Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another Reason Why The Church Fathers Are Awesome

Their ability to glorify God in everything.

This seems rather obvious, I suppose. What really rang the bell for me is the following that I found in reading through the works of Lactantius. The particular treatise in question is called On the Workmanship of God. What he's writing about here is how spectacular a creature man is, even when compared with the animals that seem so much more gifted than himself due to their strength, speed, or whatever. Naturally, he spends a lot of time on man's soul and reason, but he gives a great break-down on the parts of the body as well.

This was the part that really struck me:

For the parts of the intestines which receive the food and drink from the belly are more open than the other coils, and much more delicate. These entwine themselves around and encompass the bladder; and when the meat and the drink have arrived at these parts in a mixed state, the excrement becomes more solid, and passes through, but all the moisture is strained through those tender parts, and the bladder, the membrane of which is equally fine and delicate, absorbs and collects it, so as to send it forth where nature has opened an outlet.

A patristic writer describing the act of pooping. Not only that, but take a look at another passage:

How is it with respect to the other parts of the body? Are they without order and beauty? The flesh rounded off into the nates, how adapted to the office of sitting!

Translation: Our butts are engineering marvels.

I'm not making fun here. This is illuminating. When was the last time you were in such awe of humanity that you even noticed these kinds of things? Not only in awe, but finding that awe so great that you were drawn to reflection on God's majesty and how wonderful it was that He made things so?

Lactantius even contemplates God in examining those parts that he doesn't even know what they do.

As, therefore, we perceive that we hear with our ears, that we see with our eyes, that we smell with our nostrils; so assuredly we should perceive that we are angry with the gall, that we desire with the liver, that we rejoice with the spleen. Since, therefore, we do not at all perceive from what part those affections come, it is possible that they may come from another source, and that those organs may have a different effect to that which we suppose. We cannot prove, however, that they who discuss these things speak falsely. But I think that all things which relate to the motions of the mind and soul, are of so obscure and profound a nature, that it is beyond the power of man to see through them clearly. This, however, ought to be sure and undoubted, that so many objects and so many organs have one and the same office— to retain the soul in the body. But what office is particularly assigned to each, who can know, except the Designer, to whom alone His own work is known?

I think this is a good example of the extraordinary Faith of the Fathers. To see God in so much and to consider so many things as showing forth His glory. In an age where the body is chiefly considered as a means to pleasure and man, in general, is lowered to the same level as any other animal, this view is refreshing.

No comments: