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“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know Himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

–St. John Paul II Preface to Fides et Ratio

Fides et Ratio Reflections

This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity or “Trinity Sunday.”

In Chapter 1 of Fides et ratio, “The Revelation of God’s Wisdom,” St. John Paul II identifies the crucial role of the wing of faith in the search for and love of true wisdom (“philosophy”).

He writes, “Underlying all the Church’s thinking is the awareness that she is the bearer of a message which has its origin in God himself (cf. 2 Cor 4:1-2). The knowledge which the Church offers to man has its origin not in any speculation of her own, however sublime, but in the word of God which she has received in faith (cf. 1 Th 2:13). At the origin of our life of faith there is an encounter, unique in kind, which discloses a mystery hidden for long ages (cf. 1 Cor 2:7; Rom 16:25-26) but which is now revealed: ‘In His goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (cf. Eph 1:9), by which, through Christ, the Word made flesh, man has access to the Father in the Holy Spirit and comes to share in the divine nature.’ This initiative is utterly gratuitous, moving from God to men and women in order to bring them to salvation. As the source of love, God desires to make himself known; and the knowledge which the human being has of God perfects all that the human mind can know of the meaning of life (No. 7).

In section Nos. 8 and 9, he summarizes the teaching of the First Vatican Council (1869-70) that there are two orders of knowledge (two wings) which lead to the Creator: reason and faith. But the order of faith is a unique response to Divine Revelation and its immeasurable mysteries which cannot be known by reason alone.

St. John Paul II ends this first chapter with an appeal to contemplation of the uniquely revealed Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: These considerations prompt a first conclusion: the truth made known to us by Revelation is neither the product nor the consummation of an argument devised by human reason. It appears instead as something gratuitous, which itself stirs thought and seeks acceptance as an expression of love. This revealed truth is set within our history as an anticipation of that ultimate and definitive vision of God which is reserved for those who believe in Him and seek Him with a sincere heart. The ultimate purpose of personal existence, then, is the theme of philosophy and theology alike. For all their difference of method and content, both disciplines point to that ‘path of life’ (Ps 16:11) which, as faith tells us, leads in the end to the full and lasting joy of the contemplation of the Triune God” (No. 15).

Our Psalm Response this Trinity Sunday is not from the book of Psalms. Rather, it is another song of praise—in this case from the Book of Daniel—proclaimed by Abednego, one of the three young men tossed into the fiery furnace by the enraged King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. His exuberant song makes for a fitting response to the revelation of the gratuitous Mystery of God: “Glory and praise for ever!” (Dan. 3:52b).

Mike Hagstrom