|Grateful for the Father's infinite mercy and
patience with sinners
At the General Audience on Wednesday, 9
December  in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father commented on Rupert
of Deutz, an outstanding theologian of the 12th century. The following
is a translation of the Pope's Catechesis, which was given in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we become acquainted
with another 12th-century Benedictine monk. His name is Rupert of Deutz,
a city near Cologne, home to a famous monastery.
Rupert himself speaks of
his own life in one of his most important works entitled The Glory
and Honour of the Son of Man [De gloria et honore filii hominis
super Matthaeum], which is a commentary on part of the Gospel
according to Matthew.
While still a boy he was
received at the Benedictine Monastery of St Laurence at Lieges as an
"oblate", in accordance with the custom at that time of entrusting one
of the sons to the monks for his education, intending to make him a gift
Rupert always loved
monastic life. He quickly learned Latin in order to study the Bible and
to enjoy the liturgical celebrations. He distinguished himself for his
moral rectitude, straight as a die, and his strong attachment to the See
of St Peter.
Rupert's time was marked by
disputes between the Papacy and the Empire, because of the so-called
"Investiture Controversy" with which
as I have mentioned in other Catecheses
the Papacy wished to prevent the
appointment of Bishops and the exercise of their jurisdiction from
depending on the civil authorities who were certainly not guided by
pastoral reasons but for the most part by political and financial
Bishop Otbert of Lièges
resisted the Pope's directives and exiled Berengarius, Abbot of the
Monastery of St Laurence, because of his fidelity to the Pontiff. It was
in this monastery that Rupert lived. He did not hesitate to follow his
Abbot into exile and only when Bishop Otbert returned to communion with
the Pope did he return to Liège
and agree to become a priest.
Until that moment, in fact,
he had avoided receiving ordination from a Bishop in dissent with the
Pope. Rupert teaches us that when controversies arise in the Church the
reference to the Petrine ministry guarantees fidelity to sound doctrine
and is a source of serenity and inner freedom.
After the dispute with
Otbert Rupert was obliged to leave his monastery again twice.
In 1116 his adversaries
even wanted to take him to court. Although he was acquitted of every
accusation, Rupert preferred to go for a while to Siegburg; but since on
his return to the monastery in Liege the disputes had not yet ceased, he
decided to settle definitively in Germany. In 1120 he was appointed
Abbot of Deutz where, except for making a pilgrimage to Rome in 1124, he
lived until 1129, the year of his death.
A fertile writer, Rupert
left numerous works, still today of great interest because he played an
active part in various important theological discussions of his time.
For example, he intervened with determination in the Eucharistic
controversy, which in 1077 led to his condemnation by Berengarius of
Berengarius had given a
reductive interpretation of Christ's presence in the Sacrament of the
Eucharist, describing it as merely symbolic. In the language of the
Church the term "transubstantiation" was as yet unknown but Rupert, at
times with daring words, made himself a staunch supporter of the
Eucharistic reality and, especially in a work entitled De divinis
officiis (On divine offices), purposefully asserted the continuity
between the Body of the Incarnate Word of Christ and that present in the
Eucharistic species of the bread and the wine.
Dear brothers and sisters,
it seems to me that at this point we must also think of our time; today
too we are in danger of reappraising the Eucharistic reality, that is,
of considering the Eucharist almost as a rite of communion, of
socialization alone, forgetting all too easily that the Risen Christ is
really present in the Eucharist
with his Risen Body
which is placed in our hands to draw us out of ourselves, to
incorporate us into his immortal body and thereby lead us to
This great mystery that the
Lord is present in his full reality in the Eucharistic species is a
mystery to be adored and loved ever anew!
I would like here to quote
the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which bear the
fruit of 2,000 years of meditation on the faith and theological
"The mode of Christ's
presence under the Eucharistic species is unique and incomparable.... In
the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist 'the Body and Blood,
together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ... is
truly, really, and substantially contained'.... It is a substantial
presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely
present... by the Eucharistic species of the bread the wine" (cf. n.
1374). Rupert too contributed with his reflections to this precise
Another controversy in
which the Abbot of Deutz was involved concerns the problem of the
reconciliation of God's goodness and omnipotence with the existence of
evil. If God is omnipotent and good, how is it possible to explain the
reality of evil?
Rupert, in fact, reacted to
the position assumed by the teachers of the theological school of Laon,
who, with a series of philosophical arguments, distinguished in God's
will the "to approve" and the "to permit", concluding that God permits
evil without approving it and hence without desiring it.
Rupert, on the other hand,
renounces the use of philosophy, which he deems inadequate for
addressing such a great problem, and remains simply faithful to the
He starts with the goodness
of God, with the truth that God is supremely good and cannot desire
anything but good. Thus he identifies the origin of evil in the human
being himself and in the erroneous use of human freedom. When Rupert
addresses this topic he writes pages filled with religious inspiration
to praise the Father's infinite mercy, God's patience with the sinful
human being and his kindness to him.
Like other medieval
theologians, Rupert too wondered why the Word of God, the Son of God,
was made man. Some, many, answered by explaining the Incarnation of the
Word by the urgent need to atone for human sin. Rupert, on the other
hand, with a Christocentric vision of salvation history, broadens the
perspective, and in a work entitled The Glorification of the Trinity,
sustains the position that the Incarnation, the central event of the
whole of history was planned from eternity, even independently of human
sin, so that the whole creation might praise God the Father and love him
as one family gathered round Christ, the Son of God.
Then he saw in the pregnant
woman of the Apocalypse the entire history of humanity which is oriented
to Christ, just as conception is oriented to birth, a perspective that
was to be developed by other thinkers and enhanced by contemporary
theology, which says that the whole history of the world and of humanity
is a conception oriented to the birth of Christ.
Christ is always the centre
of the exegetic explanations provided by Rupert in his commentaries on
the Books of the Bible, to which he dedicated himself with great
diligence and passion.
Thus, he rediscovers a
wonderful unity in all the events of the history of salvation, from the
creation until the final consummation of time: "All Scripture", he says,
"is one book, which aspires to the same end (the divine Word); which
comes from one God and was written by one Spirit"
(De glorificatione Trinitatis et procesione
Sancti spiritus I, V, PL
In the interpretation of
the Bible, Rupert did not limit himself to repeating the teaching of the
Fathers, but shows an originality of his own. For example, he is the
first writer to have identified the bride in the Song of Songs with Mary
His commentary on this book
of Scripture has thus turned out to be a sort of Mariological summa,
in which he presents Mary's privileges and excellent virtues.
In one of the most inspired
passages of his commentary Rupert writes: "O most beloved among the
beloved, Virgin of virgins, what does your beloved Son so praise in you
that the whole choir of angels exalts? What they praise is your
simplicity, purity, innocence, doctrine, modesty, humility, integrity of
mind and body, that is, your incorrupt virginity" (In Canticum
Canticorum 4, 1-6, CCL 26, pp. 69-70).
The Marian interpretation
of Rupert's Canticum is a felicitous example of harmony between
liturgy and theology. In fact, various passages of this Book of the
Bible were already used in liturgical celebrations on Marian feasts.
Rupert, furthermore, was
careful to insert his Mariological doctrine into that ecclesiological
doctrine. That is to say, he saw in Mary Most Holy the holiest part of
the whole Church. For this reason my venerable Predecessor, Pope Paul in
his Discourse for the closure of the third session of the Second Vatican
Council, in solemnly pronouncing Mary Mother of the Church, even cited a
proposal taken from Rupert's works, which describes Mary as portio
maxima, portio optima
the most sublime part, the very best part of the Church (cf. In
Apocalypsem I, 7, PL 169, 1043).
Dear friends, from these
rapid allusions we realize that Rupert was a fervent theologian endowed
with great depth. Like all the representatives of monastic theology, he
was able to combine rational study of the mysteries of faith with prayer
and contemplation, which he considered the summit of all knowledge of
He himself sometimes speaks
of his mystical experiences, such as when he confides his ineffable joy
at having perceived the Lord's presence: "in that brief moment", he
says, "I experienced how true what he himself says is. Learn from me
for I am meek and humble of heart" (De gloria et honore Filii
hominis. Super Matthaeum 12, PL 1601) .
We too, each one of us in
our own way, can encounter the Lord Jesus who ceaselessly accompanies us
on our way, makes himself present in the Eucharistic Bread and in his
Word for our salvation.