Saturday, October 10, 2009

In The Beginning.....then what?

"In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth"

That is how history of all time opens, and also probably where the confusion begins for us all. I have been pondering Creation lately and how we all got here and what a miracle it all is.....and how much we don't know and probably never will. The question is how much do we REALLY know about how the earth began, how much we can discover and where we can discover it.

For a large number of Christians, the history of the universe begins in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. This is where we read the account of a seven day creation cycle. In the first two chapters we see the creation of light and darkness; sun, moon and stars, land from water, and most importantly man. All this was done with His spoken Word and God the Father said it was all good. Most Christians who hold to a literal 7 day creation would also believe that the earth is anywhere between 6,000-10,000 years old. Of course, the Bible is not meant to be a history book or a scientific textbook, so this being the case, there are many questions that are left unanswered and this creates holes in our story. This brings us to another perspective.

On the other end of the spectrum we have the scientific community. Some may be be atheists, agnostics and some might be people of faith. I am no scientist and I don't pretend to be one so I won't try to impress people with scientific terms or definitions, but from the scientific point of view, there may or may not be a God (intelligent design) and the humanity that we see on the earth, along with the earth we reside on is a matter of chance or a series of events that have evolved over possibly hundreds of millions--or even billions of years; we just happened to be here. Yet there are holes in this approach as well. Was there a design to this whole system we exist in? Is there a purpose to humanity other than just existing and dying?

So the question is: Is there any merging of these two points of view and are they diametrically opposed? I think that the answer is a resounding YES.

"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth."--Pope John Paul II

Let's first look at the facts and the missing links of the account of Creation in Genesis. One of the most important things to remember is that if you are going to read Genesis, you must read it in the context that it was written. Also you must realize that the ancient Hebrews recorded history much differently than what we are used to in the Western world. In other words, Genesis can't be taken at face value. When we in the Western world read a historical document, we are trained to read in a very linear fashion and expect things to flow in an orderly chronological fashion. This is not so with Hebrew history. The writer of Genesis (Moses) and the other ancient authors tend to record history more in an elliptical format. This simply means that they tend to explain what happened more in a conceptual way and then move on to the next concept, without a definite timeline. In addition, there was much more symbolism used than what we are used to seeing in our culture.

Looking at the first chapter of Genesis for example, we see in the very first verse that the earth was already here in existence. This does not mean that God did not create the earth however. As Christians, be believe that the earth and everything we see was created by God "ex nihlo" or out of nothing. What we do see is that at the point were the Genesis account picks up, however, we see the earth was dark, void, without order:

Genesis 1:1-2 (NAB)
1 In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

Reading further into the first chapter of Genesis, we see that on "Day 1" God separated the light from darkness...and this was the first day. Now do I believe this was a 24 hour day? I don't think so. The reason I say that is due to this fact: What makes a "day" a "day"? The sun. 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night is what defines a day. According to the first chapter of Genesis, the Sun and moon were not even created until day 4. This leads me very much to believe that instead of a series of "24 hour days" as we are used to believing, that the earth and the universe was created in 7 undefined periods of time.

Is this outlook somewhat heretical, or does it somehow detract from the power of a Creator? BY NO MEANS! Whether God took 7 days or 7million years to create our universe, HE still created it. In addition, if you want to hold to a seven day creation, then do so! The most important and undeniable fact of creation is the human creation. We must believe that the human race was created by God through one man and one woman; Creations that were given life by the very breath of God himself. Creatures that were given the abilities that no other creature on earth has: capacities to know right from wrong, to love and most of all to know God.

The fault, however of many Christians is that they tend to blacklist scientific discoveries. If there are carbon tests that say a fossil is millions, or billions of years old it is blacklisted and denied. Science and faith have the ability to work hand in hand and TRUE science will never contradict the faith, but rather enhance our faith by revealing more and more the intricacies of the Father along with the vast attention to detail that he paid to it.

What is true science? True science in it's purest form comes to us as a method to understand what exists in the world that we live. It comes with no predispositions, but with methods and theories to be proven. True science does not exist to prove there is no God, but rather to research and explain what is.

Taking scientific studies on their own outside of faith can be even more deceptive and dangerous. Science without acknowledging the Almighty leads to a humanity without purpose and left to our own devices. Without God there is no right or wrong, good or evil, but whatever we as humans have decided what is good or evil. Without God we are all happenstance amoebas who happened to gain the time and the ability to "evolve" into something greater. It forces us to search back for the "missing link" that ties us to the past rather than acknowledging that we are creatures of an Almighty God that created us for His love and His purpose.

As Christians, let us not be afraid of looking at true is the other wing that leads us to understanding

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Veil

2 The length of each shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width four cubits; all the sheets shall be of the same size.
3 Five of the sheets are to be sewed together, edge to edge; and the same for the other five.
4 Make loops of violet yarn along the edge of the end sheet in one set, and the same along the edge of the end sheet in the other set.
5 There are to be fifty loops along the edge of the end sheet in the first set, and fifty loops along the edge of the corresponding sheet in the second set, and so placed that the loops are directly opposite each other.
6 Then make fifty clasps of gold, with which to join the two sets of sheets, so that the Dwelling forms one whole.
This is what we know about the Veil of the Temple. It was ordered by God to be constructed as part of His Dwelling; and behind that veil was the Ark of the Covenant. As Christians it is a foreign concept to us and I believe thoroughly that if we want to fully understand Christianity, we must first understand Judaism and the Jewish culture. At that point in history, God was distant from his children and it was shown as such by the Torah. If you were unclean, you were not able to even be in the camp and surely not approach the Tabernacle. God was separated from his chosen people by their sins. As a matter of fact, His children were not even allowed to utter the name of God from their lips and this is shown throughout the Old Testament.

Tonight I was reading a Bible story to my daughters about how God provided the quail for the children of Israel. The children were complaining to Moses and THEN Moses was relaying the message to God and basically wanted the Lord to take him out of a very uncomfortable situation. Based on the intercession of Moses, God provided for his Children, but they didn't learn because they had no personal knowledge of God. They were not able to speak with God directly and even the Priests were only allowed behind the veil one time a year. Think about that and let that soak in. The Children of Israel were unable to talk to their God.

It is into this mentality and mindset that Christ was born. Christ--"Emmanuel: God is with us". God was not approachable, so how could he be with us? And God would NOT come down to the form of a man; yet this is what He did in the form of Christ. Jesus was not simply "God in a Bod" but rather Christ contained two distinct yet inseparable natures. He was ALL God and at the same time ALL Man. This union has been studied for Milena and is called the Hypostatic Union and was defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. This very union of God an Man shows us the Father's intent: to unite himself with us as one and bring humanity back to Himself. God showed us who he was through Christ. Christ Himself said that if you have seen Him, you had seen the Father.

In the Old Covenant with God, there had to be a compensation made for our sins, our disobedience to the laws of God. That was done through the sacrifice of the animals. As a Jew, you would confess your sins to the priest as he slaughtered the animal on the altar and that blood that was spilled and sprinkled on the altar was for your sins. That was the way that God designed it, imperfect as it was. Yet something better was to come.

The similarities between the sacrifice of the animal on the altar and the Crucifixion of Our Lord are staggering, but one of the most riveting is from the book of Mark:
Mark 14:12-12
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?"
The very day that the Christ was making preparations for his Passover, they were sacrificing the Lambs for the Passover. There is no clearer imagery of what Our Lord was about to suffer on our behalf. Our humanity had to suffer the repercussions of our sins...and we all deserve it. But the miracle that came through Christ was that God and humanity joined together in the form of Christ to take all the sins of the world upon him--including the separation from the Father that Humanity since the time of the fall had to live with. Christ was now out side of the Veil. He was on our side.

While on the cross however, something miraculous happened. The veil that was dividing God and Man was torn and it is very interesting how. The gospels make a very clear point of noting that the Veil was rent from the TOP to the bottom. Being torn from the top was a clear sign that this was no work of man, but of God. And interestingly enough, it was about the same time that Our Lord was pierced and Blood and water flowed from His Sacred Heart. The Veil was not torn upon his Resurrection, but upon his DEATH. While the Resurrection was a outward sign of Christ's unity with the Father and a promise to us of our salvation, His DEATH on the cross is what reunites us with the Father.

Now there is no direct definition in Scripture of what the implications of the Veil being rent were, yet we do know from History and understanding of the Jewish culture what that meant. It meant that from that moment on, God was no longer able to be kept behind the Veil, separated from his people. Through the sacrifice of Christ all humanity has access to God, through the Sacrifice of Christ. What it did NOT mean, however was that the Old Testament was done away with and God was starting from scratch...all over again with Christ. Let's look at what Christ says to us in Matthew:
Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill."

I like to relay it to people as such. God, being the grand architect that He is had from all eternity plans for a building. The Old Covenant represents the foundation, the steel infrastructure that was to give the building it's shape. Yet it was cold, no shelter from the elements, no walls, no roof, no furnishings. Empty....powerless to do what it was intended to do. When Christ came, his intent was not to wipe the structure away, but rather to fulfill or complete the plans. He finished the walls and the roof of the building and then He sent His Holy Spirit to furnish the building with his gifts.

As a former Evangelical, I am saddened greatly by all the time that I thought the Old Testament and our Jewish roots were only historical in nature. God revealed Himself to us in the Old Testament and he also revealed to us how HE wants to be worshipped in the New Testament. With reverence, awe, and most of all through his Son. I am so humbled to know that the Sacrifice that Christ made is an eternal Sacrifice that transcends all time and boundaries and that he has allowed me to take part in that Sacrifice as often as I can through the Mass. The Mass is where we truly see that Veil torn asunder. At that point in time of consecration, we are as close to Jesus as we will ever be on this Earth. Body, Blood Soul and Divinity are all there under the guise of Bread and Wine. God has withheld NOTHING from us...not even His only Eternal Son.

"Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."
May the Body and Blood of Christ lead us all to eternal life--AMEN