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Getting to the root of the matter

I’ve just started working my way through Pope Benedict XVI’s Principles of Catholic Theology which is, as is the case for several of the books by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, a collection of previous works. So far I’ve found it to be much like the other works of his I’ve read – layer upon layer of theological reflection, each deeper and more critical than the last. Permit me a rather extended quote (all emphasis mine):

But even without exhaustive analysis it should be abundantly clear that anyone who would construct Christianity from formulas – from the drawing board – is on the wrong track. The malady from which the Church suffers today is, to a large extent, the attempt to achieve her renewal by this and similar means. Nothing living comes into existence in this way, least of all, of course, the Church herself. She came into existence because someone lived and suffered his word; by reason of his death, his word is understood as word par excellence, as the meaning of all being, as logos. Even the primitive Curch did not shrewdly devise formulas of faith and then promulgate them – had she done so, they would soon have gathered dust in their manuscripts as so many formulas do today in books that become obsolete almost as soon as they are published. The Church’s creed has been developed, above all, from the existential context of the catechumenate, and it was in this context that it was promulgated. The life embraced the word, and the word formed the life. Indeed, it is only to one who has entered into the community of faith that the word of faith reveals itself. Our principal need today is not primarily new formulas; on the contrary, we must confess to a superfluity of unheeded words. Our principal need is for a reconstruction of the existential context of catechumenal training in the faith as the source of a common experience of the Spirit that can thus become also the foundation of realistic reflection. Undoubtedly, this will give rise to new formulations in which the central truths of the Christian faith will be expressed in a way that is both easily remembered and easily understood. Even more important than the brief answers that can be found in any catechism will be a cohesive logic of faith in which even partial answers have their place. Formulas live by the logic that supports them; but logic lives by the logos, the meaning, which does not reveal itself without the cooperation of life – it is bound to the “circle” of communio that can be penetrated only by the union of thought and life.

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