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Wednesday's Audience - On 3 Lessons From St. Basil

8/19/2007 - 7:00 AM PST

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"Only If We Are Open to God Can We Build a Just World"


VATICAN CITY, AUG. 19, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Aug. 1 at the general audience in Paul VI Hall. The reflection focused on St. Basil, continuing with the Pope's last catechesis from July 4.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After this three-week break, we are continuing with our Wednesday meetings. Today, I would simply like to resume my last Catechesis, whose subject was the life and writings of St Basil, a Bishop in present-day Turkey, in Asia Minor, in the fourth century A.D. The life and works of this great Saint are full of ideas for reflection and teachings that are also relevant for us today.

First of all is the reference to God's mystery, which is still the most meaningful and vital reference for human beings. The Father is "the principal of all things and the cause of being of all that exists, the root of the living" (Hom. 15, 2 de fide: PG 31, 465c); above all, he is "the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ" ("Anaphora Sancti Basilii"). Ascending to God through his creatures, we "become aware of his goodness and wisdom" (Basil, "Adversus Eunomium" 1, 14: PG 29, 544b).

The Son is the "image of the Father's goodness and seal in the same form" (cf. "Anaphora Sancti Basilii"). With his obedience and his Passion, the Incarnate Word carried out his mission as Redeemer of man (cf. Basil, "In Psalmum" 48, 8; PG 29, 452ab; cf. also "De Baptismo" 1, 2: SC 357, 158).

Lastly, he spoke fully of the Holy Spirit, to whom he dedicated a whole book. He reveals to us that the Spirit enlivens the Church, fills her with his gifts and sanctifies her.

The resplendent light of the divine mystery is reflected in man, the image of God, and exalts his dignity. Looking at Christ, one fully understands human dignity.

Basil exclaims: "[Man], be mindful of your greatness, remembering the price paid for you: look at the price of your redemption and comprehend your dignity!" ("In Psalmum" 48, 8: PG 29, 452b). 
Christians in particular, conforming their lives to the Gospel, recognize that all people are brothers and sisters; that life is a stewardship of the goods received from God, which is why each one is responsible for the other, and whoever is rich must be as it were an "executor of the orders of God the Benefactor" (Hom 6 de avaritia: PG 32, 1181-1196). We must all help one another and cooperate as members of one body (Ep 203, 3).

And on this point, he used courageous, strong words in his homilies. Indeed, anyone who desires to love his neighbour as himself, in accordance with God's commandment, "must possess no more than his neighbour" ("Hom. in divites": PG 31, 281b).

In times of famine and disaster, the holy Bishop exhorted the faithful with passionate words "not to be more cruel than beasts ... by taking over what people possess in common or by grabbing what belongs to all ("Hom. tempore famis": PG 31, 325a).

Basil's profound thought stands out in this evocative sentence: "All the destitute look to our hands just as we look to those of God when we are in need".

Therefore, Gregory of Nazianzus' praise after Basil's death was well-deserved. He said: "Basil convinces us that since we are human beings, we must neither despise men nor offend Christ, the common Head of all, with our inhuman behaviour towards people; rather, we ourselves must benefit by learning from the misfortunes of others and must lend God our compassion, for we are in need of mercy" (Gregory Nazianzus, "Orationes" 43, 63; PG 36, 580b).

These words are very timely. We see that St Basil is truly one of the Fathers of the Church's social doctrine.
Furthermore, Basil reminds us that to keep alive our love for God and for men, we need the Eucharist, the appropriate food for the baptized, which can nourish the new energies that derive from Baptism (cf. "De Baptismo" 1, 3: SC 357, 192).

It is a cause of immense joy to be able to take part in the Eucharist (cf. "Moralia" 21, 3: PG 31, 741a), instituted "to preserve unceasingly the memory of the One who died and rose for us" ("Moralia" 80, 22: PG 31, 869b).

The Eucharist, an immense gift of God, preserves in each one of us the memory of the baptismal seal and makes it possible to live the grace of Baptism to the full and in fidelity.

For this reason, the holy Bishop recommended frequent, even daily, Communion: "Communicating even daily, receiving the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, is good and useful; for he said clearly: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life' (Jn 6: 54). So who would doubt that communicating continuously with life were not living in fullness?" (Ep. 93: PG 32, 484b).

The Eucharist, in a word, is necessary for us if we are to ...

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