Monday, February 09, 2015

The Act of Faith: An Act of Self-gift empowered By the Father Whereby One Becomes “Another Christ, Christ Himself.”

Here is the revolution for our day concerning the meaning of Christian faith after reducing it to propositional truths for over a millennium. The Habilitation thesis of Joseph Ratzinger distinguishes between revelation and faith.  Revelation is a Person. Faith is an act of the human person whereby he goes out of himself, converts from himself, does an about-turn and in so doing becomes, to some degree, Christ himself Who is the Revelation of the Father. Hence, Revelation as the Person of Christ cannot be identified with the printed words of Scripture but their source. He comments that you cannot put Revelation in your pocket, but you can put Scripture there. You experience Revelation by prayer, the act that mimics the Logos of the Father as pure relation and self-gift to Him.

From a short discourse by Saint Bonaventure, bishop
He who knows Jesus Christ can understand all sacred Scripture (2nd Reading of the Office of Reading of Monday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time).

The source of sacred Scripture was not human research but divine revelation. This revelation comes from the Father of Light from whom the whole concept of fatherhood in heaven and on earth derives. From him, through Jesus Christ his Son, the Holy Spirit enters into us. Then, through the Holy Spirit who allots and apportions his gifts to each person as he wishes, we receive the gift of faith, and through faith Christ lives in our hearts. So we come to know Christ and this knowledge becomes the main source of a firm understanding of the truth of all sacred Scripture. It is impossible, therefore, for anyone to achieve this understanding unless he first receives the gift of faith in Christ. This faith is the foundation of the whole Bible, a lamp and a key to its understanding. As long as our earthly state keeps us from seeing the Lord, this same faith is the firm basis of all supernatural enlightenment, the light guiding us to it, and the doorway through which we enter upon it. What is more, the extent of our faith is the measure of the wisdom which God has given us. Thus, no one should overestimate his wisdom; instead, he should soberly make his assessment according to the extent of the faith which God has given him.
[Me: Notice that faith does not come from reading scripture. It comes from the Father (“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him…” Jn. 6, 44). Our earthly state, which is sin, keeps us turned back on ourselves and is, as it were, a “veil” over our intelligence. Ratzinger describes faith as an act of “conversion:” “ Man’s natural center of gravity draws him to the visible, to what he can take in his hand and hold as his own. He has to turn round inwardly in order to see how badly he is neglecting his own interests by letting himself be drawn along in this way by his natural center orf gravity. He must turn round to recognize how blind he is if he trusts only what he sees wit his eyes. Without this change of direction, iwithout this resistance to the natural center of gravity, there can be no belief. In eed belief is the con-version in which man discovers that he is following an illusion if he devotes himself only to the tangible. This is at the same time the fundamental reason why belief is not demonstrable: it is an about-turn; only he who turns about is receptive to it; and because our center of gravity does not cease to incline us in another direction it remains a turn that is new every day; only in a lifelong conversion can we become aware of what it means to say ‘I believe.’”

The outcome or the fruit of reading holy Scripture is by no means negligible: it is the fullness of eternal happiness. For these are the books which tell us of eternal life, which were written not only that we might believe but also that we might have everlasting life. When we do live that life we shall understand fully, we shall love completely, and our desires will be totally satisfied. Then, with all our needs fulfilled, we shall truly know the love that surpasses understanding and so be filled with the fullness of God. The purpose of the Scriptures, which come to us from God, is to lead us to this fullness according to the truths contained in those sayings of the apostles to which I have referred. In order to achieve this, we must study holy Scripture carefully, and teach it and listen to it in the same way.
If we are to attain the ultimate goal of eternal happiness by the path of virtue described in the Scriptures, we have to begin at the very beginning. We must come with a pure faith to the Father of Light and acknowledge him in our hearts. We must ask him to give us, through his Son and in the Holy Spirit, a true knowledge of Jesus Christ, and along with that knowledge a love of him. Knowing and loving him in this way, confirmed in our faith and grounded in our love, we can know the length and breadth and height and depth of his sacred Scripture. Through that knowledge we can come at last to know perfectly and love completely the most blessed Trinity, whom the saints desire to know and love and in whom all that is good and true finds its meaning and fulfillment.

Notice how congenial the notion of faith as self-gift is with the Sacrament of Baptism which introduces the person into the suffering and death of Christ. That is, Baptism is the sacrament of faith whereby the person undergoes a death-event in self-giving. This is the basis of all the baptized being called to the heights of sanctity in ordinary secular life. It is the gift of self to death on the occasion of the ordinary way which is matrimony and secular work. It is the basis of matrimony being a heroic life of self gift of spouses to each other and being open to children. And since the spouses are uniquely the ministers of this sacrament, the validity of the sacrament.

                Let me put it this way: if Baptism isn’t a death event, how can ordinary life be a way of heroic and canonizable sanctity?  And the Church says it is.

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