Sunday, August 14, 2011


Excerpted as the “Meditation of the Day” for 3 August in Magnificat, Fr Bede Jarrett, OP reflects on the way to make the mysteries of religion come alive in one’s faith-walk: The whole series of mysteries will certainly be of no use to me in my endless advance toward God unless I try to make them my own by ceaselessly pondering over them. Of themselves, they are just the bare outlines of truths, yet it is not truths, but the facts that are contained in the truths, that are ultimately to influence my life.

This is a striking statement, and yet it is not the first time I have come across the attempt to make such a distinction. In another book, referring to the Christian story, a voice tells the main character, Pilgrim John:
Child, if you will, it is mythology. It is but truth, not fact: an image, not the very real. But then it is My mythology… this is My inventing, this is the veil under which I have chosen to appear even from the first until now. For this end I made your senses and for this end your imagination, that you might see My face and live.
This is the insight of C. S. Lewis in his first “apologetic” book, The Pilgrim’s Regress.

What does this attempt at a distinction (in Lewis or Bede Jarrett) tell us?

I think, first of all, that it is a way of entering into our sacramental worship—a reminder that what we do liturgically is true and real, but not final and absolute. Our celebration of the Eucharist, for example, is not the final goal but the vehicle by which we participate now by foretaste in what is our actual ultimate destiny—union with God in the Body of Christ.

It is also a way of keeping us intellectually humble. We humans must seek after, and may indeed have discovered, the truth; this does not mean we have a comprehensive grasp of Godhead. To think that we do really suggests that we have an idol instead of God. It is one of the virtues of a theology of the Trinity that it allows us to acknowledge fundamental truth about God (community of life and love) while forcing us to face our conceptual limitations (unity in multiplicity that permits the use of words like “triune”). Muslims and Jews regard Christians as polytheists; Christians loudly insist this is not the case, but “Trinity” is not a category in those other Abrahamic faiths, so we have problems explaining what we mean in a credible way to them. This is, I believe, all to the good—we have an expression of faith that leads us to surrender to the Mystery. We can be certain of the truth—we are less confident of the Fact. So we can be content to let God be God, and we recognize what the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 already taught us: that the distance between Creator and creature is so great that no matter how true the analogy we make about God might be, it will always be more “unlike” than “like.” As St Paul put it (II Cor 5:7)—“we walk by faith, not by sight.” And as he also said (I Cor 13:12)—“At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” That will be the great Day when truth becomes eternal Fact.

1 comment:

  1. Just a comment from one who has been a lifelong Roman Catholic. My education during the first eight years of school gave the basics of the original covenant - the 10 commandments. Be good, go to confession (as it was then called) and hopefully you shall be a worthwhile person.
    Years later, the strength of these early disciplined classes with Sacred Heart nuns, resulted in my marrying only a man who also was a Catholic. Mixed marriages were frowned upon. Attending other church services was not favored.
    Did I truly understand what Catholicism meant? Of course not. I was given all the right information re Jesus Christ, the Trinity - God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Receiving our Lord in the Eucharist: was this wafer really Him? How could God be more than one entity? Could a baby or child not baptized really be saved?
    Well, the list goes on, doesn't it? These beliefs did not appear to be genuine facts. They only become so, when one believes the other worldly existence of heaven/purgatory/hell. Then, the fact is not really a fact at all, but it is the TRUTH, achieved by the grace of God that I am allowed to accept. Always, always, I so humbly accept this truth which is a gift to me from the Holy Spirit and most likely, someone's earnest prayers. Thank You.