Cardinal Ravasi Reflects on Power, Fragility of the Word

Pope, Curia Continue in Spiritual Exercises

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God of Grace, God of the Word, and God Creator are images being used by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi in his catecheses for the spiritual exercises being preached for the Pope and Roman Curia.

The reflections of the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture are an invitation to rediscover the Face of God from the pages of the Psalter. In the second meditation of Monday morning in particular, the cardinal used Psalms 119 and 23 to describe the vibrant love present in the Word of God, described before as a great theophany «that shines in the darkness of existence.»

The Word is, in fact, the «first face with which God introduces himself,» said the cardinal. «God’s grace is entrusted to the Word» and it is significant to note «that it is, in fact the absolute incipit of the Old and the New Testament articulated by the Word.»

«In the beginning was the Word …,» «God says …,» all are expressions that identify this revealing and at the same time creative Word. Because creation itself «is a sonorous event,» said the cardinal, «it is a Word, the most paradoxically human reality, which is extremely fragile – because once said, it passes away – but at the same time it has a particular efficacy, because communication would not exist without the Word.»

Hence, re-echoing the verses of Psalm 119: «Your Word is a lamp for my feet,» he continued, the word is «guide in the mist,» it is light that opens a crack in the «grey,» «fluid,» and «uncertain» horizon of modern culture where, according to the cardinal, «a-morality is celebrated» and absolute indifference reigns, so much so that «there is no longer a distinction between sweet and bitter, between day and night.»

But the Word is also criterion that indicates «the true scale of values,» too often «calibrated on things, on money, on power.» And it is also «profession of love» that leads to «a superior level» of communication: prayer, intimate dialogue with the Eternal Father.

«Source of light, of guidance, of gentleness, source of love, of ethical illumination,» the Logos is all this, but above all, for the cardinal, it is «principle of trust.» A trust that in liturgical song is exemplified in the verses of Psalm 23, the so-called song of the shepherd.

In this Psalm, explained the president of the pontifical council, God reveals himself in fact as a «shepherd who leads the flock and who is, at the same time, companion on the journey,» thus stressing «the value of grace: truth on one side and love on the other.» 

In these verses there is «the sharing of the way,» stressed the cardinal. A way that is not that of the world «wandering without an end,» but it indicates an arrival: the table set in the Temple for the sacrifice of communion, symbol of the liturgy which is also Epiphany of God.

Hence Psalm 23 «is the Psalm of trust,» concluded Cardinal Ravasi, because it demonstrates that «we are not alone on the path of life,» and that «the goal to reach by prayer, by faith is the celebration of the liturgy, when we will eat together at the same table.»


If the Lord’s first Epiphany is the Word, the second is creation: «a different word of God» which «contains a silent theological music,» as Gunkel, commentator of the Psalter, affirmed.

Reflecting further on this topic in the third meditation, also held on Monday morning, Cardinal Ravasi spoke of astral spaces as «enthusiastic witnesses of the creative work of God,» and of men incapable of contemplating the creation entrusted to them, so much so as to «humiliate,» and «devastate it,» «using only instrumentally.»

«The absence of wonder in contemporary man is a sign of superficiality,» lamented the cardinal. He «is bent only on the work of his hands, he is incapable of raising his eyes to heaven, to admire profoundly the two extremes of the universe and the microcosm. He no longer has the sense of the earth as sister.»

Therefore, it is necessary to rediscover the poiemata, the harmonies of God in creation, to create «a spirituality that, paradoxically, has its carnality.» Otherwise, as Chesterton presaged: «The world will not perish for lack of wonders but for lack of wonder.»

The president of the Pontifical Council for Culture than reflected on the topic that is so dear to theologian Benedict XVI and before to John Paul II: the relation between faith and science. «Two teachings that are not superimposed,» said the cardinal recalling the words of American scientist Gould, they are «distinct but not totally separated.»

«Faith is interested in the foundation, science in the scene.» One responds to «why» and the other to «how.» Hence «they are in need of one another to be completed in the mind of the man who thinks seriously.» «This leads us to fides et ratio, two wings to travel in the world of mystery but also of the reality itself» of which Ratzinger has been a rigorous witness, said the cardinal.

There are, however, some excesses to avoid, as Pascal pointed out «to exclude reason, not to admit reason.» But at the same time there is a way, that the same philosopher illustrated: human things must be understood to be able to love them; divine things must be loved to be able to understand them.» 

«You must first throw yourself into the sea of faith and then begin to navigate,» added the cardinal.

Emblem of these two ways that proceed «in counterpoint and not in opposition,» is the double sun of Psalm 19. «The sun burns in the sky and speaks to us of the cosmic revelation. But there is then the Word of God which is the other sun, which illuminates us in fullness,» said Cardinal Ravasi. «Behold the revealing word and the creative word.»

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Salvatore Cernuzio

Crotone, Italy Bachelor's degree in Communication Sciences, Information and Marketing (2008) and Master's degree in Publishing and Journalism (2010) from LUMSA University of Rome. Vatican Radio. Rome Seven. "Ecclesia in Urbe. Social Communications Office of the Vicariate of Rome. Second place in the Youth category of the second edition of the Giuseppe De Carli Prize for religious information.

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