Benedict XVI’s address for Vespers in Westminster Abbey

Westminster AbbeyAt Vespers, Archbp. Williams said inter alia:

“St Gregory was the first to spell out … the magnitude of the gift given to Christ’s Church through the life of St Benedict … who, through a relatively brief Rule of life, opened up for the whole civilisation of Europe [Europe and Christianity are inseparable.  Separate them and you wind up with Hitler and Stalin.] since the sixth century the possibility of living in joy and mutual service, in simplicity and self-denial, in a balanced pattern of labour and prayer in which every moment spoke of human dignity fully realised in surrender to a loving God. [Just a while ago, Williams spoke about influencing the public square by example.  I think Benedict would be more inclined also to political action.] The Benedictine life proved a sure foundation not only for generations of monks and nuns, but for an entire culture in which productive work and contemplative silence and receptivity—human dignity and human freedom—were both honoured.”

“In this building with its long Benedictine legacy, we acknowledge with gratitude your contribution to a Benedictine vision for our days, [This is quite the statement.  Gracious.] and pray that your time with us in Britain may help us all towards a renewal of the hope and energy we need as Christians to witness to our conviction that in their relation to God men and women may grow into the fullest freedom and beauty of spirit.”

Speaking of the need for the Church to nurture and protect human life and dignity, freedom and growth, the Archbishop will say, “There is, we know, no authority in the Church that is not the authority of service:  that is, of building up the people of God to full maturity.”

Westminster AbbeyWilliams made a subtle reference to St. Augustine of Hippo’s search to balance, as a bishop, otium and negotium:

Our own culture, a culture in which so often it seems that ‘love has grown cold’, is one in which we can see the dehumanising effects of losing sight of Benedict’s vision.  Work is so often an anxious and obsessive matter, as if our whole value as human beings depended upon it; and so, consequently, unemployment, still a scourge and a threat in these uncertain financial times, comes to seem like a loss of dignity and meaning in life.  We live in an age where there is a desperate need to recover the sense of the dignity of both labour and leisure and the necessity of a silent openness to God that allows our true character to grow and flourish by participating in an eternal love.

It may be necessary to look at Archbp. Williams’ address in a separate post.

However…

The Holy Father gave this address during a Vespers service in Westminster Abbey, once Catholic.

Benedict XVI Westminster AbbeyDear friends in Christ,

I thank the Lord for this opportunity to join you, the representatives of the Christian confessions present in Great Britain, in this magnificent Abbey Church dedicated to Saint Peter, [who has just returned] whose architecture and history speak so eloquently of our common heritage of faith. [Common… yes.  I more ways than just in name.  Remember also how the Pope spoke of the architecture of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC.  Architecture is language.] Here we cannot help but be reminded [and now a main point of what Pope Benedict is aiming at in his pontificate and in this visit] of how greatly the Christian faith shaped the unity and culture of Europe and the heart and spirit of the English people. Here too, we are forcibly reminded that what we share, in Christ, is greater than what continues to divide us. [And when it comes to the battle against the dictatorship of relativism, this will remain true for a while, at least.]

I am grateful to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury for his kind greeting, and to the Dean and Chapter of this venerable Abbey for their cordial welcome. I thank the Lord for allowing me, as the Successor of Saint Peter in the See of Rome, to make this pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor. Edward, King of England, remains a model of Christian witness and an example of that true grandeur to which the Lord summons his disciples in the Scriptures we have just heard: the grandeur of a humility and obedience grounded in Christ’s own example (cf. Phil 2:6-8), the grandeur of a fidelity which does not hesitate to embrace the mystery of the Cross out of undying love for the divine Master and unfailing hope in his promises (cf. Mk 10:43-44).  [In the background is, of course, the role of faith in the public square.  Men of faith called to govern, govern also from their faith.  Faith is not relegated to the private sphere.]

This year, as we know, marks the hundredth anniversary of the modern ecumenical movement, [the ecumenical dimension of the trip… and what ecumenical efforts must unite in… is emerging strongly.] which began with the Edinburgh Conference’s appeal for Christian unity as the prerequisite for a credible and convincing witness to the Gospel in our time. In commemorating this anniversary, we must give thanks for the remarkable progress made towards this noble goal through the efforts of committed Christians of every denomination. At the same time, however, we remain conscious of how much yet remains to be done. In a world marked by growing interdependence and solidarity, we are challenged to proclaim with renewed conviction the reality of our reconciliation and liberation in Christ, and to propose the truth of the Gospel as the key [not "a key"] to an authentic and integral human development. [Global interdependence in the secular reflects the need for interdependence in the sphere of organized religion.] In a society which has become increasingly indifferent or even hostile to the Christian message, we are all the more compelled to give a joyful and convincing account of the hope that is within us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to present the Risen Lord as the response to the deepest questions and spiritual aspirations of the men and women of our time.

As we processed to the chancel at the beginning of this service, the choir sang that Christ is our "sure foundation". He is the Eternal Son of God, of one substance with the Father, who took flesh, as the Creed states, "for us men and for our salvation". He alone has the words of everlasting life. In him, as the Apostle teaches, "all things hold together" … "for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Col 1:17,19).

WestminsterOur commitment to Christian unity is born of nothing less than our faith in Christ, in this Christ, risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father, who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. [According to the Lord’s criteria, which are HIS.  We must make intimately OURS what we can understand of them both by revelation and by reason.] It is the reality of Christ’s person, his saving work and above all the historical fact of his resurrection, [Since the Person of Christ and His triumph are historical FACTS, it is insane for the "humanist" to discount them!] which is the content of the apostolic kerygma and those credal formulas which, beginning in the New Testament itself, have guaranteed the integrity of its transmission. [Again, this wasn’t just made up.  This is fact.] The Church’s unity, in a word, can never be other than a unity in the apostolic faith, in the faith entrusted to each new member of the Body of Christ during the rite of Baptism. It is this faith which unites us to the Lord, makes us sharers in his Holy Spirit, and thus, even now, sharers in the life of the Blessed Trinity, the model of the Church’s koinonia here below.

Dear friends, we are all aware of the challenges, the blessings, the disappointments and the signs of hope which have marked our ecumenical journey. Tonight we entrust all of these to the Lord, confident in his providence and the power of his grace. We know that the friendships we have forged, the dialogue which we have begun and the hope which guides us will provide strength and direction as we persevere on our common journey. At the same time, with evangelical realism, we must also recognize the challenges which confront us, not only along the path of Christian unity, but also in our task of proclaiming Christ in our day. Fidelity to the word of God, precisely because it is a true word, [True, in that it is from God.  When the word is man’s alone, it is passing and undependable.] demands of us an obedience which leads us together to a deeper understanding of the Lord’s will, an obedience which must be free of intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age. [NB:]  This is the word of encouragement which I wish to leave with you this evening, [Now go back and read it again.] and I do so in fidelity to my ministry as the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Saint Peter, [The Petrine ministry Christ gave the Church as a necessary element of its character.] charged with a particular care for the unity of Christ’s flock.

WestminsterGathered in this ancient monastic church, we can recall the example of a great Englishman and churchman whom we honour in common: Saint Bede the Venerable. At the dawn of a new age in the life of society and of the Church, Bede understood both the importance of fidelity to the word of God as transmitted by the apostolic tradition, and the need for creative openness to new developments and to the demands of a sound implantation of the Gospel in contemporary language and culture.

This nation, and the Europe which Bede and his contemporaries helped to build, once again stands at the threshold of a new age. May Saint Bede’s example inspire the Christians of these lands to rediscover their shared legacy, to strengthen what they have in common, and to continue their efforts to grow in friendship. May the Risen Lord strengthen our efforts to mend the ruptures of the past and to meet the challenges of the present with hope in the future which, in his providence, he holds out to us and to our world. Amen.

Pope Benedict said that this is the message he wanted to give as Peter:

Fidelity to the word of God, precisely because it is a true word, demands of us an obedience which leads us together to a deeper understanding of the Lord’s will, an obedience which must be free of intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age.

 

Westminster Abbey

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29 Responses to Benedict XVI’s address for Vespers in Westminster Abbey

  1. HighMass says:

    How we all have been Blessed with this Pope, the GLORY OF THE OLIVE, and Pope of Christian Unity.

    Viva il Papa

  2. scarda says:

    “Europe and Christianity are inseparable. Separate them and you wind up with Hitler and Stalin.”

    This is an utterly memorable summation of Christian history, Fr. Thank you for a statement that even children can recall and savor.

  3. English Hermit says:

    And the bells of Westminster Abbey are ringing out across London for our Holy Father.

  4. Roguejim says:

    Perhaps I need a reality check here. Is Abp(?)Rowan not a layman dressed in bishop’s garb?

    He reminds me of the little boy dressed up as a policeman, and his Daddy goes along with him for the sake of his childish fantasy. But eventually, doesn’t the child realize he is no policeman at all?

  5. shadowlands says:

    What an historical day for England, and her Catholics!!! Just amazing, I feel as if we transcended time for a while there.

  6. paladin says:

    I’d say “Santo subito!”, but our beloved Papa would have to meet his reward, first; and personally, I’m really hoping he outlives Pope Leo XIII…

  7. English Hermit says:

    Just wonderful Shadowlands.London has taken our Holy Father to its heart.

  8. DisturbedMary says:

    First and only picture I’ve seen of what looks like a good-sized crowd outside Westminster. Mmmmmmmmm, so some people did come out to welcome him.

  9. English Hermit says:

    Big crowds all day…Did they really think we would not come onto the streets for Our Holy Father

    Big crowds all day.Did they really think that we would not come out onto the streets for Our Holy Father?

  10. Bornacatholic says:

    I’ll say this for Abp Williams, what he said was accurate – “St Gregory was the first to spell out … the magnitude of the gift given to Christ’s Church through the life of St Benedict … who, through a relatively brief Rule of life, opened up for the whole civilisation of Europe

    St Benedict is The Father of Europe.

  11. Thomas G. says:

    What a huge responsibility to be Pope – everywhere you go, you have to say wise things.

  12. pfreddys says:

    This Pope never ceases to amaze me….I now actually can see some value in ecumenism. Pope Benedict is actually acting as a leader for Christians of other denominations where their own leadership has failed or fallen short.
    And yes Archbp.(sic) Williams was a very gracious host to our holy father….that being greatfully said, I do have to say everytime I see him he just looks like such a wierdo.

  13. irishgirl says:

    What glorious words in such a glorious setting!

    Thank God we have such a Holy Father!

    (Somehow I’m not able to get EWTN’s feed on my laptop-it quit on me! I would have LOVED to have seen and heard this ‘live’!)

    I’ve been to Westminster Abbey on all my visits to England; it’s one of my favorite places!

    Like that ‘look’ that the Holy Father is giving Archbishop Williams in that first picture-it’s as if he’s saying, ‘We had this place before you!’.

  14. PAT says:

    irishgirl: Somehow I’m not able to get EWTN’s feed on my laptop-it quit on me! I would have LOVED to have seen and heard this ‘live’!

    Fr. Finigan posted a list of links, one of which was

    Papal Visit live webcast

    I watched it live all day today and it was very good coverage. Just no EWTN commenting. It was straight feed. It’s “off” now since there are no events in progress. But it will likely be back up again tomorrow.

  15. PAT says:

    Correction: It’s not “off”; it is replaying the day’s events.

  16. Andrew says:

    Roguejim:

    “Perhaps I need a reality check here. Is Abp(?)Rowan not a layman dressed in bishop’s garb?”

    He does not claim to be a catholic bishop, but he is a bishop within the structure to which he belongs. We have to recognize and acknowledge given social realities and work with them for the sake of a greater good (the future prospect of healing of all divisions).

  17. Father S. says:

    Does anyone know if there are video clips available of this trip of sermons and talks, etc.?

  18. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Perhaps I need a reality check here. Is Abp(?)Rowan not a layman dressed in bishop’s garb?\\

    Doubtless, if Abp. Williams were to seek to be reconciled with Rome, he would NOT be received in his orders. He IS, however, an archbishop in his own church.

    But I noticed that His Holiness was NOT wearing any liturgical vesture, but was merely “robed in state”, as it is called, which means he’s wearing nothing but mozetta and stole.

  19. medievalist says:

    I see that the Anglicans can manage to do things behind a fully fledged choir screen and not freak out about it.

  20. teaguytom says:

    Fr Basil, I noticed as well that the Holy Father was wearing only the mozetta and stole. Unless he was thinking that they all were going to be “robed in state”. Not quite sure why all the other prelates including Benedict were not in the liturgical vesture except Williams. If it was for vespers, shouldn’t Benedict been wearing his cope as well?

  21. shadowlands says:

    Thomas G said

    ‘What a huge responsibility to be Pope – everywhere you go, you have to say wise things.’

    That’s why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, to give our leaders the words. When we hear them, we hear Christ. And so does the rest of the world.See Mark 13:11

  22. It was proper for Benedict to wear non-liturgical clothing for a prayer service with Anglicans in an Anglican church; it was acknowledging that we aren’t in communion with them. If it had been Catholic vespers, he would have dressed differently.

  23. Supertradmum says:

    We have been watching the coverage as much as possible and have switched from EWTN to the BBC, which has had much better and more intelligent commentary than EWTN. The American station commentators, both regular and guest, keep bringing up politics, which may or may not be appropriate, and do not know the history or literature of England enough to make comments either intelligently or without error. God bless the BBC and I hope this sensitivity bodes well for the future.

    As to the Vespers, the entire prayer service was extremely moving, as the Catholic roots of British Christianity poured out of every stone and word spoken.

    God bless our Pope and God bless Rowan Williams. Who knows,maybe he will convert. As to Pope Benedict’s liturgical or none dress, it was very clear that dressed as a visitor, not an Anglican, the Bishop of Rome was making a liturgical statement.

    We just finished watching the Mass. Wow!

  24. Hans says:

    I find it very telling that the Holy Father, the Successor of St. Peter, ended (more or less, going from the transcript above) with St. Bede the Venerable. In his writings, Bede emphasized the need to be in union with Peter. For instance, he is critical of the Celtic British hierarchy for not doing much to convert the invading English and for not being in union with Rome, he emphasizes Pope St. Gregory the Great’s role in the conversion of the English over that of St. Augustine of Canterbury, and he gives a detailed account of the Synod of Whitby (A.D. 664) that ends with King Oswy, who had represented the other side, saying had to side with St. Peter.

    So Pope Benedict’s reference to Bede, putting him in what Tolkien liked to call the ‘last and most important place’, is a reminder to the Anglicans that they aren’t where their own saints say they should be — in union with Rome.

  25. Hans says:

    Make that:

    saying he had to side with St. Peter.

  26. Marcin says:

    It was proper for Benedict to wear non-liturgical clothing for a prayer service with Anglicans in an Anglican church; it was acknowledging that we aren’t in communion with them. If it had been Catholic vespers, he would have dressed differently.

    The same happened, as I recall, during Great Vespers and Divine Liturgy at Phanar.

  27. Catholic girl Kate says:

    What a tolerant saintly pope – How does one take Rowan seriously ??

    Will England ever be saved ?

  28. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Westminster Abbey is not an abbey any longer but the Collegiate Church of St. Peter, Westminster, and has dean and canons rather than abbot and monks. I thought it interesting that the Holy Father twice referred to it as an abbey.

  29. pelerin says:

    Ioannes Andreades – Westminster Abbey is always referred to as such in Britain by both Anglicans and Catholics.

    Yes it was a wonderful moment, and quite unexpected, when the Abbey bells rang out. There was indeed a large crowd outside many deep and having arrived at 1.30 I was lucky to be up against the barrier with an excellent view of both the arrival and the departure of the Holy Father. It had been a long wait but apart from the few demonstrators behind everyone was in a very happy mood. It was a pity that there was no screen to show us the service inside but we all waited patiently.

    I was impressed that the Methodist hall opposite had put up yellow and white banners in his honour and their steps were so welcome when after 6 hours standing I needed to sit down before making my way home! A truly wonderful occasion and the following day I returned with our parish group to Hyde Park…..

    I tried to post this earlier but it did not work. If it has gone into the ether and returned then apologies for repeating myself. I do like the new format – very clear print and easy on the eye. Do hope all the problems are ironed out now.