Author: Fr. Donald J. Keefe, SJ
In this essay it is argued that it is only sacramental realism, and specifically the realism proper to the Eucharistic sacrifice, that permits the optimism characterizing the experimental sciences, and underlying their experimental mode. This optimism is essentially the response aroused in us by the beauty of the physical universe: we explore it with joy, for it is continually fascinating: no element in it is banal: every particle examined is an invitation to wonder. In sum, our world is mysterious, imbued throughout with a truth that is free, and therefore beautiful: it comes to us as gift, as outside our range and beyond our control, but from which unceasingly we can and do learn and from which we can seek further truth unfailingly responsive to the questions we cannot cease to ask.
The contemporary insistence upon seeking the explanations of the physical universe in terms of necessity: physical, statistical, sociological, etc.: finally, in some version of evolution, is inherently futile for, inexorably, it must invalidate the ground on which it rests. An all-embracing “theory of everything” cannot be submitted to itself without self-destructing: Archimedes’ lever could move the world only from an unworldly fulcrum — quod non valet.
There can be no necessary source for a free truth: the free source of the free truth immanent in and yet transcendent to the universe, must freely, i.e., benevolently, transcend the universe: we are prompted by our very gratitude for its gift to identify the Source with Truth itself, thus present within the universe as to be familiar, recognizable by our minds as at once free and true, hence beautiful, fascinating, In fact, to be the Lord, to be worshiped.
Only the Eucharistic representation of the One Sacrifice by which the universe is redeemed, restored, validated and freed meets these criteria: the Eucharistic Lord is not locatable in terms of the broken space and time of the fallen universe: He transcends that whose free unity he has restored: it is thus that is the Lord of the History of salvation, the Head of all creation, precisely as Eucharistically immanent in this fallen universe, whose truth is sacramental, all pervasive, inviting our delight in the things that he has made, yet free: we can turn away from its loveliness, celebrating our own squalor rather than the splendor of the truth, freely offered, freely to be made our own.
The sciences, insofar as pursuing concretely historical truth by methodologically rigorous experiment, are celebrations of the glory of the Lord, the free gift of Truth.