ROMA, February 15, 2008
– To preach the Lenten spiritual exercises to the curia this year, Benedict XVI has invited the biblical scholar Albert
Vanhoye, whom he has called a "great exegete" and made a cardinal.
Last year, he had asked
cardinal Giacomo Biffi to preach at the retreat, another theologian he greatly admires.
One of the most important
books of theology in recent years, published not long ago in multiple languages, is one by Leo Scheffczyk, "Il mondo della
fede cattolica. Verità e forma [The world of the Catholic faith. Truth and form]." Scheffczyk, who died in 2005, had
also been made a cardinal. The book is introduced by an interview with Benedict XVI.
These are signs that the
great tradition of Catholic theology continues, in the years of Joseph Ratzinger, theologian and pope.
It is a theology that is
as deep and solid as it is quiet and unassuming. The noise surrounds more exciting but confused works, like the book by Vito Mancuso,
"L'anima e il suo destino [The soul and its destiny]," on which www.chiesa.espressonline.it reported one week ago ["A theology that in Italy, in the past year, has not produced only a questionable publishing success
like "L'anima e il suo destino," but also a masterpiece of understanding of faith like the essay entitled "Ingresso
alla bellezza [Entryway to beauty]" by Enrico Maria Radaelli."].
Hidden away from this sort
of uproar, but with great foresight, the Italian publisher Jaca Book, for example, is publishing the imposing "opera omnia"
of the most illustrious scholar of the world of medieval theology, Inos Biffi, a professor emeritus of the theological faculties
of Milan and Lugano. He is of no relation to the cardinal of the same last name, who is one of his friends and maintains that
beyond the shadow of a doubt he is the greatest Italian theologian alive.
In editorial terms, Inos
Bifi is in good and very exclusive company. Before him, Jaca Book published the complete works of two other giants of Catholic
theology in the 20th century: Henri De Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar.
Another publisher, Città
Nuova, is preparing the publication of the "opera omnia" of another great theologian of the second half of the 20th
century, Bernard J. F. Lonergan
But there's more. Catholic
theology also has to its credit new authors and new books of the first rank.
This is the case of Enrico
Maria Radaelli, with his essay "Ingresso alla bellezza [Entryway to beauty]."
* * *
The central thesis of
"Ingresso alla bellezza" is that the Son of God does not have only one "name," but two. He is "Logos,"
but also "Imago." He is word, but also image, face, the reflection of the divine thought. He is truth, but also the
beauty of the true.
"Ingresso alla bellezza"
is therefore a master road for entering into the mystery of the Triune and incarnate God. Beauty is the appearance of the invisible
truth. And, vice versa, the inexpressible nature of the divine mysteries is manifested in the splendors of the liturgy, art, music,
poetry. On the cover of the book, there is a painting by Lorenzo Lotto with a young Apollo sleeping at the edge of the forest,
with the Muses miming the sublime realities.
But the illustration at
the top of this page is by a 17th century painter, Baciccia. It is a detail from the frescoes in the cupola and vault of the church
in Rome dedicated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus, or in theological terms, to the twofold identity of "Logos" and "Imago."
It is a viewing of this "secret theater of heaven" that provides the launching point for an article by the author of
"Ingresso alla bellezza," Enrico Maria Radaelli, published in " L'Osservatore Romano," February 4-5, 2008.
The article, which is reproduced
in its entirety below, very effectively summarizes the spirit and contents of the book. This ranges from theology properly so
called to philosophy, from Sacred Scripture to the liturgy, from history to linguistics, from art to music. Memorable, for example,
are its pages on the painter Michelangelo da Caravaggio and on the composer Claudio Monteverdi.
Radaelli is not an academic
theologian, nor has he received holy orders. He is not tenured at any pontifical university. And yet he is the disciple of one
of the sharpest Catholic intellects of the 20th century, another ordinary layman without university tenure, Romano Amerio of Switzerland.
Both have addressed and address severe criticisms against the secularizing tendencies of the Church in the past century, against
confusion in the field of ecumenism and relations with other religions, against the "devastation" in the liturgical
field. But this is always in obedience to the hierarchical magisterium and to the Great Tradition without whose depth and breadth
– Benedict XVI teaches – there is no Catholic theology worthy of the name.
As for the resemblance
between the teaching of pope Joseph Ratzinger and the theses of "Ingresso alla bellezza," it is instructive to consider
what the pope said a few days ago, at the February 7 meeting with the clergy of Rome.
Responding to the question
from a priest who is also a painter, Benedict XVI said:
"The Old Testament
forbade all images, and it had to forbid them in a world that was full of divinities. It lived in a great void that was also represented
by the interior of the temple, where, in contrast with other temples, there was no image, but only the empty throne of the Word,
the mysterious presence of the invisible God, not circumscribed by our images.
"But then this mysterious
God [became flesh in Jesus,] appeared with a face, with a body, with a human history that at the same time is a divine history.
It is a history that continues in the history of the saints, of the martyrs, of the saints of charity and of the word, who are
always an elaboration, a continuation in the Body of Christ of his divine and human life, and it provides us with the fundamental
images in which – beyond the superficial ones that conceal reality – we can widen our vision to the Truth itself.
In this sense, the iconoclastic period that followed the Council [Vatican II] seems excessive to me, although this did have its
own meaning, because it was perhaps necessary to free ourselves from the superficiality of too many images.
"Now let us return
to an understanding of the God who became man. As the letter to the Ephesians tells us, He is the true image. And in this true
image we see – beyond the appearances that conceal reality – Truth itself. 'Whoever has seen me has seen the Father'.
In this sense, we can rediscover a Christian art, and also rediscover the essential and great representations of the mystery of
God in the iconographic tradition of the Church. And thus we can rediscover the true image, [...] the presence of God in the flesh."
“hOW TO DISCOVER
THE fACE OF THE eTERNAL
IN THE SACRED eDIFICE”.
From « L’Osservatore Romano », February 4-5, 2008
by Enrico Maria Radaelli