Comment on Ephesians 1:3-10

«Main Verbs of This Canticle Lead Us Always to the Son»

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2005 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today’s general audience. He dedicated the address to comment on the canticle of the first chapter of the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, verses 3-10.

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1. Every week the Liturgy of Vespers presents to the prayer of the Church the solemn opening hymn of the Letter to the Ephesians, the text just proclaimed. It belongs to the genre of the «berakot,» that is, the «blessings» that already appear in the Old Testament and that will have a further diffusion in the Judaic tradition. It is, therefore, a constant flow of praise that rises to God, who in Christian faith is celebrated as «Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.»

It is for this reason that in our hymn of praise the figure of Christ is central, in which the work of God the Father is revealed and fulfilled. In fact, the three main verbs of this long and compact canticle lead us always to the Son.

2. God «chose us in him» (Ephesians 1:4): It is our vocation to holiness and to adoptive filiation and therefore to fraternity with Christ. This gift, which radically transforms our state of creatures, is offered to us «by the work of Jesus Christ» (verse 5), a work that enters in the great divine salvific plan, in that loving «favor of [his] will» (verse [5]) of the Father that the Apostle contemplates, overwhelmed.

The second verb, after that of the election («chose us»), designates the gift of grace: «the grace he granted us in the beloved […]» (ibid.). In Greek we have the same root twice, «charis» and «echaritosen,» to underline the gratuitousness of the divine initiative which precedes every human response. The grace that the Father bestows on us in his Only-begotten Son is, therefore, manifestation of his love that envelops us and transforms us.

3. Then we have the third fundamental verb of the Pauline canticle: Its object is always divine grace which was «lavished upon us» (verse 8). We find ourselves, therefore, before a verb of abundance, we could say — according to its original sense — of excess, of donation without limits or reservations.

Thus we reach the infinite and glorious profundity of the mystery of God, opened and revealed by grace to one called by grace and love, this revelation being impossible to reach only with the endowment of human intelligence and capacities. «‘What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,’ this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God» (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

4. The «mystery» of the divine «will» has a center that is destined to coordinate the whole of being and the whole of history, leading it to the fullness willed by God: It is «a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth» (Ephesians 1:10). Prominent in this «plan,» in Greek «oikonomia,» that is, in this harmonious plan of the architecture of being and existence, is Christ, head of the body of the Church, but also axis that recapitulates in himself «all things, things in heaven and things on earth.» Dispersion and limitations are surmounted and that «fullness» is configured which is the true end of the plan that the divine will had established from the beginning.

We find ourselves, therefore, before a grandiose fresco of the history of creation and salvation, on which we now meditate and reflect further with the words of St. Irenaeus, great Doctor of the Church of the second century, who, in some magisterial pages of his treatise «Against the Heresies,» developed his own articulated reflection on the recapitulation accomplished by Christ.

5. Christian faith, he affirms, recognizes that «there is only one God and one Jesus Christ, our Lord, who came with his plan and recapitulated all things in himself. Among all things there is also man, fashioned by God. Therefore, he has also recapitulated man in himself, becoming visible, he who is invisible, comprehensible, he who is incomprehensible and man, he who is Word» (3,16,6: «Già e Non Ancora» [Already and Not Yet], CCCXX, Milan, 1979, p. 268).

Therefore, «the Word of God» becomes truly man, not in appearance, because then «his work would not have been true.» Instead, «he was that which he seemed to be: God who recapitulates in himself his old creature, who is man, to kill sin, destroy death and vivify man. And because of this his works are true» (3,18,7: ibid., pp. 277-278). He made himself head of the Church to draw all to himself at the appropriate time. Let us pray, in keeping with the spirit of these words: Yes, Lord, draw us to yourself; draw the world to yourself and grant us peace, your peace.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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