The Malta Independent 19 October 2019, Saturday

Turning creatures into absolutes

Sunday, 12 May 2019, 09:23 Last update: about 6 months ago

It is not just a few people who are growing weary in life. Others have become so disheartened that they start seeing life as a problem and not as a mystery to be lived! But where is the problem for this existential malady?

The Church Fathers got it right when they said that the problem lies in turning creatures into absolutes. Due to the current positivistic mentality, which totally negates the unseen spiritual reality, many are slowly being led into turning other things and people into gods. And what happens when we place our trust in these pseudo or false gods? What happens to you and me when we sideline Jesus Christ as our God and insert instead other human flesh and blood, like you and me to take the place which is duly His alone? We taste sour grapes! We are disappointed! We get hurt!

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St Athanasius tells us that every creature derives its being from God, who is its beginning and end, its Alpha and Omega. Thus, every creature is fundamentally connected with God. Consequently, when we try to comprehend that being as outside God, it means that we do not know that creature at all and start treating it in the wrong way. For St Athanasius, outside God that creature or person is purely phantasm, fiction and exterts on us a certain delirium. How foolish we will be when we regard that creature in this fallable manner! Thus writes Athanasius in his treastise Against Pagans, Contra Gentes:

 “Fools and blind men! How could they even know of a building, a ship, a lyre, if there were not a carpenter to construct the ship, an architect to build the building, a performer to make the lyre? He who would think thus would be a fool beyond all folly. In like manner, I do not think that those who do not recognise God, who do not worship the Word, the Saviour of all, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who by the Father orders all things, contains all and provides for all, have a healthy mind.” (No. 47).

Idolatryworshipping the creature and neglecting its Creator is truly a serious lack of a healthy mind. It is a grave form of spiritual madness! The same author writes in his famous treatise on the Incarnation, De Incarnatione:

 “Men, in their madness, mistook the gift that had been created for them, turned away from God and so tainted their soul that they not only forgot the idea of God, but also forged for themselves other gods in His place. They made for themselves idols instead of the truth, and preferred nothingness to the true God, worshipping the creature instead of the Creator” (No.11).

In Against the Pagans, Contra Gentes, St Athanasius reiterates the same point:

 “Men, having learnt to imagine the evil which does not exist, in the same way made themselves into gods which do not exist ... In their madness... forgetting the thought and knowledge of God and having only a blinded reason, or rather unreason, made gods for themselves of visible things, glorifying the creature instead of the Creator and deifying the works rather than the Master, God, the Cause and Demiurge.

If, according to the profound teachings of Athanasius, idoltary is tantamount to non-existence, madness, blinded reason in other words, unreason how can we get rid of this decaying existential pestilence?

In his Angelus address of Sunday, 17 February 2019, Pope Francis tells us to put God first!

We are called to happiness, to be blessed, and we become so as of now, to the measure in which we place ourselves on the side of God, of his Kingdom, on the side of what is not ephemeral but rather endures for eternal life. We are happy if we acknowledge we are needy before God – and this is very important: ‘Lord, I need you’ – and if, like him and with him, we are close to the poor, the suffering and the hungry. We too are like this before God: we are poor, suffering, we are hungry before God. Although we possess worldly goods, we experience joy when we do not idolise or sell our souls out to them, but are able to share them with our brothers and sisters.

 

Lord Jesus I need you! You are my God! Help me serve you in the poor and the suffering! Amen.

 

Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

 

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