01 Alors Agrippa s’adressa à Paul : « Tu es autorisé à plaider ta cause. » Après avoir levé la main, Paul présenta sa défense :
02 « Sur tous les points dont je suis accusé par les Juifs, je m’estime heureux, roi Agrippa, d’avoir à présenter ma défense aujourd’hui devant toi,
03 d’autant plus que tu es un connaisseur de toutes les coutumes des Juifs et de tous leurs débats. Voilà pourquoi je te prie de m’écouter avec patience.
04 Ce qu’a été ma vie depuis ma jeunesse, comment dès le début j’ai vécu parmi mon peuple et à Jérusalem, cela, tous les Juifs le savent.
05 Ils me connaissent depuis longtemps, et ils témoigneront, s’ils le veulent bien, que j’ai vécu en pharisien, c’est-à-dire dans le groupe le plus strict quant à notre pratique religieuse.
06 Et maintenant, si je suis là en jugement, c’est parce que je mets mon espérance en la promesse faite par Dieu à nos pères,
07 promesse dont nos douze tribus espèrent l’accomplissement, elles qui rendent un culte à Dieu jour et nuit avec persévérance. C’est pour cette espérance, ô roi, que je suis accusé par les Juifs.
08 Pourquoi, chez vous, juge-t-on incroyable que Dieu ressuscite les morts ?
09 Pour moi, j’ai pensé qu’il fallait combattre très activement le nom de Jésus le Nazaréen.
10 C’est ce que j’ai fait à Jérusalem : j’ai moi-même emprisonné beaucoup de fidèles, en vertu des pouvoirs reçus des grands prêtres ; et quand on les mettait à mort, j’avais apporté mon suffrage.
11 Souvent, je passais de synagogue en synagogue et je les forçais à blasphémer en leur faisant subir des sévices ; au comble de la fureur, je les persécutais jusque dans les villes hors de Judée.
12 C’est ainsi que j’allais à Damas muni d’un pouvoir et d’une procuration des grands prêtres ;
13 en plein midi, sur la route, ô roi, j’ai vu, venant du ciel, une lumière plus éclatante que le soleil, qui m’enveloppa, moi et ceux qui m’accompagnaient.
14 Tous, nous sommes tombés à terre, et j’ai entendu une voix qui me disait en araméen : “Saul, Saul, pourquoi me persécuter ? Il est dur pour toi de résister à l’aiguillon.”
15 Et moi je dis : “Qui es-tu, Seigneur ?” Le Seigneur répondit : “Je suis Jésus, celui que tu persécutes.
16 Mais relève-toi, et tiens-toi debout ; voici pourquoi je te suis apparu : c’est pour te destiner à être serviteur et témoin de ce moment où tu m’as vu, et des moments où je t’apparaîtrai encore,
17 pour te délivrer de ton peuple et des non-Juifs. Moi, je t’envoie vers eux,
18 pour leur ouvrir les yeux, pour les ramener des ténèbres vers la lumière et du pouvoir de Satan vers Dieu, afin qu’ils reçoivent, par la foi en moi, le pardon des péchés et une part d’héritage avec ceux qui ont été sanctifiés.”
19 Dès lors, roi Agrippa, je n’ai pas désobéi à cette vision céleste,
20 mais j’ai parlé d’abord aux gens de Damas et à ceux de Jérusalem, puis à tout le pays de Judée et aux nations païennes ; je les exhortais à se convertir et à se tourner vers Dieu, en adoptant un comportement accordé à leur conversion.
21 Voilà pourquoi les Juifs se sont emparés de moi dans le Temple, pour essayer d’en finir avec moi.
22 Fort du secours que j’ai reçu de Dieu, j’ai tenu bon jusqu’à ce jour pour rendre témoignage devant petits et grands. Je n’ai rien dit en dehors de ce que les prophètes et Moïse avaient prédit,
23 à savoir que le Christ, exposé à la souffrance et premier ressuscité d’entre les morts, devait annoncer la lumière à notre peuple et aux nations. »
24 Il en était là de sa défense, quand Festus s’écria : « Tu délires, Paul ! Ta grande érudition te fait délirer ! »
25 Mais Paul répliqua : « Je ne délire pas, Très excellent Festus ! Mais je parle un langage de vérité et de bon sens.
26 Le roi, à qui je m’adresse avec assurance, est au courant de ces événements ; je suis convaincu qu’aucun d’eux ne lui a échappé, car ce n’est pas dans un coin perdu que cela s’est fait.
27 Roi Agrippa, crois-tu aux prophètes ? Je sais bien que tu y crois. »
28 Agrippa dit alors à Paul : « Encore un peu, et tu me persuades de me faire chrétien ! »
29 Paul répliqua : « Plaise à Dieu que, tôt ou tard, non seulement toi, mais encore tous ceux qui m’écoutent aujourd’hui, vous deveniez tel que je suis – sauf les chaînes que voici ! »
30 Le roi se leva, puis le gouverneur, ainsi que Bérénice et ceux qui étaient assis avec eux.
31 S’étant retirés, ils se disaient entre eux : « Cet homme ne fait rien qui mérite la mort ou la prison. »
32 Et Agrippa dit à Festus : « Cet homme aurait pu être relâché, s’il n’en avait pas appelé à l’empereur. »
ACTES DES APÔTRES, XXVI : 1-32
Conversion de Saint Paul
Conversion de saint Paul, Epîtres de saint Paul - Biblioteca Laurenziana Plut.23.06 f36v
Six ans après l'Ascension, l'Eglise reçoit du Christ une grâce particulière qui sera déterminante pour l'avenir. Sur le chemin de Damas, le pharisien Saul de Tarse, qui avait obtenu des lettres de mission pour persécuter les sectateurs du Christ, est jeté à bas de son cheval par un éblouissement de lumière. Toute la doctrine de saint Paul découlera de l'extraordinaire dialogue qui s'en suivit. L'Eglise et le Christ ne font qu'un et c'est ce Corps Mystique qui sera l'une des bases de l'ecclésiologie de saint Paul. C'est la résurrection qui s'affirme à lui comme une réalité incontournable. C'est un vivant qui lui parle et l'humanité du Christ s'établit dans la gloire de la divinité. L'Evangile s'impose avec une telle intensité qu'il en est aveuglé et terrassé jusqu'au moment où la lumière baptismale lui révèlera le mystère.
SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20080903_fr.html
Saint Paul (3)
St Paul's "Conversion".
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today's Catechesis is dedicated to the experience that Paul had on his way to Damascus, and therefore on what is commonly known as his conversion. It was precisely on the road to Damascus, at the beginning of the 30s in the first century and after a period in which he had persecuted the Church that the decisive moment in Paul's life occurred. Much has been written about it and naturally from different points of view. It is certain that he reached a turning point there, indeed a reversal of perspective. And so he began, unexpectedly, to consider as "loss" and "refuse" all that had earlier constituted his greatest ideal, as it were the raison d'être of his life (cf. Phil 3: 7-8). What had happened?
In this regard we have two types of source. The first kind, the best known, consists of the accounts we owe to the pen of Luke, who tells of the event at least three times in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 9: 1-19; 22: 3-21; 26: 4-23). The average reader may be tempted to linger too long on certain details, such as the light in the sky, falling to the ground, the voice that called him, his new condition of blindness, his healing like scales falling from his eyes and the fast that he made. But all these details refer to the heart of the event: the Risen Christ appears as a brilliant light and speaks to Saul, transforms his thinking and his entire life. The dazzling radiance of the Risen Christ blinds him; thus what was his inner reality is also outwardly apparent, his blindness to the truth, to the light that is Christ. And then his definitive "yes" to Christ in Baptism restores his sight and makes him really see.
In the ancient Church Baptism was also called "illumination", because this Sacrament gives light; it truly makes one see. In Paul what is pointed out theologically was also brought about physically: healed of his inner blindness, he sees clearly. Thus St Paul was not transformed by a thought but by an event, by the irresistible presence of the Risen One whom subsequently he would never be able to doubt, so powerful had been the evidence of the event, of this encounter. It radically changed Paul's life in a fundamental way; in this sense one can and must speak of a conversion. This encounter is the centre St Luke's account for which it is very probable that he used an account that may well have originated in the community of Damascus. This is suggested by the local colour, provided by Ananias' presence and by the names, of both the street and the owner of the house in which Paul stayed (Acts 9: 11).
The second type of source concerning the conversion consists in St Paul's actual Letters. He never spoke of this event in detail, I think because he presumed that everyone knew the essentials of his story: everyone knew that from being a persecutor he had been transformed into a fervent apostle of Christ. And this had not happened after his own reflection, but after a powerful event, an encounter with the Risen One. Even without speaking in detail, he speaks on various occasions of this most important event, that, in other words he too is a witness of the Resurrection of Jesus, the revelation of which he received directly from Jesus, together with his apostolic mission. The clearest text found is in his narrative of what constitutes the centre of salvation history: the death and Resurrection of Jesus and his appearances to witnesses (cf. 1 Cor 15). In the words of the ancient tradition, which he too received from the Church of Jerusalem, he says that Jesus died on the Cross, was buried and after the Resurrection appeared risen first to Cephas, that is Peter, then to the Twelve, then to 500 brethren, most of whom were still alive at Paul's time, then to James and then to all the Apostles. And to this account handed down by tradition he adds, "Last of all... he appeared also to me" (1 Cor 15: 8). Thus he makes it clear that this is the foundation of his apostolate and of his new life. There are also other texts in which the same thing appears: "Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship" (cf. Rm 1: 4-5); and further: "Have I not seen Jesus Our Lord?" (1 Cor 9: 1), words with which he alludes to something that everyone knows. And lastly, the most widely known text is read in Galatians: "But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus" (1: 15-17). In this "self-apology" he definitely stresses that he is a true witness of the Risen One, that he has received his own mission directly from the Risen One.
Thus we can see that the two sources, the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St Paul, converge and agree on the fundamental point: the Risen One spoke to Paul, called him to the apostolate and made him a true Apostle, a witness of the Resurrection, with the specific task of proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles, to the Greco-Roman world. And at the same time, Paul learned that despite the immediacy of his relationship with the Risen One, he had to enter into communion with the Church, he himself had to be baptized, he had to live in harmony with the other Apostles. Only in such communion with everyone could he have been a true apostle, as he wrote explicitly in the First Letter to the Corinthians: "Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (15: 11). There is only one proclamation of the Risen One, because Christ is only one.
As can be seen, in all these passages Paul never once interprets this moment as an event of conversion. Why? There are many hypotheses, but for me the reason is very clear. This turning point in his life, this transformation of his whole being was not the fruit of a psychological process, of a maturation or intellectual and moral development. Rather it came from the outside: it was not the fruit of his thought but of his encounter with Jesus Christ. In this sense it was not simply a conversion, a development of his "ego", but rather a death and a resurrection for Paul himself. One existence died and another, new one was born with the Risen Christ. There is no other way in which to explain this renewal of Paul. None of the psychological analyses can clarify or solve the problem. This event alone, this powerful encounter with Christ, is the key to understanding what had happened: death and resurrection, renewal on the part of the One who had shown himself and had spoken to him. In this deeper sense we can and we must speak of conversion. This encounter is a real renewal that changed all his parameters. Now he could say that what had been essential and fundamental for him earlier had become "refuse" for him; it was no longer "gain" but loss, because henceforth the only thing that counted for him was life in Christ.
Nevertheless we must not think that Paul was thus closed in a blind event. The contrary is true because the Risen Christ is the light of truth, the light of God himself. This expanded his heart and made it open to all. At this moment he did not lose all that was good and true in his life, in his heritage, but he understood wisdom, truth, the depth of the law and of the prophets in a new way and in a new way made them his own. At the same time, his reasoning was open to pagan wisdom. Being open to Christ with all his heart, he had become capable of an ample dialogue with everyone, he had become capable of making himself everything to everyone. Thus he could truly be the Apostle to the Gentiles.
To special groups
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience including the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and a group of Maltese altar boys currently serving in Saint Peter's Basilica. May your visit to Rome strengthen your commitment to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Upon all of you, I invoke God's abundant blessings of joy and peace.
Lastly I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, in resuming your usual daily activities after the holidays, may you return to the regular pace of your intimate dialogue with God, diffusing his light around you. You, dear sick people, may you find support and comfort in Jesus, who continues his work of redemption in every person's life. And you, dear newlyweds, may you strive to keep constantly in touch with the Lord who gives salvation to all and to draw on his love so that your own may be ever more sound and lasting.
© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Laurent Delvaux. Conversion de Saint Paul, Cathedral Sainte-Gertrude, Nivelles
Of the Conversion of Saint Paul and of the name of conversion.
Conversion is said of convertor, I am turned, or is as much as together turned from sins and evils. He is not converted that shriveth him to the priest of one sin and hideth another. It is said conversion, for Saint Paul this day was converted to the faith leaving his vices. Why he is said Paul, it shall be said afterward.
Of the Conversion of Saint Paul.
The conversion of Saint Paul was made the same year that Christ suffered his passion, and Saint Stephen was stoned also, not in the year natural, but appearing. For our Lord suffered death the eighth calends of April, and Saint Stephen suffered death the same year, the third day of August and was stoned. And Saint Paul was converted the eighth calends of February. And three reasons been assigned wherefore the conversion of Saint Paul is hallowed more than of other saints.
First for the ensample, because that no sinner, whatsomever he be, should despair of pardon when he seeth him that was in so great sin to be in so great joy. Secondly for the joy, for like as the church had great sorrow in this persecution, so had she great joy in his conversion. Thirdly, for the miracle that our Lord showed when of one so cruel a persecutor was made so true a preacher. The conversion of him was marvellous by reason of him that made him, and of him that ordained him, and of the patient that suffered it. By reason of him that made him to be converted, that was Jesu Christ, which showed there his marvellous puissance in that he said: It is hard for thee to strive against the alle or pricks; and in that he changed him so suddenly, for anon as he was changed he said: Lord what wilt thou that I do? Upon this word saith Saint Austin: The lambs slain of the wolves have made of a wolf a lamb, for he was ready for to obey, that tofore was wood for to persecute. Secondly, he showed his marvellous wisdom. His marvellous wisdom was in that he took from him the swelling of pride in offering to him the inward things of humility and not the height of majesty. For he said I am Jesus of Nazareth, and he called not himself God ne the son of God, but he said to him, take thine infirmities of humanity and cast away the squames of pride. Thirdly, he showed his pitiful debonairty and mercy, which is signified in that that he that was in deed and in will to persecute, he converted, how be it he had evil will, as he that desired all the menaces and threatenings, and had evil purpose; as he that went to the prince of priests; as he that had a joy in his evil works that he led the christian men bound to Jerusalem. And therefore his journey and voyage was right evil, and yet nevertheless by the mercy of God was he converted. Secondly the conversion was marvellous of him that ordained it, that is of the light that he ordained in his conversion. And it is said that this light was dispositive, sudden, and celestial, and this light of heaven advironed him suddenly. Paul had in him these vices. The first was hardiness, which is noted when it is said that he went to the prince of the priests, and as the gloss saith, not called, but by his own will and envy that enticed him. The second was pride, and that is signified by that he desired and sighed the menaces and threatenings. The third was the intent carnal, and the understanding that he had in the law, whereof the gloss saith upon that word: I am Jesus, etc. I God of heaven speak, the which thou supposest to be dead by the consent of the Jews. And this light divine was sudden, it was great, and out of measure, for to throw down him that was high and proud, into the ditch or pit of humanity; it was celestial, because it turned and changed his fleshly understanding into celestial, or it may be said that this ordinance or disposition was in three things; that is to wit in the voice crying, in the light shining, and in the virtue of puissance. Thirdly, it was marvellous by the virtue of the suffering of the patient, that is of Paul in whom the conversion was made. For these three things were made in him withoutforth marvellously, that it is to wit, that he was beaten to the earth, he was blind and fasted three days, and was smitten down to the ground for to be raised. And Saint Austin saith that he was smitten down for to be blind, for to be changed, and for to be sent; he was sent to suffer death for truth. And yet saith Saint Austin, he that was out of the faith was hurt for to be made believe, the persecutor was hurt for to be made a preacher, the son of perdition was hurt for to be made the vessel of election, and was made blind for to be illumined, and this was as touching his dark understanding.
Then in the three days that he abode thus blind, he was learned and informed in the gospel, for he learned it never of man ne by man, as he himself witnesseth, but by the revelation of Jesu Christ. And Saint Austin saith thus: I say that Saint Paul was the very champion of Jesu Christ, taught of him, redressed of him, crucified with him, and glorious in him. He was made lean in his flesh that his flesh should be disposed to the effect of good operation, and from forthon his body was established and disposed to all good. He could well suffer hunger and abundance, and was informed and instructed in all things, and all adversities he gladly suffered. Chrysostom saith: He overcame tormentors, tyrants, and people full of woodness, like as flies; and the death, the torments and all the pains that might be done to him, he counted them but as the play of children. All them he embraced with a good will, and he was ennobled in himself to be bound in a strong chain more than to be crowned with a crown, and received more gladly strokes and wounds than other gifts. And it is read that in him were three things against the three that were in our foremost father Adam, for Adam erected and addressed him against God our Lord. and in Saint Paul was contrary for he was thrown down to the earth. In Adam was the opening of his eyes, and Paul was on the contrary made blind, and Adam ate of the fruit defended, and Saint Paul contrary was abstinent of convenable meat.
Die Bekehrung des Apostels Paulus von Otto Kappeler seitlich der Freitreppe vor der Pauluskirche in Zürich Unterstrass,
Statue de Saint-Paul à Bab Kissan, Damas, Syrie
Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
St. Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “…entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.
One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing.
From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29). “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a).
Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new.
So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.
SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/conversion-of-saint-paul/
Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
What an unfortunate word 'conversion' is, in pious utterances, to express one of the most important interventions of God in history! For the conversion of Saint Paul was, indeed, one of the most important events in the history of the Christian Church. Neither the Indian religions nor Islam include in their most beautiful lives of the saints or prophets or teachers the concept of such a sudden burst of grace (with perhaps a shadow seen in the story of Siddhartha).
SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0125.shtml
The Conversion of St. Paul
See Tillemont, T. 1. p. 192
THIS great apostle was a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin. At his circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth, he received the name of Saul. His father was by sect a Pharisee, and a denizen of Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia: which city had shown a particular regard for the cause of the Cæsars; on which account Cassius deprived it of its privileges and lands; but Augustus, when conqueror, made it ample amends by honouring it with many new privileges, and with the freedom of Rome, as we read in the two Dions and Appian. Hence St. Paul, being born at Tarsus, was by privilege a Roman citizen, to which quality a great distinction and several exemptions were granted by the laws of the empire. 1 His parents sent him young to Jerusalem, where he was educated and instructed in the strictest observance of the law of Moses, by Gamaliel, 2 a learned and noble Jew, and probably a member of the Sanhedrim; and was a most scrupulous observer of it in every point. He appeals even to his enemies to bear evidence how conformable to it his life had been in every respect. 3 He embraced the sect of the Pharisees, which was of all others the most severe, though by its pride the most opposite to the humility of the gospel. 4 It was a rule among the Jews that all their children were to learn some trade with their studies, were it but to avoid idleness, and to exercise the body, as well as the mind, in something serious. 5 It is therefore probable that Saul learned in his youth the trade which he exercised even after his apostleship, of making tents. 6
Saul, surpassing all his equals in zeal for the Jewish law and their traditions, which he thought the cause of God, became thereby a blasphemer, a persecutor, and the most outrageous enemy of Christ. 7 He was one of those who combined to murder St. Stephen, and by keeping the garments of all who stoned that holy martyr, he is said by St. Austin to have stoned him by the hands of all the rest; 8 to whose prayers for his enemies he ascribes the conversion of St. Paul: 9 “If Stephen,” said he, “had not prayed, the church would never have had St. Paul.”
After the martyrdom of the holy deacon, the priests and magistrates of the Jews raised a violent persecution against the church at Jerusalem, in which Saul signalized himself above others. By virtue of the power he had received from the high priest, he dragged the Christians out of their houses, loaded them with chains, and thrust them into prison. 10 He procured them to be scourged in the synagogues, and endeavoured by torments to compel them to blaspheme the name of Christ. And as our Saviour had always been represented by the leading men of the Jews as an enemy to their law, it was no wonder that this rigorous Pharisee fully persuaded himself that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 11 By the violences he committed, his name became every where a terror to the faithful. The persecutors not only raged against their persons, but also seized their estates and what they possessed in common, 12 and left them in such extreme necessity, that the remotest churches afterwards thought it incumbent on them to join in charitable contributions to their relief. All this could not satisfy the fury of Saul, he breathed nothing but threats and the slaughter of the other disciples. 13 Wherefore, in the fury of his zeal, he applied to the high priest and Sanhedrim for a commission to take up all Jews at Damascus who confessed Jesus Christ, and bring them bound to Jerusalem, that they might serve as public examples for the terror of others. But God was pleased to show forth in him his patience and mercy; and, moved by the prayers of St. Stephen and his other persecuted servants, for their enemies, changed him, in the very heat of his fury, into a vessel of election, and made him a greater man in his church by the grace of the apostleship, than St. Stephen had ever been, and a more illustrious instrument of his glory. He was almost at the end of his journey to Damascus, when, about noon, he and his company were on a sudden surrounded by a great light from heaven, brighter than the sun. 14 They all saw the light, and being struck with amazement fell to the ground. Then Saul heard a voice, which to him was articulate and distinct; but not understood, 15 though heard by the rest: Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me? Christ said not: Why dost thou persecute my disciples, but me: for it is he, their head, who is chiefly persecuted in his servants. Saul answered: Who art thou, Lord? Christ said: Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad: “to contend with one so much mightier than thyself. By persecuting my church you make it flourish, and only prick and hurt yourself.” This mild expostulation of our Redeemer, accompanied with a powerful interior grace, strongly affecting his soul, cured his pride, assuaged his rage, and wrought at once a total change in him. Wherefore, trembling and astonished, he cried out: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? What to repair the past? What to promote your glory? I make a joyful oblation of myself to execute your will in every thing, and to suffer for your sake afflictions, disgraces, persecutions, torments, and every sort of death. The true convert expressed this, not in a bare form of words, nor with faint languid desires, nor with any exception lurking in the secret recesses of his heart; but with an entire sacrifice of himself, and an heroic victory over the world with its frowns and charms, over the devils with their snares and threats, and over himself and all inclinations of self-love; devoting himself totally to God. A perfect model of a true conversion, the greatest work of almighty grace! Christ ordered him to arise and proceed on his journey to the city, where he should be informed of what he expected from him. Christ would not instruct him immediately by himself, but, St. Austin observes, 16 sent him to the ministry 17 which he had established in his church, to be directed in the way of salvation by those whom he had appointed for that purpose. He would not finish the conversion and instruction of this great apostle, whom he was pleased to call in so wonderful a manner, but by remitting him to the guidance of his ministers; showing us thereby that his holy providence has so ordered it, that all who desire to serve him, should seek his will by listening to those whom he has commanded us to hear, and whom he has sent in his own name and appointed to be our guides. So perfectly would he abolish in his servants all self-confidence and presumption, the source of error and illusion. The convert, rising from the ground, found that, though his eyes were open, he saw nothing. Providence sent this corporal blindness to be an emblem of the spiritual blindness in which he had lived, and to signify to him that he was henceforward to die to the world, and learn to apply his mind totally to the contemplation of heavenly things.
He was led by the hand into Damascus, whither Christ seemed to conduct him in triumph. He was lodged in the house of a Jew named Judas, where he remained three days blind, and without eating or drinking. He, doubtless, spent his time in great bitterness of soul, not yet knowing what God required of him. With what anguish he bewailed his past blindness and false zeal against the church, we may conjecture both from his taking no nourishment during those three days, and from the manner in which he ever after remembered and spoke of his having been a blasphemer and a persecutor. Though the entire reformation of his heart was not gradual, as in ordinary conversions; but miraculous in the order of grace, and perfect in a moment; yet a time of probation and a severe interior trial (for such we cannot doubt that he went through on this occasion) was necessary to crucify the old man and all other earthly sentiments in his heart, and to prepare it to receive the extraordinary graces which God designed him. There was a Christian of distinction in Damascus, much respected by the Jews for his irreproachable life and great virtue; his name was Ananias. Christ appeared to this holy disciple, and commanded him to go to Saul who was then in the house of Judas at prayer: Ananias trembled at the name of Saul, being no stranger to the mischief he had done in Jerusalem, or to the errand on which he was set out to Damascus. But our Redeemer over-ruled his fears, and charged him a second time to go to him, saying: Go, for he is a vessel of election to carry my name before Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel; and I will show him how much he has to suffer for my name. Tribulation is the test and portion of all the true servants of Christ. Saul in the mean time saw in a vision a man entering, and laying his hands upon him, to restore his sight. Ananias, obeying the divine order, arose, went to Saul, and laying his hands upon him, said: Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to thee on thy journey, hath sent me that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he recovered his eye-sight. Ananias added: The God of our fathers hath chosen thee that thou shouldst know his will and see the just one, and shouldst hear the voice from his mouth: and thou shalt be his witness unto all men to publish what thou hast seen and heard. Arise therefore, be baptized and washed from thy sins, invoking the name of the Lord. Saul then arose, was baptized, and took some refreshment. He staid some few days with the disciples at Damascus, and began immediately to preach in the synagogues, that Jesus was the Son of God, to the great astonishment of all who heard him, who said: Is not this he who persecuted at Jerusalem, those who invoked the name of Jesus, and who is come hither to carry them away prisoners? Thus a blasphemer and a persecutor was made an apostle, and chosen to be one of the principal instruments of God in the conversion of the world.
St. Paul never recalled to mind this his wonderful conversion, without raptures of gratitude and praise to the divine mercy. The church in thanksgiving to God for such a miracle of his grace, from which it has derived such great blessings, and to commemorate so miraculous an instance of his Almighty power, and to propose to penitents a perfect model of a true conversion, has instituted this festival which we find mentioned in several calendars and missals of the eighth and ninth centuries, and which Pope Innocent III. commanded to be observed with great solemnity. It was for some time kept a holyday of obligation in most churches in the West; and we read it mentioned as such in England in the council of Oxford in 1222, in the reign of king Henry III. 18
Note 1. Acts xxi. 29. xxii. 3. [back]
Note 2. Ibid. xxii. 3. [back]
Note 3. Ibid. xxvi. 4. [back]
Note 4. Ibid. xxvi. 5. [back]
Note 5. Rabbi Juda says, “That a parent, who neglects his duty, is as criminal as if he taught his son to steal.” See Grotius and Sanctius on Acts xviii. 3. [back]
Note 6. Those tents were for the use of soldiers and mariners, and were made of skins sewn together. Some think that his business was that of making tapestry and hangings for theatres. [back]
Note 7. Gal. i. 14. [back]
Note 8. Serm. 301. [back]
Note 9. Ibid. 116. c. 4. Acts vi. [back]
Note 10. Acts viii. 3. xxii. 4. xxvi. 10. [back]
Note 11. Acts xxvi. 9. [back]
Note 12. Heb. x. 32. [back]
Note 13. Acts x. 1. [back]
Note 14. Acts ix. xxii. xxvi. [back]
Note 15. So the Greek word [Greek] is often used in scripture, as 1 Cor. xiv. 2. And thus the text is very reconcilable with Acts xxii. 9. [back]
Note 16. Qu. Evang. l. 2. c. 40. et. præf l. de doctr. Christ. p. 32. [back]
Note 17. St. Austin doubts not but Ananias was a bishop, or at least a priest. The Greeks give him a place in their calendar on the 1st of October, and style him bishop of Damascus and martyr. [back]
Note 18. Conc. Labbe, T. xi. p. 274. [back]
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/1/251.html
Adduce egli stesso le credenziali che gli garantiscono il buon diritto di essere considerato apostolo: egli ha visto il Signore, Cristo Risorto, ed è, perciò, testimone della risurrezione; egli pure è stato inviato direttamente da Cristo, come i Dodici: visione, vocazione, missione, tre requisiti che egli possiede, per i quali quel miracolo della grazia avvenuto sulla via di Damasco, dove Cristo lo costringe a una incondizionata capitolazione, sicché egli grida: "Signore, che vuoi che io faccia?". Nelle parole di Cristo è rivelato il segreto della sua anima: "Ti è duro ricalcitrare contro il pungolo". E’ vero che Saulo cercava "in tutte le sinagoghe di costringere i cristiani con minacce a bestemmiare", ma egli lo faceva in buona fede e quando si agisce per amore di Dio, il malinteso non può durare a lungo. Affiora l'inquietudine, cioè "il pungolo" della grazia, il guizzo della luce di verità: "Chi sei tu, Signore?"; "Io sono Gesù che tu perseguiti". Questa mistica irruzione di Cristo nella vita di Paolo è il crisma del suo apostolato e la scintilla che gli svelerà la mirabile verità della inscindibile unità di Cristo con i credenti.
Questa esperienza di Cristo alle porte di Damasco, che egli paragona con l'esperienza pasquale dei Dodici e con il fulgore della prima luce della creazione, sarà il "leit motiv" della sua predicazione orale e scritta. Le quattordici lettere che ci sono pervenute, ognuna delle quali mette a nudo la sua anima con rapide accensioni, ci fanno intravedere il miracolo della grazia operato sulla via di Damasco, incomprensibile per chi voglia cercarne una spiegazione puramente psicologica, ricorrendo magari all'estasi religiosa o, peggio, all'allucinazione.
Autore: Piero Bargellini
Fra Angelico (vers 1395 –1455). Miniatura con Conversione di San Paolo, vers 1430
San Paolo (3)
La "conversione" di San Paolo
Cari fratelli e sorelle,
la catechesi di oggi sarà dedicata all’esperienza che san Paolo ebbe sulla via di Damasco e quindi a quella che comunemente si chiama la sua conversione. Proprio sulla strada di Damasco, nei primi anni 30 del secolo I°, e dopo un periodo in cui aveva perseguitato la Chiesa, si verificò il momento decisivo della vita di Paolo. Su di esso molto è stato scritto e naturalmente da diversi punti di vista. Certo è che là avvenne una svolta, anzi un capovolgimento di prospettiva. Allora egli, inaspettatamente, cominciò a considerare “perdita” e “spazzatura” tutto ciò che prima costituiva per lui il massimo ideale, quasi la ragion d'essere della sua esistenza (cfr Fil 3,7-8). Che cos’era successo?
Abbiamo a questo proposito due tipi di fonti. Il primo tipo, il più conosciuto, sono i racconti dovuti alla penna di Luca, che per ben tre volte narra l’evento negli Atti degli Apostoli (cfr 9,1-19; 22,3-21; 26,4-23). Il lettore medio è forse tentato di fermarsi troppo su alcuni dettagli, come la luce dal cielo, la caduta a terra, la voce che chiama, la nuova condizione di cecità, la guarigione come per la caduta di squame dagli occhi e il digiuno. Ma tutti questi dettagli si riferiscono al centro dell’avvenimento: il Cristo risorto appare come una luce splendida e parla a Saulo, trasforma il suo pensiero e la sua stessa vita. Lo splendore del Risorto lo rende cieco: appare così anche esteriormente ciò che era la sua realtà interiore, la sua cecità nei confronti della verità, della luce che è Cristo. E poi il suo definitivo “sì” a Cristo nel battesimo riapre di nuovo i suoi occhi, lo fa realmente vedere.
Nella Chiesa antica il battesimo era chiamato anche “illuminazione”, perché tale sacramento dà la luce, fa vedere realmente. Quanto così si indica teologicamente, in Paolo si realizza anche fisicamente: guarito dalla sua cecità interiore, vede bene. San Paolo, quindi, è stato trasformato non da un pensiero ma da un evento, dalla presenza irresistibile del Risorto, della quale mai potrà in seguito dubitare tanto era stata forte l’evidenza dell’evento, di questo incontro. Esso cambiò fondamentalmente la vita di Paolo; in questo senso si può e si deve parlare di una conversione. Questo incontro è il centro del racconto di san Luca, il quale è ben possibile che abbia utilizzato un racconto nato probabilmente nella comunità di Damasco. Lo fa pensare il colorito locale dato dalla presenza di Ananìa e dai nomi sia della via che del proprietario della casa in cui Paolo soggiornò (cfr At 9,11).
Il secondo tipo di fonti sulla conversione è costituito dalle stesse Lettere di san Paolo. Egli non ha mai parlato in dettaglio di questo avvenimento, penso perché poteva supporre che tutti conoscessero l’essenziale di questa sua storia, tutti sapevano che da persecutore era stato trasformato in apostolo fervente di Cristo. E ciò era avvenuto non in seguito ad una propria riflessione, ma ad un evento forte, ad un incontro con il Risorto. Pur non parlando dei dettagli, egli accenna diverse volte a questo fatto importantissimo, che cioè anche lui è testimone della risurrezione di Gesù, della quale ha ricevuto immediatamente da Gesù stesso la rivelazione, insieme con la missione di apostolo. Il testo più chiaro su questo punto si trova nel suo racconto su ciò che costituisce il centro della storia della salvezza: la morte e la risurrezione di Gesù e le apparizioni ai testimoni (cfr. 1 Cor 15). Con parole della tradizione antichissima, che anch’egli ha ricevuto dalla Chiesa di Gerusalemme, dice che Gesù morto crocifisso, sepolto, risorto apparve, dopo la risurrezione, prima a Cefa, cioè a Pietro, poi ai Dodici, poi a cinquecento fratelli che in gran parte in quel tempo vivevano ancora, poi a Giacomo, poi a tutti gli Apostoli. E a questo racconto ricevuto dalla tradizione aggiunge: “Ultimo fra tutti apparve anche a me” (1 Cor 15,8). Così fa capire che questo è il fondamento del suo apostolato e della sua nuova vita. Vi sono pure altri testi nei quali appare la stessa cosa: “Per mezzo di Gesù Cristo abbiamo ricevuto la grazia dell'apostolato” (cfr Rm 1,5); e ancora: “Non ho forse veduto Gesù, Signore nostro?” (1 Cor 9,1), parole con le quali egli allude ad una cosa che tutti sanno. E finalmente il testo più diffuso si legge in Gal 1,15-17: “Ma quando colui che mi scelse fin dal seno di mia madre e mi chiamò con la sua grazia si compiacque di rivelare a me suo Figlio perché lo annunziassi in mezzo ai pagani, subito, senza consultare nessun uomo, senza andare a Gerusalemme da coloro che erano apostoli prima di me, mi recai in Arabia e poi ritornai a Damasco”. In questa “autoapologia” sottolinea decisamente che anche lui è vero testimone del Risorto, ha una propria missione ricevuta immediatamente dal Risorto.
Possiamo così vedere che le due fonti, gli Atti degli Apostoli e le Lettere di san Paolo, convergono e convengono sul punto fondamentale: il Risorto ha parlato a Paolo, lo ha chiamato all’apostolato, ha fatto di lui un vero apostolo, testimone della risurrezione, con l’incarico specifico di annunciare il Vangelo ai pagani, al mondo greco-romano. E nello stesso tempo Paolo ha imparato che, nonostante l’immediatezza del suo rapporto con il Risorto, egli deve entrare nella comunione della Chiesa, deve farsi battezzare, deve vivere in sintonia con gli altri apostoli. Solo in questa comunione con tutti egli potrà essere un vero apostolo, come scrive esplicitamente nella prima Lettera ai Corinti: “Sia io che loro così predichiamo e così avete creduto” (15, 11). C’è solo un annuncio del Risorto, perché Cristo è uno solo.
Come si vede, in tutti questi passi Paolo non interpreta mai questo momento come un fatto di conversione. Perché? Ci sono tante ipotesi, ma per me il motivo è molto evidente. Questa svolta della sua vita, questa trasformazione di tutto il suo essere non fu frutto di un processo psicologico, di una maturazione o evoluzione intellettuale e morale, ma venne dall’esterno: non fu il frutto del suo pensiero, ma dell’incontro con Cristo Gesù. In questo senso non fu semplicemente una conversione, una maturazione del suo “io”, ma fu morte e risurrezione per lui stesso: morì una sua esistenza e un’altra nuova ne nacque con il Cristo Risorto. In nessun altro modo si può spiegare questo rinnovamento di Paolo. Tutte le analisi psicologiche non possono chiarire e risolvere il problema. Solo l'avvenimento, l'incontro forte con Cristo, è la chiave per capire che cosa era successo: morte e risurrezione, rinnovamento da parte di Colui che si era mostrato e aveva parlato con lui. In questo senso più profondo possiamo e dobbiamo parlare di conversione. Questo incontro è un reale rinnovamento che ha cambiato tutti i suoi parametri. Adesso può dire che ciò che prima era per lui essenziale e fondamentale, è diventato per lui “spazzatura”; non è più “guadagno”, ma perdita, perché ormai conta solo la vita in Cristo.
Non dobbiamo tuttavia pensare che Paolo sia stato così chiuso in un avvenimento cieco. È vero il contrario, perché il Cristo Risorto è la luce della verità, la luce di Dio stesso. Questo ha allargato il suo cuore, lo ha reso aperto a tutti. In questo momento non ha perso quanto c'era di bene e di vero nella sua vita, nella sua eredità, ma ha capito in modo nuovo la saggezza, la verità, la profondità della legge e dei profeti, se n'è riappropriato in modo nuovo. Nello stesso tempo, la sua ragione si è aperta alla saggezza dei pagani; essendosi aperto a Cristo con tutto il cuore, è divenuto capace di un dialogo ampio con tutti, è divenuto capace di farsi tutto a tutti. Così realmente poteva essere l'apostolo dei pagani.
Venendo ora a noi stessi, ci chiediamo che cosa vuol dire questo per noi? Vuol dire che anche per noi il cristianesimo non è una nuova filosofia o una nuova morale. Cristiani siamo soltanto se incontriamo Cristo. Certamente Egli non si mostra a noi in questo modo irresistibile, luminoso, come ha fatto con Paolo per farne l'apostolo di tutte le genti. Ma anche noi possiamo incontrare Cristo, nella lettura della Sacra Scrittura, nella preghiera, nella vita liturgica della Chiesa. Possiamo toccare il cuore di Cristo e sentire che Egli tocca il nostro. Solo in questa relazione personale con Cristo, solo in questo incontro con il Risorto diventiamo realmente cristiani. E così si apre la nostra ragione, si apre tutta la saggezza di Cristo e tutta la ricchezza della verità. Quindi preghiamo il Signore perché ci illumini, perché ci doni nel nostro mondo l'incontro con la sua presenza: e così ci dia una fede vivace, un cuore aperto, una grande carità per tutti, capace di rinnovare il mondo.
Je suis heureux de vous accueillir chers pèlerins francophones. A l’exemple de saint Paul laissez-vous saisir par le Christ. C’est en lui que se trouve le sens ultime de votre vie. Vous aussi, soyez des témoins ardents du Sauveur des hommes, parmi vos frères et vos sœurs. Que Dieu vous bénisse !
I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience including the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and a group of Maltese altar boys currently serving in Saint Peter’s Basilica. May your visit to Rome strengthen your commitment to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Upon all of you, I invoke God’s abundant blessings of joy and peace.
Ein frohes „Grüß Gott“ sage ich allen deutschsprachigen Pilgern und Besuchern, besonders den Kirchenchören aus der Diözese Eichstätt mit ihrem Bischof. In diesem Paulusjahr lade ich euch alle ein, den Spuren des großen Apostels nachzugehen, seine Briefe zu lesen und zu meditieren und auch die an ihn erinnernden Orte, von denen einige sich in Rom befinden, zu besuchen. Der Herr geleite euch auf euren Wegen!
Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular, a los fieles de la Parroquia de la Resurrección del Señor, de Madrid, y de San Pablo Apóstol, de Managua, así como a los profesores y alumnos del Colegio “The Mackay School”, de Viña del Mar. Que Dios os bendiga.
Saluto in lingua polacca:
Pozdrawiam obecnych tu Polaków. Św. Paweł u bram Damaszku przeżył spotkanie z Chrystusem. To doświadczenie dało początek jego apostolskiej misji. Za jego wstawiennictwem proszę Boga, abyśmy wszyscy umieli dostrzegać Chrystusa obecnego w naszym życiu i byśmy byli Jego świadkami. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi.
Saluto i polacchi qui presenti. San Paolo incontrò Cristo alle porte di Damasco. Quest’esperienza ha dato l’inizio alla sua missione apostolica. Per la sua intercessione chiedo a Dio che noi tutti sappiamo riconoscere il Cristo presente nella nostra vita, diventandone suoi testimoni. Dio vi benedica.
Saluto in lingua ceca:
Saluto in lingua slovacca:
Saluto in lingua ungherese:
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Rivolgo un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, ai religiosi e alle religiose, figli spirituali di don Orione, che ricordano quest’anno significative ricorrenze giubilari, come pure ai Missionari del Pontificio Istituto Missioni estere. Cari fratelli e sorelle, vi accolgo volentieri ed auspico di cuore che il vostro pellegrinaggio apporti frutti di bene a voi ed alle vostre comunità. Saluto inoltre i fedeli del Duomo di Oderzo e quelli del Santuario Santi Cosma e Damiano, in Eboli. Cari amici, la sosta presso la tomba di Pietro vi rafforzi nella fede cosicché, di ritorno alle vostre case, possiate rendere testimonianza dell’esperienza spirituale vissuta in questi giorni.
Saluto infine i giovani, i malati e gli sposi novelli. Cari giovani, riprendendo dopo le vacanze le consuete attività quotidiane, tornate al ritmo regolare del vostro intimo dialogo con Dio, diffondendo con la vostra testimonianza la sua luce attorno a voi. Voi, cari malati, trovate sostegno e conforto in Gesù, che continua la sua opera di redenzione nella vita di ogni uomo. E voi, cari sposi novelli, sforzatevi di mantenere un contatto costante con il Signore che dona la salvezza a tutti e attingete al suo amore perché anche il vostro sia sempre più saldo e duraturo.
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Eero Järnefelt (1863–1937). Saulin kääntyminen, Eero Järnefeltin maalaama Helsingin Johanneksenkirkon alttaritaulu, 1932