The primacy of Christ
by Giovanni Maria Vian
the 5/25-5/26 issue of
Benedict XVI returned to Montecassino, where he had been quite a few times beofre being elected to the Chair of Peter, in order to repeat yet again that nothing should be placed ahead of the love of Christ:
nihil amori Christi praeponere
- according to that beautiful and essential expression of the Benedictine Rule which the new Pope in 2005 recalled to explain why he chose the name he took as the Roman Pontiff.
It is a name that augurs well, onr associated with peace, and that had not recurred in the papal succession for more than ninety years, and that the new Pope thus explained, above all, in reference to the absolute primacy of Christ.
This primacy is not an abstract concept, much less an ideology, but the consequence of an encounter - as the Pope affirms in his first encyclical - in the daily life of the Christian.
An encounter with Christ by Joseph Ratzinger, as by every other faithful believer, along the 'program' stated clearly at the start of his Pontificate: namely, "not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him".
Through the search for God, that 'quaerere Deum' taught by the father of Western monasticism, and which Benedict XVI in Paris, in his memorable lecture at the College des Bernardins, had indicated as the origin of the culture that matured on the European continent.
The Benedictine program of never placing anything ahead of Christ is realized everyday in concrete acts. And in the rhythm of the monastic day, the Pope underscored, monastic life has an exemplary value for every believer, man or woman. Above all, in the space it reserves for prayer, 'the silent path' that leads to God, and therefore, a genuine 'breath for the soul".
Then comes work, a reality that is always difficult, and in this time of global crisis, a matter of concern and even anguish for individuals and families, as well as a question tied up with the issue of immigration.
And culture, which is never restricted in its areas of concern, also signifies - above all - education of the new generations and responsibility on their behalf. These are issues which, not by chance, are covered in the words today of the president of the Italian bishops conference [opening the annual general assembly of the CEI which continues till May 29]
Thus, to return to Montecassino was for Benedict XVI a fresh occasion to call attention the priorities of life. And to invoke peace yet again - rather, the gift of peace and the commitment to realize it - from a place of gentleness and civility which hadd been uselessly destroyed by the barbarism of modern wars, in that horrific tragedy with which Europe started its descent into the abyss some 70 years ago.
Because of this, Paul VI proclaimed St. Benedict, from Montecassino itself, to be the Patron of the Old Continent, symbolizing in the Cross, the plow and rteh book the centuries-long achievements of his monks. [The occasion was the inauguration of teh reconstructed Abbey in 1954.]
Thereby, he underscored the responsibility of Christians who must visibly bear witness to the profundity and efficacy of their roots. In Europe, in the global context, in the reasonable search for the common good.