Friday, 5 October 2012

Door of Faith

11 October sees the beginning of a Year of Faith in the Catholic Church, announced in the Pope's document Door of Faith (Porta Fidei). I wrote on 8 September about Doorways. Well, faith is the doorway through which we enter the life of the Church, the opening to an experience that leads from death to eternal life. In a very real sense, the symbol and model of this "saving faith" is the Blessed Virgin Mary, as this image painted on the two halves of a door in an Italian church suggests. Mary is, according to one of her titles in the Litany of Loreto, the GATE OF HEAVEN. Here is an image of the Annunciation, the moment when the angel appears to her and she accepts his word in faith that she will be the Mother of God's Son – and thus the cause of our salvation, being the way the fullness of divine grace enters the world. She conceives the Word in her womb by accepting the word in her heart.

Even her name is a doorway. In the Jesus Prayer, and whenever we use the Holy Name of Jesus, our attention is drawn to him who is both God and Man. When we use the Holy Name of Mary, for example in the Hail Mary or the Miraculous Medal prayer, we turn our minds from the world to its central point where the Lord enters in, which is the Virgin herself. In the first half of the Hail Mary, which repeats the words of the angel, we adopt the contemplative attitude of the angel as he gazes at the Seat of Wisdom, and in the second half, which repeats the words of Elizabeth, we invoke the prayers of the Mother of God, so that her prayer in a sense will flow around and into us "now and at the hour of our death". St Louis de Montfort calls the Hail Mary "a heavenly dew which waters the earth of our soul and makes it bear its fruit in due season." It causes the Word of God to take root in our soul as it did in Mary's, because it opens us in faith to receive the divine gift.

There are many wonderful resources for the Year of Faith, to help you live it more intensely. I am particularly looking forward to getting into the Magnificat Year of Faith Companion, which as you might expect if you already know MAGNIFICAT contains an incredible feast of spiritual readings for each day, prayers and devotions, and essays by a range of the very best writers and teachers, old and new (over 400 pocket-sized pages, beautifully bound). The Companion can be read on its own, or used as a supplement to the monthly Magnificat you may already subscribe to or see in church.

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