Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household 

Cardinal Cantalamessa: The Church lives by her faith

In his first sermon for the season of Advent 2022, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa highlights the importance of the theological virtue of faith in our Christian journey, and urges the faithful to go to meet Christ, who comes with an act of faith that is a promise of God and a prophecy.

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher to the Papal Household, has focused his Advent sermons this year on the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.

“Faith, hope, and charity are the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that we, the Magi of today, want to bring as a gift to God who ‘comes to visit us from on high’,” he said. He explained that “the great door that man can open or close to Christ is one and is called freedom.” However, this door opens in three different ways according to three types of decisions that we can consider as three doors: faith, hope, and charity.

These doors open from inside and the outside at the same time with two keys, he noted, adding that one is “in the hand of man and the other in the hand of God.” Nonetheless, “Man cannot open them without the help of God and God does not want to open them without the cooperation of man.”

Faith in Christ

Focusing on the door of faith in this first of three sermons for the season, the Cardinal noted that God opens the door to us by sending those who preach the good news. Man, in turn, opens the door of faith by accepting this possibility. Thus, with the coming of Christ, there is “a leap in quality with regard to faith” – not in its nature, but in its content – as it is no longer a question of generic faith in God, but of faith in Christ, who was born, died and rose for us.

In fact, he explained, before Jesus performed miracles, He asked, “Do you believe?” and after accomplishing it affirmed, “Your faith has saved you.” He was referring to faith in Himself, in the divine power granted to Him.

The process of faith

This faith, the cardinal continued, “is placed at the end of a process” that St. Paul traces, saying “Faith comes from listening.” Hence “from the ears, the movement passes to the heart, where the fundamental decision is made: corde creditur, 'with the heart one believes'. From the heart, the movement goes back to the mouth: 'with the mouth one makes the profession of faith': ore fit confessio.”

However, the process does not end there. It continues from the ears, the heart, and the mouth to the hands, Cardinal Cantalamessa said. Because "faith works through love" (Gal 5: 6) and St. James gives room for “works”; however not before, but after. More so, St. Gregory notes, “One does not arrive at faith starting from the virtues, but to the virtues starting from faith.”

Faith and salvation

The Cardinal went on to consider our pluralistic society, exploring the idea in some Christian circles that “outside faith there is no salvation.” He notes that this perspective, given the diversity of religions that exist, “cannot leave us satisfied and it does wrong to Christ, depriving him of a large part of humanity” because “One cannot believe that Jesus is God, and then limit his actual relevance to a single narrow sector of it.”

“Jesus is "the savior of the world" (Jn 4:42); the Father sent the Son "that the world may be saved through him" (Jn 3:17): the world, not some few people in the world!”

He explained that even adherents of other religions, generally believe that "God exists and rewards those who seek Him". More so, “the main reason for our optimism is not based, however, on the good that adherents to other religions are able to do, but on 'God’s varied grace' (1Pt 4: 10).”

“God has far more ways to save than we can think of. He has established 'channels' of His grace, but He has not bound Himself to them. One of these "extraordinary" means of salvation is suffering. After Christ has taken it upon Himself and redeemed it, it is also, in some way, a universal sacrament of salvation.”

The challenge of science

Cardinal Cantalamessa considered scientific advancements, including a telescope launched into space on 25 December 2021 which has sent extraordinary images of the universe, and according to the news, “has opened a new window on the cosmos, able to catapult us back in time, until shortly after the initial Big Bang of the world.” It is also “the most detailed view of the early universe ever obtained. It represents the first taste of a new and revolutionary astronomy that will reveal the universe as we have never seen it before ".

He said that “if faith - as well as from listening - is born, as has been said, from amazement, these scientific discoveries should not diminish the possibility of believing, but increase it.” Because “the cosmos did not make itself. It is the quality of being, not the quantity that decides; and the quality of creation is to be… created! Billions of galaxies, billions of billions of light years away, do not change this quality.”

“Faced with the unfolding before our eyes of the boundless dimensions of the universe, the greatest act of faith for us Christians is not to believe that all this was created by God, but to believe that "all things were created through Christ and for Him. "(Col 1:16), that "without Him, nothing came to be” (Jn 1: 3). The Christian has a much more convincing proof of God than that obtained from the cosmos: the person and life of Jesus Christ.”

Living by faith

“Faith is the only criterion capable of making us relate correctly, not only to science, but also to history,” Cardinal Cantalamessa affirmed. In fact, St. Paul, quoting the famous prophecy of Habbakuk, says that “the righteous one will live by faith”.

The Cardinal notes that Habbakuk’s message is relevant for us today, with instances of injustices and violence arising in the world. However, in response to the prophet’s question, “Lord, until when?” God’s answer is still the same: “Those who do not have a right heart with God succumb to pessimism and are scandalized, while the just will live by faith and find the answer in his faith…”

The role of the Church

Cardinal Cantalamessa goes on to recommend that the Church, in order not to passively witness the unfolding of history, should “take sides against oppression and arrogance and always put herself, 'in time and out of time', on the side of the poor, the weak, the victims, those who bear the brunt of every misfortune and every war.”

He also suggests that the Church should work to remove rivalry between religions and the notorious “religious wars”, getting its moral thrust from “the understanding and loyal collaboration between the great religions that imprints on history that new course we in vain expect from political powers.”

“Faith is the weapon of the Church,” he said, noting that “even the Church, like the righteous of Habakkuk, 'lives by her faith'."

“The greatest act of faith that the Church can do - after having prayed and done everything possible to avoid or stop conflicts - is to surrender to God with an act of total trust and serene abandonment, repeating with the Apostle: 'I know in whom I have placed my trust!': Scio cui credidi (2 Tim 1:12). God never draws back to make those who throw themselves into His arms fall into the void.”

Cantalamessa concluded by urging everyone to go to meet Christ-who-comes with an act of faith, which is also a promise of God and therefore a prophecy. He affirmed that “the world is in the hands of God and when, misusing his freedom, man has hit the bottom, He will intervene to save him” because “this is why He came into the world two thousand twenty-two years ago.”

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02 December 2022, 11:44