The Master Plan

And so Lucifer peeked at God’s plans for Eve.
He then realized the honor She would receive.

After being the light,
The brightest and best,
Lucifer was to be dethroned.

In envy he was shown
How he would lose his place
Before the face
Of the Holy Trinity.

SatanFalls GustavoDore

[“I beheld Satan as lightning falling from Heaven.” –Luke 10:18]

In pride he denied
The destiny God made
That though Woman would rise
Lucifer should behave.

In rage he disfigured himself,
Desperately trying to beautify himself.
Twisting his teeth, parting his hair…
Chewing his cheeks, nothing was spared.

God watched His angel deform,
Asked the seraph to reject the vile.
Lucifer stared back and said with a smile,
“Not so long as Woman is born.

Never will I accept She is my superior,
To only You I am inferior!
If You are to make Her so far greater…
I want nothing to do with Her maker.”

God’s love was crushed by Lucifer,
And His sorrow disgusted His angel.
Lucifer left Heaven.
His past and all he left abandoned.

Lucifer dwelled in hell,
Renamed himself satan.
He planned to thwart and rebel…

On the very day Eve saw Eden,
satan snuck into the garden…
Slipped past Adam…

“Hey Beautiful… want an apple?”

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

© Evan Pham . October 28, 2008

*Click here for the first part: The Masterpiece

Interpreting Interstellar

InterstellarA dozen of us from the seminary just experienced in IMAX Christopher Nolan’s latest film: Interstellar. There was so much nourishment in the film to milk, that I’m going to have to return for seconds during Thanksgiving break, but for now, here is what left me most satisfied (and no, it’s not just the Buddy’s Pizza we just inhaled):




—SPOILER ALERT—


—–1) About halfway through the film, the astronauts come to a fork in their journey and have to decide definitively which planet to visit. They appear to have two solid options, but Anne Hathaway’s character – Amelia Brand – chooses illogically and with great bias. The other two crew ask her why, since their choice is more reasonable and has better chances. Her answer made the audience laugh, me included. But then Ameila explained, and I caught myself falling in love with her answer. It resonated with me. I myself thought about it for a long time: Why does love exist? What is the reason for love?

Answer: there is no reason for love, because Love IS the reason.

Here’s what Amelia said, roughly paraphrasing: I choose this planet, and not the one you have decided on, because somewhere on this planet is the man I love. I cannot explain why, but I know my heart, and I’m trying to follow it. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s because love transcends what we can sense, what we can measure and quantify and experiment on. Love cuts through time and space, because even though I haven’t seen Edmund (her lover) for years, I still love him and am drawn to him. Even though I have every reason to think he is dead, I need to be with him, to know for sure. There’s no reason any of us should keep loving people who are gone, who are far off, who we may never see again, but we still love, because love is the only thing the universe cannot explain.

And the reason why the audience laughed was because we thought she was going to be all mushy and sentimental about her choice: Oh, here we go again… all this follow-your-heart and lovey-dovey stuff… bah humbug!

BUT that’s where Philosophy and Theology kick in: it is true that love transcends the world, the universe. It is completely beyond what is necessary for the universe to keep going, and also completely unnecessary. Love, in short, is supernatural; it’s above nature, not found in nature, and does not naturally occur. Animals, plants, and atoms do fine without it. Love can even put us at risk of danger. Nature would be fine (maybe even better) if love didn’t exist, except that it does exist. And if this supernatural thing we call love actually exists, that means there’s a whole bunch of stuff out there that is beyond our science (“stuff” like God, the Divinity, the Creator). The film even lays it out: “Science is about admitting that we know so little.”

 

CainAbel

[Cain murders his brother, Abel. This screenshot is from Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah”.]


—–2) When the remaining crew land on a planet and revive Mann, a huge twist in the story comes up and reminds us of Cain and Abel. The parallels are unmistakable: Mann is Cain, and both are the elder character (Mann was on the planet first and for a longer time). Cooper is Abel, both were the younger character (Cooper arrived later on the planet). Mann tells Cooper (Cain tells Abel) to go out into the field (the wilderness) with him, and that’s when the elder rises up against his brother out of selfishness and seeks to murder him (see how similar it all is to Genesis 3).

Right away, goosebumps filled my epidermis: here they were, in a new world, ready to begin another civilization, and here was the original sin, back with vengeance. Our fallen nature as sinners goes with us wherever we go, even to Saturn, even through a wormhole into another galaxy, even to the edge of a gargantuan blackhole. We cannot rise above without help from outside the human race. Our world/s will be tainted, like the cursed Midas Touch.

Coincidentally (but probably not), the film’s mighty organ music pipes up during this scene (track “Day One Dark“). Given that the organ is rarely featured in film scores, and the prominence the organ has in this very Biblical scene, one has to wonder what Mr. Hans Zimmer was implying by using this instrument that was adopted specifically for the Traditional Latin Mass of the Catholic Church. [Update: click here for all about the selection of the organ for the score!]
—–3) Jessica Chastain’s character – Murph – goes behind her big brother’s back and undermines him and his [insane] will for his family’s future. The tension builds as he returns to discover his sister’s cunning, and just when we think he is going to do something terrible to everyone, Murph runs out to him, smiling, gushing with hope and love, and she embraces him. Immediately, I knew the phenomenon. I experienced is many times and have dubbed it “Severe Tenderness”. It goes something like this: A few years ago, I was at work one day at the sushi restaurant. My shift on Friday evening was the forbidden hour. I was regularly alone at the front during the dinner rush (4-6pm), taking orders, running orders, preparing dishes, washing dishes, cleaning tables, etc. I learned how to work without thinking, to grow four extra arms, and to lose my temper. But always at 6pm, backup would arrive and pitch in. This woman only worked for two hours (6-8pm), but when she would arrive, I was ready to dump all my frustration out on her. Except, when she came up to me, said hello, asked how I was, and so ready to help me… my anger, stress, and tantrum melted away.

Her smile and sweetness was tender enough to soothe me, yet severe and powerful enough to cut through all the mess that was attacking me. It was instantaneous, and instead of blowing up in her face, I smiled back and worked even harder to help her have an easier evening at work. She became someone for me to serve, and I loved it.

Severe tenderness is a gift, a strength not everyone has, and even in my life there are only a handful of people who have that effect on me, consistently. But don’t go and try to see if you’re one of them, okay?

—–4) At the epic’s end, we find Cooper being sent on a mission: somewhere out there in the new world (new planet) is a new Eve (Amelia). It is not good for her to be alone. Go find her. She’s waiting for you. Be her new Adam. (Yes, strongly echoing Genesis again!) [This also strongly hints how Mary (the true New Eve) comes first and awaits the coming of Jesus Christ (the True New Adam!).]

And when Murph tells Cooper of this, reminds him about Amelia, his love for Amelia is roused. This reminds me strongly of the love story found in the Book of Tobit: the love of Tobias and Sarah. You’ll have to find it in the Bible yourself, read it and watch Interstellar to understand what I am saying. But trust me. It looks pretty parallel to me.

CryoEmbryo—–5) Lastly, Interstellar mentions cryogenic-embryos as part of the backup plan to ensure mankind’s survival. I’d like to point out that the film eventually determines this option to be inadequate, because it means giving up on saving those who are alive. This is not the only reason why cryostorage (super freezing) of human embryos is morally evil, mainly because human persons deserve better than to be left vulnerable in canisters and left there as a resource to tap, manipulate and own. I won’t go any deeper on this point for now, because my philosophy thesis is on this issue, and when it is finished, I’ll be sharing it then. This review is already lengthy enough.

—–BONUS) The biggest plot hole in Interstellar is actually a powerful sign of a something more. Philosophy labels this “plot hole” in reality the Infinite Regress. This is a bit difficult to follow, but hear me out:

      At the film’s end, we discover that:
a) Cooper goes back in time to tell his past self (call this Cooper2) about the secret NASA coordinates.
b) Cooper2 gets the message and goes to the NASA coordinates, and begins his journey.
c) Cooper2’s journey leads him to the blackhole, where he finds a way back in time to tell his past self (call this Cooper3) about the secret NASA coordinates.
d) Cooper3 gets the message and goes to the NASA coordinates, and begins his journey.
e) Cooper3’s journey leads him to the blackhole, where he finds a way back in time to tell his past self (call this Cooper4) about the secret NASA coordinates.
f) Cooper4 gets the message and goes to the NASA coordinates, and begins his journey.
g) Cooper4’s journey leads him to the blackhole, where he finds a way back in time to tell his past self (call this Cooper5) about the secret NASA coordinates…
ETC. ETC. ETC. for infinity…

But, who told the first Cooper [about NASA] in this infinite chain that goes nowhere and leads nowhere? Was it another Cooper? In that case, who told that other Cooper? And who told that Cooper? And that Cooper? And that Cooper? Etc. How do we even know that this chain of events can change?

This unsatisfying answer/explanation is actually a way to dodge the question, because it gives you no knowledge of anything. This is the INFINITE REGRESS, and it shows that we have to find the first person who started off everything, aka: the first causer, the one who is outside of the chain, outside of our universe, outside of Creation, outside of our reality, outside of the Big Bang, the one who started it off and set things in motion. Philosophy (and St. Thomas Aquinas) calls this first cause by the name God. Theology calls Him Father.

For those of you who want to give Philosophy a go, here’s an excerpt from page 217 of the text (The One and the Many) we’ve been studying in class at seminary (to further flesh out this concept):

[from W. Norris Clarke's "The One and the Many"]

[from W. Norris Clarke’s “The One and the Many“]

All in all, despite some shortcomings in the film, the good points far outweigh the bad. I was very impressed, and was left breathless at all the science, philosophy, subtle theology, love and sacrifice blended together in harmony. I loved being tested on how much I knew and if I could follow along, instead of being spoonfed (like how most of Hollywood does). Thank you, Lord, for storytellers like Christopher Nolan and Co., and thank you for creating us with the wits to enjoy such stories. Amen!

BlackHole

Just viewed Interstellar again (Nov. 29th, 2014) and had a few more sweets to share with y’all!

—–6) We find out about the MONSTROUS LIE, the temptation Mr. Doctor Brand (Michael Caine) used to bait Amelia and Cooper on the mission. This scene became clearly alluding to the Original Temptation in Eden, when the serpent lies a monstrous lie to Eve, and Eve’s fall brings down Adam (arguably because Adam did not rise up and smash the deceiver instead!). In this film, we see the same thing play out, and the lie, no matter how good it sounds (because nobody wants something evil, but we all want things we may think are good), is always deeply hurtful to the relationships involved.

—–7) Plan-A, or Plan-B? One of the main objections to Plan-B in the film (and rightly so) is because it gives up on those on Earth. It condemns the living to death, labels them hopeless, and then dismisses them. This reminds me of the Pro-Abortion mentality: a woman becomes pregnant, and since she cannot raise a child because of poverty,diseases, etc., she and others are pressured to abort the baby. The baby is condemned to death and the mother is condemned to murder. The child is labeled hopeless and the mother is hopeless if she does not kill her child. The child is dismembered and dismissed as medical refuse, and the mother is dismissed, left to her own again, so that if she was in poverty then she remains so, or if she was abused and raped then she is vulnerable to being harmed again, or if she experiences post-abortive trauma then she is left to struggle with that alone. Plan-B is the first failure. And Plan-A is amazingly open to the genius of man and the providence of God.

—–8) St. John Paul’s Theology of the Body more than mentions the FEMININE GENIUS, and Interstellar is supersaturated with it. Throughout the film, we see a very strong showing of girls and women who know truths beyond science, beyond logic and beyond explanation. We understand this supersense that is peculiarly feminine as intuition, and we see this when Amelia schools us all about love and its transcendental nature, and we see this when Murph calls the ghost in her bookshelf a person, and we see this in how the love of father and daughter knows no bounds, and how Murph arrests her furious brother’s heart and wins him over (as discussed in #3 above). Just view the film with this Feminine Genius in mind, and you’ll see what beauty I mean.

AP CLIMATE FLICKS A ENT FILE—–9) And the New Adam/New Eve typology (symbolism of Jesus and Mary) goes further still! When Cooper detaches from Amelia and the rest of the Endurance Space Station, he plummets into the black hole, sacrificing himself in order to let Amelia rise to safety and continue on to the new world.

Compare this with the Gospel: Jesus Christ surrenders Himself to the Crucifixion, sacrifices Himself and plummets into the place of the dead (aka: Hades). He is buried in the tomb, which is a black hole in the cave, in the ground. His sacrifice allows, actually it propels Mary (as New Eve and as the beginning and perfection of His Church) to rise and continue into a new world, a new redeemed Creation.

Lastly, recall that Amelia also believes Cooper to have perished in the black hole. She thinks herself alone now in the new world. But… Cooper is on his way to her, seemingly rising from the dead, out of the black hole and back to be with her. Now if this don’t sound like the Resurrection

—–And that’s all I got. For now… let’s see what a third viewing brings…

The Masterpiece

Hey! So I made a little meme and poem in honor of God’s masterpiece:

God finished on the Sixth.
He finished everything but one.

After creating all
And doing all to be done,
Almighty He edited some…

The light was good,
But not that great.
The day was bright,
And night was easy on the eyes.

The sea was plentiful,
But not that beautiful.
The land was pleasant,
And yet it wasn’t.

The plants and flowers,
Green and all colors…
Still they lacked
Something or another.

The animals and creeping things
Of sky, land and sea…
Clever, cute, and coy,
Yet still incomplete.

So Almighty He created him,
In Their image They created
Little hungry Adam…
Curious, cared for, but lonesome.

All was good.
All was in place.
Still, all was made of mere dust,
Sand, mud, and paste.

After creating all
And doing all to be done,
Almighty He realized He wasn’t done…

He put little Adam to sleep,
Took some rib meat,
Polished and tweaked…

Eve into the masterpiece.

Masterpiece

[the golden gilded artwork is by Lorenzo Ghiberti]

© Evan Pham . September 23rd 2008

*Inspired by the Book of Genesis and Christopher West’s Theology of the Body talks on the Feminine Genius

**Click here for the continuation of this poem.

Beauty and the Beast and the Bible

BeautyBeastPosterLike most typical American kids, I grew up with Disney movies in my DVD collection. Some films are great, some were great, and some are just trash.

Beauty and the Beast (B&B) is great. I’m sure you already know that if you’ve seen it. But here are some details you may not have noticed:

——1) The prologue is narrated in stained-windows… stained-windows… reminds you of what? What kind of buildings have stained-windows? For what building was stained-glass invented for? If you said castles or palaces, then you’re partially correct. The answer: Christian Castles/Palaces — aka: churches.

——2) The Rose is the main motif in the movie, especially a rose that seems to countdown. If that doesn’t hint at the ROSARY (which is a bouquet of prayers we offer to Our Lord’s Blessed Mother), then I don’t know what does!

the-assumption-of-the-virgin-1670——3) Speaking of the Blessed Mother, what colors do Belle wear? Did you know that light blue and white are Marian colors? Notice that the majority of traditionally colored Mary statues and icons show her to be wearing blue and white.

——4) Shortly after we meet Belle, she stops where and sings to what? She stops at a fountain, and she tells a story in song to a little lamb. A fountain is like a well, and in Sacred Scripture, it’s typically the place a man and woman have a significant meeting (recall Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Moses and Zipporah, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman). Well, in B&B, we see Belle singing to the lamb: “She doesn’t discover that it’s HIM till chaper 3…”

This is significant because Jesus had to be revealed to the Samaritan Woman, had to be discovered. And three is a convenient number that not only rhymes, but symbolizes the third day after Jesus’ death — when His Resurrection is discovered by Mary Magdalene. Also, Jesus is the prince in disguise!

BelleLambAnd what does a lamb symbolize in Christianity? “Agnus Dei…” which means “Lamb of God…” which means Jesus.

And Belle is Mary, and Mary is the God-bearer, and God is love… so Belle carries love.

Betcha never connected that “Mary had a little lamb… little lamb… little lamb. Mary had a little lamb whose wool was white as snow” is talking about the Blessed Mother who has a Son who is innocent and pure.

And in B&B, everyone thinks Belle is such a strange, funny girl, such an odd girl unaware of her own beauty. Well, Mary is odd too! She was immaculately conceived, and no one else was. She would obviously have been singled out as exceptional and strange and completely oblivious to how beautiful she is (because of her humility). Oh, oh, oh! You don’t know you’re beautiful! Oh, oh, oh! That’s what makes you beautiful!

BeautyBeast——5) What about what causes the prince in B&B to be cursed? Wouldn’t that be the sin of pride? Being spoiled, selfish, unkind… and pride causes us to be isolated to the point that we curse ourselves. Pride was the Original Sin, and it caused us to be disfigured, naked, ashamed, lonely and doomed to die. And so after the prince commits this sin, he becomes a beast: ugly, naked, ashamed, lonely, and doomed to die.

——6) Our sin never affects us in isolation. Sin is like contagion: it spreads. And so Adam and Eve’s sin caused all of us and the rest of Creation to crash and burn. In B&B, the curse spreads throughout the castle, infects the servants, the forest, the world around the property. Sin is never personal; it affects everyone eventually.

BeautyBeastBalcony——7) And only what can redeem Beast and his servants? Only if he truly loves and is truly loved in return, right? And doesn’t Belle bear that love? She’s the one to break the spell… she must give her love to him, must give her word to him. Notice later in the film that it’s only when Belle says she loves him is the curse busted. This is so symbolic of Mary’s fiat to the Archangel Gabriel, when she said “let it be…”

——8) At the ball, notice the colors of Belle’s gown: yellow and white. Those are the colors of Mother Church, the Bride of Christ, the redeemed. The colors of the Vatican flag hint at this.

PiercedSide——9) When Gaston (whatta jerk…) attacks Beast, where does he stab him? In the side! The right side! Take a look at any crucifix and you’ll see that’s exactly where Jesus was pierced (John 19:34).

——10) Then, when Beast dies in Belle’s arms… it looks a lot like the Pieta.

——11) And earlier when Beast released Belle after the ball, he in effect accepted sin (the curse) and death. Recall Beast’s response when his servants warn him of the mob’s approach: “It doesn’t  matter, just let them come.” This is a bit similar to when Jesus accepted our sin (though he was sinless) and accepted His impending death, even death on a cross.

——12) But true love breaks the spell (remember that God is love). After Mary gives her fiat, God is allowed to intervene (allowed to love) at the ground level of our humanity to redeem us through the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. And in B&B, after Belle’s fiat, we see Beast rise from the dead in glorious light. His body shines forth as a glorified body. This is totally an allegory in the movie for the Resurrection of Christ!BelleLoves

——13) And Beast’s salvation also saves the whole castle (transforms all the gargoyle’s too!), all his servants and the world around him.

——Bonus) Beast can be seen as a Christ figure, in that Jesus is also known as the Lion of Judah, an idea that C.S. Lewis used when writing the character Aslan in his Chronicles of Narnia.

Aslan

So there you have it, 13 or so details I noticed one day while re-watching this classic.

——BONUS) Found out recently via a comment below that the Prince’s name is actually Adam (thanks Anh-Thu!)! This further adds to Biblical symbolism, since the New Adam (Jesus) and the New Eve (Mary) in a perfect way undo the sin of the first Adam and Eve. We see this played out in Beauty and the Beast because Adam (the Prince) becomes a new man at the end (a new Adam), undoing the past sin (most importantly with the love and help of Belle [who can be seen as a type of Mary, a new Eve.]).

——BONUS 2) Here, we see an even deeper connection with points 5 and 6 above. Now that we know the Beast symbolizes Adam, we also can see how similar their reaction to sin is. After the Original Adam sinned, he felt great shame, thought himself ugly and hid himself. So too does the Beast do this!

——BONUS 3) That’s right, it gets better! According to the film’s plot summary, the beggar visits the Prince on CHRISTMAS EVE. Now, this definitely makes me recall that on the First Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph [and the unborn Jesus] were beggars trying to find a place to stay. The people they asked turned them away, not knowing the beauty of the Holy Family and that someone very powerful, special and beautiful was hidden within the Holy Couple: Jesus.

Remembering Tragedy

Tomorrow is the one year memorial of the Sandy Hook tragedy. I was reading Jennifer Hubbard’s reflection in the Magnificat about her daughter Catherine being killed. Somehow, I was then reminded of the Fall — our Fall from Grace way back in Eden — when we chose to disobey and eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

And I know for certain God always intended to give us this fruit, this knowledge. Why else would He create such a thing otherwise? A thing that was “good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for the knowledge it would give”?

DO NOT EAT. DUH!

DO NOT EAT. DUH!

But He wanted us to wait. The fruit was not ready, not yet ripe, and we were not ready. He was saving the fruit, waiting for the right time when it was safe for consumption.

But we wanted to know, and the fruit was still bitter and our digestive system was not mature for it. It was like us feeding solid food to ourselves as newborns. And we got terribly sick.

And this is why there is evil in our world now… we asked to taste it, to bring it into us, to know it, and it has ravaged us with its poisons. The goodness and sweetness of the fruit we forsook when we couldn’t wait, when we chose to have the immature flavor instead.

And we are far from done. Evil can get far worse. We have not yet known its full decadence and toxin. The worse is yet to come. We indeed wanted to know, so now we’re still finding out how wicked it can taste.

Yet, New Fruit has been given to us by the New Eve. The Blessed Fruit of Her womb turns water into wine, and wine into His Precious Blood. He turns bread into His Sacred Heart. Stop settling for the unripe, the bitter, the disgusting, and seek instead the true life, true sweetness, true hope. Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae, vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve…

The Fall, and the New.

The Fall, and then The New.