From the January AD 1995
Our Lady of the Rosary
Our Sacred Faith - Part I
A person visiting a Catholic Church for the first time is bound to be struck
by the fact that many of the things done there are out of the ordinary. The
sights, the sounds, and even the smells all team up to convey the idea that one
has left the world of mundane things outside and entered into the preserve of
the Sacred. To some, these things may seem gaudy, or even superstitious; but on
reflection, we realize that they are natural in the presence of the
supernatural; the things of God must be above and apart from the things of man.
This series of articles will attempt to explain some of the sacred things of our
Catholic Faith, and why they cannot be treated as merely the things of man.
Our Blessed Creator
The ground of all things sacred is to be found, of course, in Almighty God
who created all things and keeps them in existence. Modern Americans have some
difficulty in understanding the idea of hierarchy; we are not used to finding
our position in a society of serfs, barons, dukes, and kings. But we must
understand that there is one hierarchy that no revolution can overthrow; the
hierarchy of God and His creation. This is a hierarchy that did not come about
by virtue of politics or military might. It came about by virtue of the eternal
God creating the universe out of nothing, and forming it into an orderly system
in conformity with His own will. Together with all creation, we are subject to
God because we owe our very existence to Him. We hold Him in awe as our mind
takes in the uncrossable distances of His creation, and the infinitesimal detail
of His work. The orderliness of His plan is seen in the movements of the
heavens, as well as in the womb of every child's mother. As we compare ourselves
with all that is around us, and know that we are His works, we have little
trouble in admiring His all-powerful Kingship.
Even if we had never heard of the Catholic Faith, we would still have an
obligation to worship Almighty God and to follow His natural law. The evidence
of His existence is so abundant in the things around us that we may know Him by
virtue of our own natural reason, quite independently of any revelation. And it
takes no revelation to know that we must not disturb the workings of His world
by showing disrespect for our own lives, or the lives of our fellows, or for
their families or their property. Creation takes on something of a sacred sheen
as it reflects the blinding light of its Creator. We see that we, and all of the
things around us are created for the greater glory of God.
We are able to know of God's existence and His natural law because we come
into contact with some of the things that He has created. These things are, so
to speak, external to God. We can know them because we share the same material
creation with them. And we can know God because our human reason is adequate to
deduce His existence from the evidence of His work. We are, however, unable to
reason out what goes on within the very being of Almighty God. Such things can
be known only through the grace of divine revelation. When we are fortunate
enough to have such revelations, their content is sacred indeed.
Such a revelation was given to the Patriarch, Moses, when he encountered God
under the appearance of a burning bush. The bush kept burning but was not
consumed. In addition to learning that God wanted him to lead His chosen people
out of their Egyptian exile, Moses was allowed to know one of the Sacred Names
of God; "I Am Who Am," or "Yahweh," in the language of the
Jews. To know someone's name is to command his favor, or even to hold a certain
power over him. The Jews held the sacred Name of God in such esteem that it was
never fully written out, or even pronounced, except by the high priest on one
day of the year. It is interesting to note that this idea of the sacred was
insisted upon by God Himself, as Moses approaching the burning bush was warned:
"Come no nearer! Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is
holy ground!" (Exodus iii)
We are further impressed with the sacredness of God and His Holy Presence as
the Jews prepared to receive the Ten Commandments. One who would even dare to
touch the blessed mountain of Sinai was to be put to death. The mountain itself
flashed with lightning and was covered with smoke as God touched the earth,
Aaron and some of the Jewish elders were allowed to climb partway up the
mountain, but only Moses was permitted to ascend the summit. And when Moses
brought the tablets of the Commandments down to the people, even his face blazed
with the reflected glory of Divinity. In this manner, God indicated the
greatness of His glory, and the supreme importance of treating sacred things in
a proper manner. (cf. Exodus xix-xxxiv)
Even the revelation of God's law was considered by the Jews to be a grace.
All too many moderns would rather be able to plead ignorance, but the Psalmist
speaks of his joy in knowing in advance what God demands: "Never will I
forget Thy precepts, for through them Thou give me life" (Ps. cxviii).
"He has not done this for any other nation; His ordinances He has not made
known to them" (Ps. cxlvii). The pious Jew understood that there is
justice in God's universe; that he was accountable for knowing and following the
natural law, and for knowing his own weaknesses; he was grateful to God for
clearly revealing His precepts, so that there could be no mistake. The Law was
so sacred that the Ark of the Covenant, in which the tablets were carried, could
only be handled by the Levites. Others who touched it immediately died!
heed, Modernists; "Eucharistic ministers" beware!
The Holy Trinity
By far, the most important gift of revelation mankind has received is that of
the Blessed Trinity. We know, with our unaided reason, that there is one God. We
could never reason, however, that this one God is Three Divine Persons; Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost. We know this central tenet of our Faith only because it has
been revealed to us by the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, who
took on human nature in order to effect our salvation. It was the Son of God who
revealed the Trinity to us during His baptism in the Jordan; in the glory of His
transfiguration on Mount Thabor; and in His command to "make disciples of
all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Ghost" (Matthew iv, xvii, xxviii).
What could be more sacred than to know the inner life of God Himself? To know
that He is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. What could be more encouraging than to
know that God loved the world enough to send His Son into the world to be one
with us for the purpose of adopting us as sons and daughters, so that we too
might share His happiness in heaven? Can anything be more precious to us than to
know these three Divine Persons and to know the Holy Name of Jesus? And yet
today we find people, some of them even priests, who would deny the divinity of
Christ and reduce Him to a mere man. May He have mercy on them!
As we continue this series of articles, we will see that the authentic
Catholic Faith is directed toward the worship of God, and that it holds the
sacred truths of revelation with the greatest of respect—both in the
actions of the true Church and Its faithful followers.
There was a throne set in heaven, and upon the throne One was sitting. And
from the throne proceeded flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder;
and there are seven lamps burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits
of God. And before the throne there is, as it were, a sea of glass like to
crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne are four living
creatures, full of eyes before and behind. And the first living creature is like
a lion, and the second like a calf, and the third has the face, as it were, of a
man, and fourth is like a eagle flying.
And they do not rest day and night, saying:
Holy! Holy! Holy! The Lord God Almighty!
Who was, and Who is, and Who is to come!