The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Living History

My mind withdrew its thoughts from experience, extracting itself from the contradictory throng of sensuous images, that it might find out what that light was wherein it was bathed... And thus, with the flash of one hurried glance, it attained to the vision of That Which Is.

St. Augustine

Sometime in the late 200s early 300s an Egyptian priest from Alexandria named Arius put forward the heresy that Christ, while a good man and a great teacher, was no more divine than any other man. The Trinity did not exist as there was only one God in one distinct person. This line of thought picked up some traction and was later called Arianism.

In one sense, the existence of this heresy serves as proof of a much larger and significant historical event. It seems that whenever something rises to the level of fantastic a movement of one form or another emerges to try to lesson its grandeur. Case in point, when man landed on the moon, soon after a conspiracy theory began to circulate that the event didn't really happen and that NASA had actually used a Hollywood sound stage to fabricate those now famous scenes of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the lunar surface. The theory even inspired a movie starring Elliot Gould and O.J. Simpson called Capricorn One.

More recently, one need only do a casual search of the Internet to find a following for the idea that the World Trade Center Twin Towers were actually taken down by a controlled demolition orchestrated by President George Bush versus the actual terrorist of 9/11. These theorists ignore the harsh realities of physics, architecture, and geopolitics in favor of attaching this great evil to a president whom they hated.

Something extraordinary happened a couple of hundred years before Arius' day that continued to reverberate through the culture then and still gets felt today with perhaps equal fervor some two thousand years later. It was so incredible that many must have had a difficult time getting their minds around it. Returning to 9/11, remember those first few hours, even days, after it happened how difficult it was to come to terms with the enormity of it all? On an equal if not greater scale, many of the ancients were grappling with a reality that must have seemed impossible to imagine.

For what Arius could never come to understand, and what many, today, find too incredible to be true, was the historical fact that God manifested Himself on Earth as a human being; that He allowed Himself to be tortured and executed; that He died, and that He rose from the dead.

Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11

St. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter in about A.D. 61. He was in Rome and in Emperor Nero's prison, which meant he knew that his execution was very likely. Yet the reality that the true nature of Jesus Christ was a divine person; that the Word which he so vigorously defended had indeed become flesh; and that God had definitively proven His love for His creation was so real that Paul could not help but continue to proclaim the Gospel even when his own death was not far away.

It's far easier not to believe that this event of God becoming man ever happened for if one accepts this truth at face value then one's life suddenly falls under a more intense self examination. First of all there's the confirmation that God exists. Second, if God came to man, human in appearance, He must have had something very important in mind. Suddenly this God is no longer a distant being in the cosmos with little interest in the day to day doings of man, but He is a "hands-on" kind of God. Third, this human manifestation of God had a consistent message of love and its practice which may very well run counter to one's current, modern-day interpretation.

To accept this truth means conversion. It means a change in lifestyle. It means living counter to the culture. For many, that's too big of a leap to make. It's easier and more comfortable to keep The Christ in the realm of possibility, myth, or theory.

For if one believes in Christ from a true historical perspective, then one has no choice but to follow the historical trail of what happened after His assumption into Heaven. And that trail undeniably leads directly to the Apostles and the Catholic Church. Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom to Peter, who passed them on to Linus, then to Anacletus, then to Clement I, then to Evaristus, and so on until one arrives to Pope Benedict XVI, the 266th keeper of these keys. Of course these are not actual, physical keys, but rather the Pope is the shepherd of the simple truth which Paul so eloquently proclaimed in his letter mentioned above.

So while Dan Brown, Tom Hanks and Opie will make their millions spreading lies about Catholicism; while Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden practice their own cafeteria style of faith; the truth does not change. The reality of Jesus remains ever constant.

And if one discovers that one simply cannot handle the truth right now, take heart in the reality that this Jesus of Nazareth; this God made man, is a patient, loving, and merciful Father. Keep searching for Him with a contrite heart, and He will reveal to one His undeniable existence and infinite love. For the Savior exists not simply in yesterday, but today, and forever.