Saturday, April 01, 2006

Deus Caritas Est - The Encyclical's Introduction

Before we enter into Part 1, Pope Benedict gives us a further basis for this encyclical as well as a general outline of his goals for this encyclical.

He begins by stating that belief in the love of God is the fundamental decision of the life of a Christian. Christianity is not an ethical choice, nor is it a lofty, fuzzy idea. That is to say, Christianity has nothing to do with emotions, nor does it have to do with the idea of right and wrong. These are aspects of Christianity, but they are not the fullest. Instead, Christianity is an encounter with the living God, and it is this personal and intimate encounter with God that life is given meaning, that life is given direction. Through Christ, the emotions and ethos of our day to day life are given that perspective. Christ is the basis for our choices, with regards to moral choices (ethics) and with regards to acting on our feelings based on the truths of Christ (emotions). Thus, the entire faith is based, first and foremost, on that encounter with Christ,
and from that encounter the basis for our feelings and our moral choices stem. These are not forced on us, but we accept them in love as our true direction in life. In short, the encounter with Christ challenges us to make a dramatic change in our life not because we are forced to, but because of our love for God.

Through these various encounters with Christ in our life, we realize that each and every encounter is based on the reception of love from God Himself. Thus, as stated earlier, God is not someone far away whom we have no access to, but instead, God brings Himself to us so that we may say yes to His love in our life and thus, as a result of this overflowing gift of love, the love of God can flow through us to our neighbour. Love, now, is no longer a commandment. To love God is not a commandment, nor is it a commandment to love our neighbour. Love is a response to a gift. By saying yes to God's love, we are responding to God's gift. We respond by loving God back, in a direct and indirect manner. We love God directly through our simple yes to Him revealed in Christ. We love Him in an indirect manner through the presence of Christ in our neighbour. By giving ourselves in love to God, He thus responds back to our act of love by drawing us nearer to Him through that deep and intimate participation in the life of grace.

This encyclical will now be split up into two parts. The first part is the more theoretical aspect. He looks at the meaning of love and builds on it up to the love which Christ shows us when His side is pierced on the Cross. This is important because it is important to have a clear idea of what the Christian meaning of love is. The second part is a more practical part. It deals with how to apply that overflowing love of Christ into our love for our neighbour through the charitable mission of the Church. Let us now delve into Part One.

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