The echo

Does God in fact “exist”? (The term seems rather mild if He does.) Did Christ come down from Heaven, and are the Gospel accounts of Him essentially true? Did He found a Church, and was it the Roman one? (Was Peter the first pope?) Is the Holy Spirit present in this and all worlds, something not reducible to “a concept”? Are there Angels and Devils? Are there Saints made from humans? Is the material world (which incidentally includes the Sun, the Stars, and all the other detectable contents of space and time) subordinate to the Spiritual? Are men (including women) endowed from conception with immortal souls, and is there actually a Heaven and a Hell? Purgatory? Will Christ come again, to judge the living and the dead, and do events prophesied in the Apocalypse of Saint John the Apostle, correspond to events in the future of our “real world”?

Is any of this plausible?

Speaking for myself, as is my settled habit, I would say, No. When I think of these questions again, as I thought of them well before my Christian conversion (15th April 1976), or my walk-in to the explicitly “Catholic” Catholic Church (31st December 2003), I still think none of it is plausible. Therefore my question becomes, is any of this true? Could it all be?

For I have been hanging about this Earth for long enough to know that what is plausible and what is true are two different things, and one often contradicts the other. I might almost add that, in my experience, the fact something is plausible is a count against it — though it is not a count in favour of the opposite. From the start I think I must have been sceptical, even of the Alexander Calder mobile that my father hung over my cradle. (It was modern art, there was nothing plausible about it, though I had yet to formulate critical terms to give my opinion on it.)

But all light banter aside, I was asking some serious questions at the start of this Idlepost. Each was deadly serious, “life or death.” One asks such questions first to oneself, then does an inquiry, then reflects. Finally one returns to asking oneself, for there is no one else to ask, until one asks Jesus. Which is just what I recall doing on Maundy Thursday, some forty-two years ago. The answer I received brought a sharp conclusion to my pose as an earnest young atheist.

It was, “I will cross this bridge with you.” … (We were crossing the Thames on the old pedestrian footbridge of Hungerford.)

Or in the Biblical phrase, “We have found the Messiah!”

For I’d already concluded from my thinking and reading that the questions were interdependent. Get one right, and the others gradually follow. Too, they were the elementary, “starter” questions, leading in turn to questions, ever more subtle and joyful. “If you came this way. …”

One of them has to do with Thanksgiving, as a mode of prayer and being. I associate it with the grand issue of Freedom, for having given the Yes to each elementary question, we might still ask, are we truly free? But the answer to that will be Yes, too, if we consult the Source to all sources. In childish terms, I believe it because “Jesus told me so,” and He wouldn’t lie. I also believe it because, as Doctor Johnson replied to the abstract idealism of Bishop Berkeley, “I refute him thus.” He kicked a stone down the road, for the edification of Boswell. Abstract ideals cannot withstand such behaviour.

The interesting thing about American Thanksgivings is that they originate in the free offering of man. They are not a “symbolic,” nor any other imposition of religious truths, through liturgical rituals — rather a free response to them. They are an acknowledgement that “life is good,” and the harvest is in.

Gratitude for that harvest — for not the possibility but actuality of life — is not so automatic. One has also the potential to be ungrateful.

Or to take it all for granted, whether one’s answers were “Yes,” or perhaps even the odd thick-hided “No.” There is something to thank God for. It is implicit in everything we do and are. Behind each “Yes” is that extraordinary, voluntary Yes of Mother Mary: echoed down the ages.