Faith and Reason united,
Painted by Ludwig Seitz (1844–1908),
Executed circa 1887,
Fresco
© Vatican Museums, Galleria dei Candelabri

Faith and Reason united,
Painted by Ludwig Seitz (1844–1908),
Executed circa 1887,
Fresco
© Vatican Museums, Galleria dei Candelabri

Gospel of 27 July 2023

The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven

Matthew 13:10-17

The disciples went up to Jesus and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied, ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive.

For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, for fear they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed by me.

‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

Reflection on the fresco painting

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus acknowledges that there is a mysterious quality to his teaching and his whole ministry. He is aware that we simply cannot grasp everything he says. Hence, he needs to talk to us in parables in order to help us somehow grasp what goes beyond our human minds.

The gospel reading suggests that we need to engage with Jesus and respond to his invitation, before we can actually understand him. The more we grow in this relationship with him, the more we will see and hear. In that sense, ‘anyone who has will be given more’. Hearts and minds need to work together. Faith can never be solely one or the other. We need faith and reason. Faith without reason would soon tip over into superstition, and with our minds alone we cannot fully reason our way to him. Faith and Reason are two sides of the same coin and are inseparable. Reason leads to Faith and Faith leads to Reason.

Our fresco at the Galleria dei Candelabri in the Vatican Museums depicts the figures of Faith and Reason united. We see Saint Thomas Aquinas teaching in the background. Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) who commissioned the fresco had a desire that St Thomas Aquinas and his philosophy should have centrality in Catholic theology. Leo XIII was the second oldest ever Pope (after Pope Benedict XVI) and is perhaps best known for writing the Church's first great social encyclical, Rerum Novarum. He also tried to reach out to the scientific world, founded centres of theological and biblical study, and opened the Vatican Archives to Catholic and non-Catholic researchers. He was also the first Pontiff to promote ecumenical dialogue.

Reason needs faith to illuminate even those truths to which it has access. But faith also needs reason. Or as John Paul II said in his 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio (access full document here): Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth!

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Zeffi
Member
Zeffi
6 months ago

Coming late to this discussion, but I would just like to add that, in the picture, it is Faith who is holding the light, without which Reason could not read her book.

Christine H
Christine H
6 months ago

I love this parable and the painting, and I am working through Pope John Paul II’s 1998 encyclical (inspired by today’s reflection!), which is long and detailed and contains a lot of philosophy. I can make out some of it but struggle with a lot of it. I like section 13 and want to share in case any of you like it. Here are the first and last paragraphs of section 13, which is titled “Reason before the mystery”:
“It should nonetheless be kept in mind that Revelation remains charged with mystery. It is true that Jesus, with his entire life, revealed the countenance of the Father, for he came to teach the secret things of God. But our vision of the face of God is always fragmentary and impaired by the limits of our understanding. Faith alone makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently.
. . .
“In short, the knowledge proper to faith does not destroy the mystery; it only reveals it the more, showing how necessary it is for people’s lives: Christ the Lord “in revealing the mystery of the Father and his love fully reveals man to himself and makes clear his supreme calling”, which is to share in the divine mystery of the life of the Trinity.”

I also enjoyed this description of the painting by Douglas Taylor, who created a beautiful photograph of the beautiful painting (the photo, uploaded in 2019, makes the greens, reds, and gold of the painting really stand out): “One of the four beautiful fresco allegories painted onto the ceiling of the Gallery of the Candelabra in Museo Pio-Clementino at the Vatican Museums by Ludwig Seitz. Pope Leo XIII commissioned the artist Ludwig Seitz (1844-1908) for the frescoes on the ceiling which were completed in 1884. “Faith and Reason United” shows St Thomas Aquinas teaching in the background and the inscription: “divinarum veritatum splendor, animo exceptus, ipsam juvat intelligentiam” [the splendor of the divine truths, received into the soul, helps the intellect], from Leo XIII’s encyclical Aeterni Patris.” But then again, today’s reflection on the painting is even better!

Last edited 6 months ago by Christine H
Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
6 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

Thanks Christine. Saint John Paul II was so eloquent in his writings. I was blessed to experience the whole of his papacy and to have read his biography, “Witness to Hope”.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
6 months ago
Reply to  Christine H

Most impressive passages Christine. I think that I’m probably in the majority when saying that I have never read any papal encyclicals. There is so much to do in the relatively few years of my life alloted to me!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
6 months ago

My Catholic education taught me faith and reason sit side by side. There has never been conflict for me, we were encouraged to question and discuss and I had so many questions! Now, as my heart has taken precedence over my head, I rarely ask questions.
If you want to label science as reason then the questions may be answered temporarily, but then more come. Those who ignore the answers faith provides will only go on asking more and more questions- for me that is the nature of science.
Unbelievers can become trapped in their theories and explorations, and the true answers are overlooked.
Once upon a time faith took precedence, and then there was a shift into scientific reasoning- I like to think that now another shift is occuring- when both will come together and all those questons will finally come to an end.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
6 months ago

Faith and Reason. Hmmm…You have Sacred Scripture and then you have the Church’s teachings and they are two separate things. I know people who openly disagree or don’t hold with certain aspects of one or the other, and I admit I have a few of those myself. Still, at least we can actually say these things – in certain other faiths, you wouldn’t dare vocalise your disagreement, under fear of death!

Last edited 6 months ago by Patricia O'Brien
Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
6 months ago

My post is “waiting for approval”. Has this happened to anyone else?

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
6 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Yes, I think it is a timing thing, if the site is busy.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
6 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Thank you, SFG, helpful.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
6 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Often!
Occasionally I have included a ‘link’ to something else or a reference to another work/painting. They then get thrown out by a moderator.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
6 months ago

Right, thanks for that advice, Patricia.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
6 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Yes – I didn’t quite know why. I had the word migrant in a perfectly good way. I thnk there are certain ‘trigger’ words..

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
6 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Thank you, Charles. Wonder if it’s an algorithm, or live moderator.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
6 months ago

An interesting, complex post. I came to belief looking out over the Sussex hills and woods, after many discussions with a friend. It was a moment of the heart. There have been many ups and downs since, but faith keeps it’s head above water, much helped by the prayers of friends. After reading such a lot over the years, I now find myself valuing quiet contemplation more and more, learning through talking with friends, and appreciating our Lord through the many miracles of creation.q The fresco I find a little didactic, but the colours are beautiful, and on close inspection there are lots of interesting details: the children are very touching, eagerly studying their books and numbers; and there are two different types of leaves, the olive, and possibly bay, bottom right. Both bay and an olive tree grow in our garden, far from their Mediterranean origins. The olive needs attention and pruning, like our lives; the bay tree flourishes wonderfully and without help, the gift of grace.

Anthony
Member
Anthony
6 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Wonderful story Noelle. Thank you.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
6 months ago
Reply to  Anthony

🌻🌻

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
6 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

I really enjoy your comments on the art, Noelle

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
6 months ago

🌻🌻

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
6 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

A revealing insight Noelle, thank you.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
6 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

🌻🌻

Christine H
Christine H
6 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Awesome description of the painting, Noelle! And I agree with you about it being a little didactic (and thank you for bringing the word didactic into the discussion – you all are raising my IQ by the day). I approve all of Noelle’s posts in advance, Sir Moderator/algorithm, so no more of this “waiting for approval,” please.

Anthony
Member
Anthony
6 months ago

The Lord speaks in parables so that we will remember. It is easier to remember a story than a theological discourse when people go back to the daily work. When our children were young we used to play tapes on car journeys. They would not agree on music, but a story tape, no matter what it was guaranteed listening and silence.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
6 months ago

For me, this is the great point of debate for those searching for the ‘Truth’. Most today will put their trust in Reason (and Science). I have tried this approach to life and found it most unfullfilling. Yet we are inhabitants of the rich western world which Reason and Science have made rich and secure in many ways.
So why have faith? For me it has made me happy in an almost indescribable way, certainly to sceptics, in that I believe everything is going to be ‘ok’.

Anthony
Member
Anthony
6 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Science keeps discovering new things and changing it’s mind, amending, re-evaluating, putting forward new theories etc.
In terms of evolution, can someone explain to me which came first, the chicken or the egg? Serious question, as I still do not understand it.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
6 months ago
Reply to  Anthony

Ha ha…that’s why the question is still being asked!
Just this week, I was part of a discussion about evolution where a very Christian lady said to another person “Well, YOU might be descended from a monkey – but I’m not!!” 🙂

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
6 months ago

lol. That’s what the Bishop of Oxford (Soapy Sam) said in a debate with Darwin.

Last edited 6 months ago by Chazbo M
Anthony
Member
Anthony
6 months ago

I can understand mutation. But one species evolving into another ???????

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
6 months ago
Reply to  Anthony

Science asks questions, answers them, and then more questions arrive. Faith leads you to the place where you just find answers, and then the questions cease.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
6 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Very good SFG. As I said before you are quite the theologian!

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
6 months ago
Reply to  Anthony

Are they co-eternal? Agree, it’s beyond our understanding…

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
6 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Because we have faith in a living, loving God, always there when everything else falls away….?

Mike Baird
Member
Mike Baird
6 months ago

Parables engage faith and reason to present the truth.

I recall wanting to understand everything about Christianity before becoming Christian. That was a stumbling block. It wasn’t until I chose to step out in faith (scary) that I came to understand. That’s the workings of a mystery.

Faith keeps the fire of my first love burning hot. Reason draws me further up and further in. I need both for as long as I am in this mortal coil. I’ll need neither when I meet Jesus face to face in heaven.

Thank you Jesus for presenting your mysteries so I can look and see, hear and understand.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, please pray for me.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Baird

Beautifully expressed, Mike

Christine H
Christine H
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Baird

Ditto what Noelle said, Mike.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Baird

Ditto to Christine’s ditto!

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Baird

Thank you.

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