Chapter 8: The Act of Faith



If we imagine ourselves living at the time of Jesus we can suppose that we would have had an easier time believing in Him. After all, He was visible, a warm, breathing person, and we could have walked with Him and talked with Him and shared a meal. We would have lost no time sorting through the various arguments about whether Jesus existed or what He said and did, and in addition to His words we would have seen His deeds when he healed the sick and gave other signs, like at the wedding feast at Cana. And thus, it would have been easy to believe, or so we suppose.

But if we read the Gospels it becomes evident that the people around Jesus had just as hard a time believing in Him as we do today. What they gained by the immediacy of His presence they tended to lose by their expectations for an earthly messiah, and their inability to get the whole picture of Jesus that comes to us through the Gospels. But the problem went beyond this. Even the words of Jesus and His deeds did not necessarily convince or compel them to believe. No matter how many reasons to believe they had, these reasons in themselves did not add up to faith. Even though the people of his time heard the same words and saw the same deeds, they came to radically different conclusions. Some thought He was possessed by the devil, or a rabble rouser or a revolutionary. Others ignored Him and some felt He was sent by God. How could such different judgments be based on the same facts, or put in another way, what is the ultimate principle by which these judgments were made? The Gospels make the answer clear. There is a direct relationship between our interior dispositions and the way we see Jesus. We need an inner attitude of love if we are going to look at His words and actions and see in them the hand of God. And this inner attitude is not simply something we generate out of our own interior resources, but it is a gift of God. And here we return to the notion of knowledge by connaturality. Like is known by like. Sense knowledge cannot comprehend intellectual things, nor can intellectual knowledge grasp by itself the spiritual realities that St. Paul describes when he distinguishes the spiritual man from the psychic man. Reason is unable to grasp God in Himself, but only in the prism of creatures, and so there must be another principle of knowledge for the kind of knowledge that faith is. By nature we can know and love God, but in a somewhat remote fashion as an intelligent creature would love his creator. But the message of the Gospels is that God desires us to share His own inner life. He wants to establish a relationship of love and this relationship is meant to be not only the natural love with which we aspire to return to the source of all Being from which we have come, but a higher love that goes beyond the exigencies of our own nature. We have seen that on the human plane that love centers itself on the inmost reality of the other person precisely as other. It draws the lover to become the beloved in his own subjectivity. Love becomes a sharing in consciousness, and a sharing in love and knowledge.

And this is the kind of relationship that the Gospels describe. God is drawing us to Himself so we can share His inner life and consciousness. He is setting up a relationship of indwelling or intersubjectivity. And since His innermost being is His reality as a Trinity of Persons, He is calling us to enter into this community of the Trinity, and the way that this call comes to us is through the Incarnation. When the Word took flesh, the deepest reality of His humanity was this intersubjective communion with the Word and through the Word with the Father and the Spirit. The human nature of Jesus took on a trinitarian condition, as it were. It terminates not in a human person, but in the midst of the human personality is a still deeper center which is the very Son of God. And this human nature of the Word becomes the instrument of our own adoption and sharing in the life of God. We become incorporated into Christ and share in His relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Our own human personalities receive a deeper center, a center that constantly draws us beyond the limits of our nature and constantly attempts to transform our knowing and loving, for our innermost reality has become the infinite God Who is more Self to us than we are self to ourselves. The very subjectivity of God which is God as a community of persons becomes our own subjective center. It is a weight or center of gravity in the soul that becomes the dynamic principle which guides all the forms of Christian knowing, for they must all be related to this indwelling or presence. Faith or Christian knowledge follows upon the reality of this union brought about by love.

But to talk in this language of theology and of the Trinity may seem highly abstract and speculative, but it really isn't. It's the very center of Christian life and should be at the very heart of the Christian life of prayer. Without emphasizing the transcendent nature of the act of faith we will never really understand it. We will be like the manualists at the turn of the century who wanted to cling to faith's reasonableness, but reasonableness is not the heart of faith. If faith is the greatest challenge that Christianity faces, the challenge can only be met head on by attempting to deal with what can be called the critical problem of faith. On the level of reason we know that we actually can know by knowing. If we were to doubt our ability to know before we started, we would ever preclude any possibility o knowing. In actual practice we know and then reflect back on our knowledge to examine its nature and limits, and in this way we can begin to deal with the critical problem of philosophy. But what are we to do when it is a question of knowing realities that we admit are beyond the scope of human nature and reason? How can we know that we are knowing? If we don't know these things by reason why should we assume we have any other power of knowing? We know we have the power of reason because we are interior to our knowing and experience it. Can we say that we have a way of knowing that does not enter into our experience or consciousness? That would seem to be a contradiction. How can we experience, then, the power of knowing that faith must be? How can we respond to the indwelling of God if His very presence does not enter into our self-awareness?

This is the primary problem of the act of faith. It is a problem that is prior to the question of how the interior experience of faith is related to the exterior preaching of the Gospel. It is only when we understand how we can recognize God in our concrete experience that we can understand how we can hear His voice in conceptual statements. Or perhaps it is simply the same problem from two different perspectives. Whether within or without, we have to be able to recognize with certitude the presence of God. We must know that we have faith. We must be able to respond to God in faith in a way that is not possible without faith. But our experience of faith teaches us that we cannot reflexively grasp the light of faith and distinguish it from everything else. We have the paradoxical experience of a certitude coming from faith, but this certitude wells up in us in a manner that defies conceptualization. Faith is lost in our consciousness, yet it makes itself felt and is a power to discern and judge and motivate conduct. It's important to try to fathom the hidden inner structure of the act of faith. If we don't understand it, if it remains unarticulated, we have a much harder time living out its implications. The role of theology is to help us in this process of articulation. Faith assimilates us to Jesus. It draws us into an intersubjective relationship with Him, a relationship of love, and this man Jesus Whom we encounter is in His deepest center, His innermost being which is the Word of God. In our human relationships we had to discern the reality of the other person, and the only way we could do this was through love. Their bodiliness was an entity of union. It carried a weight of spirit. And it was because we looked upon them in love and were interior to ourselves, that we could recognize them as a thou.

But in the case of Jesus there is a new depth to penetrate. There is a deeper entity of union. If we were to see Jesus in the flesh, or to see Him in the Gospel narratives, we would see a man, and like meeting any other man, we would piece together what he does and says and come to some perception of His personality. And this relationship could blossom into a relationship of human love. But there is much more involved here. As we try to discern Jesus' inner nature we are disconcerted, for the pieces simply do riot fit our normal expectations, and much of the drama of the Gospels lies here. There is another center in Jesus beyond that center, in the midst of that center, we call the human personality. If bodiliness was the messenger of the human spirit, in Jesus the human spirit itself bears a higher message. Its deepest meaning is the transformation it has undergone in order to be the very humanity of the Word of God. The humanity of Jesus, then, becomes the sacrament, or symbol of His divinity. We cannot encounter it without being drawn towards its inner challenge which is the question of whether we can affirm or must deny that this is really the Son of God. And what gives us the ability to make this affirmation? It cannot simply be flesh and blood. Like must be known by like. On the human level the mystery of spirit played upon the face of flesh and it was reserved to the person who loved to see into this mystery with the eyes of love. In the case of the Incarnation where it is not a question of spiritualized matter, but of divinized humanity, it is the mystery of the Trinity that plays upon the face of Christ, and to truly accept Christ is to allow ourselves to be drawn by His humanity to the Son, and through the Son, to the Father and to the Spirit.

Again, it is reserved to the person who loves to see, but we must possess the principle of this new love. It's only the person who is conatured to God by love who can discern the hidden mystery of the divinity under the veil of the humanity by a certain divine instinct. And this instinct arises in our human spirit by the action of the Holy Spirit. We can know nothing of the mystery of the Trinity by scrutinizing our own nature or what creation can tell us about the existence and attributes of God. If we want to recognize the Son of God we must in a very real way be the son of God. And in actual fact we have always been destined to this divine sonship. If it is not inscribed in the exigencies of our own nature as created beings, it is inscribed there by God's free gift, a gift without recall that holds the whole world in expectancy and groaning. We are destined for this divine sonship and have an emptiness within ourselves until we find it. When we begin to experience this emptiness, we have a certain negative connaturality for this fulfillment that all the fibers of our being cry out for. But emptiness is not enough. We need to develop a positive connaturality which can only take place under the grace of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes into our heart and begins to warm it and fashion it in the likeness of the Incarnate Word. The heart, this deepest center of free decision which shapes the most fundamental direction of our life, can accept or try to reject this inner transformation. Our inner spirits as mind or intellect are occupied with some kind of exterior presentation of the thing to be believed. And we debate its credibility. But our inner spirit, this time in terms of heart or will, is equally engaged. It is spontaneously attracted to what it senses as the good it is meant for. This good is not only the good as presented in the external words, but much more so the good that is God Himself coming into the spirit and being present to the spirit, not as an object to be perceived, but from within and drawing the will towards the good it is meant for. We don't see the spirit as spirit, but in an obscure yet powerful way we can feel the congruity between our own inner aspirations and the message that is assailing us both from within and without. And we are free to accept or reject this calling. The formal motive of our believing is not what we can see and therefore what would compel us to believe, but it is the congruity between the heart and the good presented to it; it is God making Himself known to the soul through the connaturality of love. This interior witnessing is not a vision or a seeing or a knowledge in the ordinary sense of the word, for it lacks concepts. It lacks the way to articulate itself. It is a knowing that thirsts for the explicitation that comes through the Gospels and the teachings of the Church. But it cannot be equated with these conceptual statements. It will not be exhausted by theology, but only by the vision of God Himself. It is a knowledge rooted in union with the Son Who has become inscribed in the deepest center of the soul by love and becomes an ontological weight, a center of gravity, Who draws the energies of the soul to Himself so that we can be transformed into the likeness of the Son of God.

There is a profound unity among the powers of the soul, and so if the heart is suffering this loving transformation, the intellect will attempt to grasp this mysterious union that it cannot see, as much as possible. The disproportion between what the heart possesses and the intellect desires to know generates an instinct and inclination rooted on the one end in the actual mystery embraced by the will, and on the other in the intellects sensitized to this mystery. This is what knowledge by the connaturality of love means. The intellect knows in virtue of its union with the will and the will's union with the reality to be known. It is no longer limited solely to concepts, but has a share in the very mystery of union itself. It does not despise concepts, but vivifies them by placing them against the luminous horizon which is this mystery of Love. Then it evaluates them by their accurate depiction of, and transparency to, this mystery that the soul is experiencing. This drawing of the intellect and its searching attempts to embrace this reality more and more fully plays an essential role in all the ways of knowing by faith.


The manualists of the turn of the century were too enamored with logic and its demonstrations, and we take them to task for their narrowness. But how much closer are we to understanding the nature of theology? We have attempted to give our theology a better historical grounding, a wider ecumenical perspective and a genuine appreciation of what modern secular scholarship has to offer. But it is not clear that we have come to grips with the most pressing challenges about the nature of the theological method. Theology cannot simply imitate other disciplines in the hopes of finding academic respectability. It has to consider its own paradoxical nature: not reason left alone to its own resources, but reason caught up in a mystery of union. This does not make the efforts of reason any less. Reason has to exert itself to the utmost, but in order to penetrate the mystery that the theologian is actually living and which mystery goes beyond reason. Reason, even in the natural sciences, does not work by way of the orderly unfolding of syllogisms. The lived logic of life is very different from formal logic. Our intellects are much more fluid. They live in a rich sea of partially digested readings, half-formed thoughts, previous conclusions, all of which are connected with images and feelings, even when it is a question of metaphysical reality. Out of this rich prima materia insights are born that take flight and must be laboriously pursued in order to reflect upon their exact nature and implications and test their validity. In a similar way, in theology, running through these insights and the variety of concepts they give birth to, is a sense or instinct or inclination of faith that connects us with the Christian mystery to be known. Without this indispensable contact we would be creating conceptual castles in the air, as it were. It guides the intellect not by sight but by an instinct rooted in love. Far from this inclination denigrating the value of concepts, it is vital for employing them to explore a reality that transcends reason. The concepts that theology employs are not of the same nature as those of history or psychology, or even metaphysics. They are concepts that have come from God in a free act of self-revelation by which he makes known to us His inner nature. He speaks to us in concepts so that we can hear Him, but if we imagine that these concepts are simply human words, we will never fathom their message. Instead, we will remake theology after the image of other disciplines, and then wonder why it begins to go sterile and fails to feed the spirit. The concepts of theology are concepts that have been transfigured to carry a higher meaning, and so are analogous to the humanity of the Lord. Their inner depth is no longer a metaphysical perception, but one that excels the grasp of reason. Therefore, we cannot simply read the words of Scripture in a natural register, for we need a higher way of perceiving them, which is what faith provides.

Too often we have looked at the role of faith in theology as a way in which we receive the principles which we will then develop in theology proper. Faith becomes the acceptance of axioms that reason will explicitate. We ignore the fact that faith is the vital light by which we not only receive our starting point, but carry out the whole process of theology. A theologian must be a person of faith at all stages of his work, for faith is the ultimate contact with the divine reality, as well as the principle of orientation by which we organize our concepts. Faith animated by charity can never be replaced by reason alone, still less logic. It is the instinct by which we look in one direction and not another for the resources of reason and their exact employment that can best aid us in articulating the mystery under consideration. Logic alone is not efficacious even on the natural level, as if reason operates like a computer indifferent to what is entered into it, pursuing equally all deductive possibilities without preference. Preference or value always guides reason which is meant to be at the service of the whole person. And reason is never divorced from intuition. In the case of theology it is connaturality that functions as the divinatory or intuitive sense. The theologian is moved by faith to pick up the instruments of reason and employ them in a certain way for the service of the Church. Living the mystery in the depths of the heart, he or she can reflect on this mystery and employ all the riches of the intellect - ama intellectum valde - St. Augustine says, "Love the intellect greatly."

If theology has not fully focused on the role connaturality plays in its own development, it is not because such a role is absent from St. Thomas, but rather, wedded to logical forms, it lacks the necessary introspection to discover its actual method as distinguished from its theoretical conceptions about its method, and it suffered from the undevelopment of the whole doctrine of connaturality. We can read St. Thomas who describes how the gift of wisdom is not only essential for salvation, but operative In a special way for those who have a role in teaching the faith. But this does not mean that the import of this passage will fully penetrate (II, 11, 45, QIc). Or we can repeat the classic passage in St. Thomas that states that faith terminates in things and not in concepts, but again we don't draw the implications (159). We relegate his teaching about the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the realm of mystical experience and then forget about it.

Let's look at the traditional position of theology on the role of love in theology, and see if it can be broadened. In the best of this traditional theology it was clearly recognized what the dictum faith seeking understanding meant. A theologian did not simply assent to some data by faith and then manipulate that data by the sole light of reason, but rather, it was reason enlightened and penetrated by faith that was his instrument. But when it was a question of exploring the role of love, this same theology was very circumspect. It was preoccupied with its own development according to the classical model of science, and it feared a false Augustinianism or a fideism that would denigrate the role of reason that had been so glorified in the secular world that surrounded it. As a consequence, it admitted the role of love but kept it out of theology proper. It conceived love and the living of the Christian life as the context or atmosphere that strengthened the theologian's spirit so that he would be able to more robustly carry out his proper theological activities. The role of love became analogous to the adjective Christian in the notion of Christian philosophy. The Christian philosopher does not know philosophical realities by faith, but he knows them with a reason made more robust, for it has been aided and healed by the living out of the Christian life. This formulation of the role of love is true as far as it goes, but is it possible to go further? If we take seriously the role of the connaturality of love in the act of faith, then we have to go further. This role of love in faith does not cease at the doorway of theology but true theological objectivity becomes a function of the intersubjectivity of charity.

Love is not only the context of theology, it is its living heart. It is the way we make contact with God in faith, and the way we penetrate into this faith even when it is a question of articulating our faith in concepts. The instincts and unconscious impulses that play an essential role in the creativity of innovators in other fields are transformed in theology by an instinct that comes from the Holy Spirit, as I have already described. All this will appear less strange if we place the method of theology firmly in the context of the ways of knowing of the Church as a whole: biblical inspiration, canonicity and doctrinal development. In each of these cases the theology of the past has created conceptual theories in order to understand how these kinds of knowing take place. To put it in an over-simplified form, inspiration becomes a matter of God telling the inspired words to the sacred writer; canonicity becomes a search for a special list of divinely inspired books, a postscript or final oral or written codicile to Revelation; and doctrinal development becomes a form of deduction from the already revealed truths in Scripture, or when that is not viable, the erection of a theory of a parallel oral tradition. All these approaches have run into serious criticism. They do not fit our understanding of human nature or the historical facts. The actual formation of the New Testament is much more complex than a dictation to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul and the other writers. There is no evidence of a revelation of a list of the canonical books, and how would we know that such a list itself were actually revealed? Doctrinal development does not proceed in a logical fashion where every step can be carefully delineated and ultimately be traced to the Scriptures themselves. In all these cases it is the idea of connaturality which can provide an approach to more viable solutions when it is applied analogously to each instance. The nature of the act of faith which we saw in the individual should be reflected in the cognitive life of the Church as a whole, and this cognitive life should be mirrored in the life of the individual theologian.

In the case of inspiration, the writer must have the guidance of the Holy Spirit in a special way if what he writes is to be considered the Word of God as well as his own word. But he is no mere passive receiver of dictation. God has not created him as an autonomous personality, and then by-passed the creative freedom of this personality. Any doctrine of inspiration must reconcile both the full play of the creative abilities of the individual and the divine character of the final message. The Sacred writer is conatured to the mystery of Christ in the depths of his being by charity, and to this connaturality of the ordinary Christian must be added another form of connaturality which deepens and perfects it. This instinct of inspiration allows him to decide what would be a fitting explanation of the mystery he is living and has lived both inside and in history. But it leaves him free to express this mystery in his own words, and according to his own understanding and outlook. The inspired writing is both truly human and divine, the divine once again emerging in the human. The incarnation is extended from the head to the members, and the sacred writer expresses himself with a freedom guided and directed by love that makes him solicitous to express the mystery of the Lord with as much care as possible. He is guided not by words, but by that which precedes words: his loving union with the Lord that he would speak of. In such a view of inspiration we would expect what we find: real differences in outlook and forms of expression among the Sacred writers. But with faith we can, in grasping the human structure of their writing and in striving to fathom their philological and historical meaning, penetrate to the divine meaning of the Scriptures in a way that is not possible to us without faith. Without faith we will indeed read the same words and be able to make the same reflections of reason, but it will be a reason bereft of the higher light of faith that allows us to make contact with the living mystery expressed in those words. We have lost our ultimate orientation to that mystery, and so the words fragment and fall apart instead of portraying the face of He Whom we most want to see, the King instead of the fox, as Iranaeus wrote.

In the case of canonicity we need not look for an inspired list of books as if without it the Church must always go around in doubt whether this or that book is actually inspired. Again, this is too conceptualist a view. How did the Church decide which books were inspired? These books came out of the community, were used in the community, and were ultimately judged by the community. And if their origin can be understood as an analogous form of connaturality expressing itself in inspiration, so can this judgment be understood as another form of this same connaturality. The Church possesses a living relationship to the Lord in love, and this love, again, roots the inclination of connaturality so the intellect can judge what is of the Lord in a special way, and what is not. The Church lived with these books and took to heart what spoke to its heart, and did so in the slow, organic rhythms of the development of its own life. The judgment of canonicity did not need to be a once-and-for-all decision, as if -the Church had to impanel a jurying community to review the writings of the Apostolic age as if to decide which were inspired. Rather, as these writings emerged, they were always subject to scrutiny as they were read and pondered, both publicly and privately, in the churches. And this scrutiny was nothing but the judgment of connaturality in which the Church, possessing the Spirit, discerns the work of the Spirit. Its natural analogy would be a lover who reads through a bundle of letters about the beloved and distinguishes between those which are second-hand reports and somewhat off the mark, and those which really speak of the beloved and are redolent with an experiential knowledge of what the beloved was like. Gradually the former becomes separated by the latter by sheer use and constant perusal, and this is a process that does not have to become conceptually explicit until long after the judgments of connaturality had been operative. (160)

Finally, doctrinal development itself can and should be viewed as a particular application of this ecclesial connaturality. The Church is not limited to logic so that it is compelled to deduce everything from the formal propositions found in Scripture as if the words of Scripture were all it had left of the Lord, instead of having His living presence most of all. This presence does not free it from the Scriptures, a thought that would be monstrous to the Church, for the Scriptures are the special privileged concepts which act as windows through which it contacts the Lord, and they are the privileged and inspired conceptual statements of the early Church who walked and talked with the Lord, and thus must be the normative expressions of how this experience of the Lord must be conceptualized today. But the conceptualization of the Apostolic church, as well as

the conceptualization of the teaching Church today is not identical with the living presence of the Lord, which no amount of words can exhaust, as St. John indicates at the end of his Gospel. In meditation on the Scriptures, and through the Scriptures by being united to the Word Himself, the Church receives the power by virtue of this conaturing to discern whether a new expression is in accord with the Scriptures and more fundamentally with the mystery of the Word. The Church is not constrained to a mechanical manipulation of the text, but searches its heart in pondering the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers in order to discern whether a new development, which is welling up within the community, is in harmony with what has already been expressed. It need not prove in the narrow sense that it is formally contained in Scripture, but all this does not imply that it has to have recourse to a tradition running parallel to the Scriptures. This is simply another kind of conceptualism emerging again. If the Scripture is limited in terms of this conceptualist perspective to its actual words, then the words tend to become the direct object of revelation. There is no room for a doctrinal development that would do anything more than explicitate what was already implicit in the Scriptures themselves. But a notion of tradition that conceives of itself as a source of revelation flowing side-by-side with the Scriptures is just as conceptualistic and no more justified. In each case we stop at the words and not at the reality that gave birth to them. There is no going beyond the Scriptures to a new revelation, for the Scriptures are the privileged expression of the Lord Who has made Himself known once and for all in the sense that He has given Himself completely in a living presence. If tradition is not going to be a supplemental source of conceptual statements, then it ought to be understood as that living understanding through the Scriptures of the presence of the Lord, and this understanding will always continue to grow and develop. The individual theologian who must feel with the Church cannot view this process solely in conceptual terms. There is an inner spirit to it by which he enters into the mysterious life of the Church and shares in its powers of knowing and becomes the bearer as well as the servant of this ongoing process of doctrinal development.


The split that has existed between theology and mysticism can be overcome, not by a return to the undifferentiated union of them found in the Fathers, but by seeing how each of them shares in the notion of knowledge by connaturality.

It is in mysticism that the greatest idea of connaturality can be found, for it is here that it manifests itself more strongly. The love that roots itself in the person to be known initially gives rise to an inclination or instinct on the part of the intellect, which can guide and evaluate conceptual statements, but it can also mature and reach an intensity of transformation in which it becomes the very means by which the intellect knows so that John of St. Thomas, the masterly expositor of this knowledge, will say, "Amor transit in conditionem objecti." The object is known precisely as loved, and it is loved in the inwardness of the subject with a totality and wholeness that goes beyond the fragmenting objectification of concepts. The formal mode of knowing is no longer concepts, but the will in its state of transformation so that the intellect proceeding by way of this will overcomes the partial glimpses of the concepts which objectify the subject, and touches the subject as subject in some obscure - since it is not a conceptual knowledge - but rich and satisfying way. It has a fruition of the object not as object but as subject, as a within manifesting its presence in the very midst of our awareness. Theology had to proceed by way of concepts, and this is true even when it is aware of how the instinct of love helps it to select and organize these concepts. But it cannot help experiencing the disproportion between these concepts and the living presence that has given birth to them. The more theology penetrates, by means of concepts, into the divine mystery, the more it is seized by a sense of its own inadequacy and fittingly ends where St. Thomas breaks off his Summa, which appeared as straw, in comparison to the actual experience of God.

We need to carefully distinguish between the act of faith, theology and mysticism in order to unite them, and heal the separations that have grown up among them. In our initial acts of faith there is a drawing of the heart, a powerful but obscure urging to embrace the good within that gives the intellect the ability to assent to the Gospel message.

This assent culminates the search for faith and opens up the inner journey of faith. On the one hand, we desire to understand more fully what we have assented to, and this is theology. On the other hand, we have received in the act of faith a tiny obscure taste of the mystery of love, and we want to embrace it more fully. This is the life of prayer that leads towards mysticism in this life, and the vision of God in the next. Theology and the life of prayer are two halves of the one process of growing in faith. Without the life of prayer, which is the cultivation of the movement of the heart to embrace God present in us, theology loses sight of what it is supposed to be discoursing about. It becomes blind to the mystery behind the words, and then fails to measure its words by the mystery. The life of prayer, when it severs itself from theology, succumbs to premature and misguided attempts to suppress concepts in order to concentrate on the mystery of love. It becomes prey to visions, revelations and false mysticism, which can act as substitutes for genuine theology.

Both theology and the life of prayer need to be healed of the wounds they have suffered in being separated from each other. Theology today, by way of compensation for a past theology that shielded poor scholarship by invoking piety, is prone to emphasize the quality of its own scholarship. But scholarship is not enough. Theology demands a fervently lived life of faith. This life of faith is not simply an assent to the starting place of theology, nor is it only a context in which theology takes place, but it is vitally connected to the theological method itself. This is amply illustrated in the Scriptures and Fathers. Theology is a reflection upon the mystery of faith that we have not only assented to, but strive to penetrate and live more fully. It is this kind of theology which would strengthen the life of prayer which, in turn, would allow theology itself to go further.


We have approached the inner nature of faith through different directions: personal experience, the debates of the theologians, the reading of the Scriptures and Fathers, and the works of Maritain. And finally, we have examined the inner nature of faith itself as a knowledge through love.

All this can leave us with the impression that faith is a complex matter best left to the deliberations of theologians. This is not true. In fact, faith resists our intricately woven nets of concepts because of its simplicity and depth. And in virtue of this simplicity it permeates our lives like the air we breathe, but too seldom take notice of. We think God is absent because we do not find him like one object among all the others, when all the time He is there within us as our deepest goal. We are continually being drawn by this mysterious, powerful, silent call to union with Him, and it is faith which is our response to this hidden presence. At any moment, in any place, we can go on the journey of faith, for it is that tiny, quiet reaching out with our heart to God.


Back to Theology