Saturday, 2 January 2016

The Holy Family: what Pope Francis actually said .... UPDATED for the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God

In his homily for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, Pope Francis returned to his suggestion, made in the homily for the Feast of the Holy Family (see my earlier post here), that Jesus sought forgiveness of his parents for leaving them worried by his leaving them to stay among the doctors in the Temple:
At the foot of the Cross, Mary sees her Son offer himself totally, showing us what it means to love as God loves.  At that moment she heard Jesus utter words which probably reflected what he had learned from her as a child: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:24).  At that moment, Mary became for all of us the Mother of forgiveness.  Following Jesus’ example and by his grace, she herself could forgive those who killed her innocent Son.
The Italian reads, with my own translation from "In quel momento ... " onwards, intended to capture something of the subtlety of the Italian that does not translate into the English above:
Ai piedi della Croce, Maria vede il suo Figlio che offre tutto Sé stesso e così testimonia che cosa significa amare come ama Dio. In quel momento sente pronunciare da Gesù parole che probabilmente nascono da quello che lei stessa gli aveva insegnato fin da bambino: «Padre, perdona loro perché non sanno quello che fanno» (Lc 23,34). In quel momento, Maria è diventata per tutti noi Madre del perdono. Lei stessa, sull’esempio di Gesù e con la sua grazia, è stata capace di perdonare quanti stavano uccidendo il suo Figlio innocente.  
.... In that moment, she heard words uttered by Jesus that probably were born out of what she herself had taught him since he was a child: "Father, forgive them because they do not know that they are doing". At that moment, Mary became for all of us the Mother of forgiveness. She herself, on the example of Jesus and with his grace, is made able to forgive those who  were killing her innocent Son.
[The French text uses the word "viennent", "come from", and likewise loses the sense of "giving birth to" that is present in the Italian. The German text - at least according to Google translate, and I declare my total lack of ability in this language - seems to retain the sense of "springing up from".]

Now, the sense of Jesus' words "being born out of" the teaching given by the Virgin Mother during Jesus' childhood indicates a proximity, an inter-relation between the missions of the Mother and the Son. It provides a certain completion to Pope Francis' words on the Feast of the Holy Family, and begins to resolve the problem of their audacity. Rather than Pope Francis' words indicating an imperfection in the mission of the Son, we should read them as an indication of the correlation between that mission of the Son and the mission of the Mother. And they reside, too, in that space between Jesus' divine nature and his human nature.

It is worth reminding ourselves at this point of the nature of the Holy Father's words as being speculative in nature rather than dogmatic. A certain style of speculativeness can be recognised in St Ignatius Spiritual Exercises - recalling that Pope Francis is, after all, a Jesuit. The second point of the contemplations for the second week of the Exercises is to consider what the persons in the scene of the particular contemplation are saying; and the third day of the week includes a contemplation on the obedience of Jesus to his parents and on the finding of Jesus in the Temple. This is clearly going to involve some use of the imagination on the part of the person making the Exercises, for their own spiritual benefit as they place themselves in the place and time of the subject of the contemplation, and not for the purpose of dogmatic teaching offered to others. Indeed, how one person imagines the dialogue might be quite different than how another person does so.

Is there not, perhaps, something of Pope Francis' own experience of the Spiritual Exercises in the suggestion contained in his two homilies, namely that Jesus learnt in some way the art of forgiveness from his Mother?

1 comment:

Patricius said...

"Indeed, how one person imagines the dialogue might be quite different than how another person does so."

I, too, felt that this aspect of the "Spiritual Exercises" lay behind Pope Francis's words. The whole drift of the Exercises, if I am not mistaken, is towards a personal discernment. In other words it is ordered towards the particular retreatant's spiritual benefit and, as thus, might be compared to private revelations. The latter are not necessarily to be treated as representing a message of universal applicability.