Spiritual Senses – Lumen Fidei 5

Picking up with the third section of Chapter 2….

Chapter two of the encyclical is divided into six sections.

  • Faith and Truth (23-25)
  • Knowledge of the truth and love (26-28)
  • Faith as hearing and sight (29-31)
  • The dialogue of faith and reason (32-34)
  • Faith and the search for God (35)
  • Faith and theology (36)

Faith as hearing and sight (29-31)


“Faith comes from hearing” (Rom 10:17).  Faith, and the knowledge born of faith is personal.

it recognizes the voice of the one speaking, opens up to that person in freedom and follows him or her in obedience (29).

Thinking of faith as hearing emphasizes the fact that faith unfolds in time.

This has a different emphasis than thinking of faith as seeing which provides a comprehensive picture all at once.

Hearing emphasizes personal vocation and obedience, and the fact that truth is revealed in time. Sight provides a vision of the entire journey and allows it to be situated within God’s overall plan… (29).

Ultimately, faith as hearing and seeing becomes united in the person of Jesus.

How does one attain this synthesis between hearing and seeing? It becomes possible through the person of Christ himself, who can be seen and heard (30).

This focus on the person of Jesus moves us outside of ourselves.

This means that faith-knowledge does not direct our gaze to a purely inward truth. The truth which faith discloses to us is a truth centred on an encounter with Christ, on the contemplation of his life and on the awareness of his presence (30).

Beyond conceiving faith as hearing and sight, faith can also be understood as touch.

Saint John can speak of faith as touch, as he says in his First Letter: “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life” (1 Jn1: 1)…

Saint Augustine, commenting on the account of the woman suffering from haemorrhages who touched Jesus and was cured (cf.   Lk   8: 45-46), says: “To touch him with our hearts: that is what it means to believe” (31 emphasis added).

Christian faith is fundamentally incarnational.


As a kid I was fascinated by ESP, telepathy and other psychic phenomenon.  This section of Lumen Fidei explores faith from the perspective of “spiritual senses.”  Just as we have physical senses, we have spiritual senses.  These spiritual senses play a vital role in our faith because they put us in contact with Jesus.

Our eyes connect us with the physical world around us, so our spiritual eyes connect us with the spiritual world around us.  The same is true for our spiritual ears, hands, maybe even noses.  Saint Benedict exhorts his monks to “Listen with the ear of the heart.”  And St. Augustine sees the spiritual journey as “healing the eyes of the heart” (5).

Pope Francis comes from this tradition when he writes of faith as a form of hearing, sight, or touch.  (He could also have included the senses of smell and taste, I suppose).  Using the analogy of senses to describe faith helps us to understand the various ways faith is experienced.  The experience of faith is multi-dimensional.  Examining the reality of faith through the analogy of our senses enriches our experience.

All of this discussion of “spiritual senses” only makes sense due to the incarnation.  Senses put us in touch with something outside ourselves.  Faith puts us in touch with Jesus.  Sometimes, through faith, we hear Jesus voice.  Sometimes we see his face.  Sometimes we feel his healing touch.  Exploring our faith through the lens of spiritual senses can lead us to a deeper, richer, more complete experience of Jesus.

To think about…

  1. How is your faith like hearing, seeing, or touching?  Which “spiritual sense” do you utilize the most?

Lumen Fidei Part 4 (Chapter 2)

Picking up with the second section of Chapter 2….

Chapter two of the encyclical is divided into six sections.

  • Faith and Truth (23-25)
  • Knowledge of the truth and love (26-28)
  • Faith as hearing and sight (29-31)
  • The dialogue of faith and reason (32-34)
  • Faith and the search for God (35)
  • Faith and theology (36)

Knowledge of the truth and love (26-28)

Faith and knowledge of the truth are linked through the heart.  “One believes with the heart” (Rom. 10:10).

the heart is the core of the human person, where all his or her different dimensions intersect: body and spirit, interiority and openness to the world and to others, intellect, will and affectivity (26).

It is faith’s connection to love that opens it to truth.

Faith knows because it is tied to love, because love itself brings enlightenment. Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes (26).

This love is more than emotion.  It is a love that “aims at union with the beloved” (27).  Therefore it is a love grounded in truth.  We can only attain union with the beloved when we know the beloved.

Because it is born of love, the knowledge of faith is primarily relational.

It is a relational way of viewing the world, which then becomes a form of shared knowledge, vision through the eyes of another and a shared vision of all that exists (27).

Faith-knowledge is rooted in God’s covenant with his people.  It is born from a trust in God’s fidelity.  God has been faithful in the past.  He will be faithful now and in the future.

Faith-knowledge, because it is born of God’s covenantal love, is knowledge which lights up a path in history… the true God is the God of fidelity who keeps his promises and makes possible, in time, a deeper understanding of his plan (28).

Because, in faith, we are aware of God’s love for us, his plan becomes clearer and clarifies all of history.

Faith-knowledge sheds light [on] …the entire history of the created world, from its origins to its consummation (28).

Continue reading

Lumen Fidei Part 3 (Chapter 2)

I realize I got a bit too detailed in parts 1 and 2 of this discussion of Lumen fidei.  I’ll keep it shorter and more focused this time….

Chapter two of the encyclical is divided into six sections.

  • Faith and Truth (23-25)
  • Knowledge of the truth and love (26-28)
  • Faith as hearing and sight (29-31)
  • The dialogue of faith and reason (32-34)
  • Faith and the search for God (35)
  • Faith and theology (36)

Faith and Truth

This chapter begins with a discussion of Is 7:9 and the understanding presented there of faith as standing fast.

The prophet [Isaiah] tells him [Ahaz] … to trust completely in the solid and steadfast rock which is the God of Israel (23).

This challenge to trust in God’s plans for His people reveals a connection between faith and truth.  God has the power to

hold together times and ages, and to gather into one the scattered strands of our lives (23).

Recognizing and trusting this power of God (faith)  gives believers a place to stand.   It is certain knowledge (truth) which provides the needed foundation to move forward.  This knowledge is not a mere feeling, nor is it technical know-how, nor is it my own personal truth (as real as that may be).  This knowledge is a profound awareness of the power of God guiding creation to its fulfillment which gives purpose and meaning to everything.

It is a question about the origin of all that is, in whose light we can glimpse the goal and thus the meaning of our common path.


Charity does not grow by addition, like a heap of wheat. This addition would multiply charity without making it more intense. The increase would be in the order of quantity rather than quality, which is quite a different thing. In reality, charity or love increases in us in so far as it becomes stronger, takes deeper root in our will. As with the scholar, learning becomes more profound, more penetrating, more certain, without always reaching out to new conclusions. So charity grows in us by making us love God more perfectly and more purely for himself, and our neighbour for God.

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. The Three Ages of the Interior Life: Prelude of Eternal Life Volume One. Translation by Sister M. Timothy Doyle, Tan Books and Publishers INC, 1989, pp 132-133

Ran across this quote in an article from Homiletic and Pastoral Review.

Charity does no…

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 7-28-13

[In the Our Father] Christians learn to share in Christ’s own spiritual experience and to see all things through his eyes. From him who is light from light, the only-begotten Son of the Father, we come to know God and can thus kindle in others the desire to draw near to him.
 Pope Francis Lumen Fidei – Light of the Faith

This week’s readings, at first glance, seem to be about changing God’s mind.

  • God wants to destroy Sodom, and Abraham appears to talk him out of it (Gen. 18:20-32).
  • The friend gives in to his neighbor’s demands because of his persistence (Lk. 11: 5-8).

These readings seem to be saying that if we pray hard enough or persistently enough or in the right way, God will give us what we ask.

But I think that misses the point. The purpose of prayer isn’t to change God’s mind. The purpose of prayer is to change us. It changes the way we see everything. Christian prayer enables us to experience God the way Jesus experienced God. The one who prays persistently sees the world with new eyes… with the eyes of Jesus.

Our image of God changes. We begin to understand that God is not a God of vengeance. He is not a God who wants to destroy (“For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”).

Instead, God is a loving Father (“Our Father”) who will give us more than we can imagine. When our prayers are small and trite (we ask for a “fish” or an “egg” (Cf. Lk. 11:11-12)), God gives us the Holy Spirit!

Through our persistent prayer, may the Holy Spirit flow into our hearts and teach us to see with the eyes of faith.


Lincoln A. Wood

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 7-21-13

This week I have spent some time refreshing my soul.  One way I do that is through reading poetry.  Here is a poem about the importance of contemplative leisure in our life.  I hope you enjoy it.

This is what it is like to yield:

to finally feel that place of tightness – your left shoulder,
the crick that has been in your neck for as long as you can remember,
the hard point between your eyes – soften, and all that is left is the
overwhelming desire to dance,

to stop resisting the endless and aching grief over a thousand
small losses, and the one great loss of your own deepest dreams,
to fall into that ocean of tears and
find yourself carried gently to shore,

to feel the soft and trembling belly of your aliveness
turn upward toward the wide sky
as a prayer of supplication
and an act of revelation,

to tumble down on a mossy meadow
blanketed with dandelions and clovers
and the golden evening sunlight
and know yourself at home,

to surrender the striving,
the grasping at what seems so important
in favor of what is
essential and true.

What would it mean to walk away from
all the “to do” lists
and commit to only one thing:
to be.

What would it feel like to yield your
own stubborn willfulness
which has brought you so far in
this world of achievement
and allow the things you could never have
planned for, to unfold?

I must end this poem now,
not with wise words for you to carry away
and ponder, but only this:
a reminder of that fierce and endless longing
for what is soft and supple beating in your own
beautiful heart.

—Christine Valters Paintner at http://abbeyofthearts.com/

Have a blessed week!


Lincoln A. Wood

A beautiful reflection to prepare for Sabbath

This is what it is like to yield (a love note from your online Abbess) « Abbey of the Arts.

I listened to this reflection a while back and it has stuck with me.  Tomorrow my family and I are taking a break from our daily routine and I am excited and a little frightened.  I want to make the most of the experience, but am afraid of my own tendency to simply “work in a different way” rather than really allow myself to yield to the moment.