Monday, June 25, 2012

Professor Ratzinger on Modern Physics

WARNING: I about fell out of my chair when I read this. Please be seated with seat belts fastened before reading.

This is the final post in a series paying tribute to Pope B16 seven years on. Below sums-up several pages of Introduction to Christianity, Part I, Chapter V, Belief in the Triune God.

Faith consists of a series of contradictions held together by grace. This expresses, in the realm of theology, a discovery that relates to the law of complementarities in physics. Here we meet the play between faith and modern thought.

The physicist is becoming increasingly aware that we cannot embrace given realities – like the structure of light or matter – in one form. From different sides we glimpse different aspects which cannot be traced back to each other. Only by circling round, by looking from different, apparently contrary angles can we allude to the truth, which is never visible to us in its totality.

E.Schrodinger promoted the structure of matter as "wave alone", thereby hitting on the idea of being that has no substance, but is purely actual, whose apparent “substantiality” is only from the pattern of movement from superimposed waves. This is an exciting allegory for God subsisting in a multitude of relations, which are not substances, but “waves” which form a perfect unity and fullness of being. This is already formulated for all intents and purposes in St. Augustine, when he develops the idea of the pure act–existence (particle–wave).

We know today that in a physical experiment, the observer enters into the experiment. Only by doing so can he arrive at a physical experience. This means that there is no pure objectivity in physics, and that even here, the result of the experiment (natures answer) depends on the question put to it.

He who tries to be a mere observer experiences nothing. Even the reality of God can only impinge on the vision of him who enters the faith experiment with God. Only by entering does one experience; only by cooperating in the experiment does one ask at all; …..and only he who asks shall receive.

“The scientist has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Robert Jastrow- Former leading NASA scientist.

It's a little slow, but science
finally seems to be catching-up to Catholicism.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Professor Ratzinger on "Hell"

WARNING: This post is “dark”, but darkness can be a kind of light if it helps you to see.

Below deals with the article of faith “He descended into hell” (Good Friday/Holy Saturday), being without God and the pain in the verse “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” It’s probably the best description of hell I’ve ever heard, not that I’ve heard many speak of it in detail.

Summarizing several pages from Joseph Ratzinger’s book Introduction to Christianity, in Part II, The Development of Faith in Christ in the Christological Articles of the Creed:

Loneliness is a region of fear, which is rooted in the exposure of a being that must exist, but is pushed out into a situation with which it is impossible for him to deal. In the experience of utter loneliness, a fear arises peculiar to man which is not fear of anything particular, but simply fear in itself. Man cannot overcome this kind of fear by way of reason.

Ø  Example 1:
A child walking alone in the dark woods is frightened even if convincingly shown that there is nothing to be afraid of. The child will lose this fear the moment there is a loving hand to take him and he experiences the fellowship of “Another”.

Ø  Example 2:
Someone keeping watch over a corpse will feel somehow “eerie” even when he knows perfectly well the dead body can do him no harm. In fact, there would be more possibility of danger if the person was alive, but logic is of no help. This fear will also recede like the child’s if he experiences the loving nearness of a “You”.

Man cannot stand alone; he needs closeness; he needs unity.  If man (and this is the true nature of sin) refuses to recognize his own limits and tries to “be like God”, standing alone on his own two feet, then precisely by adopting this attitude he delivers himself up to death. Scripture about the connection between sin and death is to be understood from this angle. Small wonder the devil wants us prideful. Pride naturally leads to isolation from God (and others), which will lead to a torment of anxiety. It’s the exact opposite of the life of the Trinity.

If a state of isolation were to arise that was so deep that no “You” could reach into it anymore, then we should have a total and terrifying loneliness; this is what theology calls “Hell”….. a loneliness which is as inescapable as it is dreadful!

Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sacraments Map II

The feast of Corpus Christi had me thinking about sacraments again. Months ago I did a post called Sacraments Map that showed how the sacramental life parallels our earthly life. I was a little “off” about Confirmation, which is rather sad since I teach a confirmation class, so I decide to correct it and re-post the whole thing after stumbling across something on The Pulpit. Msgr. Charles Pope helped me on his blog to understand the sacrament of Confirmation better in terms of “growth” as opposed to “adulthood”.

Catholics believe that the physical world is good, although flawed, and God becoming man somehow elevates it to a new level; for not only had God created it, He also dwelled in it.

Stop and think about Catholicism and the use of physical things from incense for smell, art for the eyes, music for the ears, motion for the body (kneeling, genuflecting, crossing ourselves, etc.). Sacraments take this even further with the required use of corporal things like bread, wine, water, oil, touch, garments, physical speech. Catholics understand how the physical relates to the spiritual and vise-versa, and how reality encompasses both. This is mirrored in the sacraments and can even be expressed as a kind of map that parallels our earthly life. God is Emmanuel, truly “with us”, all the year and all our life through the sanctifying grace of the sacraments.

Just as we are born into physical life we are born again into the spiritual life of Christ in baptism. By the way, if you are a baptized Catholic and someone were to ask you “Are you born again?” The answer is unequivocally “Yes”. Although we can sin afterwards, Catholics are “born again” at baptism. This is the reality.

We experience growth in our physical life. In the United States we are given more “power” and responsibility as we grow, like the right to vote at age 18. This happens regardless of how we feel about it or how mature we may think we are. Confirmation begins a process of maturation and strengthening and is considered a completion of baptism. We experience growth to go forth and preach the good news and we have the responsibility to do so, whether we like it or not; whether we think we are mature enough or not.

Sacraments of Vocation (Marriage, Holy Orders):
As we grow and mature we discern some duty within society; some type of job/career or perhaps raising a family. In the spiritual life there are vocations and certain sacraments to help us advance the Kingdom of God.

As we live, we continuously need physical sustenance (food/water) for our physical journey. Jesus gave himself as our spiritual food; our daily bread (body/blood) for our spiritual journey.

As we go through life we experience sickness and injury which require healing. Many never experience serious injury or disease, but no one gets through life without the slightest sniffle, cough, bruise or cut. With no healing it gets worse and worse to the point of death. What these things do to the body, sin does to the soul, thus the need for spiritual healing.

After all, we can injure our own flesh whenever we want, but to heal it we look for a doctor who has skill, training & medical authority. In the same way we are perfectly able to sin and injure our soul, but to heal it we seek the help of “another”, a spiritual doctor.

Anointing of the sick:
Our physical life eventually comes to an end, and so there is a sacrament for this as well. Although the anointing of the sick is not always administered just before death, it should be received at some point before we die.

This sketchy outline of the sacraments is very simple (almost pathetic). But like so much in this blog, what is here is only a beginning; we have the rest of our lives to draw out Truth from an inexhaustible well.

Click on the mini-map below for a larger PDF version of The Sacraments Map