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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Benedict and the Greeks

Some have opined that Regensberg was the single defining moment of Bendedict XVI's papacy. Veteran Vatican watcher, Sandro Magister is one of those persons. His latest piece is worth pondering. The takeaway from the Regensgberg address was not the Pontiff's criticisms of Islam and the subsequent response by Muslims the world over, but rather the stinging indictment of Western Civilization and how it has ignored, nay, repudiated its Greek roots.

"Grace builds on nature," is a theological maxim that squares well with the history of the West. Philosophical knowledge and critical thinking, as developed by the Greeks, proved fertile soil for the Gospel to take root. Some of the early Church Fathers acknowledged this fact--that this was the "fullness of time" for the coming of the Saviour. Our theological reasoning and language springs forth from the very vocabulary of the Greeks. The Greeks saw reality--the world as it is. The Church takes reality and shows it in all its spendor and truth, that is, through the eyes of God Himself. Maurice Baring put it well when he said:

If Shakespeare had little Greek, I have less; for I maintain that men who in Shakespeare's day had a smattering of Greek had more Greek than the man who has a smattering of Greek in our day. There was more Greek in the air. And the culture imbibed from the air is the best culture.
I believe that Benedict XVI is calling us back to those very roots from which we spring. It is a call to all of the West, not just Catholics. It is a call to recognize and love reality and to shore up the great culture that is the West. The great Greek scholar, Fr. Raymond Schoder, S.J. summed up Homer's (and thus the Greek) attitude toward reality:

To [Homer] everything is wonderful, exciting, full of mystery and
interest. With the profound simplicity of a child, yet the wisdom and insight of a deep thinker, he is delighted and thrilled by everything he sees. Life, personality, Nature, and the ingenious works of man are to him a constant source of joy and amazement. He appreciates things, he loves them; he does not coldly take them for granted. Homer's world lies in radient sunshine, its atmosphere is bracing in its energy and exhilaration. To step into it from our complex and heavy modern life is to feel refreshingly free and expansive, to enjoy the brisk alertness and vitality of a civilization in its unspoiled and eager-eyed youth.
Let us follow Benedict as he builds a bridge back to the Greeks! Let us have the eyes of Homer, and the love of Christ. Let us once again breathe in this culture.