BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
Super Martyrio is publishing for the first time in English, Spanish and Italian the first national homily of Blessed Oscar Romero. It was delivered on August 6, 1976, six months before his appointment as archbishop of San Salvador, for the feast of the Transfiguration, when Salvadorans celebrate their patron, the Divine Savior of the World.
Thirty-nine years later, El Salvador yearns for its great transfiguration from crime and violence to peace and social harmony. Many saw (albeit fleetingly) the model of coexistence so desired during Romero’s beatification in May, when unity, the spirit of volunteerism, and great positivity prevailed for the historic event and gang murders stopped for the event weekend. This Romero homily imposes the same contrast between “what is” and “what could be.”
The Romero that speaks to us in this homily is a moderate traditionalist who still holds back the bold denunciations that will characterize the coming years, but we sense that he is on the verge of taking a giant and decisive step in his ministry. He speaks of Christ “the Liberator.” Most importantly, Romero paints the picture that his beatification embodied for a brief shining moment: of a holy people, who stands out by its nobility and asserts its spiritual heritage from Christ the Savior himself. (Therefore, it is so appropriate that Romero’s beatification took place alongside the Monument to the Divine Savior—Church authorities announced this weekend that Romero’s relics would accompany this week’s patronal celebrations.)
While Romero's beatification gave us a foretaste of the social peace that is possible, Blessed Romero from 1976 preaches to us about how to make it a permanent reality. It is “in the heart of our own faith and our authentic national spirituality,” Romero tells his countrymen, “that we can find the light and the force that the Divine Savior offers for the effective liberation, promotion and transformation of our country.”
Romero appeals to nationalism and civic duty to spiritedly encourage a return to the values of old Christendom and Catholic civilization as a model that should be adapted to the requirements of the Salvadoran reality, but one which presents a viable alternative to the projects of modernity: “We do not have to go begging to other, atheistic sources, or to ones of non-transcendent inspiration, for the concept of our liberation. From our national origin, God has favored us with His true philosophy.”
Now, let us read about God’s plan to transfigure El Salvador and the world as related by Blessed Oscar Romero in this previously unpublished homily. It may well disclose a message that is applicable to the El Salvador and the world of today.
The Divine Savior:
Who He is, what His liberation consists of, and how His work reaches us.
Blessed Oscar A. Romero
August 6, 1976
I. Who the Divine Savior Is
A Cradle Song
It occurs to me that the Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord, which we have heard proclaimed has, for us Salvadorans, the nostalgic sweetness of a cradle song. And in the light of that Gospel, our August celebrations recover the sentiment of a return to our birth home.
Yes; thus were we born into Christian civilization under the sign of the Transfiguration of the Lord. His divine face, bright as the sun, and the snowy brilliance of his vestments, were the first Christian rays that illuminated the opulent geography of our fatherland upon its emergence from its cloudy prehistory, when, in 1528, Captain Pedro de Alvarado, after putting his conquest under the protection of the Blessed Trinity, founded the Capital of our Republic and baptized it with the incomparable name of the Holy Savior (“San Salvador”).
Commenting on the privileged origin of our Christian history amidst the splendor of our first National Eucharistic Congress, the Servant of God, Pope Pius XII, observed with theological wisdom: “We would like to think that it was not only the wholesome mercy of Pedro de Alvarado which, in the dawn of the Conquest, so exaltedly baptized you, but more than anything it was the very Providence of God.” (H.H. Pius XII’s Radio message on the occasion of the closing of the 1st National Eucharistic Congress of the Republic of El Salvador, November 26, 1942.)
A Baptism Gift
Indeed, it was the very Providence of God, which baptized and imprinted this unknown land with an indelible and unmistakable character through the splendor of the most luminous manifestation of the Gospel.
It was a Gospel that came to us enriched with the exquisite essence of Eastern theology and liturgy, and echoing with the prayers, the skirmishes and the victories of the Church that was the creator and guardian of Western civilization. For, this August 6 celebration that Spain bequeathed to us was first celebrated with great splendor as the principal summer feast during the Fifth Century in the East in honor of Christ the King, and Pope Callixtus III adopted it in 1457 as a movable feast in Western liturgy, to celebrate the Christian victory at the Battle of Belgrade, which drove back the Islamic incursions.
This is the way God’s providence has prepared the long road for the Church to reach us to begin its task of evangelization here, under the sign of the Transfiguration. It is a sign of fullness, the fullness of Christian Kerygma (proclamation) and catechesis, delivered to us with the splendid vision of Mt. Tabor. For in it God presents us, in a wonderful synthesis, like a seed or fermentation, the complete revelation of His divine plan to save to the world through the Son of His contentment. For that reason, I believe that the best service an humble preacher of the Gospel can pay the fatherland on this solemn occasion in which the family returns fondly, is to review and to confront, whether our religious and national reality is being built on the three solid coordinates of the Christian faith that are illuminated with the national mystery of the feast of our patron: Christ, His Salvation, and His Church.
Only a divine being could gain the standing and merit of God for the human pain and blood that would be the price of redemption.
The Divine Savior is the optimal man to introduce into this luminous picture of the Transfiguration. In Him, God reveals through the divine language of signs, His merciful purpose to save the world by means of His beloved Son. Moses and Elijah represent the promises and prophecies through which God had heralded and prepared humanity’s great liberation with portentous messages and actions. Peter, James and John will witnesses the fulfillment of God’s promises in their lifetimes. They are there, tempering their faith and their hope, to attend and to attest to the world to the painful scandal of the Cross. For that reason, when the vision ends, the Lord swears them to secrecy regarding the revelation, “until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” (Mark 9:9.) In an undetected paradox, the luminous vision of Mt. Tabor proves a tragic foreshadowing of the bloody Transfiguration at Calvary.
Only His Liberation Saves Us
This is how our country received, together with name of God (“El Salvador;” The Savior), the authentic revelation of God’s true salvation through the Prophets and the Apostles. We do not have to go begging to other, atheistic sources, or to ones of non-transcendent inspiration, for the concept of our liberation. From our national origin, God has favored us with His true philosophy. And it is there, in the heart of our own faith and of our authentic national spirituality, that we can find the light and the force that the Divine Savior offers for the effective liberation, promotion and transformation of our country.
II. What His Liberation Consists of
What, then, is the liberation that the Divine Savior of mankind sponsors and promotes?
The authorized depositories of His thought, the Pope and the Bishops, met two years ago, in the world-wide Synod of 1974, to hold up that divine thought against the tragic reality of our present world, “with a pastoral accent”—Paul VI remarks in his exhortation regarding the evangelization of the current world— “resonant with the voice of the millions of sons and daughters of the Church who make up those peoples [of the Third World]. Peoples, as we know, engaged with all their energy in the effort and struggle to overcome everything which condemns them to remain on the margin of life: famine, chronic disease, illiteracy, poverty, injustices in international relations and especially in commercial exchanges, situations of economic and cultural neo-colonialism sometimes as cruel as the old political colonialism,” etc. (EVANGELII NUNTIANDI, 30)
And the Bishops recognized the duty of the Church to denounce, and to help bring about the complete liberation of these millions of human beings. But the same Bishops offered at that historical meeting, “the enlightening principles for a proper understanding of the importance and profound meaning of liberation, such as it was proclaimed and achieved by Jesus of Nazareth and such as it is preached by the Church” (Ibid., 31.)
The liberation of Christ and of His Church is not reduced to the dimension of a purely temporal project. It does not reduce its objectives to an anthropocentric perspective: to a material well-being or to initiatives of a political or social, economic or cultural order, only.
Much less can it be a liberation that supports or is supported by violence.
“[I]f this were so, the Church would lose her fundamental meaning. Her message of liberation would no longer have any originality and would easily be open to monopolization and manipulation by ideological systems and political parties. She would have no more authority to proclaim freedom as in the name of God.” (Ibid., 32)
The liberation of Christ and of His Church is, by contrast, one that includes the whole person, in all of one’s dimensions, including in our openness to the Absolute, which is God. And in “associating herself with those who are working ... for [liberation], the Church [does not] restrict her mission only to the religious field and dissociate herself from man's temporal problems. [But] she reaffirms the primacy of her spiritual vocation and [does not] replace the proclamation of the kingdom by the proclamation of forms of human liberation”. (Ibid., 34.) Her best contribution is to announce salvation in Jesus Christ; a salvation that requires conversion in one’s heart. The Church agrees that is necessary to change existing structures for others that are more humane and more just; but she is convinced that these new structures will “soon become inhuman if the inhuman inclinations of the human heart are not made wholesome, if those who live in these structures or who rule them do not undergo a conversion of heart and of outlook.” (Ibid., 36.)
Arbitrator of Our Conflicts
How beautiful this 6th of August would be if, upon leaving this family home, after sharing a sincere return to our origins, we would carry in our souls an intention to understand each other better from the place where the hand of Providence has placed each one of us. If the men of the government and the shepherds of the Church, if capital and labor, if city dwellers and those from the countryside, government undertakings and those of private enterprise [applause]… If we would all really let the Divine Savior of the World, the Patron of the Nation, provide the national transformation that we urgently need. If He would be the inspiration for and the referee of all our conflicts, be the protagonist of all the national transformations that we urgently need, for an integral liberation that only He can furnish.
III. How His Salvation reaches us
Christ Lives in His Church
Christ lives. And he is bringing about the liberation of the world. The Church, founded by Him, maintains the mystery of His incarnation and His salvation among the nations. The light of Christ shines within the Church.
The Transfiguration story also reveals to us the mystery of the Church and its mission in our national history. Saint Peter, the first Pope chosen for this newborn Church, describes to us the mission of the Church in the poetic symbol of a lamp, which carries the light of the prophets. When it is put in contact with the Christ of the Transfiguration, this lamp becomes more luminous because the fulfillment of all the prophets is inherent in Him, and he takes it to the paths of men “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).
Its mission is “to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church.” (LUMEN GENTIUM, 1). She brings us to the true Christ. We cannot forget that the 6th of August is an encounter of our country with God made possible thanks to the Church. The creed of the Church is the starting point of our faith. We have received our faith in Jesus from the Church—not from philosophical or physiological criticism. Any other Christ and any other liberation that is not the Christ and is not the liberation preached by the Church, will always be an illusory Christ and liberation, as “historic” as some wish to call them. As St. Paul told the Galatians in the name of the Church, “If any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.” (Gal. 1:9.)
Visible sign of Our Encounter with Him
And, at the same time that the Church is the bearer of the true light of Christ, she also is the goal of the evangelization of the peoples. Because Evangelization preaches, “the search for God Himself through prayer ... but also through communion with the visible sign of the encounter with God which is the Church of Jesus Christ; and this communion in its turn is expressed by the application of those other signs of Christ living and acting in the Church which are the sacraments.” (EVANGELII NUNTIANDI, 28) Thus, Paul VI tears down the dichotomy in certain pastoral teachings of Protestant inspiration which purports to juxtapose “evangelization” against “sacramentalization,” in his masterful exhortation, EVANGELII NUNTIANDI.
Our return to the source has also brought to us to this happy encounter with our Church, which has brought us like a gift from Providence this divine relation so laden with meaning, and offers us a safe haven in our encounter with the living and redeeming Christ. This is a challenge to us who represent that Church—Bishops, priests and religious—to become better suited every day for a vocation which has the transcendental mission of making the face of the Church shine on our mother country. The worst misfortune would be to conceal that brilliance, camouflaging or showing our glorious priestly and religious identity to be victims of an internal crisis. This moment also inspires honesty and confidence to approach the Government and the People, to repeat a demand of the Church, formulated this way by the Second Vatican Council: “[The Church] asks of you only liberty, the liberty to believe and to preach her faith, the freedom to love her God and serve Him, the freedom to live and to bring to men her message of life. Do not fear her. She is made after the image of her Master, whose mysterious action does not interfere with your prerogatives but heals everything human of its fatal weakness, transfigures it and fills it with hope, truth and beauty.” (TO THE RULERS—Messages of the Council).
As a single heart
In truth, more than the mercy of Pedro de Alvarado, it was the Providence of God which so exaltedly baptized us with the name of The Savior (“El Salvador”). And, more than a name, He gave us a message which is the summary of His divine plan to save to the world, in His beloved Son. For that reason, these August celebrations seem to us like a convivial return to the family house, of one who leans over to imprint a kiss of faith, of gratitude and of renewed commitment, on the cradle of one’s childhood and on the font of one’s Baptism. The shepherds of the Church, the Supreme Authorities of the State who ennoble themselves by leading their People in this tribute to the Celestial Patron, and the whole People of El Salvador, as if forming a single heart and a single voice that prays and adores (which is the heart of the nation), fall to their knees before the altar of this national Eucharist, prepared to receive a new sacrifice for His people and the ratification of His merciful alliance with us, from the DIVINE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD.