Vatican City, Jan 24, 2006 / 22:00 pm America/Denver (CNA).
Today, the Vatican published Benedict XVI's first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est", an encyclical on charity.
"God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 Jn 4:16)." These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.¨ These are the words which begin the encyclical.
"In a world in which the name of God is associated with vengeance, or where hate and violence are associated to it, the Christian message of God's Love is of great actuality," stresses the Pope.
The encyclical is divided into two parts. The first one offers a theological reflection on "Love", in its different dimensions -eros, philia, agape- giving some essential precisions on the Love of God for man and its intrinsic union with human love.
The terme "Love" affirms the document, "one of the most used and abused words in the world today, possesses a wide semantic range. In the multiple significant, though, emerges the archetype of what is the love between a man and a women, which in the antique Greece was given the name eros."
Following on the explanation of the Word "Love", the Holy Father reminds that "in the Bible", and above all in the New Testament, the concept of "Love is deepened- a development that is expressed in Mass at the limit of the word Eros and more in favor of the term Agape, to express such a self-gving Love."
Encountering possible misinterpretations of such a development, such as negative readings of Eros and corporality, the Encyclical underlines that "the Eros, set into its nature of man by the same Creator, is in need of discipline, purification and maturation in order not to loose his original dignity and not to degrade it to pure 'sex' therefore becoming a commodity."
"The Christian faith-he continues- has always considered man as a being in which the spirit and the matter compenetrate, acquiring a new nobility from it. The challenge of Eros is considered overcome when in man, body and soul meet in perfect harmony. Love then becomes, yes an 'extasis' not a moment of momentary intoxication but rather an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God".
"In Jesus Christ, who is the love incarnate of God, the eros-agape reaches its more radical form. In the death of the cross, Jesus, giving himself to elevate and save man, expresses Love in its most sublime form. In this act of offering, Jesus has assured a lasting presence through the institution of the Eucharist, which under the species of bread and wine, he gives himself as the new manna that unites us to him."
"Participating to the Eucharist, we are involved too in the dynamic of his gift. We unite ourselves to him and at the same time to all the others to which he gives himself. We become then one body. So that Love for God and Love for the neighbor are truly fused. The double commandment becomes one, thanks to this encounter with the Agape of God: Love can be "sent" because it has first been given.