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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Frankenstein or Christ?

The story of Frankenstein touches something deep inside us. The longing for immortality so cruelly expressed in this enlivened cadaver and in all the other failed human resurrections from Tutankhamen to Lenin persists. The tragic aspect concerns what we know of all such human attempts at immortality from cryogenic freezing to elixirs of life, from transhuman cyborgs to Frankenstein zombies: they are all doomed to fail. Yet humans still strive to make themselves immortal and each fatal setback does not seem to put them off. What they and we resist is the notion that THIS life does not bear within it any seed of immortality, either accessible by science or religious experience. This life always has limits from life spans to the distant but nonetheless finite trajectory of the universe. All turns to dust in the end. We still of course labour and exult in the wonder of this creation for all that, and rightly so. A creation with limits still has inestimable value and our place and calling within it reflects that. In Christian terms though this creation is dying and any attempt at amelioration is conditioned by that perspective. If then we attempt to build a human centred utopia from the raw materials of this world we shall only see corruption. This is the inexorable logic of the Frankenstein myth. Eternal life cannot be moulded from the stench of human corruption. Immortality is from God or it is from nowhere.

Of course this is the point where Christians part company with humanistic fellow travelling idealists of all sorts. On this we insist that the resurrection of Christ is our ONLY grounds for hope in eternal life; His, that is God’s, victory over death which He has imparted to our humanity in the Incarnation and sacramentally through Holy Baptism and the Eucharist. As we die to ourselves in His death, his resurrection life breaks through into our own. As we drown the old Adam in the waters of baptism so the Risen Christ is manifest in our members within the Church, the Body of Christ, (no Frankenstein body here!). As we eat of the Body of Christ and drink of his Blood in Holy Communion we taste of the goodness of the Lord in the Food of Immortality. As we embrace Christ in His embrace, as we drink freely of the Spirit outpoured for us we find, as it were, a fount of living water bubbling up inside of us to eternal life. As we die to ourselves we are born again (or from above) to a life in God that has smashed death and rendered it senseless. As we surrender this creation to God we receive in its stead a New Creation where the waters of God’s regenerative and healing Love remake and renew all things.
So Frankenstein or Christ? No contest.


Michael said...

I think it's symptomatic, Father Gregory, of something that permeates so much more of our culture than just our view of death.

I know that I, myself, find myself in confession, having said something, or thought something, or lstened to something, or said something, that I thought at the time would be satisfying, that would elicit amusement from my audience, that would make me feel fulfilled in some way, and it does, for a moment, but then I look at it and realise how fleeting it all is, and how shallow was the "satisfaction".

I think that this approach to death and this view of what life actually is simply part of the empty slop that the world peddles as satisfying, and we all fall for it to one degree or another.

(This is part of my attempt at stepping back into the blogosphere, by the way).

Steve Hayes said...

I recently finished reading "Frankenstein" for the first time.

I suppose it could be read at many levels, but the thing that struck me most was the irrational behaviour of Frankenstein, and the more rational, but increasingly evil, behaviour of his creature.

I suppose I find the behaviour odd because the modern Frankensteins don't have swooning fits when they see their creation for the firstr time, and then take to their sickbed for months on end, nursed by faithful friends and leaving their creature to fend for itself, experiencve human cruelty, and decide to match it. Instead of doing that the modern creators of life call a press conference to trumpet their achievements to the world. Mary Shelley got it wrong, I think.

Michael said...

I don't know whether you knew him, Father Gregory, but the Monk Spiridon reposed last night. There is a small trihbute on my blog.

Michael Astley said...

Did you do the St Mark Liturgy, Fr Gregory? Is it done in the Antiochian church? I've blogged about it but realise it's recent, even for us.

Father Gregory said...

No, we don't do it.

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