|01-12-2006 - Traces, n.11
of the World
In the biblical teaching about creation, matter (the cosmos) and human personhood (the spiritual) cannot be separated. There must be a connection between the end of the world as a subjective anthropological experience and a cosmological event
By Lorenzo Albacete
Christians believe this world will end when Jesus Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. Regardless of the different ways this end is imagined, and when it is expected, this world, as we know it, will cease to exist.
Some seek proof of the end of the world in science. Just as they seek scientific evidence that the world was created by Someone, or that there is an “intelligent design” behind it as taught by Scripture, they look for cosmological clues about the end of the world as described in the Book of Revelation and the words of Jesus. Others separate science from the convictions of faith, and see the “end of the world” as described in Scripture as the mythological expression of a purely subjective experience, that has nothing to do with the cosmos itself.
It is certainly true that the Bible’s teaching about the end of the world is expressed in terms of a cosmology that is no longer scientifically acceptable today. But this does not mean that only the “spiritual dimension” of the biblical doctrine about the end of the world is of any importance to us today. Indeed, in the biblical teaching about creation, matter (the cosmos) and human personhood (the spiritual) cannot be separated. There must be a connection between the end of the world as a subjective anthropological experience and a cosmological event.
Leopardi’s poem about a shepherd in Asia expresses powerfully the anguishing experience of human mortality and contrasts it to the serenity of the apparently endless cyclical motion of the rest of creation. Why are we humans different in caring for our destiny? “What am I,” asks the shepherd, when compared with the rest of the cosmos? Why does mortality torment me?
The doctrine of the “end of the world” is Christianity’s response to this question. It is the consequence, so to speak, of what the Church teaches about the Logos–a rational word–contained within all that exists. Human personhood is that “level of nature” that is aware of the Logos as Reason and Word, and is free to respond in a rational way to the invitation toward which it points us. Leopardi’s shepherd tells the moon, “Moon, unassailed by touch, mortality is such. But since you are not mortal, words do perhaps not move you overmuch.” But humans are assailed by touch and moved by words, and thus we experience the pain of mortality. The experience of mortality is the consequence of the awareness of being touched and spoken to by the Logos of the Mystery present within creation.
It is through Jesus Christ and by Jesus Christ that we are touched and called by the Mystery. He is the Logos who became human flesh–who became, so to speak, part of the cosmos. The doctrine about the end of the world is an affirmation of the Lordship of Christ revealed in the flesh (the structure and destiny) of the cosmos itself. Through those united with Christ, sharing in the reality of His Risen Life, the cosmos reaches the awareness of the Logos as a word of Love and the drama of mortality becomes the drama of our freedom’s response to that Love. That is why the End is described as a “judgment,” an act of freedom. The Blessed Virgin, whose free assent to the Mystery of the Incarnation opened the door to creation’s “yes” to the Logos of Love (think of the way she has been symbolized by the moon!), is the reply to Leopardi’s shepherd, the “Queen” of the Universe indeed.