The Christian Response to Rationalism

December 20, 2010

Let me quote the last section only from Father Cantalamessa’s 3rd Advent Homily, it’s beautiful I think. The full article can be read here.

´╗┐A Leap of Faith at Christmas

Thus we come to the practical conclusion that most interests us in a meditation such as this one. Not only non-believers are in need of unexpected eruptions of the supernatural but also us, believers, to revive our faith. The greatest danger that religious persons run is of reducing faith to a sequence of rites and formulas, repeated even if scrupulously, but mechanically and without participation of their whole being. “Since this people draws near with words only,” the Lord laments in Isaiah, “and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me. And their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men” (Isaiah 29:13).

Christmas can be a privileged occasion to have this leap of faith. It is the supreme “theophany” of God, the highest “manifestation of the Sacred.” Unfortunately the phenomenon of secularism is despoiling this feast of its character of “tremendous mystery” — which induces to holy fear and adoration — reducing it to the sole aspect of “fascinating mystery.” Fascinating, but what is worse only in a natural, not a supernatural sense: a feast of family values, of winter, of the tree, of reindeer and of Santa Claus. Under way in some countries at present is the attempt to change even the name Christmas to that of “feast of light.” In few cases is secularization as visible as it is at Christmas.

For me, the “numinous” character of Christmas is connected to a memory. Some years ago I attended Midnight Mass presided over by John Paul II at St. Peter’s. The moment arrived for the singing of the Kalenda, namely, the solemn proclamation of the birth of the Savior, present in the old martyrology and reintroduced in the Christmas liturgy after Vatican II:

“In the year 5,199 since the creation of the world, […]
In the year 1,510 since the exodus […] from Egypt, […]
In the 194th Olympiad in the year 732
after the building of Rome,
In the 42nd year of the reign of Octavian Augustus, […]
Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desired to sanctify the world by His gracious coming.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and now after nine months
He is born at Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah as Man from the Virgin Mary.”

Having come to these last words I experienced what is called “the anointing of the faith”: an unexpected interior clarity, which made me say to myself: “It’s true! All this is true which is being sung! Not only are the words so. The eternal enters into time. The last event of the series has broken the series; it has created an irreversible┬á “before” and an “after”; the computation of time which at first was done in relation to different events (such as Olympics, the kingdom of so and so), now is done in relation to only one event.” An unexpected emotion went through my whole person, while I could only say: “Thank you, Most Holy Trinity, and thank you also, Holy Mother of God!”

It helps a lot to make Christmas the occasion for a leap of faith by finding times for silence. The liturgy envelops the birth of Jesus in silence: “Dum medium silentium tenerent omnia,” while everything around was in silence. “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night), is entitled the most widespread and beloved of all Christmas songs. At Christmas, we should feel as if the invitation of the Psalm was personally addressed to us: “Be still and confess that I am God!” (Psalm 46:11).

The Mother of God is the unsurpassable model of this Christmas silence: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Mary’s silence at Christmas is more than a simple silence; it is wonder, it is adoration; it is a “religious silence,” a being overwhelmed by the reality. The truest interpretation of Mary’s silence is that which is had in the ancient Byzantine icons, where the Mother of God opens herself motionless, with her gaze fixed, her eyes wide open, as if she had seen things that cannot be repeated in words. Mary, first raised to God what Saint Gregory Nazianzen called a “hymn of silence.” [17]

The person who truly participates in Christmas is the one who is able to do today, centuries later, what he would have done had he been present on that day. The one who does what Mary has taught us to do: to kneel, to adore, to be silent!


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December 20, 2010

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The Christian Response to Secularism

December 13, 2010

Father Cantalamessa’s 2nd Advent homily.

Christian answer to Atheist Scientism

December 6, 2010

Father Cantalamessa Advent Homily: