05 July 2013

First Encyclical: Lumen Fidei

Francis' first encyclical, the most authoritative piece of teaching the Bishop of Rome generally promulgates, was published today. It is called the Light of Faith (Lumen Fidei) and was written in some collaboration with Benedict who had already done a first draft on the topic of faith as the third piece in a trilogy beginning with hope and charity. (This encyclical is, however, Francis' own and is published in his name as an exercise of his own teaching authority.) I have skimmed the text and read most of the first two chapters. There is some really lovely stuff in here. For instance, in par 13, [[Faith, tied as it is to conversion is the opposite of idolatry; it breaks with idols to turn to the living God in a personal encounter. Believing means entrusting oneself to a merciful love which always accepts and pardons, which sustains and directs our lives, and which shows its power by its ability to make straight the crooked lines of our history. Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God's call. Herein lies the paradox: by constantly turning towards the Lord, we discover a sure path which liberates us from the dissolution imposed upon us by idols.]]

In particular this passage reminded me of the readings from the past two weeks and some of the reflections I have written because of them, one regarding Abraham's representation of Israel moving away from idols towards greater and greater faith in the God who will be exhaustively revealed by and in Jesus Christ. The encyclical is readable or accessible, positive, pastorally edifying, and as far as I can tell very strongly focused on faith in and with Jesus Christ himself. The experience of the risen Lord and a reminder of the centrality of a personal commitment to Christ himself in any authentic life of faith informs every section of the text.  The link between faith and truth is strong and the encyclical moves away from any notion that reason is merely supplemented with faith. Instead faith is that reality which lights the way for reason and allows it to be fulfilled. Similarly reason serves faith. Rightly, they are correlative realities in this presentation. Again, I have only read part of the text but I highly recommend it!

One note on terminology. It seems clear that Francis did not compose the title page for the text which says it is from the "Supreme Pontiff" to the "Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Consecrated Persons, and the Lay Faithful." Francis refers in the first paragraphs to himself directly (and to Benedict) instead as "Successors of Peter" --- thus continuing to eschew "Pope", "Supreme Pontiff" or "Vicar of Christ" as titles which move away from collegiality. Meanwhile I have not heard Francis himself reverting to the older hierarchical notion of the church as being composed of clergy, consecrated persons, and laity before, so in this too do take the title page with a grain (or even a significant measure) of salt.