Friday, June 26, 2009

Augustine's Mystagogy Of Identification

"Religious symbols are used by Augustine to draw believers ever more intimately into the divine life. The liturgy thus becomes the locus deificandi, the place where the drama of human salvation is not only reenacted but effected. Surrounded by the temple of praise and all that is within, human persons are to see how God bids them to become his living signs. Gold, oil, trees, the altar of sacrifice, the Sabbath, and the laud Christians sing are all constituted to cultivate the full life of the baptized so as to draw them into a closer union with the divine, becoming gods by becoming God's."

-David Vincent Meconi, S.J., in "Becoming Gods by Becoming God's: Augustine's Mystagogy of Identification," Augustinian Studies 39:1 (2008) 61-74.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Four Principles To St. Paul's Exegesis

“First, Paul’s strategic deployment of scriptural texts is profoundly contextual, taking into account both the near context and the larger narrative context from which he quotes.

Second, Paul’s exegesis is salvation-historical in orientation, meaning that the location of his OT allusions and citations within the entire arc of the biblical story of God’s redemption of his people is significant.

Third, Paul employs a typological methodology to correlate different texts, figures and events of salvation history in a theologically meaningful pattern. Thus Paul often cites in tandem thematically related texts from patriarchal and Israelite narratives (see Gal 3:6-9, 10-14; 4:21-31), inviting his readers to find significant elements of historical continuity in God’s dealings with his people. For example, by viewing the typological correlation of the Abrahamic and Israelite images in Galatians 4:21-31, it becomes clear that Paul (unlike many modern covenant theologians) does not explain the Old and New Covenants exclusively in temporal terms (i.e., before/after Christ). Instead, by linking the New Covenant with Abraham, and the Old Covenant with Moses, Paul shows how the new surpasses the old precisely because it preceded it, in view of the promise and oath that God pledged to Abraham.

Fourth, Paul argues in a teleological style. In other words, he deploys OT citations and allusions earlier in his discourse with a view to a certain endpoint or telos, that is, a scriptural argument or conclusion introduced only later or at the end of his discourse. For example, the typological interpretation of Genesis 16-21 in Galatians 4:21-31 forms a certain climax of Paul’s argument in Galatians, shedding light on the scriptural citations employed earlier. Thus, interpreters need to read Paul’s arguments in both directions, since later portions shed light on earlier ones, and vice versa.”

-Scott Hahn, Kinship by Covenant: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God’s Saving Promises.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gregory Of Nyssa On The Figural Reading Of Scripture

“By an appropriate contemplation of the text, the philosophy hidden in its words [may] become manifest, once the literal meaning has been purified by a correct understanding. Paul somewhere calls the shift from the corporeal to the spiritual ‘a turning to the Lord and the removal of a veil.’ In all these different expressions and names of contemplation Paul is teaching us an important lesson: we must pass to a spiritual and intelligent investigation of Scripture so that consideration of the merely human element might be changed into something perceived by the mind…We know that even the Word himself, who is adored by all the creation, passed on the divine mysteries when he had assumed the likeness of a man. He reveals to us the meaning of the law…Christ trained his disciples’ minds through sayings veiled and hidden in parables, images, obscure words, and terse sayings in riddles.”

-Gregory of Nyssa, Commentary on the Song of Songs.

Figural Reading Of Scripture

“Alongside ‘grammatical’ techniques early Christians used ‘figural’ reading practices (Dawson 2002). David Dawson has helped us to see how Christian figural techniques describe relationships between one scriptural text (usually from the Old Testament) and an aspect of the incarnate Word’s mission as described in the New Testament, using the former to inform a reading of the latter. Thus, for example, the relationship between the soul and God; the details of the life of Moses could be used as an allegorical resource for describing the stages of the Christian life. The phrase ‘an aspect of the incarnate Word’s mission’ used above requires further discussion. For early Christian readers the progress of purification or sanctification that constitutes Christian life is intrinsically connected to the life, activity and purpose of Christ, the incarnate Word. The ‘mystery’ of the incarnation includes the ‘mystery’ by which members of the Christian community are united to the person of Christ and purified towards the vision of God. Using a text from the Old Testament to illustrate the course and struggles of this mystery is of a piece with using Old Testament texts to illustrate Christ’s actions and life. The figural reader seeks figures within the text both to understand the incarnate Word and to participate in the divine speech and action in creation.”

-Lewis Ayres, "The Patristic Hermeneutic Heritage" in The Bible in Pastoral Practice: Readings in the Place and Function of Scripture in the Church.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The History Of Interpretation: Colossians 2:15

“Christ ‘stripped’ the rulers and authorities. The meaning of the verb apekdysamenos has occasioned much discussion, with three possibilities surfacing. The Greek Fathers took the verb to be in the middle, or reflexive, voice, thus translating it: Christ ‘stripped off himself’ the hostile forces that had clung to him on the cross like an alien garment. The Latin Fathers took the verb to be active in voice but intransitive (though they understood the object to be Christ’s death). The resulting translation is: Christ ‘stripped himself’ of his flesh through death on the cross, since the flesh was the means by which the evil powers could exercise their tyranny over humans. Most interpreters today, however, believe the verb is active in voice and transitive: Christ ‘stripped the rulers and authorities’ of their power by virtue of his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.”

-C. Marvin Pate, The End of the Age Has Come.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Student Question

A student asked, "Since you say the priests are married to the Church, how can the Church have multiple husbands?"

A: The Church has only ONE husband and that is Jesus Christ. The priests, when ordained, become alter Christus (another Christ) and act in persona Christi (in the Person of Christ). So while there are many priests who, when they become priests, are married to the Church, they are so because they act in the ONE Person of Jesus Christ.