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Faithful History-Loving Flea-Flickers

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 29, 2023

The 19th-century philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” With time, effort, and honesty, historical study validates our beliefs and way of life.

Catholics have a history book (the Sacred Scriptures) and an institution (the Church bolstered by Sacred Tradition and driven by the Sacred Liturgy) that carefully records and proclaims the events of faith. We relive our history during the liturgical year. We boldly assert the Catholic faith extends to Adam and Eve and into eternity. God exists. God creates. He loves us. We rejected His love. He promised a Redeemer. He gave us the Ten Commandments as our rule of life. He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to save us. He founded His Church on Peter and the Apostles and sent the Holy Spirit to help us cooperate with the saving work of Jesus throughout history.

December is the month of dogmas, more or less. On December 8 we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a teaching rooted in the wisdom of early Church fathers. Pope Pius IX declared the theological speculation a dogma of the faith in 1854. Mary, the New Eve, was conceived without sin in the womb of her mother, Anne. Mary participated beforehand in the redemptive Cross and Resurrection by God’s favor in anticipation of the Incarnation.

The Preface at Mass during Advent affirms the historical integrity of the Incarnation:

For all the oracles of the prophets foretold him, the Virgin Mother longed for him with love beyond all telling, John the Baptist sang of his coming and proclaimed his presence when he came.

The account of the Annunciation affirms our faith in Emmanuel—God is with us. During the Annunciation (cf. Lk. 1:26-38), the Angel Gabriel reveals to Mary that she will conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit and bear a son, Jesus. Mary faithfully asks, “How can this be since I have no husband?” The Angel explains, and Mary responds, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord be it done unto me according to thy word.” The Word is made flesh with the conception of Jesus during the Annunciation and dwells among us. (Science follows the faith. Human life begins at conception!)

Mary invokes the past to validate and express her beliefs. Her Magnificat (cf. Lk 1:46-55) manifests Mary’s historical perspective that inflames her faith: Her “soul magnifies the Lord.” “Henceforth, all generations will call [her] blessed.” God “has helped his servant Israel.” “He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his posterity forever.” Theologians affirm that the Old Testament is the basis of almost every phrase of Mary’s Magnificat Her prayer establishes her authority as a historical witness worthy of belief and imitation. The Church entices us to magnify the Lord with Mary as the liturgy places her words on our lips during the recitation of Evening Prayer.

The fact of Christmas manifests the Incarnation hidden in Mary’s womb since the Annunciation. Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, true God and true Man, is born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. God and man, eternity and time, faith and reason, religion and science—are reconciled in the Person and teachings of Jesus. Jesus and His teachings appeal to the human spirit when presented in the context of the history of God’s revelation under the prayerful guidance of the Church.

Faithful Catholics hold to these fundamental dogmas validated by history and live according to them. We honor Mary as the great Mother of God who always defers to her Son: “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn. 2:5) Mary is sinless from conception, a perpetual virgin, faithful throughout her life, assumed into heaven, body, and soul.

Jesus, the Lord of history, respects and invokes human history. Throughout the Gospels, we read variations of this phrase: “All this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.” (Mt. 26:56) We believe in the Incarnation, the transformation of all creation in Jesus, with the doors opened for our salvation. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16)

Like Jesus and Mary, the Church looks back to give us confidence in the essentials of the Catholic faith necessary for our salvation. Our history validates the organic unity of the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Sacraments, and the Church. So we rejoice in the certainties of the deposit of the Faith handed down throughout history.

Much of the world dismisses these historical events and places its faith in the abstraction of reason alone. There is merit in trusting experts according to the extent and limits of their expertise. But reason alone (solo ratio, to coin a heresy)—detached from the history of faith—is fraught with danger. A distrust of institutions hostile to the faith is a growing reaction to the sinister motives of the governing elites. Their self-interest (money and power) often conflicts with—and assaults—authentic human dignity revealed by God in history. Reason unfortified by faith lacks the full ballast of truth.

The ideologies that disdain history (often replaced by the profit motive) are increasingly easy to enumerate: globalism, the Woke movement, so-called LGBTQ activism, DEI atheism, bizarre fixation on pronoun usage, and the myriad of ideological slogans such as “COEXIST, “Empathy” (never “Chastity”!), and “celebrate diversity.” The wreckage left behind includes cultural chaos, lawlessness, despair, and the devastation of our cities.

A similar disregard of history often extends to the sons of the Church. But the Church has a Divine doctrinal immune system rooted in history. The doctrinal confusions we’ve witnessed for decades are like parasitic fleas that disrupt the harmony of our faith, reason, and history. God will always provide faithful history-loving flea-flickers who ask: “What has the Church always taught throughout her history?”

The love of history shows us the Way. We look back so that we can face the future with confidence, hope, and love and see the loving hand of God guiding us.

Merry Christmas!

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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