Just in case there was any doubt remaining about how we are to interpret the Holy father’s lessons on the Church Fathers, and how they relate to where we are today and what we are doing, we can turn to today’s lesson on “Eusebius; Bishop of Caesarea”. Once again, Benedict has brilliantly framed his own message in the words of one of the great Fathers of the Church. This time though, the lesson from history concerns how we are to interpret lessons from history. Certainly one of his shorter lessons, but definitely to the point:
VATICAN CITY, JUN 13, 2007 (VIS) - Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine was the subject of Benedict XVI's catechesis during his general audience, held this morning in St. Peter's Square in the presence of more than 30,000 pilgrims.
Pope Benedict explained that this Father of the Church was born around the year 260, and that he was known above all as "the first historian of Christianity" and "the greatest philologist of the ancient Church." He also participated in the Council of Nicaea in 325 during which the Creed was defined and the full divinity of the Son of God affirmed.
"Eusebius' perpetual fame is primarily associated with the ten books of his Church History, with which he managed to save many events, figures and literary works of the early Church from certain oblivion," said the Pope.
Yet the fundamental aspect of Eusebius' work is that his "is a 'Christocentric' history which progressively reveals the mystery of God's love for mankind." It also follows another of the constants of ancient ecclesiastical history, said the Holy Father, namely "the 'moral intention' running through the account. Historical analysis is never an end unto itself; rather it points decisively at conversion, and at an authentic witness of Christian life on the part of the faithful."
"Eusebius addresses a spirited appeal to believers of all times concerning the way they consider the events of history and of the Church in particular. He also appeals to us: What is our approach to the history of the Church?
"Is it," the Pope asked, "the approach of one interested out of simple curiosity, perhaps seeking the scandalous and sensational at any cost? Or is it the approach full of love and open to mystery of people who, through faith, know that in the history of the Church they can discover the signs of God's love and of the great works of salvation He has achieved? If this is our approach, we cannot but be stimulated to a more coherent and generous response, to a more Christian witness of life."
In this context, Pope Benedict quoted "that eminent scholar of the Fathers," Cardinal Jean Danielou who wrote: "There is a hidden component in history. ... The mystery is that of God's works which, in time, constitute authentic reality hidden behind appearances. ... But God creates this history for man, he does not create it without him."
"After so many centuries," the Pope concluded, "even today Eusebius of Caesarea invites believers to feel wonder, to contemplate God's great works in history for the salvation of mankind. And, with the same amount of energy, he calls us to convert our lives. Indeed, faced with a God Who loved us so much, we cannot remain inert. The requirement of love is that all of life be oriented towards imitation of the Loved One."
I think I’m going to go brush up on my Church History now… could come in handy soon!!