Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter reflection, one

An Easter reflection for you:
The Person which assumed human nature was not created, as is the case of all other persons. His Person was the pre-existent Word or Logos. His human nature on the other hand, was derived from the miraculous conception by Mary, in which the Divine forshadowing of the human spirit and the human Fiat or the consent of a woman, were most beautifully blended. This is the beginning of a new humanity out of the material of the fallen race. When the Word became flesh, it did not mean that any change took place in the Divine Word. The Word of God proceeding forth did not leave the Father's side. What happened was not so much the conversion of the Godhead into flesh, as the taking of manhood into God. There was continuity with the fallen race of man through the manhood taken from Mary; there is discontinuity through the fact that the Person of Christ is the pre-existent Logos. Christ thus literally becomes the second Adam, the man through whom the human race starts over. His teaching centered on the incorporation of human natures into Him, after the manner in which the human nature that He took from Mary was united to the Eternal Word. It is hard for a human being to understand the humility that was involved in the Word becoming flesh. Imagine, if it were possible, a human person divesting himself of his body, and then sending his soul into the body of a serpent. A double humiliation would follow: first, accepting the limitations of a serpentine organism, knowing all the while that his mind was superior, and that fangs could not adequately articulate thoughts no serpent ever possessed. The second humiliation would be to be forced as a result of this "emptying of self" to live in the companionship of serpents. But all this is nothing compared to the emptying of God, by which he took on the form of man and accepted the limitations of humanity, such as hunger and persecution; not trivial either was it for the Wisdom of God to condemn himself to association with poor fishermen who knew so little. But this humiliation which began in Nazareth when he was conceived in the virgin Mary was only the first of many to counteract the pride of man, until the final humiliation of of death on the Cross. If there were no Cross, there would have been no crib; if there had been no nails, there would have been no straw. But he could not teach the lesson of the Cross as payment for sin; He had to take it. Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ
I picked up this book from the parish library this week on a bit of a lark. I read a collection of Sheen's writings before and found them to be simplistic and, worse, sorely dated in places. This book is much better. It attempts to tell the story of Christ's life as we have it, and to weave the theology of the Church into the telling, so that we can see how the two are intertwined. It's my experience that knowing this story reasonably well, especially the philosophical underpinnings, puts a considerable amount of cold water on the silly thought experiments of Dan Brown and his pack of wannabes. The problem with all of these speculations is that they don't ever seem to address the existential question of Being. The Gospel of John simply puts them to shame. In other words, the alternatives appeal to cloudy headed people of faith and materialists of all stripes. The materialists think the universe has always been and will always be. I respectfully disagree with them and the Big Bang theory just might be on my side. More puzzlingly, however, do the fuzzy headed "faithful" realize that doing away with the Incarnation rips Authority away from Jesus' teachings? All of them including the ones about mercy and forgiveness? Don't they see it leaves us with an unsympathetic Deity along the lines of what we see in Islam? Here is Hillaire Belloc on Islam. Spot the similarities...
... the central point where this new heresy struck home with a mortal blow against Catholic tradition was a full denial of the Incarnation. Mohammed did not merely take the first steps toward that denial, as the Arians had done; he advanced a clear affirmation full and complete, against the whole doctrine of an incarnate God. He taught that Our Lord was the greatest of all the prophets, but still only a prophet: a man like other men. He eliminated the Trinity altogether. With that denial of the Incarnation went the whole sacramental structure. He refused to know anything of the Eucharist, with it's Real Presence; he stopped the sacrifice of the Mass, and therefore the institution of a special priesthood. In other words, he, like so many other lesser heresiarchs, founded his heresy on simplification. Catholic doctrine was true (he seemed to say), but it had become encumbered with false accretions; it had become complicated by needless man-made additions, including the idea that the founder was Divine, and the growth of a parasitical caste of priests who battened on a late, imagined, system of sacraments which they alone could administer. All those corrupt accretions must be swept away. Hillaire Belloc, The Great Heresies
There is very likely to be another post to be had on this subject. Perhaps tomorrow.

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