Catechesis of Benedict XVI on Bishop Aphraates “the wise”
Prayer Is to Carry Christ in One's Heart, Says Pope
Presents Teachings of Bishop Aphraates "the Wise"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).-
Prayer for Christians is to carry Jesus in their hearts, which in turn invites the believers to take up a commitment of charity toward their brethren, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope concluded this during today's general audience in which he presented the teachings of Bishop Aphraates "the wise," who lived in what is modern day Iraq. The Pontiff called the bishop "one of the most important and enigmatic characters of fourth-century Syriac Christianity."
Addressing a crowd counting more than 15,000, the Holy Father explained that Syriac is a Semitic language such as Hebrew and Aramaic, and that the Syriac Christian communities developed in the Middle East.
Not being influenced by other cultures, he said, "the Syriac communities of the fourth century represent the Semitic world from which the Bible itself evolved."
While the Pontiff explained that little is known of Aphraates' life, he did leave 23 speeches known as "Expositions," in which he discusses various topics of Christian life.
"He writes in a simple style, with short sentences and at times contrasting parallelisms; nevertheless he manages to make consistent speeches by developing articulated arguments," said Benedict XVI.
He noted that one of the most important teachings of the bishop is on prayer, "and particularly on Christ as the master of prayer."
"According to this ancient sage," the Pontiff said, "prayer is achieved when Christ dwells in the heart of Christians, inviting them to a coherent commitment of charity toward their brethren."
The Holy Father cited a prayer written by Afraates: "Prayer is accepted when it gives relief to your neighbor. The prayer is heard when it includes the forgiveness of sins. Prayer is strong when it is full of God’s strength."
"With these words Aphraates invites us to join in a prayer that becomes Christian life, a life that comes to fruition, infused by faith, by openness to God and, as such, by the love for one’s neighbor," said the Pope.
He noted that, faithful to the Syriac tradition, the bishop presented "Christ’s salvation as a type of healing and subsequently, Christ as a doctor."
"In keeping with this," continued the Pontiff, "sin is seen as a wound that penance alone can heal."
"A man that has been injured in battle," says Aphraates, "is not ashamed to put himself in the hands of a doctor. ... Equally so, he who has been injured by Satan should not be ashamed to admit his fault and to distance himself from it, asking for the medicine of penance."
Benedict XVI said that Aphraates also wrote that "Christian life is centered on the imitation of Christ, taking up his yoke, following him on the path of the Gospel," and that humility is the main virtue of a disciple.
"It is not a secondary consideration in the spiritual life of a Christian," said the Pope. "By remaining humble, even in his earthly surroundings, a Christian can establish a relationship with the Lord."
"God is attracted to the man who loves, it is right to love humility and to stay humble," the Holy Father said, quoting Aphraates. "Humble individuals are simple, patient, loving, honest, righteous, experts in what is good, prudent, serene, wise, calm, peaceful, merciful, ready to convert, benevolent, profound, thoughtful, beautiful and attractive."
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