VATICAN CITY, APRIL 14, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The preacher to the Pontifical Household says that the teachings that come to us “from God’s love” are manifested historically “on the cross of Christ.”
Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa delivered that message in his Good Friday homily at the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the presence of Benedict XVI, on whose encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” he leaned.
Father Cantalamessa read from the encyclical: “To fix one’s gaze on the pierced side of Christ, of which John speaks, helps to understand what has been the starting point of this encyclical letter: ‘God is love.’ It is there, on the cross, where this truth can be contemplated. And, beginning from there, we must now define what love is. And from that gaze, the Christian finds the orientation of his living and loving.”
“God is love, and the cross of Christ is the supreme proof, the historical demonstration” of this, said the Capuchin Franciscan.
And God has loved us “with a munificent love, in creation, when he filled us with gifts, within and outside us; he has loved us with a suffering love in the redemption, when he invented his own annihilation, suffering for us the most terrible torments, for the purpose of convincing us of his love,” the priest added.
“Therefore, it is on the cross that one must now contemplate the truth that ‘God is love,'” he said.
Passion of love
Father Cantalamessa alluded to “the passion of love” that “God has always nourished toward the human race and that, in the fullness of time, led him to come on earth and suffer for us.”
He continued: “The encyclical ‘Deus Caritas Est’ indicates a new way of engaging in apologetics of the Christian faith, perhaps the only way possible today and certainly the most effective. It does not oppose the supernatural values to the natural, divine love to human love, ‘eros’ and ‘agape,’ but shows the original harmony.”
The Capuchin then read again from the encyclical: “God’s ‘eros’ for man is at the same time ‘agape.’ Not only because it is given altogether freely, without previous merit, but also because it is forgiving love,” a quality that “shines in the highest degree in the mystery of the cross.
“The love of Christ on the cross … is a love of mercy, which excuses and forgives, which does not wish to destroy the enemy, but, if anything, enmity.”
“It is precisely this mercy and capacity for forgiveness of which we are in need today, so as not to slide ever more into the abyss of globalized violence,” Father Cantalamessa warned.
“Humanity is enveloped in so much darkness and bowed under so much suffering that we must have some compassion and solidarity for one another,” he reflected.
“There is another teaching that comes to us from the love of God manifested on the cross of Christ,” the preacher added. “God’s love for man is faithful and eternal. … God has bound himself to love forever; he has deprived himself of the freedom to turn back.
“This is the profound meaning of the Covenant that in Christ became ‘new and eternal.'”
Father Cantalamessa recalled that, as Benedict XVI says in his encyclical, “the development of love toward its highest level and its most profound purity entails that it now aspire to the definitive,” both in the sense of “exclusivity — ‘only this person'” as in the sense of “forever,” as love comprises all the dimensions of existence, “including also time”: “Love tends to eternity.”
In this context, and at a time in which the relationship between love and marriage is questioned, Father Cantalamessa also alluded to what philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said about love: “Only when the duty of love exists, only then is love guaranteed forever against any alteration; eternally liberated in blessed independence; assured in eternal blessedness against any desperation.”
“The person who loves, the more intensely he loves, the more he perceives with anguish the danger his love runs,” the Capuchin said. Because the person knows that love is inconstant, he “binds” himself to love “with the bond of duty, thus anchoring in eternity his act of love in time.”
Likewise, “the duty to love protects love from ‘desperation,'” in the sense that it protects from “the desperation of not being able to love forever,” the preacher said.
“These considerations are not enough to change the present culture that exalts (…) the practice of ‘use and discard’ applied even to love,'” he added. “[But] at least they serve to confirm the goodness and beauty of the choice of those who have decided to live love between man and woman according to God’s plan.”