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from issue no. 08/09 - 2010

PADUA, 17 APRIL 2007

“If I Have not charity, I may have the other gifts but they cannot help me”


From Giacomo Tantardini’s book Il tempo della Chiesa secondo Agostino. Seguire e rimanere in attesa. La felicità in speranza [The time of the Church according to Augustine. Following and remaining in waiting. Happiness in Hope], published by Città Nuova. We publish one of the lectures from the Conferences on the relevance of St Augustine given at the University of Padua


by Giacomo Tantardini


Giacomo Tantardini, <I>Il tempo della Chiesa secondo Agostino. Seguire e rimanere in attesa. La felicità in speranza</I> [The time of the Church according to Augustine. Following and remaining in waiting. Happiness in Hope], with the Preface by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Città Nuova, Roma 2009, 388 pp., euro 22.00

Giacomo Tantardini, Il tempo della Chiesa secondo Agostino. Seguire e rimanere in attesa. La felicità in speranza [The time of the Church according to Augustine. Following and remaining in waiting. Happiness in Hope], with the Preface by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Città Nuova, Roma 2009, 388 pp., euro 22.00

INTRODUCTION
I thank Professor Fellin also for the last interesting point that he presented*. The thing struck me immediately. In fact Augustine also repeats that “God became man so that men may become God”1. They may become God not in virtue of their nature, but in virtue of that event of grace whereby God became man2. A reading perhaps less schematic and certainly more complete of both Eastern and Western theological traditions should avoid the dialectic between an Eastern theology concerned with deification and a Western theology concerned with redemption from sin. There are definitely different emphases in the two traditions, but perhaps a more adequate understanding of both might be arrived at by not starting from this schema.
Let me give another example. It’s customary to set the Trinitarian theology of the Greek Fathers against the Trinitarian theology of the Latin Fathers: the former are said to have sought to explain the mystery starting from the distinction of the three persons to then arrive at affirming the unity of nature; whereas the Latins, and especially Augustine, are said to have started from the unity of nature to arrive at distinguishing the three Persons. But it’s enough to read Augustine’s De Trinitate to realize that from the beginning the movement of thought goes from the distinction of the Persons to the unity of nature and not the reverse. Like Athanasius and Basil, Augustine also passes from reflection on the three Persons to reflection on the substance. However, these comments are only an attempt to respond here and now.
I also thank Professor Fellin for the mention of the creation along with time. My first essay in first-year theology at Venegono was precisely on De Deo creatore. Before the creation there is no time, and creation is creation along with time. Finally, I thank the professor for all the comments on the surprising concreteness and surprising realism of Augustine when he speaks of the two cities.
Today, at the conclusion of this year’s meetings, starting from some phrases of Ratzinger in his book on St Augustine3, I would like to deal with what for Augustine and the Christian is the heart of the Christian happening, that is, charity.
Let me make a remark to link the lecture of the previous occasion to that of today. In the last lecture, pointing especially to Augustine’s writings against the Donatists, namely those against the schism of Donatus, we said that the perspective of the Donatists was the unity of the Church. The perspective of Augustine is the actual presence of the happening of Jesus Christ, the Church’s unity is in fact the effect of His presence. The passage from the Donatist perspective to the Augustinian perspective can be described as the transition from unitas to caritas unitatis. For the Donatists the perspective is the unity of the community, with the consequences, even tragic, of such a perspective: let’s not forget that, as we mentioned last time, Donatism also had violent, terroristic results, not only for the Catholics but also for their own community4. When the perspective is the community and not the gratuitous event of Jesus Christ who builds His Church, one introduces “an impurity that affects judgments and relations”5 and which leads to violence. Evident in Augustine is the transition from unitas to caritas unitatis, to the very source of unity, the Jesus attraction. In De civitate Dei Augustine says caritas, amor and dilectio are identical terms, indicating the same dynamics, the same content6. The word charity, the word love, the word dilection can be brought down in Christian fashion to what, in my opinion, is the finest expression of Don Giussani: the Jesus attraction.


1 “For Augustine caritas is synonymous with grace and with the Holy Spirit”7

1.1 CHARITY IS SO IMPORTANT THAT IF IT IS LACKING, ONE HAS ALL THE OTHER THINGS IN VAIN

IN EVANGELIUM IOANNIS IX, 8
Quisquis itaque nominat Patrem et Filium, oportet ibi intellegat tamquam caritatem invicem Patris et Filii, quod est Spiritus Sanctus. Fortassis enim discussae Scripturae: quod non sic dico, ut hodie docere possim, aut quasi aliud inveniri non possit: sed tamen fortasse scrutatae Scripturae indicant quod Spiritus Sanctus caritas est. Et ne putetis vilem esse caritatem. Quomodo autem vilis est, quando omnia quae dicuntur non vilia, cara dicuntur? Si ergo quae non sunt vilia, cara sunt; quid est carius ipsa caritate? Sic autem commendatur caritas ab Apostolo, ut dicat: «Supereminentiorem viam vobis demonstro. Si linguis hominum loquar et angelorum, caritatem autem non habeam, factus sum aeramentum sonans, aut cymbalum tinniens: et si sciero omnia sacramenta et omnem scientiam, et habuero prophetiam et omnem fidem, ita ut montes transferam, caritatem autem non habeam, nihil sum: et si distribuero omnia mea pauperibus, et tradidero corpus meum ut ardeam, caritatem autem non habeam, nihil mihi prodest». Quanta est ergo caritas, quae si desit, frustra habentur caetera; si adsit, recte habentur omnia? Tamen caritatem laudans apostolus Paulus copiosissime atque uberrime, minus de illa dixit quam quod ait breviter apostolus Ioannes, cuius est hoc Evangelium. Neque enim dubitavit dicere: «Deus caritas est». Scriptum est etiam: «Quia caritas Dei diffusa est in cordibus nostris per Spiritum Sanctum qui datus est nobis». Quis ergo nominet Patrem et Filium, et non ibi intellegat caritatem Patris et Filii? Quam cum habere coeperit, Spiritum Sanctum habebit: quam si non habuerit, sine Spiritu Sancto erit. Et quomodo corpus tuum sine spiritu, quod est anima tua, si fuerit, mortuum est; sic anima tua sine Spiritu Sancto, id est, sine caritate si fuerit, mortua deputabitur. Ergo «metretas binas capiebant hydriae», quia in omnium temporum prophetia Pater et Filius praedicatur: sed ibi est et Spiritus Sanctus; ideoque adiunctum est, «vel ternas. Ego et Pater», inquit, «unum sumus»: sed absit ut desit Spiritus Sanctus, ubi audimus: «Ego et Pater unum sumus». Tamen quia Patrem et Filium nominavit, capiant «hydriae binas metretas»; sed audi, «vel ternas: Ite, baptizate gentes in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti». Itaque in eo quod dicuntur binae, non exprimitur, sed intellegitur; in eo vero quod dicuntur vel ternae, etiam exprimitur Trinitas.
Quisquis itaque nominat Patrem et Filium, oportet ibi intellegat tamquam caritatem invicem Patris et Filii, quod est Spiritus Sanctus. / Whoever confesses [whoever names] the Father and the Son, should there [in the mystery of the Father and the Son] acknowledge the mutual love of Father and Son that is the Holy Spirit. / Fortassis enim discussae Scripturae: quod non sic dico, ut hodie docere possim, aut quasi aliud inveniri non possit: sed tamen fortasse scrutatae Scripturae indicant quod Spiritus sanctus caritas est / [Augustine is saying he does not want to go deeper into this affirmation. He is in fact talking to the faithful and does not intend to make detailed exegesis of the texts. So he states that] ... the Scriptures investigated indicate that the Holy Spirit is charity”. Caritas, amor, dilectio is the Holy Spirit. Then we shall refer to the detailing by St Thomas Aquinas on this relationship between the Holy Spirit and charity, with the distinction, that one cannot fail to recognize, between uncreated gift and created gift. The Holy Spirit is uncreated gift, the created gift is the sanctifying grace that the Holy Spirit, embracing the freedom of man, informing the will of man, creates.
Et ne putetis vilem esse caritatem. / And do not believe that charity is a mean thing. / Quomodo autem vilis est, quando omnia quae dicuntur non vilia, cara dicuntur? / How can we consider charity unimportant, since all things that are not trivial we decribe as dear? [Augustine here plays on the similarity of the terms carus and caritas] / Si ergo quae non sunt vilia, cara sunt, quid est carius ipsa caritate? / So if things that are not trivial are dear, what is more dear than charity? / Sic autem commendatur caritas ab Apostolo, ut dicat: / So the Apostle [Paul] praised charity when he said: / ‘Supereminentiorem viam vobis demonstro’ [1 Cor 12, 31] / ‘I want to show you a more outstanding way’ ”. For Paul, the way of the Christian is charity and at the same time he says in his Epistle to the Hebrews, it is the flesh of the risen Christ (cf. Heb 10, 20). The way in which the Christian walks, in which not only is he shown the path and the goal, but in which (to use a familiar Gospel image) he is picked up and made to walk, this way is at once delectatio and dilectio8, that is charity and Jesus Christ in His risen flesh, in His resurrected body.
Then Augustine quotes the famous passage from St Paul: “‘Si linguis hominum loquar et angelorum, caritatem autem non habeam, factus sum aeramentum sonans, aut cymbalum tinniens’: / ‘If I spoke in the tongues of men and of angels but have not charity I am as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal’: / et se sciero omnia sacrament / and if I knew all the mysteries...”: Latin often translates the Greek word mysterion (mysterion) with the word sacramentum and this identity between mystery and sacrament is profoundly Christian. For the Christian the mysteries (see for example the mysteries of the Rosary) are not primarily the truths that reason cannot understand (see the two principal mysteries of faith): for the Christian, mystery is first of all the revelation of God in history, so much so that the mystery par excellence is the sacrament of the Eucharist, the mysterium fidei, that is the sacramental revelation of the ineffable mystery of God.
Let us return to Augustine: “... if I knew all the mysteries / et omnem scientiam, / and all knowledge, / et habuero prophetiam / and if I had prophecy / et omnem fidem, ita ut montes transferam, / and if I had all faith, so as to move mountains , / caritatem autem non habeam, nihil sum: / but had not charity, I am nothing: / et si distribuero omnia mea pauperibus, / and though I bestowed all my goods on the poor / et tradidero corpus meum ut ardeam, / and also gave my body to be burned / caritatem autem non habeam, nihil mihi prodest’ [1 Cor 13, 1-3]. / But have not charity, I gain nothing’. / Quanta est ergo caritas, / How important then is charity / quae si desit frustra habentur caetera / that if it is lacking one has everything else in vain”. This is the mystery of the Church: other things are not unimportant, but if there is no caritas, if there is no amor, if dilectio is lacking, if the Jesus attraction is missing, if His presence is lacking that attracts freedom with immediacy (prompte) and pleasure (delectabiliter) – because this is charity9 – one has the other things in vain. Without caritas the other things do not stir freedom10.
Augustine continues: “si adsit, recto habentur omnia? / whereas if it is present [charity] all other things are really themselves [recte habentur: we could also translate: are fine11]! / Tamen caritatem laudans apostolus Paulus copiosissime atque uberrime, / But even if the Apostle Paul commends charity in these very abundant and fecund terms / minus de illa dixit quam quod ait breviter apostolus Ioannes, / he says less than the Apostle John does in brief / cui est hoc Evangelium. / whose Gospel I am commenting. / Neque enim dubitavit dicere: ‘Deus Caritas est’ [1 Jn 4, 16]. / John did not hesitate to say, ‘God is charity’. / Scriptum est etiam: / And it is also written [in Paul]: / ‘Quia caritas Dei / ‘The charity of God / diffusa est in cordibus nostris per Sanctum Spiritum qui datus est nobis’ [Rom 5, 5]. / Has been poured in our hearts [not by us12] through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’. / Quis ergo nominet Patrem et Filium, et non ibi intellegat caritatem Patris et Filii? / Who can name the Father and the Son and not recognize the charity [that is the correspondence] of the Father and the Son?”. The terms dilectio, amor, caritas when they indicate the Holy Spirit can be translated by the word correspondence between the Father and the Son. The charity of the Holy Spirit is not just love that gives itself, it is also correspondence of friendship, or, as St Hilary says, “enjoyment of the gift”13. So our God is fullness of happiness. The Holy Spirit is the correspondence, the enjoyment of the gift of the Father to the Son. In the mystery of the Trinity there is endless correspondence of happiness. The Holy Spirit is this experience, so to speak, of correspondence, of enjoyment in the gift of the Father and of the Son.
Augustine continues: “Quam cum habere coeperit, Spiritum Sanctum habebit: quam si non habuerit sine Spiritu Sancto erit. / And if one begins to have charity [here, too, it is interesting to note the verb habere / to have, as distinct from the verb tenere / to possess14. So much so that charity can be lost. One has charity as grace given], one has the Holy Spirit, and if one does not have charity one does not have the Holy Spirit. / Et quomodo corpus tuum sine spiritu, quod est anima tua, si fuerit, mortuum est / And like your body, if it had not the spirit, which is your soul, it is dead, / sic anima tua sine Spiritu Sancto, id est, sine carita si fuerit, mortua deputabitur / so your soul without the Holy Spirit, without charity, that is, would be to be considered dead”.


2 “Caritas and Ecclesia are set so closely together that in a certain sense they can be taken as identical”15.
The Ecclesia is the visibility of caritas and the visibility of the Jesus attraction. The Jesus attraction meeting and attracting people to Himself makes them visibly Church. The Church is the visibility of this loving attraction.
“Caritas and Ecclesia are set so closely together that in a certain sense they can be taken as identical”16.
It is also important that Ratzinger should say “in a certain sense”, because we shall see how they can and should be distinguished.

2.1 THE UNITY OF CHRIST

IN EVANGELIUM IOANNIS VI, 21
Sed, inquies, habeo sacramentum. Verum dicis: sacramentum divinum est; habes baptisma, et ego confiteor. Sed quid dicit idem Apostolus? «Si sciero omnia sacramenta, et habuero prophetiam et omnem fidem, ita ut montes transferam»: ne forte et hoc diceres: Credidi, sufficit mihi. Sed quid dicit Iacobus? «Et daemones credunt, et contremiscunt». Magna est fides, sed nihil prodest si non habeat caritatem. Confitebantur et daemones Christum. Ergo credendo, sed non diligendo dicebant: «Quid nobis et tibi?». Fidem habebant, caritatem non habebant: ideo daemones erant. Noli de fide gloriari; adhuc daemonibus comparandus es. Noli dicere Christo: Mihi et tibi quid est? Unitas enim Christi tibi loquitur. Veni, cognosce pacem, redi ad viscera columbae. Foris baptizatus es; habeto fructum, et redis ad arcam.

Augustine is addressing the Donatists.
“Unitas enim Christi / The unity of Christ [here, too, it is beautiful, we mentioned it last time: the unity of the Church is the unitas Christi, it is the unity that Christ brings about. Unitas Christi equals Ecclesia Christi] / tibi loquitur. Veni, cognosce pacem, redi ad viscera columbae. / he addresses you [the Donatist, the one who is separated] and says: come, know peace [enjoy the experience of peace, that is communion. Pax and communicatio] come back into the heart of the dove [the image of the Church as dove]. / Foris baptizatus es; / You were baptized outside [the Church’s unity. Remember Augustine’s affirmation: “You were baptized outside the womb of the Church / de semine viri sui / but from the seed of Her spouse”17. Even baptism outside the Church is the baptism of Christ, it is always Christ who baptizes18]; / habeto fructum, et redis ad arcam / may you have the fruit [i.e. charity, which is the fruit of baptism, the fruit of the sacrament], and so return to the ark”. Charity carries you into the heart of the Church.


3 “Not everyone who is in the Church really belongs to it, that is really has caritas”19.
Those who are in the Church but have not caritas, says the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium (no. 14), repeating the words of Augustine, are bodily within but in their hearts are outside the Church20.
“Certainly those who are in the Catholica apparently belong to the bride and so apparently have caritas, so intimately connected is the Ecclesia juridically structured by caritas. But this external, visible participation in caritas is not enough: the inner reality may be missing, and with it everything”21.

3.1 IF I HAVE NOT CHARITY, I MAY HAVE THE OTHER GIFTS BUT THEY CANNOT HELP ME

SERMO AD CAESARIENIS ECCLESIAE PLEBEM 3
Et quid non habent, ait mihi aliquis, qui haec habent? Tu dicis: Habent baptismum Christi. Dico. Tu dicis: Habent fidem Christi. Dico. Si ergo haec habent, quid non habent? Quid est baptismus? Sacramentum. Audi Apostolum: «Si sciero omnia sacramenta». Multum est scire omnia Dei sacramenta. Quantacumque sciamus sacramenta, quis novit Dei omnia sacramenta? Quid ait Apostolus? «Si sciero omnia sacramenta, si habeam omnem prophetiam». Adde adhuc, «et omnem scientiam». Sed de fide dixeras. Audi adhuc: «Si habeam omnem fidem». Difficile est habere omnem fidem, quomodo difficile est noscere omnia sacramenta. Et quid est quod dicit, «omnem? Ita ut montes transferam; caritatem autem non habeam, nihil sum». Intendite, fratres; intendite, obsecro vos, Apostoli vocem, et videte quare cum tantis laboribus et periculis fratres nostros quaeramus. Caritas eos quaerit de cordibus nostris. «Propter fratres meos et propinquos meos», dicit Psalmus, «loquebar pacem de te», ad sanctam Ierusalem loquens. Videte ergo, fratres mei, quid dixit Apostolus: «Si habuero omnia sacramenta, omnem scientiam, prophetiam, fidem». Qualem fidem? «Ita ut montes transferam; caritatem autem non habeam, nihil sum». Non dixit: Illa omnia nihil sunt; sed: «si caritatem non habeam, nihil sum». Quis enim demens diceret: Nihil sunt Dei sacramenta? Quis demens diceret: Nihil est prophetia, nihil scientia, nihil fides? Non illa nihil sunt; sed cum illa magna sint, ego magna habens, «si caritatem non habeam, nihil sum». Magna illa sunt, et magna habeo, et nihil sum si caritatem non habeo, per quam mihi prosunt quae magna sunt. Si enim non habeo caritatem, illa inesse possunt, prodesse non possunt. Ideo te quaero, ut hoc sacramentum sit tibi in salutis adiutorium, non in damnationis testimonium.

Augustine is speaking of the Donatist Emeritus to the faithful of the Church of Caesarea: “Et quid non habent, ait mihi aliquis, qui haec habent? / And what do they not have, someone will ask me, those who have these things? [those things are baptism, the same Creed, the Eucharist] / Tu dicis: Habent baptismum Christi. / You say: they have the baptism of Christ [the Donatists have it, the baptism of Christ]. / Dico. Tu dicis: Habent fidem Christi. / I admit it. You say: they have the faith of Christ [the baptismal faith is the same: the Apostles’ Creed]. / Dico. Si ergo haec habent, quid non habent? / I admit it. So if they have these things [if they have the same faith, the same sacraments], what do they lack? / Quid est baptismus? Sacramentum. / What is baptism? A sacrament. / Audi Apostolum: ‘Se sciero omnia sacramenta’. / Listen to the Apostle [and here he takes up the passage on charity from St Paul]: ‘If I knew all the mysteries [all the sacraments]. / Multum est scire omnia Dei sacramenta. / It’s an important thing to know all the mysteries of God / Quantacumque sciamus sacramenta, quis novit Dei omnia sacramenta? / To whatever extent we know the mysteries, who can claim to know all the mysteries of God? / Quid ait Apostolus? ‘Si sciero omnia sacramenta, si habeam omnem prophetiam. / But what says the Apostle? ‘If I knew all the mysteries, if I had all prophecy.’ / Adde adhuc ‘et omnem scientiam’. / And also adds: ‘If I had all knowledge’. / Sed de fide dixeras. / But you were speaking of faith. / Audi adhuc: / Listen to what he adds: / ‘Si habeam omnem fidem’. / ‘If I had the fullness of the faith’. / Difficile est habere omnem fidem, quomodo difficile est noscere omnia sacramenta / it is difficult to have all the faith”: we should distinguish here faith as theological virtue from faith as a gift of the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12, 9), which is the faith that performs miracles, of which Augustine is speaking and of which Paul is speaking. There is a very splendid phrase of St Cyril of Jerusalem, that comforts me a lot, which says that to get the faith that performs miracles it’s enough to keep to the faith of the Creed22. Miracles are a gift from God. If you’re in the faith of the Creed, the Lord can give you even that faith that moves mountains.
Let us return to Augustine: “It’s difficult to have all the faith, as it is difficult to know all the mysteries. / Et quid est quod dicit, ‘omnem’? / And what does ‘the fullness of faith’ mean? / ‘Ita ut montes transferam; / ‘So as to move mountains [remember the words of Jesus: “If you have faith like to a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, move ..” (Mt 17, 20)] , / caritatem autem non habeam, nihil sum / but if I have not charity I am nothing’ ”. If I had the faith to move mountains, but had not charity, I am nothing. If I have not charity, that is the Jesus attraction, the loving attraction of the presence of the Lord that enables me to love God and love my neighbor, I am nothing.
“Intendite, fratres; intendite, obsecro vos, Apostoli vocem, / Listen, brothers, listen, I beg, to the voice of the Apostle / et videte quare cum tantis laboribus et periculis fratres nostros quaeramus. / and see why with such hardships and dangers we seek our brothers. / Caritas eos quaerit de cordibus nostris. / It is charity that seeks them from our heart [that de cordibus nostris is splendid: from the heart embraced by the Jesus attraction arises this possibility of loving]. / ... Videte ergo, fratres mei, quid dixit Apostolus: ‘Si habuero omnia sacramentum, omnem scientiam, prophetiam, fidem’. / ... You see then, my brethren, what the Apostle has said: ‘If I understood all the mysteries and had all knowledge, prophecy, faith’. / Qualem fidem? “Ita ut montes transferam; caritatem autem non habeam, nihil sum”. / What kind of faith? ‘So as to move mountains, but if I have not charity, I am nothing’. / Non dixit: Illa omnia nihil sunt, / He did not say those things [prophecy, faith that can move mountains] are nothing / sed ‘si caritatem non habeam, nihil sum’. / But ‘if I have not charity, I am nothing’ [those things are God’s gift, baptism is a gift of God, faith is a gift from God, but if I have not charity, I am nothing]. / Quis enim demens diceret: Nihil sunt Dei sacramenta? / Who is so unintelligent [without mens] as to say that the sacraments of God are nothing? / Quis demens diceret: Nihil est prophetia, nihil scientia, nihil fides? / Who is so unintelligent as to say that prophecy is nothing, science is nothing, faith is nothing? / Non illa nihil sunt, sed cum illa magna sint ego magna habens, / Those things are not nothing, indeed, since those are great things, I have great things, / ‘si caritatem non habeam, nihil sum’. / ‘[But] if I have not charity I am nothing’ [I have great gifts, but if I have not charity, I am nothing]. / Magna illa sunt, et magna habeo, / Those things are great things, and I have great things / et nihil sum si caritatem non habeo, / and yet I am nothing if I have not charity / per quam mihi prosunt quae sunt magna. / because it is through charity that those great things can help me [those things are great, but without charity they do not help. It is through charity that baptism helps; it is through charity that faith helps; it is through charity that prophecy helps]. / Si enim non habeo caritatem, illa inesse possunt, prodesse non possunt / If I have not charity, there may well be those things in me, but they cannot help”23. They cannot help towards salvation. I do not have those salubriter gifts as a source of salvation. They cannot help towards present and eternal happiness.

3.2 IT IS ONLY CHARITY THAT DISTINGUISHES GOD’S CHILDREN FROM THE CHILDREN OF THE DEVIL

IN EPISTOLAM IOANNIS AD PARTHOS V, 7
Hoc, si meministis, commendavimus, cum istam Epistolam legere inciperemus, nihil in ea nobis sic commendari, quomodo caritatem. Et si videtur alia et alia dicere, illuc facit reditum; et ad ipsam caritatem omnia vult referre quaecumque dixerit. Videamus si et hic hoc facit. Attende: «Omnis qui natus est ex Deo, non facit peccatum». Quaerimus quod peccatum: quia si omne intellexeris, contrarius erit illi loco: «Si dixerimus quia peccatum non habemus, nosmetipsos seducimus, et veritas in nobis non est». Ergo dicat quod peccatum, doceat nos; ne forte ego temere dixerim peccatum hoc esse violationem caritatis, quia supra dixit: «Qui odit fratrem suum, in tenebris est, et in tenebris ambulat, et nescit quo eat, quia tenebrae excaecaverunt oculos eius». Sed forte dixit aliquid in posterioribus, et nominavit caritatem. Videte quia circuitus ille verborum hunc habet finem, hunc habet exitum. «Omnis qui natus est ex Deo, non peccat; quia semen eius in ipso manet». Semen Dei, id est, verbum Dei: unde dicit Apostolus: «Per Evangelium ego vos genui. Et non potest peccare, quia ex Deo natus est». Dicat hoc, videamus in quo non potest peccare. «In hoc manifestati sunt filii Dei et filii diaboli. Omnis qui non est iustus, non est a Deo, et qui non diligit fratrem suum». Certe iam manifestum est unde dicat: «Et qui non diligit», inquit, «fratrem suum». Dilectio ergo sola discernit inter filios Dei et filios diaboli. Signent se omnes signo crucis Christi; respondeant omnes, Amen; cantent omnes, Alleluia; baptizentur omnes, intrent Ecclesias, faciant parietes basilicarum: non discernuntur filii Dei a filiis diaboli, nisi caritate. Qui habent caritatem, nati sunt ex Deo: qui non habent, non sunt nati ex Deo. Magnum indicium, magna discretio. Quidquid vis habe; hoc solum non habeas, nihil tibi prodest: alia si non habeas, hoc habe, et implesti Legem. «Qui enim diligit alterum, Legem implevit», ait Apostolus: et: «Plenitudo Legis caritas». Puto istam margaritam esse illam quam homo negotiator quaesisse describitur in Evangelio, qui invenit unam margaritam, et vendidit omnia quae habebat, et emit eam. Haec est margarita pretiosa, caritas, sine qua nihil tibi prodest quodcumque habueris: quam si solam habeas, sufficit tibi. Modo cum fide vides, tunc cum specie videbis. Si enim amamus cum non videmus, quomodo amplectemur cum viderimus? Sed ubi nos debemus exercere? In amore fraterno. Potes mihi dicere: Non vidi Deum; numquid potes mihi dicere: Non vidi hominem? Dilige fratrem. Si enim fratrem quem vides dilexeris, simul videbis et Deum; quia videbis ipsam caritatem, et intus inhabitat Deus.

“Dilectio ergo sola discernit inter filios Dei et filios diaboli. / It’s only charity that distinguishes the children of God from the children of the devil. / Signent se omnes signo crucis Christi, respondeant omnes, Amen; / May they all make the sign of the cross of Christ, they all respond: Amen [Augustine says this not so as to accuse those who perform these acts, but to ask for charity, that is the fruit of these gestures. Charity can only be asked for] / cantent omnes, Alleluia; baptizentur omnes, intrent Ecclesias, faciant parietes basilicarum: / all even sing the Alleluia, are all baptized, enter the Churches, build the walls of the basilicas: / non discernuntur filii Dei a filiis diabolo nisi caritate. / the children of God are not to be distinguished from the children of the devil except by charity [what distinguishes is not the singing of the Alleluia, it is not responding Amen, is not in itself being in the Christian community, it is not the building of basilicas. What distinguishes the children of God from the children of the devil is charity]. / Qui habent caritatem, nati sunt ex Deo / Those who have charity are born of God”. Charity is from God. What distinguishes is an objective fact. What distinguishes is charity that “ex Deo est / is from God”(1 Jn 4, 7). “Si vides caritatem, vides Trinitatem / If you see charity, you see the Trinity”24. This is not a mystical vision. It is a matter of intelligence. If you see an act of charity, you realize it cannot arise out of human freedom, but that it arises out of an attraction that embraces human freedom. There is clearly the presence of an Other who performs and satisfies freedom25.
“Qui non habent non sunt nati ex Deo. / Those who do not have it [charity], are not born of God / Magnum indicium, magna discretio [this is splendid]. / Great indication, great criterion of distinction. / Quidquid vis habe; hoc solum non habeas, nihil tibi prodest: / Have whatever you want, but if you don’t have this one thing [charity], nothing helps you, / alia si non habeas hoc habe, et implesti Legem / if you had no other things, but you have this, you have fulfilled the law”. Here it would be very nice to recall the Catechism of St Pius X. I would almost say that the Old Catechism of St Pius X had a much more liberating perspective and hope than much modern theology. Just think of how St Pius X defines baptism by desire: baptism by desire is the desire that is born of charity26. So a person may even not be baptized, may not explicitly know Jesus Christ (because as St Pius X says in the Catechism, the desire can be even implicit27), yet, if he has the desire – so to speak – of happiness, the desire, arising from charity, thus “ex Deo / from God” (1 Jn 4, 7), it saves him. Baptism by desire saves. I was struck by the fact that the new Code of Canon Law, when speaking of baptism, says: ‘Baptismus, ianua sacramentorum, / Baptism, gateway to all the sacraments, / in re vel saltem in voto ad salutem necessarius / is necessary in reality or at least as desire to be saved”28. The desire saves because it is desire that is born of charity, that is bestowed by God. It is a look of hope towards every man, this Christian perspective. It is not an accusation for something that is lacking, it is a possibility. If charity were not born “ex Deo / from God” (1 Jn 4, 7) it would not be a possibility in reach of all29. Precisely because it comes from God, “you have fulfilled the law”.
In conclusion, I would first like to read a very fine canon from the Council of Carthage in 418. These are the first definitions, the first dogma of the Magisterium of the Church on grace and original sin. All the Magisterium of the Church up to the Council of Trent, up to this day (see the Creed of the People of God of Paul VI), on grace and original sin repeats the definitions of this particular Council. It was approved by Pope Zosimus after some hesitation. Pope Innocent, his predecessor, had immediately approved the first condemnations of Pelagius by the African bishops, while in the beginning Pope Zosimus did not understand why the African bishops had condemned Pelagius. After all, it was said, Pelagius is a good monk, he speaks of the goodness of man and the moral law, he insists on the moral commitment of the Christian. Why should he be condemned? So at the beginning Pope Zosimus had hesitations. Afterwards he approved, in a letter sent to all bishops, the canons of the Council of Carthage, as an authentic expression of the Tradition of the Church.
“Canon 5. Item placuit / So it pleased [the Fathers to establish] / ut quicumque dixerit / that anyone who says / ideo nobis gratiam iustificationis dari / that the grace of justification is given to us / ut, quod facere per liberum iubemur arbitrium, facilius possimus implere per gratiam, / so that through grace we can do more easily what we are commanded to do through free will, / tamquam et si gratia non daretur, / as if to say that even if grace were not given, / non quidem facile quidem sed tamen possimus etiam sine illa implere divina mandta, / we could obey without it, although not easily, the commandments of God / anathema sit / let him be excommunicated”. Whoever says that freedom can, by itself, obey the commandments of God and that grace is just something that facilitates a possibility that man has for himself without grace, let him be excommunicated. I read this canon for the splendid words that follow: “De fructibus enim mandatorum Dominus loquebatur / When the Lord spoke of the fruits of the commandments [it’s very fine: the Commandments have their fruit] / ubi non ait: ‘Sine me difficilius potestis facere / He did not say: Without me you can do these things with more difficulty’, / sed ait: ‘Sine me nihil facere potestis’ [Jn 15, 5] / but said: ‘Without me you can do nothing’” (Denzinger 227). I think this statement is of a beautiful simplicity. He did not say: without my attraction you can do something if you make an effort. He said: “Without me you can do nothing”.

3.3 EVERYTHING BECOMES EASY FOR CHARITY

<I>The Last Supper</I>, detail, Giotto

The Last Supper, detail, Giotto

DE NATURA ET GRATIA 69, 83
Valde autem «bona sunt praecepta», si legitime his utamur. Eo quippe ipso quo firmissime creditur «Deum iustum et bonum impossibilia non potuisse praecipere», hinc admonemur et in facilibus quid agamus et in difficilibus quid petamus. Omnia quippe fiunt facilia caritati, cui uni «Christi sarcina levis est» aut ea una est sarcina ipsa quae levis est. Secundum hoc dictum est: «Et praecepta eius gravia non sunt», ut cui gravia sunt, consideret non potuisse divinitus dici: «Gravia non sunt», nisi quia potest esse cordis affectus cui gravia non sunt, et petat quo destituitur, ut impleat quod iubetur. Et quod dicitur ad Israel in Deuteronomio, si pie, si sancte, si spiritaliter intellegatur, hoc idem significat, quia utique, cum hoc testimonium commemorasset Apostolus: «Prope te est verbum in ore tuo et in corde tuo» (quod hic habet “in manibus tuis”; in corde sunt enim spiritales manus), «hoc est, inquit, verbum fidei quod praedicamus». Conversus ergo quisque, sicut ibi praecipitur, ad Dominum Deum suum ex toto corde suo et ex tota anima sua mandatum Dei non habebit grave. Quomodo est enim grave, cum sit dilectionis mandatum? Aut enim quisque non diligit, et ideo grave est, aut diligit, et grave esse non potest. Diligit autem, si, quod illic admonetur Israel, conversus fuerit ad Dominum Deum suum ex toto corde suo et ex tota anima sua. «Mandatum», inquit, «novum do vobis, ut vos invicem diligatis»; et: «Qui diligit proximum, legem implevit»; et: «Plenitudo legis caritas». Secundum hoc et illud dictum est: «Si ambularent semitas bonas, invenissent utique semitas iustitiae leves». Quomodo ergo dicitur: «Propter verba labiorum tuorum ego custodivi vias duras», nisi quia utrumque verum est? Durae sunt timori, leves amori.

“Valde autem ‘bona sunt praecepta’ si legitime his utamur / ‘The commandments are a good thing’ if we use them legitimately”. It is a phrase from St Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy: 1 Tm 1, 8. Let me mention how St Thomas Aquinas interprets this legitime / legitimately. Thomas says that the commandments of God (and this applies analogously to any law) are used legitimately “si non est in eis spes iustificationis / if one does not place in them hope that they can make people righteous”30. If we put this hope in the Law, we denature it. We use the Law legitimately when we attribute to it only the task of showing the way. Showing the way can also arouse the desire to head for the goal. So the Law has an educational value, let us say. Indicating the right track, it can also suggest a desire to walk on the right track. But the Law in itself is not used legitimately, hence is denatured, if it is attributed the power to make men good, to make human freedom good, to give man the possibility not only to know the good, but also to put good into practice: if the Law is credited with this, it is denatured.
Augustine continues: “Eo quippe ipso quo firmissime creditur: ‘Deum et bonum iustum impossibilia non potuisse praecipere’, / From what we recognize with most certain faith, that is: ‘God is just and good, and therefore cannot command anything impossible’ / hinc admonemur / by this we are told / et in facilibus quid agamus et in difficilibus quid petamus. / what to do in easy things and what to ask in difficult things. / Omnia quippe fiunt facilia cariti / Everything becomes easy for charity”. When a commandment seems difficult, indeed can seem impossible, we must ask for that loving attraction that makes it easy. It’s not a matter of fixating on a commandment. Not least because, Augustine writes (with a psychological observation that after original sin applies to all): “I do not know why forbidden things are the more desired”31. It is not a matter of fixating on a commandment, it is a matter of asking for charity, for that loving attraction that makes everything easy, which also makes the single comandament easy32.
Augustine continues, “cui uni ‘Christi sarcina levis est’, / because only to charity ‘Christ’s yoke is light’ [they are the words of Jesus: “For my yoke is light” (Mt 11, 30)], / aut ea una est sarcina ipsa quae levis est / indeed it is only that burden [charity] that is light”.
There is a beautiful discourse of Augustine on the prodigal son who returns to his father33. Augustine, speaking of the father who runs to meet him (“when he was still far off his father saw him, ran with emotion towards him, and fell on his neck


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