Science, faith and resurrection

What is this Science and Faith column all about? It has now passed its fifth anniversary, and we have welcomed new readers, so it is time for a review. 2009 was the Year of Darwin, and we thought we should focus on the meeting point between our faith and the wonderful achievements of science. The relationship between the theory of evolution and our belief in God’s creation was a fitting point to start.

In over 130 columns we have looked at a great number of topics – from pre-human ancestors to psychopathic world leaders, from temptation to righteous anger, from marriage to meditation, from mitochondria transfer to Liverpool Care, from justice to disgust — a broad waterfront. One recurrent theme has been the direct effect the brain has on our choices. Another has been our exploration of DNA, with its thriving, brother — epigenetics.

The interface between faith and science is where the column focuses. Take, as one example, the question of altruism. A scientist will explain just how altruism serves human societies and so can be regarded as an outcome of evolution. But we would want to say that love of neighbour is at the heart of our calling to which we respond through the grace of God. In another example, a scientist may tell us that our decisions are in fact determined by a myriad of antecedent causes: we reply that our freedom of will is a characteristic reflecting the image of God. Science and faith are not opposed, like the body and the soul, they complement.

In a recent television drama a pathologist was asked if she believed in the existence of souls. She said: “Yes. When I am working on a body I know that the person who inhabited that body is no longer there.” Her simple recognition that living human beings are both physical and spiritual reminds us that, although we may separate the two for our mundane explanations, the soul is the form of the body and principle of its living unity. When a person dies, that unity disintegrates. But, we believe, not forever. While the Catechism wisely avoids specifics, it firmly teaches the resurrection of the body within a redeemed universe. The glorified body of Christ, who eats fish with his apostles, is the pledge of our ultimate salvation.

But do we believe it? Do we in fact only think of ourselves as souls trapped, fortunately temporarily, in rather unsatisfactory bodies – looking forward to the day when our liberated spirits swoop up to the Almighty? If so, we approach heresy. We are not here to save our souls but to save ourselves, body and soul. We are not angels. Time does not pass between death and resurrection.

Paul tells us (in Romans) that we and all creation groan in travail together awaiting our resurrection. This expectation should spur us on as we inherit Adam’s vocation to care for the earth which will one day be transformed into our fitting home. When we first try to come to terms with this doctrine it may seem to us to approach fantasy. Getting our imagination around it is not hard; it is impossible. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered the heart of man what things God has prepared for those who love him.” Words failed St Paul, and they fail us.

We all know that, as a result of the Fall, we struggle to bring the human body, with all its passions and infirmities, under the control of right reason. To do that we must try to understand it better in both its psychological and physical elements. Similarly, we need to understand material creation to which we must bring order. The work of science is not mere utility, it is an element of salvation, foreshadowing promised transformation.

When I first undertook the column I realised that I needed to be literate in theology, science and philosophy. But I am no polymath. My long term memory has migrated to jumbo hard disks, my shelves bulge with books and periodicals. And the biggest thief of my time is research. Often the essence of a column comes to me when, in those precious moments before I sleep, ideas from several, hitherto unrelated, disciplines, come together.

Nor must I forget http://www.secondsightblog.net , where the columns appear on line. Thankfully there are many comments, often exceeding three figures. I am frequently, and usefully, taken to task, or my ideas constructively extended. We even have one contributor who undertakes the function of disputing all things Catholic. Unfortunately, or fortunately, he is extremely well read – and keeps us on our toes. No surprise that his nom de blog is Advocatus Diaboli. It is only, said John Stuart Mill, when our propositions have survived every objection that can be raised against them, that we have good title to hold them.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, Church and Society, Moral judgment, Quentin queries, Spirituality and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

75 Responses to Science, faith and resurrection

  1. Vincent says:

    Glad to see AV gets a mention. I expect he’s now embarrassed with pleasure!
    While I get Quentin’s point about the duties we have with regard to all creation (it’s what I understand God required of Adam) I don’t see how this would affect a resurrected cosmos. For instance, beating climate change would be good news, but how would this affect the resurrected earth?

    • Brendan says:

      Vincent, for the purpose of our discussion – the interface between science and faith – I believe you are asking the right question.
      For those who did not see it , can I draw attention to an Horizon program, ” Secrets of the Solar System. on BBC 2 last Tuseday. Details of which can be found on the channels online service. Quoting from the Radio Times : ” Planets are being discovered outside Earth’s solar system on a regular basis. These strange new worlds are now forcing scientists to rewrite the history of how the Sun – as well as the planets, satellites dwarf planets, asteroids and comets that orbit it – came into being. We are shown here how, far from being a simple story of stable objects objects orbiting a star, the development of the solar system was so potent a combination of hell-fire, chaos and planetary pinball that our planet’s creation seems all the more miraculous. ”
      The key to this seems to be the planet Jupiter. The giant gas ball .. ” that might have changed orbit after bumping around in this game of ‘ planetary pinball .’
      With the facts just barely fresh in my mind ( I wish I recorded the program ) , this I believe has far reaching implications on the compelling view that behind this was a Creator who fashioned a situation termed ‘ miraculous ‘ whereby the special position of Earth in our solar system was unique in its positioning and circumstances whereby human life could evolve. More evidence I think for belief in a benevolent God !

      • St.Joseph says:

        Brendan.What you say is very true. More evidence for belief in a benevolent God.
        I wonder where Christianity would stand then.Would more people believe in Jesus,and the Gospels
        That would be interesting..

      • milliganp says:

        Firstly, Brendan, it’s available on iPlayer. Secondly, I came away far less sure that scientific experts are right; They are only as good as the data behind their speculations. This has left me far less likely to assume that three key areas of science are ‘right’, since they all depend on internal orthodoxies within science groups and complex models over vast time scales which cannot be ‘proven’. The three areas, cosmology, evolution and climate change all impact on the interface between faith and reason. My world is suddenly less certain.

      • Alan says:

        “whereby the special position of Earth in our solar system was unique in its positioning and circumstances whereby human life could evolve.”

        We would seem to have won the lottery. We think it’s the Jackpot? We know how many tickets were sold?

        I missed the Horizon episode. My brother mentioned it to me. He seemed to think the differences in the planets we have been finding might be to do with the methods of detection – at least to some extent. Large bodies rotating rapidly close to a star will be easier to spot perhaps.

      • milliganp says:

        Another contribution on our ‘unique’ status as a planet; the moon provides tides as well as moonlight. Without tides so much of our ecology wouldn’t exist, without the cycle of the moon we woudn’t have our calendar.

      • Alasdair says:

        Hell-fire, chaos and planetary pinball would seem to be the norm around the universe – but not round here – not lately. The ingredients and cooking instructions for complex life are astronomically improbable. Moreover, for life to become complex, intelligent life, requires the necessary conditions to prevail for billions of years. Enough to convince anyone of the existance of a benevolent creator, you would have thought. Not so apparently. The (highly speculative) scientific explanation is that we just happen to inhabit a tolerable universe within a bewildering multiverse – an infinity of alternative universes within which, not only do the conditions for life not exist, but even atoms wouldn’t have formed from the primordial pre-atomic stuff.

    • Advocatus Diaboli says:

      Oh I am quite overcome — I knew I would be famous one day!

      As to your question, I really shouldn’t worry Vincent. This bizarre doctrine might just have passed muster in primitive superstitious times when everyone assumed that the world was the centre of the universe. But now that we know that it is no more than a speck in space it is really rather ridiculous. What happens to the rest of the universe? Try to imagine everyone being able to pass through walls, to appear and disappear — and under no circumstances to have sex. What are you going to say to your great great great etc grandmother when you meet her? And how about nature suddenly perfected — can you imagine that. I really don’t need to go on do I?

      • St.Joseph says:

        AD.
        ‘O Ye of little Faith’.
        What is so wonderful about sex anyway? Compared to Heaven!

      • milliganp says:

        Without defending AD, sex is the most important faculty humans have as it transmits life, creating new humans with immortal souls in the image of God. Obviously, in heaven, creation will have attained its purpose and new life will not be needed.
        AD, what makes you think there will be walls in heaven to pass through?

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        Milliganp, I see that you accord with the view that sex is only about reproduction, and not about love and relationships. If you are married you must have had a dull time.

        Should there be no walls in your new earth it will not be necessary to pass through them. But, if there are, no need to worry — St John’s gospel described two incidents where post-resurrection Jesus joins the disciples despite the door being closed and locked. Left a window open perhaps?

  2. Brendan says:

    Yes Saint Joseph – ‘ sic transit gloria mundi ! ‘ Against A.D., let’s try and muster between ourselves some ‘ big guns ‘ in support of the ‘ miraculous ‘ amid the God-given material world we inhabit. Not having the academic breadth , I point to the renowned materials scientist Sir Colin Humphries .FRS, a committed Christian who’s Faraday Schools Lecture , ” Can a Scientist believe in Miracles ” is available on-line.
    By happy coincidence I hope to attend next Monday an open lecture with Q&A’s ( as part of a Theological Lectures series ) at the Faraday Lecture Hall , Swansea University , 7.00 pm. by Sir Colin , on the same topic.
    I know Iona lives in Wales , so maybe others among’st us who are aware of his work can benefit from this lecture .

  3. Brendan says:

    Milliganp – ..” three main areas …. internal orhodoxies ” .
    But isn’t it possible that these ‘ orhodoxies ‘ will have to be revised by scientists backed up by the chaotic ‘ pinball ‘ effect of the ‘bad’ boy Jupiter ( albeit corroborated only by computer projection ) , simply because of the ‘ unusual ‘ – against current scientific orthodox theory – behaviour of matter ( known or newly-discovered metals )?
    Maybe I will have a different view from you having received this live Lecture , on the belief that God can make positive effect out of seemly negative events. Maybe the perspective Luck, Chance and Miracle will become ever more sharper in my mind.

    • milliganp says:

      Brendan, I’m not sure why you think I would see ‘accident’ and miracle in a different way. I attended a series of Faraday lectures in London a few years ago. One of the points made was that some miracles are natural events that happen with unnatural timing (e.g. the crossing of the Jordan by Joshua and the people of Israel to enter the promised land, water coming from the rock for Moses.)
      What did come out in Horizon programme is that our solar system seems singularly different to those so far discovered; but even if we’re the only solar system of our type in our galaxy, there ate ~100 Billion galaxies to consider!

      • Brendan says:

        Plainly you don’t , and not surprisingly I can add nothing to distinguish between ‘accident ‘ and ‘ miracle ‘. There is no reason for me to believe that God did not use natural events with unnatural ( ? His own ) timing to good effect , or for that matter mixing both accident and miracle. I suspect Prof. Humphries will say that much in his lecture. The suppositions arising out of the Horizon programme can on face value bear that one conclusion you mention. Not withstanding many other billions of other galaxies to consider, my sense of wonder will still marvel at the fact that Earth and ourselves seem to be so different to all the other entities in our solar system as to merit from someone ( God ) , somewhere, that sense of consciousness that wants to know ourselves and the world (s) we inhabit.

      • St.Joseph says:

        How do we know that all the rockets going into space will not affect the natural events that God created .
        I too watched the Horizon programme. What benefits can it teach us on earth.
        As far as the Moon affecting the tide, I used to be mesmerised by this living by the sea for a while.
        I wonder what would happen if the Moon was affected with all the exploration in our solar system.!
        I expect I will be thought of being negative.!

      • overload says:

        I have heard that the moon also effects (creates) some kind of gravitational (or some-such) field around the earth, which (if I remember correctly) apparently effects the suns rays and allows for photosynthesis, which is fundamental for the build up a habitable atmosphere and life as we know it.
        Also, from our vantage point, the sun and moon appear to be exactly the same size. Is this coincidence, or does this reveal some kind of relative relational balance which we depend upon?
        Also, it is interesting about the moon being “locked” in orbit of earth, so there is a “dark side of the moon” which we never see from earth. I did wonder why we always see the moon’s ‘human face’, until I learnt about this.

        St Joseph, how do you propose that mankind’s activity in space could effect the moon?
        I once read something along the lines that Hopi Indians prophesied that when man travels to the moon, and when man uses spiders-webs in the sky for communication, the world will end.

      • overload says:

        St Joseph,
        I have had many and diverse disturbing dreams/nightmares about rocketing into space, or being in space, or lost in space (including a vivid nightmare/revelation about Jupiter), though I don’t think I have ever been to the moon in a dream; unless I’m already living on it so it’s too close to my nose!

  4. St.Joseph says:

    Milliganp.
    ‘Sex in itself is not important’
    It is an abuse as to how God Created humans in the beginning.And is still being abused in ways that I need not go into details!

    • milliganp says:

      St Joseph, firstly you include a quote I didn’t make and secondly you misunderstand the creation story; God’s first command was “go forth and multiply”. I doubt God’s plan was to spend eternity with 2 people plus a load of animals.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Milliganp. You say.
        St Joseph, firstly you include a quote I didn’t make and secondly you misunderstand the creation story;.
        Yes God did command Adam and Eve to go forth and multiply..
        Of course Gods plan was not to spend eternity with 2 people plus a load of animals! However His plan was to place sexual relationship as you said-but He did not want ‘sex’ as it is portrayed outside marriage and perhaps inside marriage too.
        Our bodies are to be respected the way God intended and not bring it down to the level the way it insults Gods Design!
        Sexual intercourse between two people to my mind is ‘making love’ !Without being a puritan!

  5. St.Joseph says:

    If God made other Planets for man to dwell in.
    I wonder how far they have reached to know Jesus. Or perhaps they have not been saved yet!

  6. Brendan says:

    The whole concept of ‘ birth ‘ and renewal ‘ is cosmic in nature as Romans suggests. Destruction appears necessary even there where the cycle of dying and rebirth is ever present – as a consequence of Creation’s Fall from Grace. It appears – not withstanding miracles – that painful as it may often seem, changing many times in the cosmic sense is necessary to reach perfection, as the Blessed Newman posits.While we have plenty of time as we ” groan ” under its weight ,God exists awaiting us in a different dimension of time and space. To me it is God’s way of reminding us of the enormity of his Creation beyond our solar System, and in teasing us about our ‘ special ‘ position in his Divine Pleasure ( Plan ). This is the humour in St. Joseph’s comment on being ” saved “. When the Christ- child leaped in Mary’s womb ( Earth ), we ( the Cosmos ) leaped too. Milliganp’s ‘ natural events ‘ with unnatural timing ‘ displayed at His Birth.
    Cor.1 chap.15 – makes it clear that Christ in the cosmic sense will gather ALL the saved, the Heavens and the Earth in one final cosmic event and in obeyance ” hand over the kingdom [ Christ’s domain of Love ] to God the Father…so that God may be all in all. ” ( NJB ) – realising the full meaning of Resurrection, when since historical Pentecost Christ-ians have lived and loved in His kingdom on Earth , awaiting God’s pleasure……. Maranatha !

  7. overload says:

    Quentin said “The glorified body of Christ, who eats fish with his apostles, is the pledge of our ultimate salvation.”

    This is not the glorified but resurrected body of Christ. With reference to His (and our) glorified body—what it is/will-be like—St. Paul dismisses “stupid questions”, and makes reference to the difference between a seed and the plant which grows from it.

  8. overload says:

    Quentin said “We are not here to save our souls but to save ourselves, body and soul.”

    We are not called to save our souls (as for the body, it has been said that the flesh is the “hinge of salvation” — I forget where this quote comes from), but to believe that that we have been saved, and to allow this power of salvation to both hold us, and live within and through us; us standing firm and awake (which again is enabled by this power).
    Whatever of our salvation comes from “our own” works (ie. avoiding sin and works of love) is firmly to be understood as Christ living in and through us. To understand this, we must understand that—in response to the cry of our heart, and perhaps more often even without it—He first claims us and holds us. We, according to our fallible understanding, should not imprison ourselves by measuring our salvation, it’s outworking, or it’s prerequisite conditions; as exemplified by the salvation of the good thief.

    • milliganp says:

      Overlord, you have put this very well. However, many Catholics (particularly those with a memory of the pre-Vatican II church) have been brought up to believe that we have to save our souls, rather than allowing Christ to save us. It all got confused as an over-reaction to the Protestant reformers doctrine of faith alone (and was already confused by the many erroneous practices around indulgences).
      However Christ does talk of a final judgement based on what we have done in life rather than simply on what we have believed.

      • overload says:

        “Christ does talk of a final judgement based on what we have done in life rather than simply on what we have believed.”

        Yes. But, perhaps simplification is our freedom and truest measure; if only it is not our only measure?
        If I believe in the power of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection…

        “I think, therefore I am.”
        I think so; yet I do not necessarily believe so.
        I do believe; therefore I do.
        I/you see not what good I do? Yet I do it still; I know it, because I believe.

  9. overload says:

    Quentin said “We are not angels. Time does not pass between death and resurrection.”

    What is being said here?
    Do Angels not have bodies? Do Angels not have any existence in time? How do we know that time does not pass between death and resurrection?

    • milliganp says:

      It is my understanding of our doctrines concerning God, the created spiritual order and the created material order that the spiritual order is, like God, timeless; God apprehends the whole of time at once.
      In our Creed we say of Christ that He was begotten, not made to differentiate Him from either merely being a “super-angel” or a “super-human”.
      The material order has 4 dimensions, the fourth being time and we can only apprehend our material being in time, we may read about the past and dream about the future but we only directly experience the present –and, as we experience it, it becomes the past.
      If that’s not well put, we experience time as sequence – we can place the British Monarchs in order, and have no ability to genuinely comprehend eternity because we are bound up in time.
      God, Heaven and eternity do not have sequence. In heaven we won’t go to a new banquet every day, there will be one, eternal, banquet.
      Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, it will only become clear when we get there.

    • St.Joseph says:

      overload.
      Our Blessed Mother is appearing all over the world.. We believe She Assumed Body and Soul into Heaven.
      How would one believe that we will be the same (if pass judgement) our mortal bodies be the same. after the resurrection?..
      She is special being our Mother.
      Just a thought!

      • overload says:

        St Joseph
        (I don’t know what you are trying to ask.)
        Not just Our Blessed Mother is appearing all over the world, there are also numerous churches appearing all over the world.
        We are asked to “test the spirits” and to “test everything”.
        BTW in the last discussion you mentioned the statue of Our Lady of Monstserrat. I looked this up on google and I think it looks quite unusual, however I don’t believe it portrays the kind of “black” Mary I was talking about.

  10. overload says:

    Quentin said “We all know that, as a result of the Fall, we struggle to bring the human body, with all its passions and infirmities, under the control of right reason. To do that we must try to understand it better in both its psychological and physical elements. Similarly, we need to understand material creation to which we must bring order. The work of science is not mere utility, it is an element of salvation, foreshadowing promised transformation.”

    Perhaps if before the fall Adam and Eve had developed nano-robots to auto correct their behaviour, or both had mobile phones (connected to the internet), then they would not have taken the forbidden fruit!

    • milliganp says:

      There is a variation on your humorous comment. Did Jesus know Pauli’s exclusion principle? Jesus could read the hearts of men whose language he did not speak but, in his humanity, he was bounded by the knowledge and experience of his immediate world.

  11. Ignatius says:

    MilliganP:

    “..This has left me far less likely to assume that three key areas of science are ‘right’, since they all depend on internal orthodoxies within science groups and complex models over vast time scales which cannot be ‘proven’. The three areas, cosmology, evolution and climate change all impact on the interface between faith and reason. My world is suddenly less certain….”

    Surely this is progress!!?

    It seems to me that we easily ‘prove’ our science by its application in the present ..e.g medicine, th chemical industry, physics in terms of our ability to say steer a satellite 10 years through space to search out comet or to develop the technology for mobile phones and to construct vast cities. On the other hand as you say the theorising comes out of orthodoxies which science itself from time to time seems happy to discard even though we the laity would much prefer a static theory base for we believe it as dogma.
    I tend to enjoy the internal contradictions and quite like it that our theories of big things cannot be related to our theories of small things; the ground of contradiction is also the ground of mystery and the ground of mystery is also the ground of faith.

    • milliganp says:

      My sphere of expertise is electronics and computing; when you watch the world cup trillions of quantum events are necessary for everybody to see the same ball going into the same net, but it works. The best bits of science are good, but things we can’t reproduce in a lab (evolution, global warming and certain elements of cosmology) are necessarily less certain.

      • Alan says:

        milliganp,

        Would something like continental drift, or rather the particular idea that certain land masses were once connected, share that sort of uncertainty do you think?

      • milliganp says:

        Alan, I would class continental drift closer to ‘real’ science as there is plenty of hard evidence of past events and ongoing activity (we still have earthquakes and volcanoes). However any certainty of events millions to billions of years ago seems to rely on scientific consensus rather than hard, verifiable knowledge. There are those who deny carbon dating but we know that atomic decay is a precise science and there is little evidence of masking events on a global scale.

      • Alan says:

        Milligap, I would say much the same thing about continental drift as you do. I would also put at least evolution (perhaps more) into broadly the same category of real science and for the same reasons as you outline for the historical movement of land masses. Lots of hard evidence of past events, the equivalent of ongoing volcanoes and earthquakes, some understanding of the proposed mechanism and little evidence of a cover up or conspiracy.

  12. Iona says:

    It sometimes seems to be suggested that at death our souls are separated from our bodies, and are not embodied again until the general resurrection following Christ’s second coming. This may be what Quentin means by saying there is no time between our death and our resurrection, – we can’t actually exist as disembodied souls so for each of us we go instantaneously from death to resurrection. Quentin will correct me if I’ve misinterpreted him. And perhaps I have, because the saints are in heaven and we are encouraged to ask for their intercession (St. Therese of Lisieux declared that she was going to spend her Heaven doing good on earth) so either they are doing it in spite of being disembodied or they are bodily in heaven even though the general resurrection hasn’t yet happened.
    Brendan – it is true that both Swansea and I are in Wales, but we are at least 60 miles apart and I don’t think I can make that talk you mentioned. Is it tomorrow (9th March), by the way, or the following Monday?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Iona, The thought too entered my mind that the tme from death to resurrection would be immediate., It could be that our spiritual body will take on a’ resemblence’ to our earthly one As that will be corrupt eventually.
      I believe our soul when we die will resemble our resurrected body.,.
      Jesus was not recognised when He rose from the dead,although it was His Body with the wounds. And 33 years old.
      This is getting more complicated as I am writing this iona! But I know what ‘I’ mean. maybe you can decipher this in more detail.
      Our Lady would be old when She died but young when She appears, according to the visionaries. Also some Saints bodies have not corupted.
      These are just thoughts!

    • Quentin says:

      This is heady stuff, Iona! You haven’t misunderstood me – but we are in an area important to philosophical investigation. Immanuel Kant is the big name here. He held that time and space are filters through which human beings understand experience, but are not objective entities in their own right. So it is quite correct to pray to St Therese as if she were bounded by space and time. But she isn’t. Were you to be able to grasp just what this means in practice, or to get your imagination around it, then you simply wouldn’t have understood the problem!

      • overload says:

        Quentin.
        “[Kant] held that time and space are filters through which human beings understand experience, but are not objective entities in their own right. So it is quite correct to pray to St Therese as if she were bounded by space and time. But she isn’t.”

        Quentin, forgive me if I misunderstand, but according to what you say here, might I not also say that “it is quite correct to talk to Quentin as if he were bounded by space and time. But he isn’t.”
        If so, this apparently gives no differentiation between earthly and heavenly ‘bodies’ / existence.

        My thought is that if St Therese is already fully perfected with Christ, then I think she is not bound by time or space (this does not mean she does not have some degree of existence within time and space—otherwise how can she have any kind of body?).
        If ‘she’ is now as an angel (is the distinction of ‘her’ sexuality necessarily maintained?), but who is not yet fully perfected, then perhaps she has a degree of dependence on/in time and space, although this might be far removed from our relationship with—and understanding of—time and space.

      • Quentin says:

        Overload, I did try to warn against speculation. We simply don’t have the language to describe what happens outside space and time, and to try to use it to achieve meaning in human terms merely ends up in confusion. I know that St Therese is with God; I know that she is open to my prayers. Beyond that, I will keep my knickers happily untwisted – because it’s all I need to know.

    • milliganp says:

      On the feast of All Saints we think of all those saints who are not canonised, which includes all those who have passed through purgatory (whatever that means). At every mass I attend I sell all those who have ever received the Eucharist present at the same instant as the mass is always one with the sacrifice of calvary.

      • milliganp says:

        Correction: “I see all those who have ever received the Eucharist…”

      • overload says:

        “At every mass I attend I sell all those who have ever received the Eucharist present at the same instant”
        Maybe “sell” is the correct word?
        Is it possible to commune with the body and blood of Christ without ever partaking in the Eucharist?

      • St.Joseph says:

        overload.
        I have not been able to go to Holy Mass except for a couple of times since last July.
        However I have received Holy Communion, often, and today I was able to go to Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
        Do you mean the Eucharist as Holy Mass or just receiving Our Lord.?
        I felt very close to Jesus today as if I had received Him , it was a Spiritual Communion ,I dont believe I could have felt closer to Him than in that Holy hour.

      • overload says:

        St Joseph, you say you felt very close to Jesus as if you had received Him when at the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament recently. Have you ever felt like this when not in the presence of the host?

  13. overload says:

    According to my understanding of what I have read of Buddhist Scripture (the Pali Cannon), Gautama Buddha died when He was about 80 years old. Higher beings crowded round, filling every available space, to be in His presence when his body “broke apart” (—I think this was the wording used). When He had expired, there was not any body, soul, spirit, resurrection, nor rebirth, nor anything (no desire for any of these things)—except nibbana/nirvana (perfect peace), which He had already ‘attained’, or awoken to, in his late 30’s. When attaining nibbana as a youngish man, it was then with “elements of form” (ie. human and spiritual person—’mind and body’ in broader sense—remaining)… His continued existence until 80 was apparently for the sake of other beings (ie. no longer any necessary desire for His own sake to cling to form, sensation, perception, volition and consciousness).

    • overload says:

      Assuming this story about Buddha Gautama’s death is true—and for that matter, that anyone here is interested—then I give you these thoughts/opinions:

      It is said that the Buddha taught both humans and even higher beings (‘gods’ & ‘demi-gods’). His teachings have universal significance, however, after his death, even though there continued many followers who were also fully enlightened, the effectiveness (power) of His teaching and the spiritual community in His name, was apparently bound to loose its full force (ie. applicability to mankind).
      There was apparently some kind of subtle explosion of grace (like a nuclear explosion) at the Buddha’s “breaking apart” (death), however this explosion did not fill the whole universe, hence gods and demi-gods (angels) came to gather round him to embrace the power of this moment.
      Here a comparison can be made with Christ Jesus, who, according to Scripture, was not ‘perfect’ in the strict sense when amongst us in the flesh, but was perfected (“to the rank of Melchizedek”) for our sakes on the cross:
      “He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.” Ephesians 4:10
      This from Ephesians says to me that His resurrected body and ascension—apart from being a living sign to the Apostles and to us—was necessary so that the explosion/implosion of the crucifixion might “fill the whole universe”. Otherwise, for His own sake—perhaps—He need not of clung anymore to body and spirit.

  14. Brendan says:

    Iona. Mar. 8 ; 8.50pm.

    It’s tonight , Iona . I only live about 8-9 Miles from the Uni. If I feel I have something to contribute to the blog I’ll get back. Hopefully I will glean something from the lecture so as to give the Spirit of God something to work on. That’s what works for me !

  15. Brendan says:

    I’m sorry about this Quentin, but apart from your Blog I feel quite ‘ evangelical ‘ about family history research. For all those interested , here is a ‘ free ‘ weekend ‘ on Findmypast ( with no obligation ) – ends mid-day today !

    • Quentin says:

      Brendan

      I am sure you understand why I am reluctant to have the Blog used as a noticeboard for matters that are outside our remit. I am only leaving this one to stand to enable me to clarify the position.

  16. Brendan says:

    ” Zeal for your house consumes me….. ” ( Isaiah )

    • St.Joseph says:

      Quentin,
      Has science told us something about Jesus’ Ressurection from the dead!.
      Faith has told us ,however can science in some term explain it.
      A miracle, that science has not accepted. Or has it?

      • Brendan says:

        I believe St. Augustine ( on thoughts articulated earlier by Aristotle ) – I feel sure Quentin will correct me if necessary – said that things that have not been explained by natural law have yet to be discovered . We may say now , that which remains unknown is perhaps God changing the same ‘ music ‘ by adding ‘ incidentals ‘ by sounding different although having the same key signature e.g. The Resurrection.

  17. Martha says:

    When accounts of near death experiences started to circulate some years ago, I was very enthusiastic about their implications. However, research which appears to show that these are more likely to be manifestations of electrical activity in the brain, seems to be quite plausible, and I wonder now if they are of any real interest or value?

    • milliganp says:

      We are physical beings and all brain activity is effected by electrical activity; so a vision to a saint or a near death experience will both be manifest by electrical activity; It is the source of the activity that is miraculous. One of the great lies of science is to confuse knowledge with understanding. Oscar Wilde has Lord Darlington quip that a cynic is ‘a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.’ Science needs, of its nature, to question but many scientists today have crossed the line into mere cynicism.

      • Martha says:

        Thank you, Milliganp. However, I do not think that it is the mechanism operating which determines the reality of an experience. Electrical activity must be the mechanism which produces hallucinations also, so I am afraid I am not much the wiser! There must be some other means of determining the validity of these experiences. Perhaps we can rely on “internal evidence” such as tops of cupboards being clearly seen by the seemingly dead person, when that is described?

  18. Brendan says:

    What if ‘ love ‘ were at the centre of the Universe ? What if the spirit of something else was at the centre of the Universe and not the letter of the Law ? Then of course as we know in faith, Love would be God.
    If we really believed that the Beatitudes of the Kingdom of ‘ love ‘ focused on the ” interior fulfillment of God’s Law [ The Ten Commandments ] “, then ” they reveal the law of God’s love against which there is no law. ” ( The 3 Bishops of the Welsh Province ) ; God is free to change / rearrange the ” music ” of Laws ( Love ) in which case .. ” miracles are all around us .” ( Sir Colin Humphries, FRS. )

  19. Brendan says:

    Q.E.D. – ” The work of science is not mere utility, it is an element of salvation, foreshadowing promised salvation. ” – in faith, Amen.

    • overload says:

      Brendan, responding to this comment and your other recent comments about music, Law, love and The Resurrection…
      My opinion is there may be a place to consider the work of science (perhaps including the climate change issue) as “an element of salvation” and “foreshadowing promised salvation”, however we need to careful here.
      Firstly, you talk about the “key signature” which is The Resurrection. No—it is both The Cross and The Resurrection. The power of The Resurrection working in our world and in our lives does not supersede the Crucifixion. We cannot say that Jesus died on the cross for us so that we can put the cross behind us (with just an image and a remembrance to ‘worship’).
      Secondly, we should be careful not to glorify science or become attached to a scientific (worldly) vision of God’s Kingdom and Peace. Even if such a vision might be fulfilled (at best for a short while) as an outward manifestation of true justice and peace—such a possibility assumes dependance upon first an inward manifestation of true justice and peace (ie. The Church building up in love) flourishing far more than it does today. An outward sign/manifestation/vehicle is not to be clung to or depended upon, but to indicate the inner reality, and give a form of space (according to form) for such to be unavoidably recognised by all—it can then be ignored or embraced.

      • Brendan says:

        I agree; but in practical terms , we live in three dimensions – we are not visions to each other in life – the Church needs to be ” built ” up – as a visible sign of God’d Kingdom to ourselves to glorify in Christ’s name and to draw in others through this sign of contradiction to a fallen world. Are you here, considering another ‘ religion ( way ) ? Faith is a living reality for Christians – we are put in touch with the ineffable through our free will.
        In considering Law , Love and Resurrection I am talking about the ineffable, things beyond time and space – God’s Kngdom ( Reality ) – although there is no Law in that place , just the Law of Love.

      • overload says:

        “Are you here, considering another ‘ religion ( way ) ?”
        No Brendan, I am not. I was asking you the same question.
        If we (the RCC) come to a doctrinal belief that climate change is a prophesied reality (? cite Pope Francis’ coming encyclical on Climate Change), and that the power of the resurrection (manifest through science and human cooperation—Christian and unbelievers alike—mediated/headed by Pope Frances) can save this planet and the human race from climate disaster, then we must be very careful that we do not loose sight of the True Way, which includes the reality that every day (with or without the success of science and/or the realising of a form of world peace) is the resurrection, as also is every day the crucifixion… until the End of Time.

  20. Iona says:

    Are near-death experiences always pleasant and reassuring? Or are there records of people having terrifying NDEs?

  21. Martha says:

    Iona, this is one aspect which has puzzled me, as I had only read pleasant and reassuring accounts, but a very quick search on Google, following your comment, shows that there are also many very frightening experiences recorded, which do not seem to have had as much publicity. One I have picked out is: http://www.victorzammit.com/book/chapter06.html but there may well be others much better.

    • Brendan says:

      Martha – for sure these are strange occurences . I do not belief ‘ standstill ‘ to be death itself, therefore I see these manifestations ( N.D.E. ) as in our ‘ time ‘ psychological/ physical symptoms of something deeper in the person. No speculation can be ‘ unhelpful ‘ as the composer of your piece describes one theory ; to me at present, one theory seems as good as another.
      One could speculate that St. Paul on the road to Damascus had a similar experience.

    • overload says:

      Martha, I read this article recently; the man had both heaven and hell near death experience at one time:
      http://www.camdennewjournal.com/moorgatesurvivor

  22. Brendan says:

    Overload -To some extent we are battling against each here. No ifs and buts , prophesying came to an end with the coming of The Word made flesh. The True Way is for Christ through his Church to have the Truth with every generation, interpreted through its Bishops with the Pope as guarantor on this Earth. The Second Vatican Council was the latest revelation within His pilgrim Church.
    In freeing ourselves from sin , every day presents us ( The church ) with Resurrection which will inevitably have a cosmic ( His Creation ) affect. In that sense it is not we who can be crucified every day , it is Christ.

  23. overload says:

    I hope I and/or you are not getting pedantic here.
    “In that sense it is not we who can be crucified every day , it is Christ.”
    OK, yes, and the same goes: it is not us but Christ who is resurrected every day.

    We are, the Apostle Paul tells us, united with Christ by baptism into his death and resurrection.
    So what does this mean?
    I understand that our sinful nature is nailed to the cross by believing (with baptism). And so also (in some sense) is our body, blood and soul, united with His body, blood, soul and divinity on the cross.
    We are told to “pick up your daily cross and follow me”.
    So whilst our sinful nature being crucified might be a joyful and suffering-free experience (so much as we experience it), we cannot get away from the fact that our becoming-one with Christ means uniting with Him; becoming, in some way(s) or another, a part/fulfilment/enlargement of His freewill sacrifice and passion on the cross; giving Him witness; becoming Him.
    In the Eucharist, we both receive Christ as the sacrifice and we give ourselves to Him as the sacrifice. So we offer up ourselves (as Him) for the salvation of others (in ‘the world’), and for the perfecting of the Church.

  24. Iona says:

    Thank you, Overload and Brendan – very interesting articles.

  25. St.Joseph says:

    overload.
    Almighty God is everywhere, there is no where that He isn’t!.
    He knows all sees all and hears all.
    Jesus’s Real Presence Body and Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Host in the Tabernacle and on the Altar .and when we are their in His Presence without other distractions we can meditate more fully with Jesus our Saviour…
    In our homes we have images of Jesus, however that is not the same as being wholly in His Presence as He was on earth with His Apostles..
    This to me is the Power of the Blessed Trinity.

    My mother would not pass a Catholic Church without making the Sign of the Cross.
    I still do, also my son who is 50..

  26. Alasdair says:

    Apparently only something like 2% of our DNA consists of genes that perform any known function. The remaining 98% has been dubbed “junk DNA” although it is still uniquely “us” and is useful for DNA identification. Could it be that the unallocated 98% is the extra capacity allocated for the “downloading” of the extra genes that will form our resurrected uncorruptable selves? There is certainly a lot of data to install and we know that the process can take about 3 days!

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