About a month ago I decided that Fides et Ratio would be the next encylical that I would focus on in my “Reading The Popes” posts. Then as I started reading it I realized that the encyclical is philosophically very deep. I struggled with reading and commenting on Fides et Ratio from beginning to end so I finally ended up deciding to break up my “Reading The Popes” post of Fides et Ratio into several parts.
Here are the first few paragraphs of Fides et Ratio:
1. In both East and West, we may trace a journey which has led humanity down the centuries to meet and engage truth more and more deeply. It is a journey which has unfolded—as it must—within the horizon of personal self-consciousness: the more human beings know reality and the world, the more they know themselves in their uniqueness, with the question of the meaning of things and of their very existence becoming ever more pressing. This is why all that is the object of our knowledge becomes a part of our life. The admonition Know yourself was carved on the temple portal at Delphi, as testimony to a basic truth to be adopted as a minimal norm by those who seek to set themselves apart from the rest of creation as “human beings”, that is as those who “know themselves”.
Moreover, a cursory glance at ancient history shows clearly how in different parts of the world, with their different cultures, there arise at the same time the fundamental questions which pervade human life: Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life? These are the questions which we find in the sacred writings of Israel, as also in the Veda and the Avesta; we find them in the writings of Confucius and Lao-Tze, and in the preaching of Tirthankara and Buddha; they appear in the poetry of Homer and in the tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles, as they do in the philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle. They are questions which have their common source in the quest for meaning which has always compelled the human heart. In fact, the answer given to these questions decides the direction which people seek to give to their lives.
2. The Church is no stranger to this journey of discovery, nor could she ever be. From the moment when, through the Paschal Mystery, she received the gift of the ultimate truth about human life, the Church has made her pilgrim way along the paths of the world to proclaim that Jesus Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). It is her duty to serve humanity in different ways, but one way in particular imposes a responsibility of a quite special kind: the diakonia of the truth.(1) This mission on the one hand makes the believing community a partner in humanity’s shared struggle to arrive at truth; (2) and on the other hand it obliges the believing community to proclaim the certitudes arrived at, albeit with a sense that every truth attained is but a step towards that fullness of truth which will appear with the final Revelation of God: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully” (1 Cor 13:12).
Here are my thoughts:
As I was reading Fides et Ratio I noticed that Blessed John Paul II had mentioned Aristotle so I searched the web using two criteria, “Aristotle” and “know yourself”. I found this quote by Aristotle which is intriguing to me: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”.
At the moment of conception each of us was formed in the image and likeness of God. But knowing ourselves does not mean merely existing. Knowing ourselves is an ongoing, changing process over time.
There is more to us than flesh, bone, blood, and organs. As human persons we have souls which help to make up our very being. We must internally have a sense of who we are because if we don’t we become fragmented beings. We become like puzzle pieces that are jumbled up trying to find the correct pieces that go into the right spot.
We are all on a journey on knowing who we are so it is no wonder that many of us struggle in our faith from time to time. Or that we struggle with certain aspects of our faith at different points in our lifetime.
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