As we advance through Advent, we recall the darkness of the world before Christ arrived. While Israel clung, sometimes by a thread, to the Law and the Prophets, most of the world dwelt in the darkness of paganism. My academic background is in the Greek and Roman classics, and you see the disordered passions and anxieties of these peoples projected onto their gods (or, if you prefer, these gods were demons inspiring disordered passions and anxieties among their worshippers).
Two of the most comprehensive instantiations of Greek myth are Hesiod’s Theogony and Homer’s Iliad. Continue reading
(This is the first of two posts about the Solemnity of Christmas. While I had intended to post these on Christmas Day, at least I am doing so within the Octave.)
If you pay attention to the liturgy, then you might be aware that we honor a string of martyrs immediately after Christmas: St. Stephen the Protomartyr on Dec. 26, the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28, and St. Thomas Becket on Dec. 30. The joy of Christmas is tied to the witness of the martyrs; the Incarnation of Our Lord calls forth this witness on our part. That is the Providence of celebrating these martyrs within the Octave of Christmas.
In this post, I’ll focus on a martyr of the Christmas Octave who is often overlooked: St. Anastasia. I’ll also explore the significance of her name, which means “Resurrection.” Continue reading
Famously, Protestants removed the seven so-called deuterocanonical books* from the Bible, as well as parts of Esther and Daniel. By the Protestants’ count, there are 66 books in the Bible, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. If you add the Deuterocanonical Books, you’d expect Catholics to have 73 books in the Bible. However, the number 72 has a tempting number of mystical resonances,* so there is a tradition among Catholic exegetes to treat Lamentations as an appendix to the Book of Jeremias (aka Jeremiah), thereby giving us 72 books as follows:
- 45 books in the Old Testament
- 27 books in the New Testament
Note the proportion of 45:27. Each number is divisible by nine, giving us the proportion 5:3. Is there any significance to the Old Testament claiming 5/8ths of the books in the Bible and the New Testament claiming 3/8ths? Continue reading
This is a bit of a ramshackle post, which I apologize for. Recently, I have been meditating on the story of the Patriarch Jacob in the Book of Genesis. In particular, I have been struck by the scene of Jacob and Esau’s reconciliation in Gen. 33. The build-up appears in Gen. 32.
I see in this story an account of our life in Christ. In fact, I hold that there is much in this passage that supports Catholic soteriology (teaching on how salvation works), specifically in those areas where it differs from Protestant soteriology. I don’t know that I shall ever have time to write out my thoughts with the proper detail, so I here present what notes I have managed to jot down. Here goes: Continue reading
Seems like I haven’t been able to get in any decent writing recently, not even on this, my summer vacation. Lest I forget, here are some jottings that I hope to develop into posts later:
–the meaning of perfidis in the traditional Good Friday Prayer for the Jews; how this term relates to 1.) a covenantal understanding of Christ’s Passion, 2.) the spiritual blindness mentioned in the same prayer, and 3.) our own identity as the Chosen People of the New Testament
–how to integrate our understanding of Christ’s Passion as both a martyrdom undertaken in defense of truth and as a propitiatory sacrifice; “the medium is the message”
–Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli as apostle of the Driftless Area; missions to the Indians, Frenchmen, Irish immigrants, and Anglo-American converts; temperance movement
–God’s “inscrutable will” (per Fr. Mazzuchelli), Pope Francis on the “God of Surprises,” and Fr. Feeney on divine surprises
–thoughts on the so-called debitum peccati, which is the speculative account of how exactly Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception relates to the Adam’s sin, if at all; the role of Christ’s Cross and the Immaculate Conception as the ultimate victory of the Cross; debitum Redemptoris or debitum Crucis as an alternative explanation; we inherit Original Sin for lack of the application of redemptive grace Continue reading
“Rejoice, O Jerusalem!” That’s the Introit (opening verse) of today’s Mass. In the Traditional Latin Mass, the Epistle is Galatians 4:22-31, where St. Paul speaks of, “that Jerusalem which is above, which is free, which is our mother.” That’s why in the British Isles this is known as Mothering Sunday (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mothering_Sunday).
My one Catholic grandmother was wont to say, “I wish I was in Heaven,” which is a much less alarming way of telling your friends and family, “I wish I were dead.” The hymn “Jerusalem, My Happy Home,” apparently written by an English Catholic priest who lived in hiding during the Protestant Revolt, captures the same longing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ySssVj7XCs). The traditional Roman station for Laetare Sunday is the Basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem. For more information about Laetare Sunday, click here: http://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-164/Laetare%20Sunday.html.
In his poem “Reflections on a Flea,” Fr. Leonard Feeney wrote:
“And by the way,
Speaking of how to pray,
Dogmas come first, not liturgies.”
This claim encapsulates one side in a contemporary debate concerning the best method of evangelization. Some prefer the so-called “path of beauty.” Some prefer the “path of truth.” Without denigrating the role of beautiful liturgy, I prefer the “path of truth.”
Consider that in the Early Church catechumens attended only the so-called Missa Catechumenorum, which is the overtly catechetical first part of the Mass. Only the baptized — the fully catechized and initiated — attended the Missa Fidelium, which is the overtly sacrificial part of the Mass beginning with the Offertory. In other words, it is catechesis that makes sense of the liturgy. Many who argue for the “path of beauty” seem to want the liturgical experience to substitute for or drive catechesis. This is the opposite extreme from the post-Vatican II over-emphasis on the “Liturgy of the Word.” I would say, it is doctrinal Faith that makes sense of the liturgy, not the other way around, even though the liturgy itself has an eschatological and sacrificial reality that transcends catechesis. Participation in the Mass is more the end than the means of evangelization; as Fr. Feeney said, dogmas still come first.
So many ideas occur to me, and I can’t develop them. Either more immediate needs take precedence, or I wile away the hours on something trifling. When I recall the many thoughts both subtle and sublime that have passed through my mind, and I survey the meager record I have left of them, I get melancholic. And with melancholy come memories of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” or I quote Nero’s dying words, “What an artist dies in me.”
But enough of that. As I’ve learned, sometimes it’s good to publish your half-formed ideas. Who knows who might develop these thoughts, and do better with them than I could? So today I focus on a key element of the Catholic Faith and of Catholic practice: the communicability of perfection:
1.) The Father communicates to the Son everything that the Father has, save Fatherhood. This includes the Father’s identity as source of the Holy Ghost. The “Filioque” is essential. Continue reading
Over at his site*, Fr. Hunwicke asks some questions about Purgatory. Specifically, he asks whether a soul, once dead, can slip into Hell proper. His question is prompted by some prayers in the Traditional Latin Mass that beseech God to deliver the soul from the eternal pains of Hell.
Here is my answer:
1.) Souls that go to Purgatory go there after their particular judgment, at which point their destination of Heaven or Hell is forever sealed. No one in Purgatory can ever end up in Hell proper, whether eternally or temporarily. Continue reading