By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio – articles – email ) | Mar 28, 2023 | In Reviews
Ignatius Press has recently published a new book by the late Pope Benedict XVI, a collection of six lectures he gave in 1985 while he was still, as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. These lectures are one more example of Ratzinger’s unparalleled brilliance. Entitled The Divine Project, they are deeply rooted in the author’s insistence that Sacred Scripture must be read forward and backward in the light of Christ.
The book is an astonishing series of deep insights into reality as drawn especially from an unlikely source, the Genesis account of creation. In this lecture series, Ratzinger illuminates the following topics:
- “In the Beginning, God Created…”
- Creation and Reason
- Man, the Divine Project
- Sin and Redemption
- The Ecclesiology of Vatican II
- Unity and Pluralism
Ratzinger finds in God’s Word a corrective vision of reality which eliminates our damaging competition with God and illuminates our fruitful and fulfilling union with Him. The title of the book is drawn from the third lecture, insisting that we humans are precisely God’s special project, the summit of His creation, called to a glorious destiny which only we can thwart. Ratzinger’s point is that the whole of Divine Revelation in Scripture speaks continously of this project so that, instead of rebelling against it in the continued estrangement of Original Sin, we can participate fruitfully in it as the sole way of happiness.
To those who have not yet read any of Ratzinger’s work, the first and perhaps most welcome surprise will be that, despite his unequalled depth in the interpretation of Scripture and subsequent theological reflection, the late Pope was always a master communicator, who could convey the deepest of insights without that encrustation of scholar-speak which makes things so difficult (and so boring) for ordinary readers. Ratzinger was one of a rare breed of truly luminous speakers and writers.
A long review is completely unnecessary. Suffice it to say that, though these lectures were delivered almost 40 years ago, they read very much as if they were designed for our own decade, here and now. If you wish to gain significant insight into (a) God’s plan; (b) man’s all-too-common refusal to participate as reflected particularly in today’s culture; and (c) how to read Scripture the right way to understand all of this in the light of Christ, then you should put this book high on your list.
It is not a long book, and the best way to read it may be very slowly, as part of daily spiritual reading, especially following the reading of Scripture. The subtitle demonstrates its suitability: “Reflections on Creation and the Church”. Every point Ratzinger makes reveals the huge gaps in our characteristic materialistic way of looking at things, while drawing us ever more generously into the light of Christ.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI). The Divine Project: Reflections on Creation and the Church: Ignatius Press, 2022. 177pp. Paper $17.06; eBook $12.32.
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