truth that sets human beings free. Every culture must be marked by truth; since culture is neither static nor closed, it may be shaped by truth.

Truth must always be incisive: citing a passage from St Athanasius, Ratzinger refers to the incision made in a sycamore, a cut that yields a better fruit. The potential to come to know the truth through reason and conscience in practical terms as well gives human beings a sense of security and hope of growing in freedom.

The truth safeguards the freedom of all. A freedom without roots is at the mercy of the whirlwind spun by whoever is strongest. Hence, the truth contained in human reason and in Christian faith retains its full validity and reality. Ratzinger sees fit to recall the theological grounds of the truth. In this regard, religion may also guarantee ethics and knowledge of the truth. Free delivery worldwide.

The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI

Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. What events, and which religious devotions, have shaped his personality? This study attempts to shed light on the unifying melody of the policies and positions of a pontificate charged with spiritual and theological depth. Product details Format Hardback pages Dimensions x x Illustrations note 4 Illustrations, black and white; XIX, p. Luther's polemic against 'works' and, indeed, Calvin's reminders that salvation is a matter of the sovereign mercy of God alone, can hardly be far from his mind, even if he would not be in agreement with either of them on all points in this regard Ratzinger c ; Corkery , As I have written elsewhere, I am not in agreement with all that Ratzinger has said - and done - in relation to liberation theology Corkery , and b but what I have wished to allude to in the above is how, influenced by the Reformation polemic against any linking of salvation to "works", Ratzinger was tilted against liberation theology from the outset.

Added to this was, from his studies of Bonaventure's theology of history, an awareness of the danger of looking forward to any form of inner-worldly salvific state - in other words, any form of utopia Ratzinger ; Corkery b and Kissler ff. Towards working for the future, Ratzinger believes, we must "do what we can", conscious that it is God, not we, who brings it about. We are just of penultimate significance. I mentioned the influence, from Bonaventure, that makes Ratzinger wary of any talk about immanent salvation, about inner-worldly states of well-being. In his day, Bonaventure, against the background of Joachim of Fiore's "utopian" vision and the influence of this on many of Bonaventure's own confreres, had to negotiate a path between what could be legitimately held about the future and any immanent notions of that future envisaged by the Calabrian abbot and his followers.

For Ratzinger, the student of Bonaventure's theology of history seven hundred years later, the emphasis settled decidedly on a wariness about all inner-worldly salvific states Corkery b Ratzinger was conscious that these fragile arrangements would depend on human agreement, always, to maintain and support them, and that such could be "interrupted" by the decisions of persons at any time to do just the opposite.

Hence his insistence that any human contribution is always no more than a "doing what we can" and that a mentality of "making" is misleading in relation to future plans and projects. He applies this insight relentlessly whenever the matter of the creation of any just social order comes up. It surprised me - when I discovered it - to see that he applies it to the matter of ecumenism as well. He said that it was important here.

Ratzinger b In the background here was Ratzinger's concern that ecumenical successes in the heady period immediately after the Second Vatican Council might have led people to expect too much from deft negotiations on the parts of Church authorities or from learned persons such as the theologians, Karl Rahner and Heinrich Fries, whose proposals regarding the unity of the Churches he once spoke about as "[A]a forced march towards unity" Ratzinger c and b The fear of unity by human effort - unity by means of "works" - was lurking too, as the following remark confirms:.

In any case it should be clear that we do not create unity, no more than we bring about righteousness by means of our works, but that on the other hand we should not sit around twiddling our thumbs Ratzinger b In the end it is clear: while Ratzinger does not advise inactivity, he is ever mindful that activity does not produce the kingdom of God in any area.

These things are God's alone to give. What human beings can achieve is, at best, something of just penultimate significance. The Breviloquium. The social dimensions of grace and 'dis-grace' in the theology of Leonardo Boff. Bobolanum An accidental theologian. In: G. Marmion eds. Theology in the Making: Biography, Contexts, Methods. Dublin: Veritas Publications , pp. Joseph Ratzinger's theological ideas: wise cautions and legitimate hopes. Joseph Ratzinger on liberation theology: What did he say?

Why did he say it?

Shifts - Living with Benedict XVI

What can be said about it? In: Patrick Claffey and Joe Egan eds. Movement or moment? The Extraordinary Synod of In: A.

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Joseph Ratzinger as Ecclesiologist and Pastor. Concilium From theologian to pope: a personal view back, past the public portrayals. Harvard Divinity Bulletin autumn A theology of liberation: history, politics and salvation. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books. Das Wesen des Christlichen. Theologische Revue , Der Deutsche Papst. Benedikt XVI. Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder Verlag. Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. The Catholic moment: the paradox of the church in the postmodern World.

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The theology of Pope Benedict XVI : the Christocentric shift (Book, ) [abepivurev.tk]

New York: The Seabury Press. Faith and the Future. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press. The Theology of History in Saint Bonaventure. Gratia praesupponit naturam. In: J. Ratzinger ed. Why I am still in the church. In: H. Ratzinger eds. Beten in unserer Zeit. The God of Jesus Christ. The Ratzinger report: an exclusive interview on the state of the church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag GmbH. The church's teaching authority - faith - morals. Faith as conversion - metanoia. Salvation history, metaphysics and eschatology. Freedom and liberation: the anthropological vision of the Instruction Libertatis conscientia.

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