Item consists of sound recordings made by Nouwen during his writing sabbatical in Freiburg, Germany for an R.C.I.A. course in Toronto. Titles for the tapes include:
SR133v1"About God the Creator, Henri Nouwen, Jan. 1993";
SR133v2"About Jesus the Reedemer [sic], Henri Nouwen, Feb. 1993";
- SR133v.2_a – 46:31 (ends at 14:40)
Nouwen begins with, “Dear friends. It is good to be with you again.” It is a letter, and he is speaking just to the recorder. He says he is enjoying his time in Freiburg, and is getting rested and is excited to begin writing again. He arrived very exhausted, but is feeling better now, and is grateful to be in Freiburg.
He continues talking about the creed and Jesus. He discusses the second statement of the creed, which is, “I believe in Jesus Christ.”
Jesus is the redeemer, the savior. We have to have a personal understanding of our need to be saved. If you don’t feel the need to be saved from anything, then you can hardly be excited about a savior. He talked before about God as a creator, and in the Genesis story, God wanted to be sure that the human person would remain obedient to him, and would remain centered on Him who has created man. The question of what is good and what is evil is God’s question, and we cannot decide that. We consider the story about the fall and sin of Adam and Eve, and it is a story in which the human person forgets that he or she is not God. He or she can only be truly happy, really, truly, fully human, when he or she continues to give honour to the God who has created him or her.
If we look at the journey of the Jewish people as is written in the Old Testament, we see that one of the main temptations is the temptation of idolatry. We are always tempted to forget that God is God and not we. We give power to created beings or created ideas or created events, and before we know it, we expect of other beings something that only God can give. We expect from events, ideas, books, art, music, something that only God can give. This temptation is constant, and it always gets us into trouble because we have a heart that will only truly be satisfied with perfect fulfillment, and only God can give that. This idolatry traps us, makes us victims, and it makes us addicted. We are trapped there, like we are trapped in drugs or alcohol, we can be trapped by desires for fame or success, or money, and so on. We need someone to un-trap us. Jesus is the savior, the one who comes to get us out of our trap, to redeem us from our imprisonment, to set us free. Only God will satisfy the deepest desires of the heart. Only God loves us in a way that corresponds to the desires of our heart.
Nouwen concludes by saying he is missing everyone, and is grateful to Nathan [Ball] that he visited. He says it is wonderful that in this way [the tapes] they can support each other and keep each other’s faith and support each other’s hopes.
SR133v3 "The Resurrection of Jesus #4, Henri Nouwen, Feb. 1993";
- SR133v.3_a – 46:46 (ends at 22:51)
Nouwen begins with “Dear friends,” like a letter. He says he has just returned from France, where he attended the funeral of Pere Thomas, the co-founder of L’Arche, and a very holy man with great spiritual vision, that gave Nouwen and many others a great amount of spiritual support. Pere Thomas was the man who gave the vision to Jean Vanier of L’Arche and to many others who came to him.
Nouwen reflects in this talk on resurrection, and how the death of Pere Thomas deepened his hope for the resurrection and his faith in the resurrection. The resurrection is the central point of his faith. In the creed it says, “Jesus descended to the dead. On the third day, he rose again.” Jesus was born among us, lived among us, suffered among us, and died among us. In this, God was with us in every respect.
The resurrection of Jesus was the event from which we have come to understand everything else. Without the resurrection, everything else that we say about Jesus loses its meaning. Nouwen reads from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, the 15th chapter, and summarizes that our hope in the resurrection is based on our faith in the resurrection of Jesus. “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is without substance, and so is our faith.” The resurrection of Jesus, therefore, gives meaning to all of the preaching of the church. All that we say of the birth, life, and suffering and death of Christ, finds its final meaning in the resurrection. If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, he would have been just another interesting prophet, and would not have been our redeemer, the one with the power to raise us from death. Nouwen says, “Resurrection is that event by which God overcomes the powers of death, by which God liberates us from our final slavery, which is our slavery to death. Paul says Jesus came to take the sting out of death, so death no longer is our final destiny. It’s really important to see that the resurrection of Jesus is the linchpoint of our faith, the fore point, the central point, around which everything hinges, everything moves.”
Nouwen says that resurrection is a hidden event. Jesus appears to those who have loved him, known him, been close to him. The resurrection is an intimate encounter in love. The resurrection wasn’t a spectacle in Jerusalem, but something that happened in the margin of society and gradually became the core of the preaching of the apostles and disciples of Jesus. They went around and said that they had seen Him, and he is our redeemer. We have discovered this through his resurrection. He came to free us from all forms of darkness. That preaching started to take place, here and there, and gradually it became more general and then it went beyond the Jewish world. It is this message that we have to hear with our hearts.
Secondly, the resurrection says that love is stronger than death. Love is something which comes from God, and love that comes from God is there to stay, it is eternal. We love in the body and with the body, with our eyes, hands, words, gestures, embraces. God says to us, “I love you. I sent Jesus into the body so you can see Jesus, touch him, be with him.” The resurrection is saying that all is not in vain, all that is real and lasting is listed up in God. Love is incarnate in the flesh the flesh itself is being redeemed and lifted up. Love is eternal because it comes from God.
Thirdly, the suffering that we live in our life leaves its marks on our body, and also in the resurrection. Jesus showed the disciples his wounds in his hands and sides, and told them to look at him and touch him. When they saw him, they saw him with his wounds, glorified wounds that are no longer suffering, but wounds that show who He is. Jesus shows us the way he has lived and suffered, and his suffering is being lifted up through his body to God, not as suffering, but as a way that gives him a unique way of being. Our suffering, too, is not in vain, and it will be glorified in our bodies, and it gives us our unique identity. Each of us has our own painful experiences, weakness, and struggles. They shape our life and give our body its form. What we say, write, talk about, and do depends on the way we suffered in our love. This is where our wisdom and our sadness comes from. We believe that we are shaped by our suffering life, but all that will be transformed.
This is an important point in L’Arche, where we so much are focused on the body. The work for the body, with the body, is really the work that is sacred, because the body is sacred, and because the body is not simply there to vanish, but to be finally lifted up in the resurrection and be given glory. Nouwen says, “Resurrection doesn’t mean the bones will be used again, but a new body will be given to us, and the new body will carry in itself all that we have lived in the body that has been laid to rest. That bodily life, that bodily suffering, that bodily spirit will be honored in death.”
Nouwen concludes his discussion of the resurrection by talking about Jesus’ having descended to the dead. Jesus descended to the dead to assemble all the people who had died before, to lift them up. Jesus died for all people, not just those who live now or will live in the future, but those who have lived in the past. Jesus descended to take them with Him into the life of God. That makes it clear that resurrection is for all people.
Nouwen then says that these are the core statements of faith that he can make, and he hopes they use these as a starting point for their own discussion and reflections. He thanks Cassie and Nathan for helping him to be a part of this community reforming, and he prays that they can grow together in their faith and deepen their love for one another, and ask God to show us the way. He finishes by saying, “Much love, and hopefully we’ll see each other again soon.”
SR133v4 "RCIA- I Believe in the Holy Spirit #5, Henri Nouwen";
SR133v5 "Jesus - The Compassionate God, Henri Nouwen, Feb., 1993, 15 minutes".
It is likely these tapes were made from the originals sent by Nouwen from Freiburg, and distributed to students in the class.