Thursday, March 23, 2006

Currently reading...

...Benedict XVI's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. Yes, I know, it was promulgated a while ago. We left behind our old DSL in Berkeley and just got it again.

Reggie, of course, translated the encyclical into Latin.

The encyclical falls into two parts. The first a detailed analysis of Christian love, its grounding in scripture and distinction from love (eros and agape in the Christian tradition are distinguished from definitions, both ancient and modern, that pervert them by isolating them from one another and prevent them from completing one another in the fullness of true caritas), and its dynamic nature rooted in the mutual self-giving between persons, both God and human beings and human beings with one another. The second part, which I am still reading, discusses the role caritas should play in modern society.

The first part is beautiful and moving. This, for example, is good stuff:

In the gradual unfolding of this encounter, it is clearly revealed that love is not merely a sentiment. Sentiments come and go. A sentiment can be a marvellous first spark, but it is not the fullness of love. Earlier we spoke of the process of purification and maturation by which eros comes fully into its own, becomes love in the full meaning of the word. It is characteristic of mature love that it calls into play all man's potentialities; it engages the whole man, so to speak. Contact with the visible manifestations of God's love can awaken within us a feeling of joy born of the experience of being loved. But this encounter also engages our will and our intellect. Acknowledgment of the living God is one path towards love, and the “yes” of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all-embracing act of love. But this process is always open-ended; love is never “finished” and complete; throughout life, it changes and matures, and thus remains faithful to itself. Idem velle atque idem nolle—to want the same thing, and to reject the same thing—was recognized by antiquity as the authentic content of love: the one becomes similar to the other, and this leads to a community of will and thought. The love-story between God and man consists in the very fact that this communion of will increases in a communion of thought and sentiment, and thus our will and God's will increasingly coincide: God's will is no longer for me an alien will, something imposed on me from without by the commandments, but it is now my own will, based on the realization that God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself. Then self-abandonment to God increases and God becomes our joy (cf. Ps 73 [72]:23-28). (section 17)

There is nothing particularly innovative about the first part of the encyclical, but it says everything we already knew about Christian love in a fresh and engaging way. I think even some of my Protestant friends might really enjoy it.

Oh, but it's hard on the eyes to read anything for long on the Vatican's site, though. The background is just a little too dark.

UPDATE: Do not miss Reggie talking about the daunting task of translating the jargon of modern languages into Latin (not least because he was translating from the Italian, which was translated from Benedict's native German) on his Vatican Radio show The Latin Lover (see "Tender is the Latin").

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