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)

Summary

“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.

Reflection

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?
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