Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Act of Faith

The Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity have long been beautiful Catholic Prayers. Some are longer, some shorter. I do not know how many Catholics still pray them, but they should be prayed daily. They are beautiful prayers, meaningful way to begin a day. They are succinct, and keep us focused upon what we do believe as Catholics. If we do read/recite them, perhaps we get in a hurry and rush through them without meditating upon them. For this reason, it is my desire to treat upon them, beginning with the Act of Faith.

What is “faith”? Paragraph 166 of the Catechism says: “Faith is a personal act - the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.”

The Act of Faith I am utilizing is from General Catholic Devotions, by Bonaventure Hammer.

"My Lord and God! I most firmly believe all that Thou hast revealed and all that Thy holy Church believes and teaches, because Thou, who art infallible Truth, hast so revealed and commanded."

“My Lord and my God!” Why “Lord” and “God”? Why not one or the other? This brings into remembrance St. Thomas, the apostle--sometimes referred to as “Doubting Thomas”—when Jesus told him to thrust his finger into His wounds to verify that He indeed had risen. “My Lord and God” is also what we say silent when the priest elevates the host during the Eucharist. “Lord and God” is not saying the same thing twice. “Lord” is someone or something having power, authority, or influence. Sarah called her husband, Abraham, “lord” (Ge 18:3). St. Peter tells us, “…Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord”… (1 Pe 4:6). “God” is defined “(in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.” [Martin Luther erred in many things, but I think his definition of “God” is good: “A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress. So, to have a God is nothing other than trusting and believing Him with the heart.”] Hence, when we pray “my Lord and God,” we are essentially saying: “You, Lord, have power over me, authority over me; You influence me. You are the Creator and Ruler of the Universe, the Source of all moral authority. You are all that is good. You are Supreme; You are God.”

“I most firmly believe”… “Firm” is an unyieldingly, in a determined and unshakable way, steadiness. When it comes to the word “believe,” we are using it in the same sense as we do in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. Paragraph 185 of the Catechism, treating on the Creeds, states: “Whoever says ‘I believe’ says ‘I pledge myself to what we believe.’ Communion in faith needs a common language of faith, normative for all and uniting all in the same confession of faith.”

“…all that Thou hast revealed and all that Thy holy Church believes and teaches, because Thou, who art infallible Truth, has so revealed and commanded.” Here, we are confessing that all the Catholic Church believes and teaches has been revealed God and is absolute truth because Jesus Christ is the Head of the Body, the Head of the Church, and He will not deceive His Body, the Church. If we do not believe this, then we must believe that truth is relative, that whatever we sincerely believe is truth, although we know that that is false because we have all sincerely believed something which later proved to be false. The Catholic Church has to be right; otherwise, we perish for we will not know Truth or where truth lies. This is why there must be One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church. TT