I don’t typically post the Holy Father’s funeral addresses for cardinals here because they’d be too many. But I think this is one is an exceptional circumstance with the death of His Eminence, Tomas Cardinal Spidlik who was laid to rest today. Emphasis added for important points, obviously.
May Cardinal Spidlik’s memory be eternal!
Among the last words spoken by the mourned Cardinal Spidlik
were these: “I have looked for the face of Jesus during my whole life, and
now I am happy and at peace because I am about to see it.” This wonderful
thought — so simple, almost childlike in its expression, and yet so profound
and true — refers us immediately to the prayer of Jesus, which resounded a
moment ago in the Gospel: “Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast
given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given
me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
It is beautiful and consoling to meditate on this
correspondence between man’s desire, who aspired to see the Lord’s face, and
Jesus’ own desire. In reality, that of Christ is much more than an aspiration:
It is a will. Jesus says to the Father: “I desire that they also … may
be where I am.” And it is precisely here, in this will, where we find the
“rock,” the solid foundation to believe and to hope. The will of
Jesus in fact coincides with that of God the Father, and with the work of the
Holy Spirit it constitutes for man a sort of sure “embrace,” strong
and gentle, which leads him to eternal life.
What an immense gift to hear this will of God from his own
mouth! I think that the great men of faith live immersed in this grace, they
have the gift to perceive this truth with particular force, and so can also go
through harsh trials, such as those that Father Tomas Spidlik went through,
without losing confidence, and keeping, on the contrary, a lively sense of
humor, which is certainly a sign of intelligence but also of interior liberty.
Under this profile, evident was the likeness between our mourned cardinal and
the Venerable John Paul II: both were given to ingenious joking and jokes, even
though having had as youths difficult personal circumstances, similar in some
aspects. Providence made them meet and collaborate for the good of the Church,
especially so that she would learn to breathe fully “with her two
lungs,” as the Slav Pope liked to say.
This liberty and presence of spirit has its objective
foundation in the Resurrection of Christ. I want to underline it because we are
in the Easter liturgical season and because it is suggested by the first and second
biblical readings of this celebration. In his first preaching, on the day of
Pentecost, St. Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, proclaims the realization in
Jesus Christ of Psalm 16.
It is wonderful to see how the Holy Spirit reveals to the
Apostles all the beauty of those words in the full interior light of the
Resurrection: “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand
that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
moreover my flesh will dwell in hope” (Acts 2:25-26; cf Psalm 16/15:8-9).
This prayer finds superabundant fulfillment when Christ, the Holy One of God,
is not abandoned in hell. He in the first place has known “ways of
life” and has been filled with joy with the presence of the Father (cf
Acts 2:27-28; Psalm 16/15:11).
The hope and joy of the Risen Jesus are also the hope and
joy of his friends, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit. Father Spidlik
demonstrated it habitually with his way of living, and this witness of his was
ever more eloquent with the passing of the years because, despite his advanced
age and the inevitable infirmities, his spirit remained fresh and youthful.
What is this if not friendship with the Risen Lord?
In the second reading, St. Peter blesses God that “by
his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And he adds: “In this
you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various
trials” (1 Peter 1:3.6). Here, too, is seen clearly how hope and joy are
theological realities that emanate from the mystery of the Resurrection of
Christ and from the gift of his Spirit. We could say that the Holy Spirit takes
them from the heart of the Risen Christ and infuses them in the heart of his
I introduced on purpose the image of the “heart,”
because, as many of you know, Father Spidlik chose it as the motto of his
cardinal’s coat of arms: “Ex toto corde,” “with all the
heart.” This expression is found in the Book of Deuteronomy, within the
first and fundamental commandment of the law, there where Moses says to the
people: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all
your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). “With all the heart — ex toto
corde” refers hence to the way with which Israel must love its God. Jesus
confirms the primacy of this commandment, which he combines with that of love
of neighbor, affirming that the latter is “similar” to the first and that
from both the whole law and the prophets depend (cf Matthew 22:37-39). Choosing
this motto, our venerated brother placed, so to speak, his life within the
commandment of love, he inscribed it wholly in the primacy of God and of
There is another aspect, a further meaning of the expression
“ex toto corde,” that surely Father Spidlik had present and attempted
to manifest with his motto. Always starting from the Biblical root, the symbol
of the heart represents in Eastern spirituality the seat of prayer, of the
meeting between man and God, but also with other men and with the cosmos. And
here we must remember that in Cardinal Spidlik’s standard, the heart that the
coat of arms shows contains a cross in whose arms intersect the words
“phos” and “zoe” — “light” and “life”
— which are names of God. Hence, the man who fully receives, “ex toto
corde,” the love of God, receives light and life, and becomes in turn
light and life in humanity and in the universe.
But who is this man? Who is this “heart” of the
world, if not Jesus Christ? He is the Light and life, for in Him “the
whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:0). And I wish to
recall here that our deceased brother was a member of the Society of Jesus,
that is, a spiritual son of St. Ignatius who put in the center of faith and
spirituality the contemplation of God in the mystery of Christ.
In this symbol of the heart East and West meet, not in a
devotional but in a profoundly Christological sense, as other Jesuit
theologians of the last century revealed. And Christ, central figure of
Revelation, is also the formal principle of Christian art, a realm that had in
Father Spidlik a great teacher, inspirer of ideas and of expressive projects,
which found an important synthesis in the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the
I would like to conclude returning to the theme of the
Resurrection, quoting a text much loved by cardinal Spidlik, a fragment of the
Hymns on the Resurrection of St. Ephrem the Syrian:
“From on High He descended as Lord,
From the womb he issued as a slave,
Death knelt before Him in Sheol,
And life adored Him in his resurrection.
“Blessed is his victory!” (No. 1:8).
May the Virgin Mother of God accompany the soul of our
venerated brother in the embrace of the Most Holy Trinity, where “with all
the heart” he will eternally praise his infinite Love. Amen.