Next in Pope Francis’ address to the Diocese of Rome. a longer paragraph. First, trust in the Holy Spirit. Along with this, a common dish-breaking theme of the Holy Father, namely that disagreements can be well-managed rather than avoided or cause for breakages in relationships. We can sift through the Spirit speaking to different persons and groups in our community and perhaps find new ways forward, previously unforeseen.
Being a synodal Church means being a Church that is the sacrament of Christ’s promise that the Spirit will always be with us. We show this by growing inour relationship with the Spirit and the world to come. There will always be disagreements, thank God, but solutions have to be sought by listening to God and to the ways he speaks in in our midst.
How does this happen?
- By praying and opening our eyes to everything around us;
- by practicing a life of fidelity to the Gospel;
- by seeking answers in God’s revelation through a pilgrim hermeneutic capable of persevering in the journey begun in the Acts of the Apostles.
A pilgrim hermeneutic: I’ve yet to see that expressed anywhere. I find it appealing. Pope Francis suggests it is very old, going back to the call of the earliest disciples. Where are you going, we might ask. Jesus invites us: come and see.
This is important: the way to understand and interpret is through a pilgrim hermeneutic, one that is always journeying. The journey that began after the Council? No. The journey that began with the first Apostles and has continued ever since.
When we stay too long in one place:
Once the Church stops, she is no longer Church, but a lovely pious association, for she keeps the Holy Spirit in a cage. A pilgrim hermeneutic capable of persevering in the journey begun in the Acts of the Apostles. Otherwise, the Holy Spirit would be demeaned. Gustav Mahler – as I have said on other occasions – once stated that fidelity to tradition does not consist in worshiping ashes but in keeping a fire burning.
I think there is a time to rest, recover energy, and check the roadmap or the weather report. That said, we have to ask ourselves: is this a time for that in a rapidly shifting world culture? We can also ask these questions, as I’m sure Pope Francis would ask of himself:
As you begin this synodal journey, I ask you: what are you more inclined to do: guard the ashes of the Church, in other words, your association or group, or keep the fire burning? Are you more inclined to worship what you cherish, and which keep you self-enclosed – “I belong to Peter, I belong to Paul, I belong to this association, you to that one, I am a priest, I am a bishop…” – or do you feel called to keep the fire of the Spirit burning? Mahler was a great composer, but those words showed that he was also a teacher of wisdom. Dei Verbum (no. 8), citing the Letter to the Hebrews, tells us that “God, who spoke in partial and various ways to our fathers (Heb 1:1), uninterruptedly converses with the bride of his beloved Son”. Saint Vincent of Lérins aptly compared human growth to the development of the Church’s Tradition, which is passed on from one generation to the next. He tells us that “the deposit of faith” cannot be preserved without making it advance in such a way as “to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age” (Commonitorium primum, 23: ut annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate). This is how our own journey should be. For reality, including theology, is like water; unless it keeps flowing, it becomes stagnant and putrefies. A stagnant Church starts to decay.
Not only that: a pilgrim too long at rest is like an athlete that sets aside her running. A body loses fitness, callouses fade, muscles weaken, tone lessens, discipline wavers, metabolism adjusts to more sedentary activities. There is a time to rest, certainly. A time to pace oneself, to nourish the body. There is also a time to run, and to press ahead with vigor.
This speech is copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana