By Father Mauro Gagliardi
ROME, DEC. 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Today we resume our series of occasional articles on the liturgy titled “Spirit of the Liturgy.”
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The theme for this new series of articles will be in accordance with Benedict XVI’s announcement of the Year of Faith, which will be held from October 2010 until November 2013. The Pope made this known in his letter Porta Fidei published in October.
In addition to the declaration of the special year, the Pope recalls in the letter some fundamental aspects regarding faith and the recent history of the Church. Regarding this last point, the Supreme Pontiff takes note of the fact that the Year of Faith will begin 50 years after the opening of the second Vatican Council (Oct. 11, 1962), which was presided over by Blessed John XXII. It is also the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Oct. 11, 1992), which was authorized by Blessed John Paul II. Benedict XVI considers that the best way to celebrate these two very important events in recent ecclesial history was that of bringing the attention of the Church to the theme of the faith.
In the Letter Porta Fidei there are some admonitions on the theme of faith, which traditionally is understood as fides qua creditur and fides quae creditor; that is to say: the faith with which you believe and the faith which is believed.
To simplify further, the pairing of fides qua/fides quae does not imply that there are two separate forms of faith, each which can exist without the other; rather they are two inseparable aspects of the unique virtue of faith. Fides qua indicates the personal act of faith, the faith with which I believe/we believe. Fides quae indicates the doctrinal content that I believe/we believe. It goes without saying that it is not sufficient to simply know the doctrines in order to believe, because it is also necessary to have the free act of professing these doctrines as true, and to live accordingly.
Additionally, it is also unthinkable that the faith could consist of a vague trust in God that is devoid of content. In this case someone could say “I believe!” yet when faced with the question, “what do you believe?” they would be stricken silent. Had there been times in which there was a risk of focusing too much attention on doctrine, but as of a few decades ago — perhaps as a reaction — there was a great deal of emphasis on the matter of the free act of faith, but little to knowledge of the faith.
In both cases there was a partial vision that, taken to its extremes, loses sight of the true meaning and practice of faith.
The distinction between fides qua/fides quae is already found in St. Augustine, who writes: “Certainly we affirm with full truth that the faith which is etched in the heart of everyone who believes … proceeds from a single doctrine, but it is one thing what we believe (ea quae creduntur), and another thing the faith with which we believe (fides qua credentur)” (de Trinitate, XIII, 2, 5).
The saint continues explaining that the faith is unequivocal at the doctrinal level, while on the personal level it means different things for different people, in the sense that some believe more, others less, while others believe nothing. This does not mean a diversity of faith regarding content — which would imply we do not share the same faith — but rather a difference in how an individual welcomes the grace of faith. It follows that what holds the Church together is not the subjective intensity of the faith — which is different from person to person — but rather the one doctrine of the faith, believed by each one of the faithful. For this reason the Church has always protected and defended the purity of sound doctrine with great zeal, without which the Church would be inevitably destined for division.
The Holy Father, therefore, reminds us of the unicity of the act of faith, inextricably composed both of personal commitment and of the doctrine which one needs to know and profess. Even though Vatican II wanted to consider itself as being a pastoral council, it is obvious that pastoral action without faith (subjective and objective) does not exist or, if it exists, it does not make any sense. For this reason it is fitting to celebrate the 50th year of the council’s beginning as a year of faith. And given this, we need to keep in mind that the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not represent a “step backward” in respect to the “spirit of the Council.” The Catechism of 1992 is the Catechism of the Second Vatican Council.
For this reason, together with the other skilled writers of the “Spirit of the Liturgy,” to whom we give thanks for their professional collaboration, we have decided to dedicate this fourth consecutive year of our column to the liturgical section of the Catechism. We hope in this way to assist our readers — albeit in a concise way, as is appropriate in this type of article — to take up the Catechism and to reread it with the calm and attention that it requires, in order that this precious text continues to be a point of doctrinal reference and nourishment for the personal faith of all the baptized and of the Church as a whole.
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Father Mauro Gagliardi is a professor at Regina Apostolorum university and at the European University of Rome, a consultor of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff and of the Congregation for Divine Worship and of the Discipline of the Sacraments.