Sunday, January 31, 2010

Eucharistic Allusions In 1 Peter 2?

“Just as Paul speaks of ‘the oblation of the pagans,’ Peter mentions the ‘spiritual sacrifices’ which the new converts are called to offer to God through Jesus Christ. It is this new kind of offering which characterizes the priesthood of the community of believers. Is it possible to determine what Peter means by ‘spiritual sacrifices’? Since the immediate context does not offer any clarification, the undertaking is difficult. One point at least is clear: the word ‘spiritual’ contrasts the sacrifices of Christians with the ‘carnal rites’ spoken of in the Epistle to the Hebrews (9:10), that is to say, with the animal sacrifices common to the Old Testament and the pagan cults. We must again emphasize that Peter does not take ‘spiritual’ in the philosophical sense of a mental offering, but in the Christian sense of an offering made under the action of the Holy Spirit. From the beginning of his Epistle he has situated Christian existence ‘in the sanctifying action of the Spirit.’ In speaking of ‘spiritual sacrifices,’ he is at one with the perspective of the Epistle to the Hebrews on the sacrifice of Christ, which has been realized ‘thanks to the Eternal Spirit’ (Heb 9:14), and with that of Paul, for whom an oblation can only be ‘pleasing’ to God if it has been ‘sanctified in the Holy Spirit.’

But where, concretely, are we to situate the offering of spiritual sacrifices? Must we see an allusion to the Eucharist here? The exegetes are greatly divided on this point. Windisch, for example, completely excludes this possibility, while Lohmeyer supports it. Cerfaux argues against a Eucharistic interpretation and sees here only ‘thesacrifices of interior worship…good works and sufferings in imitation of Christ.’ In his opinion, the word ‘sacrifice’ and also the word ‘priesthood’ are to be taken in a metaphorical sense. It is clear that this author is concerned to reserve the term ‘sacrifice’ in its proper sense to the Eucharistic celebration, and likewise, the term ‘priest’ to ordained priests. More recently another Catholic exegete, Dacquino, starting with the same presupposition, has come to the opposite conclusion. The common assumption is that good deeds, patience under trial, the fulfillment of the will of God in day-to-day existence cannot constitute a sacrifice in the true sense, but only a ‘priestly activity in the metaphorical and improper sense.’ Examining Peter’s text, Dacquino arrives at the conviction that the apostle intends to speak of a ‘sacrificial worship in the true and proper sense,’ of a ‘true community liturgy,’ and he then concludes that he is indeed speaking of the Eucharist.

In this discussion the most questionable element is the common presupposition, that is to say the idea of sacrifice, which creates a problem in choosing between the existential and the Eucharistic interpretations, obliging one to choose one or the other. To reason in this way is to fail to take into account the Christian reworking of the idea of sacrifice, as it appears in many texts of the New Testament and as it is systematically set forth in the Epistle to the Hebrews. If it were true that the fulfillment of the will of God in day-to-day existence cannot constitute a sacrifice in the proper sense of the word, then one would also have to say that the death of Christ was not a sacrifice. In reality, from the Christian point of view, true sacrifices are existential sacrifices: they consist in the transformation of existence by the action of the Holy Spirit, in union with the sacrifice of Christ. These sacrifices have a very close connection with the Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ’s sacrifice, because the condition for their possibility is union with the sacrifice of Christ. The driving force which moves the Christian to existential sacrifices comes from the sacrifice of Christ, made present in the Eucharist, and the fulfillment of existential sacrifices—their reaching God—is only possible through the mediation of the sacrifice of Christ, itself also made present in the Eucharist. The latter then is clearly indispensible for existential sacrifice.

Consequently, we must refuse to accept the dilemma. Peter’s text in no way obliges us to choose between an existential and a Eucharistic interpretation. On the contrary, it permits the combination of the two aspects. We have already noted that the expressions used can well apply to a Eucharistic liturgy (what better way have Christians for ‘approaching’ Christ in the mystery of his humiliation and glorification in order to be established as a priestly community and carried along in a movement of offering to God?), but no one is compelled to adopt this meaning exclusively. The most direct references are not to the sacrament of the Eucharist but to the reality of the Passion and Glorification of Christ, ‘rejected by men, but chosen in honor by God.’ This suggests that the ‘spiritual sacrifices’ of Christians are themselves to be situated in the day-to-day life, to be modeled on the glorifying Passion of Christ. And in fact, as Feuillet has rightly emphasized, the general context of the Epistle suggests the establishment of a close connection between the ‘spiritual sacrifices’ of Christians and the imitation of the suffering Christ, the favorite theme of the apostle. In this connection, we should especially note the verbal contact that exists between the expression ‘spiritual sacrifices’ and the insistent assertion of 4:14: ‘Happy are you if you are reproached for the name of Christ, for the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God rests upon you!’ The times when the Spirit of God rests upon the believers are certainly those which put them in the best position to offer spiritual sacrifices. The perspective, however, need not be restricted to these moments. The whole Christian existence is to be transformed into a spiritual sacrifice; Peter invites the believers to ‘no longer conform to their former covetous desires’ but ‘to become holy in all their conduct,’ by means obviously, of the ‘sanctifying action of the Spirit.’…Union with the sacrifice of Christ—which is of course actualized in the Eucharistic celebration—enables the members of the Christian community to live their priesthood in the whole of their lives.”

- Albert Vanhoye, Old Testament Priests and the New Priest: According to the New Testament

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Consummatum Est!

It is finished....part 2 of Pope Benedict's "Jesus of Nazareth", that is!

America Wakes Up Refreshed

We have come to the brink and looked over. Today, we start to pull back. We pull back from the takeover of our country by a socialist administration who devalues life. The American Revolution began in Massachusetts and now with Scott Brown’s election to the Senate, the new revolution also begins there. The People have spoken through the people of the Bay State and they have told Washington that we will not be silent any more. We fill fight for our country. We will fight for a culture of life. Sure, it is a bit odd to support a pro-choice Republican for office, but as Patrick Archbold at Creative Minority Report said, “Scott Brown is doing more for pro-lifers than ‘pro-lifers’ Ben Nelson and Bob Casey ever did.” With Brown as the 41st vote in the Senate, Obamacare is surely sunk with its provisions for allowing government funding for abortions.

We still have much work to do America, but at least now we have that hope that was promised to us a year ago. Stay vigilant!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Biblical Gold!

Fr. James Swetnam, S.J. has posted on his website (for free) his commentary of The Epistle to the Hebrews. He is updating the book online as he goes. Currently, he is up to chapter 7. Click here for the commentary.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Can God Make A Rock So Big That He Can't Lift It?

"1. Concerning God's omnipotence, the following must be held according to the sacred teaching. God is almighty, but in such a manner that acts of culpability, for instance, lying, or intending evil, cannot be attributed to Him; nor can acts of penalty [for original sin], such as fearing and sorrowing; nor corporeal and material acts, such as sleeping and walking, except figuratively; nor contradictory acts, such as making something greater than Himself, or producing another God equal to Himself, or creating some being that would be infinite in act; and so forth. As Anselm writes, "whatever is contradictory, be it the smallest thing, is not found in God." Although God cannot do such things, yet He is truly, properly, and perfectly omnipotent.

2. This should be understood as follows. The first Principle is powerful by a power that is unqualified; therefore the universal "omni" prefacing "potent" covers all those things the power to do which is power unqualified: that is, all things that proceed from a power both complete and orderly. We call COMPLETE a power that cannot disappear, succumb, or be limited. But sin implies a disappearance of power, pain a collapse of power, and bodily operation a limitation of power. Divine power, supreme and utterly perfect, is not created, nor is it dependent upon anything, nor is it wanting in anything. Therefore, it cannot be the subject of culpable, penal, or corporeal acts: and this precisely because it is omnipotent through a power that is complete.

3. Now, there are three senses in which a power can be called ORDERLY: as it is in act; as it signifies potency on the part of a creature; and as it signifies potency on the part of the uncreated Might alone. That which is possible to power in the first sense is not only possible but actual. That which is possible in the second sense but not in the first is simply possible, although not actual. That which is possible in the third sense, but not in the first or second, is possible to God but impossible to creatures. That which is not possible in any of the foregoing senses, i. e., whatever, by reason of primordial and eternal principles and causes, is directly opposed to order, is simply impossible; as it would be for God to produce something infinite in act, to make something to be and not to be at the same time, to make a past event as never having happened, and so forth. The order and completeness of divine might exclude the possibility of doing such things.

This clearly shows the scope of divine might, the meaning of the simply possible and of the simply impossible, and the fact that some impossibility is compatible with true omnipotence."

-St. Bonaventure, Breviloquium, Chapter 7- On God's Omnipotence

(Or you could go with the short answer, which is: No.)

Well, He Is Right, Of Course.

Brit Hume was asked to comment about Tiger Woods on FOX News Sunday and said that if Tiger is looking for a way to find redemption and forgiveness, he should turn from Buddhism (which Tiger apparently is and which does not have a doctrine of redemption) to Christianity.

Hume is absolutely right. This is not a matter of proselytism or intolerance or whatever anti-Christians and liberals want to make it out to be. It is objective fact. Isaiah 1:18 says: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Christ died to bring forgiveness to the world. He came specifically for the sinner (whether it be for the average person who sins daily in some small way or someone like Tiger, who has committed a grave sin such as adultery). The forgiveness that Christ came to give is infinite. No sin is too great! As long as you come to God with a humble, contrite heart seeking forgiveness, He will grant it to you.

See how much Christ loves us, that He has given us the sacrament of Confession! He knows we are going to sin after baptism. Yet, instead of allowing us to go off into damnation through personal sin, He provides a way that we may get back in the state of grace, back to union with God.

Brit Hume is spot on with his assessment. Hopefully Tiger will take him up on it and turn to Christ, the only one who can grant to him the forgiveness and redemption he needs. Keep Tiger in your prayers.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pius XII And The Jews

There has been a lot of talk recently about Pius XII and his actions during World War II and the Jewish People, now that Pope Benedict has declared him to be a Venerable and furthering his cause for canonization. Most of the secular media has slandered the good name of Pius XII based on ignorance and a complete lack of facts. They have bought into a lie that was told back in the 60's that Pius was "Hitler's Pope." Nothing could be further from the truth. Pius XII did more to save the Jewish People from Hitler than any other leader in the world during World War II.

However, there is one group, Pave the Way Foundation, led by Gary Krupp (who is himself Jewish) that has done a considerably amount of work on finding documents and evidence to show that Pius XII was indeed a righteous gentile and a man of heroic virtue who saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. His website is full of eyewitness interviews, documents, transcripts, etc. that prove this. Please check out the facts for yourself on the website and if you know of anyone slandering Pope Pius XII direct them there as well!

For more info, check out these great books:
The Myth of Hitler's Pope: Pius XII and His Secret War Against Nazi Germany by Rabbi David Dalin.
Did Pius XII Help the Jews? by Margherita Marchione

Also, these two posts:
Nun Defends Man Some Call "Hitler's Pope."
Unprecedented Slander

Friday, January 08, 2010

Christ, The New Priest

I have started to read Albert Vanhoye’s book Old Testament Priests and the New Priest: According to the New Testament and I was struck by this finding at the end of the first chapter:

“The narrative writings of the New Testament never show the Jewish high priests in the exercise of their cultic functions. What is given emphasis is their authority rather than their priesthood; they are ‘important personages’ i.e. ‘high’ more than they are ‘priests.’ It was not possible, however, to separate the two aspects entirely, for the high priests were recognized as being the religious leaders of the people of God. It followed from this that the Christians were in an extremely embarrassing situation. The Gospel narratives, which say little about Jewish priests and much about the high priests, result inevitably in giving the priesthood an unfavorable image. And yet it could not be denied that the priesthood constituted one of the fundamental institutions of the Old Testament. How could the Christian Church claim to be faithful to the totality of biblical revelation and to possess in Christ its definitive fulfillment, if it found itself in a negative relationship with regard to this fundamental institution of the people of God?”

Vanhoye closes his first chapter without answering his question. I haven’t read further, so I don’t know if he does later in the book, but I wanted to point out the importance of his assertion in this paragraph and what its implications are. He shows that the Jewish high priests are not shown exercising their cultic functions. Rather, they are portrayed more as political figures. I think the reason for this is, and hopefully Vanhoye will make this connection later in the book, the Evangelists are implicitly stating what the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews makes explicit; namely that the Old Testament Priesthood has been fulfilled in Christ. When Christ appears, the high priests are no longer portrayed as cultic leaders because THE High Priest has arrived. The cult of the Old Testament people of God, the Qahal, is fulfilled and carried on in the person of Christ. The Levitical priesthood was a concessionary priesthood instituted after the sin of the golden calf. Prior to the golden calf, the priesthood was passed on from father to firstborn son. Now that God’s Firstborn Son has arrived, the priesthood can return back to its original dimension of being about spiritual fatherhood. The spiritual fatherhood aspect of the priesthood is important for understanding the Church’s teaching on why only men can be priests.

For more on Christ’s priesthood, see the paper I wrote for my Biblical Foundations class in Grad school. I’m going to have to revisit this paper and include Vanhoye’s insight here.