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Novena to Mary, Mother of our faith

with Pope Francis's encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, which he gave to us on the Feast of Saints Peter & Paul 2013.

The daily prayer to Mother Mary is from the very end of the encyclical:

To Mary, mother of the Church and mother of our faith, we turn in prayer.
O Mother, help our faith!
Open our ears to the Word, so that we may recognise the voice of God and his call.
Awaken in us the desire to follow his steps, going forth from our own land and welcoming his promise.
Help us to let ourselves be touched by his love so that we may touch him with faith.
Help us to entrust ourselves fully to Him, to believe in his love, above all in moments of tribulation and of the cross, when our faith is called to mature.
Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.
Remind us that the one who believes is never alone.
Teach us to look with the eyes of Jesus, that He may be light on our path.
And may this light of faith always grow in us, until we arrive at that day without sunset which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!

Many thanks to Daniel Weatherley & John Watts from the gift of their music, from their album 'The Seminarians'.
You can subscribe to this Totus2us Novenas podcast here from the RSS feed or here on itunes.
To download the free mp3 audio recordings individually, right/double click on the play buttons.
You can read Lumen Fidei in Arabic, Belorussian, Chinese (China), Chinese (Taiwan), English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian & Spanish.
This novena was recorded especially to start on the Feast of the Transfiguration & lead up to the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 2013.

Day 1 - Novena to Mary, Mother of our faith      


1. The light of faith: with this expression, the tradition of the Church has indicated the great gift brought by Jesus, who, in the Gospel of John, presents himself thus: "I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in me may not remain in darkness" (Jn 12, 46). Saint Paul also expresses it in these terms: "And God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ shines in our hearts" (2 Cor 4, 6). In the pagan world, hungry for light, the cult to the Sun god Sol Invictus developed, invoked each day at sunrise. Yet though the sun was born anew each morning, it was clearly incapable of radiating its light on man's entire existence. The sun, in fact, does not illuminate the whole of reality, its beam cannot pierce through to the shadow of death, there where the human eye is closed to its light. "No one — affirms St Justin the Martyr — has ever been ready to die for his faith in the sun". Aware of the great horizon which faith opened to them, the Christians called Christ the true sun "whose rays give life". To Martha, who was weeping over the death of her brother Lazarus, Jesus said: "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (Jn 11, 40). The one who believes, sees; sees with a light that illuminates the whole route of the road, because it comes to us from the risen Christ, the morning star that never sets.

An illusory light?

2. Yet, in speaking of this light of faith, we can hear the objection of many of our contemporaries. In the modern epoch it is thought that such a light might have been enough for ancient societies, but does not serve for the new times, for man become an adult, proud of his reason, eager to explore the future in a new way. From this stance, faith appeared as an illusory light, preventing man from cultivating the boldness of knowledge. The young Nietzsche invited his sister Elizabeth to take risks, treading "new ways … in the uncertainty of proceeding autonomously". And he added "At this point the ways of humanity separate: if you want to reach peace of soul and happiness, have faith, but if you want to be a disciple of truth, then explore". Belief would oppose the search. Starting from here, Nietzsche developed his critique of Christianity as having diminished the scope of human existence, by taking away from life novelty and adventure. Faith would then be like an illusion of light which impedes our pathway as liberated men towards the tomorrow.

3. In this process, faith ended up being associated with darkness. Thus it was thought that to conserve it, a space should be found for it to live alongside the light of reason. A space for faith opened up there where reason was not able to illuminate, there where man was no longer able to have certainty. Faith was then understood either as a leap in the dark which we take for lack of light, driven by a blind feeling; or as a subjective light, capable perhaps of warming the heart, of bringing private consolation, but which cannot be proposed to others as an objective and common light which illuminates the pathway. Little by little, however, it is seen that the light of autonomous reason does not succeed enough in illuminating the future; in the end, it remains in its obscurity and leaves man in fear of the unknown. And so man has given up the search for a great light, for a great truth, so as to be content with little lights which illuminate a brief instant, but are incapable of opening up the road. When the light is missing, everything becomes confused, it is impossible to distinguish good from evil, to distinguish the road which leads to the goal from those which make us go in endless circles, without any direction.

A light to be recovered

4. It is therefore urgent to recover the character of light proper to faith, because when its flame is extinguished all the other lights end up losing their vigour. The light of faith, indeed, possesses a unique character, being able to illuminate the whole existence of man. Because it is such a powerful light, it cannot come from ourselves, it must come from a source more at the origin, it must come, ultimately, from God. Faith is born in the encounter with the living God, who calls us and reveals to us his love, a love that precedes us and upon which we can depend so as to be firm and to build our lives. Transformed by this love we receive new eyes, we experience that in it there is a great promise of fullness and it opens up to us the look on the future. Faith, which we receive from God as a supernatural gift, appears as a light for the road, a light that orientates our pathway in time. On the one hand, it proceeds from the past, it is the light of a fundamental memory, that of the life of Jesus, in which is manifested his love - a love totally trustworthy, a love capable of conquering death. At the same time, however, because Christ is risen and attracts us beyond death, faith is a light that comes from the future, which opens up before us great horizons, and takes us from our isolated 'I' towards the breadth of communion. We thus understand that faith does not dwell in the dark; that it is a light for our shadows. Dante, in the Divine Comedy, after having confessed his faith before St Peter, describes is as a "spark, that dilates to a lively flame and like a star in the sky twinkles in me". It is of this light of faith that I would like to speak, so that it may grow to illuminate the present, becoming the star that shows the horizons of our pathway, in a time in which man is particularly in need of light.

5. Before his passion, the Lord assured Peter: "I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail" (Lk 22, 32). Then he asked him to "confirm the brothers" in this same faith. Conscious of the duty entrusted to the Successor of Peter, Benedict XVI wanted to hold this Year of Faith, a time of grace which is helping us to sense the great joy of believing, to refresh our perception of the breadth of horizons that faith opens up, so as to confess it in its unity and integrity, faithful to the memory of the Lord, sustained by his presence and by the action of the Holy Spirit. The conviction of a faith which makes life great and full, centred on Christ and on the strength of his grace, animated the mission of the first Christians. In the Acts of the martyrs, we read this dialogue between the Roman prefect Rusticus and the Christian Hierax: "‘Where are your parents?’, the judge asked the martyr, who responded: ‘Our true father is Christ, and our mother, faith in him.’" For these early Christians faith, as an encounter with the living God manifested in Christ, was a "mother", because it had brought them to the light, generated in them the divine life, a new experience, a luminous vision of existence for which they were prepared to bear public witness to the very end.

6. The Year of Faith began on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. This coincidence allows us to see that Vatican II was a Council on faith, as it invited us to put again at the centre of our ecclesial and personal life the primacy of God in Christ. The Church, in fact, never presupposes faith as a given, but knows that this gift of God must be nourished and strengthened, so as to continue to guide her path way. The Second Vatican Council made faith shine from within on human experience, thus traveling the roads of contemporary man. In this way it showed how faith enriches human existence in all its dimensions.

7. These considerations on faith — in continuity with all that the Church’s Magisterium has pronounced on this theological virtue — are meant to supplement what Benedict XVI has written in the encyclical letters on charity and hope. He had almost completed a first draft of the encyclical Letter on faith. I am deeply grateful to him and, in the fraternity of Christ, I have taken up his valuable work, adding to the text some additional contributions. The Successor of Peter, yesterday, today and tomorrow, is indeed always called to "confirm the brethren" in that incomparable treasure of the faith which God has given as light on every man's road.

In faith, the gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by Him, we recognise that a great Love has been offered to us, that a good Word has been addressed to us and that, by welcoming this Word, who is Jesus Christ, Word incarnate, the Holy Spirit transforms us, illuminates the pathway of the future and makes wings of hope grow in us so that we can travel it with joy. Faith, hope and charity constitute, in a wonderful intertwining, the dynamism of Christian existence towards full communion with God. What is this way that faith opens up before us? Where does its powerful light come from, that can illuminate the pathway of a successful and fecund life, full of fruit?

Day 2 - Novena to Mary, Mother of our faith      

WE HAVE BELIEVED IN LOVE   (cf 1 Jn 4, 16)

Abraham, our father in faith

8. Faith opens up to us the pathway and accompanies our steps in history. This is why, if we want to understand what faith is, we must recount its course, the way of believers, testified in the first place in the Old Testament. A unique place belongs to Abraham, our father in faith. In his life an overwhelming fact occurs: God gives him the Word, reveals himself as a God who speaks and who calls him by name. Faith is linked to hearing. Abraham does not see God, but hears his voice. In this way faith assumes a personal character. God is thus not the God of a place, nor the God tied to a specific sacred time, but the God of a person, indeed the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, capable of entering into contact with man and establishing with him a covenant. Faith is the response to a Word which summons personally, to a You who calls us by name.

9. This Word spoken to Abraham consists of a call and a promise. It is first of all a call to leave his own land, an invitation to open up to a new life, the beginning of an exodus which takes him to an unexpected future. The vision that faith will give to Abraham will always be joined to this step that has to be taken: faith "sees" in the measure to which it walks, to which it enters into the open space of the Word of God. Moreover this Word contains a promise: your descendants will be numerous, you will be father of a great people (cf Gen 13, 16; 15, 5, 22, 17). It is true that, as a response to a Word which precedes it, Abraham's faith will always be an act of memory. However, this memory is not fixed in the past but, being the memory of a promise, becomes capable of opening to the future, of illuminating the steps along the way. Thus it is seen how faith, as a memory of the future, memoria futuri, is closely linked to hope.

10. What is being asked of Abraham is that he entrusts himself to this Word. Faith understands that the word, a reality apparently ephemeral and fleeting, when it is pronounced by God, who is faithful, becomes the safest and most unshakable thing that can exist, that which renders possible the continuity of our pathway in time. Faith welcomes this Word like a safe rock on which one can build with solid foundations. This is why in the Bible faith is expressed by the Hebrew word ’emûnāh, derived from the verb ’amān, which in its root means "to support". The term ’emûnāh can mean both the faithfulness of God, and the faith of man. The faithful man receives his strength from entrusting himself into the hands of God, who is faithful. Playing on the two meanings of the word — also found in the corresponding terms in Greek (pistós) and Latin (fidelis) — St Cyril of Jerusalem exalts the dignity of the Christian, who receives God’s own name: both are called "faithful". St Augustine explains it thus: "The faithful man is the one who believes in God who promises; faithful God is the one who grants that which he has promised to man."

11. A final aspect of the story of Abraham is important to understand his faith. The Word of God, even if it brings with it novelty and surprise, is not at all alien to the experience of the Patriarch. In the voice which speaks to Abraham, he recognizes a deep call, inscribed since forever in the heart of his being. God associates his promise to that "place" in which the existence of man has always shown itself promising: fatherhood, the generation of a new life - "Sarah, your wife, will bear you a son and you will call him Isaac" (Gen 17, 19). The God who asks Abraham to trust totally in Him reveals himself as the fount from which all life originates. In this way faith is connected to the fatherhood of God, from which springs creation: the God who calls Abraham is the creator God, the One who "calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Rm 4,17), the One who "chose us before the creation of the world .. predestined to be his adopted sons" (Eph 11, 4-5). For Abraham faith in God illuminates the deepest roots of his being, allows him to recognise the source of goodness that is at the origin of all things and to confirm that his life does not proceed from nothing nor by chance, but from a personal call and a personal love. The mysterious God who has called him is not a foreign God, but the One who is origin of all and who sustains all. The great test of Abraham's faith, the sacrifice of his son Isaac, will show how far this original love is capable of guaranteeing life, even beyond death. The Word that was capable of rousing a son "as though dead" in his body and " in the womb dead" of Sarah's barrenness (cf Rm 4,19), will also be capable of guaranteeing the promise of a future beyond every threat and danger (cf Heb 11, 19; Rm 4, 21).

12. The history of the people of Israel in the Book of Exodus follows in the wake of Abraham’s faith. Faith is born anew of an original gift: Israel opens itself to the action of God who wants to liberate it from its misery. Faith is called to a long pathway so as to be able to worship the Lord on Sinai and inherit the promised land. Divine love possesses the traits of the father who carries his son along the pathway (cf Dt 1,31). Israel's confession of faith develops as a story of the goodness of God, of his actions to liberate and guide the people (cf Dt 26, 5-11), an account that the people handed down from generation to generation. The light of God shines for Israel through the memory of the deeds worked by the Lord, recalled and confessed in worship, transmitted from parents to children. We thus learn that the light born by faith is linked to the concrete account of life, to the grateful remembrance of the goodness of God and to the progressive fulfillment of his promises. Gothic architecture expressed this very well: in the great cathedrals light comes down from heaven through the windows depicting sacred history. The light of God comes to us through the account of his revelation, and thus is capable of illuminating our pathway in time, by remembering the divine good things, by showing how his promises are fulfilled.

13. The history of Israel also shows us the temptation of incredulity into which the people fell several times. The opposite of faith appears here as idolatry. While Moses speaks with God on Sinai, the people cannot bear the mystery of the divine face hidden, cannot bear the time of waiting. Faith by its nature calls for the renunciation of immediate possession which vision seems to offer, it is an invitation to open oneself towards the fount of light, respecting the mystery proper to a Face which intends to reveal itself in a personal way and at an opportune time. Martin Buber cited this definition of idolatry offered by the rabbi of Kock: there is idolatry "when a face addresses a face which is not a face". Instead of faith in God one prefers to worship an idol, whose face can be fixed, whose origin is known because it is made by us. Before an idol one does not risk the possibility of a call that would make one come out of one's own securities, because idols "have mouths and cannot speak" (Ps 115, 5). We understand then that an idol is the pretext for putting ourselves at the centre of reality, in the worship of the work of our own hands. Man, losing the fundamental orientation that gives unity to his existence, breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires; refusing to await the time of the promise, he disintegrates into a thousand instants of his history. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, moving aimlessly from one lord to another. Idolatry does not offer a pathway, but a multiplicity of trails, that do not lead to a certain destination but rather configure a labyrinthe. The one who does not want to trust in God must listen to the voices of many idols who cry out: "Trust in me!" Faith, as it is linked to conversion, is the opposite of idolatry; it is a separation from idols so as to turn to the living God, through a personal encounter. To believe means to entrust oneself to a merciful love that always welcomes and forgives, that sustains and directs existence, that shows its power in its capacity to straighten out the distortions of our history. Faith consists in the willingness to let oneself be transformed always anew by the call of God. Here is the paradox: in the continual turning towards the Lord, man finds a stable road that frees him from the dispersive movement which he is subjugated to by the idols.

14. In the faith of Israel the figure of Moses, the mediator, also emerges. The people cannot see the face of God; it is Moses who speaks with YHWH on the mountain and reports to everyone the will of the Lord. With this presence of a mediator, Israel learnt to walk together, united. The act of faith of the individual fits into a community, in the common "we" of the people who, in faith, are like a single man, "my first born son", as God will call the whole of Israel (cf Ex 4, 22). Mediation does not become here an obstacle, but an opening: in the encounter with others our gaze opens up to a truth greater than ourselves. J. Rousseau lamented at not being able to see God personally: "How many men between God and me!" "Is it so simple and natural that God went to Moses so as to speak to Jean-Jacques Rousseau?" Starting from an individualistic and limited conception of knowledge one cannot understand the meaning of mediation, this capacity to participate in the vision of another, shared knowledge which is the knowledge proper to love. Faith is God's free gift which calls for humility and the courage to trust and entrust, so as to see the luminous pathway of the encounter between God and men, the history of salvation.

Day 3 - Novena to Mary, Mother of our faith      

The fullness of Christian faith

15. "Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; and he saw it and was filled with joy" (Jn 8, 56). According to these words of Jesus, Abraham’s faith was orientated towards him, was in a certain sense an anticipated vision of his mystery. So St Augustine understood it when he affirmed that the Patriarchs were saved by faith, not faith in Christ already come but faith in Christ who was to come, faith stretching towards the future event of Jesus. Christian faith is centred on Christ, it is the confession that Jesus is the Lord and that God has raised him from the dead (cf Rom 10, 9). All the lines of the Old Testament gather together in Christ, He becomes the definitive "Yes" to all the promises, the foundation of our final "Amen" to God (cf 2 Cor 1, 20). The story of Jesus is the full manifestation of God's reliability. If Israel remembered the great acts of God's love, which formed the centre of its confession and opened up the gaze of its faith, now the life of Jesus appears as the place of God's definitive intervention, the supreme manifestation of his love for us. That which God speaks to us in Jesus is not one word among many others, but his eternal Word (cf Heb 1, 1-2). There is no greater guarantee that God could give to reassure us of his love, as St Paul reminds us (cf Rom 8, 31-39). Christian faith is thus faith in full Love, in its efficacious power, in its capacity to transform the world and illuminate time. "We have known and believed in the love that God has for us" (1 Jn 4, 16). In the love of God manifested in Jesus, faith grasps the foundation upon which reality and its final destiny stand.

16. The greatest proof of the reliability of the love of Christ is found in his death for man. If giving one's life for one's friends is the greatest proof of love (cf Jn 15,13), Jesus offered his for everyone, even for those who were his enemies, so as to transform hearts. This is why the evangelists located the culmination of the gaze of faith in the hour of the Cross, because in this hour the height and the breadth of divine love shines forth. St John will place here his solemn testimony when, together with the Mother of Jesus, he contemplated the One whom they have pierced (cf Jn 19, 37): "He who saw it gives witness, and his witness is true; he knows that what he says is true, so that you also may believe" (Jn 19, 35). Dostoevsky, in his work The Idiot, has the protagonist, Prince Myshkin, say at the sight of the painting of the dead Christ in the sepulchre, by Hans Holbein the Younger: "That picture could make someone lose faith". The painting portrays in fact, in a very raw way, death's destructive effects on the body of Christ. And yet, it is precisely in the contemplation of the death of Jesus that faith is strengthened and receives a dazzling light, when it is revealed as faith in his unshakable love for us, which is capable of entering into death in order to save us. In this love, which did not recoil from death in order to manifest how much he loves me, it is possible to believe; its totality conquers every suspicion and allows us to entrust ourselves fully to Christ.

17. Now, the death of Christ reveals the total reliability of God's love in the light of his Resurrection. As the risen one, Christ is the reliable witness, worthy of faith (cf Ap 1, 5; Heb 2, 17), the solid support for our faith. "If Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain", affirms St Paul (1 Cor 15, 17). If the Father's love had not made Jesus rise from the dead, if it had not been able to restore life to his body, then it would not be a fully reliable love, capable of illuminating even the darkness of death. When St Paul speaks of his new life in Christ, he refers to "faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2, 20). This "faith in the Son of God" is certainly the faith of the Apostle to the Gentiles in Jesus, but it also presupposes the reliability of Jesus, which is based, yes, on his love even unto death, but also in his being the Son of God. Precisely because Jesus is the Son, because he is rooted in an absolute way in the Father, he was able to conquer death and make life shine forth in its fullness. Our culture has lost the perception of this concrete presence of God, of his action in the world. We think that God is found only in the beyond, in another level of reality, separated from our concrete relationships. But if this were so, if God were incapable of acting in the world, his love would not be truly powerful, truly real, and would then not even be true love, capable of accomplishing the happiness which it promises. To believe or not to believe in Him would thus be a totally indifferent matter. Christians, on the contrary, confess the concrete and powerful love of God, which truly works in history and determines its final destiny, a love which has made itself encounterable, which has fully revealed itself in the Passion, death and Resurrection of Christ.

18. The fullness which Jesus brings to faith has another decisive aspect. In faith, Christ is not only the One in whom we believe, the highest manifestation of God’s love, but also the One to whom we are united in order to believe. Faith does not just look to Jesus but looks from the view point of Jesus, with his eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing. In many areas of life we rely on other people who know things better than us. We have trust in the architect who builds our home, in the pharmacist who gives us medicine for heeling, in the lawyer who defends us in court. We also need someone who is reliable and experienced in the things of God. Jesus, his Son, is presented as the One who tells us of God (cf Jn 1, 18). The life of Christ - his way of knowing the Father, of living totally in relationship with Him - opens up a new space to human experience and we can enter there. St John expressed the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus for our faith through various uses of the verb to believe. Along with "to believe that' that which Jesus tells us is true (cf Jn 14, 10; 20, 31), John also uses the expression "to believe" Jesus and "to believe in" Jesus. "We believe" Jesus, when we accept his Word, his testimony, because he is truthful (cf Jn 6,30). "We believe in" Jesus, when he personally welcome him into our lives and rely on Him, adhering to Him in love and following him along the road (cf Jn 2: 11; 6, 47; 12, 44).

So as to enable us to know him, accept him and follow him, the Son of God assumed our flesh, and hence his vision of the Father also took place in a human way, along a pathway and through a journey in time. Christian faith is faith in the Incarnation of the Word and in his Resurrection in the flesh; it is faith in a God who made himself so close by entering into our history. Faith in the Son of God made man in Jesus of Nazareth does not separate us from reality, but allows us to grasp its deeper meaning, to discover how much God loves this world and unceasingly orientates it towards Himself; and this leads the Christian to engage in, to live the pathway on earth in a more intense way.

Salvation by faith

19. Starting from this participation in Jesus's way of seeing, the Apostle Paul, in his writings, has left us a description of believing existence. The one who believes, in accepting the gift of faith, is transformed into a new creature, receives a new being, a filial being, becomes son of the Son. "Abba, Father" is the phrase most characteristic of Jesus' experience, which becomes the centre of Christian experience (cf Rm 8, 15). The life of faith, as a filial existence, is to recognise the original and radical gift which is at the base of the existence of man, and can be summed up in St Paul's phrase to the Corinthians: "What do you possess that you have not received?" (1 Cor 4, 7). Right here lies the heart of St Paul's controversy with the Pharisees, the debate about salvation through faith or through the works of the law. What St Paul rejects is the attitude of those who want to justify themselves before God by means of their own works. The one who, even when he is obeying the commandments, even when he is accomplishing good works, puts himself at the centre, and does not recognise that the origin of goodness is God. The one who works thus, who wants to be the fount of his own righteousness, sees it soon run out and discovers that he cannot even stay faithful to the law. Enclosed in on himself, isolated from the Lord and from others, as such his life renders itself vain, his works sterile, like a tree far from water. St Augustine expresses this in his concise and effective language: "Ab eo qui fecit te noli deficere nec ad te," "From the one who made you do not turn away even to turn towards yourself." When man thinks that by turning away from God he will find himself, his existence fails (cf Lk 15, 11-24). The beginning of salvation is openness to something which precedes one, to an original gift which affirms life and keeps it in existence. Only in the opening of oneself to this origin and recognising it is it possible to be transformed, letting salvation work in us and render life fecund, full of good fruits. Salvation through faith consists in recognising the primacy of God's gift, as St Paul puts it: "By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Eph 2, 8).

20. The new logic of faith is centred on Christ. Faith in Christ saves us because it is in him that life radically opens up to a Love that precedes us and transforms us from within, that acts in us and with us. This appears with clarity in the exegesis that the Apostle of the Gentiles makes of a text from Deuteronomy, an exegesis that plugs into the deeper dynamics of the Old Testament. Moses tells the people that God's command is neither too high nor too far away from man. There is no need to say: "Who will go up for us to heaven and bring it to us?" or "Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us?" (Dt 30, 11-14). This closeness to the Word of God is interpreted by St Paul as referring to the presence of Christ in the Christian: "Do not say in your heart: Who shall ascend to heaven? - that is, to make Christ come down -; or Who will descend into the abyss? - that is, to make Christ come up from the dead" - (Rm 10, 6-7). Christ came down to earth and rose from the dead; with his Incarnation and Resurrection, the Son of God has embraced the entire pathway of man and dwells in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Faith knows that God made himself very close to us, that Christ has been given to us as a great gift that transforms us from within, that dwells in us, and hence gives us the light that illuminates the origin and the end of life, the whole arc of the human pathway.

21. We can thus understand the novelty to which faith leads us. The believer is transformed by Love, to which he has opened himself in faith, and in his opening up to this Love which is offered to him, his existence extends beyond itself. St Paul can affirm: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2, 20), and exhorts: "May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith " (Eph 3, 17). In faith, the "I" of the believer expands to be inhabited by an Other, to live in an Other, and thus his life widens in Love. Therein lies the very work of the Holy Spirit. The Christian can have the eyes of Jesus, his feelings, his filial disposition, because he is made participator of his Love, which is the Spirit. It is in this Love that in some way the very vision of Jesus is received. Outside of this conformation in Love, outside of the presence of the Spirit who infuses our hearts (cf Rom 5, 5), it is impossible to confess Jesus as Lord (cf 1 Cor 12, 3)

The ecclesial form of faith

22. In this way, believing existence becomes ecclesial existence. When St Paul tells the Christians of Rome that one body which is all believers in Christ, he exhorts them not to boast; instead each one must be assessed "according to the measure of faith that God has assigned" (Rom 12, 3). The believer learns to see himself starting from the faith he professes: the figure of Christ is the mirror in which he discovers his own image realized. And just as Christ in himself embraces all believers, who form his body, the Christian understands himself in this body, in the original relationship to Christ and to his brothers and sisters in faith. The image of the body does not want simply to reduce the believer to part of an anonymous whole, to a mere element of a big wheel, but underlines rather the vital union of Christ with believers and of all believers to each other (cf Rom 12, 4-5). Christians are "one" (cf Gal 3, 28), without losing their individuality, and in service to others each one attains the very depths of their own being. So we understand why outside of this body, of this unity of the Church in Christ, of this Church that - in the words of Romano Guardini — "is the bearer within history of the full gaze of Christ on the world" — faith loses its "measure"; it no longer finds its equilibrium, the space necessary to support itself. Faith is necessarily ecclesial in form, is professed from within the body of Christ, as a concrete communion of believers. It is from this ecclesial place that the single Christian is opened up to all men. The word of Christ, once heard and by virtue of its own dynamism, is transformed in the Christian in response, and itself then becomes a spoken word, a confession of faith. St Paul affirms: "one believes with the heart ... and confesses with the lips" (Rom 10, 10). Faith is not a private fact, an individualistic concept, a subjective opinion, but is born from a listening and is destined to be pronounced and to become proclaimed. Indeed, "how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" (Rom 10, 14). Faith thus becomes active in the Christian starting from the gift received, from Love which attracts us towards Christ (cf Gal 5, 6) and renders us participators in the pathway of the Church, pilgrim in history towards its fulfillment. For the one who has been transformed in this way, a new way of seeing opens up, faith becomes light for one's eyes.

Day 4 - Novena to Mary, Mother of our faith      


Faith and truth

23. If you do not believe, you will not understand (cf Is 7, 9). The Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint translation made in Egyptian Alexandria, translates thus the words of the prophet Isaiah to King Ahaz. In this way the question of the knowledge of truth came to be placed at the centre of faith. The Hebrew text, however, reads differently. In it the prophet says to the king: If you do not believe, you shall not hold firm.' Here there is a play on words with two forms of the verb ’amān: "you will believe" (ta’amînû) and "you shall hold firm" (tē’āmēnû). Frightened by the power of his enemies, the king sought the security that an alliance with the great empire of Assyria could give. The prophet invited him to rely solely on the true rock that does not waver, the God of Israel. Because God is trustworthy, it is reasonable to have faith in Him, to build ones security on his Word. This is the God whom Isaiah will later twice call "the God-Amen" (cf Is 65, 16), the unwavering foundation of faithfulness to the covenant. It might be thought that the Greek version of the Bible, in translating "to hold firm" with "to understand", worked a profound change on the text, moving from a Biblical notion of trust in God to a Greek notion of understanding. However this translation, which certainly accepts dialogue with Hellenistic culture, is no stranger to the deep dynamic of the Hebrew text. The firmness that Isaiah promises to the king passes, in fact, through an understanding of the action of God and of the unity that He gives to the life of man and to the story of the people. The prophet exhorts [the king] to understand the ways of the Lord, finding in God's faithfulness the plan of wisdom which governs the ages. St Augustine expressed the synthesis of "understanding" and "holding firm" in his Confessions, when he speaks of the truth, on which one may trust in order to stay on one's feet: "I will hold firm and be established in you .. [..] in your truth". From the context we know that St Augustine wanted to show the way in which this trustworthy truth about God is, as is clear in the Bible, his faithful presence throughout history, his capacity to hold together the times, gathering up the dispersion of man's days.

24. Read in this light, the prophetic text leads to a conclusion: man has need of knowledge, has need of truth, because without them he cannot support himself, he cannot move forward. Faith, without truth, does not save, does not render our steps secure. It remains a beautiful fairy tale, a projection of our desires for happiness, something that satisfies us only to the extent that we want to deceive ourselves. Or it is reduced to a nice feeling, which comforts and warms, but remains subject to the vagaries of our spirit, to the variability of time, incapable of sustaining a constant pathway in life. If such were faith, King Ahaz would have been right not to stake his life and the security of his kingdom upon an emotion. But precisely because of its intrinsic connection with the truth, faith is able to offer a new light, superior to the king's calculations, because it sees further, because it includes the action of God, who is faithful to the covenant and to his promises.

25. To recall this connection between faith and truth is today more necessary than ever, precisely because of the crisis of truth in which we live. In contemporary culture there is a tendency for only technology to be accepted as truth: it is true that man succeeds at building and measuring with his science, true because it functions, and thus renders life easier and more comfortable. Today this seems the only certain truth, the only one that can be shared with others, the only one which we can discuss and engage in together. Then from another angle there are the truths of the individual, which consist of being authentic in front of that which each one feels within, valid only for the individual and that cannot be proposed to others with the pretext of serving the common good. The great truth, the truth which explains the whole of personal and social life, is viewed with suspicion. Was it not perhaps this - we ask ourselves - that the great totalitarian regimes of the last century claimed as truth, a truth that imposed its own world view so as to crush the concrete history of the individual? Hence only a relativism remains in which the question of the truth of all, which is at its base the question about God, is no longer of interest. From this perspective, it is logical to want to cut the connection between religion and truth, because this link is at the root of fanaticism, which wants to overpower anyone who do not share its own belief. In this regard, we can speak of a great oblivion in our contemporary world. The question of truth is, in fact, a question of memory, deep memory, because it is turned towards something that precedes it and, in this way, may succeed in uniting us beyond our little and limited "I". It is a question about the origin of all, in whose light can be seen the goal and hence also the meaning of the common road.

Knowledge of truth and love

26. In this situation, can Christian faith offer a service to the common good as to the right way to understand truth? To answer this it is necessary to reflect upon the type of knowledge proper to faith. An expression of Saint Paul's can help us here: "With the heart one believes" (Rom 10, 10). The heart, in the Bible, is the centre of man, where all his dimensions are interwoven: the body and the spirit, the interiority of the person and his openness to the world and to others; the intellect, the will, the affectivity. Well, if the heart is capable of holding together these dimensions, it is because it is the place where we open up to truth and love and let them touch us and transform us deeply. Faith transforms the whole person, exactly because it opens itself to love. It is in this interweaving of faith with love that the form of knowledge proper to faith is understood, its strength of conviction, its capacity to illuminate our steps. Faith knows in as much as it is linked to love, in as much as love itself bears a light. The understanding of faith is that which is born when we receive God's great love which transforms us interiorly and gives us new eyes with which to see reality.

27. The way in which the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein explained the connection between faith and certainty is well known. According to him, to believe is similar to the experience of falling in love, conceived as something subjective, impractical as a truth valid for everyone. To modern man it seems that the question of love in fact has nothing to do with the true. Today love is an experience linked to the world of inconstant feelings and no longer to truth.

Is this really an adequate description of love? In reality, love cannot be reduced to a feeling that comes and goes. Yes, it touches our affectivity, but so as to open it to the person loved and to begin thus a pathway, which is a departure from the closure of one's own I and to go towards the other person, so as to build a lasting relationship; love aims for union with the person loved. Thus the sense in which love needs truth is revealed. Only in as much as it is founded on truth can love endure over time, go beyond the fleeting instant and remain firm so as to sustain a common pathway. If love does not have this rapport with truth, it is subject to change of feelings and will not survive the test of time. Instead true love unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light towards a great and full life. Without truth love cannot offer a solid bond, does not manage to lead the "I" out of its own isolation, nor to free it from the fleeting instant in order to build up life and bear fruit.

If love needs truth, truth also needs love. Love and truth cannot be separated. Without love, the truth becomes cold, impersonal, oppressive for the concrete life of the person. The truth which we seek, that which offers meaning to our steps, illuminates us when we are touched by love. The one who loves understands that love is an experience of truth, that it opens our eyes to see all of reality in a new way, in union with the person loved. On this, St Gregory the Great wrote that "amore ipse notitia est", love itself is a knowledge, bears with it a new logic. It is a relational way of looking at the world, that becomes shared knowledge, a vision in the vision of another and a common vision upon all things. William of Saint Thierry, in the Middle Ages, followed this tradition when he commented on a verse in the Song of Songs in which love says to the beloved: Your eyes are the eyes of a dove (cf Song 1, 15). The two eyes, explains William, are believing reason and love, which become a single eye so as to reach the contemplation of God, when the intellect is made "intellect of an illuminated love."

28. This discovery of love as fount of knowledge, which belongs to the original experience of every man, finds authoritative expression in the biblical concept of faith. By savouring the love with which God has chosen it and begotten it as a people, Israel comes to understand the unity of the divine plan, from the origin to the accomplishment. The knowledge of faith, through the fact of being born of the love of God who established the Covenant, is knowledge which illuminates a pathway in history. Moreover this is why in the Bible, truth and faithfulness go together: the true God is the faithful God, the One who keeps his promises and allows, in time, for his plan to be understood. Through the experience of the prophets, in the sorrow of exile and in the hope of a definite return to the holy city, Israel has intuited that this truth of God extends beyond its own history, to embrace the entire history of the world, starting from creation. The knowledge of faith illuminates not only the particular route of a people, but the entire course of the created world, from its origin to its consummation.

Faith as listening and vision

29. Precisely because faith's knowledge is linked to the covenant with a faithful God, who weaves a relationship of love with man and addresses to him the Word, it is presented in the Bible as a listening, it is associated with the sense of hearing. Saint Paul will use a formula that became a classic: fides ex auditu, "faith comes from hearing" (Rom 10, 17). Knowledge associated with the word is always personal knowledge, which recognises the voice, opens itself to it in freedom and follows it in obedience. Thus St Paul spoke of the "obedience of faith" (cf Rom 1, 5; 16, 26). Faith is, moreover, knowledge linked to the passage of time, in which the word needs to be pronounced: it is knowledge which is learned only on a pathway of following. The listening helps to depict well the connection between knowledge and love.

As far as concerns the knowledge of truth, the listening has sometimes been opposed to the seeing, which was an aspect of Greek culture. If on the one hand light offers contemplation of the whole, to which man has always aspired, on the other it does not seem to leave space for freedom, since it descends from heaven and arrives directly in the eyes, without asking the eyes to respond. Moreover it would seem to invite a static contemplation, separated from the concrete time in which man benefits and suffers. According to this notion, the biblical approach to knowledge would be opposed to the Greek one which, in the search for a complete comprehension of the real, joined knowledge to vision.

It is however clear that this alleged opposition does not correspond with biblical data. The Old Testament combined both types of knowledge, because the listening to the Word of God is united to the desire to see his face. In this way it was possible to develop a dialogue with Hellenistic culture, a dialogue that belongs to the heart of Scripture. The hearing attests to the personal call and to obedience, and also to the fact that the truth reveals itself in time; the vista offers the full vision of the entire route and allows it to be situated within the great project of God; without such a vision, we would be left with only isolated fragments of an unknown whole.

30. The connection between the seeing and the listening, as organs of the knowledge of faith, appears with most clarity in the Gospel of John. For the fourth Gospel, to believe is to listen and, at the same time, to see. The listening of faith happens according to the form of knowledge proper to love: it is a personal listening, which distinguishes the voice and recognises that of the Good Shepherd (cf Jn 10, 3-5); a listening that requires to be followed, as happened with the first disciples who, "hearing him speak thus, followed Jesus" (Jn 1, 37). On the other hand, faith is also connected to vision. At times, the vision of the signs of Jesus preceeded faith, as with the Jews who, after the resurrection of Lazarus, "at the sight of what he had accomplished, believed in him" (Jn 11, 45). At other times, it is faith which leads towards a deeper vision: "If you believe, you will see the glory of God" (Jn 11, 40). In the end, to believe and to see are intertwined: "Whoever believes in me ... believes in the one who sent me; he who sees me, sees the one who sent me" (Jn 12, 44-45). Thanks to this union with listening, to see becomes to follow Christ, and faith appears as the pathway of the gaze, in which the eyes become accustomed to see in depth. And thus, on Easter morning, the story passes from John who, still in the dark, before the empty tomb, "saw and believed" (Jn 20, 8); to Mary Magdalene who sees Jesus (cf Jn 20, 14) and wants to cling to him, but is invited to contemplate him on his pathway towards the Father; and ends with the full confession of this same Magdalen before the disciples: I have seen the Lord!" (Jn 20, 18).

How is this synthesis between hearing and seeing achieved? It becomes possible by starting from the concrete person of Jesus, who is seen and heard. He is the Word made flesh, whose glory we have contemplated (cf Jn 1, 14). The light of faith is that of a Face in which the Father is seen. In fact, in the fourth Gospel, the truth grasped by faith is the manifestation of the Father in the Son, in his flesh and in his earthly deeds, a truth which can be defined as the "luminous life" of Jesus. This means that the knowledge of faith does not invite us to look at a purely interior truth. The truth that faith discloses to us is a truth centred on the encounter with Christ, on the contemplation of his life, on the perception of his presence. On this, St Thomas Aquinas speaks of the Apostles' oculata fides - faith that sees! - in front of the vision of the Risen One. They saw the risen Jesus with their own eyes and believed, that is, they were able to penetrate into the depths of what they saw so as to confess the Son of God, seated at the right of the Father.

31. Only in this way, through the Incarnation, through the sharing in our humanity, can the fullness of knowledge proper to love be reached. The light of love, in fact, is born when we are touched in the heart, receiving in us the interior presence of the beloved, who allows us to recognise his mystery. So we can understand why, together with listening and seeing, faith is, for St John, a touch, as he affirms in his first Letter: "That which we have heard, that which we have seen [...] and touched with our hands the Word of life ... "(1 Jn 1, 1). With his Incarnation, with his coming among us, Jesus has touched us and, through the Sacraments, touches us today as well; in this way, by transforming our hearts, he has allowed us and allows us to recognise him and to confess him as the Son of God. With faith, we can touch him, and receive the power of his grace. St Augustine, commentating on the passage of the woman with the haemorrhages who touches Jesus so as to be healed (cf Lk 8, 45-46), affirms: "To touch with the heart, this is to believe". The crowd tightens around Him, but does not reach him with the personal touch of faith, which recognises his mystery, his being the Son who manifests the Father. Only when we are configured to Jesus, do we receive eyes adjusted to see this.

Day 5 - Novena to Mary, Mother of our faith      

The dialogue between faith and reason

32. Christian faith, inasmuch as it proclaims the truth of God's total love and opens up to the power of this love, arrives at the deepest centre of the experience of every man, who comes to the light thanks to love and is called to love so as to remain in the light. Motivated by a desire to illuminate the whole of reality starting from the love of God made manifest in Jesus, in seeking to love with this same love, the first Christians found in the Greek world, with its hunger for truth, a suitable partner for dialogue. The encounter of the Gospel message with the philosophical thought of the ancient world constituted a decisive passage for the Gospel to come to all peoples, encouraged a fruitful interaction between faith and reason, which went on developing through the centuries, down to the present day. Blessed John Paul II, in his encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, showed how faith and reason each strengthen the other. When we find the full light of Jesus's love, we discover that in each of our loves there was present a glimmer of that light and we understand that that was its ultimate goal. And, at the same time, the fact that our love bears with it a light, helps us to see the pathway of love towards the fullness of the total self-gift of the Son of God for us. In this circular movement, the light of faith illuminates all our human relationships, which can be lived in union with the love and tenderness of Christ.

33. In the life of St Augustine we find a significant example of this pathway in which the search for reason, with its desire for truth and clarity, was integrated into the horizon of faith, from which it received new comprehension. On the one hand, he welcomed the Greek philosophy of light with its insistence upon vision. His encounter with Neoplatonism introduced him to the paradigm of light, which descends from on high to illuminate things, and is thus a symbol of God. In this way St Augustine understood divine transcendence and discovered that all things have in them a transparency, that they can as it were reflect the goodness of God, the Good. He was in this way freed from Manichaeism by which he had lived and which inclined him to think that evil and good struggled continually with each other, mingling and mixing, without clear contours. To understand that God is light gave him a new orientation in existence, the capacity to recognise the evil of which he was culpable and to turn towards the good.

On the other hand, however, in St Augustine's concrete experience, which he recounted in his Confessions, the decisive moment in his pathway of faith was not that of a vision of God, beyond this world, but rather that of a listening, when in the garden he sensed a voice which said to him: "Take up and read"; he took up the volume with the Letters of St Paul, dwelling on the thirteenth chapter of Romans. The personal God of the Bible appeared thus, capable of speaking to man, of descending to live with him and of accompanying him on his pathway in history, manifesting himself in the time of listening and response.

And yet, this encounter with the God of the Word did not lead St Augustine to reject the light and the vision. He integrated both the perspectives, guided always by the revelation of God's love in Jesus. And so he elaborated a philosophy of light which welcomes in it the reciprocity proper to the word and opens up a space to the freedom of gaze towards the light. Just as the word corresponds to a free response, so light finds as response a response in the image which reflects it. Associating listening and vision, St Augustine can refer thus to the "word that shines forth from within man". In this way light becomes, as it were, the light of a word, because it is the light of a personal Face, a light which, illuminating us, calls us and wants to be reflected in our faces so as to shine from within us. Yet, the desire for the vision of the whole, and not just of fragments of history, remains present and will be fulfilled at the end, when man, as the Saint of Hippo said, will see and will love. And this will be, not because he (man) will be capable of possessing all the light, which will forever be inexhaustible, but because he will enter, wholly, into the light.

34. The light of love proper to faith can illuminate the questions of our time about truth. Truth today is often reduced to the subjective authenticity of the individual, valid only for the individual life. A common truth frightens us, because we identify it with the intransigent imposition of totalitarianism. If however truth is the truth of love, if it is the truth that unfolds in a personal encounter with the Other and with others, then it remains free from closure in the individual and can be part of the common good. Being the truth of a love, it is not truth that imposes itself with violence, it is not truth that crushes the individual. Born of love it can reach the heart, reach the personal centre of each man. Thus it appears clear that faith is not intransigent, but grows in coexistence which respects the other. The believer is not arrogant; on the contrary, the truth makes him humble, by knowing that, more than we possess it, it is truth that embraces us and possesses us. Far from making us stiffen, the security of faith puts us on the pathway, and renders possible witness and dialogue with everyone.

On the other hand, the light of faith, as united to the truth of love, is not alien to the material world, because love is always lived in body and soul; the light of faith is light incarnate, which proceeds from the luminous life of Jesus. It illuminates even matter, trusts in its order, knows that in it unfolds an ever wider pathway of harmony and comprehension. The gaze of science thus benefits from faith: faith invites the scientist to remain open to reality, in all its inexhaustible richness. Faith awakens the critical sense, as it prevents the search from being satisfied with its own formulas and helps it to understand that nature is always greater. By inviting it to marvel before the mystery of creation, faith widens the horizons of reason better to illuminate the world that unfolds the studies of science.

Faith and the search for God

35. The light of faith in Jesus also illuminates the pathway of all those who seek God, and offers a contribution proper to Christianity in the dialogue with followers of different religions. The Letter to the Hebrews speaks to us about the testimony of the just who, before the Covenant with Abraham, were already seeking God with faith. Of Enoch it is said that "it was declared that he was pleasing to God" (Heb 11, 5), something impossible without faith, because those who "approach God, must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Heb 11, 6). We can thus understand that the pathway of religious man passes through the confession of a God who cares for him and who is not impossible to find. What other reward could God offer to those who seek him, if not to let himself be encountered? Even earlier, we find the figure of Abel, who is also praised for his faith because of which God welcomed his gifts, the offering of the firstborn of his flocks (cf Heb 11, 4). Religious man seeks to recognise the signs of God in the daily experience of his life, in the cycle of the seasons, in the fruitfulness of the earth and in the whole movement of the cosmos. God is luminous, and can also be found by those who seek him with a sincere heart.

An image of this search can be seen in the Magi, guided by the star all the way to Bethlehem (cf Mt 2, 1-12). For them the light of God was shown as a pathway, as a star which guided them along the road of discovery. The star speaks in this way of God's patience with our eyes, that have to become accustomed to his splendour. Religious man is on the pathway and must be ready to let himself be guided. to come out of himself so as to find the God who always surprises. This respect of God's for man's eyes shows us that, when man approaches Him, human light does not dissolve in the luminous immensity of God, as happens to a star engulfed by the dawn, but becomes brighter since it is closer to the original fire, like a mirror which reflects the splendour. The Christian confession of Jesus, the one saviour, affirms that all of God's light is concentrated in Him, in his "luminous life", in which is revealed the origin and the consummation of history. There is no human experience, no journey of man towards God, that cannot be welcomed, illuminated and purified by this light. The more the Christian immerses himself in the open circle of Christ's light, the more he is capable of understanding and of accompanying the road of every man towards God.

Because faith is configured as a way, it also concerns the lives of men who, while not believing, desire to believe and do not cease to seek. In the measure to which they open themselves to love with a sincere heart and put themselves on the pathway with this light they have grasped, without knowing it they are already living on the road towards faith. They seek to act as if God exists, sometimes because they recognise his importance for finding balanced guidelines in ordinary life, or because they experience the desire for light in the midst of darkness, but also because, in perceiving how great and beautiful life is, they intuit that the presence of God would render it even greater. St Irenaeus of Lyons recounts that Abraham, before listening to the voice of God, had already sought him "in the ardent desire of his heart", and "walked throughout the world, asking himself where God was", until "God took pity on him who, alone, sought him in silence". The one who puts himself on the pathway so as to do good already approaches God, is already sustained by his help, because it is precisely the dynamic of divine light to illuminate our eyes when we walk towards the fullness of love.

Faith and theology

36. Since faith is a light, it invites us to go forward in it, to explore always more the horizon that it illuminates, so as better to know that which we love. From this desire is born Christian theology. It is clear then that theology is impossible without faith and that it belongs to the very movement of faith, which seeks deeper intelligence about God's self-revelation, culminating in the Mystery of Christ. The first consequence is that in theology an effort of reason is not just made so as to scrutinise and know, as in the experimental sciences. God cannot be reduced to an object. He is the Subject who makes himself known and manifests himself in the rapport of person to person. Right faith orientates reason to open itself to the light which comes from God so that, guided by love for the truth, it can know God in a deeper way. The great doctors and medieval theologians indicated that theology, as the science of faith, is a participation in the knowledge that God has given of his very self. Theology, then, is not only a word about God, but first of all the welcome and search for a deeper intelligence of this word which God speaks to us, the word which God pronounces about his very self, because it is an eternal dialogue of communion, and man is admitted within this dialogue. Humility then is part of theology, humility which lets itself be "touched" by God, recognises its limits in front of the Mystery and is motivated to explore, with the discipline proper to reason, the unfathomable riches of this Mystery.

Theology then shares the ecclesial form of faith; its light is the light of the believing subject which is the Church. This implies, on the one hand, that theology be at the service of the faith of Christians, that it is humbly put to guard and deepen the belief of everyone, above all of the simplest. Furthermore, because it draws its life from faith, theology does not consider the Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him as something extrinsic, a limit on its freedom, but, on the contrary, as one of its internal constitutive dimensions, since the Magisterium ensures contact with the original source, and thus offers the certainty of drawing on the Word of Christ in its integrity.

Day 6 - Novena to Mary, Mother of our faith      


The Church, mother of our faith

37. The one who is open to the love of God, who has listened to his voice and has received his light, cannot keep this gift to himself. Since faith is listening and vision, it is also transmitted as word and light. Speaking to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul used precisely these two images. On the one hand, he says: "Animated though by that same spirit of which of which it was written: I believed, therefore I have spoken, we also believe and therefore we speak" (2 Cor 4, 13). The word received becomes response, confession and, in this way, resonates for others, inviting them to believe. On the other hand, St Paul also refers to the light: "By reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we come to be transformed into that same image" (2 Cor 3, 18). It is a light which is reflected from face to face, just as Moses bore in himself the reflection of the glory of God after having spoken with Him: "[God] has shone in our hearts, so as to make shine the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Cor 4, 6). The light of Jesus shines, as in a mirror, in the faces of Christians and thus spreads, thus it arrives in the end at us, because we can also participate in this vision and reflect his light to others, as in the liturgy of Easter the light of the taper lights so many other candles. Faith is transmitted, so to speak, in the form of contact, from person to person, like a flame is lit from another flame. Christians, in their poverty, plant a seed so fruitful that it becomes a big tree and is capable of filling the world with its fruit.

38. The transmission of faith, that shines for all people of all places, also passes through the axis of time, from generation to generation. Because faith is born of an encounter which happens in history and illuminates our pathway in time, it must be transmitted down through the centuries. It is through an unbroken chain of testimonies that the face of Jesus comes to us. How is this possible? How can we be sure of attaining the "true jesus", down through the centuries? If man is an isolated individual, if we wanted to start only from the individual "I", that wants to find in itself the security of its knowledge, this certainty would be impossible. I cannot see by myself what happened in an epoch so far distant from me. However this is not the only way in which man knows. The person lives always in relationship. We come from others, we belong to others, our lives become larger in the encounter with others. And also our own knowledge, the very consciousness of oneself, is of a relational type, and is tied to others who have preceded us: in the first place our parents, who have given us our life and our name. Language itself, the words with which we interpret our life and our reality, comes to us through others, preserved in the living memory of others. Knowledge of ourselves is possible only when we participate in a larger memory. It happens thus also in faith, which brings the human way of understanding to its fullness. Faith's past, that act of Jesus's love that generated a new life in the world, comes to us by the memory of others, of witnesses, kept alive in that unique subject of memory which is the Church. The Church is a Mother who teaches us to speak the language of faith. Saint John insisted on this aspect in his Gospel, joining together faith and memory, and associating both to the action of the Holy Spirit which, as Jesus says, "will remind you of everything" (Jn 14, 26). The Love which is the Spirit, and which dwells in the Church, keeps all the epochs united together, and renders us contemporaries of Jesus, becoming thus the guide of our pathway in faith.

39. It is impossible to believe alone. Faith is not just an individual option which happens in the interiority of the believer, it is not an isolated rapport between the "I" of the faithful and the divine "You", between the autonomous subject and God. By its nature, it opens itself to the "we", it happens always within the communion of the Church. The dialogue form of the Creed, used in the baptismal liturgy, reminds us of this. Belief is expressed as a response to an invitation, to a word which must be listened to and does not proceed from me, and as such is inserted within a dialogue, it cannot be a mere confession that originates from an individual. It is possible to respond in the first person, "I believe", only because one belongs to a great communion, only because one also says "we believe". This opening to the ecclesial "we" happens according to the opening proper to God's love, which is not only a rapport between Father and Son, between "I" and "you", but in the Spirit is also a "we", a communion of persons. This is why the one who believes is never alone, and why faith tends to spread, to invite others to its joy. The one who receives faith discovers that the spaces of his "I" widen, and generate new relationships in him which enrich life. Tertullian expressed this effectively speaking of the catechumen, who "after the cleansing of new birth" is welcomed into the Mother's house to lift up his hands and pray, together with his brothers and sisters, to our Father, as one welcomed into a new family.

The sacraments and the transmission of faith

40. The Church, like every family, transmits the contents of her memory to her children. How can this be done, in a way in which nothing is lost and in which, on the contrary, everything is deepened always more in the heritage of faith. It is through the Apostolic Tradition preserved in the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, that we have a living contact with the founding memory. And that which has been transmitted by the Apostles - as the Second Vatican Council affirms - "embraces everything that contributes to the living of a holy life and to the increase of the faith of the People of God, and hence in her doctrine, in her life and in her cult, the Church perpetuates and transmits to all generations all that she herself is, all that she herself believes."

Faith, in fact, needs a setting in which it can be witnessed and communicated, and which corresponds and is proportionate to that which is communicated. To transmit a merely doctrinal content, an idea, perhaps a book would suffice or the repetition of an oral message. But that which is communicated in the Church, that which is transmitted in its living Tradition, is the new light which is born from the encounter with the living God, a light which touches the person in his centre, in the heart, involving his mind, his will and his affectivity, opening it to living relationships in communion with God and with others. In order to transmit such a fullness a special means exists, which brings into play the whole person, body and spirit, interior life and relationships. These means are the Sacraments, celebrated in the liturgy of the Church. In them is communicated an incarnate memory, tied to the places and times of life, associated with all the senses; in them the person is involved, as a member of a living subject, in a fabric of community relationships. As such, if it is true to say that the Sacraments are the Sacraments of faith, it must also be said that faith has a sacramental structure. The awakening of faith passes through the awakening of a new sacramental sense of the life of man and of Christian existence, showing how the visible and material open up towards the mystery of the eternal.

41. The transmission of faith occurs in the first place through Baptism. It might seem that Baptism is only a way of symbolising the confession of faith, a pedagogical act for those who need images and gestures, but which, basically, can be ignored. A word of St Paul's, with regards to Baptism, reminds us that this is not the case. He affirms that "by means of baptism we are […] buried together with Christ in death, so that like Christ who was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in a new life" (Rom 6, 4). In Baptism we become new creature and adopted children of God. The Apostle then affirms that the Christian has been entrusted to a "form of teaching" (týpos didachés), which he obeys with the heart (cf Rom 6, 17). In Baptism man receives both a doctrine to profess and a concrete form of life that demands the engagement of the whole of his person and walks him towards the good. He is transferred into a new setting, entrusted to a new environment, to a new way of acting in common, in the Church. Baptism thus reminds us that faith is not the work of an isolated individual, it is not an act that man can accomplish by relying only on his own strength, but must be received, by entering into ecclesial communion which transmits the gift of God: no one baptises themselves, just as no one is born alone into existence. We have been baptised.

42. What are the baptismal elements that introduce us into this new "form of teaching"? In the first place, the name of the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is invoked upon the catechumen. It offers thus from the outset a synthesis of the pathway of faith. The God who called Abraham and wanted to be called his God; the God who revealed his name to Moses; the God who in giving us his Son fully revealed to us the mystery of his Name, gives to the baptised a new filial identity. The meaning of the action, the immersion in water, which is accomplished in Baptism, appears in this way: water is, at the same time, symbol of death, which invites us to pass through the conversion of "I", in view of its opening to a bigger "I"; and also symbol of life, of the womb in which we are reborn according to Christ in his new existence. In this way, through immersion in water, Baptism speaks to us of the incarnate structure of faith. The action of Christ touches us in our personal reality, transforming us radically, rendering us adopted children of God, participants in divine nature; it thus modifies all our relations, our concrete situation in the world and in the cosmos, opening them to his own life of communion. This dynamism of transformation proper to Baptism helps us to grasp the importance of the catechumenate, which today, even in societies with ancient Christian roots, in which a growing number of adults approach the baptismal sacrament, is of singular importance for the new evangelisation. It is the road of preparation for Baptism, for the transformation of one's whole existence in Christ.

To understand the connection between Baptism and faith, it can be of help for us to recall a text from the prophet Isaiah, which is associated with Baptism in ancient Christian literature: "Steep rocks will be his refuge [..] the water will be assured him " (Is 33, 16). The baptised, delivered from the waters of death, can now stand up on the "steep rock", because he has found the solidity on which to rely. Thus, the water of death is transformed into the water of life. The Greek text describes it as the pistós water, the "faithful" water. The water of Baptism is faithful because one can rely on it, because its current enters into the dynamic of Jesus's love, fount of security on our pathway in life.

43. The structure of baptism, its configuration as a rebirth, in which we receive a new name and a new life, help us to understand the meaning and importance of the Baptism of children. The child is not capable of a free act that welcomes faith, cannot yet confess it on his own, and for this reason it is confessed by his parents and godparents in his name. Faith is lived within the community of the Church, is inserted in a common "we". Thus the child can be sustained by others, by his parents and godparents, and can be welcomed in their faith, which is the faith of the Church, symbolised by the light which the father draws from the candle in the baptismal liturgy. This structure of Baptism shows the importance of the synergy between the Church and the family in the transmission of faith. The parents are called, according to the words of St Augustine, not only to generate children to life, but to carry them to God so that, through Baptism, they are reborn as children of God, receiving the gift of faith. Thus, along with life, they are come to be given the fundamental orientation of existence and the security of a good future, an orientation which will be further corroborated in the Sacrament of Confirmation with the seal of the Holy Spirit.

44. The sacramental nature of faith finds its highest expression in the Eucharist. It is the precious nourishment of faith, the encounter with Christ present in a real way with the supreme act of love, the gift of his very Self which generates life.

In the Eucharist we find the intersection of the two axes on which faith treads its pathway. On one side, the axis of history: the Eucharist is the act of memory, the actualisation of the mystery, in which the past, as the event of the death and resurrection, shows its capacity to open up to the future, of anticipating the final fullness. The liturgy reminds us with its hodie, the "today" of the mysteries of salvation. From another hand, there is the axis which leads from the visible world towards the invisible. In the Eucharist we learn to see the depth of the real. The bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, who makes himself present in his paschal pathway towards the Father: this movement introduces us, body and soul, into the movement of all that is created towards its fullness in God.

45. In the celebration of the sacraments, the Church transmits her memory, in particular, with the profession of faith. In it, it is not so much about providing assent to a set of abstract truths. On the contrary, in the confession of faith the whole of life enters onto a pathway towards full communion with the living God. We can say that in the Creed the believer is invited to enter into the mystery which he professes and let himself be transformed by that which he professes. To understand the meaning of this affirmation, we think first of the contents of the Creed. It has a trinitarian structure: the Father and the Son are united in the Spirit of love. The believer affirms thus that the centre of being, the most profound secret of all things, is the divine communion. Moreover, the Creed also contains a Christological confession: the mysteries of Christ's life are retraced, all the way to his Death, Resurrection and Ascension to Heaven, in the waiting for his final coming in glory. It is said, thus, that this communion God, exchange of love between the Father and the Son in the Spirit, is capable of embracing the history of man, of introducing it into his dynamism of communion, which has in the Father his origin and final goal. The one who confesses the faith, finds himself involved in the truth which he confesses. One cannot pronounce with truth the words of the Creed, without being oneself transformed by them, without immersing oneself in the history of love which embraces one, which expands ones being by rendering it part of a great communion, of the ultimate subject which pronounces the Creed and which is the Church. All the truths which are believed tell the mystery of the new life of faith as a pathway of communion with the living God.

Day 7 - Novena to Mary, Mother of our faith      

Faith, prayer and the Decalogue

46. Two other elements are essential to the faithful transmission of the memory of the Church. First, the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father. In it the Christian learns to share in the same spiritual experience as Christ and begins to see with the eyes of Christ. Starting from the One who is Light from Light, from the Only Begotten Son of the Father, we too know God and can enkindle in others the desire to draw near Him.

Just as important is the connection between faith and the Decalogue. Faith, we have said, appears like a pathway, a road to be trodden, open to the encounter with the living God. For this reason, to the light of faith, of total entrustment to God who saves, the Decalogue acquires its deepest truth, contained in the words which introduce the ten commandments: "I am the Lord your God who has brought you out of the land of Egypt" (Ex 20, 2). The Decalogue is not a set of negative precepts, but of concrete directions for leaving the desert of one's self-referential "I", closed in on itself, and for entering into dialogue with God, letting oneself be embraced by his mercy so as to be a bearer of his mercy. Faith confesses thus the love of God, origin and support of all, lets itself be moved by this love so as to walk towards the fullness of communion with God. The Decalogue appears as the pathway of gratitude, of the response of love, possible because, in faith, we are open to the experience of God's transforming love for us. And this pathway receives a new light from what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (cf Mt 5-7).

I have thus touched upon the four elements that summarise the treasure of memory that the Church transmits: the Confession of faith, the celebration of the Sacraments, the pathway of the Decalogue and prayer. The catecheses of the Church are traditionally structured around them, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a fundamental tool for this unified act with which the Church communicates the entire content of faith, "all that she herself is, all that she herself believes".

The unity and integrity of faith

47. The unity of the Church, in time and space, is connected to the unity of the faith: "there is one body and one Spirit… one faith" (Eph 4, 4-5). Today it may seem realisable to have a union of men in a common endeavour, a desire for the good, a sharing in the same destiny, a common goal. But it is much more difficult to conceive of a unity in the same truth. It seems to us that a union of this sort is opposed to freedom of thought and the autonomy of the subject. The experience of love tells us however that exactly in love is it possible to have a common vision, that in it we learn to see reality with the eyes of the other, and that this does not impoverish us, but enriches our gaze. True love, to the measure of divine love, demands the truth and in the common gaze of truth, which is Jesus Christ, becomes solid and deep. This is also the joy of faith, the unity of vision in a single body and in a single spirit. On this St Leo the Great could affirm: "If faith is not one, it is not faith."

What is the secret of this unity? Faith is "one", in the first place, through the unity of God known and confessed. All the articles of faith relate to Him, are roads so as to know his being and his action, and consequently they possess a unity superior to that of any we can build with our thought, they possess the unity which enriches us, because it communicates itself to us and renders us "one".

Faith is one, also, because it is turned to the one Lord, to the life of Jesus, to his concrete history which he shares with us. St Irenaeus of Lyons made this clear in his opposition to the Gnostic heretics. The Gnostics held the existence of two types of faith: a crude faith, the imperfect faith of the simple which was maintained at the level of the flesh of Christ and of the contemplation of his mysteries; and another, more profound and perfect type of faith, the faith reserved for a small circle of the initiated which with the intellect elevated itself above the flesh of Jesus towards the mysteries of the unknown divinity. Faced with this claim, which continues to have its charm and its followers still in our times, Saint Irenaeus insisted that there is a single faith, because it always passes through the concrete point of the Incarnation, without ever overcoming the flesh and history of Christ, of the moment that God wanted to reveal himself fully there. This is why there is no difference in faith between "the one who is able to speak more in length" about it and "the one who only speaks a little", between the one who is superior and the one who is less capable: neither the first can expand the faith, nor the second diminish it.

Finally, faith is one because it is shared by the whole Church, which is a single body and a single Spirit. In the communion of the one subject which is the Church, we receive a common gaze. By confessing the same faith, we rest on the same rock, we are transformed by the same Spirit of love, we radiate one light and we have one gaze to penetrate reality.

48. Given that there is one faith, it must be confessed in all its purity and integrity. Precisely because all the articles of faith are connected in unity, to negate one of them, even one of those that seem less important, is equivalent to damaging them all. Every epoch has points of faith that it finds easier or more difficult to accept: hence it is important to be vigilant that the whole deposit of faith be transmitted, that all the aspects of the confession of faith are properly insisted upon. Indeed, since the unity of faith is the unity of the Church, to take away something from faith is to take away something from the truth of communion. The Fathers of the Church described faith as a body, the body of truth, with different members, by analogy with the body of Christ and with its prolongation in the Church. The integrity of faith is also linked to the image of the virgin Church, to her faithfulness in spousal love for Christ: to damage the faith means to damage communion with the Lord. The unity of faith is thus that of a living organism, as Blessed John Henry Newman well observed when he enumerated, among the characteristics to distinguish the continuity of doctrine over time, its power to assimilate in itself all that it finds, in the diverse settings in which it is present, in the diverse cultures which it encounters, purifying everything and bearing all to its best expression. Thus faith shows itself to be universal, catholic, because its light grows so as to illuminate all of the cosmos and all of history.

49. As a service to the unity of faith and its integral transmission, the Lord gave his Church the gift of apostolic succession. Through this means, the continuity of the Church’s memory is guaranteed and it is possible to attain with certainty the pure fount from which faith flows. The guarantee of connection with the origin is thus given by living persons, and this corresponds to the living faith which the Church transmits. It rests on the faithfulness of the witnesses who were chosen by the Lord for such a task. This is why the Magisterium always speaks in obedience to the original Word upon which faith is founded and it is trustworthy because it trusts in the Word which it listens to, guards and explains. In the farewell discourse to the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, recounted by Saint Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Paul testifies to having accomplished the task entrusted him by the Lord to announce "the whole will of God" (Acts 20, 27). It is thanks to the Magisterium of the Church that this will can come to us in its integrity, and with it the joy of being able to accomplish it to the full.

Day 8 - Novena to Mary, Mother of our faith      

50. In presenting the story of the Patriarchs and the righteous of the Old Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews highlights an essential aspect of their faith. It is configured not only as a pathway, but also as the construction, the preparation, of a place in which man can dwell together with others. The first builder was Noah who, in the ark, succeeded in saving his family (cf Heb 11, 7). Next came Abraham, of whom it is said that, by faith, he dwelt in tents, waiting for the city with firm foundations (cf Heb 11, 9-10). From faith flows a new reliability, a new firmness, which only God can give. If the man of faith rests on the God-Amen, on the faithful God (Is 65, 16), and thus becomes firm himself, we can add that the firmness of faith also refers to the city that God has prepared for man. Faith reveals just how firm the bonds between men can be, when God is rendered present in the midst of them. Faith not only evokes an interior solidity, a stable conviction of the believer; it also illuminates the relations between men, because it is born of love and follows the dynamic of God's love. Trustworthy God gives to man a trustworthy city.

51. Precisely thanks to its connection with love (cf Gal 5, 6), the light of faith is placed at the concrete service of justice, law and peace. Faith is born of the encounter with the original love of God in which the meaning and goodness of our life appears; this is illuminated in the measure to which it enters into the dynamism opened by this love, in as much as it becomes pathway and practice towards the fullness of love. The light of faith is able to enhance the richness of human relationships, their capacity to endure, to be trustworthy, to enrich communal life. Faith does not distance itself from the world and does not remain a stranger to concrete commitment to our contemporaries. Without a reliable love nothing can keep men truly united. Unity between them would be conceivable only as founded upon utility, upon composition of interests, upon fear, but not upon the goodness of living together, not upon the joy which the simple presence of another can excite. Faith makes one understand the architecture of human relations, because it grasps its ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and so illuminates the art of the construction, becoming a service to the common good. Yes, faith is a good for everyone, is a common good, its light illuminates not only the interior of the Church, but serves uniquely to build an eternal city in the afterlife; it helps us to build our society, in a way that walks towards a future of hope. The Letter to the Hebrews offers an example of this when, among the men of faith, it cites Samuel and David, whose faith permitted them to "exercise justice" (Heb 11, 33). The expression refers here to their justice in governing, to that wisdom which brings peace to the people (cf 1 Sam 12, 3-5; 2 Sam 8, 15). The hands of faith are raised towards heaven, but at the same time in charity they edify a city built on relations in which God's love is the foundation.

Faith and the family

52. On Abraham’s pathway towards the future city, the Letter to the Hebrews alludes to the blessing which is transmitted from father to son (cf Heb 11, 20-21). The first setting in which faith illuminates the city of men is thus found in the family. I am thinking above all of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. It is born of their love, sign and presence of God's love, of the recognition and acceptance of the goodness of sexual difference, in which the spouses can unite in one flesh (cf Gen 2, 24) and are capable of begetting a new life, manifestation of the Creator's goodness, of his wisdom and his design of love. Founded on this love, man and woman can promise each other mutual love with a gesture that involves all their life and which recalls so many aspects of faith. To promise a love that will be forever is possible when we discover a design greater than our own projects, which sustains us and allows us to give the whole future to the person loved. Faith then helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the generation of children, since it makes us recognise in it the creator love who gives us and entrusts to us the mystery of a new person. It was thus that Sarah, through her faith, became a mother, counting on the faithfulness of God to his promise (cf Heb 11, 11).

53. In the family, faith accompanies all the stages of life, starting with childhood: children learn to trust in the love of their parents. This is why it is important that parents cultivate in the family common practices of the faith, which accompany the maturation of the faith of their children. Above all young people, who go through a stage of life so complex, rich and important for their faith, must feel the closeness and attention of the family and of the ecclesial community on their pathway of growth in faith. We have all seen how, at the World Youth Days, young people show the joy of faith, the commitment to live a faith that is always firmer and more generous. Young people have the desire for a great life. The encounter with Christ, letting oneself be caught and guided by his love, widens the horizon of existence, gives it a solid hope which does not disappoint. Faith is not a refuge for people without courage, but the expansion of life. It makes one discover a great call, the vocation to love, and assures one that this love is trustworthy, that it is worth surrendering oneself to it, because its foundation is found in God's faithfulness, stronger than our every fragility.

A light for life in society

54. Assimilated and deepened in the family, faith becomes the light to illuminate all social relations. As the experience of the paternity of God and of the mercy of God, it then expands on the fraternal pathway. In modernity, universal fraternity has sought to be constructed among men, based on their equality. Little by little, however, we have understood that this fraternity, deprived of reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation, fails to exist. Thus it is necessary to return to the true root of fraternity. The history of faith, since its beginning, has been a history of fraternity, albeit not without conflict. God calls Abraham to leave his country and promises to make of him one great nation, a great people, on whom rests the divine Blessing (cf Gen 12, 1-3). In the course of the history of salvation, man discovers that God wants to make everyone participate, as brothers, in this unique blessing, which finds its fullness in Jesus, so that all may be one. The inexhaustible love of the Father is communicated to us, in Jesus, also through the presence of our brother. Faith teaches us to see that in each man there is a blessing for me, that the light of God's face illuminates me through my brother's face.

How many benefits has the gaze of Christian faith brought to the city of men for their life in common! Thanks to faith we have understood the unique dignity of each person, which was not so evident in the ancient world. In the second century, the pagan Celsus reproached Christians for what seemed to him an illusion and deception: to think that God had created the world for man, placing him at the pinnacle of the whole cosmos. Hence he asked: "Why pretend that [grass] grows for men, and not rather for the wildest animals without reason?" "If we look at the earth from the heights of sky, what difference do our activities offer to that of the ants and bees?" At the centre of biblical faith is the love of God, his concrete care for each person, his design of salvation which embraces all humanity and the entire creation and which reaches its summit in the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. When this reality gets to be obscured, the criterion gets lost for distinguishing that which renders the life of man precious and unique. Man loses his place in the universe, he goes astray in nature, renouncing his own moral responsibility, or he pretends to be absolute arbiter, attributing to himself a power of manipulation without limits.

55. Faith, moreover, in revealing to us the love of God the Creator, makes us respect nature all the more, by making us recognise in it a grammar written by Him and a dwelling place entrusted to us so as to be cultivated and guarded; it helps us to find models of development which are not based solely on utility and profit, but which consider the creation as a gift, for which we are all debtors; it teaches us to identify just forms of government, recognising that authority comes from God so as to be at the service of the common good. Faith also affirms the possibility of forgiveness, which very often needs time, effort, patience and commitment; forgiveness is possible if one discovers that good is always more original and stronger than evil, that the word with which God affirms our life is deeper than all our negations. Furthermore, from a purely anthropological point of view, unity is superior to conflict; we must also take up the conflict, but the living of it must bring us to resolving it, overcoming it, transforming it into a link of a chain, in development towards unity.

When faith diminishes, there is the risk that even the foundations of living diminish, as the poet T.S. Eliot warned: ""Do you need to be told that even those modest attainments / As you can boast in the way of polite society / Will hardly survive the Faith to which they owe their significance?" If we take away faith in God from our cities, trust between us will fade away, we will hold together only through fear, and stability will be threatened. The Letter to the Hebrews affirms: God is not ashamed to be called their God. Indeed he has prepared a city for them" (Heb 11, 16). The expression "not ashamed" is associated with a public recognition. It means that God confesses publicly, with his concrete action, his presence among us, his desire to render firm the relations between men. Are we perhaps ashamed to call God our God? Are we not confessing him as such in our public life, are we not proposing the grandeur of the life in common which He renders possible? Faith illuminates life in society; it possesses a creative light for each new moment of history, because it situates all events in relation to the origin and destiny of all things in the Father who loves us.

Day 9 - Novena to Mary, Mother of our faith      

A consoling strength in suffering

56. St Paul writing to the Christians of Corinth about his tribulations and sufferings, puts
his faith in relation to the preaching of the Gospel. He says, in effect, that in it is accomplished the passage of Scripture: "I believed, therefore I spoke" (2 Cor 4, 13). The Apostle refers to a verse from Psalm 116, in which the Psalmist exclaims: "I believe even when I say: I am too unhappy" (v 10). To speak of faith often involves speaking also of sorrowful trials, but it is precisely in them that St Paul sees the most convincing announcement of the Gospel, because it is in weakness and suffering that emerges and is discovered the power of God who overcomes our weakness and our suffering. The Apostle himself was in a situation of death, which became life for Christians (cf 2 Cor 4, 7-12). In the hour of trial, faith illuminates us, and precisely in suffering and weakness it appears clear that "we [..] do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ the Lord" (2 Cor 4, 5). Chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews concludes with a reference to those who have suffered for the faith (cf Heb 11, 35-38), among whom a particular place is occupied by Moses, who took upon himself the stigma of Christ (cf v26). The Christian knows that suffering cannot be eliminated, but that it can receive a meaning, can become act of love, entrustment into the hands of God who does not abandon us and, in this way, be a stage of growth in faith and love. In contemplating the union of Christ with the Father, even in the moment of greatest suffering on the cross (cf Mk 15, 34), the Christian learns to participate in the very gaze of Jesus. As a result even death is illuminated and can be lived as the ultimate call of faith, the ultimate "Go forth from your land" (Gen 12, 1), the ultimate "Come!" pronounced by the Father, to whom we abandon ourselves with trust that He will render us firm even in the definitive step.

57. The light of faith does not make us forget the sufferings of the world. For so many men and women of faith those suffering have been the mediators of light! So it was for St Francis of Assisi with the leper, or for Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta with the poor. They understood the mystery that is in them. Drawing near to them certainly did not cancel out all their sufferings, nor could it explain all the evil. Faith is not a light which dispels all our darkness, but a lamp that guides our steps in the night, and this is enough for the pathway. To man who suffers, God does not give a reasoning which explains everything, but offers his response in the form of a presence which accompanies, of a history of good which unites him to every history of suffering so as to open in it a gap of light. In Christ, God himself wanted to share with us this road and offer us his gaze so as to see in it the light. Christ is the one who, having born suffering, "gives origin to faith and brings it to fulfillment" (Heb 12,2).

Suffering reminds us that the service of faith to the common good is always a service of hope, which looks ahead, knowing that it is only from God, from the future that comes from Jesus resurrected, that our society can find solid and lasting foundations. In this sense, faith is linked to hope because, even if our earthly dwelling place comes to be destroyed, we have an eternal dwelling place which God has already inaugurated in Christ, in his body (cf 2 Cor 4, 16- 5, 5). The dynamism of faith, hope and charity (cf 1 Thes 1, 3; 1 Cor 13, 13) makes us thus embrace the concerns of all men, on our pathway towards that city, "whose architect and builder is God himself" (Heb 11, 10) because "hope does not disappoint" (Rom 5, 5). 

In unity with faith and charity, hope projects us towards a certain future, which is situated in a different perspective to the illusory proposals of the idols of this world, but which gives new momentum and new force to daily living. Let us not be robbed of hope, not allow that it be thwarted by immediate solutions and proposals that block us on the pathway, which "fragment" time, transforming it into space. Time is always superior to space. Space crystallizes processes, whereas time projects towards the future and urges us to walk with hope.

Blessed is she who believed (Lk 1:45)

58. In the parable of the sower, Saint Luke records these words with which Jesus explains the meaning of the "good soil". "They are those who, having listened to the word with a noble and generous heart, guard it and yield fruit by their constancy" (Lk 8, 15). In the context of Luke's Gospel, the mention of the noble and generous heart, in reference to the Word heard and kept, constitutes an implicit portrait of the faith of the Virgin Mary. The same evangelist speaks to us of Mary's memory, of how she preserved in her heart all that she had heard and seen, in a way that the Word bore fruit in her life. The Mother of the Lord is the perfect icon of faith, as Saint Elizabeth said: "Blessed is she who believed" (Lk 1, 45).

In Mary, Daughter of Zion, is accomplished the long history of faith of the Old Testament, with the account of so many faithful women, beginning with Sarah, women who, alongside the Patriarchs, were the place in which the promise of God was accomplished, and new life blossomed. In the fullness of time, the Word of God was addressed to Mary, and she welcomed it with all her being, in her heart, so that in her it took flesh and was born as light for men. St Justin the Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho, has a beautiful expression in which he says that Mary, in accepting the Angel's message, conceived "faith and joy". In the Mother of Jesus faith is shown full of fruit, and when our spiritual life bears fruit, we are filled with joy, which is the clearest sign of the grandeur of faith. In her life, Mary accomplished the pilgrimage of faith, following her Son. Thus, in Mary, the pathway of faith of the Old Testament is assumed into the following of Jesus and lets itself be transformed by Him, entering into the very gaze of the Son of God incarnate.

59. We can say that in the Blessed Virgin Mary is realised that which I have previously insisted upon, namely that the believer is totally engaged in his confession of faith. Mary is tightly associated, through her bond with Jesus, to that which we believe. In Mary's virginal conception we have a clear sign of Christ's divine filiation. The eternal origin of Christ is in the Father, He is the Son in the total and unique sense; and for this he is born in time without the intervention of a man. Being Son, Jesus can bring to the world a new beginning and a new light, the fullness of God's faithful love which is bestowed upon men. On the other hand, the true maternity of Mary has secured for the Son of God a true human history, a true flesh in which he will die upon the cross and rise again from the dead. Mary will accompany him all the way to the cross (cf Jn 19, 25), from where her maternity will extend to every disciple of her Son (cf Jn 19, 26-27). She will be present also in the cenacle, after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, to implore with the Apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf Acts 1, 14). The movement of love between the Father and the Son in the Spirit has run through our history; Christ attracts us to Himself so as to save us (cf Jn 12, 32). At the centre of faith is found the confession of Jesus, Son of God, born of woman, which introduces us, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, into adopted filiation (cf Gal 4, 4-6).

60. Let us turn in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith.

O Mother, help our faith!
Open our listening to the word so that we may recognize the voice of God and his call.
Awaken in us the desire to follow his steps, going forth from our own land and welcoming his promise.
Help us to let ourselves be touched by his love, so that we may touch him with faith.
Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him, to believe in his love, above all in moments of tribulation and of the cross, when our faith is called to mature.
Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.
Remind us that the one who believes is never alone.
Teach us to look with the eyes of Jesus, that He may be light on our pathway.
And may this light of faith always grow in us, until we arrive at that day without sunset which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 29 June, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, in the year 2013, the first of my pontificate.