Category Archives: Lumen Fidei

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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Faith and the Search for God

#35  The Letter to the Hebrews tells us of the “just ones” who sought God even before He made the covenant with Abraham.  One of these was Enoch, who “had pleased God.”  We can’t believe God exists apart from faith.  In Hebrews 11:5, “whoever would approach God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”  God is not impossible to find.  He rewards those who seek Him by allowing Himself to be found.  (I love this statement from Lumen Fidei.  I believe that one of the prayers that He always answers if we pray sincerely is “Please show me that you exist.”)  “God is light and He can be found also by those who seek Him with a sincere heart.”

In the New Testament, the Magi are seekers.  The star is a sign of God’s patience with our human eyes.  He knows that we must grow accustomed to His luminous light, which is a bright as the primordial fire that it is.  As we approach God, we are not engulfed by the immensity of His fire, but rather we begin to shine all the more brightly.  “There is no human experience, no journey of man to God, which cannot be taken up, illumined and purified by this light (fire.)”

Faith is a way, so if non-believers are sincerely open to love and search for whatever light they can, they, even without knowing it, are on the path to faith.  They intuit that the presence of God would make life’s grandeur and beauty all the more beautiful.  “Anyone who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God, is already sustained by His help, for it is characteristic of the divine light to brighten our eyes whenever we walk towards the fullness of love.” (I read this quote twice because it gives me hope.)

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The Dialogue Between Faith and Reason

32.  Blessed John Paul II in Fides et Ratio showed us how faith and reason strengthen each other.  When we discover the light of Christ’s love, we realize that every time we have loved, that instance contained a ray of Christ’s light.  This leads us to see how all love is meant to share in the self-gift of Jesus.  “In this circular movement, the light of faith illumines all our human relationships, which can then be lived in union with the gentle love of Christ.”

33.  St. Augustine studies Greek philosophy and accepted its insistence that being “in the light” demanded sight but not hearing.  Augustine came to appreciate that God is light and this was the beginning of his turning away from his sinfulness.  But the personal God of the bible who is able to speak to us appeared to Augustine as he read the 13th chapter of Romans.  However, St. Augustine did not refect light and sight, but integrated hearing with sight.  He spoke of “the word which shines forth within.”   “Yet, our longing for the vision of the whole, and not merely of fragments of history, remains and will be fulfilled in the end, when, as St. Augustine says, we will see and we will love.  Not because we will be able to possess all the light, which will always be inexhaustible, but because we will enter wholly into that light.”

34.  (This is well worth reading the whole thing for yourself.)  However to points from this paragraph:  1.  “Faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others.  One who believes may not be presumptuous, on the contrary, truth leads to humility. . . Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.”   2.  “By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of  creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.”

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Faith as Hearing and Sight

29.  St. Paul used the formula fides ex auditu (faith comes from hearing.)  He acknowledges that faith, linked to a word, is always personal.  Personal knowledge of the truth leads to “the obedience of faith.”  The Greeks, at that time, linked knowledge to sight and this would seem to be antithetical to the biblical understanding of faith-knowledge as coming from hearing the word.  However, the Old Testament combined both kinds of knowledge.  When we heard God’s word, we longed to see His Face!  It seems that God’s overall plan for salvation by faith includes both hearing and sight.

30.  (This paragraph is so rich that I really suggest that you read the whole thing from Lumen Fidei for yourself.)  Here are some quotes to wet your appetite for doing so:  “Faith’s hearing emerges as a form of knowing proper to love:  it is a personal hearing, one which recognizes the voice of the Good Shepherd.”  “But faith is also tied to sight.  Seeing the signs which Jesus worked leads at times to faith, as in the case of the Jews who, following the raising of Lazarus, ‘having seen what He did, believed in Him.'”  “If you believe, you will see the Glory of God.”  (Jn 11:40)

Christ is the Word made flesh Whose glory we have seen.  Our encounter with Christ is the perfect blending of faith by hearing and by sight.  Truth is disclosed by our contemplation of our Risen Lord’s life and our awareness of His Real presence in our lives.

31.  Jesus shared our humanity and brought to fruition a faith that comes from love for us.  St. John in his First Letter also speaks of faith as touch.  “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.”  By taking flesh and dwelling among us, Jesus touched us.  Not just during His life on earth but also through His life given to us in the Sacraments.  So, in faith, like the woman with the hemorrhage, we can touch Him and be cured.  As St. Augustine said, “To touch Him with our hearts: that is what it means to believe.”

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Knowledge of the truth and love

26.  St. Paul says that “One believes with the heart.” (Rom 10:10)  This means that we will be transformed by faith to the extent that we become open to love: the immense love of God.  God’s love enables us to see reality (Truth) with new eyes.

27.  In contemporary culture love is seen as an experience of “fleeting emotions.”  However true love has to require truth or it can never endure over time; turning us away from being self-centered and towards another.  “Without truth, love is incapable of establishing a firm bond; it cannot liberate our isolated ego or redeem it from the fleeting moment in order to create life and bear fruit.” Love and truth are inseparable.

28.  Love is the source of knowledge and the biblical understanding of faith.  Faith-knowledge is born of God’s love in covenant with His people.  As its history blossomed, Israel came to see that this faith-knowledge (divine truth) extended to the entire history of the whole created world.

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