Column: From the Pastor
Some of those dining before the gilded statue in Rockefeller Center in fair weather and skating there in the winter may not know that the glistening figure is Prometheus, one of the Titans who preceded the gods of Mount Olympus. He stole fire from Zeus, who then condemned Prometheus to everlasting torment by an eagle eating his liver, which was renewed each day. The liver was thought to be the seat of human emotion, and the agony expressed the consequences of overreaching in attempts at seizing power.
Prometheus gave mankind gifts of the intellect, and so over the Rockefeller Plaza statue are words of Aeschylus, which perhaps do not command the attention of many diners and skaters: “Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.”
While Greek mythology was sheer fantasy, it is psychologically insightful, as it symbolizes the complexities of reason and willpower. In this it is superior to the Norse mythology that gave Wagner his operatic bluster. Better Venus than Brunhilda.
But what then of the true God who is revealed in Christ? He is not, like Zeus, infuriated at the theft of his power. It is true that he is “a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24), but that jealousy is the desire of divine love to be loved in return, for that love endows human creatures with the gift of knowledge, freely sending fire to human souls at Pentecost.
Humanity has a hard time understanding why the Divine Love is logical and manifests that love by subjecting itself to that logic. By not being able to do irrational things, God shows his power by subjecting himself to that inability. For instance, God cannot make himself cease to exist (2 Timothy 2:13), and he cannot sin (Hebrews 4:15), nor can he lie (Titus 1:2).
In his Regensburg lecture in 2006, Pope Benedict calmly explained the difference between the Divine Logic incarnate in Christ and the Islamic concept of a god who is pure will, even if that will is irrational. Some who misunderstood his academic analysis rioted and murdered, and by so doing, proved his point.
If the Creator is illogical, then creation is chaotic. The only morality, then, is the assertion of strength.
Leni Riefenstahl’s cinematographic propaganda for Nazism was called “Triumph of the Will” and not “Triumph of the Reason.” While Hitler disdained religion, in 1941 he treated cordially the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, because they at least agreed on the primacy of willpower over moral reason.
The model who posed for the statue of Prometheus in New York, Leonardo Nole, became a postman in New Rochelle and died in a nursing home in Sacramento, California. The RMS Titanic was so named to invoke the power of the Greek Titans. And we know what happened to the Titanic.
Fr. George W. Rutler, S.T.D., is a brilliant scholar, author, convert, former pastor of Our Saviour in Midtown Manhattan, the closest Catholic parish near the site of 9-11, and now pastor of St Michael’s parish in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. A donation of any amount may be made to the parish at: www.StMichaelNYC.com.
Father Rutler’s latest book: Our Peculiar Times. This “timely set of reflections on the ominous times in which we are living” is a must-read according to Catholic Business Journal editors and writers!
View Articles Father Rutler was ordained to the diaconate in Rome by His Eminence William Cardinal Baum in 1980 and received priestly ordination in St. Patrick's... MORE »