By Kathy Schiffer
Ave Maria Radio
Here it is! The Vatican has just released Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), the eagerly awaited first encyclical signed by Pope Francis. The encyclical completes the trilogy of papal teachings on the three theological virtues which was begun by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Pope Francis had earlier said that the encyclical would be “the work of four hands”—noting the extensive groundwork laid by Pope Benedict, who had passed along his draft after he resigned without completing the work. Although officially The Light of Faith (Lumen Fidei) is an encyclical of Francis’ and reflects his teaching ministry, it is also reflects the work of Pope Emeritus Benedict. It’s not only Francis’ first encyclical; it is also among the few encyclicals openly acknowledged to have been written by two successors of St. Peter.
Sean Patrick Lovett, reporting for Vatican Radio, noted that the new encyclical continues many of Benedict’s favorite themes, from the complementarity of faith and reason, to the joy of a personal encounter with Christ. Published in the Year of Faith, Lumen Fidei also recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, which reestablished the central role of Faith at the heart of all human relationships.
Consisting of four chapters and a short introduction, Lumen Fidei shows how Faith in the Risen Christ can lead us beyond the narrow confines of individual existence into the all-inclusive community of God’s love. Rather than ‘blind faith’, which impedes scientific progress and must be kept to the private sphere of personal convictions, we’re called to rediscover the light that can guide all people from the darkness of selfish desires towards a more just and fraternal world, grounded in the faithful promises of God the Creator.
Need a quick review? The Vatican offers eight points to ponder:
- From Paragraph 4: “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, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfilment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us.”2. From Paragraph 16: “If laying down one’s life for one’s friends is the greatest proof of love (cf. Jn 15:13), Jesus offered his own life for all, even for his enemies, to transform their hearts. This explains why the evangelists could see the hour of Christ’s crucifixion as the culmination of the gaze of faith; in that hour the depth and breadth of God’s love shone forth.”3. From Paragraph 18: “In many areas in our lives we trust others who know more than we do. We trust the architect who builds our home, the pharmacist who gives us medicine for healing, the lawyer who defends us in court. We also need someone trustworthy and knowledgeable where God is concerned. Jesus, the Son of God, is the one who makes God known to us (cf. Jn 1:18). Christ’s life, his way of knowing the Father and living in complete and constant relationship with him, opens up new and inviting vistas for human experience.”4. From Paragraph 25: “In contemporary culture, we often tend to consider the only real truth to be that of technology: truth is what we succeed in building and measuring by our scientific know-how, truth is what works and what makes life easier and more comfortable. Nowadays this appears as the only truth that is certain, the only truth that can be shared, the only truth that can serve as a basis for discussion or for common undertakings. Yet at the other end of the scale we are willing to allow for subjective truths of the individual, which consist in fidelity to his or her deepest convictions, yet these are truths valid only for that individual and not capable of being proposed to others in an effort to serve the common good. But Truth itself, the truth which would comprehensively explain our life as individuals and in society, is regarded with suspicion.”5. From Paragraph 26: “Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he or she becomes open to love. Through this blending of faith and love we come to see the kind of knowledge which faith entails, its power to convince and its ability to illumine our steps. Faith knows because it is tied to love, because love itself brings enlightenment. Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes.”6. From Paragraph 46: “The Decalogue is not a set of negative commands, but concrete directions for emerging from the desert of the selfish and self-enclosed ego in order to enter into dialogue with God, to be embraced by his mercy and then to bring that mercy to others. Faith thus professes the love of God, origin and upholder of all things, and lets itself be guided by this love in order to journey towards the fullness of communion with God. The Decalogue appears as the path of gratitude, the response of love, made possible because in faith we are receptive to the experience of God’s transforming love for us.”7. From Paragraph 52: “The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan.”8. From Paragraph 57: “Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light. In Christ, God himself wishes to share this path with us and to offer us his gaze so that we might see the light within it. Christ is the one who, having endured suffering, is “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2).”
Are you waiting to read the encyclical in its entirety? Here is the link.
Here in the United States, Ignatius Press will release the encyclical as a high-quality, hardcover, deluxe edition in August, in time for the fall celebrations of the Year of Faith. Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, said that they are honored and delighted to publish Pope Francis’ encyclical in a special hardcover edition and to get it before the reading public. “This follows what we did with Pope Benedict’s encyclicals and other works,” Brumley said.