Father Cantalamessa on Christ
Yesterday and Today
"How Are They to Believe In Him of Whom They Have Never Heard?" (2
Here is a translation of the
first Advent sermon delivered this year by Father Raniero
Cantalamessa, Pontifical Household preacher, to Benedict XVI and
members of the
Roman Curia in preparation for Christmas.
Father Cantalamessa is
offering a series of reflections on the theme "For What We Preach Is
Not Ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord" (2 Corinthians 4:5): Faith in
Faith in Christ Today and at
the Beginning of the Church
Holy Father, I would like to say two things at this time: First to
thank you for your confidence in asking me to continue in the office of
Pontifical Household preacher, and to affirm my total obedience and
fidelity to you, as Successor of Peter.
I believe there is no more beautiful way of greeting the beginning of a
new pontificate than to recall and try to reproduce the event in which
Christ founded the primacy of Peter. Simon becomes Cephas, rock, in the
moment that, by the Father's revelation, he professes his faith in the
divine origin of Jesus. "On this rock -- as St. Augustine paraphrases
Christ's words -- I will build the faith you have professed. I will
build my Church on the fact that you have said: "You are the Christ,
the Son of the living God."
For this reason I have chosen "faith in Christ" as the theme of the
Advent preaching. In this first meditation, I would like to sketch what
I believe is the current situation in our society concerning faith in
Christ and the remedy that the Word of God offers us to address it. In
subsequent meetings we will meditate on what the faith in Christ of
John, Paul, the Council of Nicaea and the lived faith of Mary, his
Mother, says to us today.
1. Presence-Absence of Christ
What role does Jesus have in our society and culture? I think that in
this regard, one can speak of a presence-absence of Christ. At a
certain level -- that of the mass media in general, Jesus Christ is
very present, he is no less than a "superstar," according to the title
of a well-known musical about him. In an interminable series of
stories, films and books, writers manipulate the figure of Christ, at
times under the pretext of new phantomlike historical documents about
"The Da Vinci Code" is the latest and most aggressive instance of this
long series. It has already become a fashion, a literary genre. There
is speculation on the vast resonance that Jesus' name has and on what
he represents for a large part of humanity to ensure great publicity at
low cost. And this is literary parasitism.
From a certain point of view, we can therefore say that Jesus Christ is
very present in our culture. But if we look at the ambit of faith, to
which he belongs in the first place, we note, on the contrary, a
perturbing absence, if not an outright rejection of his person.
Above all, at the theological level. A certain theological current
maintains that Christ did not come for the salvation of Jews (for whom
it would be enough to remain faithful to the Old Covenant), but only
for the Gentiles. Another current maintains that he is not necessary
either for the salvation of the Gentiles, the latter having, thanks to
their religion, a direct relationship with the eternal logos, without
needing to go through the incarnate word and his paschal mystery. We
must ask, for whom is Christ still necessary?
Even more worrying is what is observed in society in general, including
those who define themselves "Christian believers." In what, in fact, do
those in Europe and other places believe who define themselves
"believers?" In the majority of cases, they believe in a supreme being,
a creator; they believe in "the beyond."
But this is a deist faith, not yet a Christian faith. Taking into
account Karl Barth's well-known distinction, the latter is religion,
not yet faith. Different sociological researches note this fact also in
countries and regions of ancient Christian tradition, as the region in
which I myself was born, in the Marcas. In practice, Jesus Christ is
absent in this type of religiosity.
Even the dialogue between science and faith, which has again become so
timely, leads to putting Christ in brackets. The former, in fact, has
God, the creator as object. The historical person of Jesus of Nazareth
has no place there. The same occurs in the dialogue with philosophy,
which loves to be concerned with metaphysical concepts more than
In brief, what is repeated on a world scale is what occurred at the
Areopagus of Athens, on the occasion of Paul's preaching. While the
Apostle spoke about God "who made the world and everything that is in
it" and of whom "we are also stock," the learned Athenians listened to
him with interest; when he began to speak of Jesus Christ "risen from
the dead," they answered with a polite "We will hear you again about
this" (Acts 17:22-32).
Suffice it to glance at the New Testament to understand how far away we
are, in this case, from the original meaning of the word "faith" in the
New Testament. For Paul, the faith that justifies sinners and bestows
the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:2), in other words, salvific faith, is
faith in Jesus Christ, in his paschal mystery of death and
resurrection. Also for John, the faith that "overcomes the world" is
faith in Jesus Christ. He writes: "Who is it that overcomes the world
but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5).
In face of this new situation, the first task is for us to be the first
to make a great act of faith. "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the
world" (John 16:33), Jesus said to us. He did not only overcome the
world of that time, but the world of always, in that which it bears in
itself of opposition and resistance to the Gospel. Therefore, no fear
or resignation. The recurrent prophecies about the inevitable end of
the Church and of Christianity in the technological society of the
future make me smile. We have a far more authoritative prophecy to
adhere to: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass
away" (Matthew 24:35).
However, we cannot remain inert; we must put our hands to the task to
respond in an appropriate manner to the challenges that faith in Christ
faces in our time. To re-evangelize the post-Christian world it is
indispensable, I believe, to know the path followed by the Apostles to
evangelize the pre-Christian world! The two situations have much in
common. And this is what I would now like to bring to light: How was
the first evangelization carried out? What way did faith in Christ
follow to conquer the world?
2. Kerygma and Didache
All the authors of the New Testament show that they presupposed the
existence and knowledge, on the part of readers, of a common tradition
(paradosis) which goes back to the earthly Jesus. This tradition
presents two aspects, or two components: a component called
"preaching," or announcement (kerygma) which proclaims what God has
wrought in Jesus of Nazareth, and a component called "teaching"
(didache) which presents ethical norms for correct conduct on the part
of believers. Several Pauline letters reflect this distribution,
because they contain a kerygmatic first part, from which a second part
derives of a parenetic or practical character.
The preaching, or kerygma, is called the "gospel"; the teaching, or
didache, instead is called the "law," or the commandment of Christ that
is summarized in charity. These two things, the first -- the
kerygma, or gospel -- is what gives origin to the Church; the second --
the law, or the charity that springs from the first, is what draws for
the Church an ideal of moral life, which "forms" the faith of the
Church. In this connection, the Apostle distinguishes before the
Corinthians his work of "father" in the faith from that of the
"pedagogues" who came after him. He says: "For it is I, through the
Gospel, who has begotten you in Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 4:15).
Therefore, faith as such flowers only in the presence of the kerygma,
or the announcement. "How are they to believe -- writes the Apostle
speaking of faith in Christ -- in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without a preacher?" Literally, "without some
one who proclaims the kerygma" (choris keryssontos). And he concludes:
"So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the
preaching of Christ" (Romans 10:17), where by "preaching" the same
thing is understood, that is, the "gospel" or kerygma.
In the book "Introduction to Christianity," the Holy Father Benedict
XVI, then professor of theology, shed light on the profound
implications of this fact. He wrote: "In the formula 'faith comes from
hearing' ... the fundamental distinction between faith and philosophy
is clearly considered ... In faith the word takes precedence over
thought ... In philosophy, thought precedes the word; the latter
therefore is a product of reflection, which one then attempts to
express in words ... Faith instead always comes to man from the outside
-- it is not an element thought-out by the individual, but said to him,
which comes to him not as thought-out or thinkable, questioning him and
Faith in Christ Today and at
the Beginning of the Church
Faith comes therefore from listening to preaching. But what is,
precisely, the object of "preaching"? It is known that on the lips of
Jesus it is the great news that is the background of his parables and
from all his teachings springs: "The Kingdom of God has come to you!"
But, what is the content of the preaching on the lips of the apostles?
The answer: the work of God in Jesus of Nazareth! It is true, but there
is something that is even more concrete, which is the germinating
nucleus of everything and that, in regard to the rest, is like the
plowshare, that kind of sword in front of the plow that first breaks
the earth and allows the plow to mark out the furrow and turn over the
This more concrete nucleus is the exclamation: "Jesus is the Lord!"
pronounced and accepted in the wonder of a "statu nascenti" faith,
namely, in the very act of being born. The mystery of this word is such
that it cannot be pronounced "except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians
12:3). It alone can bring one to salvation who believes in his
resurrection: "because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is
Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you
will be saved" (Romans 10:9).
"Like the wake of a ship," Charles Pééguy would say, "it
enlarges until it disappears and is lost, but it begins with a point
that is the point of the ship itself," so -- I add -- the preaching of
the Church goes enlarging itself, until it is an immense doctrinal
edifice, but it begins with a point and that point is the kerygma:
"Jesus is the Lord!"
Therefore that which in Jesus' preaching was the exclamation "the
Kingdom of God has come!" in the preaching of the apostles is the
exclamation: "Jesus is the Lord!" And yet there is no opposition, but
perfect continuity between the Jesus that preaches and the Christ
preached, because to say: "Jesus is the Lord!" is as if to say that in
Jesus, crucified and risen, the kingdom and sovereignty of God over the
world has at last been realized.
We must understand each other well so as not to fall into an unreal
reconstruction of the apostolic preaching. After Pentecost, the
apostles did not go around the world repeating always and only: "Jesus
is the Lord!" What they did when they found themselves announcing the
faith for the first time in a specific environment was, rather, to go
directly to the heart of the Gospel, proclaiming two events: Jesus died
-- Jesus rose, and the motive for these two events: he died "for our
sins," he rose "for our justification" (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans
4:25). Dramatizing the issue, in the Acts of the Apostles Peter does no
more than repeat to those who listened to him: "You killed Jesus of
Nazareth; God has resurrected him, making him Lord and Christ."
The proclamation: "Jesus is the Lord!" is nothing other therefore than
the conclusion -- now implicit, now explicit -- of this brief history,
recounted in an always living and new way, though substantially
identical, and is at the same time that in which this history is
summarized and becomes operative for the one who hears it. "Christ
Jesus ... emptied himself ... and became obedient unto death, even
death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him ... that at the
name of Jesus ... every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord"
The proclamation "Jesus is the Lord!" alone, does not constitute
therefore the entire preaching, but it is its soul and so to speak the
sun that illuminates it. It establishes a kind of communion with the
history of Christ through the "particle" of the word and makes one
think, by analogy, in the communion that takes place with the body of
Christ through the particle of bread in the Eucharist.
To come to faith is the sudden and astonished opening of the eyes to
this light. Recalling the moment of his conversion, Tertullian
described it as the coming forth from a great dark womb of ignorance,
startled by the light of Truth. It was like the opening of a new
world; the First Letter of Peter describes it as being called "out of
darkness into marvelous light" (2 Peter 2:9; Colossians 1:12ff.).
The kerygma, as the exegete Heinrich Schlier well explained, has an
assertive and authoritative character, not discursive or dialectical.
It has no need, therefore, to justify itself with philosophic or
apologetic reasoning: It is accepted or it is not accepted, and that's
it. It is not something which can be disposed of, because it is what
disposes everything; it cannot be founded by someone, because it is God
himself who founds it and it is that which later becomes the foundation
Indignant, the pagan Celsius, in the second century, in fact wrote:
"Christians behave like those who believe without reason. Some of them
do not want either to give or receive a reason around which they
believe and use formulas like these: 'Do not discuss, but believe;
faith will save you. The wisdom of this century is an evil and
simplicity is a good.'"
Celsius (who here seems to be extraordinarily close to the modern
partisans of weak thought) would like, in essence, Christians to
present their faith in a dialectical manner, subjecting it, that is, in
everything and for everything, to investigation and discussion, so that
it can enter the general framework, also acceptable philosophically, of
an effort of self-understanding of man and of the world which will
remain always provisional and open.
Naturally, Christians' refusal to give proofs and accept discussions
did not refer to the whole itinerary of faith, but only to its
beginning. Neither did they avoid, in that apostolic age, confrontation
or giving an "account for the hope" that was in them (cf. 1 Peter 3:15)
also to the Greeks (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). Apologists of the second-third
century are the confirmation of it. They only thought that faith itself
could not arise from that confrontation, but that it should precede it
as a work of the Spirit and not of reason. The latter could, at most,
prepare it and, once accepted, show its "reasonability."
We have seen that, in the beginning, the kerygma was distinguished from
the teaching (didache) as well as from the catechesis. The last things
tend to form the faith, or to preserve its purity, while the kerygma
tends to awaken it. It has, so to speak, an explosive or germinating
character; it is more like the seed that gives origin to the tree than
to the ripe fruit that is at the top of the tree and that, in
Christianity, is constituted rather by charity. The kerygma is not
obtained at all by concentration, or by summary, as if it was the core
of the tradition; but it is apart, or better, at the beginning of
everything. From it all the rest is developed, including the four
On this point an evolution was interrupted due to the general situation
of the Church. In the measure that one moves to a regime of
Christianity, in which everything around one is Christian, or considers
itself as such, one is less aware of the importance of the initial
choice by which one becomes a Christian, so much so that baptism is
normally administered to children, who do not have the capacity to make
it their own choice. What is most accentuated of faith is not so much
the initial moment, the miracle of coming to faith, but rather the
fullness and orthodoxy of the contents of faith itself.
3. Rediscover the Kerygma
This situation greatly affects evangelization today. The Churches with
a strong dogmatic and theological tradition (as the Catholic Church is
par excellence), run the risk of finding themselves at a disadvantage
if underneath the immense patrimony of doctrine, laws and institutions,
they do not find that primordial nucleus capable of awakening faith by
To present oneself to the man of today, often lacking any knowledge of
Christ, with the whole range of this doctrine is like putting one of
those heavy brocade capes all of a sudden on the back of a child. We
are more prepared by our past to be "shepherds" than to be "fishers" of
men; that is, better prepared to nourish people that come to the Church
then to bring new people to the Church, or to catch again those who
have fallen away and live outside of her.
This is one of the reasons why in some parts of the world many
Catholics leave the Catholic Church for other Christian realities; they
are attracted by a simple and effective announcement that puts them in
direct contact with Christ and makes them experience the power of his
If on one hand one must rejoice that these persons have found an
experienced faith, on the other it is sad that to do so they have left
their Church. With all the respect and esteem we must have for these
Christian communities not all of which are sects (with some of them the
Catholic Church has maintained an ecumenical dialogue for years,
something that it certainly would not do with sects!), it must be said
that the former do not have the means that the Catholic Church has to
lead people to the perfection of Christian life.
In many people, everything continues to turn, from the beginning to the
end, around the first conversion, the so-called new birth, whereas for
us, Catholics, this is only the beginning of Christian life. After that
must come catechesis and spiritual progress, which implies self-denial,
the night of faith, the cross, until the resurrection. The Catholic
Church has a very rich spirituality, innumerable saints, the
magisterium and, above all, the sacraments.
It is necessary, therefore, to propose the fundamental announcement
clearly and sparely at least once among us, not only to the
catechumens, but to all, given that the majority of today's believers
have not gone through the catechumenate. The grace that some of the new
ecclesial movements constitute at present for the Church consists
precisely in this. They are the place where adult persons at last have
the occasion to hear the kerygma, renew their own baptism, consciously
choose Christ as their own personal Lord and Savior and commit
themselves actively in the life of their Church.
The proclamation of Jesus as Lord should find its place of honor in all
the intense moments of Christian life. The most propitious occasion is,
perhaps, funerals, because in the face of death man questions himself,
has an open heart, is less distracted than on other occasions. Nothing
speaks so precisely to man about the problem of death as does the
The kerygma resounds, it is true, in the most solemn moment of every
Mass: "We proclaim your death and resurrection, come Lord Jesus!" But,
on its own, the latter is a simple formula of acclamation. It has been
said that "the Gospels are accounts of the Passion preceded by a long
Introduction" (M. Käähler). However, strangely, the original
and most important part of the Gospel is the least read and heard in
the course of the year. On no day of obligation, with a multiplicity of
people, is the Passion of Christ read, except on Palm Sunday in which,
because of the length of the reading and solemnity of the rites, there
is no time to pronounce a consistent homily on the subject!
Now that there are no longer popular missions as there once were, it is
possible that a Christian will never hear in his life a sermon on the
Passion. However, it is precisely this sermon which normally opens
hardened hearts. This was demonstrated on the occasion of the showing
of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ." There were cases of
detained persons, who always denied their guilt, who, after seeing the
film, confessed their crime spontaneously.
4. To Choose Jesus as Lord
We began with the question: "What place does Christ have in present-day
society?" But we cannot end without asking ourselves the most important
question in a context such as this: "What place does Christ occupy in
my life?" Let's call to mind Jesus' dialogue with the apostles in
Caesarea Philippi: "Who do men say the Son of man is? ... But who do
you say I am?" (Matthew 16:13-15). The most important thing for Jesus
does not seem to be what the people think of him, but what his closest
disciples think of him.
I referred earlier to the objective reason that explains the importance
of the proclamation of Christ as Lord in the New Testament: It makes
present and operative in the one who pronounces it the salvific events
that it recalls. But there is also a subjective and existential reason.
To say "Jesus is the Lord!" means, in fact, to make a decision. It is
as though saying: Jesus Christ is "my" Lord; I recognize his full right
over me, I hand the reins of my life over to him; I do not want to live
any more "for myself," but "for him who died and rose for me" (cf. 2
To proclaim Jesus as one's Lord means to subject to him all the region
of our being, to make the Gospel penetrate everything we do. It means,
to recall a phrase of the venerated John Paul II, "to open, more than
that, to open wide the doors to Christ."
I have been at times the guest of families and have seen what happens
when the portable phone rings and an unexpected visitor is announced.
The owner of the house hastens to close the doors of the room in
disorder, with the bed unmade, in order to take the guest to the most
welcoming place. With Jesus, the exact opposite must be done: We must
open to him precisely life's "rooms in disorder," above all the room of
intentions. For whom do we work and why do we do so? For ourselves or
for Christ, for our glory or for Christ's? It is the best way this
Advent to prepare a welcoming crib for Christ who comes at Christmas.
* * *
* * *
 St. Augustine, Sermon 295,1 (PL 38,1349).
 Cf. C.H. Dodd, "Storia ed Evangelo" (History and Gospel), Brescia,
Paideia, 1976, pp. 42 ff.
 Cf., for example, Mark 1:1; Romans 15:19; Galatians 1:7.
 Cf. Galatians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 7:25; John 15:12; 1 John 4:21.
 J. Ratzinger, "Introduzione al Cristianesimo" (Introduction to
Christianity), Brescia, Queriniana, 1969, pp. 56 f.
 Cf. Acts 2:22-36;
 Tertullian, "Apologeticum," 39,9: "ad lucem expavescentes
 H. Schlier, "Kerygma e Sophia" (Kerygma and Wisdom), in "Il Temp
della Chiesa" (The Time of the Church), Bologna, 1968, pp. 330-372.
 Origin, "Contra Celsum," I,9.
"Do You Believe?" -- The Divinity of Christ in St. John's Gospel
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Here is a translation of the second Advent sermon
delivered today by Father
Raniero Cantalamessa, Pontifical Household preacher, in the
presence of Benedict XVI and members of the Roman Curia in preparation
for Christmas. It was preached in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the
Apostolic Palace. Father Cantalamessa is offering a series of
reflections on the theme "'For What We Preach Is Not Ourselves but
Jesus Christ as Lord' (2 Corinthians 4:5): Faith in Christ Today."
1. "Unless you believe that I am he ..."
One day I was celebrating Mass in a cloistered monastery. It was at
Easter time. The evangelical passage was John's page in which Jesus
repeatedly says "I Am": "you will die in your sins unless you believe
that I Am he ... When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will
know that I Am he ... before Abraham was, I Am" (John 8:24,28,58).
The fact that the words "I Am," contrary to all grammatical rules, were
both written in capital letters, united undoubtedly to some other more
mysterious cause, ignited a spark. That word was illuminated within me.
It was no longer the Christ of 2,000 years ago who was pronouncing it,
but the risen and living Christ who again proclaimed at that moment
before us his "Ego Eimi," "I Am!" The word acquired cosmic resonance.
It was not a simple emotion of faith, but one of those emotions that,
having passed, left an indelible memory in the heart.
I have begun with this personal reminiscence because the subject of
this meditation is faith in Christ in John's Gospel, and the "I Am" of
Christ is the highest _expression of such faith. Modern commentaries on
the fourth Gospel are unanimous in seeing in those words of Jesus an
allusion to the divine name, as it presents itself, for example, in
Isaiah 43:10: "That you may know and believe me and understand that I
St. Augustine related this word of Jesus with the revelation of the
divine name in Exodus 3:14, and concluded: "I think that the Lord Jesus
Christ, when saying: 'If you do not believe that I Am,' did not wish to
say anything more to us than this: 'Yes, if you do not believe that I
am God, you will die in your sins.'"
It could be objected that these are St. John's words, late developments
of the faith, which have nothing to do with Jesus. But the point is
precisely here. They are, in fact, Jesus' words, certainly of the risen
Jesus who is alive and now speaks "in the Spirit," but always Jesus' --
the same Jesus of Nazareth.
Today Jesus' words in the Gospels are distinguished between "authentic"
and "non-authentic," that is, in words truly pronounced by him during
his life, and in words attributed to him by the apostles after his
death. But this distinction is very ambiguous and not valid in Christ's
case, as it is in the case of a common human author.
Obviously, it is not a question of casting doubt on the fully human and
historical character of the New Testament writings, the diversity of
the literary genres and the "forms," and much less so of going back to
the old idea of verbal and almost mechanical inspiration of the
Scriptures. It is only a question of knowing whether or not biblical
inspiration still has meaning for Christians; if, at the end of a
biblical reading we exclaim: "Word of God!" we believe what we say.
2. "The Work of God Is to Believe in the One He Sent"
According to John, Christ is the specific and primary object of belief.
"To believe," without any other specifications, already means to
believe in Christ. It can also mean to believe in God, but inasmuch as
he is the God who has sent his Son to the world. Jesus addresses people
who already believe in the true God; all his insistence on faith is
about this that is new, which is his coming to the world, his speaking
in the name of God. In a word, his being the only-begotten Son of God,
"one with the Father."
John made Christ's divinity and his divine filiation the primary
objective of his Gospel, the subject that unifies everything. He
concludes his Gospel saying: "These signs are written that you may
believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing
you may have life in his name" (John 20:31), and he ends his first
letter almost with the same words: "I write this to you who believe in
the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal
life" (1 John 5:13).
A quick glance at the fourth Gospel shows how faith in the divine
origin of Christ is at once its warp and woof. To believe in the one
the Father has sent is seeing as "the work of God," what pleases God,
absolutely (cf. John 6:29). Not to believe in him is seen,
consequently, as "the sin" par excellence: "The counselor -- it is said
-- will convince the world of sin," and sin is not to have believed in
him (John 16:8-9). Jesus asks for himself the same kind of faith that
was asked for God in the Old Testament: "believe in God, believe also
in me" (John 14:1).
Also after his disappearance, faith in him will remain as the great
dividing line within humanity: on one hand will be those who believe
without having seen (cf. John 20:29) and on the other, will be the
world that refuses to believe. In the face of this distinction, all the
others known earlier, including that between Jews and Gentiles, become
One cannot but be astonished before the undertaking that the spirit of
Jesus enabled John to accomplish. He embraced the subjects, the
symbols, the expectations, all that was religiously alive, both in the
Judaic world as well as the Hellenic, making all this serve a single
idea, better, a single person: Jesus Christ Son of God, Savior of the
Reading the books of some scholars, dependent on the "School of History
of Religions," the Christian mystery presented by John would not be
distinguished from the Gnostic and Mandaean religious myth, or from
Hellenistic and hermetic religious philosophy, except in matters of
little importance. The limits are lost and the parallelisms multiply.
The Christian faith becomes a variant of this changing mythology and
But what does this mean? It means that one omits the essential: the
life and historical force that lies behind the systems and
representations. Living persons are different from one another, but
skeletons all look alike. Once reduced to a skeleton, isolated from the
life it has produced, that is, from the Church and the saints, the
Christian message always runs the risk of being confused with other
religious proposals, while it is "unmistakable."
John has not given us a set of ancient religious doctrines, but a
powerful kerigma. He learned the language of the men of his time to cry
out in it, with all his strength, the only saving truth, the Word par
excellence, "the Word."
An enterprise such as this is not carried out at a desk. The Johannine
synthesis of faith in Christ was "focused," under the influence of that
"anointing of the Holy Spirit who teaches all things," of which John
himself speaks, surely from personal experience, in the first letter
(cf. 1 John 2:20,27). Precisely because of this origin, John's Gospel,
also today, is not understood seated at a desk, with four or five
dictionaries for consultation.
Only a revealed certainty, which has behind it the authority and very
force of God, could be displayed in a book with such insistence and
coherence, coming, from a thousand different points, always to the same
conclusion: Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God and the Savior of the
3. "Blessed Is He Who Takes No Offense at Me"
Christ's divinity is the highest summit, the Everest of faith. Much
more difficult than simply to believe in God. This difficulty is linked
to the possibility and, even more so, to the inevitableness of the
"scandal." "Blessed is he -- says Jesus -- who takes no offense at me!"
(Matthew 11:6). The scandal depends on the fact that he who proclaims
himself "God" is a man about whom everything is known: "We know where
he comes from," say the Pharisees (John 7:27).
The possibility of scandal must have been especially intense for a
young Jew like the author of the fourth Gospel, accustomed to think of
God as the thrice holy, the one whom one cannot see and remain alive.
But the contrast between the universality of the Logos, and the
contingency of the man Jesus of Nazareth, seems extremely striking,
even for the philosophic mentality of the time. "Son of God" --
exclaimed Celsus -- "a man who lived a few years ago? One of yesterday
or the day before?" A man "born in a village of Judea, of a poor
spinner"? This scandalized reaction is the most obvious proof that
faith in the divinity of Christ is not the fruit of the Hellenization
of Christianity, but if anything of the Christianization of Hellenism.
Also in this connection, illuminating observations are read in the
"Introduction to Christianity" of the present Supreme Pontiff: "With
the second article of the Creed we are faced with the authentic scandal
of Christianity. It is constituted by the confession that the
man-Jesus, an individual executed about the year 30 in Palestine, is
the 'Christ' (the anointed, the chosen One) of God, more than that, no
less than the very Son of God, therefore focal center, determinant
point of support of the whole of human history. ... Is it really right
for us to cleave to the fragile stem of only one historical event? Can
we run the risk of entrusting our whole existence, more than that, the
whole of history, to this blade of straw of an event, which floats in
the infinite ocean of the cosmic vicissitude?"
It is known how much this idea, in itself already unacceptable to
ancient and Asian thought, meets with resistance in the present context
of interreligious dialogue. A particular event -- it is observed --
limited in time and space, as is the historical person of Christ,
cannot exhaust the infinite potentialities of salvation of God and of
his eternal Word; it is also true that he can accomplish, from such
potentialities, all that suffices for the salvation of the world, he
too being infinite!
But in the last analysis, the scandal is only surmounted with faith.
Historical proofs of the divinity of Christ and of Christianity are not
enough to eliminate it. One cannot really believe -- wrote Kierkegaard
-- except in situations of contemporaneousness, making oneself
contemporaneous with Christ and his apostles. But do not history and
the past help us to believe? Did Christ not live two thousand years
ago? Is his name not proclaimed and believed in the whole world? Has
not his doctrine changed the face of the world and penetrated
victoriously in every environment? And has not history established more
than sufficiently that he was God?
No, replies the same philosopher. History could not do this in the
whole of eternity! It is not possible, from the results of a human
existence, as was that of Jesus, to conclude saying: Ergo, this man was
God! A track on a path is a consequence of the fact that some one has
passed through there. I could deceive myself believing, for example,
that it was a bird. On closer examination, I might conclude that it was
not a bird, but another animal. But I cannot, no matter how much more I
examine it, come to the conclusion that it is neither a bird nor
another animal but a spirit, because a spirit, by nature, cannot leave
tracks on the path.
Similarly we cannot draw the consequence that Christ is God by simply
examining what we know about him and his life, namely, through direct
observation. Whoever wants to believe in Christ is obliged to make
himself his contemporary in his abasement, hearing the "internal
testimony" that the Holy Spirit gives us about him.
As Catholics we must have some reservations in this way of posing the
problem of the divinity of Christ. What is missing is the relevance due
to the resurrection of Christ, in addition to his abasement, and
sufficient account is not taken of the external testimony of the
apostles, in addition to the "internal testimony of the Holy Spirit."
But there is in the former an important element of truth that we must
keep in mind to make our faith ever more authentic and personal.
St. Paul says that "man believes with his heart and so is justified,
and he confesses with his lips and so is saved" (Romans, 10:10). The
second moment, the profession of faith, is important, but, if it is not
accompanied by that first moment which develops in the hidden depths of
the heart, the former is vain and empty. "It is from the roots of the
heart that faith arises," exclaims St. Augustine, paraphrasing the
Pauline "corde creditur" (belief with the heart).
The social and community dimension is certainly essential in Christian
faith, but it must be the result of many personal acts of faith, if it
is not to be a purely conventional and fictitious faith.
4. "I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life"
This faith "of the heart" is the fruit of a special anointing of the
Spirit. When one is under this anointing, to believe becomes a kind of
knowledge, vision, interior illumination: "We have believed, and have
come to know" (John 6:69); "We have looked upon the Word of life" (cf.
1 John 1:1). You hear Jesus affirm: "I am the Way, the Truth and the
Life; no one comes to the Father, but by me," (John 14:6) and feel
within yourself, with all your being, that what you hear is true.
Recently I came across an impressive case of this illumination of
faith, which occurred precisely thanks to this word of Jesus
transmitted by John. I met an Swiss artist in Milan who had enjoyed
friendship with the best-known philosophical and artistic personalities
of his time, and who had held personal exhibitions of paintings of
different parts of the world (one of his paintings was exhibited and
acquired by the Vatican on the occasion of Paul VI's 80th birthday).
His passionate religious search had led him to adhere to Buddhism and
Hinduism. After long stays in Tibet, India and Japan, he became a
master in these disciplines. In Milan he had a whole group of
professionals and men of culture who sought his spiritual direction and
practiced transcendental meditation and yoga with him.
His return to faith in Christ seemed immediately to me an
extraordinarily timely testimony, and I very much insisted that he put
it in writing. I just recently received his manuscript and I would like
to read a small fragment from it. It helps, among other things, to
understand what Saul must have experienced on the road to Damascus
before the light, which in an instant destroyed his entire interior
world and replaced it with another.
"I was alone, in a dense forest, when that interior revolution occurred
that changed all my mental structure. I knew Christ's words: 'I am the
Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but by me.'
But in the past I found them to be somewhat presumptuous. Now these
words strike at the center of my being. After 35 years of Buddhism,
Hinduism and Taoism I was attracted by 'that God.' However, there was
in me the presence of a profound rejection for everything concerning
Christianity. Slowly, I felt that I was being invaded by an altogether
new strange sensation, which I had never before experienced. I
perceived the presence of someone who emanated an extraordinary power.
"Those words of Christ obsessed me, they became a nightmare. I put up
resistance, but the interior sound would amplify and return as en echo
in my conscience. I was close to panic, I was losing control over my
mind and this, after 30 years of meditation on the profound, this was
for me inconceivable.
"'Yes, it is true, you are right,' I cried, 'it is true, it is true but
stop, I beg you, I beg you.' I thought I would die because of the
impossibility to come out of that tremendous situation. I no longer saw
the trees, I no longer heard the birds, there was only the interior
voice of the words that were imprinting themselves in my being.
"I fell to the ground and lost consciousness. But before it happened, I
felt enveloped by a limitless love. I felt the structure of my thought
was liquefying, as a great explosion of my conscience. I was dying to a
past by which I was profoundly conditioned, all truth was
disintegrating. I don't know how long I was there, but when I regained
consciousness I was reborn. The skies of my mind were limpid and
endless tears soaked my face and neck. I felt myself the most
ungrateful being in all the earth. Yes, the great life exists and it
does not belong to this world. For the first time I was discovering
what Christians understand by 'grace.'"
For more than 25 years this man, known as Master Bee, together with his
wife, also an artist, has been leading a semi-hermetical life, in the
world and to his former disciples who go to consult him he teaches
prayer of the heart and the praying of the rosary.
He has not felt the need to deny his past religious experiences which
have prepared the encounter with Christ and now allow him to fully
value the novelty. More than that, he continues to have profound
respect for them, showing with deeds how it is possible to integrate
today the most total adherence to Christ with a very great openness to
the values of other religions.
The secret history of souls, outside the spotlights of the mass media,
is full of these encounters with Christ that change life, and it is a
pity that discussion on it, including among theologians, overlooks them
completely. They demonstrate that Jesus is truly "the same yesterday,
today and always," able to capture the hearts of the men of today with
no less force than when he "captured" John and Paul.
5. The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved (and Who Loved Jesus!)
Let us return, to conclude, to the disciple whom Jesus loved. John
offers us a very strong incentive to rediscover the person of Jesus and
to renew our act of faith in him. It is an extraordinary testimony of
the power that Jesus can have over a man's heart. It shows us how it is
possible to build all one's universe around Jesus. He is able to make
one perceive "the unique fullness, the unimaginable marvel that is the
person of Jesus."
There is more. The saints, not being able to take faith with them to
heaven, where it is no longer necessary, are happy to leave it as
inheritance to brothers that need it on earth, as Elias left his mantle
to Elyseus, going up to heaven. It is our turn to pick it up. We can
not only contemplate the ardent faith of St. John, but must make it our
own. The dogma of the communion of saints assures us that it is
possible, and by praying one experiences it.
Some one has said that the greatest challenge for evangelization, at
the beginning of the third millennium, is the emergence of a new type
of man and culture, the cosmopolitan man that, from Hong Kong to New
York, and from Rome to Stockholm, already moves in a planetary system
of exchanges and information which cancels distances and translates to
a second plane the traditional distinctions of culture and religion.
Now, John lived in a cultural context that had something in common with
this. The world was then experiencing for the first time
cosmopolitanism. The term itself "kosmopolites," cosmopolitan, citizens
of the world, was born and was affirmed precisely at this moment. In
the large Hellenistic cities, such as Alexandria of Egypt, the air of
universalism and religious tolerance was breathed.
Well then, in such a situation, how did the author of the fourth Gospel
behave? Did he seek perhaps to adapt Jesus to this atmosphere in which
all religions and cults were accepted, as long as they agreed to be
part of something greater? Not at all! He did not argue against any one
more than he did against bad Christians and heretics within the Church;
he did not fling himself against other religions and cults of the time
(except, in Revelation, against the wrongful emperor); he simply
proclaimed Christ as supreme gift of the Father to the world, leaving
every one free to receive him or not. He argued, it is true, with
Judaism, but for him it was not "another religion," it was his religion!
How did John come to such a total admiration and such an absolute idea
of the person of Jesus? How can one explain that, with the passing of
the years, his love for him, instead of weakening, increased ever more?
I think that, after the Holy Spirit, it is due to the fact that he had
beside him the Mother of Jesus, he lived with her, prayed with her, and
spoke with her of Jesus. A certain impression is felt when one thinks
of how he conceived the phrase: "And the Word was made flesh," the
evangelist had beside him, under the same roof, the woman in whose womb
that mystery was realized.
Origen wrote: "The flower of the four Gospels is the Gospel of John,
the profound meaning of which, however, cannot be understood by him who
has not leaned his head against Jesus' breast and received Mary from
him as his own mother."
Jesus was born "by the power of the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary."
The Holy Spirit and Mary, in different capacities, are the two best
allies in our effort to come close to Jesus, to make him be born,
through faith, in our lives this Christmas.
* * *
 St. Augustine, "In Ioh" 38,10 (PL 35, 1680).
 Origen, "Against Celsius," I, 26 & 28 (SCh 147, pp. 202 ff.).
 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, "Introduction to Christianity," cit., p.
 St. Augustine, "In Ioh." 26, 2 (PL 35, 1607).
 J. Guillet, Jesus, in "Dictionnaire de
spiritualitéé," 8, col. 1098.
 Origen, Commentary on John, I, 6, 23 (SCh 120, pp. 70 f).
The Righteousness That Comes From Faith
Father Cantalamessa's 3rd
Advent Sermon (Part 1) (December 16, 2005)
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the
Advent sermon delivered today by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa,
Pontifical Household preacher, in the presence of Benedict XVI and
members of the Roman Curia.
St. Paul's Faith in Christ
1. Justified by Faith in Christ
Last time we sought to make our faith in Christ more ardent through
contact with the faith of John the Evangelist; this time we will try to
do the same, but this time through making contact with the faith of the
When St. Paul, from Corinth, in the years 57-58, wrote the Letter to
the Romans, he would have still been active and ardent in the memory of
the rejection he encountered some years before in Athens in his
discourse at the Areopagus. Nonetheless, at the beginning of the letter
he speaks confidently of having received the grace of apostleship "to
bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all
the Gentiles" (Romans 1:5).
Obedience, and in addition to that, among all the gentiles! His failure
hadn't scratched in the least his certainty that the Gospel "is the
power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).
In that moment, the vast work of taking the Gospel to the ends of the
world was yet to be done. Shouldn't it have seemed to be an impossible
and absurd task? But Paul says: "for I know him in whom I have
believed" (2 Timothy 1:12), and 2,000 years has justified his audacious
I reflected over these things the first time that I visited Athens and
Corinth and I told myself: "If today we had just a small grain of
Paul's faith, we wouldn't let ourselves be intimidated by the fact that
the world has yet to be evangelized, and even more, that it rejects, at
times contemptuously, like the Areopagites, being evangelized."
Faith in Christ, for Paul, is everything. "Insofar as I now live in the
flesh," he writes as a testament in the Letter to the Galatians, "I
live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up
for me" (Galatians 2:20).
When one speaks of faith in St. Paul one thinks spontaneously of the
great theme of justification by faith in Christ. And on this we wish to
concentrate our attention, not to outline the umpteenth discussion on
the topic, but to receive his consoling message. I was saying in the
first meditation that there currently exists a need for kerygmatic
preaching, suitable to incite faith where it has never existed, or
where it has died. Gratuitous justification by faith in Christ is the
heart of this type of preaching, and it is a shame that this is, in
turn, practically absent from ordinary preaching in the Church.
In this respect something strange has occurred. To the objections
raised by the reformers, the Council of Trent had given a Catholic
response, that there is a place for faith and for good works, each one,
it was understood, in its place. One is not saved by good works, but
one cannot be saved without good works. Nevertheless, from this moment
in which the Protestants insisted unilaterally on faith, Catholic
preaching and spirituality ended up accepting the nearly exclusive and
thankless work of calling to mind the need for good works and of one's
personal contribution to salvation. The result is that the great
majority of Catholics have lived entire lives without having ever heard
a direct announcement of gratuitous justification by faith, without too
After the agreement on this topic in 1999, between the Catholic Church
and the Lutheran World Federation, the situation changed in terms of
principle, but it's still difficult to put it into practice. The desire
is expressed in the text of that agreement that the common doctrine on
justification be put into practice, making it part of the lived
experience of the faithful, and not simply the subject of learned
discussions among theologians. This is what we propose to achieve, at
least in small part, in the present meditation. Before anything else,
let us read the text:
"All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are
justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus,
whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood, to
prove his righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins previously
committed, through the forbearance of God -- to prove his righteousness
in the present time, that he might be righteous and justify the one who
has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:23-26).
Nothing of this text can be understood, even to the point that it could
inspire fear more than consolation (as occurred for centuries), if the
term "righteousness of God" is interpreted incorrectly. It was Luther
who rediscovered that "righteousness of God" does not indicate here
chastisement, or worse, his revenge, toward man, but rather it
indicates, on the contrary, the act through which God "makes" man
"just." (He really said "declares," not "makes," just, because he was
thinking of an extrinsic or legal justification, in an imputation of
justice, more than a real being made just.)
I said "rediscovered," because much earlier than him St. Augustine had
written: "The 'righteousness of God' is used in the sense of our being
made righteous by his gift ('iustitia Dei, qua iusti eius munere
efficimur'), and 'the salvation of the Lord' (Psalm 3:9), in that we
are saved by him."
The concept of "righteousness of God" was explained in the Letter to
Titus: "But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior
appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of
his mercy" (Titus 3:4-5). Saying "The righteousness of God appeared,"
is the same as saying: The goodness of God, his love and his mercy
appeared. It was not man who, all of a sudden, changed life and
tradition and put himself to the task of doing good; the novelty is
that God acted, he was the first to extend his hand out to sinful man,
and his action fulfilled time.
Here is the novelty that distinguishes the Christian religion from any
other. Any other religion draws out for man a path to salvation by
means of practical observations and intellectual speculations,
promising him, as a final prize, salvation and illumination, but
leaving him substantially alone in achieving the task. Christianity
does not begin with what man must do to save himself, but rather with
what God has done to save him. The order is reversed.
It is true that to love God with all your heart is "the first and
greatest of the commandments," but the commandments are not primary,
they are secondary. Before the order of commandments comes the order of
gift and of grace. Christianity is the religion of grace! If this is
not taken into consideration in interreligious dialogue, the dialogue
would be able to do no more than generate confusion and doubts in the
hearts of many Christians.
2. Justification and conversion
I would like now to show how the doctrine of gratuitous justification
by faith is not an invention of Paul, but rather the pure teaching of
Jesus. At the start of his ministry, Jesus proclaimed: "This is the
time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Convert, and
believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). What Christ includes in the
_expression "Kingdom of God," that is, the salvific initiative of God,
his offering of salvation to humanity, St. Paul calls "righteousness of
God," but it deals with the same fundamental reality: "Kingdom of God"
and "righteousness of God" are brought together when Jesus says: "Seek
first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).
"Jesus," wrote St. Cyril of Alexandria, "calls the 'kingdom of God'
justification through faith, baptismal purification and communion of
When Jesus said: "Convert, and believe in the Gospel," he was already
teaching justification by faith. Before him, conversion always meant
"to go back" (in Hebrew the same word is used for both "convert" and
"to go back": the word "shub"); it meant to go back to the broken
alliance by way of a renewed observance of the law.
Consequently, conversion has a principally ascetic, moral and
penitential meaning, and is achieved by changing how one lives.
Conversion is seen as a condition for salvation; the sense is: Convert
and be saved; convert and salvation will come to you. In the mouth of
Jesus this moral meaning passes to a second plane (at least at the
start of his preaching), with respect to a new significance, until now
Conversion no longer means to go back, to the old alliance and to the
observance of the law; it means rather to take a step forward, to enter
into a new alliance, to hold onto this Kingdom that has appeared, and
to enter into it. And entering it by faith: "Convert and believe" does
not mean two different and successive things, but rather the same
action: convert, so as to believe; convert believing! "Prima conversio
ad Deum fit per fidem," writes St. Thomas Aquinas: "The first
conversion to God consists in believing."
"Convert and believe" means therefore: Pass from the old alliance,
based on the law, to the new alliance, based on faith. The Apostle says
the same with the doctrine of justification by faith. The only
difference is owed to what had happened, meanwhile, between the
preaching of Jesus and Paul: Christ had been rejected and led to death
for the sins of man. The faith "in the Gospel" ("believe in the
Gospel") now takes shape as faith "in Jesus Christ," "in his blood"
Everything, then, depends on faith. But we know that there are
different types of faith: There is the faith-acquiescence of the
intellect, the faith-confidence, the faith-stability, as Isaiah calls
it (7:9). What type of faith is addressed when talking about
justification "by faith?" It addresses a special type of faith: the
faith-appropriation. It does not tire me to cite in this respect a text
of St. Bernard:
"But as for me, whatever is lacking in my own resources I appropriate
for myself from the heart of the Lord, which overflows with mercy. My
merit therefore is the mercy of the Lord. Surely I am not devoid of
merit so long as he is not of mercy. And if the Lord abounds in mercy,
I too must abound in merits (Psalm 119:156). But would this be my own
righteousness? Lord, I will be mindful of your righteousness only. For
that is also mine, since God has made you my righteousness."
It is written in fact: "Jesus Christ became for us wisdom from God, as
well as righteousness, sanctification and redemption" (1 Corinthians
1:30). "For us," not for himself! We pertain more to Christ than to
ourselves, as he has bought us at a great price (1 Corinthians 6:20),
and inversely what is Christ's pertains more to us than if it were
ours. I call this the blow of audacity, or the flutter, in Christian
St. Cyril of Jerusalem expressed it like this, it is the same
conviction in other words: "Oh the extraordinary goodness of God toward
man? The just of the Old Testament thank God in the weariness of long
years; but that which they obtained, by means of a long and heroic
service pleasing to God, Jesus gives to you in the brief time span of
an hour. Indeed, if you believe that Jesus Christ is the lord, and that
God had raised him from the dead, you will be saved and you will be
introduced into heaven by the same one who introduced the good
4. Justification and Confession
I said at the beginning that gratuitous justification by faith should
transform itself into lived experience for the believer. We Catholics
have an enormous advantage in this: the sacraments, and in particular,
the sacrament of reconciliation. This offers us an excellent and
infallible means to experience anew each time justification by faith.
In it is renewed what happened once in baptism, in which, says Paul,
the Christian has been "washed, sanctified and justified" (cf. 1
The "admirable exchange" ("admirabile commercium") takes place in each
confession. Christ takes on my sins and I take on his righteousness!
Unfortunately in Rome, as in any great city, there are many homeless
person, poor brothers dressed in dirty rags who sleep on the street,
and who drag with them everywhere they go their few belongings. We
could imagine what would happen if one day the word spread that in the
Via Condotti there was a luxurious boutique where each one of them
could go, leave their rags, take a good shower, pick out whatever they
want, and take it, just like that, free, "without expense, without
money," because for some unknown reason the owner had given to them all
this out of generosity.
This is what happens in each well-made confession. Jesus inculcated
this with the parable of the prodigal son: "Quickly bring the finest
robe" (Luke 15:22). Rising up anew after each confession we can exclaim
in the words of Isaiah: "For he has clothed me with a robe of
salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice" (Isaiah 61:10). The
story of the publican is also repeated: "O God, be merciful to me a
sinner." "I tell you, this one went home justified" (Luke 18:13f).
5. "So that I can know him"
Where did St. Paul get the marvelous message of gratuitous
justification by faith, in harmony, as we have seen, with that of
Jesus? He did not get it from the Gospels, for they had not yet been
written, but rather from the oral tradition regarding the preaching of
Jesus, and above all from his own personal experience, that is, from
how God had acted in his life. He himself affirms this by saying that
the Gospel that he preaches (this Gospel of justification by faith!) he
did not learn from men, but rather from what Jesus Christ revealed, and
he relates that revelation with the story of his own conversion (cf.
Upon reading the description that St. Paul makes of his conversion, in
Philippians 3, the image that comes to my mind is that of a man who
moves forward in the night, through a forest, with the help of the weak
flame of a candle. He makes sure that the candle does not go out, for
it is all he has to help him on his way. But after a while, continuing
on his way, the dawn arrives; in the horizon the sun rises, and his
little light fades quickly until soon it's not even noticeable, and he
throws it to one side.
The little light was for Paul his righteousness, a poor smoky wick,
though based in high sounding titles: circumcised on the eighth day, of
the line of Israel, Hebrew, Pharisee, impeccable in observing the law
... (cf. Philippians 3:5-6). One good day, in the horizon of his life
the sun appeared: the "sun of righteousness" that he calls, in this
text, with infinite devotion, "Jesus Christ, my Lord," and thus his
righteousness appeared to him "loss," "rubbish," and he did not want to
be found with his own righteousness, but rather with that which comes
from faith. God allowed him to experience beforehand, dramatically,
what he was called to reveal to the Church.
In this autobiographical text it is clear that the central focus for
Paul is not a doctrine, even if it were that of justification by faith,
but rather a person, Christ. What he desires more than anything else is
to "be in him," "know him," where that simple personal pronoun says an
infinite number of things. It shows that, for the Apostle, Christ was a
real, living person, not an abstraction or an ensemble of titles and
The mystical union with Christ, through participation in his Spirit
(the living "in Christ," or "in the Spirit"), is for him the final goal
of Christian life; justification by faith is only the beginning and a
means to achieve it. This invites us to overcome the contingent
polemical interpretations of the Pauline message, centered on the theme
of faith-works, so as to find again, underneath them, the genuine
thought of the Apostle. What is important for him to affirm before
everything else is not that we be justified by faith, but rather that
we be justified by faith in Christ; it is not so much that we be
justified by grace, as much as that we be justified by the grace of
Christ is the heart of the message, even before grace and faith. After
having presented, in the preceding two and a half chapters of the
Letter to the Romans, all of humanity in its universal state of sin and
perdition ("all sinned and are deprived of the glory of God"), the
Apostle has the incredible courage to proclaim that this situation has
changed radically for all, Jews and Greeks, "in virtue of the
redemption in Christ Jesus," "through the obedience of one man" ([cf.]
Romans 3:24; 5:19).
The affirmation that this salvation is received by faith, and not for
works, is present in the text and it was perhaps the most urgent to
clarify in the time of Luther. But that takes second place, not first
place, especially in the Letter to the Romans, where the polemic with
the Judaizers is much less present than in the Letter to the Galatians.
It was erroneous to reduce to a problem of schools, within
Christianity, what was, for the Apostle, an affirmation of much greater
and universal reach.
In the description of the medieval battles there is always a moment in
which, the archers, the cavalry and all the rest overcome, the fray
centers around the king. The final battle is decided here. Also for us
the battle is fought around the king. As in the time of Paul, the
person of Jesus Christ is at stake, not this or that doctrine regarding
him, no matter how important that doctrine might be. Christianity
"remains or falls" with Jesus, and with nothing else.
6. Forgetting the past
Continuing with the autobiographical text of Philippians 3, Paul
suggests to us the practical idea with which we will conclude our
"Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken
possession [of perfect maturity]. Just one thing: forgetting the past
but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward
the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus" ([cf.]
"Forgetting the past." What "past"? That of the Pharisee, of what he
had said before? No, the past of the apostle, in the Church! Now the
"gain" to consider a "loss" is something else: It is precisely having
already considered once everything lost to the cause of Christ. It was
natural to think: "What courage, this Paul: to abandon such a good
career as a rabbi for an obscure sect of Galileans! And what letters he
has written! How many trips he undertook! How many churches he founded!"
The Apostle warned confusedly of the mortal danger of putting between
himself and Christ "his own righteousness" derived from works -- this
time the works done by Christ -- and he reacted vigorously. "I do not
believe," he said, "that I have reached perfection." St. Francis of
Assisi, in a similar situation, cut short any temptation of
self-complacency, saying: "We begin, brothers, to serve the Lord,
because until now we have done little or nothing."
This is the most necessary conversion for those that have followed
Christ and have lived serving him in the Church. A conversion
altogether special, which does not consist in abandoning evil, but
rather, in a certain sense, in abandoning the good! That is, by
detaching oneself from all that you have done, repeating to yourself,
according to the suggestion of Christ: "We are useless servants; we
have done only our duty" (Luke 17:10). And not even, perhaps, the good
we should do!
A beautiful Christmas story makes us want to arrive to the Nativity,
with a heart that is poor and empty of everything. Among the shepherds
who presented themselves on Christmas night to adore the Child, there
was one so poor that he didn't have anything to offer and he was very
much ashamed. Upon arriving to the cave, the shepherds fought among
themselves to offer their gifts. Mary didn't know how to receive all of
them, for she had the Child in her arms. So, seeing the poor shepherd
with his hands free, she gave him Jesus to hold. Having empty hands was
his fortune, and on another level, it will also be our fortune.
* * *
 Today there are those who want to see the expression "faith in the
Son of God," or "faith in Christ," frequently used in the writings of
Paul (Romans 3:22,26; Galatians 2:16; 2:20; 3:22; Philippians 3:9), as
a genitive subject, as if they were addressing the faith of Christ, or
the fidelity which he proved by sacrificing himself for us. I prefer to
keep with the traditional interpretation, followed as well by
authorized contemporary exegetes (cf. Dunn, op. cit., pp. 380-386),
that see in Christ the object, not the subject of faith; not so much
the faith of Christ (supposing that we could speak of Christ having
faith), but rather faith in Christ. On this the Apostle based his own
life, and in this he invites us to base our own.
 St. Augustine, "The Spirit and the Letter," 32, 56 (PL 44, 237).
 St. Cyril of Alexandria, "Commentary on the Gospel of Luke," 22, 26
 St. Thomas Aquinas, "Summa Theologiae," I-IIae, q.113, a. 4.
 St. Bernard of Clairvaux, "Sermons on the Song of Songs," 61, 4-5
(PL 183, 1072).
 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis V, 10 (PG 33, 517).
 Cf. J.D.G. Dunn, "La teologia dell’’apostolo Paolo," Brescia,
Paideia, 1999, p. 421.
 Celano, "Vita prima," 103 ("Fonti Francescane," No. 500).
"To You Is Born This Day a Saviour":
the experience of
the salvation of Christ today.
This Advent sermon (December 23) was the fourth and last in a series
Father Cantalamessa gave on the theme "'For What We Preach Is Not
Ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord' (2 Corinthians 4:5): Faith in
Christ Today." It was preached in the presence of Benedict XVI and
members of the Roman Curia.
* * *
The Experience of the Salvation of Christ Today
1. What Saviour for man?
In one of the last Christmases, I was attending a midnight Mass
presided over by the Pope in St. Peter's. The moment came to sing the
"Many centuries since the creation of the world …… 13 centuries after
the march out of Egypt …… In the year 752 of the foundation of Rome ……
In the year 42 of the empire of Caesar Augustus, Jesus Christ, eternal
God and Son of the eternal father, having been conceived by the power
of the holy Spirit, after nine months, was born in Bethlehem of Judea
of the virgin Mary, made man."
Having come to these last words I experienced what is called "the
anointing of faith": a sudden interior clarity which makes one say to
oneself: "It is true! It is all true! They are not just words. God has
truly come to our earth." I felt a total upheaval, and could only say:
"Thank you, Most Holy Trinity, and thank you, also, holy Mother of
God!" I would like to share this profound certainty with you, venerable
fathers and brothers, during this last meditation the theme of which is
the experience of the salvation of Christ today.
Appearing to the shepherds on the night of Christmas, the angel said to
them: "I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the
people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who
is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-12). The title of Savior was not
attributed to Jesus during his life. There was no need of it, its
contents already being expressed, for a Jew, by the title Messiah. But
when the Christian faith appeared in the pagan world, the title
acquired decisive importance, in part precisely to oppose the custom of
calling the emperor by it as well as some saving divinities, such as
It was found already in the New Testament in the Apostles' lifetime.
Matthew is concerned to emphasize that the name "Jesus" means,
precisely, "God saves" (Matthew 1:21). Paul already called Jesus
"Savior" (Philippians 3:20); in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter
specifies that he is the only Savior, "and there is salvation in no one
else" (Acts 4:42), and John puts on the Samaritans' lips the solemn
profession of faith: "We have heard for ourselves, and we know that
this is indeed the savior of the world" (John 4:42).
The content of this salvation consists above all but not only in the
remission of sins. For Paul it also embraces the final redemption of
our bodies (Philippians 3:20). The salvation wrought by Christ has a
negative aspect that consists in the liberation from sin and the forces
of evil, and a positive aspect which consists in the gift of the new
life, of the freedom of the children of God, of the Holy Spirit and of
the hope of eternal life.
Salvation in Christ was not, however, for the first Christian
generations, only a truth believed from Revelation; it was above all a
reality experienced in life and joyfully proclaimed in worship. Thanks
to the word of God and to the sacramental life, believers feel they are
living in the mystery of salvation realized in Christ: salvation that
is configured, little by little, as liberation, illumination, rescue,
divinization, etc. It is a primordial and peaceful event which authors
almost never feel the need to demonstrate.
In this double dimension -- of revealed truth and lived experience --
the idea of salvation played a decisive part in leading the Church to
the full truth about Jesus Christ. Soteriology was the plow that made
the furrow for Christology; it was the propeller that pulls the plane
or drives the ship. The great dogmatic definitions of the Councils were
attained by making use of the experience of salvation that believers
had in Christ. His contact, they said, divinizes us; therefore, he must
be God himself. "We would not be liberated from sin and damnation,"
wrote Athanasius, "if the flesh the Word assumed was not human by
nature; nor would man be divinized if the Word that was made flesh was
not of the same nature of the Father."
The relationship between Christology and soteriology is mediated, in
the patristic age, by anthropology, so that it must be said that to a
different understanding of man corresponds always a different
presentation of Christ's salvation. The process develops through three
important questions. First: What is man and where does his evil reside?
Second question: What kind of salvation is necessary for such a man?
Third question: What must the Savior be like to realize such salvation?
Based on the different answers given to these questions we see a
different understanding being delineated of the person of Christ and of
In the Alexandrian school, for example, where the Platonic view
prevails, the evil part of man most in need of salvation is his flesh;
hence the emphasis on the Incarnation as the moment when, assuming
flesh, the Word of God liberates it from corruption and divinizes it.
In this line, one of them, Apollinaris of Laodicea, will go so far as
to affirm that the Word did not assume a human soul, because the soul
has no need to be saved, itself being a spark of the eternal Logos. In
Christ the rational soul is substituted by the Logos in person; there
is no need for a spark of the Logos where the whole Logos is found.
In the Antiochian school, where, instead, Aristotle's thought prevails,
or in any case a less Platonic view, man's evil is seen, on the
contrary, precisely in his soul and, in particular, in his rebellious
will. Hence the insistence on the full humanity of Christ and his
paschal mystery, through which, with his obedience unto death, Christ
saves man. Synthesizing these two instances, the Church in Chalcedon
will attain a complete idea of Christ and his salvation.
The Christian faith does not limit itself however to respond to the
expectations of salvation of the environment in which it operates, but
it creates and expands all expectations. Thus we see that to the
Platonic and Gnostic dogma of salvation "through the flesh," the Church
opposes with firmness the dogma of salvation "from the flesh,"
preaching the resurrection of the dead; to a life beyond the tomb
infinitely weaker than the present life and devoured by nostalgia of
it, deprived as it is of an objective and center of attraction, the
Christian faith opposes the idea of a future life infinitely more full
and everlasting in the vision of God.
2. Is there still need of a Savior?
In the first meditation I mentioned that, in regard to faith in Christ,
in many aspects we find ourselves today close to the situation of the
origins and we can learn from that time how to re-evangelize the world
which is again, to a large extent, pagan. We must also ask ourselves
today those three questions: What idea is there today about man and his
evil? What kind of salvation is needed for such a man? How should
Christ be announced to respond to such expectations of salvation?
Simplifying greatly, as is necessary in a meditation, we can identify
two important positions in regard to salvation outside of the Christian
faith: that of religions and that of science.
For the so-called new religions, which share the common background of
the New Age movement, salvation does not come from outside, but is
potentially within man himself. It consists in being attuned to or in
rhythm with the energy and life of the whole cosmos. There is no need
therefore for a savior but, at most, of teachers who show the way to
self-realization. I will not comment on this position because it was
refuted once and for all by Paul's affirmation on which we commented
last time. "All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God, but
have been justified by faith in Christ."
Let us reflect instead on the challenge to faith in general and the
Christian faith in particular from nonbelieving science. The atheist
version most in fashion at present is that which is called the
scientific, which French biologist Jacques Monod made popular in his
book "Chance and Necessity." "The old alliance is infringed," concludes
the author, "man finally knows that he is alone in the immensity of the
universe from which he arose by chance. His duty, as his destiny, is
nowhere written. Our number has come up randomly."
In this view the problem of salvation is not even posed, regarded as it
is as a residue of that "animist" mentality, as the author calls it,
which seeks to see objectives and aims in a universe which advances
instead in obscurity, directed only by chance and necessity. The only
salvation is that offered by science and consists in knowledge of how
things are, without self-consoling illusions. "Modern societies," he
writes, "are built on science. To it they owe their wealth, power and
the certainty that even greater wealth and power will one day be
accessible to man if he wants it. …… Furnished with all power, and
enjoying all the riches that science offers them, our societies still
endeavor to live and teach systems of values, already undermined at the
base by this same science."
My intention is not to discuss these theories, but only to give an idea
of the cultural context in which we are called at present to announce
the salvation of Christ. We must, however, make one observation. Let us
admit that "our number has come up randomly," that life is the result
of a chance combination of inanimate elements. But to get the numbers
from the roulette, someone has to have put them there. Who has provided
by chance the ingredients with which to work? It is an old and trivial
observation, and one which no scientist to date has been able to give
an answer, except for the quick one that it's not something brought
One thing is certain and incontrovertible: The existence of the
universe and man is not explained on its own. We can give up trying to
find a further explanation beyond that which science can give, but
that's not to say that everything has been explained without the
hypothesis of God. At most, chance explains the how, not the what, of
the universe. It explains that it is as it is, but not the fact itself
that it exists. Nonbelieving science does not eliminate the mystery; it
only changes its name: Instead of God it calls it chance.
I believe that the most significant denial of Monod's thesis has come
precisely from that science to which, according to him, humanity should
entrust its own destiny. The scientists themselves are the ones who, in
fact, recognize today that science alone is unable to answer all the
questions and needs of man, and seek dialogue with philosophy and
religion, the "systems of values" which Monod regards as irreducible
antagonists of science. We see it, moreover, with our own eyes: The
extraordinary successes of science and technology are not followed
necessarily by more free and peaceful human coexistence in our planet.
In my opinion, Monod's book demonstrates that when a scientist wants to
draw philosophic conclusions from his scientific analyses -- whether
these are of biology or astrophysics -- the results are no better than
when philosophers sought to draw scientific conclusions from their
3. Christ saves us from space
How can we announce in a significant way the salvation of Christ in
this new cultural context? Space and time, the two coordinates within
which man's life on earth develops, have undergone such a sudden
expansion and acceleration that even the believer suffers vertigo. The
"seven heavens" of ancient man, each one slightly above the other, have
become, meanwhile, 100 million galaxies, each one made up of 100
million stars, distant from one another by thousands of millions of
light-years; the Bible's 4,000 years since the creation of the world
have been transformed into 14 billion years ……
I believe that faith in Christ not only resists this clash, but that it
offers the one who believes in him the possibility to feel at home in
the expanded dimensions of the universe, free and joyful "as a child in
his mother's arms."
Faith in Christ saves us above all from the immensity of space. We live
in a universe the magnitude of which we can no longer imagine or
quantify, the expansion of which continues without interruption, until
it is lost in the infinite. A universe, science tells us, sovereignly
ignorant and indifferent to what happens on earth.
But this is not what most influences the consciences of ordinary
people. It's a fact that on the earth itself, with the event of mass
communication, space has expanded all of a sudden around man, making
him feel even smaller and insignificant, as a disoriented actor on a
Movies, television and the Internet place before our eyes at every
moment what we could be and are not, what others do and we do not do,
awakening a sensation of resigned frustration and passive acceptance of
one's own fortune or rather, on the contrary, an obsessive need to
emerge from anonymity and call attention to oneself. In the first case
one lives in the reflection of the life of another and, as a person,
becomes an admirer or fan of someone; in the second case, life is
reduced to a career.
Faith in Christ frees us from the need to make our way, to avoid our
limitations at all costs and to be someone; it also frees us from envy
of the great, reconciles us with ourselves and with our place in life,
gives us the possibility of being happy and of being totally fulfilled
where we are. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us!" (John
1:14). God, the infinite, came and comes continually to you, where you
are. The coming of Christ in the incarnation, kept alive through the
centuries by the Eucharist, makes every place the first place. With
Christ in one's heart one feels oneself in the center of the world,
including in the earth's most remote village.
This explains why so many believers, men and women, can live ignored by
all, carry out the most humble jobs in the world or even be enclosed in
a cloister and feel themselves, in this situation, the happiest and
most fulfilled persons on earth. One of these cloistered souls, Blessed
Mary of Jesus Crucified, known by the name "the Little Arab" because of
her Palestinian origin and slight stature, on returning to her place
after having received Communion, could be heard exclaiming to herself
in a low voice: "Now I have everything, I have everything."
Today the fact that Christ did not come in splendor, power and majesty,
but little and poor acquires a new significance for us; that he chose a
"humble maiden" as his Mother, that he did not live in a metropolis of
the period, Rome, Alexandria or even Jerusalem, but rather in a remote
village of Galilee, exercising the humble profession of carpenter. At
that moment the true center of the world was not in Rome or Jerusalem
but in Bethlehem, "the smallest village of Judea," and after it in
Nazareth, the village of which it was said that "nothing good could
come from it."
What we say about society in general is even truer for us, people of
the Church. The certainty that Christ is with us, wherever we are,
frees us from the obsessive need to go higher, to hold the highest
posts. No one can say that he is altogether exempt from feeling such
natural sentiments and desires within himself -- not in the least,
preachers! -- but the thought of Christ helps us at least to recognize
them and to struggle against them so that they will never become the
dominant motive of our action. The wonderful result of this is peace.
4. Christ saves us from time
The second realm in which we experience the salvation of Christ is that
of time. From this point of view our situation has not changed much
from that of men at the time of the Apostles. The problem is always the
same and it is called death. The salvation of Christ is compared by
Peter to that of Noah of the deluge that "engulfed all" (1 Peter 3:20
ff.) and it is because of this that he is represented among the mosaics
of this chapel, as a moment of the history of salvation. But there is
always a deluge in the world: that of time which, like water, submerges
everything and sweeps all away, one generation after another.
The 19th-century Spanish poet Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer
expressed admirably the perception that man has of himself facing death.
"Gigantic wave that the wind / curls and pushes in the sea, / And rolls
on and passes, and knows not / what beach it seeks.
"Light that shines in trembling rings, close to expiring, / knowing not
which will be the last to shine.
"I am he, who by chance go through the world, thinking not from whence
I come or whither my steps will take me."
At present there are renowned psychologists who see in the rejection of
death the true spring of all human action, including the sexual
instinct, placed by Freud as the basis of everything, it would be no
more than one of the manifestations. Biblical man was consoled by
the certainty of surviving in his offspring; pagan man by surviving in
fame: "Non omnis moriar (I will not die completely)," said Horace.
Referring to his poetry, he said: "Exegi monumentum aere perennius (I
have built a monument more lasting than bronze)."
Today appeal is made rather to survival of the species. "The survival
of each individual," writes Monod, "has no importance whatsoever for
the affirmation of a specific species; the latter is entrusted to the
capacity to give origin to abundant offspring capable in turn of
surviving and reproducing themselves." A variant of the Marxist view
-- based in this occasion on biology instead of dialectical
materialism, but in each case the hope of surviving in the species --
has revealed itself insufficient to placate man's anguish in the face
of his own death.
The philosopher Miguel de Unamuno -- who was also a "secular" thinker
-- answered a friend, who reproached him as being proud and
presumptuous in his search for eternity, in these terms: "I do not say
that we deserve a beyond or that logic show it to us; I say that I need
it, whether or not I deserve it, and nothing more. I say that what
happens does not satisfy me, that I thirst for eternity, and that
without it nothing matters to me. Without it there is no joy in living.
…… It is very easy to say: 'We must live!' 'We must be content with
life!' And those of us who are not content with it?" It is not the
one who desires eternity, said the same thinker, who shows no love for
life, but the one who does not desire it, from the moment he resigns
himself so easily to the thought that it must end.
What does the Christian faith say about all this? Something simple and
grandiose: that death exists, that it is our greatest problem, but that
Christ has conquered death! Human death is no longer the same as
before; a decisive event has intervened. It has lost its sting, as a
serpent whose venom is now only able to lull the victim for an hour,
but not kill it. Death is no longer a wall before which everything
breaks; it is a step, that is, an Easter. It is a "passing to what does
not pass," said Augustine.
Jesus in fact -- and here is the great Christian announcement -- did
not die just for himself, he did not just leave us an example of heroic
death, as Socrates. He did something very different: "One died for all"
(2 Corinthians 5:14), exclaims St. Paul, and also: "He tasted death for
every one" (Hebrews 2:9). "Whoever believes in me, even if he dies,
will live" (John 11:25). Extraordinary affirmations that do not make us
cry out in joy only because we do not take them seriously enough, and
to the letter, as we should.
Christianity does not gain ground in consciences with the fear of
death; it gains ground with the death of Christ. Jesus came to liberate
men from fear of death, not to increase it. The Son of God assumed
flesh and blood like us, "to destroy him who has the power of death,
that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death
were subject to lifelong bondage" (Hebrews 2:14 ff.).
In addition to Christ's resurrection, the proof that all this is not
"self-consoling illusion" is the fact that the believer already
experiences, from the moment he believes, something of this victory
over death. Last summer I preached in an Anglican parish in London. The
church was full of young men and women. I was talking about the
resurrection of Christ and, at a certain moment, after I had given all
the arguments to support it, I was inspired to ask those present a
question: "How many of you think you can say as the blind man from
birth: 'I was blind, but now I see,' 'I was dead, but now I live'?" A
forest of hands were raised even before I finished the question. Some
were coming from years of drugs, prison, despairing life and suicide
attempts; others, on the contrary, from promising careers in the field
of business and entertainment.
To his close friends who expressed concern about his future and health
conditions, raising his head in his wheelchair, Pope John Paul II
surprisingly repeated one day, toward the end of his life, with a
profound voice, Horace's phrase: "Non omnis moriar" (I will not die
completely), but on his lips that already had another meaning.
5. Christ "My Savior"
It is not enough, however, that I recognize Christ as "Savior of the
world"; it is necessary that I recognize him as "my Savior." A moment
that cannot be forgotten is that in which this discovery takes place
and this illumination is received. One then understands what the
Apostle tried to say with the words: "Christ Jesus came into the world
to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost" (1 Timothy 1:15).
The experience of salvation that is had with Christ is wonderfully
exemplified in the incident of Peter, drowning in the lake. We
experience daily the sense of drowning: in sin, in lukewarmness, in
discouragement, in incredulity, in doubt, in routine. Faith itself is
to walk on the edge of the cliff, with the constant sensation that at
every moment we might lose our balance and plunge into the void.
In these conditions it is an immense consolation to continually
discover that Christ's hand is ready to lift us up, if only we seek and
grab hold of it. We can even experience a profound joy seeing ourselves
as weak and sinners, as the liturgy sings in the "Exultet" of the
Easter Vigil: "O felix culpa quae talem ac tantum meruit habere
Redemptorem!" (O happy fault, which gained for us so great a Redeemer).
I shall end here, venerable fathers and brothers, my Advent reflections
on faith in Christ in the world of today. Writing against the Docetist
heretics of his time, who denied the Incarnation of the Word and his
true humanity, Tertullian proffered the cry: "Do not take away from the
world its only hope" (parce unicae spei totius orbis).
It is the sad cry we must repeat to the men of today, tempted to do
without Christ. He is, still today, the only hope of the world. When
the Apostle Peter exhorts us to "give reason for the hope that is in
us," he exhorts us to speak to men of Christ because he is the reason
of our hope.
We must re-create the conditions for a recovery of faith in Christ.
Reproduce the impulse of faith from which the symbol of Nicaea was
born. The body of the Church produced on that occasion a supreme
effort, raising itself in faith above all human systems and all the
resistances of reason.
The fruit of this effort remained later as the symbol of faith. The
tide once rose to the highest level and a sign of it remained on the
rock. But it must rise again, the sign is not enough. It is not enough
to repeat the Nicean Creed; the impulse of faith must be renewed which
then existed in the divinity of Christ and of which there has been no
equal in the centuries.
While waiting to proclaim it publicly, bending the knee, on the night
of Christmas, I now take the liberty to invite everyone to recite, in
Latin, the article of faith on Jesus. It is the most beautiful gift we
can give Christ who comes, the one he always sought in life. He also
asks his closest collaborators today: "You, who do you believe that I
And we, rising to our feet, respond:
"Credo in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum. Et ex
Patre natum ante omnia saecula. Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum
verum de Deo vero. Genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri: per
quem omnia facta sunt. Qui propter nos homines, et propter nostram
salutem descendit de coelis. Et incarnatus est de spiritu sancto ex
Maria Virgine: et homo factus est."
(I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally
begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from
true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him
all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down
from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin
Mary, and became man.)
Merry Christmas to all!
* * *
 St. Athanasius, "Oratio contra Arianos," I,70.
 J. Monod, "Il caso e la necessità," Est Mondadori,
Milan, 1970, pp. 136-7.
 Gustavo A. Bécquer, "Obras Completas," p. 426.
 Cf. E. Becker, "Il Rifiuto della Morte," St. Paul's Publishers,
 J. Monod, "Il caso e la necessità," Milan, 1970.
 M. de Unamuno, "Cartas a J. Ilundain," in Review of the University
of Buenos Aires, 9, pp. 135-150.
 St. Augustine, "Trattati su Giovanni," 55, 1.
 Tertullian, "De Carne Christi," 5, 3 (CC 2, p. 881).