Light, life, love… this is the essence of the dance.
Turning now to the first encyclical of Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, we encounter this dance as a waltz. Yes Pope Benedict’s brilliant swan song is a Waltz of God’s Flowers, a waltz of light, life and love.
Pope Benedict composed this symphony. Pope Francis added the coda and it is he who must conduct the stellar performance.
Light (181), Life (149), Love (167)…those three haloed words in fourteen triads.
I. A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God. Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives.
II. On the one hand, it is a light coming from the past, the light of the foundational memory of the life of Jesus which revealed his perfectly trustworthy love, a love capable of triumphing over death.
III. For Abraham, faith in God sheds light on the depths of his being, it enables him to acknowledge the wellspring of goodness at the origin of all things and to realize that his life is not the product of non-being or chance, but the fruit of a personal call and a personal love.
IV. Had the Father’s love not caused Jesus to rise from the dead, had it not been able to restore his body to life, then it would not be a completely reliable love, capable of illuminating also the gloom of death.
V. True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life.
VI. The truth we seek, the truth that gives meaning to our journey through life, enlightens us whenever we are touched by love.
VII. Once we discover the full light of Christ’s love, we realize that each of the loves in our own lives had always contained a ray of that light, and we understand its ultimate destination.
VIII. In this circular movement, the light of faith illumines all our human relationships, which can then be lived in union with the gentle love of Christ.
IX. The light of love proper to faith can illumine the questions of our own time about truth. Truth nowadays is often reduced to the subjective authenticity of the individual, valid only for the life of the individual.
X. Nor is the light of faith, joined to the truth of love, extraneous to the material world, for love is always lived out in body and spirit; the light of faith is an incarnate light radiating from the luminous life of Jesus.
XI. To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith. They strive to act as if God existed, at times because they realize how important he is for finding a sure compass for our life in common or because they experience a desire for light amid darkness, but also because in perceiving life’s grandeur and beauty they intuit that the presence of God would make it all the more beautiful.
XII. The integrity of the faith was also tied to the image of the Church as a virgin and her fidelity in love for Christ her spouse; harming the faith means harming communion with the Lord. The unity of faith, then, is the unity of a living body; this was clearly brought out by Blessed John Henry Newman when he listed among the characteristic notes for distinguishing the continuity of doctrine over time its power to assimilate everything that it meets in the various settings in which it becomes present and in the diverse cultures which it encounters, purifying all things and bringing them to their finest expression. Faith is thus shown to be universal, catholic, because its light expands in order to illumine the entire cosmos and all of history.
XIII. Faith is born of an encounter with God’s primordial love, wherein the meaning and goodness of our life become evident; our life is illumined to the extent that it enters into the space opened by that love, to the extent that it becomes, in other words, a path and praxis leading to the fullness of love. The light of faith is capable of enhancing the richness of human relations, their ability to endure, to be trustworthy, to enrich our life together.
XIV. The apostle himself experienced a dying which would become life for Christians (cf. 2 Cor 4:7-12). In the hour of trial faith brings light, while suffering and weakness make it evident that “we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Cor 4:5). The eleventh chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews concludes with a reference to those who suffered for their faith (cf. Heb 11:35-38); outstanding among these was Moses, who suffered abuse for the Christ (cf. v. 26). Christians know that suffering cannot be eliminated, yet it can have meaning and become an act of love and entrustment into the hands of God who does not abandon us; in this way it can serve as a moment of growth in faith and love.
Yes, this encyclical is anchored in three keywords: Light, Life and Love. I only wish the two pontiffs had stated it as simply and directly.
Each of these words is under attack: Light by false lights, Life by alternative lifestyles and Love by lust. However when the three L's are fused into one there is a triple cord strength (Ecclesiastes 4:12) that repels the attack.
This trinitarian interplay is borne out in these fourteen key passages in the encyclical.
Reread in this light we see that the light of faith which is Truth (Jesus) is an absolute standard upon which we are to base our lives. There is no wiggle room.
We are in an age of apostasy and this message is greatly needed.
The real question... is anyone open enough to listen and obey.
I’ll email a color coded MS Word doc of Lumen Fidei to anyone who desires it. (firstname.lastname@example.org)