- Posted by Lin Wilder
- On April 6, 2014
- 0 Comments
- catholicism, catholocism, christian, god, sacred, telling the truth, thinking, writing
That the 1st three chapters in Genesis have other than historical relevance to me, my culture and my world had never occurred to me until reading a 1976 meditation by Pope John Paul II about the history of atheism, of agnosticism, of the many ideologies which seek to deny God. “…Your eyes will be opened and you will become like God, acquiring knowledge of good and evil.”
These are the words spoken to Eve when she answers the serpent, modifying his statement to her…denying her Creator does not even occur to her. For the full and complete temptation offered by he who was more cunning than all of the animals that God had made, we needed to plunge down to a world where the creature and the creator are one and the same…where man believes he is the center of creation.
On this 5th Sunday in Lent, I have returned to an unfinished book by soon to be Saint John Paul ll, Sign of Contradiction. Last fall I wrote a few posts on only 2 chapters I read from this remarkable collection of meditations given by the then Cardinal Wojtyla at the Lenten Retreat in March, 1976 to Pope Paul Vl and his co-workers.
The meditations are dense; therefore, I resist the temptation to speed read though the collection, realizing this book will be a perfect assist for my own meditations for this Lent which is speeding by.
In a chapter (meditation) called the Ways of Denial, John Paul writes of Genesis as if the story is still unfolding. And he begins by talking about the second Vatican Council’s remarks on atheism. Outlining the philosophic, moral and intellectual changes which have occurred, the document states that
“a more acute critical sense has freed religion from magical conceptions of the world and from surviving superstitions and is increasingly insisting a more personal and active adherence to the faith. On the other hand….unlike in former times, denial of God or religion-in practice doing without them- are no longer unusual or individual occurrences…Today it is quite often said they are called to for by scientific progress and a new type of humanism. In many countries all this finds expression not only in philosophy but art, literature, interpretation of history…with the result that many people have lost their bearings.”
I include this section not because it is surprising to the 21st century reader; rather that those who wrote that still controversial document on which Vatican ll is based, wrote about atheism with such compassion and understanding- these writers clearly get it. The understated phrase ‘loss of bearings’ is redolent with pain, loss and sorrow.
John Paul takes it back to the beginning: To the first denial in Eden, where the battle between the Word and the [a most interesting phrase he uses for Satan] Anti-Word began. When the ‘father of lies’ approaches, he does not deny God, the existence of God; he cannot deny the essence of creation to which even his own existence bears witness.
It took almost two millennia for humanity to decline to the point where the Anti-Word galvanizes ‘enlightened’ writers like Voltaire to opine that “God made man in His image and Man gave it back to him” and Fuerbach to pen “in place of love of God we ought to acknowledge love of man as the only true religion.”
The first temptation is being realized in an era in which this aspect of the devil’s temptation has found the historical context that suits it. Perhaps, wrote Pope John Paul, “we are experiencing the highest level of tension between the Word and the Anti-Word in human history.”