The Nativity of the Lord
By Rene De Cramer
By Rene De Cramer
A Catholic who pays any attention whatsoever really ought to already know this about his or her own religion and they also ought to be proud of it. What is good and true in this world is baptized into our religion. What is good and true in every culture and religion, going back long before Christ, is a prefigurement of Christ. Just as those of us who become Catholic bring with us gifts that we had beforehand, so have entire cultures, nations and races.
Maybe some of you will be shocked to learn that the Catholic Church is prefigured in many non-Christian cultures, while others still delight in bringing these things up as if they somehow diffuse the validity of the Church. Sun-worshiping cultures will celebrate a season, not unlike the Catholic seasons of Advent and Lent, during the winter to mark the absence of their life-giving sun, which is "reborn" in the spring to much joy and celebration. For Catholics, this is an obvious prefigurement of Christ, whose return we greatly anticipate during both Advent and Lent. We recognize this connection so much of course that we even use some of the same symbols in our year-long cycle of worship, the Liturgical Calendar.
It's common of course to recognize the obvious sources of our beliefs that are found in Jewish culture since God chose this people through which to develop his Kingdom and prefigure his Son, leaving the Jewish scriptures as part of the Catholic Biblical Canon. Catholic culture is clearly founded sturdily on Jewish culture. In fact, in the beginning, the Catholic Church was even thought of only as another sect of Judaism. On Saturday, we would attend the Liturgy of the Word in the synagogue with the Jews, then on Sunday, the Liturgy of the Eucharist was celebrated as the Apostles, the first 12 bishops, were instructed to do by Christ. It wasn't until we were finally kicked out of the synagogues that the two liturgies were combined into one Mass, which is how it is still celebrated today, both parts on Sunday. We still call the first half "The Liturgy of the Word." And the second half, "The Liturgy of the Eucharist." Both parts clearly founded on Jewish Tradition. The reading of the Word, as you'd find in the synagogue, and then the Temple Sacrifice, found in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In fact, there are schools who send their students to Catholic Masses to observe the ancient Tradition of Temple Sacrifice, which is one of the only places in the modern world where it can still be found in a living and unbroken Tradition since the ancient world.
And that's just one example, albeit the most important example, of how totally the Catholic Church is obviously acknowledged by it's own members to be built upon the genius of what came before it. I have always thought it was strange, however, that some people are so unwilling to see prefigurements of Christ in other cultures that are just as powerful and just as true.
Even human sacrifices, perhaps considered some of the most perverse religious practices in all history, still eerily prefigure Christ, a whole world away, in lands where the stories and traditions of the Jews had never reached.
The myth of Prometheus, in which fire is stolen from the gods and in which the thief suffers a kind of eternal perpetual sacrifice as his flesh is devoured and replenished day after day, prefigures the True God as He is presented in Catholic Liturgical Tradition. A God who is revealed in his BECOMING Prometheus, in his becoming Man, so that he can give Man everything before we ever have the chance to try and steal it from Him. Who makes a Sacrifice of himself that is One and Eternal. Whose flesh and blood we eat, again and again, every day, only to find the life of Christ is perpetuated in the eating. That as we eat His flesh, His body does not diminish, but grows and grows to all the ends of the earth.
So many myths are completed and find their archetype in Christ, just as Adam finds his true archetype there. The father of all who live versus the Father of all who live forever. Just as King David finds his archetype there. A king who reigns versus a King who reigns in perfection forever.
The phenomenon of the scapegoat, something we find hidden even in our own natures, something that we find revealed in our interactions with others, at school and at work and in our families, this prefigures Christ who unexpectedly identifies himself with the scapegoat, thus throwing a wrench in the cycle of endless vengeful history and giving us recourse to break that cycle in our own lives if we wish it so.
How surprised am I supposed to be that my religion is made up entirely of materials that existed long before my religion was fully developed? That in a world that God created, a creation He intended never to be wasted, I should somehow find my own flesh and bones, the very air I breathe, to be made up of every part of it. That I should find my religion is reflected in the whole world and all it's history, not only in it's immediate and current self.
It's like laughing at someone because they associate hydrogen with stars since hydrogen existed long before stars did. I'm not removing oxygen from my life because you have enough of an understanding of the world to be able to tell me it was around before I was.
Christ did not live and die in order to destroy the works of mankind. Christ lived and died as a man in order to make human works mean something, To transform them into something even more glorious.