A Catholic-themed opinion blog about various topics, including theology, philosophy, politics and culture, from a Thomistic perspective.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Light of the World

A universal faculty of the human mind is what I call "adjective thinking". Without an interpreting, experiencing human consciousness, the physical world is simply there, functioning according to its patterns and characteristics necessitated by its structured, finite nature. Infinity would have no behavior, only stagnation. But even though the universe is structured and ordered, without a human mind, it is just there, without thought or understanding. Other living things experience the world without contemplation or imagination, living only what is in front of them or directly pertinent to it. We, however, are capable of more.

When a human being experiences the world, it is not only as the endless steam of information our senses receive. We are able to identify the structures and patterns of the world, separate them from their context, contemplate them individually in our mind. We visualize and manipulate their appearance any way we wish with our imagination; we construct a web of ideas from its information and organize it into a designed, rational concept; we affix emotion to it with such depth and precision that every remembered event or understood concept forms our incomprehensibly-complex subconscious mind. With these and myriad other powers we transform our experience of life into a uniquely human form, recognizing, grasping and savoring all the wonderful depth of Creation.

With this adjective thinking, we are given many of our natural human senses, such as beauty, justice, love and forgiveness. We are able to understand that there is more to life than the apparent, even the superficial qualities of ourselves. Even though everyone expresses these senses differently, all human beings have them, proving their fundamental objective reality. Aware of these attributes innate in life, from birth we long to understand their true nature and for their fulfillment. We search for the satiation of our spiritual longings and for reasons to answer our desire for truth and knowledge. We never lose these things - if anything, they only increase over time. Age brings myriad avenues we take in the hope of satisfying our deepest longings, to fill the spiritual hole we are all born with, only to walk away with moderate, if any lasting satisfaction.

Without identifying the Source of the qualities all humans recognize and inherently long for in life, we can never take the true road to everlasting fulfillment and rescue from our burdens. Without this Source, we would be animals not only in body but in spirit, as many who live without this Source believe, doomed to live with blinders on our eyes and our minds and hearts. As Pope John Paul II said, with the wings of faith and reason we rise to the call of Truth. And indeed, many live with one or both wings cut, sending them to crawl on the earth and subsist on dirt alone, forever thirsting for true and eternal Life.

God is "the way and the truth and the life." (John 14:6 NIV) He is the Creator, the Divine Love and Wisdom. He did not create the physical universe only for itself, though by its mere existence it affirms Him who is Being. Rather, He made humanity to live and breathe in it. But even further, He made us to know, love and serve Him. In order to further affirm His Divinity, and especially as a tool after the casting of the clouded veil of sin after the Fall, He threaded the world with living spiritual symbolism on all levels, from symbolic imagery to broad concepts like truth and beauty. Even within ourselves we evidence this symbolism. The very instinct and drive of our bodies to survive is evidence of His love - why else would matter which would otherwise be inanimate constantly strive to retain its form and support its living will? Nothing but life does this, and nothing but humanity recognizes the love, creativity and infinite wisdom that life and existence themselves reflect of their Maker.

Under the corruption of sin, the world has become dim and ugly to us, a blanket of death and darkness obscuring the beauty and wonder God has made. But this is not permanent - God Himself has come to remove this concealment and redeem the world not only to its original perfection, but to raise it up to a supremacy beyond any understanding, revealed and previewed for us by Christ Resurrected. In our prayers of hope, petition, love, contemplation and thanksgiving, we not only ask for God's direct help in our lives, but we recognize the good underneath the bitterness of mortality. Whenever there is good in our lives, we thank God for it and for our knowledge of it. Without sin, there would be no lack of these - but, accordingly, without sin, we would lack the deep appreciation and thanksgiving we experience whenever we see the light of God shining through the darkness, pointing towards a future brighter than any can imagine.

Unless we respond to the living spiritual symbolism all around us, evident to all (Romans 1 and 2) through human faculties universally possessed, following the river back to its Divine Source in the Trinity, we will forever remain starved pilgrims sojourning from one ruined temple to another, affixing our hearts to idols that, as facades of true Divinity, wither and decay, leaving us thirsting once more. Millions and millions live this way, "in quiet desperation" as Thoreau said, searching for the truth. But why must we search - the Truth has come to us! We no longer have to strive and struggle against the limitations of this world and our own faultiness. But without purification, there can be no purity - thus without the filter of challenges given to us by mortality, finitude and disunity, we do not deserve satisfaction in God. Only by trusting and loving one another, affirming each other and mutually affirming God and His Creation, can we enter the true relationship of adoption in the Trinity. God has given us the Church of His Body, offering answers to our challenges without removing their purpose: trust and community for disunity; infallible dogma for ignorance and confusion; and grace for healing and eternal life. Christ has shown us the Way, and the Way is Him. He waits with open arms to receive us, if only we would relinquish our prideful disdain and open ourselves to the loving obedience of faith. Eternal life awaits.

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