Saturday, June 23, 2012

Acts of Faith, Part 3 of 4

Another memory regarded his religious home schooling. If I correctly recall, "Indian" children would gather at Raji's house on Sunday afternoons to receive lessons in Arabic. An easel in Raji's dining room is where his dad would stand, teach, and write; the children sat around the dining table and would work on their pronunciations, spellings, and penmanship. While all this happened, I either had to go home or busy myself with video games in another room -- the latter being an easy choice! So how does learning a language equate to religious schooling? It is the first step towards reading the Koran. Arabic is indispensable to Islam; Islam cannot exist or spread without Arabic.

According to Islam, the Koran is an absolute word-by-word dictation of God to Muhammad over 22 years. Muhammad was illiterate but he shared the revelations with his community; they wrote it down and, in turn, read it back to him for confirmation. Because Islam claims to have received God's word literally, Muslims are very sensitive to noting the difference between "the Koran" and "translations of the Koran". The former is strictly in Arabic; the latter is of another language. For example, an American Muslim does not read the Koran in English, but only an English translation of the Koran. The two are not the same. Muslims are therefore encouraged to learn Arabic to actually hear God's word.

St. Matthew the Evangelist,
Museum Amstelkring, Amsterdam
On the contrary, the Catholic Church understands Christian revelation in light of the Incarnation. At the Incarnation, which was when Blessed Virgin Mary conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), God united a true human body and soul to His divinity. Neither humanity nor divinity are confused or diminished in Jesus. Each substance retains its properties and both are together forever in a mystical marriage. Likewise, Christian scripture is a marriage of God's divine inspiration and human talent. The men who wrote the Gospels, for example, can be called "true authors" because they freely and willingly transcribed revelation according to their perspective. However, since revelation is intended for the salvation of souls (not just in their time but for all time), God illuminated the minds of these men with the gift of inerrancy. They wrote down only which was true because "in Him there is no darkness" (1 John 1:5).

Moving into a new house put strain on my friendship with Raji. Being now at the edge of town, I could no longer walk/bike up the block to visit him daily. Our dynamic was forced to change and our friendship began to falter; there was just too much physical distance between us to continue at the former pace. This challenge highlighted how much of our friendship depended on close proximity. Aside from physical distance, the distance of age unexpectedly began taking its toll too. Three years separated us (he being younger), which actually didn't translate well across the social barriers of middle school and high school. When we did finally attend the same high school together, I was a senior and he a freshman. However, by that time, we had grown completely apart and did not associate.