On Rupert of Deutz

"We Can Also, Each One in His Own Way, Find the Lord Jesus"

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall.



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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
 
Today we come to know another Benedictine monk of the 12th century. His name is Rupert of Deutz, a city near Cologne, headquarters of a famous monastery. Rupert himself speaks of his life in one of his most important works, "The Glory and Honor of the Son of Man," which is a partial commentary on the Gospel of Mark. While still a child, he was received as an "oblate" in the Benedictine monastery of St. Lawrence of Liege, according to the custom of the age to entrust one of the children to the education of monks, intending to make of him a gift to God. Rupert always loved the monastic life. He very soon learned the Latin language to study the Bible and to enjoy the liturgical celebrations. He was distinguished for his absolutely upright moral rectitude and for his strong attachment to the See of St. Peter.
 
His times were marked by opposition between the papacy and the empire, due to the so-called investiture conflict, with which -- as I have pointed out in other catecheses -- the papacy wished to prevent the appointment of bishops and the exercise of their jurisdiction from depending on the civil authority, which was guided in the main by political and economic motivations, and certainly not pastoral ones. Otbert, the bishop of Liege, resisted the Pope's directives and sent Berengarius, abbot of the monastery of St. Lawrence, into exile, precisely for his fidelity to the Pontiff. Rupert lived in that monastery, and he did not hesitate to follow his abbot into exile. Only when Bishop Otbert re-entered into communion with the Pope did Rupert return to Liege and accept priestly ordination. Up to that moment, in fact, he had avoided receiving ordination from a bishop in disagreement with the Pope. Rupert teaches us that when controversies arise in the Church, reference to the Petrine ministry guarantees fidelity to sound doctrine and gives interior serenity and liberty. After the dispute with Otbert, he still had to leave his monastery two more times. In 1116 the adversaries in fact wanted to prosecute him. Although acquitted from every accusation, Rupert preferred to go for a time to Siegbur, but because the controversies had not yet ceased when he returned to the monastery in Liege, he decided to establish himself definitively in Germany. Appointed abbot of Deutz in 1120, he remained there until 1129, the year of his death. He left only for a pilgrimage to Rome in 1124.
 
A prodigious writer, Rupert left very numerous works, still of great interest today, in part because he was active in several important theological discussions of the time. For example, he intervened with determination in the Eucharistic controversy that in 1077 led to the condemnation of Berengarius of Tours. The latter had given a reductive interpretation of the presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist, describing it as only symbolic. The term "transubstantiation" had still not entered the language of the Church, but Rupert, using at times audacious expressions, made himself a determined supporter of the reality of the Eucharist. Above all in a work titled "De divinis officiis" (The Divine Offices), he affirmed with determination the continuity between the Body of the Word Incarnate of Christ and that present in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine. Dear brothers and sisters, it seems to me that at this point we must also think of our time; the danger exists also today of re-appraising the Eucharistic realism, to consider, that is, the Eucharist almost as just a rite of communion, of socialization, forgetting too easily that the risen Christ is really present  -- with his risen body -- which is placed in our hands to draw us out of ourselves, to be incorporated in his immortal body and thus lead us to new life. This great mystery that the Lord is present in all his reality in the Eucharistic species is a mystery to be adored and loved always anew!

I would like to quote here the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which bear in themselves the fruit of the meditation of the faith and of the theological reflection of 2,000 years: "The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as 'the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.' In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist 'the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained'" (CCC, 1374). With his reflection, Rupert was a contributor to this precise formulation.
 
Another controversy in which the abbot of Deutz was involved refers to the problem of the reconciliation of the goodness and omnipotence of God and the existence of evil. If God is omnipotent and good, how does one explain the reality of evil? Rupert in fact reacted to the positions assumed by the teachers of the theological school of Laon, who with a series of philosophical reasonings distinguished in God's will  "approval" and "permission," concluding that God permits evil without approving it and, hence, without willing it. Rupert, instead, gave up the use of philosophy, which he considered inadequate in the face of such a great problem, and remained simply faithful to the biblical account. He begins from the goodness of God, from the truth that God is most good and cannot but desire goodness. Thus he singles out the origin of evil in man himself and in the mistaken use of human liberty. When Rupert addresses this argument, he writes pages full of religious inspiration to praise the Father's infinite mercy and the patience and benevolence of God toward sinful man.
 
As other theologians of the Middle Ages, Rupert also asked himself: Why did the Word of God, the Son of God, become man? Some, many, responded explaining the incarnation of the Word with the urgency of repairing man's sin. Rupert, instead, with a Christocentric vision of the history of salvation, widens this perspective, and in one of his works titled "The Glorification of the Trinity," holds the position that the Incarnation, the central event of history, was foreseen from all eternity, even independently of man's sin, so that all creation could give praise to God the Father and love him as in one family gathered around Christ, the Son of God. He sees then in the pregnant woman of Revelation the whole history of humanity, which is oriented to Christ, just as conception is oriented to birth, a perspective that will be developed by other thinkers and put to good use also by contemporary theology, which affirms that the whole history of the world and of humanity is conception oriented to the birth of Christ.

Christ is always at the center of exegetical explanations furnished by Rupert in his comments on the books of the Bible, to which he dedicated himself with great diligence and passion. He thus rediscovers a wonderful unity in all the events of the history of salvation, from the creation to the final consummation of time: "The whole of Scripture," he affirms, "is just one book, which tends to the same end [the divine Word]; which comes from one God and which was written by only one Spirit" (De glorificatione Trinitatis et processione Sancti Spiritus I, V, PL 169, 18).
 
In the interpretation of the Bible, Rupert does not limit himself to repeat the teaching of the Fathers, but shows his originality. For example, he is the first writer who identified the bride of the Canticle of Canticles with Mary Most Holy. Thus his commentary on this book of Scripture is a sort of Mariological summa, in which are presented the privileges and the excellent virtues of Mary. In one of the most inspired passages of his commentary, Rupert writes: "O most beloved among the beloved, Virgin of virgins, what in you is praised by your beloved Son, whom the entire choir of angels exalts? Praised are simplicity, purity, innocence, doctrine, modesty, humility, the integrity of mind and flesh, in other words, the untainted virginity" (In Canticum Canticorum 4, 1-6, CCL 26, pp. 69-70). Rupert's Marian interpretation of the Canticle is a good example of the harmony between liturgy and theology. In fact, several passages of this biblical Book were already used in the liturgical celebrations of Marian feasts.
 
Moreover, Rupert took care to insert his Mariological doctrine in ecclesiological doctrine. In other words, he saw in Mary Most Holy the most holy part of the whole Church. See why my venerated predecessor, Pope Paul VI, in the closing address of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, solemnly proclaiming Mary Mother of the Church, quoted in fact a proposal treated in Rupert's works, who describes Mary as portio maxima, portio optima -- the loftiest part, the best part of the Church (cf. In Apocalypsem 1.7, PL 169, 1043).
 
Dear friends, from this hasty sketch we recall that Rupert was a fervent theologian, gifted with great depth. As all the representatives of monastic theology, he was able to combine the rational study of the mysteries of the faith with prayer and contemplation, considered the summit of all knowledge of God. He himself speaks sometimes of his mystical experiences, as when he confides about the ineffable joy of having perceived the presence of the Lord: "In that brief moment," he affirms, "I experienced how true that is which he himself says: Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart" (De gloria et honore Filii hominis. Super Matthaeum 12, PL 168, 1601). We can also, each one in his own way, find the Lord Jesus who endlessly accompanies us on our way, makes himself present in the Eucharistic bread and in his Word for our salvation.

[Translation by ZENIT]
 
[The Holy Father then addressed the people in various languages. In English, he said:]
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
 
In our catechesis on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages, we now turn to Rupert of Deutz, an outstanding theologian of the twelfth century. Rupert experienced at first hand the conflict between the Empire and the Church linked to the investiture crisis, and he played a significant role in the principal theological debates of his day. He forcefully defended the reality of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist, and insisted that the origin of evil is to be found in man's mistaken use of freedom, not in the positive will of God. Rupert also contributed to the medieval discussion of the purpose of the Incarnation, which he set within the vast vision of history centred on Christ. His teaching on the dignity and privileges of the Virgin Mary, presented with a broad ecclesiological context, would prove influential for later theology and find an echo in the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council. Rupert's ability to harmonize the rational study of the mysteries of faith with prayer and contemplation makes him a typical representative of the monastic theology of his time. His example inspires us to draw near to Christ, present among us in his Word and in the Eucharist, and to rejoice in the knowledge that he remains with us at every moment of our lives and throughout history.
 
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience. I greet especially the groups from South Korea, South Africa and the United States of America. As we prepare with joy to celebrate our Saviour's birth this Christmas, let us renew our commitment to bring the light of Christ to those we meet. May God bless you all!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
 
[In Italian, he said:]
 
Finally, I greet young people, the sick and newlyweds. The solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, which we celebrated yesterday, reminds us of Mary's singular adherence to God's salvific plan. Dear young people, make an effort to imitate her with a pure and transparent heart, letting yourselves be molded by God who also in you wills to "do great things" (cf. Luke 1:49). Dear sick people, with the help of Mary always trust the Lord, who knows your sufferings and, uniting them to his, offers them for the salvation of the world. And you, dear newlyweds, make your home in imitation of that of Nazareth, welcoming and open to life.

[Translation by ZENIT]