Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Durand on the yield of the prioritization of relation over procession in St. Thomas

"The yield of a nuanced analysis of the different facets of the Trinitarian relation allows Thomas to honor a properly relational conception of the person of the Father. In this he distinguishes himself from Bonaventure, and leads to term the first sketch of [the] solution supplied by Albert the Great.
"The connection between procession [(read also emanation, origin)] and relation is more subtle in Thomas than in Bonaventure because Aquinas manages to avoid a univocal solution. At the point at which the Franciscan master opted for a subordination of relation with respect to emanation, the Dominican gives priority to the relation insofar as it subsists [(en tant que'elle subsiste)], while underscoring that relation qua relation [(en tant que rapport)] is indeed founded on procession.
"This speculative tour de force leads to a theology of the Father originale, and heads off an excessive reliance on the model of emanation [(soustraite au seul modèle de l'émanation)]. The Father is no longer characterized so much as first hypostasis and fontal plenitude as Father of the Son."

Fr. Emmanuel Durand, O.P., “Le Père en sa relation constitutive au Fils selon saint Thomas d’Aquin.” Revue thomiste 107, no. 1 (2007): 60 (47-72). "The complex resolution of the relation between origin and relation finds itself thus aligned with an advanced understanding of the hypostasis of the Father. The relation of paternity is not a simple consequence of the act of generation; it is the first element of analysis appropriate to the signification of the perfection of the Father. Thus Thomas recalls in Summa theologiae [ 2] that "generation is signified as in progress [(en devenir)], but paternity signifies the achievement of generation [(Generatio . . . significatur ut in fieri: sed paternitas significat complementum generationis, generation signifies something in process of being made, while paternity signifies the complement of [(i.e. that which completes)] generation (FEDP))]. Our way of knowing is tied naturally to becoming, but we have at our disposal . . . resources for, on the one hand, purifying the concepts of movement and change that we employ and, on the other hand, completing these concepts in other registers. This is precisely the function of relation in regard to procession in the theology of St. Thomas" (61). Cf. and

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Aquinas on transubstantion

"substance, as such, is not visible to the bodily eye, nor does it come under any one of the senses, nor under the imagination, but solely under the intellect, whose object is what a thing is. . . . And therefore, properly speaking, Christ's body, according to the mode of being which it has in the sacrament, is perceptible neither by sense nor by the imagination, but only by the intellect, which is called the spiritual eye."

"the accidents which are discerned by the senses are truly present.  But the intellect, whose proper object is substance . . . is preserved by faith from deception . . . because faith is not contrary to the senses, but concerns things which sense does not reach."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae III.76.7, as quoted by Reinhard Hütter, in his "Eucharistic adoration in the personal presence of Christ:  making explicit the mystery of faith by way of metaphysical contemplation," Nova et vetera:  the English edition of the international journal 7, no. 1 (Winter 2009):  208.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hugo on the book

"le livre tuera l'édifice!"

Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris, book 5.

St. Basil on Tradition

"Concerning the teachings of the Church, whether publicly proclaimed (κηρυγμάτων) or reserved to members of the household of faith (δογμάτων), we have received some from written sources, while others have been given to us secretly, through apostolic tradition.  Both sources have equal force in true religion.  No one would deny either source--no one, at any rate, who is even slightly familiar with the ordinances of the Church.  If we attacked unwritten customs, claiming them to be of little importance, we would fatally mutilate the Gospel, no matter what our intentions--or rather, we would reduce the Gospel teachings to bare words."

St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, chap. 27, sec. 66, trans. David Anderson ((Crestwood, NY:  St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1980), 98, but with κηρυγμάτων and δογμάτων substituted--from the notes to the NPNF edition--for "kerygma" and "dogmata").  This is a major theme throughout (7.16, 10.26, 25.58, 27.66-67, 29.71-75, etc.), though the examples given here seem trivial.  According to the editors of the NPNF edition, at least, Basil can also come down pretty firmly on the side of Scripture, too.

St. Basil on the Holy Spirit

"If you remain outside the Spirit, you cannot worship at all, and if you are in Him you cannot separate Him from God."

St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, chap. 26, sec. 64, trans. David Anderson ((Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1980), 97).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Durand on Aquinas on the divine paternity as qualified by the divine innascibility (but not the reverse)

“For Thomas [(as distinguished from Richard of St. Victor, Bonaventure, etc.)], innascibility, being strictly negative, is a secondary property [(proprietas)]; it comes in solely to qualify the paternity of God[, which is primary]. Indeed, negation can express the dignitas characteristic of a property only in virtue of the affirmation on which it is founded. It is thus that innascibility presupposes paternity. To be sure, innascibility can seem more perfect than paternity, inasmuch as innascibility is utterly incommunicable, whereas paternity is in fact communicated to creatures. But if one attends to it, innascibility manifests in reality the incommunicable character of the divine paternity itself: the divine paternity is utterly unique and transcendent; only God the Father is therefore totally and uniquely Father, without having ever been [a] son--as Hilary, following Athanasius, had stressed so eloquently.  Innascibility expresses with great simplicity the incommunicability of the divine paternity.
“In its strictly negative sense, innascibility exercises, therefore, a corrective function with respect to all erroneous projection of human paternity onto God.”

Fr. Emmanuel Durand, O.P., “Le Père en sa relation constitutive au Fils selon saint Thomas d’Aquin.” Revue thomiste 107, no. 1 (2007): 69 (47-72).  A difficult article, which I can't yet say I've mastered.  Cf.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Grafton on the Liber locorum communium

"How better to put the case against the humanist practice of compiling commonplace books full of decontextualized quotations than to say that
like a good sausage machine, it rendered all texts, however dissimilar in origin or style, into a uniform body of spicy links that could add flavor to any meal--and whose origins did not always bear thinking about when one consumed them."
Keith Thomas, reviewing Anthony Grafton's What was history? The art of history in early modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2007), in "Fighting over history," The New York review of books 56, no. 19 (December 3, 2009): 66.

Thomas on Grafton on the artes historicae

"then as now, it is doubtful whether the writers of historical theory influenced many of the leading historians of their own day.  The greatest histories written in the period, like Paolo Sarpi's History of the Council of Trent (1619) or Edward, Earl of Clarendon's History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (1702-1704) owed nothing to the artes historicae.
"In the preface to his Histoire d'Angleterre (1724), the French Huguenot historian Paul de Rapin-Thoyras dismissed the prescriptions of the theorists as too vague and too contradictory to be of any practical use.  The only rules followed by the best historians were those of reason and common sense.  (In the same spirit Rapin's modern counterparts ignore the epistemological problems raised by such postmodernist writers as Jacques Derrida as irrelevant to the actual writing of history.)"

Keith Thomas, reviewing Anthony Grafton's What was history?  The art of history in early modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2007), in "Fighting over history," New York review of books 56, no. 19 (December 3, 2009):  66.  "Grafton, however, maintains that the artes historicae deserve . . . 'another history,' one that places the emphasis on their connection with 'the practice of cutting-edge scholarship'", and stresses again "that the radical methodological innovations pioneered by Patrizi, Baudouin, Bodin, et al., 'intellectual earthquakes,' as he calls them, bore a close resemblance to the tenets of the new critical history propounded by Le Clerc and Perizonius at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and subsequently enshrined in the University of Göttingen's school of history, which, under the leadership of Johann Christian Gatterer, laid the foundations for the great nineteenth-century German tradition of disciplined historical research exemplified by giants like Leopold von Ranke and Theodor Mommsen.  'Bodin by himself,' Grafton claims, [following 'several of [his] predecessors',] 'adumbrated almost every element of Gatterer's new method'" (68).

A symbol of the unknown

"Take the Mass out of Christmas.  That will leave only a symbol of the unknown."

Ralph McInerny, "Sealed with an X,"  (Those who rail against the use of Xmas forget what the X- (and the -mas) meant as early as 1551 in English.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Get ready, Israel, for the arrival of the Lord, because he is coming

Paratus esto, Israel, in occursum Domini, quoniam venit.

Third antiphon for Lauds and Vespers, Saturday between 17 and 23 December, inclusive.  An occursus was a meeting ("for a meeting of the Lord," i.e. "to meet the Lord"), but Blaise's Lexicon latinitatis medii aevi gives also arrivée (arrival, coming).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Out of sight, out of mind

"Two major events in the ensuing reign of Constantine set the Near East on the course we have been pursuing through the mosaics.  The first event was the emperor's conversion to Christianity and the subsequent establishment of Christianity as the state religion of the empire.  The second was the removal of the central administration from Rome to the newly named Constantinople at Byzantium.  The city on the Bosporus was soon to be recognized as a second Rome, or, in the words of the Cappadocian father Gregory of Nyssa, the 'newborn Rome.'  By the early fifth century the city could simply be called Rome without further specification, and by the sixth century it is likely that, in the Near East at least, those who were not scholars or theologians did not even know what or where old Rome actually was."

G. W. Bowersock, Mosaics as history: the Near East from late antiquity to Islam, Revealing antiquity 16, ed. G. W. Bowersock (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 2006), 116, italics mine.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Between Jacob and Choricius

"The unifying power of the mimes and their mythological stories provoked the wrath of Jacob of Sarug and others, but his mellifluous Syriac verses tell us what pleasure these entertainments gave ordinary citizens.  'Do you agree to cherish gods who love adultery?' he asks.  'Is your ear willing to have the report of the house of Zeus the adulterer fall upon it?  Is it good for you to see the depravity of female idols?  Can you endure, being the servant of Jesus, to take delight in Apollo?  Do you believe the mimings concerning the hero Heracles?'  And the response he imagines his enraptured listeners offering up to him in justification is this:  'The dancing of that place cheers me up. . . . I do not go to believe.  I go to laugh.  And what do I lose if I laugh and do not believe?'
"This is the laughter and the cheer of the mosaics we see today.  The response of the Christian patron of the mimes, as imagined by Jacob of Serug, is precisely the justification offered by the Christian apologist Choricius[, who]. . . .
"provides [a perfect parallel] with Jacob's Christian enthusiast.  The eminent orator of Gaza took up the objection, echoed in Jacob, that watching adultery on the stage was naturally corrupting.  But he went on to argue:  'Since the whole affair is a kind of playfulness, its objective is song and laughter.  Everything is contrived for spiritual refreshment and relaxation.  It seems to me that Dionysus, who is, after all, a laughter-loving God [φιλογέλως γὰρ ὁ θεός], has taken pity on our nature.  Different cares disquiet different people--the loss of children, grieving over parents, the death of siblings, the demise of a good woman.  Poverty gnaws at many, and dishonor brings grief to many others.  It seems to me that Dionysus takes pity on mankind and provides an opportunity for diversion in order to console those who are dispirited. . . . The god is generous and well disposed to humanity, so as to provoke laughter of every kind.'"

G. W. Bowersock, Mosaics as history: the Near East from late antiquity to Islam, Revealing antiquity 16, ed. G. W. Bowersock (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 2006), 61-63.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Prayer for the second Saturday of Advent

May there arise, we beseech you, Almighty God, in our hearts the splendor of your glory, that, every shadow of night having been lifted, the coming of your Only Begotten may reveal us to be children of the light.

Oriatur, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, in cordibus nostris splendor gloriæ tuæ, ut, omni noctis obscuritate sublata, filios nos esse lucis Unigeniti tui manifestet adventus.

Morning prayer, second Saturday of Advent (Liturgia horarum, vol. 1, p. 205; cf. Christian prayer: the Liturgy of the hours, p. 86, where liberties are taken).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gavrilyuk on Cyril of Alexandria

"Cyril was determined to resist any attempt at dividing the gospel sayings into those passages pertaining to the divinity and those speaking about the humanity of Christ.  Instead of speaking of the two subjects leading two loosely connected lives, Cyril preferred to speak of the single subject, one divine Word, and to refer to him as existing in two distinct states:  apart from the incarnation and within the framework of the incarnation.  Outside of the incarnation, the Word was characterized by all the divine perfections and negative attributes.  In that state clear-cut distinctions between the Creator and creation obtained and anthropomorphic descriptions of divine action were not to be construed literally:  God could be said to act like a man, but he could not be said to become human in order to act in this way.
"Within the confines of the incarnation, the language of the negative attributes still obtained, since the Word had not abandoned his divine status.  At the same time, something new happened in the incarnation, so new and unparalleled that it became possible to predicate human experiences of God the Word, not considered 'nakedly', but within the framework of the incarnation.  While God in his omniscience 'knew our frame', in the incarnation he became a participant in our weakness and in this sense it was possible to speak of an utterly unique divine acceptance of human limitations.
"In the incarnation it became entirely legitimate, even necessary, to make the divine Word the grammatical subject of the passages that Nestorius used to prove his point.  Thus, according to Cyril, the statement 'God wept' or 'God was crucified' were theologically legitimate, as long as it was added that the subject was God-in-the-flesh, and not God outside of the framework of the incarnation. . . .
"As Cyril stressed on many occasions, the Word remained impassible in his own nature throughout the incarnation. . . .
But "the apophatic claim that the divine nature is impassible always appears in Cyril's writings in tandem with the affirmation that God suffered in the flesh. . . ."

"Cyril has very skillfully carved out his vision of the incarnation between the Scylla of God's suffering in his own nature outside of the economy of the incarnation and the Charybdis of the man's suffering on his own."

Paul Gavrilyuk, "Theopatheia:  Nestorius' main charge against Cyril of Alexandria," Scottish journal of theology 56, no. 2 (2003):  200-201, 204, 205.

Gavrilyuk on "the biblical authors themselves"

"The attribution of human emotions and experiences to God is regarded by the biblical authors themselves as a problem of anthropomorphism, not necessarily an advantage over non-anthropomorphic descriptions of God.  To affirm simply that the divine nature is passible is to open a Pandora's box of theological problems."

Paul Gavrilyuk, "Theopatheia:  Nestorius's main charge against Cyril of Alexandria," Scottish journal of theology 56, no. 2 (2003):   196.  The key word there is "simply":  "For Cyril, both qualified divine impassibility and qualified divine passibility were necessary for a sound theology of incarnation."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Not every "situation" is a "model"

"cohabitation, the single parent relation, and the reconstructed family can be individual choices or situations forced upon a person, but in no case can they be models comparable to the stable union of a man and woman who are married.  It would be more fair to speak of experiences and tendencies of affective association than of the 'pluralism' of contemporary models of the family.  Each person is free, or believes himself free, to live as he pleasesor can; but can society order itself by legitimizing all the situations that would like to present themselves as so many models, when they are in fact symptoms of the disintegration of what holds society together?"

     Tony Anatrella, "Disappearing fathers, destabilized families," trans. from chap. 1 of La différence interdite: sexualité, éducation, violence (Paris: Flammarion, 1998) by Michelle K. Borras, Communio: international Catholic review 36, no. 2 (Summer 2009):  321.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pseudo Justin on the ascension

"Why did He rise in the flesh in which He suffered, unless to show the resurrection of the flesh? And wishing to confirm this, when His disciples did not know whether to believe He had truly risen in the body, and were looking upon Him and doubting, He said to them, 'Ye have not yet faith, see that it is I;' and He let them handle Him, and showed them the prints of the nails in His hands. And when they were by every kind of proof persuaded that it was Himself, and in the body, they asked Him to eat with them, that they might thus still more accurately ascertain that He had in verity risen bodily; and He did eat honey-comb and fish. And when He had thus shown them that there is truly a resurrection of the flesh, wishing to show them this also, that it is not impossible for flesh to ascend into heaven (as He had said that our dwelling-place is in heaven), 'He was taken up into heaven while they beheld,' as He was in the flesh."

De resurrectione 9.5-8 (, a fragmentary 4th or 5th century treatise attributed to Justin Martyr, but probably "the work of a single author of the Aristotelian school" (ODCC, rev. 3rd ed. (2005), s.v. "Justin Martyr, St.").  I was first put onto this by A. Chollet in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, vol. 3 (1908), col. 1894 (s.v. "Corps glorieux").
According to Quasten, the fragments came down to us via the Hiera or "Sacra Parallela of St. John Damascene" (vol. 1, p. 205), "Now lost in its original form" (ODCC, rev. 3rd ed. (2005), s.v. "John of Damascus, St.").
Critical edition is Martin Heimgartner, Pseudojustin, Über die Auferstehung: Text und Studie, Patristische Texte und Studien 54 (New York, NY: Walter de Gruyter, 2001), pp. 124-126.
"some honeycomb" (καὶ ἀπὸ μελισσίου κηρίου/κηρίον, "and [something] from a honeycomb"/"and a honeycomb from a bee-hive") is there in the apparatus to the critical editions of Lk 24:42, and the 3rd ed. of the GNT (though not the 27th ed. of NA) cites--for the reading with κηρίου--Justin, among others. It is there in the Authorized and some other versions, too.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Calling fathers "father"

“while Mary’s motherhood is assimilated to the motherhood of the Church to the point of coinciding with it, Joseph’s fatherhood is never confused with the fatherhood of God. It is entirely a mystery of effacement before that from which it ‘is named,’ whereas motherhood is not named from anything else, but incarnates the human vocation and anticipates its fulfillment: ‘Perfect image of the Church to come, dawn of the Church triumphant, [Mary] guides and sustains the hope of your pilgrim people,’ as we hear in the preface to the feast of the Assumption.
“In order to understand why Mary’s motherhood and Joseph’s fatherhood are treated so differently, it is enough to remember that in Jesus’ double filial relation to Mary and Joseph, there is only one incarnate filial relation, his relation to his Mother. Joseph’s fatherhood is only representative: in other terms, it is priestly. Human fatherhood and motherhood are of course both images of the unique fatherhood of God, but they are such asymmetrically. If Mary is in her motherhood a figure of the Church, Joseph in his turn is a figure of the priest, who effaces himself before Him whom he represents (that is, both Christ the High Priest and the Father whom he makes present—‘Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father’) and who, in effacing himself, communicates him sacramentally to men.” . . .
“The spiritual reference to begetting from above, of which the heavenly Father alone is capable, confirms the ministerial status of human fatherhood. Far from it that man is unworthy of the name of ‘father’; rather, he will be declared worthy of it on the condition that he knows to cede his place to an Other who is Father in the strong sense, begetting to his own life those who were born ‘of blood and the flesh’ (Jn 1:13). So that this begetting from ‘above’ (Jn 3:3) might be accomplished, the child will be entrusted to the Church, who will confer on it baptism, and the human parents, through the Christian education they will give to their progeny, will make themselves servants of God, helping the new child of the Father to live according to its new condition. In this perspective, human fatherhood and motherhood appear not as ends in themselves, but as mysteries of effacement before the fatherhood of God and the motherhood of the Church.
“That which exists at the heart of the family finds itself in yet clearer form in the traditional titles of address for priests or monks. It is striking that such men are all the more readily called ‘Father’ when, in the natural sense, they have no children. Because their fatherhood is not particularized on any individual, it can be a pure sign of the universal fatherhood of God: it is sign only in the total non-possession of one who is called in a vocation to beget no one, accepting to be nothing to anyone in order to be a sign of God for everyone.”

Jean-Pierre Batut, "Calling fathers 'father': usurping the name of God?," trans. Michelle K. Borras, Communio: international Catholic review 36, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 303-304, 307.  Cf.

Batut on some implications of Nicaea

“that which comes from God in his fatherhood is the capacity to give origin: proper and specific to the fatherhood of God is not ‘agenesis’ (the absence of an origin), but the fact of being the Source giving rise to other sources. . . .
“Why is God the source of all fatherhood? Precisely because he is more fundamentally Father (Origin) than Unbegotten (without origin). This affirmation was in substance that of the Council of Nicaea, which was convened in 325 to respond to one of the most serious heresies in the history of the Church.
“At the beginning of the fourth century, the Alexandrian priest Arius . . . presented the fact of being without origin as the quasi-definition of God. Unfortunately, the Word could not enter into this definition, since Jesus, the incarnate Word, ceaselessly affirms that he is originated by the Father. . . .
“Consequently, the begetting of the Word had to have been the fruit of a decision the Father made ‘one day’: it is an act of the will and not of nature. There was seen to be, then, no essential difference between the act by which God begot the Word and the act by which he created all things. The primacy of the Word on this understanding is fundamentally instrumental: he was willed with a view to creation, as the ‘firstfruits of the works of God’ (Pr 8:22). Hand in hand with this went the notion that, if God begot ‘one day,’ God was God before being Father: fatherhood is not essential to him. It is conceived according to the model of human fatherhood, and comes as an accidental relation to an already constituted subject. The fact of being Unbegotten alone is divine in God.
“The Council of Nicaea responded in 325 to this radical calling into question of the Christian faith, with the affirmation that God is not first he who is without origin, but he who gives origin, in other words, the Father. . . .
“For Nicaea, fatherhood and sonship are constitutive of the Christian faith: there is in God He who is nothing but Fatherhood, and He who is nothing but Sonship. Unlike what happens with us, the Son will never become Father. Whereas, in our human experience, filiation and fatherhood are stages we pass through (for fatherhood itself is superceded when the child becomes father in turn), in God, they are persons, the Trinity’s subsistent modalities of being.
“In the light of this fatherhood and sonship, the finality of creation reveals itself to be entirely filial, in the face of a divine action that is paternal from the first instant. There is in God no change, no passage from less to more: with respect to us, he does not become father; it is we who become his children. This is why, when we say, ‘I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator . . .’, the distinction between ‘Father’ and ‘Creator’ is very largely conceptual. It means that he who is Father in himself manifests himself as Creator with regard to ourselves, in order to raise us up in the end, in his Son and by the gift of the Spirit, to the filial condition he willed for us from all eternity.”

Jean-Pierre Batut, "Calling fathers 'father': usurping the name of God?," trans. Michelle K. Borras, Communio: international Catholic review 36, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 299-301. This in response to Claude Bruaire, who claims that "it is by a clear theomorphism that every procreator usurps the divine Name" (La raison politique (Paris: Fayard, 1974), 261, as quoted on p. 298 (italics mine)).

Batut on the essence of paganism

"Paganism is characterized less by the plurality of gods than by the impossibility of conceiving an authentic relation of creation between God and the world, which alone would allow us to affirm both that creation bears the mark of God and that God nonetheless transcends all that exists."

Jean-Pierre Batut, "Calling fathers 'father': usurping the name of God?," trans. Michelle K. Borras, Communio: international Catholic review 36, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 295-296.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pre-Copernican geocentrism was anything but geoelevantic (in the sense of anthropocentric)

"That which is the center is in the middle, and in a sphere only that which is in the middle can be at the bottom [(quod centron est medium est; in sphaera vero hoc solum constat imum esse quod medium est, What is the center is the middle; in a sphere, that alone truly proves to be the bottom which is the middle)]."

     Macrobius, Commentarii in somnium Scipionis 1.22.4, on the earth (terra), as translated by William Harris Stahl (Commentary on the dream of Scipio (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 181-182). Rémi Brauge, The legend of the Middle Ages: philosophophical explorations of medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 211 and 273n24.

"the central point [kentron] of the whole cosmos] is the centre [meson] of the spherical magnitude and body, but it is necessary to seek something else as the most honorable [part] analogous to the heart, namely the centre; and this is not the central point but rather the fixed sphere because it is the starting point of the being of the cosmos and carries around the other spheres [fixed stars?] with it and contains the whole corporeal nature. Here is where one should seek what is most honourable."

     Simplicius, Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca, vol. 7 (1894), pp. 514, 514-518, as translated by Ian Mueller (On Aristotle's "On the heavens 2.1-9" (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004), 54). Rémi Brague, The legend of the Middle Ages: philosophical explorations of medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, trans. Lydia G.Cochrane (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 211 and 273n21.

     In this essay entitled "Geocentrism as the humiliation of man," Brague does nothing more than "pick up on what Arthur Lovejoy, Paolo Rossi, and many others set out to do" (220; cf. 272n9 and passim), by adding "a few texts that [he] ha[s] not found cited anywhere else in this connection", most of them "from authors who wrote in Arabic or in Hebrew" (206), the point being that pre-Copernican "'geocentric cosmology did not lead the ancient [or medieval] astronomers and philosophers to a man-centered view of the universe, an exaggerated view of man's importance in the scheme of things. It led them rather to stress his smallness, insignificance, and lowly position in the cosmic order'" (212, quoting A. H. Armstrong, from vol. 3, pp. 68-69n of the edition of Plotinus he edited for the Loeb Classical Library), as well as the need for humility (216-218). Indeed, Copernican heliocentrism was sometimes resisted because it first unduly promoted the earth and man (218-219)!

     Old news, but nicely re-stated and summarized.

     Ben McFarland informs me that a term for this in Karsten Harries' Infinity and perspective is diablocentric.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nietzsche on New Testament Greek

"It was a piece of subtle refinement that God learned Greek when he wanted to become a writer--and that he did not learn it better."

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond good and evil: prelude to a philosophy of the future IV.121 (trans. R. J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin Books, 1990), 98). Much of Beyond good and evil is beyond me as well, but this one I liked.

The Tome of Damasus on the Extra patristicum

"If someone has said that, established in the flesh when he was on earth, he [(the Son)] was not in heaven with the Father, he is a heretic [(Si quis dixerit, quod in carne constitutus cum esset in terra, in caelis cum Patre non erat: haereticus est)]."

Canon 13 of the Tome of Damasus (382), as reproduced at DS 165. Cf. The Christian faith in the doctrinal documents of the Catholic Church, 7th rev. & enlarged, ed. Jacques Dupuis (New York, NY: Alba House, 2001), 306/13, p. 145, where this runs, "Anyone who says that the Son, while incarnate on earth, was not in heaven with the Father, is a heretic." Cf. the fifth-century "Faith of Damasus" (DS 72, qui nunquam desiit esse cum Patre =Dupuis 15, p. 11, "who never ceased to be with the Father").

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Grace escapes our experience

"Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith [(Gratia, supernaturalis cum sit, nostrae se subducit experientiae et non nisi per fidem potest cognosci)]."

Catechism of the Catholic Church #2005.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Stendahl on "selling the faithful a place in heaven"

"There is a way of eating a soft-boiled egg, in the seminary, that testifies to progress toward a life of devotion."

Stendahl, The red and the black: a chronicle of 1830, pt. 1, chap. 26 (trans. Burton Raffel (New York: Modern Library, 2003), 172). Julien was not making "much progress in his attempts at an externalized hypocrisy" (chap. 27 (p. 176)).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rahner on the danger in sleep

"If a man brings with him into his sleep good, genuine, holy images, if his power of imagination is already formed by means of the true archetypes of reality, archetypes blessed and redeemed, pure and radiant in the flesh in which the Logos of God was himself formed; if a man sinks into sleep like this, not formless (for the Christian has no need to become mystically formless in order to seize hold of God, since God has himself eternally assumed the form, the schema of man), nor in the chaotic distortion in which his daylight consciousness mirrors the lacerated reality of the world; then doubtless there will come to meet and greet him out of the kingdom of sleep in secret sympathy these images, which in reality he is bringing with him; then there is in him already a hidden principle of selection to determine what is to be allowed to pass from the depths of the soul into the soul which is left open. Those images which a believing man forms in himself when fully conscious call up out of the depths of his natural soul their own likeness. For indeed these Christian archetypes are really concealed in the depths of our 'natural soul' because we are redeemed not only from above but also from below by him who descended into the depths, and because there is in reality no such thing as a 'purely' natural soul, a soul in a state of purely natural innocence, because it is either saved or damned, or to speak even more correctly--after all it exists prior to the personal choice between the alternatives of salvation and damnation--it is both at the same time, the radical source from which both can well up, the might of darkness and the light of the morning-star which, according to Scripture, rises in . . . the heart.
"The 'schemata of the power of the imagination' (to speak in Kantian terms for once) don't consist merely in those harmless things which a rationalistic, unexistential psychology or a metaphysic of the sensitive soul tells us about. They are not empty forms of space and time. Rather, they have a historical physiognomy which is in the last analysis Christian or demonic. Which of the two sets of images--which constitute reality--will in effect become efficacious in us depends too upon which the personal spirit in his waking state has chosen as his.
"That is why our night prayer . . . ought to be a quiet, untroubled, relaxed and recollected gathering together of those great images in which the supreme reality, that of God, has come near to us and impressed itself on this visible world: the Son of Man, the Sign of the Cross, the Blessed Virgin, to name but a few. . . . Here it is not a question of a frivolous play of phantasy. Has not our phantasy too been consecrated down to the deepest roots of man since the eternal Word became flesh? And should the image, which faith creates out of this fact and in which it is concentrated and embodied, not be a kind of quasi-sacramental sign which sanctifies and blesses, guards and enlightens? In recommending this kind of 'imaginative' prayer, I naturally include under the heading of 'image' everything which belongs to the realm of sensibility, and not only what is ordered to the sense of sight, and therefore words, sounds, signs, gestures, in short everything in which the celestial spirit can be embodied, the nether depths of our being sanctified and the spirit of earth banished. The correct, calm and recollected signing of oneself with the sign of the Cross, the simple gesture of prayer, the words of prayer, if they are filled with simple greatness and concentrated reality, all these [too] belong to that imaginativeness which--in my opinion--ought to be the characteristic precisely of night prayer, if it is to become an exorcism and consecration of that kingdom into whose power man surrenders himself in sleep."

Karl Rahner, "A spiritual dialogue at evening: on sleep, prayer, and other subjects" (1947), Theological investigations 3, The theology of the spiritual life, trans. Karl-H. and Boniface Kruger (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1967), 232-233.

Whatever one thinks of Jung, or Kant for that matter, this, it seems to me, is quite right. There are dangers in sleep, and evening prayer in general and compline in particular "should be of such a nature as to be adapted, more than any other prayer, to the peculiar character of that 'kingdom' into which man in sleep finds his way, so that he 'arms' himself against the dangers of [(i.e. peculiar to)] this region of life in sleep, in a sense exorcises and blesses it" (230).

I wonder, though, if "quasi-sacramental" is really strong enough. I mean, are the holy icons only "quasi-sacramental"? (According to the Orthodox, that is.) And what of Scripture itself, so pervasive throughout the Liturgy of the hours? Why not in some cases simply "a kind of . . . sacramental sign"? Not perhaps a sacrament, but not merely a sacramental either? (That was theologically imprecise, I know.)

Bonhoeffer"in all the ancient evening prayers we are struck by the frequency with which we encounter the prayer for preservation during the night from the devil, from terror, and from an evil, sudden death.  The ancients had a persistent sense of man's helplessness while sleeping, of the kinship of sleep with death, of the devil's cunning in making a man fall when he is defenseless.  So they prayed for the protection of the holy angels and their golden weapons, for the heavenly hosts, at the time when Satan would gain power over them.  Most remarkable and profound is the ancient church's prayer that when our eyes are closed in sleep God may nevertheless keep our hearts awake.  It is the prayer that God may dwell with us and in us even though we are unconscious of his presence, that He may keep our hearts pure and holy in spite of all the cares and temptations of the night, to make our hearts ever alert to hear His call and, like the boy Samuel, answer Him even in the night:  'Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth' (1 Sam. 3:9).  Even in sleep we are in the hands of God or in the power of evil.  Even in sleep God can perform His wonders upon us or evil bring us to destruction.  So we pray at evening:

          When our eyes with sleep are girt,
          Be our hearts to Thee alert;
          Shield us, Lord, with Thy right arm,
          Save us from sin's dreadful harm.

     "But over the night and over the day stands the word of the Psalter:  'The day is thine, the night also is thine' (Ps. 74:16."

     Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life together (Gemeinsames Leben, 1938), trans. John W. Doberstein (San Francisco:  HarperOne, Harper Collins Publishers, [1954]), 74-75.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

God is forever incarnate

"here and now and always, my salvation, my grace, my knowledge of God, rests on the Word in our flesh [(je jetzt und immer mein Heil, meine Gnade, meine Gotteserkenntnis aufruht auf dem Wort in unserm Fleisch)]".

Karl Rahner, "The eternal significance of the humanity of Jesus for our relationship with God [(Die ewige Bedeutung der Menschenheit Jesu für unser Gottesverhältnis)]" (1953), trans. Karl-H. and Boniface Kruger, Theological investigations 3, The theology of the spiritual life (Baltimore, MD: Helicon Press, 1967), 44 (58 in the German), italics mine. And for this reason, "one cannot be a Christian without continually passing, by a movement of the spirit supported by the Holy Ghost, through the humanity of Christ and, in that humanity, through its unifying centre which we call the [sacred] heart [(deren einigende Mitte, die wir das Herz [Jesu] nennen)]" (46 (60 in the German)).

Rahner on the convenience of a real, permanent, and "independent" dulia

"do we really do what we think we do? Or are the names of the Saints, of the Angels, of the humanity of Christ, just so many changing labels for us by which we--quoad nos--always mean only one and the same thing, which is conjured up by them, viz. God?
"Let us not put this question as a theoretical principle for all times, but as a question facing us today! In this form it is not so easy to answer. The man of previous ages may indeed have had a very obvious capacity for thinking out such types of numinous power and persons outside God, to such an extent that he was continually in danger of sliding into a theoretical or at least practical polytheism. But do we? Is it not precisely the reverse in our case? In our case, is not everything, which we conserve from the objective teaching of faith in this regard, reducible to different names always meaning the same thing, viz. God, the one and only being which has remained beyond our sensible experience of the world, and which is still left to us even after the disappearance of all other numinous realities? We should not be too quick to put our trust in the façade and traditional accoutrements of our piety. We should instead ask ourselves a few simple questions: who among us has ever really and genuinely realized in the Confiteor that he is confessing his sinfulness to Blessed Michael the Archangel, and that this really is not just a rhetorical amplification of a confession to God? Have we not really lost sight of our own deceased relatives? We pray for them perhaps, because this is the done thing and because we would otherwise have a bad conscience about it. But apart from that, if we are honest, they have ceased to exist for us. . . . Let us take a look at an average theological treatise on the Last Things, on eternal happiness. Does such a treatise mention even a single word about the Lord become man? Is not rather everything swallowed up by the visio beatifica, the beatific vision, the direct relationship to the very essence of God which is indeed determined historically by a past event--namely the event of Christ--but which is not now mediated by Jesus Christ? Does not this observation on the usual present-day theology (distinguishing itself in this from the old theology) show also that as far as our real capacity of realization is concerned, the whole world . . . is inexistent and is as it were swallowed up as far as we are concerned . . . by the blazing abyss of God, even when we do not admit it to ourselves and retain the opposite terminology, though almost in the same way in which we talk about Eros with his arrows? Who . . . still really prays today to the Saints . . . to his name-saint, to his guardian angel? One perhaps still honours a Saint (this is something quite different), a Saint whom one knows about historically, in his historical reality, just as the pagans honour their historically great men. But is the now living Saint a realized, i.e. not merely theoretically accepted, reality for us side by side with and apart from God, a reality which has its own independent actuality, on whose good will something [(etwas)] depends, with which one tries to establish personal contact, and which one tries to draw into one's really experienced world? Or does one merely use the word 'Angel' at one time, and Mary or the Sacred Heart or St Joseph at another time, and yet realizes in all this always the same thing, viz. the incomprehensibility and inappellable sovereignty of God to which one surrenders oneself completely, in fear and trembling and in love at the same time? Does not this and only this appear to us as as the religious act, while everything else appears merely as a colourful reflection of the unchangingly One, as a prismatic refraction of the one white light of God, which [refraction] in itself has no existence of its own? Why otherwise do we find it difficult today to believe in the legions of devils, and why do we prefer to speak abstractly about the 'diabolical', just as our pagan contemporaries--whom, behind a verbal façade, we often resemble much more than we should imagine--like to speak [also abstractly] of the 'saintly' or 'the divine'?"

Karl Rahner, "The eternal significance of the humanity of Jesus for our relationship with God [(Die ewige Bedeutung der Menschenheit Jesu für unser Gottesverhältnis)]" (1953), trans. Karl-H. and Boniface Kruger, Theological investigations 3, The theology of the spiritual life (Baltimore, MD: Helicon Press, 1967), 37-38 (49-51 in the German).

The main point comes here: "It should . . . be a task of theology to think much more deeply, and in a much more vital manner than it has done up till now, about why, how and in what dependence of the basic religious acts on God, what it calls dulia (veneration), in contrast to latria (adoration), is in truth a genuinely religious act [(ein echter religiöser Akt)], and how, as such an act, it can and must be exercised more independently and not merely as an act which simply resolves itself into the act of latria" (42 (54-55 in the German)), such that "this humanity [of the Word] is essentially and always [(i.e. for all eternity)] the mediating object of the one act of latria which has God for its goal" (45 (58-59 in the German)). And all of this because the God we worship is not "a God without a world" (41 (54 in the German)): "The true God is not the one who kills so that he himself can live. He is not 'the truly real' which like a vampire draws to himself and so to speaks sucks out the proper reality of things different from himself; he is not the esse omnium. The nearer one comes to him, the more real one becomes; the more he grows in and before one, the more independent one becomes oneself. Things created by him are not maya, the veil, which dissolves like mist before the sun" (40 (53 in the German)).

Most potentially objectionable may be the phrase "a . . . reality for us side by side with and apart from God" (38 (50 in the German)). Yet Rahner locates this essay in a particular context, that of the mid-twentieth century, and implies repeatedly that, in an earlier, the danger was an idolatrous polytheism. What is more, he is also quite clear that the Christian God is one "who does not tolerate any strange gods before him (not even those in whose case one carefully avoids using the name of God)" (42 (55 in the German)).

I would be uncomfortable with this idea of attempting "to establish personal contact", were it not a question here, not of a "God-less" (41 (54 in the German)) world of the angels and saints, but of precisely that point "where the world has already found the finality of its eternal validity before God in the morning and evening summits of its spiritual history, i.e. in the angels and saints" (42 (54 in the German), italics mine).

Am I letting Rahner off the hook too easily? To this little pea of a brain it all coheres: what strikes the Protestant as reckless (the veneration of the angels, the saints, and maybe even the Sacred Heart), with what the Protestant most certainly should believe (that God and the world are not in a competition of any kind).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Torrell on the danger of identifying the faith with a theologoumenon

The legitimacy of theological intervention in matters scientific or philosophical [(l'intervention possible de la théologie à l'égard des sciences ou de la philosophie)] stems from this: "that the theologians [in question] have themselves made the effort to acquire the competence that permits them to intervene advisedly. If, in particular, it is a question of the rejection of a philosophical conclusion that would be contrary to the faith, [the legitimacy of] this [rejection] presupposes that one has made the effort to specify exactly what the faith is on the point at issue. History bears eloquent witness to the fact that one has [all too] often identified the faith with disputable theological conclusions, or with a doctrine widely accepted, but enjoying the guarantee of a formal doctrine of the Church not at all, [even] when it was not simply the spontaneous convictions of another age that one [had] dressed up in the name of tradition [(quand ce n'était pas simplement des convictions spontanées d'un autre âge qu'on habillait du nom de «tradition»)]. A place for them in the Credo was not assured for all that. Indeed [(pourtant)], theologians have at their disposal a whole arsenal of ways to distinguish between simple theological opinions and what can really be called a revealed truth. When this is not purely and simply ignored, it is too often neglected, and the temptation then is great to overestimate [the strength of] the link to the revealed deposit by overvaluing the authority of reasons [merely] theological or [even] declarations on the subject made by the Magisterium [(des raisons théologiques ou des déclarations magistérielles à son sujet)]. The argument from authority has its place in theology, but it is not necessary to exaggerate this."

Jean-Pierre Torrell, “Philosophie et théologie d’après le Prologue de Thomas d’Aquin au Super Boetium de Trinitate: essai d’une lecture théologique,” Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale: rivista della Società internazionale per lo studio del medioevo latino 10 (1999): 346. Torrell goes on to stress that when the theologian intervenes, he does so not "in the internal development of philosophical reasoning, but . . . as an external norm: by rendering [him] attentive to the consequences of an erroneous conclusion, he invites the believing philosopher to retrace his steps, but . . . does not [meddle in such a way as to] do this for him" qua theologian (347, italics mine).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gauthier on Aristotelian contemplation

“the contemplation of God interests Aristotle in the Ethics, if at all, only because it is the perfection of man, and it is hardly at all that he envisages it, except as perfection of man. What he seeks, is this not, as he says repeatedly (Nicomachean ethics I, 2, 1095 a 16; 4, 1096 b 34-35; 5, 1097 a 15; X, 2, 1172 b 35), a good that man can achieve by action [(un bien que l’homme puisse faire)]? This good, he showed that it consists for man in accomplishing his task as man, [a] task that is nothing other than the highest activity of man, and it is as this highest activity of man that contemplation appears (X, 7, 1177 a 12-13). Contemplation is the perfection of man because it is the activity of the intellect, which is what there is in man of the highest (1177 a 12-17), and which is man himself (1178 a 2-3). If, therefore, gazing upon [(regarder)] God makes for human happiness, this does not appear to be because what one gazes upon is God, but rather because what gazes is man, who, in this gaze [(regard)], is fulfilled [(s’achève)]. God comes into the picture [(intervient)], so to say, only indirectly, because it is necessary to the gaze that there be an object, and an object proportioned to his nature, which is divine (1177 a 15-16; b 28, 30). In this sense, Aristotelian contemplation can be only, strictly speaking, intellectual; its ambition is to realize [(achiever)] the subject that is [human] intellect, not to go beyond it in order to arrive at, beyond it, a transcendent object.
“However, even in the Nicomachean ethics itself, there appears, however incidentally, the idea that what makes contemplation the highest of [human] activities is not only the perfection of its subject, the intellect, but also the perfection of its object, God (X, 7, 1177 a 20-21). The Ethics does not insist on this aspect, which remains outside of its perspectives. But Aristotle did insist on it in the introduction to his third course on biology, a little posterior to the Nicomachean ethics. According to this celebrated text (On the parts of animals I, 5, 644 b 22-645 a 4), it is no longer from the perfection of its subject that contemplation draws its superiority. No, envisaged subjectively, the contemplation of divine realities is, qua knowledge, inferior to the knowledge that we have of the realities of our world, just as a glance that grasps by chance one whole little part of its object is inferior to a view that takes all of its aspects in at leisure. The superiority of the contemplation of divine realities it gets entirely from its object, from that object which, however, it knows so little [(mal)]. But [simply] making contact with this object is of more value than knowing exhaustively the things of this world [(d’ici-bas)]. Must we not recognize in this the affirmation of a contemplation which is no longer purely intellectual, of a kind of mystical contact (éphaptométha, 644 b 32) infinitely impoverished in the order of knowledge, but infinitely rich thanks to the object to which it unites us? It isn’t even as though there is lacking here the evocation of what, more than the flourishing of the intellect left unsatisfied, makes, in such a contemplation, for our joy: [desire,] the lancinating and amorous desire that it satisfies.
“And yet, missing from Aristotle is what is essential to what makes of Platonic contemplation a mystical contemplation: the affirmation of something beyond essence (Republic VI, 509 b 9) which, not being an intelligible, cannot be grasped by an intellectual knowledge, but only by a mystical touch (éphaptesthai, Symposium 212 a). God, for Aristotle, is not something beyond essence; he is the supreme Intelligible., and it is as supreme intelligible that contemplation makes contact with [(attaint)] him (Protreptic, fr. 14, p. 50, 20-21; Nicomachean ethics X, 7, 1177 a 20-21; cf. Metaphysics Λ, 7, 1072 a 26-27), and if even Aristotle speaks at this point of a ‘touch’, this touch remains completely intellectual: it is simply, by opposition to the judgment in which the knowledge of complex realities is handed down, the intuition of a simple reality: by calling it [a] ‘touch’, as by calling it [a] ‘gaze’, one gives expression to the simplicity of this knowledge, but does not deny that it is strictly intellectual in character (cf. Metaphysics Θ, 10, 1051 b 23-25; Λ, 7, 1072 b 21). If our intelligence knows God only this little [(mal)], this is not because it is intelligence, but on the contrary because it is not an adequate intelligence [(assez intelligence)]: the supreme Intelligible is too exalted for for lesser intelligences [(trop haut pour la moindre des intelligences)]. One could not in the final analysis, therefore, speak in Aristotle of a ‘mystical’ contemplation. Perhaps, however, one can still speak in his case of a sort of religion, [a] religion entirely intellectualistic, but yet full of fervor. For it is impossible to deny that Aristotle, when he speaks of the contemplation of God, speaks of it with a fervor that isn’t just the fervor of a savant burning for [(épris de)] knowledge, but the fervor of a religious mind burning for God.”

René-A. Gauthier, OP, La morale d’Aristote, Initiation philosophique (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1963), 102-104.

Monday, September 21, 2009

You were SERIOUS about that?

"The seductively suggestive title of Kołakowski’s talk was 'The Devil in History.' For a while there was silence as students, faculty, and visitors listened intently. Kołakowski’s writings were well known to many of those present and his penchant for irony and close reasoning was familiar. But even so, the audience was clearly having trouble following his argument. Try as they would, they could not decode the metaphor. An air of bewildered mystification started to fall across the [Harvard] auditorium. And then, about a third of the way through, my neighbor—Timothy Garton Ash—leaned across. 'I’ve got it,' he whispered. 'He really is talking about the Devil.' And so he was."

     Tony Judt on a Harvard lecture of 1987, in "Leszek Kołakowski (1927-2009)," The New York review of books 56, no. 14 (September 24, 2009): 6 (6-7). More of value follows: "It was a defining feature of Leszek Kołakowski’s intellectual trajectory that he took evil extremely seriously. Among Marx's false premises, in his view, was the idea that all human shortcomings are rooted in social circumstances. Marx had 'entirely overlooked the possibility that some sources of conflict and aggression may be inherent in the permanent characteristics of the species.' Or, as he expressed it in his Harvard lecture: 'Evil . . . is not contingent . . . but a stubborn and unredeemable fact.' For Leszek Kołakowski, who lived through the Nazi Occupation of Poland and the Soviet takeover that followed, 'the Devil is part of our experience. Our generation has seen enough of it for the message to be taken extremely seriously' [("The devil in history," My correct views on everything (St. Augustine's Press, 2005), 133)].
     "Most of the obituaries that followed Kołakowski's recent death at the age of eighty-one altogether missed this side of the man. That is hardly surprising. Despite the fact that much of the world still believes in a God and practices religion, Western intellectuals and public commentators today are ill at ease with the idea of revealed faith. Public discussion of the subject lurches uncomfortably between overconfident denial ('God' certainly does not exist, and anyway it's all His fault) and blind allegiance. That an intellectual and scholar of Kołakowski's caliber should have taken seriously not just religion and religious ideas but the very Devil himself is a mystery to many of his otherwise admiring readers and something they have preferred to ignore."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Brague on the role of "digestion" in the disappearance of philosophy from the Islamic world

"I attach the greatest importance to a fact that Jean Jolivet has stressed: the 'philosopher' (philosophus) who debates with a Jew and a Christian in Abelard's [Dialogue between a philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian] is a Muslim. That personage, who is circumcised and claims descent from Ishmael, attempts to set up an ethics independent of revelation. . . . What is important is that this human type--one that some find a temptation and others, a type to be exorcised--continued to haunt Latin Christianity. As it happens, that model was by then exclusive to Andalusia, which stood out as different from the Islamic East; in its land of origin, it was already petering out.
"This means that it was precisely at the time when the Latin philosophus--when it did not designate Aristotle--came to signify faylasuf that, in the Islamic world, the use of the Arabic word faylasuf began to give way to other terms. Call that development what you will. The fact remains that, in the East, the word for 'philosophy' declined in favor of other words. In parallel fashion, in the same period the relationship with the Philosopher par excellence--Aristotle--ceased to have a textual dimension in that world. The twelfth century is the age in which Islamic thought fully digested Greek philosophy, the same Greek philosophy that Europe, somewhat later and perhaps to our own times, was to find hard to digest."

Rémi Brague, "The meaning and value of philosophy in the three medieval cultures," chap. 2 of The legend of the Middle Ages: philosophical explorations of medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, trans. Lydia G.Cochrane (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2009): 55 (41-55). "'inclusion' is an appropriation in which the foreign body is maintained in its full alterity but is enveloped by procedures of appropriation, the presence of which highlights that alterity; . . . 'digestion' is an appropriation in which the foreign body is assimilated to the point of losing its independence" (51). Christianity "included" Aristotle, whereas Islam "digested" him, thereby abandoning philosophy--though not thought (47)--in the process.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Brague sins less than he lets on

"If you don't know a number of things, compare them."

Rémi Brague's riff on "if you don't know something, . . . teach it". In "The meaning and value of philosophy in the three medieval cultures," which is chap. 2 of The legend of the Middle Ages: philosophical explorations of medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, trans. Lydia G.Cochrane (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2009): 42 (1-22).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"I mean, theologians' theology, not the variety knocked together by the profs de philo"

"is it not also true that, in the final analysis, believing in God is, in a sense, refusing the world as it is and as it appears to an unprejudiced eye, with the result that according to a logic of 'communicating vases' (found, for example, in Nietzsche), all that we take from God would be that much gained for the world?
"It is true that I have had occasion to note in Nietzsche a fairly unsophisticated representation of the relationship between the divine and the human according to which the one gains what the other loses. To be sure, Nietzsche said many powerful things. But his writings contain a fully worked-out version of the hydraulic image: 'There is a lake which one day refused to flow off and erected a dam where it had hitherto flowed off: ever since, this lake has been rising higher and higher. Perhaps that very renunciation will also lend us the strength to bear the renunciation itself; perhaps man will rise ever higher when he once ceases to flow out into a god.' This image already appears, discreetly, in the young Hegel, and emphatically in Feuerbach. Today even more mediocre minds wallow in the idea: man must demand his good, supposedly projected in God, and so on. . . .
"If the relationship between the world and God were of this sort, Prometheus (in the Romantic interpretation of that figure) would be right. But how much naïveté does that imply! To begin with, man and God exchange homogeneous goods, in finite quantities, within the same system. One of the first rules of theology, however, is that it is not in the same sense that we attribute properties (justice, power, knowledge, etc.) to God and to man. A bit of Neoplatonic therapy is called for: ideas do not possess the qualities that they confer. As well as a small dose of theology--I mean, theologians' theology, not the variety knocked together by the profs de philo. Let me offer you two phrases of Thomas Aquinas for your meditation: 'To detract from the creature's perfection is to detract from the perfection of divine power'; 'We do not wrong God unless we wrong our own good.'"

Rémi Brague, "Interview with Christophe Cervellon and Kristell Trego," The legend of the Middle Ages: philosophical explorations of medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, trans. Lydia G.Cochrane (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2009): 10-11 (1-22).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Brague on the damage done by fast-talking media stars and intellectuals

"legends abound about the Middle Ages. I have done my utmost to destroy that teeming vermin. . . . I have no illusions about the sucess of my venture: any fast-talking media star can do a thousand times more in one minute to perpetuate falsity than we library rats can do in ten lifetimes to unmask it. That said, you do not have to have hope to take on a challenge. And if what the 'intellectual' has to sell is a 'fine-talk' version of the dominant opinion, the duty of the university professor is above all to reestablish what he or she believes to be the truth, whether it is agreeable or not."

Rémi Brague, The legend of the Middle Ages: philosophical explorations of medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2009): viii-ix.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Christum aufer, mutus fiet mundus

Remove Christ, [and] the universe will fall silent.

I.e., become incapable of articulate speech; be rendered mute or inarticulate; be struck dumb (cf. Ps. 19:1-4). Peter M. Candler after Antonio Cittandini (Thomae aufer, mutus fiet Aristoteles): "apart from Christ, the world cannot speak to us." In "The logic of Christian humanism," Communio: international Catholic review 36, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 79. Candler got Cittandini from Ralph McInerny, Praeambula fidei: Thomism and the God of the philosophers (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006): 306.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Aquinas on the non-comprehensive sight of the beatific vision

"The blessed soul of Christ himself does not have this comprehensive understanding; only the unique Son of God who is in the womb of the Father enjoys it. . . . No one . . . [will ever] comprehend [(comprend)] the divine essence except God alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [(Anima autem Christi Deum cognoscendo non comprehendit, quia hoc non dicitur, nisi de unigenito, qui est in sinu patris. . . . Nullus enim divinam comprehendit essentiam, nisi solus Deus pater, et filius, et spiritus sanctus)]."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Super evangelium S. Ioannis lectura, cap. 1, l. 11, as quoted by J.-P. Torrell, in his "Saint Thomas d'Aquin, maître de vie spirituelle," Revue des sciences religieuses 71, no. 4 (1997): 456 (442-457), italics mine. The Latin is taken from the Turin (i.e. Marietti) edition of 1952 ed. Raffaele Cai, as reproduced by Corpus Thomisticum here: (where there is much more, including the distinction between seeing the divine essence tota and totaliter).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pesch on the properly THEOLOGICAL thrust of the Second Part of the Summa

"The IIa Pars [of the Summa theologiae] doesn't compile [a list of] does and don'ts, not even divine dos and don'ts [(stellt nicht Forderungen zusammen, was der Mensch tun und lassen soll, und wären es auch göttliche Forderungen)], but [rather] describes what happens of itself when the grace of God gets ahold of a man and all of the powers of his soul [(und seinen ganzen seelischen Kräftehaushalt)]. [The IIa Pars] is therefore theology, [not ethics, and] here, therefore, [the] doctrine of the activity of God in the activity of man."

Otto Hermann Pesch, "Das Streben nach der beatitudo bei Thomas von Aquin im Kontext seiner Theologie: historische und systematische Fragen," Freiburger Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Theologie 52, no. 3 (2005): 436.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Anderson on 'the close nexus between Temple appurtenance and the presence of God'

"Brown's observation . . . was made solely on the basis of the Exodus narrative and as such grounds the theology of the prologue in a singular act--the moment when the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle on the day of its completion. What we have shown in this article is that this momentous theophany was routinized in the daily life of the cult. It was not only the Israelites of Moses's day who saw God as he entered his newly dedicated Tabernacle; all Israelites could see God as they ascended to the Temple to participate in the rite of the furniture. What the post-biblical Jewish materials we have examined provide is a more phenomenological, or even cultic, background against which we can set John's own theology of a visible and tabernacle-like presence of the Logos."

"It has often been stated that because of Israel's radically anti-iconic stance, it came to prefer forms of revelation that were mediated by Word rather than by sight. This assertion like all such truisms, is to some extent accurate. Nevertheless, as we have seen in this article, it should not be assumed that because Israel rejected the representation of God in statuary form in the Temple, it thereby rejected all linkages of God to a specific physical location", e.g. the Temple and its furniture.

"According to Dionysius, who is clearly following the lead of the biblical text, Moses does not see God himself but rather confronts the next best thing. He is allowed to contemplate the invisible God in the the visible form of his domestic furniture. For, as he argues, it is through this furniture that 'his unimaginable presence is shown.' To paraphrase Dionysius, we cannot see God face to face but he has graciously consented to let us see where he dwells."

Gary A. Anderson, "To see where God dwells: the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the origins of the Christian mystical tradition," Communio: international Catholic review 36, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 56, 64-65, 68.

St. Athanasius on the body of the Lord

"'they approve the former people [the Jews] for the honor paid by them to the Temple, but they will not worship the Lord who is in the flesh as a God indwelling a temple. . . . And [the Jews] did not, when they saw the Temple of stones, suppose that the Lord who spoke in the Temple was a creature; nor did they set the Temple at nought and retire far off to worship. . . . Since this was so, how can it be other than right to worship the body of the Lord, all-holy and all-reverend as it is, announced by the Holy Spirit and made the vestment of the Word. . . . He that dishonors the Temple dishonors the Lord in the Temple; and he that separates the Word from the Body sets at nought the grace given to us in him.'"

St. Athanasius, Ad Adelphium 7-8, as quoted by Gary A. Anderson, in his "To see where God dwells: the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the origins of the Christian mystical tradition," Communio: international Catholic review 36, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 61-62.

St. Irenaeus on the salvation of the flesh

"the final result of the work of the Spirit is the salvation of the flesh [(Fructus autem operis Spiritus, est carnis salus)]."

St. Irenaeus, Adv. haer. V.12.4, trans. Roberts and Rambaut (ANF 1, as reproduced here: The Latin is taken from SC 153, p. 154. Cf. p. 353 of vol. 2 of the edition edited by W. Wigan Harvey (Sancti Irenæi episcopi Lugdunensis Libros quinque adversus haereses (Cambridge, 1857), which is online here:
MPG 7b (,_Iraeneus,_Contra_Haereses_Libri_Quinque_(MPG_007b_1119_1225),_GM.pdf), col. 1154, places "Fructus autem" and "Spiritus" in quotation marks to implicate Gal. 5:22. Homoeoteleutic error is responsible for the absence of "the salvation of the flesh" in the Armenian, and indeed everything up through a second occurrence of "Spirit" in the line following. Col. IX, ll. 14-15 of the Jena Papyrus (Pap. Iéna 12 in the SC edition ed. Rousseau) has . . . καρ]πὸν ἒρ[γ]ου ὡμολόγη[σεν . . . . . .] ἡ τῆς σαρκὸς σωτηρί[α . . ., "fruit of work promised the salvation of the flesh" (or something like that). The fragment in question is the large one at almost dead center of the verso here (, and the line that reads . . . πὸν ἒρ[γ]ου ὡμολόγη. . . is the one that runs into the bottom edge of the little rectangular spur that juts off to the right (on, again, the verso). Cf. Hans Lietzmann, "Der Jenaer Irenaeus-Papyrus," in Kleine Schriften I: Studien zur spätantiken Religionsgeschichte, ed. Kurt Aland (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1958), p. 402, Kol. IX, ll. 14-15, and p. 373 (where col. IX is the verso of col. I on p. 371).

Granados on the prophetic interiorization of Judaism

"the more the prophets interiorize their worship, the more they turn it into something external, visible, corporeal."

José Granados, "The new hosanna in the new temple: Jesus' entry into Jerusalem," Communio: international Catholic review 36, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 27.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A priest without a vocation

"'My friend, . . . become a good rural bourgeois, worthy and well-educated, rather than a priest without a vocation.'"

Father Chélan to Julien Sorel, in pt. 1, chap. 9 of Stendahl's The red and the black (trans. Burton Raffel (New York, NY: The Modern Library, 2003), 54).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Aquinas on symbolic theology

"argument ought not to be fashioned of metaphors, as the Master says in Sentences 3, Distinction 11, and Denis says in the Letter to Titus. Symbolic theology is not argumentative, especially since it is not the exposition of any author [(ex tropicis locutionibus non est sumenda argumentatio, ut dicit Magister 11 distinctione III sententiarum, et Dionysius dicit in epistula ad Titum quod symbolica theologia non est argumentativa, et praecipue cum illa expositio non sit alicuius auctoris)]."

Thomas Aquinas, Expositio super librum Boethii De Trinitate, pars 1 q. 2 a. 3 ad 5, as translated by Ralph McInerny (Thomas Aquinas: selected writings, ed. and trans. with an introduction and notes by Ralph McInerny (London: Penguin Books, 1998), 137). The Latin is taken from the Leiden (i.e. Brill) edition of 1959, ed. Bruno Decker, as reproduced in Corpus Thomisticum here:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Τί καινὸν εἰσήνεγκε Χριστὸς εἰς τὸν κόσμον

What Christ brought new into the world

The title of a lost treatise by "Alexander, bishop of Hierapolis, and martyr [(Ἀλέξανδρος, Ἱεραπόλεως ἐπίσκοπος, καὶ μάρτυς)]" (Suda A 1125 = Svidae Lexicon, ed. Adler, vol. 1, p. 104; cf. the Suda On Line (, at Later works of reference conflate this Alexander of Hierapolis with the fifth-century Nestorian (Franz Overbeck's Kirchenlexicon; The new Schaff-Herzog encyclopedia of religious knowledge; etc.; cf. Alfons Fürst, "Der Einfluss des Christentums auf die Entwicklung der kulturellen Identität Europas in der Spätantike," Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 43 (2000): 6 and 6n5), but Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology (1867) distinguishes that Alexander of Hierapolis from a third-century bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, and attributes this treatise to the latter ( Also, some entries on the fifth-century Nestorian (DTC, BBKL, the fifth volume of the "Quasten" patrology, etc.)--who died in exile, and, so, could, I suppose, have been considered a martyr--don't mention it. Adler, in the critical edition mentioned above, cross references Photius' Bibliotheca, but is otherwise of no help. The Adler reference is to Photii Bibliotheca, ed. Immanuel Bekker (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1824-1825), vol. 1 (1824), p. 291, l. 25-28 (near the end of the section on codex 232, the Miscellany of Stephen Gobar): Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Ἱεραπόλεως ἐπίσκοπος καὶ μάρτυς. Cf. this emendation: "And Alexander, Bishop of the Holy Towns [i.e. Jerusalem], and martyr [(Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Ἱεραπόλεων ἐπίσκοπος καὶ μάρτυς)], writing to the same Origen, treats him in the same manner", i.e. favorably (, following the Belles Lettres edition ed. René Henry; cf., which I've checked against the original in the Harvard theological review). In the substitution of Ἱεραπόλεων for Ἱεραπόλεως, and therefore the translation "des Villes Saintes", "C'est-à-dire de Jerusalem", Henry follows the David Hoeschel edition of 1601: "It was Fr. H. Crouzel who first drew my attention to this reading of Hoeschel and to the reasons for it: the mention by Eusebius, H. E., VI, 14, 8-9, of a letter from Origen to this Alexander and the mention by Eusebius, H. E., VI, 39, 2-3, of the martyrdom of the person of rank under Decius. Fr. Crouzel, whom I thank for this generous intervention, thinks that these notes of Eusebius could very well be Gobar's source of information" (Photius, Bibliothèque, ed. René Henry, vol. 5 (Paris: Société d'Édition 'Les Belles Lettres', 1967), pp. 79-80 (French), n. 3).

Interesting title, nonetheless.

An important book on the concept may be Wolfram Kinzig's Novitas Christiana: die Idee des Fortschrifts in den alten Kirche bis Eusebius (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994). But I found there no reference to this treatise by Alexander.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fürst on two contributions of Christianity to Western civilization too often opposed

"Christianity recognizes, besides the practice of the love of neighbor, an additional important criterion of the authenticity of Church and Christian existence: truth. Orthopraxy and orthodoxy belong together. Unlike the ancient religions and cults, then, Christianity created a theology in which it reflected the faith and formulated what was to be believed and testified to in confessions and doctrines, 'dogmas'. Beside the ethic of the love of neighbor, the claim to truth is the second characteristic that distinguishes Christianity from ancient religiosity. The term 'dogma' arose characteristically out of the language of philosophy and politics, not the religious nomenclature of antiquity. The reason for this difference lies in this, that in Christianity, it is a question not of a ritually correct maintenance of the relation to God, but of the intellectual and existential truth of faith in God and of a way of life aligned therewith."

Alfons Fürst, "Der Einfluss des Christentums auf die Entwicklung der kulturellen Identität Europas in der Spätantike," Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 43 (2000): 15 (5-24). Fürst's opening pages on the novelty of the love of neighbor are bolder still, and become the check in the light of which Christian intolerance (a corollary of this new commitment to "a single truth for all men" (16), but characteristic of the polythesists as well (18; cf. Hart's Atheist delusions)) is or should be tempered.  Cf.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Scholten on the supposed Hellenization of early Christianity

"in reality, deep, fundamental divides [(in ihren Grundanschauungen tiefe Gräben)] separate Christianity and late-antique Platonism. Platonism, a complex of philosophical formation, way of life, and piety, is the spiritual [and intellectual (geistige)] counter-world to the Christian religion. Christianity never accepted [any of] the doctrines central to Platonism. Faith in a personal God, in grace, incarnation, world-judgment or the bodily [(fleischliche)] resurrection is irreconcilable with Platonic convictions about an abstract divine [(Göttliche)], a non-augmentable Ur-revelation [(Uroffenbarung)], the iron law of the world-ruling Logos, and the transmigration of souls."

Clemens Scholten, "Verändert sich Gott, wenn er die Welt erschafft?," Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 43 (2000): 25 (25-43). By now something of a commonplace, but Scholten goes on (this is just an opening).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Riches (and Caldecott) on Western pneumatology and the filioque

"Is Jenson correct to suggest that Barth's binitarianism results from an inherent Western trinitarian deficiency? Do the filioque and the vinculum amoris necessarily lead to a mere modus? David Hart, from an Orthodox perspective, and Joseph Ratzinger, from a Catholic perspective, have commonly shown the depth of the personal reality of the Spirit according to the Western/Augustinian theology of the Spirit as the ineffabilis quidam complexus of Father and Son. Defending the Augustinian view, they have identified 'communio' itself as the crucial, personal mode of the Spirit, just as sonship and paternity are respectively the personal modes of the second and first persons. . . . From this, one can perhaps go further, arguing that the fully personal nature of the Spirit is most perfectly secured by the filioque--as, for example, Stratford Caldecott has argued in the context of a defense of Meister Eckhart's trinitarianism. Caldecott suggests that the Holy Spirit is only distinguished from the Father and Son by virtue of his 'dual origin': 'the filioque tradition permits us to distinguish the Persons purely as relations within the Trinity. The Orthodox allege that this undermines our sense of the Father as the sole principle of the Trinity. The Latins might reply that by rejecting the filioque the East reduces the distinctive 'spiration' of the Spirit to no more than another 'coming forth' from the Father. Some theologians have suggested that the dispute could be solved by agreeing to speak of the Spirit proceeding from the Father 'through' the Son. But this also has a disadvantage: it presents the Son as a mere way-station or tunnel. The metaphor of 'giving,' as distinct from 'generating' or 'proceeding,' helps us remember that God is no impersonal substance but only and forever personal. But then, if the Son is truly to be the image of his Father, he must also be a giver in his own right, and not just a transmitter of the Father's gift to himself. . . . The Father remains the sole principle, because the Son has nothing he has not received from this source. But the Trinity is asymmetrical reciprocity, not a symmetrical hierarchy proceeding from the Father. Its asymmetry is precisely the root of its dynamism as eternal Act, eternal perichoresis'".

Aaron Riches, "Church, Eucharist and predestination in Barth and De Lubac: convergence and divergence in communio," Communio: international Catholic review 35, no. 4 (Winter 2008): 574n34.

Healy on the natural desire for the beatific vision

"the deepest desire of nature is precisely the renunciation of anything like a claim or a demand in the first place; it is a holding-oneself-in-readiness so that God may be God."

Nicholas J. Healy, "Henri de Lubac on nature and grace: a note on some recent contributions to the debate," Communio: international Catholic review 35, no. 4 (Winter 2008): 547. "our natural desire for God entails a renunciation both of self-sufficiency and of demand" (548). "the perfection or consistency of the natural end in its own order--and, indeed, this very 'order' itself--is indeed relative, or relationally constituted, from top to bottom. In other words, the very (relative) closure of nature in its own order is itself a deeper, pervasive openness to God; the autonomy of nature is creaturely dependence on the Creator. This openness and dependence is, of course, first of all a feature of creatureliness and so is not immediately a matter of grace. Nevertheless, its role in constituting the relative perfection of nature in its own order (and the entire natural order itself) helps us understand how this very perfection can be a disponibility, an active readiness for God--one whose innate character is fully revealed precisely when this readiness is 'mobilized' in the Son's assumption of human nature from the 'Yes' of his immaculate Mother. The real bone of contention, then, between Lubacians and Neo-Thomists is not whether or not there is a relative integrity to nature, but whether or not (at least in the present economy) nature itself is best understood in the light of Mary's immaculate divine motherhood and the filial existence of the Son. Our 'Yes' or 'No' to this question pertains not only to theology, but lays bare the philosophical presuppositions about the nature of nature--and the relevance to it of creation as gift--that we bring to the debate about nature and grace" (562-563). "Christ reveals the nature of nature as receptive readiness for a surpassing gift" (564).