UNLESS YOU BELIEVE, YOU WILL NOT UNDERSTAND (cf. Is 7:9).
In chapter one, the Holy Father showed us what the mystery of the love of God the Creator and Father is, a love that is manifested in Jesus. God’s fatherhood already reveals itself in Creation that “ proclaims ” that He is Father from all eternity. We will only understand this mystery clearly with the heart, by responding to God’s fatherly love by a filial love. For faith makes us sons, and sons of the Church.
Chapter two dismantles the mechanism of faith in order to make us understand the connection between the different parts that composes it : truth, love, reason… This part appeals more to the intelligence.
FAITH AND TRUTH.
“ 23. Unless you believe, you will not understand (cf. Is 7:9). ”
Straightaway it is exacting ! It is the principle that was repeated thousands of times by St. Augustine : faith precedes, intelligence follows. Adhering to the Creed is an act of intelligence that embraces the truth taught by God even before man understands more perfectly the mysteries.
“ The Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint translation produced in Alexandria, gives the above rendering of the words spoken by the prophet Isaiah to King Ahaz. In this way, the issue of the knowledge of truth became central to faith. The Hebrew text, though, reads differently ; the prophet says to the king : ‘ If you will not believe, you shall not be established ’. Here there is a play on words, based on two forms of the verb ’amān : ‘ you will believe ’(ta’amînû) and ‘ you shall be established ’(tē’āmēnû). ”
King Ahaz was besieged by a coalition of the kings of Damascus and Samaria. Pope Francis recalls the historical context that our Father, Georges de Nantes, applied so often to the burning issues of the hour :
“ Terrified by the might of his enemies, the king seeks the security that an alliance with the great Assyrian empire can offer. 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. He is the same God that Isaiah will later call, twice in one verse, the God Who is Amen, ‘ the God of truth ’(cf. Is 65:16), the enduring foundation of Covenant fidelity. ”
The Holy Father uses this episode drawn from Isaiah in order to express once again just how true, trustworthy and unchanging God is. We must have faith in Him. It is reasonable to have faith in Him in the sense that reason itself persuades us to believe in God’s existence and omnipotence.
Let us notice in passing that Yahweh establishes a direct link between faith and the concrete temporal help that He wants to give to His people : if you do not believe, you will not withstand this coalition. Ahaz, however, did not want Yahweh to intervene in history and in his private domain. To refuse God’s intervention in our history and in our pivate domains, as Ahaz did in his own time, is tantamount to refusing to “ be established ”.
“ It might seem that the Greek version of the Bible, by translating ‘ be established ’ as ‘ understand ’, profoundly altered the meaning of the text by moving away from the biblical notion of trust in God towards a Greek notion of intellectual understanding. Yet this translation, while certainly reflecting a dialogue with Hellenistic culture, is not alien to the underlying spirit of the Hebrew text. The firm foundation that Isaiah promises to the king is indeed grounded in an understanding of God’s activity and the unity that He gives to human life and to the history of His people. The prophet challenges the king, and us, to understand the Lord’s ways, seeing in God’s faithfulness the wise plan that governs the ages. ”
We have already noticed the surprising lack of any allusion to the apparition of the Burning Bush, in the previous chapter. Here, in this commentary on the chapter 7 of Isaiah, the main point is missing: the sign of the Virgin who must give birth (verse 14) ! At the precise moment when it is a question of “ understanding the Lord’s ways ”… It is replaced by difficult, not to say incomprehensible considerations :
“ Saint Augustine took up this synthesis of the ideas of ‘ understanding ’ and ‘ being established ’ in his Confessions when he spoke of the truth on which one may rely in order to stand fast : ‘ Then I shall be cast and set firm in the mould of Your [ the Lord’s] truth. ’ From the context we know that Saint Augustine was concerned to show that this trustworthy truth of God is, as the Bible makes clear, His own faithful presence throughout history, His ability to hold together times and ages, and to gather into one the scattered strands of our lives. ”
Our Father wrote the same thing in December 1972 in his Kerygmatics :
“ The Messengers of the Gospel preach much more than the God of philosophers and scholars, God of the Old Testament and of Catholic Order, God of stability and of universal justice. The God they preach is precisely this God Who created the world from its beginning and Who openly takes upon Himself all human history. ” ( God today, CRC n° 63, p. 10 )
The revelation of Fatima, however, goes much further by teaching us that “ God wishes to establish in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. ” Like Ahaz, Pope Benedict XVI refused. The omission of any allusion to the “ sign of the Virgin, ” the summit of Isaiah’s oracle to King Ahaz, is a revelation of hearts ! Does Pope Francis also make this omission “ his own ” ? Or will he at last obey the Virgin’s requests ?
Failing which, what follows is but the expression of the “ diabolical disorientation ” to which the contempt for God and for His divine Mother dooms us.
“ 24. Read in this light, the prophetic text leads to one conclusion : we need knowledge, we need truth, because without these we cannot stand firm, we cannot move forward. ”
This “ need for truth ” must be understood as a necessity without which man does “ not move forward ” but he moves against God, for according to St. Augustine “ two loves have built two cities : love of God, to the contempt of self, and love of self to the contempt of God. ” There is no middle ground, no possible “ neutrality ” between these two loves.
“ Faith without truth does not save, it does not provide a sure footing. It remains a beautiful story, the projection of our deep yearning for happiness, something capable of satisfying us to the extent that we are willing to deceive ourselves. Either that, or it is reduced to a lofty sentiment which brings consolation and cheer, yet remains prey to the vagaries of our spirit and the changing seasons, incapable of sustaining a steady journey through life. If such were faith, King Ahaz would be right not to stake his life and the security of his kingdom on a feeling. Precisely because of its intrinsic link to truth, however, faith is instead able to offer a new light, superior to the king’s calculations, for it sees further into the distance and takes into account the hand of God, Who remains faithful to His Covenant and His promises. ”
Faith is not sentimental, charismatic, it is not pure love, sheer happiness. Rather it is connected to the Word of God, to the reality of His intervention in history and in particular to the Covenant that He concluded with His people, in a word, it is connected to the truth.
“ 25. Today more than ever, we need to be reminded of this bond between faith and truth, given the crisis of truth in our age. ”
If faith itself is also in a state of crisis, what is the remedy ?
“ In contemporary culture, we often tend to consider the only real truth to be that of technology : truth is what we succeed in building and measuring by our scientific know-how, truth is what works and what makes life easier and more comfortable. Nowadays this appears as the only truth that is certain, the only truth that can be shared, the only truth that can serve as a basis for discussion or for common undertakings. Yet at the other end of the scale we are willing to allow for subjective truths of the individual, which consist in fidelity to his or her deepest convictions, yet these are truths valid only for that individual and not capable of being proposed to others in an effort to serve the common good. ”
Truth is not pure feeling as we have just seen. Neither is it the result of a series of laboratory experiences as positivists believe. Conversely, it is not Kantian : everyone would define his truth. Rather it is…
“ Truth itself [yes ! ], the truth that would comprehensively explain our life as individuals and in society [yes, and then ? ! ], is regarded with suspicion [Oh, no ! just when we were going to learn the answer ]. Surely this kind of truth – we hear it said – is what was claimed by the great totalitarian movements of the last century, a truth that imposed its own world view in order to crush the actual lives of individuals. ”
The objection is inane. Only enemies of the Church are able to confuse Nazi and Soviet totalitarianisms with Jesus Christ’s total Truth defended by the Church and Christianity.
“ In the end, what we are left with [ total it up...] is relativism, in which the question of universal truth – and ultimately this means the question of God – is no longer relevant [ there remains nothing...]. It would be logical [ very logical, but to whom, anticlericals ? ], from this point of view, to attempt to sever the bond between religion and truth, because it seems to lie at the root of fanaticism, which proves oppressive for anyone who does not share the same beliefs. In this regard, though, we can speak of a massive amnesia in our contemporary world. ”
It is an understatement, for this “ amnesia ” is precisely the result of an age-old fight of the enemies of the Church intended to wipe the reign of Jesus and Mary out of souls. The deathblow was dealt by the Second Vatican Council.
Let us quickly come back to Catholic ground.
“ The question of truth is really a question of memory, deep memory, for it deals with something prior to ourselves and can succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness. It is a question about the origin of all that is, in the light of which we can glimpse the goal and thus the meaning of our common path. ”
St. Augustine wrote a whole treatise on memory in the tenth book of his Confessions. It is the energy given to our soul in order to tend towards God. When addressing God the Father, the doctor of Love declared :
“ What will I do, O my God, Who are my true life ? This energy that I have and that is called memory, I will transcend it also ; I will transcend it in order to reach beyond, towards You, gracious light. ”
Pope Francis repeated this theme many times in his homilies, in particular in November 1999 during a retreat that he preached to the Spanish bishops while he was still a cardinal.
“ When St. Ignatius asks us to renew our memory of ‘ the blessings of Creation and Redemption, and the special favours I have received, considering with my whole heart all that God Our Lord had done for me, and all that He has given to me ; and then the fact that the Lord Himself wishes to give Himself to me, ’ St. Ignatius wants us to go much further than merely giving thanks for all that we have received. He wants to teach us to have more love… What enables this is memory. ” ( In Him Alone Is Our Hope, p. 119 ).
Recall, remember are sacred words of the Bible, our Father said. We find these words very often in the Psalms and the Prophets. It is the memorial. This harrowing and dramatic theme finds its ultimate fulfilment in the institution of the Eucharist : “ Do this in remembrance of Me ! ” We must remember God’s blessings. “ There is no Covenant without memory,our Father said in his commentary on the Canticle of Canticles (1979) and when we no longer remember the fundamental and initial facts of the Covenant, fidelity vanishes. Memory is associated with fidelity, which is an absolute and integral part of love. ”
“ To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives, ” the Holy Father said in a homily in St. Martha's chapel (March 30, 2013).
God wants us to remember the love that the Immaculate Heart of Mary has for us. This Heart suffers from the abandonment, indifference and forgetfulness of people, even of good Christians. “ To begin with, ” Sister Lucy wrote, “ the entire work of redemption passes through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, through the bond of Her close intimate union with the divine Word. ” ( He is Risen no. 12 ) We ought to remember it. We can and we must remember it through daily recitation of the Rosary and meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary every first Saturday of the month as She asked us to do. This is indispensable in order to keep the faith in our times of diabolical disorientation.
KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH AND LOVE.
“ 26. This being the case, can Christian faith provide a service to the common good with regard to the right way of understanding truth ? ”
What a strange question ! A contribution to the “ common good ” ? That is an understatement. Is it possible for there to be a “ common good ” vaster than “ the wise plan that governs the ages ” (no. 23) ? This is all the more so because, contrary to the allegations of philosophers, the intelligence is unable to attain the truth without Christian faith.
“ To answer this question, we need to reflect on the kind of knowledge involved in faith. Here a saying of St. Paul can help us : ‘ One believes with the heart ’ (Rm 10:10). ”
St. Paul simply means that it does not suffice to believe “ half-heartedly, ” but that it is necessary to put all one’s heart into it. Then “ by believing from the heart man is made righteous ; by confessing with his lips man is saved ” (Rm 10:10).
“ In the Bible, the heart is the core of man, where all his different dimensions intersect : body and spirit, interiority and openness to the world and to others, intellect, will and affectivity. ”
These abstract considerations are not in keeping with Pope Francis’ style. It is too complicated when, in order “ to understand, ” it suffices to think about the Blessed Virgin Who“ treasured all these things and pondered them in Her Heart. ” ( Lk 2:51)
“ If the heart is capable of holding all these dimensions together, it is because it is where we become open to truth and love, where we let them touch us and deeply transform us. Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he becomes open to love. ”
This is indeed why “ God wishes to establish in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. ” Alas, the Author hardly gives it a thought.
“ Through this blending of faith and love we come to see the kind of knowledge that faith entails, its power to convince and its ability to illumine our steps. Faith knows because it is tied to love, because love itself brings enlightenment. Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God that transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes. ”
In her book Apelos (Calls from the Message of Fatima,) Sr. Lucy explains these things in a marvellous way, which she learned from the Immaculate Heart of Mary :
“ Yes, it is an immense grace to be able to know God through faith, to know God’s revelation and the love that He manifests to us in all His works !
“ In a way, the full truth is love, because, as St. John tells us, God is love. Thus, to love amounts to possessing God’s greatest gift, because it amounts to possessing God Himself. ‘ Whoever loves Me will keep My word, and My Father will love Him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. ’ ( Jn 14:23 ) It is to possess God and be ourselves immersed in God ; it is the love of God in us, communicated by the presence of the three divine Persons, which will transport us to live immersed in the ocean of supernatural life, always following the path pointed out for us by the light of the word of God. ”
“ 27. The explanation of the connection between faith and certainty put forward by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is well known. ”
What a fall ! Do you know this explanation ? I do not ! Once again we enter into the mentality of a modern non-believer :
“ For Wittgenstein, believing can be compared to the experience of falling in love : it is something subjective that cannot be proposed as a truth valid for everyone.
“ Indeed, most people nowadays would not consider love as related in any way to truth. Love is seen as an experience associated with the world of fleeting emotions, no longer with truth. ”
The Pope dismisses this definition of romantic love out of hand :
“ Is this an adequate description of love ? Love cannot be reduced to an ephemeral emotion. True, it engages our affectivity, but in order to open it to the beloved and thus to blaze a trail leading away from self-centredness and towards another person, in order to build a lasting relationship ; love aims at union with the beloved. ”
All this is to say that even if faith and love intersect, we must not make a mistake about the love in question. True love is relational and requires that we renounce all egoism and cease to imagine, as Fr. Georges de Nantes wrote, that human beings are created and placed in the world for the purpose of illustrating their ideal ‘ essence ’ : “ For every normal being, love consists in becoming enamoured of someone, other than oneself, and the joy of the soul lies in their presence, understanding, action and communion. ” (The Transphysical Basis of Love, CRC no. 177, May 1982)
Then the Holy Father returns to his subject by explaining the relationships that exist between truth and love. He begins by giving priority to truth over love.
“ Here we begin to see how love requires truth. ”
Love needs to be secured to something that is stable, reliable and true.
“ Only to the extent that love is grounded in truth can it endure over time, can it transcend the passing moment and be sufficiently solid to sustain a shared journey. ”
St. Augustine writes in his Confessions : “ For I ask of every man, whether he would rather rejoice in truth or in falsehood. They will no more hesitate to say, ‘ in truth, ’ than to say, ‘ that they wish to be happy. ’ For a happy life is joy in the truth. ” (Book X)
“ If love is not tied to truth, it falls prey to fickle emotions and cannot stand the test of time. True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life. 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. ”
St. Augustine does not hesitate either : “ Let it be far from the heart of Your servant who confesses unto You; let it be far from me to think myself happy, be the joy what it may ! For there is a joy that is not granted to the wicked, but to those who worship You thankfully, whose joy You Yourself are. The happy life is this – to rejoice unto You, in You, and for You; this it is, and there is no other. Those who think there is another follow after another joy, and that not the true one. Their will, however, is not turned away from some shadow of joy. ”
Pursuing his thought, the Pope then shows the extent to which truth also requires love. It is the Franciscan, the mystical vision that sets out Caritas as the first principle of all things :
“ If love needs truth, truth also needs love. ”
This is what is very apparent in the life of certain great converts. St. Augustine saw firstly that the Catholic Church alone possesses the truth, yet he was unable to take the step to conversion, for he had no love. One day, after having heard the account of a soldier of the emperor who had abandoned everything in order to become a hermit, Augustine addressed his friend Alypius sharply, shouting to him :
“ The unlearned start up and take Heaven, and we, with our learning, but wanting heart, see where we wallow in flesh and blood ! Because others have preceded us, is it a reason for us to feel ashamed to follow ? Is it not rather a reason to be ashamed if we do not even succeed in following them ? ” (Book VIII)
“ Love and truth are inseparable. Without love, truth becomes cold, impersonal and oppressive for people’s day-to-day lives. The truth we seek, the truth that gives meaning to our journey through life, enlightens us whenever we are touched by love. One who loves realises that love is an experience of truth, that it opens our eyes to see reality in a new way, in union with the beloved. ”
In a homily that Pope Francis delivered in St. Martha’s chapel, he said that “ the intention of the heart ” is reflected on the body : “ a heart that loves ” makes the body “ luminous, ” “ an evil heart ” makes it “ dark. ” “ The judgment passed on things ” depends on this contrast light-darkness : a “ heart of stone ” attached “ to earthly treasure, ” to “ an egoistic treasure, ” will bring about “ hatred ” and “ wars. ”
On the contrary, the heart that follows the Lord receives “ enlightenment in order to know and judge in accordance with the true treasure : His truth. The Lord changes the heart so that it may seek the true treasure and that men may become luminous persons and not persons of darkness. ” (June 21, 2013)
“ In this sense, St. Gregory the Great could write that ‘ amor ipse notitia est ’, love is itself a kind of knowledge possessed of its own logic. It is a relational way of viewing the world, which then becomes a form of shared knowledge, vision through the eyes of another and a shared vision of all that exists. William of Saint-Thierry, in the Middle Ages, follows this tradition when he comments on the verse of the Canticle of Canticles where the lover says to the beloved, ‘ Your eyes are doves ’(Ct 1:15). The two eyes, says William, are faith-filled reason and love, which then become one in rising to the contemplation of God, when our understanding becomes ‘ an understanding of enlightened love. ’ ”
Thus it is well-established that, in order to seize the truth, we must first believe : faith precedes, intelligence follows. Our Father, Georges de Nantes explained that this is as mysterious but as true as a begetting. Just as the generation of a living being by another living being in similarity of nature is an incomprehensible mystery, in the same way faith passes from the believing Church to the catechumen by an intuitive and spontaneous adhesion, in love, before any rational justification.
“ 28. This discovery of love as a source of knowledge, which is part of the primordial experience of every man and woman, finds authoritative expression in the biblical understanding of faith. In savouring the love by which God chose them and made them a people, Israel came to understand the overall unity of the divine plan. Faith-knowledge, because it is born of God’s covenantal love, is knowledge that lights up a path in history. ”
All things considered, does the intelligence of truth precede love or vice versa ? There are two approaches to the great mystery of both our human destiny and that of the universe. According to the scientific, rational approach, reason dominates at the risk of culminating in a soul-destroying doctrine, without arousing love. Georges de Nantes ended up abandoning this philosophic approach, preferring the biblical approach of the Revelation in all its fullness. This is also Pope Francis’ choice. From one Covenant to the next, God’s plan takes shape, comes about in a sacred history that reveals to us the infinitely good Heart of ‘ our dearest heavenly Father ’ and His love for His creatures. The course of this history is true, direct, immediate, existential and full of life. It sweeps along all beings, touches hearts, enlightens minds and establishes living relations from one generation to the next.
“ That is why, in the Bible, truth and fidelity go together : the true God is the God of fidelity Who keeps His promises and makes possible, in time, a deeper understanding of His plan. Through the experience of the prophets, in the pain of exile and in the hope of a definitive return to the Holy City, Israel came to see that this divine truth extended beyond the confines of its own history, to embrace the entire history of the world, beginning with creation. Faith-knowledge sheds light not only on the destiny of one particular people, but the entire history of the created world, from its origins to its consummation. ”
Thus God revealed Himself to man through His words and visions until He totally took flesh and bone in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the subject of numbers 29 to 31 of the encyclical.
FAITH AS HEARING AND SIGHT.
“ 29. Precisely because faith-knowledge is linked to the Covenant with a faithful God Who enters into a relationship of love with man and speaks His Word to him, the Bible presents it as a form of hearing. ”
“ It is associated with the sense of hearing. ” ? No ! It is quite simply a perceptible, direct case of listening, which could be recorded on tape. The examples in the Bible are innumerable : Yahweh Who is walking in the garden in the cool of the day and Who says to Adam :“ Where are you ? ” ; Yahweh Who makes Himself heard from within the Burning Bush : “ Moses, Moses ! ” ; Yahweh Who awakens Samuel in the Temple of Shiloh : “ Samuel, Samuel ! ”
At Fatima, where God wants to renew the new and eternal Covenant in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mediatrix between Him and us, it is through the real, perceptible, gentle and feminine voice of Our Lady of the Rosary that God expressed to His people His will of establishing in the world devotion to Her Immaculate Heart for the salvation of sinners.
“ Saint Paul would use a formula which became classic : fides ex auditu, ‘ faith comes from hearing ’(Rm 10:17). Knowledge linked to a word is always personal knowledge ; it recognises the voice of the one speaking, opens up to that person in freedom and follows him in obedience. Paul could thus speak of the ‘ obedience of faith ’(cf. Rm 1:5 ; 16:26). ”
Certain privileged persons have had the grace of hearing the voice of God, of Jesus or of the Blessed Virgin with their very ears. For the ordinary faithful, however, it is through the Church’s preaching that God makes Himself known, by the words of mothers teaching catechism and of preachers. At Lourdes and Fatima, throngs of pilgrims have heard the accounts of the seers and they believed. “ Obedience of faith ” is this confidence that we vow once and for all to the Church to whom we believe, for we know that what she says is true. Pope Francis speaks about “ the beatitude of faith ” : blessed are those who believe without having seen !
“ Faith is also a knowledge bound to the passage of time, for words take time to be pronounced, and it is a knowledge assimilated only along a journey of discipleship. The experience of hearing can thus help to bring out more clearly the bond between knowledge and love. ”
Pope Francis never tires of giving Mary as an example : “ Mary knew how to listen to God. Be careful : it was not merely ‘ hearing ’, a superficial word, but it was “listening”, that consists of attention, acceptance and availability to God. It was not in the distracted way with which we sometimes face the Lord or others : we hear their words, but we do not really listen. Mary is attentive to God. She listens to God. (Friday, May 31, 2013, for the conclusion of the Marian month)
“ At times, where knowledge of the truth is concerned, hearing has been opposed to sight ; it has been claimed that an emphasis on sight was characteristic of Greek culture. If light makes possible that contemplation of the whole to which humanity has always aspired, it would also seem to leave no space for freedom, since it comes down from heaven directly to the eye, without calling for a response. It would also seem to call for a kind of static contemplation, far removed from the world of history with its joys and sufferings. From this standpoint, the biblical understanding of knowledge would be antithetical to the Greek understanding, inasmuch as the latter linked knowledge to sight in its attempt to attain a comprehensive understanding of reality. ”
Georges de Nantes, our Father wrote : “ Urs von Balthasar rightly objects to this ‘ Jesuit scholasticism of the Baroque period as well as of the modern period ’, which has left its mark on our minds. According to this way of thinking there are two stages in the mystical life, the one foreign to the other. There is firstly the preamble to faith by way of experimental and scientific knowledge ; there are the miracles and signs proving that God has spoken. On the other side there is adherence of faith to the revealed mysteries, without any direct or sensible vision, believed in as absolute and inaccessible truths. With exceptional grace these same mysteries are capable of being perceived in an intimate light and thus becoming the object of some rare, vertiginous mystical experience. ” ( “ The mystical vision”, CCR no. 106, January 1979, p. 9 )
The Pope also objects to this dichotomy :
“ This alleged antithesis does not, however, correspond to the biblical datum. The Old Testament combined both kinds of knowledge, since hearing God’s Word is accompanied by the desire to see His Face. The ground was thus laid for a dialogue with Hellenistic culture, a dialogue present at the heart of sacred Scripture. Hearing emphasises personal vocation and obedience, and the fact that truth is revealed in time. Sight provides a vision of the entire journey and allows it to be situated within God’s overall plan; without this vision, we would be left only with unconnected parts of an unknown whole. ”
Following Urs von Balthasar, Georges de Nantes wrote : “ It is good to believe by virtue of the authority of God Who reveals and reveals Himself, provided that this authority not be invoked merely as a metaphysical and juridical entity but as a ‘ grasping of the Divine Glory by man and of man by the Divine Glory. ’ For when the Divine Glory appears to us it needs no extrinsic justification. In this aesthetic perspective, believing is not the consequence of abstract reasoning but the flowering of a vision that wins the assent of every being. ‘ The Glory made visible majestically commands the words of the Apostle who makes it known to us. ’ (cf. 2 Co 4:5-6.) The Glory of God is the object of vision ; it is also the light, the reason for and guarantee of the vision. ” (ibid., p. 1 0)
“ 30. The bond between seeing and hearing in faith-knowledge is most clearly evident in John’s Gospel. For the Fourth Gospel, to believe is both to hear and to see. Faith’s hearing emerges as a form of knowing proper to love : it is a personal hearing, one which recognises the voice of the Good Shepherd (cf. Jn 10:3-5) ; it is a hearing which calls for discipleship, as was the case with the first disciples : ‘ Hearing Him say these things, they followed Jesus ’(Jn 1:37). Faith, however, is also tied to sight. Seeing the signs that 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 ’(Jn 11:45). At other times, faith itself leads to deeper vision: ‘ If you believe, you will see the glory of God ’(Jn 11:40). In the end, belief and sight intersect : ‘ Whoever believes in Me believes in Him who sent Me. Whoever sees Me sees Him who sent Me ’(Jn 12:44-45). Joined to hearing, seeing then becomes a form of following Christ, and faith appears as a process of gazing, in which our eyes grow accustomed to peering into the depths. ”
It is marvellous to read in the Pope’s writings and in his daily teaching his approval of Fr. de Nantes’ call for a theology in which “ Jesus will be the Person Who is contemplated in all His works and Whom one day we shall be made to see in His very own mystery, through the teaching of the faith. We shall see Him in the beauty of His Glory, ‘ the glory that is His as the only-begotten Son of the Father. ’ (Jn 1:16) We shall see Him then without distinction between sign and mystery, just as we shall make no distinction between His human and Divine nature or between the figure of His beauty and the splendour that radiates therefrom. Christ will then reveal Himself and His Father to us in the mystery of His Face. (Jn 14:9) ” (ibid.)
“ Easter morning thus passes from John who, standing in the early morning darkness before the empty tomb, ‘ saw and believed ’(Jn 20:8), to Mary Magdalene who, after seeing Jesus (cf. Jn 20:14) and wanting to cling to Him, is asked to contemplate Him as He ascends to the Father, and finally to her full confession before the disciples : ‘ I have seen the Lord ! ’(Jn 20:18). ”
Thus it is that “ to advance in this sensible aesthetic and mystical knowledge it is necessary that we really look. We have to pass from simply seeing the thing to the vision of the same, ” (ibid.) our Father wrote.
At the general audience of Wednesday, April 3, the Holy Father said : “ Unfortunately, efforts have often been made to blur faith in the Resurrection of Jesus and doubts have crept in, even among believers. It is a little like that ‘ rosewater ’ faith, as we say ; it is not a strong faith. This is due to superficiality and sometimes to indifference, busy as we are with a thousand things considered more important than faith, or because we have a view of life that is solely horizontal(...).
“ First of all let us note that the first witnesses of this event were the women. At dawn they went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ Body and found the first sign : the empty tomb (cf. Mk 16:1). Their meeting with a messenger of God followed. He announced : ‘ Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, has risen, He is not here ’ (cf. vv. 5-6). The women were motivated by love and were able to accept this announcement with faith : they believed and passed it on straight away, they did not keep it to themselves but passed it on. The joy of knowing that Jesus is alive, the hope that fills the heart, cannot be repressed. ”
It is clear, historical, evangelical !
The rest of the encyclical is magnificent :
“ How does one attain this synthesis between hearing and seeing ? It becomes possible through the true Person of Jesus, Who can be seen and heard. He is the Word made flesh, Whose glory we have seen (cf. Jn 1:14). The light of faith is the light of a Countenance in which the Father is seen. In the Fourth Gospel, the truth that faith attains is the revelation of the Father in the Son, in His flesh and in His earthly deeds, a truth that can be defined as the ‘ light-filled life ’ of Jesus. This means that faith-knowledge does not direct our gaze to a purely inward truth. The truth that faith discloses to us is a truth centred on an encounter with Christ, on the contemplation of His life and on the awareness of His presence. Saint Thomas Aquinas speaks of the Apostles’ oculata fides – a faith that sees ! – in the presence of the Body of the Risen Lord. With their own eyes they saw the risen Jesus and they believed ; in a word, they were able to peer into the depths of what they were seeing and to confess their faith in the Son of God, seated at the right hand of the Father. ”
Is this not beautiful ! What love of the “ true Person ” of Jesus is expressed in these lines ! In his homily of July 3, the Pope gives holds up St. Thomas as an example of these Apostles who “ saw with their eyes ” and who “ believed ” : Jesus revealed Himself with His wounds, “ His entire Body was clean, very beautiful, luminous, but His wounds were there, and they are still there ” and when the Lord comes at the end of the world, “ He will show His wounds. ”
Thomas “ was obstinate, but it was precisely an obstinate person whom the Lord wanted for the purpose of making us understand something more important. Thomas saw the Lord, he was invited to put his finger in the wounds of the nails, to put his hand in His side and he did not say : ‘ It is true, the Lord is risen ! ’ No ! He went further. He said : ‘ God ! ’ He is the first of the disciples to have professed the divinity of Christ after the Resurrection. Then he adored.
“ Thus we understand what the Lord’s intention was in making him wait : it was to take even his incredulity to make it bear not [only] upon the affirmation of the resurrection, but upon the affirmation of His divinity. ”
What about us, what should we do to know God ? We should do likewise : turn ourselves towards the Person of Jesus and contemplate Him in order to kindle love within us.
“ 31. It was only in this way, by taking flesh, by sharing our humanity, that the knowledge proper to love could come to full fruition. For the light of love is born when our hearts are touched and we open ourselves to the interior presence of the Beloved, Who enables us to recognise His mystery. ”
This is the whole of Catholic mysticism, the mysticism of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Ignatius and Blessed Fr. de Foucauld, and it is the mysticism that our beloved Father always ardently and boldly preached to us.
At the 1995 Summer Camp during which we studied the 13th century, our Father delivered a passionate sermon on the Franciscan spirit. He wanted to instil into us that St. Francis did not preach the God of the philosophers and of the Decalogue, but he was engrossed in Jesus and Mary, inventing the living crèche of Greccio with the aim of showing to people that the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, who are now in Heaven, were living persons like us, and that it is by means of the representation and meditation of their concrete lives on earth that we can, through grace, “ be touched in our heart ” by the “ light of love. ”
“ Thus we can understand why, together with hearing and seeing, Saint John can speak of faith as touch, as he says in his First Letter : ‘ What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life ’(1 Jn 1:1). By His Incarnation and coming among us, Jesus has touched us, and through the sacraments He continues to touch us even today ; transforming our hearts, He unceasingly enables us to acknowledge and acclaim him as the Son of God. ”
“ By His Incarnation, Jesus has touched us ” and not “ by His Incarnation, the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man ” ( Gaudium et Spes 22:2 ), which is the major heresy of the Council. On the other hand, it is absolutely true to affirm that Jesus ‘ touches ’ us through the Eucharist.
“ In faith, we can touch Him and receive the power of His grace. Saint Augustine, commenting on the account of the woman suffering from haemorrhages who touched Jesus and was cured (cf. Lk 8:45-46), says : ‘ To touch Him with our hearts : that is what it means to believe. ’ The crowd presses in on Jesus, but they do not reach Him with the personal touch of faith, which apprehends the mystery that He is the Son who reveals the Father. Only when we are configured to Jesus do we receive the eyes needed to see Him. ”
In order to see Jesus, to touch Him, to reach Him with our spiritual senses, we must be configured to Him. “ Those who want a mystical life, ” our Father said, “ those who want to give their life a sense of true Christianity, must begin by following Jesus, imitating Him, loving Him and adoring Him, with an active and wounded heart like his, partaking in His Cross, in an unceasing and universal zeal. It is a practice. They are the deeds, the sacrifices that fill one’s life, the fight against self, which is not soul-destroying and humanist, but are done with the purpose of being like Jesus, in imitation of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. ” (True and False Mysticism, 1991)
What is lacking in the encyclical is a reference to the Virgin Mary. In this section in which it is so much a question of hearing and seeing, no allusion is made to the words, visions and apparitions of the Most Blessed Virgin during these last two centuries. She, however, made the effort to descend several times from Heaven to speak to us and reveal to us the way of ‘ touching ’ Jesus by the reparatory communion of the First Saturdays.
“ To those who embrace this devotion I promise salvation; these souls will be favoured by God, like flowers placed by Me to adorn His throne. ” The extraordinary means that we have to be able ‘ to touch ’ Jesus is ‘ to console ’ the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the outrages that poor sinners inflict upon Her. And we will pay no heed ?
In her Call to devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sister Lucy clearly explains that by means of this devotion we will truly be brothers and sisters of Chris :
“ We thus constitute the retinue of the new generation created by God, drawing our supernatural life from the same life-giving source, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Who is the Mother of Christ and of His Mystical Body. Thus we are truly brothers and sisters of Christ, as He Himself said : ‘ My mother and My brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it. ’ ” (Apelos, p. 143).
We saw in the editorial how Pope Francis, had he not been obliged to come to terms with Benedict XVI, would have spoken about mystical life after the manner of Georges de Nantes, our Father, who taught us to ‘ see ’ with the eyes of the soul :
“ Before even believing, before being Christian, the all-enveloping mystery is there before us. It is the created world ; it is the fact of Jesus Christ, the history of the Church, the life, example and words of the saints... This whole paean of beauty assails our senses, touches our minds and invades our hearts with a powerful, incomparable, limitless aesthetic feeling and it brings with it a sense of decisive meaning laden with mystery.
“ God wishes to be and must be recognised as already present in this beauty, as already given for His people to behold in the Old Testament, even more clearly in the New Testament and in the times of the Church, although His total manifestation is reserved for the end of time [...].
“ Yet, if we are to advance in this sensible aesthetic and mystical knowledge it is necessary that we really look. We have to pass from simply seeing the thing to the vision of the same. In everyday life this is such a common occurrence that we are no longer even aware of it. When we look at the photograph of someone dear to us, for example, what we see is simply a mass of black dots irregularly distributed over a sheet of paper with neither relief nor depth. Yet the sight of this evokes the being whose image it is. Or rather, by means of and in this photograph we see the person and know more of him ; we study this little rectangle of paper with particular interest because in its depth it reveals more and more of the person. The photograph bears the person and brings him to us. The sight of this piece of paper is rich with the vision of the dear one and so we treasure it…
“ It is the same with the sight of every being or human event in this world ; near or far they all gravitate around Christ and if we apply ourselves to them with the knowledge that comes from the Faith, we shall be led to the vision of their indwelling mystery, a vision that does not detach us from the thing itself but on the contrary attaches us to it with all the rapture of divine delight. ” ( “ The mystical vision”, CCR no. 106, January 1979, p. 9-10 )
FAITH AND THE SEARCH FOR GOD.
Suddenly, for the length of a paragraph, we wander from the analysis of the faith in order to turn towards unbelievers and members of false religions, posing the question of their salvation.
We have already dealt with this matter (Confessor and Pontiff, He is Risen, no. 129, June 2013, Vatican III ? It is unfolding before our eyes ! He is Risen, no. 130, July-August 2013 ).
It is a question of determining whether salvation is possible for souls who are outside the Church and who never had access to the light of faith. Georges de Nantes, our Father, particularly studied this question in his Total Morality.
“ 35. The light of faith in Jesus also illumines the path of all those who seek God, and makes a specifically Christian contribution to dialogue with the followers of the different religions. The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of the witness of those just ones who, before the Covenant with Abraham, already sought God in faith. Of Enoch ‘ it was attested that he had pleased God ’(Heb 11:5)... ”
The Covenant that God contracted in Adam with all men is the principle and the foundation of what our Father calls a ‘ religious ’ morality. Every man can know with certainty by the natural light of reason that he is the creature of a God Who urges him to adore and serve Him. Henoch, about whom it is said that he “ walked with God ” ( Gn 5:24 ), responded to this vocation wholeheartedly.
“ ... something impossible apart from faith, for ‘ whoever would approach God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him ’(Heb 11:6). We can see from this that the path of religious man passes through the acknowledgment of a God who cares for us and is not impossible to find. What other reward can God give to those who seek Him, if not to let Himself be found ? ”
Father de Nantes based his ‘ total Morality ’ on this religious bond of every creature with Him Who conferred being upon him with a benevolent intention that he must accept with gratitude. This is the minimum requirement for obtaining salvation and every man can attain it.
“ Even earlier, we encounter Abel, whose faith was praised and whose gifts, his offering of the firstlings of his flock (cf. Heb 11:4), were therefore pleasing to God. Religious man strives to see signs of God in the daily experiences of life, in the cycle of the seasons, in the fruitfulness of the earth and in the movement of the cosmos. God is light and He can be found also by those who seek Him with a sincere heart. ”
To the extent of the ardour of his heart and the clarity with which the creature understands this religious bond that unites him to his Benefactor, he wants to please Him, like Abel, and he sees His divine hand everywhere.
“ An image of this seeking can be seen in the Magi, who were led to Bethlehem by the star (cf. Mt 2:1-12). For them God’s light appeared as a journey to be undertaken, a star that led them on a path of discovery. The star is a sign of God’s patience with our eyes that need to grow accustomed to His brightness. Religious man is a wayfarer ; he must be ready to let himself be led, to come out of himself and to find the God of perpetual surprises. This respect on God’s part for our human eyes shows us that when we draw near to God, our human lights are not dissolved in the immensity of His light, as a star is engulfed by the dawn, but shine all the more brightly the closer they approach the primordial fire, like a mirror that reflects light. ”
In our editorial, he said that our ‘ Star ’ is the Immaculate Mother of God, Our Lady of the Rosary. Her Immaculate Heart is our path, and Her entire Person is but one ‘ Light ’ with that of Her Son :
“ Christian faith in Jesus, the one Saviour of the world, proclaims that all God’s light is concentrated in Him, in His ‘ luminous life ’ that discloses the origin and the end of history. There is no human experience, no journey of man to God, which cannot be taken up, illumined and purified by this light. The more Christians immerse themselves in the circle of Christ’s light, the more capable they become of understanding and accompanying the path of every man and woman towards God. ”
In order to “ immerse oneself, ” which is a baptism, “ in the circle of Christ’s light ” and to plunge into it “ every man ” who seeks God, we must pay the price, like the children of Fatima, to whom Our Lady asked on May 13, 1917 :
“ ‘ Are you willing to offer yourselves to God to endure all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and of supplication for the conversion of sinners ? ’
“ ‘ Yes, we are willing. ’
“ ‘ Then you will have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your consolation. ’
“ As She pronounced these last words, Our Lady opened Her hands for the first time, communicating to us, as though it were a reflection emanating from Her hands, a light so intense that its rays penetrated our hearts and even the innermost depths of our souls, making us see ourselves in God, Who was that light, more clearly than we see ourselves in the best of mirrors.
“ Then, moved by an inner impulse that was communicated to us, we fell to our knees, repeating in our hearts : Oh Most Holy Trinity, I adore You! My God, my God, I love You in the most Blessed Sacrament ! ” (Brother Francis of Mary of the Angels, Fatima, Salvation of the World)
“ Because faith is a way, it also has to do with the lives of those men who, though not believers, nonetheless desire to believe and continue to seek. To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith. They strive to act as if God existed, at times because they realise how important He is for finding a sure compass for our life in common or because they experience a desire for light amid darkness, but also because in perceiving life’s grandeur and beauty they intuit that the presence of God would make it all the more beautiful. ”
We are light years away from the thesis of the “ Anonymous Christians, ” invented by Karl Rahner and aggravated by Karol Wojtyla at the Council, according to which all men are “ in some fashion ” united to God by the simple fact of the Incarnation of the Word… in some fashion, whether willingly or not !
“ Saint Irenaeus of Lyons tells how Abraham, before hearing God’s voice, had already sought Him ‘ in the ardent desire of his heart ’ and ‘ went throughout the whole world, asking himself where God was to be found ’, until‘ God had pity on him who, all alone, had sought Him in silence. ’ Any-one 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. ”
“ We cannot say, ” Sr. Lucy wrote “ as do some indifferent or cynical persons who are going astray or who are individualists : That only concerns me !
“ If all Heaven was set in motion with the purpose of saving you, how can you assert that this business of saving your soul only concerns you ? The Son of the Eternal Father died on the Cross in place of you. Are you now going to hand yourself over to Hell, which He has already conquered ? Stop this insane conduct that is leading you to eternal death ! Your Heavenly Father does not want to lose you ; how can you forget Him, despise Him, destroy Him within you ? Does a Father’s grief, your Father’s grief, leave you utterly indifferent ? If that is so, are you sure that you are still in the realm of the living, have you not, rather, gone down alive into the realm of the dead ? ( He is risen no. 23, July 2004 )
FAITH AND THEOLOGY.
A paragraph seems to have been added with the intention of returning to the specifically theological point of view of the Catholic faith :
“ 36. Since faith is a light, it draws us into itself, inviting us to explore ever more fully the horizon that it illumines, all the better to know the object of our love. Christian theology is born of this desire. ”
It is not so much the science of the mysteries of God as it is communication of a wisdom that surpasses all science.
“ Clearly, theology is impossible without faith ; it is part of the very process of faith, which seeks an ever deeper understanding of God’s self-disclosure culminating in Christ. ”
Generations of theologians have built a natural, rational theology by scrutinising every denomination, every attribute and every clear and distinct perfection that reason recognises in God “ as though man, in depicting his Creator in his own likeness, with every necessary precaution, of course, had forced His secret, had vanquished the distance and had thus introduced himself into God's intimacy! ”
“ Alas, this automaton, made of bits and pieces, could not mislead anyone. His adornments and garments, in their truth as human objects, were more beautiful and more sparkling, more attractive, than He Himself ! It was too human to arouse the least enthusiasm, and too inhuman not to alarm, to terrorise, to put off souls, to freeze the hearts of believers themselves. Much more human and divine than this mesh of stiff abstractions is the least chapter from Holy Scripture, which attracts hearts and souls to love God, ‘ the friend of men ’ (Tit 3:4). ( G. de Nantes, God, the Infinite Liberty of Love, CCR no. 283, p. 12 )
“ It follows that theology is more than simply an effort of human reason to analyse and understand, along the lines of the experimental sciences. God cannot be reduced to an object. He is a subject who makes Himself known and perceived in an interpersonal relationship. ”
Georges de Nantes wrote : “ Blessed John Duns Scotus, reacting in a manner that is not only Franciscan but also Augustinian to break the stranglehold kept on our universities by the Aristotelian clan, even though he himself had succumbed to it and was of necessity still following it, chose the older tradition. His new thinking was based not on human wisdom but directly and wholly on the Word of God. ” (ibid.)
God is a “ Subject ” ! God is the creator of the world, God teaches us through His Word ; consequently we must submit our minds to the Catholic Faith and claim to adhere to Holy Scripture, and even then, according to the dogmas of the Church ! “ God cannot be reduced to an object ” of our reflection. It is our minds that must submit to the Revelation.
Duns Scotus “ placed Revelation above all and strove to understand and justify it, without altering or obliterating any of its mystery and never marring it. Certainly he used the light of reason, but in a subordinate role, remaining wary about it, knowing and declaring that reason in this earthly life is unsound and, what is more, darkened by ‘ the sin of the world ’ ” (Jn 1:29).
“ Right faith orients reason to open itself to the light which comes from God, so that reason, guided by love of the truth, can come to a deeper knowledge of God. The great medieval theologians and teachers rightly held that theology, as a science of faith, is a participation in God’s own knowledge of Himself. ”
“ That is how we see the grandiose, fruitful and nourishing theology of John Duns, the very secretive Scot, transplanted to Oxford and from there to Paris, who wished to ‘ commend his spirit ’ to God alone. Swimming against the tide, and over-dependent on this all pervading scholasticism – he himself is obliged to comment on the Sentences ! – his brilliant boldness, his amazing newness will tend to be lost in the midst of an off-putting jumble and will pass unnoticed or not understood. ” (ibid.)
“ It is not just our discourse about God, but first and foremost the acceptance and the pursuit of a deeper understanding of the word that God speaks to us, the word that God speaks about Himself, for He is an eternal dialogue of communion, and He allows us to enter into this dialogue. Theology thus demands the humility to be ‘ touched ’ by God, admitting its own limitations before the Mystery, while striving to investigate, with the discipline proper to reason, the inexhaustible riches of this Mystery. ”
It is true that speculative theology, assisted by the most rigorous logic, can deduce from the rudiments of the Faith and the preaching of the Fathers all the riches that are contained in them. Quite often, however, theologians find the truth so meagre that they no longer know how to make it bear fruit and they go to seek novelty in error. After hearing their Modernist preaching, people lose the faith.
“ The ‘ subtle Doctor ’ needs to be freed from this system that hems him in but is not his. One needs to be on the look out to catch his brilliance, then forgive him his dismal overlong passages of a metaphysics grown old before proving useful. ” (ibid.)
In order to replace it, “ a new discourse, modern in form on the eternal mystery of Jesus has to be attempted, with the help of Holy Scripture and the Fathers and in accordance with the dogmas of our Faith, ” wrote our Father who made every effort to do this during his lifetime (Kerygmatics, CRC no. 64, January 1973).
This is precisely what our Pope Francis does in his daily preaching.
“ Theology also shares in the ecclesial form of faith; its light is the light of the believing subject which is the Church. ”
It follows that “ the interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures cannot only be an individual scientific effort, ” Pope Francis said to the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. “ Rather, it must always be confronted, inserted and authenticated by the living Tradition of the Church. This rule is decisive in order to explain the correct and reciprocal relationship between exegesis and the Magisterium of the Church. ” (April 12, 2013 )
“ This implies, on the one hand, that theology must be at the service of the faith of Christians, that it must work humbly to protect and deepen the faith of everyone, especially ordinary believers. On the other hand, because it draws its life from faith, theology cannot consider the Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him as something extrinsic, a limitation of its freedom, but rather as one of its internal, constitutive dimensions, for the Magisterium ensures our contact with the primordial source and thus provides the certainty of attaining to the Word of Christ in all its integrity. ”
In other words, theology must be of service to the Pope and the bishops in keeping and handing down the deposit of the Faith, i.e., what has universally been “ the faith of everyone ” and, has always been in “ contact with the primordial source, ” which is considered certain.