Sunday, September 1, 2013

Book Review: Lumen Fidei by Pope Francis

Lumen Fidei by Pope Francis

 Just to throw in a little variety, here is a review of the recent encyclical for our Sunday post! A new church will be posted next week.

Pope Benedict XVI planned to write a trilogy of encyclicals on the three theological virtues: Deus Caritas Est on love, Spe Salvi on hope, and a third on faith. He retired before completing the encyclical on faith, handing over the draft he had to the newly elected Pope Francis. Francis made his own revisions and has published it as his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei.

Trying to tease out which parts were written by Benedict and which by Francis completely misses the point of the encyclical. It is a teaching on the Catholic understanding of faith, not a personal account or opinion. While different persons may come at it from different angles or focus on different facets, the same core jewel, the faith given by God to men through grace, is the substance. Having two view points blended gives a richer view; breaking them apart focuses on the person of the author rather than the subject at hand.

Faith is looked at in the historical context, from Abraham and the Jewish tradition into the Christian era and even as it is seen in modern times. Even though the history of faith is dominated by individuals, those individuals work in service of their society to make the faith grow and to be a witness to God's love and fidelity in their lives.

The emphasis on community may surprise modern ears used to radical individualism. The continuity of faith through time and space, i.e. from the Jewish roots in the Middle East spreading out to the whole of the earth, requires the transmission of faith from person to person, from people to people. The individual is limited and cannot grasp the fullness of the faith merely through solitary study. We are called to be brothers and sisters through Christ, to help each other in understanding and living our faith. We depend on His grace to give authenticity to our knowledge and our actions.

Thus faith takes its concrete form in the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. All men and women are called to be not just a part of Christ but to be with Christ in the plan of salvation. In order to understand our place, we need the light of faith to show us the true path. Faith becomes not just an intellectual pursuit but even more a guide to action, a way to live with others, seeing Christ in others.

This encyclical provides profound but not difficult concepts for study and meditation and for grown in faith.

Quote on idols:
Martin Buber once cited a definition of idolatry proposed by the rabbi of Kotsk: idolatry is "when a face addresses a face which is not a face". [footnote: M. Buber, Die Erzahlungen der Chassidim, Zurich, 1949, 793.] In place of faith in God, it seems better to worship an idol, into whose face we can look directly and whose origin we know, because it is the work of our own hands. 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). Idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the centre of reality and worshipping the work of our own hands. [13; note I have the British English translation, hence some of the spellings and punctuation that are not normal for American English]

1 comment:

  1. Great review! Totally agree with what you have to say about the Benedict/Francis authorship.