Tuesday 31st May 2016

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Thank God For Christmas

December 25, 2013 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

It could be that I am thinking more about what we will experience in the afterlife now that I am over 70, but — you will have to take my word for this — it is something I have batted around in my mind since my early teens. I accept fully Jesus’ promise of an eternal reward for those who believe in Him and follow His word, in a place he described on the cross as “Paradise” to the Good Thief. (I accept as well His warning of an eternal punishment for those who reject Him and live evil lives.) But ever since some Dominican nun informed me in elementary school that it is not a place where we float around on clouds playing harps, I have had a hard time picturing what it will be like.
I can picture the risen Jesus and the Blessed Mother existing somewhere in bodily form; exactly where, I do not know. But what about the saints? And our deceased loved ones? Their bodies are not with them, and will not be with them until the Last Judgment. They are spirits. How can they hear our prayers of petition? They have no ears. How can they be aware of our plight in our earthly existence? They have no eyes. How can the saints and our loved ones be aware of their own identities as individual persons? Their brains are in their earthly graves.
Please do not misread me: I am not questioning the Church’s teaching about the worth of prayers for our deceased loved ones, or to the saints seeking their intervention in our lives. It is just that I have difficulty picturing how it all takes place.
If you think I am about to tell you I have had a revelation and now know the answer, sorry. I believe in Heaven because Jesus told us it exists. But I would come up empty if a Hollywood producer assigned me the task of devising a script and a set that accurately portray it.
That is why I always read the “near-death” stories when they appear in the papers. I am looking for a clue. But those stories never satisfy me. I am not saying they are false, only that they do not give me the sort of information that I am looking for. The tales of a white light and deceased loved ones calling us forward always strike me as images that our brains might conjure up during the last stages our lives, even if we are in a state the medical profession describes as clinically dead.
But my problem goes beyond picturing Heaven. God the Father is in the same category. When I was a boy — having learned that we were made in God’s “image and likeness” — I pictured God the Father as something like Michelangelo’s majestic old man on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but in an invisible state, a state He could come in and out of like a Hollywood ghost.
But that is not what we mean when we call God a “spirit.” A spirit has no body. That realization struck me with just recently when I read an essay making the point that when we get to Heaven, we will not “see” God. (I wish I could recall exactly where I read this, but I can’t. My Google search has not helped. I do remember that it was written by someone loyal to the Magisterium, not by some liberal flamethrower.) The author’s point was that the Beatific Vision does not mean seeing God the Father in bodily form, or something analogous. This strikes me as a theologically sound proposition. We will see Jesus. We will see Mary. We will see our deceased loved ones after the Last Judgment, if we and they have been saved. But not God the Father. We will know Him, encounter Him in some way. But not see some glorified version of Michelangelo’s old man. Again: God is a spirit.
That’s why theologians who attempt to give us an understanding of the nature of God end up using terms such as “the ground of our being,” the “Geist,” the “ens in re,” and the “transforming energy behind man’s quest for the good.” These theologians may mean well, at least some of them. They may be engaged in an effort to depict God the Father in a manner that will be acceptable to those who would want no part of worshiping an image of something comparable to Hollywood’s depiction of Zeus. But, for me, they all end up, intentionally or not, depicting God not as a conscious being, not as a person, but as a concept, as an abstraction, as an expression of mankind’s quest for a just society, not as the Loving Father described by Jesus. Or even worse, as nothing different from the depiction of the 19th-century German atheist Ludwig von Feuerbach’s, who described God as mankind’s highest aspirations projected onto an imaginary being.
In fact, I would argue that even Fr. Robert Barron, the author and narrator of the wonderful book and DVD Catholicism and a solid and dedicated servant of the Church, does not help in this regard. Not that he has described God the Father in an inaccurate or unorthodox way. Thomas Aquinas would nod in agreement to what Barron had to say in a recent column. But I would have a hard time praying to the God Barron describes: “God is not a supreme item within the universe or alongside of it; rather, God is the sheer ocean of being from whose fullness the universe in its entirety exists….God is not a being within the natural order. Instead, He is the reason why there is that nexus of conditioned causes that we call nature — at all.” I know, I know: Barron is not promoting pantheism, but I can see why someone would interpret his words in that way.
That’s why I say, “Thank God for Christmas.” Because of Christmas we don’t have to form on our own, with unaided human reason, through philosophical rumination, a clear grasp of what God the Father “looks like” to worship God. We have Jesus. The Word was made Flesh, and dwelt amongst us. Jesus is God, as well as man. Our God is the God who taught us of the Good Samaritan and the Good Shepherd; the God who knew the difference between the prayers of the Pharisee and those of the tax collector; the God who saved the woman about to be stoned for her sins, with the warning, “He amongst you who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Our God is the God who promised the Good Thief on the cross that he — he personally, not just as part of a perfected human community in something like Teilhard de Chardin’s “divine milieu” — would be “with me this day in Paradise.”
Our God, the God who came to us on Christmas, is the God who loved little children and promised the millstone to those who would corrupt them. Our God promised forgiveness to sinners and called upon us to love one another as the Father in Heaven loves us. Fathers can love. Most humans have a hard time picturing how the “ground of our being” can love. We have more to work with. We have Jesus, because of Christmas. Jesus is a person who loves us, a person we can please, a person we can displease.
The old Christmas carols were on the mark. There has been a new and glorious morn, one which brings tidings of comfort and joy, a reason for the weary world to rejoice, a new creation. Old things have passed away; all things have become new. Christ the savior is born and through Him we know the loving Father in Heaven. The theologians’ alternate depiction of God — as the “ground of our being” and the “nexus of conditioned causes” — does not provide us a clearer picture than what Jesus gave us, just one more polysyllabic and dull.

Share Button

2016 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Amoris Laetitia is ‘objectively unclear’ since even bishops have conflicting interpretations: Cardinal Caffarra

ROME, May 30, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The cardinal tasked by Saint Pope John Paul II 36 years ago with founding an institute to study marriage and the family has criticized Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation on the family for lacking…Continue Reading

34% of “Pro-Choice” Women Who See This Viral Video Turn Against Abortion

A new four-minute viral video is causing over a third — 34 percent — of “pro-choice” women surveyed to view abortion “less favorably.” And 28 percent of pro-choice women who watched the video stated there should be more restrictions on…Continue Reading

‘Biblically wrong’: Oklahoma lawmakers urge Obama’s impeachment over transgender bathrooms

Lawmakers in Oklahoma have introduced legislation calling for President Barack Obama to be impeached because of his administration’s support for transgender bathrooms. Another bill calls for a declaration of emergency in the state. In a measure called Senate Concurrent Resolution…Continue Reading

Oklahoma legislature passes bill making it a felony to perform abortions

Lawmakers in Oklahoma approved a bill Thursday that would make performing abortions a felony and revoke the medical licenses of most physicians who assist in such procedures. This sweeping measure, which opponents described as unconstitutional and unprecedented, now heads to…Continue Reading

Unanimous Win for Little Sisters of the Poor at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the government cannot fine the Little Sisters of the Poor.  The Supreme Court vacated the lower court rulings against the Little Sisters, accepting the government’s admission that it could meet…Continue Reading

Conservatives outraged over Obama transgender directive to public schools

The Obama administration’s directive Friday that every public school provide transgender access — or face the loss of federal funds — drew swift and strong condemnation from conservatives, with one public official blasting it as presidential “blackmail.” The administration’s directive…Continue Reading

Pro-Life Leaders Decry Scandals, Urge Catholic Colleges to Reject Culture of Death

Concerned by recent high-profile events at Catholic colleges featuring pro-abortion leaders — including Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards, Bill Clinton, Wendy Davis and Vice President Joe Biden — 31 Catholic and pro-life leaders joined a statement urging Catholic colleges to “stand firm…Continue Reading

ACLU launches campaign to strip Catholic hospitals of federal funds

NEW YORK, May 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Catholic hospitals across the U.S. are “withholding emergency care” and denying “essential health services,” the ACLU is alleging in a new campaign. They also inflict harm on “transgender and gender-non-conforming patients” “when seeking…Continue Reading

Harvard Law Professor Says Pro-Life Christians Should be Treated Like Nazis

Every day, it seems, the United States is becoming a more hostile environment for people with pro-life and conservative positions. Abortion activists constantly challenge pro-life laws, stall abortion industry investigations, force religious objectors to pay for abortions and attack life-affirming…Continue Reading

Obama plans new push for transgender rights in schools

The divisive and politically combustible issue of bathroom access for transgender individuals is about to become further inflamed, as the Obama administration is expected in coming weeks to aggressively reinforce its position that transgender student rights are fully protected under…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: Notre Dame is Wrong

Notre Dame’s Great Scandal: Honoring Vice President Biden By Thomas McKenna, President of Catholic Action for Faith and Family: The University of Notre Dame has announced that they intend to confer the Laetare Medal, an honor given to Catholics “in…Continue Reading

DoJ to North Carolina: You Have Until Monday to Reverse Bathroom Bill

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory received a letter from the Department of Justice that gives him until Monday to reverse his state’s controversial bathroom bill, reports The Hill. The DoJ said the law is in violation of the federal Civil…Continue Reading

Newsmax

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Enter Comments Below

This Weeks Comments And Letters . . .

Commentary

This Weeks Comments And Letters . . .      

Today . . .

">Ronald Reagan . . . Memorial Day Address

Planned Parenthood sponsors bill to make it illegal to record and post undercover footage

A bill making its way through the California State Assembly, sponsored by Planned Parenthood, seeks to make it a crime to publish conversations with certain health care providers, notably those associated with abortion facilities. California has already squashed the rights of pro-life pregnancy centers, demanding they offer abortion as an option to their clients, despite their pro-life mission. Now, Planned Parenthood and CA Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez think it’s a fine idea to prosecute someone from posting a “photo…Continue Reading

South Carolina governor signs ban on abortion for babies who feel pain

CHARLESTON, May 26, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – South Carolina has joined 13 other states that forbid abortions to be performed on unborn children capable of feeling pain. As expected, Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, signed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act on Wednesday. The law restricts abortion to the first 19 weeks of pregnancy. “South Carolina took a courageous stand to protect women’s health and safety in limiting abortion at a point at which the risks…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Perseverance in prayer needed, but not “magic wand”

pope908

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday said “prayer is not a magic wand.” He was speaking during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square. The Pope was discussing the Parable of the Unjust Judge – also known as the Parable of the Persistent Widow – from the Gospel of Luke. In the parable, the persistence of a widow forces the unjust judge to grant her request for justice, “so that she will not eventually…Continue Reading

Catholic College Presidents Hopeful for Resolution in HHS Mandate Challenge

The presidents of two Catholic colleges involved in the U.S.Supreme Court challenges to the HHS mandate applauded the Court’s recent decision to vacate all lower court rulings and expressed their hope that a positive resolution for religious freedom would soon be reached. “I am pleased that Supreme Court has offered us a way forward which doesn’t require us to participate in the provision of the services which

Luther 1517-2017… Five Hundred Years Of Heresy And Doctrinal Confusion

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 9 (Editor’s Note: This is the ninth installment in a series by Wanderer contributor Raymond de Souza on Henry VIII’s book defending the seven sacraments against Martin Luther. De Souza edited this updated version of Henry’s work, which is presented to readers in this series. (This series will appear…Continue Reading

Excluded From Arizona House . . . Racial Healing Meet Has To Find Another Location, Loses Audience

By DEXTER DUGGAN MESA, Ariz. — The chairman of an Arizona Tea Party group introduced a representative of Black Lives Matter Arizona at a racial-healing conference here, saying, “Black lives matter, and of course we agree that all lives matter,” but blacks are unique in U.S. history as “a people who have endured chattel slavery.”…Continue Reading

Havana: The Potemkin Village Of The 21st Century

By ALBERTO MARTINEZ PIEDRA According to the media, it is often heard that many Americans are interested in traveling to Cuba because, as relations between the jewel of the Caribbean and the United States warm, they “want to see the island before it changes.” And they make this statement with a certain degree of optimism.…Continue Reading

Rocky Homilies

By DEACON JAMES H. TONER (Editor’s Note: Deacon James H. Toner, Ph.D., serves at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Greensboro, N.C.) + + + The Holy Father’s admonition in Amoris Laetitia that priests must understand that the moral law should not be thrown at people as if it were so many stones (n.…Continue Reading

Restoring The Sacred… A Procession To The Ends Of The Earth

By JAMES MONTI Several weeks ago, after attending the Easter Vigil at a nearby seminary, and the emptied chapel had fallen silent, I began to hear the sound of the sacring bell being rung in the sacristy. Puzzled by this, I wondered whether the seminarians were perhaps trying to repair the bell. But then from…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World… Look To Our Father In Heaven

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Everyone has made a wrong decision at some point in his or her life, and everyone can speak about the suffering or pain caused by bad decisions. What, on the other hand, about the suffering or pain that is caused by doing the right thing? How often can we say that we suffered personally and…Continue Reading

The Marvel Of The Catholic Church Miracles And The Saints

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 2 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’.” “Heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse the lepers, cast out demons” (Matt. 10:7-8). It is evident that our Lord Jesus Christ gave to His disciples the power to perform miracles, and many of them did just that. Not…Continue Reading

The Church’s Liturgy — Who Celebrates?

By DON FIER There is an ancient Latin saying in the Church that eloquently expresses what her members believe of the efficacy of the sacraments and their relationship to faith: lex orandi, lex credendi (“the law of prayer is the law of faith”). Each of the seven sacraments, as we saw last week, can be classified in various categories. Yet…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. My husband and I are wondering when to say the “Amen” after the Lord’s prayer is prayed during Mass. I believe “Amen” should be said after we say “deliver us from evil.” — J.W., Georgia. A. Although it is correct to say “Amen” at the end of the Our Father while saying it outside of Mass, for example, while…Continue Reading

God’s Prophet

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Tenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: 1 Kings 17:17-24 Gal. 1:11-14a, 15a, c, 16a, 17, 19 Luke 7:11-17 In the first reading today we hear about the death of the son of a widow with whom the Prophet Elijah stayed when he was passing through that region. The woman had been very good to…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Kevin Of Glendalough

By CAROLE BRESLIN Dublin, the largest city in Ireland, lies on the east coast of Ireland, just across the Irish Sea from Liverpool, England. It is the heart of Irish commerce and the gateway for travelers who wish to enter into the heart and soul of the ancient Irish culture of the Emerald Isle. Traveling south past the Wicklow mountains,…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Augustine Of Canterbury

By CAROLE BRESLIN A Celtic cross erected in 1884 marks the spot in Ebbsfleet, Thanet, East Kent, where St. Augustine of Canterbury is said to have landed in 597. While some form of Christianity in England may be traced back to the times of the Roman occupation, it did not become a strong presence until the arrival of St. Augustine,…Continue Reading

COMPLETE 3 PART Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Insights On The State Of The Church In The Aftermath Of The Ordinary Synod On The Family

Cburke3

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, recently traveled from Rome to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., a magnificent place of worship which he founded and dedicated. (His Eminence graciously granted an extensive interview to The Wanderer during which he…Continue Reading