FAITH IN A FALTERING WORLD
REFLECTIONS ON THE FAITH
IN THE YEAR OF FAITH
Last year we began the year of Faith, but when we look around the Church we wonder what does the Faith mean, especially for so many Western Christians who seem to behave just like everybody else. There is so little to distinguish Catholics and Protestants from their fellows. Possibly in Orthodoxy, which is so profoundly spiritual, traditional, and Monastic, there is a different understanding of the Faith, that is definitely, heart centred, intuitive, and mystical. The Western World so given to analysing and compartmentalizing, to explaining, and investigating, that it cannot comprehend what Francis Thompson so wonderfully describes in his poem “In No Strange Land”:
The angels keep their ancient places;-
Turn but a stone, and start a wing!
‘Tis ye,’ tis your estrangéd faces,
That miss the many splendour’d thing.
As human beings we are caught between Heaven and Earth, and the downward pull of Earth is so often greater than the call of Heaven. Why is this, and why is the Faith so difficult to comprehend in the 21st century. I think that the problem is very simple, especially for Westerners. It is quite simple; we are building, with our technology, an ersatz paradise that is utterly different from the original paradise from which our first parents were expelled following on from the Fall. The Garden of Eden was what was intended for us by God, but Original Sin forfeited this bliss, and Adam and Eve left this joy and peace, and entered into the deserts of the World disorientated, disconnected, and so the endless war between the sexes began as did the rebellion by children against parental authority, and fratricidal strife ruled the World. Nothing is New under the Sun as the preacher informs us. Reading the Old Testament is a story of bloodshed, cruelty, sexual immorality, formal religion, but rarely is it about Faith; domination is the order of the day. Today with our terrifying technologies we are no better, and seem a lot worse, but why is this?
It is so important that we think very simply, and as clearly as we can, because if we do not we will find it difficult to appreciate what The Kingdom of God really is, as it is both simple and elusive.
When God created Adam and Eve, he was for them before all else their Father, as he was their Creator. He wished to walk with his children in the Garden in the cool of the day, and he wished The Son, and The Holy Spirit to accompany him as they also wished for the same, as all the three persons of The Trinity can only wish the same thing. What must be kept in mind is that The Father, The Son, and The Spirit wanted the most intimate communion with the Human Race, but the father and mother of all human beings did not want this. What did Adam and Eve want? They wanted knowledge, they wanted power, but they did not want love. The Kingdom of Heaven is the Kingdom of Love par excellence, and the Kingdom of this World, which is the Kingdom of Satan, is the Kingdom of rebellion.
Since the Fall and prior to the Redemption, there has been for the most part only the Kingdom of this World in the ascendancy. The Kingdom of Israel was not the Kingdom of Heaven, it was an anticipation of the Kingdom of Heaven. However hard the people of Israel tried to be faithful to God and his commandments, they kept falling away because of Original Sin, and that tendency to prefer the evil over the good, which we call concupiscence. It is this pull towards evil that is graphically described in Exodus when the people of Israel who have been freed from the Egyptian yoke of slavery for only about six months, are convinced that Moses is dead, and so they ask Aaron “Up, make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Exodus 32.v.1) and he makes the Golden Calf for the people. We then need not wonder about the awful state of the priesthood today. Now admittedly it is not Moses who consecrates the priests, but Christ, The Eternal High Priest, The Son of The Eternal Father. Admittedly there is little doubt that Aaron was making an image of “The Lord”, but he was degrading the All Powerful God into the image of a young bull, thus putting the Creator on a par with the Egyptian bull god Apis, and the Canaanite bull god Baal. He was making God an idol. It is no wonder that God says that he will destroy all the Israelites with the exception of Moses, who will be like another Moses or Abraham. However what comes across is Aaron’s weakness and the great lack of faith on behalf of the people, who refer to Moses as the man who brought them out of Egypt as if he was some elevated tourist guide. They, like Adam and Eve, they have forgotten the great love that God The Father, The Creator has for them. It is all too apparent that the Israelites were not particularly interested in worshipping, they simply want to have a good time. Whatever they wanted, it was not the ascetic life, and they were complaining all the time. Today again and again people want excitement, they want things to be meaningful, and understandable, they want to know what it is to be like God “knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3: 5) as Eve wanted to know, but they do not want a God of love. They want a God of power, who will give them what they want, and what they want is pleasure and the gratification of the senses on every level, and this is not just on the level of the more fleshly senses, but at the highest level of the senses; however this is not the same as a true longing for Divine Love.
It is both interesting and instructive that St. John’s Monastery at Collegeville (This is the home of the greatest Pro-Life priest in the World Fr. Paul Marx, who was a monk as well, and whose fellow monks treated him terribly) should be in the forefront of the so called Liturgical Movement earlier in the 20th Century and also be at odds with Church Teaching on contraception. Here we have the problem. “I, We shall say what it means to be a Christian. We will discover the Faith for ourselves, because somebody is hiding it from us, and that somebody is the Official Church. We know better, because we have studied the Faith.” They are worshipping, feasting and dancing before the golden calf. Unfortunately this distrust of immemorial Church teaching is a distrust which finds its source in Eve’s distrust of God, and Adam’s disinterest. Adam’s weakness with Eve, which we see later with Aaron and the people of Israel; her curiosity which has so bedevilled many of her daughters. Adam’s weakness bestowed on his sons, who give in so often to women, and then women who so often want to know what a man is thinking. I think that it would be fair to say that men do not want to know what women are thinking. They are thinking of how to have a good time, and sate the senses. Weakness and distrust blind men and women to a true knowledge of God.
In the last hundred or so years, but certainly since the late 50’s we have seen the rise of what can only be described as a very academic theology. The modern theologian sees theology as something that has to be discovered, something that develops. He or she does not really have to love God, or so it seems. Here we have the crux, Faith no longer seeks understanding, for what matters is to understanding and if Faith does not fit with understanding, then Faith will have to change; in this case reason, or rationalism comes into play which is ridiculous. I remember hearing a famous Catholic Journalist who said that because of the Atonement we had to rethink the Atonement. Sadly he was talking to impressionable students. It was a relief that he was both a boring and unattractive individual. I pointed out that there was another view namely that of the Creationist. He was not having any of that.
Now what appears to be very important in modern Catholic Academic discourse is peer approval from fellow academics, but what has that to do with the Faith, and what does it have to do with the Truth? Constantly we must return to the Gospels and there find the Truth who is Christ, God Incarnate. How many modern Catholic theologians do their theological studies in atmosphere of prayer, or has the whole secular atmosphere of academia seduced them into a secular view of theology, a denial of the supernatural and a questioning of grace? Is this not a desire to know “good and evil”?
It must also have been very galling for these University Professors that such a bourgeois young French woman as St. Thérèse should have been made a doctor of the Church by Blessed John Paul II. Certainly Karl Rahner must have been turning violently in his grave, as he had no time for Thérèse and in that he betrayed an ignorance of the heart of the Gospel. “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 3-4).
Let us return to God The Father. Christ is his perfect child eternally begotten of The Father. This is a wonderful mystery. Christ is the eternally begotten of the Father. The Father rejoices and exults in his wonderful Son, and this great love is the Holy Spirit. It is as simple as that. This infinite joy of the Father in his Son he wishes to replicate in creation and the pinnacle of this Fatherhood in Creation is shown in the creation of Man and Woman, who are made in the image of God; so that when he gazes on his children he always sees the Son, whom he loves. The Love of the Spirit then draws Adam and Eve into this love of the Father for the Son, but with Original Sin, all is broken, all destroyed. The Son alone can return Man to God through the Cross and Redemption. Let us make this year of Faith a journey into the heart of God.