(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.
#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.)
I have been high-liting important passages in each paragraph and then paraphrasing them to present the “gist” of each paragraph. Now, Lumen Fidei is getting so filled with hi-lites that to reduce each paragraph to a few salient points is getting harder. I will probably be quoting more from the encyclical in some places and suggesting that you read certain paragraphs for yourself in other. I really can do no better than Papa Francis’ * own words.
Faith and Truth
“Unless you believe, you will no understand. (cf Is 7:9)”
23. The Greek version of the Hebrew Bible translated in Alexandria is “If you will not believe, you shall not be established.” Terrified by the might of his enemies, King Ahaz wants to form an alliance with the great Assyrian empire because of the security that he believes that the empire can offer him. “The prophet tells him instead to trust completely in the solid and steadfast rock which is the God of Israel. Because God is trustworthy, it is reasonable to have faith in Him, to stand fast on His word.” The prophet challenges the king and us. He wants us to see God’s faithfulness; that God’s plan is best if we but have faith. We must understand with St. Augustine the Truth of God. He is a God that we can rely in order to be “established” in that Truth and to understand how trustworthy God is.
24. Isaiah leads us to one conclusion: faith without Truth can not save! If faith is just a beautiful story with which we can deceive ourselves or a lofty sentiment that is incapable of sustaining us through life, the we, like King Ahaz, would be foolish to stake our lives or security on such a feeling or story.
25. Relativism: The denial of universal Truth and ultimately the denial of God’s existence. “Today, more than ever, we need to be reminded of this bond between faith and truth, given the crisis of truth in our age.” At this point, the encyclical speaks beautifully of contemporary culture and its consideration of truth. I suggest that you read all of paragraph 25 for yourself. It is a priceless description of our culture. Truth (with a capital “T”) is the origin of all. In the light of Truth, we can glimp0se the goal and meaning of mankind’s common path. It can “succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness.”
*Some of Lumen Fidei was written by our beloved Benedict XVI.