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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Friday, 4 May 2018

ENCOUNTERING GOD IN STORIES


Not all stories are myths but they become so if they are generally accepted and told in a particular culture because they help people to understand that environment and their role in it.

  The classical cowboy stories followed a common theme.  White Hat, who is a hero that rides alone, comes into a town that is at the mercy of Black Hat, an  unscrupulous and sadistic villain who also wants to marry the beautiful girl, daughter of the man who founded the town.   After enduring much adversity, anxiety and pain and against huge odds, White Hat wins because of his superior skill with a gun and marries the daughter, while Black Hat bites the dust.  Enoch Powell, hardly a representative of Soviet said it was a version of the "St George and the Dragon" story and has been used by Anglo-Saxons since time began.  The trouble is, if Americans are St George, in order to fulfil that role, they need a dragon; so they look around for a dragon. Poor old Russia or Islam!! Nazi Germany revelled in Teutonic mythology and used it to support their own brand of idealism. The historicity of the American cowboy and Germanic mythology didn't matter much, only their ability to interpret the kind of people Americans or Germans are.  Myths have helped people form their world view and have influenced their actions.  That is not to say that they are the most important factor.

Before you read my blog post today, I want you to listen to this video because I take it for granted in what I have to say.


J.R.R.T: "We tell stories because God is a story teller.  He is the story teller...We tell stories with words: he tells stories with history.  The facts of history are his words and Providence is his storyline."C.S.L. "Are you suggesting that all of history, that everything around us is all part of some divine myth?"J.R.R.T.: "We are all part of his story.  This very conversation is part of this story."C.S.L.: Perhaps it isn't his story.  Perhaps it is only your story.  How do you know that your story, the one you believe, the Christian story, is any more real than all the other stories?"J.R.R.T.: "Don't you see, it is not my story: it is his story.  It is not just one myth among many.  It is the true myth.  Christianity really happened.  Jesus really existed, and so did Pilate; and it is this true story that makes sense of all the other stories.  It is the archetype in which all the other stories have their source, and is the story towards which all the other stories point.   It has everything.   It has catastrophe and its very opposite, what we may call "eucatastrophe" [A sudden and favourable resolution of events in a story; a happy ending.] the happy ending, the sudden joyous turn in the story that is essential to all myths.  It has to a sublime degree this joy of deliverance, this "evangelium", this fleeting glimpse of the real joy towards which all other joys are but a distant echo."C.S.L.: "What do you mean when you say it has the catastrophe and the eucatastrophe?"J.R.R.T.: For example, it has the catastrophe of the fall and the eucatastrophe of the redemption, the catastrophe of the crucifixion and the eucatastrophe of resurrection.  It has everything man's heart desires because it is being told by the One who is the fufilment of desire itself.  It is a story that begins and ends in joy.....In my own life, it has led me from darkness to light."
This conversation began when C.S. Lewis said that the stories about Jesus in the gospels follow themes that can be found in pagan myths all over the world. There is nothing original about them and should be lumped together with all the other myths as fiction supplied by the human imagination to fill the gap that can only be really filled by scientific exploration.

J.R.R. Tolkien acknowledged that there is a limited set of story lines in myths that are the same throughout the world, whatever the culture, and that the stories of Jesus fit into the mythical pattern very well.   However, myths cannot be considered mere fiction: they are, at the deepest level, insights into the reality of things and of human nature.   All things have a meaning (logoi) which reflect the Meaning (Logos) in the Mind of Him who created them; everything fits into a story that is being told by God.  It fits into its own story told within its own context and also into the transcendent story which is God's Providence.   Myths are about the meaning of life as interpreted by human beings' God-given desire.  But then, "the Logos became flesh and pitched his tent among us," and God embodied his Truth among human beings, and thus his story is the Myth that is true, God's own Myth reflected in all other myths.   The fact that the Jesus stories fit into the same pattern as other myths is not an argument in favour of the Gospel being fiction, but, because the life, death and resurrection actually happened to a historical person it is an argument in favour of seeing all myths as a reflection of the Truth.

The answer, Lewis’s colleagues told him, was to recognize that the gospel story was mythic and should be appreciated as such, “but with this tremendous difference that it really happened. . . . The dying god really appears—as a historical person, living in a definite time and place.” As Lewis later wrote, “By becoming fact [the dying god story] does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle.” But “it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call “real things.” “The Christian story of the dying god, in other words, lay at the exact intersection of myth and history."

The early Christians saw the Old Testament as full of stories, all of which can help us how to live, and all of which can teach us about Christ and his Church.  To that extent they are true and the Word of God.

The story of Creation is especially true, choc-a-bloc with Christian understanding.   As an example, let us take Adam and Eve.

Jesus:
 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Jesus is using the two commandments to love God with everything we have and are and to love our neighbour as ourselves as the interpreter of the Law and shows us the story of Adam and Eve supports us going beyond law in  our observance of the Law.  Law takes into account our hardness of heart, but Christian commitment is to the absolute demand of self-giving love.

Paul:

Paul uses the Adam and Eve story in many ways to help us to understand Christ.  After all, revealing Christ is the main role of the Adam and Eve story as well as that of the whole of the Old Testament.  Jesus is the "first born" through his resurrection in the "new heaven and the new earth" and we are on our way; just as Adam is the first born in the old creation

Paul the Apostle contrasted Adam and Christ as two corporate personalities or representatives (Rom 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:20–3, 45–9) and saw human beings as bearing the image of both Adam and Christ (1 Cor. 15:49). Where Adam's disobedience meant sin and death for all, Christ's obedience more than made good the harm due to Adam by bringing righteousness and abundance of grace (Rom 5:12–21).[4] As a "life-giving spirit", the last Adam is risen from the dead and will transform us through resurrection into a heavenly, spiritual existence (1 Cor. 15:22, 45, 48–9). Thus Paul's Adam Christology involved both the earthly Jesus' obedience (Rom. 5) and the risen Christ's role as giver of the Spirit (1 Cor. 15)

 The Early Church:

The early Church continued and developed this line of thinking.  Here is an example, St Irenaeus who was martyred around 170AD:


EVE & MARY – DISOBEDIENCE VS. OBEDIENCEAs Eve was seduced by the word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God in obedience to his word. As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God, so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; thus the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

This excerpt from St. Irenaeus shows that the Blessed Virgin Mary is truly a new Eve, just as her son Jesus Christ is a new Adam.  He contrasts Eve’s disobedience with Mary’s obedience.

The Lord, coming into his own creation in visible form, was sustained by his own creation which he himself sustains in being. His obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden; the good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin subject to a husband, undid the evil lie that seduced

EVE & MARY  Eve, a virgin espoused to a husband.– DISOBEDIENCE VS. OBEDIENCEAs Eve was seduced by the word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God in obedience to his word. As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God, so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; thus the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve.

mary new eve irenaeus obedient disobedient

Christ gathered all things into one, by gathering them into himself. He declared war against our enemy, crushed him who at the beginning had taken us captive in Adam, and trampled on his head, in accordance with God’s words to the serpent in Genesis: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall lie in wait for your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel [Genesis 3:15].

The one lying in wait for the serpent’s head is the one who was born in the likeness of Adam from the woman, the Virgin. This is the seed spoken of by Paul in the letter to the Galatians: The law of works was in force until the seed should come to whom the- promise was made. [Gal. 3:19]

HIS SON, BORN OF A WOMAN

He shows this even more clearly in the same letter when he says: When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman. The enemy would not have been defeated fairly if his vanquisher had not been born of a woman, because it was through a woman that he had gained mastery over man in the beginning, and set himself up as man’s adversary.
That is why the Lord proclaims himself the Son of Man, the one who renews in himself that first man from whom the race born of woman was formed; as by a man’s defeat our race fell into the bondage of death, so by a man’s victory we were to rise again to life.

Just as the Protestant Reformation stressed the literal truth of the Bible as substitute for the authority of the Church, in the New Testament and in the Church Fathers, it is the symbolic truth of the Bible, a truth no less real, that is stressed.  This is not a denial of history but a revelation of its meaning through the biblical stories.

Please listen to this:

The rest of what I have to say will be written after Ascension Day (in the western Church), the post for which will be written tomorrow.  I shall complete the theme of this post in a separate one that should appear two or three days after Thursday.






Notes


The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially 'escapist', nor 'fugitive'. In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.
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