Preparing our hearts and minds for both comings of Christ, His final return at the end of times and His nativity, is the reason for Advent. Last week we reflected on the hope that is prevalent throughout the season – indeed throughout every disciple’s journey. This evening I wanted to look into what allows us to have this constant hope – faith. It is faith that provides meaning to our existence because it is faith that allows God’s revelation to be fruitful. Faith unlocks the hope, it brings us to the fullness of humanness. We believe. We are receptive to the divine.
As we might infer from this dynamic of revelation and faith; faith is not a self-initiated interior process that leads to an individual an understanding of God – that would be a philosophy. It is brought about by, initiated by, an external authority. We don’t reflect to the truth – we are given the truth and reflect upon it in our hearts. In short, faith is the acceptance of a reality brought about from without that we then journey towards. The response that starts us on this journey of faith is ‘Credo’ – ‘I Believe’. It is proclaimed first from within (in our heart and mind); then outwards.
‘I believe’ should also be the hermeneutic for this evening’s reflection. So, in regards to faith, what do we mean when we say I believe? Do we really believe or give lip service to the words?
When I say ‘I Believe’ I am affirming this action of faith that is stirred within from something outside of me. Someone has told me, I didn’t think it up; couldn’t, however detailed and flawless my logic is. When I say ‘I Believe’ in regards to faith it is authoritative. It doesn’t contain any of the relative doubt that we attach to that phrase when used in other aspects of our life. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in his book Introduction to Christianity: ‘The phrase could literally be translated by ‘I hand myself over to.’, ‘I assent to’’The powerful reality behind Credo should cause our lives to change. By proclaiming ‘I believe’ we are new people reconfigured by faith, faith in the Triune God. Again, Cardinal Ratzinger from the same book: ‘the true nature of faith or belief is clearly a conversion, an about-turn, a shift of being.’
So as we continue our Advent journey let’s look within and reflect on what we mean when we say ‘I Believe’ for the answer to that query will determine how fruitful our Advent season will be and how our faith will affect us. Is it a rote proclamation without much weight; or is it a proclamation of intensity, of certitude? When we say Credo do we hunger for the reality behind the words and look for ways to change; or do we let these words drift away from us and not affect our life?
Brothers and Sisters, let’s open our mind and our hearts to the gift of faith; so that every time we say ‘I believe’ the words of St. Thomas Aquinas become an actuality in each of us.
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Præstet fides supplementum
Lo! o’er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.