Photo/Flickr via Kylir Horton []

Preserving the beautiful stream

  • June 4, 2015

Distressing news chez the McLeans: someone has dumped or leaked raw sewage into our stream. For over 200 years the stream has been trickling musically through the woods, falling silent under the ground here and then splashing merrily over a waterfall there. The whole landscape — fields, woods, stream — was designed for the wealthy family that once lived in our house. It is now open to the public, but the woodland path toward the Firth of Forth has had to be roped off. The stream is now a health and safety hazard. It stinks to high heaven.

The Scottish water authorities have discovered who generated the sewage, but as our own septic tank was not to blame, I don’t really care. Mostly I am anxious that the gunk and stench are washed away as soon as possible, so that the path is safe again for human beings and their dogs. Distressingly, people trampled down the first barriers so that they could march through woods unimpeded. I don’t mind so much for the adults, but if children or dogs play in the water, they could become sick.

Streams, springs and rivers are important symbols for Christians. The Hebrew Scriptures often describe streams as necessary to life and as sources of healing. The Psalmist praises God as the Creator who opened streams to supply water for animals and trees (Ps. 104). Elsewhere he compares himself to a beast: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (Ps. 42). Ezekiel describes a vision of a stream flowing from the temple (Ez 47: 1-12). In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass this vision replaces the usual Asperges antiphon at Eastertide:

I saw water coming forth from the temple

on the right side, alleluia:

and all those to whom this water came

were saved, and shall say, alleluia, alleluia.

Naturally this verse reminds Catholics of the water that flowed from Jesus’ side, as well as the waters of baptism. In the Christian Scriptures, the humble stream is elevated to great heights as Jesus proclaims, “(W)hoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4: 13-14). Therefore, it is appropriate for Catholics to use the image of a stream to describe truth, true doctrine, flowing from Christ, its source and origin (fons et origo), through the apostles and their successors.

Christ, source and origin of the Christian faith, can never be polluted, but there have been attempts over the centuries to pour sludge into the pure stream of Christian doctrine. It is perhaps unfashionable to say that, but I console myself that my Free Presbyterian pal would fervently agree with me, if not always on the specifics. We would agree that the Arians, whose heresies necessitated the penning of the Nicene Creed, were once very dangerous to the stream. We would disagree on what substance Luther and Calvin wished to pour into the stream — purification or poison — and whether or not they were successful in doing so. However, although she does not believe marriage is a sacrament, we are at one in resisting the addition of same-sex so-called marriage to the stream of Christian doctrine.

The idea that the Christian doctrine concerning marriage could be threatened by Catholic theologians a mere 10 years after the death of St. John Paul II may shock, but it seems to be true. Last week my colleague Edward Pentin reported on the “shadow council” of like-minded German, French and Swiss bishops, priests, theologians and journalists who met at the Gregorian University in Rome to discuss such “pastoral innovations” as a “theology of love” that “critics say would pave the way for Church recognition of same-sex relationships.”

I hope you don’t need me to tell you that there is no basis in Scripture or tradition for homosexual physical relationships. St. John Paul II preached on marriage and the family for over 50 years; surely he would have noticed if there were.

We have heard much, and will hear much more, about German theologians and their allies proposing innovations they call consistent with Catholic faith. The German Church is funded by a national  tax — 5.5 billion euros a year — from which German Catholics cannot opt out without excommunication. Thus, fashionable ideas that keep Germans on the books, if not actually at Mass, are of particular interest to certain members of the German Church. Meanwhile the poor catechesis and flawed leadership of the post-1962 era is no match for pop culture and well-funded propaganda, as we have seen in Ireland (Ireland!). Under these circumstances, who will protect our stream?

(Cummings McLean is a Canadian writer and author of Ceremony of Innocence.)

Comments (1)

There was so much we did not yet know when Jesus lived in Israel. . It wasn't his purpose to upgrade science of the time. He sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us as our scientific knowledge grows and throws new light on what we thought we...

There was so much we did not yet know when Jesus lived in Israel. . It wasn't his purpose to upgrade science of the time. He sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us as our scientific knowledge grows and throws new light on what we thought we understood. Trust Him

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