From time to time we shall include an excerpt from L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO
Excerpt from L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO, Friday, 17 October 2014, number 42
The Lord will give you a sign
SEBASTIAN WALSHE, O.PRAEM.
Professor of Philosophy at St Michael’s Abbey, California
"These signs given by God point beyond ordinary human life to a higher, supernatural life. The Gospel also teaches us that the things in the natural world are also intended by God to be signs of the supernatural"
In the beginning of creation, God blessed each day and called it good. But on one occasion, it was not good: it was not good for the man to be alone. Yet once woman was made from man, God said that it was very good. Every artist has his favorite work of art, and God’s favorite is the human family. From all eternity, in fact, He understood himself as the Son of Mary, as a member of a human family. The reason
for God’s predilection is that more than the other parts of His creation, the family reflected His own goodness and beauty. Hence, we cannot know God, we cannot love Him, without knowing and loving the natural human family. To do so would be tantamount to considering someone beautiful whose accurate reflection in a mirror we consider ugly.
Consider how the modern distortions of the family can lead to distortions in faith. The indissolubility of marriage is intended to be a sign of God’s eternal and unique love for His Church. Is it any surprise then that religious pluralism and the denial that there is one Church is widespread in a society in which divorce and remarriage are widespread?
The natural begetting of a child through the loving union of husband and wife is intended to be a sign that God creates each human soul immediately and with love.
This reality is obscured in a society which accepts in vitro fertilization or other artificial means of procreation.
The eternal and natural procession of the Son from the Father is signified by the natural begetting of a child, yet this significance is lost to a society which accepts cloning or other non-natural modes of reproduction. In such a world, God, if one believes in Him at all, will simply be viewed as a technician, a maker who stands apart from and indifferent to His creation. And in households where, by design, there is no father or there is no mother, how will the children come to understand God as Father or what it means for God to love us like a mother?
Or how shall the spiritual motherhood of the Church or the Virgin Mary be valued in a society which teaches that mothers are expendable, a non-essential part of a family, which can be replaced by a man?
And when the natural relationship between husband and wife is denied, the purpose of a male priesthood is misunderstood or rendered meaningless. Pope Francis underlines the significance of a male priesthood when he wrote that it is "a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives Himself in the Eucharist," (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 104).
C.S.Lewis put it this way in God in the Dock: "One of the ends for which sex was created was to symbolize to us the hidden things of God. One of the functions of human marriage is to express the nature of the union between Christ and the Church. We have no authority to take the living and semitive figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures." Examples could be multiplied but, suffice it to say, a lack of love and esteem for the goodness of the natural family entails a lack of love and esteem for God and the things of heaven.
From this we can see that the natural relationships within a family are not simply a matter of necessity or competence to carry out a function. They are also indispensable signs of higher realities. The case of the Holy Family is a striking example of this. If ever a father and husband were unnecessary and expendable in a family from the perspective of functionality, it was in the Holy Family. St Joseph was not necessary to beget or even educate the child. God was the child’s Father and the Holy Spirit was the Spouse of the Virgin Mary. St Joseph was not necessary as a moral or intellectual guide to his spouse who was conceived without original sin, and is acclaimed by the Church as Virgin most prudent, and Seat of Wisdom.
The power of miracles or angelic protection could have sufficed to provide and protect the child and His mother. Yet in spite of all this, God willed the Holy Family to have a husband and father, and it was through St Joseph that He guided the Holy Family in the early years of the life of Jesus. In the one case where God could have done without a husband and father, He chose not to. Grace builds upon, preserves and perfects nature, even in its most extraordinary manifestations.
The Lord Himself has given us the sign of the human family: the almah, the maiden under a guardian, who shall bear a Son and call Him Emmanuel, "God is with us." Indeed, if we cherish and believe in his sign, God shall be with us, and we with Him.