December 7, 2018

Advent Reflection / John F. Fink

Visualizing the Trinity, planning for Christmas

John F. FinkDuring Advent, we should prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. However, I can’t help but realize that, well before Christmas, the most important event in history has already taken place. God, the Almighty, had already humbled himself to become a human nine months before Christmas.

During Advent, we first read about that story this year on Dec. 20. That’s when the Gospel reading at Mass is Luke’s description of the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of Jesus. Of course, we read that Gospel several other times during the year, including nine months before Christmas, on the feast of the Annunciation on March 25.

Whenever I hear that Gospel, or meditate on the joyful mysteries of the rosary, I can’t help but get a picture in my mind of God the Father telling his Son, “Well, I guess it’s time to put our plan into effect to reverse the punishment we inflicted upon the humans on Earth after the sin of Adam. It’s too bad that Adam and Eve didn’t obey me.”

It’s silly because there’s no such thing as time in the eternity of heaven, but I think of God as saying, “I’ve been busy with some of the other planets the past few hundred years, so it has taken me a while to get around to Earth.” Might God have created other planets and tested other Adams and Eves, some of whom passed the test and some who didn’t?

There are an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the universe and about 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone, each star perhaps with planets. It’s difficult for me to believe that Earth is the only place where life has occurred. Perhaps somewhere in the universe there’s a planet where its Adam and Eve didn’t disobey God.

I’m hardly the first one to think about that. The great Christian apologist, novelist and storyteller C. S. Lewis used that premise when he wrote one of his science fiction novels, Perelandra. He didn’t go far into the universe, though; his Perelandra was the planet Venus just as Malacandra in his Out of the Silent Planet was Mars. So he stayed in our solar system.

His premise, as is mine, is that there might be some planet in the universe where a first couple underwent the same thing that Adam and Eve did here, but obeyed instead of disobeyed. What would that planet be like today?

Lewis told us what it might be like, later in his life in his book The Seeing Eye. If we reached other planets, he wrote, we might “find a race which was, like us, rational but, unlike us, innocent—no wars nor any other wickedness among them; all peace and good fellowship. I don’t think any Christian would be puzzled to find that they knew no story of an Incarnation or Redemption, and might even find our story hard to understand or accept if we told it to them. There would have been no Redemption in such a world because it would not have needed redeeming.”

Of course, that’s not what actually happened on our planet Earth—unfortunately. So I visualize in my mind the three persons of the Trinity deciding what to do about it. God the Father decided that his Son would become human, teach the people about the kingdom of God, and then die a cruel but redeeming death. He had already selected a young woman, named Mary, to be his mother and had preserved her from original sin so the Archangel Gabriel could call her “full of grace.” And a man, named Joseph, who would protect the family.

The Holy Spirit was to come upon Mary so she would remain a virgin while becoming pregnant and giving birth. Then the Holy Spirit would come upon the woman’s relative, Elizabeth, and her unborn son John, and reveal to Elizabeth that Mary had conceived the Lord.

Was this something that had already been done in some other planet far, far away? Who knows? Perhaps so, perhaps not. Perhaps it’s just my quirky imagination.

(John F. Fink is editor emeritus of The Criterion.)

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