Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cool Quotes 2

Ratzinger on Holy Saturday and the apparent death of God in modernity

On Good Friday our gaze remains fixed on the "death of God," the day that expresses the unparalleled experience of our age, anticipating the fact that God no longer is simply absent, that the grave hides him, that he no longer awakes, no longer speaks, so that one no longer needs to gainsay him but can simply overlook him. "God is dead and we have killed him." This saying of Nietzsche's belongs linguistically to the tradition of Christian Passiontide piety; it expresses the content of Holy Saturday, "descended into hell."

This article of the Creed always reminds me of two scenes in the Bible. The first is that cruel story of the Old Testament in which Elijah challenges the priests of Baal to implore their God to give them fire for their sacrifice. They do so, and naturally nothing happens. He ridicules them, just as the 'enlightened rationalist' ridicules the pious person in response to his prayers. Elijah calls out to the priests that perhaps they had not prayed loud enough: 'Cry aloud, for he [Baal] is good, either he is musing, or has gone aside, or he is one journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened' (1 Kings 18:27). When one reads today this mockery of the devotees of Baal, one can begin to feel uncomfortable; one can get the feeling that we have now arrived in that situation and that the mockery must now fall on us. No calling seems to be able to awaken God. The rationalist seems entitled to say to us 'Pray louder, perhaps your God will them wake up.'  'Descended to hell'; how true this is of our time, the descent of God into muteness, into the dark silence of the absent.

But alongside the story of Elijah and its New Testament analogue, the story of the Lord sleeping in the midst of the storm on the lake (Mk 4:35-41), we must put the Emmaus story (Lk 24:13-35).  The disturbed disciples are talking of the death of their hope. To them, something like that death of God has happened: the point at which God finally seemed to have spoken has disappeared. The One sent by God is dead, and so there is a complete void. Nothing replies anymore. But while they are speaking of the death of their hope and can no longer see God, they do not notice that this very hope stands alive in their midst; that 'God', or rather the image they had formed of his promise, had to die so that he could live on a larger scale. The image they had formed of God, and into which they sought to compress him, had to be destroyed, so that over the ruins of the demolished house, as it were, they could see the sky again and him who remains infinitely greater...

Thus the article about the Lord's descent into hell reminds us that not only God's speech but also his silence is part of Christian revelation. God is not only the comprehensible word that comes tous; he is also the silent, inaccessible, uncomprehended, and incomprehensible ground that eludes us. To be sure, in Christianity there is a primacy of the logos, of the word, over silence; God has spoken. God is word. But this does not entitle us to forget the truth of God's abiding concealment. Only when we have experienced him as silence may we hope to hear his speech, too, which proceeds in silence. Christology reaches out beyond the Cross, the moment when love is tangible, into death, the silence and eclipse of God. Can we wonder that the Church and the life of the individual are led again and again into this hour of silence, into the forgotten and almost discarded article, 'Descended into hell'?
Introduction to Christianity, 294-297.

Good stuff!

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