The Truth is Symphonic

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The “four pillars” of faith presented in the Catechism are interconnected parts of a whole

by Supreme Chaplain Bishop William E. Lori

Bishop William E. Lori

Bishop William E. Lori

The 40th installment of Supreme Chaplain Bishop William E. Lori’s faith formation program addresses questions 578-597 of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

At the conclusion of our study of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, let us examine again the purpose of this project. Simply put, the article series aimed to help Knights of Columbus and their families grow in understanding of the faith and engage in the new evangelization. After all, a genuine understanding of the Church’s faith enables us to read Scripture with greater insight and to share more deeply in the Mass and the sacraments. It helps us live according to the Gospel and guides us in the ways of prayer.

By knowing, loving and living the faith, we are better prepared to invite others to return home to Christ and the Church and are better able to attract those searching for the fullness of truth. We thereby impact individual lives and build up the Church as the Body of Christ, transforming our culture from within.

Yet, all these goals will elude us unless we step back to look at the faith, not just in its component parts, but as a whole.


If our faith was simply a long checklist of unrelated items to be believed and acted upon, then it would be burdensome. As it is, far too many people see the faith in this way. But by presenting the “four pillars” of the faith, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium show us how all aspects of the Church’s faith are interrelated in truth and beauty.

What we believe (the Profession of the Christian Faith) gives rise to how we worship as a Church (the Celebration of the Christian Mystery), and to how we live (Life in Christ) and pray (Christian Prayer).

Far more than an onerous checklist, Christianity is a way of life. It sheds the light and beauty of God’s truth on why we were created, who we are, how we should live and what our ultimate destiny is. As the Second Vatican Council said so profoundly, “In reality, it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

To clarify this point, I would like to borrow an idea from the title of a book by the late Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar: Truth is Symphonic. The Church’s faith might be compared with a beautiful symphony. Often, each movement of a symphony has a leitmotif, a fundamental musical theme that recurs with variations. Sometimes the theme is played softly, sometimes dramatically, sometimes jarringly, but the ears of an attentive and informed listener can pick up the theme, absorb it, participate in it, and come away with a unified sense of the genius of the composer and his composition.

The fundamental theme, or leitmotif, of the Church’s faith is what St. Paul refers to as “the mystery” — the plan of creation and redemption that the Triune God, shrouded in glory, set into motion. God is love, and he created the world so that human beings, created in his image and likeness, could enter into a communion of love with him. However, after we had estranged ourselves from him and from one another through sin, God revealed himself to the chosen people. From this people, he chose Mary, who became the earthly mother of God’s divine Son.


By his preaching and miracles, and ultimately by giving his life for us and in rising triumphant from the dead, Jesus revealed that the Father’s love, for which we were created, is stronger than sin and death. Jesus established the Church so that, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we could share in his redeeming love until the end of time.

This mystery is God’s masterpiece in which the great themes of creation and redemption sound in harmony. Here the love of an eternal God and the meaning of human history are given voice. As this mystery unfolds in human history, it is full of drama and diversity, and rife with the discordant notes of human infidelity. But the love of God always prevails.

By catching sight of God’s plan of creation and redemption, we also see how Scripture and sacred tradition speak in human terms with one divine voice; we see the unity of the Scripture itself; and we grasp how both faith and reason lift up the human spirit. So, too, we perceive how our worship in the Mass and the sacraments is like a counterpoint, a graced response to the gift of God’s love.

In the same way, Christian morality is not merely a jumble of rules like random notes on a musical score, but is rather the coherent way in which the theme of Christ’s goodness and love is to resonate in our intentions, decisions and actions. Finally, in Christian prayer, we are given the grace to respond, intimately and personally, to Christ’s love echoing in the depths of our being.

The faith of the Church is indeed unified, true, beautiful, good and life-giving. Let us, the Knights of Columbus, stand united in love in proclaiming and living the faith for the glory of God, for the salvation of our souls and for the good of the Church and the world.