Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Of these, prohibitions were taboos that warned and were strongly enforced due to the powerful flash-points they guarded. Murder, adultery, theft, false witness - any of them were capable of setting fire to a community with retributive violence that, human nature being what it is, could escalate and spiral into culture-destroying events. (Look in the Old Testament book of Leviticus for scores of examples.)
But, it is important to recall that when the centripetal power of a culture's religion (L. religare - to bind back) began to lose its power to maintain social and psychological cohesion, the priesthood knew that ritual, if properly performed, would re-establish the cultic "pull" at the heart of their culture. It would "bind" the people "back" to the founding violent origin once again. To help surcharge the ritual event, often taboos and prohibitions would be relinquished - violent prisoners released on the streets, sexual "friskiness" allowed, etc. This would "ratchet up" what Girard, Oughourlian, and LeFort discuss in Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World: "sacrificial preparation."
Then, when the sacrificial ritual took place, the denouement would be all the more cataclysmic and cathartic. This is what Nietzsche longed for in his notion of the "eternal return" of pagan religion: a culture-restoring worship of the dark gods of blood.
So? So what? Well, those who study mimetic theory say that the present events -- the relinquishing of taboos -- carry with them all the indicators of a "sacrificial preparation." Certainly those who believe they are carrying out some deformed brand of multicultural "progress" don't realize this. They think they are just helping to bring about an utopian dream to reality. So this, for example, does not frighten anyone - except those with residual cultural memory of what the "crisis of distinctions" (Girard) can do to a culture.
For now ritual does not work - at least not this side of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. (Why it no longer works is a topic for a different post.) Now, sacrificial events carry with them "moral hangovers," PTS syndromes, and worse. Robert Hamerton-Kelly even hypothesizes that now ad hoc self-appointed "priest" of the primitive Sacred try to surcharge sacrificial events with greater numbers of victims and great prestige of victims: genocide or regicide. This is a prime indicator that a culture's sacrificial center is failing; i.e., the Aztecs. It is no longer "economical". Democracy itself, he says, is the result of the death of kings, but modern western attempts to invoke the sacrificial mechanism are failing yet murderous in the extreme.
If you doubt this, think about what the 1960's were if not an attempt at the kind of frenzy leading to sacrifice. Think JFK, MLK, Jr., RFK. Think (further back) the Holocaust. Think (now closer) Rwanda. Darfur. 9/11.
And lest the West think it is coming to its senses, think of the millions - millions! - of abortions that take place, and the quietest, least heard victims offered to Moloch today.
John Paul II spoke lengthily of the "culture of life" vs. the "culture of death." How, if not with mimetic theory, would you try to understand the bloody 20th century, let alone what looks like an even bloodier 21st?
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The Mask and The Person - Looking at the anthropology behind the two, Gil Bailie writes in THE SUBJECT OF GAUDIUM ET SPES RECLAIMING A CHRISTOCENTRIC ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE HUMAN PERSON:
The Greeks, for their part, used the word prosopon for the mask the actor wore on stage, and it was also via this reference to the actor wearing a mask that the Greek idea of the person first appears, suggesting, some have thought, an intriguing affinity between these two concepts: mask and person, and inspiring John Zizioulas to wonder:
. . . it is here that (by coincidence?) the term “person” (prosopon) appears in ancient Greek usage. . . . But how and why did this meaning come to be identified so quickly with the mask (prosopeion) which was used in the theater? What connection does the actor’s mask have with the human person?“It is precisely in the theater that man strives to become a ‘person’”, writes Zizioulas. In “speaking through” the mask of another, the actor dispossesses himself of his “own self” in order to be possessed by the other. “I live, now no longer I, but … Persephone or Creon or Iphigenia lives (temporarily) in me.” As a result of his mask, says Zizioulas:
. . . the actor, but properly also the spectator – has acquired a certain taste of freedom, a certain specific ‘hypostasis,’ a certain identity, which the rational and moral harmony of the world in which he lives denies him. . . . as a result of the mask he has become a person, albeit for a brief period, and has learned what it is to exist as a free, unique and unrepeatable entity.Of course, the hypostasis the actor is able to briefly experience figured decisively in the development of both the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. The fourth century controversies which led to these doctrines were finally resolved by what Zizioulas calls “a philosophical landmark, a revolution in Greek philosophy,” a revolution which consisted of recognizing the hypostatic underpinnings of the persona. In pondering the mystery of the Christ, the early Council fathers – anticipating a 20th century Council’s insistence that “only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light” – were compelled by the mystery of the incarnate Word to discover the hypostatic mystery of personhood itself, a discovery which, in the words of Dennis Edwards, “gave a radically new weight to the idea of person.” “The revolution of the person,” writes Paul Evdokimov, “is the event of Christianity,” and human desire is simply “the inborn nostalgia to become a ‘person’.”
See our sidebar for the link to this important document by Gil Bailie.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Modern life is one vast misdirect: rings of hypnotists each with an even more fascinating object swinging before the eyes of persons to keep us from dwelling on … on ... what? The inevitability of the end of one’s life. Prime time TV: watch the melodramas of this and that desperate soul – they are all more “real” than your, than my, puny and insignificant life. Right?
"THE ONE WHO DIES WITH THE MOST TOYS WINS!" proclaims a stupid bumper sticker. And my guess is that 95% of people reading it agree: it is stupid.
But we are still mesmerized by a vast hoard trying to convince us -- and largely succeeding -- that life THIS side of death is not meant to be spent thinking about ETERNITY. Think instead of your sex appeal, your sexual identity and/or conquests, your teeth, your fashion statement. Of, if you are combative, your enemies, their plans, your counterplans, revenge ... ANYTHING not to think about what will happen after you die.
J. R. R. Tolkien is often accused of painting the innocence of his brain-children, hobbits, as impossibly naive, agrarian, and communitarian. Actually, Tolkien knew they were suspicious, largely ignorant, and prejudiced. But he knew, too, that modern society was a sad, deplorable parody for the way human beings were meant to live. By contrast, the Shire was far preferable, humane, and not "distracted to death."
As one who has had a brush with the big C - a "transitional cell carcinoma of the renal pelvis" - I resent the time I have wasted, the priorities I have misaligned, the squandered energy, money, and love - when I could have been living, moving, and having my being more in accord with what the Catholic faith considers vital as preparation for Eternity.
In my reprieve, I am rethinking many, many matters. Why wait? Why not join me?
... the strongest argument for the old-fashioned book is its effectiveness for ordinary readers. Thanks to Google, scholars are able to search, navigate, harvest, mine, deep link, and crawl (the terms vary along with the technology) through millions of Web sites and electronic texts. At the same time, anyone in search of a good read can pick up a printed volume and thumb through it at ease, enjoying the magic of words as ink on paper. No computer screen gives satisfaction like the printed page. But the Internet delivers data that can be transformed into a classical codex. It already has made print-on-demand a thriving industry, and it promises to make books available from computers that will operate like ATM machines: log in, order electronically, and out comes a printed and bound volume. Perhaps someday a text on a hand-held screen will please the eye as thoroughly as a page of a codex produced two thousand years ago.
Meanwhile, I say: shore up the library. Stock it with printed matter. Reinforce its reading rooms. But don't think of it as a warehouse or a museum. While dispensing books, most research libraries operate as nerve centers for transmitting electronic impulses. They acquire data sets, maintain digital re-positories, provide access to e-journals, and orchestrate information systems that reach deep into laboratories as well as studies. Many of them are sharing their intellectual wealth with the rest of the world by permitting Google to digitize their printed collections. Therefore, I also say: long live Google, but don't count on it living long enough to replace that venerable building with the Corinthian columns. As a citadel of learning and as a platform for adventure on the Internet, the research library still deserves to stand at the center of the campus, preserving the past and accumulating energy for the future.
(1) Jesus instituted the Blessed Sacrament so that we can always find Him. He is in every Catholic Church in the Reserved Sacrament. (2) He took on flesh because God saw all that he made and "it was good." We aren't bodiless spirits; we are body and soul. The "Word became flesh" (Jn 1,14) to redeem us fully, completely, as God intended. And (3) He wants to be as near to us as possible - body, blood, soul, and divinity. When we love, that is how we are: we want to be close. We can be no closer to Him than in this Blessed Sacrament; at least on this side of death.
We can always make a mental and physical gesture when we drive by a Catholic Church: doffing our hat, bowing our head, crossing ourself, saying, "Hello, Lord. Thank You for your eternal Sacrifice," or other such words. Then, the night prior to receiving the Holy Eucharist, we can pray, "Lord, tomorrow I will be with You, receive you - body, blood, soul, and divinity. Please prepare me, and make me an instrument of our grace in our world."
The Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is a primary reason I entered into full communion with the Catholic Church. Bless the Lord for this holy Mystery.
Go to the encounter with him in the Blessed Eucharist, go to adore him in the churches, kneeling before the Tabernacle: Jesus will fill you with his love and will reveal to you the thoughts of his Heart. If you listen to him, you will feel ever more deeply the joy of belonging to his Mystical Body, the Church, which is the family of his disciples held close by the bond of unity and love.
"It is existentially impossible to despair in the presence of Jesus."
- Edward Schillebeeckx, as quoted by Gil Bailie
Friday, May 23, 2008
"The key to the person and the ministry of Benedict XVI is the love of God," Cardinal José Saraiva Martins said, affirming that the Pontiff's first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," "represents the particularity of this Pontiff."
The prelate (Cardinal Saraiva Martins) continued: "He is always guided by a fatherly love that does not resign itself to seeing his children drown in mediocrity.
The article concluded with my favorite description of Pope Benedict XVI:
And since "faith and reason are the two wings that raise us to the truth," Archbishop Amato concluded, "it is precisely the truth, love for the truth and the proposal of truth that is the common thread giving continuity to Ratzinger, before as prefect, now as Pope."
In the second reading St. Paul presents the Eucharist as a mystery of communion: “Brothers and sisters: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”He concludes ...
Communion means exchange, sharing. Now, this is the fundamental rule of sharing: that which is mine is yours and what is yours is mine. Let’s try to apply this rule to Eucharistic communion. In doing so we will see its greatness.
Sadly, John the Baptist had to repeat: “There is one among you whom you do not know.” The feast of Corpus Christi was born precisely to help Christians be aware of this presence of Christ among us, to keep alive what John Paul II called “Eucharistic wonder.”
Read the entire homily, Gospel Commentary for Corpus Christi By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap
That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold;
Bare ruin'd choirs where late the sweet birds sang.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Now in a brilliant stroke of understanding, Bishop Allen Vigneron in Oakland, CA, observes:
Referring to the God-authored “purposes” of marriage – “(1) the mutual loving support of husband and wife and (2) their loving service of life by bringing children into the world and raising them to be virtuous and productive” – Vigneron said that “the experience of history … has taught us that no government has the power to change the order which God has inscribed in our nature.
“The conviction that same-sex couples cannot enter marriage” is implicitly professed in baptismal promises, where Catholics profess “the Church’s faith that the Father Almighty [is] the Creator of heaven and earth.” But, though “confirmed by faith,” the Catholic understanding of marriage “can be known from reason,” wrote Vigneron. Thus, to work that the state recognize only natural marriage is “not an imposition of an ideology but a service of the truth which we make for the common good.” It is “not a form of discrimination, but undergirds our freedom to live according to God’s plan for us.”
Read all of “Our way of life will become counter-cultural.”
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The Name of Jesus is the refuge of the penitent sinner,
a refuge full of meekness in which majesty effaces itself, tenderness becomes sweeter, Divine mercy appears in Its grandeur. The Name of God is awesome; in it is found the ardor of the flame which consumes, the wrath which chastises, the weight which crushes; but all these things have been tempered in the wellspring of mercy by Jesus Christ Who was smitten with love for us in the womb of the Virgin Mary. There, that ardor has lost its violence, that wrath has become forbearance, that overwhelming weight has become light . . . "O my God," exclaims the Prophet, "say to my soul: I am thy salvation." [Psalm 34: 3] May Thy Name be heard by my ears; Thy voice is full of sweetness and Thy face full of beauty.
Meditation of the Day
How To Overcome Temptation of Self-Importance
The Name of Jesus is truly a consolation to the afflicted and a protection against the evils of suffering and concupiscence. Not matter what, God will not allow his servants to succumb to temptation , for in no way will be allow them to be conquered by their afflictions. There is no despair or forgetfulness in the sweet Name of Jesus if only we call upon it with the greatest possible intensity…
Yes indeed, for those souls inflamed with love, the Name of Jesus is a happiness beyond measure, the Name of Jesus alone can reveal the intoxicating nature of his love and express the passionate longing of his heart. One should seek no other reward. It not a man often happy to expose himself to danger for a friend, even though the knows him to be subject to the impermanence of his mortal nature! How much more so should we do this for God our Jesus, who is immortal and who, as everyone knows, was so glad to suffer for us…
Saint Augustine says that the Name of God, when it is written in the hearts of the just, bestows on them such great courage that they endure patiently being unconquered, said: if you do to me the things that you threaten, only let the Name of Jesus be heard, and the tortures will be mild; and if you attack me with fire, the angels will administer to me with the saving dew of heaven. Because of the power of this Name, the holy martyrs triumphed over all their torments, whence the prophet says in Psalm 34: “through we will despise them that rise up against us, “ and again in Psalm 123: “our help is in the Name of the Lord who made heaven and earth," which is to say that this Name is so powerful that in our torments it consoles and assists us. Nor is it to be wondered that the martyrs sustained so much suffering with so much joy when it was this Name that supported them.
- Saint Bernardine of Siena (+ 1444) was an Italian Franciscan and great preacher who spread devotion to the Holy Name. Click here to read more of this saint and the Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
h/t Doctors of the Catholic Church and Magnificat
Monday, May 19, 2008
A COMMON THREAD among some 20th century Catholics was a desire for a simpler life, dictated in part by liturgy, in part by the rhythm of the day, in part by one's locale and auspices of the land. Tolkien lauded this all his adult life through "the Shire" and its inhabitants, hobbits. Thomas Merton went to his hermitage. Dom Bede Griffiths to his ashram. The Distributists to the teachings of the Church and "subsidiarity". E. F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful. (Even James Hilton in his Lost Horizon. Though he wasn't Catholic, we won't hold that against him.)
Is it, do you think, too great a promise by Our Lord that "the meek shall inherit the land" [Mt 5,5]?
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Icon with the Trinity (1411) - Andrei Rublev (1360-c.1430)
IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY, Andrei Rublev, a saintly painter-monk of the Russian Orthodox Church, depicted (the) heavenly visitors (who appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre) in an icon referred to as "The Old Testament Trinity." It was judged by the Russian hierarchy to be the most Orthodox representation of the doctrine of the Trinity rising from their religious culture ... The table around which the angels sit is itself a kind of symbolic mountain and the rectangular opening in the icon represents that place where the bones of dead saints are ritually kept, the tomb of the elect beneath the altar of sacrifice.
(A) circle draws us into the icon making us participants in the heavenly repast. We complete that circle by joining in the sacra conversazione. We dance the dance and partake of the feast. The sky in the icon is gold for we are transported outside of time and space into a sacred precinct.
House, tree, mountain, altar, chalice, wings, scepters, purple, green, red, gold ... we are caught up in the iconography devised by a saint to describe an ineffable mystery draped in the theology of color and arranged in a geometry of grace.
2) HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI: To believe is not only a way of thinking or an idea; ... it is a way of acting, a manner of living. To believe means to follow the trail indicated to us by the Word of God. In addition to this fundamental act of faith, which is an existential act, a position taken for the whole of life, Mary adds another word: "His mercy is on those who fear him".
Together with the whole of Scripture, she is speaking of "fear of God". Perhaps this is a phrase with which we are not very familiar or do not like very much. But "fear of God" is not anguish; it is something quite different. As children, we are not anxious about the Father but we have fear of God, the concern not to destroy the love on which our life is based.
Fear of God is that sense of responsibility that we are bound to possess, responsibility for the portion of the world that has been entrusted to us in our lives. It is responsibility for the good administration of this portion of the world and of history, and one thus helps the just building of the world, contributing to the victory of goodness and peace.
Parish Church of St Thomas of Villanova, Castel Gandolfo Tuesday, 15 August 2006
"Where there are charity and wisdom,
there are neither fear nor ignorance.
Where there are patience and humility,
there are neither anger nor disturbance.
Where there are poverty and joy,
there are neither greed nor avarice.
Where there are rest and meditation,
there are neither anxiety nor restlessness.
Where there is fear of the Lord to guard an entrance,
there the enemy cannot have a place to enter.
Where there is a heart full of mercy and discernment,
there are neither excess nor hardness of heart."
4) Timor Domini - Saturday: The Gift of Fear of the Lord - The Gift of Fear of the Lord is the antidote to pride and the beginning of the humility by which the soul arrives at union with God.
From the Gospel reading today, Mark 9:2-13, the homily given at the parish I attend on Saturday mornings and my background with mimetic theory I realized our need for a healthy fear of the Lord. A heartfelt fear of the Lord provides us strength to not only hear the Word of the Lord, but to be His instrument in this world. The absence of a fear of the Lord will inevitably cast one into a fear of others (mimetic entanglements), and this is experienced today as a strange and twisted terror that comes with trying to be politically correct, always futile in the end. Without a fear of the Lord we hand ourselves over to any and all mimetic whims of the mob - compromising (or to trivialize) our love of God and others... Without a fear of the Lord we allow the desires of the mob to give birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. (James 1:15b)
Friday, May 16, 2008
While the first film, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, stayed fairly close to the book of the same title by C. S. Lewis, the screenwriters of Prince Caspian, for reasons known only to themselves, decided to veer wildly away from Lewis's narrative. The film careens into an attack by the old Narnians upon the castle of the usurper King Miraz at the behest of High King Peter who seems to have been infected with the same bug that Peter Jackson gave to his film version of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings: he is uncertain, overbearing trying to compensate for it, and given to bouts of ubermensch grandiosity. This is not worthy of Peter in the book, Prince Caspain. It is not worthy of Aragorn ('Strider') in Lord of the Rings.
The one true characterization here (Lucy is worse than book self; Susan is better and gets to kill a great many more Telmarines with her bow and arrows) is Edmund. He is wiser, stabler, a go-to fellow you truly want in your corner. (Even Aslan comes off as an Ubermensch extraordinaire rather than a savior-figure for all.)
Screenwriters need to keep focus groups out of their decision making about rewriting classics like the Chronicles of Narnia. I hate to think how far the next one will go afield.
Toward the beginning of this little book, Balthasar writes:
"Truth is not a thing, nor is it a system. It is One, or rather, The One, possessing and determining itself in its infinite freedom. It is genuinely self-determining and thus holds together; it is not like a shapeless ocean, flowing aimlessly and endlessly in all directions." (p. 19)And he concludes describing (h/t Cynthia R. Nielsen at Per Caritatem), an insoluble paradox of Marism and Hegelianism and then presents Christianity as that which alone weds transcendence and immanence in triune love revealed in the shape of Jesus Christ. Turning first to Marxism, he writes:
"the joy of self-surrender for this eschatological ideal (which I personally shall not live to enjoy) is actually greater than the envisioned happiness of a humanity that will no longer have any need to go beyond itself in such a heroic manner. In the same way, for Hegel, ‘absolute knowledge’ was of less moment than the joy of collaborating, through self-sacrifice, in its discovery. For modern man, struggling and suffering man, who is more significant than God the spectator; painful yearning for the Absolute is more significant than the painless, self-enclosed ‘knowledge of knowledge’. The difference is that in modern times there is also an awareness of the process itself (evolution). No doubt that is why every day we calmly accept reports of ever-intensifying war and famine, and the threat of total destruction of mankind at all levels, as the inevitable public sacrifice that must be offered to a transcendent ideal that increasingly disappears into the mist. Once we realize, however, that in practical terms this ideal is unattainable, it is a fact that the genuine sacrificial joy that could have sustained us during the early stages fades away. It becomes clear, from the secular standpoint, that the path on which we have set out (and there is no other) cannot be followed to its completion.
A miracle needs to take place: the most unyielding categorical imperative of self-transcendence must coincide with the most blissful inclination of love. And this is only possible in Christianity, where God is not ‘thought thinking itself’ (Aristotle] and ‘absolute knowledge’ [Hegel] but triune love—a love that comes to us from its origin in the shape of the incarnate Son, taking upon himself, on his Cross, our ultimate failure and hence our loss of joy, and in himself transforming our attempts to go beyond ourselves into new joy through a ‘hope that does not deceive’” (pp. 160-161).
Peter Sean Bradley, attorney-at-law in the once great state of California, says the following:
A few questions:
First, why not polygamy? Why is "two" a "magic number"? Could it be because we have two arms? Could it be because we have two eyes?
Or could it be because there are two sexes, and now that the idea that the complementarity of the different genders is now considered outmoded and irrelevant, why should "two" be a limitation any more than the idea that a "man" and a "woman" constitute a married couple?
Second, haven't we always known that this was going to happen? It didn't matter how often the voters stated their sovereign preference by wide margins that they wanted to structure their society around the idea that marriage was intrinsically and essentially connected to procreation, we've always known that gay marriage would make its march through the elite governance system.
And now it has happened.
What has happened to the ideal of democracy? The idea that citizens govern rather than are subjects of their governors seems to have died a silent, unlamented death.
Trouble is, another factor has been at work in the West; namely, the Gospel. In conventional cultures, when a crisis of distinctions reached its denouement, an "economic" apoplexy of violence would occur -- Nietzsche's Eternal Return -- and order would be restored, either through a carefully orchestrated ritual event performed by the priesthood or an actual new originary event of founding violence.
Now, however, the Gospel has given moral "qualms" about such events in the West (notice that in lands of the "Scimitar", no such qualms even cross the minds of street rabble - such matters are framed in terms of 'honor', 'disrespect', revenge as 'sacred duty,' etc.). Therefore, the prestige of sacrificial victims or the number of sacrificial victims has increased in an unconscious effort to surcharge the sacrificial mechanism: regicide or genocide.
Difficult times lie ahead for people of faith, people of peace, people who believe in the Gospel.
(Read more on St. Margaret by clicking on the quote below.)
"I have put thee as a burning light," Our Lord said to her later, "to enlighten those who sit in the darkness. I have set thee as an example to sinners, that in thee they may behold how My mercy awaits the sinner who is willing to repent; for as I have been merciful to thee, so will I be merciful to them."She had made up her mind long ago, and she would not go back now. She shook herself and rose to go; but where? The road down which she went led to Cortona; a voice within her seemed to tell her to go thither. She remembered that at Cortona was a monastery of Franciscans. It was famous all over the countryside; Brother Elias had built it, and had lived and died there; the friars, she knew, were everywhere described as the friends of sinners. She might go to them; perhaps they would have pity on her and find her shelter. But she was not sure. They would know her only too well, for she had long been the talk of the district, even as far as Cortona; was it not too much to expect that the Franciscan friars would so easily believe in so sudden and complete a conversion? Still she could only try; at the worst she could but again be turned into the street, and that would be more endurable from them than the treatment she had just received in Laviano.
The rest of Margaret's life is a wonderful record of the way God deals with his penitents. There were her child and herself to be kept, and the fathers wisely bade her earn her own bread. She began by nursing; soon she confined her nursing to the poor, herself living on alms. She retired to a cottage of her own; here, like St. Francis before her, she made it her rule to give her labor to whoever sought it, and to receive in return whatever they chose to give. In return there grew in her a new understanding of that craving for love which had led her into danger. She saw that it never would be satisfied here on earth; she must have more than this world could give her or none at all. And here God was good to her. He gave her an intimate knowledge of Himself; we might say He humored her by letting her realize His love, His care, His watchfulness over her. With all her fear of herself, which was never far away, she grew in confidence because she knew that now she was loved by one who would not fail her. This became the character of her sanctity, founded on that natural trait which was at once her strength and her weakness.
And it is on this account, more than on account of the mere fact that she was a penitent, that she deserves the title of the Second Magdalene. Of the first Magdalene we know this, that she was an intense human being, seeking her own fulfillment at extremes, now in sin, now in repentance regardless of what men might think, uniting love and sorrow so closely that she is forgiven, not for her sorrow so much as for her love. We know that ever afterwards it was the same; the thought of her sin never kept her from her Lord, the knowledge of His love drew her ever closer to Him, till, after Calvary, she is honored the first among those to whom He would show Himself alone. And in that memorable scene we have the two traits which sum her up; He reveals Himself by calling her by her name: "Mary," and yet, when she would cling about His feet, as she had done long before, He bids her not to touch Him. In Margaret of Cortona the character, and the treatment, are parallel. She did not forget what she had been; but from the first the thought of this never for a moment kept her from Our Lord. She gave herself to penance, but the motive of her penance, as her revelations show, was love more than atonement. In her extremes of penance she had no regard for the opinions of men; she would brave any obstacle that she might draw the nearer to Him. At first He humored her; He drew her by revealing to her His appreciation of her love; He even condescended so far as to call her "Child," when she had grown tired of being called "Poverella." But later, when the time for the greatest graces came, then He took her higher by seeming to draw more apart; it was the scene of "Noli me tangere" repeated.
About the painting above: The Ecstasy of St Margaret of Cortona
Italian artist Giovanni Lanfranco played an important role in the development of Roman Baroque painting. The dynamic composition, dramatic play between dark and light, and active draperies in works such as The Ecstasy of St Margaret of Cortona influenced many artists, including fellow Italian Gianlorenzo Bernini. Created between 1618 and 1620, this work is in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Italy.
“If Christ were born a thousand times in Bethlehem, but not in you, you would remain lost forever…The Cross on Golgotha cannot redeem you from evil if it is not raised up also in you.”
Angelus Silesius was a German mystic of the Counter-Reformation. He was born and baptized Johannes Scheffler in 1624 in the province of Silesia. In 1653, he converted to Catholicism from Lutheranism and spent the rest of his life avidly trying to reconvert the people of Silesia. Today, however, he is known primarily for his mystical poetry, which was cast primarily in the form of 'Alexandrines', which are simple rhymed couplets. Of course, they lose much in translation, and many seem quite naïve, but the depth of feeling cannot be denied, and many more can be seen to approach haiku and other short, mystical poetry from around the world.
Father Hans Urs von Balthasar (+ 1988), a Swiss Catholic theologian, wrote:
God, who condescends graciously to his creature, does not want to lay hold of him and fulfill him in an external manner, but rather in the most intimate way possible. Historical revelation in the Son aims at a transformative subjective appropriation; its goal is the revelation of the Holy Spirit of freedom and adoption within the human spirit. The Church Fathers already insisted that all objective redemption would be useless if it were not relived subjectively as a dying and rising with Christ in the Holy Spirit; this truth echoes over and over throughout the Middle Ages … and the Baroque period.
“If Christ were born a thousand times in Bethlehem, but not in you, you would remain lost forever…The Cross on Golgotha cannot redeem you from evil if it is not raised up also in you.”(Angelus Silesius: Cherubinischer Wandersmann, 1:61; cf. 5:160; 2:81; 5:325). As found in Balthasar, Love Alone is Credible, p. 42.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
What are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit? The Catechism names them: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. It is customary to associate each day of the Octave of Pentecost with one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Pentecost Sunday: Wisdom
Saturday: Fear of the Lord
Read his post HERE
In today's reading Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 we hear "they prayed" and "gave lots to them and the lot fell upon Matthias, ..."
Here is what I found web-searching on the guy not chosen.
Joseph Barsabbas bar-sab'-as Barsabbas, or Barsabas; the King James Version Barsabas, bar'-sa-bas; for etymology, etc., of Joseph, see general article on JOSEPH): Joseph Barsabbas was surnamed Justus (Ac 1:23). Barsabbas was probably a patronymic, i.e. son of Sabba or Seba. Other interpretations given are "son of an oath," "son of an old man," "son of conversion," "son of quiet." It is likely that the "Judas called Barsabbas" of Ac 15:22 was his brother. Ewald considers that both names refer to the same person, but this is improbable. Joseph was one of those who accompanied the apostles "all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and went out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up from us" (Ac 1:21,22). At the meeting of the brethren under the presidency of Peter in Jerusalem shortly after the crucifixion, he was, therefore, proposed along with Matthias as a suitable candidate for the place in the apostleship left vacant by the treachery and death of Judas Iscariot; but was unsuccessful (Ac 1:15-26). According to Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, I, 12), Joseph was one of the 70 (Lu 10:1), and Papias records the oral tradition that he drank a cup of poison without harm (compare Mr 16:18). The Ac of Paul, a work belonging to the 2nd century and first mentioned by Origen, relates that Barsabbas, Justus the Flatfoot and others were imprisoned by Nero for protesting their faith in Christ, but that upon a vision of the newly martyred Paul appearing to the emperor, he ordered their immediate release. C. M. Kerr
So the little we know about Joseph Barsabbas seems to indicate that he understood that though he was not chosen to be one of the 12 he was not being rejected as a Christian. The lesson we may learn from Joseph Barsabbas is: 1) Do not wallow in self-pity. 2) Determine to imitate Christ in your thinking and character to the best of your ability. 3) Cultivate your talent. Tap into all of your ability for service in the kingdom. Who knows what the Lord may yet be able to do through you? 4) Do not go down the path of scandal - kill jealousy and rivalry in your heart. 5) Stay focused in your aim and constant effort to fulfill the greatest command (Mark 12:30,31).
Being a Christian is having already been chosen and having said yes to God. This is the ultimate.
Referring to recent assaults on the Christian faith from philosophers, scientists and others such as AC Grayling, Christopher Hitchens and Professor Dawkins, he said: "I do not think we should be the slightest bit alarmed. It would be a great mistake to cast ourselves in the role of some persecuted group. When people criticise Christianity, we should welcome this as an opportunity to engage in debate."
He said the greatest challenge facing Christianity today was a loss of hope. "It is tempting for people to see no way forward. The two main stories the young encounter are the 'war on terror' and ecological disaster. Faced with that, they may well inclined to wonder what future they have. They wonder what future their children will have. So it is very important that as Christians, we are seen to believe in the future of humanity."
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
One thing I found and transcribed was an one-page essay by author Taylor Caldwell, entitled "There Was a Time." My tenth-grade English teacher passed it out long ago. If you would like to read it, here you go.
Meditation of the Day
If this Man were man only, however perfect and sublime, how is it that his sanctity appears to run by other lines than those of other saints? Other perfect men as they approached perfection were most conscious of imperfection; other saints as they were nearer God lamented their distance from him; other teachers of the spiritual life pointed always away from themselves and their shortcomings to that Eternal Law to which they too aspired.
Yet with this Man all seems reversed. He, as he stood before the world called on men to imitate him; not as others leaders have done, to avoid his sins: this Man, so far from pointing forward and up, pointed to himself as the Way to the Father; so far from adoring a Truth to which he strove, named himself its very incarnation; so far from describing a Life to which he too one day hoped to rise, bade his hearers look on himself who was their Life; so far from deploring to his friends the sins under which he labored challenged his enemies to find within him any sin at all. There is an extraordinary Self-consciousness in him that has in it nothing of “self’ as usually understood…
The Catholic Church is the extension of Christ’s Life on earth; the Catholic Church, therefore, that strange mingling of mystery and commonsense, that union of earth and heaven, of clay and fire, can alone be understood by him who accepts her as both Divine and Human, since she is nothing else but the mystical presentiment, in human terms, of him who, though the Infinite God and Eternal Creator, was found in the form of a servant, of him who, dwelling always in the Bosom of the Father, for our sakes came down from heaven.
- Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson (+ 1914) was a British convert to Catholicism who is best known for his novels about the faith.
h/t Doctors of the Catholic Church and Magnificat
Once you recover from the shock of the first encounter, it seems obvious, even predictable. But the first encounter is disturbing and disorienting: You feel as if you are present in old Carthage at a sacrifice to Moloch, the eater of children.
I refer to the encounter with a new inspiration on the part of proabortionists, an inspiration wondrous in its simplicity and staggering in its implications. To the claims of prolifers that religion forbids abortion, proabortionists can respond with fervor that they, too, are religious, they, too, are believers, and abortion is a spiritual practice and a sacred ritual. Abortion is an act of worship: Deus — or dea — vult.
Read more …
Monday, May 12, 2008
Speaking of "Signs"...
“The Church that is born at Pentecost”, Benedict XVI further explains, “is not in the first place a particular community - the Church of Jerusalem - but the universal Church, which speaks the languages of all peoples. From this are then born communities in every part of the world, particular Churches that are all and always actualisations of the only and unique Church of Christ”. In the ecumenical world and in some fringes of the Catholic Church, the preeminence of the particular Church is often emphasised, looking to the unity of the Church (and the pope) as a sort of optional association, a federation constituted externally. “The Catholic Church”, the pope adds, “is not . . . a federation of Churches, but a unique reality: ontological priority belongs to the universal Church. Without being Catholic in this sense, a community would not even be a Church”.
The pope then cites one of the main signs: that of reconciliation, both as the sacrament of confession (”How important, and unfortunately not sufficiently understood, is the gift of Reconciliation, which pacifies hearts!”) and as daily effort in society: “The peace of Christ is spread only through the renewed hearts of reconciled men and women who have been made servants of justice, ready to defend peace in the world solely with the power of truth, without descending to compromises with the mentality of the world, because the world cannot give the peace of Christ: this is how the Church can be the leaven of the reconciliation that comes from God”.
The Sign (or "Being") Our Heart Is Attuned To
In monastic life, we speak of the “return to the heart” (reditus ad cor), the “life of the heart,” and “finding the place of the heart.” In essence, to find one’s heart is to find one’s “being,” for the heart “senses” or “picks up being.” Monastic life is full of “being,” filled as it is with spiritual realities, because it is filled with the Mystery of Christ. The awakened “heart” is attuned to “being,” attuned to the intimate reality contained therein, for the “heart” is a spiritual organ, a sort of radar that senses the spiritual wherever it is. Thus, the deep “heart” roots itself in “being,” whence comes its substance and a real attachment to God. It is by virtue of this contact with God that we are transformed, “really.”
I cannot let this opportunity pass without alluding to the colorful metaphor employed by Simone Weil to explain this type of transformation and also to unmask any illusions in this area. Allow me to quote just a bit of her text:
“There is no fire in a cooked dish, but one knows it has been on the fire.
“On the other hand, even though one may think to have seen the flames under them, if the potatoes are raw it is certain they have not been on the fire.
“It is not by the way a man talks about God, but by the way he talks about things of the world that best shows whether his soul has passed through the fire of the love of God. In this manner no deception is possible. There are false imitations of the love of God, but not of the transformation its effects in the soul, because one has no idea of this transformation except by passing through it oneself…
“But, like a woman’s pregnancy, this transformation is not effected by direct efforts, but a union of love with God.”
This loving union is…called “contact with” and indicates a union at the level of the “heart,” a substantial union that gives “being” and transforms the person. Persons transformed in this manner carry God, the Beloved, within their “hearts.” The words, actions, and even the mere presence of such persons has, as a direct result of coming into contact with “the” Other, a weight or a density that is “other.”
…One could say that our… attachment to God, at the level of the “heart” will transform the image of God that we are into the likeness of God that we were born to be. This is the growth of “spiritual being.”
She writes that "to find one's 'heart' is to find one's 'being'" and that at this deep level of the "heart" there has been "a substantial union that gives 'being' and transforms the person." And by way of using quotes from Simone Weil, Sr Jean-Marie inserts the deception that is caused by false imitations of "being." She differentiates the density of "heart" which is due to a union (or contact) with God verses a "heart" tossed about due to a lack substantiality in God. In other words, a "heart" with true substance has been opened and converted by a union with the Other, with God, the True Transcendence, in a fashion of imitatio Christi. A "heart" remaining within itself, refusing to be even exposed to the Other, has no alternative but to be caught up in the unending quest for substance in a wasteland of false imitations.
"Being" is a fact or a particular state of existence and the term used to describe the field of study of "being" is ontology. In Deceit, Desire and the Novel Girard writes
Imitative (mimetic) desire is always a desire to be Another. (83)He goes on to write of an "ontological sickness" where your source of being (or mimetic desire) comes from a coveting of what the other desires - in other words, to covet the other's essence. Girard slightly reworks this idea in Violence and the Sacred, and comes up with an essential form of human desire, which might best be described as desire-as-ontology.
Once his basic needs are satisfied (indeed sometimes even before), man is subject to intense desires, though he may not know precisely for what. The reason is that he desires being, something he himself lacks and which some other person seems to possess. The subject thus looks to that other person to inform him of what he should desire in order to acquire that being. If the model, who is apparently already endowed with superior being, desires some object, that object must surely be capable of conferring an even greater plenitude of being. (146)
It is when we attempt to grab for our "being" (and we must seek "being" as we are "made" or called into existence with and by this desire for meaing) we "fall" into sin and violence. Only through a loving obedience with God are we forged into a "being."
So it is that the Trinitarian Experience provides for the only infinite source of "being" where fullness of "being" may be experienced - all other attempts to come to "being" will inevitably lead to rivlry, scandal and violence.
Maybe the best way to describe the Trinitarian Experience (TE) is the Greek word, perichoresis which is the eternal infinite loving flow of person, idea and virtue that exists between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each fully receiving and giving of the other. Within this TE is a co-inherence that all three members of the Trinity inhere or exist within each other. Before everything, there is God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit - eternally existing in loving union so true that Three are One.
Again, perichoresis beautifully describes this intimate mutual indwelling, the mutual dance of indwelling/co-inherence of the three Persons of the Trinity. When God created humanity, He said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26). He created us in the image of His Likeness ("in our image"), meaning that His Trinitarian nature, the perichoresis, is somehow reflected in us. God's eternal intention for His children was that we would live with Him, with each other and with all Creation, in a dance of communion that would reflect the greater Perichoresis.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
The People of God, which had found its first configuration in Sinai, extends today to the point of surmounting every barrier of race, culture, space and time. As opposed to what occurred with the tower of Babel (cf. Gn 11: 1-9), when people wanted to build a way to heaven with their hands and ended up by destroying their very capacity of mutual understanding, in Pentecost the Spirit, with the gift of tongues, demonstrates that his presence unites and transforms confusion into communion.
Human pride and egoism always create divisions, build walls of indifference, hate and violence. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, makes hearts capable of understanding the languages of all, as he re-establishes the bridge of authentic communion between earth and heaven. The Holy Spirit is Love.
But how is it possible to enter into the mystery of the Holy Spirit? How can the secret of Love be understood?...
This is the mystery of Pentecost: the Holy Spirit illuminates the human spirit and, by revealing Christ Crucified and Risen, indicates the way to become more like him, that is, to be "the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 33).
The Church, gathered with Mary as at her birth, today implores: "Veni, Sancte Spiritus! - Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!". Amen.
Friday, May 09, 2008
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Humilty is the proper attitude towards greatness.
Another h/t The Dawn Patrol
h/t Dawn Patrol
Sorry MLK, Jr. dreams don't come true - Goals do.
How We Are Brought to Perfection
Allow me once more to recommend it to you and do not grow weary of learning it any more than I shall grow weary of teaching it. I would gladly shout out everywhere: Self-abandonment! Self-abandonment! And again self-abandonment. A self-abandonment without limits or reservations…Because the greatness of God and his sovereign dominion over us demand that all should bow, should be as it were beaten down and annihilated before his supreme majesty. His infinite greatness is wholly out of proportion to our littleness. It dominates everything, contains everything, is everything: for whatever exists and is not God, has received its being from him by creation, receives it indeed at each instant by conservation (which is an incessantly renewed creation), since the being thus received always remains plunged and lost in his bosom.
It follows that God is the Being of all beings; nothing is or lives or subsists except by him and in him. He is He-Who-is, and who is All in all things. Other beings compared with nothingness appear to be something, but compared with God they appear to be nothing. Their being and substance are borrowed, while God exists solely of himself and is no one’s debtor but his own. It is, therefore necessary that since everything necessarily belongs to him, all should return to him, and that his sovereign dominion should be glorified by all the creatures that his hands have made.
Creatures deprived of reason glorify him in their way by following with in violable exactitude and unwearying docility the movement that he communicates to them, but he rightly expects from his reasonable creatures a glory more worthy of himself, which results from their voluntary self-abandonment. How indeed can they make a more just and worthy use of their liberty than in giving back to God all they have received from him and offering him in advance all they may receive from him the future?
– Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J. was a French Jesuit, a writer, and a revered spiritual director.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
UPDATE: The doctor gave me a green light this morning, 5/7/08. I see him again in 3-month intervals to make sure the bladder is clear. Need I say it -- Deo gratias. Yes, and yes, and yes again. Deo gratias. +
Stephen H. Webb
First Things May 6, 2008
Christians believe that God became human in Jesus Christ. If so, it follows that there is something called humanity. That is, humans have a nature, a shared or common nature. Human nature is not just a social construction. Human nature is real. And if it is real, then it is the same everywhere and at every time. It is, in a word, universal.
The idea that human nature is universal might seem simple to you, and it is. All true ideas are simple, because anyone can grasp them. Yet, believe it or not, you are about to enter a world that treats the idea of a universal human nature as simple-minded foolishness. The really sad thing is that your professors will not try to complicate this idea. To complicate an idea, you have to first take it seriously. Rather than argue about this idea, most of your professors will simply ignore it. You see, the idea of a universal human nature is contrary to everything most professors, at least in the humanities, believe. And that makes it one of the most radical ideas you can hold as a student.
The central dogma of higher education goes by many names, but its basic thrust is as easy to grasp as it is hard to miss. Whether it is called multiculturalism, social constructionism, or left-leaning liberalism, the bottom line is that higher education in America these days promotes cultural relativism. Colleges do not advertise this fact for obvious reasons, but look closely at what they say in their promotional literature. Colleges talk about broadening your perspective, expanding your horizons, and offering you new experiences, but they do not talk about teaching you how to make moral judgments, how to distinguish the beautiful from the ugly, and how to seek the truth. That is because secular liberal-arts colleges and public universities do not believe you should make moral judgments, contemplate the beautiful, or acknowledge universal truths. And they don’t believe these things because they do not believe there is something called human nature.
The college you have chosen to attend is no worse, and probably a little bit better, than most colleges when it comes to multiculturalism, but it is always wise to be prepared when you go to school. What you most need to know is that the “higher” in higher education no longer refers to the high culture of the greatest works of Western civilization. In fact, higher education has been trying to dismantle this culture for decades. Higher education today is all about lowering the great books and great ideas of the past to the same basic level. Rather than ask you to climb the great heights of the classics, professors these days will ask you to tear them down. Rather than ask you to test your intellectual strength by pitting yourself against the greatest thinkers of the past, professors will teach you the intellectual equivalent of etiquette and manners. You will learn how to talk without embarrassing yourself in polite, educated company. You will learn what to say, not how to think.
Education used to hold students to the highest standards of Western culture, but now it gives students bits and pieces of many cultures. Nonetheless, multiculturalism is not a plot devised by left-leaning liberals to dumb down America, though it often seems like that. Instead, multiculturalism follows inexorably from the rejection of a universal human nature. If there is no single human nature, then there is no single standard for human excellence either. Indeed, there is no single standard for anything, from rationality to morality. When rationality and morality are reduced to social constructions, the best we can do is learn how societies construct things, rather than why certain constructions endure the test of time. Learning becomes a matter of uncovering the social and historical context behind every book and every idea. Rather than ask what a text has to teach us, we now have to dig deep in order to ask what the text is trying to hide. And the answer to that question is presupposed from the start: What is foundational to all social constructions just happens to be what is so self-congratulatory about modern education. All books and ideas are trying to hide their prejudices about race, gender, and class. Learning is about identifying with the experiences of the victims of social injustice—experiences that will be held up for you as absolutely different from your own.
Multiculturalism might seem like a harmless game of cultural tourism mixed with a little detective work, with the crime (sexism and racism) always being the same, but it is actually much more serious than that. Liberal professors assume that you, the student, come to their classes believing in universal truths, and they think that it is their job to get you to leave such baggage behind. Since professors these days do not believe in human nature, they think that the most important thing they can do is to teach you that all values are relative. And they do this by trying to convince you that you do not understand other cultures because you are trapped in your own.
Here is how the game is played: They will first try to convince you that you are a racist, a sexist, and an enemy of social justice. Then they will argue that the victims of racism, sexism, and cultural elitism have a privileged view of these issues. It is as if the victim of the crime were to be given the first, last, and only word in a trial, with no cross-examination and no other witnesses called. Your job as a student in the multicultural classroom is to grant unquestioned authority to those who come from underprivileged or marginalized backgrounds. You have to do this because, you will learn, because Western culture has exploited every other culture, and your experiences are so shaped by Western culture that you cannot question those who criticize you. And thus you will become a good cultural leftist (which is the shape liberalism takes in the academy), or, if you are not convinced by these arguments, you will learn how to fake it for the sake of getting a good grade.
All of this is profoundly anti-Christian, which is why Christian students are typically the most radical questioners of higher education. Because Christians believe in a universal human nature, they also believe they can make universal truth claims about human nature. That does not mean that every statement about human nature is true. Of course not! A central part of education is learning how to argue by testing your own ideas about human nature against the ideas found in great books and the ideas espoused by your teachers and fellow students. Christians believe, for example, that because we are created in the image of God, every single person is of infinite worth, but Christians also believe that humans are fallen creatures, in need of grace and forgiveness. Christians are thus able to appreciate both the majesty and the misery of human actions. That is a powerful framework for questioning what you read and hear. What Christians do not believe is that every culture has its own truths and that the only way to learn about another culture is to refrain from seeking the universal truth.
To return to the central truth of Christianity, Christians believe that God experienced the totality of the human condition by becoming incarnate in Jesus Christ. That is, God did not need to become incarnate in each one of us in order to understand every one of us. Each one of us can experience a personal relationship with Jesus because Jesus was completely one of us. If cultural relativism is true, then Christianity is doomed, because God became incarnate in a very specific person at a particular time and place. From the perspective of multiculturalism, God could not have understood what it means to be human by becoming a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. It follows that if God did understand man by becoming a man, then multiculturalism is a lie.
Applying this truth to the world of higher education, we can say that every human life is, in principle, sufficient for the discovery of every truth. You don’t need new experiences to become educated; you just need deeper ways of understanding your own experience. As a human being in the midst of passing into adulthood, nothing human is alien to you. You need to learn how to think more carefully, imagine more fully, and judge more humanely, but you do not need to learn that your beliefs are wrong because they are limited by your experiences and that the only way to broaden those beliefs is to immerse yourself in radically new experiences. What is true in any book you read or any idea you consider is true because it is true for everyone, and its truth is available to you because you already have the rudiments of what it means to be human.
Christianity inspired and informed the highest achievements of Western culture in order to challenge people to think about the eternal things, like heaven and hell, God, grace, forgiveness, and death. A college education should immerse you in the highest achievements of Western culture in order to give you the tools to enrich your experiences and refine you moral judgments. Education in this sense is about coming to know yourself, not because you construct your own reality, but because your nature is the same as everyone else’s. When a multiculturalist professor tells you that all truth is relative, ask him how he knows that, and when he tells you that Western culture is wicked and wrong, ask him what cultural criteria he is using to make that comparison. Better yet, do not ask your professors these questions, because multiculturalism is killing higher education as sure as the Romans killed Jesus. Share your questions with your friends, find a professor friendly to your faith, and keep higher education in your prayers.
Stephen H. Webb, ’83, is professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College. His recent books include American Providence: A Nation with a Mission, The Divine Voice, and Dylan Redeemed: From Highway 61 to Saved.