VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Love for work and diligence in one’s tasks are indicators of fervor in the spiritual life, according to the saint that Benedict XVI spoke of today at the general audience.
Addressing some 15,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope continued his series of catechesis on writers and figures from the Church of the Middle Ages, focusing today on St. Theodore the Studite (759-826).
Theodore’s main contributions to Church history, the Holy Father suggested, were his efforts to resist the second iconoclast persecution and his reform of monasticism.
Regarding the first theme, he noted that St. Theodore “had understood that the issue of the veneration of icons implicated the very truth of the Incarnation.”
“Theodore compares the eternal internal relations of the Trinity, in which the existence of each divine Person does not destroy unity, with the relation between the two natures of Christ, which do not compromise in him the unique Person of the Logos,” the Pontiff explained. “And he argues: To abolish the veneration of the icons of Christ would mean cancelling his very redemptive work, since in assuming human nature, the invisible Word has appeared in visible human flesh, and in this way has sanctified the entire visible cosmos.
“Icons, sanctified by liturgical blessing and the prayer of the faithful, unite us with the Person of Christ, with his saints, and through them, with the heavenly Father, and they give witness to an entrance into the divine reality of our visible and material cosmos.”
Showing the way
Benedict XVI considered Theodore’s teachings on poverty, chastity and obedience and the value of monks living these virtues in a radical way as an invitation for laypeople to also live them in following Christ.
He then focused on “another important virtue” for the saint: “‘philergia,’ that is, love for work.”
The Holy Father explained that Theodore saw love for work as “a criterion to prove the quality of personal devotion.”
“One who is fervent in material commitments, who works assiduously, [Theodore] maintains, is the same in the spiritual realm,” the Pontiff said. “In this regard, he does not allow that with the pretext of prayer and contemplation, the monk dispenses with work, including manual work, which in reality is, according to him and to the monastic tradition, the means to encounter God.”
The Bishop of Rome noted how St. Theodore went so far as to speak of work as a type of “‘liturgy,’ even of a type of Mass through which the monastic life converts into angelical life.”
He added: “And precisely in this way the world of work is humanized and man, through work, becomes more himself, closer to God. A consequence of this singular vision deserves to be considered: Precisely because it is the fruit of a form of ‘liturgy,’ the riches that come from common work should not serve the comfort of the monks, but should be destined for the help of the poor. In this, all of us can see the need for the fruit of work to be a good for everyone.”
Benedict XVI ended his discourse with a review of the principal elements of Theodore’s spiritual doctrine, including “love for the incarnated Lord […]. Fidelity to baptism and commitment to live in the communion of the Body of Christ, understood also as communion of Christians among themselves. Spirit of poverty, of sobriety, of renunciation; chastity, self-control, humility and obedience against the primacy of one’s own will, which destroys the social fabric and the peace of souls. Love for material and spiritual work. Spiritual friendship born in the purification of one’s conscience, of one’s soul, of one’s life.”
“Let us try to follow these teachings that truly show us the path of the true life,” he concluded.