Friday, 31 October 2014

The Loving Family, the Man and the Old Mansion

A story that addresses the opinion that says:

“I believe in God, yet not in the Church.”


 In a particular neighbourhood, in an old mansion that was seven stories high, lived a father, his son, and the son’s mother. Throughout the neighbourhood this family was highly regarded and esteemed, because of their loving nature and hospitality which welcomed all people of every race and class. One day a new man, who was relatively young and lived on his own, moved into the neighbourhood; and upon hearing about this saintly family he decided to pay them a visit. The following morning after making this resolution, the man walked to this family’s home and knocked on their door. At once they opened the door, embraced him as their own, and gave him food and drink, and all the love and attention they could give him. He remained there all day, and because it had gotten late, the man reluctantly forced himself to leave in the evening, against the pleas of the family who begged him to stay on a little longer. Upon arriving at his home a haunting silence surrounded him, and all of a sudden he felt very lonely and sad. “But there I was so loved,” he said to himself; “I must return, for these people mean so much to me and I to them.”

 The following morning he ran straight to the family’s home and there they were delighted to see him. He spent the entire day with them and together they laughed and shared food, stories, and drink. And so it happened that as night approached the man would return to his home, only to return again the following morning. This he did for many weeks, and never did the family grow tired of him and nor did he of them. For every moment they all spent together seemed like a dream of pleasantness; and constantly they grew in love for one another.

However as a month passed, the man started to notice that certain sections of the family’s home were in disrepair. The ceiling in some rooms had water damage, the walls in certain places were chipped, and some of the family’s furniture was old and tattered; and there was one particular room that was repugnant with the smell of damp carpet and excessive mould. At first the man was so rapt with the members of the family that he had not been troubled by the poor condition of sections of the house. Yet after he first began to notice, slowly he became aware of fault after fault, until such thoughts plagued his mind.

And so it was that one morning he knocked upon the door of the family’s home; yet whilst welcoming him in as they usually did, he refused the invitation, and at once all the joy left each of the faces of the family. “I cannot and will not come into your house any more” spoke the man; “for it is a rotten old place. However do not take offense, for I still want to see you, and so if you would like to find a better home I will spend time with you there.” After gathering himself together the father said to the man: “I know my family’s home is not the most luxurious or perfect of places, yet the foundation is pure marble and is solid; and day by day we renovate. This is our home and we cannot live anywhere else, we have always dwelt here and always will. So please, can you not look past the faults of our home? For we would love for you to come and dwell with us, and stay with us. You will be a son to me and the son of my spouse, and will be as the brother of my son. What do you say my child?” “I cannot and I will not, for I despise your home and disagree with it. Make me your son without having me dwell with you in this old place” replied the man. “This cannot be so” replied the father, as tears trickled down his face. “For how can you be my son when you spurn me and my family because of the tattered aspects of my home?” “But I love you! It is just your home that I hate!” shouted the man earnestly. “You do not love me, and nor do you love my son or my spouse. For you would love this home for our sake if you truly loved us. This home is one with us, and we are one with it. You reject our home, and so it is that you reject we who live here. We love you, but now we know that you never really loved us at all; you merely loved what you could get out of us. Goodbye my child, I pray you would change your mind and would come to live with us one day.” And at that the family went away, retreating into their home. Yet the father did not close the door and he never did from that day on. The man went away.

Brief Narrative Commentary

It is always best when stories are not interpreted for an individual in advance. However if done sparingly and in the right manner, such interpretations can help the reader draw greater profit from the story, especially if they are unfamiliar with a particular theological context.

The saintly family is in its primary and deeper sense an allegory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; whilst on another level, it can be interpreted as the Triune God as manifested in the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph; with Mary a living mirror of the Holy Spirit, and St. Joseph a living mirror of God the Father. Whilst Jesus is in His Humanity a mirror of the Triune Godhead, yet being one in nature with the Godhead, unlike Mary and Joseph who share in Godlikeness not in nature but by grace. Perhaps also, the saintly family could be an allegory of the Triune God as operating within the Church Militant (the Church on earth). Thus from this perspective perhaps one could view the father as the office of the Papacy, the mother as the teachings of the Church and the son as the office of the ministerial (ordained) priesthood.
Simply speaking, the young man is symbolic of the person who believes in God and considers themselves to love God, and yet who rejects, renounces and/or despises the Church, believing it to be unnecessary and man-made. Such an individual often has many fair reasons for this perspective, since they look at the many wicked people that have or do belong to the Church, or they look at the wicked things many have done in the name of the Church; and therefore they conclude that the Church is evil, redundant, separate from God and obviously man-made, since how could the Church be like this if it were made by God? Yet this story seeks to challenge this perspective; affirming that the Church is Holy because of Christ (foundation), and whilst many of Her members (on earth in the Church Militant) remain sinful (tattered aspects of the home); regardless, the truth is that God (i.e. the father, mother, and son) efficaciously dwells in and works through His Church by the power of the Holy Spirit (seven gifts of the Spirit) and in the Seven Sacraments (i.e. seven stories of the mansion), in providing love and care to the members of His Church (i.e. guests).

The old mansion, house and home refers to the Catholic Church, which means, the Universal Church (see bellow for quotations). This is the Church founded by Christ Jesus when He lived on earth, and traces its origins to Peter the Apostle who was the first Pope [click here for a historical list of all the Popes]. Thus Jesus said to Peter: “That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church” (Mt 16:18). And here Jesus refers to Peter as the Rock of the Church and not exclusively Himself (although it is Christ in Peter that makes him the rock), since in another Gospel Jesus says: “Thou art Simon the son of Jona. Thou shalt be called Cephas [which means rock in Aramaic], which is interpreted Peter.” (Jn 1:42). So it is that the solid pure marble stone of the house (Church) refers to the Papacy and the Magisterium and its infallibility[1] in regards to teachings on faith and morals. For as Paul says in Ephesians, the Church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ep 2:20). So it is that on this foundation, the Church, no matter how many wicked people are within it or seek to destroy it, will always endure and remain faithful in dogma and doctrine to the message of the Gospel: both Written and Oral. Since it is written: “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock.” (Mt 7:25). Furthermore, Jesus says “thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt 16:18). Besides the proof of Scripture -proof for those who believe- history and the current state of the Church speaks loudly enough on this point. For what institution, unless it was sustained supernaturally, could endure and remain for over 2000 years, teaching the same message and carrying on the same spiritual Traditions, when in the earthly realm it is almost filled with the most inadequate and worst of people. No cooperation would last more than a decade in the same situation; so truly it is a mark of the Divine.

Yet primarily the foundation of solid pure marble stone is Christ Himself, and it is with, in and through Him that the Papacy and the Magisterium (Bishops in union with the Pope) form part of this foundation stone also. Thus one comes to an understanding why it is said that Christ is the Foundation stone in one place: “For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid: which is Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor 3:11); and the apostles and prophets in another place: “Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ep 2:20). It is thus because of Christ –the solid pure marble stone- that no matter how wicked the members of the Church are (the tattered aspects of the home), the Church remains Holy, because although filled with a mingling of saints and sinners, Christ is Holy and nothing can stain this holiness. This is why this foundation stone is referred to as pure marble stone; for Christ is Purity Itself, and His Holiness as the Immutable God cannot be marred. This foundation stone is referred to as marble stone for it was marble stone that paved the floor of the Temple of Solomon (2 Chron 3:6), and Christ is the living fulfillment of such pavement which formed the place where the men of old could meet with God; for in Christ the pure marble stone we meet with the Triune God (symbolised by the saintly family in the story) within the Church, no matter how disheveled the members of the Church may be –the ceiling, walls and rooms of the house. Since all aspects of the house draw their value from Christ the foundation stone, and not the other way around. Is not this exemplified by the fact that no matter how sinful a priest may be –even if he is in the state of mortal sin- when he performs the consecration over the bread and wine by invoking the Holy Spirit, they still become the Body and Blood of Christ (Ex opere operato).

The father in the story tells the man that when he rejects his home, he also rejects himself and his entire family, for he and his family are one with their home. Since indeed a home is what it is, not because of the building itself, but because of the union between the building and those who live there. This is analogous of how God and the Church are one, because the Church is His spiritual home, and is His adopted family by grace. Concerning the oneness of the Church with God it is written: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:31-32). So it is that if one rejects the Church, one rejects God. We draw clarity from the Douay-Rheims translation of the final verse above: “This is a great sacrament: but I speak in Christ and in the church.” (Eph 5:32). Wherefore the union between the Church and Christ is sacramental; thus the Church is a Sacrament; and what is a sacrament? An efficacious instrument of grace and means of relating with God (CCC 772-776). So it is that through the Church, man comes to Christ, and through Christ man comes to God and thus spiritualising the language of the story: without the Home one cannot really be in union with the Trinitarian Family, He who is One God yet Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

And finally, note how in the story the family did not ask the man to become perfect before coming to abide in their home, but rather they accepted him as he was, all they asked was for him to accept themselves and their home, and to look past the faults of the home for the sake of love of them. In the same manner, God does not ask man to become perfect before coming to Him and before becoming a member of the Church; rather all He asks is for us to come to Him as we are; to turn away from our old ways -our old homes- and come to dwell with Him; whilst loving our neighbour and the Church, bearing with all faults out of love for Him. And so our Triune God calls out to each soul: "Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thy ear: and forget thy people and thy father’s house. And the king shall greatly desire thy beauty; for he is the Lord thy God" (Ps 45:10-11a). Wherefore this invitation of love -to love and to be loved- fulfils the desire of each soul, a desire which many repress yet some allow to surface and be thus satisfied: "One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. That I may see the delight of the Lord...[and] feast and rejoice before God: and [so] be delighted with gladness. [And may come to] taste and see that the Lord is sweet" (Ps 27:4-5a, 68:3, 34:8). Since after all, "God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him." and thus have life and have it to the full (1 Thes 5:9-10; Jn 10:10).

Several relevant excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

What does "catholic" mean?

830 The word "catholic" means "universal," in the sense of "according to the totality" or "in keeping with the whole." The Church is catholic in a double sense:
First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. "Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church." In her subsists the fullness of Christ's body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him "the fullness of the means of salvation"308 which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession. The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost and will always be so until the day of the Parousia [Second Coming].
831 Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race:

Who belongs to the Catholic Church?

836 "All men are called to this catholic unity of the People of God. . . . And to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God's grace to salvation."

838 "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter." Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church." With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist."

Several relevant excerpts from Lumen Gentium:

(6). Often the Church has also been called the building of God. (34) The Lord Himself compared Himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the cornerstone. (35) On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles, (36) and from it the Church receives durability and consolidation. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God (37) in which dwells His family; the household of God in the Spirit; (38) the dwelling place of God among men; (39) and, especially, the holy temple. This Temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Holy Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem (5*). As living stones we here on earth are built into it. (40) John contemplates this holy city coming down from heaven at the renewal of the world as a bride made ready and adorned for her husband.

(8). While Christ, holy, innocent and undefiled (81) knew nothing of sin, (82) but came to expiate only the sins of the people,(83) the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal. The Church, "like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God"(14*), announcing the cross and death of the Lord until He comes."(84) By the power of the risen Lord it is given strength that it might, in patience and in love, overcome its sorrows and its challenges, both within itself and from without, and that it might reveal to the world, faithfully though darkly, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it will be manifested in full light. 

(Italics added).

[1] Infallibility in regards to faith and morals means that the Holy Spirit will not allow the Church to deviate in her official teaching from the Truth revealed by Christ Jesus, and that an official understanding of this Truth which develops over the ages, will not err either. This does not mean that the members of the Church will deviate in practice from this official teaching however. (CCC 888-892).

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