Mythtake

In our recent discussions we were reminded that the story of creation in Genesis is mythical. And we have no difficulty in understanding this when we accept that the great truth of God’s creation had to be conveyed in a form which the intended readers could understand.

But there was also a suggestion that the story of Adam and Eve was a myth, too. This, however, is a greater difficulty because the theology of the Fall of Man and his subsequent Redemption is arguably the fundamental thread of Scripture and Catholic doctrine. What then could it mean to call this story a myth? I hope to write a piece on this in the Catholic Herald eventually, and so I introduce it here — in the hope that you will be able to come up with ideas. Let me just brush in some issues.

The geneticists seem to be agreed that we are all related in that the human line has a common male and a common female ancestor. But these cannot be the original Adam and Eve of the Bible because such ancestors did not live at the same time as each other. However this does reinforce the idea of the human race as one family and one genetic descent.

But the first human beings were, in physical terms at least, outcomes of evolution. Prior to them there were different versions of homo, apparently developing from primitive tree-dwelling creatures, and becoming increasingly more sophisticated. One scale for measuring this is the pattern of growing brain capacities. By half a million years ago, brain size had doubled from about the same as chimpanzees to about the same as man today. The evidence of cognitive abilities dating before homo sapiens is of course sparse. But it appears that the knapping of flint to make weapon heads, the use of manufactured glue, the control and use of fire were already known before we entered the scene. While these may seem primitive, they were great leaps at the time.

Do we have any reason to doubt that these remote ancestors had mental capacities similar to ours? Were any of these made in the image and likeness of God?

The test here, I propose, is the ability for abstract reasoning, a fundamental sense of right and wrong, and a freedom to make a choice between the two. For example, the Neanderthals, from whom we did not descend, had relatively advanced cultures and quite possibly had speech. And we have some Neanderthal genes, from cross breeding. Did they too have immortal souls?

I remember being taught that the Garden of Eden was in the Fertile Crescent, but the anthropologists tell us that homo sapiens came out of Africa – and probably several times before a population from which we are descended was adequately established.

In our theology we speak of ‘fallen’ man. None of us will have difficulty in accepting that we are flawed – and seriously so, but ‘fallen’ suggests that we once had a much better, perhaps perfect, nature – one in which we related to God and, through right reason, conformed to Natural Law in its perfect state. Is the distinction between fallen and flawed merely a way of expressing our sad condition through the contrast, or was there really a momentous change in man as a result of his rebellion? Remember that to dismiss the fall of man, and so Original Sin, would be instantly regarded as heresy. But perhaps no more so than denying the six days of creation would have been condemned not many centuries ago.

Certainly Scripture would have it so. We were not personally guilty of Original Sin, we are told, but we have inevitably inherited this damaged nature. Without it, and without any personal sin, we are doomed to an infinite separation from God. It does feel a trifle unfair, but of course we have the intervention and the redemption of Christ which presents (to some of us) the opportunity of salvation.

Would it be heretical (and certainly unscriptural) to suggest that man sought an origin for his conflicting tendencies to both good and evil by coming to believe in a notional story of fallen nature? And would this negate the effects of redemption through Christ?

I would be interested to hear the views of those who would maintain the orthodox, and views from those who have difficulty in accepting it as it is described. Alternative scenarios would be interesting. And it would be good to learn if we have contributors who just simply don’t know, and maybe don’t care.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in evolution, Philosophy, Quentin queries, Scripture, Spirituality and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

152 Responses to Mythtake

  1. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but as I understand it, souls are eternal, i.e. they exist independently of time as we know it. That creates some difficulty in relating their pristine, fallen and redeemed states, I can only suppose through some celestial analogue of time. (A similar difficulty arises of course in connection with Lucifer and his followers.) Is it conceivable that Adam and Eve could have been contemporary in celestial “time” but not on Earth?

    Frankly I wish we could simply accept that we have a fallen but redeemed nature, and stop worrying about the mechanics which are probably beyond our understanding anyway.

  2. Brian Hamill says:

    I am open to correction here but I have seen it written, with some authority, that while the the Fall is a dogma of the Church but that Original Sin, in the sense of the transmission of our fallen nature from generation to generation through sexual intercourse (first proposed by St Augustine), is not in the same category, but is rather an explanatory teaching of how the Fall happens across time. There is a similar relationship between the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (the dogma) and transsubstantiation which is the explanation of how this happens and is a teaching of the Church and not a dogma. If that is so, then at least the rejection of the doctrine of Original Sin is not in the heretical bracket.
    What the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis seems to be trying to do is to state two things as clearly as possible. First, there is no question of a duality in the Godhead, as it was in some ancient religions, between a God of Good and a God of Evil. The Lord God is absolutely good and therefore everything He creates is ‘good’. On the other hand, we are clearly not so good now, so whence and at what time the change? Enter left the Serpent and our first parents. It is certainly not God’s fault that our world appears broken and flawed so it must be ours – or some other source, such as the Serpent.
    It is interesting to note that God Incarnate took the name of Jesus (Saviour). But the Angel did not say he would say his people from (Original) Sin but from their sins; clearly these are our personal sins.

  3. Ignatius says:

    “..I would be interested to hear the views of those who would maintain the orthodox, and views from those who have difficulty in accepting it as it is described. Alternative scenarios would be interesting. And it would be good to learn if we have contributors who just simply don’t know, and maybe don’t care….”

    There was a time when I held an evangelical view of the literal description of Genesis. However since the Catholic Church appears to accept the view of evolutionary theory regarding timescales etc then this literal understanding fails. Anyway, sooner or later I guess most of us come to the conclusion that human beings were not spontaneously generated out of dust one sunny morning in Eden..so a different route is needed.
    Acceptance of the mythological status of the first part of Genesis leaves us a couple of avenues of escape…firstly that the basic concept of a fall from grace either simply codifies our experience of ourselves and our longing for self transcendence or secondly that the myth of the Fall describes a reality the mechanics of which are shrouded still in mystery. Unfortunately both avenues of escape from literalism turn into quite vicious traps because both create problems for scriptural veracity as a whole. If scriptural veracity and literality as a whole is in doubt then what can we say about the gospels?
    Personally I find myself forced into accepting that my simple evangelical understanding of the fall and of salvation history(the cross included) is probably a great oversimplification to the point of caricature. Unfortunately this acceptance then lays bare the possibility that the entire basis of Christianity is simply a mythology of need…we are frightened of the dark and so must have stories to preoccupy us. I must admit to finding myself believing of this need for stories sometimes and find I have to allow in myself the possibility that what I understand to be ‘the truth subsisting in the Catholic Church..’ is in fact a chimera. I can cope with this idea and still go about my duties on the altar – but I don’t somehow believe the ‘chimera’ thesis and find myself, when in front of the sacrament, asking for help with my unbelief.

    All of the above probably goes to say that I remain convinced that truth does indeed subsists in the Catholic Church….but I’m not quite sure how, in what form or precisely where that truth lies.

  4. John Thomas says:

    The story telling us about the cause of Original Sin may be a myth, but – unless one is a thorough materialist – the idea behind it (original innocence, actually) is true – and necessary, since without it, everything unravels, and we are left with the “scientific” materialist world-view (we/everything is as it is and always was). Then again, all these stories may NOT be myths …

  5. RAHNER says:

    We have discussed this issue at some length on a previous occasion.
    But it must be fairly clear that the claim that human beings once existed in some state of perfection or near perfection free from evil, suffering and death, – a state which they then lost for themselves and all human beings- is massively implausible in the light of current biology and anthropology as well as being morally repugnant. Accepting that Genesis is a mythical account is simply the obvious starting point, we are then forced to formulate a new understanding of what “salvation” means…..

  6. Quentin says:

    I am reproducing here a letter from a very reputable source, who does not wish to blog directly. It sums up well our doctrinal starting point.

    Dear Quentin,

    Yes, all Catholics do believe in Origiinal Sin and always have.
    1. “The 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church’ teaches it emphatically and clearly and all the Popes since 1994 have insisted that this CCC is Catholic teaching.
    2. Why would we need a Redeemer if we were not damaged by Original Sin?
    3. Why would we have to be baptised (see St John Ch 3) if we were not all born in Original Sin?
    4. Our own inclination towards sin, something we all acknowledge, is because we were all flawed by Original Sin.

    If anyone tells you Catholics don’t need to believe in Original Sin make sure you correct them and remember whether we choose to believe in it or not makes no difference to the fact that it certainly exists.

    • Ignatius says:

      1994 is quite recent though is it not? The catechism is not the arbiter of all truth either since there are plenty of tomes around which either predate it or seek to explain it.
      This quote answers nothing, merely raises its voice a bit and stamps its foot. Having the label “Original Sin” is great but it says little beyond acting as a shield against the genuinely enquiring mind/soul. The ‘evidence’ of Original Sin seems to find its fundamental basis in the Genesis narrative-which is now accepted by nearly all as ‘mythical’ Shouting the same line louder isn’t much help here but seeing that the Genesis myth is by no means the only descriptor of original sin might help a bit. Plenty in Romans, plenty in the Gospels, plenty in Isaiah. We are definitely aware of a phenomena which we call a tendency to sin, to become enslaved to appetites for example. But it is a perfectly reasonable request that this tendency be better elaborated than in the old story. In the end I find no clearer answer anywhere than that by CSLewis who said that Christianity was the ‘myth that is true’ Yes it is. We must get away from a kind of shrill insistence about this topic.

  7. John Candido says:

    Original sin to my mind simply isn’t credible in rational terms. As the story of Adam and Eve isn’t true, and that the theory of evolution is in all likelihood the truth as to our origins, the dogma of original sin is founded on a very shaky foundation. The presentation of such a dogma should lead to educated individuals to cast supreme scepticism upon it. Why would a loving God allow something like original sin to consign human beings to miseries in the form of war, conflict, child abuse, mental and physical illnesses, and even the outcome of serious accidents for centuries?

    The very idea that an all-loving God would allow most of human history to pay the price for a primordial sin by one or more individuals that lived in antiquity, is beyond preposterous. It is ludicrous. Ask yourself in all sincerity whether an all-powerful, all-loving God would be the author this state of affairs? If you answer yes, I can imagine God laughing at your answer.

  8. Ignatius says:

    “Ask yourself in all sincerity whether an all-powerful, all-loving God would be the author this state of affairs? ”
    Unfortunately John this rather begs the question too. Effectively you are saying that your personal construct of an “all powerful, all-loving God” is the accurate one. Sadly there is enough
    in the above quote of yours to keep theologians, philosophers and generals busy for at least a millennium or two. For example, this phrase ‘all loving’….what does it mean?

  9. John Candido says:

    ‘All-loving’ means the same as ‘loving’ but in a God-like manner. That is, all encompassing, without a boundary (save evil), non-discriminatory, engulfed by compassion. I was almost going to say that I don’t have a personal construct of God, which is probably not true. My own construct is broadly in line with what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. So I would say that it is not an overly important issue as far as this debate is concerned.

  10. John L says:

    My own personal view leads me to the conclusion that evolution describes the origin of the human race and that Genesis is a myth. Thus it becomes unprofitable, as other bloggers have suggested, to try to resolve a mechanism for Original Sin.
    Nevertheless, I am left with two puzzles.
    (1) my own personal experience convinces me that I have a sinful nature, and always have had, so the concept of Original Sin is implicit in human nature.
    (2) Evolution cannot identify the point at which God infused an immortal soul into a creature developed from purely animal sources, and Original Sin must be identified with this point in time.

    Is it, perhaps, the case that Original Sin is the effect on humanity of the purely animal instincts derived from humanity’s animal origins? Is the supposed point in time I mention not a point in time at all but a gradual development as we understand evolution to be?
    I would welcome the views of others on these particular points, and apologize for any extent to which I duplicate Quentin’s original discussion.

    • John Thomas says:

      John L – Maybe (have you ever thought of this?) it’s evolution that’s the myth, the modern materialist myth …

      • John L says:

        Fair comment, John, but my scientific background leads me to accept the evidence found in the Earth as indicative of evolution. I don’t find this in the least opposed to God’s creativity. It is merely a view of the method He chose to exercise that creativity.

  11. jimbeam says:

    “I wish we could simply accept that we have a fallen but redeemed nature”
    Show me the true faith that we have died to our sinful nature, and with that: the love/fruit that declares we “love much” (or at least that we are inescapably bound to that end), and I will believe you that we are redeemed.
    On a further point, “redeemed in Christ” does not mean “returned to the Garden of Eden”. Adam and Eve were innocent but naive (so imperfect). In Christ we remain “in the [fallen and — because of the cross — cursed] world”, but we are “not of the world”; we hope in and for the full knowledge and perfection of God.

    “the theory of evolution is in all likelihood the truth as to our origins”….
    That is not a valid reason to delimit Genesis to myth — although I do not discount the dimension of ‘myth’ (ie. very real in the mind of God but not materially tenable/graspable). We should be faithfully and fully open to the mystery of The Word through the word in all ways, much like a married couple are supposed to be open to life.
    …And: “Evolution cannot identify the point…”
    We were discussing recently the likelihood (according to todays scientists) of multiple universes. One possibility could be a parallel dimension (interwoven with planet earth) in which one man and one woman were directly created (not evolved) by heavenly beings (angels) at God’s command. Noah’s ark could explain a passing-over from that dimension to ours, when that parallel world was destroyed. So we could have both an evolutionary origin, and a more ancient (and created) origin. (see 2 Peter 3:4-6 — “they deliberately forget”.)
    THE Original Sin is surely the pride&envy/self-righteousness/covetousness of a very real and still living heavenly being that we call the serpent or Satan (perhaps the same as Mara in Buddhist Cosmology), made viable by the disobedience of man.
    So apparently death (in the recognisable sense: as bound up with disease/ageing/injury/suffering), and with it the ‘underworld’, evil spirits/demons/ghosts etc, and the realms and fires of hell, were not created at “the beginning”, but came into existence (or evolved) as a consequence of Original Sin.

    “[Jesus didn’t save] his people from (Original) Sin but from their sins; clearly these are our personal sins”
    Yes they are personal, and as St Paul says the propagation of personal sin has its origin in Original Sin. From that point — and along with physical illness, accident, ageing and death — sin is clearly propagated (and self-propagating) by every means it can, through every kind of wilful action and transaction, both personal and collective (we are conditioned to be acclimatised to gross collective sin so we don’t need to see it for what it is or recognise personal responsibility). A Buddhist would talk of Kamma/Karma.

    “souls are eternal, i.e. they exist independently of time as we know it”
    God is eternal; ‘souls’ are a fabrication dependent on created things, of which time is one. The Word (ie. the Trinity) is, at least in one sense, a (‘begotten’) fabrication. All other things are ‘created’ fabrications (created by God and/or by delusory will).

    “Why would a loving God allow something like original sin to consign human beings to miseries”
    Why did he create us in the first place? All has its origin (and end) in God, so why is there this fabrication which is delusion of independent self and separation from God? And suffering is not really real, even if it can seem so and feel so to the point of unbearableness and inescapability.

  12. Nektarios says:

    I wonder if we realize what we are saying when we advocate evolution in contrast with Creation?
    I wonder if we see the limitations of our understanding of ourselves as we appeal to experience to be the arbiter of truth and our understanding?
    What I have read so far is not Christian or Christianity, but Humanism masquerading as Truth and Christian Gospel truth. It takes Humanistic philosophy and plays it back to the Church in religious,
    theological and philosophical terminology.
    Humanism has no answer to the origins of the Cosmos, or of man in his origins or the uniqueness of Man.
    Humanism, would have the Cosmos as just matter, plus energy that has existed forever, and formed by chance. God is excluded.

    The uniqueness of man, made in the image of God, has also disappeared with the Humanistic philosophy of evolution, starting with an amoeba and supposedly evolving, just the same as the Cosmos according to the Humanists, matter, plus energy that has existed forever formed by chance.

    God our Creator, as Scripture teaches us is a personal God who is not silent. He communicates.
    It is clear that Nature beit in Man or the Cosmos are not only connected, but spiritual in its Origin.
    I will stop for now.

  13. Iona says:

    Is the Genesis account completely irreconcilable with the theory of evolution?
    Ancestral humans (and I wouldn’t venture to say at exactly what point in evolution they came, and whether or not they may have included Neanderthals) saw and knew God face-to-face, living a constant spiritual experience almost beyond our imagining. Satan, who “will not serve”, who is in open and constant rebellion against God, represented to them an existence which he claimed was preferable, one in which they would possess knowledge which (as things stood) only God possessed. They chose to go for this (which – I mean Satan’s representation – was probably a pack of lies), though it necessitated direct disobedience to God. (I have toyed with the idea that the resultant change in their nature is intimately bound up with the origins of language. With language you can lie and deceive, so it opens the door to many sins). This was the original sin, it immediately became part of human nature just as language is “hard wired” into the human brain, and it inevitably separated them and their descendants from God; they lost the face-to-face relationship with God which they had previously had. Their relationship with each other similarly changed, they developed shame and the desire to conceal aspects of themselves.

    • jimbeam says:

      Firstly, I am assuming you make the claims for Neanderthal man’s spiritual relationship with God on the basis of his cave and other art? I don’t doubt that he had a spiritual relationship with God, however this was certainly not “face-to-face” (ie. to “to know as we are known”), which is equality with God. Neither did Adam and Eve know as they were known, however they did have language, since they (not the angels) were responsible for giving names for animals and other created things. Furthermore Adam and Eve were vegetarians.

      What is to say that animals do not have a ‘soul’ and cannot have a spiritual relationship with God, only they don’t have art/music to express it like Neanderthal man?

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, how do you interpret the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? The Serpent promises Eve that in acquiring this knowledge they will become like God. Is this suggesting that the concept of evil was totally absent from their minds, and that to receive the knowledge was ipso facto to embrace evil?

  14. Ignatius says:

    Yes I should think this can be done, but it remains a mythological account. There’s nothing wrong with a mythological account actually except that it is a date free zone. It doesn’t really matter that the early genesis is a myth story either since genesis is not the first written or only book in the bible which deals with inherited sin and the gospels are not affected by those early chapters of a story. I think its not a good idea though to tie the redemption of Christ to the genesis myth though as the stakes are rather too high.

  15. jimbeam says:

    In the book of Enoch (which apparently might be referred to in the biblical book of Jude), Satan is called Azazel, and (if I remember correctly) is responsible for teaching man metalwork for creating jewellery (self ornamentation) and weapons of war, and instructing in warfare.
    In Islam Satan is apparently called Iblis. Allah asked the angels to bow down to man when Adam was created and gave names for creation, but Iblis refused because he was made from fire where as Adam was made merely from clay.

  16. Peter Foster says:

    In late antiquity and the Middle Ages the concept of truth in relation to ideas (rather than concrete facts) was so undeveloped as to be almost inaccessible to us. Truth was what was written in the Bible and other great books. Even during the turning point in the history of thought in the sixteenth century towards modern science, fact and fiction were intermingled. For example, Dante’s representation of hell was a cone with an apex at the centre of the earth, the centre of its curved cap was at Jerusalem with a radius reaching to Alexandria. This fiction was taken seriously and it was objected that the cover, a dome of material at the surface of the earth, could not support itself. Galileo proposed a mechanical theory (erroneous) to support Dante’s concept. Again, at this time the works of Galen on anatomy were taught alongside the corresponding contradictory dissections, and so on.

    It is in this confused world that many of the developments in Western Christianity became embedded. Man is condemned to analyse and argue and get it wrong and take it all too seriously. In this context, the concept of original sin is simply a THEORY to explicate the fall, baptism and redemption. Its validity derives from its endorsement by Augustine and the Church. As with the concepts of the soul and of natural law, religious authority has been misused to validate a ‘truth’.

    Our task is to disentangle religious truth conveyed through the life of Jesus Christ from these medieval accretions and their seductively logical superstructures.

  17. Iona says:

    Jimbeam – I didn’t make any claims aboiut Neanderthal man, – I said I didn’t know whether “Adam and Eve” came before and were therefore ancestral to included Neanderthals, or not.
    And I’m not insisting on the language bit; it’s just that language is one of the things that distinguishes humans from animals very sharply, so I thought it might be involved.
    As far as giving names to things goes, though, this is very far from using a developed language. Chimpanzees and some types of whale have been taught to recognise and use names for items they are familiar with (using visual symbols, in the case of chimpanzees, since they can produce only a small range of sounds), up to a couple of hundred in some cases I think, but only human language uses grammatically complex constructions and can express hypotheticals and make complex plans for the future.
    Quentin – it was disobeying God (who had told them they might eat fruit from all the trees except that one) that was the original sin, not receiving the knowledge as such.

    • Quentin says:

      My point here was that the story implies that A & E did not have the capacity to recognise evil, and that the Serpent tempted E with the prospect of this knowledge. What is the truth that we learn from this?

  18. Iona says:

    Oops – leave out that “included” at the beginning of line 3 above.
    And I see an “i” has crept into “about” in line 1. Must proof-read more carefully.

  19. Singalong says:

    I have always found this subject difficult to think about, ever since learning and writing stories of cavemen at a very young age, at the same time as hearing about Adam and Eve, two parallel accounts which ought to relate.

    As far as the soul is concerned, is that a name for the amazing fact of God’s love for us, so much that He wants to share His divine life with us, but we are not sure at what stage of evolution this happened?

    It must be his gift of freedom, so that we can choose our response, that brings with it the possibility both of unimaginable love, and the origin and actuality of sin. I wonder how far this sin is related to our own weakness, and how far to real diabolic evil.

  20. jimbeam says:

    Quentin, considering knowledge, and good and evil, what do you (or anyone else) make of this — if it might be considered as addressed to the Catholic Church?
    “…you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14

    • St.Joseph says:

      Just a quick word whilst I am feeling up to it due to prayers which I am most thankful for.

      Jesus came to.show us obedience to the Father by practicing it Himself even though He was equal to the Father. I believe in Adam and Eve as our first parents I am humble enough to admit what the Church teaches is true when it comes to original sin and the fall due to ‘disobedience’! Wanting to be like God as Satan made them believe,and not listening to the Father is a big Fall for us all.
      I find it odd that Jesus did not mention that they were a myth and not to be believed.He came to teach us the Life that was prepared for us in the beginning ‘the Word.
      We can see all around the world the Fall again and again for those who dont receive the Grace to follow Jesus or believe in Him. He is the way and the Truth and the Life.
      That does not say that others wont be saved if they are living that Life in the ‘Word’!
      .
      .

      • Quentin says:

        Greetings, St J.

        A & E “were a myth and not to be believed.” is, I think, the clue to the difficulty. One usage of the word ‘myth’ is that of a story which is invented but nevertheless may contain some wisdom. But the usage I am following is one in which the myth contains a deep, revealed, truth but is not described in a literal way. Thus creation in 6 days is not literally true, but that God created everything is certainly true.

        I am suggesting that the story of A & E, and the description of original sin may contain just such a revealed truth, but it is communicated to us through a story which is not literal. It is useful to explore the myth in order to tease out the real truth. It then doesn’t matter whether the story in which it is found is literally true or not.

        Thus one might conclude that the human race is deeply flawed by the passions which drag us down versus the aspiration which invites us up. To respond to this aspiration requires the grace earned for us by the Redemption. Our Lady had this grace, which she wholeheartedly accepted, and so provides for us a token of its full effects. And this is indicated to us through the Assumption in which, we may hope, we will eventually be incorporated.

  21. Ignatius says:

    “My point here was that the story implies that A & E did not have the capacity to recognise evil, and that the Serpent tempted E with the prospect of this knowledge. What is the truth that we learn from this?..”
    Quentin,
    three simple points:
    1) We are all relatively easily tempted and relatively easily taken in by that voice (now an inner one) which we think is our own reason because it sounds so reasonable.
    2) All that glitters is not gold.
    3) Be very careful not to become a rationalist!

    • Quentin says:

      You would need to define ‘rationalist’ here. I tend to believe that since humans were uniquely given the power of reason, we should use it. And Thomas Aquinas agrees with me.

  22. adomnan says:

    If sin is deliberately choosing the lesser good before the greater good, all humanity abuses its freedom to choose. Animals do not. Newman, who paralleled cruelty to animals with the crucifixion of the innocent Christ, found Darwin’s case convincing and, unlike shocked contemporaries, perfectly compatible with Christian belief: as a Catholic, following Origen and the Alexandrian school, he understood the Creation story as mythological, not historical truth. He speculated on the possibility of a pre-Adamic humanity, with evolved intelligence but not conscience – conscience being what reminds us to choose the greater good. William Golding, who had already illustrated the ubiquity of original sin in The Lord of the Flies, explored Newman’s idea in The Inheritors.
    I’m not sure that it’s important to know which human being first deliberately chose the lesser before the greater good (though it’s interesting that the myth immediately introduces the idea of example); but we’ve all been doing it ever since. Only Christ’s divine intervention offered humanity the means to overcome the proclivity, by dying with him in baptism.
    Luther and Calvin differed quite sharply from Catholic teaching about the proclivity. Aquinas saw concupiscence as resulting from the loss of original righteousness: they saw it as a moral flaw in individuals themselves.
    You know, I imagine, Arthur Koestler’s attempt to explain in material terms humanity’s proneness, not to ‘evil’, but, post Hiroshima, to ‘self-destruction’: an acknowledgement of the innate flaw, like Ovid’s
    . . . video meliora, proboque;
    deteriora sequor.
    Otherwise, why wasn’t the evolution of intelligence, and an ever more refined and discriminating ability to see the greater good, accompanied by a natural will to choose it?

    • jimbeam says:

      Newman “understood the Creation story as mythological, not historical truth. He speculated…”
      This can be constructive, I think. (Can be.)
      But how does he/you explain the passage at the beginning of 2 Peter 3? This is both a prophesy (of the thinking in our times? — what actually is he talking about, this “deliberately” forgetting?), and also the point here in reference to the flood is that God previously destroyed “the world of that time”. Further, knowing of this (which Peter is saying is not merely a myth), is apparently serving a purpose, to remind us the previous severity of God’s judgement upon the ungodly; and that similarly at Christ’s second coming there will be “destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.” — apparently this is will be no straight forward natural disaster.

    • Quentin says:

      “He speculated on the possibility of a pre-Adamic humanity, with evolved intelligence but not conscience ” This is certainly an interesting approach. But I see another possible way of looking at it. A ‘higher’ form of homo had an animal soul (good in itself). Acquiring through God’s creative action reason and conscience (good in itself) he was transformed into homo sapiens. So homo sapiens contained from the beginning the features of the animal nature and features of the spiritual nature. These two aspects were naturally at war. In order to respond to the call of the spiritual — i.e., to live up to his likeness to God — grace was required. And this was provided through the action of Christ.

      What think you?

  23. Ignatius says:

    “Rationalist” in the sense that one relies entirely on what might seem reasonable -and that only. Reason has a powerful place clearly but is quite capable of being a flawed tool if relied on exclusively, everyone always has a reason but this does not mean the reasoning has been good reasoning.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Quentin thank you for your response.
      I can see the point you are making, however, if it is only a story like the Parables that Jesus told why then is it such a big problem to prove it true or not,
      We could say that the parables that Jesus taught were there to show the importance of explaining ‘myths’ to those who do not understand His teaching. That includes in our time too.
      I believe Genesis to be the beginning of Gods Revelation to us.Sadly it has not hit home yet to those who can not see or follow the Word of God through to the Resurrection’ etc;
      Then through Holy Mother Church and the messages of Our Blessed Mother.

      • Quentin says:

        A difference here is that a parable is presented as a story or an illustration. We are not being told about a real prodigal son leaving his family and returning, but we do get a vivid understanding of God’s forgiveness. The Creation account in Genesis is by contrast presented as literal fact because the original readers would have only understood it in this pre-scientific way. The truth of the Bible is not found by assuming that God dictated it, but by accepting that the writers were inspired to express that inspiration in their own terms. It’s a very good reason why an argument conducted by swapping biblical phrases can be misleading.

  24. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin.
    How would you explain the Gospel today to those who would be inclined to believe that God was not a forgiving God when the invited guest was not properly dressed at the wedding feast.Then he was treated very unfairly thrown out into the dark.,where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth|.

    • jimbeam says:

      Because the invited refuse to come to the wedding feast, God invites anyone he can find, which is to say that he offers his love unconditionally through Christ to all who will say “yes” (believe), regardless of whether we are “good” or “bad” (and in fact we are told that we all fall short of worthiness). However, if we agree to come to this wedding, we now must acknowledge/confess that we are not prepared and are not in a fit state to be at this wedding — we need new clothes, for which we must ask God, indeed he is already offering them to us and will help us put them on (as St Paul says, we must “put on Christ”). If we somehow choose to disregard this and shamelessly go to the wedding as we are, then we are a disgrace and bring judgement upon ourselves; we have have said yes with our mind/feet/hands/tongue/belly but not with our heart, and rejected and insulted the grace of God’s perfect gift to us.
      I think there might be other ways of reading/explaining this.

      • jimbeam says:

        I think we must recognise that the wedding feast is not until the bride is ready.

      • jimbeam says:

        I said “If we…”, but the point of the parable is to say “If I…” (it was one, not many, that was mentioned as wrongly dressed)

  25. John Nolan says:

    O certe necessarium Adae peccatum, quod Christi morte deletum est! O felix culpa, quae talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptorem!

    We hear that sung on the most solemn night of the year, do we not? And the idea of redemption is implicit in the Old Testament:

    Quia apud Dominum misericordia, et copiosa apud eum redemptio. Et ipse redimet Israel ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus. (Ps 129)

    Further than that I don’t wish to speculate.

    ‘Nor mouth had, no nor mind expressed
    What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
    It is the blight man was born for …’

  26. jimbeam says:

    “The truth of the Bible is not found by assuming that God dictated it, but by accepting that the writers were inspired to express that inspiration in their own terms.”
    This suggests a God who speaks/creates and then stands back from the spoken/created and lets it go its own course. But we believe in The Word and the Trinity. God speaks with and through human weakness and error, making them into strength and perfection.

    God had Moses part the reed sea so that a miracle like had never been seen on earth could be to the glory of his name in setting Israel apart from all other nations. Similarly, the Bible is a miracle of unimaginable depth; “Scripture cannot be set aside”, and “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”. Even so much as there are apparent mistakes/contradictions in the Bible, these will ultimately serve to speak/indicate the truth (if we will receive the spirit in love). It is not just inspired by God, it is (in spirit) God’s living love letter to mankind, of which each “iota”, and each faithful reading/speaking of each iota, is accounted for and sustained with infinite fragility (yes, we can also say this about ALL THINGS, however such comparison is a futile pursuit) — this is what BELIEF says. This does not mean we should take it in blind faith: we should query, examine and test, both what is written and our interpretation of it, so much as true faith/conscience leads us to do so. More importantly though is to trust and read earnestly and fully, and let it flow in and through us freely — “perfect love casteth out all fear”.

  27. St.Joseph says:

    Jimbean.
    Jesus said ‘many are called but few are chosen.’
    I think of this quote by BLessed John Henry Newman.
    WE were made for action, and for right action, for thought , and for true thought..Let us live while we live, let us be alive and doing, let us act on what we have,since it is not what. we wish. Let us believe what we do not see and know.Let us forestall knowledge by faith.

  28. Iona says:

    Quentin: further up the page, you asked:

    My point here was that the story implies that A & E did not have the capacity to recognise evil, and that the Serpent tempted E with the prospect of this knowledge. What is the truth that we learn from this?

    I’m not sure that E was tempted directly with the prospect of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan said “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” – it may have been the prospect of being like God that tempted her; being like God, with some sort of esoteric knowledge that she didn’t already have; rather than a clear idea of what kind of knowledge she might stand to gain.

    Re the wedding garment: I once heard it said in a homily (no, not today; some previous occasion when the same Gospel passage was read) that when guests arrived for a wedding, if they were too poor to own a suitable garment, the MC would provide them with one. So the improperly-dressed guest had simply not taken the offer. No doubt he was “only here for the beer.”

    • Quentin says:

      The way I understand ‘knowledge of good and evil’ is in terms of natural law. That is, unfallen A & E followed natural law in its perfect form because they had the use of right reason. Their minds did not contain the possibility of wrong reason (oriented towards evil). To E the prospect of this knowledge was inviting, but she did not know that it diminished rather than enhanced her. Does this make sense to you? I may of course be completely wrong here.

  29. Iona says:

    Hello St. Joseph, and thank you for that quote.
    I shall be in Lourdes next week, and will light a candle for you.

  30. Geordie says:

    Quentin,
    Where does “Midrash” come in all of this? The Old Testament commentators knew that some Bible stories were not to be taken literally but contained deep truths. Was A & E not such a story?

    • Quentin says:

      “Was A & E not such a story?” I suspect so, but the difficulty lies in the way this story is given as central to understanding the history of salvation. Certainly midrash (commentary) has important things to teach us. One element is that the semitic languages don’t come easily to us. They are “defective in indicating delicate shades of meaning and are better adapted to narrative and poetry than to philosophical or scientific discussion.” (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) This reminds us that we need to be sensitive to the inner meanings of an account, or even a phrase, rather than relying on our more precise (and often less fruitful) modern interpretations. This includes of course Christ’s reported words — originally spoken in Aramaic.

      Perhaps we have a contributor who is properly qualified in biblical study, and can say more about this.

      • Nektarios says:

        sorry, my editing is terrible – I hope the exerpts below by Dr. Francis Shaeffer helps?

      • Quentin says:

        Regretfully I have had to exclude the contribution to which this refers. There is a general rule on the Blog that no contribution should exceed 600 words — and this is over twice that length.

        My own view is that undue length is counterproductive. One of the joys of blogging is the ability to exchange quite brief points, and to develop these further in successive contributions. If the contributor wishes to refer people to lengthy quotations by others, it is best to do so by a link. Few will follow the link, of course, but then few will read and study lengthy quotation!

      • jimbeam says:

        Any qualification I (or indeed any of us) has is given by the Holy Spirit. Hence Jesus and Peter and Stephen etc. having the ability to talk about scripture with authority when they may have had no training or official qualification to do this. This does not invalidate what Scholars can offer, but it does humble and (potentially) empower us all.

        My impression is that the loss of Hebrew in translation is probably most missed in the OT major and minor Prophets, Psalms, and proverbs. But we need not get hung up on this. I find the King James Bible awkward to read a lot of the time, and it seems to have some bad translations at times, however it can be powerfully free and poetic. What about this translation?
        Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. King David, Psalm 110

  31. Claret says:

    Do we really believe that every new born baby is tainted with sin?

    • Quentin says:

      Depends what you mean by ‘tainted with sin’. Babies are born with human nature, although many aspects are not as yet expressed. The instinct to follow the ‘good’ and the instinct to follow the ‘bad’ are present in potential. Interestingly, the tendency to favour good behaviour and disfavour bad behaviour begin to emerge well within the first year of life. This suggests that moral discrimination is innate.

    • milliganp says:

      We become sinful either by nature or imitation. A baby learns quickly that the essential cry that summons mum when it is hungry can be used to gain attention as it gets older and can complain in a tantrum at the lack of sweets when 2. This is fallen behaviour and only becomes sinful when the child develops the capacity to discern right from wrong.
      I have a 4 year old grandchild and, as a grandparent, it has been possible to watch his development – how he tries boundaries, learns minor deceit and asserts will against his parents. It’s the human relationship with God scaled down and without actual evil.

    • jimbeam says:

      Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. King David, Psalm 51

      • jimbeam says:

        Original Sin inherited by babies (and don’t forget foetuses!) is apparently one of the reasons for insistence on infant baptism (the fear that the child will otherwise go to Hell). The Catechism says unbaptised children who die are to be confidently left to the mercy of God, yet at the same time emphasises the urgent need to baptise Children — not quite sure what is being said here.

        I have heard about a man who grew up a vegetarian; his first experience of eating meat was the trauma of being force-fed fish by some people who thought this was a funny thing to do. Some years later when he had children one of his daughters would’t touch fish. This might be coincidental?
        God said to Israel that he punishes children for the sins of their parents until the 3rd and 4th generation; and this was proclaimed finished by Ezekiel, presumably because of the freedom from the past brought at his time by the chaos of the exile.

        Buddhists believe that we are born into the human womb as a consequence of craving for birth/rebirth, which itself is a result of desires and actions (ie. unripened fruit that seeks ripening and bad fruit that must be purged away) from a former life, or more likely many (or many, many, many) former lives, perhaps in various different planes of existence.

  32. Claret says:

    If in some way we could isolate a new born baby in a kind of permanent quarantine would it really, as it grew older, exhibit instincts for good and bad behaviour?
    Who decides what is good and bad anyway? Throwing a dummy out of the pram hardly qualifies, except in adults.
    To become ‘sinful by imitation’ is not original sin. I would contend that there is no such thing as ‘sinful by nature.’

    • Claret – “no such thing as ‘sinful by nature.’ ” – how then to account for my attraction to conduct that I can see to be horribly wrong?
      Reply

    • Quentin says:

      A typical experiment of early infant morality would use glove puppets. One puppet would be observed, say, mistreating another. And the infant would select the ‘naughty’ puppet for punishment. It’s ironic that these first discriminations are applied to the behaviour of others, not to our own. Of course this is pre-moral, no rational understanding or true choice being involved.

      Philosophers who have investigated the human characteristic which draws us to the good and to condemn the bad, have tended to settle for instinct or emotion as the prime source. But this has never been enough to explain the sense of obligation we impose on ourselves and others.

      Of course there has always been argument about how we judge human behaviour but there seems to be general agreement about the main principles, though less about the detailed application.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Claret.when Our Lady said I am the Immaculate conception.
      What would you say she meant?

  33. Geordie says:

    The Church used to teach: “We are prone to evil even from our very childhood……….” We may argue about how this state occurred but we’ve got to accept that it is true. We are selfish by nature. Substitute “sinful” for selfish.

    • RAHNER says:

      So human beings are selfish/sinful by nature – but who is responsible for their nature? And if they are selfish/sinful by nature then they are unable not to sin, but if they must at some stage sin then how can they be judged to have free will and responsibility?

      • overload says:

        Free will is a subjective concept. First it is subject to our identification of “free”. If we can identify the true meaning of “free”, then our free will is subject to how free we are. (Thinking aloud about this in a previous discussion: “Where’s the evidence?”.)

        The Catechism Compendium (363. What is freedom?) says: “[a] Freedom is the power given by God to act or to not act… [b] The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes.”
        [a] and [b] are two contradictory statements?

      • Singalong says:

        The grace of God, unsolicited, and through prayer and the sacraments.

      • Rahner – it is perfectly possible to be “selfish/sinful by nature” but to recognise that aspect of nature with repugnance and strive, more or less successfully according to occasion, to overcome it. That surely is free will and responsibility.

      • jimbeam says:

        Wilson — very possible to recognise. And very possible to not recognise — ie. due to fear, fatigue, distraction, ignorance, bad “luck”, ill-conditioning, lack of guidance/prayer from others, misguidance from others, delusion, spiritual possession/oppression, etc.
        Similarly goes with striving to overcome, perhaps slightly different list.
        Of course God counts every hair on our heads, and faith in his love conquers all, so we need not worry about these things; though it is a mystery that many are bound in the chains of the hell of sin, and many are heading to Hell; and that this is what God decrees.
        Julian of Norwich said that Christ gave her the insight: there is no harder hell than sin. I would like to add: at least in Hell, even if we are in a state of depraved and hopeless perpetual suffering, we can no longer offend God (ie. cause physical/mental/spiritual harm to ourself and others).
        Christ apparently said to Julian: all will be well, and all will be well.

  34. RAHNER says:

    “Free will is a subjective concept” – I don’t know what this means but in any case the idea that the free and responsible actions of every human being are brought about by a miraculous or quasi-miraculous action by God seems implausible.

    P D Wilson, who created the flawed human nature in the first place?

    • Whether it was a flaw or a delicacy essential to some other purpose, I’ll leave on this side of the grave to the theologians.

    • Quentin says:

      It is my belief that the capacity for free will, a characteristic which is central to the belief that we are made in the likeness of God, is a power of the soul. If so, we cannot expect it to be comprehensible or provable in terms of material causality. If I were looking to demonstrate the existence of God, it’s where I would start.

      It interests me that the doughtiest atheist – who finds that he must deny free will to maintain his position – in fact assumes it in every statement and judgment he makes.

      • overload says:

        Quentin — “It is my belief that [my] capacity for free will… is a power of [my] soul… If I were looking to demonstrate the existence of God, it’s where I would start.”
        Are you looking to demonstrate the existence of God, and if so, will you do so?

      • Quentin says:

        That’s an interesting challenge! I won’t meet it now because a worthwhile exchange on the subject would be too lengthy at this point. However I plan now to introduce it as a subject in its own right as soon as may be. Thank you for the indirect suggestion.

      • Alan says:

        “If so, we cannot expect it to be comprehensible or provable in terms of material causality. If I were looking to demonstrate the existence of God, it’s where I would start.”

        Anything material which we don’t understand will be both incomprehensible and presumably unproven. I cannot imagine how to differentiate between such a lack of comprehension and evidence of something beyond the natural/material. I look forward to seeing how the subject is approached.

      • Quentin says:

        I look forward, too.

  35. overload says:

    “who created the flawed human nature in the first place?”
    God created man with a flawed nature — thus he had the “freedom” to disobey God, although in fact this is jinxed; Adam and Eve were slaves to this disobedience through ignorance, proclivity and active temptation; they did not in the fullness of reality have the freedom to do otherwise. Indeed such was necessary, since Adam and Eve (and all things) were created through The Word, so that God’s Free Will could fully actualise (explore the entire capacity and fulfilment) of what was first born (begotten) with consciousness as merely a formed word (the first phenomena, before time and space).
    So I think. Thus is to contemplate something of how “wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3) — from the origin end of the stick, as opposed to the (more important) “Son of God/Man is Salvation” (Jesus) end of the stick.

    • overload says:

      In exploring the entire capacity and fulfilment of The Word, which includes ignorance and suffering to the degree of Hell, God must also enter into that ignorance and suffering, which he does foremost with and in Jesus and his cross, yet in fullness he does this in every moment with and in every living being.
      Perhaps Hell is perpetual and hopeless and unbearably unbearable (if so, God must even be with someone in the “outer darkness” of Hell, although they could not know it?) in all respects of time and space; however since time and space are created things, Hell cannot be infinite/eternal.

    • tim says:

      I can’t accept that God created Man with a flawed nature. Why would He do that? (rhetorical question). God made Man free to choose good or evil. You or I (or any liberal-minded Guardian reader) might have advised him against it on account of what was likely to happen (but that would have been quite pointless, since He could see that for Himself). Being free to choose good or evil was the point, this was what made Man like God. Once one man makes the wrong choice, the Redemption becomes necessary. Whether this means we are all descended from a unique pair of humans who made the wrong choice, I couldn’t tell you (but I very much doubt it).

      • overload says:

        Perhaps flawed is the wrong word, however I think God made man good, and he made in in his own image, however man was not made perfect (he was not, unlike The Word, “with God” in the beginning, but rather separated from God, which is a flawed circumstance), but with the capacity for perfection and to live up to his image — this image is surely fulfilled by submitting ones self and ones will to God (thus becoming truly free).

  36. St.Joseph says:

    Our Lady was born without Original Sin.She called Herself that .
    Who would say that is a myth?

  37. jimbeam says:

    Holy Spirit, pray for us, pray in us, and pray with us, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

  38. milliganp says:

    On the general subject of free will, sinful nature and the fall. Current science (DNA analysis) indicates that biological Adam and biological Eve lived at very different times which makes the idea of original sin as inherited difficult to accept. The priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who was both a theologian / philosopher and palaeontologist tried to square evolution with sin by looking at where we were evolving to, rather than from and came up with the idea of the Omega point. He was silenced by the church and, although his work is now considered valuable it is recognised that it does not square with the defined truth of original sin. Similarly Karl Rahner looked at man’s transcendental orientation towards God as a basis for understanding fallen nature.
    Both of these theologians at least had the courage to face up to the challenge of evolution in understanding human nature. Neither might have got it right but it’s obvious that various elements of human nature come from the evolved animal state (self-preservation, sexual desire. the Alpha male, certain social behaviour, caring for young). Certain other human characteristics such as greed, self-destruction or malice do not appear to occur in animals.
    Having accepted that the Genesis story is not historical and does not square with the current state of science, surely we obliged to reflect on the way we talk about sin. Although the existence of sin may be obvious, we will never convert anyone with basic scientific awareness if we can’t come up with something that does not rely on monogenesis.

    • Quentin says:

      My reading, for what it’s worth, of our common ancestry is a little different from yours. While genetics do show that we have a traceable male ancestor and a female ancestor, this shows only that we are members of the same line. It does not exclude the possibility that both were descendants of an original couple. I think that question is open (though not according to the Church’s formal teaching, Humani Generis 37).

      • milliganp says:

        The challenge of Humani Generis 37 is that, with our increasing knowledge of the development of the human species, it becomes a “God of the gaps” position. It would be far more productive for Catholic geneticists and theologians to work towards a scientifically plausible explanation of human origins and original sin – otherwise we will find ourselves defending a rapidly diminishing and increasingly implausible corner.

  39. St.Joseph says:

    Sorry my post to you on 16th. Posted in the wrong place

    However the question is for any who would like to tell me what they think

    My. Thoughts are that when Our Lady s aid. ‘ I AM The Immaculate Conception,born without sin with a free Will to say yes or no’
    Baptism makes us children. Of God fills us with Sanctifying Grace with a free will to say yes or no!!
    I would like some thoughts on this.
    This is the duty of all parents to teach their children our faith and live it.
    Not to spoil their innocence to confuse them when they learn the Truths that are miracles.
    It opens their minds to doubts!

    • St.Joseph says:

      First line above for Claret.

    • milliganp says:

      St Joseph, nice to see you back.
      Our Lady’s words to Bernadette confirm a deep and essential truth of faith; perhaps it was Divine providence that the doctrine was only formally defined in the modern era.

      It is obviously important that we pass on the faith in an age appropriate way, but we also need to realise that children will encounter the contradiction that is in the world. It is one thing to discuss doubts and difficulties in this type of forum and another to raise unneccesary doubts among those who have an innocent faith.

      God Bless.

    • overload says:

      Were Mary’s parents without Original Sin?
      I don’t know if Mary wife of Joseph was conceived without Original Sin — when did she say this?; I feel this may be true, though it doesn’t say this in Holy Scripture. Did God make Mary free from sin at the Annunciation, or was she already without Original Sin?
      Jesus was conceived — and remained (contained/protected and nurtured) — without Original Sin (without sin); it surely says this in Holy Scripture.

      Jesus said “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35).
      If we believe that Mary is first and foremost The Church, then I believe that Holy Scripture does say she was (at the time of Abraham) conceived without Original Sin.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Overload
        Our Lady was born without sin..She was chosen. In the beginning.
        God’s plan for us.,the new Eve.
        I sometimes think of St Joseph her husband as the new Adam!.The perfect obedience as Jesus was to His Father.

      • milliganp says:

        The scriptural justification for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is indirect, thus even Aquinas opposed it. Most bible Christians use the quote you use to justify Mary not being exceptional. However in Luke we have not only the angelic greeting at the Annunciation but Mary’s own words of herself “henceforth all ages shall call be blessed”.
        Duns Scotus provided the convincing argument “potuit, decuit, ergo fecit” literally, it was possible, it was good therefore it was done. Mary was given freedom from original sin so that her capacity to respond to God’s call to become the Mother of Christ would be entirely free of fault.

    • overload says:

      St Joseph and Milliganp (and anyone else):
      I am not seeking to deny the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, however, how would you explain Mariology (inc. the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception) to a Protestant Christian? My experience is that many Protestants cling to the Bible because:
      1. They do not feel safe — and it is not right with their conscience — to (re)turn to the Catholic Church, for various reasons.
      2. Holy Scripture is the only fixed tangible foundation for our faith.

      • overload says:

        I yesterday invited a Christian Protestant to come to my parish Church for some parish anniversary talks and events which are happening next week. He said:
        “I wouldn’t be interested because I left the Catholic Church to become a disciple as I believe the bible calls us to be. Too many man made traditions have been added in the RCC over the years.”
        I have yet to reply.

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload.
        .I can see what you mean.However I am of the belief that the last prophet died with the Resurrection of Jesus. He left the Truth with Holy Mother Church.
        What ever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.
        We now are His deciples all christians. Protestants are living in the Truth of Catholocism whether they like it or not! Like what they like and not like what they dont.
        Same as some Catholics.As far as history began.

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload.
        The history of the Miraculous Medal a design of which was originated by Saint Catherine Laboire following her vision on July 18th 1830 a night that changed the history of the world..
        One can look it up on the web.
        It did not begin with St Bernadette at Lourdes.
        Your Protestant Christian will be interested to read that info.

      • milliganp says:

        Overlord, I was not suggesting anything about your personal belief in the Immaculate Conception but pointing out:-
        1) Bible-only Protestantism almost always quotes Mark to justify “Mary wasn’t special”
        2) Even the greatest Catholic thinkers have had difficulty with Mary “not being saved by Christ”. Duns Scotus’ extraordinary retrospecive grace is not a simple concept.

        Luke’s Gospel, if we take it as written c80-100CE shows that a special role for Mary was already part of the developing faith of the church. The late Raymond E. Brown was involved in inter-denominational discussions about Mary and said that minds started opening when, instead of Mark, the infancy narrative of Luke, the place of Mary at the Cross and the role of Mary at Cana were studied.

      • milliganp says:

        Without getting contentious, not even Catholics are obliged to believe in the apparitions to Saint Catherine Labouré. It is unlikely to be the best starting point for a discussion with a Protestant friend.
        By comparison Lourdes has arroused Protestant interest, there is an article at bit.ly/1vmRCuN which seems a useful intro.

      • St.Joseph says:

        milliganp.
        Catholics are not obliged to believe in Fatima either at least I dont think of any apparitions even to Saints.
        I can vouch for the Miraculous Medal for my late husbands conversion although after 40 years of reading, all religions. starting with the Miraculous Medal devotions 1958 in St Joseph Church Highgate London and being a firm believer that catholics were worshiping Mary praying to her committing idolatoryimage,etc.etc. his conversion came not through reading but spiritual experiences and faith and a love of our Blessed Mother and the Church. She is a part of Salvation history from Genesis to the end ‘ My Immaculate Heart will Triumph in the end The woman standing on the Globe.
        I am only saying we have different experiences not disagreeing with you.

  40. Ignatius says:

    “Anything material which we don’t understand will be both incomprehensible and presumably unproven. I cannot imagine how to differentiate between such a lack of comprehension and evidence of something beyond the natural/material. I look forward to seeing how the subject is approached…”

    You know that God may be encountered but God may not be proved. Eucharist is material yet incomprehensible and unproven.

  41. overload says:

    I spoke to my protestant friend on the phone. Quite a few issues.
    One of the main things seems to be in respect of baptism. I got baptised as a Child and so did he. I hold (with faith, by the skin of my teeth) that my baptism is valid, and, after a battle with conscience and growing in faith, I got confirmed a couple of years ago. He left the RCC in Ireland a couple of years ago to join a particular Church in London and get baptised (he emphasises the importance of his own belief and choice) in full water submersion. I told him I am not looking to get re-baptised in his Church, and neither am I trying to persuade him to return to the RCC. I put forward the question as to whether we could both be right with God by what we have done.

    Another thing that came up was Mary, and worship of Mary, which he does not see any indication of in the Bible. I said I have also had problems with this, and that the Hail Mary for me is fundamentally about a prayer of and to the Church (us all praying for each other and appealing to each other for prayer), and that the Church is Christ’s bride and is to be personified/known as a woman and our mother. Thus indicating my meaning by earlier mentioning the quote from Mark — that in believing, we are each of us (born again in) Jesus, saying as he said: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister and mother.”

    And most importantly was the issue of turning from sin, and giving oneself to God and seeking His Will with the Whole Heart.
    He mentioned the last rights (for instance) as being an excuse (to his mind) for people to not lead Godly lives because they can still be saved by relying on this at the last moment. He emphasised the straight and narrow, and that many, as Jesus said, are on the wide road, which is something the Roman Catholic Church does not teach (or at least did not teach him). And he said that he was never introduced to a Bible in the Catholic Church.

    St Joseph, I walked past St Joseph’s today.

    • I have much sympathy with your Protestant friend in his later points, and imagine that relying entirely on the last rites must cast some doubt on the sincerity of repentance.

      Several of my friends, including I suspect the PP, hold a belief that Hell may exist but there are probably few if any in it. It’s a nice idea, but not the teaching of Jesus.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Overload..
      It is wonderful to speak to non Catholics about our beliefs .There never any need to argue.
      My late husband and I never did.He always defended me as a RC with the children.I am very thankful to him for that They all both practicing and my five grandchildren .
      They have been to Lourdesa few times and Fatima Knock and Walsingham even with a Methodist father
      I WAS married in St Joseph’s

    • Ignatius says:

      I was a protestant for many years, born again, full immersion etc… to be frank all this is a bit of a dull regurgitation of prejudice. Tell your friend to read his bible a bit more closely, the bit where the angel tells Mary that from that point on all generations would call her blessed…would that do? also, pinching the odd verse here and there from the bible and then using it to build a theology about who is saved and who is not shows a very poor grasp of scripture…sorry but just not impressed.

  42. overload says:

    “We don’t worship Mary nor would She want us to. I expect you know that.” I know that, but it seems to be confusion for many, and I still sometimes get confused about the Catholic Church’s presentation of Mary.

    I recently read about the powerful messages Our Lady of Akita. (short video of Sr. Agnes recollecting the messages.) (I feel there is a lot of collective fear in recollecting this and similar messages — as with certain passages/books of the bible.)
    How is this to be interpreted?:— “Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able still to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved.”
    I think the correct answer — for those Roman Catholics with a pure and simple faith — is given elsewhere in her message: “Without attaching to much attention to the form, be faithful and fervent in prayer to console the Master”. However, many Christians (or would-be Christians) do not have a pure and simple faith (or are struggling to find it in the face of mixed messages); and many who have a simple faith can be misguided with oversimplification?

    I do not wish to be pedantic, however this from the apparitions of Garabandal also invites questions to me (St Paul says we must not despise prophesy but must test everything):
    “I, your Mother, through the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel, wish to tell you that you should make amends.”
    Why does her visitation depend on intercession? And why Michael and not Jesus?

    • St.Joseph says:

      overload.
      Why not Our Blessed Mother and St Michael? They can interceed for us.
      ‘Jesus has died for our salvation and His Mother is part of Salvation History..
      We pray for the sick and we ask the Saints to interceed for us,
      My grandmother had a saying many years ago that Our Lady was holding back Our Lord’s hand to save the world from peril.
      You can see that She has when we read the miracles that have happened to bring peace in the past.
      Perhaps there is not enough people having the confidence in Her intercession (perhaps too catholic) for our modern day. Ought we to be thinking more of the present and future perils and wars and the terrible things that are happening in the world in this century and not so much as to what Our Blessed Mother did in the past and just ‘Trust in Her’!..

      • overload says:

        Our Lady of Akita: “With my Son I have intervened so many times to appease the wrath of the Father.”
        Indeed we must trust in God and know that if He&She shows us fearful things, it is to foremost to correct us, and to strengthen our faith (to save us), if we will trust Him&Her and not turn away in fear. However this does not mean that we can escape (or postpone) the Final Judgement and the Fullness of God’s Kingdom—with a vision and seeking of world peace and compromise!
        2 Peter 3: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…”
        1 Thessalonians 5: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day.”

    • milliganp says:

      We do need to be careful about private revelations; according to various mystics a great chastisement or sign has been imminent for nearly 100 years. In addition they present God as permanently angry to the point of desperation and in need of constant restraint.
      God is supposed to be a God of love, compassion, mercy and justice; the God of the prodigal son – always waiting to welcome the repentant sinner. God is also supposed to be omniscient and impassable, our changing does not change God.

      • Singalong says:

        The devotion of the Divine Mercy is a wonderful reassurance of the inexhaustible love God is making available to us. There is a lot of information about it on the internet, google.

      • milliganp says:

        Singalong, the Crucifixion is the ultimate sign of God’s loving mercy. I don’t feel the need to anthropomorphise God’s infinite attributes. I don’t feel the need to have a devotion to God’s mercy when I can praise and worship God directly. I’m more than capable of Googling the dozens if not hundreds of different “individual” devotions which exist, but the principal worship of God is the sacrifice of the Mass; one Mass,, well attended, is greater than every devotion added together.

  43. St.Joseph says:

    overload.
    Where I see wickednessand I am sure others think the same. It is not in the Catholic who has missed Sunday Mass or on Holy days of obligation or eats the occasional meat on Friday or teenagers who may use the odd condom with their girlfriend or even a husband and wife who through circumstances beyond their control on fertile days .God knows we are not all perfect although we seek to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. We have the Sacrament of Reconcillation. The fault is there-ommission to their guilt. And show their love to The Lord and His Church.
    Non catholics do not have the same duties to God as we do as they are not living in the light of the teachings of the Church they MAY be excused by God through their own ignorance.
    We do not mean to offend God when we lapse on venial sin, this is something that comes with maturity unless we mature at an early age.
    We ought to trust in Gods forgiveness.
    Wickedness is altogether different, killing inocent children and mothers and people in wars and so many other injuries to our neighbour.
    You know the rest without me having to say so.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Singalong.
      The Feast of Divine Mercy surprises me that not many priests will turn up to hear Confessions..
      I have thought about this and realise that there is an opportunity for Confession during Lent and to return to the Eucharist on Easter Sunday.
      I find that the people who go on Divine Mercy Sunday are those who are regulars anyway
      That is wonderful that we do to celebrate the Feast,but however defeats the whole object of the message of the day. Unless you have found it different. My thinking may be wrong.
      .

      • milliganp says:

        We need to realise that the Feast of Divine Mercy is a manufactured feast only recently introduced; it does not mean anything to 90% of Catholics because it’s based on a form of piety that started disappearing over 50 years ago. For many (including large numbers of clergy) it is an oddity representing a particular devotion of Pope Saint John Paul II. In our parish we have a divine mercy prayer group which numbers about 5 out of 1400 church attenders.

        It is hard enough getting Catholics to connect with the mainstream realties of our faith. Less than a third of Catholics observe the full Easter Triduum, so the Passion reading on Palm Sunday is the only connection 60% of Catholics have with Christ’s passion. In the secular world Maundy Thursday is now called Easter Thursday and is just the first day of a bumper holiday weekend.

        Similarly, many follow the secular calendar where Christmas Day is the last day of Christmas, not the first.

  44. St.Joseph says:

    milliganp.
    Are you saying then that Saint Sister Faustina did not have a message for those who believe that their sins are so’ red’ that they will not be forgiven – or they don’t need to confess their sins any more Out of 1400 people in your parish the confessional should be full or else they have no sins to confess.
    I believe that to be the message . And it ought to be made more known . By priests.!

    • milliganp says:

      Faustina was not canonised for her writings! At the time of the introduction of the feast my then PP read them and found them deeply depressing – he advised me not to bother.
      The language of most private revelations simply fails to reflect the simple, straightforward language of the Gospel. We need to remember Baptism, faith and the life of the church expressed through the Eucharist is the key to salvation. Any and everything else are secondary and none ar necessary.

      • Singalong says:

        I do think it is a great mistake to belittle devotions which help us to appreciate all that Christ does for us and all the grace and mercy He continuously offers us directly Himself in the church and through His Blessed Mother. Of course the Mass is the mainspring of our spiritual life, but there are many prayers and practices which can be added and give great inspiration and help, and always have been. Of course, if the focus on them is exaggerated it is a mistake, as I am well aware, and was put off too much devotion to the Sacred Heart and the nine first Fridays at one time when I encountered over pious attachment to them, but we should not throw out the baby with the bath water.

      • milliganp says:

        Singalong, for many people, devotions become oppressive ‘I might go to hell, I haven’t done the x devotion’. for others they can become a presumption, ‘I wear a scapular / miraculous medal, so I’m sure to go to heaven’. In the middle are devout souls finding a way of understanding part of the mystery of God.
        The reason Luther opposed the church was the selling of ‘short cuts’ to heaven. We need to be careful that the idea of ‘say this prayer’ or ‘do this 9 times’ being a guarantee of salvation.
        The other negative of the Divine Mercy cult is that it is based on the presumption that great numbers of souls are destined for eternal punishment. It is one thing to encourage prayer for the salvation of others, another entirely to instil the fear that millions are damned, sometimes without knowing why.

  45. Ignatius says:

    “For many (including large numbers of clergy) it is an oddity representing a particular devotion of Pope Saint John Paul II…”
    I must admit I agree. At seminary I get to rub shoulders with quite a lot of priests and Deacons, either ordained or on the way. After 4 years now I must admit to getting a little nervous when people trap me into conversations which involve them getting all fervent and bright eyed about their own particular devotion be it Our Lady of Fatima, divine Mercy chaplets, new spangly rosaries with lots of medals on them, Padre Pio booklets or prayers for our lady of knots etc etc etc…devotions arouse emotions, that’s why they are called devotions.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ignatius
      Would you say then that it is a particular oddity of Pope Paul VI when he wrote :HV.He is being Beatified tomorrow..please God.

      • overload says:

        I just read this beautiful and challenging quote from Pope Paul VI:
        “Those who have the truth, are in a position as not having it, because they are forced to search for it every day in a deeper and more perfect way. Those who do not have it, but search for it with their whole heart, have already found it.”

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ignatius.
      Before you get nervous again, think about how many souls may have been saved from those fingers on sparingly Rosary Beafs
      I don’t know Our Lady of Knots. Who is she?

  46. John Nolan says:

    There is no ‘Feast of Divine Mercy’. To refer to Low Sunday as ‘Divine Mercy’ Sunday means no more than to designate a Sunday as ‘World Communications Day’ or ‘Youth Sunday’ or similar unliturgical nonsense. A Feast has its own Mass and Office. Sr Faustina’s writings were put on the Index by John XXIII and it cannot be assumed that the Pontiff signed everything that Cardinal Ottaviani put in front of him. The fact that she was rehabilitated, beatified and canonized by JP II does not authenticate her revelations. The bit about her catching Hosts which flew out of the tabernacle might qualify her as patron saint of communion-in-the-hand. The iconic picture is, I’m afraid, unadulterated kitsch.

    • overload says:

      “The iconic picture is, I’m afraid, unadulterated kitsch.” I might agree. Apparently Faustina cried when she saw it because it did not live up to her vision, but she received the consolation that “Not in the beauty of the colour, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace.”

      Personally I find just about every painting of Christ as a white man with long hair to be kitsch, or at least inaccurate since he was presumably neither white nor had long hair.

    • milliganp says:

      On a mere side issue, it was common practice for devout men not to cut their hair at the time of Christ, however it’s very unlikely Jesus was blonde!

      • overload says:

        I’m assuming you are talking about those consecrated as a Nazarite (ie. Samuel, Sampson)? — along with not cutting there hair, they were also to abstain from any grape products, which excludes Jesus. I have head some mention of “James brother of Jesus” as perhaps being a Nazarite.

      • milliganp says:

        Is there a reasonable presumption that John the Baptist was a Nazarite “he will drink neither wine nor strong drink”?

      • overload says:

        I was wondering the same thing about John the Baptist.

    • milliganp says:

      The reason the devotion was originally banned was because it implied sins could be forgiven without going to confession – that the devotion itself was sufficient. As part of the rehabilitation the church introduced the need for sacramental confession, reception of communion and prayer for the pope.

      • overload says:

        If sins cannot be forgiven without sacramental confession, this leaves non Roman Catholics in a difficult situation. Thank Christ for the sacrament of confession, and thank Christ for brothers and sisters to confess to, and thank Christ for his living Holy Spirit with and within us to whom we can confess (I believe — I ask?) in solitude, in the communion of Sprit.

      • milliganp says:

        The Catholic teaching is that sins are forgiven the moment we repent. Sacramental confession is required before returning to the Eucharist. For those outside the church what constitutes repentance may be hard to define, but I suspect God knows.

  47. overload says:

    Ignatius, since we have been talking about freewill, there is understandably confusion about the default baptism of children who not only do not choose Christ of their own faith and freewill, but are generally not nurtured in faith either (and neither was there any true/viable intention of nurturing their faith in the first instance).
    My friend did himself mention the passage “all generations shall call me blessed”, recognising that we should revere/remember Mary. However he does not understand praying to Saints, he sees this to be a human invention.
    The point about righteousness (Godliness) is vital, as is also the point about mercy.
    NLT John 4:18 reads: “If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”

    St Joseph, did you say something about Priests going to confession?

    Singalong, thanks for mentioning the Divine Mercy.

    It seems St Faustina (re-)heralded the day of Christ’s mercy (now), and the day of his second coming — the day of justice and wrath (imminent). If you don’t believe in what she has said in attribution to Christ, at least believe in the grace of Christ’s mercy, and be convinced about the coming judgment. If we are in doubt about either of these things, then our faith is wavering.

    “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more… What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” — This St Paul said to the early Church, and yet anti-Christs entered into and possessed the Church from early days, so sin increased. Thus one might say that grace has increased more and more; perhaps this is what Faustina is announcing.

    Many people think that Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane was foremost in anticipation of the personal physical suffering awaiting him. Christ gave Faustina a deeper insight (this struck me in the night last night) — he was agonising to bear with the lukewarm and indifferent who were forsaking/betraying him: “These souls cause Me more suffering than any others; it was from such souls that My soul felt the most revulsion in the Garden of Olives. It was on their account that I said: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass Me by.’ The last hope of salvation for them is to flee to My Mercy.”

    • St.Joseph says:

      overload.
      I like your comment. Very spiritual thinking.

      I dont think I said anything about priests going to confession only I know that they do, also the Holy Father.

    • milliganp says:

      Private revelations, even to a canonised Saint, have no standing in the Catholic Church. Again the alleged revelation contradicts directly the theology of God’s omniscience and impassibility.
      The suggestion that Christ ever felt certain people were not worth saving is a blasphemy.

  48. Singalong says:

    Overlord, thank you for amplifying the meaning of the feast so well.

    John, the Sunday after we celebrate Our Lord’s Resurrection, the foundation of our faith and our hope for redemption, is the ideal day to celebrate His great mercy to mankind and to beg and intercede that it will be applied to us and to the whole world. As far as I know Low Sunday is not an actual feast, it just describes the lesser liturgical celebration of a Low Mass after the High Mass of Easter.

    • John Nolan says:

      Singalong, what we refer to as Low Sunday is in fact the Octave Day of Easter or Dominica in Albis; it is one of a few First Class Sundays which cannot give way to any feast, the others being the Sundays of Advent and Lent/Passiontide, and Pentecost Sunday. In the Novus Ordo it is even permitted to sing the Easter Sequence on that day.
      Anyway, as I pointed out, ‘Divine Mercy’ is not a feast, unlike that of the Sacred Heart which the Divine Mercy cult to a certain extent duplicates and (regrettably) usurps.

      Despite my admiration for JP II I can’t help feeling he got it wrong in this instance.

      • overload says:

        John, (and St Joseph with respect to your earlier comment about sinning by eating meat on friday’s) what do you think about this passage Colossians 2:16?
        “do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.”

      • milliganp says:

        Meat free Fridays are part of the discipline of the Church, a way of recalling the day of The Lord’s death, a breach is therefore unlikely to be a grave sin. Paul was referring to dietary laws and participating in the pagan lifestyle.

  49. overload says:

    Ignatius, did you get baptised when you joined the RCC, or was your full-immersion baptism counted as valid by the Catholic Church?

    St Joseph, I had been considering how it might be difficult for priests to acknowledge/recognise — and also confess or talk about — certain dimensions to their sinfulness (especially as priests). For instance the idea of the priest alone amongst the congregation drinking from the blessed cup I find confusing and disturbing. Many priests still practice this I think, and those that don’t, they may still be conditioned by something of this way of thinking. — Or perhaps an advocate of the Extraordinary Form can explain what this is about?
    Also, Priests don’t have the luxury of being able to examine their consciences before coming to the Eucharist — I mean, they can, but they cannot discreetly abstain I imagine (or can they?). And they may be so acclimatised to day-in day-out Eucharists that their examination of conscience is vulnerable to being hardened, roboticised, and numbed-out. And further, they may be conditioned to think of themselves (as “Father”-priest) invulnerable?
    And more; I have heard it said that the devil seeks especially to target consecrated souls.
    Obviously we need to pray for Priests, Cardinals and Popes, both for their sakes, and the sakes of those they shepherd.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Singalong.
      I was very young around 10 yrs if I remember rightly. I read a poem every day in the Irish Independant whilst staying with my grandmother, This one started my devotion to Jesus and His Blessed Mother. I think this is right.

      Upon a hill called Calvary they nailed Him to a Cross,
      And there were those who never knew their overwhelming loss.
      And there are those who live today in ignorance and in shame,
      who do not honour or respect the Glory of His name.
      For He was God who died for us with thorns around His Head.
      He was Jesus Son of God who suffered and who bled.
      So let us kneel before His Cross. and put away our pride.
      And ask forgiveness for our sins for which our Saviour died!

      Perhap it is more suitable for female hearts especially mothers- than some males!

      • Singalong says:

        Thank you St Joseph, what wonderful thoughts for a child to read, and what a great influence they had on your life.

      • overload says:

        In Christ there is no distinction between male and female. I think in Christ we all embrace both male and female in our nature, and/or the distinction between the two has been dissolved.
        Have said that, St Paul and St Peter tell us that women are under the authority of men. And, in light of our discussion of A & E; St Paul emphasises the need for women to be humble and submissive specifically because Eve induced Adam to sin.

  50. tim says:

    St Joseph,
    It’s great that you are well enough to resume contributing to the blog.

    I liked your verse. It may not be great poetry, but it is honest and above all, memorable – because it rhymes and scans!

    All very best wishes, Tim

  51. St.Joseph says:

    Overload
    We have the Catechism if the Catholic Church. It would help you a lot..

  52. overload says:

    Milliganp, “Meat free Fridays are part of the discipline of the Church, a way of recalling the day of The Lord’s death… unlikely to be a grave sin”. Why a sin at all and not rather a matter of encouragement and free will? And what about this one from Romans 14:5? —
    “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord… Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
    Non-Roman Catholic’s do not generally hold that eating meat on a friday is sin in any way. When I go to a non-Roman Catholic’s house (whether Christian or not) on a friday and they cook meat, what gospel am I proclaiming by refusing to partake for a reason which my inner-faith does not concur with easily?
    When I have an eating disorder and am obsessing day-in day-out about what I do and don’t eat and when and how much etc. etc., what help is this doctrine to my health and faith?

    St Joseph, thanks, I do read, and respect (in many ways), and pray about the Catechism, and I believe the Holy Scriptures are prime.

  53. Ignatius says:

    “Many people think that Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane was foremost in anticipation of the personal physical suffering awaiting him. Christ gave Faustina a deeper insight (this struck me in the night last night) — he was agonising to bear with the lukewarm and indifferent who were forsaking/betraying him: “These souls cause Me more suffering than any others; it was from such souls that My soul felt the most revulsion in the Garden of Olives. It was on their account that I said: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass Me by.’ The last hope of salvation for them is to flee to My Mercy.”

    But this kind of thing is problematic is it not? Christ died the death he died and anticipated it in the manner he anticipated it….You and I can add little more, to do so is to fantasise and sentimentalise something which was real to the last degree and completely lacking in sentiment. Recently we have all viewed men in orange suits close to being publicly beheaded. This was the kind of death Jesus died: brutal, horrible and real. The problem with the kind of stuff mentioned above is it detracts from the simple reality that Jesus was, as a man, broken completely by what he endured. If it were otherwise then there would be no comfort for those who suffer under burdens too heavy for them to carry. The sheer utter miracle of the cross and of Gethsemane is that all of it is known in heaven and that Jesus walked to and through it all, so that we may follow and know him in that and our suffering at our time of suffering. This reality far outweighs anything dreamed up along the way even with the best will in the world

  54. Singalong says:

    Ignatius, I don’t see how this is problematic or sentimental. As you say, Christ’s death was brutal and horrifying, and he suffered real torments of every kind. I must have been told when young that one of them, especially in the garden of Gethsemane, was extreme misery at the thought of our ingratitude, that He was to suffer so much and we would still not love Him enough. I think it helps enormously to try and imagine what that was like for Him, and to think of this, and to realise that He has undergone it all for us, and understands in His own person every kind of suffering we may have, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Of course we do not know the full reality, but if we do not use our imaginations sometimes, the Cross becomes just a symbol which we can be in danger of taking for granted.

  55. overload says:

    Following Ignatius and Singalong: also remember that the cross meant his own people (Israel) loosing their King and Lord — lost sheep being abandoned; as with his disciples. I remember watching an Attenborough film about the Dalai Lama; it may not have been accurate, but somethig that really struck me was when he decided he had to leave Tibet (and thus his people): with spiritual vision he saw a safe journey, but he saw no return. The whole journey to India on the back of a horse/mule/donkey, he was slumped and draped over the animal, completely drained of energy. I thought, why is he like this, he is not ill?

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