|01-11-2009 - Traces, n. 10
THE LONGING FOR NEWNESS
THE LITURGY OF ADVENT SEEKS TO STRENGTHEN IN US THE EXPERIENCE OF A VIGILANT EXPECTATION, OF AN ALERT AWAITING FOR AN EVENT TO TAKE PLACE
by lorenzo albacete
There was an interesting article in Newsweek magazine (November 8th issue) about life after death that I think helps us understand better what Advent means in the Catholic faith. The article was written by Jerry Adler, and it was a commentary on a new book by Dinesh D’Souza, the political commentator. This time, D’Souza has written a book (Life After Death: The Evidence), seeking to respond to the increasing attacks against religion in the “new atheism” of people like scientists Richard Dawkins and polemicist Christopher Hitchens.
The new atheists appeal to scientific reasoning to support their arguments and D’Souza responds by providing “unshakable scientific grounds” for the survival of consciousness beyond death. He sets aside all references to ghosts, mediums, miraculous cures attributed to the intercession of saints, or the interpretation of signs and symbols. Instead, he seeks the evidence for life after death in quantum mechanics, neuro-science, the infinite multiverse postulated by some versions of quantum theory, studies about those revived after clinical death (Adler finds this the most promising avenue for research), and moral philosophy.
Adler, who last year lost his youngest son Max, welcomes D’Souza’s approach but notes that it assumes incorrectly that non-believers are all interested in finding out whether or not there is consciousness after death. Believers do not need proof, he says, and many non-believers “have made their peace with the expectation of personal annihilation.” D’Souza holds that there is a moral code engraved in the human heart moving us to perform acts of charity and self-sacrifice, including the willingness to die for others, a behavior which goes against the Darwinian imperative to “out-compete thy neighbor.” Rejecting Dawkins’ recent evolutionary explanation for human goodness, D’Souza argues that the moral code requires the existence of another reality in which justice prevails, thus allowing us to make sense of the present life. (This also makes it possible to construct a global common ethics, as proposed by Hans Kung.) It offers us a ground for hope.
But is this the hope of Christians? What is it that we hope for in the season of Advent?
We do not hope for simply “life after death.” That is a concept, an abstraction that does not correspond to what the human heart desires. The human heart longs for resurrection, for another kind of life, another form of personal consciousness that is not merely the continuation of the present life in another universe with a different form of matter and other kinds of physical laws. Moreover, we base our hope on the experience of this possibility here and now, on a relationship here and now with Jesus Christ, victorious over death, Lord of time and space. Pope Benedict XVI (in Credo for Today) observes that for us “the Lord is where our indestructible life is, and there is no need to ask questions about or seek any other place… the Lord Himself is the Paradise into which the dying man knows his life is taken up… a life bestowed on men even in the death of the body and before the final accomplishment of the world’s future.” This is why there is an Advent: an anticipation of this life and the expectation of its fulfillment when Christ’s victory over death is fully manifested in all the possible universes.