Sunday, September 24, 2006

What is Europe?

Rather than getting bogged down in endless cycles of PC enthusiasm and reactionary lashing out at (our image of) Islam, perhaps a better course for modern citizens would be to put our own house in order?

Please permit me to quote at length from a recent address by the Pope:

...the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language (cf. Lateran IV). God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love transcends knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is logos. Consequently, Christian worship is λογικὴ λατρεία - worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).

This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history – it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.

SOURCE (Radio Vaticana)

Here is the part which should have been gracing our many television hours and column inches!

In these words, the Pope explains that God, who comes to us in Christ, is both reason and love (one of the biggest false dichotomies of the modern West). You may notice it's the same basic positive message as in Deus Caritas Est, expressed in another context.

The other side of this fairly philosophical point is that this insight is not just for philosophers, but is expressed through a concrete history, something we can experience.

This fact was brought home to me recently, when, after seeing the protesters outside Westminster last week, then studying the CL press release on the Regensburg address with some friends, I took the chance of speaking to some Muslims giving out free literature in our high street. OK, the literature was sub-Evangelical-"outreach" standard - except for one website they pointed me to, Muslim Heritage - but some interesting points came out.

Firstly I was happy to feel so embraced by the life of the Church that I could quite openly approach these people and have a frank and courteous dialogue with them on, let's face it, quite tough issues (theology, politics/religion, etc). Secondly, I was struck again that they seemed to understand many things which form the core of Fr. Giussani's teachings in The Religious Sense - I was especially happy because that book should hopefully appear soon in Arabic!

It's true that the point about violence and religion being utterly incompatible is... true, and upmost in many, maybe most people's minds today, but we cannot afford to be superficial, especially if we acknowledge that our fears are only the "outer crust" on our deeper affection for poor Europe.

Islam is very scary for Christians who take history serious, and in a way, it's more dangerous for us Christians. Islam really does seem to define itself over against Christianity (in an astonishing passage one of the book-stand staff showed me, Jesus is portayed giving a very different explanation of the Eucharist, even echoing passage of John's Gospel). However, a mere cultural expression is not as true as an experience.

We Christians should realise this more than anyone; our "Qur'an" is not a book (though we venerate and follow the Bible) - our "Law" is a person, Jesus Christ, who calls us and all human beings back to our "elementary experience" - something that anyone can relate to, unless one denies one's own experience. Anyone. Our God is reason and love, and we can seek Him in confidence, where he is hidden in the heart of every man and woman.

Wouldn't all European citizens be better off if we tried to invest more into propagating those things - that is, making them a conscious event in our lives - which are the foundation of Europe?


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