‘See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’ (Christ to St. John in Revelation 22:12-13)
It is Holy Saturday and also the birthday of Joseph Ratzinger, our beloved Pope Benedict XVI. Benedict has a special relationship with Holy Saturday. He was born on a Holy Saturday. His 95th birthday falls again on a Holy Saturday. He has now been living through 9 years of papal sepulchral rest. But he will “rise again.” as St. John Bosco predicted:
“Things are slow to follow one another. But the exalted Queen of Heaven is present. The power of the Lord is in his hands. He scatters like mist his enemies. He clothes anew the venerable old man with all his ancient garments.” (Carlo Salotti; Der Heilige Johannes Bosco; Don Bosco-Verlags; München, 1955) [Quote from a comment published in the site From Rome, by Willi, April 16, 2022 AT 11:33 a.m.]
The concept of reflection in Scripture and Creation
In this series we have gone through a number of articles dealing with prophecies. The previous post was a transcription of a conversation presented in a podcast of the Italian site La Finanza Sul Web where Francesco Merolli and Andrea Cionci recorded a very interesting conversation. In that conversation they deal with the vision of the “Bishop dressed in white” as it was related to us by the three little shepherds of Fatima. If you haven’t read that particular article, I suggest you read it first lest you miss important details of what we are going to examine in this post.
At the center of Mr. Cionci’s interpretation, as the main concept on which his interpretation hinges is the “mirror quality” of the whole scene described by the little shepherds. Quote follows:
“Let’s imagine a flowerpot in front of a mirror. The vase exists regardless of its image reflected in the mirror. But the image reflected in the mirror cannot exist without the original.”
The usual critics may argue that this is a far fetched method of interpretation. I have already heard the argument and the mediocrity of the sources did not surprise me at all. What those do not even suspect is that the concept of a mirror-like reflection is at the very core of the Christian conception of reality. Saint Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 13:12.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Paul uses a word for mirror that can be translated as “a blurry mirror” or “a riddle” because the common mirrors of that age were made of polished silver and were somewhat imperfect however, the concept of reflection is there. He is referring to the partial but progressive aspect of Christian revelation: we have received through Jesus Christ the fullness of the faith but not the fullness of understanding yet. We see what we need to see in every age of the Church but we will see more perfectly and reach even more deeply as we approach the source of all light and truth that is God.
Reflection is such an important concept that it appears even before Scripture is written. An alphabet was needed to write the Holy Scripture. According to some ancient sages, the Hebrew aleph-bet is what God used to build the universe. The Hebrew alphabet begins with the letter Aleph and ends with the letter Tav just as its Greek counterpart begins with the letter Alpha and ends with the letter Omega. If we were to change the alphabet on the words of Revelation 22:13 -quoted at the beginning of this article- Christ would say “I am the Aleph and the Tav, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” The letter Tav is represented by a cross.
The Aleph is represented as a tiny man with one arm pointing to the ground and the other pointing to the sky. But Aleph has a long story.
Again, according to some ancient sages, one of the representations of the letter Aleph is a man pointing with one arm at the ground and the other arm at the sky. The meaning of this, you guessed it already, is that the Earth must be a reflection of Heaven. Since the days of original sin we live in a place that reflects Heaven imperfectly. See again 1 Corinthians 13:12 while holding that concept. Aleph indicates a divine mandate that has been distorted by sin and disobedience. A real Aleph can be found in the Gospels, more precisely in Matthew 5:48 pronounced by Christ Himself.
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
As Mr. Cionci very wisely said:
” … the image reflected in the mirror cannot exist without the original.”
Which is to say: we cannot exist without God, our destiny is perfection, our present condition since the days of Adam is perfection blurred by sin, we climb a steep hill to reach Heaven and we can’t advance one step without grace. Yeats, the poet was right: “‘It’s certain there is no fine thing / Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.” Grace mercifully obscures our mirror lest we see our awful condition and scare ourselves to death.
Aleph is a reflection, material creation was once and it shall be again one day a reflection. But Aleph is also power. The letter evolved since ancient times and has not lost the original aspects. See in this chart different representations of the letter Aleph since antiquity.
From left to right we see first the hieroglyphic representation of an ox, representing power. The ox provides the strength to drive the plow and open the earth to plant seeds. Power leads to fertility and life. The second is a rough idealization of the first figure. The third is more complex, it is the origin of our Aleph, the letter A. That symbol represents the head of the ox with both horns but at the same time it depicts the plow, fusing both realities into one. The concept is hidden in the symbol: the plow opens a path for the seed to be planted. In the act there is a reflection –in fact, several– The most obvious is: God plows the earth and plants the seeds of life. But Samson asks the Philistines: ‘If you had not ploughed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.’ (Judges 14:18) In the act of plowing there is also a reflection of the human sexual act that brings about new life, new men and women, population, the power of nations as a blessing from God and the fulfillment of His holy will to fill the Earth. (Genesis 1:28)
Finally, we find another clue in the best known Christian prayer, given to us by Jesus in Matthew 6:10.
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
Christ repeats the same mandate he gave us before in Matthew 5:48 but this time not only humans are bound to be elevated to the perfection of Heaven but the whole Earth is to recover the perfection of the original creation to make it a perfect reflection of God’s home, Heaven.
Parables are another form of reflection. God seems to be always telling us “this is like that” … the Kingdom of Heaven is like … a man who found a treasure, a woman who found a coin, the coming of the harvest, a man who brings from his treasure things old and new, a mustard seed, a dragnet cast into the sea, etc. etc.
“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old.” (Psalm 78:1-2)
God speaks to us in images that somehow reflect realities that otherwise we could not understand. In fact, the root of our God-given intelligence is our ability to compare two images, two concepts against each other.
Metaphorical contemplation is a form of understanding; we learn to think by comparing things. Human intelligence thrives in all kinds of comparisons and most times we are not aware of that constant stream of “like and not-like” operations flowing through our thoughts, our actions, and our language. The very roots of the word “intelligence” point to a comparison. The Latin word intelligentia derives from inteligere a verb composed of two parts: intus meaning “among” and legere meaning “to select.” The very origin of the word makes reference to comparing two things finding them sometimes similar, sometimes dissimilar. Humans are, to various degrees, masters in the art of finding analogies and expressing through metaphors. Our intellectual experience rests mainly on finding “the likeness of unlike things” to use Richard Mulcaster’s brilliant phrase. (Guadalupe, A River of Light, First Light Press, 2017, pp. 23-24)
Reflections are the language of Heaven. Isn’t man made “in the image of God”? What comes after Benedict XVI has a lot to do with the concepts we studied here. Do not miss the next post.