Aug. 3, 1978 “Humanity’s Choice: Tabor or Hiroshima” by MAURICE J. DINGMAN, Bishop of Des Moines –The Catholic Mirror
August the 6th this year is worthy of note. It falls on a Sunday and marks the occasion of two important events. Liturgically we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. In our contemporary world it marks the 33rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in Japan.
Tabor speaks of Christ transfigured before his apostles. Hiroshima speaks of Christ, the mystical Christ, the whole Christ, disfigured before the world. Transfiguration and dis-figuration… good and evil are locked in mortal combat. The fate of the world hangs in balance as we make the the choice between Tabor and Hiroshima. The scriptural event of Tabor brings hope and love and optimism.The historical event of Hiroshima brings only the spectre of disaster and foreboding and pessimism.
The two events of Tabor and Hiroshima are poles apart. Two more diverse events are unimaginable, and yet there is a striking likeness in the bright and shining cloud. Matthew tells us that “a bright cloud covered them (17:5.) When Hiroshima was bombed an atomic cloud covered that city. After the blast a ball of fire formed. This fireball rose into the sky and formed a huge atomic cloud while a sea of fire rolled and boiled outward from the center of impact.
Sunday, Aug. 6 s a time for meditation and prayer. Once more we must address the question: Can we support the use of nuclear weapons? Each succeeding year brings bigger bombs with greater and greater destructive power. If a 20-megaton nuclear weapon was detonated in the center of New York City seven million people would die. It would dig a crater 650 feet deep and a mile-and-a-half across.
Can the use of atomic weapons be reconciled with the Gospel? Can the stockpiling of these weapons be justified? What does Tabor say about Hiroshima? How can we achieve transfiguration rather than dis-figuration? In the vision of Tabor we can live in the bright light of the transfigured [line missing]
Both Tabor and Hiroshima featured light, intense and brilliant brightness. The face of Christ on Tabor was illumined and shone as the sun. On that fateful day on Aug.6, 1945, the atomic explosion at Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m. was brighter than the sun, but how different the consequences. Peter could say after Tabor, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” After Hiroshima the human race could only strike its breast and say humbly, “Lord, it is tragic that we have witnessed so inhuman an event.”
Violence had its day 33 years ago. That violence has spawned more violence. In my lifetime 50 million people have died as a result of wars. My mother remembers very vividly reading the newspaper in August of 1914. She recalls that I was just learning to crawl as she read about the death of Pius X on Aug. 20, an event which followed by a little more than two weeks the outbreak of the First World War. An atomic bomb will immeasurably increase that number of casualties.
But where do we begin? What can I do? Humanly speaking we face an impossible task, but there is a power beyond ourselves. That power is found in the transfigured Christ. It is to Him that a disfigured world must look for answers. More precisely on this coming Feast of the Transfiguration on Aug. 6 I would suggest that we focus our attention on the Eucharistic Christ.
A recent experience alerted me to the importance of the Eucharist. On June 15 of this year I was one of 21 bishops who were privileged to have an audience with Pope Paul VI in the Vatican on the occasion of our “ad limina” visit to Rome. On that occasion the Holy Father spoke eloquently about the “supreme importance” of the Eucharist. As he spoke of “the transfiguration of the world in [line missing]
justice, holiness and peace” he pointed out the “supreme effectiveness” of the Eucharist. Twice the Holy Father spoke about the source of our strength: “And we are convinced today that an ever greater emphasis on this teaching will be a source of strength to all the pilgrim people of God,” and “the people of God… can draw unlimited strength from the Eucharist to collaborate actively in the mission of the Church.”
The Liturgy of the Feast of the Transfiguration is more than a historical narrative. We read that “Jesus took his disciples, and went up the mountain where he was transfigured before them.” I ask that this historical event be made present on every altar in every church and chapel in the diocese on Aug. 6.
In this Atomic Age the Eucharistic Jesus would once again take us up the mountain to our altars and be transfigured again. Tabor is the church where we gather. We are today’s Peter and James and John. Tabor becomes present through the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Through Him we will become transfigured, and we in turn will become instruments in the transfiguration of the world. Once again we will hear Matthew’s gospel fulfilled: “In the shining cloud the Spirit is seen; from it the voice of the Father is heard; This is my Son, my beloved, in whom is all my delight. Listen to him.” (17:5).
The Eucharist is the root and the center of the Church’s unity. In the Eucharist we experience the oneness of being. God’s people united in Christ–in his truth and in his love. The Eucharist is at once the sign of community and the cause of its growth. It is not in the technology of the bomb that we will preserve our freedom. It is rather in the love of one another engendered by the Eucharist that we will build a unified world.
Listen to him! This is the advice given on the occasion of the Transfiguration. We do this in many ways. One of these is in his Vicar, Pope Paul VI, who has repeatedly reminded us of our duty to promote disarmament: “The arms race is a matter of scandal; the prospect of disarmament is great hope.” (Paul VI to U. N. Special Session on Disarmament, May 23-June 28, 1978.) How can the world justify spending 400 billion dollars a year on armaments, an average of $1 million every minute? This is why the Holy See, in a message to the United Nations on April 30, 1976, said “The armaments race… is to be condemned unreservedly.”
Recently I attended a meeting at the Abbey of Senanque in France on the catechumenate. In suggesting some concrete steps which might prove useful I would like to use the catechumenal model as presented in the 1972 Roman Document on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, paragraph 19.
*First, information. There is a great need to be informed. I would suggest books and magazine articles, but more especially the annual World Day of Peace Message of the Holy Father which he issues every New Year’s Day. This year’s theme is: “No to violence! Yes to peace!” The Pope has spoken 11 times. Have we listened? Has our response matched his call as he has said to us, “Peace depends on you, too,”
*Secondly, we must employ a communal approach. We must join with our neighbors to create a world opinion. Only through the power of a united world opinion will the nations respond to a reduction of armaments. It is a voice that must be formed at the parish level. We must talk about Hiroshima. Tomorrow’s decision is being formed in the awareness of today. What is my world view? Do I share that with my neighbor?
*Thirdly, the liturgical approach is really that of prayer. Prayer is essential because we face a task beyond human capabilities. We must look to a power beyond ourselves, a power centered in Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit. Again, we are talking about the Eucharist: it is in the Eucharist that we “can draw unlimited strength… to collaborate actively in the ministry of the Church.” (Pope Paul to the bishops June 14, 1976.)
*Fourth, ours is a task that is apostolic. We must work with others to share the Gospel in the testimony of our lives and in the profession of our faith. I would ask you to draw courage and inspiration from the example set by the Catholic Worker House and the Isaiah House, both located in Des Moines and actively engaged in disarmament issues.
August 6 is a day of prayer in the diocese. I call on the Catholic people of southwest Iowa, and all who hear my voice, to join in a great crescendo of praise and thanksgiving as well as a chorus of contrition and supplication to God the Father with the Son through the Holy Spirit. Each of us has a small voice, but it becomes all powerful when it is joined with the whole heavenly court.
On Sunday, Aug. 6, we the disciples of today, the Peter, the James and the John of our times, will go up the mountain of every parish church and institutional chapel in our diocese to experience the mystery of Christ transfigured. We pray that his transfiguration on Mount Tabor will overcome the disfiguration wrought by the forces of evil at Hiroshima. The human race is faced with a choice. We must halt the arms race in the spirit of Tabor or proceed with the arms race face annihilation in the spirit of Hiroshima.
Tabor or Hiroshima!