Part 1 Faith – Week 9

Introduction to Christianity:
I believe in you

Having defined faith as the taking of a stand, as the building of one’s life on the revelation of the meaning or the logos of reality that alone gives meaning to that life, Ratzinger concludes the first chapter of his Introduction to Christianity on faith by reflecting on its personal character. For the true heart of Christian revelation, he says, is not just that there is a logos or meaning woven into and supporting all reality, but that this logos is a person: a person who has a name and who loves me in my uniqueness and concreteness. In one of the most beautiful lines in the entire book, he thus defines faith as the finding of a ‘You’ that upholds me in all the struggles and empty hopes of this world, of the discovery that the meaning and ground of the world has a face: Jesus of Nazareth.


In all that has been said so far the most fundamental feature of Christian faith or belief has still not been specified; namely, its personal character. Christian faith is more than the option in favor of a spiritual ground to the world; its central formula is not “I believe in something”, but “I believe in you.” It is the encounter with the man Jesus, and in this encounter it experiences the meaning of the world as a person. In Jesus’ life from the Father, in the immediacy and intensity of his converse with him in prayer and, indeed, face to face, he is God’s witness, through whom the intangible has become tangible, the distant has drawn near. And further: he is not simply the witness whose evidence we trust when he tells us what he has seen; he is the presence of the eternal itself in this world. In his life, in the unconditional devotion of himself to men, the meaning of the world is present before us; it vouchsafes itself to us as love that loves even me and makes life worth living by this incomprehensible gift of a love free from any threat of fading away or any tinge of egoism. The meaning of the world is the “you”, though only the one that is not itself an open question but rather the ground of all, which needs no other ground.

Thus faith is the finding of a “you” that upholds me and amid all the unfulfilled—and in the last resort unfulfillable—hopes of human encounters gives me the promise of an indestructible love that not only longs for eternity but also guarantees it. Christian faith lives on the discovery that not only is there such a thing as objective meaning but that this meaning knows me and loves me, that I can entrust myself to it like the child who knows that everything he may be wondering about is safe in the “you” of his mother. Thus in the last analysis believing, trusting, and loving are one, and all the theses around which belief revolves are only concrete expressions of the all-embracing about-turn, of the assertion “I believe in you”—of the discovery of God in the countenance of the man Jesus of Nazareth.

Of course, this does not do away with the need for reflection, as we have already seen earlier. “Are you really he?” This question was asked anxiously in a dark hour even by John the Baptist, the prophet who had directed his own disciples to the rabbi from Nazareth and recognized him as the greater, for whom he could only prepare the way. Are you really he? The believer will repeatedly experience the darkness in which the contradiction of unbelief surrounds him like a gloomy prison from which there is no escape, and the indifference of the world, which goes its way unchanged as if nothing had happened, seems only to mock his hope.

We have to pose the question, “Are you really he?”, not only out of intellectual honesty and because of reason’s responsibility, but also in accordance with the interior law of love, which wants to know more and more him to whom it has given its Yes, so as to be able to love him more. Are you really he? Ultimately, all the reflections contained in this book are subordinate to this question and thus revolve around the basic form of the confession: “I believe in you, Jesus of Nazareth, as the meaning (logos) of the world and of my life.”

Questions for reflection:

Reflect for a moment on what grounds and gives meaning to your own faith. Is it truly the person of Jesus Christ? In what ways?

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