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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Never Teach a Pig to SingGospel “tie-in”:

Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.

-Matthew 7:6

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For parts one through three, click here

Remember the “name game” we played in Part 2?  Well, I’ll ask you to grant me just a little further indulgence in this.

frozen_anna_gray_hairI said that the name Elsa was a variant of Elizabeth, hence a connection with St. Elizabeth.  Well, Anna, as I also mentioned, is a variant of the name Hannah.  Hannah, in the Old Testament, is the mother of the prophet Samuel.  As a young woman, her situation is almost identical with that of St. Elizabeth.  Both suffer from barrenness.

But, as with Elizabeth, Hannah is graciously granted a child.

Hence Hannah and Elizabeth are in parallel circumstances in the Bible.  So, in fact, are Anna and Elsa in “Frozen.”

Both, you will recall, bear some mark of the scapegoat — Elsa in her strange powers, Anna in the streak of gray in her hair.  Furthermore, a mutual salvation occurs between them at the end; both are saved from “frozen hearts” (though in different ways).

Hans and ElsaContrast that with Prince Hans, whose way of relating to Elsa (and Anna as well, though in diluted form) shows all of the characteristic signs of scapegoating.  Recall Anna’s comment at the end to the effect that he is the only one with a “frozen heart” in Arendelle.

Original Sin

“Michelangelo Sündenfall” by Michelangelo Buonarroti – http://www.heiligenlexikon.de/Fotos/Eva2.jpgTransferred from de.wikipedia to Commons by Roberta F. using CommonsHelper., 9 September 2007 (original upload date), Original uploader was Nitramtrebla at de.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo_S%C3%BCndenfall.jpg#/media/File:Michelangelo_S%C3%BCndenfall.jpg

“Frozenness” is very much an effect of the Fall of our first parents.  Consequent upon their initial transgression in the Garden, Adam and Eve’s relationship goes from one of honor and love to one of blame (Gen. 3: 12) and use (Gen. 3: 16).  And of course, blame and use are the sole “stuff” of people’s relationships with their scapegoats.  The latter are blamed for the ills of society, and they are at the same time used for the maintenance of order.

But with “a little bit of love,” as the Trolls would say, this can change.  People go from scapegoats to “fixer-uppers,” and we come to see that in fact “everyone is little bit of a fixer-upper” (emphasis mine).

frozen-happy-endingWe haven’t really spoken much about Elsa’s perspective, so I’ll say this: There are basically two different ways of being that result from the “frozenness” of the Fall, both of which have some foundation in fear and self-preservation.  There is, of course, outright selfishness and ego-assertion, as is the case with scapegoaters.  But there is also the self-centered condition of despair, and this can cause people not only to accept, but to cling to the scapegoat position.

And something like this, unfortunately, happens to Elsa.  She is so discouraged by her “different-ness” that she will not allow herself to be loved…or to love, except in the form of isolating herself against those she fears she may hurt.

Divine_Mercy_(Adolf_Hyla_painting)2007-08-16But Jesus Christ and His angels bring the world this striking message: “Be not afraid.”

Jesus Christ comes to reveal God to us, but He also comes to reveal to us the mystery of the human person.  Consider the Holy Wounds in His hands, feet, and side; He enters into our woundedness, and shines the light of divine mercy upon it.

Thus the God-Man makes it possible for us to see two things: 1) We are all wounded, all “marked” in some way…not just a few isolated “scapegoats”; 2) We do not need to be afraid of this.  God is love and mercy itself, and by His grace, we can find hope and healing — and this will often come through touching others in their woundedness, and making ourselves vulnerable to them in ours.

In her own way, Princess Anna got that…and so should we.

Another way of saying “to end something” is to “let it go,” correct?  I think I’ll let this commentary go with “Let It Go”:

Divine Mercy image from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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Noah2014Poster

Note: If you are interested in reading part one, click here

In his great book — which I have referenced before, and which I highly encourage people to read — “Love is Stronger Than Death,” Peter Kreeft makes the following observation about modern man’s scientific/technological dream:

The (immortality) Pill will be the fulfillment of one of our deepest and darkest dreams, the Oedipus complex.  Now we will be able to kill our father (God), and marry our mother (earth).  For without death, and with an earthly technological paradise (. . .) (w)e can now return with our phallic power of technology into our birth canal.”

Neither I nor Kreeft are suggesting that modern technology is bad.  But our technological pride and idolatry of “progress” has led to a certain rape of nature.

Original Sin

What we tend to forget, however, is that this is merely one manifestation of a phenomenon that has been going on since the beginning of human history.  When the first human beings defied God and thus fell from grace, they brought a curse upon the earth.

The harmony in which (our first parents) had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”.  (CCC 400 — bold added)

The Bible is very clear that humankind has dominion over the earth.  But this is not, was never, and never will be a dominion of selfish use.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way:

Animals (. . .) plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.

Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.

God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image.

(CCC 2415-2417 — bold added)

Ray WinstoneDarren Aronofsky, co-writer/director of “Noah,” gives us a key example of the opposite impulse — the one given rise to by the Fall of Adam and Eve — in Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone).  At one point, we see him grabbing a live animal and biting off its head; he defends his action by saying that God put mankind at the top of creation, and therefore all other creatures on this earth serve man.

The implication is that as masters, we can do whatever we want with the rest of creation, no matter the cost to it.

Noah_Steward

But again, this is not the Divine directive.  The true nature of man’s dominion over the earth is more clearly reflected in the lives of Noah (Russell Crowe) and his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly).  Their family takes on the role of stewards, or caretakers, of God’s creation.  They use only what they need, and they devote themselves to tending the earth and its creatures as they would the Garden of Eden.

Why am I talking about all of this?  Believe it or not, it’s not because today is Earth Day.  The timing of this post is fitting, but purely coincidental (at least as far as my intentions go; I can’t say that God did not, in His providence, have something to do with it).  Many Christians took issue with “Noah,” labeling it vegan propaganda and a mistreatment of God’s Word by imposing modern environmentalist ideas onto it.

I hope, however, that I have demonstrated the film’s portrayal of concern for creation to be, in fact, perfectly Biblical and authentically Christian.

If not…

Jrrt_lotr_cover_design …take a look at J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”…

Chronicles of Narnia…or at C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia.”

Tolkien and Lewis were both deeply Christian and very much immersed in the Biblical worldview.  They saw the connection we have been exploring very clearly, and it comes across powerfully in their work.

Let’s end with a bottom line that goes back to the Kreeft quote: Sin is about making ourselves God; when we make ourselves God, we become selfish and domineering; when we become selfish and domineering, our fellow human beings and the world entrusted to our care suffer.

I do have a little bit more to say about this subject in relation to the movie “Noah.”  But in the interest of a certain kind of “stewardship” over my readers’ eyes and patience, I’ll wait ’till next time.

All “Noah” images other than film poster obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia

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Catching-Fire_poster

Francis Lawrence’s adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ “Catching Fire” is clearly dominating the box office — and with good reason.  It’s a great film, filled with emotion, depth, artistry, and impressive visuals.

I want to begin my reflections by noting a coincidence.  This post happens to coincide with some interesting and relevant liturgical readings from the Catholic Calendar.  I’ll just share today’s first reading, in which the prophet Daniel interprets the Babylonian king’s dream of a statue with a golden head, silver chest and arms, bronze stomach and thighs, and iron legs being struck and destroyed by “a stone which was hewn from a mountain without a hand,” which stone then grew to become a mountain that would fill the whole world:

Another kingdom (silver) shall take your place, inferior to yours (gold), then a third kingdom, of bronze, which shall rule over the whole earth. There shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; it shall break in pieces and subdue all these others (…) In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever. That is the meaning of the stone you saw hewn from the mountain without a hand being put to it, which broke in pieces the tile, iron, bronze, silver, and gold. The great God has revealed to the king what shall be in the future; this is exactly what you dreamed, and its meaning is sure.

(Daniel 2: 39-45) (parentheses mine)

President SnowThe reality of the transitory nature of human governments  and their total dependence on God’s permissive will accounts for both the brutality and the urgent sense of self-preservation we see in totalitarian regimes, which seek to transgress their bounds and “play God.”

Panem, the oppressive government in the post-apocalyptic “Hunger Games” series, is no exception here.  As President Snow (Donal Sutherland) basically admits in “Catching Fire,” it is a fragile system that must assert itself desperately through the use of force.

How do such governments manage to hide their vulnerability and keep people in check?  Well, an excellent tool — one used very effectively in the “Hunger Games” series — is to keep the masses trapped within a superficially tiny world, one small enough that a dictatorship could exercise complete authority in it.  What they must do, in other words, is keep people blind to the transcendent, to the larger world and/or larger reality.

catching fire arenaThe Hunger Games are wonderfully symbolic of this whole situation.  Think about it: The Panem Capital takes a group of people — “tributes” — puts them into an artificial and controlled environment, deprives them of necessities, makes them have to fight for survival every minute, and has them compete against one another for this survival.

What then happens is that they get so busy fighting each other that they lose sight of who the real enemy is.

But, of course, you have the hero figures Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) who strive to stand against the status quo.  I’ll get more into this in part two.

“Catching Fire” poster from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search.

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Noah's ArkAs I mentioned in part one, the Bible identifies the rainbow as the sign of God’s Covenant with Noah, and through Noah with all of creation.

Indeed, the notion of a Covenant, which involves kinship via oath, is of paramount importance in the Bible.  Many people know of God’s various Covenants with Israel throughout the Old Testament, as well as their ultimate fulfillment in the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.

A lot of people even have at least a vague familiarity with God’s original Covenant with Adam — and therefore with all of mankind — which involved the pledge of steadfast love on His part, as well as the promise of a Redeemer.

But in between Adam and Israel, there was another Covenant that few of us understand.  We know the story pretty well, but we tend to miss the meaning behind it.

We shouldn’t get too caught up in questions about whether there was a literal flood that destroyed the whole world, whether a man literally built a boat that fit two of every kind of animal, or whether the rainbow first appeared only after the Flood was over.  The important thing to get out of the story of Noah’s Ark is that in God’s plan of salvation, it expresses His Covenant with the nations.

Confusion_of_TonguesThe fact that Noah’s story is followed immediately by the story of the Tower of Babel is significant.  Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say:

After the unity of the human race was shattered by sin God at once sought to save humanity part by part … This state of division into many nations is at once cosmic, social and religious. It is intended to limit the pride of fallen humanity united only in its perverse ambition to forge its own unity as at Babel … The covenant with Noah remains in force during the times of the Gentiles, until the universal proclamation of the Gospel … Scripture thus expresses the heights of sanctity that can be reached by those who live according to the covenant of Noah, waiting for Christ to “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (CCC 56-58).

And so we can see the rainbow as a sign, inscribed into the canvass of nature, of God’s provident care for all people of all times and places in the world’s various nations, each with its own Guardian Angel.  So when the various cultures I alluded to in my first post betrayed vague notions of the rainbow as a “link” between heaven and earth, they were perhaps not too far off.

God’s next “move” is to take Abraham from among the nations, and from him to form a Nation that is to serve as a “light” to all other nations — that is, Israel.  Through various Covenants and their central signs — including circumcision, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Temple in Jerusalem — God prepares this unique nation for the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ, in the flesh.

For the gentiles, the rainbow is the sign of the Covenant meant to prepare them for the Gospel, to prepare their hearts to welcome the Redeemer Who will unite all nations in His Kingdom, the Church.

Now, with the rainbow’s Covenantal associations in place, we can “jump ship” from the Ark into the land of the leprechauns!

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