Einstein, Beethoven, and the Immaculate Conception walk into a bar. Tell me if you've heard this one before.
What is their connection? How can it possibly be that a Jewish quantum physicist and a deaf German composer from the eighteenth century have anything to do with the Immaculate Conception? And frankly, what does the Immaculate Conception have to do with our day to day lives anyway? For many it may indeed be nothing at all. Yet allow me to bring up an even more seemingly unrelated figure who may just make sense of this for us - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
The artist formerly known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger may seem to have disappeared off into the eclipse of Pope Francis’ vibrant face to face ministry, but we may just see the rise of Benedict still yet. Too many good men gladly leap into the trap of comparing Benedict and Francis on a superficial level, falling victim to a consumeristic secular mindset. In doing so they miss the Church’s beautiful ability to harmonize her leaders' particular personalities into a symphony, focused on her one love, without interruption. Not to mention seeing two living popes shake hands is about as cool as... well, nothing, since this is utterly new.
What Francis lives vibrantly is what Benedict enabled the Church and her members to do by his teaching - to compose or play the faith in her full symphony by believing, celebrating, living, and praying all that the deposit of faith contains in its pure harmony. These are the four pillars of the Catechism: Creed, Sacraments, Morality, and Prayer. Like a master orchestra conductor, Benedict united these seemingly unrelated pillars to draw out a symphony of our faith. Before our very eyes today, Pope Francis is a living, breathing Catechism.
What does the Immaculate Conception and the hour-long fast before Mass have in common? Without the Catechism's guidance - its own conducting of sorts - it could be nothing at all. When we fail to read the Catechism in its unity, we fail to recognize that the Catholic faith cannot be compartmentalized. We fail to see a richness of life that weaves the Incarnation into every aspect of our day. We fail to connect our Sundays to our Mondays, prayer to action, and our Creed to our views on Contraception. Benedict writes, "...the Catechism must be read as a unity…we do not speak rightly about man, if we speak wrongly about God.”
“If Einstein could be drawn to the beauty of this inner harmony of science, could it not be that he would also be drawn to the inner unity of the faith?”
This is why I long to give Albert Einstein the Catechism. He once wrote, “without belief in the inner harmony of the world, there could be no science.” If Einstein could be drawn to the beauty of this inner harmony of science, is it absurd to propose that he may have also been drawn to the inner unity of the faith? In order for a culture of beauty to arise out of this community, we must begin to show the world the simple beauty that there is indeed an inner harmony to everything we do. If the content of our Catholic lives remains unassociated, then our lives become just a disharmony of unrelated sounds, rules, and rituals. However, if we can take up this little green book and allow it to unite and orchestrate our lives, then our beliefs, liturgy, morals, and prayer will stir up a symphony in harmony with the fullness of the heart of the Church.
Sym-phony comes from the Greek, which means “sounding together”. Like Beethoven’s symphonies, the Catechism’s four pillar layout and cross reference system harmonizes previously and seemingly unrelated facts into sheer music.
So, again, what does the Immaculate Conception have to do with the hour-long fast? I invite you to discover it for yourself. Take up the green and let it orchestrate for you. Start with CCC 2001, move to CCC 1387, and then finish off with CCC 490.* In doing so you will have woven a tapestry through the Church's morality, liturgy, and Creed. If done correctly, you will have found a moral action in which you celebrate a reality of our Creed.
Disunited, these paragraphs may seem like a smorgasbord (smorgasborgoglio?) of different musical notes, but when read in unity they just may make the same beautiful melody of an orchestra. Reverb Culture is committed to this: letting the Catechism conduct the seemingly meaningless mess of our lives into a symphony. To pray that we may act, act that we may celebrate, and celebrate that we may believe.
*If for whatever reason you do find yourself unwilling to click a couple of hyperlinks, here are the spark notes:
CCC 1387 says that the fast "prepares us for the worthy reception...of the moment when Christ becomes our guest.” The connection comes when the Catechism cross references the Immaculate Conception to man’s own preparation for the reception of grace as a grace itself. (CCC 2001) Thus the preparation of Mary being made Immaculate by the merits of Christ in order that she may be ready to receive Christ, or Grace itself, corresponds to our preparation of receiving the same Christ in the Eucharist. Summed up: When we uphold the hour-long fast we celebrate, in a sense, the gift bestowed on Mary in her Immaculate Conception as well as the reception of the fullness of grace that is Christ in the Eucharist.