Pope Benedict on Saturday concluded the “spiritual exercises” which mark the beginning of Lent at the Vatican.
This year’s reflections were offered by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
At the end of the retreat, Pope Benedict addressed those who had participated with him in the Lenten retreat. Taking his cue from Cardinal Ravasi’s theme “the art of believing, the art of praying,” Pope Benedict reflected on the relationship of beauty to the truth. “Truth and beauty,” he said, “go together: beauty is the seal of truth.”
Nonetheless, the Holy Father said, we recognise that the goodness of Creation is permanently contradicted by evil in the world. “Evil,” he said, “always desires to spoil creation, to contradict God, and to make truth and beauty unrecognisable.” But it is precisely into this world, marked by evil, that the Incarnate Logos enters, crowned with thorns, so that, “in the suffering figure of the Son of God, we can begin to see the most profound beauty of our Creator and Redeemer. In the silence of the ‘dark night,’ we can nevertheless hear the Word.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Pope Benedict expressed his gratitude, not only to those who had joined him in the spiritual exercises, but to all those who, as he said, “have borne with me the weight of the Petrine ministry with great skill, with affection, with love, and with faith.” This gratitude, he said, “will remain with me. And even if this visible exterior communion is now ending,” he continued, “the spiritual closeness, a deep communion in prayer, remains. In this certainty let us go forward, confident in the victory of God, sure of the truth, of beauty, and of love.”
Below, please find the full text, in translation, of Pope Benedict’s remarks:
At the end of this very spiritually intense week, only one word remains: Thank you! Thank you for this community of prayerful listening, that has accompanied me. Thank you, above all, to your Eminence for these beautiful "walks," in the world of faith, the world of the Psalms. We were amazed by the richness, the depth, the beauty of this universe of faith and we are grateful for the Word of God that you have spoken to us in a new way, with new strength.
"The art of believing, the art of praying" was the theme. I was reminded of the fact that the medieval theologians translated the word "Logos" not only as "Verbum", but also as "ars": "Verbum" and "ars" are interchangeable. For the medieval theologians, it was only with the two words together that the whole meaning of the word “Logos” appeared. The "Logos" is not just a mathematical reason: the "Logos" has a heart, the "Logos" is also love. The truth is beautiful and the true and beautiful go together: beauty is the seal of truth.
And yet, starting from the Psalms and from our everyday experience, you have also strongly emphasized that the "very good" of the sixth day - expressed by the Creator - is permanently contradicted by the evil of this world, by suffering, by corruption. It’s almost as if wickedness wills permanently to spoil creation, to contradict God and make its truth and its beauty unrecognizable. In a world so marked even by evil, the "Logos," the eternal beauty and the eternal “art”, must appear as a “caput cruentatum.” The incarnate Son, the incarnate "Logos" is crowned with a crown of thorns and nevertheless is just that: in this suffering figure of the Son of God we begin to see the deepest beauty of our Creator and Redeemer; in the silence of the “dark night” we can, nevertheless, hear the Word. And believing is nothing other than, in the darkness of the world, touching the hand of God, and in this way, in silence, hearing the Word, seeing love.
Your Eminence, thank you for everything and let us continue to "walk" even further in this mysterious world of faith, to be increasingly able to pray, to ask, to proclaim, to be witnesses to the truth, that is beauty, that is love.
Finally, dear friends, I would like to thank you all, not only for this week, but for the past eight years, in which you have borne with me, with great skill, affection, love, faith, the weight of the Petrine ministry. This gratitude remains within me and even if this visible exterior communion is now ending - as Cardinal Ravasi has said - the spiritual closeness, a deep communion in prayer, remains. In this certainty let us go forward, confident in the victory of God, sure of the truth, of beauty, and of love. Thank you all.