Holy Curiosity and Our Heavenly Double
By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 09, 2023
The Epiphany manifests the Word made flesh, the compatibility of: God and man, faith and reason, religion and science. The spirit of curiosity helps us understand the familiar theological maxim that grace perfects nature. When we allow God’s grace to impel our curiosity, we open our lives for perfection in Jesus, our heavenly counterpart.
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Scientific discoveries are satisfying yet also whet our curiosity. Scientists harnessed the mystery of electricity and opened the doors to innumerable related secrets and inventions. Healthy human interest applied to questions of faith has a similar effect. Curiosity takes delight in discovery. With every revelation, curious minds have more to ponder and—realizing their ignorance in the presence of the majesty of mystery—grow more humble.
A dullard lacks a sense of curiosity, but appearances can deceive. Dullness is in the eye of the beholder. Engineers think accountants are dull because engineers are not curious about the accounting profession. They know nothing of the joy an accountant feels when all the debits equal the total of credits. Accountants think engineers are dull. The debate is boring, except for those engineer jokes.
The distinction between creative and destructive curiosity is more objective. The curiosity that “killed the cat” describes a misdirected and harmful inquisitiveness. Herod’s sinister obsession with the Messiah born in Bethlehem compels him to kill the Innocents. But properly directed curiosity invents wheels, launches spaceships, cures disease, and ponders mysteries of the universe.
The Three Kings had a praiseworthy curiosity. The astrology of the Magi held that our earthly self is complemented by a heavenly counterpart, completing the human person. Our “heavenly double” develops alongside that self until death unites the two. The Magi’s philosophy was deficient, but their curious inclination and honesty expanded their spiritual horizons.
The sudden appearance of a new and brilliant star suggested the birth of an important person. Motivated by curiosity, the Three Kings followed that star, seeking the newborn King, and when they found the Child, they adored Him. After a fashion, they discovered their “heavenly double.” He unites His humanity with us through the Incarnation manifest at Bethlehem, and we consume Him during Holy Communion.
We find Jesus in the Church and her Sacraments, and we need the curiosity and honesty of the Magi to allow grace to inflame our interest in the mysteries of the teaching Church. The Church is “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic,” and all salvation comes from the Church. With the curiosity of the Magi, St. Augustine wrestles with questions of Church membership in his tome, The City of God. His insights enrich our understanding of the splendor of the Church and achieving the crown of heavenly glory.
Creative curiosity—often spurred by our doubts—increases an appetite for new wonders. But we need to use our curiosity in holy ways. Even when our interests lead us down the wrong path, a healthy and honest curiosity, with God’s grace, redirects us back to His Way. When we lose our holy fascination with Jesus, we become complacent, presumptuous of His mercy, and stagnant in the spiritual life. Like a spouse who wearies of the routine and sacrifices of married life, we misdirect our curiosity to the world for new, exciting, and often worthless things—only to enter another state of spiritual stagnation, even despair.
When we lose our curiosity about Jesus, there is another dangerous possibility. We may be devout, orthodox, and even virtuous. But without cultivating a spirit of holy curiosity, it is possible to ruin it all by relaxing, thinking we’ve come to the end of our mysterious journey, and holding others, less enlightened, in contempt. Saint Thomas Aquinas warns we ruin our spiritual lives by taking pride in our virtue. The dread sin of the Pharisees!
The great Flannery O’Connor was curious about the faith, but her curiosity occasionally misfired. When she was a little girl, aged 8, the nuns taught her that she had a guardian angel. Flannery thought about her ever-present guardian and grew to resent it. She thought of her angel as a spy and a snitch. In the privacy of her room, Flannery would thrash about trying to punch it. She concluded her angel was messing with her permanent record in heaven!
Children sometimes see God this way—like a schoolmaster adding marks for the report card: gold stars for good behavior and red X’s for bad behavior. The kids are on to something. We indeed have a “permanent record” in heaven with our names written on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our “heavenly counterpart.” One with Christ in communion with His Mystical Body—we share one Heart with Jesus.
Later in life, Flannery’s curiosity not only provided the intellectual energy to write her signature short stories, informed by the drama of the Fall and Redemption; she even made friends with the Archangel Raphael. She penned a beautiful prayer to him, a text at her bedside when she died. Flannery O’Connor never lost holy curiosity.
The Church is a curiosity piece with a treasure chest of spiritual gold, frankincense, and myrrh, along with plenty of worldly distractions. The contents of the holy treasure chest also include lots of dust and useless trinkets—the junk of our sins that we carelessly commingle with the treasure. Despite the sins of the members, the whole purpose of the Church is to teach us Jesus—His Cross and Resurrection—and to lead us to live with Him in union with His Mystical Body. The more we read the Gospel, the more curious we become about Him.
There is a lovely legend about the Magi that rings true. After Jesus sent out the Apostles to baptize all nations, St. Thomas the Apostle proclaimed the Gospel in Persia and baptized the elderly Magi into the Catholic faith. Dullards, they were not. Their curiosity had holy consequences, leading them to their salvation in Jesus.
Curiosity about Christ seeks the truth of Jesus and never sleeps until we rest in Him.
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