Before the Way of the Cross in the Colosseum on Friday evening, Pope Francis presided over the Lord’s Passion Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica commemorating the last hours of Jesus’ life.
The new interpretation of the “Death of God” by Friedrich 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
Nietzsche’s “Super-man” and nihilism in our secularized societies
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.””
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. At the time of Romanticism, people used to bask in melancholy, today in nihilism!”
As believers 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, and profess your Resurrection
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’”.