Benedict XVI: a lesson at 70

“Who will not see a certain analogy between the situation of that debilitated, silent, weary man, hampered in his movements, and that of the Mystical Body of Christ?”

News Desk (29/06/2021 12:15, Gaudium Press).

Today marks the seventieth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s priestly ordination.

The fact is, without doubt, memorable. It was there, precisely on the solemnity of the first Pope, that the young Ratzinger took the definitive step in the vocation that would culminate in his own pontificate, and he somehow sensed it: “I was convinced – I don’t know how – that what God wanted of me could only be achieved by making me a priest.”[1]

Rome Reports published a short video, in which Msgr Georg Gänswein reveals the surprise that was being prepared for him in light of the date: some members of the Ratisbonne choir, once directed by the late pontiff’s brother, will sing during the Holy Mass.

The man vested in white

Throughout the scenes we do not see Benedict XVI say a word – he has said very little recently, his strength has gone – but his figure, by itself, delivers an eloquent speech…

The “man clothed in white”: the hair that seems to be made of snow, the light complexion, serve in a way to emphasize the impressions caused by the completely white cassock, exclusive privilege of the pontiffs.

However, this whitewashed wall is not at all impregnable: it has two small – but how expressive! – windows.

That pair of vivid eyes, to which the years have given a benevolent, affable and rather tired air, has in no way failed to reflect the panzerkardinal’s shrewdness and sharpness of intelligence from his time as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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Nothing escapes him, especially not the realization that he has little time left on this earth: “every day I begin with the Lord and end with the Lord, and we will see how long it lasts…”, he confessed to Msgr Georg.

A lesson at 70

What else does this silent “man in white” tell us?

Joseph Ratzinger is a mystery. Not understood here in its broad sense, but in the liturgical sense of the term, that is to say, a sacrament: a sensible sign of a supernatural reality.

Since Benedict XVI, as Vicar of Christ, has contracted a mystical nuptial relationship with the Church, does he not in some way embody, or at least reflect in himself, something of what is happening to her?

Who does not see a certain analogy between the situation of that weakened, silent, tired man, hindered in his movements, and that of the Mystical Body of Christ?

On the other hand, we know that the number seven is a symbol of fullness. Even if, on this 70th anniversary, exteriorities indicate to us a near sunset, the Church enjoys a promise of immortality: we must be sure that a springtime is approaching. This, incidentally, is the opinion of Ratzinger himself:

“Christianity is always like the mustard seed, and precisely because of this it always rejuvenates again. […]. But I am totally convinced that faith will continue to be present in history. It will somehow be rejuvenated, with a new energy and surviving humanity; I am sure of it.”[2]

By Oto Pereira

[1] SEEWALD, Peter. Benedicto XVI: una mirada cercana. 2. ed. Madrid: Palabra, p. 143.

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[2]SEEWALD, Peter. Sal de la Tierra. 5. ed. Madrid: Palabra, p. 56

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