Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Death as a Part of the Human Condition

Lent has been upon us for just over a week now, and it is a time of death, specifically death to ourselves as we prepare to follow Christ in the commemoration of His Passion and then celebrate His Resurrection, where He conquered death through love. The traditional formula for the distribution of ashes is taken from Genesis 3, where God curses Adam for his transgression. Man shall toil the earth and then return to it, from which he had been formed. Memento homo, quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris.

In one sense, it is not part of God's original plan for us that we should die and our bodies and souls be separated from each other until the resurrection of the dead at the end of time when Christ returns in Judgment. He created us in a state where everything was right between man and Creator and where man would always be fully integrated in body and soul, but the radical possibility to love comes with it the possibility that man will choose against love and thus commit sin and its effects.

There are two factors which contribute to the possibility to love and to participate in our own salvation moved by grace. One, God gave us the possibility of reason, which is distinct from all other living things. Through reason we can come to a certain knowledge of the One True God, even though it is clouded by sin, and with this comes the ability to judge (discern might be a more clear word sometimes), make decisions, and choose. It would be entirely inappropriate for a rational creature to have been kept in a state where they are given the beatific vision immediately without any possibility of choosing it for his or herself.

Second, God gave us time through the His work of creation. There is creation and then there is the eschaton, meaning time is in between. This is coupled onto the great gift of reason. Time would be utterly pointless if the ability to choose love did not exist, if we had nothing to fill the gap between the alpha and the omega. God could have just created us in a state of perfection, but He did not. Creation is constantly journeying towards perfection (as an aside, modern science, whether its practitioners admit it or not, is firmly in line with a Catholic cosmology, as all Truth is...), and for us humans this means we are brought to faith, living in hope, and working in love. Bear in mind that God is infinite, and He could have created any number of worlds, but this one came to be. There is no perfect world, or to counter Leibniz, there is no best of all possible worlds. Each has their flaws unknowable to human eyes.

The Protoevangelium: And she will crush
serpent's head...
Returning to my initial point, it is of course part of God's plan that Man should fall, considering that he has complete foreknowledge of all that is to come in the history of creation, and He made provision for it through His plan of salvation made known to us in the divine words and deeds presented in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. He revealed to us Himself as Trinity and in fact His very self, which is Love, through Divine Revelation, wherein His Only-Begotten Son was sent to die, so that whomever might believe in Him might have eternal life through partaking in the Sacrifice of Calvary, and thus the Body and Blood of Our Lord and God Jesus Christ which was spent for us and our sins, and sharing in His Resurrection. Both His inner life and His self as Love are indiscernible through the effects of creation. Now it is an open question whether the Savior would have revealed God as Trinity and brought all of humanity to salvation without having to hang upon the Cross. I lean against that view and tend to support the Thomist view expressed in the Exultet of the Easter Vigil: "O truly necessary sin of Adam destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!"

To be continued...

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