Benedict XVI will celebrate his 90th birthday on Easter Sunday. Cardinal Joachim Meisner famously described him as a man who is as intelligent as 12 professors and as pious as a child making his First Communion.
If one inserts the words “Joseph Ratzinger” into the Google Scholar search engine, which records academic publications, one obtains some 24,600 hits in four seconds. The words “Benedict XVI” bring up even more results – 66,100. As a comparison, Walter Kasper scores a mere 6,930 and Hans Küng 6,270. Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac score 16,900 and 13,200 hits respectively.
The only theologian of the last century I could find who trumps the 66,100 figure is Karl Barth, who has been the subject of a massive 127,000 academic articles. The Catholic theologian who came closest to Ratzinger was Karl Rahner, weighing in at 41,500 hits.
As Bavaria’s most famous son since Ludwig II enters his 10th decade of life, it is worth considering what the impact of all these publications might be in the brave new world of 21st-century Catholicism. My thought is that the publications of Ratzinger will form a treasury to be mined by future generations trying to piece together elements of a fragmented Christian culture. . . .
The discovery of Ratzinger by future generations may well lead them on to the literary and philosophical treasures of his Polish friend Karol Wojtyła and the theology of his Swiss friend von Balthasar, his French friend de Lubac, his Italian friend Giussani and an English author called John Henry Newman. They may even find Tolkien and a writer from the Orkneys called Mackay Brown, the Norwegian Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset and an Etonian called George from the noble house of Spencer who thought there needed to be a prayer crusade for the restoration of the old faith in Britain (he is known today as Ignatius Spencer).
Through these authors, a generation tired of the banality of cheap intimacy and nominalism gone mad may rediscover the buried capital of a civilisation built on the belief that the Incarnation really did happen. They may also gradually learn to distinguish a secularised Christianity that hooked itself up to whatever zeitgeist wafted along from the real mysteries celebrated in something called the old Christian calendar.
Please read the rest (the middle!) there. One reason future generations will be able to rediscover Pope Benedict XVI's great legacy will be Rowland's book!
From Pope Benedict XVI's Easter homily in 2012:
At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: “Let there be light”. The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew. “Let there be light”, says God, “and there was light”: Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies. The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God’s pure light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God’s new day, new for all of us.
But how is this to come about? How does all this affect us so that instead of remaining word it becomes a reality that draws us in? Through the sacrament of baptism and the profession of faith, the Lord has built a bridge across to us, through which the new day reaches us. The Lord says to the newly-baptized: Fiat lux – let there be light. God’s new day – the day of indestructible life, comes also to us. Christ takes you by the hand. From now on you are held by him and walk with him into the light, into real life. For this reason the early Church called baptism photismos – illumination.
Why was this? The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other “lights”, that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk. Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God’s light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God’s light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light.
Dear friends, as I conclude, I would like to add one more thought about light and illumination. On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light. Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves. “Whoever is close to me is close to the fire,” as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us.
The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter liturgy, points us quite gently towards a further aspect. It reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church,. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d’être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.
Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world (cf. LG 1). Amen.