Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Essence of Existence - A Theory of Everything

If you are not ready to read contemporary scientific findings, then skip this post. I could have posted it on another one of my blogs. What I am saying here after all is not a dogma of the Church but only an opinion - a theory for the Catholic mind. The reason for this post is two-fold: 1. We cannot escape the advances of science with an appeal to the "God of Gaps" if you know what I mean. There have been advances in many branches of natural sciences. However, natural sciences without philosophy are like limping apes. 2. I am a member of the Catholic Church. I cannot pretend to belong to either the fundamentalist Protestant communions, nor the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The first believe in the Bible only-no tradition - and some of them interpret it fully literalistically. The second still live mostly in the spiritual treasures, liturgies, and Ecumenical Councils of the first millennium-by all accounts, a static spirituality that fails to take into account the development of doctrine and tradition which the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council proclaims. The entire essence of existence, God himself, is a relationship or relatedness, according to Joseph Ratzinger (Now Pope Benedict XVI) "God, too, is absolute permanence, as opposed to everything transitory, for the reason that he is the relation of three Persons to one another, their incorporation in the "for one another" of love, act-substance of the love that is absolute and therefore completely "relative", living only "in relation to". As we said earlier, it is not autarchy, which knows no one but itself, that is divine; what is revolutionary about the Christian view of the world and of God, we found, as opposed to those of antiquity, is that it learns to understand the "absolute" as absolute "relatedness", as relatio subsistens." (Introduction to Christianity, 1968). Relationship rests on communication. I will not be able to relate to you if I cannot communicate with you or if I do not have the intention of communicating with you. We know that the first communication in infants takes place when they suck on their mothers breasts. As little as one month, Children start imitating their parents and people around them and they learn how to communicate in gestures before they learn language. This research correcting the great Jean Piaget was confirmed by Giacomo Rizolatti, and his neuroscientists team in 1996 in their discovery of the mirror neurons. Imitation is the basic element in René Girard's theory of mimetic desire on which he argued since the 1970s to be the basis of human behaviour that was redeemed by Christ (Christ in Postmodern Philosophy, 2008). But communication goes deeper than using mere language. There is also body communication or body language. What matters in the end is the result: Relationship! John Polkinghorne, retired professor of nuclear physics at Cambridge University, wrote, in one of his latest books: Quantum Physics and Theology, about relationship as science is attempting to discover it at the subnuclear level: "Quantum theory brought to light a remarkable form of entanglement between subatomic particles that have once interacted with each other (the so-called EPR effect), which implies that they remain effectively a single system however far they may subsequently separate spatially- a counterintuitive togetherness-in-separation that has been abundantly confirmed experimentally as a property of nature. The physical world looks more and more like a universe that would be the fitting creation of the trinitarian God, the One whose deepest reality is relational" (Quantum Physics and Theology, p.104). Not only at the human level. Not even at the living cells level. But also at the microcosmic level there seems to be an inherent structure that calls for relationship. We started with God and we will end up with God. But in between we move from the Big Bang, the formation of the high energy singularity as Stephen Hawking likes to call it, into galaxies, hundreds of thousands, to arrive into the Sun, and eventually the Earth. In his popular formula, Albert Einstein thought that energy can be transformed to matter and vice versa. The Big Bang in its simplest explanation is nothing but the beginning of a process of transformation of energy to matter. In this entire process non-living matter has solidified. Wait a minute or, in fact, 10 billions of years. Life then starts on Earth. In some 3.7 billion years humans appear from apes. Here it is again to keep going: From God comes the universe, a highly concentrated energy in a singularity. The universe explodes and is accelerating while energy is transformed to matter. Matter is inanimate and in this inanimate matter there seems to be a certain reality of relationship at its deepest level. Fast forward...Life begets plants, fish and so on until animals appear. There is a complexification of life as it develops. Man is at the top of this chain. Where is God? He is not sitting back or resting as the ancients imagined. God is at work always as Christ teaches (John 5:17). God is within us supporting and developing his creation. God is not in heaven above but here within his creation guiding it into fruition. But He can't hide anymore. His inner being "relatedness" as Ratzinger says is starting to be seen, and in the "fullness of time" he is united to his creation in Christ. This is how far we understand the Mystery of the Incarnation. For he is not only with us but his kingdom, that is he himself, is within us (Christ). This is partly why we as Catholics and Orthodox eat him in the Eucharist. Not only do we eat the flesh but the living flesh of Christ united with his divinity (The Body of Christ.) With the appearance of humans there is not only complexification of life but of brain too. According to the 2009 Winter issue of "The Brain," the human brain is endowed with a neurochemical hormone called Oxytocin that is responsible for inducing social memory in humans. Oxytocin triggers the drive for social attachments. Moreover, recent studies in 2008 have shown that oxytocin is the agent for bonding between new mothers and their infants. It is also the agent that helps people find their life partners in monogmous love. The only other species that was found to carry oxytocin is the monogamous prairie voles. This leads us to contemplate the possibility that our love at the natural level is built in as much as it is a social encounter with the other. The scientific finding that oxytocin leads to a monogamous sexual life confirms what the Catholic Church has been teaching for nearly 2000 years. In the same publication, the well- known neuroscientist Antonio Damasio confirms that “our emotions are crucial for making good decisions” (The Brain, 2009). Of course, this does not at all exhaust love as a supernatural gift from God. Love of enemies is not found in any creature except in Christ's humanity and his saints. Since Original Sin, there is no other way to overcome human selfishness other than the gift of God's love which means self-emptying love. Now we have stretched the theory of everything from the pure Mind of God to the inanimate matter to living creatures to man who is the epitome of creation fully saved in Christ. And in Christ we know there is only self-emptying love that transcends matter yet joins it in his incarnation to the divine. This is the basis of the Trinitarian God of Christians. It is the power of not only collaboration as seen in lower creatures, and not only in communication as is seen in inanimate matter, and not only in natural love as is seen in humans, but after all in self-emptying love that the Father eternally gives to his only begotten Son and his Son, accepting it in gratitude, returns it back to the Father...That binding love that is the Holy Spirit.
This is my thought: The essence of existence is the relationship of love...The eternal Triune Love that slowly reflects his inner essence in creation and, in the loving redemptive cross of Christ, brings in this process this creation, in spite of its sin in the human race, to that eternal Love: God.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Water as an agent of sanctification

This past Friday we watched a very good documentary movie on "Water - a great mystery." The movie presents new scientific research backed by such scientists as Prof. Kurt Wuthrich, Nobel Prize winner in chemistry (2002), and Dr. Martin Chaplin of London South Bank University. According to the theory of this research, water is fundamentally restructured at the molecular level when blessed with a good intention to others. It also insists on good intentions between people are reflected in a beautiful molecular restructuring of the structure of water even though it remains chemically the same. The reverse intention causes destructive results. Good music such as those of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven have a positive effect while heavy rock metal music will reflect restructuring of water molecule in a negative way.
The movie also brought testimonials from a Christian perspective including such high ranking authorities as Orthodox Patriarch Kiril I of Moscow (elected in Feb. 2009).
Following the scientific work, the movie attempted also to present water as a main source of good energy in most religious traditions including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Eastern religions.
In the Biblical account, Moses crossed the Red Sea. According to the theory of this research, he transformed water in his prayer. Jesus Christ used his own divine power to transform water to wine. Water is an agent for goodness and joy. In baptism by John the Baptist, he used water to help people repent. Baptism is a sacrament in the Christian Church where the baptized is immersed in water. Baptism is related to the Resurrection. The New Testament tells us we have been buried with Christ to rise again with him (the act we go through in Baptism). Moreover, water is a symbol of life not only material but also at a deeper spiritual level, it symbolizes and materializes the work of the Holy Spirit of God. In Genesis 1, the Spirit of God was said to be moving on water to bring about order out of chaos and create the entire universe.
We must understand that the movie presents theories and not necessarily facts. Here is what I think: 1. The most important thing that the movie said is that the essence of every thing is true love coupled with gratitude. This is the basis of Christianity in the deepest sense, coupled with Truth. 2. I do not believe that water itself blesses us. It is only an agent that the Spirit of God uses to sanctify us. The ideas that water has a power and memory by itself can be dangerously pantheistic as in Hindu and Buddhist religions. 3. It is good to know that other religious traditions use water as an essential part of their devotions. The Catholic Church believes that other religious traditions may have part of the truth and grace that fully exist and are expressed only in the Catholic Church. The closest to Catholics are of course the Orthodox Churches which are true Churches with probably 99% agreement on everything. These are followed by Protestant Christians with whom there is much in common based on the Creed. Next in the scale are Jews, our elder brothers from whom Jesus came. Next are Muslims whose religion is arguably based on ancient Jewish and Christian schismatics. Next are people of main world religions including Hindus. Next are atheists including Buddhists, and all agnostic beliefs. The fullness of truth exists only in the Catholic Church. Christ is risen - He is truly risen

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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