Letters to the Editor
FAITH Magazine January-February 2010
ARE WE ABLE TO DEFEND THE POPE?
Dear Father Editor,
Pope Benedict's visit to visit Great Britain in 2010 is not only an excellent opportunity for Evangelisation, it also offers us the chance to put the record straight and defend the Faith. I'm thinking in particular of William Oddie's "Comment on the Comments" last July on the Roman Curia ("Friends Like These").
Catholics will need to be prepared for the major discussions which the Pope's visit is likely to provoke, such as on "condoms in Africa", contraception in general, abortion, child abuse and sex before marriage. In the lead up to the Papal visit, do you think Faith magazine could present a series of articles on the topics most likely to make the news? Perhaps a summary of the basics of Catholic teaching on each issue, arguments from scripture, arguments from natural law and empirical evidence from modern society and scientific understanding?
When the inevitable media backlash against the Pope occurs, we may then have thousands of Catholics ready to take them on in the pubs, workplaces, homes, blogs and social networking sites across the country.
We thank Mr O'Sullivan for his, we think rather too generous, flattery concerning our capacity and our influence. Our current editorial does, in effect, argue that our Church increasingly needs to
become so able and should rise to the challenge. The Guardian has indeed signalled open season with Tanya Gold's 29th September propaganda piece headlined "Ignore the bells and the smells and the lovely Raphaels, the Pope's visit to Britain is nothing to celebrate. Gordon Brown is 'delighted', David Cameron is 'delighted'. I am 'repelled'." Meanwhile we would refer Mr O'Sullivan to our list of recent relevant articles on page 6.
Dear Father Editor,
I was heartened to read James Tolhurst's article on "The Nature of Heresy" (July 2009) and only wished he had expounded further at length and also got right back to first principles quoting St. Augustine of Hippo and the great St. Paul that the inimical core of all heresy is: "worshipping the creature rather than the Creator."
Anthony Brett Dawe
THE REAL PRESENCE
Dear Father Editor,
I could not help noticing that neither Fr Thomas Crean nor yourself (July 09) made reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Last Supper. Surely if the Mass comes from anywhere it is the Last Supper. Christ says to do this in memory of ME. I take that to mean His birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension; His teaching and everything he stood for.
Dear Father Editor,
Fr Crean's article on the Eucharist (Sept 09) stresses the need to see the sacrifice of our Lord's mortal body as the essential fact which makes the offering of the Mass a sacrifice; and his thesis is usefully complemented by the editorial comment, which reminds us that "the presence of the Lamb that was slain for our sins is inseparable from his risen and glorified presence before the Father in heaven". The sacrifice of our Lord's mortal body was a once and for all sacrifice, but the interior sacrifice, which the 'bloody' sacrifice expressed, is a forever 'unbloody' sacrifice. The editorial comment makes clear that, seen in the proper context, the resurrection of our Lord is relevant to the full understanding of what is accomplished by the celebration of theEucharist.
It is remarkable that our Lord's own comment on this subject is so rarely mentioned. Our Lord foreshadowed the institution of the Eucharist by the miracle of the loaves, then he preached at length to the crowd who followed him to the synagogue in Capernaum, telling them that he was the true Bread from heaven and that this Bread was his flesh which they must eat if they wished to inherit eternal life. This aroused disbelief and hostility in the crowd, even amongst many who had become his disciples. They said, 'This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?' (John 6:60). They were appalled at what they understood to be our Lord's justification of cannibalism. Jesus understood what they felt, and his reply was not, 'But I mean this only in a metaphorical sense' -which is aninterpretation often given to his words by devout non-Catholics, who share the Capernaum crowd's view of what Jesus was saying. Jesus refuted their implicit imputation of his justifying cannibalism in these words:
"Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?" He followed this reply by a statement which seems to contradict what he had just said about the necessity of eating his flesh in order to attain eternal life: "It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer." Our Lord was now speaking not about his sacrifice on the Cross, which was indeed the sacrifice of his mortal flesh but of the eating of his sacramental body in the Holy Eucharist. It was his mortal flesh that was sacrificed on the Cross, it is his risen and glorified flesh that is present in the Holy Eucharist. It is this spirit filled flesh and not the dead flesh of the Saviour on the Cross that gives life.
The resurrection throws light therefore on the doctrine of transubstantiation. The medieval scholastics, themselves largely responsible for the terminology of this doctrine, were uneasy about it: that a substance could change without the accompaniment of a change in the accidental attributes of that substance was a concept that their logical theory ruled out.. Duns Scotus in particular affirmed that he accepted the doctrine not through logical persuasion but on the authority of the fourth Lateran Council.
The logical anomaly contained in the doctrine of transubstantiation disappears if it is our Lord's risen body that is really present in the Eucharist, for the risen body will have different attributes from the body in its mortal state. It follows also that our mortal flesh cannot perceive the risen body of Christ, and so it is not our fleshly body that is eating the body of Christ but our eternal spiritual person who is becoming united with the risen Christ (body, blood, soul and divinity) when our mortal bodies eat and digest the sacred species in the Eucharist.
In receiving the Eucharistic species we are momentarily raised up into that life where the body of Christ will continue to be the food of our immortality. The substance of Christ's risen body will also be that with which he 'fills the whole creation' (Eph 1:23).
Fr Ronald Walls
SYMPHONY OF THE WORLD
Dear Father Editor,
I find the words of Fr Michael Heller reported in your July '08 Cutting Edge column moving ("Templeton Winner, Mind And Mathematics"). He argues "Within the all-comprising Mind of God what we call chance and random events are well composed into the symphony of creation".
Some years ago I was listening to a Beethoven symphony on my stereo when the music suddenly 'took hold of me'. I was transported from my previously listless state, finding myself experiencing wave upon wave of something akin, it seemed to me, to rapture. It soon flashed in upon me that this blessed state I was in was all due to the exertions of another human being; a tortured, tempestuous character who was prey to increasing deafness and melancholia. Such suffering, yet such sublime, exquisite outpourings. And nearly two hundred years after his death here was I, a favoured recipient of the fruits of his travail.
To my rapture was now added wave upon wave of gratitude. I wanted Beethoven to walk into that room so that I could hug him, there and then, for the pure delight he had given me (perhaps, in that region as yet somewhat beyond our comprehension, he too was able to take delight in my response).
Then, in the fleeting swiftness of a second, I became aware of all the musicians, and of their conductor, whose various God-given talents had been compounded together into a melodious whole; and all for me to share in. Years of study and accumulated years of practice, the constant striving for better and better - more gratitude, more gratitude, and yet more still.
My being was now totally alert. I knew that, in turn, I would not be experiencing this bliss if it had not been for the wonders of electricity; obeisance then to its discoverers, yes, and to the electricians, the technicians, the music publishers, the record publishers, the record producers, the instrument makers and cabinet makers, the storekeepers, the delivery men, yes to all those myriad men and women whose seemingly un-coordinated efforts, which in themselves were the product of millennia of past strivings, had unwittingly, conspired to bring me, yes me, paradoxically as it must seem, a few fleeting moments of timeless bliss. And I was not swallowed up by this experience but was consciously, vibrantly aware of every single element in it.
There was I, an isolated example of bewildered twentieth century urban man, touched by the finger of God. Then came the realization of what life could be, must be, and with Christ as our example and support, will be, for 'Behold, I make all things new' (Revelations 21:5) - more gratitude.
And so, if the scientists are right and the human journey is from Big Bang to Big Crunch (or whatever, for God may very well have his own ideas) we will not, as natural materialists say, have travelled from one void to another but from beginning of life to fullness of life: to borrow from T.S. Eliot,
We will have finally ceased from all our exploring
The end of all our exploring will be
to have arrived
At the place from where we started,
and we will
know it for the first time - ah, how wonder-full it will appear.