sábado, 25 de octubre de 2014

Gregor Mendel's Sermons & Faith in God

Gregor Mendel, best known as the Father of Genetics, was an Augustinian monk and abbott. An outstanding scientist who undertook experiments with peas and discovered the laws of genetics, which totally revolutionized science.

Though he didn't make references to God, religion or theology in his scientific papers, there are at least two surviving sermons where he expressed his religious views and faith in the sacrifice of Christ.

Mendel's surviving theological writings are undated, but it is thought they were written in his later years, due to the inferences and allusions he makes about his life.  The text of the first sermon was presented by the Mendel-Museum during an International Symposium in 1970, which was organized by the Director of the Museum, Prof. Dr. Vitezslav Orel, an expert in the life of the genetist.

These Sermons, as far as I can infer, are nowadays in the Mendel-Museum. It is thought that many other theological and scientific papers were probably burned after his death in ignorance of their historical importance. Some people blame a fellow in the abady, others blame think too that the invasion of the nazi and the communist regimes in St. Thomas, was responsible for the lost. In any way, fortunately, some people kept these writings hidden in the Moravian Museum.

The biographical books "Gregor Mendel's Experiments on Plant Hybrids: A Guided Study" (1993) edited by ‎Alain F. Corcos, and "Gregor Mendel: And the Roots of Genetics" (2001) by Edward Edelson include a couple of quotes taken from one sermon, but only few books in German include the complete text. One of these books is Folia Mendeliana, published precisely by the Moravian Museum in Brno, in 1971.

The partial translations of the Sermons are these:

Sermon on Easter
"Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection in various forms. He appeared to Mary Magdalene so that they might take him for a gardener. Very ingeniously these manifestation of Jesus is to our minds difficult to penetrate. (He appears) as a gardener. The gardener plants seedlings in prepared soil. The soil must exert a physical and chemical influence so that the seed of the plant can grow. Yet this is not sufficient. The warmth and light of the sun must be added, together with rain, in order that growth may result. 
The seed of supernatural life, of sanctifying grace, cleanses from sin, so preparing the soul of man, and man must seek to preserve this life by his good works. He still needs the supernatural food, the body of the Lord, which received continually, develops and brings to completion of the life. So natural and supernatural must unite to the realization of the holiness to the people. Man must contribute his minimum work of toil, and God gives the growth. Truly, the seed, the talent, the grace of God is there, and man has simply to work, take the seeds to bring them to the bankers. So that we "may have life, and abundantly"... 
Three sacraments that contribute to life, baptism, confession, communion, have been used at Easter time. (Eucharist connects completely faith and baptism, God and man incompletely) Triumph: As expected of pious Christians, the joy of victory is heard in the midst of an unjust world; victory and not disparagement, insult, persecution. With the day of the victory of Christ, the Easter, the bonds are broken, the death and sin laid (?), and the Redeemer of mankind rises strongly the human race from night time and fetters, in blessed heights, heavenly gates!)...
A second sermon states:
"How does it affect a pious Christian to hear, in the midst of an unjust world, of victory and not of disparagement, outrage, persecution?
With the day of the victory of Christ, the Passover, the bonds are broken, death and sin are left behind, and the Redeemer of mankind rises powerfully the human race from the night time and the chains to blessed altitudes, to heavenly gates! ... 

Jesus let the infidels and Jews aside, he appeared only to the chosen apostles, he was concerned only with the faithful believers. To these he taught, rebuked, and sanctified, in order to perfect them to perfect the saints. This not only made sin and death be taken away from us, but by the resurrection of the Son of God grace was also obtained...
The victory of Christ gained us the kingdom of grace, the kingdom of heaven. Easter is the sky banner flag, the flag of eternity, the victory blowing over the gates of the Holy City of Jerusalem...
An analysis of this was written by the same source, published by the Moravian Museum:
"For precisely because these sermon outlines are but little polished, they give us a clearer idea of the personal religious sentiment and thought of the preacher. One fact imposes itself at the very first reading of these texts: Here speaks a man of true faith and a pastor who thinks with the Church. He endeavors zealously to acquaint his audience with the unadulterated Christian doctrine and to allow them to experience the beauty and the consolation of the Gospel of Christ.  
He puts the basic Christian truths in bold relief, the truths of Christ's death and resurrection, of man's fall and redemption, of the growth and maturing of the life of grace in man, of the importance of the sacraments of Baptism, Penance and the Eucharist, of the eternal life in God's love and glory. Nothing in Mendel's sermon outlines indicates, for example, that theological half-truths of the then prevailing Hermesianism and Guentherianism, which exerted their influence upon many theological circles, had affected him.   
Decades ago, some writers endeavored to present Mendel as a freethinker, who searched for truth without deference to dogmas. It has long been recognized that this opinion is incorrect. The discovery of these sermon outlines of the Abbot Mendel should cut the ground forever from under such imputations. 
Another characteristic feature of both sermons is the frequent use of pictures from nature to illustrate religious truth and the minute delineation of these pictures in their last details. An instance of this kind, in which in sermons usually hardly a word is wasted, is the Gospel report of St. John in which the risen Lord appeared to Mary Magdalen in the guise of a gardener. But for the scientist, who - as a hobby so to speak - had chosen to take care of the monastery garden, this topic of secondary importance in the report of the evangelist opens up a whole new world. It reminds him of the picture of the seed and It reminds him of the picture of the seed and plant, which the New Testament frequently uses to describe the origin, growth and advance of the "Kingdom of God" or the divine life in the heart of man. 
Thus Mendel is induced to develop this picture to a great extent, although it does not relate directly to the Easter feast. In like manner his second sermon uses as fit illustrations from nature the pictures of sun and light. It is also surprising, how often Mendel, who by discovering the laws of inheritance deserved well of modern biology, speaks in his second sermon of life: of life which Christ meant to bring in abundance; of that life of a more perfect order which unites immediately to Christ; then of the new transfigured life of the risen Lord Himself,and finally of the other life of dwelling in God which knows nothing of the frailty and the defects of earthly existence. 
But it is not only Mendel the scientist who appears in these pictures of light and life. φως and ζωή, light and life, are central concepts which the New Testament uses to describe the mystery of salvation in Christ. The logos was sent as the true light of the world /cf. Joh 1,9; 8,12; 9,5; 12,46; etc./ and as the life to person /cf. Joh 1,6; 6,35 & 48; 8,12; 11,25; 14,6 etc./ to impart this divine light and life to those who believe in Him. The manner in which Abbot Mendel makes use of these Johannean pictures should be sufficient proof how well he was acquainted with the thought of the New Testament. 
Finally the second sermon reveals in a few places the particular  situation of Mendel's life , that is , his exhausting contention with the Government because of the tax he considered unjust. Already the fact that the preacher wrote over the first part of the sermon, as it it were a title, the word "Victory" should not be regarded as a chance remark. The quarrel with the Government, which for the prelate gradually became a road he had  to walk alone, used up his whole strength and occupied the first place in all his thoughts. 
His every thought and wish, at that time, was indeed devoted to the "victory" of right over injustice. Mendel felt more and more misunderstood and betrayed, even by his brethren, who, for the rest, were well disposed towards him, though they did not share his stubborn attitude in this question. Even though the remarks he is supposed to have made to his nephew implying persecution or even danger to his life were perhaps never made, nevertheless the statement of Hugo lltis seems justified that a certain "melancholy and justified that a certain "melancholy and bitterness darkened the last years of life of the scientist" , Various expressions in this sermon bear unmistakable witness, how much Mendel suffered from these litigations over many years. 
When in the beginning of his sermon he referred to the slights, affronts, persecutions "in the midst of an unjust world" he evidently did not only think of what Jesus had experienced from His contemporaries, but also of the injustice he had sufffered in his own person. But then Mendel's sermon also shows that is was his religious conviction in which he sought and found, to use his own words, "advice, edification and comfort". 
When towards the end of his sermon he says that the risen Christ also in the glory of heaven still retains His wounds as signs of His love and shares them with those who love Him, we may be allowed to conclude that he himself strove to understand and master his own suffering through the passion of Christ. 
And as he had spoken at the outset of his sermon of the unjust world here on earth, he concludes with the anticipation of the life in God and calls it a life in the ardor of justice and goodness of God.  The earthly injustice, which he believed to experience, induced Mendel to desire the perfect justice of God which he knew to be balanced and even surpassed by the goodness of God. Summing up I wish to say: The newly discovered sheet with the two sermon outlines of Mendel truly contributes to a better knowledge of his personality, in so far as it affords a certain insight into the religious experience and sentiment of this great man." [Folia Mendeliana (1971), Volumen 6, Museo Moravo, p. 255]
German Original Sermon

If someone versed in German could help improve the translation, or help translate the whole excerpts into English, I'd be TOTALLY GRATEFUL! These are the two surviving sermons in German

The context:
"Abt an der wissenschaftlichen und praktischen Förderung der Pflanzen- und Tierzucht interessiert. Entsprechend der atheistischen Tendenz mancher Naturwissenschaftler behauptete der erste Biograph Mendels, H. Iltis, dieser wäre aus wirtschaftlichen Gründen, aber ohne religiöses Interesse, ins Kloster gegangen. Vor kurzem hat aber der Direktor des Mendel-Mu- seums, Prof. Dr. Vit£zslav Orel, eine Predigtskizze Mendels gefunden, welche eine riefe christliche Gläubigkeit bezeugt. Bei dem Internationalen Symposion, zu dem das Mendel-Museum im Jahre 1970 Wissenschaftler aus der ganzen Welt nach Brünn eingeladen hatte, hielt der damalige Generalassistent des Augustinerordens, P. Dr. Adolar Zumkeller, ein vielbeachtetes Referat über diese Predigtskizze, die um so wichtiger ist, als nach dem Tode Mendels sein gesamter schriftlicher Nachlaß, wohl in Unkenntnis der weltweiten Bedeutung seiner Entdeckung, verbrannt worden war. Es handelt sich in dem neu aufgefundenen Schriftstück wohl um zwei Osterpredigten über das Leben der Gnade . Dabei findet der naturwissenschaftlich interessierte Prediger zahlreiche Entsprechungen zwischen dem Leben der Pflanzen und dem inneren Leben der Gnade. Es heißt hier":
Mendel's original Sermons in German:

"Jesus erschien den Jüngern nach der Auferstehung in verschiedener Gestalt. „Der Maria Magdalena erschien er so, daß sie ihn für einen Gärtner halten mochte. Sehr sinnreich sind diese Erscheinungen Jesu und unser Verstand vermag sie schwer zu durchdringen. (Er erscheint) als Gärtner. Dieser pflanzt den Samen in den zubereiteten Boden. Das Erdreich muss physikalisch-chemisch Einwirkung ausüben, damit der Same aufgeht. Doch reicht das nicht hin, es muß noch Sonnenwärme und Licht hinzukommen nebst Regen, damit das Gedeihen zustandekommt. Das übernatürliche Leben in seinem Keim, der heiligmachenden Gnade [Seite 2] wird in die von der Sünde gereinigte, also vorbereitete Seele des Menschen hineingesenkt und es muß der Mensch durch seine guten Werke dieses Leben zu erhalten suchen. Es muss noch die übernatürliche Nahrung dazukommen, der Leib des Herrn, der das Leben weiter erhält, entwickelt und zur Vollendung bringt. So muss Natur und Übernatur sich vereinigen, um das Zustandekommen der Heiligkeit des Menschen. Der Mensch muß sein Scherflein Arbeit hinzugeben, und Gott gibt das Gedeihen. Es ist wahr, den Samen, das Talent, die Gnade gibt der liebe Gott, und der Mensch hat bloß die Arbeit, den Samen aufzunehmen, das Geld zu Wechslern zu tragen. Damit wir »das Leben haben und im Überflusse haben« (Joh 10, 10). Drei Sakramente, die das Leben spenden: Taufe, Beichte, Kommunion [sind] zur Osterzeit eingesetzt worden. (Eucharistie verbindet vollkommen, Glaube und Taufe unvollkommen dem Gottmenschen)
Sieg: Wie mutet es einen frommen Christen an, mitten in der ungerechten Welt von Sieg zu hören, und nicht wieder Hintansetzung, Beschimpfung, Verfolgung3; auch Siegesfreude. Mit dem Siegestag Christi, mit dem Ostertag, sind die Bande zerrissen, die der Tod und die Sünde um uns gelegt, und stark erhebt sich das Menschengeschlecht mit seinem Erlöser aus Nachtzeit und Fesseln in weite, heilige Höhen .und stark erhebt sich das Menschengeschlecht mit seinem Erlöser aus Nachtzeit und Fesseln in weite selige Höhen, himmlische Gefilde!?. 
Jesus ließ die Ungläubigen und Juden beiseite, er erschien nur den auserwählten Aposteln, er befaßte sich nur mit den treuen Gläubigen. Diese belehrte er, tadelte er und heiligte er, um sie zu vervollkommnen zu vollendeten Heiligen. i Nicht bloss Sünde und Tod ist von uns genommen, sondern durch die Auferstehung des Gottessohnes ist auch seine Gnade gewonnen, welche durch das Ostersakrament, Taufe und Kommunion, in die Seele eingesenkt und gepflanzt, diese in ihrem ganzen Sein erhebt, verklärt und zu einer wahrhaft göttlichen macht. Diese Gnade fließt wie eine Ostersonne weit aus dem Grabe des Erlösers, sie ergießt sich in die ganze Welt, in die Seelen, sie ist das Licht, das am Schöpfungstag einer anderen, schöneren, erhabenen Welt geschaffen wurde und nie mehr untergeht. Deshalb in der Nacht [in der] Finsternis eingesetzt das Bußsakrament, in die finsteren, traurigen Seelen ein neues Leben [und] Freude. Der Sieg Christi hat uns das Reich der Gnade gewonnen, das Himmelreich. Osterfahne wird zur Himmelsfahne, zur Flagge der Ewigkeit, die siegreich weht über den Toren der Heiligen Stadt Jerusalem." --- (Z. 67—71).

Incomplete English transcriptions:

"a unified theme chosen from the truths of the faith and created in precise arrangement of the material; neither are they homiletic sermons whict. explain a passage of Scripture, the epistle or the Gospel of the day and try to derive benefit for the life of the congregation.  It may perhaps be best to describe the sketches as addresses for religious s feasts , which attempt in a rather loose arrangement of thought to impress the audience with the importance of the feast by presenting a few spiritually edifying thoughts. p. 252

"Since, however, the preacher in his further explanations does not refer- again to the Gospel of Low Sunday, it could well be possible that the sermon was preached on a different day of the Easter week. Starting with the preliminary text from St. John /Joh 20,29/ the preacher developes a few thoughts on the importance of faith. But the more specific subject matter he intends to discuss is another one. Beginning with the statement that the risen Lord showed Himself according to the report of the evangelists in various forms, the preacher is especially impressed by Christ's appearance granted to Mary Magdalen, in the guise of a gardener. This leads Mendel to the theme closest to his heart: he developes the image of the gardener, seed and plant."

intimately joined with Christ, is made possible for him through the sacraments of Baptism, Penance and the Eucharist, which Christ instituted during the Easter season. The truly leading thought of the sermon could be formulated thus: Easter, the feast of victory. Mendel begins with the statement: "How does it affect a pious Christian to hear, in the midst of an unjust world, of victory and not of disparagement, outrage, persecution." These words sound like an allusion to the injustice which the preacher himself believed to have experienced in the course of those years. He proceeds to describe Easter as the great day of the victory of Christ. Through his victory Christ triumphed over death and sin and freed mankind from its fetters. Furthermore, through the victory of His resurrection Christ gained for man divinizing grace which through Baptism and the Eueharist is embedded and planted into the soul. Very beautifully and with theological depth the preacher explains the essence of this grace, namely, that it "elevates and transfigures the soul of man in its entire being and makes it truly divine." Of course, we would grossly misinterpret him if  we attempted to give these words a pantheistic meaning. The meaning of this sentence corresponds to what Scripture teaches regarding man's divine sonship:  They who have received grace through Christ are children of God, they are born of God,..."

...Mendel calls this grace symbolically "an Easter sun" , the light of which radiates forth from the tomb of the Redeemer into the whole world, penetrating the very hearts of men and engendering new life and joy. Easter, therefore, appears to him  as the "day of creation of another, more beautiful and sublime world". For the Easter day of Christ leads to the Kingdom of heaven. Mendel understands this in its eschatological perfection and describes it as :he heavenly city of Jerusalem. Continuing, the preacher then speaks of the new transfigured life of the risen Christ which is immune from passing away and from this world. He deals shortly with the appearances of Christ each of which, in the words of Mendel, "contains an abundance of advice, edification and comfort for all time". He takes great pains to explain the marks of the wounds of the risen Saviour. Christ bears them even in His glory as signs of recognition. The preacher says literally: "From the passion, from the wounds we must know the Saviour [j"hey are] signs of love, signs that love is forever." Mendel concludes his sermon with a glimpse of......"


Folia Mendeliana (1971), Volume 6, Moravian Museum, pp. 252-254

1 comentario:

  1. Excellent material! Thank you! I could see a few small issues in the first English translations with literalism from the German, as a minor detail. However, since Mendel rejected Darwin-Russell´s Natural Selection, it is interesting to see how that reflected a limitation of philosophical and theological analysis in an authoritarian institution. Yet, Michael Faraday offers an interesting comparison in the same era of a person of working class origins who easily combined Science and Religion appropriately. SEeing Mendel´s view at the practical level, however, provides an interesting light, even with its kind of relation to the Protestant Reformation.