Saturday, February 23, 2008

Nature And Supernature

“Grace presupposes nature, we say, because only with a true rational nature can man act toward God. Only with his own real capacity of action can man enter into a real friendship with him. The life of grace means precisely entering into friendship with the divine persons, and this means being able to receive the gift of God’s love with full awareness and knowledge of the absolute freedom and gratuity of the gift. God’s self-giving in grace is certainly gratuitous, and thus truly a love on his part. It must be received in the same way by the creature, man. He must be able to recognize God’s love as a gift, and must be able to respond to him freely and in love, that is, as a person.

If man, then, must be a personal spirit able to exist and act on the foundation of a natural structure and reality, he must also be open to the personal invitation of God’s love. He must have a capacity for the infinite; he must be a being not closed in upon himself but able to go out in knowledge and love to a personal encounter with the personal God. The natures of created beings lesser than man are not open in this way to God, for lower creatures cannot transcend themselves; they are enclosed, in a sense, in their own natural being. But by his nature, man is capable of going out of himself to meet God. He is created in such a way as to be able to enter into relationship with the divine persons. Not only is man capable of this in an absolute sense; he is so constituted that he can welcome God in virtue of his own deepest longings and desires.

This does not mean in any sense that man’s natural structure or dynamism of action demands the personal gift of divine love. Precisely the opposite holds true, for man in his nature and activity must be capable of receiving God’s gift as totally gratuitous. This means that man’s nature must be so genuinely self-consistent in its constitution so that it does not demand grace by any sort of natural necessity. Rather the inner reality of nature must be such as to allow man to be truly man, and thus to be capable of responding to God’s love freely and without any inner exigency or compulsion. Catholic theology, in maintaining this position, respects not only the genuine being of man but also the gratuity and supernatural character of the divine personal gift. The very transcendence of the gift demands the reality of nature, which is to say that the proper appreciation of the order of grace involves an accurate view of the structure of nature.

If, then, human nature does not demand grace, it is yet open to grace, and this in a unique way not shared by any work of creation below it. This openness is shown in the capacity of man for a knowledge of the reality of being and in his ability to love reality as good. Man’s abilities to know and to love find their proper field of exercise in the world of created beings, but in their activity they manifest the power to go beyond the individual realities of this world. Human love, too, can never be fully satisfied with the goodness of individual creatures.

Man’s powers of knowledge and love thus manifest a capacity which is not limited by this world. For this reason the gift of God himself can be received by man and welcomed as the ultimate and absolute fulfillment of his deepest longings. Man is constituted in such a way as to be truly a self-consistent being, but at the same time he is a personal spirit capable of being elevated to the order of grace. He can receive the gift of God as the ultimate perfection of his nature and as the gratuitous beneficence of divine love, a reality wholly beyond the demands and expectations of his nature.”

-P. Gregory Stevens, OSB in The Life of Grace.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Essential Difference Between Mortal And Venial Sin

“….we arrive at a theological concept of mortal sin and of its essential difference from venial sin. A person commits a mortal sin when he abandons the divine order so as to give up God as his last end and withdraws from subjection to Him. He commits a venial sin when he does not carefully pursue the line of conduct leading to his goal, but at the same time does not abandon the goal itself and consequently his union with God. Venial sin is a violation of the order leading to the end, but not of the end itself. Therefore charity, as love of the end, and with it grace, is not extinguished by venial sin. Venial sin defiles grace in the way that gold is exteriorly tarnished without any interior decomposition. That is why charity and grace are not substantially diminished by venial sin. Only mortal sin can assail their substance, and when it does so, it not merely weakens but destroys.”

-Matthias Scheeben in Nature and Grace.

Balthasar On Nature And Grace In The Thought Of Matthias Scheeben

“If we survey his work as a whole we have to be thankful for the initial clarity of his conceptual distinctions [between the natural and the supernatural] which later allows him to proceed without the least danger to treat of the very profound interpenetration of both realms, a task on which he had already embarked at the conclusion of his book Nature and Grace and which from that point on becomes increasingly important. As soon as Scheeben passes from formal considerations to the content of the mysteries, we see that the creature’s ‘elevation’ into God occurs as a result of a prior descent and ingress on God’s part, an interpenetration to which, from the very beginning, Scheeben gives the name of ‘marriage.’ As he proceeds he introduces and develops the concept [of marriage] in every aspect of dogmatic theology. His theology thus becomes one great doctrine of eros, to an extent that far surpasses anything attained in this respect by past theology.”

-Hans Urs von Balthasar in The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, Vol. 1: Seeing the Form.

In Faith, Receive The Savior's Words

"It was suitable for him to be in us divinely by the Holy Spirit. It was also suitable for him to be mingled with our bodies by his holy flesh and precious blood, which we possess as a life-giving Eucharist, in the form of bread and wine. God feared that seeing actual flesh and blood placed on the holy tables of our churches would terrify us. Humbling himself to our infirmities, God infuses into the things set before us the power of life. He transforms them into the effectiveness of his flesh, that we may have them for a life-giving participation, that the body of life thus might be found in us as a life-producing seed. Do not doubt that this is true. Christ plainly says, 'This is my body. This is my blood.' In faith, receive the Savior's word. Since he is the truth, he cannot lie. You will honor him. The wise John says, 'He that receives his witness has set his seal that God is true. For he whom God sent speaks the words of God.' The words of God, of course, are true. In no way whatsoever can they be false. Although we cannot understand how God does that, yet he himself knows the way of his works."

-St. Cyril of Alexandria in his Commentary on Luke, Homily 142.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Karl Barth And Infant Baptism

“…the Continental Protestant debate on infant baptism in the mid-twentieth century, as yet has no ending but bears all the marks of interminability. Ignited by Emil Brunner’s brief comment in The Divine-Human Encounter that the current practice of infant baptism was ‘scandalous’, the debate was fueled by Barth’s inflammatory 1943 lecture. According to Barth, baptism is not a ‘cause’ of redemption but an auxiliary rite concerned, as Calvin put it, with the cognitio salutis. Christ’s word and work alone cause salvation but this word and the work seek public recognition and therefore take on a sacramental Gestalt. Baptism thus enables the believer to ‘get sight’ of his fellowship with Christ by picturing death and resurrection with Him. If this is true, candidates for baptism must come to it rather than be brought. Thus, Barth castigates infant baptism as a ‘wound in the body of the Church,’ a ‘hole’ in baptismal practice, as ‘arbitrary and despotic’, turning what should be a free dialogue into an act of violence by imposing a religious identity on the baptized without his consent. Rhetorically, Barth is less ferocious in the fragment on baptism that closes the Church Dogmatics, but his rejection of infant baptism is implicit when he describes baptism as man’s initial Yes to God’s prevenient grace.

In his lecture, Barth takes note of the traditional Reformed analogy of circumcision and baptism but dismisses it with the comment that circumcision was a sign of natural birth into the lineage of Israel. In Church Dogmatics IV/4, Barth concedes that the analogy is ‘intrinsically correct and important’ because it highlights the ‘unity of the old and new covenants in spite of their formal distinction.’ Still, this does not imply that the ‘definitions and meaning of the two were interchangeable,’ because the church, in contrast to Israel, is ‘not a nation. It is a people freely and newly called and assembled out of Israel and all nations,’ recruited not by birth but through the new birth, so that ‘Christian baptism, as distinct from Israelite circumcision, cannot be on the basis of the physical descent of the candidate’.

There are several problems with this. Circumcision was never a sign of purely natural descent, since Yahweh instructed Abraham to circumcise every male member of his household, including servants and their sons (Gen. 17:12, Exod. 12:44). Even conceding that circumcision had a ‘national’ character, it was equally a religious initiation, since the nation was religiously constituted. It would be wholly foreign to the Old Testament to dissociate covenantal faithfulness from life among God’s people: Belonging to Israel meant belonging to the people belonging to Yahweh; ‘your God will be my God’ entailed ‘your people shall be my people’ (Ruth 1:16). Barth’s contrast between Israel as ‘nation’ and the church as freely called assembly hints that the Christian religion no longer has the irreducibly public and political character manifest in Hebrew religion. This interpretation is strengthened by Barth’s claim that baptism is a public expression of Christ’s work of salvation, a formulation that implies that salvation itself is hidden from public view.

Inclusion of infants in Israel was not a ‘formal’ matter, a fact hinted at in Genesis 17:13, where household circumcision is identical to the ‘covenant.’ Redemption is the restoration and glorification of humanity, and Israel was elected as the seed and type of a redeemed race, living in Yahweh’s presence as humanity was created to live. Therefore, the covenant was necessarily as wide as human life itself, embracing the whole communal practice of Israel, from worship to politics, from cradle to grave. Were infants excluded, Israel would no longer have been the initial form of redeemed humanity but an organization for the religiously mature. Barth’s protest implies that, while Israel was the type of redeemed humanity, the church is a religious association, consisting of those who have made free and conscious decisions. Barth’s complaint is really against the Old Testament form of religion, and this radically subverts his affirmation of covenantal unity.

Barth’s complaint is equally against the Old Testament’s view of initiation, for Yahweh not only permitted but demanded the ‘violence’ of an imposed religious identity; to neglect this duty was to break covenant (Gen. 17:14). For the Old Testament, initiation was not a matter of ‘getting sight’ of one’s status, nor the echoing human Yes; for male infants of Israel, it was the prevenient sign that one was included, willy-nilly, under the Yes of God. For Barth, initiation ‘works differently’ in the church than it did in Israel. Semi-Marcionite sacramentology is hard at work.”

-Peter J. Leithart in The Priesthood of the Plebs.

Altruism And The Trinity

When arguing for proofs of the existence of God, many people bring up the moral law. Yet an atheist might be able to explain the moral law away citing sociological conditions and other various explanations. However, when the issue of altruism comes up, atheists are at a lost to account for this total self giving of a person for the sake of another, without hope of any recompense or recognition. On the other hand, Theists, namely those who believe in a Triune God, have a simple explanation for this seemingly unexplainable phenomenon. The answer is the Trinity. The fact that God created us in His image and likeness is the key to understanding why altruism exists. God is love (1 Jn 4:8) and the bond that unites the Father and the Son in the Trinity is the Holy Spirit, Who is the total self-donation by which the Father pours out Himself in love to the Son and the Son to the Father. The self-donating love seen in the Trinity is the law of God’s covenant with us and we are called to imitate this love. We are to give our entire selves to each other out of charity and in so doing give our whole self back to God. This is what Christ did on the Cross for our salvation. He succeeded where Adam failed. The first Adam was unwilling to lay down his life for his bride and his Father. The second Adam willingly offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice and thereby gained redemption for us all. “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

New Developments Toward The Fifth Marian Dogma

Here is the text of the petition.

Heretics Get Some Things Right...

"... she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin.... God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil.... God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her."

-Martin Luther in his Commentary on the Hail Mary.

Christ Was Not A Sola Scripturist

“The divine wisdom of Christ’s teaching also guides Aquinas’s response to the problem of why Christ did not write down his teaching in a book. Christ’s teaching was not meant to be merely understood intellectually; rather, it was meant to be ‘imprinted on the hearts of His hearers’ and to become an interior law. Christ’s teaching was so personally powerful that writing it down could only dilute its force. In the same vein, the realities taught by Christ were too profound to be fully expressed in writing. Aquinas cites Jn 21:25 to the effect that Christ’s teaching is inexhaustibly rich and will never be plumbed by mere human books. Had Christ written a book, ‘men would have had no deeper thought of His doctrine than that which appears on the surface of the writing.’ The written word simply cannot contain all that Christ taught. Finally, Christ’s choice not to write a book fits with his mission of forming a Church. He did not wish to teach people directly through his won written word. Rather, he willed to teach people through the testimony if his apostles and their successors. In this way, a fitting order is preserved: Christ is seen to be the highest teacher, rather than having his writings put on par with those of his followers. On the other hand, Aquinas affirms Augustine’s statement that Christ can be said to have written and spoken through his apostles, since they are his ‘members.’ The New Testament is, in this sense, written under the direct guidance of Christ and reveals to us what Christ wished us to know about his deeds and words during his earthly ministry.”

-Matthew Levering in Christ's Fulfillment of Torah and Temple: Salvation According to Thomas Aquinas.

Cajetan Was Right

Man’s Twofold End

“The end towards which created things are directed by God is twofold; one which exceeds all proportion and faculty of created nature; and this end is life eternal, that consists in seeing God which is above the nature of every creature, as shown above (Q. 12, 4). The other end, however, is proportionate to created nature, to which end created being can attain according to the power of its nature.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Prima Pars, Q. 23, a. 1.

“Now there is a twofold ultimate perfection of rational or intellectual nature. The first is one which it can procure of its own natural power; and this is in a measure called beatitude or happiness. Hence Aristotle (Ethic. X.) says that man’s ultimate happiness consists in his most perfect contemplation, whereby in this life he can behold the best intelligible object; and that is God. Above this happiness there is still another, which we look forward to in the future, whereby we shall see God as He is. This is beyond the nature of every created intellect, as was shown above (Q. 12, 4.).

-St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Prima Pars, Q. 62, a.1. (emphasis his.)

Man’s Natural Desire For God

“…knowledge precedes the movement of the will. But the knowledge of the supernatural end comes to man from God, since man could not attain it by natural reason because it exceeds his natural capacity. So, divine help must precede the movements of our will toward the ultimate end.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Chapt. 149, no.5.

“Indeed, the movement whereby we are directed by grace to our ultimate end is voluntary, not violent, as we showed above. Now, there cannot be a voluntary movement toward something unless it is known. So, the knowledge of the ultimate end must be accorded us by grace, so that we may be voluntarily directed to it. But this knowledge cannot be by means of open vision in this life, as we showed above. Therefore, this knowledge must be through faith.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Chapt. 152, no.2.

“Moreover, no one is moved toward an end that he judges impossible to attain. So, in order that a person may push forward toward the end, he must have a feeling toward the end as toward something possible of attainment, and this is the feeling of hope. Therefore, since man is directed toward his ultimate end of happiness by grace, it was necessary for the hope of attaining happiness to be impressed on man’s power of feeling by means of grace.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Chapt. 153, no.5.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Theologia And Oikonomia

"The Fathers of the Church distinguish between theology (theologia) and economy (oikonomia). "Theology" refers to the mystery of God's inmost life within the Blessed Trinity and "economy" to all the works by which God reveals himself and communicates his life. Through the oikonomia the theologia is revealed to us; but conversely, the theologia illuminates the whole oikonomia. God's works reveal who he is in himself; the mystery of his inmost being enlightens our understanding of all his works. So it is, analogously, among human persons. A person discloses himself in his actions, and the better we know a person, the better we understand his actions."

-Catechism of the Catholic Church #236.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Actio Unitiva Ascribed To The Holy Ghost

“It is evident that there are important reasons for ascribing the actio unitiva to the Holy Ghost, and that is why this ascribing has a rich and deep meaning. We shall here summarize the most important reasons. The fact that the actio unitiva is ascribed to the Holy Ghost as its principle characterizes it as an action differing from that of creatures and from that of God Himself in the natural order as much as from the intrinsic action of God proper to His nature. Thus the actio unitiva appears in the first instance as an action of God, and indeed of a supernatural character, the aim of which arises above the natural order; in the second instance, as an actio which proceeds from God as an influence exerted because of a free and infinite love. The accomplishment of the union by the Holy Ghost, who proceeds from the very person who assumes humanity, shows that this person is absolutely complete in Himself and assumes the flesh, not because anything lacking to Him, but by virtue of the fullness of life and power, which reveals itself in the Holy Ghost. As the Holy Ghost is produced last of the persons in the Blessed Trinity, it is likewise He who appears as the natural author of the relations of God ad extra. And as He forms the crowning tie between the Father and the Son, so He effects the tie between the Son and His created nature.

The incarnation of the eternal Word considered as the actual ‘becoming flesh’ presents a further analogy with the embodiment of the interior word from the spirit of man into the spoken word of the mouth. As the spoken word becomes related to the interior word through the breath, which brings forth, so the flesh of the eternal Word is formed by this Word and is united with it through the breath of God. In its full essence the achieving of the union is an infusion and inbreathing of a principle of life by God, analogous to the natural and supernatural completion of the first man: an infusion and inbreathing into human nature, of the eternal Word according to His own subsistence. As such it appears most distinctly when represented as being effected through the effusion of God’s eternal breath of life, and this in a much deeper sense than the completion of the first man.

Lastly, we must understand the Incarnation as the highest form of God’s communication of Himself to the creature, and therefore of the deification, of the endowment with grace, and of the sanctification of the creature. All these effects now are such that they are naturally ascribed to the Holy Ghost and through that fact are strikingly elucidated in their essence.”

-Matthias Scheeben in Mariology, vol. 1

150th Anniversary Of Lourdes

"The 150 years since the apparitions of Lourdes invite us to turn our gaze towards the Holy Virgin, whose Immaculate Conception constitutes the sublime and freely-given gift of God to a woman so that she could fully adhere to divine designs with a steady and unshakable faith, despite the tribulations and the sufferings that she would have to face. For this reason, Mary is a model of total self-abandonment to God's will: she received in her heart the eternal Word and she conceived it in her virginal womb; she trusted in God and, with her soul pierced by a sword (cf. Lk 2: 35), she did not hesitate to share the Passion of her Son, renewing on Calvary at the foot of the Cross her "yes" of the Annunciation. To reflect upon the Immaculate Conception of Mary is thus to allow oneself to be attracted by the "yes" which joined her wonderfully to the mission of Christ, Redeemer of humanity; it is to allow oneself to be taken and led by her hand to pronounce in one's turn "fiat" to the will of God, with all one's existence interwoven with joys and sadness, hopes and disappointments, in the awareness that tribulations, pain and suffering make rich the meaning of our pilgrimage on the earth.

One cannot contemplate Mary without being attracted by Christ and one cannot look at Christ without immediately perceiving the presence of Mary. There is an indissoluble link between the Mother and the Son generated in her womb by the work of the Holy Spirit, and this link we perceive in a mysterious way in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, as the Fathers of the Church and theologians have pointed out from the early centuries onwards. "The flesh born of Mary, coming from the Holy Spirit, is bread descended from heaven", observed St Hilary of Poitiers. In the Bergomensium Sacramentary of the ninth century we read: "Her womb made flower a fruit, a bread that has filled us with an angelic gift. Mary restored to salvation what Eve had destroyed by her sin". And St Peter Damiani observed: "That body that the Most Blessed Virgin generated, nourished in her womb with maternal care, that body, I say, without doubt and no other, we now receive from the sacred altar, and we drink its blood as a sacrament of our redemption. This is what the Catholic faith believes, this the holy Church faithfully teaches". The link of the Holy Virgin with the Son, the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, is extended to the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. Mary, observes the Servant of God John Paul II, is a "woman of the Eucharist" in her whole life, as a result of which the Church, seeing Mary as her model, "is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery" (Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 53). In this perspective one understands even further why in Lourdes the cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary is joined to a strong and constant reference to the Eucharist with daily celebrations of the Eucharist, with adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament and with the blessing of the sick, which constitutes one of the strongest moments of the visit of pilgrims to the grotto of Massabielles."

-Pope Benedict XVI in his Message for the 16th World Day of the Sick.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Dignity Of Mary

“If, as St. Irenaeus says, [the Blessed Virgin Mary] acted the part of an advocate, a friend in need, even in her mortal life; if as St. Jerome and St. Ambrose say, she was on earth the great pattern of virgins; if she had a meritorious share in bringing about our redemption; if her maternity was gained by her faith and obedience; if her divine Son was subject to her; and if she stood by the cross with a mother’s heart and drank in to the full those sufferings which it was her portion to gaze upon, it is impossible that we should not associate these characteristics of her life on earth with her present state of blessedness. And this surely she anticipated when she said in her hymn that all ‘generations should call me blessed.’

I am aware that in thus speaking, I am following a line of thought that is rather a meditation than an argument in controversy, and I shall not carry it further. But still, before turning to other topics, it is to the point to enquire whether people’s surprise, at our belief in the Blessed Virgin’s present dignity, does not arise from the fact that most of them have never calmly considered her historical position in the Gospels, so as rightly to realize what that position imports. I do not claim for the generality of Catholics any greater powers of reflection upon the objects of their faith than Protestants commonly have. But, putting the run of Catholics aside, there is a sufficient number of religious men among us who, instead of expending their devotional energies (as so many serious Protestants do) on abstract doctrines, such as justification by faith only, or the sufficiency of Holy Scripture, employ themselves in the contemplation of Scripture facts, and bring out before their minds in a tangible form the doctrines involved in them and give such a substance and color to sacred history as to influence their brethren. And these brethren, though superficial themselves, are drawn by their Catholic instinct to accept conclusions which they could not indeed themselves have elicited, but which, when elicited, they feel to be true. However, it would be out of place to pursue this course of reasoning here; and instead of doing so, I shall take what perhaps you may think a very bold step—I shall find the doctrine of our Lady’s present exaltation in Scripture.

I mean to find it in the vision of the Woman and the Child in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation. Now here two objections will be made to me at once; first that such an interpretation is but poorly supported by the Fathers, and secondly that in ascribing such a picture of the Madonna (as it may be called) to the Apostolic Age, I am committing an anachronism.

As to the former of these objections, I answer as follows: Christians have never gone to Scripture for proof of their doctrines until there was actual need from the pressure of controversy. If in those times the Blessed Virgin’s dignity was unchallenged on all hands as a matter of doctrine, Scripture, as far as its argumentative matter was concerned, was likely to remain a sealed book to them. Thus, to take an instance in point; the Catholic party in the Anglican Church (say, the Nonjurors), unable by their theory of religion simply to take their stand on tradition, and searching for proof of their doctrines, had their eye sharpened to scrutinize and to understand in many places the letter of Holy Scripture, which to others brought no instruction. And the peculiarity of their interpretation is this—that these have in themselves great logical cogency yet are but faintly supported by patristical commentators.

As to the second objection which I have supposed, so far from allowing it, I consider that it is built upon a mere imaginary fact, and that the truth of the matter lies in the very contrary direction. The Virgin and Child is not a mere modern idea; on the contrary, it is represented again and again, as every visitor to Rome is aware, in the paintings of the Catacombs. Mary is there drawn with the Divine Infant in her lap, and she with hands extended in prayer, he with his hand in the attitude of blessing. No representation can more forcibly convey the doctrine of the high dignity of the Mother and, I will add, of her influence with her Son.

…In controversy with Protestants you could certainly use the traditional doctrine of the Church in early times as an explanation of a particular passage of Scripture, or at least as a suggestion, or as a defense, of the sense which you may wish to put upon it, quite apart from the question whether your interpretation itself is directly traditional. In the same way it is lawful for me, though I have not the positive words of the Fathers on my side, to shelter my own interpretation of the apostle’s vision in the Book of Revelation under the fact of the extant pictures of Mother and Child in the Roman Catacombs.

Again, there is another principle of Scripture interpretation which we hold as well as you. That is, when we speak of a doctrine contained in Scripture, we do not necessarily mean that it is contained there in direct categorical terms, but that there is no satisfactory way of accounting for the language and expressions of the sacred writers, concerning the subject matter in question, except to suppose that they held concerning it the opinion which we hold—that they would not have spoken as they have spoken unless they held it. For myself I have always felt the truth of this principle, as regards the Scripture proof of the Holy Trinity. I would not have discovered that doctrine in the sacred text without previous traditional teaching. But, when once it is suggested from without, it commends itself as the one true interpretation, from its appositeness—because no other view of doctrine, which can be ascribed to the inspired writers, so happily solves the obscurities and seeming inconsistencies of their teaching. And now to apply what I have been saying to the passage in the Book of Revelation.

If there is an apostle on whom our eyes would be fixed, as likely to teach us about the Blessed Virgin, it is St. John, to whom she was committed by our Lord on the cross—with whom, as tradition goes, she lived at Ephesus till she was taken away. This anticipation is confirmed; for, as I have said above, one of the earliest and fullest of our informants concerning her dignity, as being the Second Eve, is Irenaeus, who came to Lyons from Asia Minor and had been taught by the immediate disciples of St. John. The apostle’s vision is as follows:

‘A great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet; and on her head a crown of twelve stars. And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. And there was seen another sign in heaven; and behold a great red dragon…And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered, that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. And she brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod; and her son was taken up to God and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness.’ Now I do not deny of course that under the image of the woman, the Church is signified; but what I would maintain is this, that the holy apostle would not have spoken of the Church under this particular image unless there had existed a Blessed Virgin Mary who was exalted on high and the object of veneration of all the faithful.

No one doubts that the ‘man-child’ spoken of is an allusion to our Lord: why then is not the ‘woman’ an allusion to his Mother? This surely is the obvious sense of the words. Of course they have a further sense also, which is the scope of the image; doubtless the child represents the children of the Church, and doubtless the woman represents the Church. This, I grant, is the real or direct sense, but what is the sense of the symbol under which that real sense is conveyed? I answer, they are not personifications but persons. This is true of the child, therefore it is true of the woman.

But again, not only mother and child, but a serpent is introduced into the vision. Such a meeting of man, woman, and serpent has not been found in Scripture since the beginning of Scripture, and now it is found at its end. Moreover, in the passage in the Book of Revelation, as if to supply, before Scripture came to an end, what was wanting in its beginning, we are told, and for the first time, that the serpent in Paradise was the evil spirit. If the dragon of St. John is the same as the serpent of Genesis, and the man-child is ‘the seed of the woman,’ why is not the woman herself she whose seed the man-child is? And, if the first woman is not an allegory, why is the second? If the first woman is Eve, why is not the second Mary?

…Scripture deals with types rather than personifications. Israel stands for the chosen people, David for Christ, Jerusalem for heaven. Consider the remarkable representations, dramatic I may call them, in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea: predictions, threatenings, and promises are acted out by those prophets. Ezekiel is commanded to shave his head and to divide and scatter his hair; and Ahias tears his garment and gives ten out of twelve parts of it to Jereboam. So, too, the structure of the imagery in the Book of Revelation is not a mere allegorical creation, but is founded on the Jewish ritual.

…Coming back, then, to the vision in the Book of Revelation, I ask, If the Woman ought to be some real person, who can it be whom the apostle saw, and intends, and delineates, but that same Great Mother to whom the chapters in the Proverbs are accommodated? And let it be observed, moreover, that in this passage, from the allusion made in it to the history of the fall, Mary may be said still to be represented under the character of the Second Eve. I make a further remark: it is sometimes asked, Why do not the sacred writers mention our Lady’s greatness? I answer, she was, or may have been alive, when the apostles and evangelists wrote; there was just one book of Scripture certainly written after her death, and that book does (so to say) canonize and crown her.

But if all this be so, if it is really the Blessed Virgin whom Scripture represents as clothed with the sun, crowned with the stars of heaven, and with the moon as her footstool, what height of glory may we not attribute to her? And what are we to say of those who, through ignorance, run counter to the voice of Scripture, to the testimony of the Fathers, to the traditions of East and West, and speak and act contemptuously towards her whom the Lord delighteth to honor?”

-John Henry Newman in Difficulties of Anglicans.

The Immaculate: The Highest Synthesis Of Nature And Grace

“…It is necessary to observe how, by prophecy in the Old Testament, by existence in the New, the maternity and the co-redemption, the mediation and the queenship—all rooted in the divine, virginal maternity—give us the most complete biblical and theological portrait of Mary as the ‘woman’ conceived and willed by God ‘from the beginning and before the world was created’ (Sir 24:14), planned by Him ‘in one and the same decree’ with the Son (bull Ineffabilis Deus), ‘blessed’ among all women (Lk 1:42), ‘woman’ with all the potential of the so-called ‘eternal feminine’, ‘woman’ virgin, daughter, spouse, mother, each to the full extent of perfection these terms signify, in living relation with God the Father, of whom Mary is daughter, with God the Son, of whom Mary is Mother, with God the Holy Spirit, of whom Mary is spouse; in living relation with the Church and with mankind, of whom Mary is ‘mother in the order if grace’.

Thus, Mary realizes in herself the highest synthesis of nature and grace; an ineffable synthesis at its base and at its crown, alpha and omega, as it were, of the human person associated with the Divine Person of the Word Incarnate—the divine ‘alpha and omega’ (Rev 1:8)—the work of universal salvation, by a unique, absolutely exclusive, distinctive relation: the ‘relation’ of virginal maternity embracing the corporal and the spiritual, the human and the divine.

But a single phrase, encapsulating and articulating the total biblical reality, it seems to us, might be this: Mary is above all the woman immaculate, or still more briefly, she is the Immaculate.

Today, the title Immaculate would express most aptly the rich content of the mystery of Mary, both as predestined to the divine and spiritual maternity of the ‘seed’ (Gen 3:15) and of ‘her offspring’ (Rev 12:17), ‘in one and the same decree’ with the Word Incarnate (bull Ineffabilis Deus); and as preredeemed, without stain, opposed to sin, victorious adversary of the ‘serpent’ (Gen 3:15) and ‘dragon’ (Rev 12:3); and as ‘full of grace’ (Lk 1:28) and ‘clothed with the sun’ (Rev 12:1), filled within, that is, and invested without, by all the graces of the Holy Spirit she received for herself and for others, so as to be, in the terminology of Greek Orthodox theology the ‘icon of the Holy Spirit.’

The conception without original sin, the divine maternity, the perpetual virginity, the mediation and co-redemption, the assumption into heaven, the universal queenship, permit us to behold Mary truly ‘full of grace’ and ‘clothed with the sun’ for herself and for us, the channel of grace in unique relation to the Most Holy Trinity, a relation appropriated to the Holy Spirit who rendered her Mother of the Word, according to the design of the Father.

The title Immaculate, today, in itself, is the one term giving precise expression to that singular thread that begins with Genesis and concludes in Revelation, making of the mystery of Mary a kind of intertestamental synthesis, a revelation of the entire creative and redemptive plan of God. It has been written very fittingly that the ‘Immaculate is that beginning which anticipates in itself its end’, a synthesis of past and future, alpha and omega, as it were, of the whole mystery of Mary, resting on the mystery of the Trinity, incorporated into the mystery of Christ, prolonged and completed in the mystery of the Church. From her conception, from her origin, in fact, the immaculate is the ‘woman’ presented and proclaimed by God Himself to be without stain, opposed to the serpent (Gen 3:15). She is the ‘woman’ ever ‘virgin’ (Is 7:14) and ‘full of grace’ (Lk 1:28). She is the Mother of the ‘Son of the Most High’ (Lk 1:32), the ‘Mother of Jesus’ (Jn 2:1.3) and of redeemed humanity (Jn 19:25-27). She is the Queen ‘enthroned’ at the right hand of the Son (Ps 44[45]:10), maternal sovereign of grace in the highest heavens.

In the Immaculate, we truly have the ‘recreation’ of the original human nature, all grace without shadow of sin, ‘fullness of innocence and holiness’, according to the bull Ineffabilis Deus; we have the perfect redemption, because she was redeemed ‘in a more perfect way’, this bull continues; we have the fulfillment of the Church—‘the Virgin made Church’, according to the suggestive phrase used by St. Francis of Assisi which prolongs in time, to the end of time (the eschaton), the virginal maternity of Mary, modeling itself on hers and realizing itself in her, as Spouse of the Word Incarnate and Mother of the redeemed.”

Stefano M. Manelli, FI in All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed: Biblical Mariology.

Our Lady And Original Sin

“By the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin is meant the great revealed truth that she was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, without original sin. Since the fall of Adam all mankind, his descendants, are conceived and born in sin. ‘Behold,’ says the inspired writer in the Psalm Miserere—‘Behold, I was conceived in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.’ That sin which belongs to everyone of us, and is ours from the first moment of our existence, is the sin of unbelief and disobedience, by which Adam lost Paradise. We, as children of Adam, are heirs to the consequences of his sin, and have forfeited in him that spiritual robe of grace and holiness which he had given him by his Creator at the time that he was made. In this state of forfeiture and disinheritance we are all of us conceived and born; and the ordinary way by which we are taken out of it is the Sacrament of Baptism. But Mary never was in this state; she was by the eternal decree of God exempted from it. From eternity, God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, decreed to create the race of man, and, foreseeing the fall of Adam, decreed to redeem the whole race by the Son’s taking flesh and suffering on the Cross. In that same incomprehensible, eternal instant, in which the Son of God was born of the Father, was also the decree passed of man’s redemption through Him. He who was born from Eternity was born by an eternal decree to save us in Time, and to redeem the whole race; and Mary’s redemption was determined in that special manner which we call the Immaculate Conception. It was decreed, not that she should be cleansed from sin, but that she should, from the first moment of her being, be preserved from sin; so that the Evil One never had any part in her. Therefore she was a child of Adam and Eve as if they had never fallen; she did not share with them their sin; she inherited the gifts and graces (and more than those) which Adam and Eve possessed in Paradise. This is her prerogative, and the foundation of all those salutary truths which are revealed to us concerning her. Let us say then with all holy souls, Virgin most pure, conceived without original sin, Mary, pray for us.”

-John Henry Newman in Blessed Art Thou Among Women: Meditations on Mary.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bridal Maternity: The Key To All Mariology

“Some Protestants still believe in the divinity of Christ. Hence they acknowledge that ‘the fruit of Mary is the real Son of God.’ But they wish to consider little, or even nothing, about the exceptional dignity, perfection, and activity of the Mother of God in the order of grace. In this respect they can hardly be distinguished from those who deny the divinity of Christ. This idea can be reduced to this formula; Mary is the Mother of God, but not the bride of God. Expressed thus, such a view is evidently unnatural and contradictory.

Therefore as the expression, the divinely bridal motherhood, possesses a great polemical dogmatic value, so it has also a great constructive theological value for the scientific explanation of the privileges of Mary.

The motherhood, regarded as a relation of the mother to her fruit, or as bodily relationship with Christ, is not of itself enough for our considering the divine motherhood the constituting principle of the only excellence of Mary’s person. Theologians express this thought by distinguishing an adequate and an inadequate, or a moral-physical and a purely physical, motherhood, and intend only the first to be considered that principle. They usually explain the motherhood in an adequate and moral-physical sense as follows: It consists in the whole of those graces which are necessary for the worthy execution of the maternal activity, or which were obtained through this activity, or which achieve the worthy extension of the relation of the mother to her fruit.

Such a widening of the idea of the motherhood will, no doubt, be too vague and indefinite. It will not produce a more vivid concept nor is it a fruitful middle term leading to the individual privileges that belong to the divine motherhood.

On the contrary, the very expression, God’s bridal motherhood, gives not merely a more or less adequate, moral-physical concept of the divine motherhood; according to its formal and intrinsic essence, the motherhood is also thus properly defined through an easily susceptible and clearly indicated element which is not lost in a multiplicity of things necessary or desirable for the worthy extension of the mother’s relation to the fruit. It constitutes, as it were, the substantial form or soul of that relation and therefore is the root and focus of all other qualities of the mother.

Without this middle concept we can only gradually and with difficulty discover the various privileges pertaining to the Mother of God, such as domina omnium. Of certain other privileges we can get hardly any idea; for example, of the sanctification of Mary through the grace of the motherhood. Thus this concept is the key of the entire Mariology.

In reference to the original marriage, Peter Chrysologous says: ‘A speedy interpreter (Gabriel) flies to the bride to prevent and suspend a state of human betrothal in the bride of God, not to take the Virgin away from Joseph, but to give her to Christ to whom she is pledged in her womb, when it should happen.’ And again: ‘Although Mary His mother had been betrothed, she is His bride by virginity, and His mother by fecundity; His mother not known by a man, and conscious of His birth. And was she not mother before her conceiving, who, after His birth, was both mother and virgin? And how could she not be mother, who brought to birth the Author of all the years, the Giver of being to all things?’”

-Matthias Scheeben in Mariology, vol. 1.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Soul's Mystic Union And Betrothal With The Bridegroom

“By grace the soul is made a child of the eternal Father, a bride of the Son, and a temple of the Holy Spirit. The soul becomes a bride of the Son by being made like to Him and by receiving His image, not by being begotten of Him, but because He takes the soul, which is already ennobled as the Father’s daughter, closely to Himself in holy love, to share His beauty and wealth with her in pure embrace. This point of view suggests to us an idea of the divine excellence of the soul’s mystic union and betrothal with God, specifically with the eternal Word, as described in glowing terms by Sacred Scripture, the Fathers, and the mystics. Nature does not invest the soul with the nobility needed to be a worthy bride of the Word and to enter into this exalted, inconceivable, mystic union with Him; otherwise the union would straightway cease to be truly mystic and to surpass nature. Natural love (that is, love proceeding from nature and based on nature’s dignity) cannot make the soul capable, still less sufficiently worthy, of claiming so intimate a union with God’s Son. The soul must first be ennobled and must be a daughter of the same royal Father, whose Son is the eternal Word; before she can advance to meet the Son of God, her Bridegroom, she must be adorned with heavenly beauty and be equipped with a higher, nobler, and freer love. The fruit of this chaste union must be something interior, and must be of such a nature that the soul, illuminated by the light of her Bridegroom, engenders in herself His likeness. With her beauty thus transfigured, the soul not only does not lose her virginal fairness and purity, but for the first time blossoms forth into true beauty and purity.”

-Matthias Scheeben in Nature and Grace.

Make England Catholic Again!

Fr. Z has the scoop on Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP and his new book, The Realm: An Unfashionable Essay on the Conversion of England. If you live in England and are Catholic, go by the book right now!

Also, will someone convince the Anglicans to give back the churches they stole from us!? Or at least Canterbury Cathedral....

Abortion And 1 Enoch

I've been reading Ethiopic book of Enoch (aka 1 Enoch) for my Dead Sea Scrolls class and was amazed to find some explicit condemnations in it with regards to abortion. Here are two key texts:

In Book II (The Book of the Similitudes), the author lists the fallen angels and their evil deeds:

"The fifth is named Kasadya, it is he who revealed to the children of the people (the various) flagellations of all evil--(the flagellation) of the souls and the demons, the smashing of the embryo in the womb so that it may be crushed, the flagellation of the soul....."
(1 Enoch 69:12)

In Book V (The Two Ways of the Righteous and the Sinner), Enoch is giving advice to his children and to the righteous and tells them:

"In those days, be ready, you righteous ones, to raise up your prayers as a memorial, and place them as a testimony before the angels; and they (the angels) shall bring the sins of the sinners for a memorial before the Most High. In those days, the nations shall be confounded, and the families of the nations shall rise in the day of the destruction of the sinners. In those days, they (the women) shall become pregnant, but they (the sinners) shall come out and abort their infants and cast them out from their midst; they shall (also) abandon their (other) children, casting their infants out while they are still suckling. They shall neither return to them (their babies) nor have compassion upon their beloved ones."
(1 Enoch 99:3-5)

Scholars date the composition of the books of Enoch from the Second Century B.C. to the First Century A.D. What this reveals to us is that the view of abortion being evil is not a modern view. It has been viewed as evil from ancient times. And why wouldn't it? If we hold murder to be evil, why would murdering an innocent child in the womb be any different?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Mary, Bride Of The Logos

“…From the moment of her creation and in virtue of the intention of her Creator, which underlies her creation, Mary was specially intended for the union as bride with the Logos and, as it were, was created in this union; and also that, by virtue of this intention of God, the entire existence of her person has grown together with her relation to the divine person of her Son, in a manner analogous to the existence of the flesh of Christ with His hypostatic union.

The analogy between the relation of Mary and of the humanity of Christ to the Logos, expressed in the ‘marriage with the Logos,’ is particularly revealed in this, that Mary is characterized in a signal manner in the language of the Church as ‘house and seat of the godhead’ or of the eternal Wisdom. She is as a house and seat in which in the real meaning of the word, the fullness of the divinity, is so infused as to dwell bodily therein. The eternal Wisdom is so implanted and deeply rooted in her that she seems to have grown together with Him. This, too, is the deeper meaning of the representation of Mary in the Apocalypse: the woman clothed with the sun.

By virtue of this relation to the Logos, Mary is in a special manner the ‘mirror’ and ‘image of God,’ because she is in the Logos illuminated through the radiation of the light of the godhead and permeated with the essential dew of the strength of God. As she is compared with the sun in the bride of the Canticle of Canticles, she appears also under both these names as assimilated to the Logos in the quality proper to Him which is characterized by the same names. She is consequently His ‘likeness’ or His ‘glory,’ in the same way as, according to St. Paul, the woman is the likeness and the glory of the man.”

-Matthias Scheeben in Mariology vol. 1