The very light that guides our path
Deacon Pedro Guevara Mann
Producer, Salt and Light Catholic Television Network
In Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict wrote: “Faith is a personal act - the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.” (166) – This was a document meant to set us out on a journey of discovery during the Year of Faith. It was meant to help the Church reflect on and re-discover our Faith.
And now with Lumen Fidei, both Popes give us food for that journey. Faith is not just something that we learn or can know, but it is the very light that guides our path. Without it, “everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere.” (3) This Encyclical truly strengthens us “in the priceless treasure of that faith which God has given as a light for humanity’s path.” (9)
I had never really thought about Faith so much, yet this document forces us to see Faith as it truly is not just belief, as integral to life and in everything: Faith as love, faith as fullness, faith as understanding, faith as reason, faith as theology, faith as gift. Indeed, faith as light!
That light from which all other flames are ignited
Producer, Salt and Light Catholic Television Network
Reading the encyclical The Light of Faith, I thought about the vague sense of uneasiness (or existential anxiety) we live with in the Western world. Our lives, rudderless in the stream of “aimless instants” leads many to ask, where is meaning found? Who and what do I belong to? Is the faith of my childhood strong enough to withstand the challenging realities that the human race faces today? The simple answer to these questions is yes. But the encyclical does a good of explaining why. So, this encyclical addresses the very heart of what plagues the doubting heart; the lack of confidence in the treasury of faith in Christ. For many people my age, I suspect there’s trepidation about testing what we believe – what if my Catholic faith, my belief in Christ disappoints? I’ll find myself alone, my hopes and dreams dashed. And in a sense, this is exactly where the disciples found themselves before the resurrection huddled in the Upper Room. Thomas wasn’t afraid of feeling disappointment, he actually experienced the heartbreak that came with believing in someone who ended up (for a short while) dashing his hopes against the ground. Indeed, without the assurance of the Resurrection, the Christian life is bound to be a heartbreaker. But Christ is Risen and the tomb is empty! So, once I read the encyclical the image that came to mind was the Easter Vigil - one of the most powerful liturgical representations of how our lives are lived in the light of faith in Christ.
Like those early apostles gathered in the Upper Room we too start out gathered in darkness, separated and perhaps even scared about the future. But then there’s the procession of the Easter candle representing Christ and it’s not as if the “light scatters all of the darkness but it’s a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey (78). The encyclical talks about how Christ embodies God’s promise. And the light of Christ, far from obscuring reality or diminishing our appraisal of it rather becomes the light from which all other flames (of understanding) are ignited. The light of Christ also spreads throughout the community, as we share the flame with one another until the place is flooded with light. This ritual symbolizes a lot of what the encyclical explains. It talks about the relationship of our belief and the power of Christ’s light in our lives and in the lives of all of those we share the Good News with. Faith is not some fleeting feeling or personal consolation its God’s promise, which will be realized. This promise is the bedrock of our existence as Christians. It literally establishes us. In gazing upon the light of Christ’s face, our own faces come into relief: transfigured, ennobled and given distinction. In other words, we become truly the likeness of our Creator through faith in Christ. We become human. Faith is also the invitation to be surprised. Isn’t that wonderful? How many things truly surprise us? Faith is described as an adventure, and I think that’s because it’s only once we’ve freely abandoned ourselves to the will of God that we can be students to the mysteries of Creation. It’s the mind that is truly in awe that is the best at discovering reality. So in the end, we learn that Faith far from stifling us or limiting us is the limitless horizon for thinking and creating. Given the world and the challenges that we’re faced with, it’s this type of thinking and creativity that’s required more than ever. The encyclical makes a salient point, perhaps the most salient point. That light of faith is not just for our benefit. It is for the good of others; it is a common good. Faith helps to build the City of God not just in the hereafter but now, on this earth, in these times.
The Powerful Light of Faith
McGill University Undergraduate
Summer Intern, Salt and Light Catholic Television Network
Pope Francis's Lumen Fidei sheds tremendous light on the novelty and necessity of our faith. As an undergraduate science student at McGill University, I find myself constantly confronted with the presumption that faith is some primitive and outmoded way of understanding reality; a remnant of the Dark Ages that ought to be shooed away by reason and modern science. How refreshing it is then to have such an authoritative document reminding us that faith is not some shot in the dark or a compromise of human reason but rather a light, "capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence" (Lumen Fidei 4). How important it is to hear again, in this time and cultural climate, the message that faith is important, that it is of consequence, that it is a force for good: that it is a light and not darkness. Lumen Fidei describes this light as a light that penetrates, illuminates, unifies, guides, brings hope, and binds in love. This light is the light of Christ, shining bright in the world, dispelling darkness, and leading all men to God, from whom it proceeds. In this way, faith and humanity are innately linked, for both find their origin in God.
Tracking the light of faith through the history of Israel to the modern age, Lumen Fidei articulates the intimate relation of faith and truth, presenting the Church as custodian and bearer of this powerful light, charged with bringing its radiance to the world and human society. The Church in this sense becomes a community of witnesses, transmitting this light from generation to generation in an "unbroken chain" by which people of every time and place "come to see the face of Jesus" (LF 38). Thus faith is not something vague, boring, or blind, but an intimate encounter with God, with the face and person of Jesus Christ. Through this encounter "the meaning and goodness of our life become evident" (LF 51). Faith does not pull us away from the world or detach us from our lives but causes us to delve more deeply into both, "enhancing the richness of human relations," pulling us together in fraternity and love, inspiring us with hope, and propelling us more profoundly towards the "concrete concerns of the men and women of our time" (LF 51).
This faith is not outmoded, it is not primitive, old-fashioned, or unreasonable. This faith is our light! Let us rejoice that our Holy Father is helping us perceive this with greater clarity.