Monday, February 28, 2005
The criterion of the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations
"Can we not make this Year of the Eucharist an occasion for diocesan and parish communities to commit themselves in a particular way to responding with fraternal solicitude to one of the many forms of poverty present in our world? I think for example of the tragedy of hunger which plagues hundreds of millions of human beings, the diseases which afflict developing countries, the loneliness of the elderly, the hardships faced by the unemployed, the struggles of immigrants. These are evils which are present - albeit to a different degree - even in areas of immense wealth. We cannot delude ourselves: by our mutual love and, in particular, by our concern for those in need we will be recognized as true followers of Christ (cf. Jn 13:35; Mt 25:31-46). This will be the criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged."
-Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum, 28 (emphasis added)
# posted by Jamie : 8:04 AM
Friday, February 25, 2005
NCR Recommended Reading List
# posted by Jamie : 8:49 AM
"They Recognized Him in the Breaking of the Bread"
It is significant that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, duly prepared by our Lord's words, recognized him at table through the simple gesture of the 'breaking of bread'. When minds are enlightened and hearts are enkindled, signs begin to 'speak'. The Eucharist unfolds in a dynamic context of signs containing a rich and luminous message. Through these signs the mystery in some way opens up before the eyes of the believer.
[I]t is important that no dimension of this sacrament should be neglected. We are constantly tempted to reduce the Eucharist to our own dimensions, while in reality it is we who must open ourselves up to the dimensions of the Mystery. 'The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation'.
There is no doubt that the most evident dimension of the Eucharist is that it is a meal. The Eucharist was born, on the evening of Holy Thursday, in the setting of the Passover meal. Being a meal is part of its very structure. 'Take, eat... Then he took a cup and... gave it to them, saying: Drink from it, all of you' (Mt 26:26, 27). As such, it expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with us and which we ourselves must build with one another.
Yet it must not be forgotten that the Eucharistic meal also has a profoundly and primarily sacrificial meaning. In the Eucharist, Christ makes present to us anew the sacrifice offered once for all on Golgotha. Present in the Eucharist as the Risen Lord, he nonetheless bears the marks of his passion, of which every Mass is a 'memorial', as the Liturgy reminds us in the acclamation following the consecration: 'We announce your death, Lord, we proclaim your resurrection...'. At the same time, while the Eucharist makes present what occurred in the past, it also impels us towards the future, when Christ will come again at the end of history. This 'eschatological' aspect makes the Sacrament of the Eucharist an event which draws us into itself and fills our Christian journey with hope.
Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum, 14-15.
# posted by Jamie : 7:55 AM
'Bring us Back'
Yesterday's collect, during vespers last night, struck me as a bit curious:
God of love, bring us back to you.
Send your Spirit to make us strong in faith and active in good works.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
It's the first phrase that raises the question: what does it mean for God to 'bring us back' to Himself? I wouldn't dispute that we are separated from Him, in more than one way, but the phrase implies a previous state of union to which we are being recalled.
a) The last time we were personally in a state of grace?
b) The sacramental moment when we were washed free of sin in baptism?
c) The state of original justice in Paradise (as represented by our first parents)?
Other possibilities might be discerned. All three of these merely raise further questions.
If (a) or (b), it strikes me as somewhat individualistic, as well as cases of 'aiming low'. Is our only prayer to simply recover that transient state of grace once again, only to lose it a moment later? Even our baptismal purity did not imply impeccability: if regained, it would simply and inevitably be lost once again. Ought we to pray for something greater, i.e. the possession of a permament state of union which cannot be lost? But this permanent state of grace is certainly something we never possessed, otherwise we would still be in it. Hence, it is not something to which we can be called 'back'.
If (c), the collective and corporate aspect of Lenten penitence is maintained, but other theological concerns arise. The state of original justice is obviously something which could never be attained in this earthly life. But, should we attain the object of our eternal hope, it would certainly be something far greater than that original state, if the famed felix culpa means anything. The beatific vision constitutes a permanent possession of happiness which Adam never possessed. So to what state, I wonder, are here petitioning God to be recalled into?
# posted by Jamie : 7:19 AM
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Spiritual Exegesis as Spiritual Rape
links a post by Theology Mom
, in which the latter complains about the 'losing battle' which she wages in teaching her Sunday School class, in "break[ing] down people's misinformed ideas about how to interpret the Bible." Theology Mom traces these misinformed ideas back to "American worldview assumptions," which constitute a precious 'baby' which must be 'ripped away'. Even more, they are 'lies', a 'violation' of the sacred text, and constitute an act of 'spiritual rape'.
And what crime have Theology Mom's underlings committed? They have the audacity to suggest that "the way to apply the story about Jesus calming the storm is to assert that 'Jesus will help me calm the storms in my life too'". "No matter how many times I tried to tell [them]," complains Theology Mom, "'that's not how the ancient audience would have understood this' or 'Only an American would think that way', it just wasn't getting through." Thus, mutiny ensues.
I don't pretend to be anything resembling a modern biblical scholar, nor do I know enough about Theology Mom's background or viewpoints to pass any sort of judgment on her own position. Yet, if I understand this position at all, it seems to me quite representative. Theology Mom sincerely seems to believe she is defending the ancient and authentic methodology of biblical exegesis against modernist incursions. I hold that the exact opposite is the case.
It is an open question whether the 'ancient audience', if this be taken to refer to the community contemporaneous with the Gospel writer to which the work was presumably addressed, would have understood the Gospel in a literal, historical sense. If my meager studies in biblical genre have taught me anything, however, it is that the Gospel writers themselves seem to have intended their narratives to be understood through various layers of meaning, including layers which run far deeper than the literal. Try to convince any biblical scholar that the 'Bread of Life' Johannine discourse was intended as nothing more than a historical account of a conversation about culinary preference, or that the Last Supper narratives were intended to convey nothing more than random snatches of table talk. Without a doubt, the sacred writers intended these narratives to be understood on a much more profound and mystical level, inasmuch as their subject, the Word-made-flesh, is understood to be more than a mere man among men.
If the question of the directly intended audience of the Gospel writers remains an open question, the methodology of the early Church does not. Did the Church Fathers read the Gospels as mere historical accounts, and sternly warn their audiences against facile attempts at applying them to their own life situations? Let us simply take the passage in question:
Christ arose, laid His commands on the winds and waves, and there ensued a great calm. So also with thee; the winds enter thy heart, that is, where thou sailest, where thou passest along this life as a stormy and dangerous sea; the winds enter, the billows rise and toss thy vessel. What are the winds? Thou hast received some insult, and art wroth: that insult is the wind; that anger, the waves. Thou art in danger, thou preparest to reply, to render cursing for cursing, and thy vessel is already nigh to shipwreck. Awake the Christ who is sleeping. For thou art in commotion, and making ready to render evil for evil, because Christ is sleeping in thy vessel. For the sleep of Christ in thy heart is the forgetfulness of faith. But if thou arousest Christ, that is, recallest thy faith, what dost thou hear said to thee by Christ, when now awake in thy heart? . . . When thy faith so speaks to thee, command is exercised, as it were, over the winds and waves, and there is a great calm. As, then, to awaken Christ in the vessel is just to awaken faith. (St. Augustine, Tractates on John, XLIX, 19).
I could quote more abundantly. In another place
, St. Augustine compares the winds and waves to the prevalence of iniquity and sin, the ship's progress to the soul's ascent to heaven, and as to Jesus' walking upon the waves:
"[T]herefore, Jesus comes. And how does He come? Walking upon the waves, keeping all the swellings of the world under His feet, pressing down all its heights. Thus it goes on, so long as time endures, so long as the ages roll. Tribulations increase, calamities increase, sorrows increase, all these swell and mount up: Jesus passeth on treading upon the waves."
For St. Augustine the primary purpose of the inclusion of this narrative in the Gospel is not simply to recount its historical occurrence, but rather to provide comfort to the troubled believer in the present time:
"[A]s Christians, though having hope in the world to come, are frequently disquieted at the crash of human affairs, when they see the loftiness of this world trampled down. They open the Gospel, they open the Scriptures, and they find all these things there foretold; that this is the Lord's doing. He tramples down the heights of the world [i.e., walks upon the waves], that He may be glorified by the humble" (Ibid., XXV, 6,6-7).
Other Fathers could be quoted. Tertullian notes
that many in his day see this narrative as a signification of the sacrament of baptism (though he disagrees). Clement sees it
as a symbol of creation's subservience to its Creator, Archelaus
as a prophetical type of the Old Covenant, and the Acts of Andrew
sees it, along with Augustine, as intended to comfort believes in the present. No patristic writer, that I can find, simply relates the historical event and leaves it at that. Perhaps only because that would be too boring
for them (and for me).
Maybe it's true that the sacred writer himself only intended this or that narrative to be understood in a purely literal, historical sense. But if, as Christians have always held, every Scriptural book has in fact two
authors, one of whom is eternal and hence not limited by time or space, we can hardly restrict the meanings of the text to that intended by the human author (even if, of course, all meanings must in fact be rooted in the latter meaning). This conviction is at the heart of the allegorical exegesis of the Fathers, or, as Henri de Lubac prefers, 'spiritual exegesis'. Of course, few modern theologians or biblical scholars have much sympathy for this ancient method, fearing that the literal-historical meaning of the text will become obscured. But I insist that, so long as spiritual exegesis is carried out in its authentic and originally-intended manner, this is not to be feared; or, rather, if it is, it is a fear worth living with, considering the alternative. I covered this issue at length in a treatment
of St. Augustine's allegorical exegesis some months ago, and I repeat myself here:
Now, the casual reader will initially, no doubt, suspect some contrivance here, and the work of more than a little fanciful imagination - though even the harshest critic is bound to be impressed with both the inner coherence and theological depth of St. Augustine's exegesis, which is developed enough to challenge even Origen, the master of such methods.
St. Augustine, however, was far from giving free reign to exegetical fancy. His allegorical method is rooted soundly in the concrete text and its historical context, from which he never departs. A close reading of his De doctrina Christiana will leave the reader deeply impressed with the scholarly demands he makes of exegetes - attention to punctuation and pronunciation, regard for literary expression and genre, the interpretation of more obscure passages by those less obscure, wariness of synonyms and multiple meanings, a demand for fidelity to the original texts, etc.
Yet for St. Augustine, a blind allegiance to the literal 'word' of the text represents the bondage under which the Jews labor, and from which Christians are freed by the Spirit of Christ. Those who possess the Spirit which inspired the Scriptures are thus enabled to look beyond the signs (i.e., 'words') to the realities signified by them: "Accordingly the liberty that comes by Christ took those whom it found under bondage to useful signs, and who were (so to speak) near to it, and, interpreting the signs to which they were in bondage, set them free by raising them to the realities of which these were signs" (8, 12).
The ultimate standard for such interpretation, for St. Augustine, is once again the law of charity. An interpretation is useful (n.b. he does not say 'correct,' but 'useful') inasmuch as it inclines the reader to the love of God and neighbor. "The tyranny of lust being thus over-thrown, charity reigns through its supremely just laws of love to God for His own sake, and love to one's self and one's neighbor for God's sake. Accordingly, in regard to figurative expressions, a rule such as the following will be observed, to carefully turn over in our minds and meditate upon what we read till an interpretation be found that tends to establish the reign of love" (15, 32).
As J. J. O'Donnell notes, "In the practical order, what matters is the effect of exegesis. If an interpretation of scripture builds up caritas or (what amounts to the same thing) attacks its opposite, cupiditas (selfish desire), then it is, absolutely speaking, a good interpretation. (3.10.15) As long as it is in accord with the rule of faith . . . conformity to some external, but purely human standard, of correctness is immaterial . . . What counts above all is the life of the believer who reads the scriptural text in the light of the interpretation."
What is at stake here, as de Lubac details in his excellent tome Scripture in the Tradition
, is not only a curious and archaic exegetical method, but rather the very possibility of reading Scripture as the eternal Word of God addressed to man in the present. The tendency of many pious believers to apply biblical texts to their own life situations, too often dismissed as puerile by elitists, many times represents a genuine insight into the transcendent nature of the Holy Scriptures, an insight which is often missed, or perhaps simply ignored, by modern biblical scholarship today. If Scripture cannot speak to us in the present, except as a historical record of the past, then it is not the eternal Word of God.
# posted by Jamie : 9:04 AM
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
From the Year of the Rosary to the Year of the Eucharist
In his apostolic letter for the Year of the Eucharist, Mane Nobiscum
, the Holy Father sees the current Year of the Eucharist as arising organically from a chain of calendrical events in the last decade of his pontificate. Specifically, he links it to the momentum of the Great Jubilee Year in 2000, and even more recently, to The Year of the Rosary (October 2002 - October 2003) announced in the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae
, in which he "returned to the theme of contemplating the face of Christ, now from a Marian perspective, by encouraging once more the recitation of the Rosary":
This traditional prayer, so highly recommended by the Magisterium and so dear to the People of God, has a markedly biblical and evangelical character, focused on the name and the face of Jesus as contemplated in the mysteries and by the repetition of the 'Hail Mary'. In its flow of repetitions, it represents a kind of pedagogy of love, aimed at evoking within our hearts the same love that Mary bore for her Son. For this reason, developing a centuries-old tradition by the addition of the mysteries of light, I sought to make this privileged form of contemplation an even more complete 'compendium of the Gospel'. And how could the mysteries of light not culminate in the Holy Eucharist?
The Pope notes that in his recent Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia
he also "suggested once again the need for a Eucharistic spirituality and pointed to Mary, 'woman of the Eucharist', as its model."
"The Year of the Eucharist takes place against a background which has been enriched by the passage of the years, while remaining ever rooted in the theme of Christ and the contemplation of his face. In a certain sense, it is meant to be a year of synthesis, the high-point of a journey in progress."
I am find myself especially drawn to the link between the Year of the Rosary and the Year of the Eucharist. If Rosarium Virginis Mariae
had any overriding theme, it was that the contemplation of Mary is in fact nothing other than the contemplation of Christ, and that all Marian devotion finds its culmination in a closer union with her Son. (Incidentally, Disputations had an interesting discussion
earlier this month regarding a critique of recent Marian teaching.) The image of Mary as the 'woman of the Eucharist' is provides plenty of theological capital.
I must include the following excerpt from my current reading project, Romano Guardini's The Rosary of Our Lady:
Who is Mary? Let us say it as simply as it can possibly be said: she is the woman for whom Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Redeemer, became the main purpose of life. The fact is as simple and at the same time as far beyond all human understanding as is the mystery of our Lord's Incarnation.
Jesus is the substance of Mary's life, just as the child is the lifeblood of its mother, for whom it is the one and all. But, at the same time, He is also her Redeemer, and that another child cannot be for its mother. Speaking of another child and mother in such a manner is like 'making conversation': as soon as the speech takes a serious turn, it borders on blasphemy. Not only was Mary's existence as a human mother achieved in her relation to Jesus, but also her redemption. By becoming a mother, she became a Christian. By living with her Child, she lived with the God whose living revelation He is. Growing humanly along with the Child, as do all mothers who really love, releasing Him on the road of life with so much resignation and pain, she ripened in God's divine grace and truth.
For this reason, Mary is not only a great Christian, one among a number of saints, but she is unique. No one is like her, because what happened to her happened to no other human being. Here lies the authentic root of all exaggeration about her. If people cannot be extravagant enough in their praises of Mary, and even say reckless and foolish things, they are still right in one respect: even though the means are faulty, they seek to express a fact, the tremendous depth of which must overwhelm everyone who realizes it. But exaggerations are useless and harmful, because the simpler the word expressing a truth, the more tremendous and at the same time the more deeply realized do the facts become.
It is Mary on whom the Rosary is centered in a focus ever new. This prayer means a lingering in the world of Mary, whose essence was Christ. In this way, the Rosary is, in its deepest sense, a prayer of Christ.
# posted by Jamie : 12:20 PM
Feast of the Chair of St. Peter
VATICAN CITY, FEB 22, 2005 (VIS) - Today is the Feast of the "Cathedra" or Chair of St. Peter, a recurrence dating back to the fourth century that honors and celebrates the primacy and authority of St. Peter.
The word "cathedra" means seat or throne and is the root of the word cathedral, the church where a bishop has his throne and from whence he preaches. Another word for "cathedra" is "sede" (seat or see): the "see" is the place from which a bishop governs his diocese. Thus, for example, the Holy See is the see of the bishop of Rome, the Pope.
Last year, on this day, in reflections made during the Angelus, Pope John Paul remarked that "the liturgical feast of the Chair of Peter underscores the singular mystery, entrusted by the Lord to the leader of the Apostles, of confirming and guiding the Church in the unity of faith. This is what the 'ministerium petrinum' is, that particular service that the Bishop of Rome is called to render to all Christians. An indispensable mission that is not based on human prerogatives but on Christ Himself as the cornerstone of the ecclesial community. Let us pray that the Church, in the variety of cultures, languages and traditions, will be unanimous in believing and professing the truth of faith and morals transmitted by the Apostles."
The Chair of St. Peter is actually a throne that Charles the Bald, the grandson of the Emperor Charlemagne, gave to Pope John VIII at the former's coronation as emperor on Christmas Day 875. For many years the chair was used at liturgical events by Pope John and his successors: it was ensconced in Bernini's Altar of the Chair in 1666.
A mixture of tradition, legend and belief held for many years that this was actually a double chair, parts of which dated back to the early days of Christianity and to St. Peter himself. This chair or cathedra has been studied over the centuries and the last time it was removed from its niche in the Bernini altar was a six-year period from 1968 to 1974 where studies pointed to a single chair whose oldest parts date to the sixth century. What appeared to be an outer or second chair was a covering which served both to protect the throne and to carry it in procession.
Every year on this feast, the monumental altar housing the Chair of Peter is illuminated by scores of candles throughout the entire day. A number of Masses are celebrated at this altar, from early morning to early evening, concluding with the mass of the Canons of St. Peter.
# posted by Jamie : 8:50 AM
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Bill Cork's report on the CTSA's response to Haight's condemnation got me thinking.
Roberto S. Goizueta, CTSA president and a theology professor at Boston College who is currently living in Spain during a sabbatical from his teaching post, told CNS in a telephone interview from Madrid that he viewed the doctrinal congregation's notification as blurring the line between theology and catechetics. "What they're trying to do is get him to restate the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church,'" he said. "That's not what theology is. Theology is about creative exploration of revelation and the doctrine of the church."
'Exploration' is a funny word. It has two fundamental meanings: It can mean (1) to investigate or examine systematically, the way I might explore the cracks in my linoleum, or (2) to search into or travel in for the purpose of discovery, the way I might explore southeast D.C. The two are interrelated and overlap, but they point to fundamentally different processes: one penetrates inward, one thrusts outward. If the discipline of theology, as classically understood, were to be coerced into one of these categories, it would certainly be the former.
Exploring the faith does not primarily involve a treading onto unknown or uncharted territory. If the territory explored in theology is quite literally foreign to the explorer, that explorer is not a theologian, and has no business doing theology. This is not to say that the theologian will not discover realities heretofore unknown, or that the theological community as a whole will not arrive at new and even unforeseen conclusions. It is, rather, to insist that these conclusions will be attained within the context of an altogether familiar, or even 'familial' relationship. The best analogy might be the manner in which one spouse explores another. Nothing exceeds the joy which accompanies the discovery of some new and previously unknown facet of one's spouse, but the intensity of this joy occurs precisely because of the intimate knowledge which characterizes the relationship as a whole. A chunk of gold sparks greater enthusiasm when found in one's backyard than when found in the sands of upper Egypt. No one's life is transformed by uncovering a new layer in the personality of a prostitute.
Among the Fathers of the Church, no theologian was more exploratory than the great Origen of Alexandria. Indeed, the heady days of the mid-twentieth century saw a resurgence of interest in Origen, whose willingness to consider speculative theological questions, it was alleged, was never daunted by the primitive credo of the Church. Historians took some degree of pleasure in Origen's apparent readiness to flaunt the confines of ecclesiastical rigidity: chastened by a conservative bishop, Origen simply moved to a more liberal diocese; accused of taking too many liberties as a lay theologian, he had himself ordained; condemned by ecclesiastical authorities, he began a series of sermons on the moral failings of the episcopal leadership. Origen was even willing to take seriously the claims of the pagan philosophers alongside those of sacred Scripture.
Without attempting to resuscitate the legacy of the Alexandrian didaskalos, it is worth taking the time to examine carefully the exact nature of his theological 'exploration'.
Origen knew that even the most sincere churchmen had widely divergent opinions on theological questions, even those of the most central importance to the faith. In seeking to address these questions, the first task of the theologians is as follows:
"[I]t seems on that account necessary first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding each one of these, and then to pass to the investigation of other points . . . . [S]eeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles, and remaining in the Churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition (D.P. Prol., 2)."
For those points which are necessary for every man's salvation are contained already in the apostolic deposit of faith, 'with the utmost clearness' (Ibid., 3). It is merely 'the grounds of their statements' which remains to be examined by the spiritual. That is to say, what the Church believes requires very little explication (beyond, say, 'mere catechetics'), but why the Church believes what she believes? - now that is an intellectual exercise that has occupied the greatest minds of generation after generation.
Thus, Origen begins his most speculative work, the De Principiis, not with a catalogue of speculative hypotheses, much less with a set of Platonic theses, but rather (surprise, surprise) with an expository creed of the Church's faith (Ibid., 4-10): on God, His Son and Spirit, the soul, the angels and demons, etc. Only after enunciating these ecclesiastical beliefs does Origen begin to consider those secondary questions (such as the manner of the soul's origin), which are "not distinguished with sufficient clearness in the teaching of the Church", or are not detailed in full "among the ecclesiastical books." These questions must be resolved, not apart from these sources, but rather by "deduc[ing] by closely tracing out the consequences and following a correct method" (Ibid., 8-10).
In the course of the work, whenever Origen does happen upon one of those few questions to which Scripture and the Church's creed do not supply a definitive answer, he treads with caution: "But what may be the number or measure of this I confess myself ignorant, although, if any one can tell it, I would gladly learn" (II, 3, 4), always stating what "the faith of the Church" can and cannot admit (cf., III, 6, 6).
Whether or not American Jesuit Roger Haight has, for his own part, consistently expressed such deference to ecclesiastical tradition is, of course, a matter of perspective. Certainly what counts as ecclesiastical tradition has grown since Origen's time. Origen had perhaps only a handful of primitive baptismal creeds, we have now to deal with twenty-some ecumenical councils and libraries full of papal declarations. But one will also reply that we are working with a matter of principle and of theological method, not of pragmatics. Origen continued, throughout the course of his life, to operate under what I would dub a modus operandi of ecclesiastical deference. We can hardly expect him to have run every publication under the nose of his episcopal ordinary (by all accounts, Bishop Demetrius was somewhat of a theological simpleton, and embittered by jealousy of Origen's prestige). But Origen always remained prepared to defer, with regard to any of his speculative positions, to the clear teaching of the apostolic tradition.
To return to the subject of Haight's reception of ecclesiastical tradition, we hear that Haight holds that "the Tradition must be critically received in today's situation." If one accepts the judgment of the CDF Notification, at least his theological method "subordinates the contents of the faith to their plausibility and intelligibility in post-modern culture." For my part, I haven't read enough of Haight to know whether or not this is true. I must admit that some of the Haight 'clippings' being bandied about on the internet this past week don't really offend me as much as they apparently do some others. One can hardly doubt, of course, that Ratzinger and company have done their homework before issuing this sort of notification. The larger problem could be less one of doctrinal accuracy than of public scandal, i.e. that Haight has not guarded against the heterodox misinterpretation of his teaching. If so, one might expect Haight to take this golden opportunity to clarify his teaching while he's standing in the limelight; if he does not, we are left to conclude that the labels stick.
In any case, whether or not Haight is guilty of taking tradition lightly, it is certainly the case, as the opening quote from Goizueta demonstrates, that this is true of many theologians today, who see their fundamental vocation as exploring outside the bounds of tradition than probing more deeply within it. If so, then my hope is that all doubt is erased that this profound misunderstanding of the theologian's role is a properly modern misunderstanding. It has no place in the tradition.
# posted by Jamie : 4:12 PM
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
"Pliable and dissolvable lozenges for genuine men adroit"
If anyone is interested in these, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
# posted by Jamie : 1:46 PM
Around 1 am this morning the following exchange occurred between my wife and I:
Baby: *scream* *yell* *wail*
Wife: "Jamie, wake up, Augustine's diaper is soaked completely through."
Baby: *scream* *yell* *wail*
Jamie: "It's okay, the Vice President is still coming. We don't need to worry about it."
*turns over and goes back to sleep*
Baby: *scream* *yell* *wail*
I did, of course, end up changing the diaper. I have no idea what I meant by that, though.
# posted by Jamie : 11:59 AM
The website Catholic Culture
is one of my favorite resources for seasonal activities for families; my wife also uses it for her CCD students. In gathering some Lenten materials, we came across these suggestions
Every Catholic should have a poor person, a poor child, or a poor family for whom he cares, whom he visits, talks to, comforts, and whom on occasion he gladdens with some special gift. Everyone can do this, even children and teenagers.
In suburban parishes there may exist little poverty. Priests will gladly obtain information from Negro and Spanish-speaking parishes about a family in need whom you may help with almsgiving. Or you may pick an Indian child to receive your help.
Umm....now, I'm not exactly the politically-correct inquisitorial type. But does it strike anyone besides me that Catholic Culture might want to think about updating their material a bit?
# posted by Jamie : 11:54 AM
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
"With the completion of the year's cycle, the season of Lent has come, at which time I am constrained to exhort you because you owe the Lord works in harmony with the spirit of the season, works which, nevertheless, are useful not to the Lord, but to you. True, other seasons of the year ought to glow for the Christian by reason of his prayers, fasts, and almsdeeds, but this season ought to arouse even those who are sluggish at other times. In fact, those who are quick to attend to these works at other times should now perform them with even greater diligence. Life in this world is certainly the time of our humiliation as these days signify when the sufferings of the Lord Christ, who once suffered by dying for us, are renewed each year with the recurrence of this holy season."
"For what was done once and for all time so that our life might be renewed, is solemnized each year so that its memory may be kept fresh. If, therefore, we ought to be humble of heart with sentiments of most sincere piety throughout the entire period of our earthly sojourn when we live in the midst of temptations, how much more necessary is humility during these days when we not only pass the time of our humiliation by living but signalize it by special devotion? The humility of Christ has taught us to be humble because He yielded to the wicked by His death; the exaltation of Christ lifts us up because by rising again He blazed the way for His devoted followers. For, 'if we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him' (2 Tim 2:11-13). One of these conditions we now celebrate with due observance in view of His approaching Passion; the other we shall celebrate after Easter when His Resurrection is, as it were, accomplished again. Then, after the days of this humiliation will be the time of our exaltation. Although this is not yet the time to experience this [happiness], it gives us pleasure to anticipate it in our considerations. Now, therefore, let us voice our lamentations more insistently in prayers; then we shall exult more exuberantly in praise."
St. Augustine, On Lent I.1
# posted by Jamie : 8:04 AM
Monday, February 07, 2005
The internet is buzzing with the Vatican's condemnation of a book by American Jesuit theologian Roger Haight
(Zenit). One of his books
(albeit not the one condemned) was required reading for all graduate students in theology at my university. It was the only book of Haight's that I have read (or will read); I found it doctrinally inoffensive but altogether unhelpful in understanding the doctrinal issues he pretended to address. The most odd thing I found about it was that, in his treatment of the fifth-century Pelagian debate, Haight claimed that the respective soteriological positions of Augustine and Pelagius were 'two poles' between which Catholic theology had to situate itself, so to say, erring at neither extreme. Haight hardly seemed to notice that one of the two was a saint and the other, well... I suppose it must be difficult for one entirely soaked through with German liberationist ('political') theology to have much toleration for the Augustinian brand of hellfire and mass damnation. While canonizing the anathematized is nothing new (expect it to happen in spades in the coming weeks among left-leaning Catholic periodicals & journals *ahem* NPR), one might be justified in preferring it be kept out of college textbooks. A CNS report
today shows USCCB doctrinal director Fr. Thomas Weinandy pleased, if not giddy, with the recent condemnation; he had given a hatchet job to the same book years ago, it seems. It has been noted that the Vatican note will have little practical effect, since Haight teaches at a non-Catholic university, and is not prevented by the aforementioned note from publishing, which is where most of the damage is done. But it is a symbolic move, and a powerful one at that.
# posted by Jamie : 9:35 AM
Friday, February 04, 2005
Reminiscence on St. Blase Day
Yesterday's feast, that of St. Blase the Martyr, brought back a sudden memory for me last night. Back in 1999, I was a passionate Evangelical taking my initial steps in investigating the Church of Rome. I had read a few books by Catholic authors, found some of the arguments plausible, and decided I was finally ready to visit a Catholic church. My general impression of the liturgy was that it more boring and forced than anything else, although I did find some of the ceremonies to be tinged with some degree of tiresome superstition. I don't think it was my first mass, perhaps my second or third, which happened to fall upon St. Blase Day. Now keep in mind, I had been reassured by the all-too-welcoming RCIA instructors that all that hocus-pocus about saints and miracles was 'so pre-Vatican II', and that I wouldn't find 'up-to-date' Catholicism too different than my own church. But on February 3, 1999 I stood in the back of the church with slack-jawed horror as rows upon rows of papists filed to the front to have beeswax candles clapped around their throats while a vested priest muttered ritual invocations against rheumatism to a long-dead martyr. I think I slipped quietly out the back, and it did take me a few weeks before I was able to venture back. It's just one of those humerous moments that'll stay with me at least once a year.
# posted by Jamie : 7:32 AM