Reflecting the Mind of the
Vatican Since 1850

‘The Soul Imagines God,’ Contemplating and Praying with Images
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“When enlightened by faith, the soul imagines God and contemplates him, as much as it can.” This is some of the guidance for imaginative prayer that Cyril of Jerusalem (315-387) gave to his catechumens 1,700 years ago. At its heart is the “light of faith,” an image born of Sacred Scripture, particularly found where Jesus restores sight to the blind. A constant in the theological and mystical tradition, the image was revived by Pope Francis’ encyclical Lumen Fidei. According to Cyril, if this faithful and trusting light inhabits the soul, Christ’s disciples can imagine God, and thus contemplate God. Without imagination or images, there is no union with God.

However, we note in ourselves and around us that there is a real overwhelming of our imagination, causing damage and bewilderment. Waves of images impose themselves on us and obscure our vision of God, creation, others and ourselves. We are invaded by advertising, social networks and “24/7 news channels,” as well as by fake news and images generated by artificial intelligence. Often, unfortunately, these invasive images are all the more realistic the more they are fake. Just think of the ephemeral and delusional success, in the spring of 2023, of a fake image of a fashionably dressed Pope Francis, bundled up in a long white puffer coat with a wide silk sash. If the attire was surreal, the stakes were very real; they concerned the credibility of the images we see and their impact on our ability to trust, and therefore, to have faith.
© Union of Catholic Asian News 2024
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