Friday, April 29, 2005

Ratzinger, Heraldry, and Education cont'd

Commenting in Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 on his episcopal coat of arms, which is nearly identical to his coat of arms as Pope, Joseph Ratzinger explained:

As my episcopal motto I selected the phrase from the Third Letter of John, "Co-Worker of the Truth". For one, it seemed to be the connection between my previous task as teacher and my new mission. Despite all the differences in modality, what is involved was and remains the same: to follow the truth, to be at its service. And, because in today's world the theme of truth has all but disappeared, because truth appears to be too great for man and yet everything falls apart if there is no truth, for these reasons this motto also seemed timely in the good sense of the word. For about a thousand years the coat of arms of the bishops of Freising has borne a crowned Moor, but no one is quite sure what it means. For me it is a sign of the universality of the Church, which knows no distinction of races or classes, since all of us "are one" in Christ (Gal. 3:28). I selected for myself two additional symbols. The first of these was the shell, which first of all is simply a sign of our pilgrimage, of our being on the road: "We have here no lasting city." But it also reminded of the legend according to which one day Augustine, pondering the mystery of the Trinity, saw a child at the seashore playing with a shell, trying to the put the water of the ocean into a little hole. Then he heard these words: This hole can no more contain the waters of the ocean than your intellect can comprehend the mystery of God. Thus, for me the shell points to my great master, Augustine, to my own theological work, and to the greatness of the mystery that extends farther than all our knowledge. The second symbol was the bear, which I took from the legend of Corbinian, founder-bishop of Freising. The story has it that, on the way to Rome, a bear tore the saint's horse to pieces. Then Corbinian reprimanded the bear sternly for its crime and as punishment loaded on it the pack that the horse had been carrying. The bear had to haul the pack all the way to Rome, and only there was it released by the saint. The bear weighed down with the saint's burden reminded me of one of Saint Augustine's meditations on the Psalms. In verses 22 and 23 of Psalm 72 (73), he saw expressed both the burden and the hope of his life. What he finds in these verses and then comments is like a self-portrait, made before the face of God, and therefore, not just a pious but an exegesis of his life and a light upon his road. . . .

Following this beautiful passage, the former Cardinal Ratzinger continues by drawing a parallel between his own life and ministry and that of Saint Augustine, while at the same time yet again weaving in the themes conveyed through his episcopal coat of arms and acknowledging his own service to Rome:

Just as the draft animal is closest to God precisely through such humble service, so is Augustine closest to God precisely through such humble serve, completely within God's hand, completely his instrument. He could not be closer to his Lord or be more important to him. The laden bear that took the place of Saint Corbinian's horse, or rather donkey--the bear that became his donkey against its will: Is this not an image of what I should do and what I am? "A beast of burden have I become for you, and this is just the way for me to remain wholly yours and always abide with you." What else could I say in detail about my years as a bishop? It is said of Corbinian that, once in Rome, he again released the bear to its freedom. The legend is not concerned about whether it went up into the Abruzzi or returned to the Alps. In the meantime I have carried my load to Rome and have now been wandering the streets of the Eternal City for a long time. I do not know when I will be released, but one thing I do know: that the exclamation applies to me too: "I have become your donkey, and in just this way am I am with you."



Anonymous Mother Angelica said...

Oh, so beautiful....I had a wonderful day.

8:02 PM  
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