VATICAN CITY (CNA)—The preacher to the Papal Household has revealed the topics for the four homilies he will preach to Pope Benedict XVI during Lent.
“Every time we will be at the school of one of the ‘four great doctors of the Eastern Church,’ Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa, to see what each one says to us today about the dogma” each of them championed, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., said in a statement issued March 1 by the Vatican.
Those teachings were, respectively, “the divinity of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity and the knowledge of God,” he explained.
The sermons will be held in the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater chapel at 9am over four Fridays of Lent, March 9-30.
The overarching theme this year is “The Fathers of the Church, teachers of the faith,” which was inspired by a quotation from St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews 13:7 – “Remember your leaders and imitate their faith.”
With the Church’s Year of Faith beginning in October, Father Cantalamessa said his sermons “are intended to draw momentum and restore freshness to our belief, through renewed contact with the ‘giants of faith’ of the past.”
“The Church Fathers” is the term used to denote the most influential Christian thinkers of the early Church whose teachings have set precedents for the subsequent centuries.
St. Athanasius was a fourth-century bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. He was the leading opponent of the Arian heresy, which taught Jesus was not co-equal with God the Father.
The three other Church Fathers who will feature in the Lenten papal homilies are known collectively as the “Cappadocian Fathers,” since they hailed from the Cappadocia region of what is now Turkey.
Sts. Basil and Gregory were brothers who were also bishops during the fourth century. They led the dioceses of Caesarea and Nyssa, respectively. The final Cappadocian Father was a close friend of the brothers, St. Gregory Nazianzen, who became the patriarch of Constantinople.
All three made major contributions towards the definition of the Holy Trinity, which was finalized at the First Council of Constantinople in 381. It was there that the final version of the Nicene Creed was agreed upon.
Father Cantalamessa, 77, has been the official preacher to the Papal Household since 1980. His job consists of giving a meditation every Friday of Lent and Advent to the senior members of the Roman Curia, including the Pope.
That means he has been preaching to Pope Benedict, who was previously prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for 30 years.
As he told CNA in December 2011, “It is actually a very simple ministry because the Pope at that moment is just a listener among other listeners.”