Wilhelm Dancă

Nihil sine Deo!
For the friendship as refuge nowadays

Abstract: In this article, I hold friendship to be the crowning of a fulfilled life. Therefore, I focus my attention on its various and manifold manifestations for which specific terms – pertaining to the philosophical and theological realm – have been successively developed and employed throughout the European and Christian civilization. My main goal is to promote the friendship as solidarity of true and reliable friends. Due to the trends of isolation that are so strong in our globalized world, friendship as solidarity of good friends could become a refuge for the humans. To reach this level of friendship I started speaking about natural love, then about Christian love. So, revisiting some important historical thinkers on love, like Plato, St Augustine, Blessed Paul VI, Pope Benedict XVI, I’ll try to argue my thesis that it’s possible to involve isolated people to live within the oasis of friendship. One of the conclusions is that love of friendship implies an experience of transcendence of himself and as such it creates the conditions for a more human world.

Today friendship is little spoken about. As with other higher values of the human existence, friendship passes through a process of depreciation or of trans-valuation[1]. Now, during the intermediary times of incomplete transformations, the value of friendship survives hidden behind certain degraded forms of love[2]. Following in the footsteps of ancient scholars from the European civilisation, I hold friendship to be the highest form of love, a true school of virtues, and the crowning of a fulfilled life. In this article, I focus not as much on the reasons that have generated the degradation and neglect of friendship, but rather on the possibility of healing a distorted friendship by an accurate comprehending of the original phenomenon of love. Concretely speaking, I intend to prove that physical or immediate attraction from inside one’s love does contain a force that enables him who loves to become one with the person whom he loves and, thus, to pass beyond the corporeal dimension of his own affection. In supporting this thesis, I resort to the wisdom of Plato and Augustine, as they present us with a larger perspective on friendship.

The Human Eros

The term love has more than one meaning. We can speak about the love for people, for animals and nature, for one’s fatherland or profession, or about the love between spouses, friends, children, brothers or fellow people, about the love for one’s neighbour, for God and so on. All these types of love are rooted in the love between man and woman, where both bodies and souls participate in complete measure, as the human being is presented with the perspective of a bliss to which he cannot resist. This is the archetype by definition in which all other forms of love find their full meaning. The love between man and woman is not the result of reason or will, but it imposes itself by means of a certain force of attraction. The Greeks named this kind of love by the term eros. Because of the dual and simultaneously unitary structure of this archetypal love, the human persons can neither love with their bodies only, nor with their souls. The person, i.e. both body and soul, can only love another whole person. When the two parts become one, the person is complete and his love – the eros – can reach fulfilment and its true greatness.[3]

Nowadays this archetypal love is lame, it seems to be reduced to its corporeal dimension. If so, all forms of love – including friendship – are affected. As we can see it, especially within the mass media, the eros reduced to the level of sheer sexuality has become a commodity, something to be bought or sold. Sexuality and the body are being used and exploited in a selfish manner. The body is degraded, being no longer integrated in the complete freedom of one’s existence, nor the living expression of a whole person. The body is thus reduced to its biological dimension. Behind the exaltation of the human body, there often lies a hidden kind of hatred or disgust with the corporeal dimension of a being. For the Christian faith, the human person is both unitary and dual; the body and the soul, the spirit and the matter are mutually interwoven, both components being called upon to live beyond themselves within a new dimension. In the Christian context of comprehending love, the eros has the role of elevating the human beings towards ecstasy, to lead them beyond themselves towards the encounter with the other, and eventually with the divine.[4] That this elevation cannot be attained without one’s assuming frequent renunciation and purification.

Indeed, the disease of nihilistic love has already reached an alarming stage. Not only that the eros has been reduced to its sensual dimension, but the sense of proportion has been entirely lost. The present consumerist attitude towards these “sex” commodities reveal the emptiness behind an exhibitionism practised for its own sake, exposing a progressive voiding not only of one’s own conscience, but also of the physical pleasure as such. Eroticism annihilates the eros. To explain this annihilation of the eros, some invoke economical or physical reasons, others mention the “feminine difference”.[5] Still, the basic answer to this social disorder, called eroticism, is to be found in the very disorder itself, as the mass-media correctly suggests. A re-discovery of the complete meaning of the eros could prove a suitable therapy and provide efficient healing for certain mentalities, at least, or for the reductionist behaviour that constantly impairs the inter-human relationships.

With the Greeks, the basic meaning of eros is that of a dynamic force that enriches the human being. In the dialogue, Symposium, Plato – through the voice of the priestess Diotima of Mantinea – claims that the eros is a daemon which desires to acquire and possess good and beautiful things, as he himself is wanting in them. The eros is neither handsome nor homely, neither good nor evil; it is rather somewhere between handsome and homely, good and evil. It is an intercessor, vertically bringing together the human and the divine, while horizontally accomplishing a synthesis of the contraries: poverty and plenty, renunciation and possession etc. And it is from this synthesis of the extremes that the dynamic force of the eros springs, a force that raises it ever more upwards. This is how Plato – making use of the disguising language of myths – recalls the birth of Eros:

On the birthday of Aphrodite there was a feast of the gods, at which the god Poros or Plenty, who is the son of Metis or Discretion, was one of the guests. When the feast was over, Penia or Poverty, as the manner is on such occasions, came about the doors to beg. Now Plenty who was the worse for nectar (there was no wine in those days), went into the garden of Zeus and fell into a heavy sleep, and Poverty considering her own strained circumstances, plotted to have a child by him, and accordingly she lay down at his side and conceived Love, who partly because he is naturally a lover of beautiful, and because Aphrodite is herself beautiful, and also because he was conceived on her birthday is her follower and attendant[6].

Therefore, eros unifies the opposite forces represented by Poros (Plenty) and Penia (Poverty). Being able to realise this dynamic-mediating synthesis, the eros appears as:

always poor, and anything but tender and fair, as the many imagine him; and he is rough and squalid, and has no shoes, nor a house to dwell in; on the bare earth exposed he lies under the open heaven, in the streets, or at the doors of houses, taking his rest; and like his mother he is always in distress. Like his father too, whom he also partly resembles, he is always plotting against the fair and the good; he is bold, enterprising, strong, a mighty hunter, always weaving some intrigue or other, keen in the pursuit of wisdom, fertile in resources; a philosopher at all times, terrible as an enchanter, sorcerer, sophist. He is by nature neither mortal nor immortal, but alive and flourishing at one moment when he is in plenty, and dead at another moment, and again alive because of his father’s nature. But that which is always flowing in is always flowing out, and so he is never in want and never in wealth[7].

The eros, however, can also be understood as a tendency towards good in every sense and as a tendency towards good per the dimension of beauty. In the latter case, the eros first begins from the beauty seen as incarnated in bodies and eventually understands that the beauty of spirits is still superior. Hence, loving a person means to love his soul, not only his body. Then, starting from the beauty of souls, the eros comes to understand the beauty of human activities, of laws, of knowledge and, finally, reaches the level of beauty and for its own sake. The highest level in the hierarchy of love is the absolute beauty:

You and many a one would be content to live seeing them only and conversing with them without meat and drink, if that were possible – you only want to look at them and to be with them. But what if a man had eyes to see the true beauty – the divine beauty, I mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colours and vanities of human life – thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eyes of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may[8].

Corroborating the synthetic-mediating nature of the eros with the doctrine of knowledge as reminiscence, Plato claims that the eros has the power to kindle the soul which, burning with the desire to return to his own origins, thus regains its long-lost wings. Therefore, assisted by eros, the soul returns among the gods and contemplates again the world of ideas and the truth:

But he whose initiation is recent, and who has been the spectator of many glories in the other world, is amazed when he sees any one having a godlike face or form, which is the expression of divine beauty; and at first a shudder runs through him, and again the old awe steals over him; then looking upon the face of his beloved as of a god he reverences him, and if he were not afraid of being thought a downright madman, he would sacrifice to his beloved as to the image of a god; then while he gazes on him there is a sort of reaction, and the shudder passes into an unusual heat and perspiration; for, as he receives the effluence of beauty through the eyes, the wing moistens and he warms. And as he warms, the parts out of which the wing grew, and which had been hitherto closed and rigid, and had prevented the wing from shooting forth, are melted, and as nourishment streams upon him, the lower end of the wing begins to swell and grow from the root upwards; and the growth extends under the whole soul – for once the whole was winged[9].

Therefore, the eros is a metaphysical tension, a burning desire to reach the absolute, a force that endows one again with the wings he had once had, enabling him, thus, to return among the gods. Apart from the mythological attire of Plato’s texts, we note that the eros represents a force which enriches man, elevating him ever higher.

The Divine Eros

Unlike the Greek eros, constantly thirsting for good and striving to enrich itself in a selfish manner, the Christian eros aims to enrich the other in a selfless way. Even if certain Fathers of the Church have argued about the insane love of God towards man, about the erotic dimension of the divine love for the human being, thus emphasising the strength of His passion and the completeness of His love, the fundamental texts of Christianity barely mention love by the Greek term eros: throughout the whole Old Testament, it only appears twice, while from the New Testament it is completely absent. New Testament writings avoid the term eros, rather replacing it by agape – otherwise a somewhat infrequent word in the Greek language. The term philia – love for one’s friends – can only be found in the Gospel of St. John regarding the love of Jesus towards his disciples. Hence, the Christian innovation also consists in employing a novel term rather than eros whenever referring to love. Indeed, for Christians, love does not imply an endless, aimless quest, but mainly the comprehending of the other, accompanied by one’s care and regard for the other. He who loves ceases to search for himself, seeking instead the wellness of the person he loves. This kind of love often demands the renouncing of one’s own good, while caring for the good of the others. Christian love grows and advances by many successive purifications, but has an exclusive character, for it solely focuses on “this very person” and “for ever”. Therefore, by being both one and dual, the Christian love nourishes man’s desire for eternity/immortality.[10]

While attempting to define Christian love in relation to the love which is not inspired from the biblical faith, several terms and more than one classification have been proposed: eros – ascending love – and agape – descending love; amor concupiscentiae – possessive love – and amor benevolentiae – oblative love; amor sui – love for oneself – and amor Dei – love for God. However, eros and agape, amor and caritas or dilectio – love, affection and compassion – cannot be radically divided from each other. All terms could signify good or evil attitudes, varying with the object upon which one’s affection is bestowed. This is what St. Augustine writes in The City of God (De civitate Dei) regarding the unique nature of love and its manifold forms of manifestation:

some are of opinion that charity or regard (dilectio) is one thing, love (amor) another. They say that dilectio is used of a good affection, amor of an evil one. But it is very certain that even secular literature knows no such distinction. However, it is for the philosophers to determine whether and how they differ, though their own writings sufficiently testify that they make great account of love (amor) placed on good objects, and even on God Himself. But we wished to show that the Scriptures of our religion, whose authority we prefer to all writings whatsoever, make no distinction between amor, dilectio, and caritas; and we have already shown that amor is used in a good connection. And if any one fancy that amor is no doubt used both of good and bad loves, but that dilectio is reserved for the good only, let him remember what the psalm says, “he that loveth (diligit) iniquity hateth his own soul” (Ps xi, 5); and the words of the Apostle John, “If any man love (diligere) the world, the love (dilectio) of the Father is not in him.” (1 John ii, 15) Here you have in one passage dilectio used both in a good and a bad sense. And if any one demands an instance of amor being used in a bad sense (for we have already shown its use in a good sense), let him read the words, “For men shall be lovers (amantes) of their own selves, lovers (amatores) of money.” (2 Tim iii, 2). The right will is, therefore, well-directed love, and the wrong will is the ill-directed love. Love, then, yearning to have what is loved is desire; and having and enjoying it, is joy; fleeing what is opposed to it, it is fear; and feeling what it is opposed to it, when it has befallen it, it is sadness. Now these motions are evil if the love is evil; good if the love is good[11].

In brief, with St. Augustine love is a propensity, movement or tension, in a similar way to Plato’s eros and is placed at the level of will. Love is a force of the soul and of life, an energy that unifies two realities: the subject who loves and the object that is loved. Love is the basis of all human life and, per its object, a person’s life is good or bad. Thus, man should not feel attached to any object he uses (uti), but only to those with which he shares a certain affinity, to those which have a certain connection to God, such as the human being, or those things which by having a deep connection to the human being, pretend the blessing of God by the intercession of man, i.e. the human body. In the context of one’s life, love should hold a central position, enjoying absolute priority, for it is the human being that which is being loved:

Love earth, you shall be earth. Love God, what shall I say? You shall be a god? I dare not say it of myself, let us hear the Scriptures: “I have said, You are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High.” [12] (…) Let no man mark the tongue, but the deeds and the heart. If any do not good for his brethren, he shows what he has in him[13].

Playing a pivotal role in man’s life, love is a meaning of knowledge and science, of virtues and of Christian behaviour patterns:

Let them all sign themselves with the sign of the cross of Christ; let them all respond, Amen; let them all sing Alleluia; let them all be baptised, let all come to church, let all build the walls of churches: there is no discerning of the children of God from the children of the devil, but only by charity. They that have charity are born of God: they that have it not, are not born of God. A mighty token, a mighty distinction! Have what you will; if this alone you have not, it profits you nothing: other things if you have not, have this, and you have fulfilled the law. ‘For he that loves another has fulfilled the law,’ says the Apostle: and, ‘Charity is the fulfilling of the law.’ (Rom xiii, 8, 10)[14].

The entire Scripture is based on love and outside the realm of love it loses all meaning; therefore, the most relevant commandment is Love. Writing from a Neo-platonic perspective, Augustine argues that love is the most outstanding element in one’s life as it connects man to God, his endless and everlasting good. God alone as summum bonum can secure man’s true beatitude, that state of joy and certainty that he will never lose his beloved again. Here, once more, we dwell upon the principle according to which the human being is that which he loves: he who loves the heart becomes heart, he who loves the mind becomes mind, he who loves God is due to participate in his eternity. Throughout his earthly life, man cannot fully enjoy the presence of God, hence, the love for God only materialises in his longing for God. Thus, the human love experiments a continuous growth and, varying with the measure in which it participates in the Supreme Good, gradually becomes ever more intense, certain and unfaltering:

For there is this great difference between things temporal and things eternal, that a temporal object is valued more before we possess it, and begins to prove worthless the moment we attain it, because it does not satisfy the soul, which has its only true and sure resting place in eternity; an eternal object, on the other hand, is loved with greater ardour when it is in possession than while it is still an object of desire, for no one in his longing for it can set a higher value on it than really belongs to it, so, as to think it comparatively worthless when he finds it of less value than he thought; on the contrary, however high the value any man may set upon it when he is on his way to posses it, he will find it, when it comes into his possession, of higher value still[15].

Assuming God as the Supreme Good would have led Augustine to the conclusion that God alone were the true beatitude of human love and that all the other created realities could only constitute objects for the bliss of love in the measure in which they are subordinated to the love of God. Hence, love would fail to be anything else but “the desire to posses the greatest good”, i.e. eros not agape. According to Anders Nygren’s critique:

Augustine did not remain indifferent to the love that humiliates itself in order to help and to give, that loves spontaneously and freely. However, he failed to comprehend the Christian agape in its real fullness. We are presented here with the magnificent and fatal contradiction of his perception. Augustin aimed to remain simultaneously faithful both to eros and to agape, overlooking that he was handling two convergent motifs, which could only render one single alternative; instead of deciding on either of them, he strives to reconcile them both, which obviously cannot be attained but with conflicts and tensions[16].

Not all contemporary critics, however, share in this vision. Tarsicius J. van Bavel, for instance, argues that:

it is true that for Augustine the subject does not disappear, not is it swollen by the act of love. But could human love be otherwise? Isn’t our love necessarily eros and agape simultaneously, even when God Himself is concerned? Everything we do, we do if we perceive in it something beneficial for ourselves, even with respect to our duty, and as well as in the most disinterested act of love towards our neighbour, the offering of our own life. The main thing for Augustine is to discern the real goal (telos) of human existence. God expects us to love Him as our Supreme Good, and this does not imply a total removal of our own ego. The subject’s longing for happiness ought to pay due heed to the order of things objectively created, as only an enduring good could render us true happiness. Moreover, loving God implies abiding by His will and observing His commandments, which is certainly far from being selfish[17].

Augustine distinguishes between different kinds of love: 1) natural human love, which is permitted; 2) natural human love, which is not permitted; and 3) divine love. In the first category, he includes one’s love towards his children, friends, fellow citizens, neighbours, relatives, widows and widowers, the sick and the poor. If we fail to love these persons we deserve to be rebuked, nay, we don’t even deserve to be counted among humans. From the second class, we mention the unrestrained love for created things such as food, drink, or begetting of children; this kind of love is restricted by a certain limit set by the Creator and beyond which one ought not to go. To the third category belongs the divine love which we can best comprehend by contemplating its reflection in our human love. Briefly, the divine love is a spiritual gift that descends in the heart of man, strengthening his will with the powerful desire to live in truth, wisdom, and justice. This love excludes everything sinful, such as jealous, selfish and faltering love, the praising of oneself or the seeking of one’s own profit. The divine love produces its specific fruits: joy, peace, forbearance, reverence, goodness, faithfulness, kindness and self-control. (Gal 5:22) It is in this light of divine love that we are to read the widely-known counsel of Augustine: “Love and do what thou wilt!”, i.e. if inside the human being there grows the root of love, “of this root can nothing spring but what is good”.[18]

Therefore, from a Christian perspective, eros and agape are two facets of one and the same love. When the two dimensions are set apart we find ourselves confronted with a reductionist version of love. Ascending and, in the same time, descending love are both suitable for God and for the human being. It is suitable for God, as the divine eros is simultaneously agape in its full meaning, i.e. the divine eros is caring for the other. It is also suitable for the human beings, as through the eros man is disposed towards matrimony, that bond for life characterised by uniqueness and permanence. The original phenomenon of human love can remain open towards larger dimensions of the human existence, for which it reaches either by living out his inner law or dynamic, or by faith. The purification, the healing of the eros proves necessary, either as a metaphysical tension, or as attraction towards the other. A medieval Latin author observed that: “there is no living in love without sorrow”[19]. Following the road of faith, man can better reach the fulfilment of the eros and, thus, enter the dimension of the agape love.

The Friendship as Refuge

We happen to live times of thorough changes, when man tends to isolate himself ever more; I do believe, therefore, that “the solidarity of true and reliable friends”[20] can be more than mere consolation – rather a refuge even in the face of the levelling trend of multiculturalism and globalisation. Equally important seems to us that authentic faith, i.e. faith as friendship with God, can provide a certain means of healing our solitude. True and reliable friends are rare, as rare as man’s friendship with God. Both types of friendship require a deep moral engagement and a life led in accordance to the logic of the gift, as friendship itself is by its structure a gift. An old Chinese saying reminds us that: “When heaven intends to tell a man that he loves him, he sends him a friend!” For indeed, friendship is more than common human affection and, hence, its being so rare, and so dear.

They who reach the pinnacle of a social or institutional pyramid are, most frequently, solitary people. It is commonly held that, as someone climbs up the ladder of a given hierarchy, he remains more and more isolated. Still, there must be certain exceptions.

I wish to close this paper by recalling the model of friendship embodied by Pope Paul VI (1897-1978), a timid, sensitive and intelligent temperament, opened therefore to genuine relationships of friendship.[21] There survived plenty of written testimonies, attesting to his having been disposed towards nourishing friendship with utmost generosity. He used to have an impressive number of friends, of all ages and all social conditions, both men and women, students and teachers, young and old, ordinary people and politicians, clergymen and lay Christians. Numerous files containing his correspondence with these friends are presently awaiting to be studied in the archive of the “Paul VI” Institute in Brescia, Italy. Doctoral thesis is being written on the various friendships of Paul VI, shedding light on the philosophical, theological, pedagogical and psychological aspects of these, often life-long, relationships. Nonetheless, although he had deeply lived it throughout his whole life, he scarcely spoke about friendship. His own Testament, as well as one of his addresses, delivered during a public audience shortly before his demise, thus provide us with a few glimpses on his attitude towards his friends. His Testament reads: “I wish to greet and bless all those whom I met in my earthly pilgrimage; those who were my collaborators, counsellors and friends – and they were so many and so good and generous and dear!”[22] And, again, in his audience from 26th July, 1978 – inspired by Cicero’s treatise On Friendship (De Amicitia) – he advocated that there can be no friendship but among the good, hence, friendship consists in “a perfect agreement on every divine or human matter, accompanied by benevolence and love”.[23] On the occasion of the same public discourse, besides the Graeco-Roman model of friendship, Paul VI proposed three other patterns: the Hebrew pattern according to which friendship is a worthy treasure (Eccl 6,14-16), the Christian pattern where friendship is transformed and elevated to the rank of brotherly love (cf. John 13, 34; 15,15), and the mystical pattern where friendship reaches the level of a complete communion between persons, to such a degree that a friend is present within his friend with his feelings, mind and heart. Contemplated from this last perspective – for Paul VI – Jesus becomes The Friend par excellence.[24]

Paul VI had numerous friends for whom he nourished long-term feelings of friendship. One of them was the French philosopher Jean Guitton (1901-1999). Their friendship began in 1950 and lasted until Paul VI passed away in 1978. For 27 years – although they were living in separate countries and shared few or no preoccupations – they used to meet each year on the date of 8th September, the day they had first met. About Paul VI, J. Guitton was writing:

He trusted me more than I trusted myself. (…) I could hardly say what precisely I was in his eyes: neither a subordinate, nor a disciple, neither a fellow citizen, nor a foreigner, neither a relative, nor a childhood friend. I have never asked him for anything; he could offer me nothing. This was the mystery of an unexplainable choice (…), which means pure friendship[25].

Another good friend of Pope Paul VI was the French philosopher Jacques Maritain (1882-1973). This friendship had a deeply intellectual and spiritual character, as Maritain supported Paul VI throughout his endeavour to promote the dialogue with the artists and scientists of his time. From among their many collaborations in this direction, we mention the lecture of the Pope’s message addressed to the scholars on 8th December, 1965. Their friendship had been so close that two days after J. Maritain’s demise on 29th April, 1973, the Pope evoked the French philosopher’s figure in public, in St. Peter’s Square, declaring at one moment that: “Today a voice distracts and attracts us through an outstanding passage which reads: ‘Any teacher strives to be as precise as possible, as well-documented as possible about his own field. Still, his pre-eminent vocation is that of serving the truth. Undoubtedly, before and above anything else, he is expected to love the Truth, as something Absolute, to which he is entirely committed; or as God Himself, if he is a Christian.’ Who is the one thus speaking? It is Maritain, who departed this life yesterday at Toulouse.”[26] After which he burst into tears.

From Paul VI and his friends we can eventually retain several meaningful aspects regarding friendship, which should be useful today for us all, independent of the culture to which we pertain: 1) Friendship is a remedy against solitude as, at a spiritual or mystical level, it provides us with a mode of being present within each other; 2) Friendship is fruitful, if loyal; 3) Friendship is a means of human growth; 4) The first step towards friendship is meekness, the acknowledgement of one’s own existential poverty; 5) If you have good friends, be faithful to them!; 6) Avoid delusive friendships!; 7) Friendship is to be sought, not waited for.

In conclusion, paraphrasing a quotation from the Latin poet Ovidius, who acknowledged that “he who wishes to be loved, should be amiable!”, I think that it could be useful to ponder on this:

He who wishes to have friends, should be friendly!

Wilhelm Dancă


[1] See Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, translated by Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Holindale, Vintage Books 2011 (1918) [Voința de putere. Încercare de transmutare a tuturor valorilor, trad. Claudiu Baciu, Editura Aion, Oradea 1999], p. 9.

[2] See Giovanni Reale, Ancient Wisdom. A Therapy for the Nowadays Human Being’s Sufferings [Înțelepciunea antică. Terapie pentru suferințele omului de astăzi (1995), trad. Claudia Di Benedetto și Cristian Șoimușan, Galaxia Gutenberg, Tg. Lăpuș 2005], p. 16.

[3] See Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter God is love [Deus caritas est 2005], nn. 2-3.

[4] Ibid. n. 5.

[5] See Reale, Ancient Wisdom, pp. 138-145.

[6] Plato, Symposium, 203 b-c.

[7] Ibid., 203 c-e.

[8] Ibid., 211 c – 212 a.

[9] Plato, Phaedrus, 251 a-b.

[10] See Benedict XVI, God is love, n. 6.

[11] St. Augustine, The City of God [De Civitate Dei], xiv, 7.

[12] St. Augustine, Homily 2 on the Epistle of John [Tractatus in Epistolam Ioannis ad Parthos], ii, 14.

[13] St. Augustine, Homily 5 on the Epistle of John [Tractatus in Epistolam Ioannis ad Parthos], v, 8.

[14] Ibid., v, 7.

[15] St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine [De Doctrina Christiana], i, 38, 42.

[16] Alfred Nygren, Agape and Eros: The Christian Idea of Love, trans Philip S Watson, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982 (1930) [Eros e Agape. La nozione cristiana dell’amore e le sue transformazioni, trans. Nella Gay, Edizioni Dehoniane Bologna 1990], p. 476.

[17] Tarcisiun von Bavel, “Amore in Allan Fitzgerald ed., Augustin through the Ages – an Encyclopedia, Wm. B. Eeerdmans Publishing Co., Cambridge 1999 [Agostino. Dizionario enciclopedico, edizione italiana e cura di Luigi Alici e Antonio Pieretti, Citta Nuova, Roma], 2007, p. 179.

[18] St. Augustine, Homily 7 on the Epistle of John (Tractatus in Epistolam Ioannis ad Parthos), vii, 8.

[19] Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ [De Imitatione Christi], v, 8: “sine dolore non vivitur in amore”.

[20] St. Augustine, The City of God, 19, 8.

[21] See Luigi Bazzoli, The Pope Paul VI. Pain and Greatness of a Soul [Papa Paolo VI. Tormento e grandezza di un’anima, COGED, Milano 1978], p. 25.

[22] Paul VI, The Testament [Il Testamento, 1978].

[23] See Marcus Tullius Cicero, Lelius, or about Friendship [Laelius, seu de amicitia], 5-6.

[24] See Paul VI, General Audience, 26 luglio 1978.

[25] J. Guitton, Paul VI secret, Desclée De Brouwer, Paris 1979, p. 13.

[26] PAULVI, Regina coeli, 29 aprile 1973: http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/it/angelus/1973/documents/hf_p-vi_reg_19730429.html

  • 21 martie 2017
Paul VI despre spiritul ecumenismului

Ar trebui să ne însușim această chestiune, pentru că ni se cere și nouă catolicilor să ne schimbăm mentalitatea și, pe cale de consecință, comportamentul practic în privința relațiilor cu aceia care mărturisesc că sunt creștini în afara granițelor vizibile ale catolicismului. Dramele dureroase ale separărilor care au avut loc în trecut, conflictele politice și erorile doctrinale care au marcat asemenea despărțiri și nevoia de a apăra o anumită rectitudine doctrinală și de a păstra unitatea eclezială, îndemnurile autorității și ale legii canonice au produs la noi (la catolici) o mentalitate defensivă și neîncrezătoare față de creștinii despărțiți la care trebuie să ne uităm cu un spirit nou. Care este acest spirit nou? Este un spirit, înainte de toate, de părere de rău și de dorință de umilință, de iubire față de aproapele și de speranță.

Nu putem să acceptăm resemnați situațiile istorice ale despărțirii. Nu putem să ne mulțumim având o simplă și închistată atitudine de apărare. Trebuie cel puțin să suferim din cauza rănilor care au lovit corpul mistic și vizibil al lui Cristos, care este Biserica una și unică. Trebuie cu umilință să recunoaștem partea de vinovăție morală pe care catolicii au avut-o într-o anumită măsură în aceste distrugeri. Trebuie să ne rugăm, și să ne rugăm mult și cu dragă inimă pentru a merita repararea lor. Trebuie să reluăm, se înțelege de la sine, cu demnitatea și prudența specifice chestiunilor grave și dificile, contactele respectuoase și prietenești cu frații încă separați de noi. (…).

Apoi, această idee ecumenică a fost văzută în zilele noastre atât de logică și atât de frumoasă încât, se poate spune, a găsit peste tot admiratori și susținători. Să fim atenți, fiilor preaiubiți, să nu compromitem drumul și rezultatul unei cauze de maximă importanță, așa cum este aceea a ecumenismului autentic, cu metode superficiale, grăbite și dătătoare de rezultate contrare. Se observă practic fenomene periculoase și dăunătoare în acest improvizat entuziasm de reconciliere între catolici și creștinii separați de noi. Unele aspecte ale acestei imprudente participări ecumenice trebuie avute în vedere pentru ca atâtea dorințe bune și atâtea fericite posibilități să nu se risipească în confuzie, în indiferență, în falsul irenism.

De exemplu, aceia care cred că la frații despărțiți toate sunt în ordine, iar la catolici toate sunt greu de suportat și ar trebui revizuite, nu mai sunt în stare să promoveze eficace și util cauza unirii. Spunea cu tristețe ironică unul dintre cei mai buni ecumeniști contemporani, el însuși protestant: „cel mai mare pericol pentru ecumenism este faptul că pe catolici nu-i mai entuziasmează tot ceea ce noi am redescoperit că este important” (Cfr. Bouyer). Această atitudine servilă nu este nici avantajoasă, nici demnă.

Astfel putem să vorbim despre cealaltă atitudine, astăzi și mai răspândită, care ar vrea să restabilească unitatea lăsând deoparte adevărul doctrinal. Acel crez care ne face și ne definește creștini și catolici pare, în felul acesta, să devină un obstacol de nedepășit în calea restaurării unității; acesta implică în mod sigur exigențe foarte severe și foarte grave; dacă soluția dificultăților care derivă de aici constă în sacrificarea credinței și în încrederea iluzorie că unitatea se reface doar prin iubirea de aproapele, atunci nu se înțelege realitatea lucrurilor și cauza (unirii) este trădată; s-ar spune că ar fi suficientă practica empirică, dezbrăcată de scrupulele dogmatice și de normele disciplinare (cfr. Directoriu pentru aplicare normelor Conciliului, 26 mai 1967, nr. 11). Episoadele așa zisei „inter-comuniuni”, înregistrate în aceste luni din urmă, se înscriu în această direcție, care nu este bună și pe care trebuie în mod leal să le respingem. Amintim că la Conciliu s-a formulat „îndemnul ca toți credincioșii să se abțină de la orice fel de ușurătate sau zel imprudent, care ar putea să dăuneze adevăratului progres al unității” (nr. 24).

Lucrul acesta nu înseamnă că discuția dintre catolici și creștinii separați de noi cu privire la dogmele credinței ar trebuie să fie eliminată din start. Dimpotrivă, din examinarea împreună, teologică, obiectivă și senină a adevărului revelat și trăit în mod fidel de tradiția genuină a învățăturii ecleziastice poate să rezulte esența patrimoniului doctrinal creștin, cât anume din acesta se poate enunța în mod autentic și împreună în termeni diferiți, dar în mod substanțial egali sau complementari, și cum poate fi posibilă și, în cele din urmă, pentru toți victorioasă descoperirea acelei identități a credinței, a libertății, în diversitatea formulărilor sale. Unirea care rezultă de aici poate fi în mod fericit celebrată cu o singură inimă și un singur suflet (cfr. Fap 4, 32).

Dar această examinare implică responsabilitatea mai întâi a teologilor și specialiștilor calificați și apoi a magisteriului ecleziastic; nu poate să fie rezultatul unei dezbateri de opinii la orice nivel. Vă rog să acceptați să știți că o asemenea examinare, pe diferite fronturi ale ecumenismului, este deja în curs și nu trebuie să vă mirați că se cere atenție, timp, caracter progresiv: este ecumenismul în curs de desfășurare, spre care secretariatul nostru pentru unirea între toți creștinii a făcut primii pași prin marea, evlavioasa și deosebita personalitate a regretatului cardinal Agostino Bea. Să omagiem amintirea sa rămânând fideli metodei sale, curajoasă și, în același timp, prudentă. Viziunea lui despre ecumenism este imensă, de aceea atrage atenția noastră și solicită rugăciunea noastră (cfr. n. 8). (22 ianuarie 1969).


Traducere de pr. Wilhelm Dancă din Ulderico Gamba, Pensieri di Paolo VI. Autobiografia spirituale, Edizione A.E.P.C, Vigodarzere (PD) 2014, pp. 144-147.