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Franz Becker

Critical Writing Paper

There is a reason the Church endures. It survives the centuries because of the rock on

which it was built. It is a rock which is not eroded by time or reformations, it does not yield to

the scandals of the day. The essence of the church cannot be changed. Three essential

components which give catholicism its foundation are the holy trinity, the Church, and tradition.

At the heart of the church is the Trinity. The trinity is not one doctrine among others: It is

the whole of Christian doctrine.1 Beyond everything else, the Trinity is the central part of

catholicism. The Trinity is God, and to talk about the Trinity is to talk about God. The great

mystery of God the father, God the son, and God the holy spirit, one God in three persons. When

we speak about the trinity, we are not speaking of seperate things, but God. What’s most striking

about Michael J. Himes’ take on God in his book The Mystery of Faith is how he shows God not

as the great breaded man in the heavens, but God as something beyond form. In the First Letter

of John we are told that “God is Love.” Specifically translated, the greek word used is agape,

meaning a type of love which is completely centered on the one loved. The Trinity, or God, can

be thought of as a perfect self-gift, totally giving oneself to another. The First Letter of John

claims that God can be least wrongly thought of as a relationship between persons.2 In Matthew

18:20 it is said that “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” This

isn’t meant to say that only when we are gathered in worship Christ in among us, but wherever

people come together in mutual love, in a genuine concern and care from one another, in that

idea of agape, will Jesus be among them. Jesus isn’t simply found during the liturgy, he can be

Himes, Michael. J. The Mystery of Faith. 5
The Mystery of Faith. 6-7
found in the hearty laughter of old friends over a bottle of wine, he’s found at weddings, and at

dinner parties.When we come together in the bond of love, we find God.

The Trinity raises the concepts of sacramentality and communion. When we speak about

sacramentality, we talk about a broader experience where you can see God in everyday

experiences. Himes is clear in his writing, that to know God is to love others. We see God in the

everyday experiences of loving other people and doing God’s work. Himes believes that the line

from the ancient Christian hymn which Catholics sing on Holy Thursday best describes the

doctrine of the trinity and the word God: “Wherever there is charity and love, there is God.”3

When we serve others, when we love others, we come to experience God, because when we give

ourselves totally to another, we find God. By finding God in other people, Catholics develop

Communion with one another, a sense of community rooted in God. The Trinity highlights the

need to find God in other people and through acts of love towards others. When we come

together in a community which cares for each other and seeks to better itself we become a

community which is rooted in God and where God will be present because there is love there.

The Church is an essential part of Catholicism, it’s what sets it apart from other faiths, yet

what also gives the religion it’s authority. Christ said in Matthew 16:18 “And so I say to you,

you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” Jesus’ church means the community

that he will gather and that, like a building, will have Peter as its solid foundation. Those who

follow Peter and his successors, are following the true Church which Christ established. There is

an obvious question which arises between individuals who are disillusioned with Church and its

hierarchy during turbulent times: “Why isn’t my faith simply a matter between me and my

God?” Michael Himes gives two reasons in answering this. The first is that Christianity is not

about timeless truths, but an actual set of events which happened to real people. To know about
The Mystery of Faith. 10
these events they must be told to us. We cannot merely sit alone in our rooms and pray, we must

receive the Gospel, and it must be told to us.4 We are given the “good news” from other people

and it must be past down and kept true, this is why the Church, to protect the word of God,

because no one can come to know God alone. In this sense we see the church's role in a

mediation of sorts between God and his people. The Church itself serves as a middle man,

bringing God to his people indirectly by preserving, protecting, and defending the word of God

and ensuring that it is passed down through the generations.

The other reason Himes gives as to why the Church is so vital in the role of Christianity

is that Christianity claims that our relationship to God is dependent on our relationship to our

brothers and sisters. Himes contends that “When we love one another we are experiencing the

presence of God. That, I suggest to you, is the deepest reason for the existence of the Church.” It

is the communion which we engage in with each other that makes the Church so vital. The

bigger, more engaged a community is, the better our experience of love towards one another is,

and our commitment to other members of the community. The deeper this commitment becomes,

the greater our experience of God becomes. The Church gives us this community, this

communion of souls who come together rooted in love.

At the heart of the Catholic Church is the idea of tradition. The Church passes its

teachings from one generation to the next, bestowing on them the faith. The story of tradition is

not a story of how nothing has changed but a story of movement and change and growth and

development over time within Catholicism.5 When we talk about tradition within the Church, we

are not talking about how nothing has changed, on the contrary, how we have changed over our

history. Himes uses two examples to demonstrate tradition in the Church: The communion of

The Mystery of Faith. 39-41
The Mystery of Faith. 87-89
saints and the development of doctrine. The communion of saints allows us to draw from the

lives of saints and use them to guide us. We are saved from being what G.K. Chesterton called a

“Child of one’s time,” instead allowed to use the communion of saints as a way to engage in a

conversation across time and across geography.6

The development of doctrine is another reason tradition is an essential element of

Catholicism. As we pass faith from one generation to another, it must be re expressed, because

the insights, the styles of prayer, the ways in which we live and build communities and express

the mass, all change. The mystery of God requires every generation to engage in a conversation

with the one who came before them, because the church cannot be restarted.7 Tradition is what

allows the Church is adopt, to appeal to the new communion of people in every generation who

come together as community and seek the wholeness which only God may provide and which

they may only find in each other. By changing the doctrine to adopt to the times, the

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith allows the passing of the faith from one generation to

another, while also appealing to new people and spreading the word of God. Tradition allows for

the Church to survive through the ages, and while the Church may change to the times, the faith


The Mystery of Faith. 90
The Mystery of Faith. 91