Monday, March 26, 2007

Conception and the Inconceivable

Since it fell on a Sunday, the Feast of the Annunciation has been moved to Monday, which provides an opportunity to add a sobering note to yesterday's post.

The Marian "Yes" is the key to the Incarnation, and the capacity for the specifically Christian way of life is a function of one's ability and willingness to approximate that "Yes." The alternative to it is not often an emphatic "No." Such candid rejection is at least not lukewarm and it can be, and often is, the prelude to a most fruitful conversion. St. Paul's for example.

The more typical alternative to the Marian "Yes" and its approximation in the life of a person of faith is: "Yes, but …" or "Yes, if …" or "Yes, until …" In other words: Yes on my own terms.

Now Mary's "Yes" resulted in the conception of the child Jesus. So before that "Yes" becomes a sign and symbol of a way of life, it is the unguarded openness to the possibility of life.

So here are some things to ponder on this Feast of the Annunciation:

As the headquarters of the European Union, Brussels, Belgium is the capitol of the new Europe. For the last six years, the most popular name for newborn boys in Brussels has been Mohammed.

Which bring to mind this from Eric Gans' most recent edition of his Chronicles of Love and Resentment:

The critical test of the claim that a society can live without religion is not simply, as it has traditionally been understood, whether it can remain free of destructive internal conflict, but whether it can provide some goal beyond individual life that motivates its members to reproduce themselves.

As Benedict XVI suggested in a talk on Saturday, there is an easily detectable link between the loss of belief in anything transcendent to this present life and the loss of interest in bringing children into the world. Each represents a loss of faith in the future.

Again, Eric Gans:

Contemporary European history offers a laboratory demonstration that individuals whose horizon is limited to their personal existence will not, when given the choice (via easily obtainable contraceptives and abortions), insure the survival of their society. For the esthetes of the 19th century vie de bohême, this meant leaving works rather than children; for their descendents today, it means profiting from accumulated social wealth with no more concern for the future of their culture than of their DNA.

The Marian "Yes" has become the shrugging and self-absorbed materialist: "If and when I can work it into my schedule."

Meanwhile, since the future belongs to the fertile, the cultural schedule of the 21st century is being determined by others and shaped in ways that were, if you'll pardon the expression, inconceivable to the members of my generation who inhaled, as almost all of us did, the fashionable ideas that have left so many so resigned and hopeless. With fewer and fewer children and grandchildren to be concerned about, attention turns to making the most of the few year immediately ahead.

Sebastian Moore once said that death as ultimate horizon lets sin make as much sense as sin can make. If death has the last word then shrugging nihilism is unavoidable.

The young Jewish girl, steeped no doubt in a piety that most contemporary realists would find amusing, simply said "Yes" in a way that no human being had ever before said it, and God came into the world in response.

1 comment:

Athos said...

In the prolepsis of Why Matter Matters (Our Sunday Visitor), David P. Lang says:

"The twentieth century witnessed on an enormous scale the emergence of some arrogantly wicked dictatorial regimes imbued with a gnostic (and often occult) worldview: Nazism, Communism, and the Sexual Revolution that spawned the Abortion Holocaust.

"Even if modern neo-gnostics do not condemn matter per se as evil, nonetheless they (like their predecessors) persist in seeing various differences in the forms of matter as irrelevant for an enlightened understanding of reality ..." (my emphases)

The ramifications of this insight are breathtaking. Cloned sheep 15% human DNA material? What's the deal? Transsexual? Yeah, sure, why not? Designer children? We got the genes, baby!

The point: thanks to Girard and the prophets, I see paganism's recrudescence clear as day. Lang is helping me to see the gnosticism in which I lived, moved, and had my being for many, many years, and how much the Church has to say about gnosticism in her teaching, sacraments, and very being.

This is a theme only now being touched in terms of the demise of Europe and the West. It's time to engage gnosticism with drawn sword.