Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thank God today for the Immaculate Conception!

The original sin of Adam and Eve was a calamity for the world. People continue to disobey God and we seem to be victim to their terrible designs. Little did the workers at the twin towers know on the morning of 9/11 what would happen to them because of original and actual sin. Even nature is affected by this disobedience. Nature rebels in floods, earthquakes, fires, and blizzards that injure and kill the innocent and guilty alike. Even our bodies rebel because of original and actual sin. Diabetes, cancer, heart problems, the flu take their toll on all of us in one way or another even to the point of causing death. We might look to the president and the military to save us from terror; we might look to scientists and forecasters to save us from nature and we might look to doctors to save us from sickness and death. But none of these will ultimately save us from final disaster.

Only God can save us from the disaster of sin and death.

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception gives us hope in God’s plan to save mankind. On December 8, 1854 Pope Pius IX defined as an article of faith that “the Virgin Mary at the moment of conception was preserved from all defilement of original sin by a unique privilege of grace in view of the merits of Jesus Christ.” Four years after being defined by Pope Pius IX, this truth was confirmed by the Blessed Mother herself at Lourdes, France in an apparition to Bernadette with the words; “I am the Immaculate Conception.” 2008 was the 150th anniversary of this apparition.

This feast of the Immaculate Conception reminds us that there is only one thing that truly lowers mankind—sin. However, many of us and most of the secular world have lost a sense of sin. In fact the world is afraid of everything but sin. It is afraid of pollution, global warming, and obscure maladies of the body, nuclear war and terrorism. But the world is not afraid of the war against God, who is eternal, all powerful, love.

In choosing the Blessed Virgin Mary from all eternity to be the Mother of His Son, God has chosen to save and set us free from sin from all eternity. He wants to predestine us for an eternity in union with Him. But God does not force us to reject sin, or give up our free will. He asks us to freely choose Him. Mary is the example of this and her destiny can be our destiny when we imitate her choice and strive to say yes to God always.

Yet, we know that none of us are as uniquely gifted with the fullness of grace as the Blessed Virgin Mary is. In a sense, our Blessed Mother even during her earthly life was/is a sign of what it means to be completely saved, body and soul. Her existence on earth is what she is like in heaven, incapable of sin or dishonoring God in any way whatsoever. Her destiny is our hope that one day after this our pilgrimage through this valley of tears, we too will by God's merciful judgment enter our heavenly home full of grace where we will no longer be capable of sin and death. We will be forever and completely reconciled with God and everyone God has created. The Blessed Virgin Mary was a sign of this during her brief earthly existence. Because no other human being before or after her has ever had the grace necessary to live a perfect life, we honor her because God so honored her. We see her as our hope in heaven.

It is God’s desire to save the world because the world cannot save itself. As we enter into the one sacrifice of Jesus at Mass today and receive His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, let us thank God for consecrating our Blessed Mother from the moment of her conception thus enabling her to answer the most awesome call given any human being, to be a sign of heaven’s perfection and to bring mankind her Son, Jesus Christ, who alone saves us from sin and death.


-Brian said...

How encouraging and uplifting Father...Thank you for your eloquence and the fruit of your contemplation!!!

Jody Peterman said...

When I converted, I went through and RCIA program in Michigan that basically centered on Sacred Scripture and rarely mentioned Sacred Tradition. It was after I read about Lourdes a couple years after my conversion when I went through my true conversion - I went from being a Catholic Christian to a Roman Catholic. Such a special day to honor Our Lady! Thanks for mentioning Lourdes in your blog Father. For me, there will always be a correlation.

Templar said...

Hail Holy Queen. Hail our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope. To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to you do we send up our cries, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy towards us, and after this, our exile, show unto us, the fruit of they womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, that we might be worthy of the sacrifice of Christ.

Salve Regina.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I will copy a comment I received from Peter Ignotus and then I will respond below. Tisk, tisk! (Fr. Allan McDonald)

Pater Ignotus has left a new comment on your post "Thank God today for the Immaculate Conception!":

I wonder about your assertion that "even nature is affected by this disobedience" (original/actual sin). You go on to suggest that "floods, earthquakes, fires, and blizzards" are examples of how "nature rebels" due to sin.

These natural phenomena existed tens of millions or hundreds of millions of years before humans, and, therefore, were around long before any sin, original or actual. Hence, they cannot be results of or caused by sin.

The same would hold true for "diabetes, cancer, heart problems" and maybe even the flu. Are we to think that our pre-human, and therefore pre-sin, ancestors, suffered none of these or other bodily ailments?

Certainly our relationship to the natural world, including natural disasters and serious illnesses, has been affected by sin. But surely we do not want to believe that these things are caused by or the result of human sin. Plate techtonics cause earthquakes, not disobeying God.

The problem with this comment is identical to someone who would approach the Book of Genesis purely as scientific which the Church does not. The Creation account is a parable to explain in simple terms the fallen nature of things and this world is not the Garden of Eden. Those such as Peter who approach faith purely from science and thus are scientific literalists who have no religious imagination that propels them to religious truths. They believe science has all the answers concerning sin and redemption when in fact it has few answers if any in terms of eternal salvation. Again, I say, tisk, tisk. Literalism and scientific fundamentalism are extremely inadequate to describe God's marvelous ways, and our folly.
Fr. Allan McDonald

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

From Fr. McDonald again,
As I continue to reflect on Peter Ignotus comments, it just confirms for me how the scientific mind truly needs the ministry of philosophy and theology to help it cope with eternal truths and even the concept of eternity and infinity. A Scientist can no more tell us when infinity began or when it will end than the religious person. We can only use philosophical and theological categories and the truths of "myth" to help us understand. That the world was fallen previous to "history" in incomprehensible to the scientist. But not to the theologian or philosopher. Science devoid of theology and philosophy is like a tower of Babel, it collapses in on itself or is knocked down by God. Scientists without faith are Adam and Eve who think the fruit of the tree of knowledge will make them like God. It's Adam and Eve all over again, which is actually what Original Sin is, pride! That the "falleness" of the world causes earthquakes, illness, etc is so out of bounds for the scientist as it should be, but not the faith perspective that says for God, human time is already finished, we're just in the process of seeing it out here on earth. A scientist who has no religious, theological and philosophical categories from which to think and express himself is totally baffled by this and thinks it comes from ignorance of scientific facts. So sad indeed.

Gene said...

To Mr. Ignotus: From one with graduate degrees in philosophy and theology...Oh My God!!! Get your head out of your.....physics book!

Pater Ignotus said...

This is not a question of Science vs Faith. It is a question of the right understanding of the Creation accounts and the effects of sin, both original and actual.

My approach to understanding Genesis is not at all "purely scientific." I understand that the creation accounts are mythology (they are not "parables") and that these accounts reveal to us God's hand in the creation of the world.

I ask again: If floods, earthquakes, fires, blizzards, diabetes, cancer, heart problems (and maybe the flu or diseases like it) existed hundreds of millions of years before any human walked the earth and sinned, how can you assert, Fr. McDonald, that they are the result of sin?

(May I point out that my first name is Pater, not Peter . . .)

Gene said...

"...for the creation was subjected to the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay...we know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now...." Romans 8:20-23

Salvation history is separate and beneath the history Mr. Ignotus is talking about. To borrow from Calvin, if I may, "Creation and history are bracketed at both ends by God's act of justice and redemption."

Science and logic are human tools of understanding the natural world. Efforts at the kind of scientific theology Mr. Ignotus represents are a waste of time. It is like trying to picture the outside of a house from within it when you have never actually seen it.

If you want to be a scientific Platonist/Augustinian, God forbid, one might say that sin began with the "big bang" because there had to be a "change" in the singularity for the big bang to happen. Change, where immutability is perfection, is evil/sin. Of course, as with all Platonist philosophy/theology, we come dangerously close to saying that sin (i.e. imperfection) was comprised in Creation itself, which is heresy. Such logical traps as we lay for ourselves are part and parcel of our fallen nature. You just can't get there from here...which is why we give thanks to our Lord and Saviour who redeems our ignorance along with our sinful flesh. Lighten up.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

From Fr. Allan McDonald:
This is a comment for Pater (not Peter) Ignotus who reminds me a lot of a person I know whose is MK, but I digress, I wouldn't want to place that elitist arrogance upon anyone.

The best source to corroborate what my point is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church in summary form. Then the discussion is out of our hands and into the formal teachings of the Church, so here it is:

"God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. . . . It was through the devil's envy that death entered the world" (Wis 1:13; 2:24).

Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan. Their choice against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt against God.

"Although set by God in a state of rectitude, man, enticed by the evil one, abused his freedom at the very start of history. He lifted himself up against God and sought to attain his goal apart from him" (GS 13 § 1).

By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all human beings.

Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called "original sin."

As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the domination of death; and inclined to sin (This inclination is called "concupiscence.").

"We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, ‘by propagation, not by imitation' and that it is . . . ‘proper to each'" (Paul VI, CPG § 16).

The victory that Christ won over sin has given us greater blessings than those which sin had taken from us: "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom 5:20).

Christians believe that "the world has been established and kept in being by the Creator's love; has fallen into slavery to sin but has been set free by Christ, crucified and risen to break the power of the evil one . . ." (GS 2 § 2).

Pater Ignotus said...

To pinanv525: Writing in the Jerome Biblical Commentary on the passage from Romans you cite, Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer says "Before Adam's sin, material creation is depicted in Gn as subject to him (Adam), just as he (Adam) was subject to God [proper order]. But man's sin disrupted the subordination and introduced abnormality and futility.[disorder]" (page 316) It seems that St. Paul - at least in the view of Fr. Fitzmyer and the ten other scholars he cites regarding this passage - agrees with me; that the disorder follows Adam's sin. Floods, earthquakes, fires, blizzards, diabetes cancer, and heart problems precede the sin of Adam.

Fr. McDonald, in your appeal to the authority of the Catechism the passages you paraphrase are not germane. The passages you cite teach: (413) God is not the source of evil; (414) Temptation;
(415) Humans are the source of evil; (416) Adam & Eve's sinful choice has lasting consequences; (417) the effect of their sin is called "original sin"; (418) Original Sin has weakened human nature forever; (419) Original Sin is transmitted with human nature; (420) Christ is victorious over sin; and (421) Christ has set us free. I agree with all of this, but none of it suggests that earthquakes, et al, are caused by sin.

In "Only A Theory" biologist Kenneth Miller writes, "In his remarkable fifth century book On The Literal Meaning Of Genesis, St. Augustine specifically warned Christians against using Scripture to make statements about astronomy, biology, and geology. The worst thing that could happen, he advised, would be for non-believers to hear Christians, 'presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these [scientific] topics.'"

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

From Fr. McDonald:

To Pater Ignotus: Again, you infer that I am speaking about history, biology and science in my blog, I am not nor is the Book of Genesis. The story of Adam and Eve and Original Sin and the consequences for us and the earth is similar to the story of the fall of the Angels. Since they were perfect, saw God face to face, they had the capability of making a full, conscious decision to definitively and eternally choose or reject God. We know of the fallen angels and the havoc they bring to us which is implied in Genesis. Angels though don't procreate and we presume that God only created the ones that have already chosen their destiny.

By the same token Adam and Eve saw God in person and face to face which is a heavenly reality that is part of what God intended for creation and the perfection that God's plan for us entailed. But through evil and by human choice every thing was set in opposition to each other.

Humans procreate and therefore God's plan to save mankind and the created order came about. Adam and Eve are also symbols of the people of Israel and their journey, call and destiny as well as symbols of the Adopted people of God. For us, the promise land is not here but in heaven.

The Blessed Virgin Mary by her Immaculate Conception symbolizes fully redeemed mankind even as she walked on earth prior to her assumption. She experienced while on earth the perfection all of us will experience through the death and resurrection of Christ. Her Immaculate Conception is in view of the merits of her Son's death and resurrection.

So, in the Myth of Creation (and myth not meaning fable or made up story or fairy tale, but truth, religious truth conveyed through story) we don't have science or history but we have revealed truth.

So yes, we can say in view of this myth that the world is fallen and at odds with mankind and mankind is fallen and in need of redemption. Getting sick, dying, volcanoes that erupt, earthquakes that happen, storms that kill and animals that eat us are signs that earth is not heaven, heaven is heaven and the redeemed of God are with God in heaven. But a little bit of heaven is here because God created here and His presence is here throughout salvation history and in particular when God walked the earth in Jesus Christ and Mary walked the earth without sin. In addition at the Lord's second coming, all will be restored and fully at peace. At the second coming procreation will cease and so will all the activities of the earth that can harm humans and any life will cease. All will be made perfect, not just human beings fully redeemed.

Gene said...

Fr, I believe we are casting pearls here...

Pater Ignotus said...

Well, it had been interesting, but we should move on. I leave you with two thoughts: (1) "As he went along he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened that the work of God might be displayed in his life..." (John 9:1-3)
(2) I have a clogged drain in my kitchen sink. Should I buy Liquid Plummr, or just go to confession?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

From Fr. McDonald to Pater Ignotus:
You are good at misrepresenting the facts. None of us is culpable for Original sin and the devastating effects of it--we inherit it. We only go to confession for our actual sins and when mortal there are three criteria: serious matter, knowledge of that the sin is a sin and full consent of the will.
Everything else we are in a sense victims. But yes, like the man born blind, it is for the grace of God to show forth in terms of not only his healing, but his salvation. Thus the Church at the Easter Exultet can proclaim "O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam which gained for us so great a Savior." I think that ties in very well with your Biblical quote concerning the man born blind, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

I think Father won the debate!

Gene said...

Mr. Ignotus (or whatever your real name is), With regard to your sink drain there anyway you can fit down it? I believe that, with a strong laxative, you should have no trouble at all.