Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dissolving the Habit of Faith

I posted this a couple years ago, but it's still worth thinking about...


The passage above might not seem like a big thing, but it's been gnawing on my mind this last week.

This passage is from Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, a book from 1952 that presents Catholic teachings with the weight that each teaching has in the Tradition. For example, "de fide" teaching has the strongest level of authority and that includes things that deal with things that either God has Himself revealed in this tradition (either through the life of Christ and Scripture or through the wider Tradition, or something more or less "direct") or that has been declared with the formal teaching authority of the Church, which the Church understands as something given to it by God. This probably makes no sense if it's not your thing, but it's a 5-cent overview of dogmatic theology (dogma is a very dirty word in this culture, which should be unusual because it's etymology is basically related to the idea of a weighted teaching).

Other teachings carry a different weight. Some are theological opinions with varying degree of consensus, some are pious opinions, some are merely tolerated, and so on.  Knowing this stuff gives you a sense of how Catholic theologians think, agree, and even disagree about different teachings.

This passage is the one that's been getting to me. The big line is highlighted: "The habit of the light of glory dissolves the light of faith." It's an explanation of an oft forgotten Catholic teaching: that one day faith will become unnecessary and obsolete for us. In the Catholic tradition, faith is a way of "knowing", a way to get to a certain kind of "knowledge". "Faith" is synonymous with "trust", but just as we act on trust in our every day life (trust that certain people love us, trust that trains run on time, trust that our money has some kind of value, trust that traffic lights are programmed properly, etc) and we allow that trust to become a sort of knowledge (or at least a working hypothesis) that allows us to live our lives, so it is with our faith in God. 

But when our life is through, we no longer know God through trust or faith, with something that allows for the possibility of uncertainty. After this life, we know God through His glory (this is what the passage in the picture is saying). What is glory? We've more or less ceased to use this word in our every day lives (and have begun to lose the concept), but glory is an absolutely tangible expression of greatness. For example, I could refer to real things that I've done that I'm proud of as my "glory" or even my children (who I love greatly and am most proud of) as my "glory". God communicates His glory in ways that are both tangible (like in nature or in the presence of great Love or in the presence of His Son) or seemingly-intangible ("seemingly" because they refer to the metaphysical underpinning to reality, things that we think are less real but are in reality more intensely real).

If that last point is true (that being-as-such represents the ground, the basis, of everything real) then to be in the presence of God is to be in the presence of a Being who is "more real" than the reality we know. This life is the shadow, the next is the real deal. Because of that, we'll know God differently and it will be a far more immediate experience than anything we experience here. God will always be mysterious, whether in this life or the next, but we'll have a better grasp on what all that means.

Sometimes we get hints of this here in this life: when we experience a love that takes us out of ourselves, when we "transcend" ourselves in prayer or even meditation, when we come to a knowledge of something profound that shakes how we see the world, when we experience purpose. When its real, it's not an opiate or masking of reality. Rather, it uncovers reality. And the beauty of it is that most of us have had those experiences, whether we are religious or not, whether we acknowledge them or not. No matter what we make of those experiences, they most definitely point us to someplace and it would be wise to take a step in that direction.

No comments:

Post a Comment