Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Our Catholic Lens…continued

God in the loveliness of creation:
our incarnational perspective paves the way
for us to become cultural mystics for today
everal months back, I wrote about how Catholics view cinema and other media in a unique way because of our sacramental imagination, and how we experience God’s grace through the material and tangible. Grace is very real and present to us, since we were taught as children that God is everywhere. Indeed, God is everywhere: in the air we breathe, in the beauty of creation, in the laughter of a child, in the saving waters of baptism, in the gift of love we can offer to one another. God’s presence is made even more concrete through the immeasurable gift of his incarnate Son to be our Savior. This incarnational perspective is the foundation for our cultural experience and paves the way for us to become pop cultural mystics for today.
We worship not to appease God but to respond to his
loving invitations: lay Pauline Carol Anne Wright, 

who died in May, makes her Cooperator Promise in 2009.

An understanding of nature and grace leads us to consider the One who is above and beyond all human knowledge and intellectual experience. As the Apostles Creed states, “We believe in one God, Father Almighty.” This declaration of faith is the basis for our life as Christians. Not only the belief in God, but in God as Triune—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This very belief in God is often a question raised in the media culture, as is occasionally brought up in the television series The Simpsons, such as the episode of “Homer the Heretic” in its fourth season. In it, Homer avoids going to church on Sunday and stays home enjoying his time alone but later experiences a series of dreams in which God speaks to him, first through wrath but later through a discussion on the meaning of life. Even though God is somewhat misrepresented here, there is an element that shows how belief in God is a core human need and desire. We worship not to appease God but to respond to his loving invitation for a relationship. We are happier the more we enter into that relationship.
TV show Madame Secretary
quotes Thomas Aquinas
on transubstantiation
 God is also mentioned in popular television shows such as Madame Secretary, when Henry McCord (Tim Daly), the husband to the US Secretary  of State, speaks about the Ethics courses that he teaches at Georgetown  University. He quotes Thomas Aquinas regarding existence and essence in  the Eucharistic transubstantiation. Written by Barbara Hall, a convert to  Catholicism, the show delves deeply into ethics, politics and values,  exploring profound human dilemmas and challenging morals. She daringly  presents faith in mainstream television, and does so successfully.

The Trinitarian doctrine supports our understanding of the profound human desire for intimacy and communion. It is within this Trinitarian relationship of lovea communicative relationshipthat a theology of communications develops. As theologians Matthias Scharer and Bernd Hilberath write, “Theology is a communicative event.”[1] God the Father utters the Word who becomes flesh in the physical human body of the Virgin Mary. This mysterious incarnation of the Son of God become man in Jesus Christ is how a communications theology becomes tangible in popular culture. God comes to be one of us, truly human yet also truly divine. In his humanity, Jesus Christ shows us what it means to be authentically human. He does this through his consistent self-giving love—to his mother, to his disciples, to his enemies, to the world. Jesus’ entire life is a communication of God’s overflowing love and intense desire for human beings’ love in return. Through the incarnation we come to know God. Through Jesus Christ we enter into a relationship with the Father through the Holy Spirit. It is here where the questions of popular culture take root: what does it mean to be human? Jesus Christ is the perfect answer.

 The incarnation of the Son of God become
man in Jesus Christ is how a communications
theology becomes tangible in popular culture.
An incarnational communications theology such as this does not stop at the recognition of God become man in Christ through the communicative self-giving love of God, but is one that takes root in the faith life of the believer. It becomes a communicative faith.[2] Through God’s self-revelation, human beings are called to faith and in freedom can accept or not. When human persons accept the gift of God’s self-communicative love in faith, this gift is then received into the whole church community, becoming a communicative faith[3]—a lived faith that draws others into the Trinitarian love of God. In and through the sacraments, where this communicative faith is tangibly experienced, the faith community is built up in a holistic way through the involvement of the mind, will, heart and actions of each believer. It is “through communicative actions,” such as those present in the Church’s sacramental life, that “people help one another to become truly human.”[4]

This is the Catholic lens from which we understand and view the world in which we live. It is deeply rooted in a Trinitarian doctrine and in the Incarnation. Without this essential truth of faith, we view television, movies, and all social media one-dimensionally. But our Catholic sacramental and incarnational perspective opens us to delve three-dimensionally into the culture’s yearnings for purpose, meaning, communion and love. It allows us to be that communicative presence in the world. Let us be that everyday mystic, as theologian Karl Rahner would say, that person who lives in intimacy with the Triune God, transforming the culture from within, thereby being cultural mystics.

Images: Bill Stabosz, Rae Stabosz, Pavel Chichikov (with permissions)

 Matthias Scharer and Bernd Jochen Hilberath, The Practice of Communicative Theology: An Introduction to a New Theological Culture, (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 13.
[2] Ibid., 17.
[3] Cf. Ibid., 80.
[4] Ibid., 17.

Sr. Nancy is a Daughter of St Paul and the Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles, CA. She is a Media Literacy Education Specialist with degrees in Communications Arts and a Masters in Theology and Arts. For the past 20 years, Sr. Nancy has given numerous media mindfulness workshops, presentations and film retreats around the country to youth, young adults, catechists, seminarians, teachers and media professionals helping them to create the dialogue between faith and media. She is a member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, SIGNIS—World Catholic Association for Communication, and is also a contributing member of THEOCOM, a group formed by the Vatican and USCCB to annually discuss Theology and Communications in Dialogue. She is a contributing writer for the Brehm Center’s Reel Spirituality site:

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