Saturday, July 16, 2011

"'If you will, you can become all flame.'"

"Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts.  What else can I do?'  Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven.  His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame [(γεγόνασιν οἱ δάκτυλοι αὐτοῦ, ὡς δέκα λαμπάδες πυρός·  και λέγει αὐτῷ·  Εἰ θέλεις, γενοῦ ὅλος ὡς πῦρ)].'"

Abba Joseph of Panephysis 7 (PG 65, col. 229).  This one doesn't appear in the Collection systématique (SC 387, 474, and 498), or, at least, not in the Concordance (SC 498, pp. 217 ff.) under Joseph de Panépho.  The desert Christian:  sayings of the Desert Fathers:  the alphabetical collection, trans. Benedicta Ward (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 103.

"'We have put the light burden on one side, that is to say, self-accusation, and we have loaded ourselves with a heavy one, that is to say, self-justification.'"

Abba John the Dwarf 21 (PG 65, col. 212).  This one doesn't appear in the Collection systématique (SC 387, 474, and 498), or, at least, not in the Concordance (SC 498, pp. 217 ff.) under Jean Colobos.  The desert Christian:  sayings of the Desert Fathers:  the alphabetical collection, trans. Benedicta Ward (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 90.

"'God sells righteousness at a very low price to those who wish to buy it: a little piece of bread, a cloak of no value, a cup of cold water, a mite.'"

Abba Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus 16 (PG 65, col. 168).  This one doesn't appear in the Collection systématique (SC 387, 474, and 498), or, at least, not in the Concordance (SC 498, pp. 217 ff.) under Épiphane.  The desert Christian:  sayings of the Desert Fathers:  the alphabetical collection, trans. Benedicta Ward (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 59.

Friday, July 15, 2011

General confession not necessarily a kind of poor-man's private confession

"There are two consciences to be purged, the particular conscience that is purged in each in the secrecy of confession, and the public conscience that Saint Hilary calls [the] conscientiam publicam, the confession of which must be public. . . .  Sometimes it is even the custom to confess in that action very publicly all of the kinds of sin capable of being committed by those most wicked and lost; and this is very well done, [which is] to say [(et cela estoit tres bien fait, pour dire)] that absolutely anyone [(qui que ce soit)] had been capable of committing them and must [therefore] hold himself responsible for them, [he] for whom it is here a question of making a full apology [(reparation d'honneur)] for all public sins, contagious and scandalous."

     Jean Morin or François II de Harlay de Champvallon, Archbishop of Rouen (it isn't clear to me which), as quoted in Nichole Lemaitre, "Confession privée et confession publique dans les paroisses du XVIe siècle," Revue d'histoire de l'Église de France 69, no. 183 (1983):  199n23 (189-208).  I can't tell for sure which of the two cited here is the one from which these words are taken, but Lemaitre makes it clear that it was Francis I de Harlay who, in 1641, was the first to articulate this position.  There is more on this (and its patristic roots) in context.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A word to the wise


     Notice pasted inside the front cover of a copy of the 23rd (i.e. 1957) edition of Novum Testamentum Graece [The New Testament in Greek], ed. Erwin Nestle and Kurt Aland (NA23), and picked up second-hand at the Goodwill in Ballard, WA, in the year 2007 or thereabouts.  This could have been a joke perpetrated by some student worker in the University Bookstore, or it could have been directed quite deliberately at the threat posed by a critical edition of the New Testament in principle (Rob Wall). But it could also have been inadvertent, an unforeseen (and therefore humorous) consequence of the mindless application of standard policy.

Keyed in so as to render this searchable:

TO THE STUDENTS:
     The fact that this volume is being used as a textbook in your class does not mean that the University necessarily endorses its contents from the standpoint of morals, philosophy, theology, or scientific hypotheses.  The position of Bob Jones University on these subjects is well known.
     In order to standardize the work and validate the credits of the University, it is sometimes necessary to use textbooks whose contents the University cannot wholly endorse.  You understand, of course, that acceptable textbooks in certain academic fields are very difficult to secure.
BOB JONES UNIVERSITY
Greenville, South Carolina

"in a manner that follows upon the Incarnation"

     "The Eucharist continues the Incarnation, but there are important differences between the two mysteries.  In the Incarnation, when the Word became flesh, the divine nature did not transubstantiate the human nature.  It did not take the place of the human being.  To say that it did would fall into a monophysite interpretation of the mystery.  To understand the Incarnation as a transubstantiation would imply that the human nature ceased to be but only appeared to be when united with the divine.  Instead, the human substance, soul and body, is integrally present in the Incarnation.  In this respect, the human substance in the Incarnation is different from the substance of bread in the Eucharist.  The human substance, soul and body, remains intact, but the substance of the bread does not.
     "Indeed, it is the very material and bodily quality of the Incarnation that calls for Transubstantiation in the Eucharist.  If Christ is to be present in the sacrament, he must be present in his divine and human natures; if his human nature is to be present, it must be present in both soul and body.  And if his body is to be present, the bread cannot be.  The one thing cannot be two material substances, both bread and a human body, not even the glorified human body of Christ.  If it is the one it cannot be the other.  The two bodily natures exclude one another, and it is the bodily presence of Christ that is specifically emphasized in the words of consecration.  The body of Christ is not with the bread but takes the place of the bread in the change we call Transubstantiation.  If we deny this change, we deny the bodily presence of the glorified Christ, and hence we deny the presence of Christ.  Without Transubstantiation the sacramental presence of Christ would not occur.
     "In the Eucharist, therefore, it is the radical worldliness of the Incarnation, its materiality, that calls for Transubstantiation in the Eucharist.  It is the incarnate divinity, the Word made flesh and not simply the divine nature, that is present in the Eucharist.  If I may use the terms, the body of Christ, because it is material, 'displaces' or 'dislodges' the bread.  Whatever matter may be, it takes place, it is located.  Through Transubstantiation, the bodily presence of the transcendent divinity, in the person of the Son, takes its place among us in a manner that follows upon the Incarnation, and it does so by replacing the substance of bread and wine."

Robert Sokolowski, "The Eucharist and transubstantiation" (1997), in Christian faith and human understanding:  studies on the Eucharist, Trinity, and the human person (Washington, D.C.:  The Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 106-107 (95-112).  I first encountered this in Communio:  the international Catholic review 24, no. 4 (Winter 1997):  867-880.  On pp. 100-101 Sokolowski names a few of the "other presences of Christ".

Chesterton on the recurrent necessity of a repromulgation of the natural law, or We shall fight for the obvious as if it were risible, even contemptible

"Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape. We who are Liberals once held Liberalism lightly as a truism. Now it has been disputed, and we hold it fiercely as a faith. We who believe in patriotism once thought patriotism to be reasonable, and thought little more about it. Now we know it to be unreasonable, and know it to be right. We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us. The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake. Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed."

     Gilbert K. Chesterton, Heretics (London and New York:  John Lane:  The Bodley Head, 1905), 304-305 (XX. Concluding remarks on the importance of orthodoxy).  Here it is in the reprint of 1909.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"This," not "This bread"

"St. Thomas. . . . observes that in the Eucharistic Prayer Christ is quoted not as saying, 'This bread is my body,' but 'This is my body.'  If Christ had said 'this bread' was his body, then the thing referred to would still be bread, but the simple demonstrative pronoun 'this' without a noun implies that it is not bread any longer."

Robert Sokolowski, "The Eucharist and Transubstantiation" (1997), in Christian faith and human understanding:  studies on the Eucharist, Trinity, and the human person (Washington, D.C.:  The Catholic University of American Press, 2006), 105-106 (95-112), citing Summa theologiae III.78.5.Resp. (Latin here), as well as 75.3 and 75.8.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Steck on "the nearness of the God who puts us . . . to the test"

"Suffering as withdrawl of the blessing, as [a] taking back of what was [once graciously] given, is seen [by Israel] as the nearness of the God who puts [us][we] unwittinglyto the test [(des unwissentlich prüfenden Gottes)].  Suffering is seenas here in our story [of the sacrifice of Isaac]as the question whether God the Giver lives only in the gift, whether he is God only so long as the gift is there; or whether he is truly [the] God with no other gods besides him, the transcendent, binding, [and] unique One-who-stands-over-and-against of Israel [(Gegenüber Israels)], the [One] who permits no escape into an evil, into a fatum, besides the [command] simply 'to love God' [(das keine Ausflucht in ein Böses, in ein Fatum neben dem bloß 'lieben Gott' zuläßt)].  God puts Abraham to the test.  In this event is all suffering, all withdrawl, all leave-taking, all the oppressive experience that man attempts to solve as [though it were] a riddle comprehended. . . . [And] now the contour of the First Commandment makes an impression via an event, the question to Abraham whether God is for him really God, or only the sweet, the extrapolated God, the power projected outwardly [in an attempt to ensure the] happiness he [so desperately] desires, the anthropomorphized God responsible for all inhumanity, . . . the made-up monster."

Odil Hannes Steck, "Ist Gott grausam?  Über Isaaks Opferung aus der Sicht des alten Testaments," Ist Gott grausam?  Eine Stellungnahme zu Tilmann Mosers 'Gottesvergiftung', hrsg. Wolfgang Böhme (Stuttgart:  Evangelisches Verlagswerk, 1977), 85-86 (75-95).