In his meditations during the Lenten spiritual exercises, attended by the Pope and the Roman Curia, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi undertook a “pilgrimage” in search of the face of God.
The cardinal explained that the Lord’s revelation through the Word, creation and especially the liturgy, makes possible man’s encounter with God thanks to a balanced vertical and horizontal dimension.
“If we look well at our liturgy, it is an uninterrupted gave on High, transcendence, to God and Christ, to his Word, but also a look directed to our brothers,” said the cardinal during the fourth meditation.
In the liturgy, the Eternal Father is present to man as “tent of encounter.” However, God reveals himself also in history, explained Cardinal Ravasi during the fifth meditation. Not only does the Creator encounter the creature in space, but the temple is also the privileged “place” of God’s Theophany.
This is proclaimed in the Psalms and recounted in the Old Testament, which speaks of a God who acts concretely in the history of a people, the people of Israel, liberated by the divine hand from slavery in Egypt. A history that the cardinal described as “the historical creed” of Israel, which encloses an evident truth: faith is united to events.
“History is and must always be the place we love to encounter our Lord, our God, also if it is a scandalous terrain, a terrain in which also, perhaps, we often perceive God’s silence or men’s apostasy,” said Cardinal Ravasi.
God’s action is revealed in the succession of events, both in joys as well and even more so in sufferings, as demonstrated in the event par excellence: the Incarnation. Moreover, it is necessary to remember that man’s history is not just a meaningless series of events, but a design executed by God himself, in keeping with a plan dictated by hope, which is the “littlest sister” of faith and charity.
“With hope we can be certain of not being at the mercy of an imponderable event. Our God defines himself in Exodus 3 with the pronoun ‘I’ and with the fundamental verb ‘I AM.’ Therefore, He is a Person who acts, who lives within events, and this is why our relationship with Him now is a relationship of trust, of dialogue, of contact,” explained the cardinal.
In fact, God is a Shepherd, He is a guide and a loving fellow traveler who protects his people-flock from any natural or historical nightmare. “We celebrate divine fidelity despite human infidelity,” he added. God’s loving closeness in the sufferings of the desert, as well as in the exodus, in the liberation from slavery and in creation itself are all gestures that show God’s care for humanity, he explained.
They culminate in the most profound sign of divine love: Jesus Christ, the Messiah who is “just, priest and Son of God.” The cardinal’s sixth reflection focused, in fact, on these three lines, which reread in the light of Psalms 72, 110 and 2, reveal some characteristics of the messianic figure.
If the prophets “pointed out with the finger the abuses of power and resignation to injustice,” the Messiah came to teach a different type of justice: to be last of the last, defender of the defenseless, poor among the poor, stressed Cardinal Ravasi.
The Messiah makes justice shine for those who are last. He is the Father of the poor and defender of the widows (Psalm 68). He it is who, being rich, made himself poor for you in order that you be enriched with his poverty (2 Corinthians 8-9). Christ’s priesthood is a priesthood “of grace,” which reaches its culmination in the Resurrection, act of love with which the Son of God reveals fully his divinity. It is necessary to “contemplate the figure of Christ, the Messiah who has in himself the breadth of the Old Testament and brings it to fulfillment,” exhorted Cardinal Ravasi.
To conclude, the cardinal returned to the topic of God’s Theophany, which after the Word, the space, the liturgy and time reveals himself in the “creature.” Recalling the passage in Genesis: God created man in his image, the cardinal asked: “What corresponds to the image of God?” “man and woman He created them,” is what corresponds, he said.
According to the cardinal, the meaning is quite simple: “When man and woman love one another and regenerate themselves, they continue Creation. They are image of the Creator.” And, like the Creator, they generate the creature, the embryo in the mother’s womb, small point of departure of a life on which the divine look is already projected,” said Cardinal Ravasi.
“In this minimal creature God already sees all its history, all the sequence of its future days: He already sees the splendor and miseries of this creature.” From “this absolute beginning” the human creature is “always under God’s gaze, which spans the whole itinerary of his existence.”
This is the “place in which to intercept God’s presence,” that is why for us Christians He must become an “uninterrupted object of attention, of passion, of love.” Also because man “has a divine mandate to safeguard,” a task to develop on this earth: to represent his Supreme Sovereign.
At the end of the retreat on Sunday, Benedict XVI thanked Cardinal Ravasi, saying: “‘The art of believing, the art of praying’ was the thread. It came to my mind that the medieval theologians translated the word ‘logos’ not only as ‘verbum’ (word) but also as ‘ars’ (art): ‘verbum’ and ‘ars’ are interchangeable. For the medieval theologians, only in the two words together does the whole meaning of the word ‘logos’ appear. The ‘Logos’ is not only mathematical reason: the ‘Logos’ has a heart, the ‘Logos’ is love. Truth is beautiful, truth and beauty go together: beauty is the seal of truth.
“And, nevertheless, you, through the Psalms and through our daily experience, also firmly stressed that the ‘very beautiful’ of the sixth day – spoken by the Creator – is permanently contradicted, in this world, by evil, by suffering, by corruption. It seems that the evil one wants permanently to stain creation, to contradict God and to make his truth and beauty unrecognizable. In a world so characterized also by evil, the ‘Logos,’ the eternal Beauty and the eternal ‘Art,’ must appear as a ‘caput cruentatum’ (bloody head). The incarnate Son, the incarnate ‘Logos,’ is crowned with a crown of thorns; and nevertheless, precisely in this way, in this suffering figure of the Son of God, we begin to see the most profound beauty of our Creator and Redeemer; and yet we can, in the silence of the ‘dark night,’ hear the Word. Believing is nothing other than touching the hand of God in the darkness of the world and thus, in silence, to hear the Word, to see Love.
“Eminence, thank you for everything and let us continue to take ‘walks’ in this mysterious universe of faith, to be ever more able to pray, to proclaim, to be witnesses of truth, which is beautiful, which is love.”