The purpose of all learning and culture is the discernment of the supreme human good, and this supreme good is found in Christianity, Pope Benedict XVI said today under sunny skies in St. Peter’s Square.
To illustrate his point, the Holy Father dedicated the Wednesday Audience to St. Gregory of Nyssa, a 4th century Early Church Father. “Gregory’s outstanding education and intellectual gifts led him first to teaching. He then embraced the ascetic life, and eventually was ordained Bishop of Nyssa”, the Pope recalled.
The Pope also explained how, like the other Cappadocian [modern day Turkey] Fathers of that time, Gregory contributed greatly to defense of the faith in the period following the Council of Nicaea, and played a leading role at the Council of Constantinople, which defined the divinity of the Holy Spirit. His contribution to theology, he said, was “like a work of art”.
In many of his writings, St. Gregory emphasizes that “our creation in the image of God, our royal vocation as stewards of the created order, and our responsibility to cultivate our inner beauty, which is a participation in the uncreated beauty of the Creator,” said the Holy Father.
“For Gregory, the purpose of all learning and culture is the discernment of the supreme human good, the truth that enables us to find authentic and lasting fulfillment. This supreme good is found in Christianity,” the Pope said, because in Christianity it is “possible to imitate the divine nature”.
Pope Benedict described how Gregory, the brother and spiritual heir to St. Basil, showed that the highest purpose of theology is to keep oneself from being preoccupied with vain things, and instead “find the light that helps one discern what is really useful”.
He added: “By purifying our hearts and progressing in holiness, we are drawn to the vision of God and thus to the satisfaction of the deepest longings of every human heart”.
At the end of the audience, the Pope made an appeal on behalf of those “devastated by grave calamities”. He was referring to victims of recent flooding in North Korea, and “disastrous fires” that have spread across parts of Greece, Italy and other parts of Europe.
“In the face of so many dramatic emergencies, that have resulted in many victims and huge material damage, one cannot help but be concerned about the irresponsible behavior of those who put human safety at risk and destroy the environment, a precious patrimony for all of humanity”, he said.
Italy, Spain, Greece and other European countries have suffered from widespread rural fires, caused by a combination of arson attacks, hot temperatures and high winds. Floods in North Korea, meanwhile, have led to the loss of an estimated 600 lives, and tens of thousands of others have been made homeless.