Sunday, December 31, 2006

On The Seventh Day Of Christmas

Apparently, I jumped the gun yesterday and declared the Feast of the Holy Family being then. It is, however, today.

Also, today is the Feast of Saint Sylvester I who was the 33rd Pope. He fought against Arianism and presided over the council of Nicea. He was also the first pope to wear the tiara.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

I Felt The Same Way

"I was in a humour, certainly, to bite off their ears. I will freely confess, indeed I said it some pages back, that I was angry with the Anglican divines. I thought they had taken me in; I had read the Fathers with their eyes; I had sometimes trusted their quotations or their reasonings; and from reliance on them, I had used words or made statements, which by right I ought rigidly to have examined myself. I had thought myself safe, while I had their warrant for what I said. I had exercised more faith than criticism in the matter. This did not imply any broad misstatements on my part, arising from reliance on their authority, but it implied carelessness in matters of detail. And this of course was a fault."

-Ven. John Henry Newman in Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

Authority Is There For A Reason

"The spirit of lawlessness came in with the Reformation, and Liberalism is its offspring."

-Ven. John Henry Newman

On The Sixth Day Of Christmas

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family!

"Father in heaven, creator of all, you ordered the earth to bring forth life and crowned its goodness by creating the family of man. In history's moment when all was ready, you sent your Son to dwell in time, obedient to the laws of life in our world. Teach us the sanctity of human love, show us the value of family life, and help us to live in peace with all men that we may share in your life for ever. We ask this through Christ the Lord. Amen."

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: Ora Pro Nobis!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Patristic Smorgasbord

Phil over at Hyperekperissou has posted his second edition of the Patristic Roundup and has so graciously included yours truly in the mix. Go check it out and learn what the Church Fathers have to say!

In Newman's Own Words

"Only this I know full well now, and did not know then, that the Catholic Church allows no image of any sort, material or immaterial, no dogmatic symbol, no rite, no sacrament, no Saint, not even the Blessed Virgin herself, to come between the soul and its Creator. It is face to face, 'solus cum solo,' in all matters between man and his God. He alone creates; He alone has redeemed; before His awful eyes we go in death; in the vision of Him is our eternal beatitude....What I can speak of with greater confidence is the effect produced on me a little later by studying the Exercises of St. Ignatius. For here again, in a matter consisting in the purest and most direct acts of religion, -in the intercourse between God and the soul, during a season of recollection, of repentance, of good resolution, of inquiry into vocation, -the soul was 'sola cum solo;' there was no cloud interposed between the creature and the Object of his faith and love. The command practically enforced was, 'My son, give Me thy heart.' The devotions then to Angels and Saints as little interfered with the incommunicable glory of the Eternal, as the love which we bear our friends and relations, our tender human sympathies, are inconsistent with that supreme homage of the heart to the Unseen, which really does but sanctify and exalt, not jealously destroy, what is of earth. At a later date Dr. Russell sent me a large bundle of penny or half-penny books of devotion, of all sorts, as they are found in the booksellers' shops at Rome; and, on looking them over, I was quite astonished to find how different they were from what I had fancied, how little there was in them to which I could really object."

-Ven. John Henry Newman in Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

On The Fifth Day Of Christmas

That's right...Christmas isn't over yet! Keep on celebrating the birth of Our Lord.

"Arise, everyone! Mary invites us all -rich and poor, the just and sinners- to enter the cave of Bethlehem, to adore and to kiss the feet of her newborn Son. Go in, then, all of you devout men and women. Let us enter and not be afraid."

-St. Alphonsus Liguori

Do something special today on this fifth day of Christmas to celebrate. Go visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, say an extra rosary with your family,....or you could watch the movie Becket, since today is also the Feast Day of St. Thomas Becket!

Blessings and Happy Feast Day to all!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hans Urs Von Balthasar And The Mystery Of Holy Saturday

In his theology of the Mystery of Holy Saturday, Balthasar argues that God knows creation in no other way, than from the vantage point of His Son’s own hellish descent. On Holy Saturday, Christ in His obedience agrees to suffer the full extant of malice and power inflicted by sin. He bears it all the way down into the depths of Hell.

Christ’s descent into Hell is the final act of obedience to the Father. This is the center-piece of the obediential stance for Balthasar. Only in the descent itself is the deepest and definitive "No" of the sinner against God made known. In Christ’s descent, He brings the silent compassionate accompaniment of man in the extremity of solitude we call Hell, which is the absence of Faith, Hope, and Love. It is the loss of any human communication, whereby sinners are separated from God in their loneliness.

In Hell Christ must seek the Father, for he cannot find him under any circumstances. There is a seemingly separation of Christ from the Father. Seemingly, not actual. In this darkness the incarnate Son learns experientially what until then was reserved for the Father. The descent represents the final and deepest point reached by Christ in His self emptying. It is the Supreme expression of God’s life and love; the consummate icon of what God is eternally like.

For Balthasar there is immense compassion on the part of Christ. Christ identifies Himself with the sinner so much so that he puts Himself in the place of the sinner. Balthasar tries to capture the sense of solidarity that Christ freely entered into alongside the damned. Christ’s suffering is the result of Love. It is a freely embraced pain due to the suffering of Love. Christ goes to Hell because He loves all of mankind, even the damned. He cannot not love them. He wants to make His presence known among even the most damned of creation. And for the damned who has rejected all forms of love, this is the worst punishment of all. Not even in Hell can the damned escape the loving gaze of Christ. The descent is an act of solidarity between Christ and man. It is the ultimate paradox in that Christ who is sinless, experiences the effects of Hell as the "sin-bearer."

The Pastoral importance of Balthasar’s theology is that it shows the endless love of God. That God loves us so much, He would send His own Son to the depths of Hell for us. And Christ goes out of obedience to the Father and love for man. There is no place we can hide from God’s love. No matter how far away we think we have gone, we could never go outside the reach of the Love of God.

First Things has published an ongoing debate between anti-Balthasarian Alyssa Lyra Pitstick and pro-Balthasarian Edward T. Oakes, S.J. in its previous two issues. The first can be read here and the second here.

In Newman's Own Words

"It was difficult to make out how the Eutychians or Monophysites were heretics, unless Protestants and Anglicans were heretics also; difficult to find arguments against the Tridentine Fathers, which did not tell against the Fathers of Chalcedon; difficult to condemn the Popes of the sixteenth century, without condemning the Popes of the fifth. The drama of religion, and the combat of truth and error, were ever one and the same. The principles and proceedings of the Church now, were those of the Church then; the principles and proceedings of heretics then, were those of Protestants now. I found it so, —almost fearfully; there was an awful similitude, more awful, because so silent and unimpassioned, between the dead records of the past and the feverish chronicle of the present. The shadow of the fifth century was on the sixteenth. It was like a spirit rising from the troubled waters of the old world, with the shape and lineaments of the stern, resolute, overbearing, and relentless; and heretics were shifting, changeable, reserved, and deceitful, ever courting civil power, and never agreeing together, except by its aid; and the civil power was ever aiming at comprehensions, trying to put the invisible out of view, and substituting expediency for faith. What was the use of continuing the controversy, or defending my position, if, after all, I was forging arguments for Arius or Eutyches, and turning devil’s advocate against the much-enduring Athanasius and the majestic Leo? Be my soul with the Saints! and shall I lift up my hand against them? Sooner may my right hand forget her cunning, and wither outright, as his who once stretched it out against a prophet of God! anathema to a whole tribe of Cranmers, Ridleys, Latimers, and Jewels! perish the names of Bramhall, Ussher, Taylor, Stillingfleet, and Barrow from the face of the earth, ere I should do ought but fall at their feet in love and in worship, whose image was continually before my eyes, and whose musical words were ever in my ears and on my tongue!"

-Ven. John Henry Newman in Apologia Pro Vita Sua.

On The Fourth Day Of Christmas

Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

"Let us ask the Holy Innocents to help offer up our own pain and to have great compassion for all who suffer." - Francis Fernandez

"It is surely right to celebrate the death of the Holy Innocents: for it was a blessed one. To be brought near to Christ, and to suffer for Christ, is surely an unspeakable privilege; to suffer anyhow, even unconsciously. The little children whom He took up in his arms, were not conscious of His loving condescension; but was it no privilege when He blessed them? Surely this massacre had in it the nature of a Sacrament; it was a pledge of the love of the Son of God towards those who were included in it. All who came near Him, more or less suffered by approaching Him, just as if earthly pain and trouble went out of Him, as some precious virtue for the good of their souls; —and these infants in the number. Surely His very presence was a Sacrament; every motion, look, and word of His conveying grace to those who would receive it: and much more was fellowship with Him. And hence in ancient times such barbarous murders or Martyrdoms were considered as a kind of baptism, a baptism of blood, with a sacramental charm in it, which stood in the place of the appointed Laver of regeneration. Let us then take these little children as in some sense Martyrs, and see what instruction we may gain from the pattern of their innocence. "

-Ven. John Henry Newman

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Quote Of The Day

"The mark of the Christian is the willingness to look for the Divine in the flesh of a babe in a crib, the continuing Christ under the appearance of bread on an altar, and a meditation and a prayer on a string of beads."

-Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

On The Third Day Of Christmas

Happy Feast Day of St. John the Evangelist! Three cheers for the first theologian!

"Peter and John both run to the tomb. Christ's tomb is the Holy Scripture, in which the most hidden mysteries of his divinity and of his humanity are defended - if I am allowed to say, -by a wall of rock. But John runs faster than Peter, for the power of contemplation, which has been totally purified, penetrates the secrets of the divine works with a more piercing and sharper eye than the power of action, that still needs to be purified.

Nevertheless Peter is the first to enter; John follows. Both run and both enter. Here Peter is the image of faith and John represents intelligence...Faith then is the first one who must enter the tomb, that is the image of the Holy Scripture, and intelligence must follow...

Peter, who also represents the practice of virtues, sees with the power of faith and of action the Son of God enclosed, in a marvelous and ineffable way, in the limits of flesh. John who represents the highest contemplation of truth, admires the Word of God, perfect in himself and unlimited in his origin, meaning in his Father. Peter, led by the divine revelation, looks at once at the eternal things and at the things of this world, united in Christ. John contemplates and announces the eternity of the Word to make it known to the faithful.

This is why I say that John is a spiritual eagle who sees God; I call him the theologian. He is above the whole creation, visible and invisible; he goes beyond all intellectual faculties and he enters deified in God who shares with him his own divine life."

-Jean Scot Erigene

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On The Second Day Of Christmas

"Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even...."

Merry Second Day Of Christmas and Happy St. Stephen's Day!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas 2006 Urbi Et Orbi Message Of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

"Salvator noster natus est in mundo" (Roman Missal)

"Our Saviour is born to the world!" During the night, in our Churches, we again heard this message that, notwithstanding the passage of the centuries, remains ever new. It is the heavenly message that tells us to fear not, for "a great joy" has come "to all the people" (Lk 1:10). It is a message of hope, for it tells us that, on that night over two thousand years ago, there "was born in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:11). The Angel of Christmas announced it then to the shepherds out on the hills of Bethlehem; today the Angel repeats it to us, to all who dwell in our world: "The Saviour is born; he is born for you! Come, come, let us adore him!".

But does a "Saviour" still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium ? Is a "Saviour" still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of nature’s secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvellous codes of the human genome? Is a Saviour needed by a humanity which has invented interactive communication, which navigates in the virtual ocean of the internet and, thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies, has now made the Earth, our great common home, a global village? This humanity of the twenty-first century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs.

So it would seem, yet this is not the case. People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism. Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith. Others see their own bodies and those of their dear ones, particularly their children, maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence, at a time when everyone invokes and acclaims progress, solidarity and peace for all. And what of those who, bereft of hope, are forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find humane living conditions elsewhere? How can we help those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their present and future, those who are trapped in the tunnel of loneliness and who often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs? What are we to think of those who choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?

How can we not hear, from the very depths of this humanity, at once joyful and anguished, a heart-rending cry for help? It is Christmas: today "the true light that enlightens every man" (Jn 1:9) came into the world. "The word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14), proclaims the Evangelist John. Today, this very day, Christ comes once more "unto his own", and to those who receive him he gives "the power to become children of God"; in a word, he offers them the opportunity to see God’s glory and to share the joy of that Love which became incarnate for us in Bethlehem. Today "our Saviour is born to the world", for he knows that even today we need him. Despite humanity’s many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death. It is there, in the very depths of his being, in what the Bible calls his "heart", that man always needs to be "saved". And, in this post-modern age, perhaps he needs a Saviour all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious. Who can defend him, if not the One who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the Cross his only-begotten Son as the Saviour of the world?

"Salvator noster": Christ is also the Saviour of men and women today. Who will make this message of hope resound, in a credible way, in every corner of the earth? Who will work to ensure the recognition, protection and promotion of the integral good of the human person as the condition for peace, respecting each man and every woman and their proper dignity? Who will help us to realize that with good will, reasonableness and moderation it is possible to avoid aggravating conflicts and instead to find fair solutions? With deep apprehension I think, on this festive day, of the Middle East, marked by so many grave crises and conflicts, and I express my hope that the way will be opened to a just and lasting peace, with respect for the inalienable rights of the peoples living there. I place in the hands of the divine Child of Bethlehem the indications of a resumption of dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians, which we have witnessed in recent days, and the hope of further encouraging developments. I am confident that, after so many victims, destruction and uncertainty, a democratic Lebanon, open to others and in dialogue with different cultures and religions, will survive and progress. I appeal to all those who hold in their hands the fate of Iraq, that there will be an end to the brutal violence that has brought so much bloodshed to the country, and that every one of its inhabitants will be safe to lead a normal life. I pray to God that in Sri Lanka the parties in conflict will heed the desire of the people for a future of brotherhood and solidarity; that in Darfur and throughout Africa there will be an end to fratricidal conflicts, that the open wounds in that continent will quickly heal and that the steps being made towards reconciliation, democracy and development will be consolidated. May the Divine Child, the Prince of Peace, grant an end to the outbreaks of tension that make uncertain the future of other parts of the world, in Europe and in Latin America.

"Salvator noster": this is our hope; this is the message that the Church proclaims once again this Christmas day. With the Incarnation, as the Second Vatican Council stated, the Son of God has in some way united himself with each man and women (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22). The birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, as Pope Saint Leo the Great noted. In Bethlehem the Christian people was born, Christ’s mystical body, in which each member is closely joined to the others in total solidarity. Our Saviour is born for all. We must proclaim this not only in words, but by our entire life, giving the world a witness of united, open communities where fraternity and forgiveness reign, along with acceptance and mutual service, truth, justice and love.

A community saved by Christ. This is the true nature of the Church, which draws her nourishment from his Word and his Eucharistic Body. Only by rediscovering the gift she has received can the Church bear witness to Christ the Saviour before all people. She does this with passionate enthusiasm, with full respect for all cultural and religious traditions; she does so joyfully, knowing that the One she proclaims takes away nothing that is authentically human, but instead brings it to fulfilment. In truth, Christ comes to destroy only evil, only sin; everything else, all the rest, he elevates and perfects. Christ does not save us from our humanity, but through it; he does not save us from the world, but came into the world, so that through him the world might be saved (cf. Jn 3:17).

Dear brothers and sisters, wherever you may be, may this message of joy and hope reach your ears: God became man in Jesus Christ, he was born of the Virgin Mary and today he is reborn in the Church. He brings to all the love of the Father in heaven. He is the Saviour of the world! Do not be afraid, open your hearts to him and receive him, so that his Kingdom of love and peace may become the common legacy of each man and woman. Happy Christmas!

Happy Birthday Jesus Christ!

And a very Merry Christmas to all!

Also, as a side note, this is Laura's and my first Christmas as Catholics. What a glorious feeling it is to celebrate the birth of Our Lord in the very Church founded by Him!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bible Scholar Of The Year

Jimmy Akin has a brilliant satire that combines Sola Scriptura with the new ploy used by Time Magazine. Check it out!

Bring Forth Christ

"[Christ's] mother carried him in her womb, may we carry him in our hearts; the Virgin became pregnant with the incarnation of Christ, may our hearts become pregnant with faith in Christ; she brought forth the Savior, may our souls bring forth salvation and praise. May our souls be not sterile, but fertile for God."

-Saint Augustine

Patristic Typology

"Our Lord testifies concerning John, that he is the greatest of the Prophets. Yet he received the Spirit by limit, because in that measure in which Elijah received the Spirit, (in the same) John obtained it. And as Elijah used to dwell in the wilderness, so also the Spirit of God led John into the wilderness, and he used to dwell in the mountains and caves. The birds sustained Elijah, and John used to eat locusts that fly. Elijah had his loins girded with a girdle of leather; so John had his loins girded with a cincture of leather. Jezebel persecuted Elijah, and Herodias persecuted John. Elijah reproved Ahab, and John reproved Herod. Elijah divided the Jordan, and John opened up baptism. The spirit of Elijah rested twofold upon Elisha, so John laid his hand on our Redeemer, and he received the Spirit not by measure. Elijah opened the heavens and ascended; and John saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit of God which descended and rested upon our Redeemer."

-Saint Aphrahate

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rocky Balboa And Christ

"[Rocky Balboa] is a really excellent film - strong story, superior writing and directing, and easily the best, most satisfying, most mature acting Stallone has ever done. If you've ever enjoyed any of the Rocky movies, you need to see this one. This is a really enjoyable movie. It's also one you can take the kids to."
-Francis Maier - Chancellor, Catholic Archdiocese of Denver, Colo.

I just got back from seeing Rocky Balboa (aka Rocky VI) and I must say that it was a great movie. It was a perfect wrap up of the Rocky franchise with beautiful cinematography and.... a Christian theme.

Actually, all of the Rocky films have had Christian themes of redemption and perseverance, but this one was the most explicit of them all. There is even a scene where the character Spider Rico reads a passage of the Bible to Rocky before his fight.

The reason for the strong Christian themes of the newest Rocky movie can be attributed to Sylvester Stallone's re-dedication to his Catholic faith. There is even a website made to promote the Christian elements of the movie.

Go see the movie. You won't regret it!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Luther Said What?

"The incomparable thing, what the whole world cannot grasp, much less describe, is that from Mary's flesh and blood he takes his human nature. Then he lets himself be carried in her arms, nourished by the milk of the Virgin; then she is a mother and a virgin. And she shall tower over all holy women, so that the angels are amazed."

-Martin Luther. He also wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Blessed Virgin Mary.
(by the way, Luther, I'm still waiting for my hood!)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Surprising Discovery

It was brought to my attention today, these words from the 39 Articles of Religion of the Episcopal Church (the American province of the world-wide Anglican Communion), Article 28:

Of The Lord's Supper
"Transubstantiation (or change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proven by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is faith."

In all my years as an Episcopalian, I never noticed that the 39 Articles said this about the Eucharist! If I had, I would have left long ago. For some reason, this isn't a widely known or acknowledged article of faith, since many Episcopalians/Anglicans believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (I shall leave out of this post the fact that they don't actually have it since they have not Apostolic Succession. Many believe they do have Apostolic Succesion and that the Real Presence is there). These Episcopalians/Anglicans who go by the name "Anglo-Catholics" would adamantly disagree with the 28th article. Yet it clearly states that they do not believe in the Real Presence.

Of course, one of the reasons may be that the Anglican Communion doesn't really follow the 39 Articles anymore and you can basically believe whatever you want in the Communion even if you have the exact opposite belief as someone else, even someone in your same parish. Priests in the same parish also have opposite beliefs. Yet they are all valid members of the Anglican Communion. (Something tells me though, that they have no idea what the meaning of "communion" really is!)

This should be a wake up call to all you "Anglo-Catholics" out there: The Anglican Communion does not believe in the Real Presence!

Come home to the Catholic Church! The REAL Catholic Church. Quit pretending to be "Anglo-Catholic." By definition one cannot be both "Anglican" and "Catholic"!

I don't know what Bible the writers of the 39 Articles were using, but in every Bible I've seen, Christ never says "This is my spiritual body and blood" or "eat my body and blood by faith."
Rather he says, "This is my body" and "This is my blood." There are no metaphors or symbolism. Christ actually gives us His body and blood so that we may be filled with His divine grace and become divine sons and daughters of God.

Christ is a king unlike all other kings. His kingship is one of service. He commits the ultimate act of service by feeding us with His body and blood, thus allowing us to dwell within the grace of the Trinity!

The Catholic Church is the True Church in which Christ our Savior Truly resides in the Sacraments. Where the Sacraments are, there is the Kingdom of God; the Church!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I finished my last exam today! I am free for the semester. And what an amazing semester it has been. Next semester my classes are going to be just as great.

I am taking:

Theological Foundations
Mariology 2
Theology of Christ

Over the summer, I am planning on taking Greek and a class on the Apostolic Fathers.
Reading lists will be posted as soon as I get them!

Until then, Happy Advent everyone!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

God Wants Me To Be Rich!

Check out the Prosperity Praise music video.

It really sad that some people actually believe this.

Hat tip to Michael Barber.

One Doctor's Hood Coming My Way

Martin Luther once said:
"Many sweat to reconcile St. Paul and St. James, but in vain. 'Faith justifies' and 'faith does not justify' contradict each other flatly. If any one can harmonize them I will give him my doctor's hood and let him call me a fool."

To him I say:
"Faith Justifies, but it doesn't justify alone! C'mon Luther, you've got to come up with harder ones than that. Give me your hood, fool!"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

One Of My New Favorite Saints

I think Saint Nicholas might have been a hero of Saint Jerome's!

The Advent of Christ

"To see myself as Christ sees me, to see my neighbor as Christ sees him -this act of faith, genuinely performed, already implies the death of the old man of which Paul speaks; it implies the daily taking up of one's cross that Christ commands, and it is the proof of discipleship, which must lie in deeds, not in mere words or in mere profession of faith. The man who even attempts this -and he will never manage more than an attempt- he, and he alone, will learn what is the dogmatic content of the Faith of Christians. He will learn that Christ is completely man but only by being completely God (for Christ's humanism begins precisely where all human humanism comes to an end). He will learn that he himself is never Christ but a branch of his vine, a member of his body. He will learn that he can never say that he embodies the Spirit of Christ but that there is such a thing as the Church, the cummunio sanctorum, which does possess this Spirit, and that he is integrated, steeped in failure as he is, into her integrity. Finally -to pass over many things- he will experience in a very exact way that all this reality that bears and sustains him, with its aspects of institution and its rootedness in the past, is at the same time always future, always coming to meet him. 'Thy kingdom come.'"

-Hans Urs von Balthasar

Friday, December 08, 2006

Feast Of The Immaculate Conception

"It is fitting for the Queen of Virgins, by a singular privilege of sanctity, to lead a life entirely free from sin, so that while she ministered to the destroyer of death and sin, she should obtain the gift of life and justice for all." -St. Bernard of Clairvaux

"It is faith which reveals to us that the immaculate a pledge of salvation for every human creature. Again, it is faith which reminds us that by virtue of her unique position, Mary is our steadfast support in the arduous struggle against sin and its consequences." -Pope John Paul the Great

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is a special day not only for Catholics (it should be for ALL Christians however), but especially for Catholics in America, since Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is the patroness of the United States!

On December 8, 1854, Pius IX made the declaration:
"The Doctrine which holds, that the most Blessed Virgin Mary at the first instant of her conception was preserved immune from all stain of sin by a singular grace and privilege of the omnipotent God in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, savior of the human race, was revealed by God and therefore must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful."

The recipient of this privilege was the person of Mary at the first instant of passive conception (when God infuses the soul to the fetus). From conception, Mary is free from original sin, and its effects. To understand this privilege of Mary we have to go back to our first parents.

Adam and Eve were created with three sets of gifts: natural, preternatural and supernatural.
-Natural gifts are intellect, will, body, and soul.
-Preternatural (preter means above) are gifts above ordinary human nature.
They include:
1) Infused knowledge-greater knowledge and recognition of supernatural.
2)Integrity-perfect harmony between reason and the passions. What reason dictated, the passion obeyed.
3)Incorruptible and natural immortality of the body- immune to disease
-Supernatural gifts refer to justice within the family of God from the moment of creation.

Adam and Eve, with the fall lose the preternatural and supernatural, yet keep the natural gifts.
Thus we need baptism to restore grace. We are also born with a decaying body and an obscured knowledge. It is possible, yet hard, to see the light of God. Instead of integrity we have concupiscence: an interior inclination to evil. We are not totally evil. We are still good by nature, yet we have an inclination towards evil.

All this applied to Mary means that because of her immaculate conception, Mary retains all the preternatural gifts as well as supernatural gift with a plenitude of grace. She does not experience corruption of body (hence assumption is natural effect). She does not experience concupiscence.

Mary is truly saved by the merits of Jesus Christ! Even though Mary was born without the stain of original sin, She still needed Jesus. She needed to be saved and was saved by an application of graces by Jesus Christ. In fact, Mary owed more to her savior than any other saved creature, because she is saved in a more glorious fashion. Duns Scotus called this "preservative redemption." The Immaculate Conception is a singular privilege. No one else was conceived with a fullness of grace at moment of conception. Even though Adam and Eve were created in original justice, they did not have a plenitude of Grace as Mary did. It is a grace of vocation. Adam and Eve are not called to be the co-redemptrix and to suffer with Christ. Adam and Eve are in God’s family, yet not God’s greatest masterpiece as Mary is and are not in proximity of Our Lord as Mary was.

Immaculate Conception In Tradition
From the 1st to the 4th century, there was the model of Mary as the New Eve.
She is compared to Eve, but before the fall of Eve. Likewise, by the Eastern Fathers she is called, All holy, all pure, miracle of grace, purer than the angels, altogether without sin.

St. Ephraim (Syrian deacon d. 373), Says that Mary and Eve were created utterly equal, but afterwards one became the cause of our death, the other the cause of our life. He also refers to Mary being "immune from all sin."

St. Ambrose: (397) Refers to Mary as being "free from all stain."

St. Severus (bishop of Antioch 538) uses the word "immaculate." "Pure from all taint and immaculate."

St. Sophronius (patriarch of Jerusalem) in the 7th century, was first to talk about Mary receiving a unique grace, by being pre-purified.

St. Andrew of Crete (8th century) calls Mary the "entirely immaculate virgin."

Theognostes (9th century Greek Father) specifies that Mary had been "conceived by a sanctifying action.

Eastern Tradition is what contributed most to the development of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. This being the case, it is interesting to note that Orthodox theologians only disagreed with the Immaculate Conception AFTER it was defined by the Pope!

It is important also to note the medieval controversy over the Immaculate Conception to bring forth more clarity in our own time.

Some theologians opposed the doctrine due to an erroneous concept of how Original sin is transmitted. They held that it is transmitted from an infected body to souls newly infused. The objection was that if Mary is the Immaculate Conception, than Anne would have to be and also her mother and on and on.

This erroneous view is clarified by Blessed Duns Scotus who later becomes the champion of the Immaculate Conception. In 1308, Scotus points out that Original sin is not passed from infected body to soul, but rather a privation of grace at the moment of infusion of the soul by God. Because Adam and Eve sinned, when God infuses the soul now, it is absent of grace that we would have received had Adam and Eve not sinned. That absence has bodily ramifications– bodily death.

The second objection concerned the universality of redemption and the Immaculate Conception. This is an issue that also concerns our Protestant brethren in modern times.

The concern was, if Mary is Immaculately conceived, then Jesus Christ is not a universal redeemer, because he didn’t redeem Mary. Scotus responded with the concept of preservative redemption. He asked, "Is it possible that it could be done?" He presents that Mary was in fact saved by the merits of Jesus Christ. She is saved thru an application of graces of Jesus that are foreseen. Mary was saved by Jesus as a daughter of Adam and Eve. She would have inherited the effects of Original sin had she not been preserved from original sin. It is possible that Christ could preserve His mother from sin, AND HE DID!

Technically, Mary was not redeemed. Because to redeem is to buy back and to buy back presupposes bondage, or slavery. Mary never had a bondage to buy back. She was saved by the preemptive merits of Jesus Christ.

Pope Sixtus IV in 1477, approved the Mass and office of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. This was in the midst of a bitter battle between Franciscans and Dominicans on this issue. The Pope had a public debate commissioned in Rome by the leading theologians of each order. The Franciscan theologian was victorious in the debate, yet the Mass and office was still approved.

With the approval of the Immaculate Conception in the Liturgy, by Pope Sixtus, the Immaculate Conception became a doctrine of the Church.

From Sixtus IV to Pius IX, there was gradually increasing magisterial teaching on Immaculate Conception.

In 1849 Pope Pius IX sent a letter of consultation to the bishops of the world asking them if they would like the Immaculate Conception to be defined as a Dogma of the Church. Out of 665 bishops, 590 respond in favor of the definition! The Pope didn’t have to consult the bishops, yet he did. Only 7 bishops are opposed to the definition. Others were unsure, because either they didn’t think there were enough sources or because they didn’t think that the time was right even though they agreed with the definition.

Two factors confirmed the definition for Pius IX:
1) He received a great number of petitions from priests, bishops, kings, and lay faithful asking him to make this definition. The country of Spain was prominent in petition drive.

2) Private Revelation of Our Lady of Grace in 1830 to St. Catherine Labouré. On the Miraculous Medal given to St. Catherine, the insignia around the first vision was "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Pius thought that if Heaven is declaring the Immaculate Conception, he should too!

Go here, for the Scriptural Foundations of the Immaculate Conception.

For more on the Immaculate Conception go to Mother Of All Peoples.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Brownback '08

Senator Sam Brownback announced his Presidential bid today. This is great news for Pro-life/Pro-Family/Pro-Christian values!

What's even better is that he is a Catholic! And I don't mean "Kerry-Catholic."

Brownback is the real deal!

I'm not a big fan of politics and I really don't like to get into them, but I put my full support behind Brownback and I encourage everyone else to do so!

All you students out there should go to the Students For Brownback website and find out how to help out.

For everyone else there is Brownback's campaign site.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Who's Buried In St. Paul's Tomb?

Why Saint Paul of course!

Vatican archaeologists find tomb believed to be that of Apostle Paul.

Church Bulletins

These were posted by a friend on facebook.

Funny Bloopers in Church Bulletins(Sent in by Frank Barnard)
They're Back! Church Bulletins! Thank God for church ladies with typewriters. These sentences actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services:
The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water."The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."
Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "Hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.
Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
Miss Charlene Maso n sang, "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
Next Thursday, there will be tryouts for the choir.They need all the help they can get.
The Rector will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing: "Break Forth Into Joy."
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment, and gracious hostility.
Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
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Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. is done.
The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours".

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christ The Temple

"On Easter Day, Christ’s body became the temple of the new people, the place where they gathered together, their point of unity, the dwelling place of glory where the multitude would rest in adoration, contemplating the face of God, and hearing his word. There they would come to offer the sacrifice of praise and expiation, they would adore and beseech. In the past, the Jews used to pray in a stone temple in Jerusalem. But the hour has come when the true adorers adore in spirit and in truth, in the glorified Christ, the true temple of God’s holiness, and in the Spirit of God, the supreme truth and divine holiness, who filled Christ on Easter morning."

-F.X. Durrwell in In The Redeeming Christ.

Golden Mouth On Free Will

"Wherefore we ought always to 'guard' ourselves, lest at any time we should fall asleep. For 'Lo' (it is said) 'he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep' and 'Do not suffer thy foot to be moved.' He did not say, 'be not moved' but 'do not thou suffer.' The suffering depends then on ourselves, and not on any other. For if we will stand 'steadfast and unmoveable' we shall not be shaken. What then? Does nothing depend on God? All indeed depends on God, but not so that our free-will is hindered. 'If then it depend on God,' (one says), 'why does He blame us?' On this account I said, 'so that our free-will is not hindered.' But when we have chosen, then great is the assistance he brings to us....

And secondly the other explanation may be given, that he speaks of all as His, whose the greater part is. For it is ours to choose and to wish; but God's to complete and to bring to an end. Since therefore the greater part is of Him, he says all is of Him, speaking according to the custom of men. For so we ourselves do. I mean for instance: we see a house well built, and we say the whole is the Architect's doing, and yet certainly it is not all his, but the workmen's also, and the owners', who supplies the materials, and many others', but nevertheless since he contributed the greatest share, we call the whole his. So then it is in this case also. Again, with respect to a number of people, where the many are, we say ALL are: where few, nobody. So also Paul says, 'not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.'

And herein he establishes two great truths: one, that we should not be lifted up by what we do well: the other that when we do well, we should attribute to God the cause of our well-doing. Therefore even thou run (he would say), even shouldst thou be very earnest, do not consider that the well doing is thine own. For if thou obtain not the impusle that is from above, all is to no purpose. Nevertheless that thou wilt attain that which thou earnestly strivest after is evident; so long as thou runnest, so long as thou willest.

He did not then assert this, that we run in vain, but that, if we think the whole to be our own, if we do not assign the greater part part to God, we run in vain. For neither hath God willed that the whole should be His, lest He should appear to be crowning us without cause: nor again our's, lest we should fall away to pride. For if when we have the smaller share, we think much of ourselves, what should we do if the whole depended on us?"

-St. John Chrysostom

Christ Is THE Priest

"The power of worship is a derivation in the Church from Christ's own priesthood; for, Christ is the Priest. He exteriorly manifested his sacerdotal power—mysterious and invisible in itself—when, instituting the cult of the New Law on the ruins of that of the Old Covenant, he gave to his death on the Cross the character of a definitive sacrificial offering, of a supreme liturgy, in which the beautiful fruits of grace would be poured out upon the world and enter the hearts of the faithful through the channels of Baptism, the Holy Eucharist, and the other sacraments.

There will be all throughout history, therefore, men incorporated in Christ the Priest, participating in the spiritual unction of his sovereign priesthood, drawn in the wake of his divine liturgy. The cultic mediation of the Head is transmitted to and diffused throughout the entire Body. Having been perfected in the Savior, it remains imperfect, or incomplete, in his members. These latter must now work through him, with him, and in him for the salvation of the world. This cultic mediation entered into time in order to remain really and continually present there, not in order to be immediately torn away from it, leaving men with only a memory -even if the most divine of memories! This, then, is the mystery of the primary priesthood of the Head, giving rise to a purely ministerial and secondary priesthood of the members -of the Body, which is the Church. The Church will exist in her fullness only where the priesthood of Christ -through Christian worship- continues to be exercised."

-Charles Cardinal Journet in Theology of the Church.

Divine Strength In Weakness

"This remarkable contrast between the power of Jesus and the opprression He endured constitutes the austere and sublime beauty of His spiritual physiognomy. It is something that escapes the eyes of the world and unfolds itself to the saints as they progress in the path of contemplation. If beauty, which is harmony, derives from unity in diversity, the sublime, which is the extraordinary beautiful, derives from the most intimate unity in the greatest diversity. It is the reconciliation of two extremes which God alone can harmonize.

This mystery has been completely disfigured by two opposing heresies. In the second century the Docetae were scandalized by the passion of the Savior which they considered unworthy of a God, and they declared that Jesus' sufferings had been only apparent. According to them, Jesus had not really suffered at Gethsemane and on the cross, nor had He been a victim. The painful Passion, they said, had been only a sham. To support this senseless contention, which is contrary to the most soundly established facts, the Docetae maintained that the Word had not taken a real body in Jesus, but only the appearences of a body like a ghost. What errors we are led into when we are scandalized by the Cross!

In contrast to this error, there were other heretics later on, like Calvin, who held that Jesus had suffered so very much on Calvary that He had yielded for a moment to despair, and that He had endured the pains of hell at the moment when He cried out: 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' Calvin seemed to think that Jesus redeemed us more through the intensity of His sufferings than through the infinite value of the love with which He endured them.

Thus error swings from one extreme to the other, because men do not know or choose to ignore the culminating point where apparently contrary truths are reconciled. The doctrine of the Church remains on the lofty levels where the diverse aspects of truth are harmonized. It maintains that Jesus on the cross was the most powerful priest by His oblation and the most annihilated voluntary victim. Far more, it holds that divine power has never manifested itself in such a sublime manner as in the passion of the Savior, for this was the greatest action of His life, the consummation of His mission. There is here an admirable law of the spiritual world, which is continually fulfilled in men's souls. 'Power is made perfect in infirmity,' saith the Lord."

-Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. in Our Saviour and His Love For Us.
(as a side note, I learned last night at the Phenomenology of JP II conference from Cardinal Avery Dulles that Garrigou-Lagrange was John Paul II's dissertation director at the Angelicum. How cool is that?!)

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Priest

"The bread is at first common bread. But when the sacramental action consecrates it, it is called the Body of Christ, for it becomes the Body of Christ...The same power of the word makes the priest worthy of veneration and honor. The new blessing separates him from common, ordinary life. Yesterday he was one of the crowd, one of the people. Now, suddenly, he has become a guide, a leader, a teacher of righteousness, an instructor in hidden mysteries. And this he does without any change in body or form. But, while he appears to be the man he was before, his invisible soul has really been transformed to a higher condition by some invisible power and grace."

-Gregory of Nyssa