I have posted a few liturgical and Papal messages drawing here and here the relationship between mountaineering, rock climbing and the Christian life. Here I found another great one, in Pope Benedict’s 2008 Palm Sunday homily, where he used the rope that ties climbers together as the central metaphor. The translator even had to put in a footnote to explain the metaphor:
Communion with Christ is being on a journey, a permanent ascent to the true height of our calling. Journeying together with Jesus is always at the same time a traveling together in the “we” of those who want to follow him. It brings us into this community. Because this journey to true life, to being men conformed to the model of the Son of God Jesus Christ is beyond our powers, this journeying is also always a state of being carried. We find ourselves, so to speak, in a “roped party”  with Jesus Christ — together with him in the ascent to the heights of God. He pulls us and supports us. Letting oneself be part of a roped party is part of following Christ; we accept that we cannot do it on our own. The humble act of entering into the “we” of the Church is part of it — holding on to the roped party, the responsibility of communion, not letting go of the rope because of our bullheadedness and conceit.
Humbly believing with the Church, like being bound together in a roped party ascending to God, is an essential condition for following Christ. Not acting as the owners of the Word of God, not chasing after a mistaken idea of emancipation — this is also part of being together in the roped party. The humility of “being-with” is essential to the ascent. Letting the Lord take us by the hand through the sacraments is another part of it. We let ourselves be purified and strengthened by him, we let ourselves accept the discipline of the ascent, even if we are tired.
Translator’s Note: The Pope is using a mountaineering metaphor here. Groups of climbers often rope themselves together when they scale mountainsides. This is the meaning of a “roped party.” The Italian word is “cordata.”
One of the activities of Creatio puts into practice these great parallels between rock climbing and the Christian life. Here are the 5 parallels we draw in the manual for guides, of which the rope is central to the last two: community and trust and friendship.
- Explain how the theme is the Christian Life for which rock climbing serves for 5 corresponding metaphors:
i. Goal: Journey towards heaven
ii. Preparation: Life and death/Fear and falling
iii. Means: Effort, fear and risks
iv. Community and listening
v. Trust and Friendship: rooted on the rock and others
- 2. Community and listening: Rock climbing is inherently communitarian. You need at least 2 people to climb if you want to make it alive. Each one helps the other, and climber and helper are indispensable to each other. Nobody can climb alone. The belay is a wonderful metaphor for the Christian life. The hinge point of survival is the rock and bolt to which you are connected – the solid Rock is God himself. Then you need rope and harnesses, which are the Word of God. But a belay system is incomplete without another person, the belayer. We need others to succeed in the Christian life. The belayer needs to be focused and aware of the person who is climbing: if he falls, needs rest, needs guidance and support. The climber needs to communicate with the belayer, listen to advice and fundamentally TRUST.