“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary,” said Thomas More, who died for his relentless faith despite Henry VIII’s promise of honor he would confer on to his most trusted counsel in his cabinet. Samuel Johnson also confirmed that faith required no byzantine theories or philosophy for the validity of truth. Until I attended a public Sunday mass in a parking lot yesterday, I had not realized the power of faith, which I doubted I still had in my heart.
The beautiful liturgy of the mass, which culminated in the Eucharist, was akin to a flowing of streams of life to the eyes of a seasick seaman and the thirst of a weary traveler. I had never expected such exaltation of the soul with faith disappearing into an abyss of despondency populated with a school of doubt, disbelief, and frustration nurtured in a reality of everyday life. But while listening to a priest’s sermon based on the reading of Matthew 25:31-46, which is about the importance of practicing faith into actions, especially by sharing milk of human kindness with people you feel least likable or unkindest.
The priest further asked if we would counsel with God in making decisions in life or just about anything needful of help. No one answered yes because let’s face it, we regard such tendency to recourse to God as a derogatorily medieval way of living life in this Digital Age of Artificial Intelligence. We try to reason our faith with the validity of practical truth and willfully turn our heads from the Gospel with the usual facade of “Religion has nothing to do with it.” But then can you also prove that we are nothing but of a highly complex living organism made of accidental atoms, sans souls? What is the feeling that urges you to search for meaning in life, our sense of purpose? Can atoms do it?
It is my wholly solipsistic reflection of hearing mass, but now I feel like finding Ariadne’s Thread in the labyrinth to find a way out on this last day of the church calendar. What a feeling. Peace to be with you, and God bless you all.
The story of a half-bull and half-man monster known as the Minotaur epitomizes the primordial thematic perspectives of mankind juxtaposed along with the law of nature representing the mysterious force. It became a subject of belief tradition peculiar to its natural and cultural environs. The conflicting sentiments of reverence toward the awe-inspiring nature’s creatures and the ambition for domineering them as the ruler of the universe give birth to the bestial creature in the figure of the terrific Minotaur who was fated to be slain by the Athenian hero Theseus.
King Minos betrayed Poseidon by keeping his beautiful snow-white Bull, instead of sacrificing it to the expectant god, who, in turn, made his wife Pasiphae unquenchably infatuated with the Bull. She copulated with the beast by taking herself into the form of a hollow wooden cow designed by the Athenian architect named Daedalus. The result was the Minotaur kept in a Labyrinth by the selfsame designer of the wooden cow. The Minotaur showed no human feelings or emotions as the mythology did not treat him any more than a horrible bestial creature from the unnatural union of a woman and a beast.
A Bull in the ancient Greek culture was a chthonic animal associated with fertility and vegetation and also represented the sun and the might. In fact, the famous figure and paintings of bull-leaping are seen inside of the Minoan mausoleum in Knossos as first discovered by the eminent English archeologists Arthur Evans, who also found Linear A and B letters, the mother of the ancient Greek language, at the turn of the 20th century,
The dog – the best friend of mankind
The perspective on the dog as the loyal canine companion collapses the millenniums between the ancient Greek’s time and ours. Even the Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of the Hades look tamable with a piece of sweet cake, making it look less of a menacing beast necessitating the blood and flesh of man. This goes without saying that it was Argos, the paragon of the faithful canine, who recognized his travel-weary employer Odyssey after 20 years of absence from home and put forth what might think he had to approach him with a wagging tail. He died as his long-waited boss in incognito passed by him with his heart pounded by a surge of pathos dubbed in warmth. Of all the gods, goddesses, heroes, and even his family, it was Argos who showed genuine, artless unconditional affection to Odyssey and thus rendered his heroic owner all the more humane and sympathetic.
Speaking of loyalty, Laelaps, a Greek mythological dog that never failed to catch what it was hunting, also denotes how the ancient Greeks perceived the dog as their life companions. Laelaps was initially a gift to Europa from Zeus, then bequeathed to Minos, who gave it to his concubine Procris whose sister included Pandora. She gave the hound to her husband Cephalus as a token of her unbroken love for him Cephalus used the hound for hunting the Teumessian Fox that could never be caught. Then Zeus turned both of the animals into the stars as the constellations Canis Major (the dog) and Canis Minor (the fox).
Consequently, the use of the animals above in the thematic context in the Greek mythology evinces that mankind cannot exist alone as part of nature. Man finds his meaning of what it means to be a human and its purpose in life by rendering the values and precepts of natural law emblazoned in the human consciousness to the meta figures of the mythology. The mythological animals, whether wild, imaginary, or ordinary, are the reflection of the human traits interbred with imaginary creatures from the Elysium of Fancy. It became the substratum of a belief tradition administering to the modes of social behaviors in society, and thus developed into an organized religion by way of syncretism in the era of Christianity.
P.S.: This poem was based upon my reading of the ‘Book of the Dead,’ an ancient Egyptian guide to the Underworld instructing the dead what to expect, where to go, and how to behave when entering the Underworld. The ancient Egyptians regarded death as new life, the beginning of the Afterlife where the souls of the virtuous dead lived in a heavenly landscape that looked so much like Egypt on earth. The blissful afterlife was meritorious by the ruling of Osiris, the supreme ruler of the Underworld, who questioned the souls of the dead according to a long list of sins that mankind was prone to commit by nature and put their negation of sins on a test by putting each of their hearts on the divine scale to weigh against Maat’s Feather.” Maat was the goddess of truth, and as she put the heart on the other side of the scale, the balance would remain the same if the heart was free of sins. Only such a sinless, weightless heart would give the soul of the man a passport to Paradise. Fascinating.
It’s 10 minutes before regular Saturday Vigil mass begins, and I am sitting on my regular pew, feeling responsible rather than faithful. I wonder if I am being irreligious or irreverent toward the existence of God and the observation of the ancient rite of faith that has been performed for a long thread of centuries from the Last Supper to this Modern Day of Social Media. For my trinity of Heart, Soul, and Mind is not one with this belief when my emotions run counter to the teachings of the Church that seem incongruent with everyday reality. If this sentiment had been read aloud in the 16th or the 17th century Europe, then I would have been labelled an immoral atheist, a pariah cut adrift from the traditional mooring in the canonical faith and morals of Christianity.
My anxiousness about the existence of God is emotional, rather than logical in the working of the intellect, which has been shared by writers, philosophers, and even canonized saints of the Church. According to Professor Alec Ryne’s article of “The fury that filled the rise of atheism” as featured in this month’s BBC History, the workings of emotions and the first-hand experiences of uncharitable Christians and dogmatic clerics laid out a foundation of atheism in the 16th and 17th centuries, which later became nourishment of modern western civilization.
The French polymath Blaise Pascal knew about the power of emotions: “The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.” In fact, humans make the great choices of beliefs, values, purposes intuitively, unable to articulate how and why they have been made. This means that prior to the establishment of conformed sets of moral code and religious doctrines, the Creator has already imprinted moral and ethical guides in the human mind. This can be also meant that you can be an atheist or unbeliever with a good heart because your conscience, the law of nature, can be a guide to an outward moral virtue.
In fact, the Enlightenment’s prime critique of Christianity, that is the churches in a broad sense, was that it was “immoral.” Thinkers, such as Voltaire and Thomas Paine declaimed against the churches because of their moral revulsion. Paine furthered his vehement subjective on religion as a human invention, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, bereft of advanced metaphysical views on the churches. In other words, religion as an institution should not govern human free will to decide moral choices laid out by arbitrary set of invented rules.
Thanks to the works of philosophers based upon humanism, a discovery of belief in contemplative retreat to natural wonder percolated institutionalized belief through individual spiritual reformation. That you can find God in the beauty of nature and the wonder of how the human body and mind work is a way you can affirm the existence of God as a manifestation of God because all of it could not have created itself. As a matter of fact, this natural way of finding the existence of God was St. John Paul II’s favorable method of praying during his lifetime because being a former student theater actor, he could see the clear signs of God in the workings of nature. Which coincides in the Enlightenment thinkers’ views on belief, free from institutionalized doctrines of belief.
In light of the above, my crisis of belief was more of emotional than of intellectual. The temptations that there was no God, also sprang in the minds of St. Therese of Lisieux, St. John of Cross, and other saintly men and women. Even Jesus on the Cross cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Which indicates the workings of emotions in the face of existential strife, a vantage point from which belief they had steadfastly held no longer or momentarily felt true. From angry unbelief that religion was morally intolerable to anxious unbelief that religion was an ethical institution, the history of atheism has ironically redefined the notion about belief, authentic faith, by pointing out the corruption of the churches and purifying the understanding of God as the modern world is familiar with. For me, it’s high time I went hiking on the nearby mountain trails to seek a manifestation of belief for My Own Reformation of Belief.