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Posts Tagged ‘Lumen Fidei’

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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In the past couple weeks, two very momentous happenings took place.

Pope_Francis_in_March_2013First, Pope Francis released his first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei” (“The Light of Faith”).  This was an encyclical begun by his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, to which he added some of his own personal touches.  For those who are interested in reading, a link to the full text will be provided at the bottom.

Zimmerman,_George_-_Seminole_County_MugSecond, America got the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, who was arrested in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year.  Much to the dismay of many, he was found not guilty.

I can’t, of course, say for sure if it is providential that the release of “Lumen Fidei” and the Zimmerman verdict coincided.  But I do have some thoughts.

First of all, as far as the verdict is concerned, we must remember something crucially important about the justice system: Guilt must be established beyond all reasonable doubt.

Such guilt was not established in the case of George Zimmerman.  There was simply not sufficient evidence that he racially profiled Trayvon Martin or that what happened was cold-blooded murder as opposed to self-defense.

But we may ask, what if Zimmerman actually is guilty?  What if, in spite of all the evidence we have available, what happened was murder, and Zimmerman got away with it?

This, I think, is one of the many areas where being a person of faith provides great assurance.  If human institutions of justice fail, those without faith are left with little or no hope; but those of us who believe can afford to take heart:

Is not [recompense] preserved in my treasury, sealed up in my storehouse, against the day of vengeance and requital, against the time they lose their footing? (Deut. 32: 34-35)

God is a God of justice.  No crime is ever left unpunished.  Even if a person is ultimately redeemed in Christ, restitution for all wrongs must still be made.

Here, we can bring “Lumen Fidei” into the discussion.  In this great document, we are given a proper understanding of what faith is.  Contrary to what some would say, faith is neither the rejection of thought or reason in favor of blind adherence to an unproven principle nor indifference to the realities of the world and present circumstances on the grounds that “God will make it all better.”

Faith, says Pope Francis, is about learning to look at life, the world, and oneself from a whole new perspective.  Being drawn into a personal relationship with a personal, omnipotent, all-knowing and all-loving God, history and everyday life take on a whole new light.  The horizons of existence expand beyond what we could possibly have imagined.

More specifically, we come to share in the perspective of God Himself in the “shared knowledge which is the knowledge proper to love” (quoted from the encyclical).

Trayvon_Martin_shooting_protest_2012_Shankbone_11It is just this sort of faith perspective that allows for hope and tranquility even in tragic and troubled situations.

We have, I think, seen something of this Christian perspective in Trayvon Martin’s parents, who have urged their supporters not to give into violence regardless of the verdict.  Moreover, Trayvon’s mother publicly made it clear that though the verdict was disappointing to her, her faith in God has not been shaken.

I think perhaps the Pope and the Martins would have a lot to talk about at lunch sometime.

Lumen Fidei Full Text:
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20130629_enciclica-lumen-fidei_en.html

Photos from Wikipedia

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