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Faith Notes — Various

October 19, 2012

Mary and the child enthroned among the Saints Theodor of Amasea and George and angels. Encaustic icon from the end of the 6th century found at Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai (Egypt).

Faith: Revealing The Unknown In Our Own Selves
FAITH INCORPORATES the unknown into our everyday life in a living, dynamic, and actual manner. The unknown remains unknown. It is still a mystery, for it cannot cease to be one. The function of faith is not to reduce mystery to rational clarity, but to integrate the unknown and the known together in a living whole, in which we are more and more able to transcend the limitations of our external self.

Hence the function of faith is not only to bring us into contact with the “authority of God” revealing; not only to teach us truths “about God,” but even to reveal to us the unknown in our own selves, in so far as our unknown and undiscovered self actually lives in God, moving and acting only under the direct light of his merciful grace.

This is, to my mind, the crucially important aspect of faith which is too often ignored today. Faith is not just conformity, it is life. It embraces all the realms of life, penetrating into the most mysterious and inaccessible depths not only of our unknown spiritual being but even of God’s own hidden essence and love. Faith, then, is the only way of opening up the true depths of reality, even of our own reality.

Fr. Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. [The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.: Ordo Cisterciensis Strictioris Observantiae)]

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The Paratrooper’s Prayer is a French poem found in the possession of the presumed author, Aspirant (Brevet-Lieutenant) André Zirnheld, upon his death in Libya on June 27th, 1942. The Paratrooper’s Prayer has been adopted by all French and Portuguese Paratroopers, including those belonging to the French Foreign Legion. The Prayer appears before A. J. Quinnell’s novel Man on Fire, the main protagonist of which is an ex-paratrooper in the French Foreign Legion.

The Paratrooper’s Prayer

I BRING THIS PRAYER TO YOU LORD,
For you alone can give
What one cannot demand from oneself.
Give me, Lord, what you have left over,
Give me what no one ever asks you for.
I don’t ask you for rest,
Or quiet,
Whether of soul or body;
I don’t ask you for wealth,
Nor for success, nor even health perhaps.
That sort of thing you get asked for so much
That you can’t have any of it left.
Give me, Lord, what you have left over,
Give me what no one wants from you.
I want insecurity, strife,
And I want you to give me these Once and for all.
So that I can be sure of having them always,
Since I shall not always have the courage
To ask you for them.
Give me, Lord, what you have left over,
Give me what others want nothing to do with.
But give me courage too,
And strength and faith;
For you alone can give
What one cannot demand from oneself.
Lieutenant Andre Zirnheld

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Faith Is Perfectly Normal
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”When. Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.”
(Matthew 8:10)

AT SOME LEVEL, faith is perfectly normal. Even Gentiles have no excuse for not believing: “What can be known about. God is evident: to them, because God made it evident to them” (Romans 1:19). This is why in Charles Peguy’s work, The Portal of the Mystery of Hope, faith leaves God disaffected: Faith doesn’t surprise me,” God says, “It’s not surprising.Apart from this scene with the centurion, in fact, the only time Jesus is “amazed” in the Gospels is at Nazareth when he faces boggling unbelief. “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:6).

What then is so special about the centurion? Mechtilde of Hackeborn [Mechthild (or Mechtild) of Magdeburg (c. 1207 – c. 1282/1294), a Beguine, was a medieval mystic, whose book Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (The Flowing Light of Divinity) described her visions of God.] once heard these words: I tell you the truth that I am very pleased when men trustingly expect great things from me.” The centurion expects great things-and as a pagan he expects more than he deserves. This is what fills Jesus with joy.

The Gentile trusts in God’s boundless goodness. He thus becomes the Son’s first taste of his unbounded universal mission. Jesus saves all by faith, apart from works of the Law. This includes us. We too make Christ wonder in gladness by expecting of him much more than we deserve: “Lord I am not worthy, but only say the word…”
Father J. Anthony Giambrone, O.P.

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