Benedict on Feasts

Eddie O’Neill recommends Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger


Meditations on Major Feasts

by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

Ignatius Press, 2006

108 pages, $14.95

To order:


With Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States just six weeks away, the Register will be looking at some of the works of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI and books written about him.

Reading his original works or volumes that interpret his themes is good preparation to receive the message he will bring to Americans in mid-April.

In Images of Hope, Meditations on Major Feasts, Cardinal Ratzinger reflects on the liturgical year through the images of sacred art, literature and Scripture.

The book came about because Bavarian Radio had for years asked the German cardinal, when he was prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, to give meditations on major holy days. First written in German in 1997 (Ignatius Press published an English edition in 2006), the book’s 13 short chapters read like a personal spiritual diary. Each meditation has a depth that could only come from years of prayer and contemplation on the themes of the liturgical year.

The future Pope writes eloquently on the great Church celebrations of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. As well, he meditates upon the lives of various saints and even some Old Testament themes.

For instance in his reflection on Easter, Cardinal Ratzinger draws from the wisdom of the Church Fathers. According to the cardinal, it was the Fathers who saw a parallel between Jesus as the Paschal Lamb and the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. Just as Isaac is led up the mountain and bound to be sacrificed by his father, so too Jesus is “the lamb who allowed himself to be caught, bound and slain.”

However, as Cardinal Ratzinger continues, “He (Jesus) is also Isaac who looked into heaven. Where Isaac saw only signs and symbols, Jesus actually entered heaven, and since that time the barrier between God and man is broken down.”

Each chapter is full of these types of inspirational moments — moments, like those of a well crafted homily that leave you pondering a religious theme or image for quite some time, that stop you in your tracks saying, “I’ve never thought of this like that before.”

Cardinal Ratzinger’s style is deep and at times quite theological. This is not light reading. However his reflective style is not spiritual writing just for the sake of sounding intellectual. In fact, for the most part he keeps his meditations practical.

For example, in his chapter on the feast of the Ascension, the cardinal writes, “The Ascension allowed the disciples to become glad. They knew they were the blessed ones. The Church would also like to instill this knowledge in us in the 40 days after Easter. The Church would like it not to become for us only a knowing of the intellect but rather a knowing of the heart, in order that great joy might also overtake us that could no longer be taken away from the disciples.”

Full of profound meditations to sit and pray over, Images of Hope would be a great book to bring to a holy hour. Whether it is Cardinal Ratzinger’s poetic descriptions of the images of Christmas or his magnificent narrative of the Holy Spirit as the icon of the Church, it is spiritual writing at its finest.

Eddie O’Neill writes from

Green Bay, Wisconsin.