The “Year of Faith” has arrived! Beginning this past October and continuing until November 2013, the Church has entered into a year given to deepening her understanding and experience of the life of faith and its witness in our world. In his apostolic letter Porta Fidei (“The Door of Faith”), the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has said the purpose of this year will be “to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.” Here at our St. Francis Youth Center in the Bronx, we have been privileged to enter into this time of special grace with the helpful assistance of God’s “little ones."
This fall I have been continually reminded of the gifted perspective that our youngest children bring to our youth center, enabling us to see reality as it truly is through the eyes of faith. I encountered this just the other day during a game of “freeze-tag” when a young boy, new to the Center, kept yelling the name of Jesus. Turning toward him, I suddenly realized he was talking to me! He thought that I was Jesus because that’s who he heard he would see when he came to “church” (The fact that we were in the gym was of little importance to him). He was at “church” and so this must be Jesus who was playing tag with him. While it was an amusing misunderstanding, the boy’s faith—which was ready to encounter Christ in a very personal and real way within the Church—was something we could learn from.
One of the great tasks of this “Year of Faith” will be to rediscover the intimate, and indeed, indivisible relationship between Christ and his Church. Society today, both secular and Christian, often tends to approach Christ and the Church as two very separate entities. With a growing trend to see faith as something private without a communal dimension the question is raised, “What does Christ have to do with the Church?”
The letters of St. Paul reveal a man who very much wrestled with this mystery and came to a profound understanding of the relationship. In the fifth chapter to the Ephesians he tells us that Christ and the Church are in fact “one body,” a unity so profound that it can only begin to be understood through the intimacy of marital love. As man and woman are joined together in a deep communion of body and soul, so ever more fully Christ and his Bride the Church are “one flesh.”
Still, this communion of Christ and his Church is not always easy to perceive. Even St. Paul says, “This mystery is a profound one” (Eph 5:32), but to understand this union is to know the full depth of the Lord’s fidelity and love and our greatest means to encountering Him. As Pope Benedict writes, the Church’s history—“marked as it is by the unfathomable mystery of the interweaving of holiness and sin”—reveals her to be “the visible community of his mercy…and a sign of definitive reconciliation with the Father” (Porta Fidei); it is His mercy and grace that has sustained her. This union, which has endured the storms of every time and place, gives us the unshakable certainty of being known and loved by a God whose mercy and power knows no limits. To enter into this mystery is one of the great calls of the Christian believer.
More than a simple tenet of belief, Christ’s union with his Bride the Church is something we must actively participate in if we are to experience its transformative power in our lives. Just as the beauty of light streaming through a church’s stained glass window can only be fully enjoyed from within, so too only within the Church can we come to know the joy, peace, and strength that faith gives to our daily life. But have we experienced this? Are we willing to truly participate in the life of the Church so as to know the “the unutterable and exalted joy” (1 Pet 1:8) that is meant to mark our lives as believers?
Let us pray for the eyes of faith…that we might enter in.
-Br. Isaiah Marie, cfr
Our Lady of the Angels Friary