I originally wished to write a brief eulogy in honor of my favorite pope (Benedict XVI). Instead, I am writing a thank you for the many lessons I have learned from him. I only list here a few of the key lessons I learned; for a longer list would need an entire book to expound upon.
I remember as a little boy watching BXVI on EWTN. Though I did not really internalize much of what he said at the time, he was the first pope I was introduced to as a child. When I went on to study theology at Benedictine College, the writings of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI were a main staple in almost all of the courses I took. I have learned so much from Benedict and would like to share those in honor of his life. The greatest thing I appreciated about BXVI's writings is that he treats very deep theological questions and issues while explaining them in a way the scholar or layman can approach.
Jesus of Nazareth
Growing up, I had a concept of Jesus as a very distant Person. I thought of Him as that guy who lived 2000 years ago and is inaccessible to us nowadays. When I picked up BXVI'S Jesus of Nazareth books my ignorant view completely changed. From Benedict’s amazing work, I learned that Jesus was much nearer than I could imagine.
Jesus is not a remote and impersonal God. Far from it! He is closer to you and me than we can know. I learned that it is possible for one to have an intimate relationship with Jesus without having to have lived 2000 years ago. Jesus is not far at all. He is truly present in the Eucharist and one need only travel to his local parish to see Him, to be with Him, to simply look at Him while He lovingly looks back at you.
Reverence for the Liturgy
I took a class at Benedictine College regarding the Sacraments and Liturgy. The professor had us read excerpts from numerous documents as well as the majority of Joseph Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy. It was from reading this book and taking this class that the beauty of the liturgy came to the foreground in my life. As Ratzinger says, the liturgy is not about us; it is about God. Therefore the Mass should be said reverently and with the greatest respect given toward God.
Interpreting Sacred Scripture
A final great lesson I learned from Ratzinger was a truly Catholic interpretation of the Bible (“both/and” not “either/or”). Ratzinger notes two types of biblical interpretation that have presented themselves in history. One, Method A is that of interpreting biblical passages in a spiritual context. While there is nothing wrong with this method, it often fails to account for the literal meaning of the text. The second, Method B, is that of a purely historical-critical method aimed at understanding the literal meaning of a given biblical passage. Once again, this method fails to address the spiritual level of a given text.
Benedict XVI, in his typical fashion of synthesis, creates a third method: Method C. Method C begins by using the historical-critical method to determine the literal meaning of a biblical text. It then is followed by using the spiritual method to examine the spiritual dimensions of the text.
May the angels of Heaven lead Benedict XVI before the face of God where together with the saints he might praise the glory of God forever. Amen.
Jesus of Nazareth - All Volumes
The Spirit of the Liturgy - as well as The Collected Works of Joseph Ratzinger Volume XI: Theology of the Liturgy
Dark Passages of the Bible by Matthew Ramage (Dr. Ramage goes into great detail describing Benedict’s Method C for biblical interpretation.)
A beautiful article and tribute to this great pontiff! Your article brought back wonderful memories of my own college classes that studied Pope Benedict's writings. I have been hoping to refresh my memory of them, and your article reminded me of much that I had forgotten. So thank you for that!
Great tribute to a truly great and holy man!