The Year of Faith is drawing to a close. It has been marked by dramatic events. We saw the great act of faith of Pope Benedict as he ended his ministry as pontiff and the election of Pope Francis.
In many other ways, this year has been marked. Here in Paris, we saw the Jubilee Year of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris and the millions of pilgrims who walked through the doors of faith of that iconic building. Our own Irish pilgrimage on March 16, with the first celebration of Mass in Irish in that cathedral, was a moment when we were able to celebrate our faith and to make anew our commitment as Christians in the 21st Century.
On other levels, this year has been marked by the continuing tragedy of civil war in Syria. We pray for a resolution to this sad and tragic problem.
This year was inspired by a need to remember and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The documents of that Council, as well as the changes in the life of the Church that they mandated, are a treasure and a gift that the Spirit has given the Church as she enters this new millennium.
Some of the central ideas of those documents can be simply and succinctly presented.
The first document was on the liturgy. It spoke about the Eucharist in particular and one of the key phrases about our celebration of the Eucharist is that it is culmen et fons, the summit and the source of our life as Christians. An image displays this more clearly. The Eucharist is like a mountain top and a fresh spring. It is like a mountain top in that all the majesty and all the beauty of our lives as baptized people, treasured children of God, lies before us to be seen in all its beauty–yet, like anyone who has been to a mountain top knows, it takes an effort to get there. At the same time it is like a spring of cool fresh water for a thirsty traveler, it revives him/her and gives them strength and courage to continue on his/her journey. This is what the Eucharist is– a moment when we see our true dignity and the vastness of our calling and also a moment of refreshment and strengthening on our journey towards the Kingdom.
One of the other important documents was the Constitution on Divine Revelation. It describes how God made himself known in history to a people and then to all people and how that revealing of God is transmitted to us in our lives here and now. Here, faith is described as the act of receiving this revelation of God. It is described in relational terms–just as one understands another person from bit by bit seeing more and more of that person, so it is in our relationship with God. Faith is our response to his constant invitation to enter into relationship with him.
Another Constitution describes the Church as the Light of the Nations. The mission of Mary is the mission of the Church today–to be the place where God is made incarnate among people. In this everyone has the one calling–to be holy. This means simply to be the presence of God in the World as we find it. It will never be the same for any two people because while holiness is one, it is never the same. For some it will be in consecrated or monastic life, for some in married life, for some in lay discipleship, for some in ordained ministry. It takes many different forms but it is the same holiness. When a person is baptized, s/he is anointed with “chrism”, a holy oil that has a particular scent. This is symbolic of that mission to be holy–it is literally to spread the “smell” of Christ in the world, wherever we are and each in a particular way.
These are just some of the key ideas of the Council. In this Year of Faith, they might remind us of aspects of our faith that are important. In conclusion, remember the words of Saint Catherine of Siena–”Become the person God wants you to be, and you will set the world on fire!!”