We again welcome Fr Jeffrey Stephaniuk’s guest post.  Today Fr. Jeffrey reminds us about how our experience of the world around us, the wonder of creation, even the wonder of our creation as men and women is designed to to lead us to the deeper reality of God and all that is beyond the merely material world.  The disciples had a profound experience of Christ in these weeks after the resurrection.  We are being called to the same…

 

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Dear Faithful,

Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Luke 24:39

Christian realism is an incredibly liberating principle, the acknowledgement that we live in the physical world. St. Paul states the principle this way: “It is not the spiritual that comes first, but the physical, and then the spiritual.” When explaining the Theology of the Body, Christopher West often uses the phrase made popular by Saint John Paul II: “The body, and it alone… is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine.”

Our prayers at Easter express this progression from the physical to the spiritual through such phrases as “…through the cross joy has come to the whole world.” Jesus’ experience of the cross is physical, making it possible for us to experience life in a manner that is greater than the merely material. As explained in one of our prayers: “Approach me, Thomas, says Christ, touch my side with your hand; feel the wounds from the nails, be convinced and sincerely believe.” Scepticism is a serious matter, but Jesus is a masterful teacher who knows how to convert sceptics: “If you so desire…” starts another prayer, and ends with Thomas exclaiming, “Glory to your resurrection!” The promise is true that if you seek, you will find.

Christian realism is liberating because of another principle: behind good science there is good religion. Scientist and Catholic apologist, Stacy A. Trasancos, wrote a phrase that helped me connect these dots, that “modern science was born from the nurturing womb of Christianity after being stillborn in other ancient cultures.” On a recent visit to the Ontario Science Centre, I was bothered by a display I saw about the human brain and human consciousness. There I was in asecular science centre, and their display was premised on a religious statement; as if it were the most natural premise in the world, perhaps because it wasn’t from Christianity:  “What if the brain comes from consciousness instead of consciousness coming from the brain?” As both St. Paul and St. John Paul II would say, there is the spiritual, yes there is, but the human body is a prerequisite.

A Ukrainian priest and defender of Christianity against Darwinism, Fr. Teodosii Lezhohubskyi, wrote an essay in 1905, the title of which I have translated as “The Human Being and the Animal World.” His metaphor is that of a piano.

“Who is playing? Is it the piano or is it the musician?… The piano is merely an instrument that a person can play, but it never plays itself. Similarly, a person cannot perform without such an instrument. In order for music to be produced, both are needed: the piano and the musician whoplays it. Such an analogy explains our ability to think. The brain is the means, the organ which the soul employs.”

Christian realism gives birth to very good science. It is easy to imagine God rejoicing at each scientific discovery, overjoyed that we can participate intellectually in his wisdom. John Paul II’s quote about the body continues with this encouragement: “It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it.”

Mary, as the Mother of God, participates uniquely in making the invisible visible, because she conceives and gives birth to this “Invisible Mystery.” She had an excellent education and knew that life is lived in the physical world; and that it is most definitely not based on magic: “And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?” Properly understood, she has a St. Thomas experience before St. Thomas did, not as a sceptic, but by connecting human life in its physical and spiritual aspects when she exclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.”

Mary is also more of a man of science, so to speak, then many modern obstetricians and gynecologists who believe a woman is pregnant with a human being when they utter the magic word “wanted.” Every pressing and oppressive contemporary moral issue finds a healing and liberating answer in Christian realism, answers to questions of when our life begins, what is our true identity, and why we have been created.

Continue to be faithful, then, Dear Faithful. St. Thomas represents a very important truth about the physical and spiritual worlds when he exclaims, “My Lord and my God.” The ordinary Christian manner in which we have an experience of the spiritual through the physical is in the reception of the sacraments. Even now we can prepare to rejoice together when that opportunity returns, and the sooner the better; so that during an upcoming baptism we can sing together, “my eyes have seen your salvation;” at a wedding we can celebrate as witnesses when a man and woman promise to work out their eternal salvation with each other as “the two… become one flesh”; and through the reception of Holy Communion we can shed a tear of joy and say, “taste and see how good is the Lord!”

 

 

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