Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Bishop

"For when you submit to the bishops as to Jesus Christ, I see you living, not as men live, but as Jesus Christ, who died for you, wants. Believing in his death, you escape death. You must do nothing without the bishop, as indeed you do. You must also submit to the presbyterium as to the Apostles of Jesus Christ, our hope....You will succeed if you remain inseparable from Jesus Christ in God and from the bishop and the commands of the Apostles. The person with the sanctuary is pure but the person who is outside is not; i.e. he who acts without the bishop, presbyters, and deacons, is the one whose conscience is not clear."

-St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Trallians.

Authorship Of Hebrews

“…Before we come to the task of dividing this epistle, it should be noted that before the Council of Nicaea, some doubted that this was one of Paul’s epistles for two reasons: first, because it does not follow the patters of the epistles. For there is no salutation and no name of the author. Secondly, it does not have the style of the others; indeed, it is more elegant. Furthermore, no other work of Scripture proceeds in such an orderly manner in the sequence of words and sentences as this one. Hence, they said that it was the work of Luke, the evangelist, or of Barnabas or Pope Clement. For he wrote to the Athenians according to this style. Nevertheless, the old doctors, especially Dionysius and certain others, accept the words of this epistle as being Paul’s testimony. Jerome, too, acknowledges it as Paul’s epistle.

To the first argument, therefore, one may respond that there are three reasons why Paul did not write his name: first, because he was not the apostle of the Jews but of the Gentiles: ‘He who wrought in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, wrought in me also among the Gentiles’ (Gal. 2:8); consequently, he made no mention of his apostleship at the beginning of this epistle, because he was unwilling to speak of it except to the Gentiles. Secondly, because his name was odious to the Jews, since he taught that the observance of the Law were no longer to be kept, as is clear from Acts (15:2). Consequently, he concealed his name, lest the salutary doctrine of this epistle go for naught. Thirdly, because he was a Jew: ‘They are Hebrews: so am I’ (2 Cor 11:22). And fellow countrymen find it hard to endure greatness in their own: ‘A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country and in his own house’ (Mt. 12:57).

To the second argument the answer might be given that the style is more elegant, because even though he knew many languages: ‘I speak with all your tongues’ (1 Cor. 14:18), he knew the Hebrew language better than the others, for it was his native tongue, the one in which he wrote this epistle. As a result, he could write more ornately in his own idiom than in some other language; hence, he says: ‘For though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge’ (2 Cor. 11:6). But Luke, who was a skillful writer, translated this ornate Hebrew into Greek.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews.

I think the last part of Aquinas' argument is key. Most authorship debates concerning Hebrews assumes that the epistle was originally written in Greek, in which case they say it couldn't be St. Paul because his Greek wasn't that eloquent. Yet if it was originally written in Hebrew and later translated, then there is no problem at all with St. Paul being the author. And we know that St. Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew because he was writing to a Jewish audience and then it was later translated into Greek. Why then could St. Paul not have done likewise?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Do Nothing Without The Bishop

"Since in the visitors I have mentioned above, I have seen in faith and loved your entire community, so I beg you, take great care always to act in God's concord, with the bishop who holds the place of God, with the presbyters, who are like the college of the Apostles, and with the deacons who are so dear to me, to whom Jesus' own special work has been entrusted....Let there be nothing among you to serve as an excuse for schism, but unite yourselves to the bishop and to those who preside as an example and lesson of immortality.

Just as the Lord did nothing either by himself or through his Apostles without his Father, with whom he is one, so you should do nothing without the bishops and the presbyters. Do not try to make what you do on your own look acceptable but always act with other: a single prayer, a single petition, one mind, one hope in love, in joy beyond reproach: This is Jesus Christ to whom nothing is to be preferred. All of you hasten to come together as in a single temple of God, around a single altar, united with the one Jesus Christ...."

-St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians.

Who Wrote The Letter To The Hebrews?

"Why, St. Paul did of course!"

This was how Fr. Swetnam started off our first class on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Why does he think that St. Paul wrote the epistle. Precisely for the reason that most contemporary scholars think he didn't---there is no name attached to it.

You see, St. Paul was commissioned to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, while St. Peter was commissioned to preach to the Jews. Thus, with St. Paul's love of his fellow Jews, he wanted to write to them also before his time on earth was up. He left off his name because he was encroaching on the jurisdiction of Peter. This is something (the idea of episcopal jurisdiction) that is totally lost to non-Catholics. In the Catholic Church it has always been, from the time of the Apostles to today, the rule that bishops are not to teach within the jurisdiction of another bishop. So, out of respect for Peter, Paul wrote his epistle anonymously.

Another, clue that St. Paul is the author of the epistle is that at the end of Hebrews, he says that he is sending Timothy to them, who had just been released from captivity.

St. Paul wrote Hebrews, and he wrote it while under house arrest!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Be Submissive To Your Bishop

"It is fitting that you walk with the thought of your bishop, as you are doing. Your justly known presbyterium, worthy of God, is fitted to the bishop as strings to a harp; thus, in your harmonious love, Jesus Christ is being sung. May each of you also become a member of the choir, so that in harmonious unity, taking the pitch from God in unison, you may sing through Jesus Christ with a single voice to the Father so that he may hear you and recognize you through your good works as members of his Son. It is useful for you to live in perfect unity so that you may continue to participate in God.

If I in so short a time have become so close to your bishop in an intimacy that is entirely spiritual and not merely human, how much more blessed is it for you to be closely united to him as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and Jesus to the Father, so that all things agree in harmonious unity. Let no one wander off; if anyone is not within the sanctuary he is depriving himself of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two people together has so much power, how much greater the united prayer of bishop and congregation. Anyone who spurns the liturgical assembly shows himself arrogant and judges himself, as it is written, 'God resists the proud.' (Prv. 3.34) Let us then take care not to stand against the bishop so that we will be submissive to God....So it is clear that we must look upon the bishop as the Lord himself."

-Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Who's Better On A Computer: Jesus Or Satan?

Jesus and Satan were having an on-going argument about who was better on the computer. They had been going at it for days, and frankly God was tired of hearing all the bickering.

Finally fed up, God said, "THAT'S IT! I have had enough. I am going to set up a test that will run for two hours, and from those results, I will judge who does the better job."

So Satan and Jesus sat down at the keyboards and typed away.

They moused.

They faxed.

They e-mailed.

They e-mailed with attachments.

They downloaded.

They did spreadsheets!

They wrote reports.

They created labels and cards.

They created charts and graphs.

They did some genealogy reports.

They did every job known to man.

Jesus worked with heavenly efficiency and Satan was faster than hell

Then, ten minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, rain poured, and, of course, the power went off.

Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld.

Jesus just sighed.

Finally the electricity came back on, and each of them restarted their computers. Satan started searching frantically, screaming:

"It's gone! It's all GONE! "I lost everything when the power went out!"

Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours of work.

Satan observed this and became irate.

"Wait!" he screamed. "That's not fair! He cheated! How come he has all his work and I don't have any?"

God just shrugged and said,


Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Decline Of The Authentic Concept Of Obedience

“According to some it would no longer even be a Christian virtue but a heritage of an authoritarian, dogmatic past, hence one to be overcome. If the Church, in fact, is our Church, if we alone are the Church, if her structures are not willed by Christ, then it is no longer possible to conceive of the existence of a hierarchy as a service to the baptized established by the Lord himself. It is a rejection of the concept of an authority willed by God, an authority therefore that has its legitimation in God and not---as happens in political structures---in the consensus of the majority of the members of an organization. But the Church of Christ is not a party, not an association, not a club. Her deep and permanent structure is not democratic but sacramental, consequently hierarchical. For the hierarchy based on the apostolic succession is the indispensable condition to arrive at the strength, the reality of the sacrament. Here authority is not based on the majority votes; it is based on the authority of Christ himself, which he willed to pass on to men who were to be his representatives until his definitive return. Only if this perspective is acquired anew will it be possible to rediscover the necessity and fruitfulness of obedience to the legitimate ecclesiastical hierarchies.”

-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in The Ratzinger Report.

Ecclesiological Crisis And Resolution

“My impression is that the authentically Catholic meaning of the reality ‘Church’ is tacitly disappearing, without being expressly rejected. Many no longer believe that what is at issue is a reality willed by the Lord himself. Even with some theologians, the Church appears to be a human construction, an instrument created by us and one which we ourselves can freely reorganize according to the requirements of the moment. In other words, in many ways a conception of Church is spreading in Catholic thought, and even in Catholic theology, that cannot even be called Protestant in a ‘classic’ sense. Many current ecclesiological ideas, rather, refer to the model of certain North American ‘free churches’, in which the past believers took refuge from the oppressive model of the ‘State Church’ produced by the Reformation. Those refuges, no longer believing in an institutional Church willed by Christ, and wanting at the same time to escape the State Church, created their own church, an organization structured according to their needs…..

For a Catholic the Church is indeed composed of men who organize her external visage. But behind this, the fundamental structures are willed by God himself, and therefore they are inviolable. Behind the human exterior stands the mystery of a more than human reality, in which reformers, sociologists, organizers, have no authority whatsoever. If the Church, instead, is viewed as a human construction, the product of our own efforts, even the contents of the faith end up assuming an arbitrary character: the faith, in fact, no longer has an authentic, guaranteed instrument through which to express itself. Thus, without a view of the mystery of the Church that is also supernatural and not only sociological, Christology itself loses its reference to the divine in favor of a purely human structure, and ultimately it amounts to a purely human project: the Gospel becomes the Jesus-project, the social-liberation project or other merely historical, immanent projects that can still seem religious in appearance, but which are atheistic in substance…..

It is necessary to recreate an authentically Catholic climate, to find again the meaning of the Church as Church of the Lord, as t he locus of the real presence of God in the world. That mystery of which Vatican II speaks when it writes those awesomely challenging words which correspond nonetheless to the whole Catholic tradition: ‘the Church, or, in other words, the Kingdom of Christ now present in mystery’

-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in The Ratzinger Report.

Friday, August 24, 2007


My article on The Mariology of Joseph Ratzinger has been published over at the Mother of All Peoples web magazine. Go check it out!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Queenship Of Mary

Today is the feast of the Queenship of Mary, crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth by her Son Jesus Christ, Lord and King!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Woman Of Revelation

"By the woman here (Rev. 12) we may also understand the Blessed Virgin Mary, because she is the Mother of the Church, for she brought forth Him who is the Head of the Church, and is herself the daughter of the Church, since she is the greatest member of the Church."

-St. Ambrose, Expositio Apocalypsis, (int. Opp. S. Ambrosii, ad Apoc. xii. 4)

The Scheeben Renewal: The Primacy Of Christ (subtitled: I Love Scheeben!)

"The authentic doctrine of Christ’s universal primacy was propounded in a profound and often original manner by the outstanding German theologian, Matthias Scheeben (d. 1888). The characteristic features of his theology are an attentive and controlled meditation on Sacred Scripture and a careful study of the Greek Fathers, especially St. Irenaeus, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and St. Gregory of Nyssa. From this point of view, he offers us the most complete treatment of the thesis. For this reason he may be rightly regarded as an important pioneer. His general conclusion is that the doctrine of the universal primacy of Christ, willed by God independently of creatures and especially of sin, is the only one that is fully warranted by Revelation.

According to our author, the very first decree of God, which is rooted in the communication of divine love, has for its object the Word Incarnate-Redeemer. Not a trace here of the distinction between passible and impassible Christ with reference to Adam’s fall. For Scheeben, an Incarnation decreed by God exclusively or even primarily for our redemption, post praevisum lapsum, is a theological enormity which is incompatible with the very concept of God.

The author concentrates his attention particularly on the death of the Savior. He wishes to ‘liberate’ our soteriology from all anthropocentrism and hamartiocentrism. The Incarnation is not per se a ‘humiliation’ on the part of God: ‘God stoops down to man’s level by becoming man, without however quitting His exalted position; this condescension is precisely the truest and most perfect proof of His greatness.’

God lowered Himself freely, not compelled or conditioned by anything outside Himself. But does not St. Paul say that, by becoming man, the Son of God ‘emptied’ Himself (Phil. 2:6-7) and hence underwent a ‘humiliation’? Certainly, Scheeben answers, but not because he became man, but because He assumed a passible, mortal nature when He had a right to a human nature that was glorious inasmuch as assumed by the Word.

And here the famous distinction comes up again. If the Incarnation was willed by God independently of any creature, and if it is not per se a humiliation (since the Son of God would have a right to a glorious human nature), can it then be said that the ‘emptying’ of Himself, or the taking of a passible nature was caused by the need to repair man’s sin in a perfect manner and according to the demands of justice? If so, was not the ‘modality’ of the Incarnation willed ‘after’ the prevision of sin and because of it?

Not at all, Scheeben replies. It cannot be held that the ‘modality’ of the Incarnation was determined by the Fall of man and by the need to repair it de condigno. The very same reasons which forbid us to teach that Christ was willed essentially for man, forbid us to teach that His possibility was essentially willed for the sake of man’s sin.

The current misunderstanding on this point stems from the idea that suffering is humiliating and that dying is a punishment. One can almost perceive a subtle leaning toward Monophysitism in so many theologians:

‘…..suffering and death are not in themselves ignominious; they are such only when they freight the subject with a compelling necessity, in consequence of nature or of sin, and against his will.’

Now, this is certainly not the case with Christ. The reason for His suffering and death are quite different. To begin with, possibility and death were not imposed on Him, but were freely assumed. And, as Scheeben remarks, in this case suffering may well be Christ’s supreme honor and glory. Just what is the meaning, the purpose of suffering? Admittedly, on the purely natural level, one cannot but prefer joy to suffering. However, in relation to higher values, suffering and even death can be preferable to, and more glorious than joy and pleasure.

‘We take suffering upon ourselves only to gain a greater good. But a person suffers for others not only to relieve a need or to acquire a good for them, but also for the sole reason that he shows his love and esteem better by suffering than by all the deeds he performs for their benefit. ….Suffering thus undertaken is obviously an act of the purest self-sacrifice and the most sublime virtue, and hence is more honorable and lovable than impassibility.’

And again Scheeben underlines:

‘….suffering is the more honorable the greater the freedom of the person concerned, and the less he is limited in his love to the bare need of the beloved. Hence we should be disparaging Christ’s honor if we were to hold that He had allowed Himself to be subjected to suffering merely because, in consequence of sin, God had some need of the restitution of His honor, or the sinner had need of redemption.’

Christ appears most majestic in His sufferings precisely when we recall that He suffered ‘to give to God the highest possible glory, and to creatures the proof of a love which is worth incalculably more than the aid He accords them in their wretchedness.’

Scheeben observes daringly that the reason why the Word chose to assume a human nature rather than an angelic one, was precisely because the former made it possible for Him to die and thus show His love for the Father. The greatest glory of God and of Christ is the Cross, but it is not the need of the Cross that justifies the death of Christ. It is rather the other way around. ‘We believe rather that God has connected the restoration of the world with the Cross of His Son in order to glorify the Cross.’ According to Scheeben, the profound reason for Christ’s possibility and death is contained in the idea of sacrifice as the supreme manifestation of worship and love toward the Father. Since Jesus is God’s greatest Lover, He freely assumed a passible body so as to be able to immolate Himself, dying on the Cross. Sacrifice is the most perfect and effective way to glorify God. ‘Therefore, if the God-Man is to promote the infinite glorification of God in the most effective and perfect manner possible, He must offer to God a latreutic sacrifice of infinite value.’

The redemption, then, is implicit in Christ’s sacrifice which is essentially an act of love. The Cross, however, in no way depends on the Fall. Like the Incarnation, the death on the Cross is willed ‘before’ the prevision of the Fall. And in the death on the Cross, as a response of love, is present every virtuality, such as reparation and expiation.

As we can see, in Scheeben’s theology the primacy of Christ appears in its greatest extension and worth; it affects both the natural and the supernatural orders; it gives the keynote to the whole breadth of theology; nature and grace, predestination and salvation, knowledge of God and of the Blessed Trinity, the supernatural world, Mariology--- literally everything is stamped with a Christological character. For our author, the whole of theology is rooted in Christology.

As far as the doctrine of the primacy is concerned, we should underline Scheeben’s unitary and organic perspective, and the altogether original solution in connection with the death on the Cross. No trace here of either anthropocentrism or hamartiocentrism. We may note that the theological progress achieved in this connection especially by St. Bernadine, St. Lawrence and Scheeben is, in the last analysis, an authentic explication of Scotus’ famous text:

‘God first loves Himself; secondly, He loves Himself for others, and this is an ordered love, thirdly, He wishes to be loved by the One who can love Him in the highest way---speaking of the love of someone who is extrinsic to Him; and fourthly, He foresees the union of that nature which must love Him with the greatest love even if no one had fallen.’

Scotus, we may recall, had already brought out the fact that Christ’s Passion and death must be evaluated within the dimension of love and freedom.

Something which Scheeben, like St. Bernardine, does not explain fully is the notion of redemption, although for him also ‘to redeem’ means considerably more than ‘to liberate from sin.’ The idea of ‘divinization’ which he owes to the Greek Fathers and which constitutes the primary effect of Christ’s primacy in relation to angels and men, already denotes an improvement over the views prevalent among Western theologians. In this broader perspective the primary sense of the Incarnation is an elevating function, namely, to introduce the creature into the Trinitarian life. The liberating facet connected with sin is a totally subordinate one."

-Francis Xavier Pancheri in The Universal Primacy of Christ.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What Christ Established In Peter Remains

"Brothers, when it comes to fulfilling my duties as bishop, I discover that I am weak and slack, weighed down by the weakness of my own condition, while at the same time, I want to act generously and courageously. However, I draw my strength from the untiring intercession of the almighty and eternal Priest who, like us but equal to the Father, lowered his divinity to the level of man and raised humankind to the level of God. The decisions he made give me a just and holy joy. For when he delegated many pastors to care for his flock, he did not abandon watching over his beloved sheep. Thanks to that fundamental and eternal help, I in turn have received the protection and support of the apostle Peter, who also does not abandon his function. This solid foundation, on which the whole of the Church is built, never grows tired of carrying the whole weight of the building that rests on it.

The firmness of faith, for which the first of the apostles was praised, never fails. Just as everything that Peter professed in Christ remains, so what Christ established in Peter remains… The order willed by God’s truth remains. Saint Peter perseveres in the solidity that he received; he has not abandoned the governance of the Church, which was placed in his hands. That, my brothers, is what that profession of faith inspired by God the Father obtained in the heart of the apostle. He received the solidity of a rock, which no assault can shake. In the entire Church, Peter says every day: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” "

-Pope St. Leo the Great (d. 461)

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Feast Of The Transfiguration Of Our Lord

"Jesus took Peter and James and his brother John, and ascending a high mountain with them, showed them the brightness of his glory; for, although they had recognized the majesty of God in him, yet they did not know the power of his body, wherein his deity was contained. This is why the Lord had promised that some of his disciples should not taste death till they saw "the Son of man coming in his Kingdom”, that is, in the kingly brilliance which specially belonging to the human nature he had assumed…

The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed. With no less forethought he was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. The members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head.

The Lord had himself spoken of this when he foretold the splendour of his coming: “Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43). Saint Paul the apostle bore witness to this same truth when he said, “I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared to the future glory that is to be revealed in us” (Rm 8,18). In another place he says, “You are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory” (Col 3:4)."
-Saint Leo the Great

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Evils Of Planned Parenthood And The Mainstream Media Cover-up

H/T Chris Duffel

Quote Of The Day

"Books are the single most effective technological invention in the history of education."

-Peter Kreeft in Socratic Logic.


Last week was a really busy one for me. Franciscan University’s Summer Conferences were going on and I was able to meet and listen to several great people. I finally got a chance to meet Michael Barber and Chris Cuddy, who’s blogs I read regularly and I met for the first time Josh McManaway, who’s blog I will also be reading daily from now on….and you should too! I had some fantastic conversations with these three and I feel really blessed for it!

I also met David Currie and heard excellent talks given by Gary Michuta on the formation of the Canon, Mike Aquilina on the perennial appeal of the Fathers of the Church, Scott Hahn on Reasons to Believe, and Fr. Benedict Groeschel on the Eucharist.

I was also asked to give a testimony on how I came to Franciscan University (which was basically my conversion story crammed into 5 minutes!). It went very well, but I was extremely nervous speaking in front of a thousand or so people!

On Thursday, I also got to go see a Red Sox game in Cleveland! Of course, the Red Sox won and Manny Ramirez hit two home runs included a record making 461 feet homer on the very first pitch that was thrown to him of his very first at-bat of the game! The tickets for the game happened to be a present from a friend to celebrate my 27th Birthday, which was this past Friday.

That’s all the news I have for now. Greek ends tomorrow, so I will be posting a lot more often….possibly even in ‘'Ελλην!

Ask A Father

Q: St. John Chrysostom, is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass merely an earthly reality?
A: "When you see the Lord immolated and lying upon the altar, and the priest bent over that sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that precious blood, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven?"