Friday, July 5, 2013

Initial Observations: Lumen Fidei

Well, I know it's been a while since I've written anything, so I apologize if I have kept anyone hanging. I have been quite busy with a great many "professional development" things, such as sharpening languages, preparation for teaching, and paying important visits.

But what a momentous day, no? A new encyclical and two new papal saints! Soon--i.e., sometime in 2013--we will say "Pope St. John XXIII" and "Pope St. John Paul II" (and many of us will add, "the Great"). Wow!

And now, we have this glorious encyclical, which I jealously add that my Eastern Time friends have had a 3+ hours start on my reading. I say "+" because of a trip to the mechanic.

My initial thoughts are that this encyclical is quite obviously Ratzingerian. First of all, Pope Francis says as much (cf. LF, 7). Secondly, the encyclical picks up right away with the "I-thou"/"we-thou" language that is so characteristic of much of Benedict's writing and ecclesial theology (cf. LF, 8, 39, and 43). Thirdly, the structure seems to conform to how Pope Benedict typically structured his encyclicals on hope and charity (his social encyclical follows a slightly different structure): introduction, encyclical topic seen through the lens of salvation history, a thoroughgoing theological exposition, a relation to contemporary crises or questions, finishing with a catechesis on the Blessed Virgin's relation to the topic of the encyclical and a dedicatory prayer of entrustment to her patronage. That's a bit of an overly simplistic outline, so I beg pardon for that. Having read much of what Pope Benedict wrote about Our Lady (see my paper in De Maria Numquam Satis), I am convinced that all or nearly all of LF 58-60 came from his own hand.

The continuity between the two pontificates is manifest beautifully in the very promulgation of this encyclical. Will it be predominately Ratzingerian? I don't know yet, but I am looking forward to reading the rest of it for this blessed Year of Faith!

Happy reading to you as well! Link: Lumen Fidei


Update, roughly 3 p.m. PDT: 25 paragraphs in, and I am utterly captivated by this encyclical. This seems to be the last word of the Benedict XVI pontificate to the Church, as the overtones from his writing style and theological emphases are present throughout, from the introduction of the encyclical and onward. ...

Update, roughly 3:30 p.m. PDT: Pausing to illuminate my favorite Lumen Fidei quotes:

"... Faith understands that something so apparently ephemeral and fleeting as a word, when spoken by the God who is fidelity, becomes absolutely certain and unshakable, guaranteeing the continuity of our journey through history. Faith accepts this word as a solid rock upon which we can build, a straight highway on which we can travel ..." (LF, 10).

"... If love is not tied to truth, it falls prey to fickle emotions and cannot stand the test of time. True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life. Without truth, love is incapable of establishing a firm bond; it cannot liberate our isolated ego or redeem it from the fleeting moment in order to create life and bear fruit" (LF, 27).

"... One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us ..." (LF, 34).

"... Faith is necessarily ecclesial; it is professed from within the body of Christ as a concrete communion of believers. It is against this ecclesial backdrop that faith opens the individual Christian towards all others ..." (LF, 22).

"How does one attain this synthesis between hearing and seeing? It becomes possible through the person of Christ himself, who can be seen and heard. He is the Word made flesh, whose glory we have seen (cf. Jn 1:14). The light of faith is the light of a countenance in which the Father is seen ..." (LF, 30).

"There is an urgent need, then, to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim. The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence... (LF, 4).

"... Clearly, theology is impossible without faith ..." (LF, 36). Preach!

Update, roughly 4:15 p.m. PDT: Finished! Now going to let it soak in a bit. I do hope you read it. It reads very much like a whole for a document composed "with four hands," as Francis has said. Very accessible.