I had promised a consistent approach to non-liturgical Church teaching during this Year of Faith. I’ve fallen down a bit on that. Some might say veered off with our examination of Pacem in Terris.
I’d like to offer a corrective as we journey through the summer and take a close look at the latest papal encyclical, Lumen Fidei, which you can access here.
I hope to read through it fully a bit later this weekend, but for now, let’s look at the first section:
1. The light of Faith: this is how the Church’s tradition speaks of the great gift brought by Jesus. In John’s Gospel, Christ says of himself: “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (Jn 12:46). Saint Paul uses the same image: “God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts” (2 Cor 4:6). The pagan world, which hungered for light, had seen the growth of the cult of the sun god, Sol Invictus, invoked each day at sunrise. Yet though the sun was born anew each morning, it was clearly incapable of casting its light on all of human existence. The sun does not illumine all reality; its rays cannot penetrate to the shadow of death, the place where men’s eyes are closed to its light. “No one — Saint Justin Martyr writes — has ever been ready to die for his faith in the sun”.[Dialogus cum Tryphone Iudaeo, 121, 2: PG 6, 758.] Conscious of the immense horizon which their faith opened before them, Christians invoked Jesus as the true sun “whose rays bestow life”.[Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus, IX: PG 8, 195.] To Martha, weeping for the death of her brother Lazarus, Jesus said: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (Jn 11:40). Those who believe, see; they see with a light that illumines their entire journey, for it comes from the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets.
I was struck by the cosmic perspective of this opening section. I was considering an image of a nebula, but even there, though illuminated clouds are visible across vast stretches of space, eventually the light dies out. Even the stars of the universe will all come to an end someday. And what light will remain? Human lanterns in dark caverns in carved out planetoids?
Christians have the promise of a light for their entire journey. Follow Christ, and there will always be illumination. This is what Christian faith offers to those who believe, as well as to those who doubt.