Friday, December 8, 2017

Feast of Immaculate Conception: We Are Blessed and Beloved Like Mary

Happy Feast Day everyone! Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception, a teaching of the Catholic Church, affirming that Mary was blessed, beloved and full of grace from the first moment of her conception. The good news is we too are beloved and full grace from the first moment of our conception. 

Theologians, like well-known prolific author, Matthew Fox, have written extensively that original sin was an attempt by early church fathers like St. Augustine to understand the mystery of evil that fostered the need to understand Jesus' death on the cross as atonement for our sins. 

 Matthew Fox, "invites us to explore the story of “Original Blessing,” which begins with goodness, compassion, and creativity at the heart of the universe. This alternative account embraces the best of both religion and science. It is the wondrous story of “emergence” — how the Universe evolved over the course of 13.7 billion years through stages of increasing complexity: “pre-atomic, atomic, molecular, unicellular, multi-cellular, vertebrate, primate, and human.”” As one theologian has written, we humans are,
Stardust now evolved to the place that the stardust can think about itself!…We are the universe becoming conscious of itself. We are stardust that has begun to contemplate the stars. We have arisen out of the dynamics of the Earth. Four billion years ago, our planet was molten rock, and now it sings opera. Let me tell you, this is good news!
Embracing this Universe Story perspective of Original Blessing is precisely what Matthew Fox intends when he invites us to explore the Via Positivathe “Positive Way” of befriending Creation. He invites us to embrace all that this world and this life can teach us about God and God’s mind-blowingly huge Creation — an act of creation that did not end with a single act in the past, but that has been ongoing for billions of years.

“Original Sin” from Augustine, not Genesis
To say more about the difference between the traditional “Fall/Redemption Story” and the scientifically-based “Universe Story,” remember that, for the most part, neither Jews, nor Muslims, nor Eastern Orthodox Christians, nor many biblical scholars recognize a doctrine of “Original Sin” when they read the first few chapters of Genesis. Our tendency in Western Christianity to read these stories as a “Fall from grace” has to do with the way Augustine, the fourth-century bishop of Hippo, (and later Martin Luther) read these stories.
Augustine has been a major influence on Christian theology for 1,500 years and Luther for more than 500 years, and it can sometimes be almost impossible for us Western Christians to read scripture without the influence of major figures such as Augustine and Luther affecting our interpretation. Both Augustine and Luther were, at times, obsessed with the themes of sin and grace, and these fixations affected how they interpreted the Bible (and, in turn, how many of Christians have read the Bible since). The point is that although we humans are certainly flawed, finite creatures, the dominance of the “Original Sin” motif in Western Christian theology is neither inevitable nor integral either to the Bible itself or to the Universe Story.
Fox relatedly points out that human writing was only invented a few thousand years ago. But the Universe, again, is billions of years old. Accordingly, theologians invite us to consider that although the Bible has enduring importance, we should consider that, “The universe is the [first and] primary revelation of the divine, the primary scripture [predating the Bible by billions of years], [and] the primary locus of divine-human communion.” And God is communicating with us though Creation today, including through science. Said differently, the scientific method is a way of listening to how God is speaking to us about the mysteries of our Universe. "


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