It used to be that the apple was the symbol of a healthy lifestyle, as in “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” When I was growing up, Apple was the symbol the greatest music of all time – the Beatles. Today Apple is the world’s most valuable company and they have just taken the world by storm again with the recent announcement of two new iPhones, Apple Pay and the Apple Watch. Apple has become the symbol of everything that is desirable and leading edge in today’s technology. Apple has been iconic of the tech boom that has made the Silicon Valley the center and fountainhead of technological innovations. It has become the primary icon of our times.
Blaise Pascal was 17th-century genius who was a scientist, an inventor, a mathematician and a theologian all at the same time. His invention of the first calculator laid done the groundwork for the eventual development of the computer, the driving force behind the information technology being spawned and spewing out of the Silicon Valley. He was a devout Christian but some where along the way he got caught up by the worldly pursuits in which he excelled. Aside from building Pascalines, those early calculators, he also produced defining work of hydrodynamics in the field of the physical sciences and the theory of probability in the field of mathematics. Experiencing a conversion, he went on to write his great theological works, The Provincial Letters and Pensées. It took this man of science to see the deep mystery of our human existence: “The Heart has its reasons which Reason does not know.”
The same landscape, where Apple and Pascal’s seminal work are alive, is dotted with another unlikely symbol. All along the California coast, from San Diego all the way up to San Francisco Solano are the crosses that mark the missions established by Junipero Serra and his companions. In a very symbolic way, there is an serendipitous converge in this California landscape of the strongly scientific and the deeply mystical.
In ancient Rome, the cross was a symbol of shame and abomination – it being the utter punishment for the worst of criminals. It was so degrading it was never used on Roman citizens but reserved only for non-Romans, i.e. the barbarians. One man took it up and it became the symbol of total and unconditional love. It was a symbol of oppression. One man took it up and transformed it into the sign of our ultimate liberation.
Life is so rich and wonderful there is no putting limits to it. An apple, so ordinary and commonplace, becomes the symbol of what is good and desirable about the technology-powered and information-driven world we live in. The cross, so demeaning and so brutal, is transformed to become the symbol of everything that is noble and life-giving in men.
Do not forget the works of the Lord!
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.”