Excerpts from Lumen Fidei, The Light of Faith (Part 3)

In the Easter liturgy, the light of the paschal candle lights countless other candles.  Faith is [likewise] passed on, we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another. (§37)

The transmission of the faith not only brings light to men and women in every place; it travels through time, passing from one generation to another. …It is through an unbroken chain of witnesses that we come to see the face of Jesus. But how is this possible? How can we be certain, after all these centuries, that we have encountered the “real Jesus”? Were we merely isolated individuals… a certainty of this sort would be impossible. I cannot possibly verify for myself something which happened so long ago. But this is not the only way we attain knowledge. …Faith’s past, that act of Jesus’ love which brought new life to the world, comes down to us through the memory of others — witnesses — and is kept alive in that one remembering subject which is the Church. …The love which is the Holy Spirit and which dwells in the Church unites every age and makes us contemporaries of Jesus…. (§38)

It is impossible to believe on our own. Faith is not simply an individual decision which takes place in the depths of the believer’s heart, nor a completely private relationship between the “I” of the believer and the divine “Thou,” between an autonomous subject and God. By its very nature, faith is open to the “We” of the Church; it always takes place within her communion.(§39)

The Church, like every family, passes on to her children the whole store of her memories. But how does this come about in a way that nothing is lost, but rather everything in the patrimony of faith comes to be more deeply understood? It is through the apostolic Tradition preserved in the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit that we enjoy a living contact with the foundational memory. …For transmitting a purely doctrinal content, an idea might suffice, or perhaps a book, or the repetition of a spoken message. But what is communicated in the Church, what is handed down in her living Tradition, is the new light born of an encounter with the true God…. There is a special means for passing down this fullness, a means capable of engaging the entire person, body and spirit, interior life and relationships with others. It is the sacraments, celebrated in the Church’s liturgy. (§40)

The transmission of faith occurs first and foremost in baptism. Some might think that baptism is merely a way of symbolizing the confession of faith, a [teaching] tool for those who require images and signs, while in itself ultimately unnecessary. An observation of Saint Paul about baptism reminds us that this is not the case (see Romans 6:4). (§41)

[Baptism] is not an act which someone can perform on his own, but rather something which must be received by entering into the ecclesial communion which transmits God’s gift. No one baptizes himself, just as no one comes into the world by himself. Baptism is something we receive. (§41)

The sacramental character of faith finds its highest expression in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a precious nourishment for faith: an encounter with Christ truly present in the supreme act of his love, the life-giving gift of himself. In the Eucharist we find the intersection of faith’s two dimensions. On the one hand, there is the dimension of history…. On the other hand, we also find the dimension which leads from the visible world to the invisible. (§44)

[These] are the four elements which comprise the storehouse of memory which the Church hands down: the profession of faith, the celebration of the sacraments, the path of the ten commandments, and prayer. …TheCatechism of the Catholic Church, [which is structured on these four elements] is a fundamental aid for that unitary act with which the Church communicates the entire content of her faith: “all that she herself is, and all that she believes.” (§46)

These days we can imagine a group of people being united in a common cause, in mutual affection, in sharing the same destiny and a single purpose. But we find it hard to conceive of a unity in one truth. We tend to think that a unity of this sort is incompatible with freedom of thought and personal autonomy. Yet the experience of love shows us that a common vision is possible, for through love we learn how to see reality through the eyes of others, not as something which impoverishes but instead enriches our vision. Genuine love, after the fashion of God’s love, ultimately requires truth, and the shared contemplation of the truth which is Jesus Christ enables love to become deep and enduring. (§46)

Faith is also one because it is directed to the one Lord, to the life of Jesus, to the concrete history which he shares with us. St. Irenaeus of Lyons made this clear in his struggle against Gnosticism [which contrasted the crude, fleshy faith of the many & the enlightened, spiritual faith of the few.] St. Irenaeus insisted that there is but one faith, for it is grounded in the concrete event of the incarnation and can never transcend the flesh and history of Christ, inasmuch as God willed to reveal himself fully in that flesh. For this reason, he says, there is no difference in the faith of “those able to discourse of it at length” and “those who speak but little.” (§47)

Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity. Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole. Each period of history can find this or that point of faith easier or harder to accept: hence the need for vigilance in ensuring that the deposit of faith is passed on in its entirety (see 1 Timothy 6:20) and that all aspects of the profession of faith are duly emphasized. Indeed, inasmuch as the unity of faith is the unity of the Church, to subtract something from the faith is to subtract something from the veracity of communion. (§48)

As a service to the unity of faith and its integral transmission, the Lord gave his Church the gift of apostolic succession. …She depends on the fidelity of witnesses chosen by the Lord for this task. …Thanks to the Church’s magisterium, [the whole counsel of God] can come to us in its integrity, and with it the joy of being able to follow it fully. (§49)

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