Pope Benedict has written eloquently about the virtue of faith, and fittingly so in the Year of Faith. He has reminded us that faith is a supremely personal act, by which he means it is an act of the whole person that frees us from ourselves by bringing us into communion with God through Jesus Christ.
In common parlance, the word personal has taken on the connotation of individual preference or taste. This is not what is meant by the word in Christian anthropology, philosophy or theology. Personal is indicative of an entire being who acts. Human persons mind/body beings, i.e., incarnate spirits. Because of this, a personal act is an act of the individual’s senses, intellect, will and passions.
That is why the pope has described faith as not merely an act of the will, or an act of intellect or mere emotional activity. It is, rather all of these together. It is an act of the whole self in a concentrated unity. Biblically, this is described as an act of the “heart” (Rom 10:9).
Because faith is an act of the person, it transcends the person. It becomes a relational act which brings the individual out of himself and beyond himself and into the transcendent “Other” who is God.
Benedict has furthermore beautifully and astonishingly said that because we are created beings, faith is never just action but also passion. Passion is that which invigorates and enlivens the decision, the fundamental option, for God in Christ. Yes, faith is a fundamental option for God and it requires all our energies to maintain it. While this fundamental option is radical, it is tenuous in light of the attractions of the world.
The take home message is this: Faith is an act of the entire person, not just an intellectual acknowledgment and assent (although that is part of it). It is a rational choice, rising out of hearing the Gospel proclaimed and seeing the witness of many, reinforced by a passionate embrace of the person of Jesus Christ, through whom we have freedom and life.