Ed. It is indisputable that some of the best thinking on man and society is coming from the Roman Catholic Church. The Russian Orthodox Church is making important headway in this area as well. Unless there is thinking not making it into English, it appears the Church of Greece doesn’t address the secularism of culture with any great deliberation. Here Pope Benedict draws from the Orthodox tradition — a move we have seen before in his Regensburg Address (brilliant in my estimation) — to speak to modern society. An unintended irony is emerging: the Roman Catholic Pontiff recognizes the hidden wealth of the Orthodox moral tradition and draws from it, while Orthodox leaders (Russia seems to be the exception) drift toward sanctifying the religious veneer of secularist movements.
Pope Benedict affirms the sanctity of the individual in this piece, posting the individual in relation to the “polis” — the people, or the city and community. He implicitly warns against subsuming the individual to the city (Marxism and other ideologies that deny the individual thus resulting in the destruction of the person and community on the one hand, and the elevation of the individual at the expense of the community [hyper-individualism] by which the individual forfeits himself).
Asia News 09/26/2007
Retracing the life and works of St John Chrysostom, Benedict XVI recalls how the father of the Church proposed a utopia of the ideal society to the early Church, substituting the ideal of the Greek polis with that of Christianity.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Christian idea of the primacy of the person, which makes all men equal and which has as a direct consequence solidarity, as the foundation of the “city”, instead of the concept of the primacy of the “polis”, in which the individual is subordinate to society. One of the fundaments of the Churches social doctrine was reaffirmed today by Benedict XVI, who retraced the thoughts of St John Chrysostom, theologian and “father of the Church”.
Last week the pope had already spoke of the first part of the life and works of the great thinker, who was bishop of Constantinople in the IV century; today before a crowd of 20 thousand in his general audience he dwelt on the years of the saint’s life when he was the leader of the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire when he was twice exiled. His relics were transferred to Rome and now lie in the canonical chapel of St Peter’s, and in 2004, the pope reflected “a large part of them” were donated to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
Retracing the works of St John Chrysostom, Benedict XVI underlined that his meditation of the works carried out by God in the six days of creation led him to affirm that Genesis shows us the beauty of creation reveals the face of God to us, there is the “transparency of God” and therefore “our wonder at the beauty of creation should lead us to give glory to the Creato”. A second step follows on from this in which it is highlighted that the Creator is also a “Tender Father”: “we are weak, in lifting our gaze our eyes are weak and so God becomes a tender Father and sends mankind the Word, the Sacred Scripture”. The third step is that God not only transmits the Word, but “in the end He Himself comes down to us”, he becomes the Word Incarnate until death, he really does become “God with us”, our brother. The fourth and last step is that through which the “the vital and dynamic principal “, the Holy Spirit, God is within us, “he enters our very existence and transforms our hearts”.
In his works, the model of the early Church becomes a model for society, it is a “utopia of the ideal city, giving it a Christian face and soul”. Chrysostom’s, “truly one of the great fathers of the Church”, affirms that it is not sufficient to give alms, or occasionally come to peoples aid, but that a new model is needed in which “the old idea of the Greek polis is substituted by a city inspired by Christian life. His project corrects the traditional Greek vision of the city in which large swathes of the population are denied the rights of citizenship, while in the Christian cities the person is given primacy and as a result the city is built from the individual up, while in the polis the person was subordinate to the city”. And when the bishop added “our city is another, our home is in the heavens”, he makes us all equal, brothers and sisters and obliges us to full solidarity towards humanity”.