Ecclesial Exegesis

Pope Benedict, in his weekly audiences, has been offering a remarkable series of meditations on significant figures in the early Church.

For the past two Wednesdays he has reflected on the third century exegete and theologian, Origen.

Last Wednesday's reflection is not yet available in full in English. But here is the summary provided on the Vatican website:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last week we looked at the life and writings of Origen of Alexandria. Today, I would like to consider two significant themes in his work. Origens teaching on scripture greatly influenced the Churchs rich tradition oflectio divina. Through the prayerful and faith-filled reading of the scriptures, we are drawn in love to mystical union with God. Just as a man and a woman become one flesh in marriage, soin prayerthe Church and each of her members become one in the Spirit with the divine Bridegroom. Regarding the Church, Origen teaches us the importance of the priesthood of all the faithful. As a member of this common priesthood, every believer is called to put on priestly attire by living a pure and virtuous life. Loving intimacy with God through prayer and the offering of an upright and moral lifethese are two of Origens most important lessons for us; these are the ways we keep the gaze of our hearts fixed on the Wisdom and Truth who is Jesus Christ.

His words reminded me of the work of another ecclesial exegete, the retired Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. In reflections on the First Letter of Peter (Il Segreto della Prima Lettera di Pietro -- not yet, to my knowledge, translated into English), Martini writes:

Jesus, who is the center of our life, must be loved with a passionate love, not comparable to any other human friendship, with a tenderness that fills the heart ... It is being in love with the Lord that opens to us the breadth of salvation and establishes in us the largeness of heart and mind which are necessary to live with a spirit of sacrifice, even in difficult social and political situations.

Origen, of course, lived during Roman persecution -- his father was martyred for the faith. Today Christians in Iraq, China, and Zimbabwe need our prayer and support -- even as they bear witness to us of the love of Christ.
Update:Sandro Magister has posted the first seven reflections on his blog: http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=137741&eng=y

Robert P. Imbelli, a long-time Commonweal contributor, is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. A book of essays in his honor, The Center Is Jesus Christ Himself, edited by Andrew Meszaros, was published this year by The Catholic University of America Press.

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