The Rock Stands Firm

Author: Most Rev. Edward Ellis, Bishop of Nottingham


Most Rev. Edward Ellis—Bishop of Nottingham

The renewal of Faith, called for by Pope Paul, is of the utmost urgency in our days. Such wonderful advances have been made in science, such an extraordinary domination over nature has been achieved that the need for a Creator and Ruler of the Universe, when not denied, is often ignored. Man feels completely self-sufficient. He will brook no interference with his independence. He will be a law to himself.

Something of the same spirit has crept even into the ranks of the Church. In a vain effort to make the Faith acceptable to the prevailing mood of independence, some would so weaken and dilute it that even fundamental doctrines are called in doubt. Certain writers on the Sacred Scriptures whittle away their historical worth and make them little more than inventions of pious but uncultured, naive minds. Others belittle the permanent Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament after the Mass is completed; they almost deprecate visits to adore Him, Holy Hours and similar practices of our Religion. Theories are even advanced which would put in peril the root truth of our Faith, that Our Lord Jesus Christ is really and truly God.

Intended for all Ages

To seek new approaches in making the Faith known to men of our time is a right and apostolic action. Such approaches, however, should be in complete conformity with the ancient Faith which must be retained in "its same sense and meaning". Now the guardian, the authentic interpreter, the means by which that Faith is retained in the same sense and meaning, is the Teaching Authority of the Church. To His Apostles with St. Peter at the Head, Christ committed His Divine Doctrines:-"Go and teach all nations—he that heareth you heareth Me". That Commission has been handed down through the ages to their successors, the Bishops of Rome and with, and under, them to the Bishops of the Catholic Church. St. Peter, in the person of Pope Paul VI, still continues to be the "rock" on which Christ's Church is founded and against which no power of evil will ever prevail.

The words of Cardinal Newman, written long ago, are very pertinent to our times. He says:-"The essence of all religion is authority and obedience ... And if the very claim to infallible arbitration in religious disputes is of so weighty importance and interest in all ages of the world, much more is it welcome at a time like the present, when the human intellect is so busy, and thought so fertile, and opinion so manifold... If Christianity is both social and dogmatic, and intended for all ages, it must humanly speaking have an infallible expounder". ("Development of Christian Doctrine", Chapt. II, Sect. 11).

This submission to a living authority arises from the virtue of Faith. And of this Faith the Cardinal has these further words:-" (Faith) is assenting to a doctrine as true, which we do not see, which we cannot prove, because God says it is true, who cannot lie. And further than this, since God says it is true, not with His own voice, but by the voice of His messengers, it is assenting to what man says, not simply viewed as a man, but to what he is commissioned to declare as a messenger from God". ("Discourses to Mixed Congregations", number 10).

Freely given-freely accepted

Faith is something above the ordinary powers and faculties with which God has endowed human beings. It is, as it were, second sight to the soul. By it we can enter into a realm of truth utterly beyond and higher than that which can be discovered by the human mind. We may ask for it and dispose ourselves to receive it; but we have no right to it nor can We earn it. It is God's gift and we call it "grace". It comes to us from His mercy and bounty. And as it is freely given, so it is freely accepted by God's free creatures. It can grow and be strengthened by our free response to God's grace. It can die through our sinful rejection of God's help.

It is for us then to thank God with full hearts for so priceless a gift. On it depends ultimately our whole spiritual, supernatural life. Without it there can be neither hope nor charity. It must then be guarded and cherished as the most valued possession we have. Prayer and the Sacraments, the love of God and our neighbour, a life in keeping with our belief, these are the means by which Faith is preserved, strengthened and grows.

The Vicar of Christ indicates a powerful but ready means to renew and strengthen Faith. It is by the recitation of the Creed. He wants us to do this in our private prayers, in union also with our priests and fellow Catholics, and in a more solemn way with our Bishops. I beg of you all, therefore, to carry out this wish frequently. At Mass in particular say it with care and reverence...

The Church remains the "pillar"

In all that concerns the Faith we turn with love and confidence to Our Blessed Lady, the Virgin Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. She is at once our example and advocate. We delight to call her "The Virgin most faithful", since, in inspired words, her cousin, St. Elizabeth, said of her: -"Blessed art thou that hast believed". Her maternal love and care for her divine Son's Church extends to each of its members. She it was who presented her Son to the world, in the persons of the Shepherds and the Wise Men. So down the ages she continues the same office. By faith we shall find "the Child with His mother Mary, and will fall down and worship Him". (Matt. 2, 11).

This year, then, when we are commemorating the nineteenth centenary of the martyrdom of those pillars of the Church, Sts. Peter and Paul, let us make a Year of Faith-Faith especially in God's Church which teaches and guarantees to us, with His authority, the eternal truths of revelation; for the Church is the "pillar and ground of truth". (I Tim. 3, 15) ...  

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
18 July 1968, page 7

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