Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Einstein and Catholicism

Did you ever know that Einstein's Catholic elementary school education was responsible for his lifelong wonder of the universe and its orderliness, the Λογος (Logos), "Word of God, or principle of divine reason and creative order, identified in the Gospel of John with the second person of the Trinity incarnate in Jesus Christ" (New Oxford American Dictionary)? From Einstein: His Life and Universe (pgs. 15 & 20):
[...] when Albert turned 6 and had to go to school, his parents did not care that there was no Jewish one near their home. Instead he went to the large Catholic school in their neighborhood, the Petersschule. As the only Jew among the seventy students in his class, Einstein took the standard course in Catholic religion and ended up enjoying it immensely. Indeed, he did so well in his Catholic studies that he helped his classmates with theirs. [...] Einstein avoided religious rituals for the rest of his life. [...] He did, however, retain from his childhood religious phase a profound reverence for the harmony and beauty of what he called the mind of God as it was expressed in the creation of the universe and its laws.
This reverence, even for a scientist, is not something to be left in one's childhood, for "unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 18:3). Even in his adulthood Einstein pondered the mystery of transubstantiation:
Father Charlie had come to talk about Christ in light of Einstein's theories and Einstein obliged and directed the discussion towards the Mass. "What is it? What happens?" Einstein asked his guest. Father Charlie explained that during Mass heaven and earth are joined by the infinite living body of Christ when the whole substance of bread and wine becomes the true body and blood of Christ, only the appearances of the bread and wine remaining. Einstein became extremely interested in the concept of transubstantiation, the changing of one substance into an other. He asked Father Charlie to explain the conversion in the Eucharist, by the priest at Mass. Father Charlie eagerly explained transubstantiation to his host as analogous to Einstein's famous formula E=mc²: Just as matter can be broken into energy-God becomes present on earth in the Mass.

While Einstein listened attentively, Father Charlie said, "During the Last Supper Christ said to his disciples, 'This is my body [τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου], this is my blood [τοῦτο ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά], that is being shed for you.' This means that what looks like bread and wine by God's power have become the body and blood of Christ."

"Then this means," Einstein said, "that Christ is infinite and timeless."

Christ with a Priest's Face

The Catholic Mass with which Einstein was familiar and during which the mystery of transubstantiation occurs is the following:

Fr. Calvin Goodwin, Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), commentates the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. To view more videos about the Extraordinary Form (called also by the various names "Gregorian Rite masses," "Latin masses," "Tridentine masses," etc.), buy the FSSP's DVD The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite: An Instructional Video for Priests and Seminarians.

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