Encyclical review: Lumen Fidei by Pope Francis

It is always refreshing to read encyclicals of popes. And the  encyclical Lumen Fidei is essentially that of Pope Benedict XVI with a few additions by Pope Francis, though we cannot distinguish them anymore, as Elves like Lindir cannot dissect the poem on Earendil made by two mortals Bilbo and Aragorn, and determine who wrote what.  As Pope Francis wrote in the Encyclical:

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 had written in his encyclical letters on charity and hope. He himself had almost completed a first draft of an encyclical on faith. For this I am deeply grateful to him, and as his brother in Christ I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own. The Successor of Peter, yesterday, today and tomorrow, is always called to strengthen his brothers and sisters in the priceless treasure of that faith which God has given as a light for humanity’s path.

What I like about the Encyclical is that it is easy to read. It is a retelling of the important points of the Christian Faith understandable in the level of a Freshmen college student: Salvation history, Ten Commandments, Our Father, Christ and the Church, the Sacraments, etc. Indeed, this year is the year of Faith and the Encyclical has affirmed what many of us already take for granted or have not studied really well: why we are Catholic. For the encyclical to go to the level of the basics, it simply means one thing: many have lost the Catholic Faith–even entire countries and continents such as Europe. As Our Lady of Fatima said, “In Portugal the Faith will always be preserved….” And from this we can deduce the most terrifying corollary: “Outside of Portugal, the Faith will not be preserved.”

The encyclical quotes many Philosophers like St. Augustine,  Wittgenstein, and Nietzsche. It seems I can see the hand of Pope Benedict XVI here. If Chesterton uses the statements and histories of heretics and paradoxically turn these on their heads to argue for the truth of the Catholic Faith–the testimony of the heretics technique, Benedict XVI, on the other hand, usually quotes Atheists as a backdrops or launching pads for discussing the Catholic Faith–the testimony of the atheists technique. The technique is akin to Kenshin Himura’s Hiten Mitsurugi Sou-ryu-sen (Paired Dragon Flash): to attack the opponent not by the first stroke of the katana sword, but by the second stroke using the sheath. Indeed, one cannot dialogue with atheists using the Word of God as a sword, even though “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. (Heb 4:12)” So instead, Benedict XVI uses Philosophy–the handmaiden of Theology–as a sheath for the second stroke.

If you are teaching Theology in college, I strongly recommend this encyclical as an assigned reading for the students. There is something for everyone here, especially for lovers:

27. The explanation of the connection between faith and certainty put forward by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is well known. For Wittgenstein, believing can be compared to the experience of falling in love: it is something subjective which cannot be proposed as a truth valid for everyone.[19] Indeed, most people nowadays would not consider love as related in any way to truth. Love is seen as an experience associated with the world of fleeting emotions, no longer with truth.
But is this an adequate description of love? Love cannot be reduced to an ephemeral emotion. True, it engages our affectivity, but in order to open it to the beloved and thus to blaze a trail leading away from self-centredness and towards another person, in order to build a lasting relationship; love aims at union with the beloved. Here we begin to see how love requires truth. Only to the extent that love is grounded in truth can it endure over time, can it transcend the passing moment and be sufficiently solid to sustain a shared journey. If love is not tied to truth, it falls prey to fickle emotions and cannot stand the test of time. True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life. Without truth, love is incapable of establishing a firm bond; it cannot liberate our isolated ego or redeem it from the fleeting moment in order to create life and bear fruit.

And also for scientists:

34. Nor is the light of faith, joined to the truth of love, extraneous to the material world, for love is always lived out in body and spirit; the light of faith is an incarnate light radiating from the luminous life of Jesus. It also illumines the material world, trusts its inherent order and knows that it calls us to an ever widening path of harmony and understanding. The gaze of science thus benefits from faith: faith encourages the scientist to remain constantly open to reality in all its inexhaustible richness. Faith awakens the critical sense by preventing research from being satisfied with its own formulae and helps it to realize that nature is always greater. By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.

Read on and enjoy!

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Samurai X: Shogo Amakusa the Anti-Christ

In 1542, the first Christian missionaries arrived from Portugal in Japan.  The only religious orders that were allowed were the Jesuits, primarily because of the esteem by the Japanese barons (daimyos)  for St. Francis Xavier, who reached Japan in 1549.  When the Franciscans came, 26 of them were executed in 1597 (Japan Guide).  From 1603 to 1867, the Edo Era under the Tokugawa dynasty, the Christians were persecuted.  One of these is our first Filipino saint, St. Lorenzo Ruiz, who died in 1637 by hanging in the pit (after his water-filled belly was rolled by a barrel and his fingernails were replaced with needles).  His last words were: “Even if I have a thousand lives, I will give them all to God.”  Because of failing economy due to protectionism, the Edo Era ended.  In the succeeding Meiji Restoration (1868-1912), a constitutional government was made with the emperor as the head.  One of the reforms in this restoration is the freedom of religion.  At last, Christianity can once again be practiced without fear of persecution.

The Samurai X anime series is situated at the end of the Tokugawa Era and the beginning of the Meiji Restoration.  Kenshin Himura, the Battousai or the Slasher, was once an assassin for hire.  He mastered the sword style called Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu (Flying Heaven Honorable Sword Style) taught by his teacher,  Seijuro.  This technique is only handed down from one teacher to one student only, and the final test is for the student to defeat the master using the technique called Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki.  One student who failed in this test is Hyoue.   He nearly died.  But he lived and taught it to a child prodigy named Shogo Amakusa.

Shogo is a Christian and he saw how his parents died in Shimabara during the Tokugawa persecution.  And as he sailed away to escape, looking at the rows of crucified men along the cliff, he vowed to return and defend Christianity.  On his return to Shimabara at the age of 24, he styled  himself as the “Son of God”, and coincided his coming with the eclipse of the sun.  As his boat passed through the waters to Shimabara, the waters burst into flames, forming not the sign of the cross † but the sign of a C and its reflection connected by a horizontal bar: ⊃-⊂.

Shogo and his followers have ceased to be Christians, but their practices have vestiges of Christianity.  In the cave they prayed something similar to the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who love God; He will lead them to God’s country.”  This is similar to “Blessed are the meek; they shall inherit the earth.”  They have a Mary figure, Shogo’s sister, the Lady Magdalia, the ever-virgin.  They also have a church—probably underground—with a single circular stained glass window.  The altar is attached to the wall with six candlesticks burning—perfect setting for the traditional latin mass.  But they have no priests.  This is the law of entropy and devolution: “Leave a village without a priest for fifty years and the people shall worship rocks and trees” (said by the Cure d’Ars, if I am not mistaken).  This is what happenned to the Israelites when Moses went to Mt. Sinai to get the Ten Commandments: they made a golden calf and worshiped it as their god and savior.  And this is what happened to villagers of Shimabara:  they worshiped Shogo as god.  (See the trailer here.  Note the Christian elements.)

Shogo is an Anti-Christ.  Shogo aims to establish a kingdom on earth; Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom does not belong in this world.  Shogo blinds a man using his Rai-Ryu Sen;  Jesus cures a man born blind.  Shogo displays his divinity by his unbelievable swordsmanship; Jesus told Peter to put his sword back.  And as a twist of fate, it was the Pagan Kenshin Himura who acted more Christ-like: he read Shogo’s heart and he refused to use his ultimate sword technique of Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki to defend himself against Shogo, in order that by this deed Shogo will realize that “a sword is not for killing but for protecting people”—Kenshin’s motto (c.f. “to protect what is valuable” as Yeon Soha said in the Shadowless Sword).  In his dismay and anger, Shogo punished Kenshin with “a punishment much worse than death: eternal darkness!”  And the blinded Kenshin fell from the cliff into the sea.  (See the battle between Kenshin and Shogo in here.)