— From the Mystical Revelations of Maria Valtorta—
— INTRODUCTORY NOTE —
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out..."Outside the Church there is no salvation" [4th Lateran Council]
and he went out, not knowing where he was to go." [Heb 11:8]
The following excerpt, specially translated for this website, is taken from Maria Valtorta's Lezioni Sull'Epistola Di Paolo Ai Romani ["Lessons on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans"], the collection of commentaries on St. Paul's Letter to the Romans dictated to Valtorta by the Holy Spirit. The segment presented here focuses mainly on the faith of Abraham, and also throws light on a thorny crux of Catholic tradition that theologians have wrestled with down the ages: namely, that "outside the Church there is no salvation."1
A too narrow interpretation of this principle
the excommunication and schism of some Catholics. Most prominent among
these is perhaps Fr. Leonard Feeney, whose position, dubbed
held that anyone not visibly and officially a member of the Catholic
is damned to Hell.2
Ironically, and tragically, Feeney's obstinate refusal to at least
his viewpoint on this question, put him in the very situation he
in others: he ended up "outside the Church".
In this excerpt Abraham is called the "father of all believers," [cf. Rom 4:11], and it is principally his faith that is illumined in this Commentary by the Holy Spirit. Yet, Abraham was technically "outside the Church", since it was not to be established yet for many centuries. It could also be said that he was "outside the chosen people", since the people of Israel had not yet been formed or chosen either. Being therefore neither a "member of the Church" nor a "member of the chosen people, "Abraham could be considered in this view to have been a "pagan", a "heathen". Yet the Spirit of God calls him a "just man" —made just by his faith and trust in the one God Whom Jewish tradition says he sought and worshiped, even from his youth.
Abraham was the son of Terah (Gen. 11:26,27) who, according to Jewish lore, was a merchant of idols. But even from his early childhood, says this ancient Jewish legend, Abraham questioned the faith of his father and sought the truth. He came to believe that the entire universe was the work of a single Creator, and he began to teach this belief to others. Abraham tried to convince his father, Terah, of the folly of idol worship. One day, when Abraham was left alone to mind the store, he took a hammer and smashed all of the idols except the largest one. Then he placed the hammer in the hand of the largest idol. When his father returned and asked what happened, Abraham said, "The idols got into a fight, and the big one smashed all the other ones." His father said, "Don't be ridiculous. These idols have no life or power. They can't do anything." Abraham replied, "Then why do you worship these lifeless things!?"3
Using Abraham, then, as an illustrative example of faith, the Holy Spirit provides us here with God's own viewpoint on the thorny question of "outside the Church there is no salvation."
May he, our father Abraham, obtain also for us, gifted with the privilege of being "inside the Church," that great faith which merited for him such intimacy with, and trust in, God.
[Valtorta: "Says the Most Holy Author":]
The Holy Spirit:
Abraham was the father of all believers [Gen 12-25; Rom 4:11], that is, of those who by their justice merit not only to hear the spiritual and Most Holy Voice of God resounding in their spirit, but know how to understand the words of this ineffable Voice, and to believe and obey It and Its commands.
There was not, is not, and will not be, a creature who does not hear this Voice resounding in himself, either in a single and fleeting moment, or many times and at length. It is the mysterious Call of the one and holy Lord, of the universal Creator. It comes like a shaft of light, like a wave of sound. And It penetrates: sometimes sweetly, sometimes severely, sometimes terribly.
It is not important that a man be in the chosen religion, to have this Call. God is the Creator of the children of His own people, as well as of the savage who does not know His Most Holy Name. And just as His Call echoes in Catholic churches, in Catholic and civilized nations, in those that are civilized and not Catholic—among peoples of other revealed religions—so also It fills with Itself the wild and cold solitudes, the yet unexplored zones, the lost islands, the archipelagoes where man is on a level like that of wild beasts: made up of instincts—and often unbridled instincts. It fills the warm, tangled and virgin forests, where civilization has not brought its progress and its subtle corruption. Everywhere, God speaks. Because God is the Creator of every man.
But often man—and not just uncivilized man—mistakes this mysterious Call of God with the voice of his own conscience, and with the remorse that shouts at the bottom of his me [ego], especially if that Call is one that scolds. Sometimes, especially at the beginning of time, a guilty man knows how to distinguish the Voice of God from that of his me, troubled by remorse. Cain is an example of these guilty men who knew how to distinguish It [Gen 4:9-15]. But with the turning of centuries, man's capacity to understand and distinguish It—I speak of man with a treacherous heart—that capacity became ever more dimmed. Because like a thick wall, which shuts out voice and light, denial of the one God was built up, and a contempt for God took root in man.
The self-created "superman" is such a monster: a deformity of man, he is the bastard that has come from the marriage of human reason—created by God but rebelling against God—with the Enemy of God. Uprooted from God by his own will, the man of the world—that is, one who is self-created according to the satanic-human doctrine—cannot and does not want to understand God's Call to return. Every requisite is lacking in him that would enable him to do so. Even if he bears the name of "Catholic". Still more: even if he is a practicing one. More yet: even if he is clothed in a sacred garment, he distinguishes the Voice of God as such, with difficulty.
There are too many [opposing] things: even in those who, by their attire, mission, and grace of state, ought to be very sensitive to the Call of God, and to grasping and understanding the words of God. Their pride kills or troubles their reason, and makes their spirit deaf. A proud reason is a reason gone mad. Therefore it is no longer reason. A proud spirit is an occupied altar. Therefore it is an altar where the Eternal cannot descend to express His will. Others speak there: with the harsh voice of lust. And even if—from His high throne—God throws out a Call to return and penetrates [that spirit], it remains overwhelmed. It wants to be so, because to hear that Call and spurn it would be too much. So one prefers not to hear it.
But Abraham was a man who loved the true God. His reason was not proud. He recognized God in everything. He felt himself to be God's creature. He bowed his thought in reverential subjection before the Most High, Who is manifest in all of creation. His spirit was just, keeping itself pure [and free] of any kind of idolatry.
And his body was just, obedient to the commands given by God to the father of men: Adam [Gen 1:26-27]. Abraham had married Sarah: to be one single flesh with her, and to increase and multiply the number of men on Earth. He worked the land to draw nourishment from it, and his fatigue was dear to him. He found it just: that [work] was painful, and that his bread was seasoned with the salt of his sweat. For him, death too was just: it would have made of his flesh but dust again. Humble before the Most High, he felt himself to be "dust"—a little grain of dust—before the Immense, the Infinite, the Most Powerful. And like a little grain of dust, he let himself be transported by the will of the Lord, without attachment to anything that would be transitory.
Believing in God, confident in the goodness of God, obedient to God, Abraham had what was required: to hear the Voice of the Most Holy God resounding in his spirit, to understand Its words, and to carry out what these words commanded.
Paul, reporting the words of Scripture, wrote: "Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as justice" [Rom 4:3]. But although Scripture says this after Abraham believed in the promise of a posterity, truly—I say to you—Abraham believed long before that: when he already had the certainty that he would not have any posterity from Sarah. [He continued to believe] when, as a refugee from his own land and kindred, he was in conditions less favorable for believing that the Lord would make of him "a great Nation", and that "to his progeny God would give that land" which afterwards was Palestine. That land extended "to the north, the south, the east and west", [and was] given to him and to his posterity: to that "progeny which God would multiply like the dust of the Earth" [Gen 13:14-16].
From one seed can come a seeded ear [of grain]. And from this, scattered with its little grains, a hundred new ears. And from these, re-sown, a thousand and then ten thousand and a hundred thousand. But if the first seed is lacking, how can there be posterity and multiplication?
Abraham did not have any seed: any heir. From the sterile womb of Sarah no seed of posterity blossomed. And yet, despite all, Abraham believed that God would grant him an heir. Nor was his faith weakened by the passing of time, with no fulfillment of the promise [Rom 4:19-20]. And that was reckoned to him as justice. Without taking account of his other works, God judged him worthy of grace, for his faith.
Faith is therefore a mystic circumcision—as valid as and even more valid than—the material rite. God recognizes as His servants, those who believe in Him and obey His will. It is vain to have the sign [of circumcision] in the flesh, [or] one's name in the [baptismal] registries, if there is no sign in one's heart of subjection to the true God, and if the name [of Christian] is contradicted by one's works [cf. Rom 2:25-29]. The heir was promised to Abraham for his faith. The Inheritance will be given to each of you for your faith. To have the Law and not fulfill it because there is no faith, causes the loss, rather than the conquest, of the heavenly Kingdom.
How does one fulfill the Law if one does not believe the truths revealed by God? When reward and chastisement, eternity, hell, paradise, resurrection of the flesh, and divine judgment, are scorned as fables?4 When doubt about God's existence leads to disregarding the Law, what does it profit you to know and to have the code of Life? What shield remains for you against the tinder of urges and temptations if, having no faith, you do not care about living the Law?
One day the Word of God said: "If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to that mountain, or to this tree: 'Uproot yourself up from there and be planted in the sea,' and you will obtain it" [Matt 17:20].
But it is [just] this little grain of faith that you need, in order to uproot from yourselves these urges and temptations: [so as] to command these tentacles that grab and torture you—and sometimes lead you to spiritual death—to "throw themselves into the sea," leaving you free. It is this little grain of faith, which will make you strong as heroes, and will be your justification and pardon, even from imperfect or failed works.
One who has faith cannot perish. He who has faith has, in himself, the means that keeps him from irreparably offending the Father. He who has faith believes in Jesus, Son of the Father, in Jesus, Savior and Redeemer. And of such a one it is said that he who believes in Him, and in Him Who sent Him, will have eternal life [Jn 6:47]. He who has faith believes in the Third Person, in the Love of the Love of God, in the most Perfect Love that is God: One and Triune. He who believes in that Love, loves; and he who believes and loves, has God in himself; and he who has God, cannot know eternal death.
For this reason, he who has faith has the Kingdom of God in himself, in his earthly day. He has the Kingdom of God in his interior: God-King, God-Friend, God-Master, Light, Way, Truth, Life. And in the Other Life: [he will have] possession and beatific knowledge without end.
— I I —
Do not these words of the Apostle [in a fragment meditated on previously] destroy hope in the divine promise? No. They destroy neither hope, nor the promise. They do not condemn the world to an inexorable ruin. They do not discourage one with the thought of the futility of belonging to the People of God. Rather, they amplify hope and the promise, and confidence in the love of the Father-Creator of every creature. They urge one to enter into this blessed People, and comfort one in doing the works of the Law. For they [dispel any] fear that, though knowing and practicing such works, they will not profit one for salvation; but they will become rather a condemnation, because [they will] always [be] accomplished imperfectly.
And why? Because "all those who believe in Christ are justified freely through His grace by means of the Redemption which Christ accomplished."
Oh! Truly He "has taken upon Himself all of man's evils; God, His Father, has put upon Him the iniquity of the whole world, and He Himself suffered the chastisement which restored peace to men" [Is 53:4-12].
Here is the Shepherd and the Lamb, Who reunites "the straying sheep who have turned aside from the way of Heaven" [cf.Ez 34:12]. For men who are diverted by the allurements of the flesh, of the world, and of Satan, and who easily pass into treacherous pastures, He has traced out a path with His Blood. That path goes from this miry Earth where you live, to the Kingdom of God. That Blood— that Divine Blood of the Incarnate Word, that innocent Blood of the Son of Man—shines and shouts to all men, pointing out the way and the truth to be followed, in order to have Life.
Note that I speak in the present, because the Redemption, through "the propitiating Victim preordained by God," is an eternal present. It began—not at the ninth hour [of Good Friday], nor with the wailing [of the Child] at Bethlehem, nor at the revelations to the prophets [Heb 1:1-2], nor at the promise to Abraham [Gen 15], nor at the condemnation in Eden [Gen 3:16-19], nor at the first creative command: "Let there be light" [Gen 1:3]. But It had always existed, always, as God always was: One and Triune, begetting the Son from His perfect Unity, and the Paraclete Who proceeds from the first Two [the Father and the Son], without thereby causing any division of this Unity, and without creating any confusion of Persons by this unchanged Unity.
In Its eternal present, the Divine Thought always thought about, preordained, and willed the redemptive Victim. That [unchanged] Unity possessed from eternity an infinite throbbing of Its merciful Love, as It thought of the days of the still uncreated Universe and the creatures of that Universe: perfect in their origin, but imperfect by their own will. And the throbbing of this merciful Love begot the Word, the Victim.
This is why it is right to say that God is Love and that every work of God is love: from that mysteriously and infinitely marvelous work of the generation of the Word, and therefore also of the being of the Paraclete Who is the infinite and reciprocal love of the First Two [Persons]; to the seed which at this moment, after millennia of Creation, throws its shoot out of the furrow to create, one day, a family of grain, future bread of man.
God is infinitely good, loving, wise, patient. Through these Perfections of His, He willed—before there was Sin—that there would be a Redeemer. And through His Perfections, He knew how to "endure the former crimes of men, in order to make known His justice at the present time: that He was just, and because all those who believe in Christ Jesus, either through spiritual light or doctrinal knowledge, would have redemption" [cf. Rom 3:25-26].
I said: "all those who, either through spiritual light or doctrinal knowledge..." Here is a point on which many do not meditate enough, and on which they fall into the same error of the ancient Hebrews who believed that they were the only ones destined for Heaven, because they were the only ones who knew the existence of the true God and His Law.
Oh! Wretched people! For how many of them was this knowledge a condemnation! A condemnation, because that knowledge was not, in them, a reason for humility, but for haughtiness. Just because they were circumcised in their flesh they judged themselves justified, without need of circumcising their spirit. They thought they would have their triumph by robbery, by arrogant right. No. Heaven is—for all—a conquest. Hard. Long. And certain only for those who persevere in good will, to the end of their existence.
It was said by the prophets that the Synagogue would be rejected and the Temple and Nation of Israel destroyed, while "the desert of the pathless Earth will be full of gladness." And in the desert will arise multitudes of the new peoples of God "and they will see the glory of the Lord, and will hear the inviting words: "Do not fear. Here is your God. He comes and saves you." And "then the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf (the Gentiles) will be opened." And the lame (the uncivilized) will run like the deer (since they will be healthy) to the waters of the Savior. And "the purifying waters will gush out even there where the aridity of idolatry exists (I speak to the present [time] about God, but I allude to that time which began with the apostolic evangelization, and which will not end until the end of time). And the torrents (of wisdom) will run where there is ignorance of God and His doctrine.... And where before were the lairs of the dragons (sin, idolatry, heresy, every evil born of the Evil One), there will rise the dwelling of those chosen for Divine sonship. And "there will be one way, and it will be Called holy" — that way marked by the Blood of Christ. "Whoever follows it, even if he be ignorant, cannot err." Oh! Consoling promise! In it there will be no lions nor evil beasts, but only those who are freed: the redeemed of the Lord [cf. Is 10] who will return to the friendship and sonship between God and man. And full of supernatural cheerfulness, they will complete their day, until their entrance into the Kingdom of God wipes away all weeping, and annuls all sorrow, for eternity.
Here is the promise. And here is the answer for whoever believes that only a Catholic can be saved. And here is the explanation of My words: "or through spiritual [doctrinal] knowledge".
God has all power. And God has all mercy. And His joy is to communicate Himself to spirits who pine for the Unknown God, Whom they sense exists without knowing how, who, where He is, nor how to go to Him [Acts 17:22-25]. If one looks only at their number, there are many who are "saved" through faith in the true God: that faith found mysteriously alive in the midst of their spirit. And God has made their faith stronger and more limpid, as a reward of their justice, offered to the Unknown God Whom they sought to know. And yet, they are few, if one calculates the billions of men who, from Adam on, have pressed down the dust of the Earth.
Many! Many! Yes. Because God justifies [both] the uncircumcised by means of faith, and the circumcised by means of faith. And truly, many times the uncircumcised—without knowing the works prescribed by the Law—work better then those who know the Law, through the mysterious faith that animates the uncircumcised (a divine gift to these of good will). This shows that faith is still more valid than the Law, for saving man. For where there is faith in an Unknown God—Who loves for the good accomplished in His honor—there is hope, and there is charity. And where there is charity, there is salvation. For truly, at the end of time, those who were not baptized with water will be baptized with Fire: that is, with the Charity given as a reward for their charity.
— NOTES —
2. Feeney's views are documented by Fr. William Most at: http://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/FEENEY2.TXT .
3. See, e.g.: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/abraham.html
4. Maria Valtorta, Lezioni Sull'Epistola Di Paolo Ai Romani (Edizioni Pisani / Centro Editoriale Valtortiano srl, Via Po 95, I 03036 Isola del Liri Fr, Italia, 1986), pp. 78-82.
5. Valtorta, ibid., pp. 74-77.