“What air is for biological life,” Benedict preached, “the Holy Spirit is for spiritual life; and just as an atmospheric pollution exists that poisons the environment and living beings, thus a pollution of heart and spirit exists that mortifies and poisons spiritual life. In the same way that one must not become inured to the poisons in the air and for this reason ecological commitment is a priority today likewise one must not become inured to what corrupts the mind.
“On the other hand it seems that it is not difficult to become accustomed to the many products that contaminate both the mind and the heart and that circulate in our society for example, images which boost pleasure, violence or contempt for men and women. This is also freedom, people say, without realizing that all this pollutes, and intoxicates the mind, especially that of the new generations and moreover ends by conditioning their very freedom. The metaphor of the mighty wind of Pentecost makes one think instead of how precious it is to breathe clean air, physically with the lungs and spiritually with the heart, the healthy air of the Spirit who is love!”
These words pair the earthly and the divine in a sort of double helix of Christian theological truth—that the unseen God, the creator of the heaven and earth, for us took on a human form. The Holy Father is reminding his flock, and those of other Christian traditions, that our human, bodily existence is not immaterial. The cosmos and we human beings have meaning, as Christ’s entrance into human history must teach us.
This point was made in another homily, this one given a few months back by my pastor. In it he reminded his own flock that we Christians do not hope for an eternity of mere ethereal existence; we shall not flutter endlessly within clouds playing harps. God has revealed his intention to re-form Creation at a time of His choosing. We proclaim this each time we say the Creed. But this truth of our soul’s return to a then-glorified body is one that of late seems to have been misplaced in catechetical programs—and it’s high time we stress this truth again, lest we loose yet another generation to modern versions of ancient heresies.
His Holiness is well aware that like the toxins in our air sicken us, the great toxin of sin keeps us from the radiance of Christ. Sin obstructs us from breathing deep the fresh winds of the Spirit of love—the Holy Spirit that seeks to bring us into what God the Father intended from the beginning. That is, a cosmos that is good, perfect and beautiful—one inhabited by real people who, by the grace of God, have been purified into the fullness, truth and purity of human existence.