So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pope Francis: 2015 Homily for the Easter Vigil

Pope Francis
Easter Vigil

We cannot live Easter without entering into the mystery. It is not something intellectual, something we only know or read about… It is more, much more! [Leaving aside for the moment a deeper understanding of the intellectual dimension of believing and faith, let us entertain the Holy Father's proposal.]

“To enter into the mystery” means the ability to wonder, to contemplate; the ability to listen to the silence and to hear the tiny whisper amid great silence by which God speaks to us (cf 1 Kgs 19:12).

To enter into the mystery demands that we not be afraid of reality: that we not be locked into ourselves, that we not flee from what we fail to understand, that we not close our eyes to problems or deny them, that we not dismiss our questions [fides quaerens intellectum, perhaps?].

To enter into the mystery means going beyond our own comfort zone, beyond the laziness and indifference which hold us back, and going out in search of truth, beauty and love [The transcendentals! All the more reason for beautiful ritual!]. It is seeking a deeper meaning, an answer, and not an easy one, to the questions which challenge our faith, our fidelity and our very existence. [Is this not the domain of the intellect?]

To enter into the mystery, we need humility, the lowliness to abase ourselves, to come down from the pedestal of our “I” which is so proud, of our presumption; the humility not to take ourselves so seriously, recognizing who we really are: creatures with strengths and weaknesses, sinners in need of forgiveness [who trust in the grace of God?].

To enter into the mystery we need the lowliness that is powerlessness, the renunciation of our idols… in a word, we need to adore. Without adoration, we cannot enter into the mystery.

"[The mystery] is not something intellectual, something we only know or read about."
Is the mystery of which the Holy Father speaks a continuum, a receding horizon toward which we gaze, realizing that God is, this side of heaven, both farther from us than we can know or imagine and yet nearer to us that we can possibly be to ourselves and to each other? Has not God reached out to us in Jesus Christ? Is it not true that the mystery of the Person of Jesus Christ overcomes the apparent dichotomy between the transcendent and immanent aspects of the divine without obliterating the distinctions between Christ's two natures, human and divine, in one person?

Perhaps the Holy Father meant that the Paschal mystery is something beyond the rational but also a reality that fulfills our need for truth, for what is mystery but the living Truth coming into focus as we apply our God-given minds, as best we can, to the mystery? To be sure, we, in our limited intellectual capacity as human beings, can only know a snippet of the life of God this side of heaven. That does not mean, however, that God cannot perfect nature (i.e., our understanding) with grace. Quite the contrary, God gives His grace to illuminate human nature and perfect it. God gives grace which allows us, in our weakness while repenting of sin, to more fully give our assent to His truth and love and mercy and thereby enter into an ever deepening intimate communion of love with Him, a love that informs our minds and hearts with saving knowledge.
Grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.—St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part 1, 1:8.
Faith is hardly a static enterprise. Faith grows or it recedes; faith increases or it decreases. We cooperate with grace or we do not. We respond or we do not respond to God's invitation to relationship. How do we know how to respond if not by employing the powers of the faculty of intellect?

One sure way to inhibit spiritual growth is to assume the spiritual life requires little or no commitment of either the intellect or will. Either conclusion, i.e., little investment or no investment, would annihilate the fact that man is called by God to ongoing repentance, that each person is called to work out his salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) so that he may freely cooperate with God's grace to grow in holiness.

We may very well read Scripture and be drawn by the word of God closer to the Word of God, Jesus Christ, for He is mediated through His word. Hence, "ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ"—St. Jerome. The intellect receives and processes the truth which it perceives, and the will then is configured to that truth, or not if one is habituated to a particular sin. We should all be careful no to drive a wedge between the heart and the head when approaching mystery.

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