One light show at a time.
In case you missed it, the Vatican celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (yesterday) with a light show:
A mixture of fascination, curiosity and consternation is greeting a light show to be projected onto St. Peter’s basilica tomorrow — the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the opening day of the Jubilee of Mercy.
A coalition of non-Catholic humanitarian, philanthropic and conservation groups along with the World Bank are staging the event. It will be the first time ever that images will be projected onto the 17th century basilica’s façade and Michelangelo’s cupola.
The organizers say the three hour event, called “Fiat Lux, Illuminating Our Common Home”, will tell the “visual story of the interdependency of humans and life on earth with the planet, in order to educate and inspire change around the climate crisis across generations, cultures, languages, religions and class.”
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, called the event “unique” and said the illumination show “will present images inspired of Mercy, of humanity, of the natural world, and of climate changes.”
He added that the light show, whose images have been shown on various landmarks around the world, is meant to link Pope Francis’ environment encyclical Laudato Si’ with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) currently underway in Paris until Friday.
“It is our hope that this beautiful and contemporary work of public art will inspire citizens of the world to join together in a moment of compassion and to activate a global movement to protect humankind, our common home and precious endangered species,” said Carole Tomko, vice president of Vulcan, Inc., one of the groups sponsoring the event and which promotes initiatives to “change and improve the way people live, learn, do business and experience the world.”
Some conservative Roman Catholics have taken a page from Protestant iconoclasm and regard such a use of holy buildings as sacrilege:
The sense that St. Peter’s Basilica has been profaned is strong. The symbolic significance of the event is a Church immersed in darkness, but illuminated by the world, by the new climatist-religion-ideology (all financed by the World Bank Group which will now have to explain to us what politics compatible with the teaching of the Church it is promoting..)
The holy place par excellence, the heart of Christianity transformed on a maxi-screen for the show of the New World Power Ideology …and the Nativity Crib was left in darkness.
It does make you wonder what salvation means. If improving the environment can save the world, then what happened to the cross of Christ and the sacraments? Could it be that hell is empty (and will remain so) and so the church can now devote itself to more humanitarian and less heavenly causes? Did Balthasar really win at Vatican 2 as Commonweal suggests? Before Vatican 2, Rome was pretty clear where unbelievers went at death:
Any sin, for Augustine, is an unspeakable offense against God; particularly offensive was the sin of the first man who was singularly graced with an intimate “enjoyment of God” and who stood as the progenitor of the human race. His impiety in abandoning God was so great that it “merited eternal evil” in consequence of which “the whole of mankind is a ‘condemned mass’ [massa damnata]; for he who committed the first sin was punished, and along with him all the stock which had its roots in him.” According to Augustine, no one has the right to criticize that retribution as unjust, and the fact that some are released from it through the free bounty of God is ground for heartfelt thanksgiving.
The same severe doctrine of hell has been affirmed time and again in official church documents. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 declared that, at the end of time, “all will receive according to their deeds, good or evil, the former to their everlasting glory with Christ, the latter to perpetual punishment with the devil.” In his constitution of 1336, Benedictus Deus, Benedict XII solemnly defined that “the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin go down immediately after death into hell and suffer the pain of hell.” The Council of Florence in 1442 maintained that “not only pagans, but also Jews, heretics and schismatics” are precluded from salvation for they “will enter into eternal fire” unless they embrace the Catholic Church before their death. Similar declarations on hell and salvation were issued by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. Vatican I reinforced them in the nineteenth century. Vatican II did not revisit the solemn definitions of hell by earlier councils, but it did at least affirm that, yes, atheists can be saved.
But that changed when Balthasar and Kung met Barth:
Like Barth and Balthasar, Hans Küng too comes close to proposing universal salvation. And like them, he enlists the virtue of hope to support the idea. In his book Eternal Life, Küng’s critical discussion of hell begins with Jesus’s own words about hell, which, according to Küng, were figurative rather than literal: terms in the New Testament pertaining to final judgment—words like “hell,” “eternal,” ‘fire”—are to be taken as metaphors warning sinners of the delicate edge they’re dancing on. They are “meant to bring vividly before us here and now the absolute seriousness of God’s claim and the urgency of conversion in the present life,” Küng writes. No one should dismiss his or her responsibility to meet the demands of conversion, but how each of us meets them “remains a matter for God as merciful judge” in his “all-embracing final act of grace.” Like Balthasar, Küng maintains that judgment of the individual is in God’s hands; it would be “presumptuous for a person to seek to anticipate the judgement of this absolutely final authority. Neither in the one way nor in the other can we tie God’s hands or dispose of him. There is nothing to be known here, but everything to be hoped.”
Barth, Balthasar, and Küng all agonize over the question of universal salvation, which they treat not just as a theological puzzle but as a genuine mystery. Because we cannot answer the question with absolute certainty, it finally has to be left—in humility and hope—to the judgment of a loving God. This is as much of an affirmation as they dare to make.
What these three theologians show us, however, is that hope is a powerful virtue and not just a matter of wishful thinking. Hope always has its reasons, even earthly hopes. In the everyday sense of the word, a doctor’s skill is reason for his patient to hope for a cure, a worker’s good job performance a reason for her to hope for a promotion—though such hopes, subject to human limitations, can be disappointed. In the economy of salvation, however, the reason for hope is nothing less than the divine will—profoundly declared in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus: “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). The clarity of this scriptural passage on God’s will reassures not only Christians but all mankind that our hope for salvation will be fulfilled—without exceptions.
But if U.S. parochial schools can reconsider their mission, maybe the Vatican can find it’s pre-Vatican 2 self:
“We don’t open Catholic schools to get kids into college,” Guernsey said. “We open Catholic schools to get them into heaven.”