Thursday, September 28, 2006

Pray for Holy Priests

From Dom Chautard's, The Soul of the Apostolate:

“If the priest is a saint (the saying goes) the people will be fervent; if the priest is fervent, the people will be pious; if the priest is pious, the people will at least be decent. But if the priest is only decent, the people will be godless. The spiritual generation is always one degree less intense in its life than those who beget it in Christ.”

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Lewis On Jesus

Here's a great quote from C. S. Lewis:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about [Jesus]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I do not accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity [New York: Collier Books, reprinted 1952], 55-56.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Triune Life-Giving Love

Hans Urs von Balthasar on Trinitarian "dying":

"When the Father surrenders himself unreservedly to the Son, and when, in turn, the Father and Son surrender themselves similarly to the Holy Spirit, do we not find here the archetype of the most beautiful dying in the midst of eternal life? Is this final state of 'not wanting to be for oneself' not precisely the prerequisite for the most blessed life? Into this most living 'higher dying' our own wretched dying is taken up and resolved, so that everything human. . . is thenceforth securely integrated into a life that no longer knows any limits." ---Credo: Meditations on the Apostles' Creed (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1990), 59.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Temple Cosmology

Last night I covered temple cosmology in my Intro to Old Testament class. The following is taken from the lecture notes which all the students received. Ignore the outline structure (this was point number six out of 8 in the handout).

6. The world as temple
6.1. Creation is more than simply a structure for life—it is a place for communion with God.
6.2. Genesis 1 attributed to the “P” source, recognizing the liturgical themes in Genesis 1.
6.3. The world as temple
• Psalm 78:69: "He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded for ever." [Notice: the temple is built like the heavens and the earth. The reverse is also true, the cosmos is built as a temple.]
• Job 38:4-11: uses temple building imagery to describe creation--“foundation… measurements…bases… cornerstone…bars and doors”.
• Parallels with the building of the Tabernacle: God instructs Moses to build the Tabernacle in seven speeches (Exod 25:1-30:10; 30:11-16; 30:17-21; 30:22-33; 30:34-38; 31:1-11; 31:12-17). The content of the seven speeches often have parallels with the parallels in the seven days. For example, on the third day God gathers the waters into the seas. This seems to parallel the third instruction speech given to Moses, in which he is given instructions for the construction of the pool of ritual washing [the bronze laver]. Likewise, the seventh day of the creation narrative is evoked in the seventh speech which contains a reminder of how God reested on the seventh day. Other parallels could also be mentioned, such as the fact that God blesses and hallows the Sabbath when he is done creating, just as Moses blesses the tabernacle when it’s complete (Gen 2:3; Ex 39:43; 40:9). Moreover, God dwells over the tabernacle as the Spirit hovered over the waters (Gen 1:2; Exod 40:34).
• Parallels with the construction of the temple. See 1 Kings 6-8 – Solomon builds the Temple in 7 years in time to consecrate it in the 7th month, on the 7th day of a 7-day feast, offering 7 petitions. Solomon decorates the sanctuary with imagery evoking the garden of Eden (cf. 1 Kgs 6-7).
6.4. Eden as the Holy of Holies:
» place of cheribum (Gen 3:24; Ezek 28:14)
» Candelabra as the Tree of Life (Exod 25:31-36; Josephus, Antiquities 3.145)
» Garden imagery in the Temple (1 Kgs 6-7)
» Source of water (Gen 2:10; Ezek 47:1-12 [Rev 21:1-2]
» On a mountain (Ezek 28:14, 16; Ezek 40:2; 43:12)
» Facing East (Gen 3:24; Ezek 40:6)
» Place of where God dwells [hithallek] (Gen 3:8; Lev 26:11-12; Deut 23:14; 2 Sam 7:6-7)
6.5. The Temple is often associated with God's defeat of the powers of chaos, evoking other ancient near eastern cosmonogies (cf. Ps 74:2-21)
6.6. Adam as priest
» Told to 'abad and shamar (Gen 2:15)
Num 3:7-8: “And [the Levites] shall keep [shamar] his charge, and the charge of the whole congregation before the Tabernacle of the congregation to do [‘abad] the service [‘abodah] of the Tabernacle. 8 And they shall keep [shamar] all the instruments of the Tabernacle of the congregation and the charge of the children of Israel to do [‘abad] the service [‘abodah] of the Tabernacle” (cf. also Num 8:26; 18:5-6; also see Num 17:12-18:6).
» Adam clothed with garments like God clothed Aaron clothed
Gen 3:21: “God made [‘asah] garments [kathoneth]of skins and clothed them [labash]…”
Exod 28:39-41: “you shall weave the coat [kathoneth] of fine linen and you shall make [‘asah] the mitre of fine linen and thou shalt make [‘asah] the girdle of needlework. 40 And for Aaron’s sons thou shalt make [‘asah] coats [kathoneth]… 41 And thou shalt put [labash] them upon Aaron thy brother and his sons…
» Priests to cover nakedness in the Lord’s presence [cf. Gen 3:10; Exod 20:26, 28:42]
• Sabbath day as climax
» Day of rest = our sake not God’s
» Work a part of God’s design prior to the Fall (later it will be toil; Gen 3:18-19)
» Practical (rest) and theological (not trust in work of our hands)
» At the end of the week (=waiting for the promise)
» 6th day = humanity created with the beasts; 7th day worship = goal
» “6” associated with “sin” Goliath stood sixty-six feet tall and used a spear that weighed six hundred shekals (1 Sam. 17:4, 7). The king of Babylon’s erected a statue that was sixty cubits high and six cubits wide (Dan. 3:1). 1 Kings tells us that Solomon amassed “six hundred and sixty six talents of gold” in taxes (1 Kings 10:14).
» Goal of creation = worship

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why the Pope Used THAT Quote

In a fascinating bit of commentary, Christopher Orlet argues that Pope Benedict knew exactly what he was doing in citing that infamous statement from the rather obscure 14th century Christian Emperor, Manuel II Paleologus. The key, he says, lies in knowing who he was.

I found this quite interesting...
THE DIFFICULTY, TO MY mind, is figuring out why the Pope chose to cite this particular quotation from this particular nonentity? Certainly many popes have made similar statements about jihad and Benedict would have had a plethora of popes to quote from. It is therefore instructive to learn more about Manuel II Paleologus. He was, foremost, the antepenultimate emperor of the Byzantine Empire, the successor to the Roman Empire. At the time of his reign (1391-1425) the Muslim Turks had their sights set on the empire's capital of Constantinople. In 1399, Manuel traveled to England, France, the seat of the Holy Roman Empire, and Aragon seeking assistance from the various monarchs and courts. His visit was a complete bust. The split between the Greek Orthodox and Roman churches proved too wide. Unless the Greeks agreed to join the Roman Church there would be no troops, no assistance, and the Greeks were not about to surrender their autonomy to Rome, not even to save the empire, their religion and their lives.

The result: Within a few years the Turks would take Constantinople, rename it Istanbul, and the Roman-Byzantine Empire would disappear forever from the earth. (In an ironic aside, Manuel's son Constantine, the last Byzantine-Roman emperor, was killed in battle defending the capital. Legend has it that he discarded his purple cloak and charged into the fray taking so many cuts and blows that his corpse was unrecognizable. Thus, the last Roman emperor was laid to rest in a mass grave.)

I suspect that the Pope was hoping to make the point that unless the West comes together, heals its divisions, and faces the threat of radical Islam together, it may face a similar fate as the Roman-Byzantine Empire. Naturally Benedict couldn't come right and make such a bald statement -- just as Benedict's predecessor Pope Pius XII had to be similarly circumspect during Nazi rule -- so he couched his remark in an obscure reference by a forgotten historical figure. The pope knew that he would have to apologize later for his statement, still he believed it important enough to risk it.
(tip of the hat to Amy for this one)
PHOTO: Reuters/Dario Pignatelli

Making the Pope's Case

Here's my favorite quote of the week. It is from Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam: "Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence" [source here].

Translation: If you say Islam isn't a peaceful religion, we will kill you.

In other news, Muslims all over the world protested the Pope this week, taking to the streets to make their case that Islam is a religion of peace by burning effigies of him.

In Palestine, radical Muslims made an exceptionally good case for their argument by firebombing ancient churches.

An Italian nun in Somalia was killed this week--it is suspected that the attack was made in retaliation to the Pope's lecture. Right now, the matter is still being investigated. The news agency Reuters has been told by "a top Islamic source" that the Pope's words were indeed the reason for the attack.

As if all this wasn't enough, the Mujahedeen Army has warned they will launch a suicide bomb attack on the Vatican. On their website, they told the Pope, whom they referred to as "the dog of Rome," "We swear to God to send you people who adore death as much as you adore life."

Yes, let's get that straight: we are for life, you are for death.

They also threatened to "shake your thrones and break your crosses in your home."

(If you were wondering where this especially spirited post comes from, just read that quote again.)

Today the Pope clarified his statement telling crowds in the Vatican that he was "deeply sorry" about the reaction to his lecture. He also said, "These (words) were in fact a quotation from a Medieval text which do not in any way express my personal thought."

Translation: You're right, you are tolerant...please stop burning our churches now.

Of course, though many Muslim leaders have said that the Pope's remarks were sufficient, many others have continued to call for violence. I know not all Muslims participated in the demonstrations. But if I were the Pope, I'd be rethinking this whole "let's visit Turkey" idea.

Holy Father, San Diego is real nice this time of year... And you can say anything in a lecture to our students at JP Catholic University that you want. We promise not to call you a "dog"... Well, excepting the occassional reference to a term of endearment. You may hear us call you our "German Shepherd."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Benedict's Lecture at Former University

Wow. That's all I can say.

This week, Pope Benedict returned to the university where he had taught theology and served as vice president. He delivered a lecture there on the relationship of faith and reason. There are so many wonderful nuggets here, it will take me a couple of posts to unpack it all. You can read it all here. However, this is a provisional text--one with footnotes will be provided by the Holy Father.

One thing that he stressed was the contrast between Christianity's understanding of the role of reason and that of Islam's. Here's a bit...
I was reminded of all this [i.e., the coherence of faith and reason] recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself - which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threaten. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without decending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Pope Speaks

The Pope's address to the Canadian bishops is full of wonderful insights.

He talks about the danger of reducing the Kingdom of God to "Kingdom values."
In helping individuals to recognize and experience the love of Christ, you will awaken in them the desire to dwell in the house of the Lord, embracing the life of the Church. This is our mission. It expresses our ecclesial nature and ensures that every initiative of evangelization concurrently strengthens Christian identity. In this regard, we must acknowledge that any reduction of the core message of Jesus, that is, the ‘Kingdom of God’, to indefinite talk of ‘kingdom values’ weakens Christian identity and debilitates the Church’s contribution to the regeneration of society. When believing is replaced by ‘doing’ and witness by talk of ‘issues’, there is an urgent need to recapture the profound joy and awe of the first disciples whose hearts, in the Lord’s presence, "burned within them" impelling them to "tell their story" (cf. Lk 24:32; 35).
After mentioning Canada's reputation for seeking justice and peace, the Pope went on to issue a warning.

Canada has a well-earned reputation for a generous and practical commitment to justice and peace, and there is an enticing sense of vibrancy and opportunity in your multicultural cities. At the same time, however, certain values detached from their moral roots and full significance found in Christ have evolved in the most disturbing of ways. In the name of ‘tolerance’ your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse, and in the name of ‘freedom of choice’ it is confronted with the daily destruction of unborn children. When the Creator’s divine plan is ignored the truth of human nature is lost.
He then went on to make some remarks about democracy that we Americans would do well to take heed of.
False dichotomies are not unknown within the Christian community itself. They are particularly damaging when Christian civic leaders sacrifice the unity of faith and sanction the disintegration of reason and the principles of natural ethics, by yielding to ephemeral social trends and the spurious demands of opinion polls. Democracy succeeds only to the extent that it is based on truth and a correct understanding of the human person. Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle; otherwise Christian witness to the splendour of truth in the public sphere would be silenced and an autonomy from morality proclaimed (cf. Doctrinal Note The Participation of Catholics in Political Life, 2-3; 6). In your discussions with politicians and civic leaders I encourage you to demonstrate that our Christian faith, far from being an impediment to dialogue, is a bridge, precisely because it brings together reason and culture.
The Pope also discussed the "particularly insidious obstacle" of relativism.
A particularly insidious obstacle to education today, which your own reports attest, is the marked presence in society of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. Within such a relativistic horizon an eclipse of the sublime goals of life occurs with a lowering of the standards of excellence, a timidity before the category of the good, and a relentless but senseless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. Such detrimental trends point to the particular urgency of the apostolate of ‘intellectual charity’ which upholds the essential unity of knowledge, guides the young towards the sublime satisfaction
of exercising their freedom in relation to truth, and articulates the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Introduced to a love of truth, I am confident that young Canadians will relish exploring the house of the Lord who "enlightens every person who comes into the world" (Jn 1:9) and satisfies every desire of humanity.

I love this Pope!

The full text of the address is here, and a bit of it can now be heard on-line here.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Justified Addition

When anybody ever asks me about the Catholic notion of justification, I always mention a wonderful paper written in 1987 at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School by Richard White. At the time, White was a non-Catholic--though he later came into the Church. White's treatment is probably the best summary of the teaching of the Council of Trent I've ever read.

If you're a non-Catholic and you think that Trent teaches a works-righteousness theory of justification, you've got to read this. The title of the paper is "Sola Gratia, Solo Christo: The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Justification." He shows that the Catholic understanding of justification is essentially divine sonship.

The paper has just been added to the Saint Paul Center's on-line resource library.

You can read the paper here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Eternal Security?

I know this blog has been a little neglected lately. I've been absolutely swamped in the past couple of weeks getting settled into my office at JP Catholic and preparing for the upcoming quarter. Expect regular blogging to resume shortly...

A couple of things... There has been a great discussion on Romans 9-11 going on over at Scot McKnight's site. I'll have some more to say about that down the road. (I just don't have time right now to assemble all my thoughts). The epilogue of my book Singing In The Reign deals with this section of the epistle.

Side note #2... I was reading through 2 Peter the other day and I was struck by this passage:

"For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire" (2 Pet 2:20-22).

If there is anyone out there who believes in eternal security, I am really curious--I mean this in all sincerity--how do you interpret this? I would really like to know.