Cardinal Cantalamessa: God is not dead. His death brings us true life

At the Good Friday liturgy of the Passion of the Lord at St. Peter's Basilica, the Preacher of the Papal Household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, reflects on the Death and Resurrection of the Lord in our secularized societies.

By Lisa Zengarini

Before the Way of the Cross in the Colosseum on Friday evening, Pope Francis presided over the liturgy of the Passion of the Lord at St. Peter's Basilica, commemorating the last hours of Jesus' life.

“Death of God” - Reinterpreting Nietzsche

The homily was pronounced by Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., the Preacher of the Papal Household, who focused his reflection on the ideological “Death of God” the modern secularized Western world has been experiencing for over a century, and which found its fullest expression in the famous words Friedrich Nietzsche put in the mouth of the "madman" in his “The Joyful Science”.

Carinal Raniero Cantalamessa during his homily
Carinal Raniero Cantalamessa during his homily

"Super-man" and modern nihilism

The idea behind that proclamation was not to replace God with nothing, but with a "Super-man", as the German philosopher expressed in another famous writing, “Ecce Homo”. 

However, Cardinal Cantalamessa remarked, it has indeed led to modern-time nihilism, “beyond good and evil”, another battle-cry of Nietzsche, which is nothing else but “the will to power" we are dramatically witnessing today.

"It is significant that, precisely in the wake of Nietzsche’s thought, some have come to define human existence as a 'being-for-death' and to consider all the supposed human possibilities as 'nullities from the start'," he said.

Nihilism and relativism 

Although it is “not up to us to judge” the German philosopher who “had his share of suffering in his life” and whose “heart only God knows”, continued Cardinal Cantalamessa, we “can and must judge” the consequences that his thought has had in our world, and whose common denominator “is a total relativism in every field – ethics, language, philosophy, art, and, of course, religion”.

"Nothing more is solid; everything is liquid, or even vaporous," said the Cardinal. "At the time of Romanticism, people used to bask in melancholy, today in nihilism!"

As believers, he said, Christians have the duty to show what is behind Nietzsche's proclamation of 'the Death of God': that is man’s denial of the Lord’s infinite Love described symbolically in the Genesis account of Creation, which He confirmed by humbling Himself into a Man and “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2;8).

We proclaim your Death, O Lord

Opposed to nihilism, “which is the true ‘black hole’ of the spiritual universe”, is the Christian unwavering faith in God’s Resurrection, Cardinal Cantalamessa said in conclusion.

“Let us, therefore, continue to repeat, with heartfelt gratitude and more convinced than ever, the words we proclaim at every Mass:  ‘We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again’.”

Celebration of the Passion of the Lord

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07 April 2023, 18:12