Friday, the Vatican published Lumen Fidei, a papal encyclical initiated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and brought to fruition by Pope Francis.
A papal encyclical is a letter written by a pope that regards Church teaching, is authoritative but not infallible, and is appropriately followed by #BOOM when referenced on Twitter, ’cause popes are brilliant and what they write routinely blows my mind.
Lumen Fidei – the light of faith – is written to bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, and the lay faithful. This is code for “everyone who is truly Catholic.” But in reading Lumen Fidei in full this morning, I have come to this conclusion:
Every Christian, Catholic or not, ought to read it.
Lumen Fidei clarifies faith for us while we live in a culture that muddies it. Pope Francis defines faith and dissects it, connects it to our senses and to hope and truth and love, and puts the rumor to rest that Catholics believe we are saved by works (Spoiler alert: we don’t!).
Here are some of my favorite excerpts:
- “…faith, hope and charity are the driving force of the Christian life as it advances toward full communion with God.”
- “Faith is linked to hearing. … Faith is our response to a word which engages us personally, to a ‘Thou’ who calls us by name.”
- “…faith, as remembrance of the future, memoria futuri, is thus closely bound up with hope.”
- “Before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security, for idols ‘have mouths, but they cannot speak’ (Ps. 115:5).”
- “Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes; it is a participation in his way of seeing.”
- “Paul rejects the attitude of those who would consider themselves justified before God on the basis of their own works. Such people, even when they obey the commandments and do good works, are centered on themselves; they fail to realize that goodness comes from God. those who live this way, who want to be the source of their own righteousness, find that the latter is soon depleted and that they are unable even to keep the law. They become closed in on themselves and isolated from the Lord and from others; their lives becomes futile and their works barren, like a tree far from water. … As Saint Paul puts it, ‘By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God’ (Eph. 2:8).”
- “Unless you believe, you will not understand.”
- “Today more than ever, we need to be reminded of this bond between faith and truth, given the crisis of truth in our age. In contemporary culture, … truth is what works and what makes life easier and more comfortable. … In the end, what we are left with is relativism, in which the question of universal truth – and ultimately this means the question of God – is no longer relevant.”
- “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-centeredness and towards another person. …”
- “Love and truth are inseparable. Without love, truth becomes cold, impersonal and oppressive for people’s day-to-day lives.”
- “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.”
- “Faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others.”
- “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.”
- We “cannot truthfully recite the words of the creed without being changed.”
- “Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. it makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love.”
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Click here to read Lumen Fidei in full.