Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Stable Disposition of the Spirit

Faith in the Eternal Hope of Jesus Christ is not merely deciding that this is the way of life you will live. It is not adhering to some philosophical way of living or discipline like the practice of yoga or deciding to be a vegetarian. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa: human virtue that human acts are rendered good; hence, any habit that is always the principle of a good act, may be called a human virtue. Such a habit is living faith. For since to believe is an act of the intellect assenting to the truth at the command of the will, two things are required that this act may be perfect: one of which is that the intellect should infallibly tend to its object, which is the true; while the other is that the will should be infallibly directed to the last end, on account of which it assents to the true: and both of these are to be found in the act of living living.

Faith is a virtue, meant to be practiced and perfected daily but it goes beyond that. In Pope Benedict XVI 's Encyclical Spe Salve, The Pope writes:
"In the eleventh chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews (v. 1) we find a kind of definition of faith which closely links this virtue with hope. Ever since the Reformation there has been a dispute among exegetes over the central word of this phrase, but today a way towards a common interpretation seems to be opening up once more. For the time being I shall leave this central word untranslated. The sentence therefore reads as follows: “Faith is the hypostasis of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen”. For the Fathers and for the theologians of the Middle Ages, it was clear that the Greek word hypostasis was to be rendered in Latin with the term substantia. The Latin translation of the text produced at the time of the early Church therefore reads: Est autem fides sperandarum substantia rerum, argumentum non apparentiumfaith is the “substance” of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen. Saint Thomas Aquinas, using the terminology of the philosophical tradition to which he belonged, explains it as follows: faith is a habitus, that is, a stable disposition of the spirit, through which eternal life takes root in us and reason is led to consent to what it does not see. The concept of “substance” is therefore modified in the sense that through faith, in a tentative way, or as we might say “in embryo”—and thus according to the “substance”—there are already present in us the things that are hoped for: the whole, true life. And precisely because the thing itself is already present, this presence of what is to come also creates certainty: this “thing” which must come is not yet visible in the external world (it does not “appear”), but because of the fact that, as an initial and dynamic reality, we carry it within us, a certain perception of it has even now come into existence."
In Faith we are bring forth to life what God has implanted in us. In John's Gospel story of the death of Lazarus, Jesus tells Martha "your brother will rise again" Martha replies "I know he will rise on the resurrection on the last day." Jesus replies "I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will live even if he dies and every one who lives and believes in me will never die." Do you believe this? Martha replies Yes Lord. The Eternal has taken Martha to the a new life, one rooted in faith. This will always come from a true encounter with Christ.

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