Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Faith, hope, charity

Christian existence

Artlover, Three sisters

It seems that Benedict XVI had planned a trilogy of encyclicals on the theological virtues: faith, hope (cf. "Spe Salvi", 2007) and charity (cf. "Deus Caritas Est", 2005). Divine Providence has willed that the third of these encyclicals, Lumen fidei, appeared, with the collaboration of the German Pope, now emeritus, in the Year of Faith and in the pontificate of his successor, Pope Francis.

     Since the introduction we have learned about the relationship between these three virtues with reference to the saving plan of the Triune God:

The three virtues are in the heart of the divine plan

     " In God’s gift of faith, a supernaturally-infused virtue, we realize that a great love has been offered us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome that word, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh, the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along that way on wings of hope" (n. 7).

     “Therefore,” continues the Pope, “wonderfully interwoven, faith, hope and charity are the driving force of the Christian life as it advances towards full communion with God” (Ibid.). Faith, hope and charity are intimately connected energies (as if they were one into the other) in the journey of Christian life as light and love wings which together lead us toward God and others.

The three virtues are revealed in the history of salvation

     Already in the first chapter, the most biblical of the encyclical, it starts to speak of hope about Abraham's faith:

     “As a response to a word which preceded it, Abraham’s faith would always be an act of remembrance. Yet this remembrance is not fixed on past events but, as the memory of a promise, it becomes capable of opening up the future, shedding light on the path to be taken. We see how faith, as remembrance of the future, memoria futuri, is thus closely bound up with hope” (n. 9).

     The profound unity between faith, hope and love is rediscovered later, in passing from a personal vocation of Abraham to the covenant with Israel, and thus to its own mission and destiny. In that manner becomes clear the knowledge or the truth of God's love for his people and, through it, for all humanity and the created world: “Through the experience of the prophets, in the pain of exile and in the hope of a definitive return to the holy city, Israel came to see that this divine "truth" extended beyond the confines of its own history, to embrace the entire history of the world, beginning with creation” (n. 28).

The three virtues enable us to share the life of God in our personal and social life

      “Precisely because it is linked to love (cf. Ga 5:6), the light of faith is concretely placed at the service of justice, law and peace”. From his encounter with God, the believer is integrated into the dynamic of love of God and moves toward the fullness of love, living with Him in the human relationships and individual pursuits of his life in the world (cf. n. 51).

     This transformative power of faith, is what makes this virtue to be a "common good", a good for everyone which "helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope" (Ibid).

Family and youth

     This is found especially in the family and among young people at the World Youth Days (as we have just held).

     Family is based on marriage, since “promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love”; in such perspective children are seen as the fruit of cooperation with God the Creator and the result of the confidence in the generation of a new person (cf. n. 52). Supported by faith, the youth express a strong and generous commitment and the desire for a bigger life (cf. n. 53).

     And this is so because “encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives it a firm hope which will not disappoint” (n. 53).

     Ultimately, “faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness” (Ibid).

Faith helps in suffering

     Also from the experience of suffering may be discovered that the service of faith to the common good is a service of hope. This is what happens when we trust in the love of Christ crucified and risen. And that trust disposes us to experience love through concern for others:

     “The dynamic of faith, hope and charity (cf. 1 Th 1:3; 1 Cor 13:13) thus leads us to embrace the concerns of all men and women on our journey towards that city ‘whose architect and builder is God’ (Hb 11:10), for ‘hope does not disappoint’ (Rom 5:5)” (n. 57).

     And so "in union with faith and charity, hope propels us towards a sure future", away from idols and gives us a new impulse to live each day. Therefore, proposes Pope Francis, "let us refuse to be robbed of hope" by idols, proposals and immediate solutions, which only are useful for today. These responses reduce time to space, make us "crystallize" in three dimensions and prevent us from walking towards the future with hope (cf. ibid).

* * *

A new song: the Christian life as an offering and service

      In the closing Mass of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis said, regarding Psalm 95, "Sing to the Lord a new song", that this new song is not just words, it's not a melody, but the song of life, “it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service (Homily in Copacabana, 28th July 2013).

      This is what faith is (sharing the thoughts and the "vision" of reality of Jesus himself), hope (sharing his actions) and charity (sharing his feelings). So shared life in unity with Christ becomes a song of praise and offering to God and a service to others.

     Only by living it well can we transmit the Christian message. This is what makes it possible for ordinary life to have an eternal significance, makes it possible that we can "redeem the time".

     With these words Gustave Thibon concludes his book "Notre regard qui manque à la lumière” (1970):

     "The highest nobility of man and the only way of salvation lies in this rescue of time by beauty, prayer and love. Without this, our desires, our passions and all our acts are reduced to pure vanity as swirls of time that time takes away. “Everything that does not meet eternity is wasted time” (translation mine).

     And in the "Portico of the Mystery of the Second Virtue," Charles Peguy, in 1911, compares faith, hope and love to three sisters who go together hand in hand. Hope, smaller, is in the middle, almost goes unnoticed –it is little talk next about her– near her beautiful and shining sisters. But in reality it is she who sustains them and makes them advance, and without her they would lose their vigor and strength.

     Faith, hope and charity are each one in each other, interpenetrating themselves, as energies that make us, Christians, share the knowledge, love and action of Christ himself.

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