Here is the beginning of my series on the Pope's encyclical "Deus Caritas Est". I hope you enjoy it!
“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him”(1 John 4:16). This is how Pope Benedict XVI begins his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, which is Latin for God is Love. Through this outpouring of love that God has showered on us, we have come to experience in a deep, personal, and intimate way what love is and thus who God is. We come to experience God as a person. God comes down to us and gives Himself to us in an act of perfect love which is shown most perfectly in Christ's death on the Cross. Thus, through this personal experience of God, we come to see that God loves us out of His Divine Personhood. We see that God is not some Divine Object, that God is some Thing far away and impossible for us to reach. Instead, God is the Divine Subject, some One close to us, who we can interact with in a deep, personal, intimate, and mystical way.
This is the basis for the encyclical of Pope Benedict. He talks about many things in this encyclical. It is beautiful, deep, and even poetic. We are truly blessed to have a Pope with such a deep knowledge and faith, and yet is able to express these things in a way that is accessible for everyone. I hope this series of posts will bring across to you many of the points that are made in this encyclical. I hope that this not so brief overview will give you the starting point to coming to a deeper understanding of this encyclical so that it can help you come to a deeper understanding of our common faith in Christ as well as a deeper understanding of how we as Christians are supposed to express the love of God to the world through our charitable activities.
There are many themes in this encyclical that I would like to point out ahead of time in order to keep your ears open for them as we go into depths of Christian love. The pope is a true renaissance man, someone who incorporates all forms of culture into this encyclical. He has a wide range of influences and backgrounds which pop up in the encyclical, including: Philosophy, Mysticism, Poetry, Theology of the Body, Natural Law, Faith and Reason, Humanism, and Politics. Perhaps the most important aspect of this encyclical is this; it is a sacramental encyclical. He really drives home the sacramental reality of Christianity.
Now, Sacrament has many meanings. The standard definition is that a Sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace given by God totally, freely, and undeservedly. However, there is also a deeper meaning to Sacramental reality which is built into this encyclical and it is rooted in John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body. In that he describes the sacramental reality of Christianity as that deep and intimate participation in the inner life of the Trinity. Every time we participate in the Sacraments, we are participating in one form or another in the inner life of the Trinity, which is a Communion of Love. It is this very Communion of Love which the Pope speaks of, as well as that outward sign of an interior grace given to us by God. Keep your ears open for these two views of a Sacrament to pop up. And so, without further ado, let us delve into the depths of God's love together.