Monthly Archives: September 2013

Transmitting the Faith

41.  The transmission of faith occurs first and foremost in baptism.

As St. Paul says, “we were buried with Him by baptism into death. . .”  We are meant to become a new creation and God’s adopted children through baptism so that we “might walk in the newness of life.”  (Rom 6:4)

Baptism is something we receive.  It is both a teaching to be professed and a specific way of life that “sets us on the path to goodness.”Baptism helps us to understand that faith must be received by entering into the Church (ecclesial communion) which transmits the gift of faith from God.

42.  From the outset our journey of faith beginning in Baptism is revealed.  First Baptism is bestowed by invoking the Trinity.

Our new identity as a brother/sister to Christ is clearly seen by our immersion in water.

Water is at once a symbol of death, inviting us to pass through self-conversion to a new and greater identity, and ka symbol of life, of a womb in which we are reborn by following Christ in His new life.

Baptism should change us profoundly.  It changes our relationships, our place in the universe, and opens us to living in Communion with the Trinity.

To appreciate this link between baptism and faith, we can recall a text of the prophet Isaiah, which was associated with baptism in early Christian literature: “Their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks. . .their water assured” (Is 33:16.)

The waters of baptism flow with the power of Jesus’ love.  He is faithful and trustworthy, so we can trust our faith.

43.  This passage speaks of the importance and meaning of infant baptism.  This is a beautifully written passage well worth reading in Papa Francis’ own words.

Parents are called, as Saint Augustine once said, not only to bring children into the world but also to bring them to God, so that through Baptism they can be reborn as children of God and receive the gift of faith.

44.  As important as Baptism is, the sacramental nature of faith finds its highest expression in the Eucharist.

In the Eucharist we find the intersection of faith’s two dimensions.  On the one hand, there is the dimension of history:  the Eucharist is an act of remembrance, a making present of the mystery in which the past, as an event of death and resurrection, demonstrates its ability to open up a future, to foreshadow ultimate fulfillment. . .On the other hand, we also find the dimension which leads from the visible world to the invisible.

Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.  Christ becomes present to us and moves us body and soul to our fulfillment in His Father.

45.  In the celebration of the sacraments the Church hands down her memory especially through the profession of faith.

We are speaking about the Creed here.  The Creed has a Trinitarian structure.  When we recite the Creed we are stating the the core and inmost secret of all reality is the divine communion of the three Persons in One God.

We are taken through all the mysteries of Jesus’ life and finally, we are taken up, as it were, into the Truth that we are professing.  Reciting the Creed truthfully and thoughtfully should change us, too.

All the truths in which we believe point to the mystery of the new life of faith as a journey of communion with the living God.

Two other essential elements in the faithful transmission of the faith are the Lord’s prayer and the 10 commandments.

The Decalogue is not a set of negative commands, but concrete directions for emerging from the desert of the selfish and self-enclosed ego in order to enter into dialogue with God, to be embraced by His mercy and then to bring that mercy to others.

This path of gratitude to faith receives new light when we study Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  (There is a complete study of the Sermon on the Mount on this blog.)  

So the four elements around which the Church’s catechesis is structured are the Creed, the Sacraments, the Decalogue, and prayer (especially how Jesus taught us to pray.)  This is our storehouse of memory of faith that the Church is empowered by apostolic succession to pass down through history.

47.  “there is one body and one Spirit. . .one faith” (Eph 4: 4-5)

Genuine love, after the fashion of God’s love, ultimately requires truth, and the shared contemplation of the truth which is Jesus Christ enables love to become deep and enduring.  This is also the great joy of faith: a unity of vision in one body and one spirit.  Saint Leo the Great could say, “If faith is not one, then it is not faith.”

Faith is One!  First, it is one because of the oneness of the God Who is known and confessed.  Second, Faith is one because it is directed to the one Lord; to the life of Christ.  Finally, it is one because it is shared by the whole Church which is one body and one Spirit.

48.  Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity.  Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole.

49.  The Lord gave His Church the gift of apostolic succession.  It is through this that the continuity of the faith is ensured.  The Church depends upon the faithfulness of the Magisterium chosen by the Lord.

In Saint Paul’s farewell discourse to the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, which Saint Luke recounts for us in the Acts of the Apostles, he testifies that he had carried out the task which the Lord had entrusted to him of “declaring the whole counsel of God” (acts 10:27.)

Thanks to the Magisterium of the Church, this “counsel” is preserved in all its integrity and joy for us.  Praise the Lord!

 

So ends Chapter Three of Lumen Fidei.  We will take up Chapter Four, next week.  Hope you all are staying with me through this study as we approach the end of this glorious Year of Faith.

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Lumen Fidei Chapter 3: I Delivered to You What I Also Received

The Church, Mother of our Faith

37.  “Those who have opened their hearts to God’s love, heard His voice and received His light, cannot keep this gift to themselves.  Since faith is hearing and seeing, it is also handed on as word and light.”

Faith is passed on by contact from one person to another just as at the Easter Vigil, many candles are lit from the one Paschal candle.  Faith can also be passed on by words.

38.  The transmission of faith travels through time from generation to generation.  So we see the face of Jesus through an unbroken chain of witnesses.  This is the ONLY way we can possibly verify something that happened so very long ago.

“The Church is a Mother who teaches us to speak the language of faith.”

She is the one witness that remembers everything about faith’s past.  She does this by the Holy Spirit who dwells in the Church and “unites every age and makes us contemporaries of Jesus, thus guiding us along our pilgrimage of faith.”

39.  “It is impossible to believe on our own.”

Faith must be open to the “We” of the Church.  It is not simply an individual decision.  It must take place with the communion of the Church.

When we say, “we believe” we are reflecting the openness of God’s own love, which is a relationship; a “We,” a communion of 3 persons.

“Here we see why those who believe are never alone, and why faith tends to spread, as it invites others to share in its joy.”

The Sacraments and the Transmission of Faith

40.  So how are we sure that the faith that is being passed down by the Church is whole and true?

“It is through the apostolic Tradition preserved in the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit that we enjoy a living contact with the foundational memory.”

And how does the Church witness to and communicate the Faith?  Faith needs a means that is worthy and suitable to what is being communicated.

The answer is, of course, the sacraments, celebrated in the Church’s liturgy.  The sacraments engage the core of our being, touch our minds, wills, and emotions.  They are the only things capable of “engaging the entire person, body and spirit, interior life and relationships with others.”

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Faith and Theology

(First, I want to say that I am glad to be back among the living again, after two weeks of allergies, infections, and sore throats and coughs!  I have a plan to finish up Lumen Fidei in a short time.  So let us begin with the final paragraph of chapter two.)

36.  Christian theology is born of the desire to explore more fully the light of faith to seek a deeper understanding of God which ends in a deeper relationship with Christ.

Theology is not to be reduced to analyzing because God cannot be reduced to an object.  Rather God speaks to us about Himself and allows us to enter this dialogue.

Theology demands humility.  Theology must be at the service of the faith of ordinary believers.  The Magisterium (the Pope and the bishops) is an internal dimension of theology.  The Magisterium “provides the certainty of attaining to the word of Christ in all its integrity” so it is never to be considered extrinsic to Christ.

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