Monday, 29 July 2013

Anglican implications of the new papal encyclical LUMEN FIDEI

For Anglicans and others seeking meaning in their lives through the light of the faith this letter from the Holy Father is an opportunity to deepen what is already shared with all Catholics. This encyclical is an illumination of the complementarity of reason with faith. 

Addressing Enlightenment, modern and post-modern critiques of faith, the encyclical refers to Rousseau, Nietzsche and other critics of Christian faith. The Pope expands the conversation of faith with reason through references to science, sacred Scripture, the Fathers, philosophy and literature from Dante to Dostoyevsky.

The Encyclical lays out a universal claim which will appeal to many who see the emptiness of secularity and the dead-end that the spirit of the present age is leading to in some dying branches of Christian society -- those that once held to apostolic faith and order.

Pope Francis, using the theological insights of his predecessor Pope Benedict, collaborates to lay out markers on the path of faith for those who are seeking to find or deepen faith as well as 
for those who are involved in promoting the New Evangelization. 

This magisterial teaching expresses the importance of faith through which we may perceive the transcendent love of God reaching out to us in the person of Christ as opposed to self-willed narratives of individualism or putative self-illumination. Lumen Fidei states: 

"The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: In a word, it must come from God. Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love. 

. . . . Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment and that a vision of the future opens before us      . . . . We come to see that faith does not dwell in shadow and gloom; it is a light for our darkness. Dante . . . describes that light as a 'spark, which then becomes a burning flame and like a heavenly star within me glimmers' . . .

Echoing the language and reasoning with faith found in Chapter 5 of John Henry Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua, the encyclical builds on the writings of Newman which have so profoundly influenced Benedict's theology over the decades since Vatican II.

In an age which is paralyzed with cynicism and wedded to the cult of individualism, the clear announcement of God's incarnational love and the possibility of a personal relationship with the divine persons of the Triune God through the Body of Christ - the Catholic Church - is a clarion call to those who are floating on a sea of hopeless unbelief, fear or isolating spiritualities which look only within.

Rich in its references to classical thinkers, the papal letter also challenges the easy assumptions of the "New Atheism" while warmly affirming the sacramental life which nurtures those seeking meaning and fulness in an outward-looking life of love and service.

As the universal pastor, the Holy Father offers his reflections on the path of collaboration with God in the ministry of his one universal and apostolic Church. It is a message of  welcome to all and a message which affirms the truths which both natural law and reason express in the many human traditions that reflect, in different ways, the one true light.

Many Anglicans, Protestants and others adrift on what some have called a "Sea of Faith" are looking for a sure harbour within which families and individuals can be nurtured after voyages that so many have found are uncharted and often misdirected.

In this encyclical which completes a cycle based upon the three theological virtues (love, hope and faith) begun by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Holy Father affirms that all relationships are truly seen only in the light of God's trinitarian self-giving love which sheds light on the path to hope and love, a path which all human individuals and societies must seek using reason in the light of faith.

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