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Archive for August, 2013

Hubble_Ultra_Deep_Field_part_dScience fiction reaches its peak in space travel.  There is no more imaginative or enchanted “room” in the sci-fi household than the one that houses aliens, spacecrafts, and intergalactic quests.

In part one, we talked about the connection between myth and wonder.  In the great space operas of Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, and others, science fiction speaks most poignantly in the language of myth.

The imaginative elements, while marvelous and very important to the genre, are only part of the picture.  The whole consists, I believe, of the unnamed, upward-reaching hunger of the soul…of longing in the form of a journey.

The very idea of technological development as a means of launching ourselves to the stars speaks of man’s boundless ambitions.

DanteDetailSuch ambition did not have to wait for the advent of modern technology to be given a voice.  Dante Alighieri, the great medieval Italian poet, ended each of the three books of his “Divine Comedy” with the same word: Stars.

As he emerges from the depths of hell, he rejoices that he can once again see the stars.

At the end of his long climb to the peak of Mount Purgatory, he is now prepared to journey unto the stars.

Having toured heaven and at last experienced the vision of God, he sings the praises of that Love that “moves the stars” (italics mine).

Incidentally, what was it that led the three Magi to the birthplace of Christ?  That’s right — a star.

Imagine lying on the ground and looking up at the starlit sky on a clear night.  What in the world could more evoke awe, wonder, and even a certain holy fear than this?  Beholding the vast expanse of the universe, who of us would not sympathize with the Psalmist, who says:

When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you set in place —

What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him?

(Psalms 8: 4-5)

Yet by faith we know that we are created for a destiny greater than worlds, greater than universes…literally.

Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man’s immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. [T]he Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory “the beatific vision” (CCC 1028)

…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Cor. 2:9)

And in this sense our hope is transcendent.  We know what our destiny is by name: Eternal relationship with God.  But in a very real sense, we must have faith that this is the fulfillment of our desires without yet knowing what it is.  Because while we know it by name, we cannot describe it the way we would describe anything that is within the scope of our creaturely experience.  That’s probably why the premise of venturing beyond earth to unknown worlds is so intriguing to the human spirit.

Prometheus02PR180512I am reminded of Ridley Scott’s 2012 “Alien” prequel “Prometheus,” in which a team of space explorers venture to a faraway planet in search of the origins of life.  By the end, they are quite disappointed and nearly all killed — but (SPOILER ALERT), one intrepid archeologist escapes and determines to journey even further, carrying hope with her…

…in the form of a crucifix.

Batoni_sacred_heartIndeed, such hopes and aspirations as we have been discussing cannot be considered apart from the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ, Who, being God, deigned to become a human being, like the rest of us in all things except sin.

As God-become-man, Jesus bore our sins, infirmities, and death upon Himself, and then in His Resurrection raised human nature to new and eternal life.  As Pope Francis repeatedly indicates in his encyclical, “Lumen Fidei,” it is He who opens up vast, untold new horizons for humanity.

These horizons are open to everyone…not just people who wear funny suits and fly big ships into space 🙂

“Prometheus” image obtained through a Google image search; other images from Wikipedia.

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St. Mary MajorToday is the optional memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, which I think gives me a good opportunity to talk about the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God.

Many people object to this title.  After all, if God is God, then He doesn’t need a “begetter,” right?  And given the eternity of God, wouldn’t Mary have to have been begetting Him from all eternity?

Obviously, this scenario is preposterous.  And yet in 431 it was decreed at the Council of Ephesus that Mary was indeed the “Theotokos” (Greek for “God-bearer”), much to the delight of the faithful (it is said that the city was lit with the fires of celebration after the pronouncement was made).

Let’s put this whole issue in context…

The Council of Ephesus came in response to the claims of Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople, who held, contrary to traditional orthodoxy, that the man Christ Jesus was not God in the flesh; rather, the Eternal Son of God became specially united with the man Jesus of Nazareth, so that wherever the latter went he made the Son uniquely present to everyone he met.

Against Nestorius, the Council affirmed that Jesus of Nazareth was none other than the Son of God made flesh; that two natures, divine and human, dwelt perfectly in Him.  Although His personhood is in His divine identity as the Son, Jesus Christ was — and is eternally — one Person, fully God and fully human (because of the human nature He united with His divinity).

It is for this reason that the Virgin Mary was officially acknowledged as the Mother of God.

There are some who reject this, pointing out that Mary was the mother of Jesus’ human nature only, not His divine nature.

Theotokos

But mothers are not the mothers of natures, are they?  They are the mothers of persons.  Think of your own mother — she has a special relationship with you and with each of your siblings (if you have any) as unique human beings, not just with your “human natures.”

Just so, Mary was the mother of the Person of Jesus Christ.  At the risk of being redundant, I will say again that Jesus was and is, in His divinity and humanity, one Person.

Therefore, Mary is truly the Mother of God.

In and through Christ, she is also the mother of the Church…but that is a topic for another post.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment if you have anything to say (provided there is civility, of course).

Images from Wikipedia

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I’ve added another new page up top called “Religion/Spirituality Posts.”  It has a complete list of all of “Into the Dance” posts that focus on topics of religious and spiritual interest.

One problem though: As you will notice, the “search” bar is blocking half of it!  Does anyone know how I can fix this?  Any advice would be immensely appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

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