Tuesday, 14 January 2014

"That Altar looks like a Bed..."

"that bed looks like an altar"

Thus went the dialogue between the Doctor and Mother Superior of the Papal Mainframe in the latest Christmas special of Doctor Who.

In some ways I am conflicted in feelings regarding the programme's choice of name. Papal is pretty much clearly a word used to refer to the Catholic Pope. However it does simply come from the word for father and in many ways the church of the papal mainframe was their to serve the whole universe's common good. They had confessional priests too - but it appears they didn't forget your sins, but rather wiped your memory of your contact with them... odd and fairly unhelpful. But lets leave aside the quasi-parody of the Catholic Church for now.

This quote is interesting. Its one that almost seems sacrilegious. We start to think of pagan ritualistic sexual worship and the like. Those of us familiar with canon law might consider the need to rededicate an altar in a church in the case of desecration through a couple fornicating in the church. (Can.  1211 Sacred places are violated by gravely injurious actions done in them with scandal to the faithful, actions which, in the judgment of the local ordinary, are so grave and contrary to the holiness of the place that it is not permitted to carry on worship in them until the damage is repaired by a penitential rite according to the norm of the liturgical books.)

But at the same time. 

Bernini's Baldachino

Is not that designed to look like the marriage bed. Is not the canopy symbolic of a stately chamber? 

Marriage is a symbol of who we are as human persons. It is not good for man to be alone. In marriage, the total, self-giving love between man and women is a foretaste of heaven. They become one flesh. In heaven, we will be one with God - but not at the expense of losing our personhood or individualities. Marriage models the perfect relationship of the Blessed Trinity, whereby the Father and the Sons perfect, total, self-giving love is so intense that it generates a person, the Holy Spirit (whereas in marriage the couple's love brings forth life). Its not to say that heaven is like having sex! But it is to say that the marital act points towards our ultimate purpose - union with God. That's what Pope (to be Saint) John Paul II meant by the nuptial meaning of the body. 

So this scene, which perhaps makes one recall and think 'is that offensive?', I think is touching upon a very deep truth. It exposes the misunderstandings people may have with the Church about it being prudish. It helps to remind us that whatever we do on this Earth should be to glory God. We should offer our bodies as a living sacrifice.  So do it. Something to ponder.

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