Monday, April 25, 2011

Death, descent into hell, resurrection

Christ is risen from the dead. The Easter day is passed, but not our celebration, which is extended to every week of the year, starting all over again from the dies dominica, vulgarly called in English "day of the sun", Sunday.

What is the meaning of Easter, and its announcement of the resurrection? Does it exempt us from thinking of the days before, of the death and descent into hell that preceded it? Surely not.

I'd say, the meaning of that announcement is: don't be afraid of facing death. But to face death we have.

How about if I reformulated it in: don't be afraid of loving?

I could legitimately asked what fear of loving has to do with fear of death.

The answer might go deeply into God's mystery. Because the question would turn with it into another, odd one: is there death in God?

Fear of death is the main cause of the fear of loving. Why? Because there is no true love without a dying. He who is afraid of dying, cannot really love. And is condemned to death.

We don't really know what death is. We watch people being born and dying, and we have been told that, as it happens to them, so it happened and will happen to us. But what is it that so happens is outside our experience.

As far as death is concerned, we should say that it is the future as an "x", the future as unknown. Isn't it this way with love? It doesn't depend on me, but on the beloved one, who can return it or not. If, then, to face the future is to face death, so it is also with love.

Let's call death without further ado fear of dying: to oppose our resistance to dying, wanting to make ourselves sure of what is going to come, by embracing past present and future in a knowledge that spares us the danger of loving.

Eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge and you will be like God, said the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve. Indeed they acquired knowledge, but not of God. They were instead exiled from Him, and death entered into their lives.

Had they relied on God, they would have come to know him as he is, and as Jesus Christ showed him to be: a personal love exchange, perennial mutual giving of one's life to the beloved.

Hence that odd question I mentioned. I remember my surprise when I found it put in a most prominent Catholic theologian. Of course there is no death in God, in the way I defined. But surely there is dying for love.

By descending into hell, Christ could absorb human death into his love dying, and pull the dead out of it in his resurrection.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Surrexit Christus!

Surrexit vere Christus, Alleluia!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Christ’s sacrifice

I'd like to add something to what the LD well said in the last post.

There are more sides to Christ's sacrifice, as in the Old Testament different kinds of sacrifice are prescribed by the book of Leviticus. Of these, I'll single out two.

Christ died for our sins.

In this way he enacts, as sacrifier and victim at the same time, the sacrifice called by Leviticus "for sins", prescribed to cleanse the priest or the people of the pollution left by the misdeeds we call sins.

What is after all a sin? Neither in Leviticus nor elsewhere in Scriptures we find a definition, only cases of it. I dare say that sin is a diabolic act in the etymological sense of the word: an act of self-indulgence that doesn't unite but divides.

Uniting, then, is Christ's sacrifice: said in strict theological terms, what it realizes is atonement (word recalling a reckoning, a settling of accounts, a drawing together of loose ends – and may finally evoke, in a wild sort of etymologizing, the "at-one-ness" of reconciliation). So He overcomes the divisiveness coming from our sins.

He does it, however, because that sacrifice is like the one Leviticus calls a burn offering, a holocaust, in which the whole victim is offered for no other reason than to pay the due homage to the Lord.

It is, in other words, the pure act of self giving that shows Jesus to be Christ, the anointed one, the King. It is because of that that it takes away our sins, i.e., it represents efficaciously for us the way that doesn't divide in hate, but unites in love.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Think all the good you can!" (He pleads for me)

Before I turn my thoughts to the HP's considerations, let me explain something: usually, I do something for Lent like go off the booze, or give up meat for the whole time, or put down my pipe.

This time, 'round, though, I did not do much in that way. I tried to be a little less indulgent in general, sure, but there was no one pleasure I decided to forego.

This year, my Lenten discipline was rather in the positive direction (I choose to say, "positive" with scientific exactness): I decided I would do my best to take seriously - really to live by - the Ignatian maxim: "Think all the good you can!" It is a maxim that I quote often, but too rarely take to heart. So, I decided to make a go of it.

Now we are in Holy Week, and the Passion is in my mind (and on TV, for that matter): there is a scene in the Gibson film, in which Christ calls out, "Father, they know not what they do. (cf. Lk 23:34)," a scene I happened to see just last night. It struck me that the portrayal of Christ's pleading with the Father on behalf of his torturers and murderers was full of all the urgency that knowledge of the Father's love and omnipotence - therefore appreciation of the mortal peril in which Christ's torturers and murderers found themselves - would have entailed: as if Christ were begging God not to exact His vengeance on them, as though God were preparing to do just that. Then I remembered the following lines from the homily delivered by the man who would become Pope Benedict XVI, during the missa pro eligendo Romano pontifice:
The day of vindication and the year of favour converge in the Paschal Mystery, in the dead and Risen Christ. This is the vengeance of God: he himself suffers for us, in the person of his Son.
So, as I consider taking up my cross, I wonder whether I could become God's vengeance by quiet and convicted advocacy for those who fulminate against me, who seem to hate reason and truth, who slander God the Father and malign Christ and His Holy Church. I certainly could not.

Then, I recall that Christ's pleading was for me: every sin I commit is a stripe on his body, a blow that drives the nail, a thorn that cuts his blessed brow.

He pleads for me.

He pleads for me.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Criteria of judgment

I talked with the LD about a possible post, on a recent dreadful event that saw the killing of a poor young Italian fellow, who thought of working for the good along lines I don't agree with. The LD dissuaded me, rightly arguing that it could sound like hitting a dead man. The purpose of our blog is not so much to pass judgments on things and people, as to reason on how we pass judgments. We humbly hope this might help to increase in a however minimal degree the awareness of what judging things requires.

We definitely have our ideas, hence our liking and disliking, which run against opposite liking and disliking. But what use would be to bang our head against those holding them? Not much, and therefore it isn't much the use of mentioning and discussing facts, if we don't agree about what kind of facts they are.

I give you as example an observation my mother made when, as school teacher, she realized that facts changed in the course of time with the changing of text books.

Everybody makes history as he likes, she observed. Take Robespierre. It used to be, in older text books, that they unequivocally spoke about him as having turned the French Revolution into terror. Now I read that he saved it, because he brought order in a country in disarray.

The very nature of the fact changes by the way we tell it.

The most necessary thing, therefore, is to promote the awareness of the criteria by which we judge facts. Without such an awareness it isn't possible to inquire into them, in order to see whether an agreement on them could be possible.


Saturday, April 09, 2011

Things pressing my mind

A lot of things are pressing my mind.

First of all the book I am writing, which kept me away from blogging. I am at a crucial point, where I am trying to explain to a possible reader, which means essentially to myself by putting myself in the place of a possible reader, the main tenet of Christianity: that funny doctrine which says that the divine ground of all things we call God is at the same time one and three. By a possible reader I don't mean a Christian believer, but any man who, if he just recognizes to be educated, should also recognize to be believer in some authority. Because of this I try to explain to myself through him why to believe in Christ leads us to that funny doctrine of three in one, which is the most translucent account of reality ever given (consonant with the best of science). And therefore that to believe in Christ is the most rational thing any man could do.

This leads me to the other things that press my mind, which on the contrary pull me toward blogging to get rid of the turmoil in which they keep it (I won't say how otherwise this turmoil risks to annoy my wife, forced to listen to me).

Europe, once the land of Christianity, in the last centuries has been progressively turning away from it, a turn which has taken in recent decades a sudden acceleration. The academic, media, and political elites not only act as if indifferent top Christianity, which isn't a novelty, but take a stance toward it that in the best of cases tends simply to erase it from history, in the worst they openly fight it as backward and oppressive.

Does this sound familiar to the American reader of this blog?

Christianity is a belief, a belief is an opinion, and opinions, however they may seems to motivate people's actions, are not fit for a scientific understanding of them. So the point goes. That's why people who think this way hardly will become readers of my book, even though I am writing it for them too. They feel exempt, in fact, from knowing what Christianity is about, and for that matter any other of those beliefs equally called religion. Deemed supernatural, they have no pertinence for those who want to attain themselves to nature. Because, lucky them, they look as if they knew what nature is. (Being so, I'd like to ask them what Einstein's theory of relativity says. As for me, not being a mathematician, I was helped to understand it by the study of the "savage mind", i. e. the thought of archaic or primitive peoples.)

In America, this way of thinking, let's call it "liberal", is also widespread in the "main stream" media, academia, and politics (let's think, alas, of the present administration). Luckily, though, there is in America a more powerful "conservative" resistance to it that in Europe.

Still another thing that presses my mind: the international situation. And to say this means largely the state of the Muslim world. It means Islam, with its home consequences in the Western world.

The peculiar thing that liberals don't seem to realize, is that their way of thinking involves them in an blatant contradiction.

It shows it well their loathing of the foreign policy doctrine of "exporting democracy". Odd thing, if one thinks that they wouldn't let go an inch of their right to do as they like, without an outcry of "oppression", "Nazism", or the like! But when other peoples live under oppressive and nazi-like regimes, they don't seem to be moved.

Perhaps they think that living under political-religious regimes of the Iranian kind is what people there like, and, because what anybody likes has to be granted, we shouldn't interfere. Or they rather think that democracy, while good for us, would be disruptive in other peoples' lives. So, while enjoying the benefits of democracy, they ask who are we to tell others how to live. Too bad that when it concerns us they are quite ready to do it.

We? How can you say that? To us, who are all for tolerance? There you have it. Tolerance. You decide what to tolerate and what not. I actually know that you find the Tea Party quite intolerable. Why don't you find equally intolerable Muslims?

The point worth to notice, with tolerance, is that if you grant a right to somebody, you obligate others. Who might not like it. But have to swallow it.

As for me, I always thought that, either democracy is good also for others, or that it is no good even for us. Of course, this means to find a notion of democracy that could be shared.

Of one thing I am sure: it can't be defined on the basis of tolerance. Should we do it, we would turn democracy into a most oppressive system.

Here I close, because the things that press my mind are so heavy loaded that they would require a book to exhaust them. Ah, I forgot, I am writing it.


Friday, April 08, 2011

Vatican Dicasteries to Meet with Catholic Bloggers

Information on Vatican Meeting for Bloggers

A meeting for bloggers will take place in Rome on the afternoon of Monday 2 May 2011. The aim of the meeting, which is being organised by the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Social Communications, is to allow for a dialogue between bloggers and Church representatives, to listen to the experiences of those who are actively involved in this arena, and to achieve a greater understanding of the needs of that community. The meeting will also allow for a presentation of some of the initiatives to engage with new media practitioners being taken by the Church, both in Rome and at the local level.

In two panels, speakers will open up some of the key issues in order to set up a more general discussion open to all participants. The first panel will involve 5 bloggers – they will be chosen to represent different language groups and each will address a specific theme of general relevance. The second panel will draw on people involved in the Church’s communications outreach – they will speak of their experiences in working with new media and initiatives aimed at ensuring an effective engagement by the Church with bloggers.

Among those participating at the meeting will be Cardinal Ravasi of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Archbishop Celli of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and Father Lombardi of the Vatican’s Press Office and Vatican Radio. An important dimension of the meeting is to allow an opportunity for informal exchange and contact between those attending with a view to opening further avenues of interaction.

The meeting is taking place on the day after the Beatification of Pope John Paul II in order to take advantage of the likely presence in Rome of many bloggers. The invitation is open to all, but bloggers who wish to attend need to apply by emailing and sending a link to their blog. As space is limited to 150 seats and there is a desire to have a representation of the entire blogosphere, entrance passes and further details will be distributed with a view to the diversity of language and geography, typology of blogs (institutional or private, multivoice or personal), subjects of blogs, and timeliness of request.

Simultaneous translation will be provided for Italian, English, French, Polish and Spanish.

The venue is the Palazzo San Pio X, in via della Conciliazione, 5.

Vatican Radio has the story HERE.