The Mirror Crack'd
Spirit and Life
Recently I received an e-mail from a Professor R, who teaches religious studies in the Southeast. He wrote, “I am a professor who has used your Book of the Goddess Past and Present: An Introduction to Her Religion in my Women and Religion classes, so I am familiar with your work from other venues.”
Of course, Professor R had confused me with another Carl Olson. Evidently my non-New Evangelization namesake's other literary achievements include Zen and the Art of Postmodern Philosophy: Two Paths of Liberation From the Representational Mode of Thinking.
It seemed Professor R had happened upon my website, carl-olson.com, and found himself “interested in how many articles on the rapture” he found there. He said he's writing a book on “rapture” — that is, spiritual states of ecstasy in which perceptions of reality and identity are altered. I responded, admitting that I didn't have much personal experience with that form of “rapture” and explaining that the form of the rapture I do know about — the so-called pre-tribulation rapture of Left Behind fame — is actually a fictitious future event, so nobody has (or will) experience it.
This led to some conversation about the Catholic understanding of heaven, a topic Professor R found to be “remarkably obscure.” He wondered why more hasn't been written on the topic, writing, “I do not sympathize with this notion that there is not enough data because people don't visit heaven and come back — nobody visits the Trinity either (except in Eastern Orthodoxy), and that never stopped Trinitarian theology.”
Hold on a second! Nobody except the Eastern Orthodox “visit” the Trinity? I couldn't let that go by without comment. I wrote:
“As a Catholic who attends a Byzantine Catholic parish, I have to insist that Catholics also visit the Trinity — or, perhaps more accurately, the Trinity visits us, especially at Divine Liturgy/ Mass. In fact, it is the Catholic (and Orthodox) understanding of deification — that man is truly filled with the Trinitarian life in baptism and in receiving the Eucharist — that played a major role in me leaving behind evangelical Protestantism.” I then referred him to some articles on deification I've written.
His response: “I'll accept deification as union with the Trinity, but that is not mainstream Catholic doctrine.”
I suppose there could be a lively debate about what “mainstream Catholic doctrine” means to Professor R. After all, I don't know if he's Catholic, Unitarian or Tom Cruise's Scientology guru. But the belief that man can enter into an intimate, transforming relationship with the Trinity and truly share in the inner life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is official Catholic doctrine. Check out the very first line of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.”
This theme is found throughout the Catechism, for it's hardly new. Peter's second epistle states that salvation involves becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
Communion with the Trinity is the goal of the Catholic faith. And grace is not just a pleasant concept or a good buzzword but “is a participation in the life of God.” “It introduces us,” the Catechism teaches, “into the intimacy of Trinitarian life” (No. 1997).
Catholics do indeed visit the Trinity. No offense to Professor R, but for my money that's far more attractive and compelling than anything offered by the goddess, Zen or the rapture.
Carl E. Olson is co-author, with Sandra Miesel, of The Da Vinci Hoax, due out from Ignatius in June.
- May 16-22, 2004