Sunday, September 19, 2021

A second perfection consisting in operation, not form

Commissio Leonina
"'There was matrimony in Paradise, and yet there was no carnal intercourse. Therefore carnal intercourse is not an integral part of matrimony' (In IV Sent. d. 26, q. 2, a. 4, sed c. 1; Summa theol., Supplementum, q. 42, a. 4, sed c. 1).  According to Aquinas, it is wrong [(ne faut pas)] to take from [Gen 1:27] and similar texts the liberty of affirming that sexuality—masculinity and femininity—enters into what constitutes man in the image of God.  Such an idea is contrary to the very notion of theology according to Aquinas, which consists in bringing to bear upon both creation and man the very regard of God, [and doing so] from God, namely from revelation and the gift of faith.  By contrast, the idea of seeing in masculinity and femininity an element of the image of God in man comes from [1] bringing an exclusively human regard to bear on the human being and from [2] the confusion between the essence of man and his activity.  Thomas grounds the imago Dei in the spiritual nature of man, [in] the intelligence and the will [that] constitute him as man.  For in God there is an intelligence and a will, but not a body:  'God is spirit'. . . .  Moreover, the-image-of-God-that-man-is is an image to be perfected by virtuous and meritorious activity.  It is by his activity that man 'becomes' the image of God, and this means that [(et en cela)] the exercise of sexuality, as well as [that] of perfect continence, realizes this image.  Were masculinity and femininity to constitute for man an element of his being in the image of God, [then,] on the one hand, God would have to have a body, for the divine ideas of masculinity and femininity are not principle[s] of 'being in the image of,' for they are ideas, as Augustine put it so very well:  'it is there where there is no sex that man was made to the image of God, that is in the spirit of his mind' (De Trinitate XII.3.12).  [And,] on the other hand, all would have to exercise [their] sexuality in order to perfect this image, with the absurd consequence that those who live in perfect continence would never realize it."

     Adriano Oliva, O.P., "Essence et finalité du marriage selon Thomas d'Aquin pour un soin pastoral renouvelé," Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques 98, no. 4 (2014):  604n11 (601-668), translation mine.

Friday, September 17, 2021

He "who does not resolve the doubt" he "instills" is a false prophet

     "We find some people who study philosophy and say some things that are not true according to the faith.  And when someone tells them that this is opposed to the faith, they answer that the Philosopher says this, but that they themselves do not maintain this; yes, that they only repeat the words of the Philosopher.  Such is a false prophet, or a false teacher, because causing doubt and not solving it is the same as giving way to it.  This is signified in Ex 21:33-34, where it says that 'if someone digs a pit and opens the cistern without covering it over,' and a cow belonging to his neighbor comes and falls into the cistern, he who left the cistern open is bound to pay him restitution.  Someone who causes doubt about these things that regard the faith, opens the cistern.  Someone who does not solve the doubt, although he has a sound and bright intellect and is not deceived, is the one who does not cover over the cistern.  Still, someone else, who does not have such a bright intellect, may well be deceived, and then the one who causes the doubt is bound to restitution, since because of him that person fell into the pit."

     St. Thomas Aquinas, Sermon 14 on the Attendite a falsis prophetis (Mt 7:15-16) 2.1.2.1 (22), 26 July 1271, trans. Mark-Robin Hoogland, C.P. (Thomas Aquinas:  the academic sermons, FCMC 11 (Washington, DC:  The Catholic University of America Press, 2010), 292).  Trans. Athanasius Sulavik:

"others, who study philosophy and advance some things which are not true according to the faith, who when told that this is repugnant to the faith, respond by saying that they themselves do not assert this, but rather they are only repeating the words of the Philosopher. Such a person is a false prophet or a false teacher, for it is the same thing to instill doubt and not to resolve it, as it is to affirm the doubt. This point is illustrated in Exodus where it says that if anyone digs a well and opens the pit and does not cover it, and if their neighbor's ox comes along and falls into the pit, the person who opened the pit is held accountable for its restitution. That person who instills doubt about those things which belong to faith opens a pit; he does not cover the pit who does not resolve the doubt, even though he himself possesses sound and clear understanding and is not deceived. Nonetheless the other person who does not possess such clear understanding is truly deceived, and so that man who instilled the doubt is held accountable for restitution, since it was through him that the other man fell into the pit."

Latin from Sulavik:

"aliqui qui student in philosophia, et dicunt aliqua quae non sunt vera secundum fidem; et cum dicitur eis quod hoc repugnat fidei, dicunt quod philosophus dicit hoc, sed ipsi non asserunt: imo solum recitant verba philosophi. Talis est falsus propheta, sive falsus doctor, quia idem est dubitationem movere et eam non solvere quod eam concedere; quod signatur in Exod. 21, 33, 34, ubi dicitur quod si aliquis foderit puteum, et aperuerit cisternam, et non cooperuerit eam, veniat bos vicini sui, et cadat in cisternam, ille qui aperuerit cisternam teneatur ad ejus restitutionem. Ille cisternam aperuit, qui dubitationem movet de his quae faciunt ad fidem. Cisternam non cooperit, qui dubitationem non solvit, etsi habeat intellectum sanum et limpidum, et non decipiatur. Alter tamen qui intellectum non habet ita limpidum bene decipitur, et ille qui dubitationem movit tenetur ad restitutionem, quia per eum ille cecidit in foveam."

Latin from Corpus Thomisticum.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Trust the saints on what you haven't yourself experienced

"Although the tri-hypostatic nature of the Godhead—that is in no way destroyed by the principle of unity—was in later times revealed to the ends of the earth, it was also fully known to the prophets prior to the fulfillment of the things prophesied and was readily accepted by those who trusted in them.  In the same manner, even at this present time we are not ignorant of the doctrines of the Christian confession, both those which are openly proclaimed and those which are mystically and prophetically revealed by the Spirit to such as are accounted worthy.  These are persons who have been initiated by actual experience, who have renounced possessions, human glory and the ugly pleasures of the body for the sake of the evangelical life; and not only this, but they have also strengthened their renunciation by submitting themselves to those who have attained spiritual maturity in Christ.  Through the practice of the life of stillness they devote their attention undistractedly to themselves and to God, and by transcending themselves through sincere prayer and by establishing themselves in God through their mystical and supra-intellectual union with Him they have been initiated into what surpasses the intellect.  Others again have learnt about these things through their reverence, faith and love for such persons.

"If, then, anyone condemns as Messalians those who declare this deifying grace of God to be uncreated, ungenerated and completely real, and calls them ditheists, he must know . . . that he is an adversary of the saints of God. . . .  But if anyone believes, is persuaded by and concurs with the saints and does not 'make excuses to justify sin' [(Ps 141:4 LXX)], and if although ignorant of the manner of the mystery he does not because of his ignorance reject what is clearly proclaimed, let him not refuse to enquire and learn from those who do possess knowledge."

     Gregory of Palamas, “Declaration of the Holy Mountain in defence of those who devoutly practice a life of stillness” Prologue and 1 (=Triads I.ii?), in Philokalia:  the complete text, translated from the Greek and edited by G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware, vol. 4 (London:  Faber & Faber, 1995), 418-420.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

"the twofold perfection which is required of the student of [the science of mystical theology]"

     "The sort of people to whom this kind of teaching ['which is entitled Mystical Theology'] is meant to be addressed is alluded to in the word 'Israel,' which means 'very straight' and 'a man who sees God.'  This reveals the twofold perfection which is required of the student of this science:  clarity of understanding in order to see God and right behavior in practice, which is how we come to such clarity or sharpness of understanding [(limpiditas ad videndum Deum, et rectitudo operis, per quam ad dictam limpiditatem vel acumen devenitur)]."

     St. Albert the Great, Commentary on Dionysius' Mystical theology, chap. 1 (Albert & Thomas:  selected writings, translated, edited, and introduced by Simon Tugwell, O.P. (New York, NY, and Mahwah, NJ:  Paulist Press, 1988), 135).  I was put onto this by Fr. Bernhard Blankenhorn, O.P., who quotes it at the beginning of his lecture "Albertus Magnus on contemplative ascent to God," Renewing Mystical Theology: The Link Between Theological Doctrine and Spiritual Practice in Medieval Spiritualities, Thomistic Institute, Angelicum, Rome, 26 February 2021.  Fr. Blankenhorn's concluding comments are eminently quote-worthy as well.  Latin from p. 812 of vol. 14 of the Borgnet edition of 1892, i.e not vol. 37.2 of the Editio Coloniensis.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Cause us so always by our lives to confess openly your glory, that in heaven, too, we may never cease from your praise.

attr. Fra Angelico
"Deus, nostrae fons et origo salutis, ita nos fac semper vita nostra tuam gloriam profiteri, ut et in caelis a tua numquam laude cessemus."

     Oratio for Morning prayer (Ad laudes matutinas) on Saturday of the third week of the Psalter, Liturgia horarum, vols. 3 and 4 only.  Liturgy of the hours:

"God our Father, fountain and source of our salvation, may we proclaim your glory every day of our lives, that we may sing your praise for ever in heaven."

     The phrase "ut a tua numquam laude cessemus," at least, is ancient (Leonine, Gregorian, etc.).

Sunday, September 5, 2021

"But I must not try to dispense with the example of the words"

"the theology of the Middle Ages proposed that the aim of prayer (and the movement of being in which it consists) was that, through it, man should become an anima ecclesiastica—a personal embodiment of the Church.  This is both identity and purification, it is a surrendering of oneself and a being drawn into the innermost nature of what we mean by 'Church'.  In this process the language of our Mother becomes ours; we learn to speak it along with her, so that, gradually, her words on our lips become our words.  We are given an anticipatory share in the Church's perennial dialogue of love with him who desired to be one flesh with her, and this gift is transformed into the gift of speech.  And it is in the gift of speech, and not until then, that I am really restored to my true self; only thus am I given back to God, handed over by him to all my fellow men; only thus am I free.
     "At this point everything becomes very practical:  How can I learn to pray?  By praying in fellowship.  Prayer is always a praying with someone.  No one can pray to God as a isolated individual and in his own strength.  Isolation and the loss of a basic sense of fellowship in prayer constitute a major reason for the lack of prayer.  I learn to pray by praying with others, with my mother for instance, by following her words, which are gradually filled out with meaning for me as I speak, live and suffer in fellowship with her.  Naturally I must be always asking what these words mean.  Naturally, too, I must continually 'cash' these words into the small change of daily life.  And having done so, I must try to repossess them in exchange for my small coin, little by little, as I draw nearer the fullness of the mystery and become more capable of speaking of it.  And that is precisely why it is impossible to start a conversation with Christ alone, cutting out the Church:  a christological form of prayer which excludes the Church also excludes the Spirit and the human being himself.  I need to feel my way into these words in everything I do, in prayer, life, suffering, in my thoughts.  And this very process transforms me.  But I must not try to dispense with the example of the words, for they are alive, a growing organism, words which are lived and prayed by countless people."


     Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "On the theological basis of prayer and liturgy," The feast of faith:  approaches to a theology of the liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 1986), 29-30.  The immediate context of this, Ratzinger's third point under "2. The content of Christian prayer," begins with the second full paragraph on p. 28, and includes the reference, on p. 29, to the "two in one flesh" union of man and wife.  A quick and dirty search would indicate that the phrase anima ecclesiastica is to be associated first with Origen, but also Ambrose, and so on.  (I have not pursued this in any detail.)

"every theology which no longer facilitates petitionary prayer, and hence thanksgiving, is a fraud."

     Nikolaus Prinz von Lobkowicz, Am Ende aller Religion?  Ein Streitgespräch (Zurich:  Edition Interfrom, 1976), 17, as translated and quoted in Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "On the theological basis of prayer and liturgy," in Feast of faith:  approaches to a theology of the liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco:  Ignatius, 1986), 13.  Ratzinger himself:  "we are obliged to state firmly that this [(i.e. the position adopted by Lobkowicz's interlocutor, Fr. Anselm Hertz, O.P.)] is not Christian theology. . . .  To delete prayer and dialogue, genuine two-way dialogue, is to delete the whole Bible" (16).
     I will admit, however, to being rather disappointed with how Ratzinger addresses, in the end, the whole question of "3. Answers to prayer" (31-32).  One would have to read, in more detail, what he has to say on the subject of miracle, I think, to be assured that p. 32 isn't just a dodge akin, in some ways, to Hertz' own (cf. Hasenhüttl on pp. 14-15).  I can see how it wouldn't have to be if the "love-causality" of which he speaks is indeed powerful (it resulted in the Resurrection, after all), if it is capable of "us[ing] and adopt[ing]" "the world's mechanical causality" to great effect.  The problem is just that Ratzinger just doesn't say enough here, doesn't give us a conclusion that has been developed enough to stand over and against his anti-Hertzian introduction.