What is Faith?
Cf Catechism, Part One, Section One, Chapter One and paras 203-21
"Somewhere there is something worthy of belief" (Alfred Bester, Tiger, Tiger).
"The instinct of faith is an uplifting of the heart and a reaching over and above everything that happens" (Caussade).
"Blessed are those who have believed in the invisible world which compels no belief in itself" (Nicholas Berdyaev).
"Fear (not doubt) is the opposite of faith" (Paul Ostreicher).
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Faith cannot arise from a sense of duty: it is not even a settled state of intellectual conviction. Faith is an act of the heart, and only love can really move the heart. Faith therefore cannot be compelled, because love requires freedom. Faith is a free act, and a creative one.
"When I say, ‘God is’, or ‘Man is immortal’, I effect a creative act" (Nicholas Berdyaev).
"True freedom does not consist in manipulating possibilities but in creating them" (Raimundo Panikkar).
We cannot be saved from our finitude without a faith that reaches beyond the finite. Therefore the act of faith, which is akin to the act of trust – in this case trust in that which transcends all that we can see – is the peak of human freedom, but also the essence of human spontaneity and the peak of human creativity. It is an act of sheer openness to being, capacity to be filled by the infinite. Our completion as creatures depends on our openness. Even Omnipotence is bound by its own wisdom: it cannot complete us without our cooperation.
What we "create", in this act which is both human and divine, is not the living truth, for that exists without us and forever. What we create is a self that is open to the God it believes in.
To have faith is to trust in the highest conceivable good. What else would give meaning to our existence, even if it happened that we were deceived? A life lived in dedication to the highest imaginable values is the noblest life possible, even if those values live and die with us. You could call this "the Principle of Maximal Meaning".
To have faith is also to believe in the real existence of that highest good, as much as may be necessary to have trust in it. As a continually renewed act of trust, faith concerns the will more than the intellect or reason, and love more than knowledge. If it is well founded, it will end in knowledge, but it begins in darkness, as Touch not as Sight. It does not contradict reason, but it involves us in going further than reason alone can take us. Firstly, because we may have to take on trust statements that we can neither prove nor disprove. Secondly, because no matter how strongly we are persuaded that there is someone to catch us, we still have to make an act of faith to jump off a high ledge.
"By faith the Christian soul enters, as it were, into marriage with God: ‘I will espouse thee to me in faith’. Natural reason, the testimonies of the Law and Prophets, the preaching of the Apostles and others – these three lead us to faith in Christ. But once a person has been led to believe, then can he confess that these are not the reasons why he believes; instead his motive is divine truth itself…. A truth of faith is assented to because the will so commands, not because the inner evidence is immediately seen or inferred…. [The] believer’s mind is made up for him by his will, which is moved by its own object, namely the good which draws him to his final goal" (Thomas Aquinas).
"A dogma is not only an article of faith to be believed; it is also a task to be achieved" (Victor White).
Living from Faith
"We get discouraged and feel despair because we brood about the past and the future. It is such folly to pass one’s time fretting, instead of resting quietly on the heart of Jesus." (St Therese)
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"Truth melts like snow in the hands of one who does not melt like snow in the hands of truth." (Bastami)
"It is impossible to forgive someone else’s offenses whole-heartedly without true knowledge; for this knowledge shows to every man that what befalls him belongs to himself." (Mark the Ascetic, from The Philokalia)
"In the same way as our thoughts and words are transmitted by air, so are God’s conveyed by all we are given to do and suffer." (Caussade)
‘What you have become is the price you paid to get what you used to want.’ (Mignon McLaughlin)
"God is infinite in his simplicity and simple in his infinity. Therefore he is everywhere, and is everywhere whole and entire. He is everywhere by virtue of his infinity, but everywhere in his entirety by virtue of his simplicity." (Meister Eckhart)
"God is the greatest of all goods and more proper to each than anything else can be, because he is closer to the soul than the soul is to itself." (St Augustine)
"God is at home. It is we who have gone out for a walk." (Meister Eckhart)
"What does my life matter? I just want it to be faithful, to the end, to the child I used to be." (Bernanos)
"[The] truth of a living thing always lies in its totality. A man in making a definite choice sees himself confronted by the question: are you, in acting thus, being true to your first vision and your ultimate hope? Are you in accord with your highest self?" (Balthasar)
Charles Williams defined sin as "the preference of an immediately satisfying experience of things to the believed pattern of the universe".
"Those who aspire to a life of beauty must, in the first place, strive to be truthful and good." (Guardini)
"Detachment consists, not in casting aside all natural loves and goods, but in the possession of a love and a good so great that all others seem nothing in comparison." (Coventry Patmore)
"He whose gaze is turned upon himself radiates no light." (Chinese proverb)
"Every truth - no matter who speaks it - is from the Holy Spirit." (St Thomas)
"Humans are dependent - that is the primary truth about them. And because it is, only love can redeem them, for only love transforms dependence into freedom." (Ratzinger)
"What we call evil, is the only and best shape, which, for the person and his condition at the time, could be assumed by the best good." (George MacDonald, from last page of Phantastes)
"Make war on the Devil as though you were dancing." (St John Chrysostom)
"You can only communicate a truth that has changed you." (Luigi Giussani)
"The true will of man is the divine will." (Maurice Blondel)
"Many people want their own way in everything, and that is bad. That way evil comes. There are others – a little better – who approve of God’s will and would do nothing contrary to his will but who, when they are sick, wish it were God’s will for them to be healthy… This is to be condoned but it is still wrong. The just have no will at all: whatever God wants, it is all one to them, however great the discomfort of it may be." (Meister Eckhart)
"He who knows how to live can walk abroad without fear of rhinoceros or tiger. He will not be wounded in battle. For in him rhinoceroses can find not place to thrust their horn, tigers no place to use their claws, and weapons no place to pierce. Why is this so? Because he has no place for death to enter." (Lao Tzu)
"Should what is deadly poison to other souls enter these, the antidote of their good intention never fails to counteract its effect. Should they come to the edge of an abyss, divine action turns them aside; it is lets them go, it holds them up; if they fall, it will catch them." (Caussade)
"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." (Job)
"God never refuses the first grace which gives us the courage to overcome ourselves." (St Teresa)
"The entire universe pre-exists in the Godhead, which is its primordial cause. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all in all, because in their divinity every other thing is anticipated and possessed." (St Thomas)
"Christ did not become man only to lead his short life on earth… but to live each of our lives." (Caryll Houselander)
"Anyone who has a true devotion to the passion of our Lord must so contemplate Jesus on the Cross with the eyes of his heart that Jesus’ flesh is his own." (St Leo the Great)
"The knowledge of God cannot be obtained by seeking, but only those who seek it find it." (Al-Bistami)
"Sanctity, then, is not giving up the world. It is exchanging the world. It is the continuation of that sublime transaction of the Incarnation in which Christ said to Man: ‘You give me your humanity, I will give you my divinity. You give me your time, I will give you my eternity. You give me your hands, I will give you my omnipotence. You give me your slavery, I will give you my freedom. You give me your death, I will give you my life. You give me your nothingness, I will give you my All.’ And the consoling thought throughout this whole transforming process is that it does not require much time to make us saints; it requires only much love." (Fulton Sheen)