from issue no. 01/02 - 2009

30Days Archive


by Paolo Mattei

With the republication of “My dear Timothy, take great care of all that has been entrusted t you” by Lorenzo Cappelletti a new regular feature, “Nova et vetera”, begins in 30Days. In it we intend to reprint some important articles published over the years by our magazine.
This is not a taste for retro, the nostalgic harking back to the recent past, quite popular today but which has nothing to do with us. On the contrary, a new need urges us, the desire to meet the demands of teachers, educators, seminarians and novices who write to tell us how useful 30Days is also for purposes of theological training. Since it is often new subscribers who write to us, unable to have read texts of ten and more years ago, we are offering some of them again.
To deny any suggestion whatsoever of self-congratulation there is also the fact that the articles we reprint are the pure and simple bringing to the fore of very authoritative essays that are unfortunately in danger of being overwhelmed by an output often greater in size but not in quality.
The article with which we launch this new feature, for example, is nothing but the setting out once again of the nature of the “deposit of faith” through the commentary of the great Dominican exegete Ceslas Spicq on the Pastoral Epistles. It is precisely in these Pauline writings (that is the two Epistles to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus) that the expression “deposit of faith” is used for the first time.
In Spicq’s development of the subject at least three observations come to light whose relevance seems always present if not indeed heightened.
First of all the metaphor of the deposit, taken from the legal sphere, states very well that what characterizes the Christian life, in primis of those to whom more has been given, is the simplicity of tradition (the custody and the return of something that was entrusted to one): with deposit there is no transfer of ownership, the depositary must do no more than guard and return in its entirety what he has received. A simplicity quite other than mechanical, it might be added. It takes all the joy and the gratitude of a freedom enfolded by grace to live the simplicity of tradition.
Spicq then emphasizes that these same Epistles, which represent the biblical foundation of the hierarchical constitution of the Church (and that precisely for this reason are considered by some to be of later and not Pauline provenance), paradoxically encourage universal openness to and sympathy for the world, “they no longer isolate the Church from the profane world, but implant it within it with a remarkable optimism and certainty”. And again, quoting the commentary of St John Chrysostom on these Epistles: “We must give thanks to God also for the good he accords others, that the sun shines, for example, on the evil and on the good, that the rain falls on the just and on the unjust. See how the Apostle, not only by petitions but with thanksgiving unites us and binds us together”. The words with which Paul VI closed Vatican Council II come back to mind, which precisely on the foundation of the Pastoral Letters are not to be considered a scandalous novelty but words of apostolic tradition: “Yes, the Church of the Council has been concerned, not just with herself and with her relationship of union with God, but with mankind – mankind as it really is today: living mankind, mankind all wrapped up in itself, mankind that makes itself not only the center of its every interest but dares to claim that it is the principle and explanation of all reality... Secular, profane, humanism has in the end appeared in its terrible stature and has, in a certain sense, challenged the Council. The religion of the God who became man has encountered the religion of man who makes himself God. And what has happened? Was there a clash, a battle, a condemnation? There might have been, but there was none. The old story of the Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the council. A feeling of boundless sympathy has permeated the whole of it... A wave of affection and admiration flowed from the Council over the modern human world. Errors were reproved, indeed, because charity demands it no less than truth, but for the persons themselves there was only warning, respect and love”.
And this brings us to the third observation in Spicq’s commentary. He points out that more than half (24 out of 44) of the recurrences of the adjective ‘beautiful’ (kalós) in the corpus paolinum appears in the Pastoral Epistles themselves. And in particular, that the expression “good works”, become traditional, is no other than the correct translation of kalà erga: the beauty of good works, works in which the beauty of grace is reflected as in a mirror. There is a delicacy of charity that is not only the form but the substance of it. This also is of present relevance.

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