Posted by: fvbcdm | May 25, 2016

Feast of Pope Saint Gregory (25 May 2016)

There is a wonderful connection between theology and travel. And God has blessed me with both. From my earliest years, I’ve been interested in travel; I remember with delight my first long trip, when at the age of about 16, I was invited to drive from New Orleans up to Lancaster, Pennsylvania with my cousin to bring his wife and children back home. They were visiting their folks up there. What a fabulous experience to “go north!” To see mountains for the first time, to experience the Pennsylvania Dutch culture and be in places like the Gettysburg battlefield, the Hershey chocolate factory, Harper’s Ferry of John Brown fame, to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and Betsy Ross’s house!

Well, since then I’ve been able to go much farther afield, and to stand on the places where Saint Paul preached. He went to Athens and spoke on the Areopagus, the main gathering place of the city fathers of Athens. And there he made at least two converts who are mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles: Dionysius the Areopagite and a lady named Damaris. On one trip to Athens, I discovered that the Catholic cathedral was right behind our hotel, so when I went to make arrangements to celebrate Mass there, I found that it was named for that Dionysius the Areopagite. And then later, I was able to visit the Areopagus where Saint Paul preached. It is a low elevation just at the foot of the Acropolis—that flat-topped hill which dominates all of Athens, and whose buildings—magnificent even in their ruins—dominate the entire world of architecture and classical art.

When Saint Paul was preaching to the Athenians, he quoted Epimenides, one of their poets of the sixth century B.C., in saying that in God we live and move and have our being. We use those words in one of the Sunday prefaces at Mass and at other times in our sacred liturgy. They are beautiful words: in Him we live and move and have our being. We are surrounded by God and the things which God has created. Not only surrounded, but also filled with divinity. When you find a sponge in the sea, you realize that the sponge is in the sea and the sea in the sponge. So with us: we are in God and God is in us. The English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins asks rhetorically: does the bird have to soar to find the air? Does the fish have to dive to find the water? The implied answer is NO! Were it not for the air, the bird could not soar at all; were it not for the sea, the fish could neither live nor dive. If God were not within us, we could neither exist nor live nor do any of the things that are specifically human.

Paul’s words that echoed in downtown Athens nearly 2000 years ago are perfectly true today. And we, who are the products of Hebrew theology, Greek philosophy, and Roman engineering, stand upon the shoulders of our forebears and worship the God whom they knew dimly and whom we know much more clearly because of the revelation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

 

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