On the Way To Jesus Christ (2005 Ignatius Press ) is a collection of meditations (talks) by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). There is so much good stuff to be found here. It is just at the right level of depth and breadth that I found satisfying. At times his writing style is akin to Fulton Sheen’s popular style but without the “dramatics”. He really has a gift to bring a fresh perspective to many different aspects of “familiar” topics regarding, Faith, life, man etc.
Topics include: “Face of God in Sacred Scripture”, “Truth in Beauty”, “Culture and Evangelization”, “Christ as Redeemer”, “Eucharist-Communio-Solidarity” and “Universality and Catholicity.” Throughout, On the Way To Jesus Christ, Cardinal Ratzinger, shows himself to be a patient and self-less teacher.
Christianity does not simply belong to the history of religions, but naturally it does not simply belong to the history of religious criticism, either, to the history of self-sufficient intellect. In their discussion of the reasonableness of Christianity, the Fathers distinguished between ratio, mere reason, and intellectus, man’s ability to see things spiritually, to discern, which goes farther then mere reason. For this is the very essence of wisdom—of the faith that is wisdom— namely, that it bursts open the narrowness of mere reason and reactivates the broader vision to which man is called. It is a hallmark of the Christian faith that it puts reason and religion in an entirely new relationship to one another, so as to orient man towards the truth; it does not allow religion to degenerate into habit; rather, it challenges it to live according to the claims of truth.
As Catholics we know (or should know, or should come to know) that the Liturgy if a gift from God. “Right worship” has been a constant theme throughout many of Cardinal Ratzinger’s works. “Right action” is also a theme throughout his works. He draws from both of these themes in many ways in On the Way To Jesus Christ.
In the early Church, the Eucharist was often called agape, “love”, or simply pax, “peace”. The Christians of that time thus expressed in a remarkable way the inseperable connection between the mysterium of the hidden presence of the Lord and the paraxis of serving the cause of peace, of Christians being peace. No distinctions were made then between orthodoxy and orthopraxis, between right doctrine and right action, which some people are fond of contrasting today, whereby there is usually a hint of disdain for the word “orthodoxy”: anyone who insists on right doctrine is seen as narrow-minded, rigid, potentially intolerant. In the final analysis, everything is supposed to depend on right action, whereas one can always argue about doctrine. The important thing, they say, is the fruit that doctrine produces, whereas it does not matter by what paths one arrives at just deeds.
Such a contrast would have been incomprehensible and unacceptable to the early Church, because the word “orthodoxy” does not mean “right doctrine” at all; rather, it means “the right way of worshipping and glorifying God.” The early Christians were convinced that everything depends on being in the right relationship with God, on knowing what pleases him and what one can do to respond to him in the right way. That is why Israel loved the law: from it, they knew what God’s will is; they knew how to live righteously and how to worship God properly: by doing his will, which brings order into the world, by opening it to the transcendent. This was the new joy of the Christians: that they finally knew now, from Christ, how God should be glorified and how, precisely through that glorification, the world is set right. The fact that these two things belong together had been proclaimed by the angels on Christmas night: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased”, they said (Luke 2:14). God’s glory and peace on earth are inseparable. Where God is shut out, peace on earth breaks down, and no godless orthopraxis can save us. For there is no such thing as right action without a knowledge of what is right. The will without knowledge is blind, and so action, orthopraxis, without knowledge is blind and leads into the abyss.
The great deception of Marxism was to tell us that we had thought long enough about the world, that it was finally time to change it. But if we do not know what we should change it into, if we do not understand its intrinsic meaning and inner purpose, then change becomes destruction— as we have seen and continue to see. But the inverse is also true: doctrine alone, which does not become life and action, becomes idle chatter and thus becomes equally empty. The truth in concrete. Knowledge and action should go together, as faith and life belong together.
Some other excerpts can be found here.