Thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square today to attend Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly General Audience and catechesis. The Holy Father discussed the great Father of the Church, St. Clement of Alexandria, who emphasized the need for a harmony between faith and reason to achieve an intimate union with God.
The Pope recalled that Clement was born in the mid second century, probably in Athens, whence "the great interest for philosophy which would make him one of the flag-bearers of dialogue between faith and reason in Christian tradition." He later moved to Alexandria, but abandoned the city during the persecution of 202-203 and died in Cappadocia in 215.
His most important work is a trilogy that has provided "effective accompaniment to the spiritual maturation of Christians," said the Pope. The first part is "an exhortation addressed to those beginning the journey of faith" in which "the Logos, Jesus Christ, exhorts mankind to start decisively down the road of Truth."
In the second part of the trilogy "Jesus Christ becomes a pedagogue, in other words educator of those who, by virtue of Baptism, have already become children of God." And in the third part, Christ is "the Master Who presents the most profound teachings."
In this way "the Clementine catechesis provides a step-by-step accompaniment to the progress of catechumens and of baptized so that, with the two 'wings' of faith and reason, they may attain an intimate knowledge of the Truth that is Jesus Christ. Only this knowledge of the Person Who is truth, is 'true gnosis.’”
"Clement returns to the doctrine which holds that man's ultimate goal is to become like God. This is possible thanks to the connatural similarity with Him that man received at the moment of the creation, and by which he is already [made in] the image of God. This connatural similarity makes it possible to know the divine realities, to which man adheres primarily through faith." Then, "through the practice of virtue, he can develop to the point of contemplating God."
"Two virtues adorn the heart of the 'true gnostic,' ... freedom from the passions," and love "which ensures intimate union with God." Thus "the ethical ideal of ancient philosophy, in other words freedom from the passions, is redefined by Clement and conjugated with love in the constant process of assimilation to God.”
In this way Clement “creates the second great opportunity for dialogue between the Christian message and Greek philosophy.”
“For him,” Pope Benedict noted, “the Greek philosophical tradition, almost like the Law for the Jews, is an area of 'revelation', both being paths leading to the Logos."
This Father of the Church, the Pope concluded, "can serve as an example to Christians, to catechists and to theologians of our time" whom John Paul II urged in his Encyclical "Fides et Ratio" to " recover and express to the full the metaphysical dimension of truth in order to enter into a demanding critical dialogue with (...) contemporary philosophical thought.”